Watch and Learn {Cooking Adventures: Day 8}

After sharing some of my early cooking mishaps, it is time to tell you how I finally learned to cook.

In the fall of 2005 I discovered the Food Network, specifically 30 Minute Meals, and I was fascinated. I watched episode after episode and wondered if I could actually pull together meals like that in 30 minutes.  Rachael made it look SO EASY, I finally decided to try one of the meals all on my own.

The first Food Network meal I cooked was Stuffed Steak with Prosciutto and Spinach. The recipe includes stuffing a 2 pound eye round roast with a spinach/prosciutto mixture, then slicing the roast into steaks before sauteing in a pan. This was not nearly as easy as it look on 30 Minute Meals. I had a very difficult time cutting a cavity for the stuffing.  And I had good knives!  I just couldnt get it right.  I also didnt have a good way to get the stuffing in the steak.  I am pretty sure I ended up filling a gallon-sized ziplock bag full of the stuffing mix, clipped one corner of the bag, and squeezed the filling in the cavity (poor cook’s pastry bag style).  It just didn’t work like it did on the show.

Brian was patient, it took me about 1 and 1/2 hours to complete that 30 minute meal!  But I didn’t give up. I kept watching and later chose an easier recipe that I was able to complete in 40 minutes. That was progress! I continued to choose recipes from 30 minute meals with the goal of completing them within the realm of 30 minutes.  Over time I continued to improve and eventually got to the point where I could cook most of the 30 minute meals within 30 minutes.

The hardest part that took me longest to figure out was the timing. Timing is everything when you have a meal that consists of cooking multiple parts. I can’t tell you how many times we have “waited for the rice to be done” because I didnt start the rice FIRST. Little things like that you learn from trial and error. But sometimes I still forget to start the rice. #nobodysperfect

After I got my feet wet with Rachael I moved on to Ina and Giada and eventually got all gutsy and tried a Mario. For the first several years I wouldn’t cook a meal without watching the chef prepare it first. I learned so much this way. Luckily you can get alot of these videos on the Food Network website. For me, watching the chef prepare the meal is like getting a head start.  I already have a visual for what is supposed to happen so I don’t have to spend as much time processing the instructions on the recipe. Watching the episodes is also where you get the tips, tricks and short-cuts to help things go faster.

So for me, I learned to cook watching the Food Network and practicing. I also had my husband rate the meals on a scale of 1-10. Some people think this is really strange but for us it worked. I didn’t take it personally, I really wanted to improve! And my husband can be a pretty harsh critic.  It is rare that he will give me a 9 and I have NEVER received a 10. You can ask him why he refuses to hand out the 10s.

The point I want to leave you with is don’t be afraid to try something new in the kitchen. Don’t expect it to come out perfect the first time. Keep experimenting and practicing and if you need to, watch the Food Network on TV or online to help you along.

So go forth and try out an adventurous recipe this week or weekend. If you succeed, invite me over! I would be happy to be a taste tester for your cooking adventures!



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