Friday, January 21, 2011

How to Make Homemade Food

Making homemade food or cooking meals from scratch is a great way to experiment, have fun, learn about food and to increase your creativity and skills of resourcefulness. Yet, it has become commonplace to rely heavily on pre-packaged meals or eating out because it is thought that homemade food is too much effort or too hard.

In this article, you'll learn that homemade cooking is neither difficult nor an effort and that its rewards outweigh the excuses. Whether you want to start right at the beginning using homegrown produce or just complement your meals by adding a homemade touch, here's how to cook at home.

   1. As convenient as instant meals are, eventually they stop being really satisfying and cease to taste good.

      Work out the extent of how homemade you'd like to get. For whatever reason you may want to cook more (or everything) as homemade, there is no right or wrong way, home cooking simply offers a great opportunity to improve your personal wellbeing once you become familiar with the kitchen. The big plus is its really with minimal additional work or effort. Some of the basic reasons you may want to ask yourself are:

          * Do you want to be more self sufficient in starting to grow your own produce in your own garden or the local community garden.

          * Do you want to find ways to improve store bought meals, like noodles, or find something a little better than convenience meals that no longer satisfy?

          * Are you looking to save money, be more independent or increase your living skills & quality of life? Cooking your own food as well as cooking to share makes so much more connection with the world, family and friends as well as let you gain more appreciation for the food you eat.

          * Are you're keen on slowly building up to growing your own food for more health focused changes to your eating & lifestyle habits? Cooking at home which can be the easiest way to change permanently as it gives you more control over what you eat.

          * Are you just interested just in how food is prepared and how to find out different methods to make it more interesting?

   2. Buy fresh produce regularly. Regularly means getting out almost daily where possible, not just once a week or fortnight, as the quality of fresh food quickly degrades. Shopping is not only something we do often anyway, but it gives us the chance to get outside a little more often and have the chance to try some new things. Working with spoiled food makes home cooking far harder and less enjoyable than it really is because you have to find ways to cover up the staleness or degraded quality rather than working with the lovely flavours and textures of fresh ingredients. Why make a throw-it-all-in soup when you can make a tantalisingly fresh stir-fry?

          * If there is a local fresh produce store open early in the morning, this is a really great way to get in and out quickly, and to restock your fridge and pantry before work or the duties of the day. As an added benefit, by going early, you get to have first pick of the freshly arrived produce and the whole experience is far less crammed, rushed, and far more enjoyable. And when you come home from work or studies, you don't have to worry about shopping when you're feeling tired.

   3. The library is another great source if you want to get some cooking ideas. Find inspiring recipe books or cooking websites online. Cookbooks with wonderful photos can be a hugely inspiring source of ideas, even if you only select one or two recipes from each book. To keep down the costs and keep your bookshelf space free, consider using the library; even cooking eBooks are now available for borrowing from many libraries with online resources. And if you want to own the cookbooks, consider purchasing them secondhand; used cookbooks can be very cheaply sourced from yard sales, charity stores, online auctions, and second-hand bookstores.

          * If you're not familiar with cooking, try to get a book that covers all of the basics of cooking. There is a good number of such cookbooks in publication, and they will be a never-ending useful resource so it's worth spending the money to get a good one that you'll use for years to come. Look for one that covers everything from preparing foods, storing foods, making sauces, baking, using different cuts of meats, explanations of cooking terms, descriptions of fruits and vegetables, etc. Visit a local bookstore and flip through a few before deciding which one works best for you.

          * Regularly borrowing books on different cuisines from the library can be a fun way of opening your cooking expertise up to a variety of new dishes. You can make a copy of a favourite recipe or two from borrowed books and keep them in a binder.

4. Learn about cooking. As it happens, what makes cooking the hardest is when you don't actually know what to do, or how to do it. Many avoid the kitchen because they don't want to make a mistake and waste food and feel guilty about it and not having that "knowledge" makes people have low confidence about cooking. Fortunately, this is quite easy to overcome as there are many ways to learn cooking, including attending a course (where you'll make new contacts and perhaps even new friends), reading the cookbooks and recipe magazines, surfing the web for videos and "how-to" manuals, asking friends or family to teach you, or just by watching cooking shows and learning from what you see. The best lesson is always trial and error, but it's quite easy to eliminate the most simple errors for ordinary cooking. Anyone can cook, but only people who take an interest in how cooking methods work can cook well. Developing an interest in experimenting with flavours, textures and methods also makes the whole field of cooking far more interesting to explore. As you experiment, check frequently because food can't be un-cooked or un-spiced, and keep in mind three distinct objectives of cooking:

          * Combining flavors and textures. Pretty simple, and great for experimenting. For instance, assemble peanut butter, jelly, and toast into a sandwich. You'll probably get about what you expected, though it might be better or not quite as good.

          * Softening and browning. Moderate heat, such as that applied by Microwave or steam, breaks down the internal structure of food, softening it (and removing life such as bacteria by a certain temperature) and sometimes drying it out. High heat, such as that applied by frying oil breaks it down further, partly into materials causing the familiar toasted or burnt flavor. The rate of heat application controls how cooked the inside of large items (which can't conduct heat above the boiling point until entirely dried out) will be when the outside is "done" or even a little burnt. Low heat cooks evenly (but be sure to heat meat adequately[1]); high heat, past a point, cooks only the outside faster. Cooking with circulating hot water, oil or air, such as simmering, roasting or smoking, cooks from all directions more or less evenly with little or no stirring or turning; some other methods cook unevenly--often desirable (browning a side, for instance). You can experiment here too. If something is not cooking on the inside, or is soggy due to excessive water, when the outside seems done, turn down the heat and let it sit, or microwave it.

          * Special reactions. Some foods combine to form new and special things under the right conditions: for instance, flour-water-fat "roux" gravy, egg-white meringue, or a yeast-, soda- or powder- rising bread shortbread or cake. Some changes can make these unsatisfactory or complete failures. The specifics would depend on the chemistry of the particular cooking technique . It's generally OK to add items in small quantities such as spices or that do not mix in thoroughly such as nuts. Use caution adding items that are widely reactive, often having strong chemical tastes such as sour lemon juice or salty salt, or that affect overall consistency such as oil or shortening.

   5.  Kitchen tools don't have to be fancy, although better results are usually tied to better quality. It is better to buy a good secondhand tool rather than a poorly made new one. Equip your kitchen well. Some modern homes have little more than a microwave aside from an oven and stovetop. You can buy portable stoves and small benchtop ovens from camping stores or houseware stores if you don't have access to anything complex. You can often find these secondhand at charity stores and yard sales. Other basic and essential equipment includes:

          * Measuring spoons and cups, mixing bowls, a wooden spoon and a whisk, baking trays, pots and pans (saucepans) of varying sizes, a steamer, baking trays, spatulas, tongs, knives and cutting boards, a grater or food processor and a sieve. These can all be sourced secondhand easily but if you can afford to buy brand new, purchase the best quality you can afford because many of these items will last you for years.

          * An apron is highly recommended, or elaborate & pretentious as it seems, a cook or chefs jacket. These can be sourced usually quite cheaply from hospitality suppliers. Unprotected clothes can turn people off cooking after the odd splash or spill has ruined a favourite shirt. Aprons and jackets are quick to remove so when you sit down to eat, or are cooking to impress guests, you have avoided a potential headache having to change. They keep you clean after handling powders (such as flour, turmeric etc), liquids or other staining ingredients. They also can protect you from hot splashes.

   6. Plan your meal. While this may sound simple, there is actually more to it, much like planning an event. All the same, once you get used to what's involved, it soon becomes second nature and it won't seem like a chore at all. Some recipes even give you an estimation of preparation time which makes it much easier. Play close attention to the amount of time you'll spend cutting and preparing food, then the cooking and cleaning up. Add this time up so you know when to start. If you start at 8:30pm to make a dinner that takes 2.5 hours to make it will be too late for most people to eat, so it would better to start earlier. Most recipes will give an indication of preparation time, and with experience, you'll learn to work this out for yourself.

          * The other time factor to be aware of are foods that cook quickly and those which take longer. Obviously, differences between food such as a three hour roast versus a toasted sandwich that can be cooked in minutes will be clear to you. However, knowing that some foods in the same group have varied cooking times is important to avoid over- or under-cooking the food. For example, carrots and beans take longer to cook than broccoli, so if you were to steam them, you'd need to add the broccoli later than the carrots and beans, or the broccoli would be overcooked and tasteless by the time the others were cooked. This type of knowledge can mean the difference between a mediocre meal and a truly delicious one. With time and experience, this knowledge becomes innate, provided you don't accept sub-standard cooking! It's best to plan ahead to ensure that all ingredients for a meal are cooked and ready at the point of serving so you don't have overcooked or undercooked food.

   7. Have everything ready to use
      Be organised before you begin the cooking. Organise your "mise en place". In cooking-speak, this term is used to mean "have everything ready". Have your ingredients and tools ready to go for the main cooking so you don't have to run around looking for things. Having your mise en place prepared makes cooking and cleaning vastly easier. It is also much like any task requiring materials – when everything is at hand, there is no need to panic or to suddenly realise that you're out of an essential ingredient!

   8. Clean up as you go, rather than leave a big mess at the end. This makes the whole job easier.
      Have a sink of hot water ready and a bowl or bin ready for your waste and peels. Quite often you can wash up tools and dishes as you go so the final clean up is much smaller; this is a smart way of operating as it lessens the end mess and burden and makes cooking, as well as the kitchen psychologically more inviting and less messy. For neat freaks or for people who get easily frustrated when tools go missing, cleaning up as you go is essential.

   9. Always take things like time for allowing dough to rise into account

      Take notice of any requirement to preheat ovens or pans for frying to ensure that you are ready for that need. As an oven can take 10 minutes to warm up to its required temperature, it's a problem if you're pouring a cake batter into a tray with the oven still cold. Many cakes and baked items need to be placed in the warm oven straight after beating or mixing so that you don't lose the benefits of the chemical reactions occurring in the batter. If you have to leave it while the oven warms up, the consistency and success of the cake or other baked item can change for the worse.

          * It can be very helpful to read the reasons behind why certain things need to be done, such as chilling, preheating, kneading for certain lengths of time, allowing dough to rise, etc. If you're curious about chemistry, physics, maths, and how the world works, you'll discover that the kitchen is a marvellous place to brush up on your knowledge in these areas in a fun way, and it definitely helps you to better understand the need for doing some things.

  10. Taste as you go. If you're afraid of doing too much tasting, taste just before serving to adjust for salt and pepper, or other flavourings. Chefs are trained to taste the cooking as it comes along; without doing this, they cannot be sure that the dish is turning out the way it is supposed to. Tasting a dish is a great way to ensure bland food or other potential flavour disasters are caught before it reaches the table. Just remember that you should use a clean spoon to do so and wash it after having tasted the food. Bacteria is easily transmitted from the saliva that will get on the spoon. Flavours do change so its best to add seasoning towards the end, as cooking spices for too long may make them bitter and salt can accumulate in long cooked meals as liquids evaporate. Other flavours can change as they cook. Things that won't need tasting generally involve food that you're steaming, boiling, or baking in its original state, such as vegetables; things that do need tasting are dishes that you've put together using a recipe.

   11. Expand your cooking horizons. If you wish to make homemade preserves, cakes and other treats on a regular basis, aside from cooking ordinary meals, the process is really the same as cooking a meal: Research your recipe, plan your methods and organise your ingredients and tools; then it's easy! Once you begin to feel more confident, you can even start to make preserves, jams, sauces, etc., from harvest gluts so that you can enjoy the food at different times of the year, especially if you have access to a home orchard. And there is nothing more liable to fill you with pride than being able to offer your homemade food as gifts or building some merit donating to charities if you have a surplus.


dannicash said...

Great tips! I prefer kampong foods a lot. City food causes me lost of weights. Ha ha ha

Yoyoy Kamphora Spa, GOMBAK said...

Tq. some causes lost of weights, some causes a lots of weight.

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