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Knowing simple techniques in cooking can motivate us to cook more at home and be healthier. It can also save us money.

Watching cooking shows have helped me become somewhat of a better cook.

There are simple techniques that I have learned, and science that has been explained to me that helps my dishes come out savory.

One root I never used before and which now finds its way into many of my dishes is ginger.

What I have learned:

Ginger root can be peeled with a spoon.
Then it can be grated. The grated ginger can be squeezed and this milky liquid makes a great marinade for pork and chicken.
Ginger can be sliced and boiled to make ginger tea. Just add honey and it is a spicy tea. The longer you boil the tea, the stronger it gets.

Care To Share?

What is a technique you have learned, or an ingredient you use in the kitchen that makes cooking more enjoyable....it could also be a gadget you find helps you work more effectively. Give us a brief explanation if you can

Anything kitchen goes........

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    May 4 2012: I learned the technique of breaking eggs with one hand from my friend when I was staying at his place during some hardships I had.

    He told me that, "You need to first crack it on the side of the pan, then stick one [clean] finger in the crack and pop them in half. You can't be afraid to get dirty when your cooking. I find many people cook and fear getting messy."

    It is so true in cooking and in life how people are afraid to get a little dirty sometimes. Don't be afraid but just know that it is going to happen. =)
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      May 5 2012: hahah...........this has been the most entertaining entry by far.
      [EDIT...great tip Derek!!!]

      Did you ever watch the movie with Audrey Hepburn where she goes to Paris to a Culinary school?
      Her instructor was teaching the class how to crack an egg with one hand. I wish I could remember the name of the movie [EDIT..........found it!! "Sabrina"]you would enjoy that scene.

      And did you watch the movie about the blogger who spent a year cooking through Julia Childs' cookbook (Julia and Julia)? GREAT movie!!

      When I lived overseas I knew a family, whose daughter was so "special", she refused to learn to cook because of the smell of onions and other foods on her fingers. I thought, "oh brother"......what a little princess. How can you not cook in order to keep clean hands......I don't get it :/

      There are all kinds of tricks to deal with odors. Here are a few of them:

      * * Use lemons to rub on your fingers after cutting onions, or messing around with fish.

      Each time I use lemons in a recipe, I hold on to them after I squeeze them to either boil in water, this refreshes the air in the kitchen, or to rub 1. on my fingers, and/or 2. to rub on my chopping block if I have used it to cut up raw meat, or onions.

      Sprinkling your chopping block with salt after use will also disinfect it. And while you are rubbing the salt into the chopping block with your hands, you are also disinfecting your hands, and "exfoliating" them.....a spa in your kitchen!! =) (Make sure to then wash with warm soapy water and rinse)

      Getting messy to me is half the fun. But after cooking over and over, you don't get messy any more.

      I have to admit, I love taking a whole chicken and cutting it into pieces to bake or use in a recipe. Jacque Pepin showed me how. =)

      Can you tell I watch alot of PBS cooking shows?

      Thanks Derek for contributing to the conversation. Have a great weekend.
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        May 6 2012: Heehee! Mary,

        You are fabulously entertaining as well! You are also insightful with your responses.

        In my home, we recycle lemons the same way! I never thought of the reasons except disinfecting though, but your tip about boiling the lemon may come in handy! =)

        Salt or Halite is amazing! Naturally occurring magic!

        I will definitely check out those shows, but if only I could be multiple people doing all the things I want to do. I have a manuscript length of things I should or want to do, but I just get so interested in the rest of the world to concentrate on a single point in space and time! Bah!!

        PBS is just amazing! It may be the only educational television out in the world with the least bias or most free at least. I guess that is left wing stuff....which I like, but I guess I'm biased. =)

        You have a fine weekend as well. Also, happy cinco de may and children's day! =)
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        May 6 2012: Footnote: I usually try to apply several messages into a single topic. Thanks for starting this topic! =)
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          May 6 2012: Thanks for finding it and replying.

          Bah!! is right.....so much to do, how to do it all?......my suggestion, do it while you are young and have the energy and freedom to do it Derek.

          Once you finish your studies, and settle down to marriage and kids, even cooking becomes monotonous.....

          However, I think that people with open minds, who love learning, will always find liitle pockets of time to luxuriate in what they are passionate about.........cooking, travelling, learning, reading, etc.......

          That deep desire to keep on learning and having new experiences has to be kept alive, regardless of age.

          I know I would get major depressed if I cooked the same old food the same old way. I just can't.......I've tried.......but it's just not in me.

          I need variety..........and you know what they say about variety?.....it is the SPICE of life!!

          HA!!!!! managed to stay on topic............heeheehee

          See ya! and thanks again Derek.
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    Apr 30 2012: Violaine Hemery commented as following:

    "The problem is that there is no big company yet that fulfills the growing need for delivery of healthy meals for a reasonable price.
    More and more people work long hours and prefer dedicating their shrinking free time to do something they like doing"

    But eating healthy hot meals does not really require much time. Eating out also requires time.....you have to wait to be seated, the order taken, and then wait for the meal to be prepared. And many times you walk out dissatisfied with the meal.

    What is reasonably priced? And what would this include?
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      Apr 30 2012: Violaine, I know what you mean - I was just the same when I worked in a high pressured office environment - I used to arrive home really tired and just want to chill in front of the TV with a 5 minute microwave meal. You’re not alone!
      However, eating this way is really damaging to people’s health (and figure) in the long term. It’s a slippery slope since ready meals contain so much hidden salt, preservatives, colourings, fats and sugars - living off them dulls your taste buds, raises your blood pressure and actually makes your more tired They’re also very expensive.
      Perhaps if you don't currently like cooking you could ask an older relative or friend who loves cooking to help inspire you and teach you a few quick, simple recipes that only use the foods you like. You could then spend half a day (say 3 hours) making up a selection of your own ready meals, snacks and work lunches - freezing them in single portions - then you can be lazy all week AND feel virtuous AND save money for those lovely shoes/dress/handbag!
      It won’t take long before your body adjusts to this new healthy diet and you develop a spring in your step ;-)
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    Apr 30 2012: "Nature's pharmacy".....courtesy of Natasha Nikulina..........

    http://youtu.be/0C_mb14Szsw

    Thank you so very much Natasha!!!

    Nature provides so much variety.

    It is not difficult to have some of these fresh ingredients on hand and learn to cook them, or eat them raw.

    I like your point that we learn to cook by cooking............I guess what I am asking is what techniques have proven helpful for you as time has passed and you have become a cook.

    For example, some people don't know you need to soak dried beans before you cook them. And of course, beans like lentils and pigeon peas do not need soaking. And garbanzos are best when soaked with a bit of salt in the water.

    Thanks for your contribution Natasha!!!
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    Apr 30 2012: Mary, I totally agree with you - there is no need to be a professional cook to eat well and with a few skills and a bit of knowledge and confidence everyone can eat healthy, delicious food every day. I'm rather evangelical about food as I used to eat badly when I worked in an office environment. I have a tiny kitchen and yard and a restricted income - however, I cook every day & grow my own veg & herbs. I spend less on food now, and I enjoy eating more.

    I feel that a key lesson to learn is around portion size and when in the day to eat. We should eat every three hours to keep our blood sugars level. And we need to eat more, earlier in the day and less, later in the evening. There is a rhyme - "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper". Unfortunately, many people skip breakfast and have their main meal after work in the later evening. Mid morning and mid-afternoon smacks are often crisps (US chips?), or chocolate bars / biscuits.


    Being strapped for cash is no barrier to eating well in the vast majority of the world. Eating meat is great - but people don’t need it seven days a week. I only eat meat twice a week, but eating meat four times a week would be a good reduction if meat is eaten as part of every meal. When I do eat meat I enjoy the luxury of it, it’s more healthy for me to eat less, it’s cheaper to cut meat out of most meals, and it’s better for the environment.

    Yes! It takes time to change your diet from high fat, high meat, high salt, high sugar, ready meals or takeaways - but, once the change has been made your taste buds come to life again and you can taste real food the way your grandparents once did! Delicious!
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      Apr 30 2012: Heather, what wonderful reminders for us all.

      Your rhyme..........

      Breakfast like a king,
      Lunch like a prince,
      Supper like a pauper.

      Very good point, also the point of eating frequently to help metabolism........this is so very important.
      Some believe that waiting 6-8 hours between meals is healthy. Well, it may cause you to retain weight instead. Especially if you are already overweight.

      We don't consume red meat anymore.

      We stick to lean pork, chicken, turkey and fish. And we absolutely love whole grains, beans, and fruits and vegetables of any kind.

      Whenever I cook garbanzos, I like to pull out a few once they are soft, and let them cool. I love to sprinkle them in a cold salad..........romaine lettuce, cucumbers, red peppers, red onions (or green), celery, grated carrots, walnuts and driizzled with a bit of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. My kids love this for lunch during the summer.

      Thanks Heather for the great suggestions.

      Keep cooking.........and, check out the video Natasha submitted, it is really nice (appx 4 minutes long)
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    Apr 28 2012: For great mashed potatoes.....

    Peel and 1/2 a clove of garlic and boil it along with the potatoes, then mash it in.......the taste is pretty good.
    Simple tip, great taste.
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    Apr 28 2012: I stink at cooking, have realized a terrible need to learn how and be interested, and am looking for an all-in-one training course for the 'cooking illiterate' that has a heavy health slant, not necessarily 'couture'. Any suggestions?
    • Apr 28 2012: RH,
      have you seen the movie " The girl with a pearl earring " ?
      Just at the very beginning, the girl is slicing vegetables...
      What colour ! What texture !
      I love cooking for that ! :)
      But sometimes when I am not in the mood and peeling potatoes is not that enjoyable experience , I still appreciate it, for it is the time for thinking.
      Strange enough, but everybody likes what I cook :)
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        Apr 28 2012: Yes. I saw the movie. I wasn't looking at the vegetables. You see! No interest in cooking! But I must! I must be interested! I have to stop eating all the crap that's available! So I have to learn, and to learn I have ot be interested. I will watch again and this time look at the veggies instead of the g-, earring. Thnx.
        • Apr 28 2012: You don't need to be interested in cooking, but whatever you are doing it helps when you are interested in Beauty in all its forms.(vegetables included)
          This girl, in the movie, was not an artist in the usual sense, but she was a genius in the most divine sense . She saw Beauty.
          That's what i was trying to say.
          A kind of 'not-learn-how-to-cook' training course.:)
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        Apr 28 2012: Ah yes. I see your point. Life as art. Absolutely agree. But some people are poets, some musicians, some sculptors. Others, as you point out, find beauty and expression in non-artistic endeavors - as I try to do. Unfortunately, cooking hasn't been one of them for me. Not that I don't think it's beautiful or artistic or a fantastic acheivement for someone, just that particular form of expression has not interested me until this point. Now I must be interested or I believe it will affect my health - and that is very interesting to me. Thank you for responding so beautifully.
        • Apr 30 2012: Actually, trying to learn something that you know you deeply dislike will not lead you anywhere i think.
          I do like cooking (simple meals), but I really enjoy having the luxury to eat out or having my food delivered, what's wrong (ethically speaking) with that?

          The problem is that there is no big company yet that fulfills the growing need for delivery of healthy meals for a reasonable price.
          More and more people work long hours and prefer dedicating their shrinking free time to do something they like doing.
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        Apr 28 2012: Girl with a pearl earring is a great movie. How interesting that you noticed the kitchen scene. I was struck by how low the table where she had to work was when I saw the movie (and if I am remembering it right).

        The Japanese say you eat with your eyes first.........I try to also present meals first to the eyes, then to the palate.

        I love to experiment, and for me diversity is key.....find new ways to cook old favorites. I get very bored with the same thing over and over.

        Like, brussel sprouts. The other day, I cut them in half, brushed them with olive oil, and salt and put them in my toaster over for about 25 minutes on 350......they came out wonderful...I always hated to boil them, now I cook them in the oven and the tast is so much better.

        Any techniques or recipes you want to share Natasha?
        • Apr 30 2012: Marry, sorry for the delay with my response !
          I would like to share with you my recipes, but I'm afraid i don't have such. As my grandma said : you must have a kind of gut feeling what stuff to put in, in what quantity and at what precise time.
          There is no miracle in it, if you practice cooking everyday you'll inevitably develop this felling and do a lot of things almost unconsciously . A kind of kitchen jini prompts you :)
          Let me explain, every Ukrainian woman, who has a family ( with 1% of 1% exception ) is a cook The situation what you try to bring back to US, is not yet gone from Ukraine. We eat mainly home made food. It's just plain good food. Not much diversity though. Everything has its price, when you serve three/four meals per day, every day and invest heavily into the process , no time is left for anything else. I don't think it's bad, but it's not my choice. Under the circumstances, the complex, timed to perfection dishes are not an option.Usually I occupy my mind with 'far-away-from-kitchen' thoughts, but when the final test of my borsh is made ... it's delicious. The only thing i can be focused on: it's the variety of shapes and colours on my table... I've noticed it in the movie, because it's my daily experience : )
          I cook, because I love my family and want them eat healthy food, that is the main ingredient in every dish , everything you do from love is good :)
          Watch this video, hope you will love it as I do http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C_mb14Szsw
          Enjoy !
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        May 1 2012: To Violet: You hit so close to home with your comment that I laughed out loud. But my problem is the same as yours - eating out my whole life and now paying the price. Eating as a hobby or a sport is not good for me. Food is a most intimate partner, and I need to move on to a new relationship. Thnx.
        • May 1 2012: RH, I'd been notified of a response to my comment and it brought me back to the page. Reading your and Violet posts makes me to realize , that i don't like cooking ! I do it out of necessity that's why I distract my thoughts out of it and need the aesthetic element to be involved to make the time I spend in the kitchen pleasant. But still I do it because I care about my family or out of love that's why what i cook is really tasty.
          If I were single , most likely I wouldn't cook ! :)
          cheers!
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      Apr 28 2012: Hi RH,

      Here is a link to every day foods. I have actually learned quite a few techniques watching the episodes, the site has all the recipes they have aired:

      http://www.pbs.org/everydayfood/recipes/

      I find that to cook, you don't have to have alot of ingredients.

      Look, one of my favorite meals:

      -----1 tomato....sliced and drizzled with olive oil, lemon, salt (salad)

      -----Handful of asparagus.....heat a skillet on medium and put a pat of butter in it. Once melted put in the asparagus, you can chop it if you prefer. Drizzle some lemon juice and salt......move the pan around until the asparagus heats through......deeeelicious

      ----Boneless, skinless breast of chicken.......salt and pepper to taste and drop in a pan with heated up olive oil. Usually 7 minutes on both sides....depending on thickness. Not too complicated. You can drizzle with lemon when it's done.

      (Variation: You can cut up the breast and throw in onions, peppers and soy sauce if you prefer oriental flavors)

      Asparagus hint I learned......grab the stalk with both hands and bend it.....it will break where the tough part ends......you can discard the tough part or use it in a stock.

      Chicken hint.......it you want for the breast to cook evenly put it in seran wrap and pound it down so it gets all one thickness......I use anything around for pouding....even a skillet....

      Hope I've helped. Feel free to ask me questions, I love to cook. PBS has great cooking shows. Two of my favorites are Jacque Pepin and America's test kitchen. You can access some on line I think

      Happy cooking!!!!
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        May 1 2012: Thanks Mary. I'll check it out.
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      Apr 28 2012: Learn how to brown vegetables with or without meat. Learn how to add liquids to the the result to make a stew or soup or sauce. Learn to make a white sauce or bechamel sauce. Once you can do those things, and they're not difficult, you can follow just about any recipe. Seriously, it's that simple.

      For equipment, a couple of mixing bowls, a decent knife, a couple of saucepans, a peeler, a couple of wooden spoons, a chopping board, a measuring jug, that should be enough to start with. A food processor or blender and an electric whisk are useful.

      Acquire a recipe book aimed at students or busy people - the recipes will be simple to follow. Once you get confident with a few recipes, start experimenting with different vegetables and herbs and spices.

      If you want to get into the baking side for cakes, bread, pizza, learn to cream butter and sugar and eggs, knead dough, rub fat into flour. Those techniques will allow you to follow most recipes.

      As you experiment, keep a note of what you like and dislike, what works and what doesn't work. And if you're entertaining, use recipes that you know you can make successfully.

      Also, have a look at recipes for salads - all you have to do is chop a few vegetables and mix a dressing.
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        Apr 28 2012: I once heard on America's test kitchen what the reason for browning meat is.

        Most people will answer..........."to lock in the juices"........well, that is not so.

        The reason to brown meat is to develop complex flavors.......so this is what I have learned to do when doing chicken frecasee or beef stew......

        First, heat stainless steel pan, then pour oil (hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick.....it's another great tip I learned)

        I always cook on medium heat....NEVER on high. You will see the pan is hot enough because the oil wil float on top......and move around on it's own....regardless of the amount of oil you use, which doesn't have to be too much.

        Then, you have to drop the pieces of meat in so that it browns. Not too many pieces because too much steam will be created, and the result won't be the same. Turn until all sides are brown, then I take them out and put in the veggies (onions, carrots, celery).....then put the meat back in...salt and pepper....cover......and if I want to later on I'll add cut up potato pieces.

        You can also add all kinds of herbs such as thyme, or rosemary or oregano....BUT be careful dry herbs are potent, so use a little little bit.......fresh herbs pack less pow.....
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      Apr 30 2012: Hay RH, It's great you want to learn how to cook. For real beginners try How To Cook by Delia Smith (She's the UK's Grand Dame of TV cookery) Amazon link

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Delias-Complete-How-Cook-collection/dp/0563539070/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335779175&sr=1-2

      This is the UK amazon site, but I'm sure you can get it on the US verson. Originally the TV series was shot in three series and thus three books - but this link is for the complete 3 books in one volume version. You'll learn all you need to know about ingredients, techniques and equipment - Good luck!

      P.S. Other great TV cooks are Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver.
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        May 1 2012: That's great. Thanks Heather.
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    Apr 27 2012: For me, cooking is a chore, although I am quite a good cook. My favourite technique is freezing. Whenever possible, I cook much more than I need for that meal, then freeze most of it in single portion containers. then when I really don't want to cook all I have to do is defrost a chilli, or spaghetti sauce, or stew, or soup.

    As the carnivore in a demi-vegetarian household, this gives me a supply of meat dishes for the occasions when I don't want a veggie meal, and it does away with the problem of recipe quantities which are too large for a single meal.
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      Apr 27 2012: Hi Anne,

      Freezing is a great technique....practical and time saver.

      I freeze beans and also left over chili in single serving portions for quick lunches.

      When I soak beans and cook them I will cook double, because just like you, I feel cooking is a bit of a chore sometimes.........once the beans are soft I will take out 1/2 (along with the water) let them cool and then freeze it.....to use in the future in chili, or in a cuban bean soup.
      I also freeze rice, which, when brought out again and sprinkled with a bit of water cooks as brand new.......a friend taught me that trick.

      And, because limes are abundant here, when they go on sale 15 for $1, I squeeze them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays for a quick lemonade, or to cook with later on.

      Do you ever freeze fruit for making smoothies?
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        Apr 27 2012: I'm too lazy to make smoothies unless I'm really tempted by fresh fruit in season.

        But I do buy chillis in bulk for freezing. I use disposable gloves to prepare them by removing stalk and seeds then I put them in the food processor. The resulting mush goes in a freezer bag and I flatten it out before freezing. Then when I want chilli for cooking I break off a piece.

        Another freezer favourite is pitta bread. Frozen pitta goes in the toaster then is stuffed with salad and humus or guacamole for a quick lunch.

        By the way, for your ginger tea, have you tried adding lemon to it? And whisky if you have a cold!
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          Apr 28 2012: Fruit:

          ** Strawberries..........when they are in season and you can get them dirt cheap, I take the green off and freeze them in portions to make smoothies for 4 people. (freezer bags)

          ** Ripe bananas......I peel and cut and place each banana in individual freezer bags.

          The great thing about frozen fruit, is that you do not have to put in ice.

          I also will freeze bread if I find it on sale.....especially the italian 5 grain from the bakery.

          And yes I'll add lemon sometimes.........I've never tried it with whisky....hmm, must be real good!!! cold or not...LOL
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    Apr 27 2012: get rid of salt, is my advice. Vegetables and meat taste better, although it might take some time to get used to the different (the real) tastes.
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      Apr 27 2012: Hi Gerald, great advice.

      Let me ask you, how do you cook your meats and veggies....any spices?
      Do you grill daily? How do you go about cooking them?

      Thanks
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        Apr 28 2012: I boil vegetables, once in a while I put some meat in. But the main thing is to keep using the same cooking water, which gets deicious after a few days. No spices.
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          Apr 28 2012: Gerald, you are too funny.......you even came up with a new word to describe the recycled water....."deicious"........

          Did you know that if you are cooking green beans, or for that fact, any green vegetable the secret to keeping them bright green and not having them get that pale green color is to cook with the lid 'off' the pot?

          Thanks for your contributions.....lighthearted and practical......