What I have Learned from Two Years of Food Blogging
I am far from a professional chef, but I do love cooking. I really started my love for cooking when I first moved away from home and was forced to cook for myself. I saw people around me living day to day on ramen and Mac & Cheese. And while I did have my fair share of those foods, I desired to eat better. I started looking for recipes and cooking food that I wanted to eat, rather than food that I settled to eat.
Another thing you should know is that I love all things Disney. I was watching a clip from Aladdin a few years ago, where Aladdin gives a bread to two little kids. That bread had always looked so tasty. I started to reflect upon all the other yummy-looking food shown in cartoons. It was then I got the idea for my food blog. I would watch all the Disney movies and make all the food shown in them. That’s what I’ve been doing the last two years. Every week, I would watch a Disney film, record all the food shown and make the food.
It has really taught me a lot about cooking, and I definitely am a better cook than when I started. Here are some things I have learned along the way.
1. Always add around 10 more minutes to a recipe’s total make time
I don’t know if I’m a slow chef or what, but my prep-times are always longer than what recipes . It is important to give yourself ample amount of time to cook, especially if you have company coming over or have a time-constraint. Always make time for the inevitable mishap.
2. Taste the food along the way
A painter will never focus 100% on her subject and never look at what she is painting until the very end. Likewise, when cooking, you shouldn’t throw everything in and hope for the best at the end. Granted, there are some recipes where it is hard to taste along the way, but many, especially stove-top dishes, you can taste as you put in ingredients to see how the flavor has changed. This will not only allow you to increase or decrease future ingredients, but it will give you a better understanding of how different substances affect the dish as a whole.
3. More spice isn’t necessarily always best
In the past, I would love to cook dishes and put in basil, paprika, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, lemon, mint, etc all at once. It definitely gave the food flavor, but I have found that many times, less spice is more. For instance, the best ribs I have ever made were only spiced with salt and pepper. No bbq sauce, no all-spice, just salt and pepper. Also, if you are cooking for people, it is smart to under-spice your food just a bit. Some people prefer less, some prefer more and you can always add table-salt.
4. Mix order and mix time is actually important while baking
It all gets mixed into the same goop, so why not just throw in all the ingredients at once? Well, in baking, order makes a difference. If you throw everything in at once, specific flavors don’t get mixed well, and consistency will change. Also, be sure to understand how long you should mix certain things. For example, when baking cookies, if you don’t overbeat the eggs (only beat for ~15 seconds), the cookies will turn out fluffier.
5. Fancy food isn’t always hard to make
There seems to be a misconception in society that restaurant food is better than home-cooked food. But the reality is, like I wrote in last month’s newsletter, fancy food isn’t too hard lots of the time. It all comes down to the ingredients used. Sometimes, it may be hard to get quality ingredients, but if you’re wanting to make a gourmet meal for someone special, it is worth it. Making fancy meals usually aren’t too much harder than following a recipe for any other meal. But make sure you take care when following the recipe.
6. Get a mandolin slicer
I can’t believe I never had one before a couple years ago. They are really cheap (I think I got mine for under $20) and they are so convenient for chopping veggies. With a mandolin slicer, you’re able to get equally sized veggies which is great because they cook more evenly. The days are gone when I would take a bite of food and have one zucchini be super mushy and another one be too thick and raw. Other important kitchen items would be: a kitchenaid mixer, a nice sharp knife, and a cast-iron pan
7. Smell is important
I have always had a horrible sense of smell. However, my sense of smell has been fine-tuned while I’m cooking. I am able to sense when food is done or on the verge of burning and even when different flavors are needed. Some may have this knack natively, but it may take some developing for others like me. It is important to use all your senses while cooking. The more senses you pay attention to while cooking, the better your food will turn out. Next time you’re having a good meal, examine what makes it good with all your senses. Is it golden brown? Does the crust make a nice crackling sound? Does it have a pleasant aroma? What about the texture makes it pleasing? How do the flavors play together in your mouth?
8. Presentation is hard, but important
This is definitely the biggest weakness I have. I am terrible at making food, especially baked food, looked good. I am constantly having to get my wife to decorate cakes for me and making dishes look good. While to a blind person, a ugly cake and a pretty cake may taste the same, to everyone else, seeing a badly presented dish creates a bias. Even when I am cooking for myself, if it looks bad, it never tastes as good. Conversely, if it looks amazing, it always tastes better than it should.
9. Dishes suck
Ugh, this has been the bane of my last two years. It is an unavoidable downfall of cooking though, that is, unless you hire a cleaning guy or have an army of well-trained children that will jump at the opportunity to wash a dish. It is the worst after making a huge meal, to see the piles of dishes in the sink and dreading what has to come next. Some may say that it is best to just suck it up and do the dishes right after dinner. I’m the opposite. I like to give myself a respite before jumping in. The bad part about my way, is that sometimes the dishes get put off for days at a time.
10. Cooking is tiring
Going along with my last point, cooking is physically and mentally draining. There have been times where I have cooked for hours straight. At the end, my feet hurt, I’m sweating and have to fight staying awake when I finally sit down. It sure makes for a great presentation when I have guests over right after. I have gained a huge respect for those that make cooking their living. It is a tiring job, but a well-rewarding job.
11. There are so many different types of food out there
One of the greatest things this blog has done for me is opened my eyes to the wonderful world of food. There are so many different types of dishes out there. Many of which I have never heard of, but tasted amazing. There were times where I would be watching a Disney movie and have had no idea what the food shown was. I would do some research and find out that it was a old dish, native to the area of the movie. I would make it and be exposed to flavors I had never experienced before. I suggest that you stop the slow-cooker meat and potatoes, the spaghetti and tacos for a bit and branch out. Try to make some food from times and locations you have never thought of. It will expand your tastebuds and maybe even bring in some new regulars to your weekly meals.
12. Passion makes perfect
Above all, the best thing I have learned is that when I am passionate about making a dish good, it usually turns out good. There have been many times where I’ve been tired and kind of phoned-in a meal. When I’ve been apathetic like that, the meals have never turned out great. However, when I am truly excited to make a new dish, I put in the care and attention that is needed to make it great.
Overall, I have loved my experience of food-blogging. It has been very eye-opening and has increased my skill of cooking tenfold. If you have the opportunity to challenge yourself, whether it be make a new recipe a week or even incorporate a new spice into your cooking, I recommend you take it.
Monthly Newsletter Contributor since 2017
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