It can be intimidating, overwhelming, or even just unappealing to pull out a recipe after a long day and attempt to follow instructions. I get it, I have definitely been there. I have pulled together a few tips to make following a recipe more simple, and easier.
1. Minimize distractions. Before you get started, think about what might be possible distractions. It is hard to give a recipe your attention when you are also watching TV, dealing with kids running around, or are engaging in an important conversation. If you like to have background noise, try listening to music instead of watching TV. One thing that helps me is getting my husband to occupy the kids while I cook, or finding something entertaining to distract them for a few minutes (pots and pans anyone?). Save the in-depth conversations for meal time.
2. Start with a clean kitchen. Before you pull out your recipe, tidy up your kitchen. It is not fun trying to cook when your dishwasher is full of clean dishes, your counter tops are dirty, or you are stepping on crumbs. Take a moment to clean everything up, including putting dishes away that are in the dish rack. Once you kitchen is clean, fill up one side of your sink with warm soapy water. This allows you to wash dishes while you cook.
3. Set the table. I recently heard somewhere that a good host or hostess doesn't always have a meal ready for guests when they arrive, but they always have the table set. This makes guests feel welcome, and the host feels more organized. I like this idea for serving my family too. I have recently been setting the table before I start making dinner - you should give it a try!
4. Read over your recipe. You don't want to start cooking and suddenly get hit with a ton of confusing instructions, or start to pan fry something and than realize you were supposed to bake it (been there!). Before you start cooking, read the recipe in its entirety so you know what you are doing before you start. Additionally, convert any units of measurement that you are unable to measure and make a note of them.
5. Check for all required ingredients. Skim the ingredient list to make sure you don't need anything else to make the recipe. Before you call your partner in a panic to pick something up, or flee to the store yourself, try to find substitutions for any missing ingredients. For example, flax seed can be used instead of eggs, rice instead of pasta, oregano and thyme instead of Italian seasoning, etc.
6. Prepare your ingredients. Wash and chop your veggies, peel and mince your garlic, mix together sauce ingredients. Do whatever you can to make the actual cooking process go easier.
7. Clean as you go. Keep a bowl on the counter for vegetable scraps, and return ingredients to your fridge or cupboards when you are done using them. Dishes and utensils you no longer need can go right into the dishwasher, or be rinsed and dumped in the sink full of soapy water. When you have time, wash as many of the dishes as you can, so you have less to do later.
8. Give yourself time. Most of the recipes I follow take between 30-60 minutes. I try my best to give myself an hour to make dinner if possible. I also allow another 30 minutes to sit with my family, eat, and relax. This is usually the only time of the day that all four of us are together. I like to make it last as long as possible.
What are some of the ways that you make cooking, or following a recipe easier? I would love to hear from you!