Friday, October 14, 2011

Taking Your Cooking to The Next Level

Many teens say that they like to cook, but their skills are limited to baking, making pasta, heating up soup, and cooking with mom or dad. There's nothing wrong with that, but everyone likes to be more independent. Challenge yourself! Cook something, bake something, prepare something, pack a lunch, make a hot breakfast, make an awesome sandwich- do something creative in the kitchen every day! It's the fastest way to pick up new skills. There's nothing wrong with asking for help from your parents or other adults, or learning the ropes from them, but there are things you can do to expand your own abilities and become more independent in the kitchen. Here are six ways to take things to the next level. They range from simple to challenging, in order of complicity:

1) Make Your Own Breakfast.
If your parents still make you breakfast, move on. We're not talking flapjacks, sausage, and fried eggs every morning, but prepare some cereal (hot or cold), toast, yogurt, scrambled eggs, or a bagel in the morning. These are run-of-the-mill choices, but they can be interesting if you're a little creative. Here are some ideas to punch up the morning...
  • Cereal: Mix different dry cereals together and add some milk. Add cut-up fruit on top, or serve dry cereal on top of yogurt instead of milk. A great hot cereal is granola with milk, microwaved a minute and a half.
  • Toast: Try apple butter, honey butter, or different jams. You could also do jam with fruit- for example, you could spread raspberry jam on the toast and top that with chopped up strawberries. Use peanut butter for protein and fat.
  • Yogurt: Serve with cereal, granola, fruit, or even a tablespoon of honey or jam stirred into the plain kind.
  • Scrambled Eggs: Scramble in salt, pepper, and cheese.
  • Bagel: Try bagels with jam, peanut butter, cream cheese, or even cream cheese with jam on top of it... it's delicious.
2) Pack Your Lunch.
Make this a habit. Refer to our post on this. Also, watch your manners.

3) Bake Something for Someone Else. 
You may step it up mentally if this is for a small gift. Make and frost sugar cookies, pack them in a box, tie a bow around them, and give them to a friend with a gift card for their birthday. You'll try harder to do a neat, tidy job and to make delicious food.

4) Prepare a Meal for Your Family.
This weekend, plan to make a lunch or dinner for your family. Make vegetables/salad, grain/starchy vegetable, and a protein. An example is caesar salad alongside pasta with chicken and alfredo sauce. Do this at least one time per week, and use new recipes each time. Have fun with it!

5) Gradually Move From Supermarket Helpers to Fresher Foods, and Foods That You Make Yourself.
This is one we're all working on... and it's really a gradual process. Have you ever made your own bread,  chicken broth, or soup? We have. Have you ever made your own pasta? We haven't done that one yet... We still use packaged foods in our cooking, or eat them straight up, but in order to work towards being a better chef, one must regularly improve their skills and habits. Try baking a loaf of bread and making a pot of soup. You can also buy vegetables and fruits at a farmer's market, or get a share at a farm, so you'll be working with what's in season. You will learn how to prepare many different foods, rather than steaming carrots and broccoli or roasting potatoes all year long.
6) Teach Someone Else Something. 
When you're confident in your cooking skills, teach a friend how to roast a chicken. Teach your mom how to make a new type of cookie, or granola bar. It's rewarding to share newfound knowledge.

Two Teen Chefs

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