A few days ago, Kalyn of "Kalyn's Kitchen", who always impresses me with her beautiful presentation and interesting posts (not to mention the focus on healthy recipes!), tagged me for a very interesting meme: my five cooking challenges for 2006? Ever since I started writing this blog (almost a year ago!), I have taken on small cooking challenges, baby steps like making custard from scratch or cooking with some novel (for me) ingredients. But I have such a long way to go towards being the kind of cook that I would like to be.
My 5 Culinary Challenges for 2006...
1. Learn To Cook Classic Dishes. Don't get me wrong...experimentation has its own role in my kitchen, but one of my goals is to learn to make all of the world's classic dishes really well. I want to make a perfectly creamy risotto, tasty pad-thai and a mean macaroni-and-cheese. The same goes for Indian classics: I would like to make the perfect dal makhani, the tangiest rasam and an authentic aloo gobi. Luckily, I have access to wonderful recipes from fellow bloggers as well as cookbooks and this challenge is going to be really fun!
2. Make More Salads. Now here is a department where I am woefully lacking! Most of the meals I churn out don't have a big salad component at all. My idea of salad usually is to make a quick yogurt-based "raita" or to put out a bowl of baby carrots and a platter of cucumber and tomato slices. That just does not cut it! I want to start planning meals around salads rather than include them as an afterthought.
3. Cook More Whole Grains. Again, I started working on this last year by including oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice in my cooking repertoire. But so many more grains/flours are available now, such as quinoa and teff, and I want to learn to cook them all. Whole grains have too many health benefits and learning to make some delicious dishes using these grains would make it easy to make small healthful changes in my diet.
4. Equip Myself With Better Cookware. I presently own a skillet, a non-stick pan, 3 saucepans and a pressure cooker. All three saucepans are non-stick and I want to replace them with others (the lining is prone to leaking into food, studies suggest). The problem is, I am unsure what kind of cookware to buy. Any suggestions? What do you all use and how do you get around the problem of food sticking to the cookware? Any suggestions would be very welcome in helping me meet my challenge to cook in safer cookware. In addition, I would also like to buy a cast-iron pot, and a good wok. I would like to buy quality items and use them over a lifetime.
5. Generate Less Kitchen Waste.This one means a lot to me personally. I try to live an environmentally-conscious lifestyle, and in my home (and I suppose, most others), the kitchen produces most of my household trash. I would like to reduce this trash to the bare minimum. Some things I currently do are:
a) Take tote bags to the store so that I save those grocery plastic bags.
b) Buy foods in bulk to save on packaging.
c) Try to minimize food waste by planning meals in advance and buying only the groceries I know I will use.
d) Cook beans from scratch to avoid buying all those canned beans.
a) I want to grow my own herbs (never have to buy herbs again) and start growing some other veggies.
b) Start a compost heap with my bio-degradable kitchen waste.
Any other suggestions to reduce kitchen waste would be very welcome. I will challenge myself to keep thinking of new ways to do this.
Thanks, Kalyn, for provoking me into thinking about this meme...it was a very useful exercise!