NOTE: If you like this and want to hear more, check out the AdapNation Podcast where I join Steve – #23: Is Scratch Cooking on the Decline & Michelle’s Healthy Tasty Cooking Tips
Firstly let me clarify… I don’t enjoy cooking! I wanted to write this blog to show that even if you don’t like cooking, or aren’t particularly creative, there’s always something you can rustle up which will be healthy, fulfilling, nutritious, easy and delicious. I also need to take heed of my own advice, whilst I always ensure my family are fed well, I admittedly have a bit of a love-hate relationship with food which is a daily battle for me. I’ll get there though, I want to be the best role model I can possibly be for our girls.
Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook! The Early Inspiration…
One of the earliest recollections I have about cooking is from watching shows like Can’t Cook Won’t Cook with TV legend Ainsley Harriot. See, I’ve always had an interest in watching cooking programmes on TV, be it the above, MasterChef, Ready Steady Cook or even the little cooking sections on This Morning and such like. However, putting it in to practice for me is not something I like to do.
Growing up I didn’t really have many culinary delights dished up to me, my Mum openly admits she’s not a great chef. She fed me and my brother growing up as best she could, it was usually staples like Shepherds Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese, chicken and chips etc. I do recall even at a young age though thinking that some meals just didn’t have enough flavour – which is probably a strange thought for a kid to have!
We didn’t eat out often. It wasn’t really the done thing back then, plus it was, and is still expensive. If I’d ever stay with my Nan & Grandad it was beans on toast or something from the Chinese or Chippy. This turned into a dangerous habit in my late teens though – I was always skinny as a child and then the food started to catch up with me, and I could no longer eat whatever I wanted… my weight crept up.
I started to take responsibility for my own nutrition when I moved out of home at 23. Not only did I now have myself to look after, I moved in with Steve so I had to attempt to feed us both, with little to no knowledge of the basics. We survived however, and here I am now knocking up new meal ideas for the website almost daily. This is totally achievable, if I can now cook, anyone can!
Looking for Inspriration?
Nowadays there are so many ways to gather information and inspiration for recipes. In local supermarkets they give out free magazines that are full of recipes and ideas. These could be a good starting point, or take a look at our AdapNation Food Diary and see if there’s anything you fancy.
I personally struggle with most cookbooks. They’re far too complicated for me, I don’t want to spend £30+ on one meal and buy a load of ingredients I’m never likely to use again. Oh, and the time thing too, most that I’ve seen usually have a preparation time of about 30 minutes and then 1+ hour to make it! I’m a mum and wife, I haven’t got time for that. The meals that I make are done in 30 mins start to finish – occasionally I may spend longer cooking something like a roast, but that’s infrequent.
I’m not quite sure how or why, but I seem to have a understanding of flavour combinations, perhaps it’s all the cookery shows which have helped but there’s certain things that people just know compliment each other, duck and orange for example or beef and mushrooms. If you’re ever stuck though, Google is your friend and will happily suggest things just by typing ‘what does lamb work well with’ – once you see a few answers, compare it to the bits and bobs you have in the cupboard and fridge and crack on.
Healthy Doesn’t Have To Mean Tasteless
This was certainly a preconceived idea that I used to have. To me, healthy was a salad and some chicken, a low-fat stir fry or tuna. Whilst these can be pretty tasty and healthy, it’s not something I could eat everyday without getting bored. Especially in those winter months when it’s chilly.
For me now, I look to whole foods to get our essential macro and micro nutrients. Steve likes to eat protein rich foods as they’re great for muscle growth, satiation and vital for a healthy functioning body. I think he may also be a little addicted to Sweet Potato, you’ll see that features heavily in most of our meal ideas. It’s a great ingredient, it’s so versatile, readily available, dense in nutrients and yummy!
I keep our children true to our food principals, they eat little processed or refined foods. They’re kids so of course their desserts are chocolates and things like that but, on the whole, they too eat a varied, well balanced diet and have built up their palates to enjoy good food. Often they’ll ask for salmon, mash and broccoli, chicken and mixed vegetable rice, and fruit. I’d like to hope they pass down their understanding of how your food choices impact your health. Steve and I discuss this matter of ‘paying it forward’ cooking-wise on the AdapNation Podcast Ep23.
We try to eliminate most if not all gluten, as research is proving over and over that it causes inflammation in those who aren’t even coeliac so we err on the side of caution, and remove it where possible. Again, this is easily done when you’re cooking with whole foods that haven’t been processed and toyed with too much.
TOP TIP: Sourdough doesn’t have gluten due to the fermentation process. Woo hoo!
Kitchen Cupboard & Fridge Staples
Here’s a few things which may help you out if you’re looking to improve your diet, you’re lacking inspiration to cook or want to try something new. There’s a few things I MUST HAVE to enable me to cook dishes well with an equal balance of health and flavour.
CUPBOARD ESSENTIALS (in no particular order)
- Tabasco Sauce
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Not to be cooked with at high temperatures)
- Coconut Oil
- Rice Bran Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Chicken Seasoning
- All Purpose Seasoning
- Rice (Gluten free and available microwavable)
FRIDGE ESSENTIALS (in no particular order)
- Chicken (breast or thighs)
- Lazy Garlic
- Onions (frozen works well too)
- Bagged Salad
- Goats Cheese
- Sweet Potatoes
- Hummus (Home-made tastes great)
Really, that list is quite short considering I could make a weeks worth of varied meals using just the above. Honestly, it doesn’t need to be much more complicated than that, and by spending less on packaged foods and snacks, you can even out the food budget.
Kitchen Equipment – I Keep It Simple
I also have a range of utensils that I use almost daily. There’s not too many as I don’t like clutter, so for me, less is more. I don’t do fancy machines and complicated processes – remember, it’s start to finish in 30mins.
- Griddle Pan
- Frying Pans (small and large)
- Fish Turner
- Sharp Knives
- Potato Masher
- Wooden Spoons
- Baking Trays
- Pyrex Dishes
Keeping It Real – You’ve Got This
I hope this blog has been insightful as to how you can feed yourself and your family when you don’t enjoy cooking or feel like you’re not a good cook. It doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming.
I’m always happy to receive any questions if anyone needs guidance with any of the above. I’m certainly no Michelin Chef but I can knock up a decent plate of grub which isn’t technical and doesn’t require much equipment or ingredients.
Follow this Food Diary micro-blog as it unfolds. Comment if you have questions or ideas on meals, and please keep me honest to the above.