Lola’s Kitchen: General Cooking Tips

January 9, 2015 Lola's Kitchen 32

LolaKitchen

Lola’s Kitchen is a feature on Lola’s Reviews where I talk about all things related to food, cooking and baking. These posts can be recipe posts or more discussion type posts about food. I love cooking and spend some time in the kitchen almost every day, so I wanted to give it a place on my blog as well. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Design.

I am so excited to introduce my new feature: Lola’s Kitchen! I’ve been planning this since November, Michelle kept urging me to do something with my love for cooking and then one fatefull morning I finally decided I was going to give it a try. I’ll be mainly talking about food and sharing recipes.
Today I want to give you some general cooking tips, some of these you probably know already, but when I started cooking I hardly knew anything and these tips really helped improve my cooking.

General Cooking Tips

  • Onion, lentils and cornWant more Vegetables in your dinner? My advice is to throw in an onion in almost every dish, onions don’t have a overwhelming taste but they are healthy and easily contribute to eating more vegetables without even realizing it. Another tip is to keep some corn, green peas and lentils in your storage, for example when cooking for more people then expected you can easily trow in some of these to add more vegetables in your food.
  • Taste your food while cooking. This one sounds so logical, but it’s really important. I always taste my food during cooking. I saved many dinnners thanks to this, I can remembering making a curry recipe and when I tasted it, it was way to bland and after that I threw in more spices and it went from bland to great!
  • Mix the spices before throwing them in the dish. I used to throw in the spices directly from the jar in the saucepan. spices and optional spicesIf you mix the spices before throwing them in the saucepan you can easier see how much you throw in of every spice and you prevent the steam from getting into the jar and clot the spices.
  • How to give your sauce the right thickness? Your best friend is cornstarch or potatoes. I always make sure I have some cornstarch in storage as I like thick sauces. When a sauce isn’t thick enough just mix some cornstarch with water and then throw in in the saucepan while stirring. Another way to get your sauce thicker is to cook the potatoes together with the sauce. Pieces of potato will mix with the sauce and cause it to thicken in much the same way as cornstarch, although cornstarch is a bit more effective in my opinion.
  • CornstarchDoes your food taste too bland? Throw in a bouillon cube! No need to mix it with water first, just crumble it between your fingers and throw it in the dish and stir well. I recommend using low-salt bouilon cubes, they taste almost the same but with less salt. I always use vegetable bouillon cubes as I am a vegetarian, but you can ofcourse also use other flavours.
  • Plan your recipes for the week ahead. I always plan all my recipes for the week ahead to make sure I only have to go shoping once and I know what to cook. I usually make a list of the recipes I plan to make and based on the list I make my shopping list. I always have all the ingredients I need. The only bad thing about this, is that it leaves less room for spur of the moment descisions.
  • Vegetable Bouillon cubesTake Your time. For me there’s nothing as stressful as having to hurry while cooking. I prefer to eat around 6pm, so I always start around 5pm so I know I have enough time to cook even if something takes longer then expected. I make more mistakes when I hurry and I hate ruining dinner due to some mistake I made, so to make it easier for myself I start early so I don’t have to hurry.
  • Tweak recipes when necessary. Some recipes are pretty perfect already, but quite often when I make a recipe I make tweaks. I add some vegetables or leave out some ingredients I don’t like. Most often I have to add more spices then the recipe indicates and I got a good feeling for which spices I can easily throw in some more and with which spices I have to be more carefull. When I first started cooking I often followed the recipe step by step, but I found being a bit more flexible and tweaking the recipe where necessary can really help a lot.
  • Pinterest. I always had trouble coming up with ideas for what to cook, ever since I found Pinterest that problem’s solved. When I am at a loss for what to cook next week I scroll around Pinterest for a bit or visit my Delicious (Looking) Food board to get some inspiration. Pinterest is a great resource for people who love to cook!

Okay that’s it for my first Lola’s Kitchen post! Come back next friday for my first recipe post!

Please share one of your cooking tips!

32 Responses to “Lola’s Kitchen: General Cooking Tips”

  1. Sophia Rose

    Those are great suggestions. I hate seeing a messy kitchen when I’m done cooking and I can’t relax and enjoy the meal knowing there’s a mess waiting for me so I clean as I go as best that I can.
    As to stocking my shelves, I like to keep items always at hand for a few quick dishes and desserts in case I get surprise guests or a surprise need to take a dish to something.

    Love your new post idea! Pinterest is my friend for new dishes too.
    Sophia Rose recently posted…Meet the Men of the Dallas PD SWAT Team #Giveaway #PaigeTylerMy Profile

    • Lola

      Good one Sophia, I am the smae and always tyr to clean as much as possible before serving the dinner. There is nothign worse then returnign to a messy kitchen.
      I think it’s a good idea to keep some items at hand which you can eaisly use when cooking for more guests. For me that’s usually corn, lentils and green peas. I always have quite some in storage so I cna add them to a dish if I want to.

      I love Pinterest, although I can easily spend hours on there without realising how mcuh time passed by.

    • Lola

      I thought it would be fun to kick this feature off with some cooking tips. I learned most of these in the last 8 motnhs, before that I didn’t knew my way around the kitchen either, but I am happy that changed. I hope you’ll enjoy the upcoming recipe posts as well!

    • Lola

      How fun to hear we’re common while cooking. I just love how much flavour a bouillon cube can add to your dish. I always make sure to have enough of them for at least two weeks in case I forget to buy them.
      Mixing the spices before hand also is handy to give an idea of how much spices you actually have. I had the tendency to just keep throwing some psices in and then lose sight of how much was in the dish already.

  2. Celine

    I hate it when I have to have the food ready before a certain time! Nothing stresses me like having to hurry when cooking. I actually never use recipes because I’m stubborn, and I always cook on instinct and taste, which works fine for me. A tip I would add is to experiment. A lot of people have never eaten a certain food or vegetable, which is such a waste in my opinion. Combining some new food with a food you like works like a charm (:
    Celine recently posted…Review: The Courage of Cat Campbell by Natasha LoweMy Profile

    • Lola

      I am horrible at having dinner ready for a certain time I always over or udnerestimate how long it takes me. Cooking in a hurry is the worst as I tend to mess up then.
      I like havign a recipe as a starting point and then add or change it. Most of the recipes I will be sharign on my blog are tweaked version of recipes I found.

      Experimenting is a great tip! I always used to think I didn’t like cauliflower, but after experimenting with it in different dishes I found out that with the right sauce I love it. I just don’t like the taste of cauliflower itself, so I need to combine it with something stronger. Although there are still some veggies I won’t eat even if disguised in my food, like campignons, can’t stand those!

    • Lola

      lol, I hope these tips were of help. I hope I can think of enough tips to do a tip posts again sometime. Next week I am sharing a simple recipe for mashed potatoes with apples, it’s so easy and simple to make and it’s delicious!

      A year ago I couldn’t cook at all, untill I started cooking one or two days a week and with every week I got better and gradually I started cooking more and now I cook the whole week and love it! It’s a slow process, but starting with only one day in the week is a good idea 😉

  3. Michelle@Because Reading

    YAY! I am so happy you are doing this and I love cooking but these are some really awesome tips! I am so guilty of just pouring spices in but I can see putting in something so you don’t over season. Plus I use to plan ahead and now I don’t but this year I have started to get back into it.

    I am loving this post I am so glad I pushed you to do it 😉
    Michelle@Because Reading recently posted…The Girl In Between by Laekan Zea Kemp ~ Author’s SpotlightMy Profile

    • Lola

      I really have to thank you for pushing me to start this feature, I never expected I would love it as much as I do! I am already scheduling posts for April and I want to share them all now, lol, planning ahead can be frustrating sometimes.

      I used to just pour in spices as well, but I had a few dishes turnout badly thanks to that and then I came up with the idea to mix them beforehand. It’s easier to keep sight on how much your throw in that way. That spices picture is actually a picture I stole from another recipe posts, so it will be making another appearance.

    • Lola

      That makes me happy to hear Brandee, I hope your daughter can use some of these tips. I can still remember when I first started cookign and how lost and overhwelmed I felt.

    • Lola

      Pinterest is great for looking for food, just search for an ingredient or two or a specific recipe you want to trya nd you find lots of different recipes. What I like most is all the pictures so you can actually see what it looks like already!

  4. Trish @ Between My Lines

    Great tips! I’m going to try mixing my spices first, I never thought of doing that. I usually just tip them straight in from the jar and don’t even measure them! And I love onions, I add them to everything (and mushrooms too).
    My biggest tip is bulk everything out with veg! It’s tasty, good for you and economical. And frozen veg is handy too as you don’t lose too much of the goodness and cuts down on preparation time. Perfect for when I come in tired and just want to get dinner on the table fast.
    Trish @ Between My Lines recently posted…My To-Be-Read List : Jan 15 WINNER!My Profile

    • Lola

      I usually measure spices only when I am makign a recipe post, but else I start with the amount the recipe says to use and then add ina bit more until I think I have the right amount. Mixing the spices first helped me get a better sense of how much I throw in and I have a general feel how much spices I need in total to achieve the right flavour.
      I always add a lot of veggies to my dishes, but I know some people don’t that’s why I thought it was important to note how easy it can be to add veggies. I always have a bag of frozen green peas and spinach in my freezer and often jars with corn and lentils.

  5. S. J. Pajonas

    I do the spices in the bowl first too. My tip is to get everything ready BEFORE cooking not while cooking. I often underestimate how much time all the chopping and prep work take, so now I do all of that ahead of time, including setting aside my spices. I burnt and destroyed too many meals before figuring this out. Lol.
    S. J. Pajonas recently posted…Writing Update – January 7, 2015My Profile

    • Lola

      Great tip! I usually sort of set things ready in steps depending on what I cook. I often prepare the veggies first and when those are baking I prepare the spices or sauce. When I do a recipe post I put all the ingredients on the kitchen counter and I foudn out how handy it is to have everything ready before starting.
      I often throw in some extra water with my veggies or sauce when I am afraid to burn it. I love soft and well cooked veggies, but am terrified I burn something.

  6. Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings

    Yey love this! I wish my boy liked onions more since I love them and would totally put them in everything but he’s all “I don’t like how slimy they get when cooked” ugh! 😉 I definitely need to remember to taste things while cooking since I generally don’t >.> Though I also don’t really know what to add to make it better either haha! I’m falling in love with using Pintrest for recipes and now just need to actually try them 😀
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    • Lola

      I usually bake my onions, I might cook them afterwards when I add more veggies, but they don’t become slimmy. Another trick is to slice and dice the onion so small, he won’t notice there’s onion in it ;).
      I forgot to taste the dish a few times, usually it’s not a problem, but I had a few horrible dishes I might have been able to save if I tasted it first.

      I often have some rules of what to add when it doesn’t taste right, but sometiems it’s difficult to dertemine. Some of my rules are, if the taste is good, but not strong enough add a bouillon cube. Or if the taste isn’t strong add a little bit of all the spices already in it. If it’s too bitter add some sugar. If it’s too salty add more water. I even had an issue were I threw in to much spices and removed soem of the sauce, so it wans’t too strong. But sometimes you just have a bad taste and can’t do anything to fix it. Yesterday evening we had a sweet and sour suace that didn’t taste right and adding some pineapple juice made it a lot better.

    • Lola

      I agree with your observation of the bouillon cube it’s easy and cheap indeed. And it can often save a dish that just didn’t taste well enough.
      I am glad to hear these tips were mostly new for you as I was a bit afraid this post wouldn’t be interesting as this is all normal stuff for me and I didn’t know if others would know these things already or not.

      I am really excited to share my first recipe post next week!

  7. Angie F.

    I can’t cook, but I still found this post interesting! I always thought it was odd when my mom would throw a bouillon cube into something, but apparently that’s a thing! I didn’t know! I love using the veggie ones as a soup base, which is the one thing I can cook! LoL

    Pinterest has contributed a lot of recipes! I’m always finding things for my mom to cook, and in fact, she’s making one appetizer recipe I found today!
    Angie F. recently posted…Sunday Post #164: Puppy Plastic Surgery?!My Profile

    • Lola

      Glad to hear you still enjoyed this post even though you don’t cook. I throw a bouillon cube into almost every dish nowadays and it really helps the flavour. I actually haven’t made a lot of soups yet.

      How fun that your mom makes the recipes you find! I love Pinterest, there are so many new recipes I find there.

    • Lola

      I have to buy fresh milk each week, so I usually do one week plans, but it would be nice to do two week plans then you have more space to shift things around.

    • Lola

      There are only few recipes were I don’t add onion, love them! Although I can’t stand slice and dicing them, they make me cry, so I usually let my boyfriend do that, he’s resistant to onion.
      I often add red paprika/ bell pepper (I think they call it in english?) to my dishes, my favourite vegetable!

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