What Helps a Cook, Cook!

**Note** Since finishing the fourth season of “Breaking Bad” (holy smokes!), cooking has taken on a totally different meaning. So, we’re not talking about a portable meth lab this week, in case you were wondering. **End Note**

I was trying to think about the things that help me in the kitchen, because I’ve found that people usually cook more with they’re ready to spend time in their kitchen.

Though I’ve only been cooking [somewhat seriously] for a couple of years, there are some things I’ve learned along the way that might help you enjoy your kitchen a little more. You might even want to cook in your kitchen!

Make your kitchen space feel somewhat restful. Instead of that annoying light overhead, grab a lamp or two and tone it down.

Hang up something beautiful.

Hang up your pots, if you like that sort of thing. [Which I majorly do.]

Put a couple of computer speakers somewhere you can easily hook up your laptop, iPod or other fancy gadget. I love prepping with music. I love to cook with music. I love to do dishes to music. I also like to dance to music.

Make your ingredients/products easy to access. It’s important to see what you have to cook with. Also, label everything. Have a place for your beans, grains and pasta. Put them in beautiful jars for everyone to see. Leave out your cookbooks for inspiration. I love having a stack of cookbooks on my table with beautiful stories and pictures and ideas.

Look through those cookbooks more than once. You don’t have to follow a recipe word for word, but I will say this: always read a recipe more than once. There’s nothing worse than getting to a step in your recipe where you needed to let something marinate in your refrigerator for 12-24 hours. It’s such a bummer to miss a step or realize you don’t have a crucial ingredient. Read, read, read. And then cook.

Before you start to cook, have everything prepped. Your meez — mise en place — all the things you need to cook at the ready. Chopped/diced/minced veggies, protein at a good temp, oil/fat, salt, pepper, etc. Buy some tiny ramekins or bowls to help separate your spices. It’ll kind of look like it does on the cooking channel when you say, “Well…see! They always have the exact ingredients they need to cook!” And guess what, so will you.

Keep it clean.
This is a hard one. Sometimes, dishes can wait till morning. Sometimes, it’s best to do them after dinner. An easy way is to clean as you go. Or, at least clean the big pots and such so that it doesn’t seem to intimidating the next morning.

Taste as you cook. If you’re cooking something that has to reduce, don’t add too much salt. The flavors will intensify.

Sharp knives. More accidents happen with dull knives than sharp, so take care of them. Hone and sharpen when needed. Wash and dry immediately after you are done with them.

Wear comfortable shoes if you’re going to be standing for a while. Crocs are pretty terrible looking shoes, but they sure are comfortable. I call them my dinosaur shoes.

I could go on forever, but let’s face it, we all have things to do.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see y’all next week!

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