I started cooking about 3 years ago, shortly after we got married and we got all of the wonderful shower gifts. A few small things make a big difference in my cooking, and the biggest thing is using the right equipment, ingredients and techniques. Here are my favorites:
1. Learn to dice an onion. Amazing, brilliant and so much easier than anything else you could do. Works best with big onions and a very sharp knife. Here is a link to a great tutorial from seriouseats:
2. Immersion Blender. Seriously, get one today. Ours was less than $30 at Bed Bath and Beyond and we haven’t used our regular blender in years. I use it for tomato sauce, whipped potatoes, strawberry sauce, cream soups and just about anything else.
3. Frosting Bags and Tips. So much easier than frosting with a knife, especially for cupcakes. I have used it with store-bought frosting (gasp!) and my own homemade frosting and people are always impressed. I even use them for piping mashed potatoes, which is even better than frosting (to me at least).
4. The Joy of Cooking. My first cookbook, a Christmas present 3 years ago. Everything that I need to learn how to cook is inevitably in this big book. It’s crazy the level of detail that it goes into. No photos, but you don’t need them.
5. Homemade Stock in my Freezer. Homemade stock makes everything more delicious and it’s not that hard to make – just time consuming. I make some every few months and fill up our freezer with small containers for recipes. It has made such a big difference in my cooking – don’t even come near me with powdered bouillon. Here are 2 good recipes:
– Beef Stock
– Chicken Stock
6. Organic Ketchup. Not really an ingredient for anything, but still amazing. It doesn’t taste like salt or vinegar, just delicious tomatoes. I tell everyone I know (and lots of strangers) to buy it. Really, I am that crazy about organic ketchup.