How To Survive When You Are “Cooking Challenged”

This guest post by Catherine Van Herrin may not seem directly exactly related to life coaching, but if you look a bit deeper, you’ll see that this could be a common problem for many life coaching clients. Enjoy!

“Oh, I eat out every day because I just can’t cook.” “Cooking takes too long; I’m hungry now!” “It’s just too much trouble to go to the store, get all those ingredients, chop them up at home, then have to cook it!” “I sure love to eat, but I can’t stand my own cooking.”

If any of these comments sound familiar — as in, “I say that all the time!” — then you are certainly not alone.

Of course it’s a chore to some: You work all day, either at home with the kids, at the office, or while traveling for your business — but let’s face it: You are one tired person.

You’re also probably, like most of us, either overfed on junk food or “take-out” or the brink of anemia because you just aren’t getting any good, old-fashioned, home-cooked meals anymore.

What happened? Even the greatest cafeterias or the finest restaurants with the most impeccable service don’t give you that comfortable feeling of, “Well! I’m happily full!” that your mother, grandmother, or even your great-grandmother provided — usually on a daily basis. Boy, are we starving, or what?

But the truth is, are you really content to just live out the rest of your life not providing yourself with the nutrients, the aromas, the actual pleasure — yes, pleasure — of creating a really terrific dinner for yourself, your family, or even, when you get ready for this frontier, your guests — at your first try in the art of “entertaining others for dinner”?

The remarkable thing is, we’re so conditioned to think “instant satisfaction” applies to everything, including the food we consume every day, that we really believe we are incapable of either performing the task of cooking, or setting aside the time required  to cook.

Neither is true. You don’t need to be Martha Stewart or Emeril Lagasse, and though this concept of “cooking” may seem far too advanced or involved for your lifestyle, it really  doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. There’s an easy way out of everything.

Start by thinking of a world in which there’s no browning, broiling, baking, or sautéing involved. Most people can put a pan on the stove, fill it with water, and boil it, or, they can fill a dish with water and “zap-boil” it in the microwave.

That’s how you start. Next, when the water is boiled, throw any kind of fresh vegetable into the water and let it go, by itself, for just 8 minutes. This is called “steaming.”

For a little zest, plunge in a few vegetables at the same time, add pepper, a little lemon juice, even a dash of your favorite spices – basically anything you find in your cupboard that looks like it might taste good with whatever’s in the pot.

You can do the same thing with something as simple as beans. You can even take it a step further, and boil beans in beer. Some people use other flavoring ingredients, like coriander, walnuts, or “fatback,” also known as bacon, for extra zest.

The list is endless. Now you have beans, vegetables, and some seasoning, so there’s a plate of food. All you need is a simple salad. Tear apart some leaf lettuce, toss a few more vegetables in, and put it in another bowl (it adds to the overall culinary experience to have a separate bowl for each dish).

Now, you’re thinking, “What about meat?” Same thing. You can boil a chicken or a side of beef. Just flavor it with salt and pepper, create as you go, and enjoy. Fish can be done in a similar fashion, through what is known as “poaching.”

And by the way, poaching fish is guaranteed not to smell up your house and it’s easily done: Put water in a low pan, just below the height of the fish. You’ll know your fish is “done” when it either changes color or is easy “flaked” with a fork.

Color, atmosphere, and variety are the Three Great Principles of Cooking. Anyone can accomplish this in his or her own home, for as many people as needed, or for an elegant treat for one.

Bon appetit!