DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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29 April 2014

Cooking good food is important

The forecast is for a cold weekend, the bright glare of sunlight has evaporated, leaves are turning yellow and soon the wisteria vine will be bare. The months from now till October are my favourites. I feel more energised, a fertile garden out the back is primed to produce abundant crops of fresh organic fruit and vegetables. Add eggs from the chickens to that abundance, and we have the warm promise of a self-sustaining home. In the cooler months, the sky is bluer, the grass is greener, the air is cleaner and all things seem possible to me.

 Cucumber salad.
Christmas fruit cakes.

One of the noticeable differences that cooler weather brings is the way we cook. I think being a good home cook is an important simple life skill. If you move away from expensive cuts of meat and seafood you need to be able to turn plain and simple ingredients into memorable meals using your expertise and experience. In our home we don't have many winter salads, we focus our sights firmly on hearty soups, stews and if we have meat and vegetables, we usually have a rich hot gravy with it. When I cook food here, I hope that it will be within budget, wholesome and delicious but one thing it is always - it's always cooked entirely from scratch and often from local, if not backyard, produce.

Brown rice and vegetable salad.
Chicken tenderloins with homemade herby crumbs.

I have a lot of cookery books but I use them to give me ideas rather than instructions. I very rarely use recipes but I like looking at what and how other people cook. If I like what I see, I try to do my version of it. I think the internet is a great way to help develop cooking skills. If you find someone who cooks your kind of food, and they do it from scratch with no cans of soup or packets of seasoning, keep going back to see what they cook and try cooking something similar. These culinary guides are valuable when you first start cooking, or cooking in a different way, and can lead you to success with your meals.

 Pork meat balls made using homemade bread crumbs, parsley, onion, egg, salt and pepper.

You need to think about your ingredients too and even a dish you've cooked often can be changed over the years.  Lately I've found the pork chops we buy have been dry so instead of having a pork chop each, I recently made pork meatballs and vegetables. It was delicious and thrifty and I'll use the same recipe to make a pork meatball pasta sauce as well. It was a timely reminder for me to not get stuck in my ways - to experiment, change ingredients and cooking methods and learn from the results of that.

I guess most of us are influenced in our cooking by our parents and what we ate when we were growing up. I still use some of my parents' and grandmother's recipes, but Shane, Kerry and Sunny are all chefs, so I ask them for recipes and advice too. Add to that all my cookery books, the thousands of cooking blogs and I know I'll never run out of inspiration or guidance. And that's good, because cooking good food is important.  What style of cook are you? How did you develop your cooking skills?

ADDITION: There is a great follow-up conversation about this happening over at the forum. Click here to go there.

31 comments:

  1. I hope this doesn't sound stereotyped, but Jamie Oliver taught me to cook really well. I have always loved cooking from the time I started running my home 25yrs ago. I did home ec at school but I never was a brilliant cook. I need food to be interesting and diverse and find it is my creative outlet. Jamie's 30 &15 minute meals were huge jump to starting my joy in making interesting flavorful food. His latest book "Money Saving Meals" is also a winner. Blogs - petite kitchen and budget bytes are my favorites!

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  2. What a lovely post Rhonda, I love Autumn too...the light seems softer the harshness of summer has gone at it heralds the onset of cooler weather. When I lived in a cold climate I didn't like Autum so much as I did not like the cold. As to the type of cook I am... I would have to say I am the queen of one pot cooking.... vege curry, vege and lentil soup, stir drys, roast veg and if I have the traditional something and veg I throw all the veg in together, starting with the longest cooking one and adding as time goes on.. I read so many cookbooks but actually rarely cook anything from them, I just love flicking the pages and finding inspiration... I do want to find some really good bean/lentil pattie recipes that are good to freeze, good home made fast food...

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  3. I'm a mostly homemade cook but also a "semi-homemade" one at times too. I love to cook from scratch and I do it as much as possible, but I do occasionally use a package rice mix or pasta sauce from a jar. I don't like to rely on these foods, but I don't mind using them now and then for convenience. I use my slowcooker a lot, year-round, and I have come to really appreciate having one. I use it about once a week, sometimes twice. I love to read cookbooks but I tend to invent my own recipes for soups, stews, etc., as often as I use a written recipe.

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  4. As the weather is becoming colder in Melbourne and the need to light the fire has arrived, I'm doing a lot of one pot dishes too. Roast dinners or preferably dinners cooked in my slow cooker, which makes it so easy to use up any left over vegies from my crisper.
    My mum only ever cooked from scratch and always on a very tight budget. I tend to cook the same dishes which use cheap cuts of meat. Spaghetti Bol , meat balls and casseroles are regular dishes at our house. I put a mountain of vegies thru my food processor and into my pasta sauce. The kids have NO idea. Blessings xx

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  5. It's something about the slower time of autumn, as far as phases go I think it's a great time for self study and practice : )
    For health reasons the food we ate changed over 12 months ago - we removed toxic gluten from our diet (wheat, rye and barley) - before this I would cook everything from scratch, but I was still experiencing health problems.
    I am from a bakers family so removing wheat at one time would have been a fate worse than death, when you are faced with death, wheat becomes an easy option (especially when you have kids)
    Since our change our pantry has been simplified and I find I have base recipes and I just add in what is fresh - I am cooking the most beautiful food of my life ( Personally I feel that genetic disease is more passed on by genetic recipes) the hard to get rid of weight has been falling off us (without any exercise) and vitality and passion are once again returning to our lives. We have been blessed by simplicity in our home environment and the food we eat.
    Here is a few of my favourite inspirational - where I go for ideas - beautiful souls.
    These people inspire vitality, simplicity and love of food and family.

    http://thestonesoup.com/blog/
    http://organicsisters.com.au/
    http://www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au/

    With this change in the way we cook, I spend less time shopping each week, the farmers market and the local bulk store - haven't been to a woolworths or coles company for 2 years : )
    The time I spend getting the evening meal has halved and it has become a family affair - we all go the the kitchen together and prepare our food and eat it.
    The simple life can really extend to health and vitality - we just need to look at what is making us sick and unfortunately wheat and processed sugar (we use honey and rapadura sugar) are our society's biggest killers : (

    blessed be.... x x

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  6. Oh Rhonda all this food looks delicious xx

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  7. With the cold weather approaching...this weekend I believe...we are having less salads and more hearty soups. The slow cooker is so getting a run for its money. I like meals that are quick to prepare and love being able to use our garden produce. It gives such a sense of satisfaction to be able to eat food you have grown yourself.

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  8. Like many people, I originally learnt to cook by being in the kitchen with my mother. But I've turned out to be a different type of cook to my Mum. Mum was a reluctant cook, one who cooked because she had to, and followed recipes to the letter. The cooking gene must have skipped a generation to me, because I'm more like my grandmother as a cook - using a recipe just as a guide, or for ideas (just like you, Rhonda).

    The tough part is when someone likes what you have cooked and asks for the recipe.....

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  9. You are right cooking good food is important. I'm a total foodie and used to eat out the time. Now that I'm more budget conscious I try to cook more. Unfortunately I grew up with a mother who didn't cook much, so I have no family recipes :-( It's been hard to start from scratch and get a few dishes dow, but I'm working on it.

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  10. All these dishes look very tasty, Rhonda! This evening I made Scotch Broth from scratch for the first time without a recipe, as you said - I looked at a recipe and knew what to do. Delicious! And rosemary yeast rolls with it.

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  11. I guess my cooking style varies- I love solid, homemade meals but also dabble in paleo and gf cooking, not to mention lots of Asian and Chinese food after living in Shanghai and now just outside of Chinatown. My guilty pregnancy craving so far has been warm custard with canned fruit, something I normally wouldn't eat preferring fresh food but gosh it's been good! I've had it for desert three nights this week!

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  12. Oh I am also enjoying the cooler weather. I love to cook in bulk and then have frozen meals available for lunches or quick dinners. Roasted vegetables are so full of flavour, and when I have the oven on I roast two trays of whatever I have available. A cup of roasted pumpkin whizzed up with a cup or so of homemade stock makes an awesome pumpkin soup. I love to experiment with cooking and am always trying out new ideas much to my husbands dismay! He has discovered some new favourites this way. I have diabetes so try to cook with lots of beans and lentils, and less meat.

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  13. These meals look so delicious are the recipes here in the blog or forum somewhere? The pork meat balls & the herb crumb chicken would go down a treat here. I love this time of year, such cosy wholesome food, a lot more soups & puddings

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    1. I don't remember if they're on the blog or not. They're not on the forum. The best way to serch my blog is to google "down to earth blog pork meat balls" or whatever you're looking for with down to earth blog at the beginning.

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  14. I'm like you, I don't follow recipes generally, but I use them for inspiration - we don't eat out much but I also really use that opportunity to figure out a new flavour combo.

    I also like throwing things together and am blessed that my hubby is always happy to try whatever. Tonight was a great example - I had chicken breasts and leftover rice and didn't really want to do a stirfry. So I fried a finely chopped zucchini (finely to avoid 6 yr old eyes) with fresh garlic cloves chopped, added the chicken chunks and once they were cooked about a tablespoon of seeded mustard and half a ripe avocado. Once the avocado had cooked a bit, I added some light cream and let that cook in for just a few minutes and served over the reheated lemon rice. SOO yummy. My 6yr old said "this is the most amazing food i've eaten Mommy'!" and was licking the sauce off the chicken! Perfection.

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  15. I do recognize the using recipes for inspiration and guidance, rather than following them. However, often I'm staying quite close to it the first time, just to let it maybe surprise me. I just did a post on wanting to create a long recipe list for the month, so I can menu-plan more quickly and still adapt my menus to whatever is on sale. Your chicken tenderloins already gave me an idea of something to put on it!

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  16. Hi Rhonda
    it's a very simple week here due to rising costs and some unexpected expense we are eating what we have and I am surprised at just how much I have in store. today will be sausage casserole of some sort with roasted tomatoes (that I saved from going iffy) stock carrots mushrooms and onions . will serve this with some mash potatoes. Any gravy leftover will go into a savoury mince dish I shall serve with pasta tomorrow. One thing I have started to do of late is when pealing/prepping veg for the freezer or for part of the meal I will take the peelings and the bottom tips and put them in a packet for the freezer and when there is enough I cook them down with any leftover sauces I have made (normally tomato based) and blitz them into soup served with a savour scone or bread depending what we have. Here we are finding the rising costs to be challenging and with the majority of the house stating they will not eat pulses makes things a bit interesting. How ever we are luckier than a lot of people we get to deal with a lumpy bit of life and eat as well. I have leant a great deal from those who are willing to share and I cant see how I will ever go back to the old ways .
    Hope you all have a fab week
    Rachel(UK)

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    1. A great comment, Rachel. That is what I call working your kitchen. Small changes are getting you through. Well done, you set a very good example for all of us.

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  17. I grew up eating Lebanese (my dad) and Yugoslavian (my mum) foods and of course Chinese and Italian foods is a big influence in Australia. Now I cook those with a wholefood twist.

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  18. It's so great you have so many cooks in the family. You have obviously been a great influence!

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  19. From moving from the UK to Bulgaria almost 2 years ago, our cooking has changed enormously. Goods readily available in the UK are just not sold here - hardly any baking supplies (it's either bread or plain flour, only white granulated sugar, no dried fruits), meat is another problem, also green vegetables for winter use. So not only have we had to change our eating habits, but also grow almost everything we need. I've always been a 'from scratch' cook, but now it's a brand new challenge and consequently, more inventive and much more enjoyable. Glad you're enjoying your cooler autumn months, it's been unseasonably wet here and my tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are still awaiting to be planted out!
    Jak x

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  20. I was lucky in that when at school, we had 2 or 3 cookery lessons every week. Then I used books, now I check the internet. I try to evolve my meals as well to take into consideration budget, seasonal variety and a need at certain times of the year, for something new.

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  21. Like so many who have commented here, I watched my mother cook as a child always from scratch. I never cooked when I was living at home but I knew what to do when I left home from all that watching. All the students I shared houses with thought I was slightly mad cooking from scratch every night but it did mean that food never got taken from my cupboards!

    Nowadays I realise that I cook very differently from my mother using different ingredients and influences she is definitely more of a recipe follower than me. There are quite a few foods that I don't eat for health reasons and some of them are popular in vegetarian recipes. I have become adept at adapting with ingredients that I can eat and that go well together. Like Just Joyful said it is difficult when someone asks for the recipe......

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  22. I've learned by doing. We don't eat out much but, when we do, it's in a good restaurant so I always come home with ideas. Like you I get ideas from cookbooks, I tend to use the recipe the first time and then make it "mine". I like changing things around and I like old favourites, nutrition is important to me and I'm much more a savoury cook than a sweet cook/baker.

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  23. I am a self taught and cook everything from scratch. Though this wasn't always the case. I used to buy packet mixes and such until I realized how easy it is to add spices and flavors myself! Most bases have tomato paste as the main ingredient and I can buy that by the jar full.

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  24. I've been cooking for years through necessity but didn't really learn to cook well until I began cooking from scratch. I chose to use basic ingredients because of my concern for the environment and it has taught me so much! I've had to learn to substitute ingredients and cook with ingredients I'd never used before. It's been fantastic because I'm now a much more confident cook and we eat better than we ever have for much less money! And I feel good about reducing our environmental impact. Pretty good, hey!

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  25. I have just discovered your blog and I absolutely love it. It's very inspiring and the food you cook looks delicious. I live in Cornwall, UK and in recent months I have consciously tried to simplify my life and change the way I cook and eat by using fresh seasonal produce and by growing as much of my own food as possible. I also managed to buy a kindle version of your book which I am really enjoying.
    Kay

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  26. Sigh...another late night as I browse through everybody's response to your question that begs to be answered! My parents had a large back yard and utilised it to the max, with chooks, fruit trees and vegetable garden, so we ate well for those days, although Mum still economised on meat, cooking offal two or three nights a week, and chicken twice a year (Christmas and Easter) as back then it was considered a luxury.
    I remember Mum being a good cook but not particularly adventurous, so when I started cooking lessons at tech. school and came home wanting to cook 'new' things, she was a bit worried! I loved those cooking lessons at school, and I think my love of cooking and generally messing around in the kitchen stems from those days in the school kitchens.
    LIke most of you here I love cookbooks and magazines and pick out new recipes every week to try out on my poor husband who says it is no use telling me that he likes something because he'll never see it again, lol!

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  27. Although we had a few family favourites, mum was always trying new recipes on us mostly to her praise. It has made me confident to try new things, enjoy different Flavours and able to substitute easily if I don't have something. I also have my favourites which get repeated regularly, and at the moment been heading into roast and soups - love autumn veges

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  28. I grew up in a household of 10 on a limited budget...but alas, a garden was not part of it. Canned vegetables all through my childhood--but such fabulous baked goods. So, I learned cakes and baking from my dear meat-and-potatoes mother...and discovered the wonderful world of vegetables and interesting grains and soups as an adult. Now I can't imagine going a week in winter without soup, or a week in summer without a main-course veg protein salad. But I still make those same cakes I grew up with!

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  29. You often post pictures of your CUCUMBER SALAD and it always looks very nice .
    Would it be possible for you to post how you make it please.
    It looks very similar to one my Grand Mother use to make back in the 1960's but unfortunately she never wrote any of her recipes down. Her Grandmothers family came over from Silesia in the early 1840's. The recipes for these types of foods are the ones I am trying to gather.

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