Rave: The perks of eating at home

It’s 6 p.m. Work
clothes are off, couch mode is fully activated. The tell-tale rumble of an
empty belly reminds you it’s been hours since sustenance. You: 


a)    Download the Pizza
Pizza app on your iPhone. Rollin’ with garlic dipping sauce in 40 minutes or
less (and with minimal human interaction).
b)    Treat yourself to a
can of Zoodles and a margarine sandwich.
c)    Take three shots of
NyQuil and pretend it never happened.

If you answered yes
to any of the above, for shame! Food is fuel for your bodies, people, and you
wouldn’t put sugar in a gas tank would you? Granted, stepping into the kitchen
for the first time can be a little daunting, and while there are a million and one
reasons not to, learning basic cooking skills is an integral part of an adult
life. Before you go spouting off the same old excuses as to why you should stay true to
take-out and frozen food staples, like “But I’m a terrible cook”  (Have
you tried trying?); “But it’s just so hard cooking for one!”  (It’s
called a freezer, rookie); “My kitchen is infested with raccoons and I’m
afraid to go in there.”  (
You need to address that ASAP); take a look
at all the perks of learning your way around a kitchen.

Start small and dedicate a week to eating at home and in no time you’ll find yourself:
1. Happier

We all have to start somewhere.

Just like with
anything, practice makes perfect. If it’s day one in the kitchen, we wouldn’t
suggest trying to whip up some coq au vin or puff pastry but there are plenty of recipes for beginners that are so delicious and straightforward, you’ll wonder why you
ever ordered Swiss Chalet in the first place. Even if your first forays into
culinary excellence are not so much Giada at Home and more Kitchen Nightmares,
learning to cook can be a hilarious and rewarding experience.
There’s a reason why
the cliché about the way to the heart being through your stomach exists. Think
about it. Being able to make a meal for somebody is proving that you’re able to
provide one of their most basic needs. Aside from how impressed your
friends will be when you coyly wink and say “Oh this? It was nothing”, the personal
feeling of pride and accomplishment that accompanies putting together a
beautiful meal for yourself is a real attitude changer. You could have that
every day!
2. Healthier
Make the healthy choice.
When you make the
decision to put together your own meals as opposed to relying on
take-out, delivery or pre-made meals, you’re taking charge of everything that goes
into your body. It is much easier to keep track of what’s going in when you’re
sourcing ingredients yourself, as opposed to making sense of nutritional labels
or in the case of most restaurants, having no nutritional information at all.
What do you think your body wants more: fresh food from your friendly
neighbourhood grocer? Or a stranger showing up to your house with food that
has passed through the hands of two or three other strangers before getting to
you? And it’s not just your health on the line, preparing food on your own
reduces the amount of packaging involved with take out and pre-packaged foods,
and Mother Nature thanks you for that.
3. Wealthier
A day at the market is more fun than fast-food any day (and cheaper in the long run).

Short term, hitting
up the McD’s dollar menu might seem more wallet friendly than going to the
grocery store but the trick is to keep a well stocked pantry of dry goods. Once
you’ve got the basics (things like rice noodles, pasta, rice, herbs and spices – all
stuff you can get on the cheap), you can supplement with fresh produce, tofu and meat
for meals that cost under $5 .
Places like Kensington Market, Chinatown, and St. Lawrence Market are a mecca
for frugal foodies, or if you’re really ambitious, roll your sleeves up and
start urban farming for unlimited fresh fruit and veg. If a
day in the market or digging in the garden just isn’t your bag, sign up for
organics delivery (like Organics Live) for delivery that won’t leave you with a wicked food hangover (but slightly lighter in the pocketbook).



Some of our favourite blogs for getting started with cooking are:

1. Smitten Kitchen: some recipes are advanced, but there are some very good basics here with tons of helpful tips and tricks. Plus, these dishes always turn out. 


2. Skinny Taste: Appealing food, pretty photos, lots of options for entrées and desserts, and most importantly, the recipes are healthy.


3. Food Network: This site, home to the popular chefs that you see on TV, has some great recipes and a ton of hints to get started if you’re a noob. Chef Michael Smith and Rachel Ray (seriously) are good ones to look to first.

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Yum, yum: Smitten Kitchen

It’s no secret that we love food, cooking and all things delicious. So when we heard that one of our favourite food bloggers, Smitten Kitchen, was writing a cookbook, we were pretty jazzed. An inspirational blogger, her recipes never fail to wow whether at a dinner party or cozy meal for two. 


For those of you who are not familiar, Smitten Kitchen is a food blog written and photographed (beautifully) by Deb Perelman. 




She creates all sorts of simple, delicious wonders in a tiny kitchen in NYC. She focuses on tweaking already existing recipes until they’re easy to re-create at home, as well as combining a bunch of techniques from other kitchen wizards (Martha Stewart and Ina Garten make frequent appearances). Deb usually sticks with familiar comfort foods, with a bit of a twist. Everything we’ve ever made from this site turns out. Impressive.


Some of our favourite recipes: 


Avocado Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing: A hearty, healthy salad with a dressing recipe from our other favourite food blogger, GOOPy. Substantial enough for a lunch or light dinner. Yum.




Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto: Made this simple pasta dish after a long day at work recently and whoa! Making pesto from broccoli is an amazing revelation, plus, this dinner is super easy. Leftovers in the office the next day elicited serious looks of envy. 





Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint: Fresh, delicious, unusual and pretty. Awesome dish to bring to a potluck or BBQ – looks like it took a ton of time when really, it doesn’t.



Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup: Sounds odd, tastes like a dream. For some reason, sausage in soup seems pretty strange. But whip this up and you’ll never question it again. So. Much. Flavour. 



Potato Chip Cookies: The name says it all. Salty & sweet.



There are so, so many more recipes we could post, but we recommend browsing the site and trying whatever strikes your fancy. 

Deb is coming to Toronto on Friday, November 16 at the George Brown Chef School, to chat about her book and do some signings. Tickets are almost sold out, we hear – so grab ’em while they’re hot. See you there! 



All images courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.