over a decade's worth of tips

I’ve said it for years here on the blog – I said it here in 2016 and here in 2019, but cooking is something I find great solace in.

It’s something that always makes me feel better after a stressful day, and something I always find inspiration in.

It’s a nightly ritual to put on some music and get to cooking in the kitch!

The ten year challenge has been all the rage on Instagram this week. I don’t know who starts these trends & I know it’s getting a lot of flack online, but tbh I really loved this one. It’s been so fun to see everyone post the major throwbacks – I especially loved seeing the change in clothes & makeup!

It also got me to thinking…

Ten years ago, I was finishing up my last year of college. I was OBSESSED with food & wine. At the time, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a chef or a sommelier, but I was passionate about food & wine. I took fifth year in my sorority {basically, graduate the sorority early} so I could focus on working in restaurants instead of sorority commitments.

Over the years, I’ve picked up quite a few cooking tips & tricks so I figured I’d share some of my OG ones that I’ve done since the late 2000s! Basically they are a mix of things I’ve learned when I first got interested in cooking & started, things I learned in restaurants, & things I learned as I cooked for the blog!

Put on a playlist {may I suggest this one?} & let’ get cookin!

My favourite cooking tips from the years

When cooking with chocolate, add a kiss of espresso powder. It deepens the flavour of chocolate without making things too coffee-y

When making marinara sauce, add a small pinch { a PINCH } of cinnamon! It adds a playful complexity & warmth

Speaking of marinara, keep canned tomatoes {I like Muir Glen} in your pantry and you can whip it up at a moment’s notice: crush with your hands {or buy them crushed already} & mix with olive oil, garlic, & basil {I also like to add red wine, basil, chile flakes, lemon, a pinch of cinnamon & a kiss butter}. Simmer for 15+ minutes and you are good to go!

Taste CONSTANTLY. With any addition you make, TASTE. It helps you know both quantities & the effects of the ingredients on what you’re cooking. I also think it’s great to overseason once or twice because then you can know your limits, what it tastes like, and when they are being pushed.

Whenever I am using greens, I ALWAYS tear them. It breaks up the cellular structure and makes them more tender… not to mention, easier to eat & easier to eat more of them. #health lol

A squeeze of lemon & sprinkle of salt at the end almost always makes everything taste better & brighter! You can use any acid or limes, but I just LOVE meyer lemon

Similarily, when making soup, especially lentil, stir in a spoonful of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to add brightness

GREMOLATA!!! An awesome way to add a boost of flavour to anything you make. Super versatile: stir in grains like couscous or quinoa, brighten up soups like the above, serve on meats & proteins.. the options are TRULY endless.

Mis en place is your best friend. It will keep you streamlined and super organized in the kitchen. It seems like a few extra steps, but it makes life so much easier. not to mention, it makes snapping cooking shots very instagrammable which, let’s face it, is a must for bloggers.

Make your own dressings, they are SUPER easy, way healthier than bottled, & super versatile. All you need is acid + fat + seasonings. My personal favourite is meyer lemon + olive oil + pink sea salt + cracked black pepper + red chili flakes + thyme!

Add a parmesan rind to your soups, GAME CHANGER!! Also, save any cheese rinds and throw into soups or sauces. I also love to throw in proscuitto when I’m making heartier soups like minestrone or lentil.

When cooking with butter, add a bit of oil. This will keep the butter from browning or burning.

STEP AWAY!! For whatever reason, it’s so easy to messing with food when it cooks. Sometimes I set timers for as quick as a minute or up to 5-10 minutes on when to mess with things. When we make steak, we don’t flip it until a song is over! (but do keep an eye on things)

Speaking of steaks, BUY A DIGITAL THERMOMETER & you will have perfectly cooked steaks/meats to your liking forever & never guess again.

If you are prepping many things at once, for example, 5 potatoes to peel and cube go task by task vs item to item. So peel all 5 first, then cut all 5 vs peeling & cutting one by one.

I have a whole blog post on them here, but when cooking eggs, cook them on LOW heat. It takes slightly longer but you have FULL control on cooking them. Also, add cubed COLD butter to the for the creamiest, dreamiest eggs!

Cacio e pepe is the easiest way to elevate anything! From cacio e pepe eggs to spaghetti squash to pasta, add a little parmesean cheese, olive oil, & black pepper for a 5 second dinner. Take one of my tips above & make a cacio e pepe dressing for a super easy, yum salad: olive oil + parm + lemon + black pepper. Also check out my cacio e pepe butter to stir in any of the above!

Make bacon in the oven for effortless, hands off bacon! 15 minutes at 375 degrees or until as crisp as you want. Love this on Saturday mornings.

Alternatively, bake proscuitto into crisps {7 mins at 450 degrees} & sub for a lighter take on bacon! Delicious crumbled in risotto & spinach salads.

For high heat items, use grapeseed oil since it has a higher smoke point than olive oil (olive oil will burn). If you want to use olive oil, use it to finish the dish to get the benefits & flavour.

Speaking of olive oil, the Bragg’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil is my OG fave! The colour is striking & it tastes SO GOOD. You can find it at Whole Foods.

CLEAN AS YOU GO. If you mis en place, this will make the clean up that much easier.

Infuse oils to elevate pastas or just meats & veggies. On low, simmer oil with spices {I like lemon & chili flake – seen here} and then bottle, including the herbs.

Food continues to cook even when removed from heat – especially important for steaks and eggs. Take food off heat shortly before it’s done & always let steaks sit before slicing.

Swap Greek Yogurt for all of your sour cream needs – you won’t miss it!

A universal pan lid is worth the investment!! Get rid of all your pan lids and seal in all the flavours. ONE OF MY FAV PURCHASES EVER! Post here

If cooking from a recipe, physically write down your modifications or notes as you go so you constantly have them to reference. This is VERY HELPFUL as a blogger too!

When preparing meats, veggies, herbs, etc.,: save all your scraps in a freezer bag… bones, to stems, to peels, etc. Save them all and make into a stock, base for a sauce, or heat with a bone in, skin on chicken breast as a soup {discard & strain, shred the chicken & add veggies/noodles & cook for a bit}.

Blend coffee with hemp hearts for perfectly frothed hemp milk coffees! Add sugar of your choice {I like coconut!} & cinnamon.

A Cooks Illustrated membership & the book Flavour Bible WILL make you a better home cook. Highly recc {#nonspon!}

Not so much a cooking tip, but a wine tip: for easy wine pairings, go according to body vs colour. So instead of white wine with flaky white fish, think light bodied.

If cooking with wine, always use a wine you’d drink yourself. If I ever cook with wine, I’ll always serve that with the dish since it’s already open & will go damn well with the dish!

Here are all my favourite cookbooks!

I hope you enjoyed!!

Maybe I’ll keep this as an ongoing series as I get more tips up my sleeve! I can do a similar one with wine too?

I’d LOVE to know – what are some of your go to, never fail, cooking tips? Do tell!

xo Shannon

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