the right addition

Learn to Cook from Scratch

Banish the fear and learn to cook from scratch

If you’re reading this you’re probably one of the 28% of Americans who can’t cook. Many of us grew up on ready meals or just not getting involved in the kitchen. If you’ve never made a meal from scratch with raw ingredients then it can feel as if you missed the boat and it’s not something you’ll ever be able to do.

Don’t allow yourself to fall for that way of thinking, though. It is entirely possible to get past your fears and develop those new skills. Very few people have a genuinely phobic fear of cooking – known as ‘mageirocophobia’ for the geeks amongst you. For most of us it’s simply something we’ve never done and don’t want to fail at publicly. Time to embrace imperfection!

Start small

Start by getting a good book. Make sure it’s aimed at beginners and start with the basics – like boiling an egg correctly – and work your way up at your own pace. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way; remember, it’s about progress not perfection.

Get the right kit

Next, you’ll need to equip your kitchen with the basics. Don’t worry, it isn’t necessary to have every gadget and foodstuff going; most dishes can be produced from a pretty simple line-up of kitchen essentials. Before you get started, make sure you have the following: A good sharp knife, a cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, kitchen scissors, a sieve, a can opener and a couple of mixing bowls.

It’s hard to be too prescriptive in terms of pantry essentials as so much is dependent on personal taste, but I always make sure I have the following:

  • Dry goods – flour, sugar, rice and pasta

  • Oils, vinegars and sauces – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and mayonnaise

  • Herbs and spices – sea salt, peppercorns with grinder, dried oregano, dried mixed herbs, vanilla extract and stock powder

  • Refrigerated goods – butter, cheese, eggs, milk and plain yogurt

  • Canned goods – tomatoes, lentils and beans.

Set aside time

Make a commitment to set some time aside each day to cook. That time should be non-negotiable and in the diary. Make a list of different things you plan on trying each day and stick to it. It’s important to banish the excuses – we’ve heard them all. Whether it be not having enough time or having a tiny kitchen.  They don’t wash. Like with everything, it’s about practice and taking things step by step. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Make use of online resources

Take a look at TV programs and online videos showing cooking techniques to inspire you. There are even some channels you can cook along with in real time. Watching someone else physically preparing food can be hugely helpful and show you exactly what you need to do in a way that a book sometimes can’t. There is a wealth of information and help out there – you just need to look for it.

Why it’s worth the effort

Remaining curious about the world and being willing to try new things is the secret to being a lifelong learner. It’s good for the soul and keeps our brains agile. Developing culinary skills, in particular, can help connect us with people from different cultures through the exploration of dishes from far afield. The joy of discovering new cuisines and tasting new things for the first time is not to be sniffed at.

It’s better for you. We all know that cooking from scratch results in healthier food without nasty additives and preservatives. The process of choosing fresh ingredients and working with them also connects us with the earth and seasons in a way that can be calming and grounding.

When you start cooking from scratch you make all sorts of unexpected gains. Like how to shop for groceries, how to read ingredients labels, how to slow down and be present in the moment while cooking, for instance. Once you start cooking you’ll find you taste food differently, appreciate knowing exactly what has gone into the meal on your plate and enjoy having friends round. All of this is great for your confidence and it can save you quite a bit of money too.

So don’t be held back by fear of the unknown and get in touch with the lifelong learner within. No more procrastinating – just do it. Becoming a competent cook can enrich your life massively. And the learning part is huge fun; Try to ditch any perfectionism and remember to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

This post was written by a guest blogger, Jane West. Jane is a freelance writer who reached out to Global Learn Day to write one of our featured “How to” Blogs! Thanks Jane!

We hope that this has inspired you to pick up a cookbook and learn a new skill!

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Fractions Are a Piece of Cake

Mathematics and the Arts

Hands up for Hands-on

Education circles have made great strides in creating hands-on learning experiences for kids.  STEM challenges, math manipulatives, and makers stations are just some ways our schools have transformed to embrace different learning styles. At the same time, though, the practical and fine arts have lost their footing in priority, sometimes being cut all together.

However, these labor intensive fields are the true core to hands-on learning.  Science, mathematics, problem solving, and engineering are all practiced through the traditional arts courses.  The key really is to incorporate the disciplines.  A true liberal arts education has the benefit of covering every discipline so that connection can be made and all parts of the brain exercised.

How Many Cooks in the Kitchen?

Do you know how to cook or bake?  How did you learn? Cooking is a science and an art.  It incorporates the principles of STEM while lending itself to creative exploration.  A life skill, cooking also teaches self confidence and independence. Let’s look at three reasons why cooking may be the perfect addition to your STEM project repertoire.

Struggling with Fractions? Bake a Cake!

Fractions are one of those “Why do we have to learn this?” topics for many children. It can be hard to grasp that the bigger the bottom number the small the fraction.  However, knowledge of fraction is essential to baking. Not only that, but using measuring spoons and cups give a hands-on, visual lesson in what each fraction actually means.

Once your students have mastered reading the fractions and choosing the correct tool to measure them, up the anty.  What if you double the recipe? How about cut in half?  What if you convert all the measurements into 16ths?  A simple cake recipe becomes a lesson in multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction of fractions without the endless stacks of worksheets.  Best yet, at the end of the lesson, there is sweet victory to share if the calculations are correct. Now that is motivation to learn!

Order Operations Pizzas

Can you follow a recipe? Doing things in the correct order and quantities is essential for recipes to work.  The first time I made chocolate chip cookies, I just dumped all the ingredients in the mixer and baked. What came out of the oven tasted good, but was nothing like cookies. Order and procedure are important.

If you are trying to teach order of operations and getting moans and groans that it shouldn’t matter, make a pizza together as a class.  First give the students ingredients and measurements but no written recipe and ask them to make pizza dough. This can be done in small groups.  A recipe can easily be cut down to not waste so many ingredients and reduce the risk of huge messes from flour.

After their “dough” has been created ask them what they think about how well it would make a pizza.  Segue to reason to follow order.  Demonstrate how the same ingredients when combined in the correct order and procedure create a perfect crust.

Once the dough is ready; stretch, top, and bake. Serve up some lunch with a side of lessons.

Master Chef and the Secret Ingredient

As much as baking is a science, cooking is a scientific art.  While there are certain procedures and rules to follow, there is also more room for creativity.  Have you ever held a cook off?  What would students do if they were given 5 secret ingredients and had to make snack?

Cooking experiments are part hypothesis and part ingenious creativity. Have an easy recipe to make in class–what if one of the ingredients is missing and five other choices are in their place?  There’s garlic powder, all spice, black pepper, paprika, and sage on the shelf, what to do?  If you are making banana bread, all spice is the best option, but for chili it may be paprika.

How will they choose which one to pick.  Why does that one fit what is being made?  Hypothesis, experimentation, conclusion! Creatively solving problems in cooking can lead to better building of bridges later.  Life skills and STEM go hand in hand.

What kind of lesson can you cook up today?

 

 

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