When Recipes Aren’t Enough

My husband has told me many times how much he wants me to ‘get into cooking.’ When I first got married, I could barely cook only a handful of dishes. And most of what I could easily cook already or from a recipe was not healthy–cookies, cakes, etc. I really had very little experience cooking–and it’s taken a long time before I’ve been able to make any real progress toward being a better cook.

I really feel cooking is a responsibility I should be able to cover, most of the time. And especially recently, I’ve wanted to be able to prepare meals at home because they are healthy. And it works well with the recent healthy eating mantra, to “Eat real food,” because if I’m cooking myself I can control the ingredients. Thus I can avoid processed foods, added sugars, artificial ingredients, and even GMOs if I wish.

The challenge is learning how to cook. It seems like it should be simple, because cookbooks are everywhere. Cooking blogs are everywhere. There are blogs devoted to cooking, TV shows–entire channels!–and now even movies (Julie & Julia, anyone?) on the subject. But the abundance of recipes does not make it simple, not for a beginner. I need a bit more help.

For instance, I have wanted to learn how to cook a butternut squash soup. I’ve tried it a few times, different places, and have always enjoyed it. So I look up a recipe, like this fairly simple one, and set about collecting the ingredients. But for even such a simple recipe as this soup, I had two big problems on the ingredients list: (1) cubed butternut squash, and (2) chicken stock.

For the butternut squash, I obviously expected this to be an ingredient–but having never cooked it before myself, I didn’t know anything about it. Specifically, I didn’t know how to pick it, peel it, cut it, or even what to do with the seeds. That’s where Youtube came in very handy. I don’t always like to learn an entire recipe from Youtube, but something when it comes to something specific like how to cut a butternut squash, it’s the perfect solution. And sure enough, I found a short video explaining just that!

The other problematic ingredient was the chicken stock. As a beginner cook, I have never made chicken stock. I still don’t know how to do it. Now, chicken stock is one of those things you can buy already made, as is chicken broth. But since all the food I cook for my family is halal, I wasn’t comfortable buying pre-made chicken stock. So I looked up a few instructional videos and guides, but didn’t feel ready to give it a go yet. I decided to go ahead with the soup by substituting a vegetarian vegetable broth.

Unfortunately, I added a bit too much pepper, which overwhelms the flavor of the squash, but otherwise the dish turned out alright. I’d like to try again with proper chicken stock, once I’m ready to learn that lesson. One thing at a time. But if a recipe alone isn’t enough–a youtube instructional might fill in the gaps.

Any recommendations for youtube channels good for beginner cooks, looking to learn some basic skills? Share in the comments!