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Happy New Year! Time For Resolutions, and Have We Got a Deal For You…

Happy New Year

Okay, right up front, here’s the deal: You need to be cooking more! That’s the deal. So that should be your main resolution. Why is that, you ask? Here are a few reasons:

  • It’s healthier for you than eating out as much has you have been. (Yes, I’ve seen you.)
  • It’s more fun to cook for yourself and your family. And friends. And anybody else you can invite over.
  • You can have more variety. Oh, you think you get diversity by going to at least three different fast food places in a day. Sorry, that’s not variety, that’s slow death.
  • You will save money. Learn to cook from fresh ingredients and you’ll have more jingle in your pocket (or purse). Even using some expensive-looking ingredients, and (gasp!) tossing out some leftovers now and again, you’ll still be cash ahead.

I doubt you need more incentive than that. But here’s one more. Cooking is sexy.

Okay, it’s easy to say you’ll cook more and eat out less. How to actually get there? Here are a few ideas; more will come to you as you think about these:

Start simple: Brew your own specialty coffee. Chain coffee is convenient, sure. No messy equipment to clean, you don’t have to buy a lot of supplies. Guess what, though. There are a lot of advantages to doing it yourself. First off, you can have it ready when you want, not when the line moves enough for you to snag some harried barrista and make an order (that they might just screw up). You can get varieties that those outlets don’t have. You can make it your way: Stronger, weaker, cooler; with just the additions you want. You can use stevia-based sweeteners; I haven’t found a chain yet that’s making that available. And if you get good gear and take care of it, the cost of a good, tall travel cup of coffee is about a third of what the chains charge, or less. (I paid for a nice Cuisinart brew pot in a couple of weeks this way!)

Get out of a rut: Cook at least 5 new recipes a month. I’d say do 2-3 a week, but that’s maybe stretching things at first. If you do just one new dish a weekend, that’s 5 a month (almost). You can try out those old recipes Aunt Minnie left you in her will. Or you can dig out the old cookbooks; you know, the ones in the bottom of that cabinet, way in the back. Or maybe even look online! Places like Food Network, Slashfood, or Epicurious can get you going quickly. You can stop by FoodBuzz (my current fave, and CU has a page there!). YouTube has a ton of great videos! So what are you waiting around here for?

Get your skills revved up: Take a cooking class. All cities in America, and most small towns, have some place that offers cooking classes. Many are free, most are inexpensive, and all are worth the effort. You can find lessons at community centers, churches and the YWCA. Many supermarkets even offer lessons these days! Look in the newspaper or online, they’re all easy to find. If you want to tie your learning to a weekend getaway, then look for a more up-scale offering, usually at a bed-and-breakfast near you. Some of these events are romanting AND educational, and you can even eat your mistakes own cooking. There are short courses, and longer series of lessons, covering everything from techniques to ethnic dishes, baking and grilling. You’re sure to be able to find something you’ll enjoy.

Here are some other “resolutions” you might consider:

Cook with your kids. It’s fun, educational, and cheaper than movie tickets. (Don’t forget to include the spouse, and any friends to accidentally stop by to sample the goodies.)

Cook in bulk, and use your fridge and freezer to stretch your budget. Many families can easily cut their food expense in half.

Limit the use of processed foods. I’m not advocating you become a vegan Buddhist locavore. But cutting out many of the processed foods we use for quick-fix meals can reduce salt, fat and calorie intake dramatically. Not to mention the positive cash flow! (Not to mention.)

Start a Recipe Exchange Club. Now that you’re a great, or at least active and interested, cook, get to sharing your finds with others! Few things build friends like food and food tales. The effort doesn’t have to be big, or formal, or anything like that. Work buddies, church or club friends, anybody you hear who likes to cook. They’ll all like to share, I betcha.

Interview the elders in your family for cooking ideas. The best source of cooking wisdom is still my mom. (Hi, Mom!) We’ve reached the level of sharing, after several decades of cooking together and for our separate hordes. Get those ideas down on paper! (Or in a database.) Don’t let them drift away with time.

Now, aren’t those resolutions a whole lot better than the usual “I will lose weight” or “I’ll remember flowers this anniversary” ? And maybe even easier! So enjoy your New Year’s celebration responsibly, and then Get Cooking…

Enjoy the (New Year’s Commitment) Heat!

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