How comfortable are you in the kitchen? Are you well-trained with years of experience under your belt? Or do you struggle with boiling water? Wherever you’re at on the spectrum, I’m here to tell you that anyone can cook from scratch. While prepackaged foods may be quick and easy, very few of them have any nutritional value. Processed foods deprive your body of its much-needed vitamins. Studies have shown that processed foods (yes, I mean the “healthy”-help-you lose-weight foods) actually keeps weight on you, and sometimes even makes you gain weight. Why? Because our bodies are not able to digest the artificial components found in these items the same way that they could digest natural, real ingredients. While I do not purchase organic foods, I do believe that simply making more items from scratch and using real food, our meals will be both delicious and healthy.

Understand the basics…

Understanding a few basic rules in cooking will help you to cook just about anything. For instance, when combining eggs to a hot liquid, such as milk, it is important to temper your eggs. That is unless you want scrambled eggs in your pudding 😀 Didn’t think so. Or how about bringing milk to a boil? Keep that heat on low and stir constantly. By knowing a few rules in the kitchen, you can turn out beautiful desserts and home-cooked meals. Try getting together with family members who know their stuff. Or scour the internet for great tips and techniques. Places like Pinterest and YouTube are good sources for both basic and advanced methods.

Know your flavors…

Knowing what flavors go with what is a great way to understand how cooking works, and maybe even get you creating your own recipes. If you’re adventurous enough with your recipes, you should start noticing patterns. Many of the Mexican dishes use cumin in the recipe, while ginger and garlic are popular ingredients for Chinese food. Herbs such as basil, fennel, and rosemary are commonly found in Italian recipes. Turmeric? Garam masala? Yep, that’s Indian food. One of the best things you can do is build up an arsenal of herbs and spices in your pantry. Not only does this allow you to be ready to make just about anything, but also helps you to make great meals from scratch. Having a wide selection at your disposal is super helpful and allows your cooking to have a more complex flavor than salt and pepper.

Learn how to season (properly)…

Learning how to properly season food is essential to making good food from scratch. The more you look at the recipes, the more you’ll notice the amounts of seasoning. Nutmeg is one of the first spices that came to mind. Why? Because I use so little of it, and I don’t mean that I don’t use it. It’s just used in small quantities. An entire cake recipe will usually only call for ¼ teaspoon. Trust me, you do not want to dump a whole tablespoon of nutmeg into your recipe. However, with other seasonings, such as chili powder, a recipe may call for 1-2 tablespoons. As you can see, seasoning food goes well beyond salt and pepper. Instead of reaching for the salt shaker, try adding other ingredients to the mix. Cooking up some zucchini? Why not add a little Italian seasoning and olive oil? You get the idea. And this point sort of goes back to the previous point—have an arsenal of spices! If you’re making a side dish for Asian cuisine, try adding a few Asian spices to it. Just learn how much/how little to add.

Know the techniques…

Do you know the difference between chopped and diced? Or how about julienne? To get the correct results, you’ll need to know both what the term means as well as how to do it. When a recipe says beat, pull out your mixer. If the recipe says mix, you’ll usually be mixing by hand. As you branch out in your attempts at cooking from scratch, you need to learn how to beat eggs/cream until frothy, soft peaks, and stiff peaks. Or how to cream the eggs and sugar. Kitchen terminology—a necessity to cooking from scratch. Once you get more comfortable with these techniques, you won’t even think about it and it will be second nature to you. Just take a little extra time to learn a few of these techniques, and you’ll be cooking from scratch like a pro.

Follow the recipe…

Now some of you are saying this should have been the first point, and maybe it should have been. But whatever the case, I made it my last point. Although cooking from scratch can be difficult and time-consuming, it can also be quick and easy. Cooking from scratch is really just what you make it. If you try to make tiramisu with everything made from scratch, yes, it will take a while. However, you can also throw together a chicken stir-fry and have a delicious meal completely ready in less than 30 minutes. Whatever you decide to make, simply follow the recipe. While you will need to know a few basics and a few techniques to get through any given recipe, just add the ingredients as the recipe says to add them, bake for as long as it tells you, and do exactly what it says. If you feel overwhelmed with getting all the ingredients together within the time that everything is being cooked/added together, prepare everything before you start cooking. Measure your spices, cut your vegetables, and follow your recipe! This helps so much when you have a long list of things being added to one pot, a little at a time.

I hope this post inspires you to get in the kitchen and cook from scratch. There is something satisfying about eating home-cooked meals that you know you made yourself. I love knowing what ingredients are in my food and that it is much healthier than store-bought. So try following some of my tips, and you’ll soon be on your way to healthier, more delicious food made from scratch.