What to cook and eat next

These five tips could prove useful if you’re stuck.

I’m not a good cook, although I can follow recipes. I just can’t guarantee the outcome. 😬

But I try. What I’ve found is that the simpler and fewer the ingredients and instructions, the better I do. So I don’t see myself attempting gourmet meals and complex dishes anytime soon. At least not often or consistently, anyway. I don’t even have an oven at the moment.

I still need ideas on what to prepare and eat, though. This is what I do.

#1 Look at meal descriptions

I check out restaurant menus; read the title/name of the dish, plus the ingredients and descriptions; and make one that’s inspired by them.

eggplant tomato stack
This is an eggplant and tomato stack, which pretty much tells you what it is and what you need

I don’t always have some of the ingredients, and I don’t always know how to create some of them, but that’s okay. I look for substitutes or just take them out completely. And adjust everything to my taste.

Salads, wraps and bowls – anything that has vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds in them – are the easiest to copy, for me. The photos help too.

#2 Watch videos…

Like everyone else on the planet, I rely on YouTube for tips. You’d have to try them out first, though, because some of them might not work that well or taste as good. Make them your own.

It may be a matter of taste and preference. Food is subjective; others may like it, others may not. Yes, there is a consensus or a majority that says it’s great, or that it’s cooked properly and well. But don’t let anyone shame you or make you feel bad about what you find tasty or appetising.

#3 … and shows

On the other hand, have you guys ever watched anime that centers on food? Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, anyone? Or even just anime in general. They usually include scenes where the characters are eating or revealing their favourite foods.

The way they talk about the ingredients, the cooking methods, how the dish should look and taste, and the manner in which they eat it – it’s fun. 😊 They’re far more interesting to me than the usual cooking shows with real people. (Although I do watch those, still.)

Maybe it’s because there’s a storyline and they feature funny, endearing, out-of-this-world characters? Anyway, they can help you use your imagination a bit more.

#4 Buy what’s on sale

Or what’s affordable and available to you. Just make sure to look at the expiry dates and the condition of the food. (But don’t get too wrapped up in the latter, or too caught up in appearances. Do you know what cosmetic filtering is? You might be guilty of it. Read: Eat smart and well by changing this one habit.)

In your part of the world, an ingredient may be cheap. But in mine, they may be hard to get and thus, expensive. And you’ll probably be forced to buy a pack, only to use it a teaspoon or two once or twice. So you have to ask yourself: Is it worth it? But don’t let it prevent you from using a recipe; just replace the ingredient/s, and see where it goes.

Anyhow: Use the ingredients to come up with a new dish or to bring back a favourite, but with a twist.

#5 Borrow cookbooks

Nowadays, cooks offer PDFs and downloads of their free cookbooks. You can start from there.

I prefer to thumb and flip through actual pages, though, so I’m going to ask around if I can borrow a friend’s or a relative’s. Or borrow from the library. Or buy used and secondhand.

vintage cookbook and recipe
The older, the better

One reason why you should borrow cookbooks (aside from it helping you not to spend) is you get to discover recipes, chefs, cuisines – and your friend’s or relative’s tastes. (You can surprise them with a gift in the near future.)

Go for something that feels iffy to you so you can move out of your comfort zone, even for just a bit. You can tweak it too. Oftentimes I just scan through the recipe and do stuff on my own. I get impatient, as you can probably tell. 😊