10 steps to a Whole & Healthy Kitchen
These are basic culinary principles that when applied, will carry your cooking from boring to extraordinary! They will also help you to be “on your game” so you can save time and stress in the kitchen. I am so so so passionate about these principles. I have applied them to my own kitchen, and if you apply them to yours, I guarantee you will find success and JOY in your kitchen and cooking!!!
When we plan ahead for what we want to make, we are then prepared ahead of time and more ready to cook when the time comes. Have you ever stood with your fridge open trying to figure out what to make only a few moments before you start cooking dinner? Or you walk in the door and the kids are super hungry all crying and frustrated yanking at your clothes? Well, this can be stressful and contribute to you not wanting to cook. Instead, if you plan ahead it will take away the guesswork and the stress in the Kitchen. The cooking happens more naturally when you know the ingredients and recipes that you are cooking with ahead of time.
Choose 1 or 2 days to be your Meal Planning Day(s)!! When that day comes, take 5 to 10 minutes to think about the kinds of meals you want to eat for the next 3 to 7 days.
Get a white board with a magnet from the dollar store and put this on your fridge. I write the recipe names on the whiteboard.
From this list I make my ingredients/shopping list to ensure that I have all the ingredients on hand when it comes time to cook
I even make a little jot note of the breakfast, lunch and dinner I will have the next day on a sticky note right before I go to bed and leave that note to myself on my kitchen counter for the morning. This helps me to soak beans if I will need them, or dethaw chicken if I need that, or soak my grains ahead of time…and not have to think about “what to make” the next day. It saves time and thought power!
Read the recipe all the way through.
I used to try and skip this step. I would skim through the recipe only to realize I either didn’t have the ingredients, the tools or the know how to do it. Instead, I learned to read recipes all the way through in order to see the WHOLE of the recipe. Once I see the whole of it, I can get jazzed up about wanting to eat this amazing meal.
Once you have read the recipe all the way through the first time, when meal planning, you can decide if you want to make that for the upcoming week.
When you read it again all the way through, before you cook, you are gaining your confidence to cook that meal!
When you read the recipe this second time, I often take a piece of paper and write out the recipe in my own writing. This helps me remember it, feel even more comfortable with it, and can look at it at one glance instead of going to my phone or cookbook. I then keep this paper in a binder on my counter to reference next time I want to cook it
I also make sure to keep the recipe open on my counter (the recipe is often what I wrote on a paper, or it’s in my phone, or cookbook) This helps me reference the recipe step-by-step as I go along and stay on track with the meal.
Check out my recipe resource: www.wholeandhealthykitchen.com/recipes
Set your 'Mise en place'
Mise en place translates to “put in place”. It means to get all your prep work done before you start cooking and set it in its place on the counter, where you can use it. This includes getting out your ingredients and your kitchen tools / gadgets.
You know when you watch cooking shows and they have all their ingredients in little bowls and containers to use while they cook. DO THAT! It’s not necessary to dirty more cups/bowls /plates though. Instead just take out the spices in the jars they are in, take your veg out as they are, take out everything you will need for this meal and put it on the counter. It doesn’t have to be pretty like on TV, just have everything out so you are prepared to cook and don’t run around the kitchen looking for things!
I always start with cleaning / prepping my vegetables. This means dicing my onions (if using) and adding them to the pan so they can caramelize while I prep other veg. Scrub, peel, dice up any of the veg you will be needing at the beginning so it’s ready for you to use. I often set them out on a cutting board ready for me to use
Be sure to take out your knives, a bowl for scraps, kitchen towels, cutting boards, pans, pots, get your water boiling if needed, turn on the oven if needed. And take out any gadgets like immersion blenders, large blenders, large serving bowls etc.
Sometimes I even take out my spices, ingredients and equipment for my evening dinner during breakfast so I am ready to go when dinner comes. This helps me to be committed to making that particular meal when the evening time comes, instead of letting the settled relaxed feeling of the couch hit me.
Salt has received a bad rap. I have learned to unwrap the gift of salt and use it in every dish to add boundless flavor and depth.
The salt I use most often is sea salt (fine grind) but another great salt is Kosher Salt. There is no need to have any other salt then Sea salt, kosher or the beloved Himalayan pink salt.
I put my sea salt in a small glass container and let it sit on my counter beside my oil and cracked pepper. I literally pinch my salt with one finger and thumb for adding dribbled salt to the top of dishes, and two finger pinch (or more) to go in soups, stews etc. I find salt is often what’s missing when food is bland.
I keep my himilayan salt in a salt shaker to add to food right before serving. If you want strictly healthy salt, himlayan salt cannot be beat since it contains over 84 minerals and trace elements, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron. So it does more than just make your food taste better.
Spices are the bestest
I used to fear spices and therefore did not use them. I did not understand them and thought I would screw it up if I tried to put them together. I also did not know how much to use and what’s too much.
What I began learning is that spices are our friends. There is a particular ratio that you can go by when you use spices, and if you follow it you cannot fail.
Use anywhere between 1/2 tsp to 2 tsp per spice used in any dish. I generally put my spices into simmered down onions, or oil. That helps to absorb and smooth out the flavor in order to transfer it evenly throughout the dish.
I also find spices have “groups”. And if you use the particular spices in each group together in the ratio given, you will have flavorful dishes that hit the mark every time.
I break down the different “spice groups and ratios” in this “How to Use Spice” article.
Taste your food and adjust
Often times we can follow a recipe exactly and still have it fall short. This is because of many factors. Some including the brand of spices/ingredients, the size the vegetables are cut, how fresh the ingredients are, if you use organic and quite frankly who grew it or touched it along the way.
A way to avoid average cooking is to taste it before you serve. I am not one to taste as I go, simply because I find taste intensifies as it sits, and so, I save my taste for when I feel the dish is [almost] complete. I often add the same spices I used in, or salt.
I also love soya sauce such as tamari or braggs or even honey or maple syrup for sweetener.
You can also use lemon at the end of your meal to enhance flavors and make them pop. Especially for any soups, stews, fish, rice bowls or salads.
If you remember you want to perfect ratio of salt, sweet, sour and bitter…. you will be able to add a little bit of whatever you think is missing, at the end of each meal to make it to your perfect taste.
Keep your pantry stocked
Having a stocked pantry makes for cooking options. When I can look in my cupboard, fridge and freezer and splice together a quick bombdiggity whole & healthy meal, I am grateful. It saves time in shopping, in over spending, in fast food or unhealthy choices.
I found a way to shop and stock, as I call it, when we literally had close to zero on the scale of money. Check out my Favorites Ingredients Article, and no matter how tight we were in money, I never compromised on having these ingredients in my home (almost) at all times.
Having your pantry stocked saves you time by knowing what your going to eat ahead of time, and helps you to be more focused in how you use your ingredients to ensure you use all of them before you need to shop again.
A stocked pantry also contributes to creativity. Your many ingredients and spices become your paints and your cooking tools your brushes.
It’s okay to make mistakes
Its okay to make mistakes because you always learn when you do! If you take the attitude whereby you know that making mistakes is part of learning, you can also have the attitude that no matter what happens you ARE enabling yourself to to succeed as a home cook.
Being afraid of what spices to use, or how long to cook, or what its suppose to look like [and I’ve been there!]……will only prevent you from being an amazing home cook that is inside you waiting to blossom.
Julia Childs, the beloved French Chef, says “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-heck attitude.” When you say “what-the-heck and throw a dash of extra spice in a dish you are TRUSTING the process. Trust will breed epic results. Without trust, there is only fear and fear will produce bland and boring food.
Tap into your heart center, find that “what-the-heck” attitude and trust yourself through the process of cooking. The worst that can happen is you eat a mediocre meal, you learned something or you eat out for the night. You’ve got this!
Soak your lentils & beans
The reason why lentils and beans make it to our top 10 WAHK list, is because we eat lentils and beans a few times a week. They are part of our life, and part of any whole and healthy kitchen. Learning to use them probably is a key to your success with them.
The upside of lentils and beans is they are jam packed with nutrients. In a cup of black beans according to DrAxe, there are 15g protein and 15g fibre. There is also a good source of iron magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc. As well as potassium, calcium, folate, vitamin B6 and selenium. They are also filled with disease fighting antioxidants.
In 1 cup of lentils you will find 18 g protein and 16 g fibre. You will also find, according to the worlds heathiest food website, that they are an excellent source of molybdenum, folate, copper, phosperous and maganese. They are also a good source of iron, protein, vitmain B1, Panthothenic acid, zinc, potassium and vitamin b6. They are also a superfood!
One down side of lentils and beans is often the gas. Yep I said it. We all get gas when we have beans. However, there are a few tricks to help combat that. One being add sage leaves to your lentils/beans when they cook.
Read this article on “How to Cook Lentils & Beans” to learn how to prepare your beans and lentils for utmost health, taste and cost benefits.
"Love thy Food"
Yes, its true, Love is the key ingredient in every single meal. When anyone asks me whats in my food, I will often say its Love. Because honestly it is. I loved the ingredients I chose, the process I took to make it and I love the people I am making the food for. This aint no airy fairy love, this is an all powerful Love of Service. It is the inspiration behind the joy that can be unleashed in the cooking process. We want to bring this love and joy out, and use it.
Love is the power that leads the cooking process. If ever I worry about how a dish will turn out I pause, I listen and reconnect with the love in my heart and move on. Even if I make a spontaneous move and choose a random spice, it often will kick the meal up the perfect notch, proving yet again, that love is the way and the answer. Julia Child speaks about love being important in cooking as well: “Cooking is like love — it should be entered into with abandon or not at all” Love your food, love your self, love the process, love those you are feeding and you will be filled with the Love you Give!