More Cooking for Dummies: 12 Things I’ve Learned

Hello Fresh 4

Chicken Caesar Salad with homemade croutons

Remember, I am not a cook. Or, well…maybe I am now? I have stripped fresh rosemary leaves off the stem, butterflied chicken breasts, whipped up pan sauces, cooked green beans in a frying pan and steak in the oven, made my own condiments (aioli, teriyaki sauce), and performed many other culinary feats. I can see a little bit more now why people like to do this cooking thing (smells great, tastes delicious, creative, meditative).

It’s been over six months since I subscribed to the Hello Fresh meal kit service, but I’ve taken time off here and there. I love being able to pause the plan when I want to. I have to pay attention to the delivery schedule, of course, to make sure I’m not charged for or sent a box I didn’t want, but they’re reducing the cut-off time from seven days in advance to five to make it easier.

Click here to read my previous post: Cooking for Dummies: A glowing “Hello Fresh” review and a $40 referral code for you!

Here are 12 things I’ve learned from cooking with Hello Fresh:

  1. Onions are not just for picking out of dishes. They are an actual food, with nutritional value, that taste good in many instances. And there are a wide variety of onions, some of which I like better than others. I decided when I started
    Hello Fresh 1

    Herb Roasted chicken and vegetables

    that there was no point in ordering their food and following their recipes if I was going to skip steps or leave things out, so I have learned to like some foods I wouldn’t normally choose. Like roasted parsnip wedges. Mmm! Who knew I liked parsnips?

  2. Mushrooms, on the other hand….if there are mushrooms in a sauce I will maybe use half and chop them v-e-r-y finely. But if they offer a mushroom-centric dish I just make another meal choice to begin with. (They will send you 3 meals of their choice per week automatically, but you do have the chance to substitute.)
  3. I am no longer afraid of a recipe with 10 ingredients.
  4. Good knives are essential to the joy of cooking. Mine aren’t the best, but my new ones are light-years beyond the crappy old ones I started with.
  5. It’s way more fun to mince garlic if you have an actual garlic press. I still need one of those things you catch seeds with when you squeeze a lemon. These recipes involve a lot of lemons and garlic.
  6. I now know how to cook risotto the long, hard way. The shrimp and lemon risotto was delicious! And I don’t feel the need to do it ever again. I’ve read that there are easier, shorter ways to cook risotto but I don’t care enough.
  7. Medium heat on my stove is 4. And I have to add 50 degrees for my particular oven. I already knew this about my oven, from previous failed baking attempts, but it’s very important to keep in mind.
  8. My toaster oven works for baking all types of food. I even got a little set of tiny pans for it, which remind me of an Easy Bake Oven. Of course, if the entire meal is being baked, or you’re cooking for a whole family, you need a full sized baking sheet and oven.

    Hello Fresh 2

    I don’t remember what this was, exactly. But I’m sure was delicious! (And I only have a few photos of food I’ve cooked.)

  9. An empty honey bear works just fine for drizzling olive oil.
  10. I have not lost weight, but then, I never intended to. These are not diet meals. (Well, not the ones I’ve made…read on…) They are just healthy and tasty, and a good substitute for eating junk or eating out.
  11. Who knew about basting a pan-fried steak with rosemary garlic butter? And it never occurred to me to season meat before cooking, and not just wait until after.
  12. When I took a few weeks off, I did not find that I’ve magically turned into a meal planner, grocery shopper, or gourmet cook on my own.

Recently Hello Fresh has started offering some new plans. The previous choices of Boxes were Classic or Veggie, with 2-person or 4-person portions. The new Boxes are Classic, Veggie and Family, with a wider selection of number of meals and number of servings. The new recipe selections are: Beef Free, Chef’s Choice, Fit, Pork Free, Quick, Seafood Free, Variety.

Hello Fresh 3

Warm Shrimp and Farro Salad with Green Beans, Sweet Bell Pepper, and Shallot-Lemon Citronette

Guess which one I chose? (2 points if you guessed Quick.)

I must say, and this is a deal breaker for some, I’m still not crazy about the cleanup part. I haven’t really gotten the knack of cleaning as I go, although I understand the concept, and would strongly advise doing so. If this is what other people do every day (cook), then no wonder their kitchens are sometimes such a mess!

What are some of your own favorite cooking tips and tricks?

Have you tried Hello Fresh, or a similar service?

(My previous post includes a link to an article that compares the various meal kit services.)

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Comments

  1. I’m glad you liked Hello Fresh. I plan on trying it sometime. Maybe when school starts. I love to shop and cook but sometimes I just don’t have the time to do that. I also would love to see if it saves me time during the week. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love your point about onions as I used to pick them out too, but now I appreciate them! Every summer (June-Oct), we sign up for a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program. Each week I pick up fresh fruits and veggies from a local farm and it’s really pushed the limits of my cooking.

  3. I love that you have followed up your post from 6 months ago with these observations. Many of my clients have used these meal prep style services and loved this! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I recently learned about a similar service in our area. The prices seem high compared to what you’d pay at a grocery store, but considering that you’re getting local, organic ingredients, which cost more anyway, it’s not that different, especially since you only get what you need so there’s little waste.

  5. @Sabrina: It will definitely save you time on the planning and shopping end. Well, you still need to do some planning so you aren’t going to the store just as often for non-dinner items.

    @Sarah: Onions, LOL!

    @Ellen: I have yet to read anything about someone trying a meal kit service and not liking it. Maybe not liking it as much as another they’ve tried, but still liking it pretty well.

    @Janet: You are definitely paying for convenience. But if you are in the habit of eating out you will save money and eat healthier this way. There is no point in it if you already enjoy meal planning, shopping, and cooking. There are more benefits, which I outlined in my first post.

  6. “I am no longer afraid of a recipe with 10 ingredients.” <– This made me laugh! I'm a little afraid of those 10+ ingredient recipes, but you're inspiring me. =) I've also been meaning to try Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. Thanks for the nudge. =)

  7. I’m hearing more and more about these services. I actually love cooking, which sort of makes me love shopping, but I can understand the appeal of having the process simplified. My husband isn’t much for mushrooms either!

  8. I’m so glad you’re enjoying cooking now! Mmmm, rosemary garlic butter! I’m glad you invested in new sharp knives too. They really are essential. Dull knives are just so frustrating (and dangerous) to use.

    The Easy Bake Oven part made me laugh – it really is like that! I love to use my toaster oven for all kinds of baking and roasting, especially since I’m just cooking for two people. In the hot summer, it keeps the kitchen cooler than using the full size oven. And it’s easier to keep an eye on what’s cooking, easier than peering into a deep oven.

    You might also like the electric Instant Pot pressure cooker. A friend highly recommended it to me, and I never knew how much I needed one until I got it. It saves time when cooking things like turkey breast, bone-in chicken, roasts, brown rice, bean soup, hard-boiled eggs, baked potatoes, etc. and it preserves flavor so well because it’s all contained. All of those are good reasons for it, but honestly I just like how easy it is to throw stuff in, push a button and not worry about peeking and stirring and all that, and be done in about a half hour.

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