Non-stick Pots and Pans
Beware of Non-Stick Surfaces
Chemicals used to make non-stick pots and pans become toxic when overheated. That can happen in a matter of minutes so never cook anything on high.
Experts say the fumes from overheated pans can make humans sick and kill pet birds.
As non-stick cookware ages the coating often flakes off especially if you use metal utensils on them.
Eating toxic chemicals can't be good for you even if the government refuses to study the subject.
Put a little love into your cooking
After a long day of using your brain at work or school there is something very satisfying about coming home and playing with food. When all your slicing, dicing and stirring begins to smell like something delicious you’ll get hooked, too. Don’t ask me why but everything tastes better when you put a little love into it. If you don’t enjoy cooking, your meals will somehow reflect that. So have fun with what you are doing, experiment a little, and learn to cook with your heart.
Why take the time to cook when you can buy ready-made take out?
Price – it’s cheaper -- cook once and eat half the week.
Flavor – your cooking will taste better when you make it fresh and to your liking.
Quality – it's much healthier because you control what goes into it and avoid the tons of sodium and sugar and chemicals you can’t pronounce found in processed foods.
A recent study on sodium at popular restaurant chains uncovered some pretty scary results.
You’ve probably heard horror stories about salmonella and e coli outbreaks in the last several years.
Processed food companies now admit they have become so big they have no idea where all their ingredients come from and they can’t insure the safety of their food.
Instead they put the onus on the consumer to heat processed foods beyond 165 degrees (a process called the kill step) which also makes everything mushy. Oh yummy! Read it here.
Moral: Learn to cook so you don’t have to buy prepared foods!
Before we get started, there are some things you need to know to prevent food-borne illness. Why? Because Mama doesn’t want you to get a tummy ache or worse.
- HANDS should be washed with warm water and soap. Wash them before you start for a minimum of 15 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing happy birthday) and then each time you handle a new food.
*DON'T USE ANTI-BACTERIAL SOAP because it removes protective bacteria and it adds cancer causing toxins to the water supply.
- KITCHEN SINK is the dirtiest place in your kitchen so clean it with cleanser on a regular basis or buy one of those kitchen cleaner sprays with bleach in it.
- SPONGE used for cleaning can be microwaved for a minute or two to kill 99.9% of the germs but make sure it is wet. If you don’t have a microwave then boil it for a minute or throw it in the dishwasher or washing machine which is almost as good.
- WASH CLOTHS AND KITCHEN TOWELS should be changed every few days especially if you cook a lot.
CUTTING BOARDS – you need at least two: one for meat and one for fresh produce. The blood and juice from meat will contaminate your produce so try not to use one for both. It helps to buy different color cutting boards, one for meat (red), one for poultry (yellow) another for produce (green) and one more (your choice of color) for prepared foods. If you aren’t going to buy extra cutting boards then wash the one you use with hot soapy water, rinse and let it dry before you use it again. After cutting meat on the board you can also take an extra step by bleaching it, rinse and let it dry before using again because bacteria thrives in moisture.
Those are the most important tips I can offer you. There are more on this cheat sheet: Cleaning 101
If you want more on this subject you can also go to this government website: foodsafety.gov
Equipment You Will Need
Don’t let this list intimidate you. You don’t need it all at once. You can accumulate it over time. You can buy it second hand or raid your family’s cabinets at home. People even give it away on Craigslist. Over time you will probably accumulate lots more than this but this list will get you on your way.
- Large stock pot (for pasta, soups, chilis)
- Colander (to drain pasta and wash fruits and vegetables)
- 10-inch sauté pan
- 12-inch cast iron skillet
- Small and medium saucepan
- Cookie sheet(s)
- Glass or ceramic baking dish
- Cutting boards (see food safety)
- 8-inch chef’s knife
- 10-inch bread knife
- 4-inch paring knife
- Plastic spatula
- Vegetable peeler
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Garlic press
- Citrus squeezer
- Wooden spoons
- Slotted spoon
- Manual box grater
- Pizza cutter wheel (probably your most commonly used item)
- Clear plastic containers for leftovers (If you can’t see through it- you will forget what’s in there)
Basics in the Pantry
You will probably buy these as you need them and eventually you'll be well stocked.
- Salts: kosher, iodized, sea salt
- Sugars: confectioners, raw, brown, white
- Ground black pepper, ground white pepper (peppercorns if you have a pepper mill to grate fresh ground pepper)
- Olive Oil (extra virgin for salads or flavoring foods at the end, but cheaper brands for cooking)
- Canola or vegetable oil
- Balsamic vinegar (red and white)
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Cider Vinegar
- Soy sauce (preferably low sodium)
- Rice, pasta, grains
- Herbs and spices (i.e. tarragon, basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, coriander and cumin)
- Vanilla extract
In Defense of Salt
Nutritionists are sounding the alarm -- People are eating too much salt!
That is true if you eat a lot of processed and/or fast foods.
But if you cook for yourself you are not going to use as much.
Your body does need a little bit of salt to function and salt enhances the taste of food.
So don't be afraid to use it. Your food won't taste good without it.
Experts say limit your intake to about a teaspoon a day (2400 grams).
Plastic in the Microwave
If a plastic container doesn't say "microwave safe", don't use it. That goes for styrofoam too.
Chemicals can leak into your food, especially into fatty foods like meats and cheese.
To be safe, use glass or ceramic containers instead.
Chemicals in plastic wrap can also leach out so cover food with paper towels or waxed paper instead.