Several years ago a culinary instructor named Todd Mohr gave a free webinar on how to cook like a chef. It was not what I expected. Instead of talking about all the “secrets” and difficult recipes we think professional chefs know he talked about how home cooks make things too difficult. The focus of his webinar was learning basic techniques, cooking methods and spices then using your own fresh ingredients to create original dishes.
My Rocky Beginnings
When Bob and I first started living gluten-free I was scared to death. There were already a number of foods we didn’t eat for health reasons and I was sure there would be nothing left to eat So I started with stir fry and kept working on figuring out all those difficult gluten-free recipes and exotic ingredients. Eventually, I began to convert my own recipes and realized it really wasn’t that difficult, but I kept collecting recipes trying to find new, different, and perfect recipes that met our needs. It took me a while to realize I needed to careful not to replace gluten with other not-so-healthy foods.
Already Heading in the Right Direction
When I heard what Chef Todd had to say I realized I was already heading in that direction. I was already putting together my own ingredients to create new soups and salads. I rotisserie whole chickens and use the meat for various dishes and boil the bones to make stock. Then I realized I had my “magic mixture” which was usually black beans, onion, corn, salsa or canned tomatoes and chili spices and sometimes chicken. This ends up on baked potatoes, gluten free pasta, spaghetti squash, salad greens and most recently with rice rolled into a gluten free wrap for burritos. Sometimes I add rice for the closest thing to a casserole I do now. I like to make a big batch to have on hand.
The Gluten Free Wraps and a Discovery
The gluten-free wraps were part of a prize package from Toufayan Bakeries which I won through a drawing. The first couple of days after the package arrived we enjoyed some wonderful deli style sandwich wraps. I even made a special trip into town for good deli meat, goat cheese and condiments.
Then I started looking for different ideas and went to the Toufayan website where I found the recipe for Chicken and Black Bean Freezer Burritos. When I realized I already had the basics down all I needed to do was think a little outside the box and wrap the stuff up in a tortilla or other flat bread, I felt a little embarrassed. But this was an excellent illustration of Chef Todd’s point just a few days after listening to him.
When I made these I cut eat one in half and wrapped them in plastic wrap then put in a freezer bag. I ended up with two bags of these. Quite a bit of work, but good to have on hand for a snack or meal emergency.
Do you Make Things too Difficult?
Home cooks do make things way too difficult. We try to impress people with our skills or some sort of secret recipe or knowledge that only we have. Add food restrictions such as wheat or dairy to the mix and things can really get crazy. It is easy to panic and wonder what on earth you are going to eat.
- Focus on techniques. Review or learn basic cooking methods such as baking, roasting, steaming, sauteing, braising, grilling, stir frying, etc. These I have mentioned can all be done gluten free and dairy free.
- Then bring in your own fresh ingredients and seasonings and mix and match to your hearts content. You might also want to play around with sauces and toppings.
The benefit of cooking this way is that you get to choose your own ingredients. I think this is the easiest way to cook for special diets.
All you have to do is get started. It is a different way of thinking about food and cooking than many of us are used to. Take that first step and get started. Don’t be afraid to play a little and get creative. Things will get easier as you go along and you will eventually find yourself thinking, I really made this? This is so good!
What is your secret to cooking good, healthy food?