By The Rawtarian

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In this episode, Laura-Jane The Rawtarian shares tips and tricks for new cooks -- from where to keep your kitchen utensils to what time of day to cook.

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to episode number 52 of The Raw Food Podcast. I am your host, Laura-Jane, The Rawtarian, and today I am sharing with you some very practical tips for how to actually cook in your kitchen. So we're going to be talking about your spice area, your utensils, when are you cooking, is your kitchen clean before you start, these really practical, hands-on tips. This episode is for you if you are not someone who enjoys cooking, if you don't cook very frequently, and if you get overwhelmed when you look at a recipe. Thank you so much, and I'll be back to share both my kitchen set-up and my cooking process tips with you shortly.

Thank you so much for joining me on another episode of The Raw Food Podcast. This episode is going to give you some of my most practical cooking tips for you in the kitchen. This episode is really aimed for you if you are not somebody that cooks a lot, so you don't necessarily make food from scratch; maybe you're the kind of person who gets a little bit overwhelmed when you look at a recipe, and you would like to eat healthier, but you're not really experienced, or you're not loving cooking yourself.

So I have amalgamated some of my best tips for you. There's a couple of reasons why I am doing this episode now. As you know about me, I didn't grow up as somebody who was very domestic at all, and I've kind of learned my own way in the kitchen, trial by fire, if you will. Secondly, over the past year, or it feels like over the past decade, but over the past year, I have been working on a cookbook that's going to be out in stores in 2017, and that made me do a lot more cooking than I normally do. And I found that some of my-- you know, when you're cooking a recipe or two or five every day for a long time, you have to streamline your processes. So because I was cooking so much, I kind of realized, like, 'Ooh, this is terrible,' so I streamlined my process, to speed up my efficiency in the kitchen. So I really learned a few things over the past year that I would love to share with you.

So I've divided this into two general categories. So I'm going to start talking about just your general kitchen set-up pretty briefly, and then I have some tips there, and then I'm going to move on and talk about your process of cooking. And this is really just aimed at regular people, not necessarily people who are writing cookbooks or cooking in large volumes. So this is just for the regular person who wants to be more comfortable in the kitchen.

Firstly, I have to say it, I'm not a neat freak at all, but I think number one, if you are someone who gets overwhelmed in the kitchen, if you're going to cook something - let's say you're going to make a batch of brownies and it's a big deal for you - start with a clean kitchen. It's not that I care about hygiene; it's more about helping you to feel like you can handle it and you're not going to get overwhelmed with the mess or get derailed. Let's say your kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes and you need to get a big blender container under your tap or something, you don't want to have any barriers. So I think just starting out by a quick kitchen blitz, if it's not already looking really quite clean, then I think that's going to really help you.

I'm not somebody who loves cleaning, and I'm always amazed-- I learned this tip from the Fly Lady. You may be familiar with her; she's an online cooking goddess woman. I mean, not cooking; cleaning goddess, rather. If you just set a timer for five minutes, trust me, and if your kitchen's kind of messy, just go for five minutes. You'll be amazed that you can really clean up your kitchen a lot really quickly. So that's number one: just clean it up first. It'll help you a lot.

Number two, this is minor, but this is something I just did with my cookbook stuff, and it really helped me. What I did with my kitchen utensils, like my spatulas and wooden spoons and all of that stuff, I had them in a big drawer, and I still do, but I got-- and I don't like to have a lot of clutter on my counter, but I did just take my most often used kitchen utensils - let's see, what do I have in there? - like a ladle, two spatulas, a wooden spoon, and a whisk, the ones you use the most, whatever they are for you, and I just put them in sort of like a mason jar thing, and I have them really accessible on my countertop. But I do not want to have all of my utensils up there, because that would just be crazy and kind of overwhelming. So that is minor, but that is something that I did over the past year that I really like and has helped me feel like it's easier to just get going, so that's a little tip for you.

Number three, if you're a person with spices-- even me, I've been a food blogger since, I guess, 2009, and I should've had my spice area a little more organized by now, but my spice cupboard was just a total mess. And if I was looking for a spice, like oregano, I would literally probably have to touch ten spice jars, sacks; it was just not organized. And I wasted so much time searching for spices, and I had to look at so many different ones that I actually did organize my spice rack. I didn't even have a rack at the time, but I organized my spices. And I know that that sounds like a silly tip, but it actually made it feel so much more manageable. Ultimately, the way to have your spices organized is simply in some way that makes sense to you, ideally alphabetized in a way that you can actually see them all, or the majority of them, at one glance. One quick tip for you is - you can Google this - you could use some tension rods - just Google it - to elevate some of your spices in a cupboard, so that you're able to use the vertical space in the cupboard. That's a great idea. But it doesn't matter; they don't have to look pretty. It's just can you quickly lay your hands on turmeric, yes or no? And if you make the answer to that yes, then you're doing awesome.

Moving on now to talking more about the process, one thing I like to do now is-- my note to myself was 'Clean between batches.' So let's say you're going to make a carrot cake with my delicious cashew icing. That is kind of two recipes in one, if you know what I mean, because usually you would make the carrot cake first, and then kind of get that done, and then you'd move on to the icing. So what I found I kind of needed to do, or I would go bonkers, was-- well, firstly, I would get out all of the carrot cake ingredients only and put them on the counter, and then I would make the carrot cake, and then I would sort of like reset. Once I got the carrot cake done, I would just kind of wash up, hand wash any little dishes, put a couple of things in the dishwasher, just kind of go, 'Phew,' and then I'd be like, 'Okay, icing.' And then I would get out all the icing ingredients and then make the icing and then ice the cake. So again, simple, but I didn't used to do it that way. I would just get everything out and then make it all. And I found it would take more mental energy to do it all at once. That's minor, but that's what I always do now, and that really helped me a lot.

This is my next tip. It's related. So let's continue on with the carrot cake example. If I'm making the carrot cake, what I do now, always, is I work from left to right. So what I will do is-- just picture - close your eyes, go with me here - your empty, clean counter, and on the left of the counter, you're going to put out all of your carrot cake ingredients. So let's see - I don't know - your nuts, your dates, your sea salt, maybe some cinnamon, some dried coconut, carrots, whatever is in there, so kind of lay them all out. Then, in the middle, what I do, in case you're curious, I put a cutting board so it's kind of in the middle, and then I kind of think of that as my work station, and I might put some measuring cups on it; you know, that's kind of where I'm going to be doing things. And then on the right, to start out with, it's empty. But what I do is, let's say I'm going to start by doing something with the food processor and the pecans. So I'm going to take the pecans, measure them out, put them in the food processor, process them, and then I'm going to just put the bag or jar of pecans down on the right-hand side. It's kind of like my outbox, if you know what I mean. Then I'll do the next part of the recipe, and kind of just keep moving. So when I've added something, like the dates, I'll then just throw it over on the right-hand side, because then I know I've added it. Because often - you know how life is - you might get interrupted in the middle of it, and you kind of forget where you are in the recipe. So I find that is really helpful; I just pile everything on the left, then I throw it on the right when I'm done. And I don't tend to put those ingredients away right away. I just kind of leave them there and then I'll clean it all up at the end. Because I find that's more efficient, too, because maybe I have three things that have to go back in the dry pantry, and it kind of saves me trips. So that's the whole idea of work left to right, and I really like that, and I'm kind of militant about it now [laughs].

So another hack or tip that is huge, and it's very much sort of high level, it's like, okay, you're making carrot cake; when are you doing this? Okay, forget carrot cake. Let's pretend you're making some raw, vegan spaghetti with spiralized noodles. Are you going to make this right when you get home after work, or are you going to do some preparation in advance? When are you doing your cooking? I have found - and this is not cookbook related; this is just normal, everyday life related - the best time to cook is not when you're about to eat dinner. That is a terrible time, because you're hungry, in a rush, and you probably just want to go with something that you're already used to eating, as opposed to trying something new. So I have found the sweet spot for me, just because of my schedule and my life, is at the end of the day, after I've had dinner, maybe after I've cleaned up dinner and relaxed for a bit or done some chores or whatever needs to be done. I find usually around eight or nine, sometimes when people might be watching a TV show or-- you know, it's that beautiful sweet spot of the day, where you might have some free time, that is-- like, whatever your free time is, that is the time to do some cooking, especially if you're not used to cooking and if you want to try new recipes or new ways of preparing food. Because it's kind of like you're taking it as a hobby or something fun that you're doing in the evening, like scrapbooking or watching TV. It's not necessarily related to, like, 'I'm hungry; I need to feed myself now.' So that is something that I think is really important.

Now, if we continue on with this whole you're making spaghetti idea, if you want to have spaghetti tomorrow for dinner, what could we do? Obviously, certain things you don't want to completely make the entire meal. And this really leads me to my next and final tip: it is okay - in fact, ideal and wonderful - if you can half cook, if you will. So a common thing I like to do in the evening is, if I know tomorrow I want to make spaghetti, I might get out the zucchini, singular, zucchini, plural, and peel them, get them ready to be spiralized, throw them on a plate, put them back in the fridge, dig out my spiralizer from the Lazy Susan, put it out on the counter. Maybe if I'm going to make the spaghetti sauce tomorrow, I will get out all of the spices. I'm going off the cuff here, but let's pretend it's oregano, sea salt, and thyme. I'm going to get out those three spices from my beautifully organized spice area and measure them out - it might be, like, a teaspoon of this, a quarter teaspoon of that - and measure them all and put them in a little cup, and then put the spices away, and then I know my spices are ready to go. So this is what I call half cooking, and it is so awesome, because it's going to make the next day so much easier, and it also kind of forces you to plan in advance. Well, obviously if you've half got your spaghetti going, when you come home the next day from work and you're tired and hungry, you've already done some of the work, and you're just going to make spaghetti, because that would be silly not to, because you'd waste your time. So I think that is really something that I do a lot, just for myself, and it does help me to plan to eat something healthy the next day, because I've done some of the work, and so I'm less likely to just fall back on something that is not an ideal thing to eat.

So those are some of my kitchen types. I hope they've been helpful for you in some way. And I think if you are listening to this because you are someone who is not very comfortable in the kitchen, and you really have not cooked much in your life, I seriously encourage you, maybe weekdays are too crazy for you, but on the weekend, if you have a little bit of time, and it's not necessarily related to the meal you're going to eat, just look up a recipe of something that you enjoy and just see if you can make it, you know, at three o'clock in the afternoon, if you have some time. And just have fun with it and approach it as a fun hobby, even if you don't like it, or you think you don't like it, but kind of approach it as something that is fun and not stressful and not rushed. Because we all know that rushing doesn't feel very fun at all.

So thank you so much for joining me here on The Raw Food Podcast. Of course, I am Laura-Jane, the Rawtarian, and I am looking for some new ideas for episodes of The Raw Food Podcast and topics that I can talk about or people that you would like me to interview. I would love to hear some ideas on that, and I will end it there. Thank you so much.

You have been listening to The Raw Food Podcast with your host, Laura-Jane, the Rawtarian. Be sure to visit me at therawtarian.com to browse over 100 of my absolute favorite simple, satisfying, raw, vegan recipes for free. While you're there, be sure to sign up for a free account, so you can favorite recipes and other special features. Also, consider joining the paid section called The Rawtarian's Kitchen, where you can watch over 70 video tutorials with me, download all of my e-books, take online courses and cleanses, get printable PDFS, and much more. Visit therawtarian.com/getTRK for details on what's included. Thank you so much for joining me here today on The Raw Food Podcast, and I hope to hear from you soon. So until next time, enjoy your raw adventure.

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