Learn to cook using Web
ANN M. O'PHELANWith escalating food prices these days, more of us are choosing to eat at home for meals more often. In fact, according to Harris Interactive, "Seven in 10 Americans (71 percent) say they find themselves cooking more instead of going out in order to save more money."
Published: January 30, 2013
Published: January 30, 2013
However, preparing your own meals makes more sense than just saving dollars. According to the USDA's Department of Economic Research Service, "When dining out, Americans consume more calories per eating occasion, as well as higher amounts of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and lower amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, and iron on a per calorie basis, than when eating food prepared at home." So making your own home-cooked meal is worth the extra effort.
Thanks to the Internet, the task of choosing the right foods, preparing meals, and cooking itself has become much easier as so much is right at your fingertips.
For example, you can enroll in one of Heartland's Library Cooperative's non-credit Universal Class Online self-paced courses, where with the help of real instructors, you can learn about cooking and baking, food preparation, discovering herbs, and finding out about nutritional information: myhlc.org/. (Small fee for courses.)
If you are looking for recipes and accompanying cooking videos, try websites like allrecipes.com and www.bettycrocker.com. The Food Network also has its own online site where you can watch clips from shows, such as Rachel Ray, and you can also access recipes, including those that can be prepared in 30-minutes or less. Blogs, such as theitaliandishblog.com and smittenkitchen.com are also good resources.
YouTube is a good place to turn to find your favorite chefs, such as Paula Deen, who has her own cooking channels. You can watch her make some of her southern favorites at: www.youtube.com/user/PaulaDeen. On PBS, you can even look up Julia Childs, and watch her old episodes on French cooking: video.pbs.org/program/julia-child/
Another great place to find recipes, learn nutritional information, gain information about dieting, eating vegetarian, or learning about food safety is at USDA's site: www.choosemyplate.gov.
Once you have your recipes in hand, it's best to know in advance what is in season so you can look for the freshest foods. UF's Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide is the perfect guide to turn to for this as you can see a list of what vegetables are growing when: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021.
Grocery store websites are also great to visit before you shop. In fact, at Publix.com, you can sign up for "At Season's Peak," where you will receive email alerts for what is in season, along with checking the weekly ads. Sweetbay offers recipes for money saving meals and tips for healthy eating, as well as recipes that incorporate what is on sale. Winn Dixie offers Weekly Meal Solutions and a Recipe of the Day.
When it comes to actually choosing the freshest produce, you could study up with the USDA's guide, "How to Buy Fresh Vegetables": www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3103623. The guide provides tips about what to look for and what to avoid when choosing each type of vegetable — everything from artichokes to tomatoes to watercress is covered.
In a story that ran a few weeks back, Justin Patrick Timineri C.E.C., executive chef/culinary ambassador, FDACS, proposed a challenge: "I have a challenge for your readers: look at recipes differently. Go to the market and buy what looks the best, then find a recipe to highlight those ingredients." Timineri explained how most people do the opposite. They find a recipe first then go buy ingredients to match.
For those who would like to take on Timineri's challenge, Fresh from Florida offers a great selection of recipes, along with other helpful information such as a produce seasonal availability chart, a list of community farmer's markets, and downloadable cookbooks: www.florida-agriculture.com/consumers/fnr/recipes/.
Or you can first look in your cupboards to figure out what you have on hand and then find a recipe to match at Recipematcher: www.recipematcher.com/. For example, a recent search of "onions, hamburger, onion and green pepper," brought up recipes to match, such as: Hamburger Steak and Beef and Pepper Rice.
Thanks to the availability of the Internet, we can all easily enjoy our fresh Florida foods at home more often. Plus, we'll save money and we might just learn how to cook.