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cooking ideas in spain

By Chef Todd

New Cooking Ideas From Spain

I’m always searching for new cooking ideas. Sometimes they come from my local farmers market, other times I have to travel great distances to discover something inspiring.

I’ve been bored with my cooking lately, it’s not exciting me anymore. I find myself preparing the same meals again and again. I gravitate toward the same ingredients at the market every Sunday, bringing home a duplicate of last week’s menu of green beans, broccoli, chicken, beef and potatoes.

My cooking has gone the easy route, the path of least thought, the easy and comfortable. I’d even call it cowardly. I used to be brave in the kitchen while trying new cooking ideas, but now I’m lazy and meek.

You might feel the same way in your home kitchen, the flame has gone out.

It’s not that I don’t know HOW to cook. I think I’ve established that fact from the Executive Chef positions I’ve held and the tens of thousands of people that benefit from my cooking instruction every day.

The cooking part isn’t the problem. WHAT to cook has become the problem.

Geez, I can cook chicken 25 ways. You might think that’s exciting, but every one of those 25 chicken dishes are still made with chicken! I need even MORE variety than chicken done two dozen ways.

I need new foods and cooking ideas to combine with the cooking methods that I rely upon every day. I don’t want to change HOW I cook because that’s never let me down. What I need is a new ingredient, a new outlook, a new way of looking at the same old same old in a new light.

So I went to Spain. It might seem like a long way to go just to refresh my cooking, but I know the greatest inspirations I’ve had in my cooking career have come from other cultures, other countries that use ingredients I’ve never heard of, and treat food differently than I have.

What I’m finding in Spain and my tour of Spanish cuisine has changed the way I think about preparing food in my home and has immediately given me dozens of new cooking ideas to bring back with me.

Within minutes of getting off the plane, I had discovered “Tapas”, the two-bite food items that are everywhere in Spain. I love tapas because there are no rules in preparing them. Just about ANY ingredient paired with ANY other ingredient makes a tapa. This thought was liberating!

It’s made me think that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to adding variety to your cooking, and that good things can come in small packages if you know where to look for the new cooking ideas.

You can join me to see some of my other inspirations from Spain and other Global Food Finds when you join me for my FREE online webinar workshop, "International Food Finds: Discovering Global Inspirations for New and Exciting Meals at Home.

Hold your spot in the FREE webinar by clicking HERE.

By Chef Todd

You Won’t Believe This Easy, Simple Method for Cooking Sauce

One of the most difficult things for a cook at home to make is a flavorful sauce. A great sauce will cover some of the worst cooking mistakes, enhance most of the best cooking successes and make you appear to be a home cooking genius.

Cooking a sauce means adding flavor, texture, and appearance to your home cooking dishes. A sauce or gravy is made of three simple ingredients: liquid, thickener, and flavorings. When you need easy cooking ideas for cooking sauces at home, you need only think of these three things.

Liquid for Your Sauce
If you’re making a chicken dish, you’ll probably want to add something like chicken broth. If you’re making a tropical dish, you might add a fruit juice or add soy sauce to an Asian dish. Add the liquid that makes sense for the protein that you've cooked and once you're comfortable making sauces, be open to experimenting with new and different flavor combinations. Next, you will need to be able to thicken your liquid so that it sticks to your food for some great home cooking.

Thickener for Your Sauce
A sauce needs to be thick enough to cling to food and not wind up as a puddle on the bottom of the plate. The easiest way to thicken a liquid is with a cornstarch slurry. This is the same method that most of our grandmother’s used to make gravy from the pan drippings of the holiday turkey. When you dissolve cornstarch in a cold liquid, then add it to a hot liquid (your sauce), it will gelatinize, and thicken the sauce.

While slurry is the easiest way to cooking sauce success, roux is the most widely used and most flavorful because of the fat needed to separate starch molecules. If you’ve ever noticed lumps in your gravy, it’s because groups of starch molecules have stuck together and only thickened on the outside of the group. Butter, oil, or solid fats in a roux help to “line up” the starch molecules for the introduction of hot liquid and their opportunity to individually absorb the liquid and swell, this thickening the sauce.

Flavoring for Your Sauce
The liquid that you used to create your sauce may give you enough of a flavor profile that you don't need to add any additional flavors. However, if there isn't enough flavor, add some! You could add garlic, onions, ginger or any number of different ingredients while you are cooking your sauce to help to liven up your home cooking.

No matter what the liquid, thickening agent or flavor profile you choose, you can find that cooking sauce is a skill you’ll enjoy and will lead to more easy cooking ideas without recipes. Before you know it, everyone will be begging you to have them over to your house for some great home cooking.

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By Chef Todd

Easy Cooking Ideas a Recipe Book Will Never Tell You

If you’re looking for easy cooking ideas, stop searching in recipe books! Instead, look at your cooking basics. One of the best basic cooking methods to employ for quick dishes is stove-top sauté. Sauté is a direct source, conductive cooking method that uses intense heat to cook and brown products quickly and easily. It’s the best way to get dinner done quickly, regardless of the ingredients you choose.

The most important part of the sauté method is getting the pan hot first. This is one of the biggest mistakes home cooks make that gets in the way of easy cooking. Putting your protein product into the pan and then heating the pan and the product together actually makes cooking more difficult. If you don’t hear a distinct “sizzle” when you add something to the pan, it’s not hot enough. The first thing your protein product will do is release moisture and if you are heating the product at the same time as the pan, you will end up with a dried finished product.

After you’re sure your pan is ready, you’ll need a small amount of fat to transfer the heat from the bottom of the pan to the item you’re cooking. This is one of the cooking basics you can’t ignore. Keep in mind that the use of fat in sauté is meant only to help with heat transfer. This is different from pan frying, where you fill the pan with oil in a moist, convective fashion. So, use only a small amount of fat for sauté.

Once your item is cooked under the direct heat of the stove top, then you can add any type aromatics that you would like, such as onion, garlic, or ginger. Quickly cook them in the leftover pan-drippings or “fond” to combine the flavors.

Now comes the fun of sauté method and the best of all easy cooking ideas, how to make a quick pan sauce. Any type of cold liquid will quickly drop the temperature of the pan and lift the fond from the bottom, allowing you to combine flavors and leave a flavorful liquid that you can thicken or reduce for a sauce.

Quick dishes and easy cooking ideas always come from cooking basics. Once you have an understanding of these basic methods, you can use them over and over again to create dinner ideas from the ingredients you have on hand.

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