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I have to confess, up until a few years ago, I knew nothing about cooking. I owned two pots, a cookie sheet and a toaster. The main staples of my diet were Chinese food, pasta, pizza, burgers and Cool Ranch Doritos.
Late one night, completely by chance, I happened to come across an episode of Rachael Ray’s show 30-Minute Meals on the Food Network. From that night on, my life changed. I began to finally understand and form an appreciation for cooking.
After watching hundreds of episodes of the show (including multiple re-runs), this is what I have learned from watching Rachael Ray:
1. Soup does not take all day to make.
Who knew you could make soup in less than an hour? I thought homemade soup took six or more hours to make. I was pleasantly surprised to learn you can add vegetables, meat and spices to ready-made stock and there you have a soup!
2. Olive oil makes everything taste good.
I always thought of olive oil as a delicacy and never used it. But since watching Rachael Ray, I put olive oil (or as she calls it, “EVOO”) on everything. From dipping bread in it to coating chicken breasts to drizzling olive oil over frozen French fries before putting them in the oven, olive oil has awakened me to how good food is supposed to taste.
3. Homemade pasta sauce and salsa can actually taste better than store-bought.
At first, I couldn’t believe making pasta sauce or salsa could be easy to make let alone taste as good as the jars I bought. When I first made salsa, it took less than ten minutes. It was exactly as spicy as I wanted it to be and it was much thicker than what I was used to. It was the first time I ever made something I liked more ready-made.
On several shows, Rachael Ray claimed homemade pasta sauce was better because it was cheaper and you could make it any way you wanted to. Like soup, I thought making pasta sauce would be a long, drawn-out process. It wasn’t! I took Rachael’s advice and added parsley to a can of crushed tomatoes and got creative with the other ingredients I added. It always turns out surprisingly well.
4. The little details make all the difference.
There are tips Rachael repeats that are drilled into my memory:
-“Need it twice, chop it once.”
-Squeeze a lemon turned upright so the seeds don’t get into dish you are making.
-Wash herbs after you get them home and wrap them in a paper towel.
-Have a garbage bowl handy.
-Heat your pan first so, “…it’s waiting for you and not the other way around.”
-Always use a separate, plastic cutting board for meat.
5. There are a million ways to make a burger.
Rachael has turned making burgers into an art form. For me, a burger used to be made up of a beef patty, cheese, lettuce and ketchup all in a bun. Now, I’m making turkey, tuna and lamb burgers topped with cheeses and vegetables I would have never envisioned on a burger (like spinach). For me, it’s not just about getting creative with a familiar food that won me over. It’s being able to take a typical takeout dish and make it my own that I have grown to love.
6. “Take a little help from the store where you can get it.”
I used to think of cooking as an all or nothing task. Either you worked with all fresh food and made dishes completely from scratch or you heated up completely processed food. Rachael Ray taught me you can compromise. You can use things like frozen or canned vegetables, pre-made biscuit and cake mixes and stocks. The trick is to add spices or herbs to give the processed food its own, unique taste.
7. If you cook healthy, you can eat more.
When I started experimenting with Rachael’s recipes, I was surprised at how at easy it was to start eating more vegetables. It was nice to be able to have a second helping of Ginger and Lemon Steamed Vegetables and not feel guilty about it as I would when I’d have another piece of pizza. Not only that, but I started to crave fresh, healthy food. I can now understand why she has such a passion for food and why, for Rachael Ray, eating is such an enjoyable thing.
write by Jason Wyman