I posted this on my journal yesterday but thought maybe others could benefit from what I've found. I'm 21 and up till October, I lived with my parents, who cook in bulk for all of us so I never had any opportunity to cook for myself. In October I moved to the UK (where I still am) to finish my Master's degree and here I live in a huge house with a huge kitchen that I share with lovely housemates.
Cooking is a challenge to me - I don't enjoy it at all (it's very lonely to go in there and chop and feel hot for hours each week) but I dearly love eating and I can't afford to go out more than once in a while so cooking is nonetheless a necessity.
I've found that since I've had to prepare my own meals, I'm constantly thinking about what I'm going to eat, when I'll have to prepare the food or buy it. It's exhausting, to be honest, but sometimes it's actually rewarding. The following recipes are recipes that worked well for me this year and that I would like to make again. Mango Chicken Curry
- Exact recipe but I substituted the heavy cream with light coconut milk, which by the way I could drink on its own with a bit of sugar if nobody was watching me.Morrocan Aubergine and Chickpeas Salad
- Exact recipe. I think adding grilled lamb meatballs to it might make it a complete omnivore dish, I haven't tried but I will next time I make it.Falafel Burgers
- Exact recipe but for the tomato salsa, since I wasn't sure what they meant, I used grilled diced tomatoes.Hummus
- Exact recipe. Had that with pita bread and on toasted artisan bread with olive oil and diced tomatoes for breakfast one day.Fancy Macaroni
- Exact recipe, don't skip the goat cheese, it makes a huge difference. Got two other cheeses on discount.
There are also countless other dishes which I didn't use a recipe for (that's far more difficult) but that I thought would taste good and they did. For example thick pasta with lemon and a mushroom sauce (mushrooms, cream and various spices that didn't look too different from the earthy taste of mushrooms). Today I had mint lamb (I put lamb steaks in a zipper bag with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and lots of fresh mint and let it marinate overnight) with couscous and some veggies in it (peppers and sun-dried tomatoes).
These tips also worked for me this year: cooking in bulk and freezing is a great method. Dried herbs are my best friends, so are spices, especially if the dish requires the herbs to be cooked. If it's for a salad or some such, better fresh. Some things are worth buying half-ready to use, like diced chicken breasts, some are not (guacamole in a jar, I'd rather be guacamole-deprived, maybe it's the brand I bought but it had 40% double cream, and it tasted horrible). Some things are totally fine by me and have saved me time (example: rice in the bag, teabags, already-washed salad). Old el Paso is not Mexican food, but their corn tortillas are rather good. I personally buy spices in bulk and throw some of each together instead of using their spices mix, too.
I wish I'd known how to use my oven better sooner this year. I learned last week that I could do all the 'grilling' of the recipes in my oven *sigh* Better late than never, I suppose. Turns out the way you prepare something really changes the ingredient. My whole life I thought I hated aubergines, but grilled aubergines are, I find, to die for.