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Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures

5 New Year's Resolutions to Improve Your Cooking Skills

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Dec 31, 2013 12:02 PM

Here we go again, another year has flown by and all you have to show for yourself are some unfulfilled, discarded resolutions you vowed to keep. They were lofty pipe dreams anyway, right? Your resolution to be on “Hell's Kitchen” froze over. To top the cake, your perfect culinary masterpiece has yet to be constructed. Either way, it was worth the try.

Instead of fixating on past failures, can the negative attitude and shift your thoughts to something more sunny-side up. Sure, you won't become a top chef with a culinary master vision in just one year, but you can refocus and commit to a few New Year's vows you can actually keep.

So, throw away that moldy old mentally and try some of these ideas to devise some New Year's resolutions that are practical and healthy for the upcoming year.

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Photo by Distant Hill Gardens

Starting a garden is a great new way to bond with your family.

1. Grow Your Own Ingredients

The Resolution

Start dedicate yourself to healthy eating by growing your own fruits and vegetables. Not only will you save money on your monthly grocery bill, but you will also improve your family's quality of life. Your lush greens and plump ripe tomatoes will taste better than shipped or preserved supermarket produce, and be fully loaded with vitamins.  Additionally, you will be cutting back on food waste to help support a more eco-friendly environment sans pesticides. Not to mention, creating a home garden can really add a rustic feel to your landscaping.

Mastery

First, determine where you would like to grow your food, making sure to search for good sunshine. Once you found an ideal place to grow, tend to your soil by incorporating organic materials to aid in harvesting. This step is crucial to maintaining a healthy and thriving garden. Finally, plant your seeds and periodically check on your plants and water when necessary.

How to Stick To It

There is no need to invest in expensive plants and a used backhoe; plant a little at a time. Don't become overwhelmed by trying to include all types of fruits and vegetables. Choose your most commonly used food and plant that for starters. That way, you'll be more likely to use them in everyday cooking.

2. Regularly Learn New Recipes

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Photo by The Bitten Word on Flickr

Bookmark recipes in the magazines and books you read, and incorporate them into your stand-bys.

The Resolution

Incorporate a few new recipes a month to have some easy, go-to meals on hand. In doing so, you'll be able to make time for cooking even on your busiest of evenings. Being conscious of what you are cooking will not only save you time, but it will also make you more aware of what you are consuming, which, in turn, will help you make healthier choices.

Mastery

Begin with including fruits and vegetables as a staple in every meal for a healthy, colorful plate. Then, build around your various sides to compliment with meat choices. To benefit your mind and body, turn to lean proteins like fish, chicken and turkey. These leaner choices will be kind to your heart and brain, while providing the protein and fat your body needs.

How to Stick To It

Slowly incorporate these recipes into your meal plans, trying to use them at least twice a week. For example, have panko crusted tilapia with green beans one night and salmon and broccoli another night. If you're struggling with variety, try a few meatless dishes.

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Photo by Jennifer from Sweet on Veg

Learn to love whole grains, especially in your breakfast.

3. Add Whole Grains

The Resolution

Often times our resolutions tend toward carb-free diets. However, the simple inclusion of whole grains into your diet can actually give you the nutrients your body needs. As a result, you will feel more satisfied and full by making the right starch decision.

Mastery

For a simple integration, always ensure that whole grain or whole wheat is the main ingredient. If it isn't the first ingredient listed, look for healthier alternatives at your local health food grocers and markets.

How to Stick To It

You don’t have to bring a military attitude to this goal, but try to include whole grains in at least one meal a day. Maybe it's whole grain bread for breakfast or quinoa in your yogurt at lunch. Whatever your choice, think of some creative options to spice up your daily grain intake.

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Photo by Theen Moy

Put your cookbook collection to use! Don't have one? Start a recipe binder instead. You can borrow all kinds of cookbooks from your local library, and copy out your favorite recipes.

4. Cook Using Recipes and Cookbooks

The Resolution

Actually use your cookbooks instead of letting them collect dust on your counter. By spending time reading these books, you can improve your cooking skills and vary your recipes to avoid bored and impulsive eating.

Mastery

Grab a stack of your books and take the time to sift through the recipes outside of the kitchen. Flag your favorites with some sticky notes and make a grocery list. Once you purchase your ingredients it will be harder to back out of making these dishes and it will help you commit to some new finds.

How to Stick To It

Take at least ten minutes a day to read your cookbook outside of the kitchen. The more time you devote to using your cookbooks, the more refined your cooking skills you will become. If you're at a loss, try Eat Your Books to help you organize and search for new recipes.

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Photo by The Bitten Word on Flickr

Preserves are a great way to save money and ensure that you don't waste any of your hard work gardening.

5. Preserve Your Food

The Resolution

Take time to preserve food, because it will help you keep a supply of different ingredients and save on refrigeration. Plus, you can include healthy food items and avoid using any unwanted additives.

Mastery

Determine what kinds of foods you wish to preserve and make sure they are ripe and ready to be canned. Always sanitize your lids and jars to avoid bacteria. Also, when you seal your lids, double-check that there are no air bubbles. These steps are crucial to preserving food safely. Check out these great steps to canning food.

How to Stick To It                                                                                 

Choose a few different foods to can and start out small. Begin by organizing your pantry for shelf space and labeling your jars. This way, you'll have a system to stay motivated.

Like any new resolution, it takes dedication and willpower to fully commit and carry out these new goals. However, with a positive attitude and good organization, you'll be on your way to culinary mastery.

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