July is National Culinary Arts Month

We’re celebrating National Culinary Arts Month with some tips to make you more confident cooking nutritious meals on a budget for your family! Cooking can be a bit scary if you haven’t had much practice. Hopefully, these ideas will inspire you to give it a try and get creative in your kitchen!
two people cooking in a kitchenThink of your favorite foods you’ve had eating out at a restaurant or at a friend’s house. Try re-creating one of those dishes at home. The great thing about cooking is that you can control what goes in it. If some of your family’s favorite foods are high in fat, salt, and sugar, you can make healthier versions at home. For example, macaroni and cheese is usually made with white pasta and a lot of fat from butter, whole milk or cream, and full-fat cheese. When you make macaroni and cheese at home, you can use whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta. You can also pick what shape pasta you want! Elbows are a traditional choice, but you can also try penne, rotini, and bow-ties. To lower the fat content, you can use plain nonfat yogurt instead of butter, skim milk instead of whole milk, and low-fat cheese instead of full-fat cheese. You can also add vegetables like peas, broccoli, or tomatoes, as well as white beans to add more filling protein and fiber to your meal. This is a great way to sneak a few vegetables into your family meals.
Spice blends add flavor to the food you cook, but store-bought blends can be expensive and high in salt. Instead, you can make your own homemade spice blends without salt by using individual spices you may already have in your pantry. For more ideas on how to cook with herbs and spices, check out this website. In addition to spice blends, you can add flavor to your food with lemon juice, vinegar, and small amounts of plant-based oil like olive oil.
Cooking a delicious, healthy meal can take time, but there are ways to make it easier. Plan your meals before you go to the grocery store so you’ll have on hand exactly what you need to cook for the week. Also, plan your meals around what ingredients are on sale at the grocery store that week. When you’re cooking, go ahead and double the recipe so you can have leftovers for the next day, or freeze them for another week. Getting five servings of fruits and vegetables in a day can be challenging, but canned and frozen vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh, and sometimes cheaper when the food you’re buying isn’t in season. Make sure to choose canned and frozen fruits and vegetables without added sugar or salt. Drain and rinse canned vegetables and fruits before you use them to wash away some of the sugar and salt. Having canned and frozen produce on hand is a great way to add fruits and vegetables to any meal in case you don’t have fresh ones to cook with–plus the canned and frozen won’t spoil as quickly!
Lastly, involve your family in the cooking process! Even young children can help with mixing, measuring, stirring, and setting the table. This is a great way to bond as a family and make your family more willing to try what you made since they’ll play a part in the cooking process. Cooking doesn’t always have to be exact, so there’s room to be creative and customize your dishes to how you like them.
What can you cook in your kitchen this week?
-Cara Mowery

© 2024 North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

North Carolina State University
Agricultural and Human Sciences Department

Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES)

For our disclaimer, liability, and contact information click here