More categories will be added as necessary. Please contact YaleCooks!
• What Can You Learn From YaleCooks Which You Cannot Learn Elsewhere?
1) Almost nothing (assuming you have the extra time, patience, and money to learn on your own the "secrets" most recipes do not include)! We are just trying to be honest. There are only so many ways to bake a chocolate chip cookie, but you can find countless chocolate chip cookie recipes on the internet. Many recipes describe the "what", but not the subtle "how-to" tips, what to avoid doing, and what to try changing if you are not happy with the results (thank you, Rose Levy Beranbaum).
You will benefit from the mistakes we made when we were learning to cook. Most people, especially over-achieving Yalies, are reluctant to say "I made a mistake." YaleCooks members are different. By sharing this information ("best practices") we hope you will have more success when trying new recipes!
What is hopefully unique about the YaleCooks website is the community we create around food-cooking and what food means to us. We hope to share our kitchen and shopping "secrets" (advice which is harder to find on the internet). There is also "added value" in the ability to reach out and ask an insightful question which can be answered by another member of the Yale community (and whose answer is useful to many). "You can do it, we can help."
2) We hope our "step-wise" approach to food preparation is equally useful and interesting to both complete kitchen novices who need to purchase cooking equipment and ingredients and to more experienced cooks who are searching for new ideas and ways to add variation to their repertoire of recipes. One reason YaleCooks was started was to challenge what we believe we know about ingredients, food preparation, and our ability to describe a recipe. Developing the YaleCooks project has been very humbling.
• The Goal(s):
1) What recipes can be made, hopefully in 30-minutes or less (or with at most 30-minutes of active effort; see below), using ingredients which you already have on your pantry shelves, refrigerator, or freezer? (If you are new to cooking or have a tight budget, do not worry, because YaleCooks will help you save money when you shop for both ingredients and kitchen equipment.) When in season it is nice to use fresh basil, but during the winter dried crushed basil leaves (or basil leaves which you washed and froze, perhaps as a "pesto sauce" without the cheese) can be used. YaleCooks will give you options.
A recipe which looks wonderful is not very useful if you do not have all the required "essential" ingredients. The best recipes (eg. stews, salads, "stir fries") have some flexibility in their ingredients. What do you do if you are planning to serve a chicken salad to your date (who is arriving in one hour) and you discover your roommate eating the poached chicken you prepared the night before? No time to shop. No time to worry. Just improvise and go to plan B. Take chicken breast out of the freezer, defrost it in cold water, and grill it on your stove. Problem solved. [BTW, enjoy your date!]
2) YaleCooks will not turn you into the head chef of a "four star" restaurant, but hopefully the information shared on this website and during our in-person events (eg. workshops and classes) encourages many members of the Yale community to spend more time in their "KITCHENS" (with friends and family). With many life challenges the journey is often more rewarding than the destination. When cooking a recipe the satisfaction of eating the completed dish is just the final reward.
• How are the Main Left Menu Topics on the YaleCooks Website Organized?
1) In the left menus the five topics above "Let's Learn to Cook Now" describe "organizational" aspects of YaleCooks plus inspirational stories from YaleCooks members. If you skipped them before reading this page please return to them when you have time. The seven topics below "Let's Learn to Cook Now" describe food and recipes (and we agree these are more fun to read).
2) The main left menu topics have a light green background. The current main left menu topic has a dark green background. Notice the "Let's Learn to Cook Now" tab has a dark green background (you may have to scroll up slightly to see it).
3) "Submenu" pages appear with a beige background (there are four submenus under "Grow, Raise, Forage, & Catch"). Current submenu pages have a yellow background. For example, the "contact YaleCooks" page. Clear?
• How to Use this Website to Learn to Cook:
No, we have not forgotten. The title of this page is "Let's Learn to Cook Now." Sorry for the delay. We hope you enjoy the ride.
We assume the reader already has an interest in food plus the desire to learn different cuisines and appreciate potentially unfamiliar flavors (and if not, thanks for reading this far). Having some experience preparing food will help, but we hope we give sufficient detail to assist complete novices. If you get confused by any of our technique descriptions or recipes please contact YaleCooks. We like receiving email!
1) We start by describing ingredients, because without ingredients you have nothing to prepare! We discuss what to buy (eg. not all wheat flours are equal), where to buy (to get the freshest, largest variety, and best prices), when to buy (holiday sales, seasonal ingredients, and weekly specials), etc. We realize we still have a lot of work to do on these pages. Please be patient! Your questions and specific requests for information will help us focus.
2) Next, we discuss kitchen equipment. We describe the bare essentials (what you need if you want to start by cooking only a few meals a week) and offer suggestions for more dedicated cooks and even those who have tiny "NYC studio" kitchens. You need to be creative!
3) Then we have the "Cooking 101: Basics" section. This is where we discuss the cooking "techniques" (eg. boiling pasta, or deboning chicken and preparing a simple chicken broth) which you will be using in the following recipes. In every recipe which requires boneless chicken meat there is no need to describe the different chicken choices available to cooks.
YaleCooks recipes will contain hyperlinks to the relevant "Cooking 101" sections. We assume you have the discipline to not click on every hyperlink you see! Refer to these pages only if you have a question. The "Assessing Basic Skills" page is like a trouble-shooting guide to help you spot places in your fundamental techniques where you can improve, saving time, reducing waste, and avoiding aggravation.
Remember, many breakfast and brunch foods are easy to make (and inexpensive to prepare). You can eat these foods for any meal. If you buy "old-fashioned" rolled oats to prepare breakfast you can use the same ingredient to make oatmeal cookies! Scrambled eggs on toast is always yummy.
4) The "Menus, Yale Authors, & Web" section was a lot of fun, but also a challenge, to create and organize. We start by describing the evolving menus used by the Yale dining halls and how the Yale Farm has influenced the menu choices of Yale students. Then we describe food served at Yale events (including events sponsored by YaleCooks and other SIGs; Shared Interest-Identity Groups), and food available for purchase from New Haven restaurants and food carts.
Next, we have our "specialty" menu categories dedicated to quick "30-Minutes or Less" recipes, "Recipes for Children" (food which children either enjoy eating or enjoy preparing), and recipes for those with food allergies or on special diets.
Finally, to end this section we include links to recipes written by members of the Yale community and links to our favorite recipe websites. When possible we have tried to minimize inclusion of websites which have a very "commercial flavor" (websites which may have useful recipes, but to find them you have to sift through a lot of uninteresting commercial text).
5) Next come the recipes, organized by ingredients-categories (such as dairy and vegetarian) and then by world region-cuisines (such as Mediterranean and Asian). These two pages are the YaleCooks "portals" to our recipes. On these pages, when you click on the Google , Bing , or YouTube icons which follow the names of recipes you will then see (in a new browser tabe) images which are links to internet recipes and video tutorials.
6) Lastly, the "do-it-yourself" (DIY) section describing how to grow, raise, forage, and catch food. Growing herbs is easy! YaleCooks will probably not develop this last section until 2013 or 2014! Hopefully, the Yale Farm appreciates the usefulness for this content (which in 2012 was missing from their website) to be public and offers to share their knowledge with the Yale community. Let's be partners!
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