Quarantine Cooking at Dani’s Kitchen: Practical Tips and Techniques

My love for cooking translates to my love for food. In my blog post before, I elaborated on how I started to develop my passion for cooking and the reasons why I love this hobby. In our current pandemic situation, I am happy to have more time to level up my cooking skills. I enjoy learning new recipes, techniques, styles, and expanding my knowledge of different cuisines. That learning process also interferes with the challenge of juggling responsibilities with my work from home, occasionally making mistakes in the kitchen, and keeping the balance of budgeting. However, the joy of overcoming these while making your loved ones happy is priceless.

My blog post Reasons Why I Love Cooking (And How Can you Learn it Too)” is getting daily traffic with readers from around the globe. With the present set-up where most of us are confined to our homes, I guess people are curious and eager to discover a new productive passion. I thought of writing an updated post that shares my newly discovered cooking tips, preferences for ingredients, and other practical techniques related to cooking. Hope you learn a thing or two.

What Motivates Me

Before lockdown, I loved dining at restaurants. I liked attending foodie events and dining out with my loved ones regardless if there’s an occasion or not. During quarantine when options became limited, I was inspired to imitate the restaurant specialties I love and recreate them at home. Instead of spending for online deliveries, I just study the recipe and share them with my family. Lesser expenses, but safer and healthier. Of course, it was not that easy. But I like taking new challenges and the reward is fulfilling.

Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet
Homemade Shabu Shabu

Preparing Ahead

No task comes easy, but planning is always the key. Cooking is tedious if it interferes with other household or office tasks. I sometimes get stressed doing this in between my lunch breaks because I am pressed for time. Unlike in my previous work set-up where I can just buy my food outside or prepare my packed lunch ahead, this time I cook not only for myself but for my entire family. Although cooking meals is rotational at home, I sometimes volunteer to do it because my siblings are busy too with their work. And of course, I get to eat the food that I like! Haha!

Before going to the grocery, I already have in mind a list of the dishes I am planning to make so I also create a list of the complete ingredients that I might be needing. This also saves time and effort of going out to buy just a single item that is missing on your list.

Organizing my ingredients

What I normally do is I plan if I will be in charge of the kitchen. I check if there are missing ingredients and either buy them during my free time, or just make use of the available food supplies in the pantry. Sometimes I cut the ingredients before I go to bed if my dish requires complicated preparation the next day. I marinate the meat overnight, or peel the vegetables in advance. I thaw the frozen meat or boil it hours before my break. In short, I divide my tasks in small batches so the preparation won’t be too dragging.

My Must-Have Ingredients

Because I’ve been cooking frequently, I already have a list of must-have ingredients in the pantry that I always include in my grocery shopping. I won’t enumerate everything, just the “special” items which we don’t normally consider as basic staples, but I deem important in enhancing food taste and quality.

  1. Butter/ Olive oil – Butter and olive oil provide another level of taste to the food than using plain cooking oil. If I don’t have the enough budget for olive oil, I just use butter or margarine. I use it for sautéing and frying.

2. Pasta – This is a versatile food that is a favorite in the family. The “Pastabilities” are endless, as they would say. You can serve this while entertaining guests at home or if you have a random family celebration. It’s a universal food in every household. There are over a hundred recipes online which you can learn depending on your sauce preference.

Carbonara
Penne
Linguine with Meatballs

3. Cheese– I love cheese.  I often use this for my pasta, baked dishes, or for adding a layer of creamy and cheesy flavor to my stews or sauce-based dishes. This secret ingredient makes fried food like Lumpiang Shanghai, meatballs, and Dynamite tastier. It actually goes well with anything! I always buy Cheddar cheese, Quickmelt cheese, and Parmesan cheese.

4. All Purpose Cream- The all purpose cream makes any dish richer and creamier in taste. You can mix it with pasta sauces, tomato-based dishes, meat, and desserts. There are different brands of all purpose cream, but I always go for Nestlé cream.

5. Seasonings and Spices– Unlike other health-conscious people, I don’t rely on salt and pepper or soy sauce and vinegar. I have a list of seasonings which can be used as marinades or enhancing the taste of my dishes. They are Knorr liquid seasoning, Oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Kikkoman Soy Sauce. I also use Knorr cubes and sometimes, Magic Sarap. For spices, I recommend McCormick.

Chefs and Cooking Moms I Look up to

I like Chef JP Anglo’s innovativeness on using local ingredients. I admire Judy Ann Santos’ expansive knowledge of local and international cuisines. I like Erwan’s straightforward take on simple and complex dishes. I look up to Danica Sotto’s basic tips on home cooking and her grace while explaining the procedures. I consider Vanjo Merano’s cooking as practical and relatable. I am enticed to Marjorie Barretto’s grace and love for her family while doing her recipes. I love Marion Grasby’s profound experience on Asian dishes. The way she describes an ingredient or dish is truly inviting. I watch them in YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

Erwan Heusaff and Chef JP Anglo

Although I have high respect for international chefs, I am more inclined to watching Filipino chefs because the ingredients they recommend can be found in local stores. The terms they use are also easy to understand.

Learning the Recipe and Finding Alternatives

If it’s a new recipe, I usually watch 3-4 different versions of the cooking demo on YouTube. I also ask my parents and friends if they have tried cooking that dish. I also search for the recipes in Pinterest to gather more ideas. I follow the recipe with doable procedures and cheap ingredients. By watching different versions, I carefully note the consistent elements in those videos and incorporate them in my version.

I’ve also learned to find alternatives if the ingredient mentioned is not available. For example, if it requires chicken stock and I don’t have it, I just dissolve the chicken cubes in hot water. Instead of using tomato sauce, I use fresh tomatoes. Instead of using garlic powder, minced garlic would do the trick. Just replace the seemingly-expensive ingredients with other items available at home. Be resourceful and creative.

Budget Tips

I’m not an expert on this, but with my experience in handling the groceries for the past 6 months, here are my tips:

  1. List down all the ingredients you need before heading the grocery. Make an inventory of the available supplies to avoid buying extra stocks.
  2. Set a budget based on your income.
  3. Separate the frozen meat in smaller portions and store them in plastic containers.
  4. Buy vegetables in the wet market for cheaper prices.
  5. Buy in large quantities or packages. Buy 1 sack of rice instead of per kilo.
  6. Don’t overcook. Estimate the eating capacity of your family members to avoid food waste.
  7. Learn to recycle leftover food.
Fresh vegetables from the market in Quiapo

Note: We prefer going to the supermarket because everything you need is there. We buy vegetables and fish at the wet market for fresh supplies.

My Advice for Beginners

Don’t feel too frustrated if you encounter failures and mistakes in your cooking. We learn from mistakes. Learn to accept constructive criticism from peers or family members. Keep your hunger for learning and keep improving your craft. Watch tutorials in several social media platforms and nurture your curiosity. Don’t forget to take photos and be proud of your work! And lastly, do everything with passion and love.

24 Comments Add yours

  1. I look to cook but with the nature of my work, it’s hard to do it on a regular basis. We doordash a lot and I know that it is not the most practical way to keep ourselves healthy during this pandemic. My husband usually does the cooking, I guess he’s a better cook than me:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All the food looks yummy! Thank you for sharing the tips. I’ll apply them and also, let my father know since he does most of the grocery shopping and cooking.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pretty good list, although I suggest that you replace margarine with real butter like Magnolia Gold, as margarine has a reputation for being unhealthy and has trans fat that your body cannot break down properly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the info! Will consider that =)

      Like

  4. Alam mo ba before, ayokong-ayoko magluto or tumambay sa kusina, unless kainan na. HAHA pero ngayong quarantine, di ako mapakali. Lagi akong nanunuod sa YT nang mga pwedeng gawin o iluto. HAHA

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Diba ang sarap ng hobby na to. =) nakakaaddict ba ung term. ❤️

      Like

  5. nicolepaler says:

    My must haves in the kitchen are butter (unsalted), cheeses, at yes with an ‘s’ yun, as well as some spices. I especially love the ones na naka blend na into a mix like pizza herbs or steak seasoning na iturn mo na lang much like a pepper crusher. And I can’t get enough of my top tier- Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom, cumin, cayenne, garlic and onion powder. Lagi ako may stocks sa bahay, cause some I also use for baking… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow!!! I love your list. ❤️😮 I haven’t discovered the flavor profile of those. Mukhang mahilig ka din mag luto ah. 🙂

      Like

  6. I used to love cooking, hut I don’t have much time for it now because I’m too busy. I also feel limited on kitchen space so yeah, all home-cooked meals in our household suck. But yeah, maybe I’ll get to researching and practicing some time soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. i may have most of your cooking list or i have some of them or i buy them when i need them. pero its because of the lockdown that i tried to cook. its because of the projects actually that i get hahahaa!!! pressure to cook and ended up “baking” cookies for the boy here. sana matuto pa ako. im inspired with this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interested about your projects. Hope I can get one of those someday 😍

      Like

  8. mumshienica says:

    A lot of people have turned into chef this pandemic! It’s really hard to juggle kitchen work, working from home, plus ako with toddler pa, kaya keeping things organized is a must specially listing of groceries ahead to save time.

    Like

  9. Wendy says:

    I am not a great cook, I struggle with cooking. But it’s already a habit for me to list down my menu for the week so I don’t get exhausted thinking about what to cook next. Plus it helps in grocery shopping pa.

    Like

  10. Yung pagluluto talaga ang di ko nakahiligan… gusto ko sana i-try lalo na nung nagsisimula pa lang ang lockdown kaso ayaw ako sapian ni kasipagan sa pagluluto. Fave ko mga pasta… natakam naman ako sa mga pics lalo na dun sa Carbonara. Hahaha.

    Like

    1. Hahaha good for you that you always have someone cook for you at home. Yeah fave ko yung pasta talaga.

      Like

  11. Team Uy says:

    just seeing those pictures of pasta makes me hungry. i used to cook but lately, i have no time to do kitchen chores due to babysitting. hope i can find time to cook delicious meals for my family soon.

    Like

  12. Misskhae says:

    I have a love and hate relationship with cooking but ever since I switched to a healthier lifestyle, slowly I’m learning to love it. Now I enjoy blog articles about recipe and food bloggers. I even bingewatch cooking videos on Youtube 😀 But meokbang makes me love cooking and eating more! LOL! Kaso minsan hirap i-control ng cravings 🙂 That’s a wonderful tips for beginners. I do take photos with what I cook too but never post it on social media.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Aaliziyah says:

    I love the way you gave some tips for beginners like me! Thank you so much for sharing your practical tips and techniques in the kitchen! A lot of people will truly benefit from this!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. theaoctavo says:

    Wow grabe sobrang fully packed na ng quarantine cooking post na to! Thanks for sharing the tipid tricks and other techniques especially di talaga ako ganun kagaling sa kitchen hahaha!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hazel Salcedo says:

    Your post inspired me to practice my cooking skills more! Hahah i know naman how to cook and also I like following recipes pero the temptation of online deliveries is hard to resist! I like the term you mentioned “Pastabilities” hahaha true! Kaya lagi kami may pasta sa pantry! 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I reignited my love for cooking over the quarantine kasi lagi akong nasa bahay lang and I couldn’t agree more sa last part: do it with love and passion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Dems says:

    Thanks for sharing your practical tips! We always cook food at home more than eat out but my mom took it further this lockdown by selling pichi-pichi and everlasting as well as cooking food everyday to sell at Papa’s workplace. Papa says it’s essential that we always have garlic, onions, tomatoes and eggs readily available in the pantry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Galing naman ni mommy 🙂 I agree with your daddy too

      Like

  18. Janella Herrera says:

    Great hobby! Saw the pasta very early, I am craving for some tuloy. My mama has been so busy in the kitchen lately too. Now I know what motivates her and why. :))

    Like

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