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Most Americans would agree, cooking at home is a drag. Who has time for putting together complex dishes and trying to figure out how to make things from scratch? It’s much more convenient to go out or order in. Besides, we can eat out and still be healthy.

Right?

It turns out, cooking at home is a powerful secret to overall health – and it doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing. More and more research is showing that simply cooking at home more is one of the single greatest things you can do for your health. It helps you lose weight, boosts your immune system, and promotes emotional well-being, too.

Not so sure? Then stay tuned. Here’s how to be healthy by making one, simple lifestyle change.

The Benefits of Cooking at Home

There are so many benefits to making your own food at home.  Eating in is more efficient and reduces your carbon footprint. Sharing communal meals is linked to fewer instances of alcohol and drug abuse in teenagers. It’s more meaningful to eat something you’ve prepared yourself. And children in homes that frequently enjoy home-cooked meals are typically happier than their eating-out counterparts.

Furthermore, cooking at home is significantly cheaper. Forbes breaks down the numbers, showing how eating out is five times more expensive than cooking at home. Even if you only order meal kits, you will be saving two-three times the cost of a restaurant meal. So preparing your own meals just five or six nights a week could mean a savings of around $400 a week for a family of four.

Just One Change Can Make You Healthier

But the health benefits is where cooking at home really shines. In fact, a study by John Hopkins found that home cooking is one of the most significant ingredients of a healthy diet. The act of choosing your own ingredients and thoughtfully creating a meal makes such a difference in your health and wellbeing!

Some of the many ways simply cooking at home on a regular basis can make you healthier include:

  • Healthy Portion Sizes: Cooking at home means you choose your portion size. Restaurants typically serve larger portions, and we feel obligated to clean our plate!
  • Better Ingredients: Thoughtfully preparing your own meals at home entails ingredient choices. This makes you more aware of what you are eating. How much do you know about the ingredients that went into those chips you like to munch or your last take-out meal?
  • Weight Loss: Healthy weight loss comes naturally when you eat at home. Restaurant food is notoriously higher in sugar, carbohydrates, and fat. Those who cook at home tend to consume fewer calories – even when they eat out.
  • Higher Nutrition: The convenience-food industry has very little interest in the nutrition value of their meals. Cooking at home means considering the nutrition information for everything you put on your plate.

Making the Change is Simple

So now you know this one, simple change can mean so much good in your life. But where do you start? Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you might think.

Start by making time for meals. How much time do you spend on social media or TV each day? Invest some of that in cooking at home. Don’t know how to cook from scratch? No worries! You don’t have to. Many freezer foods, ready-made sauces, salad mixes, or even entrees can be purchased to simplify the process. As you get more comfortable in the kitchen, you can make more from scratch. When that time comes our Master Chef Programs will teach you stocks, soups, vegetables, fish, poultry and everything from scratch.

Invest in some healthy cooking classes to get started or take your skills to the next level. You can learn time-saving tips and tricks to make cooking at home simple, fun, and delicious. Then make sure you have good tools in your kitchen so you’re ready to roll. And always keep your pantry stocked with the basics so you won’t have to go shopping next time you want to cook. Making extra will allow you to freeze some for later, doubling the benefit of a good cooking session.

Cooking at home is something you can grow into, learn at your own pace, and reap the benefits of for years to come. Making this one change can simply revolutionize your health and I teach you all of this in my Culinary Basics Program.

To Your Health!

– Chef Eric

The post How to Be Healthy By Simply Cooking at Home appeared first on Chef Eric's Culinary Classroom.

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Cooking competitions are all the rage these days. From baking to grilling, and from age 10 to 70, the passion is seen as the culinary contestants move rapidly through the chaos. As a professional chef, I too, have been on that side of the game more times than I can count.  For the last 15 years, I have critiqued the food/dishes that my Master Chef and Master Baking students have made, and it is just a natural that I take my experience and education to the other side – the judges table! It is a thrilling and rewarding experience. One of the elements that makes cooking shows like Master Chef and Chopped so exciting to watch is the reactions of the seasoned chefs judging the food. And to hear how they are going to describe what they like and dislike about the dishes is fascinating. It may appear that they have easy jobs, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are so many factors that go into the grading process and the judges must reach an agreement before anyone can proceed. The task before them is a tedious one. However, their comments and conclusions help all the contestants in their quests to become Master Chefs! Recently, my goal of entering the judge’s circle became a reality when I received a call from The Culinary Fight Club asking me to be a judge in a chili cook off here in Los Angeles. I was happy to accept, and the experience was amazing. After consideration I concluded that the best way to put the experience on paper is in a question and answer format. Interview Style! So, I had an associate interview me about judging the chili cook-off. I hope you enjoy.

Q: Chef Eric, who or what exactly is the Culinary Fight Club?
A: Culinary Fight Club is a business that organizes one-hour food themed competitions all over the country and then gives a percentage of the profits to Fight2Feed, a charitable organization that partners with top restaurants and food trucks to provide service and support to hungry men, women and children in our communities. No two events are ever the same and they come up with new themes and teams every month. It is for a great cause and raises awareness where it is needed. Q: That’s great! How did you get involved with them?
A: Anthony Martorina, aka the Cheferee, saw my extensive Social Media and years of teaching experience and wanted me to join them to do some cooking demonstrations originally. When I wasn’t available for that, he told me about this Chili Cook off and asked if I would be interested in being a guest judge. Since I judge my professional students, he knew this would be a natural fit for me – and it was. Q: How did the judging process work?
A: There were three main factors to judge each contestant’s chili on. These were texture, Seasoning and Flavor. Technical judging was based on appearance, execution and taste.

There is a very strict set of rules you must adhere to. Each judge was given a tally sheet to rate the chili and make notes, and just like the contestants, we were on a time schedule. So, we had to make up our minds pretty quickly. Q: Did you come across any chili that was particularly cringeworthy?
A: Yes! There were a couple. One was very fatty and made only of salt pork. That ratio of ingredients was completely off. As crazy as it sounds, there actually should have been more meat in the chili. The second one that made me cringe was made with a huge green onion garnish in it. That’s a big NO NO! If you can’t fit it into your mouth – it shouldn’t be in the bowl. The last had no beans and so it was a little greasy because it was just meat, but it did have a really great orange flavor – that was a nice touch. They all did a great job for the 50 minutes they had and the lack of ingredients – yes – they ran for the table and only had 60 seconds to get their ingredients. And the working conditions – it was freezing outside and they only had butane burners and it was pretty dark out! Again, they all did a great job! Q: How did you manage to keep your professional composure?
A: I took very small bites! And, the judging sheets keep you on track. You are on the dais per se, so you have to keep it together – everyone is staring at you – you are the center of attention. I am used to this since I teach classes to thousands of students. Q: Were the rules as strict there as they are on the tv series Chopped?
A: YES! It was exactly like Chopped! You have to keep secret what you are thinking of all of the dishes until the end. You have distinct rules of what the dish is being ‘graded’ on. The banter between the host and the judges was fun and between the judges. But the most fun was the banter with the actual contestants – which was different than Chopped. They were all really nice and has distinct personalities and were very witty – especially after the grueling hour they just had. Q: How many judges were involved?
A: There were three of us. One owned a food truck in LA and admitted he might have had a wee bit much to drink but was still very articulate (we got free beer!) and he wasn’t alone – we were all right there with him. Did I mention it was cold out there? The other judge had been a contestant on Master Chef and worked in a restaurant in Portland and me. Q: As it was your first time being a guest judge, how much fun did you have?
A: I had a blast! The experience was hectic and fantastic. So great to be a judge for a change. Plus, the weather was perfect for chili because it was cold that night and it was an outdoor competition where the contestants were using outdoor burners to cook their chili. I even got to help fix a burner when one went out. It was a wonderful night, and everyone did an amazing job. The judges and the audience did choose different winners, but we were just a couple of points apart so that was good – we were on the same page. Q: Did you learn from this experience?
A: Yes. I got to learn more about the judging process by actually doing it instead of just watching other chefs do it on tv. It is a strictly regimented, fast, and very hectic process. Even the audience was able to watch and ask questions while the contestants cooked. I really enjoyed watching one of the contestants cook cornbread on a stove because there were no ovens. It was a great learning experience. And as on the tv shows – you do what it takes to stand out! Q: Do you have a favorite chef turned food judge?
A: Of course, Wolfgang Puck! And I really like Alton Brown. He is the thinking man’s chef and judge. And I’ve been told he looks a little like me! Q: Have you ever competed in a chili cook off?
A: Yes, several! I’ve won two local chili cook offs. I actually beat out the local fire department twice. Once with my turkey chili and once with my beef chili. Though the beef chili was adapted from my dad’s recipe that he stole from my mom – she was a fantastic home chef – so it was really a family win! Q: You have many spring and summer classes coming up at Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom. Can we expect a chili course any time soon?
A: The vegetarian cooking class I teach includes a really tasty vegetarian chili recipe. Other than that –I have about 25 recreational cooking classes on weekends, then my kids camps coming up this summer that are super fun for the kids AND the parents – since they get to eat what the kids cook! I have something for everyone to get their chef on in my kitchen.

Q: What would you like the opportunity to be a guest judge for in the future?
A: I would love the opportunity to judge on any of the local shows like Guys Grocery Games or Chopped! There are so many new competition shows coming up – I’d be open to them, too. I would have to do an LA show since I teach full time at my cooking school. I also love the grilling competitions so that would be a lot of fun too. Grilling is a passion of mine. I am also available to the Cheferee for his charity again – it is such a great cause and I’m behind him all the way! So that was the interview and I had a lot of fun doing it. The best way to keep up with upcoming classes and special events is to subscribe to my newsletter and check the monthly calendars. You can do both on culinaryclassroom.com
Until next time, I’m Chef Eric Crowley signing off!

The post Chef Eric Judges a Chili Cook-off appeared first on Chef Eric's Culinary Classroom.

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As a chef, one of the fun things that I really enjoy about food is understanding the “why” behind the product.  Certain things, like geography, trade, and culture all contribute to why certain foods, dishes, and even seasonings are used – or scorned – in a recipe.

Given that fact that cereal grains form the backbone of agriculture in Asia and Europe, dishes that could be made with these could be found in every home and the economy of the regions kept prices low and supplies high.

Case in point – pasta.  We normally think of it almost exclusively as an Italian dish, but in reality, it was probably brought to Italy in the trade routes opened by Marco Polo with the Far East in the thirteenth century.

Yep.  “Pasta” is likely Chinese.  At the same time, nearly every culture in Europe and Asia has some kind of noodle – but we usually forget about the German spaetzli, the Greek orzo, or the Polish pierogi.

All of these share a common ancestor in a flour paste mixed with water or eggs.  As easy as that is to actually make in your own kitchen, too many times, I hear (and see!) students react with alarm at the thought of making their own pasta.

Why?  It’s not hard – making bread is far more difficult.

It’s not expensive – the ingredients are easy to find and purchase and the only tools required can be had for a fraction of the cost of many kitchen gadgets.

It’s not time consuming – the actual time needed to produce enough pasta to feed six guests might be an hour.

No, the reason that so few people today enjoy making their own pasta is that many people believe it’s “too hard” … and nothing could be farther from the truth!  After all, if something is truly difficult to make, how do you think that it can become so popular?  How can it possibly become a staple in so many lands – remember, the humble noodle crosses far more borders and is found on tables the world over – and be so important for millennia?

If it was that hard to do, you and I both know that it would never have been so widespread as a foodstuff for so many years.

Now, here’s where I want you to think outside the box – the box of dried pasta sitting in your pantry – and come and see how easy it is to create your own fresh and healthy alternatives to overpriced (and underwhelming) store-bought pasta.

It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s one of the most popular classes here at the Culinary Classroom. My next class is THIS Saturday, 4/14/18 at 3:30pm and I would love to have you in class – I welcome teens, too!

Register for this class now 

Now, we’re not just talking ravioli here.  In class, I teach how to make a wide variety of pastas – from Angel Hair to Bowties to Fettuccine – and lots of sauces to pair them with – and more importantly, as Spring begins, plenty of us are going to be thinking about our Summer Beach Bodies … and that brings me to one more important reason to attend this Pasta Class.

You can make Pasta healthy!

You can’t do that with that dried stuff in the box and a sauce filled with chemicals and preservatives but – here’s the important part – you can do it with fresh pasta and the light sauces we teach in class.

Over the years we’ve taught this class (it’s one of our most popular) the overall result has been that students learn how to create healthy, filling meals from scratch in a variety of tasty ways. I truly love teaching this class. Did I say it’s one of the most popular among my students, too?

The children in my kids camps love making the pasta by hand and even like eating the pasta without sauce.  I teach Pasta making in my Culinary Basics Series and it is a real favorite at my Private Parties and Team Building Events. I mean, who doesn’t like to play with their food?

The post Mama Mia! “Think Outside the Box” in our Homemade Pasta Class! appeared first on Chef Eric's Culinary Classroom.

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