Don’t Be Afraid to Cook: Put Down the Take-Out Menu and Fire Up Your Stove

Jennifer Manalili

Alright, let’s admit it. When it comes to cooking, too many people make too many excuses not to cook.

There’s never enough time, the drive-through is so much easier and ordering takeout looks more promising and efficient.

But let’s make another confession: no one can afford to go out to eat all of the time and it certainly isn’t a healthy thing to make routine, either.

You may not want to admit it out loud, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. All you need are some steps to help make cooking easier and (gasp) even a little fun. Here is a list of “don’ts” to help you get motivated to cook. Your wallet and stomach will surely thank you.


1. Don’t be afraid to make ahead.

Cooking on the weekend or on your day off is a great way to get ahead and prepare meals to enjoy throughout the rest of the week. It’s widely known that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but why do so many people still opt out? These breakfast enchiladas are a great way to remedy the morning rush dilemma. Make the dish ahead on the weekend and divide into portions to enjoy throughout the week. Serve with a side of fruit or enjoy with your routine cup of coffee and you’re good to go.

Breakfast Enchiladas

Adapted from

1 pound of breakfast or Italian sausage

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

8 (8-inch) flour tortillas

6 eggs

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 cups of milk

½ teaspoon salt


Toppings (optional):

Crumbled bacon

Chopped green onion or cilantro

Chopped tomatoes

What to do:

In a skillet over medium heat, brown sausage and then drain fat.

In a large bowl, stir together browned sausage and one cup of cheese.

Place ⅛ of the mixture down the center of a tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in a 9×13 baking dish. Repeat until all tortillas are filled.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, flour, milk and salt. Pour over the tortillas in the pan.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle remaining one cup of cheese over tortillas. Sprinkle crumbled back over cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover dish and bake 10 minutes longer or until set and cheese is melted.


2. Don’t be afraid to use items that you already have on hand or things that could help you get ahead of your meal-making.

Ordering pizza might not be ideal all the time, and not everyone has time to make fresh dough from scratch, but French bread pizzas are an easy go-to recipe that you can pull out anytime. Grab a loaf of French bread from the grocery store and you’re on your way to a fast meal. You can easily make your own pizza sauce from scratch, or substitute your favorite jarred sauce if you’re in a real hurry, and then sprinkle on your favorite toppings. You’ll be feeding that craving in no time.


French Bread Pizzas

Adapted from


Thick and rich tomato sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 6 ounce can of tomato paste

¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

A punch of crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and black pepper to taste


What to do:

Add the olive oil and garlic to a medium pot and cook over medium heat for one to two minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir until evenly combined. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir to combine and adjust seasoning to your taste.

Allow the sauce to come to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let it cook for about 10 minutes.


For assembling:

1 loaf of French bread

1 8-ounce pizza sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella

2 ounces sliced pepperoni

Dried oregano to taste

Fresh basil for garnish

What to do:


Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Cut the bread loaf into the size you want your pizzas. (Use a whole French bread loaf and split it in half and then cut it in half again to make four pizzas.)

Top each pizza with about ¼ cup of sauce and ¼ cup of shredded cheese. Then sprinkle whatever toppings you like, including browned Italian sausage, pepperoni or vegetables. Top with dried basil, oregano, red pepper flakes or fresh basil.

Bake the pizzas in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the edges of the bread are brown and crispy.



3. Don’t be afraid to marinade.

Like our first rule, marinades are great at helping you get ahead. There’s a myriad of different recipes you can find online ranging from everything spicy to sweet. Keeping a few key ingredients in your cupboard will ensure you’ll always have time to marinate. (Tip: Spicy seasonings for dry rubs are great, as are things like balsamic vinegars and mustard.) Best of all, you can marinate food up to two days in advance. Afterwards, you’ve got a container of flavorful meat that can be cooked in different ways: on the stove, in the oven or on a grill. Try out this homemade carne asada recipe that only needs to be made overnight. You’ll be enjoying your own homemade tacos and burritos without much fuss.


Carne Asada

2-3 pounds steak, sliced into thin strips (Your choice: flank, sirloin, chuck, etc.)

Juice of 2 limes

2/3 cups orange juice (or juice of 1-2 oranges)

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

3 to 4 scallions, chopped

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 large handful of cilantro, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped

1 teaspoon, chili powder or paprika

1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ cup of olive oil

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon white sugar

8 garlic cloves, chopped

What to do:

Slice your choice of steak into thin slices. Then, in a large bowl, stir all of your marinade ingredients together. Place your sliced steak into a seal proof bag or a large container and then pour your marinade ingredients over it, making sure everything is well coated. Marinade for at least four hours or preferably overnight.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil in a grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Cook slices of marinated steak, flipping only once, until no longer pink. (Makings sure not to shake off the excess marinade.)

Serve the carne asada with corn or flour tortillas and top with your favorite toppings and enjoy.

4. Don’t be afraid to freeze.

Many entrees and desserts like cookies can be frozen individually, thawed out and reheated to enjoy at a different time. Cookies are, by far, one of the easiest and fastest dessert recipes you can have in your repertoire. These cookies pair butterscotch with chocolate and a hint of sea salt, juxtaposing a sweet, scrumptious cookie with a savory bite. They can be made in no time and because one batch of dough yields more than a dozen cookies, you can enjoy dessert for days. (If you’re not freezing them, just make sure to store them in an air-proof, sealed container to prevent them from getting stale.)


Virulently Infectious Butterscotch Chocolate Chippers

From “The Snacking Dead”

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

Flaky sea salt

What to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, forcefully beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until cookies are nicely browned and crisp then transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.