I believe one of the best gifts we can give to our loved ones and ourselves is learning how to cook uncomplicated and delicious meals. All we have to do is observe society running around like crazy, grabbing food on the go, and growing unhealthier and unhealthier. Yes, it does take a little bit of planning to stop the fast-food cycle. Maybe you are saying it is too hard to come up with interesting and tasty foods that your family would be interested in eating. Or perhaps you are in a rut.

I hear you.

If you grew up with someone teaching you the basics of cooking, that solid foundation is priceless. For the rest of us, we can still learn. The first step is adding more vegetables to our plates and buying foods straight from the farmers when possible.

Almost 10 years ago I discovered my first Cook’s Illustrated magazine at a gourmet grocery store. It was unlike any food magazine I had ever seen. Through the years I purchased as many issues as I could afford from magazine racks, used bookstores, and compilation cookbooks. When they offered an online subscription service, I jumped on it and have stayed with them ever since.

In a nutshell, Cook’s Illustrated taught me how to cook.

Now, in case you were wondering, this is not an ad for the magazine. This is simply my reaching out to let you know that you can get off the crazy fast-food track, the over processed “but it’s easy” dinners, and the mealtime ruts. The test kitchen at Cook’s Illustrated does the hard work for us as they test, test, test, and test each and every ingredient that goes into recipes to ensure that we hit it out of the ballpark each and every time.

This past weekend I traveled to an event in a city that is overflowing with greasy restaurant chains and a lack of fresh foods. I wanted to prepare something ahead of time that was healthy, easy, delicious, and portable. After searching the Cook’s Illustrated website, I landed on their spice-rubbed picnic chicken. Their test kitchen notes said that it would be easy to pack and had a “robust dry rub (brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, cayenne) that reproduced the flavors of a good barbecue sauce.” Bingo. Their spice-rubbed picnic chicken was just what we needed. It was fast, easy, and delicious.

The recipe is available on their site and can be accessed with a free 14-day subscription to Cook’s Illustrated. While you’re there, please go in and explore their site. 

Look through your freezer and refrigerator to see what ingredients you have on hand and use the search bar to explore recipe options. Who knows what you will find that will inspire you.