5 tips that helped me learn to cook

Scroll down for our homemade coconut milk recipe

Post by Natalie

I started cooking in my early 20’s. Living in an old couple’s attic in Turners Falls, MA, while attending photography school, I searched for independence. To me, independence meant feeding myself, and knowing my way around a kitchen.

At the time, Cody and I cooked a lot of our meals together, [read: him cooking, and me sipping wine while reading the recipe out loud]. Cody always seemed to be at ease in the kitchen. That care-free, "let's-just-whip-something-together" attitude pushed me to develop my own skills.

So, one night I tried making chicken breast on my own. I called my mom for some advice, and got to work. What could go wrong, right? 

Terrified of eating raw meat, I cooked and cooked.

Before I knew it, I had created an inedible chicken-breast-shaped brick, tough enough to be considered a weapon.

Along with my sub-par result came a wave of disappointment. That ease in the kitchen seemed unattainable, let alone digestible.

However, my interest in health and food continued. The more I learned, the more I wanted control over the quality of ingredients and how they were prepared; cooking at home, at least a little, was my missing link. Eventually, I figured out a few things to make the process of learning to cook a little easier, and would like to share them here.

Nat's 5 tips for How to Learn to Cook


1) Be okay with failure

"Try, whatever it is; failure is not the opposite of success but a stepping stone to success."

-Arianna Huffington, from The Guardian

This is what I learned from cooking that chicken upstairs in the attic. We're going to mess things up (in the kitchen, and in life).

If I am trying something new, I wait until a day when I can start cooking in the afternoon. That way if I end up with another chicken brick, I have time to find an alternative before dinner.

2) Find good resources

Of course, we all screw up. That's what tip #1 is about. But sometimes a recipe doesn't turn out even when you follow the instructions exactly. That's because people who write recipes screw up, too! Rather than scour the Internet for a recipe by ingredient, I just reference a handful of books and blogs that I trust.

3) Take a knife skills class

Yes, Cody knocked my knife skills in an earlier post. But hey, everyone has to learn somehow! Some of the most helpful few hours I spent were at a knife skills class at 18 Reasons, a cooking school here in San Francisco. Sometimes colleges offer classes, and sites like Cook's Illustrated offer in-depth process descriptions with their recipes, including knife skills.

4) Read through the recipe

This tip is simple, but not easy.  It takes patience. But reading through the recipe and ingredients helps avoid simple mistakes (e.g. realizing we're missing an ingredient after we've started cooking, or realizing the recipe takes way longer than we thought). Challenges like this make cooking seem tougher than it is, but by just reading the recipe in advance we set ourselves up for success. More on planning here.

5) Try making it yourself

The more I learned about health and food, the more I realized how hard it is to know - actually know - what we're eating. So many things at the supermarket have questionable ingredients, and additives that may be bad for our health. I've learned that a lot of things we buy weekly are easier and cheaper to make at home. 

For example, we used canned coconut milk in our recipe last week. But, it's difficult to find a brand without additives, from a good source, and in a BPA-free can. Since those things are important to us, we often end up making coconut milk from scratch.

How to make coconut milk

I’ll often make a batch on Sunday to use in smoothies, coffee, and chia pudding. 


  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 4 cups water*

*This ratio turns out much more watery than typical canned coconut milk. To make it thicker, just reduce the amount of water.

process (soaking)

  • Combine the coconut and water in a blender. Stir to combine.
  • Let sit for 2-4 hours.
  • Blend on high for 3-5 minutes.
  • Place a nut-milk bag or a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Pour in the blended mixture.
  • Wring with your hands (nut-milk bag), or press the mixture with a spatula (strainer).
  • Pour the liquid into a jar and store in the fridge**


  • Bring 2 cups of the water to a boil.
  • Combine the boiled water, coconut, and rest of the water in a blender. Stir to combine.
  • Blend on high for 3-5 minutes. Let it cool.
  • Place a nut-milk bag or a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Pour in the blended mixture.
  • Wring with your hands (nut-milk bag), or press the mixture with a spatula (strainer).
  • Pour the liquid into a jar and store in the fridge**

**The milk will separate - a layer of coconut oil rises to the top. We usually just shake it up to mix, but you can remove the oil and use it separately for cooking.

Photography team on the West Coast. Mostly working with companies and magazines in the food world. Our clients are proud of their product, story, or mission (or all three), and we help them produce their idea into a reality.