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    9 steps to becoming a better cook.

    Don't cook? You're hardly alone these days, experts say. The good news is, armed with a few basic cooking tips, it's easy to become more comfortable in the kitchen.

    Some of us grew up in the kitchen with our parents and grandparents, learning the secrets of treasured family recipes. And years later, all grown up, we are at ease trying new recipes, creating our own versions, and joyfully sharing the creations with family and friends.

    On the other side of the kitchen are the legions of people who think cooking is something you watch on the Food Network. Cooking shows are hot, but an entire generation of people is more comfortable watching food being prepared than doing it themselves. Their idea of cooking is opening a can of something and warming it in the microwave -- like a friend of mine who stashes toilet paper and other household supplies in her rarely used oven.

    Despite the ever-growing number of cookbooks, cooking schools, food television shows, and web site cooking videos, many of us appear to have too many competing priorities, not enough time, and a lack of confidence to whip up meals at home.

    "We have spawned a generation of 'non-cooks' who did not take home economics in school, are squeezed for time and intimidated by cooking and following recipes, and would rather eat out, order take-out, or just eat fast and easy sandwiches or frozen pizzas," says Carolyn O'Neil, RD, author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous.

    It's ironic, experts say, that fewer people are in the kitchen preparing meals even while our cultural sophistication about cooking, ingredients, and equipment is exploding.

    "We are inundated with all things culinary, with access to high-end ingredients, specialty cookbooks, and sophisticated equipment, and have generated more "foodies" starting dinner clubs and enjoying obscure cuisines," says Martha Holmberg, food editor of The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Ore.

    Basic Cooking Tip: Learn to Cook to Eat More Healthfully

    So why bother learning to cook? Because the more time you spend cooking at home, the more healthfully you tend to eat. Becoming more comfortable in the kitchen is essential if you want to have a healthy diet and control your calorie intake.

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