It was a shocking realization of mine about two years ago that I can actually cook. It still surprises me when something I make tastes good. Several things come into play here. You need the right recipes, ingredients, music, gear, and some confidence.
I’m an all or nothing kind of gal. When Sweet Pea had her allergic reaction to coconut and Bean’s gluten allergy became more severe, we realized we couldn’t trust anyone to feed our little monkeys. I had to step up to the plate and cook ALL of the food for our family.
At first I cried. I cried a lot. And I’m not even a big crier. Going from being a family who ordered pizza and went out to eat every week to making EVERYTHING was beyond overwhelming. But it got easier and we got healthier. I would never say that the girls allergies are a good thing, but they did make our family a whole lot healthier.
I can’t tell you how many shirts I’ve ruined in my attempts to cook. So one of the first things I did was buy a really cute apron. That’s what you would do too, right? I treated myself to this apron. The quality is fantastic and I love the colors; it makes me feel happy.
Then I did some research; I’m good at research. From my trusty Williams Sonoma catalogs, to cooking blogs and cookbooks, I found and stored hundreds of recipes in Evernote (the app that saves my life daily). My family does not strictly follow the Paleo diet, but I figured out that if I search with the word “paleo” that Google will give me recipes that are unprocessed as well as gluten, soy, and mostly dairy free.
I take recipes as a suggestion. Typically, there is at least one ingredient that can be swapped for something else. Unless you’re a pastry chef, amounts don’t need to be followed exactly (real chefs are probably shuddering). Once I figured this out, I felt a little more at ease in the kitchen. While I am a type A person, it stresses me out to have to be precise when I cook.
Another very important variable: good music. Crank it up! The girls and I dance while we cook. It makes it much more fun! On top of our cooking playlist right now are: Lonely Neighbor by Oh Honey, Happy by Pharrell Williams, On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons, and Light Me Up by Birdy. Don’t forget to put on all the lights. Make your kitchen sparkle.
Get everything out that you’ll need before you start. This step is critical! It saves so much time and stress along the way. Sometimes I measure out each step in prep bowls. It works really well with chili and soups. And always buy the freshest ingredients. I try to buy local and organic whenever possible. CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, are an amazing way to teach the monkeys about where their food comes from and will challenge you to try new ingredients. In the winter, we love getting deliveries from Boston Organics (use code 8319bob6jc for 10% off your 1st order!). We always hit the Newburyport Farmers’ Market whenever we’re home on a Sunday.
My friends helped me unpack our kitchen when we moved to this house a year and a half ago. They asked if I was starting a catering company, seriously. I *may* have too many kitchen gadgets and tools. I have since paired down my collection, but there are so many great time saving tools! You have to have the right gear to do the job, right? I cannot live without my little lemon squeezer. I cook with a ton of fresh lemon so I use it multiple times a day. Love, love, love this little guy. A few pairs of come-apart kitchen shears are a must. Quality cutting boards in different sizes. I use both my juicer and blender multiple times a week — like air and water!
If I can cook, so can you. I cook roughly 90 meals a month, or 1,000 meals a year – and that doesn’t even include snacks! I have tested and re-tested recipes without even realizing it. I have so many more recipes to share with you!
It’s time to gear up. Take stock in your cabinets, see what you need, donate what you don’t, and get ready to have some fun in the kitchen. Let’s get healthy together. Are you in?