The glossy cover of a cooking magazine called to me with its potential for new and exciting foods within. I stood in line at the grocery store and looked towards the usual staple ingredients in my cart, the same ones I bought last week and the week before. I sighed, and told myself that I could not buy a new cooking magazine until I cooked something from the ones I already had at home.
Maybe you can relate to this experience. Maybe you are an experienced chef who's just going through a cooking slump. Or maybe you are new to cooking and don't know where to begin in the intimidating process of cooking. I just started cooking a couple of years ago, and while I am proud of my creations, I'm still easily intimidated by a new process or tool that unfamiliar recipes often present. Due to the onset of severe food allergies, I was forced into the world of cooking. And can I tell you, sometimes feeding myself three meals a day, every day, can be daunting. Here's how I get myself cooking:
1. Pick out a recipe
This part is fun for me, but it's also often where I get derailed. Pick up a cookbook, open a cooking magazine, find a blog you like, or do an internet search for new recipes. If you get really stuck, ask your mom. If you're like me, you will discard the recipes that seem too complicated or don't use flavors you like. If you're like me, you will also end up with a pile of recipes and feel too overwhelmed to actually cook any of them. So here's my advice: Pick. One. Don't pick 20 new recipes to try. Just pick one recipe.
2. Schedule time
Once you have your recipe, you need to find a time to make it. Schedule it. Write it down on your calendar, or tell a friend, so that you can hold yourself accountable. Plan for it to take twice as long as you expect, especially if someone else is joining you to eat it. I find if I make time for it, and plan on it being an activity rather than a chore, it's more fun. And then I'll actually do it.
3. Plan your grocery list
Don't be like me, staring at the cooking magazine at the end of the shopping trip. You've already picked a recipe, and scheduled time to make it. Now write out the ingredients you'll need, and check which ones you already have, before you even get to the grocery store. Also, go to the grocery store.
4. Make it social
My kitchen is small, so it's not always easy to make the cooking process itself social. More than two people in my kitchen gets dangerous, especially if there are boiling pots and knives involved. But if you have someone to cook with, invite him or her into your kitchen. If you prefer to cook alone, make the experience a social one by talking about your new recipe with a friend, or share the finished product with a friend or family member.
5. Take the pressure off yourself -- make it fun
So you burned the stir fry. So the dish looked ugly. So you made a casserole, but forgot that you really hate to eat casserole. (I have done each one of these things, at least once). Who cares? Is it edible?- Great! Is it really disgusting and not very edible? Chalk it up to another learning experience, and throw the recipe out. Take the pressure off. You're not cooking for Martha Stewart or President Obama. (If you are cooking for either of those individuals, please disregard. You definitely have pressure.) Make it fun by laughing at your mistakes, observing the flavors and textures of your creation, maybe even turning up the music in the kitchen while you wait for it to cook.
Cooking doesn't have to be just about feeding yourself as a daily chore. Cooking can be an experience all by itself. All you need to do is get started.