Cooking for Self
For today’s blog I’ve decided to share something very personal with you readers: my cooking journey (I swear its relevant just bear with me)! It begins in the suburbs of North Carolina. I would watch my mother in the kitchen acting as her sous chef by completing simple tasks like chopping onions and peeling potatoes. She did all of the heavy lifting as she created delicious dishes with everything (down to the sauces and gravies) made completely from scratch. I never even had boxed macaroni and cheese until college -- that’s how well I ate!
At any rate, in our kitchen, I was always assigned the simplest of tasks and once they were complete, I’d head elsewhere to play with my siblings until mom called us back into the house for dinner. When I returned to the kitchen the chopped onions were suddenly part of delicious gravy and the peeled potatoes where mashed and creamy; it was like magic! I never witnessed (or actually paid too much attention to) the steps in between. I just knew I loved the finished result. Little did I know that as time went on, I would suffer for my ignorance…
For a long time I continued on in life semi-able to cook. I could make simple dishes such as scrambled eggs and, after a whole semester of Home Economics, I also learned to make French toast; yet, my skills remained limited. Even on my school’s campus, though kitchens were located in each dorm, I stuck to cafeteria food and takeout. It wasn’t until my semester abroad that I realized how much I really didn’t know my way around a kitchen. The first few weeks we were there, the other Americans and I ate at various restaurants but we quickly discovered it was way too expensive. In a few days we found ourselves in the grocery store and as everyone else made their way to the produce aisle, I found myself wandering around for simpler dishes, ready-made foods, frozen foods and cereal.
One day I decided that I’d like to try something a little more ambitious. I stepped into the kitchen prepared to create fried rice. I made the scrambled eggs and I had vegetables ready, all I needed was the rice which I proceeded to throw into the pan (uncooked) believing that, as I sautéed my ingredients, the rice would soften (I’d watched my brother make fried rice a dozen times… but never from the beginning). As you can imagine, it did not turn out well. FYI: Do not attempt to eat uncooked rice, the crunch is unpleasant and it will make you sick. Other food crimes include serving friends and loved ones semi-flavorless chicken soup (made from scratch) as well as undercooked pizza.
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Garlic mozzarella chicken and spaghetti,
one of the earlier creations in my cooking journey!
From then on I promised myself that I would learn to cook. I never really got the opportunity to do so when I was at school but I resolved that by the end of the summer I would be a culinary master like every other member of my family. I started by identifying the things that I liked to eat and would then try to incorporate them into my diet. I started off with Mexican food (those ready-made dinner kits) which were simple enough and then moved to more ambitious dishes like spaghetti and chicken. Thanks to my roommate Alisha, I also started incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet! Slowly but surely the dishes I made would improve in flavor, texture and taste and my kitchen confidence began to soar. The more I created new dishes successfully, the more I was willing to try different recipes!
Now to the relevant part of the story; I cooked last night and pride doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt after all was said and done. Just to give you some background, at this point I’d been cooking for a while but I was ready to take my relationship with food to the next level so I got on my Pinterest and decided that I was going to create a real meal for myself (side dishes and all). I decided to make lemon pepper chicken, creamed spinach, and cheesy baked tomatoes. I found some recipes and wrote down the ingredients I’d need from the store. After making a quick trip to Harris Teeter, I set down all my ingredients and got to work. I prepared the chicken first, then the tomatoes and finally the spinach and as the kitchen became filled with the delicious aroma of well cooked food I realized in that moment that I knew how to cook! I had made a resolution, stuck with it, and was finally reaping the benefits of doing so!! Now my cooking confidence is sky high and I can’t wait to return home and cook for my family!
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My greatest culinary feat as of yet: lemon pepper chicken, creamed spinach, and parmesan tomatoes! Easy and delicious!
For those of you who don't know how to cook (and I know there’s many of you out there!) don’t fear the kitchen! Don’t be content with frozen food and take out! Yes cooking is a lot more work but you’ll feel so much better if you do it yourself and it's (potentially) healthier as well! Your stomach and your wallet will thank you!
1. Grocery shopping!: Cooking for oneself can be expensive if you don’t pay attention to deals in grocery stores. Get a rewards card wherever you shop. They’re free and really do help save you some money.
2. If you don't know how to cook, now would be the perfect time to learn. Yes fast food is easy and convenient but eating out can be expensive. Plus, when you get your first apartment, you’ll be thankful you already have the skills to make something more than Ramen noodles and PopTarts.
3. If you’re intimidated in the kitchen like I was, start with simple recipes. I strongly suggest getting a Pinterest (which is basically an online bulletin board). After you create an account (for free) you can begin collecting recipes you’d like to try (Which is exactly how I taught myself to cook)!