Elaina Hundley
March 04, 2016 8:18 am
NBC Universal

Over the years, I’ve always admired my mother’s skill for cooking and her enthusiasm for each meal she made with love. Often I’ve tried very hard to get excited about cooking, to lend a hand in the kitchen, but could rarely muster any enthusiasm at all. Sure, I’ve cooked and baked before—a little baked brie here, some cookies there—but normally for a specific purpose. When I was required to prepare food for myself in college and my first post-grad I’d cheat and make super easy things like a quick egg sandwich or peanut butter and jelly, or just go buy dinner. This strategy is not only unhealthy, but also quite costly. The wine and pizza diet might make a girl happy for a while, but it will not sustain anyone long term.

In the last few months something changed, something clicked. Perhaps it’s having my own kitchen, and having more time to make real meals, or maybe it’s an interest in cleaning up my diet. I think my new found passion for cooking stems from all three of these things. But I as I’ve been stretching my wings in the kitchen, I’ve realized that learning how to cook is also a way of learning basic grown-up life skills: portioning, preparing in advance, budgeting, and making do. Here are some examples.

You have to make time for the things you want to do

One of the biggest excuses I used to have for not cooking or avoiding learning new recipes was always “I don’t have the time” or “I am so tired when I get home from school/work.” Making the time was always a huge stumbling block for me. But it’s easy to get around this excuse. I

Invite a friend over to share their favorite recipe and their cooking expertise. Ask your mom to come visit or go to the grocery store together with a recipe in mind, and then get down to business together. Or, maybe you’ve had a really trying day at work and you just need to chill out on your own. The cooking process—picking the ingredients, stirring them together, being creative with sauces and flavors—can all be very therapeutic and a great time to reflect on the trials of the day.

Following someone else’s example can be really helpful

Perhaps finding the time isn’t your issue. Maybe you have time but don’t know where to start. One of my other excuses was not being able to find interesting recipes that sounded do-able to me. I have also always had a desire to make meals that were not necessarily staples in my own home growing up, like quinoa and brussels sprouts.

I found recipes I felt capable of making and broke the traditional food molds set forth by my family by perusing Pinterest. Focusing my meals around a particular vegetable each week to explore the versatility of the veggies made shopping easier and also gave me a starting point when I felt overwhelmed.

Everyone goes at their own pace, and that’s OK

Another challenge for me was learning to avoid trying to take on too challenging recipes right out of the gate. I am ambitious by nature and between Pinterest and Instagram, I was dying to have beautiful gourmet meals to share socially and to nourish my tummy—part of me is a nervous cook, but I also like to pick everything up quickly and be great at it immediately (who doesn’t?).

The truth is, cooking, like adulthood, takes practice. This is another reason starting with one or two veggies per week was helpful. I practiced using different pans, using veggie ingredients in different ways, I practiced successfully using my oven.The other approach I took, since I am also on a budget, was finding limited ingredient recipes. Five ingredient dishes are easy on the wallet, and are simpler to make if you are a beginner.

Sharing makes everything better 

I will admit, social media sharing *ahem Instagram* was a strong motivator for me as I started trying out new recipes. Sharing my new discoveries, styling artsy photos of my cooking process, and getting feed back from friends is encouraging and people love to talk with you about food, meals really do build community. I sometimes
pretend I am a food editor or that I am on a cooking show when I am trying a new dish— it makes the process more exciting.

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