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Teaching Myself How to Cook—And Then Learning to Love the Creativity of It

Posted Jan 16 2012 6:00am

You can never have too many cooking utensils! Credit: PlayfulLibrarian

Back in college, when I started cooking for myself, I was a meticulous recipe follower. While I’d help out my mom with dinner sometimes and make chocolate-chip cookies occasionally in the years leading up to college, I wasn’t really comfortable with making anything that didn’t result in eating leftover batter. Seeing that a life fueled by chocolate-cake batter isn’t really the healthiest of diets, I dove into the world of healthy cooking with a subscription to  Cooking Light magazine , which pretty much taught me the ins and outs of healthy cooking. After a couple years of making their recipes, I ventured on to more foodie cooking endeavors from Eating Well America’s Test Kitchen  and various other and blogs .

As the years went by, I started getting creative with my cooking. I’d swap black beans for pinto beans, or Greek yogurt for mayo, or  quinoa  for couscous. And then, I got braver. I’d add more veggies—carrots, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes—into a recipe, double or triple the garlic (no vampires up in my house, that’s for sure) and play around with different spice combinations. Eventually, cooking became more than a skill—it became a way for me to be creative. ( This post is proof. )

I tend to communicate a lot—I write a ridiculous amount—so cooking is a way to turn my brain off and play. I know that many don’t like to cook , but there’s something about turning on some good tunes and just focusing on the rhythmic chopping of an onion or the soft simmer of a spaghetti sauce. Nothing overly complicated or complex (although I sometimes find that a fun challenge, too)—just me, some healthy ingredients, a glass of wine and a quiet mind. After a long day, there’s just nothing like cooking it all out to unwind.

As someone who likes to “do stuff,” (probably too much stuff, as I’ve mentioned before ) cooking is a best-of-both-worlds hobby that allows me to relax while I actually produce something that’s pretty awesome: a healthy meal. Sure, not all of my substituted-out and swapped-in creations are culinary keepers, but I rarely regret a night in the kitchen. (There was that one time I almost set the house on fire with “blackened” plantains…but that was years ago!)

Does cooking relax you like it does me? Or does it totally do the opposite and stress you out? —Jenn

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