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How I Found My Cooking Groove

Holley Morgan is a graduate student at SNHU and currently works as a college essay tutor.

I made these chocolate cherry truffles on Valentine's Day, and they were a hit! (Recipe linked below.)

I made these chocolate cherry truffles on Valentine's Day, and they were a hit! (Recipe linked below.)

Conserving Energy and Cooking

Making meals used to feel like a chore. Sometimes it still does, but before I found my "cooking groove," as I call it, it was nearly impossible. "Adulting" felt overwhelming. I did not want to accept that after working a full day, I had to make meals (ideally nutritious ones) for my husband and myself in addition to tidying up the house, doing laundry, etc. Most nights, we resorted to takeout or something in a box with the word "instant" or "frozen" on it.

Of course, we all need those easy nights where DiGiorno comes to the rescue, but when it's more than a couple of times per week, I start to worry and/or feel guilty about what I am putting into my body. But guilt is not a very good motivator.

Things began to turn around during the COVID pandemic, mainly because this was the beginning of me working primarily from home. Without the commute and general headache of being interrupted by people all day, or being expected to socialize at length, I had more energy for actually enjoying my time off work. Not driving to work also meant not driving by the usual fast food places on my way home.

Whatever your feelings on working from home or the office, I hope this article can help you create the mindset shift you need to start cooking more often, if that is your goal. If you just want to look at some pretty food pictures and be linked to some amazing recipes, I've got you covered there, too!

Brunswick stew (recipe linked below)

Brunswick stew (recipe linked below)

Collecting Recipes

When you first start cooking, or even if you've been cooking a long time, you might cycle through the same few recipes every week. That was also the case for me. Monday, spaghetti; Tuesday, chicken and mashed potatoes; Wednesday, veggie burgers . . . yeah, it gets boring week after week.

I found I made the same three things over and over mainly because they were fairly cheap meals when money was a concern; they were also familiar and because of that, I knew they would be hard to mess up. As I got more confident in my cooking, I still tended to gravitate toward the same few meals because I lacked the energy to think about making something new. All of these can be hard to move past.

Social media has been a huge help when it comes to new recipes. Even if I was not looking for recipes at the moment I happened to see them on there, I got into the habit of copy and pasting the recipe or link and e-mailing it to myself. That way, when I was ready to make up my grocery list for the week, I could just go to my inbox and see what I would need. If you order your groceries online, some websites offer a way you can add ingredients to your shopping list directly from the recipe page.

My email recipe folder is looking pretty full after a couple of years of saving things this way! I only print a hard copy of a recipe if I really love it and know I will make it again and again. And, yes, there will be some things that bomb or that you know your significant other is just pretending to like. But from what I have saved, there have been many more successes!

Instant Pot sesame chicken (recipe linked below)

Instant Pot sesame chicken (recipe linked below)

Making Fun Things and Taking Away Pressure

I am not a kale girl. I'll eat it, but it's not something I look forward to having. Most of what held me back from cooking before was the idea that I had to make all "clean" or healthy foods, even if the recipes called for things I didn't like, that were expensive, or I had never heard of. This counterproductive belief set me up for failure before I even started, because I would not be motivated to buy or make the things I thought I was supposed to eat.

Don't get me wrong, though—I love veggies. I just like other things too: red meat, cakes, potatoes, white bread, to name a few. All of these were on my "not supposed to eat" list. Not only was this limiting; it was also a complete drag.

I try to mix in a healthy dose of vegetables (brussels sprouts are my favorite) with whatever we have, each meal, but it doesn't always happen. I don't pressure or guilt myself about it anymore. Cooking regularly was already hard enough without my mind making it harder.

I cook a lot of soups and stews, complete with a Ruby Tuesday–style salad bar, but I also make casseroles, pasta, and cakes because they keep life interesting and tolerable. I also made this really bomb chocolate cobbler the other week, which is amazing with vanilla ice cream.

Allowing myself to have fun with cooking, to enjoy the process of shopping for simple ingredients and putting them all together as much as the end product, cleared a lot of my "mental blocks" toward being in the kitchen. Now I look forward to what I am going to make next.

Some of My Favorite Recipes

© 2022 Heidi Hendricks