While it may look like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen in my weekly meal recaps, it hasn’t always been that way!
I did a lot of cooking and baking with both of my grandmothers when I was younger. My Nana (dad’s mom) was Ukrainian and during the holidays we would make perogies, cabbage rolls, and borscht plus tonnes of cookies, cakes and sweets in addition to the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables!
Nana was always in her kitchen and I have a lot of fond memories of us chatting away while we cut out circles of dough for perogies or kneaded dough for bread.
With my Nanny (mom’s mom) I did a lot of baking. We would put on little cooking shows in her kitchen while making every kind of cookie imaginable! Every time I went to visit, Nan would make me a lemon meringue pie because it was my absolute favourite! We always laughed a lot in her kitchen and I have a lot of funny memories of us acting silly together and singing while we did the dishes (like in this picture she made me hold for – I was putting butter in that bowl and when I went to flick it off the spoon it ended up on my face instead)
In my teenage years I didn’t do a ton of cooking. I have to hand it to my dad for feeding my brother and I. I didn’t become particularly maternal after mum died, and he did the best he could to put meals on the table for us. I fell into the habit of buying my lunch and the dining out trend continued when I was in high school and constantly on the go.
By the time I was in college, I was eating in restaurants all the time and I really think that it contributed to my weight. I made my lunch sometimes and brought some snacks with me, but most of my meals were eaten outside the home.
This really changed when I joined Weight Watchers and met Joey. I realized when I joined WW that I needed to change my habits and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to figure out the Points values for everything so I just started cooking.
I met Joey the week I joined Weight Watchers and sometime in those first couple weeks I invited him over and made him lasagna.He was impressed! When I moved into his house, there was a box of leftover pad thai, and some vinegar in the fridge and some cereal and ramen noodles in the cupboard – boy, did that change quickly! I began getting ideas from websites and magazines and then I started to amass my cookbook collection. I experimented with meals; most were successes but there were definitely some failures in there too. After I reached my goal weight I treated myself to some cake decorating classes with the amazing Bonnie Gordon and since then have made a lot of celebration cakes including two wedding cakes.
I’m really proud of how far I’ve come in the kitchen and it’s really become a place where I feel at home again. Since going gluten and dairy free, and ultimately vegan, I’ve worked to keep things interesting at our table. I bring my lunch almost every day and make dinner most nights so I love trying new recipes and reading new cookbooks. It has been fun to experiment with new techniques and see my progress from that very first lasagna. Joey often sends me messages at work to tell me how much he loves his lunches and that brings me a lot of joy. I look forward to trying new recipes and nourishing people with delicious, healthy eats. I still consider myself a work in progress and have areas where I would like to improve. I would like to work on my confidence in the kitchen. I’m not always sure of myself, so I just need to work on trusting my instincts. I would also like to use this confidence to create more of my own recipes. While I adore using cookbooks and other people’s recipes, I want to be more experimental and try some things on my own.
I know that getting busy in the kitchen can seem like a daunting task for many people, so I’ve compiled a list of tips that helped me:
- Take baby steps– Don’t start out with a huge meal with lots of unfamiliar equipment and complicated steps. Keep it simple!
- Take a class – There is so much to learn from the experiences of others and gain knowledge from other people’s passion for food!
- Use your favourite foods – Do you have a favourite food item? Maybe a dish from your childhood that you can’t live without? Use the things you love, and your enthusiasm will shine in the meal
- Make soup – Before I started cooking regularly, the only soup I knew came out of a can or carton. I’ve since learned that making soup is not only incredibly easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding dishes you can make
- Get the right tools – While I do advocate keeping it simple, proper equipment can make your life so much easier. Start with the basics (a good knife, cutting board, measuring cups/spoons, bowls of different sizes, spatula) and work your way up to the big guys (I don’t know how went on without my food processor and I really love my blender, mixer, and slow cooker)
- Cook for someone you love – There’s nothing more rewarding!
Julia Child is quoted as saying, “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate” and I totally understand! I feel like I lost out on a ton of cooking years, but finally woke up around age 22 and got my butt back in the kitchen. I’m so happy that I did and can’t wait to see what culinary masterpieces are around the corner.
How did you learn to cook? How would you like to improve in the kitchen? Do you have any tips for people starting out?