Growing up, the kitchen was not a place for me. My mom made dinner almost every day, but she cooked for a family of six and on a schedule. Our kitchen was small and cooking was a process that could not be interrupted. Now, as an adult who has cooked with kids, I understand where this attitude came from – even with a large kitchen, I wish that kids would just listen to instructions and use tools the way they were meant to be used. So my time in our kitchen was spent reheating leftovers, warming up frozen foods, or baking brownies and cookies using tried-and-true recipes (I still don’t like any brownie recipe that is not my mother’s), but almost never after 3:30 on a weeknight. I was also an atrociously picky eater.
I moved from that house to a dorm, where my roommate occasionally made vegan food in our dorm kitchen with dishes she borrowed from her own home a few miles away, but I mostly ate in the school cafeteria. When I was home for the summer a had a bit more freedom in the kitchen, so I solicited friends on Facebook for easy recipes and found a few staples that lasted me through my senior year in an apartment with a tiny kitchen. Then I moved to Phoenix, met my now-husband at work, and spent very few dinners at home. We got into the habit of eating out and I didn’t mind much because he always paid. His mom would ask me if I was a good cook and I would say something like, “Well, I haven’t really tried much.”
Fast forward to marriage. Now the money belonged to both of us and we were both gaining weight, but his kitchen was now our kitchen and it was filled with wedding gifts from his family, so I started browsing Pinterest and we would cook together. One day, we were at Costco and found The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook. We had made a few recipes from Sean’s copy of New Best Recipe in the past which had turned out well and we were intrigued by a book full of Mediterranean recipes from the same company, so we picked it up. We used it here and there before eventually deciding not to eat out for an entire month. We spent July 2017 cooking almost exclusively from that cookbook and even broke in the kitchen in our new house with Lemon-Herb Cod Fillets with Garlic Potatoes.
Now, two years later, I own more America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks than I can remember and cook new recipes nearly every night. At some point along the way I got tired of grocery shopping after work every day and began meal planning and shopping on weekends. I got tired of going to a grocery store and realizing I had just bought the same product for 50% more at the store down the street, so I began watching for weekly ads and price-checking with mobile ordering apps. At one point, my husband and I gave up meat for Lent and realized that we like vegetarian food more than we had realized, that meat was expensive, and that we were both losing weight. I found myself cooking and eating things I would have never even considered a few months before. My coworkers would admire my cooking in the break room and I would find myself passionately describing the dishes and the money I had saved on the ingredients, and they would suggest I start a blog. At the beginning of the summer, as I was detoxing from the school year, I watched Julie & Julia for the first time and wondered if I could do something similar. But in the end, what got me started was remembering how much I have always loved to write. I got back into my WordPress account and found several old blogs that I ran and contributed to, and just sitting down to write this has been like coming home again.
So here I am: In the middle of June, 2019, taking a break from teaching with the goal of finding out what is really important to me and writing a blog about the food I cook. I make more recipes from America’s Test Kitchen than anywhere else, but you’ll see some appearances from other cookbooks as well. I’ll write about the food I make and the planning I do to ensure I can feed my sister, my two nephews, my brother, my husband, and myself with relatively healthy, home-cooked food while still making my student loan payments and putting money into savings. I will write because I love to write, but I hope I’ll inspire you to cook more and spend less money doing it while I’m at it.