23 May 2012
Growing up, I was never the cook in my family. My mom and sisters were all much more gifted culinarily than I was, so there was never really a place for me in the kitchen and it’s not something I pushed.
That said, I always ate pretty well growing up. My mom made quite an effort to cook balanced meals for the family most nights of the week when I was younger. Some of her signature dishes were Stuffed Peppers, Chicken a l’Orange, and Chinese Chicken Salad. We always had a good balance of protein, veggies, and grains, so it wasn’t so much what I was eating, but how much I was eating.
Once I went off to college and was given a campus debit card to purchase meals, I really started to make bad decisions frequently. I’d get fast food, delivery pizza, wings, or Chinese food for just about every meal. In addition to eating food that was far less healthy, I was also dealing with my portion control problem, and it took my weight to new levels. I remember feeling pretty heavy in high school, but when I look back to the pictures from college, it’s pretty incredible how much weight I managed to put on so quickly.
When I graduated from college and started to adjust to life on my own, I realized that I had to start experimenting a bit in the kitchen, if not for the sake of my weight, for the sake of my wallet. My roommate right after college and I started to cook meals together a lot. I remember making a lot of chicken, steak, and sausage, and trying to balance those out with vegetables and salads. We still made far too many calls to delivery places and trips to the convenience store for it to start having an effect on my waistline, but it’s where I first started realizing that cooking wasn’t something so unattainable.
Joining Weight Watchers in March 2009 was when I really started to branch out with cooking. I tried to go back to my roots of balanced meals that my mother had taught me growing up and combine that with the portion control I was learning from Weight Watchers. I started focusing on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store so I could load my cart up with real ingredients, and make very simple meals at home. I focused on putting fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains in my shopping cart, and having a well stocked pantry.
I still don’t consider myself an expert in the kitchen by any stretch of the imagination, but through experimenting over the last three years, I’ve come across many successes (and of course failures) in the kitchen. I’ve realized that a focus on real ingredients with just a few simple tweaks is the key to success.
I always used to think that there was no way I’d be able to “wing it” when it came to cooking, but now I realize that cooking is ALL ABOUT winging it. I love throwing a little of this and a little of that into the mix and see how it turns out – and over time the experiments started to get better and better as I got more savvy figuring out which flavors go well together. It’s funny because the recipes on my blog are some of the most popular pages on my site – especially the Zucchini Burgers and the Mini Mexican Casseroles – but I still get SO nervous anytime that I cook for anyone but myself.
When did you first start cooking in the kitchen? What would you say is your “signature dish” if you had to pick just one?
BethCheck out my latest posts here