For the love of cooking

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Some of the best advice I’ve ever received came from my friend Jean. It was truly life changing. Several summers ago, my family and I visited Jean and her family at her home in Pennsylvania.

This was shortly after my kitchen renovation was completed which coincided with the year my kids finally broke their obsession with chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. I wanted to do more home cooking and heat food less. I needed recipes that the whole family would enjoy. Jean was a good cook. So I asked him for advice.

Jean suggested I try the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks written by Ina Garten. John pulled out his copy of Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook and handed it to me. Scrolling through the cookbook, I found recipes that seemed simple and photographs of dishes that looked so delicious I wanted to lick the page! Sign me up!

When I got back from my trip, I bought the cookbook. After making a few recipes, I fell head over heels in love with the cookbook. Every recipe I made was so tasty and yet easy enough to make even for a beginner. My long dormant love for cooking has been resurrected. Frankly, I think my whole family fell in love with Ina Garten that year!

I spent this whole fall cooking my way through the Barefoot Contessa Parties recipe book. At Christmas, I received two of my all-time favorite gifts; a blue Le Creuset Dutch Oven skillet from my husband Mike and all the rest of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (five at the time) from my kids (really from me to me).

Now, over fifteen years later, I’ve cooked through Barefoot Contessa’s 12 cookbooks, making about 75% of Ina’s nearly 1100 recipes. I benefited a lot from my friend Jean’s advice, and cannot recommend Barefoot Contessa home cooking and cookbooks highly enough.

It turns out that home cooking is not only good for the palate, it also offers many physical and psychological benefits. Research has shown that eating home-cooked meals can support your immune system, reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also give you more energy, improve your sleep, help you better manage your health, and even extend your life.

But that’s not all. Cooking at home is good for the mind. Cooking at home can sharpen your mind, fight cognitive decline and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It also soothes stress, boosts self-esteem and curbs negative thoughts. It’s so beneficial that therapists are now recommending cooking classes to treat depression and anxiety, as well as eating disorders, ADHA, and addiction.

Psychologists believe that cooking is therapeutic because it is a type of therapy known as “behavioral activation.” Cooking alleviates depression by increasing goal-oriented behavior and curbing procrastination. Cooking allows people to focus on one task, which can give them a sense of power and control that they might not naturally have on their own in their daily lives outside of the kitchen.

Plus, a study showed that being creative for a little while each day made people feel “fulfilled” — a psychological term that describes feelings of personal growth. Psychological research is increasingly recognizing that creativity is associated with emotional functioning.

Many of us think we don’t have the time or energy to cook at home. So here’s a tip if you fall into this mental trap. Track your internet browsing, watching TV or playing games on your phone. Maybe you have more time to cook than expected.

To become a better cook, discover Ina Garten’s ten tips for cooking: start with the right equipment, use quality ingredients, make your own salad dressing, freeze bread in pieces, choose the smallest chicken, repeat. and even. and again, don’t get too fancy, take advantage of stovetop space, make it ahead of time, but finish it the same day, always cook with a Cosmo in hand. 😉

Cooking at home has a lot of surprising benefits beyond just good, tasty food. Just like cooking at home, estate planning also has some surprising benefits. A completed estate plan creates a sense of accomplishment by ticking off a long-neglected box. Some wise advice; there’s no better time than the present to start cooking at home and to start planning your estate.

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