I’ve been cooking for several years now, but there’s something I still struggle with.  It’s not that I can’t follow a recipe and make a dish come out well, but rather the opposite: I follow instructions too closely, hardly ever veering from recipes for fear that the results will be disastrous.  You see, I’m a grad student working in a research lab, and following ‘recipes’ for experiments is part of my daily life.  One pipetting mistake and days of work can be ruined.  My exceedingly careful nature has transferred over to other aspects of my life, particularly cooking.  Recipes are good but, let’s face it, real chefs don’t use recipes or painstakingly measure out ingredients.  Heck, Rachael Ray doesn’t even measure most of the time.

So, I’m on a new mission to decrease my dependence on recipes and increase my reliance on creativity.  This isn’t something that will happen overnight, but in the long run I think it will serve me well- instead of going to the store to buy lots of ingredients that a recipe ‘needs’, I can look at what I have and build a dish from there. (more…)


For once, I am actually excited about getting back to school after the Christmas break, and that’s because I can start using all of the amazing kitchen and food-related gifts I got: 

Cookbooks: From my mom, I got a book with recipes that utilize farmers’ market fruits and vegetables.  This will surely be handy when I run out of ideas for berries in the summer, and who knows, maybe it will even help me eat more vegetables?  My mom also got me Rachael Ray’s entertaining cookbook which looks like a good resource for planning everything from holiday meals to tapas parties.  From my boyfriend, I got cookbooks for different ethnic cuisines, including Asian, Latin American, Indian, Thai, and Middle Eastern.  I can’t wait to put all of these to use and share recipes here! For a complete list of the cookbooks I own (reviews to come in the future), see What’s in My Pantry.

Ingredients: My boyfriend also had the forethought to get me some of the unique ingredients necessary for different ethnic cuisines.  After Christmas, we also made a trip to Jungle Jim’s and I completed my international pantry…for the time being!  A list of my current pantry items can be found here

Food gadgets: I admit, I’m a gadget girl.  The more obscure and narrow a gadgets’ purpose, the more I pine for it and dream about getting to know it.  I was thrilled to receive a food chopper, garlic press, ice cream/cookie dough scoop, and a coffee/spice grinder for Christmas.  I’ve already tried out the food chopper and garlic press.  The chopper made prepping a salad a breeze and gave the veggies a fancy cut, while the garlic press made me wonder why I never owned one before! 

Shelving:  Given that my kitchen is so small it makes me claustrophobic, this three-tiered shelf is great for organizing all of the gifts I received.