Some of the best advice I have ever received came from my friend Jean. It really has been life changing. Many summers ago, my family and I were visiting Jean and her family at her home in Pennsylvania.
This was shortly after the completion of my kitchen renovation that coincided with the year my kids finally grew out of their chicken fingers and mac & cheese obsession. I wanted to do more home cooking and less food heating. I needed recipes that the whole family would enjoy. Jean was a good cook. So, I asked her advice.
Jean suggested I try the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks written by Ina Garten. Jean pulled out her copy of the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook and handed it to me. As I looked through the cookbook, I found recipes that seemed uncomplicated and photographs of food that looked so delicious I wanted to lick the page! Sign me up!
When I returned from the trip, I bought the cookbook. After making a couple of the recipes, I fell head over heels in love with the cookbook. Every recipe I made was so flavorful and yet easy enough for even a beginner to make. My long dormant love of cooking was resuscitated. Frankly, I think my whole family fell in love with Ina Garten that year!
I spent that entire fall cooking my way through the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook. At Christmas I received two of my all-time favorite gifts; a blue Le Creuset Dutch Oven pan from my husband Mike and the entire remaining set of Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks (five at that time) from my kids (really from me to me).
Now, over fifteen years later, I have cooked my way through all 12 Barefoot Contessa cookbooks making about 75% of Ina’s almost 1100 recipes. I very much have benefitted from my friend Jean’s advice, and I cannot recommend home cooking and the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks highly enough.
Turns out, home cooking is not just good for the palate, it also provides numerous 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 better manage your health and even lengthen your life.
But that is not all. Cooking at home is good for the mind. Cooking at home can sharpen your mind, fight cognitive decline, and decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s. It also soothes stress, builds self-esteem, and curbs negative thinking. It is 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 fits 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 a 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 the kitchen.
Plus, a study has shown being creative for a little while each day has made people feel like they were “flourishing”—a psychological term that describes the feeling of personal growth. There is growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning.
Many of us feel that we don’t have the time or energy to cook at home. So, here is tip if you fall into that mind trap. Track your browsing the internet, watching TV, or playing games on your phone. Perhaps, you have more time to cook than previously thought.
To become a better cook, check out Ina Garten’s ten tips for cooking: start with great equipment, use high-quality ingredients, make your own vinaigrette, freeze bread in chunks, pick the smallest chicken, make it again. and again. and again, don’t get too fancy, leverage the stove space, make it ahead of time—but finish it the day of, always cook with a Cosmo in hand. 😉
Cooking at home has a great deal of surprising benefits beyond just good tasting food. Like cooking at home, estate planning also has surprising benefits. A completed estate plan creates a sense of accomplishment by checking off a long neglected to do box. Some sage advice; there is no time like the present to start home cooking and to start planning your estate.