cooking at homeCooking for some people is an all-consuming passion, but for many others it can be a confusing and intimidating process. Although I am not a fanatic about cooking, I have found it to be a fun, interesting hobby, and I cook as often as I can for my family and myself. It was not always so, however, and even though I have been cooking for years, I remember a time in my life when going into the kitchen was a chore, rather than a labor of love! Cooking at home can save you a lot of money and by using your own, fresh ingredients, you will be eating healthier as well. The problem for many people is how to begin!

Every new hobby has a few requirements to get started. In this article I will give a few suggestions for what you may need to get started cooking. Since you will be cooking from recipes, you will need a few key ingredients in your cupboards to get started, but most of the items I suggest are reasonably inexpensive, and many of them last for years in your pantry.

The key to cooking at home is having what you need available, so that the recipe you are making comes out as planned. An extra trip to the store can really throw off a dinner! It is also important to have the right equipment in your house as far as pots, pans and utensils. The suggestions I make for cookware do not have to be purchased all at once! Many people have built up their kitchen inventory over years of cooking, and everyone has different tastes as far as what they like to cook with. Start small and work your way up!

The first time you go to the grocery store, you will need a few basic items that are called for in the most basic of recipes. The following is a list of suggested items that I see in many of the recipes that I come across:

• Chicken and Beef Stocks
• a few different kinds of pasta
• all-purpose flour
• bread crumbs
• olive oil
• vinegar
• spices including salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, chili powder, Cajun seasoning
• milk
• cans of tomato or pasta sauce
• cans of beans in different varieties

If you are planning on a specific recipe, make sure that you read the ingredients first in order to have what you need in the house before you start cooking.

When it comes to kitchen equipment, things can start to get expensive, but a few different pots, pans and knives are required if you want to cook at home. I would recommend having a few or all of these basic items in your kitchen:

• a microwave

• an oven and stove

• a blender

• a crock pot (4-5 quart crock pots are about $20)

• a hand mixer

• a large non-stick frying pan

• a 3-4 quart sauce pan

• spatulas and measuring cups

• measuring spoons

• a chef's knife

• a small paring knife

• a cutting board

• a roasting pan

The next thing you are going to need is a few cookbooks! There are virtually millions of books and online sites for any type of food you can imagine! However, if you are a novice to cooking, you may want to start with a more basic cookbook with recipes that have fewer ingredients. I use many cookbooks in my home, but the following are my personal favorites!

• 365 Ways to Cook Chicken (My copy is falling apart, I use it so much!)
Rachel Ray's 30-minute Get Real Meals
• Betty Crocker's Cookbook (40th edition)
• Fix It and Forget It by Ranck and Good (Crockpot Recipes)
• Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cookbook

Now you can start cooking! Look through your cookbook and pick a recipe that you have had and would like to have again! Make sure that you read through the instructions BEFORE starting to cook. Many times a recipe will want you to reserve liquid for later or some ingredients may only be for garnish. Back-tracking in cooking is difficult, and sometimes impossible.

As a little final advice, I would start small. Make basic items and make them several times. Once you start to learn how food cooks and what works for you in your kitchen, cooking becomes a much more enjoyable experience. You will also learn to make more complicated dishes and expand your food horizons in ways you never knew you accomplish in your very own kitchen! Eat Well!