Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Do You Have a Fear of Cooking? Then Read On

Overcoming Mageirocophobia—the Fear of Cooking

This article supports some of what I had written in my article, "So, You Think You Can't Cook? Well, I Say You Can!"

Disclaimer: There was no Facebook share button on this article, so I had to copy and paste it here.  I hope the writer won't mind :)

Overcoming Mageirocophobia—the Fear of Cooking
Published on September 9, 2010 by Susan Albers, Psy.D. in Comfort Cravings

I love to cook, but I didn’t always like it. Like many people, I suffered from a mild version of mageirocophobia—the fear of cooking. In my case, I was reluctant to try new recipes and felt overwhelmed by cooking when crunched for time. Familiar meals like pasta and burgers were no problem. I would page wistfully through cookbooks and watch episodes of the Food Network. There seemed to be a huge gap between wanting to cook and making it happen.
Why does it matter? Cooking can make you a more mindful eater. Restaurants are not doing our waistlines any favors. They give us huge portions and deceptively, innocent looking creations that are simply unhealthy. Cooking a dish yourself helps you know exactly what is in it—which gives you a much more accurate gauge of how healthy it is. Also, it’s difficult to mindlessly consume a dish that you’ve put time and energy into. When you mindfully cook, you learn how to taste to get the spices and flavor just right. This helps you to savor—to be more in tune with the flavor and emotionally invested in enjoying the meal.
I’ve heard the theory that if you can read a recipe, you can cook. So, why is it that so many very intelligent men and women get overwhelmed, throw their hands up in the air and deem themselves incapable in the kitchen? There are many things that stand in the way. In part, it may be perfectionism. What if this dish doesn’t come out just right? It’s very difficult for many of us to not be good at something on the first try. Not to mention that all change is difficult. Trying something new, in general, can cause anxiety.
If you feel like you don’t have time, you aren’t alone. This is a common justification (and legitimate reason) for avoiding cooking. Trying a new recipe takes added concentration, time and effort to get the hang of it. Think of how easily (almost mindlessly) you can put together a recipe that you’ve made for years. Consider that many simple meals can be put together in 10 minutes or so, less time than it takes to drive to a restaurant. Rachael Ray can make a meal from start to finish in 30 minutes flat.
If you want to become a more mindful eater, give cooking a try.

1) Unfortunately, there is the perception that cooking is a burden and chore. Until we turn this around in our minds, we will always be tempted to just go out to dinner or order in. Recognize that cooking can help you to be a more mindful eater. It’s an essential tool for managing your weight.

2) Find the right recipe. Choose a new recipe that is simple. I recently read Light & Delish, a “bookazine” that features 400 calorie or less recipes. These recipes don’t ask for wild ingredients. Most of them can be found right in your cabinet. Not only are the recipes delicious, as the name suggests, but manageable and mindful of the calorie content and healthy ingredients. The recipes show that when food is healthy, you can eat larger portions and you don’t have to be hungry. This week I made, Healthy Makeover Meatloaf

3) Be open minded. Put your perfectionistic self on hold. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. Have a sense of humor and a back-up plan if all else fails.

4) Pre-cooking. Read through the entire recipe from start to finish several times before even considering cooking it. Make yourself very familiar with the instructions. Too often, we get through half of the recipe only to find that we’ve done it in the wrong order because we didn’t take the time to read through it completely. Buy all the ingredients several days before you get started. Going to the store can be exhausting and sabotage your will to cook. There is nothing more frustrating than realizing you are missing an item or two. Thankfully, cooking can also save you money. In some cases, it can be less expensive than fast food.

5) Cook Together. I've named one of my favorite new recipes, “Sara’s Casserole.” My friend Sara made it for me one day when I was very under the weather. I complimented it many times and had asked for the recipe more than once. She realized, on some level, that I had mageirocophobia and offered to come over and make it with me. It completely took out the intimidation factor of the new recipe, which turned out to be incredibly easy. Tasty does not always equal hard. It’s now one of my staple recipes. So, making a new recipe with a friend can help you approach rather than avoid cooking.

6) Make your dish for a supportive audience. If your spouse is a picky eater or has difficulty with change, they may not be the best test case for your new recipe.

7) Give yourself a 30 day challenge. Try at least one new recipe each week during that time. See if simply swapping a few restaurant meals for home cooked meals helps you to be a more mindful eater.

I'm happy to say that I’ve completely overcome my anxiety toward cooking. I no longer feel overwhelmed by the kitchen. In fact, I’m starting to create my own recipes. Mindful cooking is one of the tools I use to make me a more mindful eater. So, if you see a recipe with more than three ingredients and say “forget it,” don’t worry, there is hope.

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. She is author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful, and Mindful Eating 101 and a Huffington Post blogger. Her books have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, Natural Health and Self Magazine and on the Dr. Oz TV Show. Visit Albers online at

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Razzcherry Sugar Cookies

Well folks, there are some people who don't like chocolate, believe it or not. My mother is one of those people. For as long as I can remember, she never liked milk or dark chocolate. Odd, isn't it? I love chocolate, and I am married to a chocoholic. Interestingly, his mother loves chocolate too. I wonder how much of what we eat while being pregnant effects the tastes of our children later on? While I was pregnant with our first child, I had the amazing power to stay away from chocolate. I did so because I didn't want to consume ANY caffeine. I know, the odd things we do when you're pregnant for the first time. I don't know how I did it. I had unbelievable will power and didn't have chocolate for 9 months! I wish I could maintain that will power today. When I was pregnant with our second child I ate what ever I wanted, including chocolate. Funny how my son doesn't really like desserts, and my daughter is the complete opposite. I wonder if my lack of eating chocolate had anything to with it?

My inspiration for the these cookies came from my mother's dislike for chocolate. For mother's day I wanted to make her something that she would enjoy. Why not a special cookie made just for her? One of her favorite flavors is raspberry. I thought I would mix dried raspberries with white chocolate (which she does like) in a sugar cookie. Off to the market, but sadly I could not find dried raspberries. I did find, however, razzcherries. I had never heard of razzcherries. They taste like what the name implies, raspberry and cherry. They were in the dried fruit and nut aisle by produce at Mariano's. They are cherries with a raspberry juice infused in them.  They are plump and delicious. The unique form of antioxidants from the raspberry-cherry blend packs a healthful punch. The cookie is buttery, sugary, and light. The mixture of the razzcherries and the white chocolate is wonderful. My two chocolate lovers even liked these cookies. I hope you try them. Enjoy!

Razzcherry Sugar Cookies
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups razzcherries, chopped
1 11 ounce bag of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter at medium speed until fluffy, a few seconds, then add sugars, creaming the sugar and the butter together until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating in between, then add vanilla and oil. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cream of tartar. Slowly add to butter mixture, beating as you go.

Mix in white chocolate chips and chopped razzcherries. Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon, drop cookie dough on to cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 minutes, but do not brown (you could if you want a crunchier cookie). Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack for complete cool down. Makes a lot of cookies. About 45 cookies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So, you think you can't cook? I say you can!

The thought process of someone who wants to cook.
Break the cycle, and learn to cook.
(Drawing by The Endangered Sartorialist)
Some people don't like to cook. To some, cooking can be a daunting task or maybe some just don't want to cook. I would like to help change that through my blog. To me, cooking is an essential part of living. Not because we need to eat, but because creating food offers so much to the people you are cooking for, and it offers something to the person that is preparing the meal as well.  

Preparing a meal is fulfilling in many ways. Cooking is creative, it can be relaxing, it is comforting, and it is rewarding. It can also be hard work, but I truly think that the results are worth it. When my family and friends compliment me on a meal I have made it is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.  Cooking is a learned skill that takes practice, and whether your meal is a success or a failure, it is still a learning experience.

When telling my daughter about this post she shared her thoughts about the way a person cooks can reflect who they are.  "If you are a person who likes to play it safe you might follow the recipe exactly the way it was written", she said. "If you are more of a free spirit you may not stick to the recipe and you may make changes to it."   Some people cook to explore their heritage or culture, or to learn about a new one.  Some people are busy and want to make a meal in 30 minutes or less. Others, may be more experienced at cooking and want to challenge themselves.  What ever your style is, or motivation, there are recipes out there waiting for you to try.

I think everyone should know a few simple recipes. For instance, it is good to know a couple of each; appetizer, main course, and dessert. For breakfast, learn how to make really good scrambled eggs (see my post, "Eggsellent"), waffles and pancakes (see my post, "Puffy Pancake"). Once you have mastered cooking a few dishes you are ready to move on and learn others.

Some recipes, if you are searching on line, will tell you what the cooking level is.  There are some great search engines out there. My favorite is I have been using this site for many years. Good old fashioned cookbooks are always a great resource as well. I love to collect cookbooks, but if you don't want to invest in them you can go to your local library and find what ever your heart, or stomach I should say, may desire. Going to the library on a cookbook search is one of my favorite things to do. Try it. You will find a lot of inspiration there.

There is a relatively new show on the Food Network called, "Worst Cooks in America". I admit I have never seen the show, but I have seen commercials for it and I don't understand how these people can't cook. If you can read, you can cook. If you can drive, you can cook. If you can use a computer, you can cook. Cooking is actually a very easy task, but if you are feeling apprehensive about it, you may not want to even try. I can understand that. I think some people may feel like they have to cook like a gourmet chef to be a good cook.  I say cook like yourself. Don't worry about being top chef.  Find some recipes and get cooking. You will feel fullness in your mind and in your stomach. For recipe searches go to:

Photgraph by Elliot Doolittle

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