Cooking my stress away

My husband often thinks I look stressed in the kitchen. I’m sure I do. But in reality, cooking is my favorite form of stress relief. I’m one of those people who often has trouble shutting my brain off for even a few seconds. Yoga, while great, does not do it for me. I need something that consumes my mind, and cooking does that for me.

I can spend hours reading cookbooks and searching recipes. Give me a new cookbook, and you can guarantee I’ll read it cover-to-cover like I just found the newest best-seller. Even though I rarely follow a recipe as written, I get so many ideas and just general technique knowledge. Also, several of my “cookbooks” are really more about technique than the actual recipes.

Stress-eating is one of those things we are not supposed to do, right? So, stress-cooking, while totally relaxing, does present a dilemma. What do you do with all that food? Sometimes I do go overboard, and like today, we still have part of a pot pie, homemade ricotta, gnocchi, muffins…okay, too many leftovers in our fridge still at the end of the week. But this just means that my stress-cooking binges also require strategic planning. So there’s one more thing for me to obsess and focus on when planning my binge the night before that takes my mind off whatever life stresses I’m trying to escape!

I have a few simple rules I try to remember before going on such a binge:

  • Variety: I try to make sure I make some foods that are hearty meals and some that are great snack or breakfast items. So maybe one dish is a hummus, dip or pasta salad that’s good served cold.
  • Storage: I consider how long each food will last and make sure I make some that can be frozen, or sometimes my food fun involves dehydrating foods that can then be stored in the cabinet. While I haven’t done much of it, pickling is also a good option to consider.
  • Weather: I also consider and plan for what the weather is going to be while cooking as well as the week ahead. This seems obvious, but I don’t want to run the oven for 3 hours if it’s hot out, and I’m probably not smoking meat in the rain. Also, if I know it’s going to warm all week, soup is probably not going to be eaten.

So yes, sometimes I do look stressed while cooking. But that stress actually makes me feel better. It’s like when you go for a nice run, and at the end you’re out of breath and aching. It feels great even if it looks a little disturbing. And at the end of cooking, I get to share my creations!

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