Overcoming Anxiety is a series where Cat shares tips for balancing a desire to be social with various phobias/fears. Brie is hijacking this series for the day. If your life is severely impacted and/or limited by your own anxiety, please consult an actual mental health professional. She is not one, and neither is Brie.

Cooking can be a stressful event.

Do I have the ingredients?

Is it supposed to look like that?

Do I really need a mandolin?

What the hell is a mandolin?

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Between overly complicated recipes, substitutions, high elevations, small work ares, unrecognizable ingredients – spending time in the kitchen can often be a cause for anxiety that you just end up avoiding. All you wanted was to skip the fast food and make a burger at home, but you ended up with a hockey puck on burnt buns and down a couple of Xanax for dinner instead. The Oatmeal covers the repercussions of cooking at home pretty well…

But it doesn’t have to be like that!

Be Prepared:

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If at all possible, you can counteract any kitchen anxiety by simply having a plan of action.

– Know what you want to make ahead of time

– Research your recipes either online or in cookbooks. Online can provide you with recipe ratings and reviews with can help you determine which recipes you want to attempt -unfortunately a lot of published recipes are untested and can lead you astray, reviews and ratings will weed those out or offer tips to make it better. Also, any recipes you see on T.V 99.99% of the time will be available online as well.

– Read the recipe start to finish

– This is an important one. The recipe may throw you a curve-ball halfway in stating that you needed to divide an ingredient, or something should have been marinating for 72 hours already. These aren’t the rule, these are the exceptions, but when it happens it can be very annoying and discouraging. Read a recipe at least once all the way through before you chose it, and before you begin.

– Shop ahead of time (or leave one or two fresh ingredients to day of – example: fish)

– Shopping when you’re in a hurry can be the worst. You’re never absolutely certain of what you’ll have to deal with, be it long lines, incompetent butchers, out of stock ingredients, but it can leave you in a panicked place. Best way to avoid this is by shopping at least a day or two before you’re planning on preparing your meal. This way if you need to make return trips, or try a different store, it’s not impacting your cooking time. However, things like meat and fish, can be bought ahead of time, but are best as fresh as possible.

– Have any utensils, dishes, pots and pans washed and ready for your use

– If you know you’re going to need a roasting pan, but it’s currently being used as a make shift dog bowl, you’ll want to wash it and make sure its available before hand,  as opposed to the moment you’re supposed to transfer the dish and put it in the oven. Make sure you know where the blades your hand mixer are, or locate your various measuring spoons and cups. Having a clean and orderly kitchen, or at the vary least an organized mess, can set the tone for your cooking experience.

Cooking Last Minute:

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Unexpected guests? Realized you don’t have pizza money until payday tomorrow? You don’t have to resort to ramen noodles!

– Work with what you’ve got

– Odds are you’ve got a can of beans in your pantry, or frozen veggies in the ice box. Use websites like Supercook to find easy recipes for your ingredients, or like StillTasty to check if something has expired yet.

– DON’T PANIC!

– Cooking is a very forgiving art. If you miss a step or do something a little different, it’s highly unlikely it’ll end up inedible, let alone tasting bad.

– Have a backup plan

– If worse case everything does go to hell, make sure you’ve got a plan B (or C, or D); having that reassurance that you’ll know what to do if your current trajectory fails can set your mind at ease.

– Substitutions!

– Have a link like this book marked, or print out a list of common substitutions. Or, as always, Google is your fiend. In a pinch, you’ll know how to thicken a stew if you don’t have whatever the recipe is calling for. Flour, corn starch, ketchup, tomato paste, it’ll all do something a little different, but can get the safe effect. Some things you can’t make a substitution for, but you can examine what the recipe might be like without it.

Pay Attention:

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There are several things you’ll want to put at the top of your priority list when cooking.

– Food safety

– Don’t touch vegetables after handling raw meat without washing your hands or surfaces thoroughly.

– Invest in a meat thermometer. Internal temp will tell you when its done, takes away the guess work and makes sure it’s safe for you and your loved ones.

Read up as much as you can, just being aware will change how you behave.

– Kitchen safety

– Set timers to remind yourself that something is in the oven or on the stove.

– There are a lot of great knife guides available online, but the best thing you can do is stay mindful of where your fingers are while chopping. Don’t let others distract you. It only takes half a second to suddenly have half a finger.

We’ll visit some of these topics in greater depth in later installments, but for now the long and the short of it is: stay calm and even if something goes wrong, it’s probably not that bad.

Cooking is a fun adventure and there are lots of twists and turns along the path.

(featured image from wallpaperstock)

Other Overcoming Anxiety Posts

How to be Interesting

Driving to the Party

Brie

Brie

Brie is a fair-weather foodie. She wouldn’t go as far as to say she has a love/hate relationship with food, because she loves food and food clearly loves her; it loves her so much that it holds on as tight as it can and never lets go; mostly in the middle region. Her cooking style involves a lot of butter or garlic or onions, things that have “creamy” or “cheesy” in the title, also anything that you could add bacon to. She’s been making the noms since she was tall enough to reach the counter, and has been eating for even longer*. Brie’s passion for cooking-slash-baking will fluctuate however, usually correlating with how sick she is of doing dishes. Never-the-less, her passion for eating (sushi, take out Chinese, hole in the wall diner-y type foods) is as constant as the sun, the moon, death, and taxes. She also sometimes talks in the third person; don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.
*Fun Fact: When she was 10-13ish, only 1 out of every 5 batches of sugar cookie dough would make it past the butter/sugar stage and end up in the oven instead of Brie’s stomach. #ThisIsWhyI’mFat
P.S. She also set the microwave on fire during the same era while making home-made microwavable popcorn. Pro tip: Alton Brown is WRONG and you cannot put a paper bag with staples into the microwave; things will go badly.
P.P.S Happy ending. Even though to put out the fire she threw a bowl of water onto it and shorted all the circuits, the microwave started working after a week and her mom was non-the-wiser.
P.P.P.S But, I guess not any longer…
Brie

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