I hear that comment a lot from my friends, usually when they’re at my house for a grilled-pizza party or summer gelato get-together. They show up eager to help, then find everything prepared and ready to be devoured. They ask me:
“How do you work late every night and still enjoy entertaining and making manicotti and meatballs for 30 hungry people? I’m so wiped out after work I can barely press the buttons on the microwave. And honestly, if I had the time and energy, I’m not sure I even know how to cook.”
I understand where my friends are coming from because I was once in the same place. And that’s why I started my blog, “The Nesting Project.”
I knew that if more people felt comfortable in the kitchen, more would love cooking. Mastering your kitchen is about being willing to try new things and to fail as spectacularly as you succeed.
Maybe my friends are right and I am loco, but even when I’ve had a tough week at work I love the thrill of hosting a big party and then trying new recipes like Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic of Beef Bourguignon. I can never play it safe.
I get my adventurous spirit from my mother, who was one of many strong Italian women in my childhood. Mom wasn’t taught to cook until the night before she got married, when she got a crash course from my grandmother in making lasagna and other Italian essentials.
Delicious food was the center of my childhood. My mother would always have homemade chocolate pudding or brownies waiting for us when we got home from school. Her cooking convinced me that delicious food could make people happy and help them forget about the stress of daily life.
Although I loved my mother’s Italian food, my passion for cooking didn’t fully ignite until I fell in love and got married. I wanted to thrill my husband with my favorite childhood recipes, such as homemade chocolate pudding, cinnamon bread, and stuffed shells with Italian sausage.
At the same time, I was working as an innkeeper at a Bed & Breakfast and learned all I could from the head chef—a colorful character who used classic French techniques. He made it his mission in life to teach me his approach to Southern classics like Red-Eye Gravy and Asiago-Cumin Grits. Every night was an adventure that left my taste buds dazed and deliriously happy.
And then someone blew out the candles.
I entered the corporate world and fell into the trap that so many of my friends had been in for years: wanting something delicious for dinner but always too eager to curl up defeated with a pint of pistachio ice cream. Cooking and baking from scratch seemed like some far-off planet out of Star Wars that was completely unreachable.
My ice-cream dependency lasted about three months and then one night as I was driving home through the rain I decided, “No more.”
I knew I needed to leave time in my nights for cooking and baking. Otherwise, my life would continue as a never-ending hamster wheel of charts and analysis. I vowed that I was going to have my chocolate cannoli and eat it too:
I would reclaim my kitchen.
To chronicle my adventures of a career girl trying to find a balance between home and work, I created this blog. I wanted to share made-from-scratch recipes with a few ingredients that all come together beautifully to make a delicious dish.
I have five basic Nesting Project tenets that I stand by to help a career girl navigate the cooking-and-baking universe:
Go all out on breakfast. The first special meal should be breakfast when you are free on the weekends and have more time. Most classic morning meals can be made with a few simple ingredients.
Large dinners are the gift that keeps giving. Roasts, casseroles, soups, etc., should be made on Saturday or Sunday and then you can have the gourmet leftovers or repurposed meals during the week.
When you are baking or cooking, double the recipe and freeze some. The more you make now, the less you make later.
Experiment but start small. instead of taking on a two-layer cake with icing, try a chocolate Bundt cake with drizzle icing. Once you feel more confident you can move on to the layer cake.
Learn techniques not recipes. It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” lesson. Learn how to cook meat properly and deglaze the pan for a quick sauce, and you’ve also learned a great way to cook dinner in a short amount of time. Then you can use whatever ingredients you have in your pantry instead of being tied down to a particular recipe.
My blog is now a resource for cooked/baked-from-scratch recipes that busy working girls can have fun with and enjoy. My hope is that after making one of my recipes, any woman can feel like a domestic goddess.
My mother’s early cooking adventures live on in my kitchen most nights of the week. My whisk is my weapon, and I use it to create recipes that bring joy to the people in my life. I believe a delicious meal is the perfect antidote to a tough day in the office.
I know if I’m chosen as the next Food Blog Star I will take delight in helping career girls (and guys) navigate the landscape of cooking and baking while managing a career.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got guests coming over in a few hours and I have to find a new recipe!