The budding housewife has emerged, armed with an arsenal of cookbooks and trusty recipes courtesy of my recent bridal shower.

(photo courtesy of

With the attempts to create culinary confections and dining delights also comes the frustration of ingredient shopping. From my own recent cooking experiences, I’ve discovered that it’s not actually that hard to follow a recipe and put things together without calling the fire department. The hardest part has been tracking down, and keeping a lasting supply of, the proper ingredients.

Some things I always have in my pantry: brownie mix (although I usually never have eggs, oops!), onions, garlic, butter, Capn Crunch (I can’t guarantee there will be milk!), and plenty of Progresso soup. But you’d be hard pressed to find a chef who can whip up anything edible with that combination of carbs.

The key to mastering the “joy of cooking”, as some like to say, is mastering the art of shopping. Not shoe shopping, but grocery shopping. In addition to my Chicken Noodle soup collection to feed an army during hibernation, I’ve now learned to pick up scallions, oats, bread crumbs, cheese, potatoes, corn, flour, olive oil, cream cheese, and of course Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips. Some great advice is to look ahead a few nights: I’ll go to the market now, grab stuff I need to make dinner tonight, and then pick three more recipes I will attempt in the coming week, and stock up on those ingredients while I’m out. It’s very European to go shopping every day for just the day’s provisions, but it doesn’t seem to be too economical when driving over California in search of decent grocery stores costs you $3.89 a gallon. Plus it will keep you on track- when you’re lacking energy or motivation to try something new after a long day, knowing you already have everything you need at your fingertips will help keep your fingers away from the phone for pizza delivery.

Another huge part of learning to cook was learning to substitute ingredients. Not just olive oil for vegetable oil in EVERYTHING(except brownies….) But really learning what will work instead of something else has saved me lots of time and effort, not too mention headaches.

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A few dinners ago, I was attempting my very first Giada recipe- Chicken Milanese- and I realized I did not have any marscapone cheese. I had no clue what this obscure Italian delicacy was, but it seemed to be pretty important to the texture of the dish. To maintain the consistency I needed, with the chicken already in the oven, I just grabbed some onion flavored Philadelphia cream cheese out of my fridge. Worked out great!

I’m sure the Julia Child in me will continue to peek through in short bursts, but in the meantime, I’m happy to try new recipes, one mistake at a time, even if that means learning the hard way that a rubber band will not work the same way as twine for holding a baked brie pastry together.

Bon Apetit!