I wasn't a stranger to the kitchen (I spent many a weekend as a child on a stepstool in grandma's kitchen, 'helping' prepare family meals), but I wasn't a gourmet chef either. Grandma's meals weren't extravagant, but down-to-earth, old-fashioned, homestyle cooking. Living on their 2-acre farm, my grandparents helped develop my love for fresh fruit and vegetables (Trish: 'I'm hungry!'; Reply: 'Go pick something from the garden!'). G'maw Dorothy did her best to teach me the basics of cooking (cracking an egg for the first time though resulted in her having to clean the cupboard doors, the counter and the ceiling). When I moved out on my own, her gift to me was a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. I use it frequently to this day.

Having always considered myself creative, I had never looked at cooking as a way to express that creativity. For a very long time, I viewed cooking as a chore. When my work schedule allowed me a couple of hours off each afternoon, I began to seach cookbooks and the Internet for different recipes to try and break the ho-hum routine of everyday meals. What I found was that I began to enjoy cooking and experimenting with taste combinations.

What I also found was a lack of resources to help plan a menu from a main course, to side dishes, to wine and dessert. I don't plan 7-course dinners, but I do like the foods I serve to compliment each other both in taste and visually. I've also developed a habit of making notes on my recipes of how difficult it was to prepare, helpful hints for next time and a rating system based on the reaction when served.

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Below are links to my favorite recipes and menu plans. Buon appetito!

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My kitchen must-haves

These are a few of the cooking tools that I've found are vital to preparing meals or will be necessary for the linked recipes that may not be a part of your standard cooking utensils, pots or pans.

  • Acryllic cookbook holder
  • Basting brush
  • Cheesecloth
  • 2-inch round cookie cutter
  • Crock pot
  • Cuisinart frozen yogurt-ice cream and sorbet maker
  • Cutlery set
  • Cutting boards (wood and plastic)
  • Double boiler
  • Garlic press (The one made by Rosle rocks!)
  • Grater/zester
  • Juicer
  • Margarita glass (3 to 4-inches in diameter)
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Metal cannoli tube (or wooden dowel)
  • Metal skewers
  • Ove-Glove
  • Oven thermometer
  • Pastry filling bag
  • Peeler
  • Pie pan/plate
  • Pyrex measuring cup (1-, 2- or 4-cup size)
  • Rolling pin
  • Round cake pans (2 8-1/2 or 9-1/2-inch)
  • Steamer
  • Tongs
  • Various-sized scraping spatulas
  • Waxed paper
  • Whisk
  • Wine bottle opener/corkscrew
  • Wooden spoons

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