I’m a fan of Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, who, I like to say, writes self-help books for the pragmatist. Most weeks, I listen to her podcast, Happier, while I’m testing recipes. If you read or listen to Gretchen’s work at all, you know that she does not cook nor does she like food that much. Case in point: Her big treat is Greek yogurt with fake sweetener. Ha! No thanks! Still, her way of condensing life lessons and creating lists resonates with me. Inspired by her Secrets of Adulthood (and instead of writing New Year’s resolutions), I’ve created my own list of lessons I’ve learned from over a decade of cooking. Some of them are personal, others more universal. I’d love to know: What are your Cooking Secrets of Adulthood?

  • When you make stock, it’s like putting money in the bank.
  • You never regret making a homemade sauce or stock to use or freeze.
  • Always make more grains, lentils, and soup than you need.
  • Roast more vegetables than you need.
  • Roast garlic when roasting other food.
  • Meal planning reduces stress.
  • For longer-lasting produce, sometimes you need to use plastic bags.
  • Check the fruit and vegetable drawers daily to prevent waste.
  • Tinned fish with bread, butter, and raw veggies is a totally acceptable dinner.
  • Roasted vegetables are an excellent breakfast.
  • You can put an egg on it and totally call it lunch (or dinner or breakfast, for that matter).
  • Grilling in the spring and fall is often more enjoyable than grilling in the summer.
  • It’s ok (and often better) to cut off the bad spots rather than throw it away.
  • Take the time to brown your meat.
  • Tomato paste and smoked paprika are your friends (especially when you’re not cooking meat).
  • It’s better to finish the container of a special ingredient than to savor it for so long, it goes off or moldy.
  • Things taste better with the right context (lobster by the sea; stew by a fireplace).
  • As Julia Child says, Never apologize. (I’m still working on this one.)
  • Your meals taste better than those at most restaurants.
  • Meals cooked for you in someone else’s home are always good.
  • As Gretchen says, Outer order leads to inner calm and this is definitely true in the kitchen.
  • Cleaning comes with cooking. Podcasts or music make it more fun.
  • When you just can’t deal, get take-out. You’ll like cooking again the next day, or the day after that.