Unlike the other kids in my after-school cooking program, I didn’t need a stool to see over the pot of water boiling on the stove. For once, my above-average height felt like an advantage as I stood in the kitchen of my elementary school cafeteria, stirring to keep the pasta from sticking. It was there that I mastered my first original dish – pepperoni pasta – adapted from a recipe I found on the (then dial-up) Internet.
A delicious concoction of ziti, canned tomatoes, and sliced pepperoni all smothered in mozzarella cheese, pepperoni pasta became a staple in my household, brought back week after week by popular demand. Cooking for my family became something I loved and, with surprisingly little convincing from my parents, something I started doing regularly. That passion – to make simple, delicious meals – has stayed with me for more than a decade.
My greatest joy when moving into an apartment-style dorm during my sophomore year of college came from the access to a kitchen and, fortunately, a dishwasher. I wasn’t prepared, though, for the challenge of cooking all of my meals – and buying all of my groceries. In the early days of my cooking independence, I spent many nights eating microwaved bagel bites purchased from the campus grocery store. I still remember the day I came to the shocking realization that if I wanted to eat fruit every day, I needed to first buy it.
Somehow, I found my way. (That’s what college is for, right?) Between the many demands of college life – classes, exams, student activities, late nights at the library (and the bar), and working part-time – I found time to create delicious, simple meals on a tight budget. By the end of the year, my dining hall pass was collecting dust– full of meals I would never use.
Since graduation, I’ve moved on from my dorm room kitchen to my first “grown-up” apartment in Boston (luckily, again, with a dishwasher). During lunch breaks, my coworkers often asked “Did you make that?” Soon, they realized the answer was (usually) yes.
Although bagel bites occasionally still find their way into my microwave, I try my hardest to cook most of the time. Not everything I make is pretty, but I try. I started this blog (and my cooking career a decade ago) to prove that with a little planning and creativity, it’s not that hard – or expensive – to cook healthy, delicious meals. My hope is that Cook Like Kayla will make eating and living well just a bit easier.
I’d like to extend a warm and loving thank you to my family, coworkers, roommates, and friends. I wouldn’t have done this without your support, love, and encouragement! A special thanks to Matt Morse for designing my header image – and putting up with months of revisions.