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When I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or under pressure, I cook. Well, not just cook, I create. There is something so powerful and satisfying, for me anyway, in developing a new recipe and in serving it to the people you love.

When you reach a certain age and you’ve been cooking for almost 30 years, you come to know instinctively what flavors and textures and ingredients will blend together to form something special. And if you’re really stressed, and really overwhelmed, and really under pressure, then there’s nothing like preparing a creamy, saucy, cheesy, or spicy pasta dish to neutralize those anxious or toxic emotions. It’s known as comfort food, and much of the time, I would say that preparing comfort food works as well as any antidepressant on the market.

You have to be willing to fail, though, and that can be disheartening. When you put a lot of time, effort, thought and creativity into a new recipe, or into replicating an old one, it is incredibly frustrating–almost insulting–when what you’ve concocted tastes weird, bad, or worse, bland.

But when it all comes together, and the flavors meld, and the textures compliment each other, and the result melts in your mouth, it is one of the most satisfying feelings around. Especially if it’s an original creation. Just remember to write it down! As soon as you make it, serve it, and like it, write it down so you can make it again.

If I’m not feeling particularly creative, but in the mood to try something new and daring, there are lots of places to turn. Here are a few of my favorite sites:

Food Network

Epicurious

Drick’s Rambling Cafe

Yummly

Mele Cotte

allrecipes.com

Cooking Light

I have lots of cookbooks and cooking magazines, too. I have a recipe collection that is a combination of old recipe cards, torn-out magazine pages, printed, online recipes, handwritten notes, and pages torn out of cookbooks. These recipes are housed in a huge Tupperware-like container. They are in no particular order; they are not organized; and they are a pain to sort through when I’m looking for something in particular. But if the house was on fire, those recipes are one of the first things I would grab.

Finally, I often turn to friends and family for new recipes. I have been given some treasures after posting pleas on Facebook for inspiration (If Jerry Riehl and Tracy Cardenas are reading this, well, I can’t thank you enough for the macaroni and cheese and meatloaf recipes. They have become family staples.)

I know not everyone likes to cook. But if you do, then you probably understand what I’m talking about. And if you don’t, then you probably have someone who cooks for you, or know someone who is passionate about cooking, and if you appreciate their efforts, then you get it, too.

I love eating in nice restaurants. I love getting take-out on a Friday night. I can appreciate a good, fast food burger, and I can’t get enough of places like Panera Bread. But when it comes to satisfying something more than just hunger or a desire to indulge, you can’t beat cooking. For every time I complain about having to come up with a menu for the week or putting together something tasty and satisfying after a long day of work, or for every time when the result is not worth the effort (and there are plenty of those instances), there are more occasions where cooking becomes the answer and the only question is, “Why did I resist?”

My kitchen is my refuge. It is where sanity resides.