So here are some gour-maybe "commandments" I try to follow. Let's be honest, I'm a little type-A, and relaxing isn't my forte - I like things to be perfect and pretty, but that's why we need rules: to steer us in the right direction.
1. Do not take your cooking too seriously.
Relax people: almost everything can be salvaged, and hey - if it doesn't work out, at least you've learned something and you have a funny Facebook post. There are wars going on. If your soup doesn't turn out the way you wanted, see #7!
2. Do not blindly follow recipes.
Taste, taste, taste! If it doesn't taste right, it probably isn't. I have seen recipes in well-known cookbooks that result in amazingly strange end products when followed.
3. Do not try untested recipes on the night of an event or special occasion.
I have done this, and I have cried in my bathroom. Leave the new recipes in the book. Who needs the stress?!
4. Do invest in the essentials - proper equipment, that lasts. This includes a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, a nice set of knives, a good cutting board, measuring cups (any kind), a Cuisinart or other Food Processor, a set of non-stick cookware. Cookbooks that will help you grow as a chef! Expensive isn't always better. More about this later.
5. Invest in quality seasonal, local ingredients that matter.
Expensive isn't always better, and seasonal ingredients are often more affordable and better tasting. More about this later. Look what the fabulous Epicurious did! They've made a map for you. It's amazing, use it!
Read commandments 6-10 after the jump!
6. Use common sense(s).Taste, touch, smell, feel, sound all play a part in cooking good food. By being aware of all the components in your dish, and where they may need modification - do these smell right? do they feel right? The more you cook, the more your experienced senses will help guide you.
7. Try and try again. Few people make their best version of something the first time, so practice 'til you get it right. Your friends will love being the test subjects.
8. Do your research and learn from it.
Before you cook something, research it! Are there variations? What do the reviews say? You're not Gordon Ramsay, and you're not in a Thomas Keller's restaurant kitchen (unfortunately), so learn from those who have cooked before you in more *realistic* settings.
9. Do PREP your ingredients/recipe.
99% of my "oh crap" cooking moments came from not reading the recipe all the way through and having to frantically chop, whisk etc. an ingredient that I just realized I didn't have ready.
10. Do not fear the haute cuisine.
Don't be afraid to try something new and challenging. If it's a disaster - refer to #1. If it's okay, refer to #7. If you did it on the night of your husband's boss's dinner party - then that's your fault for not listening to #3. You won't learn anything if you don't step outside your comfort zone.