For months I kept asking my hubby what he wanted to do for his 40th birthday. Go out to a fancy dinner, rent out a private room for a party, or take a trip? No, no, and no. Finally, the decision:

“I want to have everyone over for dinner and barbecue ribeye steaks and lobster tails.”

When I heard this I remember thinking, “wow, I would never choose to cook for myself and 40 friends on my own birthday. He must really love cooking.”

Hubby has always enjoyed being in the kitchen or standing over a smoking grill. We subscribed to several cooking magazines, but it wasn’t until we began getting Cook’s Illustrated that something changed. If you’ve never seen Cook’s Illustrated before, it is a thin publication that features no actual photographs of food, only artists’ drawings. Sounds rather dull until you read it. Every recipe is tested, and tested, and tested, until they have the perfect crepe, stir-fry, or pineapple upside-down cake. They also have a member’s website which has an extensive array of recipes, technique videos, and equipment reviews.

Hubby's lobster tails grilling. Photo by Ananda Dalidd


This is going to sound completely obvious, but the reason we use Cook’s Illustrated recipes day in and day out is because they always turn out great. Not good, but great. Fantastic. Mouth watering (this is sounding like a total sales pitch). Whipping up amazing meals was never a passion of mine. Both my parents are excellent cooks, but somehow, I didn’t get that gene.  Now that I’m a mom I’m spending much more time in the kitchen and enjoying it more than I’d ever imagined. I cook with my 3-year-old every day and bonding over homemade manicotti, roasted cauliflower, and potato leek soup in an amazing way to spend an afternoon. Not only are we making healthy, made-from-scratch delights, but I’m also teaching her the techniques and joys of cooking at an early age. Oh, and maybe I do have that gene. It was just rusty from lack of use.

We all get caught up in the stresses of life and, inevitably, home cooking seems like the first thing to go. I want to challenge you to find something that inspires YOU to cook regularly and gets you out of your comfort zone by trying new and interesting dishes. Do you have to use Cook’s Illustrated to get motivated? It worked for my family, but there’s an abundance of inspiration all around you. Maybe it comes in the form of visiting your farmer’s market, watching the Food Network, or planning cooking soirees with your girlfriends. Need more ideas? Try The New Moosewood CookbookCooking Off the Grid or your grandmother’s recipe box. The point is to find something that fires up your passion, or at least gets you to fire up the grill.

What inspires you to cook?

Disclaimer: Be Food Smart and the author of this post are not affiliated with Cook’s Illustrated in any way. All the cookbooks and highlighted items on this page link to Amazon. If you make a purchase through one of our product links, Be Food Smart receives a small commission that does not cost you. Need to buy something from Amazon? Use one of our links and anything you buy will help benefit Be Food Smart.