Adventures in Cooking

By Shreena Bhakta

Throughout the years, I’ve gone through many hobbies. I entered middle school with a passion for soapmaking. I would make bars of soap for family and friends, but soon, I became tired of it. Towards the end of middle school, I took up skateboarding after I received this beautiful hot pink and black checkerboard deck. However, that became short-lived after many of my neighbors hid their chuckles each time I fell. I took up bullet journaling my freshman year of high school, which is something that I’ve continued doing to this day. But recently, I’ve picked up my latest hobby: cooking and baking — and this is something that I want to share with the world.

I had baked a few times before picking up this hobby; my family loves the cookies from the Hilton Doubletree Hotel, so when I started baking them, they fell in love with the gooey chocolate chip, oatmeal walnut cookies. I, however, fell in love with the precision of it. Baking is almost like a science. I continued with it, venturing into cupcakes, brownies, and more. There was one thing I steered clear of, though, and that was cooking. I had always been afraid of it because of the creativity. You might be thinking, you’re afraid of creativity?! And the answer to that is, no, not necessarily, but I had always seen my mom doing a pinch of this and a handful of that. It was the complete opposite of the precision of baking that I had fallen in love with. How would I know how much to add? What if I added too much? In baking, I never had those fears.

When the opportunity arose to confront my fears as part of an assignment in my art class, I took it. I’m not one for taking risks, but I realized that cooking was an essential skill that I needed to learn at some point (this came after much contemplation if I could live off of baked desserts). I research many recipes, and, with the help of my mom, created some wonderful dishes.

Dishes I explored...

Strawberry Snacking Cake : Inspired by the recipe from Honeysuckle — This was my first time baking a cake from scratch! I ate two slices of it with tons of whipped cream when it came out of the oven.

Brussels Sprouts + Garlic Dijon Aioli: Inspired by the recipe from Dash of Mandi — Most people don’t like brussels sprouts, however, I’m not one of those people. I still remember my first time trying brussels sprouts a few years ago, and being very afraid because so many people don’t like them. But to my surprise, they actually tasted amazing!

Rosemary Chicken Sandwiches: Inspired from the sandwich from O’Bagel Hoboken — This was the first non-vegetarian meal I prepared, as well as the first time I didn’t use a recipe. I saw a video of someone constructing this sandwich on Instagram and decided to develop my own recipe to recreate it.

Vegetarian “Birria” Tacos : Inspired by the recipe from Shreya’s Kitchen — This was definitely not an authentic Birria recipe by any means, but it was so delicious! The flavors of this taco were inspired by Mexican cuisine, and it was really interesting to learn about all of the different kinds of chilies that went into making this laborious dish.

Cannoli Dip: Inspired by the recipe from Tara Ippolito — Cannolis are kind of a big thing in my family. On a trip to Las Vegas when I was 8 or 9, I had my very first cannoli, and my mom decided to capture this moment. When my family when to Italy my freshman year of high school, we knew we had to recreate the photo. Because of my fond memories of cannolis, I decided to try this recipe out (and apparently this recipe is well-loved by Perez Hilton!)

Chili’s Southwestern Egg Rolls : Inspired by the recipe from Liz Moody — These tasted pretty much identical to the version at Chili’s, and they were so good. Through many of these recipes, I’ve gotten really good at using an air fryer, which is pretty nifty.

*Music: Lo-fi Type Beat - Rain, credits to Prod. Lee*

The beauty of my new hobby is that I was once scared of it. Let me explain myself: the dishes I create are a physical (and delicious) representation of me taking risks and trying new things, something that’s always been hard for me as I’ve enjoyed sticking to my comfort zone. But sometimes, when the opportunity presents itself, you just have to jump straight into it.