September 25th marks National Cooking Day, a perfect time to reflect on the joys and benefits of home cooking. While only some might be culinary enthusiasts, many of us have embraced our inner chef more than we would have expected. I understand that setting aside time to cook can be challenging, especially with demanding work schedules. However, cooking plays a significant role in our health and well-being beyond just preparing meals. Therefore, spending some time in the kitchen, whether daily or through weekly meal prep (a topic I’ll dive into in a future blog) is worthwhile.
One of the primary advantages of cooking at home is control. By making your meals, you decide on the ingredients. This choice allows you to pick fresh and nutritious foods while avoiding additives, preservatives, and excessive salts or sugars commonly found in processed foods. Making conscious food decisions can promote balanced eating, benefiting our overall health.
Cooking at home also emphasizes food safety. You can pick fresh ingredients and keep them safe. Knowing how your ingredients have been stored and handled reduces risks associated with food contamination. With proper food handling techniques, you’re sure the food is clean and good to eat, reducing the chance of getting sick from bad food.

Beyond physical health, cooking has profound effects on our mental and emotional well-being. It’s a therapeutic activity that can alleviate stress and boost self-esteem as you relish the fruits (pun intended) of your labor. Sharing homemade meals is a heartfelt way to connect with loved ones, nurturing family and friendly ties. Drawing inspiration from Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the book ‘The Five Love Languages,’ cooking for others can be seen as an ‘Act of Service,’ a love language that fosters connections through shared meals and the evocative memories associated with flavors and aromas.

Another perk of home cooking is the potential for savings. Planning meals and buying fresh or frozen ingredients can be cost-effective in the long run, offering relief to your wallet.

So, this month, I invite you to rekindle your love for cooking. Regardless of your kitchen expertise, every dish you craft is a testament to health, love, and the deep connections with those you cherish. To kickstart this culinary journey, here’s a simple, nutrient-rich recipe I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Simple Vegetable Soup Recipe
Vegetable soup is an easy and healthy meal. This recipe is perfect for a light lunch or dinner.

2 carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
8 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (preferably low sodium)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup broccoli, small pieces
1/2 cup green peas
Salt and pepper
2 spoons of olive oil

1. Heat the oil in a big pot. Add onion and cook until soft.
2. Add carrots, potatoes, and red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
3. Put in the tomatoes.
4. Pour the broth into the pot. Wait until it boils.
5. Lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes.
6. Add broccoli, spinach, and peas. Cook for 10 more minutes.
7. Add salt and pepper as you like.
8. Serve it hot. Add some olive oil on top if you want. Enjoy!
Note: You can change the soup by adding other vegetables. Cooking at home is about trying new things and making food you love. Enjoy your meal!

Written by Irisvette Lagoa and Elizabeth C. Shephard

1) An, R. (2016). Fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption and daily energy and nutrient intakes in US adults. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70(1), 97-103.
2) Farmer, N., & Cotter, E. W. (2021). Well-Being and Cooking Behavior: Using the Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (PERMA) Model as a Theoretical Framework. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 560578.
3) Gargiulo, A. H., Duarte, S. G., Campos, G. Z., Landgraf, M., Franco, B. D. G. M., & Pinto, U. M. (2022). Food Safety Issues Related to Eating In and Eating Out. Microorganisms, 10(11), 2118.
4) Gary Chapman (1992). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Northfield Publishing. ISBN 978-1881273158.
5) Mills, S., et al. (2017). Frequency of eating home cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14(1), 109.

by Elizabeth

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

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