Cooking can be hugely rewarding, but there are times when it can be frustrating, especially when you spend a significant amount of time alone in the kitchen and the results aren't as good as you'd hoped. A few simple strategies prevent this culinary problem.
• Choose a reliable source when selecting a recipe. A trusted cookbook, a relative who's a wonderful cook, a well reviewed Internet site or your local paper's food section (that would be Taste in the Twin Cities) can all be good sources.
• Use high-quality ingredients. It's much easier to end with a wonderful result if you start with wonderful ingredients.
• Encourage other family members to cook with you. It's no fun being isolated in the kitchen when everyone else is in another room having a good time. Bring the merriment into the kitchen and get relatives and friends to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty (after they've washed their hands thoroughly, of course!).
Be prepared, but not entirely
The last point is one I think about a lot this time of year. While entertaining, I'm often tempted to do as much as possible before my guests arrive. It's a good plan and can certainly lower your stress level, but there is something special about a meal, or at least a dish, that requires all hands on deck. After all, the more people cooking, kids and adults alike, the more everyone feels invested in the meal.
Potstickers are a great choice for this kind of "all-together-now" cooking. They're not too difficult, so anyone big or little, experienced or not, can do them. They're impressive, so everyone feels a sense of pride in the result, although laughing over the ones that don't turn out perfect can be enjoyable, too.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of "Everyday to Entertaining" and "The Big Book of Appetizers." Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.