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How to use this website

Welcome to the iwannabeacook’s website. We hope that you will enjoy all of the content on our site. Our main goal is to teach you how to cook, not to follow a video or a recipe, but to understand the basics of how to cook so that you can create your own recipes and adapt our recipes to fit your lifestyle.

That’s why each of our recipes contain a Variations section - some people like their food spicy, others like to add more herbs and spices, while still others like to have comfort food. We try to give you options. Some days you have more time to cook, other days you can barely make a sandwich. And then there are the days you simply say, “I have nothing for dinner.” We are here to address those issues as well with our Pantry section.

iwannabeacook is a two-fold operation. We teach cooking classes that are limited to four students at a time in a private setting. Each student has their own workstation and prepares food in each two-hour class. While it is hands on, there is a lot of discussion about customizing each recipe and how to make it fit each person’s lifestyle. Custom classes are available and the location is negotiable. Party planning is also available. Our goal is not to provide the food, however, but to teach YOU how to plan and throw a party. We will be there for you each step of the way.

Follow us on Twitter to receive our tip of the day.

The Search feature of our site is our workhorse. Search for an ingredient and a list of recipes will pop up. Enter Quick and a list of recipes that are quick to make will display. See our complete list of Searchable tags.

One of the most important sections of iwbac is the Pantry section. If you have these ingredients in your pantry, we will have a list of meals that you can prepare - this is coming soon! That means - you don’t have to go to the grocery. How about a dish of enchiladas? If you have tortillas, canned beans, and salsa, you have a meal. Add to that leftover chicken, vegetables, cheese, sour cream, or guacamole, and you have a terrific dinner. How about scrambled eggs and biscuits? Would you believe me if I told you that you could make that meal in 30 minutes?

We all have our go-to recipes, but for those just starting to cook, like college students in their first apartment, you have to compile those recipes. That’s where we come in. We want to help you build your core group of recipes so that you can branch out. We don’t expect you to know much when you first join us. One of our videos shows you how to peel a carrot. We want to teach you those skills so that you can build up to making Chicken liver pate, which involves lighting chicken livers on fire.

We have Recipes, Tips, and a Blog as well as a weekly Newsletter of food ideas. There are Cooking terms and Substitutions as well as Videos. New content is constantly being added, so check back often. We would love to hear feedback on what you want to see.

Please Contact us with questions, comments, concerns, or advice. We will get back to you as soon as possible because again our goal is to help you learn to cook. Watching videos is great, but once you really understand how to cook, you will be able to create your own recipes, enjoy fabulous food, and throw excellent parties.

One word of warning. Some recipes just do not work for everyone. Confession: I cannot cook bacon for the life of me. I try and try and try, but it just doesn't come out as well as I want. The good news is that my family loves bacon, and they eat my mistakes, and I try and try again. Our mistakes will be eaten and mostly forgotten. For the disasters that aren’t forgotten, there is usually a lot of laughing and reminiscing!

Enjoy each meal and celebrate the fact that we are lucky enough to have food to cook!

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About the instructor

Samantha Mason is the primary instructor. Her true passion in life is not only cooking, but providing meals for her family and friends. Our society socializes around food, so why not make the best food that you can without devoting hours and hours to it.
        She has traveled around the world taking cooking classes in Hong Kong, Paris, Peru, and of course the United States. When she travels, Samantha researches the specialty foods of the region and constantly tries to find chef’s tables to find techniques that can be adapted to home cooking. It’s amazing the friendships that can be made by simply talking about food.
        She currently owns over 250 cookbooks and specializes in ethnic cooking. Asian, French, Indian, Mexican, South American, as well as comfort foods.
        Julia Child’s “The French Chef” series is one of her favorite cooking shows. Remember the episode with the chicken that falls to the ground? That’s real life, that’s what happens sometimes. Mistakes happen. Laugh and move on! 

Best food memory I absolutely love throwing themed parties. For several years, I threw New Year’s Day parties. After New Year’s Eve, most people don’t want to cook and students usually go back to school the next day, so it’s a time when everyone is relaxed. My parties were for approximately sixty to seventy-five people, and I would serve over fifty homemade dishes. The parties took months to plan, but it was pure joy. My favorite time was after everyone left, sitting with my husband and discussing the ins and outs of the party - who we talked with, stories that we heard, the food, and always how lucky we were to have such good friends. 

 Worst cooking story I remember having a dinner party with a co-worker. I was so proud of myself for serving a French meal, complete with a chocolate mousse from a Julia Child recipe. It was beautiful. As I ate it, I could not figure out why it was so unexpectedly crunchy! Following my own rule, I said nothing; I simply ate my mistake. The next day it dawned on me that I was supposed to dissolve the espresso crystals rather than pouring them in dry! Twenty-five years later, I still remember that mousse. I have no idea of anything else that we ate. And yes, my husband and I still laugh about it!

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Guest instructors

         Peg Arfman likes to experience different cuisines and signs up for cooking classes both during her extensive travels and at home. In addition to enjoying the food wherever she travels, she has taken cooking classes in Paris and Avignon in France, Marrakesh in Morocco, Lima in Peru, Beijing and Shanghai in China, as well as New Orleans and Milwaukke in the US. Often those classes included trips to local markets to purchase ingredients and meet local food vendors.
        Having hosted several exchange students as well, she is experienced in home cooking in Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and France while staying with their families. When visiting her family in China, she experiences and participates in daily shopping and food preparation thanks to her Chinese daughter-in-law.

        Jeanette Zevallos-Zelazoski is a native Peruvian. She now lives in Wisconsin, but was raised in Perú, where she remembers cooking with her abuela “Mama.” She cooks Peruvian food for her family and friends and loves to share her recipes and knowledge as well as stories of eating in Perú  She is able to provide an insight on the South American food culture.
       Jeanette also hosts exchange students as well as family members from around the world. She graciously welcomes them into her home and teaches them the American way of life. Jeanette brings a unique aspect to learning which ingredients to buy and how to prepare South American foods. She recently traveled to Lima with her cooking friends and led them on an extravagant culinary journey through Lima.

        Pete Mason was fortunate to grow up in a house where his mother cooked every meal. He even walked home from elementary school every day to have lunch with his family. His meals were classic French as well as British and Mexican. Vegetables were the center of his meals. After college, he took a sandwich to work everyday only to discover that the store-bought bread he was using was a poor comparison to what he was used to. So, he called his mother and began baking bread that week and has never looked back. 
        He loves to bake and makes biscuits and homemade tortillas for his family as well as the regular sandwich bread. Sourdough bread has become another specialty. He also experiments with fantastic French breakfast pastries, including making his own puff pastry. 
        While baking is a must for him, he loves to grill, often extending the season into winter when it is snowing. He is able to cook different foods on the same grill to requested degrees of doneness, a skill lacking in many people who grill regularly.

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What is the goal of iwannabeacook?
        Our goal is to teach people to cook food that they can enjoy everyday. That means understanding simple cooking fundamentals as well as how to apply them to make a meal out of it. For example, what to easily do with a whole, store-bought chicken. How to cut it up for cooking, or how to roast it whole, or braise it, sauté it, roast it, or grill it. And once it is cooked, how many things can you do with it then? Make quesadillas, chicken salad, fried rice, macaroni & cheese, the options are fun and unlimited. But it’s all about the basics; first, you just need to know how to simply deal with a chicken.

Why the name iwannabeacook? 
        These lessons are meant to teach someone how to cook delicious real food in their own kitchen, not to produce fancy fattening restaurant food. We are trying to create cooks who can quickly produce healthy, homemade foods from normal ingredients, not elite professional chefs.

Why was this company started? 
        We keep hearing how young adults want to cook, but they just don’t know how to get started. A lot of them are watching videos, which is a good start but that only teaches them one specific recipe at a time rather than the basics of how make great meals from whatever you happen to have in your pantry. College students and young adults in apartments need to be able to cook and eat quickly after a long day of classes or work. We want to help develop the basic cooking skills so they can accomplish this. These are easy yet important skills they will rely on for the rest of their lives.

Why can’t I learn how to cook from YouTube?
        Creating one dish or one meal can be learned from videos, but one cannot learn to cook from what is found in a pantry. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” If you teach one recipe, they can cook that dish; if you teach the cooking fundimentals, they can literally cook anything.

Who is your target audience? 
         Certainly beginner and inexperienced cooks, but also others who want to expand their cooking knowledge or just want to be able to socialize while learning a new skill. A person might be quite accomplished in Italian cooking but be a newbie in Mexican: we can teach those different cuisines.

Are there other markets you plan to serve? 
          We have been approached by people who would like a morning or afternoon class, where they come and prepare a meal that they can serve to their family that evening and perhaps snacks that can be served after school or work. So yes, we are interested in working specifically with clients to meet their needs.

Do you teach specific dishes? 
        Yes. And we teach you how flexible that dish can be. For example, chilaquiles can be made entirely from pantry ingredients, but they can also be made into a gourmet brunch dish with the addition of chorizo or eggs, guacamole, drizzled with Mexican crema, and garnished with cilantro.

Are there other ways to customize dishes? 
        Spice levels are a huge problem in some families, especially when younger children are present. Typically, one or two people in the family will want their food spicy, while others insist on food being mild. In the chilaquiles example, raw onions and jalapeños can be added after plating to add kick without impacting everyone’s dinner. Just about every meal can be easily customized in many different fashions.

How do I get started planning meals? 
        Have you ever been standing in the kitchen and just cannot think of what to make for dinner? We have a list of basic pantry ingredients and a large list of dishes that can be prepared from those items. If you have the pantry ingredients we recommend, you can quickly look at our list and find a ton of options for meals.

Any additional advice you want to share? 
        Go out of your way to find ways to cook and eat with friends. Cooking and eating are social events, make food preparation fun!

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        Robert Mason, a student at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, designed and implemented this website using SquareSpace. He is a Computer Engineering student who is also cooking and grilling this summer in order to cook in his apartment next year. He is one of the reasons iwannabeacook was started.

        Samantha Mason, founder of iwannabeacook, helped design and create this website. She is now in charge of maintenance and expansion of the website.

        Pete Mason designed the logo using Inkscape on the Macintosh. The font is Casual.

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All photographs were taken by Samantha Mason.

Copyright © 2015 - Samantha Mason
All Rights Reserved
iwannabeacook@icloud.com            www.iwannabeacook.com