I rarely follow recipes directly, instead reading them to get the gist & heading into the kitchen. I tend to avoid prepackaged foods, not out of any fear of additives or ingredients but because they're generally far more expensive (and not as tasty) as homemade alternatives.
My favorite things to cook
Bread from scratch; I still get a kick out of watching it ferment, and nothing beats the texture of well-kneaded risen dough.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mom always made matzoh ball soup for my birthday while I was growing up; it's been my favorite food for as long as I can remember. When she was out of town one year, my (vegetarian at the time and only mildly experienced) sister made it for me from scratch.
My cooking triumphs
My first loaf of bread that looked like it had come from a store. Bagel dogs even my super-picky boyfriend couldn't resist. Figuring out that the size of the pot & the amount of liquid didn't matter so much with matzoh balls as the density of steam between the liquid and the lid.
My cooking tragedies
Ramenghetti for 12 when I was 15. It was terrible, and there were gallons of it. Its only saving grace was that it was incredibly cheap.