I'm 32, married and living in beautiful Napa Valley where fantastic, gourmet food is in abundance. I've taken many cooking classes for home chefs and one of the most helpful things I learned was "fat is flavor". So when a recipe calls for butter or oil, don't skimp to save calories.
My favorite things to cook
I love finding new foods at restaurants and trying to replicate them at home, then put my own spin on them. I also love seeing what I can put together with only items I have immediately on hand in the kitchen. The "Ingredient Search" on this site is particularly helpful in this regard. This tactic also helps me stock a pantry and refrigerated staples such that I can always put together a meal without having planned for it.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mom and I use to make chocolate chip cookies a lot. Good ol' Toll House has a fantastic recipe. You can never fail with it, but you MUST use real vanilla extract (not imitation) and fresh ingredients to insure the fluffiest, most undeniable cookies. I know it's bad for you, but sometimes more dough gets eaten than actual cookies baked! My sister and mother are vegetarian so I've also learned to love cooking risottos and pastas and burgers with mushrooms. They add so much flavor and big portabellas are the perfect option for vegetarians at the "burger BBQ". Some of the meateaters in the group even top their beef burger with a grilled portabella they are so good.
My cooking triumphs
Thanksgiving Turkey and all the fixin's. My father loves when I cook (not just thanksgiving either) and is usually talking about it for 2 weeks afterwords. My turkey secret? Brine it in dark beer. I learned this one from Emeril Legasse. I've tried different beers over the last 4 years, my current favorite is Tecate.
My cooking tragedies
Homemade flour tortillas. The first time I tried them they were just dough that got toasted on the outside. I've since invested in a tortilla press and given in to using shortening and even sometimes (aaaack!) lard in them. It's so fattening but makes all the difference in flavor.