I grew up around food. Lots of it. Not take out or frozen dinners. I grew up around fresh, hot, home-cooked, often farm-to-table food. My most fond and vivid memories from my childhood are centered around food. I remember picking fresh vegetables from my family's garden, smelling my mom's freshly baked bread come from the kitchen, and getting burned by the oil that popped out of my grandma's frying pan at breakfast.

When I got my driver's license in high school, my love affair with fast food began. I congregated with good friends in Moe's, Chick-Fil-A, Sonic, or IHOP at least three times a week. For 16-year-old-me, food began to equal "good company."

When I went to college, I was struck by the dreaded ~freshman 15~ and am just beginning to crawl my way out. Living in a city that is known for its great food makes it a little bit difficult to separate myself from my new weight, but I think I've found a solution.

I've started to cook.

It hit me one day when all of my friends wanted to go out, but it seemed like we had already been everywhere worth going and really didn't have the money to spend on food anyways. I decided to cook for them. I invited everyone over and we hit up my local farmer's market. I picked up cherry tomatoes, squash, and zucchini and made a light, summery, healthy pasta for dinner that night. It was to die for.

Since then, I've made "at-home dinner parties" my thing. I've found a way to bring two of my favorite things (food and friends) together and I have a newfound love for cooking. Suddenly, recipe browsing is my new favorite pastime and I look forward to shopping for fresh foods.

I'm saving money, watching what I eat, and learning more cooking skills every day. It's truly been therapeutic. After a long day, I always look forward to cooking a meal for myself and I love when I can share the food I've created with my friends.