31 January 2014

The Fear of Cooking and My New Adventures

I have said on many occasions that TheHusband did not marry me for my domestic capabilities. Stop laughing. You all know it's true. I'm not one to clean the house (hiring a cleaning service has done a lot in keeping our marriage sane). I will do laundry with minimal complaints, but I hate hate hate putting it away (I never said my behavior was rational). I don't care if you put your shoes on the furniture (within reason -- not the dining room or kitchen tables...). And I don't like to cook.

Cooking, in fact, makes me nervous. I've written about this before. The process of finding a recipe, making sure I have the correct ingredients, and actually creating the food brings me no joy. It stresses me out. We eat out or bring in take out (I realize that phrasing is weird, but you know what I mean) way more than we should for the sake of our wallets and our health. I work full time (and not infrequently in the evening and on weekends), so coming home and cooking something at 6 pm, after a full day's work is daunting. To be honest, I like washing dishes better than cooking. You'd think that maybe TheHusband would cook, since I will do dishes without complaint. But he likes cooking even less than I do, and he has even fewer culinary skills than I do (yes, that is possible and actually true. He'd agree.). So that tradeoff is a no-go.

TH and I are firmly in "middle age", no matter what definition you use (and no matter what we wish to think). Therefore, we really do need to take more care with our diet and eat more healthfully (healthily?). A diet consisting of lots of restaurant food is mostly antithetical to a healthy diet, unless it involves lots of veggies and salads. Which ours does not. Also, it is important that ThePinkThing learns to eat well. She likes veggies and salad, and we should encourage that. TheHusband, OTOH, doesn't really do veggies. He's a meat-and-potatoes-hold-the-potatoes kinda guy. And my gluten-hypersensitivity also complicates things. (God, I miss good bagels and pizza. A lot.)

So, on the one hand, I'm scared of cooking, and meal choices in my household are fraught with the minefields of food sensitivities and narrow or conflicting palates. On the other hand, we need to eat more healthful foods, I'm bored of my current menu (and, believe me, I'm being kind calling it a menu), and takeout/restaurant food is more expensive. And I don't have a housekeeper or wife to do this for me. (I've joked many times over the years that my BFF is my wife. I wish it were the truth. She loves to read books as much as I do, likes similar foods, watches HGTV with me, and likes different flavors of Ben and Jerry's so we don't fight over the ice cream. And she is a wonderful cook. But she lives on a different continent, so I can't depend on my wife to fix the culinary problems in my house. But I digress.)

In that prior blogpost, I listed several things that my cookbook-writer aunt suggested I do to improve my (lack of) culinary skillz:
  1. Get a grill
  2. Experiment with soups
  3. Brown the meat before cooking in a sauce
  4. Move beyond potato bread
  5. Buy a small freezer
  6. Try recipes (there are a million-bazillion recipes online)
Out of these six recommendations, I've accomplished one (#3), failed at one (#4 -- TPT really likes potato bread, and I'm now stuck with the GF stuff, so it doesn't matter), kinda done one (#6 -- I have tried a few recipes, really, I'm not fibbing), and not done the others (#1, 2, and 5).

This all leads to Neurondoc's Culinary Adventures (in 3-D?). This week, I've surfed the web looking for recipes to widen our household's food horizons. And solicited ideas on how to make weekday meal prep easier. I don't want to spend the entire weekend buying, preparing, and cooking food.

One of my friends recommended that I drag my crockpot out of purgatory. (Yes, my house house has a purgatory. It actually has several purgatories, most of which are high up out of my reach. This particular purgatory is the only-occasionally-visited cabinet above the refrigerator...) I've found several recipes that I think the three of us will enjoy. I will be cooking some over the weekend. We'll eat the meals (outcomes? products? experimental results?) next week, and I'll report back.


Phiala said...

I was going to suggest crockpot, but I see you've gotten that already. They're brilliant for low-effort soups, stews, roasts: things that can be meat-based but have veggies in for health and character.

Random Michelle K said...

Will Larry eat pasta? I've made several really good and really easy recipes recently.

I've seen GF pasta in our grocery store, so if you can do that, these might work for you.

I would also recommend having TPT be your sous chef--that might make it more fun for both of her. And who knows--maybe you can make cooking one of her chores--assuming she enjoys it?

Things we've made recently and loved:
Butternut squash risotto
Penne alla vodka
linguini with over easy egg

I've got several more recipes to try, all of which look delicious.

And I second the soups.

Make large batches, get 4cup screw cap containers, a then you have an easy meal to pull from the freezer on a bad night.
I've got good recipes for
Chili (we use ground turkey)
Deviled chicken soup
Broccoli cheese soup
Potato soup

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I wish, wish, wish I could spend a few days with you, showing you some simple basics and then riffing off of them for variety! I love to cook *and* love to teach and I guarantee I could raise your comfort level in the kitchen, as well as your skill level--the two go hand in hand. Rats and drat that we're so far apart. :(

The key to me has little to do with brilliant recipes or fancy techniques. It's having a system to maintain a good pantry, to do meal planning on a weekly basis, to go to the grocery store *once and once ONLY* (Saturday works for me--my idea of Hell is a grocery store at 5:15pm on a week night!), and then on Sunday afternoon, do what prep and cooking ahead is practical for the following week. Taking an hour or two to do that saves me triple that time during the week, plus much less washing up pots and pans and NO fighting the after-work crowds in the stores. If I had to start from zero every night and run to the store 3 or 4 times a week, I'd be batshit crazy and/or we would starve in very short order!

neurondoc said...

I'm trying to come up with foods that we will all eat, which is one of the big problems.

Generally I like soup, though my favorite (mushroom barley, sob) is now and forever forbidden to me. TH and TPT don't dig soup like I do. Chili is one of about 5 things I can make well. TH loves it and TPT hates it. Sigh. I love broccoli cheese soup. TH thinks broccoli is the food of the devil. TPT hates potatoes in any form except potato chips. Weirdo. So the potato soup is out.

We like pasta. A lot. Problem -- GF pasta is meh, and I can't eat the regular stuff. However, a good sauce could be ladled over both... The linguini one sounds interesting. Recipe?

Kay, I wish you lived nearby for many reasons, this being only one of them. Meal planning is one of my stumbling blocks. Since I don't like food shopping (and my back HATES it), meal planning is a daunting task. One thing I am trying to remedy is having enough basics in the house so the menu can be a bit more varied -- such as raw onions. I don't keep them around because I don't cook and then they go bad. Vicious cycle. I did find a site that has freezer-to-crockpot-to-table dishes. All one-pot cooking. You collect the ingredients, put them in a large freezer bag, and freeze them. Then take the bag out and defrost in the fridge the day before you plan to put it into the slowcooker... I like that approach.

Phiala said...

Freezer stuff is SO helpful, whether raw ingredients or prepared meals.

A suprising number of staples can be purchased pre-chopped and frozen, like raw onions. That might help with both the supplies and the prep time issues.

Anne C. said...

Yes to frozen vegetables (nowadays they are as good as nearly fresh, since quick freezing preserves a lot of the nutrients). And yes to quick meals that involve just putting things together. One of my standbys is a chili that is pretty much sauteed ground meat (beef, turkey, bison, whatever I have), a couple tins of beans, a tin of hominy, a tin of tomatoes, and a jar of salsa. All of those things have a dozen versions (I substituted black beans for pinto, and hominy for corn, for example.) that make it adjustable to your family's taste buds.
Just because nutsos like me like to chop vegetables to add to things doesn't mean you have to.

Danny G said...

At least I know you won't be cooking soda chicken.

Xine said...

What about finding a cooking class for TPT? She's old enough to learn to cook!