Holy $@!#, I Can Cook!

I made only one New Year’s resolution for 2011, and that is to focus on feeding my family wholesome, real, FRESH food.  This may not sound challenging to many of you, but to me, it’s a significant change.  I am enormously intimidated by the kitchen.  Despite my proclamations of being a terrible cook, I am actually not that bad.  I can reliably make meatloaf, mac ‘n’ cheese, pot roast, pasta sauce, baked salmon, and a few other meals that my family and friends gobble up.  So what’s standing in the way of feeding my family great food? To get to the bottom of this mystery, I consulted a professional, and I have bad news. I have been diagnosed with the following:

  • Empty Fridge Syndrome: I hate grocery shopping. I tend to let the refrigerator get so empty that I’m eating butter for lunch before I go grocery shopping. 
  • Last-Minute Disease: I never think about dinner until dinner time.  Usually by that time I am so hungry I just want a bowl of cereal for dinner.  Clearly this also results in me not making a good dinner for my children.
  • Indecision Disorder: I can never decide what to make. I’m not one of those people who can just throw things together.
  • Perfectionism Affliction: I am a perfectionist. Failure is not an option, so I don’t experiment much.

I am also painfully optimistic at times, and believe it’s never too late to become a rock star in the kitchen. One of my awesome friends, who is a commuting, working mom with two children (soon to be three!) saw my blog post and sent me some great advice (love you, Q!).  In a nutshell, she said to set the menu for the week in advance, do all your grocery shopping, then prepare as much as you can over the weekend. This way during the week you have less to do to get meals on the table. Fantastic! I can do this.

I started by arming myself with two new cookbooks by Jessica Seinfeld. Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food has recipes designed to add extra fruits and vegetables to meals by hiding them in food in the form of purees.  Brilliant!  Her new book, Double Delicious!: Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives is aimed at family-friendly meals that can be prepared quickly.  Plus, she offers great advice on how to keep a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator, how to shop for food, and how to read nutrition labels.

by Jessica Seinfeld
New cookbooks in hand, I got to work. I decided to pick two recipes to make for dinner this week (baby steps). I chose:
  • Tacos — from Deceptively Delicious, the recipe includes sweet potato puree in the taco meat.  Made these on Monday and they were awesome. J-Man ate two and declared “the meat is the best part!”
  • Aloha Chicken Kabobs — also from Deceptively Delicious, this recipe includes sweet potato puree and pineapple puree in the breading.  These were excellent, too. They were a bit more difficult to make, since it required dipping the chicken into the egg mixture then the bread mixture before cooking. And the egg mixture was really thick, so I had to actually spoon it on the chicken, and it kept falling off.  But all that aside, they tasted amazing and I will definitely be making this again.

On Wednesday, Jessica posted a new recipe on her website, Do It Delicious, for “Freaky Greek Pasta“. It looked so good and so easy that I had to try it. So I ran out to the store, picked up feta and sliced almonds, and made that for dinner tonight. It was very simple to make. I used farfalle instead of penne, so it didn’t look as pretty as Jessica’s, but it tasted way better than it looked. My son was upset that everything was mixed together and asked me to take the broccoli out. He seemed okay with the cheese and nuts being mixed in. So, he ate his pasta/cheese/nut blend separate from his broccoli. Hey, whatever works.

So, back to the New Year’s resolution. It’s only the 13th of January. It would be premature to declare victory at this point. But I am proud of my progress so far and am also really enjoying it.

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6 Responses to Holy $@!#, I Can Cook!

  1. Annalivia says:

    I have to admit I am a little cheesed that all my efforts to convince you of this totally failed (cos its all about meeeeeeeeeeeee!!!), but I am really glad you finally got over that hurdle. Jokes aside: Go you! YAY! And that pasta dish sounds awesome. I have to try it too.

  2. Christine says:

    I'm willing to try again, Anna! I probably still have the recipes you sent me. I remember being intimidated because you referred to things by weight, GRAMS no less. I think in terms of teaspoons and cups, not ounces and grams! I don't have a food scale, and estimating is a bad idea for me (that darned perfectionism).

  3. Cindy Martinez says:

    You have to be realistic. Plan 2, maybe 3 meals from a cookbook. Stock a good pantry and freezer, and then type what you have into a recipe search engine (I like Everyday Food–they even have an iphone app!). I'll type in "Italian sausage and broccoli", and voila! three different meal choices appear.You have to remember that cooking dinner is not like baking pastries–not an exact science. You can fudge the ingredients. Eg. if it calls for almonds, and you only have walnuts, go for it anyway! If it needs 1 cup of sour cream and you have 1/2 a crusty cup in the bottom of the container, add a little half and half to what you have and forge on.

  4. Christine says:

    Great advice, Cindy, thanks! I've been looking for something where I can put in an ingredient and get ideas on what to make with it. I'll check out Everyday Food. Not treating cooking as an exact science is problematic for me, but I'm getting better. I substituted red bell pepper for poblano pepper in a recipe and guess what, it still tasted good!! 😉

  5. Cindy Martinez says:

    See? You're fudging already. yay!I also just read that Real Simple has a new app called "No Time to Cook". Have not checked it out, but might be a good resource for last minute cooking-from-pantry ideas.

  6. Cotton says:

    We eat tacos all the time around here!

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