When I was a kid, I listened to everything my mom said about cooking, I paid attention, but never really volunteered to do much of it. I did like to bake/decorate cakes, though! Once I got a little older, I made salads for my dad, I’m actually pretty good at that! Then my mom started working, and had some odd hours (she stayed at home with us for quite a few years) and so I was asked to put casseroles in the oven, cook hamburgers, etc. I didn’t enjoy it though.
Fast forward a few years to getting married. We ate a lot of frozen pizza. We tried our hand at hamburger helper. I always made a lot of ‘stuff’ at Christmas, but that was always shared with co-workers. Occasionally we dipped into our family recipe book. With both of us working though, it was few and far between. It wasn’t until we had kids that we decided to make more use of our recipes, go in search of new ones, and do more ‘special things’ as the kids grew.
My husband repeatedly had asked me to do some sort of menu planning, and it just sounded too boring. We’d tried that before and ended up eating a lot of hotdogs. However, being a lot older and wiser, I figured we could set aside a day or two a month for something junky like hot dogs, and put some really good hearty foods like meatloaf with mashed potatoes alongside hamburgers and Parmesan chicken (grilled, not fried). Anything that’s not immediately snapped up in leftovers gets frozen and used for something else. We make our own frozen pre-cooked meatballs, too. I used them last week when Brennan seemed like she wasn’t going to eat anything else (teething, again).
This winter has proven to be one full of baked goods, roasts that stretch into other meals, budgeting and freezing leftovers, and in general trying to use all we can (and doing better than we ever have before). We’re buying fewer ‘quick’ things, planning better, and hopefully eating better meals because of it. Certainly there have been only one or two times since we started this in October that we’ve forgotten to thaw something or been caught unprepared. Usually that was once or twice a week, and ended up costing us big bucks in over buying at the store or visiting the local pizza place. Now it’s all more special, homemade biscuits are less expensive, big pots of soup last for several meals and stretch a dollar, and I have fewer fears about things ‘not working’. After all, if it doesn’t work, it’s just a lesson to be learned, right?
What’s your cooking story? Do you cook at all? I’m always astounded by all the celebrities that swear that can’t even cook an egg for breakfast during those chats with daytime hosts. Do they not have time or are they just that bad? How do you ‘fare’?
Growing up, I had plenty of practice. My brothers were tortured with all kinds of strange dishes, since I rarely read directions/recipes. I am not a natural cook (like my husband). I need instructions. I have a few things I do well, but my husband does most of the cooking. He does ask about “hocky pucks” from time to time. To the rest of the world that would be my terriyaki pork chops. Taste great but you could also make a terrific slapshot with one.
My mom was definitely a casseroles/leftovers gal and I sort of despised them after awhile. I wasted sooo much food when I was single wanting variety all of the time. I’ve always liked baking, but only discovered the joy of cooking maybe 5 years ago. If I had more time and less distractions, I would happily make a fancy meal each night. Since that isn’t the case and life gets crazy in a new way with older kids who have school and homework, I try to hit the mark somewhere in the middle. A few years ago, I decided to try several routes, using Every Day Food and Cook’s Illustrated as my guides. I strove for more variety, but overshot and that was super pricey. I then looked for recipes that shared ingredients throughout the week to cut down on costs. I’ve gone through meal planning phases and like that best, but I’m not there right now. Mainly, I keep ingredients on hand for my go-to meals all the time, then search for some new ones every week.
I still sometimes wonder how we manage to eat every night. It’s gotten harder with the kids having evening activities and me being the only one available most nights to take them. Thankfully I did marry a man who will eat leftovers, so when we do cook, we usually have a couple of nights’ worth. When he’s working and definitely won’t be home, we have more macaroni, chicken nuggets, corn dog nuggets, popcorn shrimp, pasta, and breaded pork cutlets. It’s just easier than a fight. I won’t make separate meals for them, so they get the stuff they (well, the girls…Jacob will eat anything) eat without problems when I’m flying solo. But Mark really likes to cook, and I like to eat, so when he’s home we do a lot more. Certainly things that take longer are only done when he’s off, even if it’s easy. Like cashew chicken. It’s easy, and everyone loves it, but it takes forever and makes a big mess. So not something I will do on my own. I find that if I get some meat out of the freezer, then I will figure out something to do with it, because obviously I don’t want it to go to waste. Otherwise, I’m less likely to cook “real.” We do better in the summer, when grilling is easy and not too bad for us, and we like to frequent the farmers markets for lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
I would like to do more soups and crock pot meals. I also should do tacos and quesadillas more often. Those go over well, I just don’t usually think about it. Have you ever bought the uncooked tortilla shells? We bought them by accident once, and had the best quesadillas made from home ever. We just bought a big pack at costco last week (on purpose this time) and had carnitas, quesadillas, rice, and chips and salsa on Sunday. The kids will be having cheese quesadillas before dance on Thursday now. I feel good that I know what we are having one day 🙂 Tonight will be a fast food night. We spent two hours at the dance studio on Tuesday nights, and I’ve discovered that actual cooking just doesn’t work that night. not when we would have to eat dinner at 4 to make it in time. So I drop off Lauren, run to fast food joint of Jacob’s choice to get food for him, he eats in the car, then I run to McDonald’s and get food for the girls, then go inside and Jacob has tumbling and Lauren eats her food in between classes. Then we just hang out for the last hour, waiting for Lauren’s other classes to end. One time both kids had hot lunch at school, so I took a jar of peanut butter, loaf of bread, prepackaged fruit, and a couple small bags of chips. I made sandwiches while sitting on the floor in the waiting room. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but it isn’t fast food anyway.
It’s hard to always work it out. I’d like to try new things, but I don’t like figuring out when meat is cooked. Helps that we got a meat thermometer. I grew up with my mom overcooking EVERYTHING just to be sure it was cooked enough that we couldn’t get sick from undercooked. My favorite food website is http://www.food.com.
I am rambling though (no surprise there, right Jill?) and never addressed my cooking story. I don’t have much of one. I already said my mom overcooked everything and didn’t ask for help in the kitchen. I baked a lot, but never cooked growing up. And all of her meals consisted of a meat, a potato or rice, and a can of veggies. The only time I had a veggie besides green beans, corn, or peas was when they did a roast and put in carrots. Dad made stew once in a while, too, and that had carrots. But never did an onion or pepper enter my house growing up and everything was very bland. Mom said spice hurt her tummy. So we ate over cooked food with no flavor.
Then I moved to Peoria and while Mark and I didn’t live together, we were together all of the time. And he grew up with a great cook and liked to be in the kitchen and try new foods, and had been living alone for a few years. So he took the lead on all of the meals. It wasn’t until I stayed home with Jacob that I became really in charge, and then of course spending a lot of time and effort on meals was just not a priority. But I’m trying to learn a little. I have the ability to cook more now, simply because the kids are getting older and I’m not breaking up fights as much or have a little one attached to my boob (which you know is possible while cooking, but certainly not ideal), and I can see them better just from the layout of this house, which makes it easier to spend time in the kitchen.
My kids like to help in the kitchen. It usually drives me nuts how they “help.” I need to be more patient and not care about the mess. Because I don’t want them growing up like me. I want them to like beign in the kitchen and like seeing what they can come up with. They cooked an entire meal in December. Made it super simple, with a bagged salad that Jacob had to tear up and put in bowls and add bacos, cheese, and croutons. Girls did the breadsticks (frozen, just put on the pan) and the pasta (a pasta bake with sauce and water and pasta mixed together and put in the oven). All I did was open stuff and take things in and out of the oven. They are learning how to turn on the oven and the stove top. I would like to be able to tell Lauren to turn down the stove if I can’t get to it. Jacob can work the microwave. So they are already better off than I was.
But I’d still choose to bake over cook any day. But I do like to eat, so I suppose there is hope for me 🙂
My word, when Grandpa called me a Rattle Ass, he was right!!!!