Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Like to Cook

Some of you may not know this... but I like to cook. I like trying new recipes, experiencing new ingredients, and learning new techniques. I loved watching the food network before we canceled our satellite to same some cash.

I'm surprised how much I like to cook because... I never did it when I was young. Unless you count making hamburger helper... or spaghetti. My Mom was a single mom for many years and so she didn't have the luxury of cooking a lot of meals from scratch. It was often my sister Marie who cooked for us and it was always a box dinner because well, Marie was a teenager cooking for 7 kids.

When I got to college, I got a job at the school cafeteria working the breakfast shift and I learned a lot about cooking... in bulk. On the breakfast shift, I made 8 hotel pans of white rice (hawaiins love rice for breakfast, it is weird). Then I made 6 dozen poached eggs, a whole heap of hash browns, and then I made pancake mix for two hundred pancakes and made pancakes to order for 3 hours every morning.

Even though I was technically cook and was cooking... I really didn't learn a lot about food. I never saw a recipe in the kitchen and was really more of a prep cook than anything else. Although I did work the egg station occasionally, so I learned how to make eggs many different ways: poached, sunnyside up, over easy, over medium, over hard, scrambled, and medium.

I learned a little when I moved off campus and had to cook meals for myself rather then eat them all in the cafeteria. I didn't technically have a kitchen in my off campus place so much as a burner, one saucepan, and a microwave. One of my roommates was a Home-Ec major and she taught me how to make soup from scratch. Since it was one of the only things we could make with a burner and a saucepan. But, most of my cooking in that little apartment consisted of Easy Mac, Hot Pockets, and Peanut Butter Fingers.

When I moved home to Utah and moved in with my sister Marie, my cooking expanded a little bit. Since I finally had a stove and an oven, I was able to make things like frozen lasagna and frozen ravioli. Mostly, Marie and I spent a lot of time eating cereal and lean cuisine. Oh yeah, we dined like queens!

Side note: I never ate cereal or even drank milk while I lived in Hawaii because milk was 7 dollars a gallon. On my very limited budget, that just wasn't happening.

When I started dating Matt I quickly realized that he was a cook. On our second date, he made orange pork loin, green beans, and roasted potatoes. Things that I had never cooked in my life but that he was completely comfortable with cooking.

While dating, he taught me a little about cooking. Showed me how to pick fruits and vegetables at the store, how to make apple pie, how to clean shrimp, and what a pork loin is.

When we got married, I knew it was my wifely duty to cook dinners for my husband and feed him good food. I had even received recipes (from sister Ashton) for my bridal shower and I was armed with tools to feed my man. But, he was severely underwhelmed by my taco soup (which it turns out he is allergic to) and my spaghetti with sauce from a jar.

So, we set out on a journey together to build a recipe book of our very own with recipes that we both like and that we can cook all the time. Cooking became an activity/hobby that we could do together. It was quality time together doing something we both enjoyed.

I started reading cooking blogs and watching the food network to get meal ideas and trying new recipes. Matt and I began to love going to Bed Bath and Beyond to look at all the cool cooking tools. We suddenly had more kitchen appliances than we had space for and I loved it!

When Nicole came along, I started experimenting with making my own baby food. Then, we she was on table foods, I started to make a menu for us so that we could do shopping just once a week and have all of our meals planned and it made dinner even lower stress. Meal planning is definitely my least favorite part of cooking. Some weeks I stand in front of our meal plan calendar and I just do not know what to cook. I go through our 20 recipes or so that we make all the time and none of them sound good or challenging. So, then I will often pull out my millions of cookbooks and start looking there for dinner ideas.

Once Dan came along, cooking got harder. It is fairly challenging to cook with two little ones clinging to my legs while I'm in the kitchen. And, with Matt in school, we haven't gotten to cook together as often as we did in the past. It is either him cooking before I get home from work so that he can eat before he heads to class or me cooking after he has already left for class. But, despite that cooking has become more challenging, I still love cooking.

Here is what a typical menu looks like in the Kimball house.

Monday: Shrimp and Spaghetti (one of Nicole's favorites)

Tuesday: Fish Tacos with a cilantro coleslaw, fresh tomatoes, and El Pato

Wednesday: Kielbasa, red beans, black beans, tomato sauce, creole seasoning over white rice

Thursday: Chicken, roasted red potatoes, and roasted broccoli

Friday: Homemade Pizza (our favorite that we usually cook once a week)

Saturday: Leftovers (after cooking all week, we end up with a lot of leftovers)
Sunday: Pulled pork sliders with homemade coleslaw

Cooking isn't always easy, and it isn't always cheap. Matt and I have gone organic on a lot of things because it turns out that the kids are allergic to the hormones or antibiotics that are pumped into cows and chickens. Buying organic makes things even more expensive. But, we are trying very hard to put good food into our kids and ourselves. I ate a lot of crappy food when I was young and now that I have experienced quality food, I can't go back.

Frozen meals and highly processed foods just don't taste as good to me as they once did. I tried eating a hot pocket a few months ago because I was hungry and they provide them for free at my work. I took one bite into that thing and it tasted like cardboard stuffed with lava. It was disgusting. But, I remember eating them all the time in college and thinking they are delicious. My taste buds have changed.

I am more open to trying new foods than I ever was when I was younger. I've even started to retry foods that I thought I hated and have discovered that they are good again (blueberries, peaches, mangos, ect...). I love food.

All this cooking and eating yummy foods is perhaps why I gained 40 pounds after I got married, but that is okay because eating healthy and learning how to choose healthy foods and portioning my food is just another step in my food learning process. Now that I am learning about the fat and calorie content of food, I am learning how to slim down the recipes that I make all the time and make them even healthier for me and my kids.

Instead of butter, I use olive oil (or applesauce when baking). Instead of just white flour, I mix have white, half wheat. Or, wheat pasta instead of regular pasta. Or I cut the cheese out meals that don't really need them. Stuff like that.

I'm continually learning more about food and cooking all the time and I am not stopping.

The other night, I thought I might make a fruit topping for the waffles I was making for dinner and I knew we had whipping cream that I could make into whipped cream. So, I cut up some apples and peaches, threw them into a sauce pan with a little bit of butter and some brown sugar and cooked them until they softened and put them over waffles with a little cream on top. It was awesome! I had never done it before, neither did I have a recipe, but I knew in theory what to do and tasted as I went and it turned out great!

I watch a lot of Master Chef and the home cooks just seem to instinctively know how to make things they have never made before because they know the theory and the technique behind it. That is what I want to do. I want to understand so much about food that I can make things I have never made before because I know the theory.

So, I shall keep cooking and keep eating.


Lisa said...

All that food is making me hungry! I like to cook as well; it's nice knowing that what your family is eating is healthy... and you know what's in it! :)

Marie said...

Pregnant women should not read this post because now I want all that food. You and Matt are good cooks. Anthon and I love going to your house for dinner 'cuz we always get to try something new.