Thursday, January 25, 2018

The evolution of my cooking

I had some movie on in the background yesterday and I heard a commercial for Birds Eye Viola Skillet meals.  (I used to know them as Chicken Voila back in the day.)  When you grow up in the late 70's and early 80's to a single working mom that doesn't really cook, packaged foods are what you exist on.  Magic Fries, Pizza Rolls, canned La Choy Chicken Chow Mein, Totino's mini pizzas, Lunchables...yeah, healthy.  I've been experimenting with cooking since I was about eight years old.  I was never afraid to try anything in the kitchen.  The first time I made dinner for the Mr, I remembered he said his favorite dish was Green Pepper Steak without the green peppers.  LOL  I had a wok and I figured how hard could it be.  We didn't have the internet back then and I didn't have any Chinese cookbooks so I had to wing it as to what I thought was in there.  I cooked the steak with green pepper in a homemade soy sauce gravy I thickened with cornstarch that stayed lumpy.  I removed the green peppers so it still had the taste and not the skeeve factor for him.  I was kind of horrified because it tasted nothing like Chinese food to me and he thought it was the best thing ever at 19 that a chick wanted to go to the trouble of making his favorite dish for their first dinner date.

When we got married, I don't remember a whole lot of what I cooked then but I remember it was basically throw together meals.  I don't think it was frozen pizza all the time but there were a lot of things from bags and boxes involved.  When we started losing weight the first time, I cringe when I think of how we did it.  Lean Pockets, no salt tortilla chips and maybe an apple for lunch.  Yes, Chicken Voila was involved and they were dang good, to be honest.  Whatever made it easy for me to have a dinner we could feel okay about after working a long day was all I cared about.  My motto was to do as little as possible because who has the strength to do a lot after stressing out at work all day?  When we had company over is when I'd break out the homemade stuff.  I always brought out my best dishes and the Mr would say in front of everyone "I love it when we have company, she never cooks like this any other time."  He wasn't wrong but it still hurt my feelings a little.  When we got out of control with our weight and needed to reel it in, I know we couldn't go back to packaged meals for every meal of the day.  Even if it was better than we originally did, the saying of "she never cooks like this unless we have company" stuck with me and I wanted to do better than that. 

My challenge was to create dishes that he would think were better than any restaurant but still healthy and wouldn't derail our efforts.  He hasn't made the crack about me never cooking the good stuff except for company in almost 10 years. I won't say that I don't use the occasional helping hand in the frozen department but I make sure they are not chemical laden or have a bunch of crap in them.  It's usually either TJ's gnocchi, quinoa or polenta they're all good ingredient wise and then their frozen veggies.  The other stuff is almost all homemade and you know what, it takes the same amount of time for me to make the homemade stuff as it did to dump something from a bag.  If you batch cook and use a Food Saver, (affiliate link) you save even more time.  Heck, last night my dinner only took 5 minutes and we had tacos!  I took a frozen thing of ground turkey breast and stuck it in my Hot Logic Mini (affiliate link) and let it go all morning.  When I went to make my lunch, I checked and the turkey was cooked, I added the spices and then put it in the pyrex that goes with it and back into the Hot Logic so it could stay heated until dinner time.  So my main dish was done and I just needed to heat up my veggies.  It's so much more satisfying for me to know where my ingredients are coming from or that we eat as minimally processed as possible.  It's nowhere near the amount of trouble I used to think it was and it's so much more enjoyable for us.  If you think you don't have time to cook at least half homemade, I can tell you it just takes a little pre-planning or pulling your meat from the freezer the night before you go to bed so everything is all ready to roll come dinner time the next day.  You might be tempted to say "well you can prep all you want, you work from home."  That's true, I could but I don't.  I get just as caught up and distracted and work just as hard so it's VERY rare for me to have a meal all prepped.  But I can tell you, it's worth it!

How has your cooking evolved as you've gotten older?

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  1. I get those pizza rolls occasionally. They are not as good as the memories of them. My cooking has changed as my patience has grown. Also known as getting old. My old days were mostly beef and pork. Now almost never beef except for an occasional steak on the grill or burger. I make a hot breakfast every day I am off. I never did that back in the day. I do have a lit more time for cooking since my house of 4 changed to my house of 2.
    Enjoy your day!

  2. I've been lucky enough to be there and benefit from your cooking evolution. It really was interesting that when you had to cook the healthiest food coincides with when you made your greatest leaps in terms of just the utter creativity and ability that you have. I'm sorry I used to say that to visitors, I had no idea it bothered you to that extent. But I most certainly have no reason to say that now because you always make amazing meals that are so much better and healthier than I could ever go out and get anywhere else. I am truly blessed to have you.

  3. I once saw a movie where the mom's "cookbook" was a list of restaurant phone numbers for takeout and delivery. It was a funny moment in the show, but it was very much my reality for a long time. I'm better now, but I'm still working on cooking more and restauranting less. I like the frozen skillet meals once in a while, and even more rarely I get a craving for pizza rolls. Mostly though when I do cook, I use a combination of prepared and scratch stuff.

  4. I'm about half and half when it comes to cooking. When we actually eat a meal together and I plan it out, I do quite a bit from scratch. But when we each have our own things going on I tend to just throw something in the microwave for myself. I don't enjoy cooking as much as I used to and I just kind of want to get fuel in me and be done with it. What I have been doing since the beginning of the year is sticking to fruits and vegetables at lunchtime and that's it. I get too foggy otherwise. I've liked being able to get in all the necessary servings at that time because I'm often too tired in the evenings to make them, so this way the requirement is done.

  5. The frozen thing that I use, daily, are flash frozen veggies.

    Nothing added, just ready to go. I dump a bag or two in most everything I cook. I add it at the end and let the rest of the dish thaw/warm so the veggies are not mushy. Sometimes the veggies are a substitute (green beans for noodles), sometimes they are just add on.

    So quick, so easy, and tremendously increases our veggies consumption and makes more servings per recipe.

    I batch cook and then divide into individual serving containers. So I can really see the difference.


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