Actually, I should say, I'm cooking now.
Some of you may know, some of you may not, but I'm no cook.
Growing up, my mom wasn't much of a cook. Not in the sense of, say, her mother. It wasn't entirely her fault, though - her mother never let any of her girls help her out in the kitchen. We had lots of (baked) pork chops (I didn't know it was possible to fry them until I met my mother-in-law!), spaghetti (Ronco noodles with Ragu sauce), and chili (ground beef, three cans of Bush's chili hot beans, a can of tomato paste, and a bean can full of water).
Maybe the occasional baked chicken breast, meatloaf, or some vegetable beef soup.
Really. There may be more, but that's what I remember. My dad is very, very particular about his food, and if my mom cooked something he hadn't approved, he wasn't very nice about it.
But that's another story.
There are four of us kids, and my mom didn't have an "outside job" so she did all the cooking. All of it. Once in a while, she'd tell me to do something with the chili or spaghetti, but there was no "assigned dinner night" for any of us. Amanda learned to bake, but all I knew how to cook was chili and spaghetti.
When I went to college, it was Ramen noodles, Kraft Mac and Cheese, or eating out.
Then I went and got myself hitched. I had a husband, one who was used to his mom cooking these huge old-school meals.
She made her own spaghetti sauce, the kind that had to simmer all day. I told him before I said "I do" that ours would come from a jar. He was surprised to taste that store-bought sauce could be edible.
I did change my chili habits, thanks to our pastor's wife. She introduced me to Chili Magic - open up the can, add a can of diced tomatoes and meat, and heat through. It makes much more manageable quantities of chili for my small family than does my mom's monster recipe.
One of the other things I "learned" to make after I got married was Hamburger Helper. My dad doesn't like casseroles, or things like Hamburger Helper, so we never had it.
It came in a box. It was pre-measured. I already had mad ground beef-browing skillz. I was set!
We also got into those skillet meals, the ones that come frozen with vegetables and sauce and you add your own meat.
If it came in a box or out of the freezer, I could make it.
But now - I'm using actual recipes! I'm making actual meals, meals that don't consist of chicken grilled on the George Foreman with frozen veggies in the mircowave!
What has brought about this food revolution?
Sam Zien. The Cooking Guy. He has a show on Discovery Health called Just Cook This.
I feel like I'm cheating on Alton Brown. Valerie, don't tell!
But Sam's stuff is so simple. And either relatively healthy, or easy to modify.
I've cooked two of his recipes in the past week, and have the ingredients for a third in my fridge right now.
Monday night I made tortilla soup. I left out the avocados and tortillas for garnish, and used canned chicken instead of one from the deli, but it was really, really good.
Last night, I made chimichitos. I got low-carb tortillas that were one POINT each. It called for 8" tortillas, and I accidently got the 6" kind, but it just meant that Jason and I had two each instead of one. The leftover tortillas are going to be for chicken tacos. Sam's recipe calls for shrimp, but Jason isn't a big shrimp fan (and I already have chicken) so we're having chicken.
Jason is not NEARLY as picky as my dad about food. And he doesn't throw a fit if I make something he doesn't like - it's wonderful! He just gently lets me know if there are any improvements I could make.
For instance, I know he doesn't like mushrooms or onions, so I don't put them in his food. And last night, he said that next time I should add black olives to the chimichitos.
Oh, and cheese, because I'd forgotten to get some at the store.
So, move over Rachel Ray. There's a new chef in town.