Saturday, October 13, 2007

We're cooking now!

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.

Every day.

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.


Lissete said...

I'm a great BAKER... but I don't enjoy cooking. I love my crockpot! Just throw it in and wait. Fortunately for me, Danny will eat practically anything! :)

Steff said...

Ahh, a friend after my own heart! I hope to marry a guy that knows how and likes to cook! What about she a picky eater?

My compliments to the chef! :)

Valerie said...

you GO, girl!
and no worries...Alton will never know!

Melissa said...

Steff, Anna Marie goes through phases.

Like right now, she's refusing to eat PB&J. It must be a school thing, because before she'd eat it for every meal if I'd let her.

And, for no apparent reason, she'll say she doesn't like something she's had plenty of times before. So, I make her try at least two bites of something before she tells me she doesn't like it.

I do not, repeat, DO NOT fix her a separate meal. She eats what I serve her, or she does without. Harsh, I know, but I'm not a short-order cook!

Besides, my mom did that with Amanda, and we all see how that turned out - she's a vegetarian now, but she doesn't really like vegetables.

(And, by the way, Amanda agrees with my stance on this!)

Irritable Mother said...

Good for you for learning and branching out!
I do enjoy cooking (some days more than others...) and am trying to get my daughter interested. I think she should start learning how to do a few more things (she's 11) and what you shared about your experience confirms my thoughts. So thanks! :)

Melissa said...

I think it's important to get kids involved in the kitchen. I let Anna Marie help in small ways - like emptying cans into the pot, or stirring something. She's only six, but it helps her feel like she's part of the process.

Of course, my sister has taken her to downtown Memphis to feed the homeless, and handed her a (butter) knife and some potatoes and let her chop them! I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far!

Susie Q said...

I am really proud of you! Go Melissa!
I am not a *great* cook but I do a few things pretty well. I should after 29 years of marriage I guess!
Actually, I should be much better than I am!

I think it is great to get kids involved as AM has...Grace loves to do things in the kitchen but does get bored if it is not *fun*. Like just checking on things to boil and waiting for pans to heat...she does not get that it is just part of what a cook has to do!

I think AM should get her package by tomorrow...Bill boxed it and mailed it last Thursday.

Have a sweet Tuesday!