Saturday, October 02, 2010

Enjoying Cooking...

160:365 (112b:365) – Naturally, I cook dinner in heels.

I've always been a reluctant cook. I'm not predisposed to come home, bring out amazing exotic ingredients, and whip up something worthy of a Michelin 5-star. I'm more of a come home and crash on the couch and forget about dinner sort of girl. Then I get hungry and end up binging on chips and chocolate chips. Well anything with the word "chip" in it, really.

Recently, though, I've noticed that cooking and baking has started to become a calming part of my routine. I am starting to enjoy the part of day where I go into the kitchen, pull out those awesome ingredients, take out my pots and pans and let something delicious happen!

Here are some of the small changes I've made over the last six or so years that have made cooking seem more like an art and less like a chore:
  • Buy the best ingredients you can afford. What's the difference between my cake and the cake next to it at the potluck? It has the most amazing almond extract, and lots of it too! And, it's completely gone by the end of it! I used to be the girl with the $50 every two weeks grocery budget. I ate a lot of things boiled to death and doused in hot sauce. I've learned that allowing myself to spend a lot more on groceries gives me the wiggle room to try out that new cheese, pair a bottle of wine with my dinner, or buy some over the top gourmet ingredient. (I spend about $150 every fifteen days now...).
  • Eat seasonally. And Locally. A tomato in February tastes terrible. A tomato in june fresh off your friend's vine eaten with a little salt is a slice of heaven! Eating locally means you'll be eating seasonally, and you may even get to know a few of the farmers around you! I shop at the farmers market a lot and I also get a lot of produce for free from the world around me - If you can, try to take advantage of the surplus of other people's gardens! I've gotten things like batches of fruit for canning from freecycle, squashes from friends, and peppers and herbs from neighbors!
  • Get professional grade tools (or as nice as you can afford.) This is a huge one for me. I always made do with ikea grade thin aluminum pans, knives that barely cut, and appliances I purchased for $20 and failed six months later (or barely did their job!). When I got married, I registered for obnoxiously over the top kitchen equipment I wasn't sure if I would ever use and sure enough, people purchased it for us! We received a Le Creuset sauce pan which is used almost daily, a giant stock pot that's used weekly, a kitchen aid mixer, and indirectly, a set of J.A. Henckels knives. I would never have been able to afford these things on my own, but we do make sure we try to buy quality over quantity. A little upfront investment does a lot - I expect to be using those things until my 25th wedding anniversary! Finally, a lot of things can be found at thrift stores. I've found most of my mixing bowls, measuring cups, and some random kitchen appliances there and they have served me well. This winter, a friend of mine purchased a $175 swiss cast iron enamel pan for a few bucks!
  • Keep the kitchen clean! This is huge! I'm on a modified flylady system and it's taught me that doing the dishes and tidying up the kitchen before I go to bed motivates me to want to use the kitchen. I don't have to wash the dishes just to cook - everything is clean, in it's place, and ready to go! It doesn't have to be perfect but I do my best to keep it useable. I only have a limited number of dishes so I can't afford to have my single sauce pot dirty or I'll be scrubbing it as part of the prep work!
  • Be Adventurous. I'm a picky eater. I have always had a list of foods I don't like. Often, I've made up my mind about them before I've even tried them. I made a deliberate decision to be adventurous with my eating and another to come to the table with no preconceived notions of what's good or bad. I'm still gluten free, and a vegetarian so that limits things, but I've been trying lots of things as the opportunities present themselves. I even put vanilla in my squash soup this evening. I was a little scared, but it turned out delicious! Thanks Clotilde!
Photo by the amazing charamelody.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this post!
    Guess what?
    I think I'm going to culinary school.
    I mean, why NOT?