Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cook from scratch? Scatch that -Just trying to cook!

Last Friday I went to a soup exchange and menu planning discussion. I felt like a TOTAL poser, especially since Dan made the pumpkin soup. I didn't have much to add to the discussion since our family's meal planning consists of a rotation of Trade Joe's frozen entrees, a stir fry, hamburgers with french fries and ....repeat.

I can't cook, let's just get that out of the way right now. Dan still recalls the one and only meal I cooked for him when we were dating. It was a soggy vegetarian lasagna from Mollie Kazan's Moosewood Cookbook. I managed to simultaneously over-cook and under-cook this dish.

Dan, on the other hand, used to be a cook at the housing cooperative he lived in while going to college in Berkeley (wow, could that sound more hippy-dippy?). Anyway, once I convinced Dan that it was just the two of us, not two dozen of us, we got into a groove where Dan did most, OK just about all, of the cooking. This has worked until it stopped working.

One of the most challenging aspects of getting older is realizing that the old systems and habits we have gotten used to are no longer working, and need to be changed. Dan now works one hour away a few days a week, and telecommutes the other days. On the days he drives to work it doesn't really make sense for him to rush home and cook a meal.

Nowadays, I can put together spaghetti and meat balls; by that I mean frozen Trader Joe's meat balls, canned sauce and spaghetti (we use whole wheat, do I get points for that?). I can also cut up a mean salad, but I'm not much use beyond that. I've always found it a challenge to go through the sequences of cooking; I can't even explain it, but having Sayer running around certainly doesn't make me more eager to try.

At our soup exchange discussion, the other women had some great ideas about using the Internet to find and keep track of recipes, organize meals, make shopping lists and so on. These ideas intrigue me - here I have been perceiving the computer as a tool to avoid meal planning not abet it! I'm ready to step up the meal planning and increase the variety of our dinner diet.

I want to use the inspiration from these other healthy, organized cooks to implement real and lasting change in our household. All too often, I get over eager and burn out. That's not just me, right? In my "must change everything right now" mode I would bring Dan four new, complex recipes to try all in one week. This would overload our kitchen, our taste buds and our patience and we would then revert to burgers and fries in frustration. Whew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Instead, I am using this blog to hold me accountable to these two concrete and measurable goals (aha, my grant writer self comes out). I commit to:

1. Find one soup or stew recipe a week for Dan to make. Eating the yummy soups I brought home from the soup exchange reminded me how nice a homemade, hearty soup is. In summer, I will find one dinner salad recipe per week.

2.. Pick another NEW recipe for us to try at least twice a month. I will seek input from Jacob and Sayer, and remember that we have to at least double the recipe to adapt to teenage boy portions.

What I need from you, readers is to encourage me and hold me accountable. Our family will start this in December so please ask how we are doing. We won't give up our cornmeal frozen pizzas or salad in a bag, but we'll try to reduce their place in the rotation.

And if you want some great healthy eating tips, recipes and inspiration, go to Minda's Eat Well, Be Well web site. Minda is a Camas-based nutritional therapist who hosted the soup exchange I attended. Her site has a great resource list, and a link for you to sign up for her monthly newsletter.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving surrounded by family, friends and fresh food. Oh, and maybe some organic chocolate turkeys.


Anonymous said...

I know what you are saying. If I am cooking (which I enjoy), it is typically for hubby and I (boys always seem to eat something else). When hubby is out of town, why cook...I Lean Cuisine it! I do need to watch my sodium (darn genes catching up with me).

Good post and have a wonderful Thanksgiving (can't have the chocolate...bad for my kidneys, augh, had to give up that, too).


babs m said...

soup is my special thing!!!! I love soups of all kinds. Our tradition is to make soup every sunday late morning to have for either lunch or dinner, and then a crock pot dinner once a week with a meat and lots of veggies and maybe some potatoes to eat with a loaf of bakery bread.

You can do this, Carol! I have the confidence! Email me if you need more recipes!

Pam said...

Hi Carol, There is a set of books your son and other boys in our audience may enjoy. They are stiff (so can stand up well on counter) anc called something like "a Man and a can can cook". They use a combination of some canned items (such as tuna in water) and fresh stuff and the food all looks great. And written by guys to appeal to guys.

Also I was thinking: many of our special needs families struggle mightily with food concerns (eg casein/gluten free, no dyes, etc.) Maybe one of your resources would like to speak for the Special Education PTSA sometime? Take care and keep cooking. I love it and you will come to love it too, I think. I especially agree about soups. If I have had a bad day or week nothing soothes my soul like making a big pot of aromatic whatever.........Pam

Carol said...

We're off to a good start so far; I actually typed up a menu; but had to revise it to include nachos for Jacob (he DOESN'T LIKE frittatas; ok, I get it). Dan is making minestrone tonight...umm.