Follow my journey as I attempt to learn to cook give a shit about cooking.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Slacker

Yes, I've been a slacker lately. Friday, we opted for Chinese take out. Saturday was "family fun day" and we ended up in another part of the state-- far, far from my kitchen.  And yesterday was possibly the laziest day in the universe, where the most stressful thing I did was open a Smirnoff ice and a package of cookies. (It was blissful.  If not extremely telling about why my jeans are overly snug.)

What is great about breaks such as these is that after you come back to your regular routine with a renewed sense of vigor.  So tonight, I actually have dinner planned.  Tri-color pasta. Jarred sauce. Bagged salad.  Bottled dressing. Packaged croutons.  Frozen garlic bread.

This is almost a new low, even for me.  Normally I make my own sauce, and even often tackle making bread.  But not today.  Again folks, I call this winning.

0}:D (See the devil's horns holding up that halo?)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Short and snappy...extra snappy

This post is going to be rather short and snappy sweet because I'm in a total mood, which is not conducive to giving a shit about cooking. (Missing skating tonight due to bad weather, still waiting to hear back about a couple of things and I am NOT good at this limbo business, jaw still hurting from dental work earlier in the week, sheer and absolute disappointment in a TV show I have been watching on Netflix [this likely makes me shallow, but don't care]-- in other words, life)

Yesterday was a big dinner win.  Ham and cheese "Croissants" (canned croissants pinched into a pocket containing deli ham and shredded cheddar).  Even the little one loved it.  Side dish: sliced raw veggies. 

Tonight, not so much.  Actually, tonight's dinner was supposed to be last nights, as on Wednesdays I try to make a "sit down" dinner as we are all at home.  But with my jaw hurting like it is, steak was out of the question.  It really was still out of the question for tonight, but oh well.  I had tossed it in the freezer yesterday to keep it from getting any darker-- we like our beef "aged" but this was verging on ridiculous-- and I remembered to pull it from the freezer this morning (a miracle in itself) but somehow I never remember that MEAT DOES NOT THAW WELL IN THE FRIDGE.  Hell, considering how cold my kitchen is in the winter, it probably wouldn't thaw well there, either. 

Anyway.  I remembered to cook the potatoes, even remembered to stab them before baking them so they didn't explode.  But when I pulled them out and realized that the steak was still rock solid, my already downward-spiral of a mood just went into total snit mode.  This usually happens when I fuck something up at dinner (read: every night).  Starving and still barely able to open my mouth, I was ready to chuck the steak and just have the potato (covered in cheese and butter.  And salt.  And if I had any bacon fried I'd have added that too.) but Mike (bless him) eventually went into the kitchen and broiled the semi-thawed steaks for us.  Which means that the fire alarm didn't go off.

I really do not understand how he can cook stuff and it doesn't burst into flame.  I would have done it the same way and at the same temperature, but it would have come out raw in the middle, black on the outside, and the fire alarm going off repeatedly.  Perhaps the answer is to just have him cook?  Only I get extremely pissy when I'm hungry (hypoglycemia, maybe?), and if he were to cook, we wouldn't eat until after seven every night.  Oh, and then I couldn't eat the steak because it hurt too much to chew, despite it being extremely tender.

Anyway, fuck it.  Maybe I'll mosy on over and play Shopping Cart Hero 2, or find another game where I can blow things up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Menu Planning, One attempt

It is no secret that one of the big hurdles to getting me in the kitchen is meal planning.

I'll avoid going on a long, pointless rant about why meal planning sucks. I'm sure most people agree with me, and for most of the same reasons.

One of my New Year's "Resolutions" this year was to stop the all-or-nothing-thinking which I am so famous for.  (Yes, I realize that the grammar in the previous sentence sucks, however the Chardonnay which I am currently consuming has obliterated any ability to do anything about it.)  So I thought, rather than having a set-in-concrete meal PLAN (say "plan" with a really bad German accent, like those in any of the horrible WWII Nazi films they love to play on the History channel.  They should rename it the Hitler channel.) I would set more "guidelines."  It's ridiculous to expect that we're going to sit down to a family dinner every night. Because some nights, quite frankly, it's nice to nuke utter crap and eat in front of the TV.  And other nights, our schedule makes sitting down next to impossible.

So, I sketched out this: Monday, something easy, like pasta.  Boil noodles, open jar of sauce, open bag of salad, done.  Tuesday: it's my night off. I have skating class fairly early, and I want a day where I don't even have to think about it. DON'T BUG MOM TUESDAY. Admit it, it has a nice ring.  Wednesday we normally are all home, so I make the sit down dinner then.  Roast chicken and mashed potatoes, that sort of thing.  (Tomorrow we're having steak).  Thursday, I attempt some sort of "leftover magic"-- make chicken soup out of the roast chicken carcass.  Or say fuck it and have cheese and crackers.  Friday, it feels all kind of wrong to have a "formal" dinner. So Friday is "fun" night like pizza or tacos, otherwise we're going out.  I didn't quite get to Saturday or Sunday, but we're ditching the all or nothing thinking, so I'm fine with that.

While this is a rather recent invention, I've done something like it before, and it works rather well.  Because sketching out specifics for each day never works well for us.  But that is a topic for another post.

As today was Tuesday, Mike made barbeque. (slow cooked, shredded pork for those of you not familiar with the term). Don't get me wrong, this was a fantastic thing (well, not fantastic for the waistline, but not bad for the budget).  I about gnawed my own arm off smelling the stuff slowly cooking all day. 

Have I mentioned how much I <3 Tuesdays?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Leftovers

Ha ha! I cooked! Again! And didn't set off the fire alarm! Again!

The fact that said cooking wasn't very good is perhaps besides the point.  Perhaps.

As many things seem to go in the kitchen, I heartily approve of the theory of using leftovers.  Most of the work is already done, and less work in the kitchen is always something I will approve of. You can reuse some things in new recipes, giving them "new life", a sort of cook once eat twice sort of thing.  However.  I hate leftovers. DESPISE them.  Always have, at least as far as I can remember.  Growing up, at least one night a week was a leftover night of sorts, something like a smorgasboard, with tubs of bits of this and that and you could pick what you wanted and heat it up. 

Yeeech.

One would think with my intense hatred of kitchen related work, that I would love heat and eat things, but I just do not.  Very few things are exceptions to this rule.  (Corn chowder is one.  Take out pizza is another.  I can't think of any others.) 

Tonight, I made chicken enchiladas, using leftover chicken-- leftover chicken breast no less.  However, I have come to the conclusion (again) that reheated chicken reeks of well, reheated chicken, no matter how many sauces you use to top it.  Also, my "ability" to figure out or even fix side dishes leaves much to be desired. Honestly, how hard is it to fix up some Uncle Ben's and nuke a can of corn to go with something like enchiladas?  Apparently too hard.  Couldn't be bothered.

Of course, knowing that I have a raspberry pie baking in the oven could have had something to do with that.  It is National Pie Day here in the States, after all.  Mmmmm. Pie. 

I sure as hell hate cooking, but I don't mind baking.  As my waistline continues to remind me.

Happy Pie Day, everyone.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Grieving

I set up this blog to follow my foray (perhaps melee is a better word) in the kitchen, but this weekend, there wasn't a whole lot of cooking going on.

As some of you know, I lost a friend unexpectedly last weekend.  Completely, totally out of the blue unexpectedly.  I went from joking around in the ER waiting room with a mutual friend, wondering what kind of lunch we could sneak in for our buddy; to going to her home, too shocked to even cry yet, pawing around looking for her family's contact information and feeling every moment like I was violating her privacy somehow.  The sheer speed of it still makes my head spin.

It's moments like this that remind a person about the frailty and the precious nature of life, and how easily and how often we take one another for granted-- and not because we intend to, but just because we get busy doing other things.  In between everything that needs to be done to run a home, care for our families, follow our passions and dreams, and spend 40-odd hours doing something that will pay the bills, it doesn't leave a lot of time left over for everything else-- and I'd be willing to be that most of us have a lot of "everything else" they'd like to have more time for.  And (and this makes me sound excessively greedy on more than one count, but I'll say it anyway) I fail to see how on earth it is possible to fit everything in that short time slot we are allotted. Bar becoming independently wealthy, that is, and even then I doubt it.  

Over the last week I've spent some time with her family, going through her things, feeling guilty for the items my friend's family wanted me to have.  I feel like by taking these things, I'm benefiting somehow from her death, as stupid as it sounds.  I know she would like that I have these things, as silly as they are, and that I will remember her.  But I also know that she'd much rather that she still be alive and have these trivial things in her own home while she sits on the couch with her cats and a glass of wine.

I thought about this a lot as we made remembrance boards, and later as family and friends spontaneously all gathered at her house having pizza and remembering (Can you have a spontaneous wake, I wonder?)  Her "Celebration of Life" was yesterday-- a phrase which honestly irks the shit out of me, but it does sound better than "Funeral."  Very casual for such a gathering-- her iPod playing songs of all varieties, the remembrance boards and a number of her personal things displayed.  During all of the gatherings, I thought how much she would have liked seeing all these people who cared about her, and how it is such a shame that we do such a gathering after the person has died.  Of course, such a service, no matter what you call it, is more to bring closure to the people left behind.

What also struck me is how truly multifaceted people are.  Generally we know one side of a person, and perhaps we are lucky to know two or more as time goes by and a relationship becomes closer, which is so often chance in itself.  But there is an element in truth that you don't  truly know a person until they have passed on-- and how sad that is.  I know I try to avoid this (as people who know me and my loud mouth well will probably agree), I know that I still do it to some extent.  How hard it must be for someone who is shy or less confident to let more than one facet of their personality shine at any one time.

Also, how frighteningly easy it is to box up a person's life and dispose of, store, or honor it in whatever pitiful means we mortal humans have.  

So no, I haven't felt much like cooking.  Haven't felt much like eating to be perfectly honest, but after awhile the body makes demands on the living.  Driving home yesterday from the service, all I wanted was potato chips and real Coke (as opposed to the Diet variety which I normally drink too much of), so I stopped and bought some crap before coming home to sweatpants and TV, telling myself that we all mourn in our own way.  Knowing all the while that my friend would have probably rolled her eyes at this and told me to get my butt up off my chair and go for a walk. 

Eventually I did get up and go out to the kitchen and fixed a pot of corn chowder (Yes, I scorched the bottom, but it didn't taste burned OR set off the fire alarm).  I had half a mind to fix my grandmother's bread pudding (this has been traditional comfort-after-a-death-food in my family) but I couldn't find the energy.  I saved the dishes for today, thinking at least this time I had a reason, of sorts. 

Tomorrow I'll get up and try again, but I thought rather than pushing through and continuing on like normal this time, I would take my time about it and process everything in my mind instead of stashing it for later.  Later is now. 

Maybe I'll even take up walking.  My friend would like that. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Question of Timing

Prepare to be shocked? Are you sitting down? (I certainly hope so, would take a bit of stamina to follow all your blogs and look at everything on Pinterest while standing.)

I COOKED DINNER LAST NIGHT. AND I DIDN'T BURN ANYTHING.

It's something of a miracle what happens if you follow package directions AND don't run off to the other room to look at everything on Pinterest. (Well, at least I didn't too much.)  I pulled that chicken out of the fridge-- was still a bit frosty in the center, but I knew if I didn't cook it last night I'd end up throwing the thing away.  And it really bugs me to throw out raw meat.  Don't get me wrong, these days I'm quite comfortable with being a carnivore (I wasn't always), but throwing out raw meat strikes me as extra wasteful.

I also know that making a roast chicken on a weekend night probably isn't going to happen.  A Sunday night, fine; a weeknight when we are actually all home, fine.  But weekends are reserved for things like pizza, beer, hot wings, or pizza.  You know, crap food.  (mmmm)

So I finally remembered about the chicken at about 4, Mike usually gets home sometime after 5, and I try to have dinner ready when he walks in the door.  Not from any outdated 1950s thing, but just because usually by then I'm ravenous and it keeps me out of the cookie dough stashed in the freezer.  The chicken was almost 7 lbs, and according to the label needed to cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Pft.  Chicken is a bit of gamble anyway, as it usually comes out either halfway raw or overcooked and powder-dry.  But I had a secret weapon: one of those plastic pop up timer things. 

I know, I know you're not supposed to believe the pop up timer things, but with my history, I figure the hunk of plastic is better equipped than me with a thermometer, even a digital one. So I put the chicken in the oven and went to watch another episode of Monarch in the Glen.  When that was over, i figured that gave me enough time to peel potatoes and carrots and all that nonsense.  And miracle upon miracle, I was right.  Even the gravy turned out good, which lately has been a dicey proposition.
So the timing of the individual components of the meal was good, even if the meal itself was a bit late to my standards.  I had to run right after (I have skating on Thursdays) but Mike took pity on me and did most of the dishes before I got home. 

As for tonight...well, I received an email coupon from one of our favorite pizza places.  And it's Friday. So tacos made from the leftover chicken can just wait until tomorrow. :D Sweeeeet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

(Domestic) Kitchen Nightmares

I weighed myself this morning.  I really have GOT to stop doing that.  I get the concept-- you're technically supposed to be at your "true weight" (read: at your thinnest) in the morning before you eat anything, but doesn't it just start your morning off wrong to know that THAT number is your thinnest?

Ugh.

So I head to the kitchen, thinking to myself that I have GOT to start cooking something than utter crap so that the God-awful ever-creeping-upward number is stopped, and I am so pleased that I remembered to take out something from the freezer before cooking dinner yesterday.  Then I arrive in the kitchen.

You have to understand, we live in a <s>pseudo</s> half renovated Victorian house in New England.  And it's January.  And I'm from Virginia.  So I don't really "do" cold.  I spend the winter months cozied up in the living room in front of the electric fireplace, wearing wool socks and screaming at people to shut the damn door already.  Our kitchen is one of the furthest rooms from the furnace, a) said furnace is older than I am and therefore not that efficient and b)the kitchen is not (to my knowledge) insulated.  This does not help in my quest to give a shit about cooking.  Compounding the problem is that our kitchen is also home to the entry to the house we actually use-- large door opening and letting in huge amounts of frigid New England air-- and this is where everything gets dropped: coats, boots, bookbags, shopping bags, skate bags, etc.  (I should point out that I don't really "do" clutter either.)  Also, the kitchen is home to my washing machine and dryer, so at any given point there is either a pile of dirty laundry on the floor, or a basket of clean laundry waiting to be folded.

This is all fairly standard for the winter in our home. So what set me off this morning was the sheer number of dirty dishes overflowing the sink, and all over the counter.  I don't know why exactly this set me off-- this is also fairly standard for our home. (Please, please, God, let me sell my novel so I can afford to have a dishwasher put in and hopefully quit being such a slattern, Amen.)  As far as I'm concerned, dishes and laundry are opposite sides on the Coin of Evil.  It never goes away, never gets done, seems to multiply like rabbits the moment your back is turned, and even if all the dirty stuff is taken care of, you still have to put all the crap away!  (Note to self: this would make a fabulous saying for a First World Problems meme...)

Oh, and also, the chicken I had pulled out the night before? I had forgotten about it and left it sitting out all night.  And it was still hard as a rock. See? I told you our kitchen was cold.  So I shoved the chicken in the fridge, said a small prayer against salmonella poisoning, grabbed my coffee and left the kitchen.  And I did a pretty good damn job of ignoring it most of the day if I do say so myself, watching far too many episodes of Monarch in the Glen and wanting to make tea (because what else does one drink while watching a show about Scotland? Other than whisky, which seemed a poor idea at 2 PM with my young child in the other room.  See, I think these things out, sometimes.)

When DH got home after 5, I was still knitting and watching as much BBC programming as possible (all the while cursing Netflix for having the audacity to be getting rid of Monarch at the end of January-- YOU BASTARDS!).  So no, no cooking done today, unless you count burning DD's quesadilla at lunchtime (didn't set off the fire alarm though, excellent).  DH went up to the grocery store and got a plate of take out, and that was dinner. 

That chicken is now thawing slowly in the fridge, could be thawed in time for tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath or anything.  Perhaps hearty bowls of parritch? Will go along fabulously with more episodes of Monarch as we try to watch all six seasons in two weeks.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Does one NEED a kitchen?

I'm well aware that I should care a bit more about cooking.  Eating out is hard on the finances.  God only knows it makes it difficult to keep the scale from creeping ever upward.  And who KNOWS what really lurks in those boxes of frozen food.  Nothing should please me more than being able to create a nutritious, filling meal for myself and my family. 

Well, it doesn't.

I despise cooking.  For awhile, I thought that this was just a side effect of having any number of crappy kitchens.  But then we renovated our current kitchen.  I had functional cabinets with space for things, an easy to clean fridge, and a new two-oven stove.  And nothing changed.  We just had cheese and crackers with more expensive appliances as an audience.

Okay, I'm exaggerating by suggesting that we only eat cheese and crackers.  Kind of.  Let's put it this way: we as a family are known by name at two different pizza places. We're good customers. And quite frankly, if eating out didn't take so much time and money, I'd eat out every night.  No meals to plan, no groceries to buy, no stink of something burning in the house-- and perhaps my favorite, no dishes to do.  (As of yet, we have not reached the "dishwasher" stage of our kitchen renovation.)  But I've spent enough time in food service to know that I probably don't want to know what my favorite restaurant's kitchen looks like.  And it gives me a little twinge of guilt as I prepare something for my daughter and I don't know what half the ingredients are on the box.  (Calcium peroxide in garlic bread? WTF?)

So I've started a blog where I can document my adventures through meal planning and finding recipes the entire family will eat (although I suspect this is an impossibility), and whine when I burn something.  Again.  I hope you'll join me in my quest to save us a few pennies and even get some vitamins from vegetables rather than pills.