What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’?

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

mother ~ bike ~ photo ~ hamburger ~ salad ~ blood pressure

They were submitted by: http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/               

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.

soup-1006694__480

I am a terrible cook.

I don’t enjoy cooking. It actually gives me anxiety.

When I embarked on my weight loss journey, I knew one of the bad habits I was going to HAVE to change was the amount of times per month we were eating out. I needed to cook more if this was going to stick.

Ugh.

Nothing I make every looks like the picture. If I’m lucky, it’s edible. Feel free to question my daughter about the “Green Shrimp Soup” fiasco of 2004.  I think I may have blogged about it, but I’m too lazy to go search my archives. I suck at timing. By the time my main course is ready, everything else is cold and congealed. I often leave out important ingredients or steps, not on purpose, I’m just not good at following direction. I’m bad to buy the ingredients without reading the recipe and then find out when I set out to prepare dinner that the chicken was supposed to marinate overnight… So I wing it, often with disastrous results. Do you see what I did there? 😀 “Wing it…” “chicken…” Yeah, okay I’ll stop.

My husband is a much better cook. I don’t cook because I’m the mother, I cook because my husband works 2 jobs and goes to school full-time. No gender specific roles being assigned up in this house. I’m sure there is a small part of him (a very tiny, minuscule part) that sometimes wishes he was the stay-at-home dad, homeschooling our son and cooking dinners, doing laundry, meal planning, cleaning…oh wait, he does a lot of the cleaning actually.  In truth, I’m the worst housewife ever. But I try. I get an E for effort.

I’ve been wanting to try these new food delivery companies that seem to be flooding the marketplace. Places like Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, Green Chef, Home Chef, etc… There seem to be a billion of them. A friend of mine was giving out 2 free meals through the Blue Apron company, and my favorite thing in the world is free anything, so I jumped all over that opportunity.

Despite the fact that my husband spends HOURS at the gym, on the exercise bike, lifting weights, sweating it up in the sauna, staring at himself in the myriad of mirrors and reflective surfaces…genetically speaking, he is still at risk for High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol. His strict exercise and diet regime don’t so much lower his risk for those factors as they lower the risk for the side effects…like death.  As I kind of like having him around, I’ve recently switched us over to a more pescatarianesque diet, more salad and fish less hamburger and chicken. Basically, trying to lower his exposure to animal fats.

For someone who doesn’t cook well and doesn’t enjoy it, getting creative with fish dishes is extremely difficult. It can also be expensive.  We can’t eat salmon every night, and not just because I have a tendency to dry it out so it resembles something more along the lines of salmon jerky. I refuse to buy tilapia. If it can’t be found in nature and it’s breathing, I’m wary. We have to avoid the high mercury fishes like Ahi Tuna, Orange Roughy, King Mackerel, etc. Not because I’m pregnant! Don’t want to start any rumors…

Anyway, back to my Blue Apron experience.

I ordered the “fried” Catfish with spinach and sweet potato fries and the black bean and quinoa burritos. I thought both options were pretty safe, both for me in the kitchen and to satisfy my son’s picky palate. The kid LOVES beans. I haven’t been able to sell either my son or my husband on the benefits of quinoa. They just don’t like it, so I was a little nervous about the burritos, but I thought if you smother enough cheese and beans on it and cover it with a tortilla, maybe they won’t notice. I will admit that I don’t find quinoa all that aesthetically pleasing either. It looks like bugs.

quinoa-743045__480

Having never used one of these meal services before, I didn’t really have expectations, but I thought it would be more prepared I guess.

For example, I had to grate my own cheese… Luckily, we had a cheese grater. I wasn’t sure if that particular kitchen utensil made our recent move. I was throwing out everything. Yes, I know the benefits of grating your own cheese versus buying the packaged grated cheese. I like to live dangerously. And lazily.

On the upside, I finally know what a shallot is and what it looks like! Whenever a recipe asked for a shallot, I could never find it in the grocery store, so I always just bought green onions instead.  Same thing right? I think you’re maybe starting to understand why I’m so terrible in the kitchen.

vegetables-2202502__480

THIS is a shallot, if you didn’t know!

By the looks and smell of it, I’m thinking a red onion might be a better substitute. Yes? No? Anyway…

There was a ton more prep than I expected.

I laugh at the instructions they sent allotting a 10 minute prep time for each dish.  It took me that long to find the cheese grater. I grated like half the cheese block, got tired and cut the rest in chunks…I mean it’s gonna melt, who will know?

I apologize for the stock photo‘s. I completely forgot to document my Blue Apron cooking journey in pictures, which is too bad, because the burritos actually turned out kinda pretty. You’ll just have to take my word for it this time.  Next time, I’ll remember to take those important Instagram moments!

Despite the amount of prep and cook time, both meals turned out pretty good. There were clean plates all around, and even the KEENWAAAAH went down the hatches! It was nice to not have to grocery shop or meal plan for those 2 days. The convenience alone would be worth the price. I think both meals were around $60 and are supposed to feed a family of four. My husband eats for two or three, so there wasn’t much in the way of leftovers which sucked because I use leftovers for lunches.  I could probably duplicate both recipes on my own for cheaper but it was fun to try it out.

I’ll definitely order again, just to spice things up.  If you’ve used any of these types of services and have recommendations, send them my way.  Especially if they have a “free to try” option 😀

Grab that mug, pull up a chair and read how my friends used their particular words this week ❤

Baking In A Tornado                        http://www.bakinginatornado.com

Spatulas on Parade                   http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/

The Blogging 911                       http://theblogging911.com

On the Border                           http://dlt-lifeontheranch.blogspot.com/

Bookworm in the Kitchen      http://www.bookwormkitchen.com/

The Bergham Chronicles                  http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com

Southern Belle Charm                    http://www.southernbellecharm.com

Confessions of a part-time working mom         http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/

Climaxed                                       http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com

Just Keep Cooking…

when-you-keep-ish5wy

My second objective in 2016:

FOOD 

Specifically, eating healthier, cooking more and eating out less, trying new things.  I know I sound like millions of other New Year hopefuls.  I’ve certainly made this pledge/resolution many times before, with little or no success.  My surgery last year was a game changer for me, but the second half of my weight loss journey is going to be harder than the first half, I know this and I’m prepared.  I’ve already made so many positive changes, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m an emotional eater.  Eating is hardly ever about hunger for me.  I wish I was the kind of person that could go out to eat and order from the “skinny” menu, but I’m not.  I wish I was the type of person that could bypass the chocolate and pick up the apple instead, but I’m not.  Now, I might dip the apple in chocolate…does that count?  What if it’s dark chocolate?  Mmm chocolate covered strawberries or those Dove dark chocolates with sea salt and caramel or ice cream topped with chocolate fudge magic shell…  The point is I love food.  I love eating.  However, I do not love cooking.

Digging back through my archives, I found these two little gems, which I think accurately depict my love/hate relationship with cooking.

http://mybrainonkids.net/2012/09/03/french-cooking-with-a-redneck-twist/

http://mybrainonkids.net/2010/03/11/the-skinny-on-the-french/

I want to love it, I truly do.  I want my avocados to look like this on my plate after I slice them:

tumblr_inline_nu5pp5Ahqb1qcgwrq_400

Instead, they look like this:

IMG_0038

I mean seriously.  I post my food pics to Instagram with the hashtag “foodporn”, but honestly it’s a horror show, and I should probably use the hashtag “myfoodpicsmakeyouwanttonevereatagain”.  Also, I suck at hashtags.

One of my objectives for this year is to try new foods.  I’m infamously picky.  For some people, trying new foods may sound exotic or exciting, but I’m over here like “hey, I’ve never eaten a Mango.”

IMG_0032

Alaskan Cod with Jasmine Rice and mango-ginger-mint salsa

Also, my foods are always from the same color family.  But hey!  Now I’ve had mango.  I wasn’t impressed.  Sorry mango.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I overcooked the fish too.  I didn’t have an exact recipe for this, and apparently not all fish cooks the same, and I can’t just wing it.  I need specific, detailed cooking instructions complete with pics.  Even then, it’s touch and go.  The odds are never in my favor.

I’m also an extremely lazy cook.  I look for recipes that have the least number of steps, which is why I love my crockpot or recipes where I can use cheats.  It’s been really cold here the last week or so, a good time for soup.  I wanted something a little heartier than Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  Those who can’t…Pin.  I could waste spend a whole day Pinteresting.  This recipe was easy, very few steps and I could use my favorite cheats.

Cheat #1: Onions and Celery

IMG_0062 IMG_0063

They sell them already chopped and diced!  Granted much more expensive than buying a small onion and 2 celery stalks and chopping it myself, but I save like 5 minutes or more and a finger!  FIVE MINUTES!  Do you know how much Bill Gates earns in 5 minutes?  $34,200!!!  Give or take.  He makes about $114 per second.  I mean, I don’t make Bill Gates money obviously, but that’s not the point.  FIVE MINUTES SAVED!  And a finger.

Cheat #2: Garlic

IMG_0064

You can buy it already minced or chopped!  I assume that 1 clove minced is equal to 1 teaspoon, I’ve never actually measured it out and if I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.  Ignorance is indeed bliss.  The recipe called for 2 cloves, minced, so 2 teaspoons it is!

IMG_0065

This recipe was great because it said that I needed to sauté the onions and celery (and carrots, but I don’t like carrots so…) for 7 minutes.  I literally set my timer for 7 minutes.  Also, I recently learned that this pot (that I call the spaghetti sauce pot) is also known as a “dutch oven.”  I used to use a skillet when the recipe called for a dutch oven, because I didn’t know I had one.  I thought a dutch oven would look more like a toaster oven, except more…dutch?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t exaggerating my lack of kitchen prowess.  I received a cookbook as a wedding present.  It was titled “How To Boil An Egg.”  I was offended until I realized…wait, how do you boil an egg?  I still have to google it, I can never remember for how long (you can also buy eggs already hard-boiled in the grocery store fyi).  You are all probably feeling pretty sorry for my husband and kids about now.  They could tell you some cooking horror stories to be sure.

Anyway, then you add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Again, I set the timer.  Add 1/3 cup flour, cook for another minute (with timer).  It suggested I sprinkle the flour over the mixture gradually…who’s got time for that?  I just dumped it in.  Well, I did stir while I was dumping it in.  It’s now time to add the broth, 8 cups worth, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.  I hate the range.  Honestly, just pick one.  Is it 10 or is it 15 minutes?  Sigh.  I usually just split the difference.

IMG_0066

Cheat #3

The recipe calls for “3 cups cooked shredded chicken”.

IMG_0068

If I won’t even dice up an onion then I’m certainly not going to cook and shred a chicken.  Lucky for me, I didn’t need to do it!  I find this in the frozen section, and it’s great for soups, salads, crock pot recipes, etc…

At this point all remaining ingredients are added:

2 cups of uncooked egg noodles

12 oz of Evaporated Skim Milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano and ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dried thyme

Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until noodles are al dente.

Voila!

IMG_0069

It was quite tasty.

So, this year the goal is to cook at least 4-5 nights per week.  We eat leftovers 1-2 nights per week, which still leaves us 1 day to splurge and go out.  Quite a big change from a year ago when we were eating out 4-5 nights per week.  I’ve been really good about cooking at home since my surgery.  My portion size is still very small, so eating out at most places is a waste of money unless I can split with someone or order an appetizer as my main dish.

In the spirit of trying new things, I will be attempting to cook different types of cuisine throughout the year.  Here is my list:

  1. Thai Cuisine
  2. Lebanese Cuisine
  3. Spanish Cuisine
  4. German Cuisine
  5. Korean Cuisine
  6. South African Cuisine
  7. Caribbean Cuisine
  8. Greek Cuisine
  9. Filipino Cuisine
  10. Indian Cuisine
  11. Indonesian Cuisine
  12. Brazilian Cuisine

Don’t worry husband, I have all our favorite delivery restaurants on speed dial.  Is speed dial even a thing anymore?  I’ll be posting my failures and successes (lol).  Trying new things and making healthy choices will continue to be challenging for me, but I think I’m up for it, plus I have all of you to keep me accountable!

Please feel free to share your favorite recipe from the above listed cuisines or cheats/lifehacks for cooking, or you can just come over and cook for me 😀  You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+.  The icons are on the side or bottom, depending on what device you are using.  You can also e-mail me @ mybrainonkids4@gmail.com or leave a comment!

Have a great week ❤