Saturday, February 26, 2011

What's cooking?

Ask me what's new since I've retired, and this is my first answer:

I'm cooking.

I've mentioned (or boasted) before that Peter has done all the cooking during our 25-year marriage. My mom taught me some of the basics and as a teen I baked cakes and cookies, but in the years that I lived alone I lived mostly on frozen dinners and popcorn. I used to joke that my most frequently used spice was popcorn salt.

Peter and I share equally in our full-time Wild Rumpus Daycare for Grandkids. Outside those 40-plus hours each week, he puts in another 40 hours for his business. It made sense that when I retired I would take over cooking dinner (he still does breakfast and lunch weekdays when the kids are here).

Nobody expected that I would be a good cook. In fact, I think we both expected that I'd hate every minute I spent in the kitchen and that I would rely heavily on prepared meals (we used the newer bagged ones as an interim solution and quickly began referring to them as bags-o-crap). And indeed, it took me a while to figure out where to look for inspiration. Our cookbooks had little appeal and my ancient box of recipe cards holds a wide and wild variety of things I'll never make. Time to build a new collection.

I was hungry for a couple of Peter's favorites, so I started with chili and chicken-vegetable soup. Then I tried a few recipes posted by people I follow, and I paged through a year's worth of a cooking magazine we no longer receive.

And guess what? I've managed to provide tasty, balanced meals that we both enjoy. Some of them - pork chops, pork loin, lemon chicken, salmon - have been downright delicious. I have enjoyed planning the menu, shopping for the ingredients, and preparing the food. I can usually manage to get the salad, vegetable, starch, and main course ready at the same time, although once in a while I ask Peter to drain the noodles or top off the salads while I finish a sauce. Dessert usually consists of fruit and a little ice cream - or Girl Scout cookies - though I did make pudding using one of the lovely vanilla beans I received in a giveaway from The Good Cook. I've also been making blueberry and lemon-poppyseed muffins, because Augie loves them.

In other words, I've been much more ambitious than I expected to be, and we've both been happy with the outcome. That's important - and a huge relief - because I only enjoy doing those things that I do well. If my early efforts had bombed, we'd be back to bags-o-crap and retired life wouldn't be nearly so much fun.

So, got any great recipes, cookbooks, food sites, or food bloggers to recommend?

15 comments:

Teresa Evangeline said...

Nancy, your soup looks delicious. I was using those bags-o-crap, too, for awhile, being on my own, and then I realized there's a world of difference between those and real food, home cooked. When you have time, cooking is really fun. I like slicing and dicing and sauteing. Have fun! Those muffins sound good, too.

Retired English Teacher said...

I am in the same boat with you. I am learning to cook again. I also search for ideas.

Two of my nephews have wives who write a food blog. They have some great there even though I don't think they've been as consistent at posting lately as they once were.
Here's the link:http://tastebudsnblossoms.blogspot.com/2010/12/burgundy-mushrooms.html

Also, here is another link I enjoy:
http://lovingrealfood.blogspot.com/

Jeanie said...

You give me hope that I may someday get back to where I enjoy cooking again. Kudos to you for the tasty, balanced meals and for sounding like you're having a little fun along the way.

Linda Myers said...

I hope your enthusiasm is contagious. I told my husband I'd probably cook more once I was no longer working. I don't. Have no desire to at all. Maybe it was the ten years I spent as a single mom fixing meals for two boys. Or maybe it's that Art loves to cook. Or maybe I'm lazy. Whatever the reason, it hasn't happened for me yet.

Emma said...

It's great that you're enjoying your new role as cook. In general, I like cooking, though it can be hard to maintain inspiration over time. Lately, I've been dabbling with more crockpot recipes to make my post-work routine more smooth. Some of them stink--things get overcooked and mushy, but you can't go wrong with pot roast!

DJan said...

I am so fortunate to have a hubby who actually likes to cook, even if he isn't inspired, the food is always cooked to perfection, and I can modify it to suit my mood. I am so glad to hear you are enjoying cooking, and I look forward to more of your culinary adventures on here! :-)

Kat said...

Bags of crap is a great motivator for learning to cook good, delicious homemade meals. I learned how to cook many years ago out of necessity! Glad you are enjoying your "retirement!"

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

I also love your enthusiasm for cooking and find it contagious!

There is something caring and nurturing about cooking and preparing meals - feeding the soul This feels like a wonderful time for you to be doing all those things, especially for yourself.

Grandmother said...

My hats off to you! Even after retirement, I just don't love to cook and my husband does. And he likes to plan and shop as well. Have I mentioned how much I love this guy?

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Nancy, that's terrific! I should really try harder, I have time and skills, but little patience with my electric hob.

And you've made me hungry!

Indigo

gayle said...

I'm with Jeanie......you give me hope. When my girls were little I did all the cooking because I did not work. Now my husband does all of the cooking and has for some time. I don't even know if I could fry an egg anymore.

That picture looks delicious!!

grammy said...

well good for you1
It is not easy starting something like that when you never did it before. I cook. I don't necessarily like to cook. It is so much better to make anything at home than a bag of crap...lol... now I will defiantly shy away from those things when I think of that name.
I need to start on a menu for this week...yikes (o:

Far Side of Fifty said...

Not too long ago I did a post on my vegetable soup..it freezes well. I did step by step instructions for my grandgirls because they like it so much. I don't like to cook..I find a salad and a protein with a great vegetable makes for a supper that is easy for me to make look good:)

400 Wakeups said...

Oh learning to cook...yes...I remember it well. My parents both worked and my dad was usually the first home so he fed me. TV dinners. Yum. It was not until Neal's 2nd deployment did I really force myself to plan, shop, and fix interesting and delicious meals. Now, I truly love it. Congratulations on finding that sweet spot regarding cooking. Some people never do. And fixing something from scratch can be very rewarding. I just started a new lifestyle of eating called the Paleo Solution...which stems from the idea that if we eat like hunter/gatherers, we will not fall victim to modern day diseases. At the very least, it knocks pasta, bread, and beans out of my repetoire which is having a positive effect on my waistline. But before that, I would get a lot of recipes from realsimple.com and from the Food Network. And of course, there's every blogger's favorite, The Pioneer Woman! Or you can rely on inspiration from the Garden Bench. Maybe growing your own herbs is on the horizon this summer? :)

Deb Shucka said...

It sounds like you're having so much fun!

My new favorite cookbook is Mark Bittman's Food Matters, and his big yellow How to Cook Everything has been my cooking bible since it came out.

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