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?


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