Friday, February 7, 2014

2014 The year I finally believed I could cook

I have been a cooking show connoisseur since before there was Food Network or Cooking channel. I grew up watching a lot of WGBH public television in the Boston area and I LOVED me some Julia Child and Frugal Gourmet (remember him). It might seem strange that I've titled this post "the year I finally believed I could cook" based on the fact that I love watching cooking shows and I love food, but it's true.

I've been baking cookies and cakes and bread since I was a little kid. I have a cookbook my parents got as a wedding present in '69 that has a number of notations in my childish hand stating that these are "B's cookies" or "these are good"! So why have I not embraced "cooking" until now? The answer to that is a complicated one, but somewhere along the line I felt like I was a terrible cook and just decided that I COULDN'T. It makes no sense really and was probably tied to a fear of screwing up or a fear that the intended recipient of my cooking wouldn't appreciate it enough.

Then comes the dawn of the year 2014. My husband and I sat down and discussed our grocery budget AGAIN.. how have we spent so much money when we never seem to actually have a dinner plan? What's going on?! I mentioned meal planning again and he rolled his eyes. You see we can never sit down TOGETHER and decide on more than 3 meals at one time. Often times one of us (that one will of course remain nameless, but you know who it is!) would veto everything. UGH! So this year we decided to mix it up. New accounts were opened and yours truly was given FREE RANGE of the meal planning and grocery budgeting and there was a little bit of a bet thrown in there when he said "and I bet you'll spend ever dime of that budget"! I took it as a challenge to have money LEFT OVER every month. And you know what?! I did!

We acquired two new cookbooks this Christmas. The Complete America's Test Kitchen cookbook. And the Complete Cook's Country cookbook.  I used mainly these two cookbooks to meal plan week by week for the whole month of January. I threw in a couple of tried and true recipes out of older cookbooks and it turned out to be **gasp** fun.

I made my beloved Fried chicken for the first time ever. I love and crave fried chicken and I've been hoarding recipes for literally the last 7 years and have never been brave enough to try to make it myself.

Fried Chicken!

I also made Beef Bourguignon for the first time and it made me realize , that it's not some fancy intimidating thing. It's just BEEF STEW! I can make that! And magically when I said "I don't like this" I knew exactly how to tweak it next time to make it suit my palette more. 

Potato Galette!

Instead of rice all the time I branched out and made things like this Potato Galette! It was delicious and you know what , it was EASY!

Chicken breasts were thinly sliced and pounded and stuffed with delicious cheese!

Stuffed Chicken Rolls! 

They look like they would be so complicated to make and they would impress company but again they are so incredibly easy! 

I've also made pork carnitas for the first time. This is something I always left to my husband because I thought I COULD NEVER do that myself. HA! Mine were just as good as his and with the leftovers I made these!

Pork and Cheese Taquitos!

One of the biggest eye openers for me was learning how to make twice as much of something so that I could freeze a dinner. We have pot pie turnovers, these taquitos and three cheese manicotti all in the freezer just waiting for that day I need an easy dinner! I have also finally learned how to use the crock pot! How easy to just do a little sautéing and then leave the rest to the crock pot while I go about my day. It's almost liberating. Even though I know some of you might think, well you're home all day you CAN cook every day, I really think this planning ahead thing would make any working parent's life a little bit easier. To take  half a day on the weekend or one evening a week to plan 2 or 3 things ahead that you can shove in the freezer for later is a brilliant thing. Really it is. 

This has been an eye opening month for me. And although it's a lot of work to plan and prepare meals for my family it makes me feel good to know exactly what is inside everything we eat. And now when someones asks "what's for dinner?" I can say with certainty what it will be and could probably give you a few options! YAY for meal planning. 

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