Saturday, October 11, 2008

Expanding My Repertoire

As I've shared, I'm not really much of a cook. It's not for a total lack of interest -- it's more that I don't have a lot of confidence in the kitchen.

Growing up, Dad was the real chef in the family and it was always his kitchen. I regret that we never really had any "cook with the kids" moments, so my brother and I really didn't learn our way around a kitchen. But, my brother has ended up being a fairly confident and creative cook, so he picked it up somewhere.

Another factor for me has really been that for the last 4 1/2 years, I lived in an apartment that had a terrible kitchen. Not only was there a big pest problem (ick) that made me cut way back on the types of things I would do or have in the kitchen, but it was also just a terrible setup - no counter space, no pantry, terrible cabinets. I really just lived as a queen of microwave cooking and quick stovetop pasta meals - or the queen of convenient urban food delivery. :-)

Well -- now I'm in an AWESOME apartment with a much better kitchen, I'm upgrading my culinary equipment and tools, and I'm enthusiastic about trying new things. I know it is what I should be doing for my health - since you can be in so much more control of *what* you eat when you make it yourself - and it's better for the world in general if I can try to incorporate more organic and locally-sourced food in my lifestyle. (Plus the awesome new apartment has a much higher price tag, so home cooking makes more financial sense, too.) I'm going to look at it sorta as picking up a new hobby, and there will likely be some interesting adventures along the way.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share my culinary starting point --- these are the "home cooked" meals that I already make in fairly regular rotation. I like them all, but you can tell I definitely need to add more variety:

I Make These at Least Bi-Weekly:
- whole wheat pasta with sauteed spinach and tomato sauce (sometimes I vary squash, zucchini, and mushrooms for the spinach)
- whole wheat pasta with sauteed spinach, cannellini beans, garlic and olive oil
- baked chicken breast with various marinades and frozen veggie side (I actually really like brussel sprouts)
- tilapia fillet with diced tomatoes and Italian seasoning, either alone or over whole wheat pasta (thanks Scotte for this idea!)
- pork chops cooked in rosemary and olive oil (again thanks Scotte)
- baked potato with low-fat broccoli and cheese topping (thanks to Onyah for the WW-friendly suggestion)

I Make These Several Times a Season:
- crock pot turkey chili, and I do chili with beans and corn
- crock pot tomato florentine soup
- crock pot chicken / veggie / noodle soup
- three-bean spanish rice (an expansion of boxed spanish rice with lots of beans, tomatoes, and corn added)

So.... my project for this long weekend is to try something new. If my store has everything in stock, I'm going to attempt 3 new things: a balsamic reduction (thanks T!), kale (thanks Em!), and spaghetti squash (thanks Google searches!). Stay tuned.

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