Sunday, July 09, 2006

"Has it ever occurred to you that you might be a tad obsessive?"

Me? Nah! Not in a million years!

Back when my mom and I were actually speaking, she said that one of the things that drove her crazy about me was that when I discover something new that I really really like, I jump into it with both feet and arms and full heart and soul. In other words, I really obsess about it. Well, I like to think that's one of my more endearing qualities, but whatever.

Example...when I discovered that I liked cats in college, I got one and then two more when I moved to Texas. As soon as we got a house, we got two Labradors. When I started stitching, I wanted to do nothing but. When I discovered Body For Life, I went nuts with it and started training for body building. I decided to remodel my kitchen and it took over the entire house. When I learned to scrapbook, I managed to complete four books within the first year. My work is perfect. I'm the top performer in my office. I absolutely adore my daughter and can't wait to cook her the next new food, teach her sign language, or buy her a ton more clothes that she doesn't need. (Yeah, I bought her more crap on Saturday. I'm hopeless.)

Annoying? Maybe. Endearing? Well, maybe to me. Productive? YES!

So what I'm getting at here is that I seem to go in waves with my obsession of the flavor of the week, if you will. And currently the "flavor" is cooking. It's not a new hobby though...I've always loved cooking!

I've had this discussion a lot over the last week or so with various friends. I'm sick to death of eating out. And we eat out a LOT. It's not even the spending of the money that bugs me...although yes, that bugs me's the fact that it just gets old! I eat something running out the door in the morning. I have been eating lunch out a lot lately with people, mostly work lunches. And dinners? Well, we're too tired to go major grocery shopping on Sundays, which is the only time that we can both go together, and I can't do it after work alone since I usually have McKenna with me and I can't push her stroller and a grocery cart at the same time.

I have gotten to this point many times over the last ten or so years since I've been with P. Every time is the same...we get sick of it, we decided to plan our meals, we shop for the week on Sunday, we cook every night, and invariably either in the middle of the week we give up and let our food go bad OR by the next weekend we throw in the towel and start all over again with the eating out routine. And so it goes.

This time, I'm going to do it differently! I've given it a LOT of thought. There is no reason why I shouldn't be enjoying my beautiful newly redone kitchen, and I really DO enjoy it...I even enjoy cleaning up since there's now a place for everything in it. And how is eating out all the time going to set a good example for my kids? I have very fond memories of my mom and dad cooked dinner for us every night. Every night we had a home-cooked meal, whether it be barbecued chicken, steak, burgers, whatever. I don't remember specifics, but I do remember that we ate a lot of meals together as a family. I remember that fondly. I want my kids to have fond memories of the same when they get older. McKenna's already watching me eat like a hawk. Do I really want her first meals with us as a family when we're all eating the same thing to be pizza?

Two of my nieces are THE pickiest eaters on the planet. I'm not kidding. When we have family dinners at my father-in-law's house, my brother-in-law actually has to LEAVE the house to go get them French fries at Dairy Queen so they will have something to eat. God help me if I ever have a child who is that picky. I mean, this is the whole reason why I am making all of McKenna's baby food, for Pete's sake...I want her to get used to different flavors, textures, temperatures, spices, etcetera. I want to take her out to dinner or have her go over to friends' houses and hear what a great eater she is, how she will eat anything put in front of her, etcetera. I am already basking in that glow at school...all of her teachers think that she is the BEST baby...not fussy, eats her food, drinks her bottles, smiles a lot. I want that to continue!

Okay, anyway, so getting back to the plan. We have approximately four months to practice for when McKenna should be eating what we are eating at the table and get it together, because I'm NOT going to have her be like my nieces. I have bought three baby/toddler cookbooks over the past few weeks, and have ordered a couple of Gooseberry Patch cookbooks as well. My husband has ordered some Rachel Ray cookbooks for quick cooked meals for families on the go, which we clearly are. I already have a plethora of great cookbooks i my kitchen, such as Beef for All Seasons, 365 Ways to Cook Chicken, Simply Shrimp, etcetera, not to mention that my aunt is a famous dietician and I have a copy of just about every one of her books as well. I even have an Emeril cookbook and one by Chef Paul Prudhomme. My old standby is the Better Homes and Gardens red plaid cover cookbook (which has been my cooking Bible for I don't even know how long) and one of the COOLEST books that I have is my Heritage cookbook that my father-in-law gave me which is ethnic recipes from all walks of life, including Native American, Mexican, Colonial, Pennsylvania Dutch, Southern, Creole, and I'm sure a lot of other varieties that I haven't even discovered yet. It's not like I don't love cooking, because I DO! There's nothing more fun than getting going with a new recipe and smelling the smells as the recipe develops, playing with new spices or vegetables or sauces, and using your kitchen tools and dishes and gadgets in ways that you never even dreamed. The house starts to smell good (garlic is the BEST air freshener!) and then at the end, you have a great finished product to try that you've never tried before. It's very fulfilling! Oh, yeah, and speaking of kitchen gadgets, I never imagined that I needed a Dutch oven as much as I do now! I have one from Emerilware now on the way.

The problem is twofold...I don't feel like I have the time and I don't ever have the right ingredients on hand. The time issue...well, I'm not sure how I'm going to rectify that other than to just try my best to use my microwave as much as possible, don't pick two things to make that both require the same method of cooking at the same time, and try to keep my kitchen as clean as possible so I'm not spending the first thirty minutes after I walk into the kitchen cleaning up so I have counterspace to work. Oh, yeah, and NOT pick recipes that require two hours of prep...that would be a good thing. *wink*

As for the ingredient issue, well, clearly shopping for the week does not work for P and I. It just doesn't. So we're going to live like Europeans. I never really understood what that meant until my little IKEA experience last weekend. IKEA has this model apartment...basically it's a home in 237 square feet. It's nuts. It's smaller than my office, but yet, it's got a kitchen, bathroom, loft area and a desk. I never really GOT why Europeans shop every day on their way home, and then I got it after seeing that little's because they don't have any room in their houses for anything else! They can only buy what they are going to eat right then and there! And while we don't have the storage problem, we do have an issue with food going bad and not eating it, so from now on, every day or two we're just going to stop at the store and pick up the food that we need to make our dinner. We're going to take turns, and surely five trips of $25 each a week will be much much better than a mongo trip of $250 on Sunday where half the food goes bad. It has to be! And don't even get me started on lunches.

So here's our plan for how to stop the eating out madness:

1) Decide our dinner the night before and not DAYS before.
2) Shop for items needed on the day of preparation, such as fresh meats and fresh produce.
3) Keep certain staple foods at home for those nights where we don't feel like cooking and would normally order pizza...these staple foods will be spaghetti, eggs/toast, and sandwiches/soup.
4) Eat our leftovers for lunches and STOP EATING OUT!
5) Keep kitchen and refrigerator clean.
6) Date all leftovers and toss the ones that have stayed too long so they don't turn into science projects.
7) Try to rotate meats so we don't feel like we're having chicken every night.
8) Only make one complicated item per night...not a gourmet main entree AND gourmet sides AND bread...AND...AND...AND...before you know it, it's a ten-course meal!
9) Make eating out a special event again instead of the every-day event that it's become.
10) Stick with the plan!

So, we'll see how this goes. We both have a very bad habit to break, as we adore eating out...not just the convenience of it, but just the fact that it's ready food with no preparation involved and it tastes good. Whatever did people do without drive-thru, I wonder? Oh, yeah, I forgot...they actually COOKED.

If anyone's got any brilliant suggestions for how they do it, please share...I'd love to hear them. I don't know why P and I have been unable to get this eating at home thing together, so if you're shaking your head in disgust as you read my blog about how pathetic we are about cooking at home, you have a right to...we are disgusted with ourselves too.

But, so far, we've made this little plan work for three out of four days (we fell victim to Wendy's Friday night) and have made beef stew, spaghetti with meat sauce and chicken with wine-herb sauce. Tomorrow, I'm doing oven-barbequed shrimp, provided that our grocery store has some decent shrimp.

Bon appetit!


Blogger Autumn said...

Once you have a good supply of spices, it makes cooking so much easier. One of the best for meats is browning sauce, I think it's by Kitchen Bouquet? It's in a little brown bottle with a yellow label. I water it down a little bit in a few tablespoons of water and then pour it over chicken. It's really good. Or I mix a little bit in hamburgers.

My other big thing is to always have at least one bag of frozen seasoning mix in the freezer. It's chopped onion and green peppers. Saves a lot of time in the preparation part.

Personally, we do our grocery shopping only once a week. I've pretty much perfected it that we usually have *just* enough to last the week (but you know, it took me like 5 years to get there). I know at the end of the day, having to run to the grocery store is the last thing I want to do and then I'll get into the whole thing of do I want to go to the grocery store AND go home and cook or do I just want to spend that money on take out?

6:11 AM  
Blogger Fiona said...

You might want to look into the Menu Mailer at www.saving It's a menu subscription service with lots of choices, regular, two people, four people, vegatarian, etc. The meals are terrific. Nothing too gourmet, but good healthy meals. I have learned how to cook some really good fish dishes from them.
Good Luck,

9:45 AM  
Blogger Fiona said...

oops. I forgot to say that they give you shopping lists too

9:46 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Best of luck! Every time I try this, I fall flat on my face. Thus why we eat out at least three nights a week. As far as shopping alone, can you not put her in the grocery cart? Or if she's still in her carrier carseat, put that in the "kids basket." No need to take the stroller to the grocery store. That's what I always did. I still preferred to shop with S, but I could do it alone if need be. And don't get your hopes up too much on her eating anything. L would eat anything, too, for a few months. Then he stopped eating things one by one, including black eyed peas, which he adored! Now he doesn't eat much at all, even if it was something he used to love. He just refuses and/or drops it off his high chair tray. It's driving me crazy!!!

1:25 PM  
Blogger Shalini said...

My toddler survives on milk and cheese :) I have stopped putting chillies in our food in hopes that one day if he wants to try something, there won't be the excuse of it being too spicy. This too shall pass...

Grocery shopping - we do it weekly. Mostly do it on sunday evenings, although sometimes I stop on the way home. If I'm picking DS from daycare, I take him along. He 'helps' me fill the cart with random things.
Our veggies used to go bad all the time...and then I started buying smaller quantities because I wasn't using up as much. I usually cook 4 or more servings at a time and freeze whatever is left for lunches. It's so convenient. We rarely eat lunch outside. For dinners, if I am cooking, we eat at home, otherwise, fast food. New cookbooks are a great way for me to come out of my cooking slump. In fact, I received some new books this weekend.

When DS was an infant, we'd just put the car seat on the grocery cart. Any reason why you can't do that?

2:00 PM  
Blogger Zoe said...

Erica: DH and I have the same problem with time. We don't eat out, but I find "dinner" is a bagel and cream cheese cuz I just don't have the TIME to cook. What we have started doing is cooking double and triple batches of things and freezing them in individual serving containers. Good luck... it's hard to find time to cook and shop... this is just something that has worked for us.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Hello!! I found my way here via KiwiJo's blog....and I think I'll be back to check your progress on the cooking obsession!! DH and I don't have a child (yet? who knows...), but we eat out WAY too often. My mom gave me a subscription to "Cooking for 2" magazine, which helps a bit, except for the pesky issue of ingredients. A lot of the recipes in there could easily be enlarged for 3...and when your daughter first starts on table food, you could probably manage to take a teeny bit off of each of the 2 adult-sized servings...

11:00 AM  

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