First of all, did you know what I formerly knew as "brussel sprouts" are actually the always-plural "Brussels Sprout?" I did not! Google just told me. I declared google to be false, checked all the recipes I read on our drive to and from Colorado that involved this sprout and discovered, to my genuine shock, that it read "Brussels sprouts" in every one of them. I have been wrong my whole life. So wrong that I deliberately read them wrong over and over again. This is like when I discovered reindeer are real animals while talking to the reindeer handler at the Dallas Arboretum two Christmases ago. I kept trying to get him to tell me what the reindeer really was. Like, dude, I'm in on the secret. I know Santa isn't real and I'm just trying to figure out what kind of animal you have behind you wearing all those bells. "It's a reindeer ma'am." We did that about four times. He probably knew it was Brussels sprouts too.
In another moment of breathtaking genius, I decided to make three brand new recipes from scratch for dinner Monday night. I did something wrong to all of them, resulting in three totally mediocre components to a meal that took me three hours and a near paycheck's worth of organic ingredients to make. My big moment of redemption was supposed to come on Tuesday when I revealed the amazing chicken broth I was going to brew overnight in the crockpot with my whole roasted organic chicken carcass, big chunks of onion, carrot, and celery, fresh herbs, and lots of water. But when I came out Tuesday morning to smile beatifically over my concoction I found it cold and congealy because I never plugged the freaking crockpot in. So into the trash everything went, along with my tears, and what might as well have just been the money I could have spent on the new pair of snow boots I wanted.
But I remain undaunted in my New Year's Quest. I am cooking new things and they are going to be amazing! Or some of them will. It's going to be an adventure.
My cooking and our eating have been a long evolution. We've eaten dinner as a family every night since Landon turned 1, but my approach cooking has changed drastically over the years. In Chicago, recipe blogs weren't a thing yet, so my newly married self stumbled through some simple childhood favorites, casseroles full of cream-of-whatever soups, and a lot of frozen stuff from Trader Joe's. We didn't have any money and we never ever threw away a single thing without at least trying to make something edible with it. I remember making a bean stew that cost about $5 with all our leftover canned goods and eating it for 5 days straight. I had never heard of quinoa, but we were vegetarians much of the time because chicken was the most expensive thing I bought at the grocery store and I generally avoided it. Food was about enjoyment when we treated ourselves to a meal out and survival at home. I didn't put a lot of thought in to it.
In Austin it was all about what was fast. We didn't get home from work until 6:30, with 1-2 hungry kids in tow, so whoever got there first started cooking. We ate a ton of pasta, anything we could make in advance over the weekend, and once I got over the cost, we got a lot of prepared meals from local delivery services. I had now heard of quinoa, but I pronounced it wrong and didn't really know what it was. I didn't exercise, ever, though James still swam daily. I was getting more adventurous about recipes and starting to really enjoy the process of chopping and cooking, but only on the weekends when I had time.
And then we came to Fort Worth and I found myself in a job that let me be home with the kids by 5:30. Suddenly, as food shows and recipe blogs were everywhere, I had time to (try to!) cook whatever I wanted. So we started to get more creative. I didn't eat meat for most of college, and James has a terrifying family history of heart disease (no man has made it to 50 without a heart attack, and no man has made it to 70 ever; both his paternal grandparents died of heart attacks before he was born), so he's always been eager for heart healthy vegetarian meals mixed in with meatier dishes. I finally tackled quinoa and it's a staple ingredient in two of our family's favorite meals (Southwestern BBQ Quinoa Salad and Greek Quinoa Salad). The kids are older and don't need anything hands-on in the evening; we lost a wall of our kitchen so I can see them and chat with them while I cook and simmer. Cooking has truly become a fun hobby and enjoyable task. I know someday they'll have more activities and my precious evening time will get scattered, so I'm trying to savor it now. James coaches every night and gets home about 7, so I have everything ready to go and we sit down to eat the minute he steps in the door. He does all the breakfasts and packs lunches, two chores I strongly dislike, so it balances out perfectly.
But now I'm trying to branch out some more. I still need recipes. I'm not a good chef- I'm not a chef at all- but I'm an excellent follower of directions. Because of this, I rely more on one pot meals than I really want to. I love them, but I wouldn't mind a few nights of a protein + seasoning or sauce with veggies and grains on the side. But I don't know how to cook a protein just on it's own, so I rarely go that route. This is one of my goals in 2017. Conquer the chicken. Be the beef. Slay the salmon. Pump up the pork (if we ate it, which we don't).
(Pictured because I FINALLY found a pre-rinsed quinoa available in large quantity for a reasonable price - Costco, of course.)
My other goal is to find more recipes with fuel-rich, energy-giving ingredients that are "light" in that they are not rich or heavy, but that aren't also too light in calories. No one is trying to lose weight; in fact James is constantly eating to keep it on, and I'm now a bona fide worker-outer, so I struggle to find recipes that are the kind of "light" we're looking for- more of a personal preference in whole food preparation than any kind of dieting plan.
On shu's recommendation, I bought "Run Fast, Eat Slow" which I greatly enjoyed and was the source of my three mediocre meal extravaganza on Monday (totally not the book's fault). Tonight I made their Kale Radicchio Salad with Farro and Lemon Miso Dressing and it was AMAZING. James devoured it and then ate all the leftovers I'd stored in the fridge. The farro was such a delicious addition to the salad- chewy and hearty while providing the extra much-needed calories to an otherwise pretty light and definitely very healthy salad. I'd never thought to add a grain like that to a salad before, and that's exactly the kind of recipe I'm searching for now. If anyone else has that book has any favorite recipes, let me know what I should make next.
In a separate "new year" type venture, we're on a credit card crash diet for the month (2 vacations + Christmas in 6 weeks was a bit much, even if they were all carefully planned, saved for, and within budget; my credit card is just tired and wants to be left alone), so I've planned all our meals for the whole next month (NO restaurants, except a date night here and there, because marriage is important. and also sushi) and unsubscribed from all store emails. There will be emergencies, but there will be no discretionary spending. James never buys anything or cares that I buy everything, so he doesn't even know we're on a diet, but I am COMMITTED. Today was Day 1 of the new credit card cycle. It ends February 10th, conveniently before Valentine's Day and my birthday, because let's not be ridiculous.
This week's menu:
Monday: Whole roasted chicken, Zucchini quinotto (like risotto, but with quinoa and a bunch of grated zucchini; I love the idea, but didn't find this one to have enough flavor; this could have been my fault and I want to try again, but with more stuff added in), Roasted BRUSSELS sprouts, Costco's seeded wheat bread. All from Eat Fast, Run Slow; all will be made again, just in a more informed manner than I made them the first time.
Tuesday: Whole wheat pasta (another change going forward!) and Bolognese sauce. The sauce was really good (I omitted the bacon step and the ground pork, using 1.3 lbs. of organic ground beef from those magical Costco packages I always have in the freezer), one of the best bolognese's I've found so far, but I did not read the part that said simmer 2-4 hours in advance so we simmered for 30 mins. It was still awesome and I look forward to finding out what 4 hours will do.
Wednesday: BBQ quinoa salad! A family classic, this time with leftover chicken from Monday's roasted chicken, chopped and tossed in a little bbq sauce.
Thursday: Grilled tuna steak, Kale Radicchio Salad with Farro (and an amazing Lemon Miso Dressing that had me searching "what is white miso paste" on google; for the salad I used a bagged blend of shaved kale, radicchio, brussels sprouts, and broccoli from Trader Joe's because it was easy, and I subbed out the walnuts for toasted cashews because I hate walnuts and love cashews), whole grain bread.
Friday: leftover pasta bolognese
If you have any favorite recipes, books, or blogs in the "healthy and hearty but not heavy" long-worded-vein of what I'm looking for above (or something I don't even know I'm looking for!), let me know! It's a year of new things. Brussels sprouts yesterday, farro today, Kamut berries in our breakfast tomorrow. Who knows what madness next week will bring.
Fugs & Pieces, April 21st 2017
1 day ago