They say necessity is the mother of invention, and in my case, I think it is true. I started trying my hand at preparing hot meals a few months ago. At the time, I was only preparing one evening meal each week. My wife was a great cook and, when I would complement her on a particular recipe, she would always say “that’s why I have the big kitchen”. Well, she is gone now and suddenly the “big kitchen” is mine and I find it a little intimidating. Fortunately, I had participated in the prep of meals for a long time so I at least possessed some skills and knowledge about what went into whatever it was we were fixing. And, I thought I knew where most everything was kept, even though that had always been a moving target.
After the initial realization that I was in a ‘cook or die’ situation, I started to take stock of what I was going to do. I first resolved not to descend into a diet of burgers, pizza, and cheese doodles. There was no reason that I could not provide wholesome meals for myself. And, with that as my mantra, I set out to prove myself.
The first thing I decided to confront was the freezer full of food. Meat, fish, and chicken had been carefully packaged and labeled. Fortunately, we have long kept an inventory of what was in the freezer to include name, date frozen, weight, and quantity. This gave us an easy way to always retrieve the oldest items first and design our meals around them. However, it becomes a little more difficult to eat out of the freezer when you have things like large roasts and meals packaged in larger quantities. It quickly became apparent that learning to cook was only half the problem. The other was, learning to manage leftovers.
One of the things I learned while watching my wife cook was that organization was paramount. Everything necessary for the recipe was arranged and/or readily available before the oven or burner was turned on. That is fine with me as I can be a little obsessive about things like that. I like to clean up as I cook. If you are not going to need it again, deal with it. I can’t say we always agreed on that. Frequently she would ask “what happened to the (fill in the blank) and I would say ” I washed it and put it away” to which she would say “sometimes, I wish you wouldn’t try so hard to help me”.
So where am I today? Well, I would give myself a B+. I have successfully made a meatloaf, fried chicken, barbecued ribs, a creamy mac and cheese, pan fried steak, and a couple of skillet dishes. If the recipe makes enough for two meals, I will refrigerate the leftover and have it later in the week. If the leftovers are greater then that, I drag out the seal a meal and freeze a portion or two. This is all done with the aid of my air fryer which I am coming to love and a mini pot pressure cooker. I have also baked bread using our bread machine. However, I don’t like the hole the beater leaves in the bottom of the loaf. So I use the dough cycle to do the grunge work and then give it another rise in a bread pan before baking it in the oven.
Yesterday, during a senior moment, I decided to do something with that bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer. So I set out to make blueberry muffins, from scratch no less. We had a couple of ‘issues’ along the way which I will call ‘learning experiences’. One was that you do not turn on the hand mixer before plunging it into a bowl of flour. I mean you can, but you may have to do a little extra cleanup, including the dog that was standing beside you looking for a handout. Anyway, the muffins came out good enough to share with some friends and, it gave me the encouragement I needed to pursue new horizons. Right now, I am eyeing a recipe called Butter Brickle Frozen Delight which involves ingredients like brown sugar, caramel sauce, cream cheese, pecans, and whipped topping, among other yummy things. Like I said. There is no reason I can’t fix wholesome food. Right?