Friday, November 2, 2012

Blackboard on the dining room door

As a stay-at-home mom, I feel like it's my responsibility to make healthy meals for our family.  It is not my favorite part of the job. You see, I am not a very good cook - and when I suck at something, I try to avoid doing it every single night!*

What does dinner entail, anyways?  Research (aka web surfing), prep (aka shopping) and cooking (chopping, measuring and stirring). Sounds easy? We all do it? We all have to eat? Why do I still have so many misadventures in the kitchen?

My husband is great - he will eat anything as long as it is warm and served with rice. 'I love that there's so much ginger in these meatballs, ginger is good for my cold',  'It can't be too rich and saucy when you eat it with rice,' 'It tastes ok, since I like things saltier than you do' reply is always the same 'But I followed the recipe!'

The 10,000 hours rule must apply. I've logged, maybe, a couple hundred. (Pouring milk into the cereal bowl doesn't count). I have convinced myself that if I put in enough time, things will get better.      

The truth is, things are improving! I now have a full list of disaster proof meals (written on the chalk board). I also have a bunch of recipes to retry, only this time tweak them to our tastes. In fact, I am able to adjust a recipe, the first time, if I think it has a little too much of this, or not enough of that...I am really doing it! The more success I have, the more I want to cook! I've even stopped thinking of it as 'my job,' and I started to look forward to meal time! How crazy is that?   

What changed? I finally figured out that, even though I might make something only so-so tonight, there is always another meal tomorrow!

Tell me, what did you have for dinner tonight!? 

*Well, not every night, since my husband enjoys cooking.  He shares as much as the load as possible. Tonight I bought veal chops because I know he will slap the porcini mushroom dust on them and fry them up. My husband often makes dinner on the weekends too!

ps. 'One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.'  ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story....Seriously man, we have to eat every day. Why not eat well?  
pps. I didn't want to move the lily plant for the winter, I also don't want the heat of the rads to cook the plant. It already drinks a lot of water! Then I found the marble chinese checkers board, that I bought in November 2010! I hope it helps! I almost wrote the post about finding a home for another one of my thrifted treasures...


  1. I didn't become a good meal planner until I learned to use our freezer and to buy meat in bulk. My husband is gluten free which means easy pasta meals are off the table, but as a result we are both eating healthier (more veggies and grains like quinoa.) We still spend so much on groceries though! Ack!

  2. What a sweet hubs. I like that he is so optimistic about each meal. A usually says "let's not put this into the rotation" if e doesn't like it. I get his jist.

  3. My husband does most of the cooking and he loves to make fun of the fact that when he first met me, I always cooked without tasting anything. I just figured if I followed the recipe, why would I need to taste it as I go? Turns out baking and cooking are pretty different :) I completely agree that it's all about practice, the more I cook, the better I get at it, learning what flavours go well together and how to tweak recipes so that they'll be more to our liking before I've even tried them. I've still got a lot to learn, but I love your approach. The chalkboard is great too!

  4. ACK! I just wrote out a comment for my computer to make it disappear. Sad. Anyways - I love cooking and use to suck but after lots of practice and playing around it just started to click for me. I actually think I am pretty good at it now. I find blogs really helped.

    My favourite food blogs are: My New Roots (Canadian author!), Everybodylovessandwiches, The Pioneer Woman (surprisingly she does lots of basic recipes that are easy to follow),Bread and Honey Blog (although she no longer writes about food, but read her archives), I married An Irish Farmer (lots of fun recipes there) and sometimes I look things up on the food network.

    Good luck!

  5. I've always found that the cooking portion of my j'ob' as a stay-at-home mom was the worst! I'd start dreading it by breakfast, when I'd have to start thinking about what the heck to make for dinner! So happy I don't have to deal with that anymore! (I work full time now and my son's on his own, so my hubby & I just whip up salads, sandwiches and the like, during the week, and then he cooks great meals on the weekend! Lovely!

  6. Good to see you have a list of success. Next try some vegetarian meals and either veggie or meat with BEANS!

  7. I am on mat leave right now (will soon end) and have been trying to cook for the family and sadly I have to say that I still suck at cooking! I love food, I love my family and for years I relied on my husband, who is good cook, to cook for us. I used to cook occasionally and for the past year I tried! I read your post tonight and I felt like reading my story (kind of). I had to cook tonight since my mother came back from a long trip and everybody was coming to her place and I cooked one of the few meals that I feel comfortable to cook for a bigger crowd. I did it! and tasted good but I was so tired at the dinner! I wish I was like my mother, my sister who can put together a fabulous table together in no time with minimal amount of effort! I love food and I love my family, I don't know what is missing! patience? cooking talent???

  8. I have to say - that's an impressive list. I was thinking of writing a very similar post to this because it has dominated my thoughts lately!
    I think I like the idea of cooking more than the reality of it. I look up recipes, gather the ingredients, plan on when to make them - it's all good in theory. But when the time comes - it can easily fall apart. I hate it when a new recipe is a disappointment. I always ask fella - do you like it? Do you think I should make it again? He almost always says yes but I'm not convinced. It's not him that's hard to please - it's me!
    These days I make a list of what I'll make for dinner each night of the week and then I just stick with it. I've bought the ingredients and planned for it - who cares if we don't fancy chicken that night? It's on the list! I also know that if I don't stick to the list we'll eat something unhealthy and I'm trying to get away from that.
    Cooking/planning is hard but it works! (because on a Wednesday after getting through the day and the two days before that - I just don't want to figure anything out.)

  9. Whenever I try a new recipe I have such high expectations...I find it tough to find everyday meal ideas...Sunday dinner ideas, sure...but just basic cooking that is delicious? Wait...can basic cooking be delicious? Maybe I am fooling myself!!!

  10. There probably is such a thing as cooking talent...and I do not have it!!!

  11. I totally have to learn how to cook beans...I have lentils on the list...I make a mean pea soup, chick pea salad and chili...that's it! We are definitely missing out!!

  12. I moved pasted dread...I do get excited when things are all lined up and ready to go! Or when I have something simmering in the slow cooker...

    Actually, slow cooker is the best because if I can knock off dinner before we are finished eating breakfast, I feel like a champ!!

  13. I am going to stalk all these blogs!! Thanks for the tip!

    I can't not cook, so I figure eventually it has to click...I mean, it is starting to!

  14. I KNOW!!!!


    I was kinda annoyed at having to tweak things at first...I mean, if it was a good recipe, it shouldn't need my interference, right? Except, people really do have different tastes when it comes to seasoning!

  15. Yes! I have just started freezing things, but it is hard to figure out how long it needs to defrost in the fridge...I pulled out a whole chicken tonight, I figure I can cook it on Tuesday? I dunno....just guessing.

    Groceries are expensive! I am making a lot of soup these days...I feel like it stretches the $$ farther...

  16. Drool. Your rotation of meals is way more exciting than ours! (egg night - again???...whiiine) So fajitas - it is the fam's favourite! Cause they can all put their own things in it and pretty much make a mess. I typically just fry up ground beef or chicken, to be easy, and add some garlic, cumin and whatever - it's pretty plain. But then add the homemade guac, sauteed onions and peppers, canned corn (kids!), salsa, rice (good for your DH :-)), and it's yum! (you can add cheese and sour cream - we don't for kosher reasons). I tried making fish fajitas once, with tilapia and a nice yoghurt/lime sauce. They were awesome but the kids were whiny about it. Anyhoo...I've apologized to my mother profusely for complaining about dinner when I was a kid. My comeuppance...

  17. I trawl the internet (brokefoodie/ thekitchn/ marthastewart) and I try to test at least 2 new easy meal recipes a week / 1 new dessert recipe (the dessert recipe is because my daughter is allergic to eggs and I'm trying to find my way around baking without them).

    If I like the dish, I write it down in my binder of recipes (1 binder for desserts, 1 for main dishes, both sorted alphabetically): this is because I realised I rely too heavily on my bookmarks and on my various recipe books. Part of my being able to plan the week's meals effectively is being able to look recipes up in one place.

    And I like the thought that my kids will browse through my book and see their favourite dishes written in my hand, with my notes, and splats of food from years of cooking.

    Also: freeze leftovers in individual servings, then transfer to large ziplock bags, Not having to thaw 1L of soup if I only want 1 bowl? The. Best.

  18. I have several peace lilly plants and orchids placed on radiator covers. I found these cork coasters at Ikea that work reasonably well to insulate the plants from the heat and they also absorb any spillages from watering the plants. They are dirt cheap too.

  19. Your menu board sounds delicious. I would cook more if I was guaranteed the little one in the house would eat it! Sadly, we can't be as adventurous with our food if we want her to participate in the meal (and I'm not a fan of cooking a separate menu for each person). Last night we had Grandpa's famous spaghetti sauce - one thing we all eat with gusto!

  20. My boys actually eat exactly what we eat. I've never made them anything special. My one year old will eat everything, he's an animal! My 3.5 year old is typically fussy...he doesn't want the carrots in his soup, for example...but we let him pick them out and no biggy. When I cook something my husband and I both like, chances are the boys are into it too!

    I guess all this cooking is really FOR my boys...I picture my house
    being over run with giant teenagers and if i don't have real food for
    them to eat, they will OD on pizza pops or something. (maybe
    they OD on pizza pops anyways)

  21. Lunch time with my 3.5 year old is much harder than dinner! I should say that!!

  22. Love the binder idea! I have an old notebook that I use the same way! I want to make a photo recipe book for the that when they are older, they will each have a book of all of mom's recipes!

  23. you have egg night!!!?? HA HA! Come on over lady! Or maybe I should deliver!!!

    Just garlic and cumin? That's doable!!!!
    And i can put rice in it? That pretty much seals the deal!

  24. Absolutely love this post Shannon!
    I don't consider myself a very good cook either (and I'm sad to hear that pouring milk into a cereal bowl doesn't count...that's my specialty!). I enjoy it when I do it, but there's usually a small fiasco and things never seem to turn out quite right.
    I've recently pushed myself into giving it another go. And, I'm having fun with it - there's still fiasco's and flubs - but I'm rolling with it. I figure real meals done mediocre is still way better than cereal and milk every night, right?! ;)

  25. I can totally relate. There is nothing more frustrating than putting all that time and money into creating a meal that doesn't taste great. I think you're onto the secret with your board - eventually you build a nice repertoire of meals that work. I have a foolproof, easy, delicious, freezable tomato sauce recipe for you if you want. Even the old timer Italians in my family are using it.