When it comes to cooking, I have a love/hate thing happening. You’ve probably already figured that out If you’ve read previous posts. If you asked me if I enjoy it, tonight’s answer would be that I absolutely love it. If you ask me tomorrow, my answer might be a vehement no.
As I’ve said over and over, meal planning (or at least a basic framework) is extremely helpful for me, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to enjoyable. What I have recognized the last few days is that when I know the food will be appreciated, truly savoured and even critiqued with care, that the preparation process is a bit happier. Having fresh and versatile ingredients on hand is key. I’ve determined that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen when I don’t see the chaos of the rest of the house and dishes aren’t piled up in the sink. I also seem to enjoy it more when I allow myself time to just create. Quick meals are handy and wonderful, but give me a day when I have energy and a good block of time to work and I can crank out something delicious!
Over the last few days we had roast beef with potato wedges and a salad. The wedges were great (tip: parboil the potatoes first!) but the roast itself wasn’t so yum. However, layered between a soft and crusty bun with havarti and gravy the next day made it a quick and pleasant dish. Yesterday, I found a recipe for a creamy chicken and rice soup that I loosely followed and it was so flavourful. Tonight, I knew I’d be using the remaining two chicken breasts in a pasta dish, but wasn’t entirely sure where we were going until I started pulling things out of the fridge.
Now… I hate to admit this after my complaints about the fusspot, but I am not a huge fan of pasta. Tonight was a winner though. I seasoned and baked the chicken while prepping my veg. Put the (spaghetti) noodles on to boil. (I didn’t have anything heartier in the cupboard.) Sauteed some onion, lots of garlic, baby spinach, red and yellow peppers, and some diced tomato. Seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices, a sprinkle of salt, and lots of ground pepper. Added some heavy cream (whipping cream) and parmesan. It was a flavorful, creamy sauce. Added the prepared seasoned chicken. Stirred it all in with the noodles and baked with a light layer of marble on top. It was truly a use-what’s-on-hand meal, but it was tasty… and 3 out of 4 approved. (Because, you know, I can’t win with the fusspot.) Will I be able to recreate it? Maybe, but the chances aren’t good as I didn’t write a thing down.
I made muffins today… used a multigrain pancake mix we don’t enjoy as pancakes and lots of bananas and cocoa. I made an apple/pear/oatmeal/granola dish with fruit that was on it’s last legs and some leftovers from the pantry. I loved spending the time just mixing and stirring, following my instincts and taste buds. I used recipes as a launching pad rather than a strict formula.
I also wanted to feed my family food made with care and love – a way of expressing my affection and making mealtime more than a pitstop in a busy day. Perhaps dishes seasoned with love actually do taste better…and attitude going in to little acts of service and kindness make a huge difference in how it feels when you’re elbows deep in saucepans and mixing bowls, or making any other gesture of caring. Maybe it’s time to let dinner become an act where we feed not just our bodies, but also our souls.