Cooking. I enjoy it immensely. I was born with an interest in recipes and food. My first memory in the kitchen was at the ripe old age of about 3 standing on a plastic chair in the kitchen helping my mom make brownies (from scratch of course). Mom encouraged the interest. Usually she didn't mind the extra mess - although I got an e-mail this week describing the utter disaster I left behind after making a project of whoopie pies as an early teen. Since I was single for quite some time, I didn't really need to cook for anyone until I married. I only had made sandwiches for the Chairman when we were dating. One funny thing he said a few years ago was that he figured he could live on sandwiches if that's what it took. (He has no interest in the kitchen really.) And I had no clue what to do with meat of any kind. Roasts scared me. Stuffing a chicken? Oh my. In fact on one of my first tries, I lost a bandage off my finger in a bird that I recovered after it was done. Ick!
Mom was and is a great cook. We have no super-strong ethnic ties since the family has been in America since before the Mayflower came or something like that. So it was just good midwestern fare that was hearty, wholesome, and homemade. My mom-in-law is a full-blooded Italian. And with that goes a love for things with flavor. Lots of garlic. The spaghetti sauce and eggplant are to be envied. After 16 years of marriage, I've gotten very very close to making it as good. (And the only way I'll share the secrets is if you marry a family member, ok?). The other influences come from others. We live in an area that loves to have each other over. The cooks here are outstanding. I'd be happy to eat a Tony's pizza at their table. But usually it is a full-blown super-yummy affair. And I keep fighting a few pounds because of it.
We rarely eat out. I think it is because the Chairman works long days and usually has lunch somewhere and is anxious to just get home and relax. The children have school schedules. And I'm frugal. With a family of five, even a fast-casual place such as Panera or Noodles can set you back $30. But I don't mind. As long as I have an idea what to serve. The family occasionally helps. The Chairman loves spinach salads. Healthy and light fare. He's not your typical meat/potatoes guy. Last week his request was for salmon again.
I shop at the warehouse club (but be sure to check pricing!). I have no problems shopping at the store where you put a quarter in to get a cart. In fact I was there yesterday and stocked up on some basics at quite the savings. I look at ads. Our menus often revolve around what's on sale.
I don't use mixes much. I do like to have a few cake mixes on hand. And daughter #2 LOVES shells and cheese out of a box. I like to know what we're really eating. I like to throw ground flax in any baked good. It's healthy. And no one is the wiser it is in there. Usually it is cheaper and better making it yourself.
I have a fully stocked pantry. Overflowing freezer. You never know when the next natural disaster will strike do you? But that helps in planning. So when I have a brainy idea for making thus-and-such and need a can of tomato puree. Well, voila! There it is. I have the luxury of being a 'housewife'. Well actually I'm the wife of the Chairman, not the house. But you know how that is. So I can plan earlier in the day for the evening meal. I can get it started at 2 since bedlam strikes at 3:35 when the MYP burst through the door needing attention.
Bread is a constant here as most of you know. The MYP are spoiled rotten in thinking that is 'normal'. The Bosch has been great. In fact, dough rises as I type. And some sweet potatoes are about to boil over on the stove. I've tweaked my bread recipe for the Bosch. I love it 98% of the time. I do have one beef. When doing smaller amounts, the ingredients spin around the center and don't get mixed unless the spatula gets involved. Other than that, it's great. Granola is most always on the cereal shelf.
So since I can't give out the spaghetti sauce recipe or I'd be booted from the family, I'll share one of our family favorites I serve here often and to others as well. Our kids started to call them 'blow noodles' when they were very little and actually still do. It actually is penne pasta with an olive oil/garlic on them. Here goes:
1 - 1lb. box good quality penne or mostaccioli
1/2 cup or more of extra-light olive oil
5-6 cloves of minced garlic (fresh is best)
1 teaspoon or more of Penzey's pasta sprinkle (can use just basil too)
1 or more teaspoons salt
black pepper to taste
Cook pasta al dente. Do not overcook.
Simmer garlic and seasonings in olive oil for 5 minutes (be careful to not brown it)
Pour over cooked pasta. Sprinkle generously with freshly grated parmesan.
As I said earlier, I'm no gourmet cook. I'm not even as good as many of my friends are. In fact, if you have great shopping/cooking/baking tips please comment! I have much to learn.