I have never been much of a cook. I know how to make a few key things really, really well, and can produce edible but not very interesting food the rest of the time. Here are the things I’m known for:
- Thanksgiving turkey – I’ve been cooking the turkey for my family the last few years. It is my mother’s recipe, so I guess she gets the credit, but I do it really, really well.
- Roast chicken – Pretty much like a turkey, but smaller and takes a lot less time.
- Sea Bass – I grill it or cook it in the oven and it is delicious. My trick is wrapping it in foil so it never dries out.
- Pea Soup – This one is my father’s recipe, but I may have improved it a bit. I use the slow cooker and it takes about two days to make.
- Pork chops / Chicken cutlet’s – I basically cook them the same way. They are fried, and delicious.
- Rice and beans – this is a new one for me. Again, I use the slow cooker, lots of garlic, and adobe. Everyone loves it.
That’s pretty much it. I make spaghetti from a jar, and heat up lots of other things, but don’t consider myself much of a cook. I don’t hunt out recipes or enjoy cooking shows and my eyes tend to glaze over when people start talking about recipes.
As a single parent, this pretty much means my daughter hasn’t had too much cooking instruction. She took a semester of gourmet cooking in high school, but without having a chance to try everything at home, she doesn’t remember much. And she really wants to learn. So when I saw an ad for plated in my Facebook feed, I checked it out, for her. And it has been fabulous.
Here’s the premise: You purchase dinner for two (or more I guess) and they send you all the ingredients and the recipe. And voila! You have a gourmet dinner that you prepared yourself. Most of the meals take between 45 min to an hour to cook (it usually takes us a little longer than the suggested time) and there are usually plenty of choices in the 400-600 calories per serving range. Many meals are a main entrée and a side dish, although there is some variation. I try to stay on my healthy eating program, but there are sometimes I have to stray a bit. The good news is that you are cooking exactly the right amount for two people, so even if one of the recipes is higher calorie, you aren’t going back for seconds.
The first time we tried it we really didn’t know what we were doing, but we had so much fun doing it together and amazingly the food came out terrific. Since then, we have ordered about 16 different “plates” and its been a lot of fun. Some of the recipes are simple to do. We call it “re-plating” when we purchase the ingredients ourselves and then follow a recipe we have already done. It is so cool that every recipe starts from scratch. If you need lemon, you zest a lemon. If you need rosemary, you pull the leaves of the rosemary plant and mince them up.
Hands down our favorite recipe is the pizza with vodka sauce, which is one of the less “healthy” choices we have picked. (I didn’t have any vodka, so we made the sauce with Grand Mariner, and it wassoooooo good.) We also really loved the Red calamari soup, the smashed fingerlings potatoes, and pretty much anytime we get to eat meat on a stick. We have tried foods we never would have tried before, like dandelion salad or Pork Tonkatsu. There are plenty of ingredients we never heard of or can’t pronounce. We have cooked Greek, Japanese, Basque, French, and Turkish meals.
The best part is doing something fun with my daughter. We are learning together, which is great for her. Usually I know more about something than she does, but in cooking we are about even. She does most of the chopping. I read the recipe aloud (multiple times, usually) and sometimes we screw things up (like the time we put the mixed up where the cucumber and the rosemary were supposed to go. No worries, it still tasted great).
So why is this cooking ironic? Because right now I’m following the most boring, uninteresting food plans of my life. I have been successfully getting healthier and losing weight largely because I eat the same thing day in and day out. And I choose this same time in my life to improve my cooking. It actually works out well. The only thing that makes the boring, eat the same thing food plan work is knowing that I can enjoy food sometimes without everything going out of whack. Also, in a way, these recipes do follow my food plan. All of them use natural, whole ingredients. I try to avoid meals with wheat and flour, but if I get one from time to time it is one small serving in one isolated meal. Also, as I get better and better at cooking, I’m learning to improve my go-to boring meals. Instead of just grilling a chicken breast plain, I marinate it in soy sauce, garlic, and Dijon mustard. Rather than just stir-frying my kale and mushrooms, I add in a bit of lemon juice and garlic.