Flashback Friday - My Passion for Cooking

Growing up, I never cooked.  I mean, I could make scrambled eggs, but that was about it.  And that doesn't really count as cooking.  Both my parents were really good cooks, and whoever got home first would make dinner.  When my mom was in college, she and her friend Dianne would make a big pot of whatever on Sunday, and they would eat it almost all week long.  We didn't go that far as a family, but at least twice a week we would have leftovers.  And sometimes we would have the same leftovers twice in a row.

When I got to high school my culinary skills expanded to occasionally making pasta. But again, that was about it.  I went to Purdue for my first 2 years of college so we never cooked.  We ate at the dorm, or ordered out, or made spaghetti-o's.  I moved back home to finish school, but still never cooked.  

My friend Kara and I got an apartment after I graduated.  She was still in school and I was working on campus, so we got an off-campus apartment.  At that point I realized I needed to learn how to make a few things so that I wouldn't weigh 500lbs from eating out constantly.  So I asked my mom for help. I watched her a few times, helped her a few times, and then eventually made a couple of items myself.  I started small and with very easy dishes.  Stuff I couldn't screw up.

There's a couple of things my mom made that I really liked and often requested growing up.  The first was curry chicken.  My parents are from Trinidad, and curry is one of the staples. 

The other thing was baked mac & cheese.  She only made that occasionally, because it takes quite a bit longer than regular mac & cheese.  But it's worth it.

Posts of how I make both dishes will come soon!

Kara and I took turns cooking for the 2 years we lived together.  Our friend Amy lived with us for 9 months of that time, so she was part of the rotation too.  But then we split up and I moved into my own place, and then I was doing all the cooking.  I often took leftovers to work, but I also learned how to make a few dishes so I wasn't eating the same thing every single day. 

When I moved to Oklahoma one of the things that immediately struck me is that people here eat out ALL THE TIME.  Every day the restaurant parking lots are crowded and every Sunday they're packed.  I also noticed the obesity. I was really shocked at how many overweight and obese people there are. But it's really no wonder, considering what I see people ordering.  And the portion sizes.  And the junk food in their carts at the grocery store.

For about the first year I ate lunch at home pretty much every day because I live 4.5 miles from the office. But it was always boring stuff like a turkey sandwich.  And a couple of times I sat on the couch to relax after eating and caught myself falling asleep.  So I started eating out with my work friends.  It's much more fun than sitting at home, but it's expensive and often not healthy.  Not that you can't find healthy options, but we never made those choices.  And I'm not good with temptation.  If my friends are getting yummy deliciousness, I'm much more likely to join the pack than get a healthy dish.  After about 2 years of eating out constantly, I went back to eating at home all the time.  Now I eat at home most of the time, but occasionally eat out.

When I got my own apartment my aunt gave me a cookbook and I bought a couple more.  I also started looking online for recipes. There was no Pinterest at the time so I relied on sites like cooking.com, Food and Wine, and recipes.com.  One thing I've held true to from day 1: I'll only make a dish where the recipe shows a picture.  I mean, how am I supposed to know if it remotely looks the way it should if there's no picture?  I could be missing out on some great recipes, but the way I look at it, that's the author's fault.  It's not that hard to include a photo.

I actually held out on Pinterest for a while, because everyone talked about how addictive it is.  And when I finally started looking one day at work when it was slow, I swear I was on there all day long.  I've now got boards for Recipes, Made It Loved It, and recipes I found on the sites of my Blog Meets Blog family.  I also recently started putting my blog posts on there.

I have found literally thousands of recipes. I need to categorize them into different boards on Pinterest, because 2 things happen.  First, I've found that I've pinned the same recipe a couple of times.  Pinterest has finally fixed that because now if you try to pin something again it tells you.  And second, I never get all the way down to the early recipes I pinned because I find something else I want to make first.  Or when I first go onto the website I see new things that I need to pin and want to make. With almost 1,100 new recipes that I've pinned, I clearly have a lot of new things to try

People are often surprised when they find out I cook all the time.  Probably because I live alone.  And also probably because of all the restaurants I post about, you would think I eat out all the time.  In fact, it's just the opposite. I would say in a normal week when I'm home and not traveling and outside of football season, I eat at home at least 95% of the time.  It's cheaper, you know exactly what's in your food, and you can control portion size.

Portions is something I struggled with when I began cooking.  When I learned, I was cooking for 2-3 people.  Kara and Amy didn't do leftovers, so we cooked new every night. When I moved out on my own I continued that trend.  And ever since then, some 20+ years ago, I don't do leftovers.  Well, I'll do pizza, but that's about it.  I would much rather cook something different every meal.  It was hard for me at first to cook for just me.  My portions were really large for a long time, and I finally realized I was eating way too much.  So I began measuring my portions.  You really don't realize what a serving of something really is until you start measuring.  It's very eye opening. I'm pretty good at eyeballing veggies and protein.  Starches not so much, so I still measure and weigh those. 

When I first started this blog 3 years ago my focus was solely on restaurants.  And in the very beginning, new restaurants only.  Then I branched out to repeat restaurants, where I would just have to try something new on the menu.  Then I branched out again, to include recipes.  I figure since I really love to cook and I'm a Pinterest recipe freak, I should take advantage.  My original goal was one new recipe a week.  Sometimes I go crazy and do 2-3 recipes a week. Sometimes I go weeks without a new recipe, and then for a month straight I'm on a recipe mission.  It just kind of depends on the time of year and my motivation. Even though I have found so many new recipes to try I do still have my standby favorites.  And it's harder than I thought to go away from them.  

My mission going forward is to re-focus on making one new recipe per week.  I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast every day so we're really only talking 1/14 of my week.  There's no reason I can't handle that.  I also need to get back to meal planning for the week, because then I can schedule in the new recipes.  I don't prep foods or anything like that.  Instead I just figure out what I want to eat for lunch and dinner for the week.  

Am I going to get my own Food Network show? Definitely not for cooking!  But I have really grown to love cooking; trying new dishes, making changes to make the dishes my own, and just spending time in the kitchen. Cooking relaxes me.  It motivates me to eat better. And it allows me to expand my horizons.