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September 8, 2008

Cooking for one, the "I don't cook" episode

Ok, confession time: When I am in my kitchen chopping and piddling around and so on, I pretend I have my own cooking show. This is made all the more amusing by the fact that I am a pretty lame cook, do not follow instructions well and often think a bag of popcorn + a glass of wine = a good meal.

BUT, sometimes I do cook. I'm trying very hard to cook more of my meals these days for two reasons:

1) It's so much cheaper than eating out.
2) It's so much better for you!

When I fix my own meals at least I know what's in my food and especially what's NOT in it. I have a serious and long-term abusive relationship with fast-food and one of the real downsides to fast food (besides the fact that to me it is crackass addictive, I could eat it for every meal) is that is has almost no nutritional value at all and is covered in stuff my body doesn't need. One day I was eating french fries, my version of heroin, when I looked at a fry and realized I was inhaling them and they have NO NUTRIENTS. I'm not even sure the fries I was eating were made from a plant-based object.

But I kept eating them. They tasted goooood.

So I have to really work at avoiding fast food, because even though my mind says, "This is garbage!" my mouth says, "I like garbage! Put salt on it and call it a day!"

The weekends are my time for cooking and preparing meals. There just isn't enough time or energy left in me at the end of a workday and a commute to come home and fix a meal. So on the weekends I shop for a few staples and then come home and wash my vegetables and assemble stuff for meals for the week, lunches and snacks or whatever, and I also try to cook something I can stretch through the week, like a stew or chili.

Cooking is not my favorite way to spend a day, so I try to do a fair amount of cooking in my crockpot. This past weekend I cooked a turkey in the crockpot, so easy! (Here's how I did it.) That will make a good dinner tonight!

Another confession here: I hate greens. I know you're supposed to love and eat leafy greens all day long but I just don't care for them. I don't even really like salad very much. But I have discovered by accident that I don't mind kale (I don't want to eat a big side helping of it, but if it's mixed in with something else it's ok.) And I am therefore committed to adding more kale to my diet since it's about the only green leaf I don't mind eating. Thanks to reader Rachel who mentioned a stew made of chickpeas and kale and sausage... I went to Epicurious.com (my favorite website!) and found this recipe, which I made yesterday. Chopping the kale in my food processor was a real pain in the butt, there's a fine line between "minced" and "paste" and it made a big mess, so halfway through making this dish I did not have high hopes for it. But in the end it was delicious! I made some modifications -- I cooked my own chickpeas (not from a can) and I added about twice the amount called for in the recipe. I also used a spicy hot Italian sausage instead of chorizo and it gave this stew so much kick, it's really outstanding. I also let it simmer for a lot longer than three minutes. It was so tasty I had it for lunch yesterday and I brought it for lunch today with some cornbread.

The rest of my cooked chickpeas were used to make more hummus -- yummus -- and then I still had all this kale left over so I decided to make a more adventurous dish, mashed potatoes and kale. It's apparently based on an Irish recipe for Colcannon, which I had never heard of but I looked it up on the internet and hey, it's Irish! People love Ireland! And I love mashed potatoes, so I figured it was a good companion for my crockpot turkey.

I also didn't have high hopes for this dish but it ended up being pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I definitely didn't add the whole amount of kale called for in the recipe but it still greened up my potatoes. If you make mashed potatoes a fair amount -- and I do, alas -- it's a good way to get some greens into the butter and cream. The potato is an amazing thing, it makes everything taste good!

I don't know about you, but all the success for me in working towards being healthy and taking good care of myself (ESPECIALLY with nutrition) is in planning ahead. If I don't spend Sunday afternoon or evening cutting up veggies, washing cucumbers, making my lunch, putting my snacks in little containers then I find myself standing in line at McDonald's ordering yet another in a long line of nutrition-free ass building meals.

And my mental cooking show is AWESOME. This past Sunday as I was standing in my kitchen chopping yet another onion, I realized I was narrating my every move in my head, telling my fictional audience whoops! Don't let your fingers get in the way! And I realized what a dork I was, running a cooking show in my mind when I am the world's goofiest and arguably least talented cook. But I was happy to notice I was content standing there, not resentful or irritated like I sometimes am when I feel pressured to cook a meal. I was just doing something good for myself, treating myself well by making a new and unusual experiment in kale.

That was a nice moment. The studio audience in my mind agreed.

Posted by laurie at September 8, 2008 8:50 AM