I love to eat. I don’t always love to cook (namely after 12 hour work shifts), so preparing delicious meals at home is unfortunately not a daily occurrence in my home. Add to the fact that I have yet to master the organizational skills it requires to meal plan and prep for dinners, and some weeks (though not many!) are complete blurs of dining out or grabbing something quick from the prepared food section at the grocery store. This is something I know I’ve got to get better at, especially with a growing family. I want our kid(s) to grow up eating healthy, wholesome meals the way I did, even with a mom who worked two jobs including nights and weekends. I have avoided fast food throughout my pregnancy (aside from one moment of weakness on a late night trip home when we stopped at Taco Bell…don’t judge me!), and I want to avoid indulging my daughter in the terribly processed foods that are all around us. I see my friends and family members who have a great ability to meal plan and prepare at least a healthy home-cooked dinner everyday (I’m looking at you, Katie!), and I know I can do it too.
Whenever I seek motivation to cook more or try new recipes, I have a few go-to chefs/cooking shows that always give me ideas (and leave me very, very hungry!) The first to mention would be Nigella Lawson; I started watching her show way back when the only thing I knew how to make was boiled rice. Nigella’s poetic love affair with her kitchen and ingredients gave me a new insight into the wonders of home cooking. Part of it was the cinematography of her shows; the seductive close-ups of jewel-toned fruits, rich sauces, sizzling meats, and the like made me appreciate food as more than shoveling anything that tasted half good into my mouth. It became an experience, and though I am by no means a fine-dining expert, I really have grown to love different flavors and culinary experiences, both at home and in restaurants. Over the years, I have continued to watch re-runs of Nigella Bites, Forever Summer, and the more recent Nigellissima which focuses on Italian dishes. I never tire of them and hope they propel my interest in starting to bake as well.
The second chef I have loved watching in recent years has been Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. This is one area in which my husband and I differ; he finds Ina to be quite boring and monotonous (the same adjectives I use for one of his favorite shows, “How It’s Made”). I on the other hand find her to be quite soothing. I also love that she uses almost exclusively fresh ingredients (i.e. homemade chicken stock, or herbs from her own glorious garden) so that even if a dish or dessert is very rich, you know it is of the best quality and not as bad as the processed version would be. A favorite recipe of hers that I have used many times at home is this one, with a slight variation in that I use mint paste and parsley in place of scallions and dill. It is always a hit, healthy, and a nice pairing with roasted asparagus or brussel sprouts.
The newest cooking show I’ve come across and found absolutely delightful is The Little Paris Kitchen, hosted by chef Rachel Khoo. Rachel is a British chef who moved to Paris and came up with the brilliant idea of serving private dinners for two out of her tiny Parisian apartment, where she also prepares the meals and shoots the show. It is adorable that her gas stove needs to be lit with a match every time! Rachel also seeks out the freshest ingredients from the local French markets. I will admit that some of the foods she makes are not dishes I would personally want to eat (namely raw meats, organ meats, and other French favorites), but I still enjoy her charm and mainly watch for the desserts.
Happy cooking and eating!
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Thanks for sharing… although I have a feeling these chefs are bit advanced for my basic skills. I too have the yearning to be able to prep. fresh meals for the home but I can’t figure out where to schedule the time. I’m sure it’s doable – I just need a how to course on sorting that out. Perhaps you’ll share more of your journey at some point?
Oh yea these chefs are WAY past by abilities in many respects, but you would be surprised at how simple and fast many of their recipes actually are. That salmon one I linked to is so quick and only requires a few ingredients. Give it a try — I didn’t start out knowing anything valuable in the kitchen but eventually developed enough skills to be able to feed myself and others!
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A good friend and colleague of mine has a great method. Being a full time nurse with three kids and a husband, she plans her family’s dinner meals in advance. They have a rotating list of recipes, and each week they will write down what’s for dinner on a chalkboard. They will shop for these dinners and get just enough to make 5 servings for a family of 5 (or you can make some extra for the parents to take to lunch the next day), and so they aren’t blindly grocery shopping and probably have most of the major non-perishable ingredients on hand as you don’t have to stock up on these often (i.e. A bottle of olive oil).
You can do it, V!!!! Dann and I do the same thing you mention in your above comment: we plan out meals in advance. You end up eating healthy, eating what you like, saving money, and never having food go rotten in your fridge (since you only buy what you’re eating). It actually makes life a lot easier and healthier. Since you’re busy, you can find super easy/quick recipes to make on those tough days (like pasta with raw veggies and homemade alfredo sauce that you whip up in a blender). Your daughter won’t even need to know about fast food (but please, do NOT feel bad for indulging Taco Bell during your pregnancy. I just ate Halloween candy that was supposed to be for trick-or-treaters! Whatever.), but when she does find out about it, she’ll probably find it gross since she grew up eating real food. And btw, YES to the Barefoot Contessa. LOVE HER. And yeah, her garden (and Martha Stewart’s for that matter – have you seen hers?!) makes me seethe with envy. But then, I kill almost every plant I touch, so I’m better off buying my produce ;) Happy cooking!
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