Chef Wannabe

I’d be his sous chef any day!

I think it’s time I face facts: I’m starting to enjoy cooking.

I don’t know that I could honestly say I ever liked cooking before now. I like food. I like cooked food. I like eating. And since I do not have a private chef and cannot afford to eat out or order in every night (gluten allergy and chronic Crohn’s issues aside) cooking has always been a necessity. Jeffrey and I have shared cooking responsibilities throughout our relationship – he handling the bulk of breakfasts, me handling the bulk of dinners – but our meals were pretty basic: tacos, spaghetti, stir fry…simple, quick, good, gut safe. Sure, I’d try the occasional recipe for something more involved and different, but those instances were rare, and often were more stressful than they were worth.

But ever since the world of COVID began, we’ve had to give up dining out, so anything we wanted we had to cook. I was not prepared to go without so many of my favorite dishes for so long, so it was cook ’em myself or suffer.

And cook ’em I did. But before I could become a home grown chef, I had to prepare.

I purchased more spices, herbs, oils, sauces, and other basic ingredients to stockpile. I reorganized my kitchen to be more cooking-friendly. I researched gluten free and gut friendly versions of all my favorite recipes. I purchased a few new kitchen utensils and one big cooking aid: my Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 cooker. Then I got to work.

It’s been hit or miss, often more miss than hit, as I learned how to prep things, marinade things, cook things, and adjust as needed. I originally followed recipes to a “T”, but now I adjust cooking times, temps, seasoning, and amounts as I see fit, based on my experience in the kitchen over the last 17 months. I love cooking with, and prefer, my Ninja Foodi, but I still use my oven and stove top for baking, boiling, and sauteing as needed.

And I’ve gotten better, although the bar was so low when I started I’m not sure my better isn’t still everyone else’s worst. What I didn’t anticipate is that I am starting to actually like cooking. I think about meals every day now, and what else I can try to make. I am not totally crushed when things bomb, and I am more willing to try something two or three times to get it right. I am no longer afraid to try to cook something because it seems too difficult or too expensive to risk ruining. I’ve tackled several (Americanized) Chinese dishes, filet Mignon, breads, seafood dishes, and complex sauces and marinades. It helps that I have a non-picky husband willing to try anything I cook and is always appreciative of my efforts.

I’ve thought about writing more about my cooking trial and errors, but I don’t feel my skill and knowledge is worthy of becoming a semi-food blogger. Still, I may share more, especially about my successes.

Last night I tried my hand at spring rolls for the first time, using our air fryer instead of frying in oil to try to get them crispy. It was a horrible failure, although we still ate them, despite their mushiness, with forks and several dipping sauces (including a homemade peanut sauce that tasted yummy!) and they tasted OK. After watching several videos today, I’ve learned what I did wrong and I’m excited to try them again soon.

Tonight I will be making somerset apple and pork with apples from our backyard apple trees (this was the first year they bore fruit.) This is a favorite recipe I used to make “back in the day” and my only “fancy” recipe I ever attempted back then. Now it seems quite simple and I can’t help laughing that I ever thought of it as complex or impressive. Just some basic sauteed pork, apples and onions in a cream sauce. Regardless, it is delicious and we will enjoy it.

But I still miss going out to dinner.

8 thoughts on “Chef Wannabe

  1. Bravo! Have fun, experiment, fear not the kitchen. Don’t worry about matching something someone did, there is no one right way to cook. There are lots of great online videos, and thousands of books full of ideas and inspiration. Everytime we eat out, I find something new to try at home.

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  2. A tip on spring rolls: I brush mine lightly with oil (sunflower or canola) and bake them in a moderately hot oven (a toaster oven works if you’re doing half a dozen or fewer), turning them once in a while, until they’re golden brown. It’s much easier than deep frying, and they don’t fall apart!

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  3. I’d definitely be interested in reading about your cooking exploits.
    We don’t have an Indian restaurant in our small city (at least not that I’m aware of) and I have learned to like Indian food. Superman makes a couple of Indian dishes that are scrumptious. I have tried my hand at a few Mediterranean dishes recently. Getting pretty good at falafel, but my first attempt at pita bread was a bust.
    Bon Appetit!

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  4. Oh, please post about your cooking regardless of how well you think you’re doing with it. Sometimes I do well, and others I’m like “What was THAT?” There is no greater satisfaction than teaching yourself how to make your new favorite dish. Sometimes it’s just right, and other times you realize what you did wrong so you can do it right next time. It’s fun, isn’t it?

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