Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's Like Top Chef Only Without the Fame, Glory, Money, and Promise of Not Being Cancelled

So, a couple years ago I decided to get serious about cooking.  It wasn't because I wanted to open a restaurant, it was because I essentially already have a restaurant.  It's called My Kitchen.  I serve up three meals a day for six people seven days a week.  It doesn't pay well (or at all), it's small and cramped, and the hours suck.  There is no menu to order from, but you can come in to My Kitchen at mealtime and you will most likely get served.

Hubby would argue vehemently saying about My Kitchen, "This is not a restaurant."  "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit."  "If you don't like it, don't eat it.  You'll be good and hungry next time a meal is served."  And he has a point.  I don't really know any restaurants where a tall, dark, Mexican guy barks prolific statements like that at you while you move your food around on your plate, and display a queasy look on your face.  But, other than that - My Kitchen is kinda like a restaurant and I am kinda the Top Chef.

This whole gig about getting serious about cooking started a few years back when I made a few resolutions (blech) to cut-down on processed food, try new recipes, and serve up more vegetables and less meat.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't Rachel Ray.  It was more like the Slow Boat To Good Cooking.  I started with throwing out the Bisquick and have now graduated to:  Trying One New Recipe a Week.  I would say overall this show has been only mildly successful and is currently at risk of being cancelled.  I'll let you be the judge.

The success (I'll start with the positive.):

1.  I make a mean biscuit now and some delicious homemade pancakes and waffles.  This part of the gig has been a huge success.  After trying about 578 biscuit recipes, I finally found one that I can do and that tastes yummy.  My family loves biscuits, so this one is a real winner.  I also make homemade pancakes, waffles and any other bread type item that I used to buy (except actual bread which would require me to be in the kitchen all day instead of just five hours a day and yeast hates me).  If you happen to be looking for an easy and delicious biscuit recipe, look no further. 

2.  Over the past year and a half, I have made some yummy cookies, baked breads, and other sweet treats from scratch.  It's required a little more work than picking up a pack of Oreos and throwing them in the cart, but it's been so, so worth it.  I feel like I know precisely what my kids are eating (and me since many, many sweet treats go directly from the pan to my mouth) and the sweets taste so much fresher.

My family loves us some brownies.  Now, this was one of the last things I tried from scratch.  I was reluctant to search for a from-scratch recipe because it was my one go-to sweet treat that I knew would not require me hauling out the Kitchen Aid, digging up more than three ingredients and would still taste divine (so basically my slackerness was getting in the way).  Plus I was only buying Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix (LOVE), which is practically healthy.  They use genuine dark chocolate and according to experts (like my sister - who knows her preservatives and chocolate) they do not use the bad preservatives.  I really didn't even care because they were so heavenly.  (And they are sold at Costco, so you can make 1000 servings per box.)

Well, then I ran across this divine brownie recipe.  (BTW - this is also a pretty fabulous foodie blog.)  It did not call for strange items that I could not find at the grocery and it did not require 12 hours of baking that I do not have.  So, I tried it.  Love.  I am now officially making my own brownies (well, her brownies), and loving them. 

There was one mild objection to her brownies.  Hubby and I are a perfect match in many ways.  One critical way in which we are a perfect match is that I love gooey brownies and he loves cake brownies.  Now, when I used to make the Ghirardelli brownies I ate from the center (sometimes the whole center) and he ate from the edges (the kids be damned).  He said that the Divine Brownies were a little too gooey for his taste.  (So,  I ate most of them.  Oh, darn.)

So, that's how this gig has been working well.  I progressed from baking to other areas and that is why this show is in danger of getting cancelled.

1.  I decided a creative way to try to eat healthier, less meat, more veggies, and more variety would be to try a new recipe a week.  Great idea, right?  It sucks.  I have come across loads of recipes that make my mouth water all over my keyboard.  A lot of them can be found here.  Foodgawker is one of my favorite pass times now.  Unfortunately after I spend hours drooling over food I want to eat, this usually happens:  I realize that I do not even recognize the ingredients that are in the damn things, I realize no one in the house besides me would eat it, or I realize that it would take me about all day to make the damn meal.  This has been a bit frustrating and disappointing.  I have spent good time getting recipes, buying new things, cooking the meal and then no one really likes it (sometimes including me).

I would be remiss if I did not credit the ONE success.  Yes, there has been one success in all of these meals.  ONE.  Chicken Enchilada Puffs.  I kinda wanted to kiss the woman who had published this recipe.  Instead I left her a nice comment on her blog.  You can also find the famous recipe for Chicken Enchilada Puffs if you click that link.  It's easy, you could almost make it with stuff you probably have in your fridge right now, and everyone (including the three year old) loved it.

Now, here's the thing.  It is ironic that my family would love this recipe because Chicken Enchilada Puffs, although delicious and a family winner, use both processed "puffs" and they are mainly chicken (meat).  Many of the other recipes I tried were healthier and did not use any processed food.  But, I guess, who cares when no one will eat it, right?

This week in protest (and, ironically, to the delight of my family) I went back to old family favorites that I am sure everyone will eat:  burgers, brats, fajitas and their leftovers, pizza and pasta, sub sandwiches, and a few days of Wild Card.  Do you see a pattern?  Meat?  Blech. 

So.....The New Meal A Week show is in serious danger of being booted.  We may go back to our old ways very soon.  Feel free to help me.  If you have any bright ideas, leave me a comment, send me a link, or best of all - Fed Ex me a hot meal that all six of us will eat.


Shannon said...

YOU are doing the new recipe a week? YOU who rolled her eyes at me and called me sick when did the same thing? YOU? ROTFLMAO!

On a slightly more supportive note many of my most successful recipe successes came from cooking light. You can get their recipes online, they are lighter and healthier but still usually pretty easy.

Oh and I can't wait to try your biscuits but since butter is currently running at $12 a pound I ain't making them here.

Monica said...

i will have hot biscuits for you in december. *huge smile* did i roll my eyes at you??? that was pure jealousy. you know that, right? i swear i don't know why you didn't dump my arse when you had a chance! i will give cooking light another chance, but first i have to finishing rebelling against my family. ;o)

Gretchen said...

My kids grumbled for years about the 8 months I made everyone eat vegetarian meals. Now all of a sudden they deny it ever happened. Weird! Is it a defense mechanism? I think where I went wrong was not also serving biscuits and brownies with their rice and beans. Stupid me!

Monica said...

@gretchen - yes. i can relate. we went psuedo vegetarian for about 6 months (thank you, food, inc.) and the kids wanted to go into foster care with meat eaters.

Lauren said...

So, this title sounds completely slacker-y, but I think this is a great cookbook for trying out new things that are mostly findable at the grocery store.
Also, it's got both "foreign" and "american" amounts and temperatures, so great for FS peeps.

Monica said...

@lauren - i've actually heard of that cookbook. i might want to check that one out. thanks for the reminder. :o)

Leigh Powell Hines (Hines-Sight Blog) said...

those look good. I cook a lot of recipes, but will not venture out to the cookies and baked goods. YOu are so right though about what is in things. I will go to Food Lion, and won't even buy half the brands because there are so many artificial things in them.

Monica said...

@leigh - ha! you and i would make a great pair! you could make the recipes and i could make the sweets. ;o)

Anonymous said...

I have actually considered the new meal a week idea, too. But you have made me have second thoughts. Might try the enchilada puffy things, though.

Monica said...

@whatimeant2say - i am going to go back to the new recipe a week thing next week. i just need to look at some recipes that are closer to their current palates. i highly recommend the puffy things. i MIGHT be motivated to make the puffy things from scratch and then it will be a keeper of a recipe.