Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Back in the Kitchen

In my Road to wellness, I have learned that in order to get healthier I need to forego many convenience foods.  What that mean is that no more Hamburger Helper, canned chili con carne, canned soups, frozen dinners, frozen burritos, Hot Pockets, corn dogs, and more.  There are a handful I will still buy like Zatarain’s rice dishes, Thai Kitchen’s rice noodle brick soups, Carroll Shelby’s chili con carne starter, sandwich fixings, canned vegetables and frozen vegetables.  Carroll Shelby’s is basically a spice mix with thickener, masa flour.

The last week of April 2015, I made a roasted turkey and shoyu chicken (chicken with soy sauce, ginger and sugar, I usually use honey instead).  The first week of May half of my cooking was prep work.  I had to bake my tortillas chips, roast my Poblano chilies and roast my garlic.   I also made tzatziki sauces, salsa, hummus, and guacamole.  May’s menu included sopa de lima (Yucatan chicken and lime soup ) Filipino pork adobo, Carroll Shelby's chili, pork cooked in Jalapeno jelly tacos, dirty rice, chili Relleno casserole, chorizo and eggs, sandwiches, homemade salsa, oven baked tortilla chips with olive oil, homemade guacamole, homemade hummus, homemade tzatziki sauce, and bratwursts and mashed potatoes.

One of the things I missed about cooking from scratch regularly was being able to play mad scientist with my dishes.  I have an innate knack of being able to come up with variations of recipes when a see or eat a dish. In May I had crispy tacos with potato filling. The potatoes were mashed; I figured why not, do that with plantains, a starchier type of banana. I had been wracking my brain to combine Japanese and Mexican foods. Years ago I came up with making ceviche with Japanese flavors, now the new idea is adding wasabi to guacamole.  In making my own salsa I got to play with chili peppers I missed using, Poblanos and Aniheims.  I get to make my hummus to my particular tastes. I will no longer be happy with what some corporations tells me is tasty.  I will be able to make things to my tastes.

Relearning how to cook and having to go back and find recipes is both fun and frustrating at times.  I realized that fresh salsa is more like Pico de Gallo, which I am not a big fan of.  I also learned I bought too much food in the month of May, the first month I started cooking from scratch.  I found out after I purchased can chickpeas/ garbanzo beans that many hummus recipes call for dried chickpeas / garbanzo beans.  I learned that one lime is sufficient for a single batch of guacamole.

 Re-learning to shop is also a struggle.  You shop differently for scratch cooking than you do when eating a lot of convenience foods.  I am also going to consult my recipes prior to shopping.  By not consulting the recipes I had too many return trips to the grocery store.  This is nothing new, in my twenties and early thirties I cooked from scratch 90% to 80% of the time. In my mid-thirties till now, it was less than 10%. 

So far the mistakes I have made are the learning kind.  In cooking there is another kind of mistake, the glorious kind.  This is the kind of mistake that a flub leads to a new discovery in flavor.  Like the time I used tomato sauce instead of canned tomatoes for a lamb dish.  This led to my turning Armenian lamb shanks into Armenian lamb sauce on spinach pasta with parmesan and feta.  This happened over several dishes. 

My experimenting with what works and does not is the part of cooking I love.  I seriously missed it.  Mind you, I did not realize how much I missed it until I started creating my menu. On my book shelf, I moved some books into storage, so I could put my cookbooks up there.  With the internet, finding recipes for dishes not found in my cookbooks is a wonderful resource that opens up the possibilities.  I find myself doing what I did years ago, modifying recipes to fit my personal tastes.  That is what a good cook and/ or chef does.  Those modifications represent cumulatively a particular taste and style of the cook.

I have posted my menus for May and June on my Facebook page.  They have got good responses.  Even though most of my tastes in food are Latin/ Hispanic and East Asian, I will try anything. With in my entrees and snacks there have been Mexican, Cuban, Thai, Filipino, Japanese, Hawaiian, Russian, German, Greek, Middle Eastern, Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex, and American dishes.  Those who know me know I come from a Multi-Cultural background both personally and by influence.  It is no surprise my food reflects that.  I am fairly adventurous with food. The only area I am very picky is sweets. 

There are still places I want to explore in food.  Once I get my blender I will start making sorbet with no added sweeteners.  I am becoming a big proponent of olive oil.  It is healthy and known to help with good cholesterol.   I am also using organic and/ or Greek yogurt, for probiotics.  I need to add some more seafood to my diet, my situation makes that difficult unless it is canned.  I am working to reduce gluten, specifically wheat from for diet.  Milk is down to cheese and yogurt.  I am using reduced sodium products.  Some fat free and low fat products are not good.  I am relearning to read labels and pay attention.  Some dishes are healthier than others, this is still better than the old convenience foods.   This is my journey and it changes as I go along, I keep what works and jettison what does not.



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