Friday, May 1, 2009

Cooking . Cooking . Cooking.

Sometimes it seems that all I do is cook. Not only breakfast lunch and dinner, but many breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Every day. All day. I figure--conservatively--I have cooked over 6600 meals in the last 15 years. That’s only counting two meals a day for 10 months a year--I’ve shaved a number of meals for ordering in, going out, dinner at Mom’s, vacations …

All that cooking can be tiring. Not just the banging pots and pans around, but the thinking of what to make and when and how. The planning, the shopping, the putting meat to fire–-all of it ends up being too much sometimes.

To make matters worse, I’m getting to be a boring cook. I make chicken and pot roast. Broccolli and roasted carrots. I make a pork roast and applesauce and a salad--when I was growing up, that was Thursday night dinner. I’m that boring.

But what can I do--I have to cook for my food allergic kid. Dinner has to come from somewhere and that’s usually from me. As college looms, I know I’ll miss it, but right now I’m stuck in the boring middle. So what to do?

The first trick I tried was pull all the vegetables out of the refrigerator and line them up on the counter. Then group the compatible ones--like onions and potatoes or carrots and zucchini. When I got a grouping together I figured out how to cook them: sautee in oil and garlic? Roast? Boil (no!) And then I tried it--and I added chicken breast sliced, or leftover rice and a healthy dose of cilantro.

OK--some of the combinations were odd: ground veal with carrots, onions and diced potatoes. Some were great: fresh spinach wilted in a little oil and lots of garlic. (Note though that a huge bag of spinach melts down to a serving for two, barely--who knew.)

But mission accomplished: I stopped looking at the food in the same old boring way. Butternut squash could be mashed and used as the filling for a vegetable lasagne with strips of onion, carrot and zucchini. Chicken thighs could be sautéed with hot sausage slices and served over rice. Cutlets could be breaded with potato pancake mix and flash fried with parsley. And my piece de resistance: zeppole without wheat.
I had a mix that promised Pizza Crust or Sandwich Bread--well neither of those ever worked without eggs. But mix a little salt, water and--wow -–I got zeppole when I dropped those handrolled balls into hot hot oil. With a little powdered sugar, they could pass at the St Jerome’s Italian Festival in Long Branch New Jersey!

So I’m still cooking, cooking, cooking. But, for the time being, I’m dazzling my family with allergy –free delights.

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