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Cooking effort

July 26th, 2012 at 04:49 am

I have no confidence in the kitchen. I don't know why. Most things I cook turn out ok to good.

Well, I do know why. Growing up, the only things I cooked were things to take to the fair. I always helped dad, and when you help dad outside, you don't have to do inside work when you get home. Sisters who have not been on the cabless tractor or chasing cows can do dishes and cook supper while you finally relax for the day.

Then, in college, I had a meal plan and the basketball team would stop for supper after games. So, no cooking for almost 4 years there.

Then, in grad school, well, I got in the bad habit of eating out alot.

Being single until I was 30 didn't help either. My social activities while single included playing sand volleyball at a very cool bar (so I would eat out/drink those nights), playing volleyball at the church (and going to Applebees after that), going out to eat and going to the bar. Hmmmm, sounds kinda one dimensional, doesn't it? I finally had to suggest to my friends that they come over, we would watch movies and I would cook supper on one night a week so we didn't go out every damn night.

Once, I gave up for Lent "eating out because I was lazy". That was a tough one. (Seriously! It was tough!) I allowed myself social eating out, because living by yourself is hard with no social interaction.

Then, I met my now husband, and moved to within 2 1/2 hours of him while we were still dating. Driving that far sucked, and I was always tired. When we got married, I still had that job. We sold that house, and I moved in for 3 nights a week with a lady who had an extra bedroom. She allowed me use of her kitchen, but I didn't feel very comfortable using it (Totally not her fault. She was very very very nice. Just me and my situation was weird.) I would come home on weekends and just be exhausted after working 10 hour days and a 2.5 hour drive every Monday morning and Thursday night.

Skip forward to today, now that all the excuses are out of the way. I work 2 days a week at home, 3 days at work, which is an hour drive each direction. I struggle with my weight, which has stayed steady for the past 2 months after losing all the baby weight (36 lbs), but could stand to lose 30 more. I tend not to plan ahead and take lunch with me, and for a time was even going to get a sub type sandwich at the local gas station when I worked at home. I was also going over to the quick shop at work for BREAKFAST.

I am an idiot, I guess.

I planted a pretty big garden this year, the biggest I've ever had. I'd say 15x40. (I went through all the produce I've gotten out of it so far in a previous post.) I got squash bugs about a week ago, so I had to spray them, but up to that point, I was overflowing with zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, etc.

It is pretty stupid to have all these great fresh vegetables and eat out.

Also, well, we aren't rolling in money, to say the least. We have lots of debt, up to the point where it is almost overwhelming. Sometimes it seems saving $1 on sour cream, for example, seems pretty stupid to be excited about.

We started getting stuff out of the garden at the end of June, so on July 1 or thereabouts, I said to my husband "let's make it a goal to not eat out at all in July". He was not excited. He said he couldn't tell where he will be when he is working, and he might not be able to make it home for lunch. Which is true. He doesn't have a microwave at the farm, and sometimes, he is bouncing around from waterway to waterway, field to field in the tractor/baler or swather, so driving to where he last left the pickup so he can some in for lunch won't work.

Ok, fine, I'll try it for myself.

I stumbled across a good recipe for chicken pot pie. Pretty easy, and a very good pie crust. DH was very excited about it, even asking for seconds, and for lunch the next day! So, I figured, that is one to keep in my hat. That next weekend, I made chicken pot pie pockets, and since I had a bit more pie crust than chicken pot pie filling, I also made ham and cheese pockets. My oven is small, and so I could only cook 4 at a time (I made 18), so that was a long, exhausting day in a house with a bad air conditioner. But, when all done, after eating 2 for dinner that night, I had 16 in the freezer.

You know what, DH started coming home more for lunch, because he could pull them out of the freezer and put them in the microwave and have a good meal. I also took them to lunch, along with at least 2 cucumbers and a zucchini to snack on.

When I made the chicken pot pie, I had filled the crock pot with some cheap chicken (I think $.98 a pound for bone in breast/rib meat), onion, carrots, celery and a bay leaf. Fill with water, cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Just until the meat falls off the bone. I used about half for the chicken pot pie and shredded the other half and put in the freezer.

Another thing I did was make my own yogurt and start eating that for breakfast. I make it in the crockpot, and put it in canning jars, but I don't actually can it. I just keep it in the fridge. I've been making that for a couple months now, but just yesterday, I started straining it through some coffee filters, and YUMMMMMMY I will never make yogurt and not strain it again!

When I wasn't straining it, it was a little too sour, so I needed to put something in it. Our apple tree in the front yard had non-ripe apples on it, but in the past, it has always dropped all the apples or had bugs eat all of them before we could harvest them, so I started pulling a buckets worth off here and there, so at least we could have something. I made apple butter with most of these, so now I can mix the apple butter with the yogurt and have a great breakfast. There are still bunches of apples on the trees, and though I do have some with chunks eaten out of them, I can cut around that and still get a crock pot full.

The first batch I made, I peeled each one before putting it in the crockpot. Wow, that took a long time. My MIL let me use her manual strainer thingy that you rotate the handle and push the pulp through, and leave the peels, and that took a lot less time. Add some spices, leave in the crockpot until as thick as you want, and that is all there is to it.

Final thing we have been doing is getting good deli meat from the local grocery store. I've been using ham and turkey, cheese, and slices of zucchini on tortillas, and that has been very filling. Better than DQ.

The crockpot chicken thing has been the best thing I've been doing this summer. I've found chicken for $.98 a pound and for $.88 a pound today. I stuff the crockpot full, put in the spice, and just let it cook. Once I separate the meat from everything else, I put the bones, etc., back in, and cook it some more. I strain that, keeping the broth. That goes in the fridge, and in the morning I scrape off the fat that is congealed on the top, then pour into canning jars. Once again, these go in the freezer or fridge, but once I get my cooktop back, I'll can them.

Oh yeah, the last burner on the cooktop broke a few months ago, and I didn't want to spend $250 for a new one. I finally picked up a used one today from our local Craigslist-type website for $50. This joins my $100 washer I found on Sunday, which had also broke sometime in the past few months. I've been cooking with an electric skillet or a crockpot or the grill. And other than once when we went to the Dr. in Salina and planned to eat out, I haven't broken my goal for this entire month.

It's a start.

6 Responses to “Cooking effort”

  1. LuckyRobin Says:

    I think confidence in the kitchen comes with practice. If you do it, you get better at it, but you have to do it. It sounds like you are finding your way there and starting to gain some confidence and that is good. I think the crockpot is a very valuable resource for someone without a lot of confidence. You might try checking out a couple of crockpot cook books from the library.

    Since you are already good at making chicken pot pie pockets and ham and cheese pockets, might I suggest making pizza pockets as well? Just make your filling with spaghetti or pizza sauce and add cheese, pepperoni or sausage or ham, green peppers or mushrooms or olives or onions. There's a lot of variations depending on your tastes. Also a taco pocket, where you make up taco meat and add cheese. And then there's hamburger (or ground pork or ground sausage or ground lamb) cooked with onions (or not) that you put in a pocket and add cheese. You can add herbs and spices to your taste.

  2. ceejay74 Says:

    Well, you sound pretty dang impressive to me! Pie crusts and any bread-type products I have very little confidence with, and I've never gotten around to using our slow cooker. It's funny because I feel good about my cooking skills in other areas, but have no idea when it comes to bread.

    I keep hearing that slow cookers are so easy, but I just haven't gotten around to figuring out how to use it.

  3. rob62521 Says:

    What a great start indeed! I think you need to believe in your ability to cook because it sounds like you are doing a fabulous job!

  4. cptacek Says:

    Thanks, guys. Having the garden just makes it so much easier. Nothing is better than picking something, washing it, and making supper with it.

    Pizza pockets...brilliant! I also need to learn how to make bierochs, but traditionally (at least in my small corner of the world) these are made with bread, not pie crust. Me and yeast are not well acquainted. I think because I keep trying to force feed it flour, according to the recipe, instead of stopping when it "feels right" whatever that means.

  5. cptacek Says:

    ceejay74, something I've learned is that any casserole type thing you make in the oven you can make in the crockpot. It just takes longer. A lot longer if you put it on low, a little longer if you put it on high.

    I also read through a blog called "A Year of Slow Cooking" to help me get started. I can't link to that sight from a comment, apparently, but this will get you started:
    crockpot365 blogspot com

  6. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    Your pockets sound good (subbing veggie meats ..) and that's great how you got your hubby to turn around. Smile

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