Sunday, December 30, 2007

I can cook. Sorta. [modified just for Aunt Piggy]

I'm pretty sure people think I can't cook. I rarely bring a homemade dish to family or friend get-togethers, holiday functions, or dinner parties. I buy something. And I bring that.

On the rare case that I decide to make something, I usually ruin it because I decide in my manic haste to try something new and squeeze the making of the new dish in between bathing and dressing the boys and myself, yelling at Hubby to get dressed, and organizing all that needs to travel with us 20 minutes before it's time to go.

The latest catastrophe was the roast carrots I brought to a Thanksgiving meal. I roasted baby carrots instead of full-size carrots, because that's what I had. The picture on the Internet had semi-shriveled carrots delicately placed on a bed of greens. They looked healthy and hip. Who knew baby carrots would not look so healthy and hip when they shriveled up, especially after being accidentally overcooked.

I brought them anyhow since I thought it was worse to show up empty handed (I was wrong) and displayed them in all of their shrunken glory among the sliced sweet potatoes and vats of corn and green beans. Those carrots still tasted good, nicely tossed with olive oil and rosemary and some other herb that I can't remember right now. But I doubt anyone gave them a chance. I know that people were all nodding their heads and silently thinking, "That's why Ange normally buys her side dishes from the store. The poor girl can't cook."


But the truth is, I can cook. I really can. I make a mean lasagna. My dad swears it tastes just like my mom's (I use the same recipe modified from Betty Crocker), and although I think my dad would say that even if I served him Stoufers, my lasagna is really good! I swear.

The thing is, I can cook, but like many things nowadays, I'm out of practice. So I am trying to teach myself, remind myself how to cook. Well at least cook other things besides roast chicken, crockpot roast, and Ragu spaghetti.

I have managed to not get sucked into the Rachel Ray craze up until this point (she annoys me about as much as Oprah does), but thought maybe there was something to the hype. Cooking a yummy meal in 30 minutes sure sounded good.

I don't know if Rachel Ray has children, but it's obvious that her time estimates do not account for the 5 minutes it takes to locate the necessary cooking tools and scrape the playdoh off of them nor does she account for the scattered minutes of interruptions including calming one child who is still refusing to do homework and chasing another child from the kitchen while yelling "I'm making dinner! Stay out of the icebox!" (Yes I call the refrigerator an 'icebox.' I don't know why.)

So last week I made some fancy pork chops and I did it in 30 minutes. Never mind that I made instant mashed potatoes rather than peeling and boiling fresh potatoes and that by the time I was finished, my kitchen looked like a war zone. And I was so damn crabby that the food didn't taste good to me. The boys, however, ate like pork was the new white meat (oh wait, it is!) and even ate the potatoes and apple sauce (freshly made from a jar).

It took me 4 days to clean my kitchen--more time unaccounted for. I am still scraping the mashed potatoes (otherwise known as paper mâché) from under the table (a la Moosie). But I persevered. I planned my week of menus and made a shopping list (even more time not considered in the meal preparation). I utilized respite for the boys, and I went grocery shopping.

I spent over $200 on Rachel Ray's ingredients, half on produce that I can no longer identify now that it has been removed from the labelled grocery bins. I think I am the proud consumer of Belgian endive, radicchio, shallots, and various other items that have never occupied my kitchen. I was supposed to purchase arugula, but I never did find that, even after scouring the special produce book for a picture. As far as I can tell, it is a type of green, so hopefully substitution is OK.

So wish me luck. I will most likely be bothering my sister-in-law Aunt Piggy (Midwestern parole officer turned Northwestern culinary chick who is cool like pie*) quite a bit. I like her a lot more than Rachel Ray, though I'm sure she would be similarly disappointed that I am using herbs from a jar and commercial chemically fertilized produce.

So here's to eating healthy (sorta), cooking (sorta), and apparently going even further into debt (definitely). I'm still buying crap for other people to eat though. It's cheaper. And takes less energy.

*According to, she is not a hipster as I originally carelessly declared but rather a chick who is cool like pie. Although supposedly only people in Calvert County, Maryland will get how cool she really is.


Pegster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pegster said...

Top ten reasons why I am NOT a hipster:

10. I do not MY SPACE
9. I Lost my chunky glasses
8. My Levi's are curvy boot.
7. I don't live in the hip part of town (even if I do live in the hip part of the country)
6. I don't even own a trucker hat
5. Have you ever seen me in aviator sun glasses?
4. I happen to look dreadful in anything American Apparel
3. Star tats? PuhLEAZE
2. My only ironic t-shit is the one I wear to the gym.

And the #1 reason I am not a Hipster:


Anonymous said...

OMG, this weekend I was going to post a blog about Rachel Ray. Trav got her cookbook for xmas. We tried a recipe out on Friday night. SHE LIES. We made it together and it took one hour. And she does call for ingredients that I never heard of. I'm not a picky eater b/c I usually don't cook. The meal didn't even taste that good, especially after all the chopping and cooking and cleaning! If we have the same book we should let each other know which recipe is a keeper and which one to skip!

OH, and you do make a mean lasagna. Yummy! Although, anything I've ever had of yours has been great!

Ange said...

Apparently I don't know what a hipster is. Geez. Belgian Endive looks like a tulip. A hipster apparently looks like this: Piggy, you are still way cooler than me since I had no idea.

Pegster said...

Ok, so I am into "consuming less", I do dye my hair, and I have been known to spout off about organic food, so I could see how this could be confusing. Thanks for the immediate support. I am weak. I require validation.

Pegster said...

So, about that food post. I super can not stand RR. Her voice is too raspy or something. But I do like some parts of her show. She does have some simple yummy stuff that you can make with frozen veggies and Jars of herbs. If you don't want to chop onions, buy the frozen already chopped variety. Same goes for peppers, spinach, and garlic in my opinion. So it's not gourmet. What are you a chef? No, your a mom, trying to nourish a family, keep costs down, and still live a fulfilling life. Give yourself a break already.

Yes, I would prefer if you could use fresh herbs, but in reality, I can't even use them before they go bad, so it is ultimately a waste of money and food and therefore not a "green" choice. If you can, buy your organic spices in bulk and refill the bottles when you need to. Otherwise, don't sweat it.

Veggies not to buy frozen: Pumpkin (only fresh will do), tomatoes (try the can), asparagus (also a fresh only item), and anything that becomes so slimy that no one would eat it anyway.

Much Love

Pegster said...

When I go back to work, I'll have to post less. Just warning you.

Keep it like a secret said...

I have always wished that I was a better cook, but there's one tiny problem:


And hence, I never get any practice. Strangely enough, I love cooking shows.