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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Hate to Cook, But Sometimes Enjoy Experimenting

I hate to cook, which is odd because I love to eat, grow some of my own fruits and vegetables, and when I actually try I'm pretty good at it.

If I was a bit more worldly and sophisticated I might call myself a foodie.

Anyway, for some reason I still hate to cook, seriously hate it. The most dreaded question in my household is "what's for dinner?"

Maybe I started the whole cooking, responsible thing too early. With my mom working two jobs I was thrown into the homemaker position by 13. I did most of the grocery shopping and cooking for awhile. Then I had my first child young and I had to make sure the little guy ate. If it had been just me I could have survived off soup and whatever.

I am a product of the microwave age and the instant gratification generation. So for years (even now sometimes when I'm in a hurry) meals all come from boxes, cans and bags and mixes and are quick and easy. Making something from scratch was unheard of except for rare occasions, Thanksgiving (entire turkey dinner from scratch including home made stuffing), Easter and sometimes Christmas. I do have a few signature dishes that my family gets excited over like chili, cornbread, potato soup, and spaghetti. Yet most dinners at least came partially from a box.

As I've gotten older and my family has grown (and seems to keep growing though we have stopped reproducing, currently I usually cook for 6 or 7 people, me, my husband, our three kids, my mom, and a teenage boy who thinks he lives here, we call him our third son) I've started experimenting with food and recipes, though I can't seem to completely follow a recipe if my life depended on it. My husband says that's OK, it's the sign of a great cook when you take something and make it your own. Well, that I definitely do.

Boxed and prepackaged foods have become so expensive when it comes to feeding a large family that I'm trying to find cheaper, not to mention healthier options for dinners. Since I've been gardening for the past several years I've tried to find new recipes for the things I grow. This year I have several varieties of tomato including an heirloom, large yellow, small yellow pear, and early girl. I also have acorn squash, pumpkins, green peppers, and zucchini. I always end up with a lot so I share with friends and family.

This is my first year for zucchini. I looked up some recipes, changed them a bit and tried making them one night.

With my husband's help I made zucchini bread, zucchini spice cake, and zucchini sticks from scratch. No mixes, no cans, all fresh ingredients.

I changed out regular flour for organic whole wheat, switched walnuts and pecans to almonds, regular raisins for golden ones and everything tasted wonderful. We chopped and sliced zucchini and my husband ran a bunch through the food processor to grate it and we still had a ton left over. I thought people exaggerated about the prolificness of zucchini. I only planted one plant but I have tons of zucchini. I'll be making another batch of bread and cake soon. It was good.

I am so proud of myself. That's the first time I actually made cake or bread from scratch, sure I've made them from mixes before but never from scratch. I kinda enjoyed it even.

My next experiments will be making sun dried tomatoes, and pumpkin muffins, cake and bread, maybe even pie from the fresh pumpkins in my garden.

Someday I hope to learn how to can. Maybe I'll get my mom to teach me if she can remember, it's been a long time since she's done it.

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