Food for thought

Cooking dinner makes me feel better.  It’s odd for me to say that.  It probably surprises some folks who know me in real life.  I’m not a culinary expert.  Honestly, I kind of wish I’d have made room in my academic schedule back in high school to take a home economics class.  I’m not sure who I thought would be making my food when I grew up.  But, I didn’t take such a class.

When my husband and I first got married nearly 12 years ago, I really wasn’t much of a cook.  I once messed up Hamburger Helper so much that we went to McDonald’s.  We ate a lot of boiled hot dogs (to the point my husband will no longer eat them).  But, being married sort of instilled in me a desire to figure out this cooking stuff.  Not dramatically.  Not in a way that would win any sort of competition, but I got into recipes.

A few years ago, I sort of got away from that though.  I developed new dietary restrictions thanks to my bladder.  My husband has always been a picky eater.  It just didn’t seem worth the trouble.

Fast forward to last year.  The kiddo was old enough to start eating regular food.  I had my work cut out for me.  I’d learned a lot along the way in those years, truthfully.  I could now whip up tacos for dinner easily.  I definitely could bake (I’m the cookie maker in our families).  I could boil spaghetti noodles with the best of them.  I figured out how to make Hamburger Helper the right way (you really do have to cook the meat all the way through).  But, now I needed a game plan.

Dinner started stressing me out.  I was responsible for feeding my child and making sure she had healthy food.  It was a bigger deal.  My husband and I could be fine with doing our own thing for dinner, but you can’t ask a baby to make her own food.  So, I came up with a plan.  I’d make a meal calendar and plan out what we’d eat each week.  It wasn’t anything fancy, but it worked.  I used Google Calendar and put in what we’d have for dinner each day.  I’d even include plans to eat out or have holiday dinners with family.  I planned fresh ingredients to be used in different recipes back-to-back right after shopping.  I planned meals with more sustainable ingredients for farther out in the weeks.

It made my life easier.  Not only did it reduce stress in figuring out what to make each night, it reduced our grocery bill and trips to the store.  Though my child likes to go shopping with me, making more than one big grocery shopping trip every couple of weeks would be a challenge.

The kiddo eating some of my homemade banana bread last month. It's a recipe from a friend that I've modified with some wheat flour and flaxseed to make it a bit healthier.

I’ve worked to add some new recipes into our mix.  I’m not great at that, truthfully.  And, again, I’m still dealing with my dietary issues (you wouldn’t believe how many products have vinegar or citrus in them) as well as my husband’s picky tastes.  I’ve added some new things made from scratch I’d never done before like pizza dough, muffins and sweet breads.  I’ve learned tricks like using half wheat flour and adding some flaxseed to make things healthier.  The new recipes and meal plans have been working.

That is until my husband started his new job.  His schedule has changed up a bit.  So for the last couple of weeks, my schedule has gone out the window.  I have things to make, we just haven’t always been home to eat.  He’s getting home later.  I’ve spent time with family.  That sort of thing.

Last week, I decided I was going to cook at least a few nights no matter what.  The first night, we had French toast for dinner.  I love breakfast food.  I’d eat it every meal if I could.  (Well, as long as I could throw in spaghetti here and there.)  French toast was especially good because it is so hot and humid here that I didn’t want to use the oven, even with having central air conditioning.

Dinner dragged out a little bit.  I made a few pieces of toast for the kiddo and me before getting a text from my husband that he’d gotten caught in traffic and would be late.  I stuck the batter in the fridge.  Lexiana and I ate together.  When Chris came home, I pulled out the batter and heated the skillet.  I made his French toast fresh.  It worked.

So, now, I’m working on other ideas like this where Lexiana and I can go ahead and eat before she gets crazy, yet I can still provide something fresh and good for Chris to avoid drive-thrus when he’s late getting home.  It will be a shift.  It will be a change.  But, it will be worth it.  I felt good last week.  Making dinner for my family is a small thing.  It’s nothing fancy or five-star, but it makes me feel good.  I feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do in taking care of my family.

Though I’m not a 1950s housewife by any stretch of the imagination and though I like my work as a writer, I also do like to take care of my family.  Thus is today’s ode to cooking.

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