Day 11 of Eat to Live intensive: I have been cooking a LOT. I calculated the hours and in the first seven days I spent no less than 23 hours in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up after cooking. That doesn’t include meal planning, reading about ingredients, or grocery shopping. I have been to the grocery store a lot because we are going through so much fresh produce, and I’m trying out different recipes.
I could have taken a much simpler approach to Eat to Live: fruit for breakfast, salad and soup for dinner, salad and soup or stir fry for dinner. I think that’s what Hubster was expecting. He says he feels bad about all the time I spend cooking, but I don’t. I feel a bit amazed at how much time I spend cooking, but it’s been enjoyable and I have learned a ton. I’m sure it wasn’t even three months ago that I told someone, “I don’t like to cook all that much; I don’t get much out of it.” Well, that was true at that time, but it isn’t now. I’m not saying I am a home cook now, or that cooking is my passion, but it has felt great throwing myself into something wholeheartedly. Yes, learning is fun.
So I stopped telling myself I don’t really like cooking and started cooking. For the health benefits, for the money savings, and because I wanted to feel competent in the kitchen. Every day’s meals lead to questions and possibilities for the next dish, and I’m getting more creative, improvising, and willing to screw up. Again, sticking to eating at home has been important because I know I’m going to eat whatever I make – there’s no option for going out and getting something at a restaurant. On the few occasions I’ve made something that Hubster didn’t like, I’ve eaten away at it on my own. There have been other dishes I’ve made that I felt so-so about but Hubster really liked, so I gave him the lion’s share. Most surprisingly, my cooking hasn’t been bad at all. And even when something comes out not what I expected, I don’t feel badly about it – I tweak or make notes for the next time.
I’m eating less even though I’m cooking so much. Maybe it’s because I tend to eat as “something to do” or out of a nervous energy, but 3+ hours in the kitchen per day gives me plenty to do and is an outlet for that energy. I look forward to cooking every day the way I used to look forward to eating at a new restaurant or diner. Even on the days when I can skip cooking dinner because we’re eating leftovers, I will go in and make something else – for the next day, or just because.
The two books I’m relying on most for recipes and ideas are Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live book and the Zen Monastery Cookbook, with its emphasis on simple veg*n and low fat food. I’ve also made the soup from Soup Day, and have referenced The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetable Cooking (by Roz Denny, Christine Ingram) a few times. Oh, and also the cookbook that came with our Vitamix blender.
In the first 11 days, I’ve made: two kinds of salad dressings, a red bean burger, several variations of a black bean burger, several types of veggie soups, quite a lot of variations of green salads, two types of hummus (one turned out REALLY awful), a beet/carrot/sweet potato salad (Hubster disliked), banana oat bars twice (yummy!), green and rainbow chard several times, black eyed peas salad, fruit salads with ground flax seed (my typical breakfast), spaghetti sauce with chewy tofu (my first homemade!), green cabbage on a few occasions, spaghetti squash, lentil soup, corn tortillas with black beans, banana ice cream, and a celery and fruit smoothie. And lots of broths. I have five or six jars of broth in the fridge right now.
The eating has been good. Cooking with minimal or zero salt, and minimal oil has been a good challenge. I’m paying more attention to flavors and ingredients, can’t mask the food with fat and extra salt. There are so many more dishes to try, so many variations of things. Over the next few weeks I’m hoping to work on some more Indian dishes, roasted stuffed bell peppers, additional bean burger concoctions, veggie and herbal drinks, and making better use of cauliflower. Also, freezing and then boiling (to thaw) tofu gives it a chewy texture – Hubster said it was almost like paneer. I see some tofu adventures in my future.
Our food has been simple and mostly clean in terms of flavors. Hubster likes to add spices sort of willy nilly into his soups to give them more zing, but I’ve been eating them without extra spices beyond what the recipe calls for. Learning about spicing and herbs is on the agenda, though; that’s one of the areas of cooking I am a baby at. I know how to shake something into the pan or pot, but what am I doing? I found a book at the library I’m excited to read: The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs.
Along with more recipe experimentation, the next phase for me will be to grow some herbs. I’ve long lamented my brown thumb, but have decided to give up that identity. I have enough space to grow herbs, so will start in on that once I get my cooking time down to under two hours a day on average. What will I do with all that freed up time? Haha! Learn something new, of course.