Cooking When You Can’t (or Hate It)

(This blog post coordinates with the following video on my channel.  Enjoy!)

Hello, my name is Kari, and I have a confession to make: I hate cooking.

I hate cooking so much that I actually refused to learn when I was a teenager.  My dad would try to show me different recipes and insisted that I cook at least one meal a week for the family, but I full-out refused to commit any of it to memory out of sheer spite.  After a helping of my infamous “macaroni and cheese soup” (overcooked noodles), my mother informed me that I wouldn’t be forced to cook again.  A few years later, when I went to college, I subsisted mostly on dining hall offerings, pizza rolls, and rice.  It wasn’t until I moved back home and started working at my retail job that I started to cook anything outside of those major dishes.  I learned very quickly that I wasn’t great, but I was passable, but I was the best at baking and making sauces.

But then I ended up with a man who loves to cook, and whose oven was broken.  The stovetop was his playground, and specifically frying things.  I hate heat (even campfires make me uncomfortable), and I’m terrified of oil spattering up and hitting me in the face, so I stopped cooking again.  Once our was born, I was too tired or too busy to cook even my basic rice or pasta dishes.  Due to our conflicting schedules, my husband would often cook for the kiddo and himself, while I would subside on fast food.  A few years ago, once I became a stay-at-home-mom, I realized that I’d have to pick up the slack on the days when my husband couldn’t cook, so I started up again.  I still hated it, but I found a few things to make my life in the kitchen an easier thing, and I’m here to share them with you.

Learn What Works For You

I use my slow cooker maybe once a year.  I know, I know.  Right off the bat, I’ve broken the cardinal rule of easy cooking: always use a crock pot, slow cooker, pressure cooker, what-have-you), but before you beat me over the head with yours, let me explain.

I’m sure that most of you would agree with the statement that having a crock pot has made your life so much easier.  You just toss a meal in the pot, set it up, and let it cook for a few hours while you do other things.  It’s fantastic, at least in theory (for me); you see, I am a “fiddler”, constantly wanting to mess with all of my things while cooking.  I hate to cook, which means I want it done quickly – so of course, I’m constantly tasting, checking, poking, pacing.  If I’m not actually “doing” something in the kitchen, I can very easily forget about the food, or even forget to turn it on – and even if I do everything properly, what’s to say I won’t wait eight hours, then come back, only to not be in the mood for what I made earlier?  Sure, I’ll still eat it, but I probably won’t eat as much as I would if it was something I wanted right that moment, and we really don’t “do” leftovers in this house, so a lot of that food will go to waste.  That’s also why we shop for groceries on a daily- or near-daily basis, too: I pass the grocery store at least twice a day every school day, so I can easily stop in either after I drop off or pick up the Kiddo.  It stops waste, and it means we’re eating what’s being cooked, which stops a lot of the hard feelings when a meal is cooked but not eaten.

The Internet is Your Friend

Look, I used to think I couldn’t cook, and for a while that was true.  The advent of Pinterest has made me believe that 98% of those who currently “can’t cook” simply aren’t trying to do so.  Harsh, but true, and I’ll admit that I was that way.  The internet has made recipe searching a breeze – want to know how to make flan?  Google it!  The first result is too complicated?  Go back and find another recipe!  I do this all the time, and I especially love taking some of the things from the “fancy” recipe and inserting them into the “easy” recipe, to make it just a little more decadent.

Familiarize Yourself with Your Tools

I don’t even mean in the proper way – I used a meat tenderizer to mash potatoes, because my potato masher was giving me a headache.  What I mean is, make a few simple things (I recommend boxed mixes for cakes, muffins, etc.) and just learn your way around your kitchen from scratch.  This will help you see what you use vs. what you have.  Have 800 baking pans, but only use 3 (plus two cookie sheets)?  Maybe it’s time to cull the herd a little.  Have a mixing bowl, but you were slapping batter out of it?  Might be time to get a bigger one.  Just stuff like that.  Once you’re familiar with baking, perhaps move into easier stove-top dishes, like macaroni & cheese or five minute rice.  Just get yourself familiar with what you have and how you use it.

On that note, familiarize yourself with the basics of your pantry.  Learn how to make a roux, pay attention to the difference salt can make, see what happens when you swap milk for cream or vice versa.  Just make these changes gradually (no more than one or two DIFFERENT types of changes – so if you swap your liquids, don’t make any other texture changes like using applesauce in the place of eggs, or if you decide to add a flavor, don’t add anything else with a strong flavor), that way you can pinpoint any errors.

Get a Core Set of Recipes

Look, we’ve all that this happen: no matter how hard we try, we’re either guilted into or voluntold that we have to bring a dish to the company potluck or Grandma’s holiday dinner.  How many times has this happened last-minute, or simply forgotten about until the last possible second?  Until I followed my own advice, I used to Google for a recipe and hoped it turned out – sometimes it would, and sometimes, I’d be so frazzled that I’d mess up something big, or (like my favorite “oops”) I’d be measuring out sugar, only to have my kid and my dog run into me at full speed, causing me to drop the bag into the recipe and dump it everywhere, and leaving me with nothing to serve because I didn’t have time to Google anything else.  I cried.  It wasn’t pretty.

It was after one of those fiascoes that I decided to simply search for simple recipes on Pinterest and Google.  I went in without any specific plan in mind, simply the knowledge of what I did best (baking and sauces) and went from there.  I ended up choosing five recipes that I loved, were quick to make (generally under an hour from conception to plating), and that played to each of my strengths.  Once I had my five recipes decided, I worked for about a week to get to the point where I could basically make each of them in my sleep.  It has been such a lifesaver to know that if I mess something up, or if I need something to take to an event in a few hours, I have five recipes I can whip up in a matter of minutes.

I’ll confess something, here – if you and I met on the street and you asked me how to make my alfredo, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.  It’s pretty much pure muscle memory at this point.  Oops?

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

My husband is an incredible cook – absolutely incredible.  I adore him and his cooking.  He literally spends so much time thinking up new dishes or flavoring things, and I can’t even come close to his creativity in the kitchen.  He made a marinade out of FROG jam & red pepper flakes the other day, and I honestly believe it was the best thing he’s ever made – and he came up with that on his commute home.  I can’t do that on a regular basis, and that’s fine.  I can’t cook at his level, but I have my strengths (I’m a much better baker, and we often play off of each other when it comes to cooked sauces).  If I spent my time comparing myself to him, I’d feel like a failure…  So, I’ve learned to let it go.  It took a while, but it’s honestly been the biggest help with regards to cooking while hating to cook – I found a lot of my dislike stemmed from the fact that I’d compare myself to other people.  I can’t cook steak and potatoes like my dad, I can’t cook at all like my husband, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.  Nope, I can’t, but I can make some pretty awesome sugar cookies without breaking a sweat, and I have yet to mess up a cheesecake recipe, so I’m doing pretty good, I think.

Anyway, I just want to share some of what I learned when I intentionally made changes in my mentality.  I still hate to cook, but now it’s less of a chore.

(If only I could figure out some way to apply these tips to doing laundry and washing the dishes…)

As always, thanks for stopping by, and have a good one!  🙂

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