Tuesday, January 01, 2013
It's not what you expect.
The best fitness equipment I ever bought was a frying pan, cutting board, and a chef's knife.
When I first started learning to cook, I did it to lose weight and to save money. I used to believe that buying groceries was expensive, but I discovered this was completely backwards thinking. It was more expensive to eat out as often as I did. Not only was it hard on the pocketbook, it also charged an expensive toll on my derriere. I became obese.
My very first cooking blog was about making low calorie, lost cost meals. I calculated calories and the approximate cost of each meal. I still like the concept and plan to reintegrate it into my recent cooking blog once I clean up the format. I have what I think is a pretty neat way to present this information, so I'll be busy working on that for the first part of this year. And I still need to make progress on my cooking app.
When my husband and I lived in Seattle, we ate out quite frequently. Seattle is an underrated city for cuisine, in my opinion. Almost all of the most popular restaurants are locally owned. Chain restaurants are shunned. It's one of the few places where a McDonald's went out of business because no one would eat there. Seattle is where I started to redefine my interest in cooking into a semi-gourmet. Why couldn't I make fine dining restaurant food at home? It couldn't be that hard, could it?
In some cases yes, it was that hard. In most cases, it was surprisingly simple. Many of my favorite recipes use only a handful of commonly available ingredients, and 15 minutes cooking time. No black truffles or black tie required.
I learned to make a lot of foods from scratch. I find that I have a more critical eye towards prepared food as a result. I won't touch A1 steak sauce anymore because a pan sauce with just a little red wine and broth is super simple and superior. Homemade pizza dough with real olive oil is like a $2 trip to Italy.
On the other hand, some foods prepared from scratch aren't worth the time for me, even if the quality is superior. Pasta, for example, is something that I choose to buy rather than make. Homemade pasta is very, very easy - it is just flour, eggs and salt. However, the rolling, cutting, and filling process I find too time consuming. I don't eat pasta often, but if I do, I opt for the fresh version at the grocery store, which is good enough.
Since moving to Georgia, we don't eat out much anymore. Mainly because our area is full of chain restaurants that aren't worth the calories for the price. I don't like breaded, deep fried food. I prefer my fruit fresh and whole, not smothered in a sugar syrup pie.
The one Southern food that we go crazy over is the bbq. There is a place on Wilmington Island that is a full fledged championship competition joint that is out of this world. I like it because they are mom and pop owned, who make all their smoked bbq meats and sauce from scratch. I looked at the ingredients at a local chain bbq restaurant, and noticed it was primarily high fructose corn syrup and MSG.
I did a fair amount of baking this past holiday season. I don't eat a lot of sweets during the majority of the year. I've never been a big dessert eater. One reason is because it wasn't part of my upbringing. Asians don't include desserts in their meals the same way as Americans and Europeans. The idea of needing dessert to round out a meal isn't part of my normal routine. However, with the holidays, it's kind of expected with meals and potlucks. My husband and I just got a stand mixer as a wedding gift, so I decided to try a few recipes that I don't normally make. I made breads, cookies, and cakes.
I did it mostly for the experience of learning how to make it. I watch a fair amount of cooking shows like "Chopped" and "Iron Chef", and I noticed that while the chefs have their specialties, they still have to be well rounded. Since I plan to work more on my cooking blog this year, I think this is important for me too. So I made a few recipes, enjoyed the process, and enjoyed sharing the results. I discovered that I don't have the patience for intricate pastry work, but it was worth doing to learn that. I'd rather make a simple, light cookie that pairs well with a morning cup of coffee. I'll leave the beautiful cake designs to the professionals.
The really neat thing is that my mom and I have been sharing recipes. She taught me a few of my favorite dishes she makes, and I showed her how to make a perfect poached egg. She commented that she likes the poached egg because it cooks faster than hard boiled eggs. It is ready to eat for a quick meal. I couldn't agree more.
These days my cooking only takes a long time because I'm busy trying to snap pictures of it!
I lost weight and saved money. Sounds like a good New Year's resolution, eh?