Friday, January 6, 2012

Cooking for Yourself

A few housekeeping items:

I am working on developing a RECIPES tab and hope to have that up and running yet today. In that tab, you will find the recipes to anything that I have pictured, and eventually many, many other recipes as well. This will take some time, because I have a lot of recipes, but I also have other obligations on my time, as we all do. So that is a site that will certainly grow over time. I will include recipes for all sorts of main dishes (meats, poultry, fish), sides, desserts, breakfasts and beverages. Not all will be strictly "diet-friendly," but all will be delicious in my opinion. (Of course, I once made a recipe that the Frugal Gourmet made on TV. He LOVED it. I never made it again! Pan-fried cabbage with Granny Smith apples, bacon and fennel seed. Not sure why I decided to make it in the first place ...)

Also, I am just learning about this site and how to blog. Consequently, you can expect changes to the layout and design as I try to find how to best present my "voice" on this blog. I welcome suggestions (although, I can't promise I will use all of them) because I know that there are many of you that follow other blogs or write your own. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that I need to listen to others more, because there are many people that have good information and insight.

I was shown how to link items in the blog to external sites. Cool! (I am so easily amused and impressed.) So, you will see links to things that are important (important in my mind, at least) or can better illustrate a point. I'll try not to over-use it ... but no guarantees. 

Lastly, I realize that these blog posts are long. And when I look at myself with a hard, objective eye, I come to the conclusion that they will always be long. I like to talk (pity my students!). And I like to write. 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.

Do you like to cook? Do you know WHY you should cook? Maybe a more basic question is: Do you know HOW to cook?

Cooking for yourself is the key to successful weight loss. Yes, it is more work than getting Chinese delivered or stopping at the drive-through at Taco Bell. But when you make your own food, you are in complete control over what you are eating. If you want to control your sodium intake, like I do, you are able to make your food with less added salt. You can use healthy fats in your food, rather than cheap fats that restaurants use. You can buy ingredients in season, or buy organic, or locally grown food, or grass-fed beef and free-range chickens. Those are variables that YOU control, and when you eat out, you surrender that control to the chef of the restaurant - or more commonly, to the manager of the restaurant who only is concerned with the bottom line.

When you decide to make changes in your life, you need to realize what is under your control and then take advantage of it. Or, make modifications when you can't control everything. If gas prices go up, I really have no choice. I must pay the price. But, I can choose to not drive as much, or I can create a plan where I make the most efficient use of my driving miles, or I can carpool. I still have some control.

But what if you don't know how to cook? Are you destined to eat microwaved frozen meals? No. You just need to start. Cooking is an art. And like any art, you can only develop it by doing it. I am learning how to take better still-life pictures. I know they are not professional quality, but the pictures of my food are my learning tool. Everyday, I think I am getting incrementally better, taking more things into account and getting better results. However, I am REALLY in awe of the professional artists that take the pictures in my cookbooks. I never really realized how difficult it is to get a beautiful shot of plated food.

So, you need to practice. I'll going to provide recipes for you. Very few will be difficult. I don't like to work hard when I cook, and it's not necessary. When you are starting, you will burn some food. You will end up with bad meals - I did, with that cabbage-apple-bacon nightmare. But you will learn, and you will take pride in your meals. And most importantly, you will gain more control over your body.

For the best success in the kitchen, you need a good knife and some cookware. And of course measuring cups, spoons and a scale, but you already have been using those, right? For knives, there are many options, sizes, shapes and brands. I don't like stainless steel because they don't sharpen well.  And I don't use a lot of different knives, so I've learned that those blocks of knives look nice on the counter but are wasted. I prefer a really nice 8-inch chef's knife for everything. It just works! And my current knife is from IKEA. Oh, this is a beautiful knife.  It's moderately expensive ($49) but in my opinion, it is worth it. (There are many knives that are far more expensive. When I have more free cash, these are my dream knives.  But he makes each knife individually, by hand, and charges an average of $400.00 per inch of blade.  And I want 8 inches ... so those knives are on my bucket list.)

Cookware? If you are starting out, get inexpensive non-stick pans. They won't last more than a year or two, but by then you will want better tools anyway. 

And start buying cookbooks. Lots of them. Follow the directions exactly, or just use them for ideas. I mentioned three new cookbooks yesterday. I will try the bread book this weekend (Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day), as well as trying recipes from Eating Well 500 Calories Dinners. Yesterday's Huevos Rancheros came from Eating Well on a Budget.

So: Today's theme is to take control when possible, and cook for yourself for greater health and happiness (and a bit of fun!).

Two recent menu items. Last night, I tried a Mediterranean-Spiced Quinoa Stuffed Bell Pepper. It's not a hard recipe and I will include it as soon as I have the RECIPE page ready. (300 calories and very filling.) 

This morning, I whisked two eggs (plus an extra egg white), poured them into a skillet with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and when they were almost set, I added 1/2-ounce crumbled blue cheese, and about 1/4 cup of the leek-wine topping from the baked cod a couple days ago. I folded it, and topped it with the remaining 3/4 cup of topping. That's an example of making extra recipe components for later use. I frequently make "Leftover Omelets." The blue cheese paired well with the leek, tomato and wine. (290 calories)

Oh, and what did I do with that extra yolk? Ozzy had an extra breakfast today.

Have a great day. Take charge of your life, in all aspects. And keep stopping back here often to see what is developing. (And don't be afraid to mention this blog to others.)


  1. Trevor, I SOOOOO agree woth you about cooking from scratch. It sends chills down my spine when I see families in the heat it from the freezer generation. That food is expensive, low in nutrients and tastes horrible. In my opinion, nothing tastes as good as a pure and simple carrot sliced thinly and steamed in a double boiler for 10 minutes and dressed with a squirt of lemon juice and a dash of olive oil. Pair it with a pork tenderloin thrown in the crockpot with a cup of water at 8am before work and you've got a meal for 4. (I'm a vegetarian and thats how I cook for my family. I do have to prep up a protein for myself but thats the least of my worries.)

  2. Okay, those are some seriously sexy knives!

  3. I just wanted to mention, be very careful when posting recipes out of books and such. You don't want to be accused of plagiarism and copyright issues!!

    Also, we just went grocery shopping and thanks to our focus on REAL FOOD, our grocery bill was HALF what it usually was! Holy cow!!

  4. Amelia, recipes cannot be copywrite protected. Only pictures can be, and these are my photos. But I can take any recipe from any cookbook, and as long as I don't use their name for the recipe, I can copy it word for word. And if the name is a simple description of the recipe (for example, "Braised Beef in Mushroom Sauce") then I can call it that because it is not a proprietary name but a description of technique and ingredients.

  5. great recipes!!! thanks for sharing!