Trying to be more creative in the kitchen has been one of my goals lately, and it even might be one of my New Year’s resolutions. Keeping my family happy with food is a full time job, so it seems like I am always in the kitchen or at the grocery store, and if I am not in either of those places, I am probably thinking about what I am going to cook, and writing a never ending shopping list. The biggest challenge is not simply cooking; it is concocting something that everyone actually likes. When I cook, there is a 25% chance that someone will hate my cooking, and there is a 50/50 chance that someone will be one of my daughters.
I can hear my mother-in-law right now: “Well you know what you need to do is keep notes of what you cook that the girls like! Every time you make something and it turns out they like it, just quick write down what you did and what ingredients you put in the recipe; then put that somewhere you can find it next time you want to cook that dish.”
Good advice, because my mother-in-law is a smart cookie, but this is also easier said than done. If she saw my house right now she would probably decide that for me note taking should be a lower priority than basic domestic hygiene. Also, I rarely cook following actual recipes unless I am trying something new and unfamiliar, and even then I improvise, substitute ingredients, and experiment, sometimes wildly, because I often second guess the recipes. “Yeah, Julia Child probably knows what she’s talking about, but I’m going to go ahead and put basil in anyway…” I do also tend to make dishes up using leftovers and random ingredients, creating resourceful and rustic meals that, like unicorns, only appear once in our lifetimes, astound us, and then disappear never to be recreated.
When I do make my special creations, like I did yesterday using my husband’s leftover homemade breakfast sausage (with his secret spice blend), some broccoli rescued from the Wal-Mart produce section, and the last of my Asian oils and sauces, I can always count on one child to be excited and one to be grossed out. I was dumping sauces into my stir fry and then tossing the empty jars into the trash, delighted to be cleaning out the fridge! But how would the lunch taste? It turned out pretty great, but I had my 25% failure rate with one child refusing to eat. Tonight I concocted a Mediterranean dish with chicken, green olives, tomatoes, and other things that I knew the girls would hate. It was really fun to make, and I danced around the kitchen to Guns n’ Roses while I added the ingredients to the bubbling pot.
This dish was bound to be despised by possibly everyone, but I couldn’t resist. This time I carefully followed the recipe, even though the instructions were a bit vague. And just like almost every other time that I have introduced a “new” recipe where I must hover over the stove, monitor each measurement carefully, and finally bring it triumphantly to the table, everyone reacted the same way: “…meh.”
Oh what the hell. Back to the same old boring menu plan. Bring on the tacos and spaghetti sauce.