Since I started Weight Watchers about 2.5 months ago, I have gotten a lot more into cooking at home.
I always hated cooking before and figured I was not very good at it. But I wanted to cook more at home to ensure I was eating more fresh, wholesome food as part of a generally healthier lifestyle I am trying to cultivate. So, I started looking up a few easy recipes and once I made myself cook more I discovered that I actually quite enjoy it! And not only that, but I'm not too shabby at it either.
I mean, I'm certainly no expert (yet) but I have discovered that I have a bit of a natural ability for it. A lot of the time, I will just throw things together thinking they MIGHT turn out good, although really not knowing for sure, and a lot of the time my instincts end up being on the money. I have learned that cooking doesn't have to be a chore, expensive or complicated. Now, I'm not going to become a gourmet chef anytime soon and I'd be lying if I said I LOVE to cook all the time, but I definitely don't find it to be as much of an annoyance as I did before. I actually look forward to trying new recipes and it makes me feel really good when I make a meal for my boyfriend or someone else I care about and they really enjoy it. There's no better feeling. Plus, it's kind of amazing to trust your instincts on something and turn out to be right!
Being right is fun.
Just since the start of my focus on a healthier lifestyle I have had the following cooking "firsts": roasted chicken (twice!), roasted veggies, sushi, pasta sauce, quiche (artichoke for Mother's Day - it was yummy, if I do say so myself), chili, chicken cacciatore, macaroni and cheese, guacamole, biscuits (though those didn't turn out, alas), etc. Obviously, I have recipes that I have repeated because I found them successful and/or a good meal to "fall back" on and I tried things that did not turn out so well, but I do try to make new recipes when I have time and money and I'm happy with myself just for trying.
Even though I enjoy cooking a lot more, I still do not like to "fuss", so I always try to make things that are quick (under 45 mins prep time, preferably), not too expensive (occasionally I'll splurge on a more expensive ingredient, and now that I have "built up" my stores with staples I find expense not to be as large of a problem because I have more on hand, but for basic cooking I try to stick with things I already have or can easily buy), and not too high in calories (you can usually cut out a lot of calories just by using low or non-fat things instead of the normal - don't underestimate reading labels).
One of my favourite cooking successes to date was the recipe I tried out on Monday night. My mom gave me a great Diabetic cookbook recently - I am not diabetic, but the recipes are great for anyone who is watching calories - and it has some great recipes in it. Unfortunately I can't find a link to the cookbook or even an image of what the cover looks like, and I don't have it on hand so I have no idea when or where it was published, but the recipe is SUPER basic and can be modified depending on how much time or mouths to feed you have. I also did not remember to take a photo of the finished product so you will just have to imagine what it looks like by my description (or cook it yourself so you can taste it and get the full effect...I'm a terrible blogger. Sorry).
Anyhoo, here it is:
Orange Sweet Potatoes
- Pre-heat oven to 400
- To be honest, I am not sure the person who wrote this recipe had a good handle on math. For one, the recipe calls for 3 sweet potatoes sliced, which for me was WAY too much. I cut about half of one SP into slices and that was enough for my boyfriend and I for a side dish. They also call for lining the SP slices in ONE layer on the bottom of a 9"x13" pan, and it only took the 1/2 SP that I cut to fully line the bottom of my pan, which was only slightly smaller than their recommendation. I would suggest using your judgment - slice line the pan with as many slices as you want, just don't make too many layers (the bottom ones may not cook properly), and only make as many slices as you feel are necessary to feed your brood (if you have a larger group and therefore want to bake more slices, you may want to try making two separate pans).
Not very scientific, I know, but that's how I roll - I like to wing-it!
- SP slices should only be about 1/4 inch thick - be forewarned, SP's are frigin hard to slice unless you have a fancy knife (which I don't), really strong arms and hands (which I don't) or actual cooking skill, wherein you know the proper way to slice SP's (which I don't). Needless to say I found the slicing tiring, so if you are anything like me you will probably give up after only slicing half a SP whether that's enough or not! ;) You could probably make them a bit thicker if it makes them easier to slice, but just be careful because if they are too thick, they may not cook thoroughly
- After slicing the SP's and lining the bottom of the baking pan with them (don't worry about being neat, Anal-Retentive Folks, just lay them out however you want), I mixed together about 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 TBSP of melted margarine, and 1 TSP of cinnamon (if you don't like too much cinnamon, I would use less but I like the flavour so I added a bit more than they asked for - again, winging it, baby!!) and poured the mixture evenly over top of the SP slices. I also brushed the slices with a bit of EVOO before pouring the mixture on, just to add some moisture for baking - I have no idea if this actually did anything to change the cooking quality/taste of the SP's, but couldn't hurt I guess!
- Stick the pan in the oven for approx. 30 minutes - the slices should be tender and a bit browned when done. This is a great side dish for any meal.
- And the BEST thing about this recipe?! As they cook, your entire kitchen will start to smell like cinnamon/cinnamon apples, and the finished SP's will actually taste like cinnamon-ey roasted apples!! No joke. I know that is sort of weird, but trust me, that makes them more delicious.
Do you like to cook? Why or why not? What are your cooking strategies or habits?
*On a sidenote, I am leaving for my totally epic Road Trip of Awesomeness on Saturday and will not be back until the 23rd, so it will be quiet over here at GNM. Rest assured I am not dead or injured, just having gobs of amazing, exciting fun in Montreal and Ottawa (and busting out my sweet dance moves and kleenex at my friend's wedding). As Ahnold would say, "I'll be back"*