Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Not My Mother's Casserole

When we were first married, Mike and I had a deal.  He cooked, I cleaned up after him.  That system worked for a few years, but when I started working only part-time and eventually not at all, I took over the cooking.  I will freely admit how much I really enjoyed that first phase of our marriage, because I have never liked to cook.  I knew HOW, (Mom made sure of that!), but I didn't have to like it.

I came into our marriage with a boatload of family recipes and familiar cookbooks, and collected more along the way.  I discovered Cooking Light magazine in 2003, and suddenly, cooking was fun!  I was trying new, sometimes exotic recipes that were actually good for us!  I tried something new almost every night, and I spent a lot of my spare time reading through other people's published recipes.

That phase didn't last long, though.  Maybe remodeling a townhouse with three little girls ages three and under had something to do with it...or maybe it was the cross-country move to Tennessee that killed it, but whatever it was, by the time Mike deployed to Iraq, I was back to basic, boring meals.  Whatever was quick, relatively balanced, and easy to make, that's what was for dinner.  Eat-it-anyway food.

When Mike came home, I started cooking again.  Nothing fancy, but things that actually took prep time.  Things I had to plan ahead for.  There-are-no-leftovers food.

That didn't last long either.  I got pregnant with Isaak, and I.  Was.  Exhausted.  All the time.  I was doing good to get something -- anything -- on the table.  And then I had 3 kids and an infant.  And I started homeschooling.  And for 11 weeks I had to cook in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp, that had a teeny tiny fridge and no oven.  With three pots and a skillet.  At-least-we're-eating food.

The one thing that was consistent through all of those phases was my attitude.  I was selfish.  I still am, but I'm admitting it now.  :)  I didn't want to spend time cooking, because that took away even more time from the little "me" time I had left in my day.  

I've spent quite a bit of time in the past year or so with three women, Elisabeth, Charlotte, and Tammy, who have greatly influenced my thinking, and my attitude.  Elisabeth Elliot started the changing process for me when a friend re-introduced me to her books.  Her words, some gentle reminders, some not-so-gentle statements, addressed my root issue of selfishness and challenged me to aim higher.  I am a wife and mother -- THIS is my calling, my portion.  (Including the cooking part, which has slowly BECOME my "me" time, even when I share it.)  Charlotte Mason, while addressing the issue of the Will in teaching children, showed me that when I change my thoughts, my attitude will change along with them.  And then Lindafay, who led me to Charlotte, "introduced" me to Tammy's Recipes through a link in her side-bar.

Oh my.  A recipe blog.  Filled with common sense, a good attitude, good recipes, and links every Tuesday to OTHER blogs full of recipes, ideas, and thoughts.  As I read through Tammy's blog, and others I found through hers, I started thinking about not just WHAT to cook for dinner, but about things like WHAT is IN what I'm cooking for dinner, and how high our grocery bill really WAS every week.

It didn't take long for me to get excited about cooking again.  I was already enjoying the challenge of cooking more from scratch, trying new recipes (although recipe blogs can be addicting!), tweaking old ones to suit our tastes, and seeing just how low I could get the grocery bill ... and then I started reading the labels on everything I buy.

I've always tried to pay attention to the labels on the foods I give my family, doing the "good mommy" thing by avoiding the "bad fats" and making sure sugar wasn't TOO high on the ingredients list.  BUT.  I started reading the labels on my favorite "staple" items too.  High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, and Sugar as the first or second ingredients in "healthy" foods.  MSG, and Polymonuglutasucramites, and glurocamodirides, (yes, I made those two words up), and more unpronounceable chemical additives.  I quit buying them.

Yeah, I've made some big changes lately.  Mostly it's my attitude that has changed, but the way I shop and the way I cook have changed, too.  And I'm making some little changes as well.  

Take tonight, for instance.  I made one of my mom's recipes, Hamburger Green Bean Casserole, but I made a few changes.  I made my own Cream of Mushroom soup instead of using a can, and I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream.  Mom's recipe is very good the way it is, and those were the only two things I changed, but it was Not My Mother's Casserole anymore.

It was mine.  :)