My husband, on the other hand, is a fabulous cook. I guess he got the cooking gene from his mama, who is also really good. His mama is known for certain things, like her chicken pastry, fried chicken, and fried pork chops. Not to mention her fugde, punch, and other desserts! DH can cook a steak on the grill like you wouldn't believe. I rarely order steaks in a restaurant because I'll always be disappointed; no way can they compare to DH's steaks! I've honestly never tasted anything DH cooked or grilled that wasn't good. He loves to find new recipes and try them out, though he never follows them exactly. He's good enough in the kitchen that he knows how to improvise. This is astonishing to me. I just don't get it.
When I try to improvise in the kitchen, its usually a disaster. Sometimes its a disaster even when I exactly follow a recipe step by step. Like last night, for example. I decided to try a wheat bread recipe for the bread machine. Okay, maybe I shouldn't call last night a disaster, because the bread is delicious. But its deformed. I don't know what happened. It looks like it tried to escape the machine, because it rose waaaaay higher than it was supposed to, and the top is very misshapen. I wouldn't even take a picture of it.
DH is one of those cooks who can make a pie with a lattice crust and it looks like a picture.
Sometimes I hate him. (Not really.)
But like I said, lately, I have been really making an effort in the kitchen. Until a few months ago, DH did all the cooking in our house, unless he was too busy with work. On those nights, I fixed hamburger helper, manwhiches, breakfast, or something else easy. Earlier this year, DH was invovled with a project with his dad, and I realized that if I wanted to actually eat "good" stuff for supper, it would be up to me to cook more often. So I started to learn.
I'm very proud of the progress I've made. The things I fix are not a big deal to most people, but to me, its all very impressive. Take this supper from last week, for example - the crock pot chicken thighs. I really shouldn't call it that, because I only used the crock pot to cook the chicken thighs, then added them to something else. But I have NEVER used the crock pot like that before. I actually hate crock pot meals. All the ones I've ever had have tasted the same: beef with potatoes, carrots, and onions in cream of mushroom soup. Just not my flavor. And its never occurred to me to use the crock pot to do some of the cooking for me while I'm at work.
I knew we had 5 chicken thighs frozen in a bag. I can't for the life of me remember why we had 5 random thighs, but that's what it was. I've been thinkin for a while on what I could possibly do with those thighs. I'm not really a dark meat kinda gal, anyway, and really, what recipe on earth calls for THIGHS?? Tons of them do, actually. (Thank you, Google!)
So, that morning, I dumped all 5 thighs, still frozen, into the crock pot. I coated them very well with garlic salt, because I read on a website that morning that that would give them lots of flavor. (I beg to differ, as I couldn't taste anything remotely garlicy or salty when they were done. Next time, I'll just do plain salt and a lot more of it.) I turned the crock pot on Low and headed to work. I was pretty nervous all day. Would I come home to dried out, overcooked chicken thighs, or worse, a burned down house??
Turns out, they were perfectly cooked. And my house smelled amazing. Here's what I came home to:
The thighs had produced quite a bit of juice. Pretty cool.
To further impress myself, I took them out, deboned them, then added them and their juice to a pot with chicken stock. I threw in some egg noodles (I loooooove egg noodles) and a couple of chicken boullion cubes, just for good measure. When the noodles were done, I had a pretty great dish!
DH said there was too much chicken for the amount of noodles, but the flavor was good. Next time I'll know, more noodles! Of course, this made enough to feed an army, not my family of 3, so me and C ate it for lunch a few days, then I froze the rest for later. I'm hoping it'll taste just as good after its been frozen!
I even went on that night to make mashed potatoes. Like from scratch! I usually make them from the little packets, where you just add boiling water. They taste really great, but we have a ton of potatoes, so I've been trying to use them. I added a little too much milk, so they were a little soupier than I like, but they tasted good!
So there you have it. My simple-yet-impressive-to-me meal. DH didn't get why I was so excited. But this supper signified something very big to me: I'm really "growing up" in the kitchen. I began my meal early that morning (after I planned it out the night before), didn't use anything from a box or package to help me, and it was a real "southern" meal. Which means it was heartfelt and homey, and comforting. Maybe that's reading too much into some chicken in a crock pot, but that's what it means to me! I'm feeding my family, and what's better, feeding them things that are not "processed" in a factory. I'm putting love into my cooking now, and I think it shows. And dare I say? I'm actually begining to enjoy cooking for my little family! ( :