How I Cook (Oooor…Lots of Madness, No Real method)

12 Dec

I’ll be the first to tell you that in 2011, with so many diets, allergies, and food restrictions it’s very hard to come up with an original recipe.  Even when you think it’s original, chances are someone has done it before.  And what people have done before is great.  I didn’t learn to cook by just randomly experimenting.  I’m a single mom on a budget.  When I started this journey, I was a newly separated overweight 24 year old who had no clue how to cook healthy (great at cooking unhealthy things), but knew I wanted to lose weight.  What did I do? I read.  Magazines, blogs, recipe books…everything I could get my paws on.  And you know what?   I learned.

I don’t think people start out knowing what they’re making might be a poor choice or it’s not so healthy.    Or even caring much all the time.  I certainly didn’t.  I’d make mac n cheese with all kinds of full fat cheese, regular pasta, cream and not blink an eye about having two servings.  I was really just happy to be cooking.  It’s something I’ve always loved, even when it was simply baking cookies each Christmas with my Oma.  Cooking is a way I center myself…it’s calming, and puts me ahead of stress.  It alleviates it before it piles on, so when stress does add up I’m a little less stressed than I would be.  And it’s just a few steps to the stove to alleviate even more.  I’ve made steps along the way…my mac n cheese had veggies added to it, then it had a change in cheeses, then dream fields pasta, then more veggies then a huge reduction in fats, then added flavors…it’s now a different but equally delicious animal that fuels my body and doesn’t make me think twice about eating it once in a while.  You can take what you already know and make it what you want it to be so easily.

I’m a nurse.  I’m also certified to teach spin, and I have a competitive streak.  I admittedly like to be good at things.  Sure, no one likes to be bad at things.  We wouldn’t do things we suck at.  But I like to be really good at things.  If I’m mediocre…I tend to look for things to do that I’m better at.  I’m a nurse because I like taking care of people, and enjoy giving whether it’s of myself or in a real sense. It’s kind of an innate need I have.  I’ve always done it, it just took me a while to figure out I could make a career out of it.  I also like to be the best at nursing, though in the case of nursing I compete with myself to do more and know more than I did the day or week before.  It feels good.  I leave work knowing that I really did something for someone, and knowing that without more hours in the day I did it the best I possibly could and really tried to do more than what was expected.  I think cooking falls somewhere between both of those needs…the need to be really good at something, and the need to take care of people.  I can make a meal and have it taste amazing AND feed people.  Cooking for me is a little slice of heaven.  I get to be selfish, nuturing, creative, inventive, and exercise my brain all at the same time.  Would I give up nursing to do it?  Not full time.  Nursing feels selfless and as a naturally selfish and competitive person, I need that grounding and opportunity to give in my life.  I also just love being with my patients.  If I could do both and split my week and still make money…heck yes.

So now I have a background in health, fitness, and I love to cook.  I also love to eat.  The next natural step for me was learning to cook in ways that fuel my body without runing it.  Up until recently, that’s what I’ve done to a degree.  I’m at the point where I can make a great meal out of almost anything without a heck of a lot of thought.  But can I make it healthy?  Can I make it low carb, low sugar, low fat, high fiber and protein, and as clean as possible?  That’s my challenge now.  I read recipes constantly.  Going to the grocery store with me is hell because I have to read the labels or google it in the middle of the store.  I know what I want, and I know that for me to be happy I need taste and variety.  A lot of what I make it is my own spin on what I’ve read.  I experiment, piece things together, and a lot of times it just comes out great the first time.  Is there room for improvement?  Always.  I would never say I know everything, and part of what I like is learning what has worked for other popele and incorporating it into my own cooking.  Like the cocoa I made this morning or the pizza I made over the weekend.  I’m absolutely positive people have suggestions and I welcome them.  I’m discovering new things every day.  Cooking is one thing, trying to eat clean and maintain and enhance my body is a challenge all on it’s own.

What does all of this add up to?  The fact that the best recipes happen by accident, or that some of what I post here is going to be my own twist on what another brilliant person has already come up with.  And I think that’s great.  Cooking isn’t a competition (well…unless you’re actually in a competition) and  as a society I think it’s great to share and learn from each other.  You find a base you like and make it work for you.  Or take half of one recipe, half of another, and using what knowledge you already have come up with the bionic version of what you started with.  There’s no limit to creativity.  Yup, sometimes things just don’t work.  But that in itself is learning too.

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