My name is Mindy and I live in the South Carolina Lowcountry with my husband (Chef J), son (The Boy) and a Carolina Brown Dog. We have almost crossed the finish line in the great elementary school race and are getting ready to jump feet first into middle school madness (hello tweener hormones!). Every day, I try to find the time to feed my family something from my heart and my very tiny kitchen.
Chef J is a chef (obviously). I was so intimidated when we first met that I refused to cook for him for the first year. But I relaxed when I realized that if I didn’t cook, we were going to be eating an awful lot of pizza and Taco Bell. I’ve learned a great deal from him and really expanded my culinary horizons. And he may have even
stolen based a number of recipes at work on things I’ve prepared at home. From him I’ve learned that prep and planning are key and to time everything just right. Most of the time anyway. And after a hard day of, well, cooking all damn day, if I’m not cooking, we aren’t eating. He’s just OVER it when he gets home. When he does cook, it’s usually very simple fare and that’s fine. After doing three weddings and an eight course wine dinner in one weekend, he’s not up to going very gourmet at home. Although frankly his “simple fare” is as good or better than my “fancy” stuff.
The Boy is a super bright kid who is finishing up an accelerated math and engineering program in elementary school. He loves gaming, legos, cars and reading. Luckily, we live in a neighborhood with LOTS of other kids his age so I don’t worry too much that he’s going to end up a pasty basement dwelling hermit. There’s not much better than to look out side and see four or five boys fly past on scooters and bikes maniacally laughing about the latest “yo mama” joke. Eventually The Boy and his friends will become teenagers and I’m pretty sure we’ll all survive!
Although I work full time in a busy office, I still try to find the time to prepare a home cooked meal each night. I try to avoid processed and prepackaged food when possible, preferring to cook from scratch using real ingredients. That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of blue boxes filled with processed carbs and orange powder in my cupboard, but I really prefer to make something wholesome using real ingredients. I try to prepare healthy food, but sometimes you just need chicken fried steak with cream gravy. It can’t all be low-carb, low-fat, low-cal or you will go low-co.
We have pretty varied palates around here. We eat a lot of Mexican, Italian, Southern and east Asian foods. Lately the voices in my house (and in my head) have been requesting Indian food so that’s going to have to happen soon. Obviously Chef J is an adventurous eater but The Boy is pretty amazing as well. We decided before he was born that we were not going to be short order cooks. We’ve always had a policy of “eat it or don’t but I’m not making something else.” As a general rule, The Boy has to try two bites (which are chewed and swallowed) before he can say “I don’t like it.” Although he doesn’t love everything, he will always try new things. Mushrooms are his nemesis but otherwise he does okay and will try just about anything (this is the kid who, on vacation last year, asked what escargot was and then ordered and ate it anyway. . . and loved it).
The key to fresh cooking is keeping some staples on hand, picking up a few fresh things, and a PLAN. We tend to keep lots of onions, garlic, carrots and celery (the basis of many good recipes) on hand along with lots of dried herbs and spices and funky ethnic condiments. We also try to have eggs, milk, butter (never margarine), flour and sugar at all times. Then I fill in on my weekend grocery shopping with a few proteins from the meat/seafood department and fresh produce based on whatever is on sale. If you take 20 minutes on Saturday or Sunday and make a plan of what you will eat each night, you won’t end up staring aimlessly into the fridge before giving up and making eggs and toast (not that I’ve EVER done that, of course). I usually try to build in a night that I will use something leftover from earlier in the week so that I have an easy night if things get too hectic.
When you have one of those crazy homework and extracurricular nights on tap, I know that it’s easy to fall down the fast food rabbit hole. But with a little prep in the morning, you can have an amazing meal in the evening without a lot of effort. Spend a few minutes heating up a couple of sides (or pull out the tortillas) and you’ll have a satisfying home cooked meal when the dust settles from the chaos. That’s right, we do a lot of slow cooker meals on busy nights and I’m not talking about your mama’s pot roast (although I’m sure it was delicious). You can make a big pot of carnitas, a fabulous barbecued brisket, or a big pot of chili without killing yourself. And how nice to come home to those delicious smells and know you just have to dish it out and eat.
I know that, for a lot of you, cooking is a chore. And it can be. But I find it therapeutic to come home and take a few very basic ingredients and create something memorable and nourishing. I love to take an afternoon, an hour, or even fifteen minutes to show my family how much I love them. To me it’s a creative outlet. When there is a celebration or a sad event, there’s not a lot I can do for people, but I can always feed them. I always say that I love people with food. You may not ever grow to love cooking, but maybe I can help you hate it less and give you a few ideas that will help you to feed your family a wholesome and delicious meal.I hope to share with you how I’m muddling through this crazy life of mine. I’ll try to introduce you to new ways of doing things, share my recipes and inspirations with you and hopefully help you to become a great home cook!