Food. Glorious Food.
I used to love to cook. It was a passion my Dad instilled in me, from the time I was eight years old and he taught me how to make a french omelet. I carried it well into adulthood, but cooking for three kids and one forty-something man with a preference for plain, has really taken the joy out of cooking for me. There are five or six dishes we rotate through, all heavy on the beige. You'd think we lived out of a fifties diner.
Last week, I hit culinary bottom, and subscribed to an online menu planner called Relish, on Sarah's recommendation. I've used other services like it in the past, but found the recipes pretty underwhelming, and the selections limited. Chances are good, with my crew, that someone's going to hate two or three options out of six. So right away, I liked that Relish lets you customize your weekly menu from a wider selection of entrees. Also, the meals looked interesting and flavorful, without being too complicated. All promised a thirty minute prep time or less.
I made my selections, generated the shopping list, copied it to my Blackberry, and hit the grocery store. I checked out at $220 (plus the $21 for the 3 month menu subscription). It was kind of an expensive trip for me, but I was hoping we'd be able to avoid our usual two or three takeout meals and near-daily runs back to the supermarket to answer the question of what's for dinner.
That hope was not in vain. I shopped on Sunday, and as of this Friday morning, I haven't been back. I can't think of the last time I went five days without a trip to Kroger. Seriously, if I checked in there on Foursquare every time I went, I'd be not just the mayor, but the potentate, empress and high commander. Not only that, but our recycling bin has remained free of takeout containers all week.
And the food? Oh. My. God.
No exaggeration; one meal after the other has knocked my socks off. And wonder of wonders, Patrick's, too. As for the kids, the reviews have been exactly as they always are: "What is this?" "Do I have to eat it?" "Can I just have a sandwich?" and the occasional, "Hey! This is good!"
I don't care. Mama's had a taste of real home cooking, with ingredients, texture and flavor, and she's not going back. By all means, fix yourself a sandwich, after you try a bite.
Probably the best review came yesterday, in the form of Patrick's disappointed look when he asked eagerly, "So...what's for dinner tonight?" and was told he'd be going back to the diner menu (fish sticks and Kraft dinner), as I had made plans to be out with friends, and wouldn't be cooking. It was also telling that I didn't order an expensive dinner while I was out, but had a bowl of soup and shared a dessert. Normally, I'm craving flavor so badly, I'm willing to pay for it. This week, the restaurant menu had some stiff competition at home.
Prep time has run over the 30 minutes for most meals, but the cooking has been fun and interesting. Also, I've been recruiting the kids to help me, which slows things down a bit, as I show them how to chop, saute, and measure, as my father did with me, sharing the joy of cooking.
If you decide to try Relish on my recommendation, please give Kyran Pittman as the referral source. They track referrals and reward every five with a $50 Crate and Barrel gift card. Thanks, and bon appetit!