I’m a Gourmet Chef – Who Knew?

How about a little Crab Cobb Salad?

How about a little Crab Cobb Salad?

AT HOME IN HEATH: MY INNER CHEF HAS BLOSSOMED

Bill didn’t marry me for my cooking.  The only food I cooked for him before we got married was my signature spaghetti, which was pretty awesome, but he should have realized there was a problem when he had to teach me to make coffee.  During our first year of marriage we discovered the dishes I’d learned to make in my mother’s kitchen were not to Bill’s taste and his Egyptian dishes were out outside my skill set.  We did not have compatible cuisines.

Confessions of a Yo-Yo Dieter

I was single for a long time.  I’d grown up helping my mom out in the kitchen, but I’d never developed any food management skills of my own.  I ate a lot of fast food, loved frozen chicken pot pies and could make a meal out of a bowl of rice.

From time to time my poor eating habits would catch up with me and I’d fall back on the Scarsdale Diet.  It worked and the simple meals were easy to fix, but you were supposed to rotate the diet with “regular eating” and nothing about the way I ate was regular.  Once the weight was gone, I’d just go back to my bad habits until it was Scarsdale time again.

Then I Got Married

Poor Bill has had quite a ride with me.  Before I really got an opportunity to develop those menu planning/food preparation skills, Bill was already fed up with my efforts.  Not only was he tired of my less than restaurant-quality offerings, he was thoroughly disgusted with the number of things that went bad in my refrigerator.  We ate out, ate a lot of convenience foods and hobbled along for a few months until I had packed on the pounds again.

My best friend introduced me to a crazy 500-calorie-a-day medical diet and in desperation I joined.  Bill nearly had a heart attack when he found out what I spent, but it was non-refundable.  I saved most of my 500 calories for dinner time and we hobbled through meal time until I lost the weight – again.  And of course, eventually I gained it all back.

At some point near the ten year mark, Bill had lived with me through several phases of my yo-yo dieting and I was back on the porky side.  That’s when I discovered Jenny Craig – another diet that “worked.”  I was always great at losing weight when I set my mind to it, but then I’d always gain it back.  Bill liked that Jenny Craig worked, but he didn’t like the cost of meals he couldn’t even share with me.  This yo-yo thing was beginning to wear on us.

And Then There Was South Beach

Over the years Bill and I did discover some dishes we could cook that both of us would like.  We also ate out a lot, like everyone else this day and time.  We weren’t eating healthy, however, and Bill’s doctor introduced him to the South Beach Diet, because he had all the symptoms the diet had been developed for.  I wish I could tell you that I embraced this chance for us to eat together, but I was in the middle of my five year care-giving crisis and Bill was mostly on his own when it came to eating what the diet recommended.  I’ll have to give him creds.  He lost the weight and got all his numbers in the right place.  He about drove me to distraction talking about how wonderful the diet was though – and not just to me, but to anyone who would listen, as well as a few folks who didn’t.

I Finally Gave In

Bill is by far the most persistent person I have ever known.  Most of the time that’s a good thing, but from time to time, it’s not so good.  I finally gave up and tried South Beach.  He’d managed to be successful with it by embracing the rules and applying them to his eating, but I’m not so good with rules.  I knew I’d have to do the diet differently or it would be a waste of my time.

One November day in 2013 became Day One of Phase One.  I followed the diet religiously, faithfully producing every dish on the suggested menu.  Some dishes were a success.  Some were not.  I certainly wasn’t a pro at managing the refrigerator and pantry, but when Bill wanted to complain about a head of lettuce in the trash or wilted asparagus in the crisper, I’d remind him that this diet was his idea.  That seemed to do the trick.

I guess you’re not surprised that the diet worked.  I lost the weight and I was doing pretty good at maintaining it until THE HOUSE.  Those of you who follow my blog know the trauma we went through getting this Home in Heath built.  My diet went out the window and yep, all those pounds came back.

I Came Back

You know what, though.  I missed the Beach.  I’d learned to love frittatas.  I was craving all that spinach, tomatoes and salmon.  I also missed the pals I’d made on the South Beach Diet Chat Groups.  After Bill and I had been in the house for about six weeks, I pulled out my tattered copy of South Beach Diet and my notebook full of kitchen-tested SBD recipes.

This time things were different.  Somewhere along the line those kitchen managing skills I hadn’t possessed in the past had somehow developed.  I was becoming a champ in the kitchen.  I used the SBD book to get me started, but long before Phase 2 was over, I was planning my own menus and modifying recipes to better suit our tastes or to utilize what we had in the pantry instead of making yet another trip to the store.

Our New Paradigm

Shhhhhhh! Don’t tell Bill, but I’ve gotten to the point that I’d just as soon cook at home as go out to eat.  I like my cooking.  He likes my cooking.  I have fun trying new recipes.  I enjoy planning meals.  I even like grocery shopping.

Organizing the pantry, freezer and fridge is sort of like a game.  I’m even discovering that when we go out for a meal, it throws a kink in my food planning.  Not to mention the fact that more often than not, I like the way I cook things better than what I’m served.

I’m still working my way through the huge assortment of recipes South Beach Diet has online, because I want to keep the weight off this time, but I’m beginning to have an urge to crack open my recipe books.  Even though I was never much of a cook, I liked picking up cookbooks when I traveled.  I kept assuring myself that at some point in my life I would actually have time to cook.  Then I inherited all of my mom’s cookbooks.  My sister had no interest in them and I certainly wasn’t going to throw them away.  I’d need several lifetimes to use all the recipes I have in my kitchen, so I guess it’s just about time to get started.

I never dreamed that I was as good of a cook as I’ve turned out to be.  I still have my moments.  I forget to preheat the oven, chop up my other vegetables with my onions when I’m supposed saute the onions separately, substitute crunched crackers when I run out of bread crumbs in the middle of a recipe and that sort of thing, but I’m learning that none of it is the end of the world.  When in doubt, I just add some pepper and keep on cooking!

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