Plan #19 – Host a dinner party

Blue Apron

I just realized I have not written a single thing about Blue Apron since I started doing it this summer.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, Blue Apron is a company that sends you a refrigerated box filled with everything you need to cook two fabulous meals (including the farm-fresh, pre-portioned ingredients), as well as the recipes to go with them. Katie Bower had written a few sponsored blog posts about Blue Apron (how does one get sponsorships like that?! This is definitely not sponsored in any way…) but I hadn’t paid much attention because I DON’T KNOW HOW TO COOK. So there wasn’t much point, right?

Ah, but then she wrote a post about how Blue Apron’s recipes were so easy, even her husband could cook them.  That put a whole different spin on things. A non-cook could do this? Hmmm… Maybe I should give it a try. I signed up for the meals-for-four plan, where they send you two boxes a week, just to give it a try.

Oh. My. Gosh.

You guys, it was like going to cooking school. The recipe cards break down every single step so clearly (and you can go to their website or phone app to watch videos of the steps if you want more clarification). They even teach you how to time things so they come out together. Imagine that! Your main dish, side dish and salad course all ready at once?! For me, that would be a miracle. I mean, Lori + cooking = smoke alarm, most of the time, since the timing thing is soooooo hard for me.

But take away the stress of meal planning, the stress of shopping, the stress of not having skills, the stress of not knowing what to do when, and suddenly I am a whiz in the kitchen. You wouldn’t believe me now, with the chopping and the coordination and the making salad dressings from scratch. I am amazing.

Right this second I am on a Blue Apron hiatus as we actually got backed up on food because a) their portion sizes are generous, and b) we were getting the meals for four, and there are only three of us. (I planned one to be a next-day lunch for David.) Taking a break is no problem, either. I just go into the app and click “Skip This Delivery” and – bam! – it is skipped.

I was wishing I hadn’t skipped this week, though, when Q unexpectedly had three friends over (my little Hannah plus two newbies) and I invited them to stay for dinner. We didn’t have the ingredients for a proper meal in the house, but I knew we could make pasta, so I ran to get salad makings, some garlic bread, and something for dessert.

It wasn’t a fancy menu. What was cool, though, was that I made a separate vegetarian pasta sauce (complete with fresh sauteed veggies) from scratch.  Scratch, mind you. Because that’s how fancy I am. Pasta, two different sauces (meat and vegetarian), Caesar salad, and garlic bread, with pie and ice cream for dessert. We all ate our fill, everyone liked the food, and we hung out and swapped embarrassing childhood stories. I got tons of compliments from the kids about the food. It just made me happy to be able to serve a meal to strangers and friends and have it go well. The vast majority of my stories about entertaining end badly.

(To be completely honest, I did leave the garlic bread under the broiler a little too long, and I had to scrape off the burnt parts. But it was still good, and I was able to laugh at it. Just as I am laughing at myself now: I just fell asleep with my hands on the keyboard and typed “m” a thousand times. Apparently I need to get even more sleep! Good night!)

First #healthy #food delivery from Blue Apron. All locally grown. #learningtocook #chef #gettingmyeaton#supportsmallbusiness  by Jon Lee Clark / CC BY

Cooking school 2015

Cooking Time!
Cooking Time! by CileSuns92

I’ve decided to learn to cook.

It’s not that I don’t know how to follow a recipe; I do. It’s just that the whole time-management piece of cooking is difficult for me: something always ends up undercooked, overcooked, flat-out burned, or done ages after the rest of the meal. It’s overwhelming. Instead, I fall back on things that can be easily “assembled” as opposed to actually “cooked”: tacos or burritos, pasta with sauce, a pre-roasted chicken, bags of salad.

My friend Nicole was amused when I shared the learning-to-cook idea with her. She reminded me that many of my closest friends are excellent cooks (I count her as both close friend and great cook, in fact) who would be willing to help me learn. I will take this into consideration, but I know myself; when I am bad at something, I tend to want to go it alone with just books to guide me, so that others are not aware of the depths of my ineptitude.

Still, I have decided to share the results of this journey with others. Since this is the year of fun, I needed some motivation to make cooking more enjoyable and less of a chore. I posted a request on Facebook for guinea pigs to come and let me cook for them. I’d get to entertain (fun!) but without the stress of feeling that things had to be perfect (the usual state of affairs that kills the fun before it even starts). I got a lot of takers, so I just need to get people scheduled. (In fact, I could go on a cooking tour up and down the West Coast if I so wanted! I love Facebook.)

Cooking adventure #1 took place this evening and was a brilliant success.

Sundays are my night on the family cooking schedule. However, I’ve had some medication-timing issues the last few days, and I’ve been in and out of bed all weekend chasing these nerve issues with gabapentin. I’d fallen asleep late this afternoon, and at 7:47 pm David woke me up to see if the dinner I’d promised to make would be forthcoming.

Lo and behold, I got right up. I put my pants on inside out. I took them off and tried again, with more success. I grabbed my phone and the dog and headed for New Seasons, where I acquired some lovely salmon fillets, some Yukon Gold potatoes, and some organic veggies. I came back and prepared a fantastic meal: citrus-basil salmon, green beans sauteed with garlic, and potatoes. Every thing was done at the same time and plated up nice and hot. I even had fancy lemon wedges for the fish.

David was astounded at the fact that I had awakened, shopped, cooked and cleaned up in just over an hour. He complimented the meal multiple times. Still thinking about it as we cleared the table, he made an interesting comment: “You didn’t belabor it at all. You just did it.”

I certainly did. I didn’t “face my fear of cooking,” either. I simply didn’t have the fear. I thought about what I wanted to eat, and I made it happen. It was cool.

I’m proud of myself. Let the year of cooking begin!

full Indian meal, meat and vegetarian

NaBloPoMo Day 24

Our family meal plan has been going strong now for three months!

Quinland was busily doing KP this morning when she poked her head into the dining room to ask, “Is this scheme the longest one we’ve ever done?” I assured her that it was definitely the longest meal plan we’d ever done, and quite possibly was the longest we’d ever stuck with any scheme, ever. While I’m not proud of what that says about my consistency as a disciplinarian, I am glad that Q will be getting a taste of meal planning, cooking, and responsibility before she grows up and moves out in a few years. (Lest you think that she has never had chores, you would be mistaken; she’s always been in charge of loading and unloading the dishwasher, but all other tasks have been assigned on an as-needed basis, not regularly scheduled.)

I’ve been especially pleased with how Quinland is developing as a cook on the nights that she is the Chef. She’s been an excellent baker for years, but she’s expanding her skills. Tonight, she cooked a sweet potato-and-chicken curry, added a number of pre-packaged Indian sides and two kinds of rice. She modestly said she “just heated things up,” and while that was true for the sides and the rice, she also orchestrated the whole meal and got it all on the table at the same time, HOT. I didn’t begin to learn that until I was 40, and I’m still not good at it. All that was after planning the meal and shopping for it at two stores. (I even dropped her off at Fred Meyer, and she shopped, scanned, paid, met me outside, and loaded the bags in the car herself.)

Tomorrow morning, Q doesn’t  have school, and she’s planning on making orange-cranberry scones for breakfast (from scratch, of course). I can’t wait.

Bonus points today if you can name the film the title of this post comes from!