Playing in the Kitchen

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Edited: I was a bit rushed when I first made this post. On 5/25/15 I added a few more recipes & expanded/ rewrote a bit.

I am not a cook. Despite being good with a frying pan, by the time I came along (#5 of 5), my mom was working out of the home, among other things, and didn’t get around to teaching me much in the kitchen realm. The only thing I specifically remember learning in that part of the house was how to bake bread. And my Grandma Strawn, mom’s mom, taught me that.

By the time I got to college, I could heat hot dogs, make sandwiches with wild abandon, and whip up a mean bowl of cereal. Much of what I’ve done in my adult years is what I would essentially call “playing in the kitchen.” I can’t really follow a recipe to save my life (I think there is a little OCD & ADD at work in my brain), so I usually get an idea of what I want to cook, Google recipes, print and play!

Substitutions are part of part of my game, as are additions. Recipes are just for me to have a “go-by,” since winging it completely usually results in kitchen waste. Still, about every third attempt at the oven or stove, is palatable, edible, but not much more (without lots of salt). Every other try is “pretty good.” And in one out of every three attempts, I get three cheers from the peanut gallery of critical, picky eaters in my house. Cooking is a very frustrating process for me. I want every dish to get high marks, or maybe I just want my family to be grateful, then to shut up and choke it down without complaint. Yeah, either one would be great. Regardless, I keep trying. Just call me Lambert.

To add to my difficulties in the kitchen, at least as far as my hubby and kids are concerned, I insist on cooking veggies or serving a salad with dinner. I also want my meals to be healthy, which by my current standards means low in grains, higher protein, higher fat (often), and, of course, rife with wretched vegetables. If I would serve only meat and potatoes every night, the fam would be in heaven. So sorry…

68677425_5ec04b52f3_zOne of the ways I work around their myriad dislikes is to incorporate veggies into my dishes utilizing either fresh produce or freeze dried products from Thrive Life, but I have to be careful not to select items that appreciably alter the taste or stand out too much on their own. At least if I work it into the dish, I know they are getting some green (red, yellow, purple, or orange) goodness!

Erin Chase at $5 Dollar Dinners has a wonderful King Ranch Chicken Enchilada Casserole that lends itself well to this “technique.” I just toss in some extra peppers, as I don’t like green bells, I use orange and red (I go for bright colors. Bells upset hubby’s stomach every.single. time. So, I choose bright ones in order that he can more easily pick them out!). I also toss in a handful or two of Thrive’s Freeze Dried Spinach into the sauce. I also using their  dehydrated onions ( I hate cutting onions!) and green chiles (do NOT breathe the dust of those things!) to bolster flavor on one end and make it easier on me, too. I’ve even used their Sour Cream Powder in this recipe with great results.

When using freeze dried products, I will usually add a little more liquid to keep the re-hydration process from pulling too much moisture from the overall recipe (as with the chiles and spinach), or I re-hydrate separately, then add (as with the onions). An extra bit about this particular recipe, I am so glad there are no condensed soups required. They just are not to my taste, not to mention I can’t do much to control flavors, textures, or smell when I use canned soups! And many of the King Ranch recipes I saw called for cream of mushroom soup. Since I’m the only one in the family who even likes mushrooms, cream of mushroom is out (and gross anyway!).

Another veggie-full recipe that I’ve gotten some very surprising raves from is this noodle-free Spinach Lasagna, which I stumbled upon at Linda’s Low-Carb Menus and Recipes. I refuse to use frozen spinach for anything because both the smell and the flavor are major turn-offs. Thankfully, using fresh spinach worked just fine instead of that slimy green seaweed-looking stuff. Simply use as much as you think you need. Remember though, spinach wilts when heated. Six ounces of fresh spinach may seem like quite a bit, but once it hits the sauce and wilts, you may end up wondering if you used en10463108304_61651f6c83_zough!

Taste of Home has some fantastic recipes. I actually can’t remember a bad experience with any I’ve tried in the past. Shockingly, just as with the above lasagna, I got great marks with this Zucchini Pizza Casserole. I say ‘shockingly,’ because it is loaded with zucchini, one of my favorite veggies. Alas, as with mushrooms, I am the only one in love with this easy to grow member of the squash family. It isn’t that the taste is all that wonderful, it’s just that there isn’t much of it, making it easy to shr
ed or dice (sloppy joes) and sneak into things. Unfortunately, the peeps have been on to me for a while now, and I’m pretty certain my husband has been leading a propaganda campaign to turn the kids against this perfectly harmless veggie. Oh, well…

A bonus with this Zucchini Pizza is that it calls for “Italian tomato sauce.” Any recipe that calls for spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce is just begging for additions- fresh or canned tomatoes, fresh basil, ex
tra peppers, whatever you got! Toss it in! Also, for you vegetarians, this would be an easy recipe to alter to fit your needs.

Alea’s Cabbage Rolls with Turkey and Brown Rice is a one I remember being very tasty but a ridiculous, unnecessary pain in the butt to make and eat. My notes say, “Just fix in the skillet!”  Shred your own cabbage or use a pre-cut slaw mix to cut prep time. I only have a two cup food processor, guess which one I prefer. This recipe gets altered to remove a portion of the celery (picky family) and add kale or spinach (fresh or freeze-dried).

Got any family favorites for picky eaters, but that follow my guides? Please, post!

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