10 Ways I am Improving My Culinary Skills at Dinner

2015 started with a challenge from Craig and a group of friends to produce 10 New Ideas a Day. Prior to the challenge, I had already established some new goals and undertakings for the next season of my life so it seemed like a natural fit. I don’t post all of my 10 ideas online everyday like they do, but this one is worth your time.

For the past two years I have been on my own, with my three sons living with me every other week. Needless to say, there has been many new things that this era of my life has presented as challenges and opportunities. As time has past, it began to stand out to me how meager of a “chef” I am. I personally treat food as fuel. As I have conditioned my body to run marathons and undertake ironman events, most of my meal planning has been around healthy, simple and easy without much variety. Shocker… kids don’t like eggs, beans and veggies for meals quite as often as I am willing to eat them.

Embarrassingly, I got into a rut with about 10 really, really basic meals that I cooked for them time and again while they are at my house. Having found more of my rhythm in life now, I have taken it upon myself to learn how to not only cook, but to learn how to create some very scrumptious meals that just about anyone would be mildly impressed with. This will be a long uphill journey but I am determined to become a moderately competent man in the kitchen. Who knows, I just may impress the ladies someday with my meal skills.

Here’s 10 things that I am doing to help improve my culinary skills at dinner time:

  1. Made it public to friends that I need to improve my culinary skills. I find that if I make my goals public that it helps me follow through on actually achieving them because I know my friends will check in.
  2. Borrowed two cookbooks (I owned none).
  3. Writing a dinner menu for each week that the boys are with me. The boys are already excited about and looking forward to the new things that I am going to cook this week. This simple menu idea also forces me to pick recipes ahead of time and also expand my grocery shopping list.  IMG_0916*Yes, we have a whiteboard in our kitchen. Don’t ask, it’s a work thing, a guy thing, a creative thing and yes, I know that if a woman lived in our house it would be one of the first things to go.
  4. Taking requests from the boys. Not simple things like Mac & Cheese, but more complicated requests like things they have eaten at a restaurant or at our friends’ house.
  5. Now shopping at the grocery store for the big kids. WOW! This was shocking. I was just going to the closest, local grocery store. I had no idea how limited the selections were there until this week when I traveled an extra 2 miles to go to a grocery store that has so much more for selections in produce, meats and so much more. It was overwhelming actually. I went on a Wednesday which was apparently senior citizen day + coupon day. I about quit and lost my shit 3 times. I persevered but the experience was miserable. I am committed to going back.
  6. Going to get a COSTCO membership to save money. 
  7. Reading a couple of food blogs, trying to find ones that I like.
  8. Asking friends with advanced culinary skills for ideas and challenges on what to learn to cook next. Yes, there is a lot of laughter and some slight mocking involved when they realize I can barely boil eggs without needing instruction.
  9. Making a list of “things I need for my kitchen” and buying the best kind. Because my skills have been so rudimentary, so have been my cooking utensils and appliances. I can NOT wait to get an awesome sharp knife. I had no idea how bad my knives were until the other night when I got the chance to use an awesome knife that my friend owns. I am going to be acquiring the new utensils and appliances slowly because I now want to own excellent items, not just the cheap and easy ones I have been buying at the grocery store.
  10. Setting aside time to cook each evening. Often cooking has been an after thought. I rush around working all day, then I juggle after school activities like most parents. Dinner, it was just used to be thrown together quickly around 7-8pm at night. No more! I am now beginning all my meals around 5:30pm, leaving myself an hour each night to cook something with care and thought.
So far, I have undertaken making:
– Homemade bread. Simple enough, I chose a “Beer Bread” with just 3 ingredients. I failed on the first go, misreading SALT when the recipe actually called for SUGAR. The second attempt turned out pretty dry.
– Biscuits from scratch. They turned out solid as I used a simple drop biscuit recipe.
– Smoked Turkey Pasta w/ Sausage was served tonight with Kale Caesar salad and a warm French bread.

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