As a book lover, I believe you can never have too many books—hoarder or not. In the genre of cooking, I’m wondering if my collection has become somewhat excessive (or is it obsessive?). In the quest for healthy eating, I spend an enormous amount of time flipping through cookbooks looking for new recipes. The problem is everything looks so delicious! I have been successful in creating a menu for a week’s worth of meals twice in the past few months. Those other weeks, the menu looks like an editor took to my work and hated everything. I’m constantly changing my mind because there’s something that pops up that looks better than what I’ve planned.
The cookbook I have turned to most is Milk Street’s Tuesday Nights and it’s fantastic. I’m not sure how many recipes are in there, but I think I’ve covered at least a third of them so far this past month. When we brought it home, we sat down and turned each page, marking the ones we wanted to try—green tabs for him and orange for me. Yes, we are nerds—chef nerds. What I love is that there is no set category, i.e. American, French, Italian, etc. I made a Palestinian Crispy Herb Omelet for breakfast and Chicken in Chipotle Sauce for dinner (they actually used pork chops in the book, but I’m shifty like that).
Now, this doesn’t include the ten other cookbooks on my counter (eight in the cabinet), magazines in the drawer, and internet websites I use. I love to cook, so all of this is stimulating for me. The only anxiety I feel is waiting for Michael to take that first bite. If I don’t hear any words come out of his mouth and he continues eating, I’ve done well. If he says, “Interesting,” then it can go either way. If he literally licks the plate, then the recipe gets a gold star. He’s a trooper and will eat absolutely anything I put in front of him. The only exception is when chicken breast is in any way soft—it has to be thin and firm. I’ve learned this, so I don’t make that mistake anymore. It makes me feel like I’ve failed all humanity when food gets put in the trash. He never makes me feel bad as he knows it’s his personal preference—but, a little bit of my soul dies like any other chef who disappoints.
The essential element to any purchased cookbook is that the ingredients are attainable. I’m a frugal shopper as it is and already go to three different grocery stores each week—yes, three. One is a local farmer’s market with a large variety of fruits and vegetables on one side; and meats, poultry, and seafood on the other. The second is a regular grocery store for all the ancillary items like seasonings, oils, dairy, paper products, etc. The third is a specialty store similar to Whole Foods, called Lucky’s Market. If I want garam marsala, tamarind paste, or some unique organic item—they have it. I also love that I can get red or green lentils, sesame seeds, coconut flour—or whatever they have in a snazzy dispenser—by the ounce or pound.
If the book’s recipes call for some weird ingredient like hunza apricots, kiwano (it’s a thing), or tears of a mountain goat—it doesn’t come home. And, I don’t order food from the internet. Call it old fashioned, but that’s unnatural to me. I welcome any persuasive arguments you have to convince me otherwise.
The bonus to all of this is having made some sensational and delicious discoveries for my food palate. Most of my meals before we started eating healthier consisted of Mexican food or something breaded and fried. Mexican food hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just made healthier now (if only in my mind). But, I’ve discovered I like turmeric, curry, and even tofu—among many other flavors and textures. I continue to dislike thyme in any form or fashion. If the recipe calls for any amount of it, I’m only putting 1/8 of a teaspoon…maybe.
I do think having a variety is key to keeping your diet fun and interesting. Our daughter refers to all of our meals as being rabbit food, but healthy isn’t just about salads and fruits. It’s making dishes with fresh ingredients and being smart about how they’re prepared. Michael had a southern craving for fried green tomatoes and being the good guru of a chef that I am, I made baked green tomatoes. Not only were they delicious, but had a better crunch than the fried variety. Mix up a little avocado oil mayo, yogurt, ranch dressing seasoning, and chipotle peppers with adobo sauce—you have yourself a dip.
So, don’t see eating healthy as limiting. There are always ways to get around to your favorite dishes. You just have to find a few good recipes—or be like me with 19 cookbooks, six magazines, and the never-ending world wide web.