Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why I Cook

Having just returned to full-time work, I have not been cooking as elaborately as I had been, although I am still preparing meals for my family almost daily. Although I miss that relaxed hour or two preparing a delicious meal, and I am confident I will find my way to a new weekday cooking style that may not be gourmet but will be a cut above 30-Minute Meals.

As I struggle to find a new normal, and inspired by Michael Ruhlman's recent blog post, here are some of the reasons that I cook.

  • I love to eat. It is one of life's greatest pleasures.

  • I enjoy sharing good food with other people. Especially family and good friends. Meals are an important social activity and build bonds between us. My cooking is an expression of my love from those I care most about. And I am making memories at the table every day with my husband and my children.

  • It is relaxing. At the end of a day working with my head, I enjoy an hour spent working with my hands and my other senses (smell, taste) to create something savory.

  • It is fun. There is always a new challenge available--a new cuisine, a new dish, a new ingredient.

  • It is a great way to teach your kids about culture--their own and others. One day, we try an Asian spring roll or an Indian curry and imagine faraway lands; the next day. we enjoy the apple pie recipe handed down from grandma and remember where we came from.

  • It is important to sustaining my family's health and well-being. I know that the food I prepare is (usually!) healthy and fresh. My children are learning to eat a variety of foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables. And I am saving money by cooking at home more and eating out less.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weeknight Pozole

Here is a comforting, quick, and healthy weeknight meal that can be thrown together from pantry staples. Although not traditional, I like a mix of hominy and fresh corn in my pozole. This time of year, avocados are plentiful and inexpensive, and they make a lovely garnish on this soup. You can also crumble a few tortilla chips in the bottom of the bowl to fortify the soup.

Weeknight Pozole

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 white onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1 box chicken stock
4 cups water
1 can tomato paste
4 chicken breasts
1 30-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn

garnishes: thinly sliced radishes, chopped ripe avocado, crumbled queso fresco, chopped cilantro

In a large soup pot, saute the onions in the oil until they have softened. Add the garlic, chili powder, and oregano, and stir over heat until the spices become fragant. Add the chicken stock, water, tomato paste and the chicken breasts. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes until it can be handled. Using two forks, shred the chicken; return it to the pot. Add the hominy and the corn, and heat the whole thing through. Serve, garnished with chopped avocado, queso fresco, thinly sliced radishes, and chopped cilantro as garnishes.