As I sit on our patio savoring a gorgeous day, our slow cooker is at work inside, preparing tonight's dinner of some kind of stew I improvised with pork, red potatoes, baby carrots, frozen peas, onion, garlic cloves, seasoning salt, pepper, and two different kinds of Mrs. Dash. We’ve had the slow cooker for months, but this is only the second time I’ve used it; I just recently discovered how easy and convenient it is. What I’ve been missing!
And I started thinking about the ways that marriage has brought with it many new dishes for both Joann and I, each of us having obvious preferences in what foods we like to prepare as well as consume. We share the cooking load, and I’d say we do a decent job of catering to one another. As Joann usually explains it, I prepare a lot more meat and vegetable based meals, while her specialties are casseroles and "breakfast."
The following are some of the cooking “highlights” and “staples” from the past 10 ½ months of marriage (wow…about a week longer than the amount of time I spent in China).
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches (Matt, highlight). This was my first use of the slow cooker a couple weeks ago. I basically just added some barbecue sauce, garlic, onions, spices, and let it sit. The result was delicious!
- Burritos (Matt, staple). I would lump in nachos, quesadillas, and various Mexican bowls with this, though burritos are the most common form "Mexican night" takes. We could do Mexican just about every night actually. This is one of my dishes that requires a “Joann version” and “Matt version” be made. Joann’s typical burrito includes beans, chicken, cheese, tomatoes, olives, garnished with lettuce and sour cream. Mine includes the same but with bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, onions, and loads of salsa and pico de gallo added.
- Peas (Joann, staple). This isn’t a dish, but it deserves mentioning as an obvious difference in preference between the two of us. Joann’s favorite vegetable seems to be peas, though I’m usually not satisfied by peas alone. Peas are one of those foods I eat rapidly just to get them off my plate so I can settle down and enjoy my meal. I usually steam broccoli on “pea night” to supplement the meal. Joann doesn’t care much for broccoli, except sometimes raw. She likes the way I prepare fresh green beans…cooked in oil (or often butter), seasoned and crunchy.
- Waffles (Joann, staple). Waffle night usually includes bacon and eggs, which I generally leave to Joann for the prepping. She makes a mean waffle. Or the waffle-maker makes a mean waffle. Joann and the waffle-maker combine forces to make a mean waffle. Blueberries often make a nice addition when cooked into the waffles.
- German Pear Puff Pancake (Joann, highlight). Keeping with the breakfast theme, Joann occasionally makes this dish which is more of an egg-based pancake. And the high amount of fruit and eggs makes us feel like it’s an extremely healthy dish. Joann says it is healthy. I’m not sure, but I want to believe it is, considering my usual portion size whenever she cooks this.
- Chinese (Matt, staple-ish). I realize now that this has not been as a frequent a dish in recent weeks. It seemed like back in the Fall, we on multiple occasions had some friends over for Chinese, allowing me to really go all out and prepare some of my favorite dishes consumed during my time in China, like green peppers and pork, sweet and sour chicken, and various other veggie dishes, with rice. Chinese night has kind of morphed into some kind of Asian fusion night, usually involving chicken and veggies with peanut sauce poured over noodles. Lazy man’s Asian.
- Pop-up Pizza. (Joann, highlight). “Highlight” as in memorable, not necessarily excellent. Joann probably made the best pop-up pizza—kind of like lasagna but more bread-y than noodle-y—one can find; I just don’t think it’ll ever be a favorite for me. But I think it’s a Whittaker family thing, and I’m a sucker for nostalgia, even if it’s somebody else's nostalgia.
- Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. (Joann, staple). Joann’s comfort food. She knows to add tomato slices to mine so I’ll feel like it’s a more balanced meal.
- Pasta (both, staple). I think I’ve made more of the pasta recently, though we’ve shared the load on this one. I’ve recently discovered cold pasta salad…I believe I made it with whole-grain penne, grilled chicken, olives, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and some kind of herb-basil dressing. Joann prefers her warm pasta with butter and parmesan; I’m a tomato sauce guy.
- Chicken and potatoes (Matt, staple). Our standard, “we had Mexican last night, didn’t we?” follow-up dinner. I like to make barbecued chicken. Though we don’t actually own a barbecue; I use the Foreman grill and add barbecue sauce. So I guess it’s not really barbecued chicken, technically. Also found a hickory-bacon-onion ranch-like dressing that I like to add to the potatoes when grilling.
- Cod (Matt, highlight). I don’t cook fish often, but decided to “Jabez” my meat cooking repertoire. The first attempt was cooking tilapia, because tilapia was cheap. It was bad. I may have done it wrong, and I tried seasoning it in different ways or disguising it with other ingredients (as in fish burritos)…or maybe tilapia just is bad, cheap fish. So I upgraded to cod, baking it with spices, lemon, and crumbling up some wheat thins over the top...amazing! It may have actually just been average to above average fish, but I think I was so pleased with myself for successfully cooking fish that the thrill of victory made the fish seem more glamorous.
And a couple non-dinner items:
And a couple non-dinner items:
- Cheesecake (Joann, highlight). Joann made probably the best homemade cheesecake I’ve ever tasted for my birthday. It was amazing. She made too much though, and I gained some weight that week before we threw the rest of the second cheesecake away.
- Pumpkin bread (Joann, highlight). Another Joann specialty. We love the pumpkin bread sold at Batdorf and Bronson’s, a local coffee shop, which inspired Joann to make her own. Which, of course, was better than Batdorf’s, especially the time she added cranberries.
So there’s a sampling. Joann, did I miss anything significant? Anything you'd add?
Also, any suggestions from others for how we can expand our “menu” this summer? Any good dish recommendations that might fit either of our styles (or expand on our styles?)
Oh...I also know how to order a mean Papa's Murphy's pizza.