Learning to Cook at Home

See the photo above?  It’s food like this that keeps me from cooking at home.

It’s fast, its vegetarian (well, mostly vegetarian), it’s got vegetables, and it costs about 3 dollars to serve 2 people for dinner.

Chris and I love to cook, but we also love to eat out.  So far, we’ve been eating out most nights in Chengdu.  Like seriously, almost every night.

The reasons are many: quality meat here requires advanced planning and safe seafood is nonexistent, it’s cheaper to eat out than it is to cook a “western” dish at home, shopping for produce is a time-consuming adventure in the wet market but just WASHING produce here takes even longer.  Oh and around 5:30pm we turn into really lazy, really hungry creatures.

But that’s no excuse.  We enjoy cooking, we enjoy eating at home, and I don’t want us to be completely screwed should we ever move to a place where a dinner out actually costs more than a dinner at home.

So new project: Cooking at home at least 1 night a week (I know, I know, it sounds pathetic but remember, we pay less than 5 dollars for nutritionally balanced, vegetarian meals when we eat out right now)

To overcome some of the particularities of cooking and eating here in Chengdu, I’ve got a few guidelines that I’m laying out for my recipe search that will hopefully curb any misplaced frustration:

1. No recipes that call for seafood as the main protein (we just can’t get it here)

2. Mostly vegetarian meals to avoid the whole meat frustration we have here (we have to order it in bulk and then freeze it which means that, practically speaking, I need to know exactly what we want to cook at least 24 hours in advance– and with my husband’s spontaneous tastes, that is sooo not happening)

3. All meals have to require some sort of vegetable in quantity, preferably something green

4. All meals should trend towards low amounts of oil, salt, MSG, otherwise we might as well be eating out.

5. All meals should be fairly quick to prepare (less than 30-45 minutes) or can the prep can be done in advance (we do after all turn into starving, lazy creatures after work)

Oh, and no fancy Western ingredients that we either a) can’t get here or b) have to pay an enormous premium for.

That means things like pine nuts, cheeses, and ingredients unique to very specific non-Asian cuisines are out. (Epicurious-I love your recipes, but your suggestions to pick up grocery store rotisserie chicken and ingredients from the “Mexican food aisle” are killing me)

Because this blog is basically my accountability mechanism, I’ll try to post our homemade meals here every week.  And if you have any recipe suggestions, please share!  I have a feeling I’ll need them…


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