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  • I love cooking, but after two decades of picky eaters and “how much of this do I have to eat?”, I’ve lost some of the joy of cooking. I was looking forward to the take-out years of the empty nest. Maybe I need a month of Whole 30 as a palate cleanser once the kids are away.

    Mark Bittman is a firm believer in the art of the quick healthy home cooked meal. He’s got a few cookbooks along that theme.

    • (Nearly?) Every single recipe I’ve cooked from Mark Bittman is bland and boring. Sigh. He is “how to cook if you don’t know ANYTHING” but use some sauces and spice rubs and… just get another book so you can make something that tastes good.

  • The house I grew up in and in that time era of the 70’s and 80’s in the south
    my mom cooked dinner 5 nights a week. Saturday were leftovers and Sunday
    my dad usually grilled. I don’t remember eating any fast food until I was 16
    I digress, I cook pretty much 7 nights a week at home sometimes I tire of it
    but I prefer my
    own home cooking to eating out. I have a menu I stick too until I get tired of
    it then I change it up. I have one grown son but I still prefer to cook at home
    for myself and my husband seems normal to me but that was just the way I
    was raised.

  • “anything in the form of a patty, nugget, finger, or tot”–love this line, Ann!

    (BTW, is Kalamata’s a Greek restaurant?).

  • The empty nest brought the joy back into cooking for me. I had been firm about everyone in the house sitting down to dinner and eating the same meal. That was a hell I created for myself, because when the family was tired of the same meals over and over, no one could be bothered to come up with any suggestions for something new. (If I hit on something everyone like, it was gold for a few months, until the inevitable boredom.) Requests for the family to each come up with a meal suggestion each week were met with rolled eyes and “I want food.”

    Once the kids were out of the house, I had to please only two of us. My husband had completely committed to being a vegetarian by then, so I had to learn how to cook differently, although he is always happy to fend for himself from his bins of hummus and the pile of fruit he gets at Costco every week. I still want the two of us to sit down to dinner together, but I don’t like tofu, so I have learned to cook with beans and lentils (lots of Indian food), and I quite like it. I am actually learning to cook (rather than just following a recipe). Plus, when you can Google three ingredients in your fridge and get a bunch of potential recipes, you’re home free.

    Now, of course, both of my daughters are in college and cooking for themselves and wanting to be healthy. One is a vegan, and loves to cook. The other just mentioned a few weeks ago that she was thinking of trying Whole30. When they come home to visit, they’ll search the internet for recipes, make suggestions for meals, help me cook, and eat anything I make. Parenting really is an exercise in patience.

  • No dairy or sugar? Does that mean I can still have my sugar free french vanilla coffee mate in th morning?!!

  • “You’re nuts! Who wastes perfectly good beverage storage space on food that rots after a week?”

    That’s a winner! 😀

  • Here’s a bit of a twist on the “Who cooks?” question. I do like to cook, and we were always careful about how much money we spent on restaurants, though there is absolutely NO shortage of good restaurants near us.

    But about two years before I was able to retire, I was working such long hours and traveling so much that DH got tired of waiting for me to come home and get started on dinner. So he declared himself in charge, and has pretty much been so ever since. He tears recipes out of magazines before I even get to see them, prints them off the NY Times website, and keeps them all in categorized folders. He has a pretty good sense of what’s appealing to us, and though I could easily live on veggies and he’s still of the “chicken, meat or fish?” school, we meet in the middle. And in spite of the fact that he’s in love with the high-power burners, he does pretty well.

    I guess the point is that, 15 years my senior (you do the math), it’s never too late to learn. And besides, it gives me more time to knit!!

    • My husband retired 5 years ago. After a year of waiting for me to come home to cook, he took over the cooking duties. And yes more time for knitting.

  • I cook at home, but with 10 and 12 y.o. boys it’s not high eating. I try to not cook two meals, and try to find meals we all like, and try to expose them to non-nugget/patty foods, but there’s no shortage of nights when dinner is pasta. I look forward to when it’s just hubby and me and we can experiment more!

  • We’ve been eating much more at home–although we do try to also support OKC’s restaurant renaissance. I roasted cauliflower and onions together a couple of nights ago with some olive oil and random spices from my cabinet. Loved it.

  • Whole30 is a life changer. After the 30 days it’s easy to stay on track and enjoy the cooking. Most people ask me what I eat if I mention my list of don’ts. We forget the number of foods covered by fruit, veggies and meat (protein)! Congrats on your life style change.

    • Yes, I agree completely! I also did a Whole30 in the summer of 2015 like Ann, (after not eating wheat since 2012) and I found that my tastes and eating habits changed even more, and I’m happier for it. I say this as someone who loved bread and carbs and sugar veryveryvery much! I am still dairy-, wheat-, alcohol- and coffee-free*, and I live a perfectly good life, and have lost a lot of weight and feel better. Also like Ann, I am not crazy, so my go-to treat of choice is dark chocolate.

      If you try it, keep in mind that it only means that you give up your treats for 30 days. I had a friend who recommended it, and I’m very glad that I listened to her. Not only did I lose a lot of weight (and keep it off!), I learned a lot, too.

      Finally, I am still not much of a cook, but I am a much more careful eater and buy better-quality food now, both at restaurants and the market.

      *giving up coffee was my choice. Whole30 says that it’s OK.

  • I love to cook, and have always done so for my family. It helped that I was working part time and had the time. Healthy meals from scratch – my specialty. But since I started working full time, I don’t have time to cook dinner every night, and that makes me sad. Hubby gets home first, so he does the cooking during the week. His talent does not lie in the kitchen, and I am getting really tired of the same 4 meals every week.
    It brings me great joy to cook on the weekends. Tonight’s menu may not be fancy, but I can pronounce every ingredient!

    • My hubby gets home before me and we had the same issue for a while. I don’t know if you have a slow cooker, but I now have two – small one and a big one. It’s changed our meals for the better! I probably use them twice a week. There are a ton of healthy recipes online, from plain roasted chicken to Indian curry. And the new slow cookers have an automagic switch from cook to keep warm which helps with over cooking.

    • Yeah, not cooking makes me sad too. My partner and I split the cooking so I don’t cook every night, but I love to cook, and when I’m not cooking at least half-time it feels like I’m not taking care of myself. Plus, it’s a built-in space of creativity for 45 minutes every day … kinda can’t live without that.

  • What Are These Dead Plants Doing in the Diet Coke Bin? Although I’m not a soda drinker, I snorted my tea on that one. A few years ago we moved into a house with a big sunny garden and the household carnivore loves to garden so veggies are the top focus all summer long. Who knew that would be the ticket for man who used to say, lettuce isn’t food, lettuce is what food eats. Glad you are having fun. Whole30 seems like an admirable undertaking.

  • Sam Sifton of the NY Times sends out a ‘what to cook this week’ email newsletter a couple of times a week. It’s a goldmine of easy-to-make meals and a welcome source of ideas for those of us who cook most nights. Free, too.

  • I always cooked. Seven days a week, from scratch. Occasionally, when husband was gone, my daughters and I would get takeout for a treat, but mostly, I always cooked, in big batches once a week because i had a job and carpools like everyone else. Now, retired, its down to five nights a week, with an official restaurant night on the schedule…in acknowledgement of my “retirement” status (as if we ever get to retire). I am the master of the 30 minute meal. If it takes longer than 30 minutes, it has to produce enough leftovers to serve for two or more nights. We eat lots of fresh vegetables, only a small amount of red meat; it becomes easier to figure out the longer you do it. My husband, now retired, washes the dishes so there is still plenty of time to knit at the end of the day.

    Like my knitting, in which the pattern is only a jumping off point, never to be followed exactly, so is my relationship with recipes. My perenial favorite is Melissa Clark who writes in the NYTimes, because her recipes are just that: a jumping off point. But for people new to cooking every day, the website Food52 is a great place to look for simple to make, healthy foods that fit within that 30 min maximum.

  • We are empty nesters who rarely go out anymore and cook all our meals at home unless we have a date to meet friends. For three years we have been doing Blue Apron and Purple Carrot, at least one of them a week, sometimes both. A box of fresh ingredients is delivered to the house with recipes and all we need to cook the meals except oil, salt and pepper . The dinners are fantastic, I don’t have to grocery shop much anymore. We waste much less food and we get to try cuisines from all over the world. It’s been a game changer for us!

    • I was considering Blue Apron, myself! I love good, homemade food, but after 32 years of weekly menus and daily cooking, I am ready for a change. Thanks for the encouragement to try something new!

  • I do more cooking once the weather turns cold and the furnace is needed. Like today….. Pots of borscht and homemade soup, and chili. I’m happy to eat the same thing day after day, until it’s gone. And most chilis just get better when you heat them up.

  • I’m a month in with one less person to feed, have still not gotten in the groove of cooking less. Seems my runner son consumed 50% of all the food in this household of 4. It warms my heart that he is looking forward to “Mom food” when he visits at Thanksgiving.
    I cook almost every night, and our menus span the globe. Variety is the spice of life!

  • I go through stages of loving to cook, then I get busy with a writing project and grab stuff at the Whole Foods takeout counter. But yesterday a new cookbook I ordered arrived, full of quick, nutritious meals, and this morning I woke to rain. So suddenly I’m planning soups and veggie roasts and casseroles. Loved reading about your transition to healthy foods.

  • Hubby and I married in our late 30s after many years of living alone. We split cooking until I started staying home. I do all our cooking for 6 nights & we go out on Sunday. I do entire meals about 3 times a week, we have leftovers plus fresh salads, fruit & veg on the others. Big things like soups & chili get frozen in meal portions for those days that go crazy and when I am ill or out of town. We enjoy dining out and are adventurous, but Hubby commented he often likes my food better. Of course, I tailor our meals to foods and spices we enjoy! Recently, some health issues have forced a significant change in our diet to limit a couple of nutrients. It was a challenge, but totally doable since I cook for us. Not sure how people who don’t would manage it.

  • I love to cook but have so little time . I have to plan a week ahead to really “make it work”. I do love on a very busy day pulling out frozen lasagna that I had made weeks ago ,knowing there will be a yummy supper.
    I want to try Whole30, but I haven’t been willing to give up my wine or martini’s!

  • We cook 7 nights a week too, unless we’ve planned an evening out or take out. It’s a budget thing but also a tummy issue. 2 of us 4 are lactose intolerant and none of us can tolerate msg or other preservatives well, with reactions of various degrees of discomfort. And most recently we discovered our oldest can’t do soy sauce. We pretty much avoid the chain restaurants with their pre-prepared prepackaged and reheated in the kitchen foods and stick to our local joints. Hot butter garlic wings with a side of lactaid from the tavern within walking distance of our house is a great treat.

    • That dairy intolerance really is a game changer for dining out…

  • I cook dinner Mon-Thurs. My husband cooks dinner on Sundays, 2 teens/1 tween with the eldest in his senior year in HS. Rarely does dinner involve a nugget/patty/hot dog these days. We are very much a meat/starch/veggie family but I am trying to nudge us more towards the veggies with some entree salads not and then. We are trying to cook at home at least one more dinner a week. Restaurants sure add up!

    Good for you for finding a new healthy habit!

  • I decided that I had to teach my 20 year old daughter to cook. But not the boring meals I usually make. So we got out the Jamie Oliver 30 minute cookbook and every now and then we whip up a treat. They really don;t take long -well, maybe 40 minutes with both of us cooking and skipping the drink and the dessert! It’s brilliant -the food is yummy, it doesn’t take any longer than dinner usually takes, and we have fun plus mother daughter bonding! Win win win win!

  • I have type 2 diabetes, so I eat pretty much Whole 30 every day, with the exception of eating one bread-type thing every day. (I will admit that there are week when I look forward to Sunday dinner with my parents, when the bread-type thing is a handful of Cheez-Its or Wheat Thins.) Anyway, I am still amazed at how much lower my credit card bill is every month now that I’m skipping restaurants and eating at home.

  • My favorite cooking story is of the woman who started taking weaving classes after her kids left home. She would spend all day at the weaving studio. One day she came home late and her husband told her she was doing too many things and needed to give up something. She looked at him, thought for a minute, and said, “You’re right. From now on I’m giving up cooking.”

    I cook by the two day leftover rule. Cook enough for 3 nights. Eat one meal, put one in the fridge for leftovers, and one in the freezer for a night when I don’t want to cook.

  • I hate cooking with the heat of a thousand fiery suns. We would all starve if my husband didn’t cook.

    • I am glad to see that someone else hates cooking. 🙂 I do often prefer home-cooked food, but I don’t want to be the one to make it, so am not in any position to complain if we assemble more than we cook overall. I tend to enjoy baking, but mostly because I like the end results so much better, and since they’re all the things I shouldn’t be eating on a daily basis, I don’t do that very often anyway.

  • After DH died five years ago, I struggled with how to manage cooking. Just seemed so much effort for only one. So I ate out a lot, ate too many Amy’s frozen bowls at home. Whole30 last February helped get me back on track. Now Blue Apron keeps me
    on it and I’m enjoying the kitchen again. Trying new foods, learning new techniques, realizing that I’m worth the effort even alone.

    • I love this. I have a friend who is a very good cook and she recently lost her DH and is struggling with cooking (partly because it was a shared activity). I’ll mention Blue Apron, etc. as an option for her to not have to worry about so many leftover groceries. Thanks, and you are totally worth the effort. : )

    • My husband is out of town half the time and I have had a similar problem. I try to cook a few days a week to avoid restaurants. And I eat a lot of leftovers. I’ve discovered you can put just about anything on top of farmers market salad mix and make a meal of it. I’m not sure what I will do this winter though.

  • I love to cook. My waistline will vouch for it. I wish that I could commit to the whole 30 again because I have gained back all of the extra waistage that I lost. But I am having too much fun on the Smittenkitchen web site. And generally the food I make at home is so much better than what I can afford to eat out. With four kids, only the one percent can afford to eat out much – so needs be and all that.
    I still eat out too much. Just lazy.

  • My husband and I are empty nesters and we much prefer eating at home, even a quick dinner of BLT’s and french fries. It’s quicker than trekking to a restaurant that’s noisy, crowded and, quite honestly, many times the food is not any better than we prepare. I’m no gourmet, but my husband and I can usually make a meal at home that is much tastier, and we know the quality of the ingredients. Here in the Bay Area of California, for what you are going to spend on two hamburgers and an average glass of wine and a beer, you can buy a nice little steak and a bottle of wine and enjoy a quiet evening catching up on Netflix, Stephen Colbert, etc.

  • My husband loves to cook. I don’t. After a summer spent remodeling the kitchen I’m still tired of eating out. We eat mostly at home with an occasional night out when he needs a break. Otherwise he’s in charge of all meals, and even packs my lunch for work. He will often suggest that I sit and knit while he cooks. Yes, he’s awesome 🙂

  • Bless your heart. And welcome to the land of cooking. No more Diet Coke in the vegetable bin!

  • I’ve never done Whole30, but I was on Weight Watchers for 2 years (and lost 109 pounds) and am still doing my own modified version of WW. One thing that WW made me do is look beyond pasta, which was my go-to meal. It also made me eat a lot more veggies, which I realized I liked more than I thought. I’m not vegetarian, but I only eat meat a couple times a week. I always thought I didn’t really care for cauliflower, until I roasted it! And butternut squash – who needs dessert when you can have butternut squash roasted with either garam masala or cinnamon sprinkled on it??

    One thing I will say is that because I’m single, I cook what I wan and I don’t mind eating leftovers. This would be harder if I was still married to a picky carnivore.

  • Oh wow…you just described the story of my life…well, the last half of my life. As a young wife and mother in the 1960’s into the 1980’s, I cooked 3 meals a day…..yes breakfast was always cooked too….I baked at least twice a week. My husband had a big garden and we had a freezer. I was on a committee to take meals to those in need at my church. I made everything from scratch. When my sons got older and more involved in extra-curricular activities and I went back to work, it all went to hell in a handbasket so to speak…much as you describe. Lucky for me, when I became a single empty nester, I loved fruits and vegetables so half my meals were salads. Then healthy take out options became available and I stopped cooking. Now I do bake off and on for my grandchildren and about once a year I host a family dinner…not for holidays though. I moved into my current apartment 8 months ago and have only used the oven to bake cookies twice and heat up a pizza or two and have never used the stove top. I do eat a mostly plant based diet and am healthy BUT it costs a small fortune. I don’t need to change my eating habits but I need to change how I get my food/meals. I’ve tried. I even had Hello Fresh deliveries for a few weeks….aaaack. Oh yes, I also really dislike grocery shopping. I was so awkward chopping, mixing etc. and I realized I don’t like kitchen clean up so I stopped those deliveries. It is very difficult to cook for one although I do have friends who do so and love it. One, including my personal trainer, does meal prep every Sunday and is set for the week. So I have no resolution to my issues but I’m happy that you turned things around in your own kitchen.

  • i think the key to successful cooking st home is to involve ALL family members in the process- if they want to eat, they need to help plan shop prepare clean up.

  • Just finished my first Whole30 and while I consider myself a healthy eater and adventurous home cook, this sure kicked it up a notch. I never would have predicted that I would think of going forward Whole30is forever, but I am. There will be bread and wine and cheese and pasta, but occasionally. And man, am I ever ticked off about the sugar that is added into everything!!

  • I think a big key is family members that are willing to eat leftovers. That makes cooking easier. I would love to see a recipe here once in a while! What is the best thing you made recently that is going into the rotation?

  • Just moved from urban Ohio to rural Vermont. Eating out and/or carryout isn’t really an option anymore, but there are farmstands everywhere and I can make a great pizza crust myself. Everything is more mindful now because the slightest thing requires planning. No more running to the corner store fir that thing I forgot.

  • My husband and I started whole 30 January 1, 2015. We did it for one month, then decided we didn’t want to go back to how we were eating – fish eating vegans.
    He lost over 30 pounds in about four months. I lost the five pounds that loved me and wouldn’t let go, and have not gained them back.
    I cook dinner about six nights a week, sometime seven.i. Always cook breakfast or eat leftovers.
    I love cooking, although I am a very plain cook.
    Janie

  • Although it’s just the two of us at home, and I cook most of our meals. It’s more pleasant than eating out, plus we have a big garden and grow lots of vegetables. I think we eat pretty healthily.

  • This has been a fabulous subject, Ann, thank you! I’ve enjoyed reading all of the comments.
    I love to cook. And, I like to food shop, most of the time…
    We’ve just relocated to a temporary home with a charming but odd little kitchen which I’m trying to set up. I’m happy for the change in weather, as roasted vegetables and soups will be replacing the variety of grains and salads that we choose to eat in the warmest months.

  • I should make more of an effort to prep things on a regular basis…that’s where I fall down. When I am hungry, I will eat whatever is at hand, right now, period. So for me, the key to eating well is to make good healthy things in batches so there is always something good in the fridge or freezer ready to reheat or just grab up and eat. This past summer I ate simple homegrown organic cucumber fridge salads (sweet or savory) every day for weeks, and was perfectly happy – even preferred the salad to ice cream as an evening treat! – because I made a fresh batch every few days and there was a constant supply in the fridge.

  • I read this after making (and eating) Sunday dinner that involved mashed potatoes and a cast iron skillet (for the meat). But while procrastinating and dreading figuring out how to plan a menu for yet another week of 6pm soccer practices. And I think it is probably a matter of building up a pantry (a.k.a dinner stash) of things that are easy and the kids like and are made out of actual food. If I can have a good mix of cascade 220 and sock yarns and a few washable neutrals in my yarn stash, why do I not have this food thing figured out yet?

  • I cook 5 nights a week with an additional night of frozen veggie burgers and 1 restaurant night. I have a teenager with a horror of leftovers but I also have a full time job. So now we often have “reincarnated” dinners. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him in this case! I try to cook things that are good for multiple meals – grilled chicken thighs eaten as is the first night and reincarnated into enchilada filling another night, for example. I meal plan 2 weeks out to try to limit the grocery shopping for other than vegetables and fish. I have a grocery list we made up and just circle the items I need to buy when I make the meal plan. And I do kinda hate to cook after years and years of doing it. I’m looking forward to next year when we can live on salads with some protein thrown in.

  • i just came home from a 12 day work trip to Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain and Germany… and i felt great, even though i had been eating out, quite literally, 3 X a day. Why? No preservatives! Everything i ate was fresh, natural and delicious. Meals were an event… and wine and water was all we drank. (and espresso). So, i came home and BAM: ate american pizza. And felt like crap. So, off to the market and got everything i needed for a full week of no takeout. I’m not making fine cuisine here… i’m making dinners that make leftovers for lunch, buying organic no-sugar-added jam and bread for toast with greek yogurt for breakfast… my hubby and i are going for 31 days of not eating out or taking in…

  • I started cooking family breakfasts and dinner as soon as I was tall enough to reach the stove. Once my own kids grew up and left home I lost most of my cooking mojo. The Little Woman cooks something on the weekend now, preferably something with massive leftovers. When those run out I do cook, and because I don’t have to produce a meal in 20 minutes that everyone likes it’s more fun now. We do go out for a lunch and a breakfast most weekends, but seldom for dinner. It’s expensive and we are both good cooks.

  • I like the idea of Whole 30 in theory but haven’t been able to bring myself to try it. I’m not good with Rules. But, I never say never..and all you velte devotees are super inspiring.
    We’ve always been cook-at-homers. It’s a habit, and also as you note, it produces leftovers, which is the best thing in the world if you have a home office. Our meals are not always inventively inspiring and plated to impress, but sometimes we totally nail it. I’m currently in a homemade hummus and anything mediterranean cul-de-sac. Chickpeas as far as the eye can seeeeee…..

  • I’m typing while I cook! Tonight we’re having baked pasta with some mozzarella in it. Last night was oeufs en cocotte.(way easier and less fancy than it sounds) and ambrosia. I think we’ll make pizza tomorrow night.

    I still have kids here, and have been mostly cooking for them, although we do go out for convenience sometimes as well. Sometimes neither my husband nor I particularly want to cook after a full day at work.

    This is something I’ve done routinely for years, and I refuse to short order cook. However, the “going out every day” routine really can’t happen for out family because one of my kids is on a medically restricted diet that makes eating out more difficult for him.

  • Welcome to discovering your cooking is much better than (most) eating out!

  • Hi Ann, I’m late to this post but I love cooking at home and eat a lot of vegetables, too. I spend a few hours cooking up lots of the veg from my crisper so I can grab and microwave as needed, for a few days. I love hitting the farmers market on Sunday morning and filling the fridge with fresh veg and fruit for the week. A friend of mine likes to use up the week’s last veg with a big pot of soup: veg broth, onion, all the left over veg and a can of whole tomatoes. Throw in some beans and you have a really yummy and filling meal.
    I personally love Ina Gartner’s cookbooks. She a flavor whiz.
    It was awesome meeting you and Kay at Jill’s open house. Such a lovely evening.