Get Out of Cooking — Free!

iStock_happymomgirlLargeOther moms assume my daughter eats cottage cheese and blueberries for dinner because I’m a working mom and I don’t have time to cook. If I were a stay at home mom, she’d be eating the same exact thing.Cooking is not my thing.

What’s wrong with cottage cheese and blueberries for dinner? I didn’t put her on a diet, I’m not a great role model for diet, it’s what she likes to eat. It’s not the only edible item in the house. I have frozen, canned and boxed things like macaroni. I read the nutritional panels and most of what I feed my daughter is a whole lot healthier than home cooking. Definitely healthier than the Joy of Cooking recipes I grew up with. The meals I ate at my friends houses, that is. Like lasagna and clams casino.

My love for cooking comes from my mom. She had two cookbooks – The Campbell’s Soup Cookbook and Five Ingredients or Less. In our house, garlic salt was an exotic spice. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I learned iceberg wasn’t the world’s only lettuce.

When I was in high school, my service club had a bake sale. We’d get more points for homemade items than store brought ones. My mom thought the policy was unfair to culinary challenged individuals. So she bought a box of Entemann’s chocolate chip cookies, put them on tin foil, stuck them into the toaster oven, and burned them. “Now they taste homemade,” she said.

When I get fancy I make the blueberries on the cottage cheese into eyes and a smile. A raisin or a raspberry makes a nose even Martha Stewart would begrudgingly approve. I don’t use oil, saturated fats, butter, or even pots.

Why not eat leftover birthday cake for breakfast? As Bill Cosby famously pointed out, cake is eggs, milk, and wheat.

It’s not only that I don’t like to cook. I don’t like to think of what to make either. And I certainly don’t like to do the shopping for the ingredients for the dinners that I didn’t like thinking of in the first place. I make it fun for myself and for my daughter by thinking thematically. Some of my dinners:

CHEESE DINNER Grilled cheese sandwich. Broccoli with cheese (frozen)

ORANGE DINNER Cheddar cheese. Goldfish crackers. Orange slices. Carrots.

Turkey or veggie burger. Wagon wheel shaped pasta. Apple slices. Vanilla wafer.

Yogurt, cereal and milk and fruit.

If it’s not a theme, I try to arrange the chicken nuggets or fish fingers to look decorative.

I do pride myself in buying the healthiest pre-made ingredients I can. Amy’s Organic makes lovely frozen dinners. And they last a lot longer in the fridge than the fresh stuff.

Sure I have dreams of serving my daughter organic, low calorie Coconut Chicken Curry in the evenings with a crostini topped by black olive tapinade nosher. But I also have the fantasy of a handsome, virile young chef serving it up. One who does his own clean up and dish-washing.

Hating to cook and not doing it may sound selfish. But, while cooking is not my thing, I’ve replaced it with other things. Life is about balance and part of that is saying no to things we hate and yes to the equal replacements we like. That 30 minutes it takes to prepare a Rachel Ray standard (shopping time and do-overs not included), I use to play with my daughter and help her pick her clothes for the next day. I don’t believe the lack of home made meals and memories of mom busy in the kitchen are going to be something my daughter will need a therapist for. I do believe all the puzzles we do, books we read and doll swimming pools we make out of blocks will be her “comfort food.” I see more than enough health benefits in that.

Aimee Heller

4 thoughts on “Get Out of Cooking — Free!”

  1. I am a "thinker" new to the site, but your post so rang true to me. It sounded as if I wrote it myself! Good for you!

  2. Yes! I was just saying, who ever decided that pasta is a more appropriate, healthier dinner than PBJ. Our PBJs are with wheat bread, low-sugar PB and organic strawberries preserves–so fruit, complex carbs, healthy fat/protein. Seems like a great meal to me. And we have grapes on the side and a glass of 1% milk. Their staples are healthy, just not typical meals–fruit, grilled cheese, bagels (our least healthy option) with cream cheese, lightly breaded nuggets or fish sticks, cheese and wheat crackers, high fiber/low sugar cereal, occasionally pasta, occasionally chicken and broccoli. My son will deign to eat carrot sticks and my daughter will eat eggs. We don't keep junk in the house other than tortilla chips for the homemade guacamole that my son loves (healthy fat), veggie sticks, whole grain goldfish (which usually go stale before they finish them) and real fruit popsicles in the summer. The only juice I provide them is veggie/fruit juice since that is often their only veggie intake.

    I do cook for myself at times but they won't eat it so it is not very rewarding. I have a lot of cooking light recipes ripped out sitting in my cabinet. I do eat veggies almost every night in front of them so they see a good role model anyway. (I don't eat their food usually). Just not a battle I feel like fighting. The only real regret I have is it does make it hard for us to eat over at someone else's house.

    My kids were whining the other night when I served them rotisserie chicken and broccoli. I told them to give it a rest becuase in most other households they would be having the same food as the parents every night and it would always include a veggie and meat so if I serve them an actual meal once a week, they better deal with it.

    2 days later my son tells me, if he decides to have kids, they will eat healthy all the time and will eat the same food he eats and it will always have a veggie. The only junk they will be allowed will be at Bday parties. Hmmm so maybe something is sinking in–maybe when he is 30 he will eat a more balanced diet. He did tell me the other day, he chose to eat the PBJ I packed instead of the sugary cereal the school provided that day for lunch because he thought my lunch was healthier.

    I think teaching them what is healthy for their bodies is more important than providing a good housekeeping version of an acceptable dinner meal which as you pointed out is often less healthy than our alternatives.

  3. Brava! I happen to be a person who loves to cook, but it sounds like you and daughter are eating healthier and more happily than many others I know. And to me blueberries and cottage cheese is a fabulous dinner. When my son isn't very hungry, he will often make a fruit salad topped with organic low-cal whipped cream. And I agree, Amy's is great–even for someone who loves to cook but doesn't always have time.

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