What am I doing in this extra 1.5 hours every day that I have, now that I'm not commuting to work? To my surprise, I find that I'm cooking. I'm trying to do "serious" cooking a couple of nights a week. The first week, I did meterbridge's time-tested chocolate-chip cookie recipe and leadsynth's excellent lentil soup recipe. Since then, I've been branching out a bit more.
Since I'm not going out to restaurants for lunch like I used to do a lot, I have a little more money to spend on groceries, and I find I'm spending a lot of it in the produce section. In Chicago, I had a chronic spinach habit, but that was about it. I might have gotten carrots or cucumbers if they were on sale, and I ate a lot of salad, but I didn't really take cooking with vegetables under consideration. Here, I've been doing that much more. I made a bad-ass stir-fry with broccoli and carrots a few days ago. Normally, I wouldn't count stir-fry as "serious", since it's pretty easy; it's not much harder than making spaghetti, which definitely doesn't count. But this particular stir-fry sneaks into the serious column because I did something that I'd never done before: roasted some walnuts and tossed them in. The roasted walnuts turned the tofu purple! It was beautiful against the orange and green veggies. Oh, yeah, it tasted good too.
I'm learning a little bit from everything I do. I had a less successful stir-fry experience involving snow peas -- I overcooked it, and next time I'll know not to turn the heat so high. And if I had known that those mushrooms I sauteed were going to cook down to half their size, I definitely wouldn't have chopped 'em so small! Tonight, though, I didn't screw anything up -- I baked some potatoes, sliced 'em and threw 'em in a pan with olive oil, onions, carrots, salt and pepper, then put the mixture inside of flour tortillas with melted cheddar cheese, and it was fantastic. I'm still blown away by how carrots, and especially onions, can become so sweet once cooked; it's amazing that the mere act of heating something up can change its flavor so much. But then, you experienced cooks already knew all about that. I'm kind of just discovering it now.