Monthly Archives: February 2013


Six steps to more home-cooked meals (Part 3)

Who’s still excited about making more home-cooked meals?! I’ve shared a lot of tips and ideas for how I’ve managed to make home-cooking a priority for me and my family. In part 1 of the series, I wrote about setting realistic goals and specific things you may do to meet your goal. Then in part 2, I talked about getting support and tracking your progress. Here, I will talk about two more key ideas that will help you to succeed in your efforts to make more home-cooked meals: these two points are that we all slip sometimes and that it’s important to recognize our successes.

5. Recognize that a stumble is not failure

How many times have I forgotten to buy a key ingredient, despite my supposedly minutely-detailed shopping list? Forgot to look over a recipe that requires precooking and then “resting” for a few hours or overnight? The kids have a change of schedule that they “forgot” to tell me about. A deadline “sneaks up” (eh-hem) on me? The DD had a #!!?*@ bad day and really needs my support. I had a monumentally, super-sized suck-monster of a day and the thought of having to make dinner makes me want to bang my head repeatedly on the kitchen counter and sob.

It’s OK. Really. I have some “emergency” packaged ingredients ready to go in the pantry and the freezer for those times: spaghetti and tomato sauce or spaghetti with olive oil and Parmesan cheese, grilled cheese or chicken salad sandwiches, anyone? And the supermarket stocks delicious rotisserie chickens, fresh-baked baguettes, and a solid salad bar….. As Scarlett O’Hara said, “After all… Tomorrow is another day.”

The ironic thing is, of course, that my family thinks of these meals of last resort as treats, and they get excited for them, which helps to cheer me up, too! The important thing is: tomorrow, pick yourself up and try again.

6. Give yourself rewards

By all means, set a goal, like “I will make five home-made dinners a week for two months,” and when you reach that goal, go out for lunch as a treat, splurge on a dessert from the local bakery, buy that new vegetable peeler or pair of really cute socks (I like socks!) with the money you saved on your food bills. Then set a new, more challenging goal!

My family knows how important I think it is that they express gratitude for the meal they’re eating. They might comment on how much they like a particular dish, or at least show appreciation for the effort of preparing it (if the dish is “not their favorite”). I already mentioned this is part 2, enlist a buddy. And I get such the Psyched Foodie buzz when the DS comes home from swim practice, takes a huge whiff and exclaims, “Are we having stinky pork for dinner?! Awright!! I LOVE stinky pork!!” (Explanatory note: Stinky pork is what my kids called pork clay pot when they were younger. Redolent of fish sauce, shallots, garlic, ginger, and chili, pork clay pot fills the house with its mouth-watering fragrance as it braises.) It doesn’t get better than that.

For me, cooking has become a reward in itself. Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, cooking actually makes me feel better. When everything seems out of control around me, chopping onions (and enjoying a good cry… because of the onions), turning a recipe into a meal, or stirring together a big pot of soup reminds me that I am a competent person. When my family sits down to dinner, I might feel like the rest of my day was an excrementous chasm of waste, but in this one hour, I was able to make something good happen.

So. Eating healthy. Making something real. Sharing a meal with my family. Creating lasting memories and traditions. Saving money. Wow! Sign me up!

What rewards do you give yourself for reaching a goal?


Recipe: Thai-style red curry with chicken

Here is another recipe that uses the grilled or roasted chicken breast slices like those featured in my book, Twice As Nice. Thai red curry is usually served in restaurants with roast duck; using chicken makes it easier on your wallet and on your waistline. Go ahead and use roast duck in this recipe for a special treat! The recipe calls for some ingredients that may be more difficult to find in a standard grocery store (I’ve listed some substitutions), but otherwise, this dish is easy to make, and it’s delicious! This recipe makes four generous portions.

Ingredients for Thai-style red curry with chicken

  • 1⅓ cups coconut cream
  • 4 tablespoons Thai Kitchen brand (or your favorite brand) red curry paste, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, minced, or zest of 1 lime, minced, plus the juice of the lime
  • 1 medium Chinese eggplant, cut in half the long way, then sliced into ½-inch pieces crosswise
  • 1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 7 ounces snap peas
  • 1½ cups pineapple, from a 20-ounce can of sliced pineapple, each slice cut into 8 wedges (save the remainder for another use)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 12 ounces grilled or roasted chicken breast slices, frozen
  • ¾ cup Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped, loosely packed

For serving:

  • Cooked jasmine rice


Heat a wok or heavy saucepan over medium heat, until hot, but not smoking. Carefully add the coconut cream to the wok: the coconut cream may spurt when it first touches the hot surface of the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Add the curry paste, fish sauce, sugar, and kaffir lime leaves to the wok; stir, and simmer for 2 more minutes.

Stir in the eggplant and the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the snap peas, pineapple, cherry tomatoes, and the chicken. Turn the heat up to medium, bring to a low boil, then turn the heat back down to low, and simmer for 3-4 minutes, just until the chicken is heated through.

Serve hot, over rice.