Starting to experiment in the kitchen more

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

When I lived alone, I rarely felt motivated to cook. I was content eating veggie burgers and  salads, and really didn’t like to cook for myself. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and eating more when I’m cooking for someone or eating with someone.

Since my meat-loving boyfriend and I started living together, I’ve been cooking a lot more. I’m a vegetarian, but I don’t mind cooking him meat dishes. I just wince a little when I pull apart shreds of chicken or dig my hands into raw beef. But I do it because I like cooking for Troy and seeing him enjoy the meals I make. I never sample his meat dishes, so I rely on him to tell me how they taste.

“Hmmm, this is SO good!” he always says. “I love your cooking.” (He promises he’s not flattering me and that he’s telling the truth. …)

Cooking has helped me add more variety to my diet, and it’s been a good way for me to build a healthier relationship with food. Lately, I’ve been trying to make meals that Troy and I can both eat. I’ve made a couple of vegetarian pasta dishes that I’ve added chicken to for Troy. I know never to add mushrooms or tofu (two foods that I love and he despises) to his portion. And he knows never to sneak pieces of meat into mine.

Sometimes my tofu dishes taste bland. Other times, I forget to add garlic to a stir-fry, or I measure out a 1/3 cup of cilantro instead of a 1/4 cup. But that’s OK. Part of the fun of cooking is learning as you go, improvising recipes and eventually making them your own. I’ve learned that cooking isn’t always as glamorous or as beautiful as food blogs make it out to be. One of my favorite food bloggers, Joy Wilson, recently wrote about this:

“The truth is, I only show you a small part of what goes on in my home kitchen.  That usually looks like clean, overhead shots of neatly organized ingredients, piles of chocolate chunks, and stacks of cookies.  We seem to have an understanding.  I try to make things extra pretty and wonderfully delicious, and you (hopefully) run to your kitchen and bust out the butter.

I love making things pretty for you, but I sometimes worry that all of this sets up an unrealistic standard in your mind.  Maybe that’s why I’m always over-sharing that my thighs rub together, I used to have frizzy bangs, and  I’m unnaturally afraid of spiders.”

We’re not perfect.

These photos I took of the recent meals I’ve made are far from perfect, but they at least capture the variety of recipes I’ve been trying out. I’ll post more in the future (after I start using Instagram and my old Canon Rebel more!) I hope to keep cooking, and to keep getting better at it.

Pasta salad with lettuce, goat cheese, walnuts & pesto. (My own concoction.)

Yummy curry. Made a tofu version and a chicken version. (Thanks to my colleague Butch for this recipe.)

Colorful tofu stir-fry.

A tofu pasta dish that I added chicken to.

Turkey meatballs for Troy.

Troy sampled this chicken enchilada dish at Publix and really liked it, so I made it at home. (I love that Publix has so many free samples!)

Homemade pizza — half veggie, half meat.

I got the recipe for this lime-cliantro tofu dish from my friend Ileana, who has a lovely food blog called “A Little Saffron Would Make This!” I’ll admit, my photo makes the dish look a little unappetizing, but it tasted great.

Raspberry and white chocolate chip pancakes. We made these once but found them to be a little too sweet for our liking. Typically, we make banana and pecan pancakes.

Troy made us crème brûlée one night. I’m normally not a big crème brûlée fan, but this was so good I ate every bite of it.

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