I took up cooking after I became an at-home dad mostly to give myself a sense of purpose.
I always dabbled in cooking - and of course like most men I am the master of the grill - but stranded at home during nap time in the early years of my tour I took to watching The Food Network.
Watching a kid, cooking gave me something to think about during the day.
Most recipes call for some sort of prep time and time was something I had a lot of and outside of reading and television I needed to find other things to stimulate my brain during the days.
I got a few cookbooks that first Christmas (Bobby Flay and Jamie Oliver) and I was off and running. One thing my wife and I had been doing for years was to replicate delicious meals we had at restaurants. For instance, after we moved from Los Angeles to North Carolina, we had trouble finding good Thai food. So we started preparing our own pad thai and a dish called pra ram which is a red curry, spinach and chicken meal. Or cribbing appetizer ideas from my work. One thing we often serve is a seared tuna, avocado and chipotle mayo on a crispy wonton that's a popular item at one of my jobs.
The first thing I learned was that you need a cabinet stocked with various herbs and spices especially when dealing with international foods. Another thing I learned was the value of using fresh ingredients (which also spun off into using seasonal and local ingredients as well).
In recent years I've been supplementing the family finances by working part-time for several local catering companies which allows me to see first hand how dishes are prepared. I also have access to chefs whom I can ask their advice on techniques, textures and the value of presentation.
I'm pretty up to speed these days and you'll find me cooking meals probably four to five days a week.
Last week I had some pork chops but I didn't know what to do with them. I ended up braising them in a pineapple juice and Worcestershire sauce served with steamed broccoli and brown rice.
Some other dishes I made was a olive oil, lime and green beans side that I pinched out of one of my wife's Better Homes & Gardens magazines which turned out to be freakin' simple and delicious. Grilling bread is my new thing that a neighbor turned me on to this summer. Over Labor Day I grilled a loaf (sliced) of rosemary olive oil and then the next day made some sunny side up eggs and use those to top off the bread. Yum!
Fortunately, my kids are pretty adventurous eaters and will try most things I make at least once. I'm not sure if it is because many times they are part of the food prep process whether it's just going with me to the grocery store to get some essential items, helping measure or mix ingredients or maybe just seeing someone preparing food in the kitchen that makes them interested in eating the food I make.
There's still the occasional raviolis and mac & cheese in their diet but not nearly as much as some other kids I know.
Maybe one day I'll open my own place. I've toyed with the idea on and off over the years. I'm not really into trying to do the restaraunt thing per se, but maybe some sort of upscale deli.