Whilst I pride myself as being a hands on dad (outside of office hours that is), achieving anything particularly spectacular in the kitchen has never been one of my specialities. I made an effort in the past and did okay, largely when I was wooing my now wife (I may have overemphasized my cooking skills and my love of the theatre at the time, but that is another story). That was many years ago and I have not got back into it (shame on my I know!).
When I am in the kitchen, things seems to burn easily, or come out underdone. The chances of me bringing out a main meal with accompaniments with everything properly cooked is quite slim - there seems to be a little dance required to get the timing right which I have never been shown. Getting it to taste particularly good is a step I have not got too. I guess this is a bit about me not putting the effort into something I don't really care for and getting distracted too easily. I see food as a functional thing, rather than something to really savour.
That being said, since having a child I have found myself more often in the kitchen sharing the load. I have been building up to cooking three days of the household dinner a week (I know, well under half that of my wife, but I am getting better). My wife even freezes some of the leftovers in pots that we can then reheat for my daughters lunches. I tried a few of Melanie Pinola's kitchen time saving tips, but I found an additional one that I thought I would share.
Whilst having a child to prepare food for and helping me wife out were the primary motivations for getting back in the kitchen (and some nagging on my wife's part), I have been using a new app that is making this a bit simpler - "Ultimate Cook Timer" (available on android. I have not seen this on iOS, but I am sure there will be an equivalent app available. If you know one - please post in the comments.)
Ultimate Cook Timer is a really simple app. You tell it the various items of food you would like to cook, and how long each item takes to cook to perfection. When you are ready to start cooking and have the oven up to temperature, you hit start on the app and begin cooking your first item. The app will start multiple clocks and will sound an alarm to remind you when you need to start cooking each item. Even when you are distracted doing something else, you can quickly run back to the kitchen. The app also lets you create set menus, so the app remembers all the items in your Friday night fish, chips and peas supper and knows how long each of these items takes to cook properly.
The only issues I have run into have been about cooking multiple items in the oven when each requires a different temperature. The app cannot adjust for this. In fact, since I don't have two oven, I struggle to adjust for this as well! I tend to go with the overall average temperature (and hope for the best). There is probably a better way, but I have not found it yet!
Also, there is no option to remind you to turn or baste food either. For this you have to fudge it a little by setting multiple alarms for a single item - one for when it is fully cooked and another for turning and basting etc. And finally, preparation time is not included. So if you need to chop and peel vegetables, you need to get this ready in advance, otherwise your timings will be out.
You could combine this with one of the top recipe management apps to make the process even smoother. I am not sure that my limited repertoire needs to be managed by an app yet though!
In my book, anything that helps you get in the kitchen more and enables you to serve a meal that is properly cooked is well worth a look. With our household getting increasingly more hectic, my being able to cook healthy (ish) and balanced meals for the whole family and give my wife a bit of a break, is a big help. The more often I am in the kitchen, the less we are spending on take out too (it used to be when it was my turn to cook that we would end up ordering take out!).
It is also nice for my daughter to be brought up where her Dad takes a share of preparing food, and more generally in running the household. I think that makes a good male role model for her growing up.
As a bit of an aside, I mix one of my cook nights with a Saturday night Date Night in. I buy something a little bit special from the grocery store to cook, open a nice bottle of wine and have a quiet evening together. I think you will find the time, effort and energy you put in gets you some brownie points with your wife! But maybe that is how this whole thing got started !?!
"I wish my stove came with a Save As button like Word has. That way I could experiment with my cooking and not fear ruining my dinner. "
Photo by Anthony James