This Week’s Menu: Happy In the Kitchen

Definitely NOT my mood most evenings after fixing dinner!

Definitely NOT my mood most evenings after fixing dinner!

Last week Brett and I received a lovely letter from WenYu, thanking us for all we had done for her over the years to help her get where she is now. She particularly thanked Brett for teaching her how to drive, and then continuing to drive her around because she disliked driving so much. She thanked me for “sacrificing my happiness” in the kitchen in order to make sure she always had a good, healthy dinner every night.

Sacrificing my happiness?

I enjoy cooking. I’m a good cook and take pride in the meals I prepare. I’ve always enjoyed creating menus and preparing healthy, tasty food for my family, who thankfully, with few exceptions, eat everything I make without complaint. WenYu’s letter made me realize however that I have apparently not been a happy cook for a while.

It’s hot and humid here, and just when it’s time to get started with fixing dinner that’s when the sun is beating on the house from the west (and both kitchens have been/are on the west side of the house) AND the trade winds die off for a couple of hours, killing any breezes that typically flow through the house. The combination of afternoon sun and no air moving has made working in the kitchen nearly intolerable at times, for me anyway. Our current kitchen has a ceiling fan, which helps quite a bit, but it has to be turned off if we’re cooking on the stove. I can honestly say that cooking dinner for the past two years has been an effort of trying to stay cool long enough that I can get things to the table and enjoy eating with my family, and I apparently failed at this more than I realized. It didn’t help my mood either that my former place at the table in this house sits in a “dead zone” between two ceiling fans – I had no idea how truly uncomfortable it was there until I moved week before last to the opposite side of the table, where WenYu used to sit, and experienced the cool breeze coming from the living room fan while I dined.

I have vowed to be a happier cook once again. I will use my slow cooker more, we will grill more, and I will try to keep the ceiling fan going in the kitchen whenever possible, for as long as possible. I will call YaYu in to help with stovetop cooking rather than being a stoic and sweating it out; she doesn’t heat up like I do. No more “sacrificing my happiness” in the kitchen!

Here’s this week’s menu – not as many “cool” meals as I would like, but YaYu and I will get it done. She’s excited we’re making a meatloaf!

  • Tuesday (this evening): Sunset Magazine’s Family Meatloaf (from 1969); mashed potatoes & gravy; steamed green beans. I make the meatloaf with 1# ground beef and 1# ground turkey, oats instead of breadcrumbs, and only 2/3 cup milk. (I’ll be having lentil soup though.)
  • Wednesday: Caprese Skillet Eggs; garlic toast; salad
  • Thursday: Sautéed Italian sausages, peppers and onion (on the grill) for sandwiches; chips (vegan sausage for me)
  • Friday: Mabo nasu with tofu; steamed rice; sliced cucumbers
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Slow cooker chicken & rice soup; cornbread (lentil soup again for me).
  • Monday: Homemade fish cake sandwiches; honeydew melon

Fingers crossed that all goes as planned!

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10 thoughts on “This Week’s Menu: Happy In the Kitchen

  1. Jen says:

    Hmmm, good post. Made me think. I like cooking in general, too, but most days dinner is the LAST thing I want to be making. My kids are Tween and Teen aged, and I do enjoy sitting around the table together. I will work on my attitude as well, so they don’t think I am sacrificing my happiness! Thanks for the kick in the pants. 🙂

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    • Laura says:

      I was very surprised when I read this, although YaYu told me it was “hyperbole.” But it still made me realize what a BIG deal I had been making about how unpleasant making dinner had become, and how that was probably affecting everyone else’s experience at dinner. I can’t change Hawai’i or its weather, so I need to change my attitude, and figure out ways of spending as little time as possible in the kitchen, but still pulling together a good meal. Besides using the slow cooker more, or grilling more, other things can be prepared earlier in the day when it’s cooler and then reheated in the evening.

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  2. Laurel says:

    It’s always intriguing to see how our adult “kids” perceive us…one of my biggest lessons in who I am. 🙂
    Not the biggest fan of cooking myself, although I enjoy it more in cold weather for sure. DH was diagnosed with heart disease (luckily, no event, just bad tests) and he has been on a mission to eat well, lose weight, exercise, etc. This has really changed our diet and we’re both the better for it. But it definitely entails more cooking, more cleaning and chopping and just more time in the kitchen standing on tile (which is my biggest complaint…back pain when I’m there too long).
    I love your menus. Not a big meat eater anymore, but that looks like my mom’s meatloaf. I think I will have to try it when it gets cooler here in the Midwest.

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    • Laura says:

      I agree – hearing our adult “kids'” perceptions and assessments can be quite surprising . . . and sobering. I genuinely appreciate their viewpoints though, and if your kids won’t tell you, who will?

      I had a lot of problems with back pain from standing on a hard floor at our previous house, mainly when I stood to do dishes. We bought a gel mat to put in front of the sink here and I no longer have any problems at all. They really work! I bought ours at Costco – it didn’t cost very much, if I remember correctly.

      The meatloaf was a success. YaYu was thrilled, and had seconds of both the meatloaf and the mashed potatoes and gravy. She took pictures of her plate to send to WenYu, to “make her jealous.” 🙂

      Holding good thoughts for your husband’s health . . .

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      • Kris says:

        Good. Now you really are a local! That should help with less things to heat on or in the stove. Rice salad fresh fruit and then fish on the grill and a complete meal with no hot kitchen.

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  3. Practical Parsimony says:

    My kitchen sits in a corner of the house. The sun hits both sides of the house. So, the kitchen gets the brunt of the hear. The ac is in a window in another room. So, I definitely did “sacrifice my happiness” when I cooked. Nowadays, I often cannot eat the dinner I cook because I am so overheated. The reason I cook in the heat is because a friend comes here to help me once a week, and getting a good meal is the highlight of his trip. Only twice in ten years have I told him we needed to go out to eat because I was just too ill, sick with the heat. When the kids were here, I was not so affected by the heat. Now, I want meatloaf. I will wait two weeks so that the heat of the oven on for an hour won’t be so brutal.

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    • Laura says:

      Being hot never seemed to bother me much when I was younger, but these days when I heat up it seems to take me forever to bring my body temperature back to normal. I also seem to perspire more these days from the neck up, which is very uncomfortable. So, after cooking dinner I was coming to the table a hot, drippy mess and not doing a very good job of hiding how miserable I felt. I’m going to continue to cook, but am going to be smarter about not letting myself get so heated.

      The meatloaf recipe is very good. I mix the beef with ground turkey to keep it lean, but it also tastes good. The oats give it a better texture than bread crumbs, and I like the mix of flavorings in this recipe.

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