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Monday, April 4, 2022

20-Something Cooking

When I was in my 20s I had gathered some cooking experience. by the time I was 9 years old, I was baking cookies as often as my mom would allow. Just a little older,  I loved Home Ec in school. By middle school, I was tasked with preparing one dinner per week for the family. And when my mother's cancer began to limit her stamina and mobility, I moved back in and did the cooking for her. But my cooking wasn't great, just passable. It wasn't until I married that I really got an education in how to cook from scratch.

My daughters can cook -- I made sure of that. It's not a hobby or something they really enjoy doing, but they can cook enough so that some day when they're on their own, they'll eat more than chips and soda. Both daughters are somewhat busy right now. Despite that, they have been making good on their promise to prepare dinner for every night of April so far. 

I thought I'd share some of their meals with you friends. I must say, they've done a great job so far. The two of them made out a menu plan for the entire month, divided up the nights, and shopped for a few convenience foods to make up for a lack of time and/or particular expertise. As I promised, I'm keeping up with the baking of bread and desserts, so they can rely on those foods as needed. And I'm harvesting what I can from the garden for them to use each day (mostly salad greens and cooking greens).

So here's what you make for the family when you're 20-something and have limited time and finances.

Homemade pizza, using a scratch crust and canned spaghetti sauce, greens from the garden with shredded cabbage for a salad with scratch dressing, carrot sticks.

Hummus, made with canned garbanzo beans, crackers, carrot and cucumber sticks.

Meatball sandwiches, using commercial frozen meatballs, rest of canned spaghetti sauce and shredded cheese from the pizza, hotdog buns (instead of pricier sub sandwich buns), plus steamed carrots and canned green beans in a sauce of cream of mushroom soup.

Homemade bean and vegetable soup, graham cracker and peanut butter "sandwiches", sautéed turnip greens from the garden with onions.

I think my daughters are making sensible choices with what to buy for convenience and what to make themselves. They both know how to make bread dough (pizza crust, which is less finicky than loaf bread), but don't have the time for making sub sandwich buns. The canned spaghetti sauce worked both as a pizza sauce and a meatball sauce, and they planned for using the leftovers. They know I keep cooked pinto beans in the freezer at all times, so they knew they could use some in making a bean soup. But they bought canned garbanzo beans, as they wouldn't require cooking but could be turned into hummus as is from the can. The graham cracker-peanut butter sandwiches doubled as a grain and dessert and were very, very easy to do.

It's only been 4 dinners, but I'm very happy with the meals at this establishment. So much so, I think I'll stay the rest of the month. I'm grateful to my daughters for doing this, and I'm proud of their ability to plan and execute an entire month's worth of dinners. 


  1. Your daughters are doing so well coordinating both planning and cooking. Although I'm sure they learned well, you know they do have a "twin" advantage!! I'm sure they are having fun taking on this daily task as it is giving them real trial experience. Win win for you both!!
    Have a nice Tuesday,

    1. Thank you, Laura. I'll convey the complement to them from you. They're doing a great job. Hopefully this experience will be helpful for their future selves.

  2. Sounds like you are able to enjoy this fantastic birthday daily all month. You have not only taught them well but are also enabling them to use it as a gift plus good practice. I think this skill is often overlooked with young people growing up these days. So many are so involved in activities outside the home that they are not taught or exposed to preparing meals at home. I applaud you for making sure your daughters are well prepared. But they not only know how to cook but use what is available wisely plus fix delicious and well balanced meals. Enjoy, Lili! I am very much looking forward to hearing more about your birthday month meals!

    1. Hi Linda,
      Thank you. I agree -- I think teaching basic skills like cooking or home and car maintenance or budgeting are often overlooked in our current culture. Yet, these are the very skills that all but the most uber wealthy will need just to get through life. I also think cooking can just be a fun activity when kids are young. And I think I was responding to that as much as training when all my kids were in the early years. They all (even my son) loved making pancakes, so I just let them. Then when my girls were in their teens, they liked baking cookies and their cooking skills grew from there.
      And yes, I am really enjoying having someone else do the cooking for this month!

  3. What a nice break from cooking for you (well, mostly, other than the breads and desserts)! Looks like they really put thought into it.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Thank you. I am enjoying having someone else make dinners. Enough so that I am actually enjoying baking again. Baking had become a chore, because I had so many other cooking things to do. now that I have a bit more time, I've found I'm more inclined to bake a pie or make homemade candy/treats -- more along the lines of when I was younger and didn't have a family to kept fed. I always enjoyed baking when I was a girl. So I get to enjoy that aspect of cooking once again.

  4. Your daughters meals look delicious and well rounded. You have given them good examples to follow.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Thank you. I'll covey the complement to them. Our generation grew up with the 4 food groups. Nutrition became much more complicated over the years, and frankly, I found it easier to just teach the basic 4 for my kids, and have them try to incorporate all groups in their daily meals that they made for themselves. So far, I think the dinners are pretty balanced.

  5. Such a lovely thing for them to do, and good practice for someday when they are out on their own! My college roommate and I did something similar--each of us took 2 nights a week to cook for the other--it was a safe audience to try out new things. I don't remember many fails--the only one I recall is when I tried to make pumpkin pie from a jack-o-lantern pumpkin. It was edible, just not pretty.

    1. Hi Kris,
      What you and your college roommate did was genius! You shared the cooking, got basic experience, and had someone "safe" as you say as an audience. And I'm sure your family, now, appreciates that you had some practice before starting a family. I hope that my daughters' experience cooking while at home will serve them well in their futures.

  6. They have done a nice job Lili. I am a terrible mother when it came to teaching my kids to cook. I really should have started when they were young but I really didn't like anyone in the kitchen with me. In spite of me my daughter went to culinary school and specializes in baking. She works for a small bakery in town and her cakes are delicious. My son went to school 4 hours from us and he had to learn to cook or starve.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I can understand. Even now, it works better for me if I'm not in the kitchen when they're cooking and vice versa. It's not easy sharing a kitchen. When I'm in a hurry trying to get dinner on the table, teaching someone else seems to slow the process down. And when they're in charge of the cooking, I have to put my ego aside and let them lead, which is tough to do. I commented the other day, when all 3 of us women were cooking, that it was like 3 hens trying to determine the pecking order.
      That's wonderful that your daughter found her own way to learn a skill that will not only feed herself, but also can make a living for her. And a bonus for you that you probably get to enjoy some/many of her creations. My son basically had to learn the hard way, too, even though I taught him how to cook basic things when he was really young. My belief, though, is that you set the right example for them, both. And they learned from that.


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