During my trip to Mexico, I read a great book called The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. The author (a food writer and graduate of the famous Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris) was inspired to teach people the basics of cooking to empower them to ditch boxed, processed foods in favor of fresh, healthier choices.

I am completely onboard with that program. I think that processed foods are the bane of modern health and I have been anxious to prepare more homemade meals for my kids, in fact, it was one of my NY resolutions (stand by for a future post on the progress made – or not – on those resolutions).

With all the cold rainy weather we’ve been experiencing lately, the first choice unequivocally was soup. I used the Creamed Tomato soup recipe from the outstanding How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Here it is simmering before I pureed it and added half-and-half:

Tomato Soup

The little bits of sauteed carrots and onions added a nice flavor, along with some thyme and kosher salt.

But le pièce de résistance was a loaf of freshly-baked bread…that I BAKED MYSELF. Yes, you read that correctly. I used the No-knead Artisan Bread recipe from the Kitchen Counter book and cranked out this lovely loaf:

For realz...I baked this.


Today when I met a couple of gal pals for lunch, I was so enthusiastic about my cooking adventure that I forced them to look at photos of this loaf of bread on my iPhone. I was super proud when one of them said it looked like it could be from Mayfield Bakery (our local hi-end, artisan bakery). And even better, my kids *loved* the taste of it.

I was pleasantly surprised that cooking the soup and making the bread was not all that time-consuming… it just took a little planning to ensure I had enough time prior to baking for the dough to rise. The soup took less than 30 minutes! I am really excited about branching out more and trying some new recipes. Plus, I want to start comparing my grocery bills to see if cooking meals from scratch lowers my monthly expenditure. For example, I roasted some chicken thighs the other night, with goat cheese and prosciutto, and I calculated the total cost was about $9 and it provided me with 3 meals.

Cooking from scratch is also forcing me to buy less food but more often, so the ingredients are fresh. I hate thinking about how much food I’ve thrown out because it wasted away in my refrigerator. By planning only a day or two ahead, I hope I can maximize the usage of the food I buy.