I haven't always eaten as healthy as I do now. And I certainly haven't always been great at cooking. When Michael and I first got married, I struggled with creating interesting and flavorful meals when it was my night to cook. If I cooked veggies, I chopped, doused them in olive oil and sea salt, and baked the heck out of them. It wasn't enjoyable for me, not miserable either, but something I just did it as quickly as possible to have dinner ready.
It sounded logical that the best way to cook was the fastest way, too, so all my temperatures were set to high. As far back as college, I burned at least something in every meal I cooked. There was no such thing as bringing something to a boil then letting it simmer for awhile. Nope, I cooked with the hottest temperature and I spent many nights trying to scrub the black from pots and pans and the white rings from the stove top as a result of the pasta boiling over.
There are many things I've come to admire about Michael during our relationship, and one of those things is his patience. He's got patience in many of the areas I'm lacking, and I've got patience in situations he couldn't dream of dealing with. It's a good balance. There was a time when our schedule allowed us to cook together, and those are still some of my favorite memories. He taught me that cooking required patience and always reached over and turned my burner down from a 9 to a 4.
Aside from learning to have patience with temperatures, I've also learned creativity with flavors and spices. First, I started finding inspiration from recipes and learning which flavors complimented each other, and which ones were used for certain types of food. Then I just rolled up my sleeves and did it 'trial-and-error' version. I've had some questionable pasta creations, but mostly things have turned out to be really tasty.
Some people are a stickler for recipes. They see them as absolutes that must be followed, but I see them as loose guidelines, free to be played and experimented with. I don't freak out if I end up with different measurements (unless I'm baking something delicate!) and I hardly ever use measuring cups or spoons. I like to eyeball it. It makes me feel more creative and free.
Part of finding your own cooking style is finding what inspires you and what you enjoy doing in the kitchen. The more I create and enjoy what I create, the more of a joy it is to sit at the counter and chop veggies, knowing that each task that before had seemed tedious, now is an important step on creating an amazing meal to sit down and enjoy with my family. I'm more likely to turn the oven on 350, open up my spice cabinet, go to town creating something delicious, and then let it roast in the heat, not relying on a timer but on the smell and feel and look. That's what happened when I made these delicious roasted carrots. The season change has reminded me of my love for pumpkin everything, but I realized a lot of that is not just my love for pumpkin, but for the spices that accompany it. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves...they're wonderful.
Last week I was trying to come up with something for dinner and not wanting to waste the whole carrots I've had in the fridge for awhile, I was inspired to create these super simple roasted carrots. Most of the time more serious spices are used with carrots, but I was in a cinnaminny (new word? I think so!) mood and wanted to give it a try.
The best feeling is when everything comes together on our plates, looks pretty for about thirty seconds before we all dig in, and hearing from Michael how much he enjoyed it. And of course tasting the goodness myself! If you're one who thrives on exact measurements, consider this a challenge to get a little wild and crazy with the....relaxed suggestions below!
Roasted Spiced Carrots
Whole Carrots (as many as you think each person would eat. When baking them whole, I pick the skinnier carrots so they don't have to cook as long)
Butter (we use this kind)
Set your oven to 350, or you know, somewhere around there. Wash & Peel the carrots, then line them up on a flat pan or dish. Dice the cold butter into cubes and place evenly on top of and in between carrots. Sprinkle generous amounts of each spice across the pan, then drip some vanilla extract across before finally placing them in the oven. If you're one of those sticklers for exact time, you'll have to just relax and let go. These usually take about half an hour, but you won't really know until you do a fork test (and maybe a taste test, too, if you can't wait any longer for the deliciousness). After around 15-20 minutes, take the pan out, give it a few good shakes to even out the butter, turn each carrot over and finally, sprinkle some more spices on before sticking them back in for the remainder of the time. At the end, the carrots should cut easily with a fork. Pair these with your favorite meal and enjoy.