Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home Cookin'

So, you all know the Runner and I enjoy cooking.  While we were dating we'd regularly make dinner together, typically opening (and finishing!) a bottle of wine by the time we were ready to wash dishes.  When not distracted by the needs of the small people in our house, we both find cooking to be relaxing and even exciting - the Runner will try new combinations of old favorites, often performing a ritual that he is quite proud of: putting as many ingredients (leftovers, veggies that are in danger of going bad, random grains and a little meat) into one meal.  Sometimes (to my occasional horror) into the same pot.  The truth is, however, he understands the chemistry of food quite clearly, which nearly always results in a delicious meal.  My cooking skills are more standard - I grew up with a "meat and three" kind of dinner: grilled chicken breast, broccoli, a baked potato, and some salad or maybe a few slices of bread on a dinner plate. Regardless of our default meal "settings," however, we both love to cook - and we both love stir fry.

The other night we used a new stir-fry pan - one that is featured in a local reward program with one of our grocery stores.  A few weeks ago we were at "the Jewel," as we call it in Chicago, and the staff there was unveiling a new promotion in which shoppers collect stickers (1 sticker for each $10 spent) to earn a new piece of professional cookware.  We have a fold out card to keep our stickers together, and the Talker really likes sticking the stickers in their place and keeping track of how many we have saved so far. I'm working towards a grill pan - which will cost 1 cent and require 90 stickers. The program is unique to Chicago-area stores, too, making it a fun local perk.

So this stir-fry pan....WOW.  We have a wok, which is a slightly different shape than this pan, but it has no lid!  I love that this new pan as a lid, because I have melted a few cutting boards (stupid!) trying to keep the steam inside the pan to cook broccoli, my favorite stir fry veggie.  The other thing that took a bit of getting used to was how it slid so smoothly across my burner.  Our stove is relatively new, and I'm sometimes paranoid about marking the burner covers by sliding pans back and forth to mix ingredients.  But this pan - it was almost slippery!  I'm sure it's designed that way, and I will have to be sure that I only give in to the pan-shaking impulse when using this particular "professional" pan.  Another difference: the pan got REALLY HOT!  I'm assuming the material conducted the heat from the flame especially well, and I'm happy to have to get used to differences like these.

That night (TV-date night = Parenthood on NBC) we made a simple stir fry with tempeh, broccoli, onions, and garlic - over sushi rice, because we'd run out of our typical brown basmati.  It was good - though we used a different brand of tempeh, which wasn't as yummy as our regular variety.  The meal was extremely filling - and for two big eaters, we were struggling after half our usual amount.

And since I am a history nerd, I have to point out the fact that this idea of saving stickers to redeem a reward isn't new to the American family cook. As many Americans recognize the benefits of cooking at home - saving money, healthier meals, and family togetherness - Jewel-Osco is pulling an idea from the archives to promote such wholesome goals while driving up customer loyalty. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, supermarkets regularly provided stamps for customers to collects in saver books, which could then be redeemed for various gifts.  I'm looking forward to saving up for that grill pan.  If it's anything like this stir fry pan, we will be pleased.  Who doesn't love a toasted sandwich with pretty grill marks?  Our winters are looooong here, and you start to miss those grill marks on your meat when it's 12 below and icy outside. So, Chicagoans: save your stickers from the Jewel and get cooking!

*This post was inspired by the complimentary Thomas Professional Stir-fry pan I received through the the Jewel-Osco loyalty rewards program described above.