On Cooking and Being a Sue Chef

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Just let me say, right off the bat, that I like to cook. Really, I do. But for the past decade I have done very little of the cooking that happens in our house. The slow migration of the culinary duties at the Burpee/Eccles abode began when Hubby retired at about the same time I was ramping up my own responsibilities at work by taking on a leadership position. Because I worked longer hours, Hubby started doing all the grocery shopping, and then, little by little, more and more of the cooking. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned here on the blog numerous times, Hubby is not a man to sit on his butt. He’s a get-up-get-moving-do-more-stuff-before-noon-than-most-people-do-in-a day kind of guy. He skis and golfs and gardens and canoes and fishes and cycles and, since his heart surgery, he walks.

And now he cooks. And I am what we both call the “Sue chef.”

I assist. I stand around, pass him things, and dish up the results onto our plates when everything is ready. Each morning, I am also expected to help make the main household decision of the day: “What’s for dinner tonight?”

Food is very important to us. Healthy, tasty food prepared at home has always been our mantra. I wrote a post about our healthy eating journey a few years ago, how our diet changed after Hubby’s heart surgery. You can read that here if you’re interested. But now in this time of corona madness, when we’re all required to stay at home, not just to eat, I thought you might be interested in what we’ve been up to in the kitchen.

The meal below is one Hubby prepared last week after he’d finally shovelled out the barbeque from the snowbank. Grilled pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, garden peas, and baked squash. The garden peas are from our own garden, as is the squash. Last fall, we had too many squash from the garden to be able to eat them fresh, especially since we were away for a month. So, Hubby baked a whole bunch of acorn squash, scooped out the flesh, mashed it with garlic and maple syrup, and then froze it in meal-sized portions. Yum. Hubby’s squash is my favourite vegetable.

For the pork tenderloin, he sauteed mushrooms, a tiny bit of back bacon, and garlic, then stirred in bread crumbs, parsley, and a bit of feta cheese. Then he stuffed the butterflied tenderloin, rolled it, tied it with string, brushed it with olive oil, and grilled it. Oh my. It was delicious. We’d found the recipe on-line, and Hubby added his own touches, as he is wont to do. He says recipes are just guidelines. This recipe, now annotated, is definitely “a keeper.”

What's cooking at our house: mashed potatoes, garden peas, baked squash, and stuffed pork tenderloin.
Mashed potatoes, baked squash, garden peas, stuffed pork tenderloin.

The first year he was retired, I bought Hubby a wok and a huge, and now well-thumbed, book about Chinese cooking. He has never looked back. Stir-fries are his specialty. For the one below he used the other half of the pork tenderloin from the recipe above. He thinly sliced the meat and marinated it in a bunch of stuff: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, minced ginger and garlic, oyster sauce, sweet chili sauce, and a teeny amount of the really hot chili garlic sauce. He just keeps adding everything until it tastes right. Part of this mixture is used to marinate the meat. The rest is set aside.

The cooks chops the meat and veg for our stir fry.
Slicing and marinating the pork tenderloin.

Then Hubby chops and chops and chops a ton of vegetables. Often whatever we have in the fridge. This time he used the last of the carrots from our garden. As well as red onions, sliced garlic, fennel, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and bok choy.

What's cooking at our house. Tons of vegetables for our stir-fry.
We do love our veggies.

Next he stir-fries the meat and sets it aside, keeping it warm.

What's cooking at our house. Hubby stir fries the pork tenderloin.
Stir-frying the meat while the veggies wait on deck.

Then he cooks the veggies, adding some minced ginger. Here they are, below, when they look their best, all bright green and beautiful. The pot on the stove, in the shot above, is for the egg noodles. Soon the cooked noodles go into the wok with the vegetables and the meat and the remainder of the sauce he prepared earlier and set aside.

Stir fried vegetables.
The bok choy looks so lovely when it’s cooked.

Then the Sue chef is called into action. I’m chief spooner and pourer. I am also called upon to cue up this evening’s entertainment. I think we will enjoy an episode of Heartbeat followed by an episode of Frasier. It’s all about gentle comedy and funny lines these days, folks. We eschew news, and politics, and gory, fast-paced drama with our dinner.

Stir fried pork tenderloin, egg noodles, and veggies.
Yum. Let’s eat.

The other food that Hubby cooks a lot is fish. His favourite fish cook book is a tattered little book bought for him as a thank-you gift by a friend visiting from Australia. Thanks Renée. For despite Hubby’s claim that he hates recipes, he has to start somewhere for ideas. And this little Catch of the Day: Fish and Seafood book (below) has been priceless. I’m amazed to see that they still sell that book here.

Tonight we’re having one of our favourites, Shiitake Basa Packets. But I’ll let Hubby explain in more detail himself.

Hubby said to be sure to tell you that we had the basa packets with garden peas, steamed broccoli, and steamed rice to which he added sauteed onions and garlic, and toasted slivered almonds and sunflower seeds. I should be a better food stylist, I know. We would have had carrots for more colour, but we ate the last of our carrots in our stir fry the other night. And I could have stopped long enough to strategically place a couple of grape tomatoes as garnish, but I was too hungry to fuss.

What's cooking at our house. Mushroom basa packets, peas, broccoli, and rice with toasted almonds and sunflower seeds.
Basa packets with mushrooms, green onions, and bamboo shoots, rice and veggies. No garnish.

So, yeah, that’s what we’ve been up to during this time of social distancing. Besides reading and walking, we’ve been deciding what we want to eat, cooking it, and then talking about it afterward. Well, Hubby is doing most of the cooking. As the Sue chef, I await my instructions. Situation normal for us in so many way. And yet it’s been anything but normal.

How is it that even though the tempo of our lives seems, on the surface, to go on mostly the same as ever, everything feels different? We are not financially imperiled by the pandemic. At least not yet. I am worried about family and friends, but so far no one I know has tested positive or fallen ill. And yet, I have this weirdly nebulous feeling of anxiety all the time. A knot in the pit of my stomach. And I know that it’s not just me.

My friend, former colleague, and former student, Erica shared a funny, and yet impassioned plea on Facebook yesterday for people to please abide by social distancing so that she won’t “be stuck in the house with [her] kids forever.” She was partly joking; she adores her two boys. But I know she’s also feeling a bit desperate about people who seem to break the rules with impunity. As teachers nothing rankles us more than people who think the rules don’t apply to them. Still, I was heartened by our Prime Minister’s words to the nation today, “Enough is enough. Go home and stay home.” Amen to that.

So that’s it from our house today, folks. We’re all fine here. Feeling well, eating well, with lots to read. All is good, really. Except it’s snowing today, so I guess Hubby will go on his walk alone. I cannot force myself to get out my toque. I am so done with winter.

Wouldn’t it be great if winter were done with us?

P.S. A while ago, I left this post for Hubby to proof-read and went down to the basement to pedal my exercise bike. Forty minutes of listening to a mystery audio-book, and scrolling through Pinterest altered my mood considerably. I came back upstairs, scoffing at the snow falling outside, and thinking about the cheddar cheese scones I’ll make tomorrow. I am nothing if not mercurial these days. And I thought I’d tell you about the impending scones so I didn’t end the post on a negative note. Plus you need to know that I can cook. Really, I can. 🙂

What have you been up to my friends? Any comfort food recipes that you recommend… that I can pass onto Hubby?

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44 thoughts on “On Cooking and Being a Sue Chef”

  1. Sue, You certainly hit the jackpot with this man! I don’t enjoy cooking, but I am very tempted to try his “non recipe.”. We are having difficulty ordering certain items from our grocery stores, and I’m just wondering if I could find all of the ingredients. However, we are truly blessed to have homes and to live in great abundance, and I think of many in this world who have little or nothing. I feel guilty even complaining about the lack of certain food items available.
    Your husband is wonderful and it is obvious that you both are deserving of the other.
    Thanks for the post and I loved the cooking video.

  2. Ditto to everything that Pat said.
    Please do be serious about social distancing, and do your best to proselytize about it to. It can make the difference between being able to get adequate medical care or condemning your medical personnel to exhaustion, illness, and the need to choose which patients should be written off rather than treated. A week ago we had about 150 confirmed cases in my area north of NYC. As of yesterday we had more than 2800 confirmed cases, which is likely still vastly under the actual totals. I don’t mean to be too gloomy, but do take care. And be sure to let you husband know how lucky you are. 🙂 (And how lucky he is, too.)

  3. Husband and I started on a similar trajectory a few years ago – he was free-lancing while my job took off – so he does the lion’s share of cooking. Now that I’m retired, I’m dipping my toes back in – I roasted a chicken tonight.
    I think it’s the uncertainty that’s weighing so heavy on all of us – the not knowing, and being in a higher risk group. We decided to have groceries delivered this week (first time!) so we don’t need to go out – we’re really trying to be good about our social distancing.

    1. We are limiting ourselves to once a week grocery shopping, and picking up our mail at the post office. We had fallen into the habit of running to the grocery store if we needed a certain ingredient for that night’s dinner. But we’ve totally stopped that. Deliveries are not an option here.

  4. Max has always had his speciality dishes , like risottos & curries but since retirement he’s taken on more cooking . I like to cook but I don’t like him hovering when I do ! One couple we know start discussing their evening meal over breakfast . We’re not quite at that stage but nutritious , interesting food has always been important to us . It’s a little trickier now we aren’t to go out but I’ve always had a good store cupboard , which is useful waiting for a supermarket food delivery ( two weeks now ) Dried beans & pulses are a boon to us veggies especially lentils . They absorb other flavors wonderfully & I add abit of this & abit of that with different vegetables for variety . Last additions are a chunk of butter which seems to make a difference & a baked potato on the side . One thing forbidden in our house is TV at mealtimes , even the radio goes off – music is allowed . We always sit at the table , normally in the kitchen but never eat off trays . You please yourself of course 😁
    We’ve left Scotland & come home early as the situation has escalated so & much as we love the Highlands we prefer to be in lockdown at home . Look after yourselves everyone .
    PS I do like the ingredients laid out on matching plates – like a cookery demonstration

    1. Even when I am the chef for the night, Stu does all the prep. I find all my chopped ingredients in little bowls. And I feel a bit like Julia Child. Ha.
      Are you not allowed to shop for food, Wendy? We are only shopping for “essentials” as they say, but then again our grocery store does not do deliveries.

      1. As I understand it we are allowed out at the moment for food & pharmacy shopping . Though over 70 our underlying health conditions are not serious enough for total lockdown – Max does have asthma but not severely . It’s more of a personal decision as we want to do our utmost to avoid hospital treatment . The NHS we all value so much could collapse under the strain of this & it won’t be a good place to be if overloaded . So we will try to manage self isolation . The supermarkets here all deliver but I have to wait two weeks for my order . Our village has volunteers delivering for anyone like us but we don’t expect to need that . Our neighbours will bring us any bits & pieces we need between deliveries . We are allowed to dog walk as a couple but must not gather with people we don’t live with – so dog walkers are shouting to each other from a safe distance . All very bizarre but worth it to try avoid this awful virus .

        1. We just came back from our walk. We walked in a neighbourhood other than our own which has sidewalks, exchanging greetings with other couples across the street. Quite convivial, actually.

  5. Wow Amanda, if you’re not a bot and are *actually* human I might suggest some yoga, a walk, meditation, etc. Stay safe. I wish this on no one.

  6. I’ll ignore the trolls,poor souls!
    It is yummy! Stu and Sue chef are my favourite chefs! I agree with Stu-the recipe is for inspiration,except for cakes
    It seems,Stu and me have some similar inspirational recipe-I adore wok dishes (usually with prawns or tofu)and make hakes fillets in a package-with olive oil,a pinch of salt and pepper,bread crumbs,garlic and parsley.
    Cooking now is very inspirative-we have problems with grocery deliveries ( today I’ve got the same delivered (and payed ) twice,some deliveries I’m waiting for a week even to get the time of delivery
    We are still trembling, had a couple of new earthquakes- not my favourite situation….but let’s hope for the best
    Stay safe
    Dottoressa

    1. Thinking of your delicious meal that night, Dottoressa, and how Stu stuffed himself. Ha. Hope things stay as safe as possible in Zagreb. You are in our thoughts.

  7. Love the cooking show! And the Sue chef.
    When I was commuting 100 miles a day and my DH was working from home, I finally threw (not quite literally, but tempted) a couple of cookbooks at him and told him if he wanted dinner he’d better learn to cook. I can be so charming. But he learned. Since I retired two years ago and his job now requires him to commute, I have been doing all the cooking. NOT my favorite thing though I am a pretty good cook who, like Stu, prefers to wing anything that resembles a recipe. However, as of last night, DH is furloughed. Will be interesting to see if he takes up the tongs again. Don’t bet on it–already mentioned supporting his favorite restaurant by getting take out.
    Stay safe, folks.

  8. I am loving your forays into video, Sue. And your headline cracked me up. Your posts are something to look forward to in these troubled days.

    1. Ah, thanks, Nancy. We had fun doing it. But I had to shut Stu down at one point. He kept talking and talking. Ha. Hope you and Kevin are well and keeping busy.

  9. I’ve learned from our beautiful granddaughter in Chicago that Almond milk doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it’s opened. From our son we’ve learned regular milk can be frozen (just remove 1 & 1/2 cups because frozen milk expands). I’ve shared tips for freezing mashed potatoes with our four grown children’s families. And how preparing soups and casseroles with 1/2 frozen will help extend our pantry goods. I’m keeping a daily ledger to help me keep our meals interesting. We are in week 2 of staying in. We are all working on puzzles, reading, spring cleaning, crafting, baking cookies (freezing over half), watching news and tv series and being kind to one another.

    1. We do that too, make extra of freezable dishes. It’s a hangover from our years when, at least two nights a week, we’d be home late and being able to throw a casserole into the over was sooo lovely.

  10. What a mouth-watering post, Sue! You are indeed bless-ed among women with a husband like that! My own has learned to cook in the last 3 years, starting when we got Blue Apron, one of the meal-delivery services, that included every single ingredient with detailed directions. He had just retired and could get all the prep done before I got home from work. He now has several specialties, including salmon. I can’t think of anything much sexier than coming home from work to a man who is slaving over a hot stove….I love thinking of you as the “Sue chef” – bwahaha! I feel sorry for those who rely so much on eating out during this situation, but hope they’ll learn to cook for themselves. I’m a former cooking instructor, and there are so many resources out there! Chin up about that winter thing…

  11. What a delightful post. Wouldn’t it be great if my husband ate a vegetable other than carrots and peas? Thus that brings me to a request. Could you write a post about some books to soothe our souls during these times? I know you’ve written about this subject before but maybe put it together again? Now to go back and read about those cheddar scones? Thanks Sue.

  12. What a great post (and I’m imagining how many hours went into putting it together)!
    Paul has always cooked (starting from his teens when he shocked his parents by trying a dish that put canned peaches together with pork chops), but I did more the years my work schedule was more flexible than his — especially since he was often away. Plus his cooking style involves a time frame that didn’t work so well for kids. But like you, because he retired first by quite a few years, he’d taken over the kitchen and I have mostly enjoyed that (especially since he also grocery shops). I’ve been getting back into it more and more, though, and this time at home isolated together means some adjusting. Mostly for the good. We’re not as collaborative about it as you and Stu, mostly preferring to be left alone as we do our individual thing, but that’s changing a bit. What a great topic for a post — the follow-up conversation you’ve invited is great as well!

    1. Thanks, Frances. I know Paul has a very sophisticated repertoire. I’m trying to convince Stu to get back into sour dough bread. He used to make that years ago.

  13. Your kitchen looks like mine. All Asian spices. Food looks delicious. Say hi to Stu. Love your blog, and love your style and your personality. 🌹

  14. Your husband’s trousers are the ant’s pants or the bees knees! The food looks good too.
    Stay happy, healthy and at home!

  15. That pervasive feeling of anxiety. Indeed. Troubling enough for too many of us in the US with such an uneven “safety net” and complex, costly health care system. Part of the contingent workforce? Precarious and scary financially. Anxiety is a constant companion. 45 makes it worse. No surprise.

    Personally, I’m watching/reading too much news. Intermittently entertaining myself with a foreign language film or even trying my hand at sketching! (I used to be semi-decent at it; now, definitely not!) I’m hunkered down and admittedly, very isolated. Good thing I lean introvert!

    Meanwhile, I sure wish I could borrow your Sue Chef! (You crack me up.)

    Now if only I could order a roll of toilet paper.

    1. Hang in there. DA. Such a variety of reactions to this crises across your country, with sensible responsible leaders and others who stick their heads in the sand. Very, very worrying. Keep safe and sanitize and hope for the best, I guess. xo

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