I've been misusing the term "wheelhouse" forever. I keep thinking it's akin to "toolbox" in a way: a place we reach into to grab a quick trick to keep our busy lives moving along smoothly. To keep us all peaceful, healthy and happy.
"I'll just go ahead and dip into my wheelhouse for something for supper tonight, since we're all home so late and exhausted and we have a bajillion things on tomorrow's agenda."
Wrong. Wheelhouse means your area of expertise. Expertise. I'm an expert at my career, but motherhood and housekeeping are a total crapshoot. I was raised in a house where most of the vegetables came from cans. So calling myself an expert on healthy cooking would take some serious hubris.
But then I took a look at the toolbox (not wheelhouse) lately and saw some really useful things. I fully realize that I'm lucky, too, because my children have no allergies and are always game to eat new things.
Herbs and veggies
We grow a lot of our own. We also rarely treat veggies like a side dish or afterthought. Food is food. Kids are natural gardeners. Digging in the dirt, even elbow-deep, and pulling things out of the earth are fun for people unconcerned with laundry or tomorrow's manicure. We subscribe to an organic food delivery service, which cuts down on errand running and keeps our fridge full of fresh food. Sometimes, we just cook some up. Dinner, faster than a pizza delivery.
We love to cook as a hobby. Most of the recipes we use, we use once. From a magazine, or a newspaper, or a cookbook. But in exploring my potential wheelhouse there are two things that keep cropping up.
Herby supper for four
One thing we tend to make a lot, especially when we're pressed for time, is soufflé and a salad. I'm not sure when souffle got such a stuffy reputation; it's simple and always good. I've walked in the door and had this on the table in about 35 minutes.
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Big handful of fresh, chopped herbs OR some spices
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 to 1 cup any kind of cheese
Heat the oven to 400. Separate the yolks and whites. Butter your dish, and sprinkle with parmesan. Melt butter on the stove; add the flour and stir until smooth. Add the milk and stir until mixed. Add the salt, egg yolks and the herbs (or spices) and the cheese you like. Now, whip the whites to stiff peaks. Slowly fold the warm mixture into the whites; pour into prepared dish and bake for 25 minutes.
While it bakes make a big, green leafy salad.
We also do carpet picnics. All kinds. It's basically some sort of protein — usually hummus or cheese — lots of vegetables and some sort of bread. Pita, homemade whole wheat, ciabatta from the farmer's market. We assemble it on a tray, and sit on the floor to eat it. While I love a real picnic, this is a good way to eat simple and fast on a weeknight — and somehow sitting on the floor makes good vegetables taste even better.
Families on an expert's paleo diet would say we don't eat enough meat, and vegans would disapprove of our eggs and dairy, and people who eschew carbs based on a different expert's advice would be disgusted by the amount of fruit and grains we eat. But for omnivores, we're doing great. My kids love food from seed (and farm and ranch) to table. And neither thinks veggies come from cans.
It works for us. Some of it might even wind up in my wheelhouse, someday.
Journalist and mom-of-two Erika, also known as the Domestic Radical, lives in Boulder, CO and is passionate about turning the working mom’s Second Shift into an enjoyable, made-from-scratch lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter.