Cook of the Week: Hoffman Estates dad keeps meals simple and mostly homemade
Keith Moritz calls his mom his earliest influence in the kitchen and recalls hanging out to help make pancakes on Saturday mornings. Later, at age 12, he got the chance to make dinner for his parents and sister as each member of the family took turns cooking.
"Oddly enough, I made waffles more than anything for dinner. That was one of my favorite things to make from scratch," he said with a chuckle. "It was one of the first things I remember looking up in a cookbook."
Making dinner gave him an appreciation to how much work it took to put dinner on the table.
"For most of my earliest memories, dinner just appeared on the table every night. I didn't have to worry about it. It was just there," he said. "It definitely prepared me for going out on my own."
Often, cooking on his own meant planning each meal on the fly. Keith said his favorite thing to do would be researching a recipe online, on TV or a cookbook and discovering what he had at home or what he needed to pick up at the store for that night's meal.
Now, cooking has changed after Keith and his wife, Beth, welcomed their first child, Scout, to their family about three months ago.
One thing that Keith said he is doing more is preparing too much for one meal so another is ready, whether it be lunch for Beth or another dinner at home.
"I tend to make enough as if we were a family of six," he said.
A big help in that is a vacuum sealer, they received as a wedding gift. "I can portion out, vacuum seal and freeze them," he said. "It's my favorite kitchen gadget that you don't necessarily have to have but I like to have."
While Keith acknowledges he is not above making a meal out of a box, he said making meals from scratch is something he loves to do and really doesn't take much time or ingredients.
"You can make a mac and cheese with five ingredients. It doesn't take much. If you have milk, flour, cheese and pasta, you can make a good mac and cheese, I think," he said.
And he adds he doesn't know the last time that he bought pasta sauce in a jar.
"I found it's just as easy to take a can of crushed tomatoes, saute some onions and garlic in olive oil, put the tomatoes in, add some basil, let it cook for 10 minutes and you have pasta sauce," Keith said, adding. "That's one thing my wife always yells about is I'm always buying cans of tomatoes."
Some of the meals that he likes to make today are inspired by those dinners his mom made at home, like mac and cheese and meatloaf. Keith shares those recipes with our readers, adding the recipes have evolved over the years.
Often meals at home are kept simple, such as pasta with his favorite tomato sauce because Keith said it's really difficult to mess up pasta or steaks grilled in his cast-iron skillet with a baked potato or if he's prepared ahead, twice baked potatoes.
Keith says there may be some dishes that may require practice to perfect the technique. But to those who are too afraid to get into the kitchen and cook, he shares the advice his high school teacher told him.
"If you can read a recipe, you can cook," he said.
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