Archive | January, 2011

The Very Best Kind of Recipes

29 Jan
Have you ever tried to get a to-die-for recipe off of a family member, and they just sort of listed ingredients at you? With some recipes, the instructions and ingredients are basically, “do it until it seems right.”
These recipes are the very best kind of recipes.
My Dad’s chili (in the previous post), my meatloaf, and most of my holiday recipes are like this. These recipes tend to be the ones that were passed on from family member to family member, and altered with each person.
These guess-and-check recipes are ones that stick with us, and that we can alter to our own tastes. BUT they can be quite frustrating for a new cook.
As I am attempting to write my cookbook, I am finding that I have to measure out exactly how much of what I put into my meals. Which is a pain. But eventually, hopefully, someone will be able to use that and make it their own. I am searching for this kind of recipe to experiment on, and hopefully fill my cookbook with. Thanks to technology, there are videos of people making food like this all over the internet. And you can kind of judge how much of what to put in by watching.
Do you have any of these kinds of recipes? Please do share.
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My Ultimate Comfort Food

27 Jan
It’s winter time. It is bitter cold, windy, icy, gray, and miserable outside. Not to mention that this semester has been really difficult for me. I’m feeling comfort food.
My favorites are grilled cheese, mashed potatoes, and chili. My Dad only makes two meals. Pasta or chili. His chili is phenomenal. It only took a few months after I left home to call him and beg him for his spicy yet sweet recipe. Not surprisingly, his recipe was, “throw in this, that, and a stick of butter.”
Everyone has their own way of making chili. Mine is to throw the canned goods into the pot on med-low heat, chop up the veggies, throw them in, and brown the meat and toss it in.
Theres not exact measurements, because I guess and check like my Dad does. But here’s a list of ingredients for chili, Pittsburgh style ūüėÄ
-Green peppers, banana peppers, small sliced mushrooms, a sweet onion
-a HUGE can of kidney beans and a small can of black beans
-canned, undrained: whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste (splurge on the good stuff, not the generic. its worth it.)
-ground turkey meat (about a poundish?)
-at least two tablespoons of white sugar
-half a stick of butter. real unsalted butter, not margarine.
-about a half cup of water
and that’s about it. toss it in a big pot together, let it cook on med-low for about 3 hours. Stir it a lot, because it will burn if you don’t.
Every time I eat a bowl of this it reminds me of when I was younger- when snow was magical and not ominous, ¬†when Dad would blast hippie records on his record player, and when I didn’t have pounds of homework every night.
Are there any dishes you gravitate towards in the winter? Any family recipes you would love to perfect?

Turn on some tunes for better food

21 Jan
When I was in high school, I had this amazing art teacher. ¬†Ms. D ¬†is creative, strong, passionate, and insightful. During the hours that I spent in her classroom, we listened to all sorts of music while we drew/painted/sculpted/whatever she felt like doing. She said that different music helps you settle into different creative “tones.”
I don’t have much time to draw anymore, but I do cook. Cooking is pretty much where all of my creative energy goes. And I’ve found that Ms. D’s theory about music and creative expression applies to the kitchen as well. When I’m baking and getting flour all over the place, I tend to listen to The Beatles, or some other dance around sing at the top of my lungs music. When I make lasagna or something a bit less precise, I tend to listen to classical music (pandora.com is great for this!). Some how, when I listen to music, my meals turn out better tasting. And it doesn’t hurt to actually enjoy cooking dinner for your family.¬†Music makes my cooking experience more fun and meaningful. And if you mess something up, or cover your black cat in flour, music makes everything a bit more lighthearted ;).
My black kitty ūüėÄ
I was wondering if anyone else does the same thing? Listen to music while cooking, not specifically The Beatles or classical. If you don’t, try it out.
On a different note, today I went out and got some Chinese food (at the Sesame Inn, if you’re from Pittsburgh). I keep promising myself that I will be¬†adventurous¬†and order something like duck or at least some scallops. But I reverted to chicken. It was fantastic. And when they gave me my plate, it had this baby on it:

Radish Flower

Isnt that awesome? Its made of a fresh (not dried) radish, dyed pink and wrapped/folded, kept in place with toothpicks. It comes on all of their dinner plates.
So go get yourself a radish flower, and turn on some tunes. ūüėÄ

Create a Tradition: Pancakes

16 Jan
Growing up, pancakes were a Sunday morning tradition in my family. My Mom had a few different flavors of syrup to choose from (blueberry and pure maple are my favorites), and my little brother would create a nice-sized mountain of powdered sugar on top of his pancake stack. Pancakes and coffee is now my go-to meal in any diner situation. And I make pancakes from scratch at home on a pretty regular basis. I am a pancake fiend :).
For many people, making pancakes from scratch seems out of reach and like too much work. It isn’t. And, bothering to make pancakes from scratch is worth it. Let me repeat: PANCAKES FROM SCRATCH ARE TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Making your own pancake mixture saves the taste and texture, guarantees the ingredients (healthy, indulgent, or preservative laden), and gives you more control. Once you begin making them from scratch, it is very likely that you will never buy boxed mix again.
Work wise, I understand how some people can get overwhelmed. For awhile, I was using a recipe that required that the milk, eggs, and softened butter were room temperature, without microwaving. Imagine how much time and foresight that took.
Super Awesome Pancake recipe from Allrecipes.com
^ That is the recipe I now use. It uses white vinegar, so make sure you have it. The vinegar’s reaction with the baking soda helps make these pancakes fluffy. ¬†I also add only about two tablespoons of butter, and I use whole wheat flour (which is sold at your grocery store, there is no excuse not to buy it.)
My picky eaters who are NOT pancake fiends like myself love this recipe, even with the whole wheat flour. The whole wheat makes me feel a bit better about eating pancakes so frequently ūüėČ
I also suggest using free to roam, organically fed hen’s eggs. Both for flavor and for moral goodness. But I’ll save that for another post.
Enjoy your weekend, and consider trying out these pancakes for tomorrow morning. Your family, and your taste buds, will thank you.
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The Eco-chic thing you need to try: Furoshiki

15 Jan
I want to talk about furoshiki. ¬†Furoshiki is¬†essentially¬†tying and folding a square scarf to create eco-friendly bags (for groceries, a purse, etc.) or gift wrapping. Type “furoshiki” into a YouTube search and watch some of the videos, they’re pretty cool.
YouTube how-to Video
^ that’s the link to the “how to” video of the bag that I’m currently using.
This is the scarf that has replaced my lost lunchbox. I already had it in my closet, so you don’t need¬†a special kind of scarf, just square. It’s much smaller than the one in the video, but it has a lot of space. If you plan on trying this out, use a silk or nylon scarf. The knots come out really easily in silk or¬†nylon, but still look good and support a¬†surprising¬†amount of weight. I’ve seen websites that sell cotton ones though. (furoshiki.com).
These bags (and gift wrappings- there is a pretty awesome way to wrap bottles like this) are extremely¬†convenient¬†and eco-friendly as well. I’m using mine as a lunch box, and I will try this technique out on the next gift I wrap. If nothing else, you just learned how to make an extremely chic beach bag ;). After a trying a few different styles of bags it is easy to get the hang of it and make a bag that suits your needs; you will be able to control the style and length of the handles, choose if it stays open or can close, and how much space is inside the bag.
I’m going to visit Florence soon, and I’m thinking that this might be the¬†substitute¬†I use for my over-weight purse.
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First post!

12 Jan
Hello!
I suppose this should be an introductory post. So. ¬†I’d like to think that I have always been creative, but cannot say that I’ve always been able to cook. In the last few years, I fell in love with baking and cooking, and my skills have been improving. I am working on a cookbook as an ongoing project; it is my consistent excuse to experiment with tons of different recipes, trying to find the best (cookies and cakes are the most fun!!)
Recently, I was exposed to bento lunches. Bento boxes are now my current obsession. I do have to pack my lunch, and I NEED something to make my lunches more interesting. Bentos (once I get a bona-fide bento box) will be the way!
I am hoping to use this blog as a way to record the many, many thoughts and ideas about food that I have, and the recipes I try out.¬†With pictures, of course :D. ¬†Maybe I can inspire others, or help spread some ideas. Or just make you hungry ūüėČ