I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been watching lots of Food Network lately and spending more time in the kitchen, and I have to say, I’m really enjoying it. I’ve always “cooked,” since getting married anyway, and at times my dinners were great and at times they were not quite so delectable. Clay and I always laugh about how in the early days of our marriage we ate a lot of “one bowl dinners” where I pretty much just threw together whatever I had into one pan and mushed it around, shook some soy sauce or cheese on it and called it good. (not soy sauce and cheese together…yuck.) My cooking has definitely improved over the past five years, slowly and incrementally, but I don’t think I ever really enjoyed it very much until we moved here and I actually had a kitchen big enough for more than one and a half people.
Since our food budget is so low ($250), I pretty much just buy whatever is on sale and try to rearrange it into different kinds of dishes. This means that it’s very easy for me to get in a food rut, and two weeks ago I had one of those frustrating afternoons where I just stood staring into my pantry for about half an hour trying to figure out what in the world to cook for dinner and it was DRIVING ME CRAZY!!! So since then I’ve been trying to be more proactive about gathering new ideas and recipes (thus, Food Network). I’ve been branching-out a bit more lately and I’m having a lot of fun. And surprisingly, much of what I’m cooking is just a different arrangement of similar ingredients I’ve always bought, I just had no idea how to put it together that way. For example, last week I cooked North African Meatballs. First of all, I never make meatballs, I always just brown and crumble my ground meat. So yay, meatballs, something new! But most of all, who knew that when you mix cumin and cinnamon and cayenne pepper (I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I subbed a few and left-out a few) it makes this amazing Morroccan flavor? I mean, I’ve had those spices in my cabinet for awhile but I would have never thought to mix them, but now it’s my new favorite thing. Simple!
My other favorite thing I’ve made is this Potato-Bacon Torte. A torte for goodness sakes. I made the homemade pie crust and it was EASY and SCRUMPTIOUS! I pretty much had all the ingredients, I just never knew how to mix them together to make a torte! But WOW, was it good! As you can see, I’m getting these recipes from Melissa D’Arabian’s new show Ten Dollar Dinners on the Food Network–love it! I’ve never been one to copy a recipe that I saw on tv, but I’m so glad I did!
I’m also starting to fall in love with baking. Of course I don’t know how to do hardly anything, but I’m fascinated by the process of stirring together a few random ingredients that hide in my cupboard (like baking powder… I mean, what IS that stuff?) and out comes something totally awesome to eat. It’s so incredibly simple and obvious, and I feel like I’m discovering something the rest of the world already knew. Like a few months ago I bought a can of cocoa (for the first time ever) and noticed on the back that it had a recipe for brownies. I was so shocked, I had no idea that you could make brownies any other way than a box of Betty Crocker mix. I KNOW! How ridiculous is that?! (of course I will say that when I made them they definitely weren’t as good as Betty Crocker!) And earlier this year when we ran out of Bisquick I was like, “Hmm… I think I heard once that you can make pancakes with stuff like flour and milk…. I wonder….” and what do ya know, I now have a pancake recipe with nothing but flour and milk and stuff. And bread! I made the most awesome homemade bread last week… like, I kneaded it! With my hands! And it turned-out PERFECT! I also made homemade bagels last week, but those didn’t turn-out quite as well…they tasted great but never rose very much, so they were kinda small. But who knew you could do that, just whip together some stuff in a bowl and make BAGELS?! I’m so incredibly annoyed that a lifetime of convenience and outsourced food has robbed me of this knowledge! I also came across this awesome recipe for Ginger cookies, and I made it twice in a week and ate a TON of them (…and actually now I kinda want to go make them again now I’m thinking about it! They were SO good!)
I’m trying to challenge myself to discover ingredients and foods that I’ve never cooked before. And it’s kinda sad how many of those there are. I bought fresh garlic last week and have been cooking with it for the first time instead of using garlic powder like I usually do. I mean, garlic. It’s not rocket science, it’s a pretty basic ingredient, and I love using the real stuff. (I also like mincing it with my big knife like Rachael Ray!) Tonight I cooked polenta for the first time. I made it using this recipe and I loved it!!!! (although it was very similar to cheese grits which, being from the South, I’m very familiar with!) It was so easy, but somehow venturing out of my usual box made it so much more fun for me. It got my creative juices flowing! I also bought some panko bread crumbs, anyone have a good recipe using those?
And last night I read this: 30 Worst Foods in America. And how depressing that I’ve definitely eaten some of those! (Chili’s fajitas, anyone else?!) I’ve been thinking a lot about our eating habits and after reading that last night I just got so disgusted at the food industry and how gross and processed so much of it is. I’m decently informed about nutrition, I know what we should be eating and what it does for keeping our bodies healthy and strong. And we don’t have a horrible diet, it’s just not nearly as good as it should be. I don’t generally buy that much junk food, but we do eat too many processed things on a regular basis that I’d like to cut down. (cereal, granola bars, crackers…) So I’m going to try to change that. I really want to try to focus on eating as many whole foods as possible and cook more. This morning instead of my usual bowl of cereal, I cooked scrambled eggs in corn tortillas, and my appetite was more stable throughout the morning than usual. I like cooking breakfast on the weekends, so maybe I should just start being more intentional about doing that and then gradually try to do more during the week. Now if I could only get Evelyne to eating something other than Kix and Cheerios….
Any good recipes you want to throw my way? Or favorite new ingredients or foods?! Enlighten me!