Tag Archives: fear of vegetables

excuses for no excuse


In all honesty there is no excuse for my not writing once a week, I missed last week even though I DESPERATLY wanted to get on here and type my tiny little heart out however my day job amped up AND my business amped up at the same time not to mention the family stuff and plain ol fatigue.

I do have several things to write about (if I haven’t already mentioned my hand), I did attempt this Friday night when I was waiting for a very old and dear and VERY pregnant friend for coffee. In which I was using the tiniest keyboard I have ever used which makes my fingers look like sausages and I am constantly pressing the wrong buttons then as she walked in the door I too quickly closed the page and thus my painstaking hard work and tiny words were lost in the underverse of the internets. (insert LONG sympathetic sigh here).

Finally here I am several days late explaining why I am so late. The other factor is, I almost have to be in the mood (which I am so often in the WRONG situation) and of course my best ideas strike right when I am stressed and in the middle of something VERY important. I am glad I was never commissioned for anything like Michalangelo was, I would never get anything done. The ceiling of the Sistine would be a sun dyed white to date. Alas I am here and I am writing that counts for something right??? As mom always said “No excuses”  and in all honesty there is no such thing as a good excuse. The fact is I should have remained committed to both blogs and wrote my heart out no matter the hour in the evening. So my dear flakies I apologise for my absence.

Well my nights in the kitchen have been interesting to say the least, I nearly sliced off my hand, I screamed and swore at pizza dough and I burned my face off 3 times in one week. It was BAD, for some reason most of the fam didn’t mind what I called “epic fails” they liked the extra heat in my dishes and no one died so that is a good sign too. In nearly slicing off my hand the knife skills I was teaching myself went by the wayside, I was attempting at halving a butternut squash in half to stuff with vegetarian chili luckily hubs was there to point out I was about to cut my hand off, and in a nasty way because I also discovered cutting a squash, let alone 3 of them, is really tough business.

I have since learned from my dear facebook friends (who occasionally are a wealth of knowledge when they aren’t being absolutly hysterical on thier status updates) that if you ask the produce department very nicely they will go and cut the squash for you.

I learned that one cannot substitute chipotle chili powder for regular chili powder, it doesn’t even subsitute when you halve it. Whenever one sticks it in the dish it will end up burning my face off (for spicey heat wimps like me).

Be wary of zests and how much you put in. I’ve experimented with lemons, limes and now oranges (the latter being the WORST) and always pay special attention to just how much fresh zest to put in the dish. I recommend that when orange zest and sweet potato are to be mixed with sour cream AND butter just to ignore the orange part…. and maybe the sour cream. I can’t describe what happened in my mouth though I don’t think anything can be as bad as a durian. (Apologies to those who love the durian!)

When making your favorite soup, don’t make it if you don’t have what you need to give it actual flavor, I ended up with beans in slightly flavored water which wasn’t appetizing at all.

Did I mention DON’T **&(^*^&%$ with orange zest?

So always make sure your knives are sharp, cut away from yourself, don’t stick your hand under the blade. Don’t mess with orange zest, its more punch in a teaspoon than Brock Lesner. To burn your face-off add copious amounts of Chipotle Chili powder to recipes that call for regular chili powder. If there are no parmesan cheese rinds, fresh thyme, or rosemary about, skip the soup (if it is a veggie or light chicken flavored one).

And the best part, make time for your friends, tell the ones you love them and say something positive to yourself and someone who needs it. Which in my experience is everyone.

Happy Eating!

The potatoes were obscene….


Welcome to another instalment of Burned Cornflakes! Not a whole lot has happened since my epic feast was served on the big holiday however I nearly screwed up an “old faithful” of mine. Growing up I watched meal after meal with any leftovers they would be placed and labelled in a container and placed in either the fridge or freezer for future use, I was always lectured on the importance of NOT WASTING. Let me just say that this lecture didn’t really sink in (sorry mom… in ways it did! Promise!). I am absolutely NO SAINT in this area; I bin a lot of food, some of it is still good, some beyond rotten from the depths of a lunch bag or worse. I get upset about it, whine or nag only sometimes but mostly I just methodically toss things in the bin with a pursed lip and a guilty conscience.

After the “epic holiday feast” was done there were leftovers which we mostly took care of in the amazing turkey soup I helped hubs make. Further down the list of leftovers were potatoes, I didn’t know what to do with them and having a family audience (read this as “my mom has eyes like a hawk and would BUST me for wasting if I dared“) so I squashed them between 2 gently used pie plates (yay for recycling!) and tossed in the freezer. Yes, IN THE FREEZER. I figured they would be alright because I saw advertised a big company preparing mashed potatoes to whip out of the freezer on a whim and show off to your relatives. (side note: I do find the ads very annoying). That aside when in doubt I toss EVERYTHING in the freezer, if it ends up freezer burnt it will probably either have one of 2 fates… tossed into a dish that over cooks everything or in the bin. LOL.

Once that was all done I kind of forgot about them until hubs asked for dead shepherd for dinner. I could imagine the light bulb going off over my head as I remembered the potatoes. So I set on my merry way to preparing a beloved family dish. I sliced up 8 extra potatoes to ensure I had enough coverage as when I make my dead shepherd it is usually fit to serve about 10 people. There I was happily cooking away listening to my potatoes & parsnips boil, the meat brown and the microwave struggling to defrost 2 lbs of pre mashed potatoes. Once my meat & onion had browned completely I drain the fat off and add in the rest of my ingredients. I went to my faithful freezer of random food and started pulling out random chopped things to add in; I noticed this little Tupperware container in the back with something unknown in it, with a shrug of the shoulder and not a second thought I tossed the puppy in with my other random finds. Not until this mystery substance melted and created a large liquid content did I start worrying. Then came the aroma (it smelled pleasant) and I got to thinking….. what the heck did I just put in the dead shepherd?

I panicked.

Only slightly.

Promise.

Until I realised with a sweet wave of relief that we had saved of my epic experiments making Au Jus for gnarly beef dips, this one in particular was roasted garlic au jus (yum!). With a (small) leap of joy I happily finished up and served the “Frankenstein” dead shepherd. (I have a dear friend who calls experiments Frankenstein’s, I loved the term so much I added it to my vocab). So I got lucky….this time. It could have possibly still lead to disaster as one of the sauces I had put in as part of my “wild card” flavorings was a brown sugar flavour, so I passed this one by the hair on my chinny chin chin.

As for the potatoes they were a tad obscene, I may have made too many. Actually, I will admit it I did make too many as the topping was HUGE. I had about 2-1/2″ thick worth of potatoes (I had combined the left over mashed potatoes with 2 parsnips and 8 freshly boiled potatoes mashed with unsalted margarine). So a lesson learned from an old classic recipe we adore.

As a treat I’ll sound off my classic “un-Frankenstein-ed” version of Dead Shepherd.

NOTE: makes approx. 10 servings! (good for making a big batch and freezing mini meals for later).

What else is great about this is you can add or subtract anything you like and you’re almost guaranteed a great dish. Experiment with different ground meats, ingredients and toppings!!! Though I have no idea what one would do for a vegetarian version of this…. Possibly mashed beans/lentils and Portobello mushrooms (?)…. Have to brainstorm on that one!

Thinking about it, this is almost the un-recipe of recipe’s as there are no real set rules! Dare I say an anarchistic dish?! *gasp*

Kitchen Stuff you will need:

  • 2 largish pots
  • an ovenproof dish
  • strainer or lids to pots
  • stovetop or hot plate
  • oven or toaster oven
  • a spatula or spoon to stir
  • potato masher (a fork works but it is labour intensive)
  • cutting board
  • knife (sharp, preferably unserrated)

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg lean gr. Beef (or preferred ground meat, if using ground turkey you WILL need to use olive oil or cooking oil to ensure the meat doesn’t stick and burn to the pot)
  • 0.3 – 0.5kg of lean gr. Pork
  • 1 Medium to large red onion chopped
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning (to taste)
  • Worstershire sauce about 3 tsp (I eyeball it)
  • Barbeque Sauce or Fruity HP Sauce * optional* about ½ cup; in place of this you could put in about ½ cup of beef broth or French onion soup mix. Experiment and make it yours!
  • 1 can of Baked beans *optional* experiment with flavors! J
  • Vegetables of your choice you can use freshly chopped or mixed froxen vegetables. I use about 4-5 cups of frozen vegetables.
  • 7 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2-3 parsnips peeled and sliced *optional* – I add these in for added nutrition and sneaking more veggies in to my resident picky eater
  • Water
  • Margarine or butter *optional* about ¼ cup
  • Sour Cream *optional* to taste or serve alongside your dinner if people like potatoes and sour cream!
  • Shredded cheese *optional*

Directions:

Set oven to “broil” (my oven defaults the broil temp to 500 degrees and I don’t change it.) ensure your oven rack is set to the right height to accommodate your oven dish.

Place potatoes and parsnips in large pot fill water to cover them and place on high heat to boil. Once they bubble violently turn down the heat to medium. The potatoes will be cooked when they slide off the fork.

While the potatoes are boiling brown the meat in the other large pot with the onion on med-high heat. Sprinkle with Montreal Steak seasoning (or not!). Once the meat has browned drain the fat into safe container and dispose of the fat safely. DO NOT POUR IT DOWN ANY DRAINS!!!!

Return the meat pot to the stovetop and add in the worstershire sauce, the bbq sauce (if you are using) and the baked beans. Stir. Add in your veggies stir and let them soften/warm through. Once this is done remove from the heat (turn off your burner). Slide all your ingredients into your waiting oven dish.

Once your parsnips and potatoes have finished boiling, remove them from the heat, drain and begin mashing. Once the mashing is on its way add in the margarine and continue mashing to your desired consistency. I like to sometimes add sour cream and mash it in too. It is up to you and your taste buds.

When you have your desired mashed potato awesomeness grab a spoon and top your meat base with them. I like to draw a pattern in mine so when the potatoes brown in the oven it makes a cute picture. If you so desire sprinkle the cheese top of your potatoes for a kid pleaser (and cheese lover!)

Place in the oven for about 15 minutes until the potatoes reach your desired browned/crispyness.

Serve.

This recipe is great to refine to your particular tastes and what your guests, family likes or make it the way your family did. Plus it is super easy!

Remember to label your leftovers (with everything) to avoid disasters in the future!

Happy Eating J

 

The 18 were stuffed like a Christmas turkey….


Well Christmas has come and passed, all that planning, prepping, cooking, stressing is over and I am almost at a loss without so many people inside my tiny little house. We had 18 people on Christmas day and what a day it was. I was SUPER stressed however for the first Christmas in my life I DIDN’t have a melt down. (Call the guinness book of world records, it is a date in history!!) I had a lot of help from hubs, my sister in law, my kids, thier kids, mom, dad, and probably even the cat!

It. was. amazing.

I am so grateful to have a great and supportive family and what made it even more awesome is I don’t think I said “Oh Sh*t!” once while cooking dinner…. but don’t quote me on that one. 🙂

Not all of it went down as smooth as ice however it went over pretty good. What helped was a few days before company arrived I cooked my “Clint Eastwood Style Chili (which mom aptly named “Chili for wimps” <– mom I have changed the recipe) and for the FIRST time ever it did not burn my face off. (Are you calling Guinness yet? There is another one for the history books)

Secondly ALL the help I had: My sister in law helping me cut, chop, prep, season, stir, mix, advise, check, double check, fix, refix everything I was doing. It saved my life. My mom doing Christmas baking so I would have enough cookies to go around, she even blessed us with her butter tarts AND melt in your mouth shortbread (I love you mom). My dad bringing over the extra stuff I decided I needed on Christmas day ON Christmas Day (a toaster oven, meat thermometer). Both my folks for helping me with the vegetarian dishes, turns out we had LOTS with what I added to it. The kids for helping stir, sort, organise, clean, check and recheck & smash things for baking. As well as clean up like taking out the gabages and dishes and so forth.

Thirdly and most importantly: The whole family having balls (and stomachs) of steel for being willing to eat something I had never attempted before.

For those about to rock (eat) we salute you.

So what did I make??

December 24 after dinner myself, my S.I.L. and kids from all families helped me do my Christmas baking…. 5 hours of it. (I am a slow one in the kitchen, mom will never let me forget!)

  • Gingerbread CupCakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Double Chocolate Brownies with Chocolate chips
  • Apple Pie
  • Pumpkin Pie (x2) made with ice cream

December 25 (the big day for the 18!)

  • Hors ‘d’ouvres –>Vegetarian Samosas, vegetarian spring rolls, spinach & feta spanakopia, mini meat balls, sausage rolls, chips and dip, veggies and dip, crackers with cream cheese and spicy red pepper jelly, assorted cookies and treats (homemade and store bought) Artichoke & Asiago cheese puffs (care of my sister)
  • Turkey – approx 7.6 kg. Cooked over root vegetables, fresh herbs and some broth. I also put an onion and more fresh herbs up its bum to add more flavor.
  • Stuffing – not from scratch. From a box.
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Corn, Carrots, Peas, beans.
  • Buns
  • Broccoli Casserole (Care of mom)
  • Roasted Veggies (Care of mom)
  • Fresh Gravy (made from the broth and drippings (not droppings!) from the bird)
  • Cranberry jelly

Dessert:

  • Pumpkin Pies (x2)
  • Apple Pie
  • Gingerbread Snaps (care of Sister)
  • Sugar Cookies (Care of Mom)
  • Gingerbread Cupcakes
  • Double Chocolate Brownies
  • Ice Cream – Vanilla and Stawberry

And that is how you stuff 18 people like a Christmas turkey!!!!

There were plenty of leftovers, so we could have fit about 4 more people at our table and had them well fed as well. I should mention 4 of the people at our table are older teens/young adults (male) with hearty appetites as well as all the members of the families having healthy appetites. So having left-overs and in the quantities there were is amazing.

We had a big setback, we  planned dinner for about 230 pm however I don’t think we ended up eating until past 4 due to the bird. Not sure what went wrong as everyone said they had never seen it happen before: One leg and part of one side of the bird did not cook on time so we had to keep taking it out and putting it back in again. We don’t know if it was an element, the way I cooked/positioned it in the oven, or if it was the oven itself (its not convection). Luckily we had enough nibbles to keep the hungry monsters at bay. A lot of patience and several people inside who knew a lot about cooking turkeys. A good back up plan is to get the Barbeque ready. Speaking of BBQ the one thing I defrosted and prepped for turkey dinner were ribs and cornbread however time and oven space dictated they be removed from the menu. Good thing we did or we would have been screwed for table and stomach space.

Other things I learned: I learned what a turkey baster was, what it does and how to use it. Yes I am 28 years old and had NO idea what that was. I also learned what the neck, heart and giblets look like from inside the turkey (I nearly fainted, I have an aversion to birds…cooking them… mostly because all I can see are them strutting around outside when I am trying to cook them). I also learned how to get the most out of your turkey thanks to advise from mom, the S.I.L and the people over at Stirr for posting on thier facebook page how to make Turkey Soup. But it was a big thanks to HUBs for making it. I don’t think I could have made it as the carcass was grossing me out.

This is what he did (I helped with the veggies):

What you will need:

  • leftover turkey carcass, GIGANTIC pot, stove, water. Anything you want to toss into the soup for flavoring.

He put the carcass in a HUGE pot of boiling water and just boil the meat off the bones. He had it on there for hours (I am pretty sure) remove the carcass and any fallen off bones.

Next add what you like for flavoring here is what we did:

  • leftover roasted root vegetables (carrots, celery, parsnips, onions)
  • leftover regular vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, green beans)
  • leftover gravy
  • added 4 more carrots, 1 parsnip, a turnip, and an onion
  • One outside Rind of Fresh Parmesan Cheese
  • a sprig of fresh rosemary (just toss it in, the leaves will fall off in the cooking process)
  • a sprig of fresh thyme (again, toss it in the leaves will fall off and you can pull the stick out later)
  • one bay leaf (remove before consuming)
  • a sprinkling of Montreal Vegetable seasoning
  • a squished clove of garlic

Let this bubble for a while (30-40 minutes or until the veggies soften) then you can serve (this makes TONS OF SOUP) or what I did was I put aside a HUGE container of the soup for a healthy meal in the future and then put some in single serving dishes and froze for lunches. With a lot still left over I reserved the rest in a smaller soup pot and placed in the fridge which has given us several lunches and dinners of turkey soup.

What is great is there was no loss of nutritional value as everything was cooked with itself, nothing was strained or drained (granted the saturated fats are probably up there but so is the value of the good stuff) and it made the dollar value of Christmas dinner become VERY economical. So really it is an all around win.

Now with all the visiting relatives gone, I am missing everyone DEARLY. It is like the house (as small as it is) is empty. It really made me see how much I love and care about my family members.

I hope all your Christmas’s, holidays, festivities and food adventures are full of wonderful things.

 

From my table to yours, happy eating.

 

xoxoxo

 

Down to the wires


Having a gourmet dinner last night (and by gourmet I really mean canned spaghetti and creamed corn) gave me some “food for thought.” As of late I have been stressing, shopping, cooking, stressing, adding, subtracting and then adding in some more stress over the big day coming. I keep telling myself “everything will be fine, don’t worry so much” and then my insecurities get the better of me.

Here is the main reason I am so stressed out. It is the first time I will have ever cooked for 17+, not to mention a BIG holiday. My nerves are shot and I am getting glitchier as each day passes, not to mention the big TO do list has very few check marks on things completed (don’t get me started on the gifts OR the stocking stuffers…even the stockings themselves!). I am still pondering how I am going to fit 17 people around a table that will fit 12 plus a highchair. Not to mention the plates, cutlery and dishes being served. I guess now is the time to announce that I don’t even have a menu planned out. All I have in my deep freeze is a turkey, and I don’t even think it is big enough. I bought the turkey when I thought we would be having 12 people for dinner even though I KNEW that we would have a minimum of 15. I must have filled my brain with extra air that day. I will probably make it up by Barbequing some ribs and putting something in the crockpot (well I should say “hubs will barbeque some ribs” as he is the master of the ribs in our house)

Talk about “flying by the seat of my pants“, I do this so often I have to wear long johns. I am definatly NO goddess in the kitchen and despite being marginally organized, nothing in the world have gotten me to get my act together for this Christmas. Thankfully I am cooking for family and they are much more forgiving than any food critic, foodie or celebrity chef (side note: I
most recently criticized a catering job for not cooking their vegetables long enough, the potato salad tasted like engine oil & the bean salad tasted like diesel exhaust) however their (the families) opinion is paramount in my world so I really do want to watch them enjoy dinner rather than make the “mmmm” face whilst stifling the gag reflexes.

All this makes me realise how much my mom went through when she put on Christmas dinner and then Boxing Day dinner for the extended family. I always liked Boxing Day dinner because mom, her sisters and their families would bring all their left overs to the hosting families house and it would be samples of everyone’s cooking, baking and other goodies and as a “win-win” it helped decrease the amount of left-overs in everyone’s fridge so there wouldn’t be turkey sandwiches for the next week. Plus it also meant another gift from “The Aunts”, in our family they are famous for their woollen creations which are treasured. As a teenager it gave me extra time to look moody and sullen however once the deck of cards came out for the family game of “Combination Rummy” all bets were off and within no time it was a table full of smiles and laughter. My fondest memories of my Nana always “chanin’!” suits mid-game thus sending my Granddad into a bit of a tizzy as he was always trying to help her out and count cards at the same time. Playing cards after dinner was always such a treat, something I am hoping to bring into my own family tradition.

This time of year always pulls me closer to home, reminds me of Christmas baking, Christmas cooking and Christmas bells softly ringing inside my head as I mozey about my day.

I’ll have to write down what I end up serving and the final result of all my stressing. I am thinking it is all going to turn out fine. I just need to relax.

HA who am I kidding?! I looked like a crazed banshee whirling about the earth without a week’s sleep!

From my family to yours “wishing you all the best this yuletide season

Breaking Boundaries and an introduction to Josephine.


I find I keep marking the opening to my posts as “It has been a while since…” which must be getting a bit tiresome.

I apologise, I do not have set writing days in my calendar, with the life I lead I take time where I can get it. Let’s face it I do put a lot more on my plate when I am eating and in life which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I am a full time parent to 6 kids, a long distance grannie, I have a full time career complete with a 1.5 hr commute. I’m a business owner (and co-owner of another company with hubs) I read, I write, I cook, I spend time with my family, visiting with friends, I recently started up crocheting (though all I did was crotchet myself into a circle) and of course I am also enslaved by a very cute feline.

Have I mentioned I am not 30 yet?? LOL Yes I have one grey hair, and I named her Josephine, we chat, we do coffee, Josephine and I are close, for a human and her grey hair.

So in short on the “un-busiest” of days I am busy.

Regardless I am forever breaking my own boundaries in food whether it be trying a new ingredient, a new dish, a different cooking style or sampling something I have never tried before. I am a bit obsessed with food and I do get really panicky in the kitchen, most people seem natural and at ease whilst cooking away, in my house it is a bit of a gong show. I’ve written before of the interesting language floating out of the room and some of the interesting food that has landed on our families plates and once “tweeted” about my encounter with a durian candy. So when I “break my boundaries” I do it in great fear, always and it doesn’t stop when I turn the burner off, I continue to worry about it LONG after it is done. I probably come across as a complete nervous wreck half of the time and a wild crazy gypsy woman the other half (have you heard me cackle?? I took lessons from mom).

Where do I begin breaking these boundaries? It starts with a recipe and then completely screwing it up by accident or on purpose and serving the end result. So it starts with me and ends with the family, and luckily so far they still love me, will still sit down at our table and eat my (or our) food. I’ve started introducing more meat free dishes into the weekly menu, I find that meat gets too much of the “celebrity status” during the big shows and I want to kind of prove that veggies (or legumes), lentils and playing with herbs can make something amazing. So far no complaints, and NO leftovers which has shocked even me. Mostly I’ve been serving up soups: Caterpillar Soup, Ginger Carrot Soup, Tomato and bean;  I made vegetarian calzones and those were a HUGE hit and now I am looking for the perfect vegetarian lasagne!

My most recent discovery has been the turnip, wow is it ever good? The smell and flavour of fresh ginger and I ate a parsnip raw which was pretty good too. Sounds like pretty plain stuff but to me it was exotic having been grown up on wholesome British/Canadian/Maltese home cookin. Mom tried to get me to try things as a kid and as far as I can remember I wasn’t happy about it, then again, what kid is? Next on the trials is going to be butternut squash, there is this macaroni dish I have been itching to try.

Now I challenge you to pick one thing out of the produce aisle you have either never tried, cooked and give it a shot! Let me know how it goes!!

Happy Eating!

 

ps- as for the durian candy, the aftertaste stayed with me after I ate, into the evening, into the night. And I kept burping it up. I suppose I should mention I didn’t even EAT the candy, I spat it out after 5 chews!

Inspirations and Tribute.


It has been awhile yet again since my last post, I haven’t had any real food plunders so I thought I’d just touch on some things I have been thinking about. First off, we picked up the barbeque and it cooks everything EVENLY which is awesome and it is real purdy. We christened it with microscopic hot dogs of which I had to gobble down in about 1 bite due to the fact I had a meeting that night. So now we look like Barbeque snobs as we have 2 barbeques lined up on our patio though one looks like broken down Bessie and the other looks like shiny shenanigans. Photos will be posted when I charge the batteries on my new camera charge my phone or get batteries for my old camera. (I am THAT person who has every electrical device on the planet lacking in either battery charge or actual batteries. I am starting a petition to bring back the ol’ winding process.)  Last night we used the newbie again and made sirloin tip steaks and they were cooked to perfection. It was fabulous, hats off to hubs for being the BBQ king. Well I have only had one go at barbequing and let’s just say instead of making burgers I made tasty bits of charcoal on a bun.  I do have a recipe book on grilling but it is surprisingly lacking in rubs, sauces and other such ways to bbq things. It is more so “put your meat on the bbq and do the rest in the kitchen.”  I’ll take any pointers just throw them my way peeps! Side note: I actually have a gingerbread smore cake you make on a cast iron skillet on…. You guessed it! A BBQ! How cool is that? Sadly I have lost the guts to perform such a feat on the bbq since my briquette burger disaster!

Speaking of recipes, things I want to try and learning how did this all start for me? Well as you may know from my home page I wrote about my family and having to learn how to cook real fast and for large #’s which is hard because I have to look at each recipe and figure out what ingredients need to be doubled, tripled or just multiplied by 1.5 in order for the recipe to work. I didn’t start learning THIS process until I stopped cooking out of “the box” which is grabbing a box of shake n bake and tossing miscellaneous meat in there and cooking it. Sure I had my staple recipe’s down pat, a shepherd’s pie (which has now been modified so much it doesn’t even resemble the original), lasagna which was basically cook the meat toss it with a can of sauce, add noodles, bake and presto! Dinners done! Don’t get me wrong there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with those kinds of dinners, they are my favorite meals.

 I got my real start in cooking just over a year ago, I was on mat leave working out of Betty Crockers “Good and Easy” recipe book as well as “Clueless in the Kitchen” a cookbook for teens which both have good recipes in them but I was losing my inspiration and fast. Everything in them was “add a can of this soup” or box of this “miscellaneous processed item” and I was getting a little saddened by all the additives I was adding into my cooking.  I was watching the Food Network daily and seeing these great dishes put together with fresh ingredients, and simple ingredients to boot but there was NOTHING like that in any book I had laying around the house so I started to experiment. I was watching some cooking show with this guy who looks like he is living in Italy somewhere and he made these meat balls with several different kinds of cheese, one of which was cooked right in the balls themselves… I thought “I could do that” So I grabbed my wee baby, bundled her up and went on an adventure in the grocery store. I found this “Ricotta” cheese I had never used nor tasted before, fresh parmesan (seriously?! it doesn’t always come in a oddly shaped canister!!! Shocking! *gasp*) and one other cheese that was related to Parmesan. I picked these up, and concocted a delicious Italian meat ball recipe out of my head!!!! Everyone loved it and I surprised myself so I immediately told mom about it and she was very happy for me.

Then I started calling her whenever I started trying something new and it actually turned out pretty good, she was shocked to discover I was cooking…. Eggplant?! That weird purple, funny skinned, oddly shaped thing I always saw in the supermarkets actually has a taste to it!(Please note I have YET to master cooking such a vegetable (?) and have been avoiding it since I tried 3 times to cook it (one dish being Ratatouille’). So one day Mom was in WalMart and picked up Rachel Ray’s Big Book of 10 which has mounds and mounds of great dinner ideas and said “I have a family gift for you” She stopped by and handed it over and I started looking through it. I have since made MANY things out of this book and screwing up about every single one that I have tried (though admittedly I never told mom about the things I missed, added too much of or completely screwed up all together…. Nor does she know just how often I talk to the food while I am preparing it, cooking it and sometimes yelling at it or walking out on it.) but for some reason cooking seems to be something that is fairly fail safe but not immune to the odd disaster or two which I laugh about later……. Sometimes.  Now mom asks me what I have been cooking lately and she is always surprised at how “adventurous” I have become in the kitchen. I have a great desire to master, barbequing, the art of grilling, cooking duck, becoming less frightened by the critters that float, swim or walk around in the sea (like sea scallops, they just laze about in their shells so I suppose they would be the “bums” of the ocean!), also becoming less frightened by whole chickens and peeking inside them, I want to try leeks though they too scare me, so do artichokes, I want to make lamb burgers (bo peep has ordered a hit on me! HA), and try Cornish hens though I haven’t the foggiest idea where to get them and I want to get more vegetarian dishes on the table to cut down on meat consumption, and show that I don’t have to cook meat in order for a dish to be delicious as well as be open to trying different things like lentils in place of meat. My sister has also been inspiring me to get more organic foods into our foods which add a whack of flavor as well as less “additives, preservatives and hormones”. A personal choice which everyone seems to enjoy as I pick and choose what to add that is organic, sometimes I don’t have a choice as it is the only thing left on the shelf/display because the un-organic stuff is all gone, though that doesn’t bother me one bit.

What I have learned is how to scrutinize the produce, meat and grocery shelves for those obscure ingredients (eggplant?! Abodo what?! Corn relish?? Is there really such a thing??? {yes} you can make creamed corn WITHOUT opening a can?? *gasp*!! GET OUT!!!! *slap*) and mostly how to improvise when I miss something, forgot to pick an ingredient out and just plain wing it. So far no one has been sick *knock wood* and I have yet to make anything inedible.

 I owe all this to having a mom who never used a recipe when cooking, always told stories of what she ate when she was a kid, nagged me about not knowing how to cook (LOVE YOU MOM), watched loads of cooking shows, never ate the same thing twice at a restaurant (Dad ALWAYS had the same thing), having a sister who is always making the best choices for her health and body who is always learning new things about food, having a huge wonderful supportive family and kids that despite all the swearing, banging, and sometimes odd smells or odd looking ingredients coming out of(or into) the kitchen still (bravely) come and sit down at the table, try whatever it is I have concocted (AND finish it), and for having the best man at my side, helping me along, cheering me on, finishing when I give up, manning the barbeque because I am too dang afraid of setting the neighborhood on fire, loving me even when I screw up, calming me down when I get too stressed out about food (yes I do), always having faith in me especially when I don’t, eating the food I make and LOVING it. Thank you babe, without you I wouldn’t be doing ANYTHING I am today.

 I am one lucky person with one great group of people surrounding me family and friends and now blog readers and supporters.

Thanks for reading and cheering me on. I’ll keep the burned cornflakes a’comin’!