by Deb on November 12th, 2013 2 Comments ·
I note with interest (and frankly confusion) that today is Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day.
Look, if you don’t want anchovies, that’s fine. Hell, *I* don’t want them on my pizza either but why get all exclusionary with the observances? I don’t care for nuts in my brownies but you don’t see me declaring the second Tuesday in April to be Brownies Sans Nuts Day, do you? No, because brownies are brownies are brownies (except when they are blondies) and if someone wants nuts in theirs, by golly, I stand ready to defend (but not share) their choice.
And so – here at Fabulous Foodie, we are not going to embrace this divisive day. Instead, we declare Fabulous Foodie to be a ‘Pizza Day Your Way’ zone.
Go on – order up and top it any way you like. And ENJOY!
Tags: History and Holidays
by Deb on November 11th, 2013 No Comments ·
I was flying solo this weekend at TransAtlantic Towers – dungeekin was busy bringing order to chaos at work – so I decided to crank up the show tunes and break out the maple syrup for a Sondheim Sunday brunch a la my days in New York City. The results were delicious.
That, in case you were wondering, are three of the fluffiest pancakes you could ever wish to have topped by maple syrup and a giant dollop of crushed blueberries in hand-whipped cream. Also, in keeping with my cooking philosophy or “why not try it and see how it goes” – I added a dollop of honey to the pancake batter.
Goodness me! Why did I not do that before? All these years I could have been having pancakes delicately infused with honey! I shall never again make pancakes without doing this. So good.
I was so pleased with that small culinary triumph that I decided to continue when it came to dinner. I had a package of bone-in chicken thighs and I wanted to roast them – a couple of dinner and the rest as lunch and snacks for the week. The thing is – chicken is chicken is chicken and it all comes down to what you DO with the chicken. Luckily, chicken thighs can take a lot of improvisation. And so I did. I created a oil and spice wet rub (another toss it all together and see what happens – based on garlic, paprika, onion, salt, pepper and a few other things) and let it sit for a couple of hours. Then I mixed up a quick mustard, honey, sweet chili glaze to brush on top before cooking.
And I have to say, I was pretty pleased with the results here too.
Tags: Notes and Passing Fancies
by Deb on September 23rd, 2013 No Comments ·
I’ve had a lot of discussions (in real life and in social media) about how fewer and fewer people are cooking – they have no time, no knowledge, no interest, whatever. While I can’t add more hours to their day and I can’t FORCE them to be interested enough to turn to the stove instead of the microwave* or phone – I can point out a few resources to address the lack of skill or knowledge.
Some of the best cooks I know have learned via the tried and true method of trial and error. They got themselves a book or two and jumped in feet first. By book, I mean a broad-based, broken down step by step book. Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, any of the Cooking For Dummies type titles, Hornby’s What to Cook and How to Cook It - that kind of thing, not a themed or branded book by the latest TV show chef. That said Nigella Lawson may be a big start of the TV cookery world but How to Eat – the first of her books which predated the fame and the TV shows – is one of the best books I’ve found to take the scary out of cooking and to “hold you hard” while getting your feet wet, so to speak.
There are also lots of places online you can read about specific cooking methods and even see them at work.
Is learning this way – self-driven and self-taught – the same as learning from a parent or grandparent over the years? No, but then maybe your parents and grandparents didn’t cook. My mother cooks and is amazing at it. She certainly didn’t learn from her mother. Dear god, the very idea. I loved my grandmother, make no mistake but while she ‘made things’ in the kitchen, she could (according to my mother and as I know from experience) ruin “steam in the bag veggies.” She could crochet like a fiend but cooking was NOT her forte. My mother is a self-taught fab cook.
Is doing it this way – online – the same as taking a cooking class? No, I suppose it isn’t but then a cooking class isn’t something I’ve never ever been tempted to do myself (one demonstration in noodle making does not count. I was in Rome and when in Rome …) but many people I know have enjoyed doing so and have gotten a lot out of them.
Look, let’s strip it down to an even more basic step. Try a basic, simple recipe** and see how it goes. If you want to watch one instead of read one, YouTube is awash in people demonstrating recipes at all skill levels. Use the search box, make it your friend. Honestly, what is the worst that can happen? Pick a recipe that doesn’t require special equipment or skills, doesn’t send you to the shops for a pile of expensive ingredients but which isn’t just boiling pasta and dumping a jar of sauce over it. Just spending some time IN the kitchen, at the stove will give you more confidence and might be the spark that leads to more.
Look, try mashed potatoes – nothing could be easier.
What you need
- 4 or 5 average-sized potatoes – use the Yukon Gold type potato – not too waxy like the small round potatoes and not as starchy as the baking or russet potatoes.
- 1/2 or 1 cup of milk (depending on how creamy you like your mash)
- 2 or 3 tbsp butter (or a bit more if you want super buttery mash)
- enough salt and pepper to taste
- a pot big enough to boil your potatoes
- a colander to drain the potatoes
- a masher or a large fork for mashing the cooked spuds
What you do
- Wash the potatoes
- Peel and quarter the potatoes (though I will be honest, I love leaving the skins on – not only because I like the texture but it’s less hassle and quicker that way)
- Boil them for about 15 minutes, or until a potato falls apart when you poke it with a fork. (Tip: only put in enough water to cover the potatoes – they’ll cook faster.)
- While the potatoes are boiling, get the butter out of the fridge, grab the salt and pepper and if you want creamy mashed potatoes, the milk. If you prefer chunkier mash, skip the milk
- Get your colander in the sink and drain the potatoes. Put them back in the pot and put the pot back on the stove, with the stove set on the lowest heat setting just to keep things warm while mashing
- Add butter and start mashing the potatoes with a masher until they’ve reached a consistency you like.
- If you’re going for creamy mash, this is where you start adding a bit milk and continue mashing and adding milk little by little until potatoes have reached the desired creaminess.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you want to jazz up your mash, you can add garlic or mustard, top them with cheese, stir in a bit of hot chicken stock or soup … seriously, you can do anything with them. It’s not brain surgery. It’s food. Try it. No one is watching and if you screw up – so what. Who’s gonna complain? The potatoes?
None of these sites or books or tips will turn you into a kitchen superstar overnight and I’m not saying there won’t be some missteps (even first-class cooks have those). But until you take some action – actually try something, however small – it’s all theoretical. With cooking the only way is to learn by doing and we need to stop equating doing with difficult.
* I have nothing against microwaves or ready meals – I have been known to utilize and enjoy both. I simply don’t believe the microwave is always faster and better and it makes no sense (financially or health-wise) to make ready meals the ONLY thing o the menu.
** I’ll be collecting a few really simple basic recipes and posting them as well as some tips shortly
Tags: Behind the Scenes · Cookbooks · Food News Peruse · Recipes
by Deb on September 21st, 2013 No Comments ·
Sprog was very much in “kitchen helper” mode today. Which is delightful except that we had nothing scheduled for TransAtlantic Kitchens today except dinner. He made sure we knew he was in that mood in a not very subtle manner – bringing his Roald Dahl Revolting Recipes cookbook downstairs every hour or so with “an idea of stuff we could – maybe – make.” Didn’t want to waste the enthusiasm so I grabbed the old standby – and we made brownie muffins.
The whole house smells awesome
Tags: Behind the Scenes
by Deb on September 21st, 2013 1 Comment ·
OK, I may not have anything to offer on the topic of Pecan cookies – other than to say have a GREAT Pecan Cookie Day everyone – but we’ve certain touched upon the topic of pecans here at Fabulous Foodie over the years.
I have nothing to contribute to the debate over pronunciation – “pee-can” or “puh-cahn” – mostly because no matter how we say it, we all know what we mean. But I can offer you this useful and interesting facts about pecans (that may or may not be helpful in a future game of Trivial Pursuit or a yet to be produced episode of QI)
- Pecans are native tree nuts to the United States and North America. Before European settlers arrived, Native Americans widely consumed and traded pecans.
- 75% of all world pecan production is in the United States with Mexico in second place producing about 20%. The remaining 5 is cultivated in Australia, South America, South Africa and Spain.
- According to the National Pecan Shellers Association – “pecan” is the word the Algonquin people used to describe “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.”
- The pecan tree is the state tree of Texas, adopted as such in 1919.
- Texas Governor James Hogg (otherwise known as – and I am not making this up “Big Jim” Hogg) liked pecan trees so much that he asked if a pecan tree could be planted at his grave site when he died.
- Non-pecan trivia – Big Jim was father of the unfortunately named but hugely admired and terribly philanthropic Ima Hogg – who is considered a sort of honorary lifetime (and beyond) “The First Lady of Texas”
Oh and they are very very good for you – so hey, that pecan cookie? PRACTICALLY health food.
Tags: History and Holidays