Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's Thyme To Cook ....

I thought I might try writing a once a week blog post on my disasters adventures with cooking. I have been trying new recipes and trying to move past either making the same old thing, or more common, eating out instead of cooking.

I have always been a mediocre cook. I can make a tasty meal, but nothing that would knock your socks off. One night while looking through a cookbook from Ina Garten that I have owned for years, I came across a page that listed 10 kitchen tools you'll use over and over. (Ina Garten, Family Style, pg. 244). She lists:

Braun electric juicer
Stainless steel mixing bowls
Cuisinart food processor
Parchment Paper
12 x 18 x 1 1/2 inch stainless steel sheet pans
Good quality knives: paring, 8 inch chef's, a serrated blade
Rasp zester
Kitchen Aid electric mixer
Oven thermometer
10 and 12 inch All-Clad saute pans

So I took inventory in my kitchen of the things that I have from her list:

Parchment Paper

Hmmmm, not good. How did I get to be my age without owning any of these things? Furthermore, I don't even know why I have the parchment paper. I have no memory of buying it.

I took this as a sign to buy new cookware, good knives, and perhaps learn to make something really memorable. In short order I purchased the requisite All Clad saute pan and skillet, and a set of Wusthof knives.

All Clad makes the most fantastic pans! They heat evenly and clean up is a snap. However, I didn't realize that cookware could cost so much!

Wusthof knives are unbelievable! I've never owned a good set of knives. These have been worth every bandaid I've needed for cut fingers.

I've never been a big fan of non-stick cookware, but I also bought several Caphalon Nonstick cookware pieces. This braiser pan is large and perfect for braising meat.

I now own several pieces of nice cookware, Ina Garten's "Family Style" cookbook, The Pioneer Woman's "Food from my Frontier" Cookbook, by Ree Drummond, and Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I grew up watching Julia Child on T.V. every week. So my first attempt at cooking something fabulous was Julia's "Boeuf Bourguignon". Okay, maybe I was a little influenced by my recent viewing of the movie Julie/Julia....

This recipe is found on page 315 in Volume One of Julia's cookbook. It is a two page recipe, not difficult to execute, and uses an entire bottle of red wine (none for the cook). As if making a Julia Child recipe wasn't daunting enough, I had defrosted twice as much beef needed to make this stew (doubling the recipe never occurred to me). So to solve this predicament I made the Pioneer Woman's beef stew too, (page 165, Food from My Frontier) and then had a taste test between the two. A rather ambitious endeavor if I do say so myself. I was still on my All Clad/Wusthof high and forgot for a moment that I wasn't America's Test Kitchen.

As I mentioned, Julia's recipe uses red wine. The Pioneer Woman's recipe uses a bottle of beer. I have never cooked with either (meaning IN a recipe, not as an accompaniment), so that was a new experience. Here is a picture of both stews side by side. Pioneer Woman's is on the left, Julia Child's stew on the right.

Julia Child's recipe was over 4 hours in execution, most of it just simmering in the oven except for this awkward maneuver where you have to pour the liquid that is as hot as boiling lava, from a dutch oven into a separate pan. This was how I accomplished that task:

The Pioneer Woman's stew was placed in the crockpot and just simmered all day long.

Both were delicious, and we ate stew for a week, but the winner was Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. It had much more depth of flavor and a richer sauce.

These recipes were tasty and pretty easy to do. Julia's was more time consuming, but the end result was worth the effort. I don't think I really busted any culinary chops with these recipes, but I did learn that cooking with wine means more than having a glass while cooking.

Until next time, have fun cooking!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Last Month at My House - January

It's hard to figure out how to title a blog post when so much time has passed since I've last written a blog. People were wearing bikini's and sunscreen the last time I wrote something! I've decided to limit this post to the month of January, and hopefully, will post more regularly this year.

Daughter Susan has moved yet again, this time to the Fells Point area of Baltimore. She loves her new home.

On January 5th, Julie, Cassidy and I went to Susan's home for a belated "Christmas Celebration." We had dinner, which was just superb. Susan made stuffed portabello mushrooms and a green salad and bread. I provided the main course, which was chicken spaghetti.

We had a great day. Susan is a real city girl and loves living there. If it wasn't for the fact that she works 12 hours a day in a different city it would be perfect...but it's her life.

Julie gave me a belated Christmas gift. It is something I've wanted for years...

She is having another baby!!!! We are all so thrilled for her, Tommy, and Miss Cassidy. The baby is due on September 18th. I am so happy that God is blessing this family with another little blessing from Him!

I have been very busy trying to reorganize the kitchen cabinets again. I decided that I no longer needed two pantries for food, since there are only three of us here at home now. So my large pantry shown here...

Is now housing my growing collection of cookware...I am having so much fun buying these pots and pans. I didn't know there were so many different pans for specific cooking tasks. I'm sure you really don't need so many different pans, but what fun is that line of thinking?

My spice cabinet is always a mess. I straightened it up again, and grouped spices according to type, and especially how often I use them. The odd spices I rarely use are now at the back of the line. All hot sauces and vinegars are on the second shelf.

For dinner one night I made a pizza with Italian sausages. I made my own sauce, which was so easy and tastes so good I will never buy jar sauce again. After prebaking the crust, I topped it with some sauce...

A slice of fresh mozzarella with an italian sausage on top of it, plus onions and sweet red peppers...

Mounds of shredded mozzarella, fontinella, and parmesan cheeses...

All baked to perfection.

Pizza anyone???

The Queen Cat would like to wish you all good health and happiness in 2013...not really. Have a great day!!