Tag Archives: Weekend Cooking

Notes from the Kitchen (and A Call for Recipes)

Yes, I’m now in charge of the kitchen, for the next two to three weeks. (This is one of those for better or worse situations where you know you’re not anywhere in the vicinity of the “better” part of the equation.)

Ward had hip replacement surgery yesterday morning – he’s doing well, and was raring to go a mere two hours after the surgery.  He’s supposed to stay in the hospital for four days but I’m pretty sure he’s already hatched up some sort of early escape plan.

He’s probably driving the nursing staff crazy right now. The word he used the most yesterday? “Restless.”

But even after he gets out, he’ll be on crutches for a while. So there’s that to look forward to around here – we all know he’ll insist on doing everything around the place even though he won’t be able to.

And in the meantime, I’ve found myself back in the kitchen, since there are mouths to feed (the nine-year-old is much easier than the soon-to-be twenty-one year old, I’m finding).

Some notes from the kitchen:

1. When you put a can of cream-of-anything soup on the stove, those popping sounds mean: get ye back to the stove and fast, stirring utensil in hand and at the ready. Or else. (AKA “how to avoid burnt, blackened pots. Not to mention, inedible burnt soup.”)

2. President’s Choice frozen meat lasagna doesn’t taste half bad when you’re really hungry, even when you’re like me and don’t actually like lasagna, frozen or freshly made.

lasagnaBecause I needed a picture in this post …

3. Note to self: just because I think I’m only going to buy a few things at the grocery store, always take the large wheeled cart and not the small wheeled backpack. Because “a few things” never stays “a few things”.

4. A slow cooker recipe is not synonymous with “infallible”. Chicken thighs can still get overcooked; yes, indeed, even though they’re dark meat and usually tender and juicy. Also, six hours of slow cooking time does not mean seven hours and counting.

5. It really does take only a few minutes to wash up a pot and reuse it instead of fishing a clean one out of the cupboard. I’m not sure why it never seems that way to me. Still, if I want to avoid sink-overflowing-with-used-pots syndrome, this really is something I’ve got to remember.

6. Dirty dishes reproduce, naturally and organically. I should set up a camera with stop motion timing to see this in action and record it for prosperity. Or maybe not.

7. Bacon and eggs = easy when you use turkey bacon. No oil splatters so no need for protective eye gear. Just saying.

I’m sure there will be more notes from the kitchen to come; after all, I’ve only been back in there for a day and a half so far …

Share your recipes with me, pretty please? Key words: easy, few ingredients, slow cooker. (And for when Ward gets home, if it’s vegan, even better. Or the poor man will be living on bagels and peanut butter.)

Eating Well, the Pinterest Way

Pinterest has really changed the way we eat around here. Now that it’s so handy – and visually appealing! – for me to bookmark a recipe, I’m not just reading through various food blogs and occasionally hollering to Ward (wherever he might be), “What do you think about this dish?”.

No, not at all. Now I have a routine. I pin all the recipes that entice me to Pinterest, and I email the ones I really, really want to try to Ward.

It’s been working out so well. I’d say at least two out of the four to five meals Ward cooks each week have been influenced by Pinterest (the other two nights he teaches, which means I haul out the ramen noodle packets).

Here’s a sampling of some of the lovely dishes I’ve had the chance to taste the past couple of weeks because of my new Pinterest routine. (Click on the image if you’d like to repin the recipe, and click on the link to get to the recipe itself.)

Dark Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey’s Buttercream

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Can you say, ooh la la? That’s right. Bailey’s buttercream. Yum!

This was yesterday’s lucky find – I was simply delighted when I saw that Megan had shared her recipe for Dark Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey’s Buttercream. I was even happier when Ward came back from shopping yesterday afternoon and pulled out a small bottle of Bailey’s and a six-pack of Guinness.

He whipped a batch of these up last night after dinner; the whole place smelled just divine. Chocolate and Bailey’s. What a wonderful combination! And the taste? Delightful!

Braised Tofu and Radish

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I really like tofu, so when I came across this recipe for Braised Tofu and Radish at Beyond Kimchee I knew it would be perfect for our table – I’m constantly on the lookout for recipes that Ward can veganize but which I’d still enjoy after the veganization process (which usually means either tofu or mushrooms are involved).

This dish did not disappoint. In fact, it was one of this past week’s hits. It’s a simple dish that’s so very tasty. Ward omitted the shrimp and used vegetarian oyster sauce, but the veganizing substitutions didn’t hurt the recipe at all. We had no leftovers that night!

Manhattan Clam Chowder

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Clams are one of my favourite foods – I have very fond childhood memories of driving up to Seattle, walking on the beach and snacking on steamed clams with melted butter. Manhattan clam chowder is one of my favourite clam dishes, but around here it’s very difficult to find a restaurant that serves it; most of them serve Boston clam chowder, which I find just a little too creamy (I like my soups on the lighter, brothier side).

So I was thrilled when I came across this recipe for Manhattan clam chowder. Our grocery store didn’t have any fresh clams that day, so Ward bought a bag of frozen (in-shell) clams as a substitute, along with the cans of baby clams and clam juice. He made a big pot of chowder for me, so I was set for lunch for the rest of this week. This version was actually better than any I’ve had in a restaurant, because it is simply filled to the brim with clams!

Curried Chicken Pot Pie

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I’m not really much of a curry person, but both Ward and our older son Sean enjoy curry. So last weekend Ward made a veganized version of this Curried Chicken Pot Pie for himself, along with the regular version for Sean. I got a cute little version, so I could have a taste (Ward made me something else that night, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was.).

Both of them really enjoyed it, so I’m sure it will be on the menu again soon!

Mini Fish Tacos

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These delightful Mini Fish Tacos from Very Culinary were delicious: chunks of lightly spiced white fish mixed with a cooling slaw. So tasty! We had some egg roll wrappers on hand so Ward used them instead of wonton wrappers; next time around, we’ll go with the wonton wrappers the recipe calls for, because the egg roll wrappers were a bit too big and the result was on the doughy side.

But that didn’t detract from the delicious filling! I had seconds, just minus the fun little cups. Lovely!

I’ve been loving all these new food adventures showing up on our table because of Pinterest. What about you? Have you tried recipes you’ve pinned on Pinterest? Are you finding a greater variety of dishes as a result?

Enjoy this foodie post? For more food-related fun, check out this week’s Weekend Cooking, hosted each week by Candace at Beth Fish Reads!

Saturday Ramblings: Hollywood, Tosca, and Americas Test Kitchen

Whew! What a wild week this has been. I’m supposed to be in my “less busy” season, but somehow, what with projects showing up earlier than expected, I ended up with three deadlines this week. That kind of stuff is only supposed to happen in November and December!

So I thought it would be good to unwind with a rambly post. Because a lot of other stuff happened/is happening so I have tons to talk about.

As I type this, guess where my daughter, Hayley, is? In Hollywood!

She flew out on Thursday morning to spend a few days with a good friend of mine, Holly Sorenson. Holly’s the executive producer of ABC Family’s Make It Or Break It, and they’re shooting the season finale right now. We thought it would be a great way for Hayley to experience a real live television set in action, so to speak, so she took a short break from her filmmaking studies to fly out to LA.

HollyandHayleyHayley and Holly on the MIOBI set

I love this picture of the two of them on set! They’re having a great time together, and Holly took Hayley out for some pampering, too:

hayleypampering2Hayley getting some pampering

And if you’ve never watched Make It Or Break It before, you’re in for a treat! The show follows a gymnastics team on their journey to the gold; Season 3 premieres next month, and you can catch up on the earlier episodes online.

While Hayley’s deep in Hollywood excitement, I’m going to the opera for the very first time tonight! A friend of mine has season’s tickets, and she asked if I’d like to go see Tosca. I listen to opera only via Ward, who loves it (we’re planning on going together ourselves once we’ve really settled into our city lives), but other than that, I’m a total opera newbie. So I thought a classic opera like Tosca would be a good way to start my opera experiences.

My main dilemma? I have nothing to wear! <insert wail here> And while you might have heard other people say this kind of thing, I can assure you, I truly have nothing to wear. I don’t have dress boots, so that leaves out all my winter dresses (all one of them) and winter skirts (all one of them, too). I know you can wear jeans to the opera but I’d like to be dressed at least a cut above jeans. So the only thing I have left are these black cotton pants which are in no way dressy – but they’re not jeans! I’ve decided to be happy with that.

(I can’t even wear my dressy ankle boots because it snowed last night, and given the choice of walking in snow and ice in heels or my sturdy, dependable Thinsulate boots … well, let’s just say I’ve never been one to pick fashion over comfort and safety …)

Okay, this has been a long ramble, but I’ve really got to tell you about a fabulous recipe resource Ward recently discovered. (And then I’ll stop rambling – I promise!). It’s the magazine version of The Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews 2012, and it is simply amazing.

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So far this week, Ward has made the following recipes:

Chicken and Slicks: this is the Appalachian version of chicken and dumplings. We had it last night and it was SO delicious. You make your own noodles for it (well, I didn’t – Ward did all of that), and instead of using water in the noodle recipe, you actually use chicken broth. Very tasty noodles, very tasty dish.

Cod Fish Cakes: ever have a fish cake and it really tasted more pasty than seafood-y? The fish cakes Ward made from this magazine were the absolute best I’ve ever tasted, and that includes fish cakes I’ve ordered at a restaurant. Solid chunks of cod, with nothing to hide the flavor. Yummy!

Black Bean Chili: I didn’t have any of this, because I’m not one for chili, but it fits the bill for a vegan entrée for Ward. He had a bit of trouble getting the beans soft, but other than that, he said it was delicious.

Rosemary Focaccia: our latest joke is that this recipe alone is worth the cost of the magazine (It’s $9.95, kind of hefty for a magazine but really really worth it). Seriously, I’ve never had focaccia that tasted this good: fluffy with just the right amount of density and chewiness, and a beautiful rosemary flavor through and through.

It’s a plan-ahead recipe, as you have to make the starter between 8 and 24 hours before you prepare the actual dish. You also need a very hot oven, and since our oven is very close to our fire alarm, every time Ward opened the oven door, I had to stand on a chair and fan the hot air from the alarm so we didn’t set the thing blaring. But it was well worth it – it’s so good, Ward has made it twice this past week.

Okay, I’m done rambling, like I promised!

And since I can’t ramble and not talk about food at one point or another, I’m including this as a Weekend Cooking post. For more food-related posts, make sure you head over to Beth Fish Reads!

My First Cookbook: Fear of Frying, by James Barber

I thought I’d take you all on a trip down memory lane with this week’s Weekend Cooking post.

Fear of Frying, by James Barber

This is the very first cookbook I ever bought: James Barber’s Fear of Frying. In addition to writing cookbooks, Barber (1923-2007)  was also the host of CBC’s Urban Peasant.

I bought this cookbook back in my student days at the University of Toronto. I’d just moved out with my boyfriend, and other than boiling water, I had no idea how to cook a thing. As the price tag shows, I found this little gem of a book in the bargain bin of a local book store for $2.40.

It was a bittersweet time in my life. My family had all moved back to Vancouver, and I was all alone in a new city (I was never actually living  in the city, but in the suburban outskirts), attending my first year of classes at U of T and mired in a relationship that was destined to become a  rocky,  unhappy marriage. But there were some fond memories from that time too, and this little book was one of them.

It was just such a fun book!

When Ward and I went through our major book decluttering last year, in preparation for our move to Toronto, I came across Fear of Frying on our cookbook shelves. “Oh!” I said to Ward. “Make sure you don’t put this in the giveaway box! I LOVED this book so much!”

A few sample pages may show you why (Barber also illustrated the book):

MmmushroomsMmmushrooms

The preamble to Mmmushrooms (each spread in the book has a chatty little preamble on one page, and the illustrated recipe on the facing page):

… But the most lily white and virginal mushrooms can also be made into a flavourful, textured, thoroughly dignified meal, instead of just something to add to a steak, if you remember to cook them with the lid on. That was my uncle’s secret. Sprinkled them with a little lemon juice if you want to be super-sophisticated, or use basil instead of tarragon. Just be kind and just be gentle.

Consider the OysterConsider the Oyster

And from Consider the Oyster:

Very few restaurants are to be trusted with an oyster. They don’t have time to be gentle, to carefully watch, to feel for them, to understand them.

And now you can do it. When we did this on television I received over 2,000 letters. The nicest one said “Sir, you are wicked. I love you.” See what trouble a little simplicity can get you into.

So, did I ever make anything from this wonderful little gem? Yes! I did! I have vague memories of attempting this dish:

Garlic ChickenGarlic Chicken

Just don’t tell ‘em. Not unless you can trust ‘em. You pick up a clove, put it close and squeeze the skin. The middle pops out into your mouth. It tastes as soft and gentle as lichee nuts, not at all like garlic. Once they get the feel of it they’ll want more.

Don’t be scared of garlic. There’s nothing wrong with my social life.

How did it turn out? Unfortunately, I don’t remember. But I never thought of myself as being any great shakes in the cooking department, so it probably didn’t turn out all that well.

And to be honest, when I first started writing this post, I thought this was the Barber book that contained THE recipe I did make all the time – the one recipe I could make, and make well. But paging through it, I realized it wasn’t. A quick Google search revealed that my favourite recipe came from another of Barber’s books, Ginger Tea Makes Friends. I must have lost that book somewhere in the many years between those university days and now.

So I’ve ordered a used copy from Amazon! (So much for my no-more-print-books-if-I-can-help-it resolution). When the book arrives, I’ll post my favourite recipe in an upcoming Weekend Cooking post. I’ll probably wrestle control of the kitchen from Ward and make it myself first. I’m looking forward to taking another trip down memory lane, but next time with my taste buds, too!

For more fun food-related posts, make sure you head on over to this week’s Weekend Cooking. Weekend Cooking is a weekly event hosted at Beth Fish Reads.

Addictive! Maple Bacon Cupcakes

I have a confession to make: I’m not much of a cupcake person. I’ll squeal with as much enthusiasm as everyone else when I see a picture of a super cute cupcake on Pinterest, but really, I have very little interesting in actually eating one. I just like cute and pretty food.

BUT …

Earlier this month I was reading the January issue of O! Magazine, and came across a recipe for Maple Bacon Cupcakes.

Now, if there’s one thing I absolutely adore, it’s maple and bacon, together. The sweet and the savory of maple and bacon are a marriage that’s meant to be, in my opinion.

So I emailed the recipe to Ward (I subscribe to O! on my iPad, and one of the handy things you can do with your subscription is email things to people. I like to plague my husband with recipes email my husband recipes from everywhere and anywhere, and hope for the best).

And the very next day, he made these:

Photo 2012-01-01 3 22 36 PM

Excuse me while I make my usual “bad photo” disclaimer: this shot was taken with my 3G iPhone and does not do the actual cupcakes any justice whatsoever.

But trust me, these cupcakes are absolutely, completely and addictively delicious. So delicious, I find I can’t ever eat just one. It’s like the potato-chip phenomenon, only when it involves a cupcake, that’s a mighty dangerous proposition.

Want to see how addictive these are for yourself? Here’s the recipe, courtesy of O! Magazine – and yes, I dare you to eat just one …

The following recipe is from the January 2012 issue of O! Magazine:

For cupcakes:
½ pound thick cut bacon (about 8 to 10 strips)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. maple extract (found in the spice aisle)
Maple syrup, to garnish

For cinnamon buttercream:
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar (a little less than 1 pound)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Lay bacon on a sheet pan and bake for 8 to 15 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Set aside 2 pieces of the bacon for topping, and dice the rest.
  2. Lower heat to 350°. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  3. In a medium bowl combine flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs to butter mixture 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add the dry ingredients and milk in 2 alternating batches, mixing well between additions. Then add vanilla and maple extracts and reserved diced bacon, and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Scoop batter into prepared cupcake pan, filling each cuo 2/3 full. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Meanwhile, make cinnamon buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Add the milk and vanilla and mix until combined. Slowly sprinkle in the cinnamon, adding more to taste.
  7. When cupcakes are completely cool, frost with the buttercream. Chop the reserved slices of bacon into 24 pieces and garnish each cupcake with a piece. Drizzle maple syrup over the top and serve. If not eating immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Enjoyed this food-related blog post? Check out more delicious links at this week’s Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads!

Yes, Im Food-Obsessed

In the midst of all the busy busy busy of my life these past few months, one thing has become very clear to me.

I’m kind of food obsessed. I take a short trip to L.A. and what do I bring back with me? Food memories. I mean, really – who goes to L.A. and comes back talking about the food? Well, me, obviously.

And so it is with Pinterest, my latest online addiction. I’ve always called Twitter my home office water cooler; Pinterest has joined Twitter in that regard. (And the super awesome thing? Pinterest plays so nicely with Twitter!)

Where was I? Oh, yes. My food-obsessed mind.

So far, I’ve created 16 boards on Pinterest (and I’ll probably be creating more, some for specific writing WIPs – the possibilities are breathtaking!). And the board that’s filling up really really quickly?

This one.

Some of my recent finds? (Prepare to get hungry! And if you like to cook, inspired! Click on the links to get recipes and see more delicious pics. And maybe add a few food blogs to your beleaguered Google Reader.)

Hasselback Potatoes

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From: Sea Salt With Food

Cream Cheese Sausage Balls

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From: Plain Chicken

Baked Spinach Dip Mini Bowls

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From: Picky Palate

Cheddar-Thyme Gougères

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From: What You Give Away You Keep

I’ve also been emailing links to my husband like crazy, in the hopes that some day in the not-too-distant future, some of these will show up in our kitchen, ready for me to gobble up.

Are you on Pinterest? What kinds of things do you find yourself pinning?

For more food-related posts, make sure to surf over to Beth Fish Reads and check out this weekend’s delicious Weekend Cooking links!

Holy Lobster Mashed Potatoes, Batman!

Last weekend I flew to L.A. for a workshop, and unfortunately, I haven’t written up about my trip there yet. Because I came back to an avalanche of work deadlines and all the busy-doing of packing up for our Big Move.

Can you say, Massive Overwhelm?

Needless to say, in the midst of all of this busyness, I’ve been thinking back to my weekend away quite fondly …

And high up there on my list of “things I’m always going to remember about my trip to L.A.”?

Of course it’s food related. Y’all already knew that, didn’t you?

A friend of mine took me out for dinner on Saturday night, and this is what I had:

Lobster. Mashed. Potatoes.

If there was ever a dish deserving of the “OMG! OMG! OMG!” food award, lobster mashed potatoes is it.

Imagine perfectly done, fluffy, very buttery mashed potatoes, loaded with huge chunks of lobster. The lobster pieces were so large, I had to cut them into smaller pieces with my knife first.

Did I mention the butter? Oh, yes, the butter.

I had this delightfully decadent treat at the Mastro Steakhouse in Beverly Hills. (I am a very bad traveling blogger, by the way, because I never remember to take pictures. So this Weekend Cooking post will be, alas, picture-less.)

The rest of the meal was equally divine: a starter of tuna tartare that was so delicious, when I got back to the hotel, I texted Ward the ingredients in the hopes he’d figure out how to make it; a perfectly done (I asked for “rare side of medium rare” and that’s what I got) bone-in rib eye steak; yummy asparagus spears; and an amazingly rich butter cake.

(Yes, my arteries are probably clogging just from writing down my meal.)

When I go back to L.A., I’ll definitely have to make a return visit to Mastro’s. I would order exactly the same thing. Yes, it was that good.

And now I’m wishing I’d taken a picture. You know, to tide me through the months and months it will likely be before I find myself back in L.A. again.

Love reading cooking-related posts? Make sure to check out the rest of this week’s Weekend Cooking posts!

Thanksgiving: What’s On the Menu

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone! We’re holding our Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, and since I probably won’t have time to write up my Weekend Cooking post after our celebrations, I thought I’d fill you all in on our menu today.

This year’s Thanksgiving dinner will be somewhat poignant, as it will be the last big family celebration here in this house. We’ve lived here for almost fifteen years, and there have been many, many celebrations and feasts held in this house.

To start things off, I decided to put technology to good use, and began an email thread that roped in all the adults involved: my husband, my sister, my mom and my uncle.

And I’m really, really glad I did! It was such a fun way to plan out our menu, and while what we’ve ended up with isn’t traditional by any means, it’s very personalized to all of our tastes and likings.

Both my mom and my uncle are in their 70s, but they’re computer-savvy and now I can’t imagine planning another big family get-together any other way. I’m looking forward to our Christmas dinner emails, that’s for sure!

Roast Chicken vs. Roast Turkey

First, I did the roast chicken vs. roast turkey poll and, as I anticipated, the chicken came first. (Well, okay, there were actually no votes at all for the turkey. So it was more like, did you actually have to ask, Belle?)

This was a good thing, since Ward makes the absolute best roast chicken in the world: it’s tender and moist, and extremely flavourful. (He follows Jamie Oliver’s method, with a few twists of his own. So perhaps I should add that Jamie Oliver probably makes the second best roast chicken in the world.)

And For The Rest of the Meal

My sister will be bringing a ham (my mom’s specific request – there was a flurry of conversation about maple syrup and pineapple, too), and there have been some promises made of ham bones to go all around for future soup use (although I don’t know how she’ll find enough to pass around – but she’s a food genius so I’m sure she’ll fulfill her promise. Right, Dawn? Right??).

My uncle is making fried rice. With loads of veggies.

My mom is bringing vegan Chinese spring rolls, and plain noodles from the Buddhist restaurant she likes to frequent.

Other delights (contributors in brackets):

Kale stir-fried with garlic (my husband)

Roasted carrots, parsnips and butternut squash (my husband)

Mashed sweet potatoes with coconut (my sister)

Two gravies: vegan chickpea gravy and traditional chicken gravy (using all the drippings) (my husband for the vegan one, my sister for the chicken one)

Two stuffings: vegan and traditional (my sister)

And for dessert: Scotch pumpkin pie (Scotch, as in the stuff you drink). My husband’s made this every year for Thanksgiving; it is SO good. I’ll have to bug him about posting the recipe at Sensei Cooks.

(Is it glaringly obvious now that one person in our family email group isn’t actually making or bringing anything? “Yes, but …”, I say now, “I made a whole lot of suggestions. That counts, right?”)

Are you all getting hungry yet? I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s feast! And to everyone celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend, have a wonderful and lovely time with your family and friends!

Enjoyed this foodie post? For more food-related posts, make sure to check out this week’s Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads!

My Burning Frozen Meatballs Question

This Weekend Cooking post wasn’t supposed to be only about frozen meatballs.

You see, during my ten-day takeover of the kitchen while my home chef husband was away doing heavy-duty martial arts training in Okinawa (at the end of which he graded for his 6th degree black belt), I kept coming up with random questions and observations related to all-things-food.

I decided, unwisely, to file them away in my mind, thinking, “This would make a perfect Weekend Cooking post! Something along the lines of, ‘Random Kitchen Ponderings’. What fun!”

I forgot, you see, that my mind is like a bottom-less pit. I can’t remember where I put my phone down ten minutes ago, much less a random list of observations made over the course of ten days.

So, as you’ve probably figured out, as I sit down to write this post, a week after my husband’s come home, I don’t remember any of the random little nuggets that had popped into my mind during those ten days.

Except for one.

The very fact that I actually do remember this one question makes it a burning question for me. Get it? My burning frozen meatballs question!

(Well, okay, it seemed funny when I first thought of it …)

Anyway. During my ten-day kitchen takeover, I encountered three different brands of frozen, cooked meatballs.

The instructions on each box read (more or less – they don’t use the exact same words):

To cook six meatballs, microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes.

That’s fine with me. A nice little snack, right? But what if you’re wanting them for dinner?

Frozen cooked meatballs aren’t that big (they’re really not) and six of them just aren’t enough when I’m thinking about them being the protein portion of dinner. I normally like to have a few more than six. Like, ten or twelve. Maybe even fifteen, if I’m feeling particularly hungry.

imageThese meatballs might look big, but trust me, that’s a very small plate. (Photo credit plus an interesting-looking recipe for Cola-Glazed Meatballs)

So what’s the problem?

Here’s the next set of instructions:

To cook 32 meatballs, microwave on high for 3 minutes.

I’m like – whoa! How do you skip from six measly little meatballs to thirty-two? That’s a huge difference in my mind. Just because I’d like a few more than six, doesn’t mean I want to eat thirty-two of them. I mean, they’re small, but not that small.

So yes, this doesn’t  make any sense to me at all. I can’t even cut the instructions for the thirty-two meatballs in half, because that would mean microwaving sixteen meatballs for 1-1/2 minutes, but as you can see, that’s how long you’re supposed to microwave six meatballs.

I know, I know. I can always microwave six at a time. But why can’t they just tell me how long it takes to cook maybe ten or twelve or even fifteen? So much more efficient. Why is it expected that I’ll want to make that leap to thirty-two?

(As you can see, trivial things have the power to tie up several of my brain cells for extended periods of time …)

Anyway, that’s my burning frozen meatballs question.

Want to read more food-related posts? Make sure you check out this week’s Weekend Cooking, hosted each week at Beth Fish Reads – loads of links to posts with recipes, cookbook reviews, or just plain food talk.

Kitchen Mishaps, Kitchen Wisdom

It’s been a week and a day since my husband headed off for some intensive martial arts training in Okinawa, Japan.

Which means I now have a week and a day of kitchen time under my belt.

To paraphrase Oprah, what do I know to be true?

Well, mainly that I’m much better at eating than I am at cooking.

Also, I can hardly wait until Ward comes back on Monday. (Anyone know how long jetlag lasts …?)

Some Burner “Issues”

Yes, that’s right. I’ve been having burner issues.

There was, for example, the incident of the 23-minute poached eggs. It was a case of mistaken burners and yes, the big pot of cauliflower which I thought was simmering gently on low was actually bubbling merrily away on high. (Yes, obviously simmering and rapidly boiling look very similar to me.)

Poached eggThis is how MY eggs should have looked. ( Photo credit)

Poaching the eggs in my soup should have been a no-brainer; I do it all the time when I make ramen noodles.

Well, all I’ll say now is, normally it is a no-brainer, but only if you turn the right burner on high. You know, so the liquid boils.

And yes, I didn’t clue in to the whole mistaken burners thing until after my eggs were finally poached – 23 minutes later.

And About Those Really Dumb Directions …

I used to laugh at recipes that went overboard with the directions. You know, the ones that state the obvious. Like: Step 1. Turn the burner on.

I’m not laughing anymore. Obviously, recipes like that are written with me in mind.

Twice now this week, I’ve set a big pot of water on the stove only to wander back a while later to discover it’s stone cold. Because I forgot to turn the burner on.

This is not such an okay thing when you’ve got an eight year old and his two friends asking, “Is it done yet?” before you’ve even put the pot on the stove.

On The Other Hand …

When I did remember to turn the burner on, that usually meant I’d forget I was waiting for it to boil.

Luckily, I haven’t boiled a pot dry (yet).

The Attack of the Angus Beef Burgers

imageI was hoping for a result like this (Photo credit)

Ah, yes. The box of angus beef burgers I dug out of the back of the freezer. Not only did I burn them – to add insult to injury a small drop of oil hurtled itself up toward my eye as I was frying them up.

(I now know why we humans have eyelids. I am, personally, very thankful for mine.)

I’m sure it was all for the good that they ended up in the compost, though. There was no date on the box, and it did take me about five minutes, armed with a butter knife, to pry a few patties loose from the stack. In hindsight, they were probably about five years old.

Which works for fine wine. Not so much for frozen beef patties.

The Miscellaneous Mishaps List

So far this week I’ve also faced one clogged toilet, a dishwasher door that won’t close because the latch chose this week to break (I assume it’s for safety or non-flooding reasons that you can’t run a dishwasher if the door doesn’t close properly. All I know is, I was quite prepared to stand there holding the thing shut for as long as it took – but to no avail) and three burned out lights in the kitchen. One of which was one of those almost-everlasting bulbs.

(I know burned out lightbulbs don’t sound like much of a mishap, but two of them are halogen ones, and I can’t figure out how to get them out of the socket (much less how to get the new ones into the socket). It is quite the dilemma …)

Yes, you might say it’s been quite a week here in the kitchen.

The Kitchen Wisdom Part

But there’s always a silver lining to everything, right? I’ve also learned a few things this week. In no particular order of importance:

  1. Never go grocery shopping on a Saturday if you can help it.
  2. Lists are good when you go grocery shopping. Otherwise you run the risk of forgetting to get the toilet paper – twice. And you end up at the grocery store on a Saturday just to get toilet paper. (See no. 1 above.) (I’d like to also point out, it’s the perfect thing to do if you want the afternoon gone. Just like that. Simply vanished.)
  3. It is impossible to get everything all done at exactly the same time. I’m convinced now that those TV chefs (and my husband, too) fake it. There is no way they actually have the veggies done at the same time as they’re taking the meat off the stovetop and all of this right when the grains are perfectly done. It is impossible. I’m sure a microwave (or an army of sous chefs) must be involved at some point of the proceedings.
  4. For some reason, my husband has seen fit to hide the salt that goes in the salt mill.
  5. Regular salt does not work well in a salt mill.
  6. It is really silly not to have a regular salt shaker that uses regular boxed salt.

Numbers 4-6 were very important nuggets of wisdom for me: if tonight I fry up, as planned, the piece of steak that’s sitting in my fridge, that will mean a total of three steak dinners this week.

If you had a vegan husband who does all the cooking, and he goes away for ten days, you might do the same yourself, you know …

Want to see more food-related posts? Check out this week’s Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads for more!