June 30, 2010

Cooking is Fun-damental

Yon Saucy Wench's comment to my last post, to the effect that "what's key with cooking... is to play around, have fun, and figure out what works for you" flicked on a light bulb for me. It made me realize that, though I have had enjoyable cooking experiences, the words 'cooking' and 'fun' aren't an immediate association in my brain. I know plenty of people who love to cook, but I've never been one of them. The world - heck, the television - is full of people who are passionate about food, about cooking, but I've never been one of them, either.

And yet I love to eat, and I love good food. So why should I be less than enthusiastic about cooking? Where did that come from? Full navel-gazing after the jump. :)

June 27, 2010

Culinary School - Your Way

This newfound interest of mine, in food and cooking, has brought me up short on a couple of occasions. The more I learn, it seems, the more I realize I have to learn. I thought I'd learned most of the basics from my mom, my friends, and in school, but with the preponderance of cooking shows and websites, I realize that, although I know a good deal more than some people, I know a good deal less than I'd like to.

This video, for instance - Gordon Ramsay making perfect scrambled eggs - was an absolute revelation.

I've made those scrambled eggs on several occasions now, for different people, and they get rave reviews every time. Who knew it could be so easy? I'd been doing pretty much everything wrong up to that point: blending the eggs, adding milk and salt and pepper and cheese and goodness knows what else before cooking, using too-high heat, cooking the eggs too fast... you name it, I did it wrong. And I was never happy with my scrammelacks, as my dad calls them.

I have good quality knives, cutting boards, appliances, and cookware, but without the knowledge and skills to back it up, it all feels like so much window dressing, akin to having good quality skis and poles and boots and a matching ski suit, before you've even taken a lesson: unnecessary and possibly a bit pretentious. I don't want to be a professional chef, but I sure would like to know what they know, cook like they cook, with confidence and creativity. I don't have the time, the money, the passion, to go to culinary school, so some other strategy is clearly required.

Reading cooking and foodie blogs has taught me a bit. (Serious Eats has a series of how-to's and knife skills that have helped.) Cooking shows help, too, though some of them are more focused on what not to do than what to do. The How to Cook Everything app for iPhone is also wicked cool.

But the most helpful thing I've found thus far? Rouxbe.com Online Video Cooking School. I found a link and a video on one of the blogs I read included a reference and a link to Rouxbe.com's lesson on how to heat a stainless steel pan properly to ensure the food doesn't stick, and a commenter mentioned that the whole (subscription only) site is amazing useful and worth the subscription fee, so I had a look. And then I signed up for the 14-day free trial. And I've been absorbing the lessons - on eggs, on bread, on equipment - all weekend. The bread one was so inspiring I actually bought yeast and bread flour today, with the intention of trying my hand at baguettes. There are more than 60 lessons, plus practice recipes and video recipes. The videos are compatible with iPad and iPhone, which is nice for those of us who commute from time to time.

I'm quite impressed, and considering buying a subscription when my free trial expires in 12 more days.

June 23, 2010

It's here! And it fits. Phew.

Freezer BeforeHere's how my freezer looked last night, after I did a hasty review and rearrangement of the contents ("Coffee? What's this doing in here? Rossana would be horrified! Oh, man, did you know we had all these burgers? Good thing we have all these burger buns, too! And wow, we need to eat this shrimp at some point..."). This was necessary because I got an email advising that my Freezer Pack was available for pickup. I confess to being concerned about the amount of available space, because that there doesn't look like much, and the door was already pretty full. Still, deep breath.

30 lbs of beefSo today after work, I went to pick it up. And it's a doddle! The farmer asked me if I needed any help getting this to my car, but heck, I swing heavier weights than this around at the gym. (Well, OK, I don't swing the 40 lb kettlebell. But I do lift it!) And looking at this, I was pretty sure it would fit in the available freezer space.

Roasts and SteaksGot it home, and broke into the package, and here's what I got:
  • 2 x Top Round Roast
  • 1 x Bottom Round Roast
  • 1 x Chuck Steak Roast
  • 1 x Sirloin Tip Steak Roast
  • 2 x T-bone Steaks
  • 2 x Rib Steaks
  • 1 x Sirloin Steak
  • 2 x Stewing Beef (approx 1 lb)
  • 9 x Ground Beef (approx 1 lb)
Stewing beef and ground beefI weighed it all and wrote the weights on, because that's the only thing the butcher didn't think to do (and wrote it in both pounds and kilos, because I'm Canadian and that's how we roll), and took photos, and then stuffed it all into the freezer. And it all fit, as you see.

Freezer AfterYay! We have a fair amount of beef (and other things) that needs to be eaten before we get into these butcher-paper packages. I'm told - by someone whose brother used to raise beef cows - that organic beef has a stronger taste than commercially-produced beef. I'll be sure to let you know.

Where's the Beef?

My beef is ready. The 30 pounds of roasts, steaks, cubed, and minced beef I ordered in April is now ready for pickup. I have to pick it up today, after work.

I let my beloved talk me out of buying a chest freezer to accommodate this purchase. I hope I don't live to regret that. We haven't eaten nearly as much of our fridge contents as we intended, over the last couple of months. The weather has been crappy, so grillin' hasn't been on the agenda pretty much at all, which hasn't helped. There is space in the freezer, yes there is. I'm just not sure there's 30 lbs of space.

Time to start planning some more meals. Must call the beloved, tell him to defrost some chicken for tonight. Tandoori chicken on the grill. Yummeroo.

June 1, 2010


Isn't it crazy, the things that prompt us to do other things? Here's today's for-instance: last night we had chili for dinner (we're eating from our freezer! Yay for us!), and I made Baking Powder Biscuits to go along with them. The baking powder lives in the "baking supplies" basket in the pantry, and to get to it I had to dig down to the bottom, past vanilla extract (of which I have a lot, for someone who doesn't bake) and food colouring (ditto) and two boxes of paper baking cups, of muffin/cupcake size, and one box of the mini size. What I thought I was going to do with the latter, I have no idea, and I'm almost ashamed to admit that I'm not quite sure how long I've had any of them.

"I should use these," I said to my Beloved. "Do you like muffins?" (Fifteen years together and I still don't know this. Every day is a fresh adventure.)

"I like savoury ones. Cheese, cornbread, that kind of thing," he said, to my complete unsurprise.

So I think I'm going to try these on him, but I was wondering if you had any savoury muffin recipes to share. Especially a good one for cornbread muffins, 'cos we still have another container of chili in the freezer.