Tag Archive: Cooking


Did anyone watch this past season of FNS?  Did you care if you did? I did watch it but I did something I rarely ever done in the past; I DVRed it to watch later. I opted to watch Game of Thrones and then Masterpiece Mystery instead.  Yes, British accents often trump all, it’s true.

The format of the show as a bit different this year; 3 current FN stars (heh) would act as mentors to 5 home cooks each and send them all the way to the top of the FN food chain (see what I did there?) and to their own show. We had Giada DeLaurentis, Alton Brown and Bobby Flay. So, big head, big attitude and big ego. Nice combo!  Don’t look at me that way! You know Giada has a giant head for that wee little body she’s toting around.   

At first, things seemed promising but soon, it felt like they all hated their teams, and each other. If you had forced me to take a guess at the beginning of the season as to top 3 standing; I actually would have said Justin, Ippy and Yvan. Instead, I was almost right…we got Justin and Yvan, but Michelle snuck in there. Michelle is the Guy Fieri look alike in case you weren’t sure. We also got Martie at the end there because her Southern charm and chutzpah won over Bob and Susie, who seemed softer and gentler this season.   And you may be saying to me “But Lori, what about Eric? He has had chef’ing skills.” and I will answer with “Firstly, who said you could use my name, and secondly…yes. But that doesn’t necessarily make for good tv.” His chef’ed his ass right on out of there actually. I admire him for sticking to his culinary guns. But those guns could not stand up Justin’s lip balm and Martita’s Latin spice.

And let’s go there..if that woman “Un Beso” ed me one more time, I was going to punch her. Must we ALWAYS have the spicy Latina?  If I ever get on one of these shows, I am going to be the spicy Jewess. See if I’m not! There was a soul food guy, or should I say… a guy they tried to put in the soul food category. There was the type A overly competitive one…Nikki, who I never quite warmed to. Actually, I wanted her to go home the first week. The fact she kept hanging on was commendable and annoying.  Emily was retro girl and I liked her, it was hard not to.  I like a bit of quirk.

In the end though, it was Alton’s love child, Justin that took the prize. And I think, deservedly so.  People often say that they think outside the box, but they seldom do it.  Justin actually does. He would do things and I would think “how cool!” It wasn’t how I cook or I how wanted to cook, but it is how I would want to be entertained by a cooking show. In the end, I can cook and I do get a lot of my ideas online and from books, sometimes from shows. But mostly I watch these shows to be entertained by the person doing the cooking.  I don’t watch Bobby Flay because for all of his culinary prowess, I don’t enjoy watching him.  Ok, I want to punch him in the face, but that’s just me I’m sure.

I am not entirely sure how I feel about this new format. I don’t mind it as much now as I did at the beginning and now I know that Alton is a big ole crybaby.  He teared up at the end there, go watch it. And I suspect he was the biggest surprise for me, how invested he actually got. I saw the most commitment to a team from him actually, and while I am not a fan (of him, I have watched his show), I give him props for actually giving a shit.

So, do I still care? I guess because I posted about it, I do. And I still actually want to be on this show so I must care. I think the shake up in format was probably because people were caring less and maybe this shook things up. I still really like the idea that I could be sitting here typing this one day and the next, have my own show. In theory.  I was asked recently about Master Chef and the difference there is that I want to cook on tv, I admit it. I’d like to be tv personality (I think. I could hate it). I don’t need to be a master chef, I don’t necessarily need a cookbook either…and honestly. Joe Bastianich scares me…even while he is a little sexy. Shut it…he is.  Also, I think MC is HARD. Like really hard. I think it probably is harder than FNS and that kind of scares me. I like being an armchair judge for that one.

Next post up…food trucks I have known.

Cooking like the Rock Star you are!

It should come as no surprise to some of you that I have a bit of a girl chef crush on Anne Burrell.  Her passion for food and cooking is not only adorable, it’s completely infectious. I almost wish I was a bad cook so I could go on Worst Cooks in America with the hope of ending up on her team.  Her tough love approach with her charges is no nonsense but kind of nurturing at the same time. But if you don’t respect the ingredients…watch it!

For Christmas, a friend who loves and knows me, gave me Anne’s cookbook called Cook like a Rock Star. Well ok Anne, I think I’m up for the challenge…when I have time anyway. I’ve managed to read the book and go through the recipes, but haven’t had a chance to make anything. I’m a busy lass.  Or, alternatively, lazy. You can decide…but keep it to yourself. I prefer to think I’m just uber busy leading my very glamorous life. So, this review is about layout and form moreso than the recipes. But let’s face it…they are not going to suck.

This book is gorgeous. It could be a recipe in and of itself, it looks that yummy.  It’s set up in a farily logical order of little nibbles (Piccoolini), Firsts, Pasta, Seconds, Sides and Desserts but with a little bit of an Anne twist. SIdes are known as the sparkle factor. And honestly…when you eat out, don’t sides play a big role in the decision making process? Or, is that just me? Anyone?

Moving along…

Here is thing that absolutely sends me over the moon about the book; at the beginning of the recipe, Anne lists what the Mise en Place should be.  For those that don’t know (and why don’t you?) mise en place is the organizing of ingredients in a professional kitchen. But you can do it at home and you should. It makes life a lot easier. I do this as a general rule, no matter what I’m making.  I also set up my ingredients before I start to actually cook. With most recipes/cookbooks, you have to go through the recipe and pull out your mise en place. Anne does it for you. That’s a big honking deal in my book. And it’s something that makes the book user friendly. See? Anne wants you to succeed.  She’s setting you up for cooking success.

She also introduces each recipe and her history with it. I like that. It’s kind of warm and friendly.  It also includes explanations on techniques like braising and browning, trusssing, pasta cooking, etc.  I like that too. I like learning more about techniques and learning new ones. Even if I don’t think I’ll ever do it (I am not sure I’ll ever need to truss anything but I guess you never know) but I like having the knowledge.

Here is my one problem with book; it makes me hungry. Seriously, everything in it is so appetizing to me and all of the photos look so good that it took me ages to read because it would invariably make me hungry.  And then my eyes would start to glaze over with throughts of zucchini and parm fritters, bucatini, spice roasted cauliflower and pear tarte tatin. For someone like me who thinks about food almost constantly (no, I really do…it makes Weight Watchers a challenge sometimes), getting through a book where almost everything appeals to me is a challenge. But, that’s a good problem to have.

So, there is some definite worth and fun and love of food to be had from Anne’s book. I highly recommend it!

 

Why I Cook

There are lots of reasons to cook. I cook because I’m hungry, because someone else is hungry, because it’s there or because no one else will if I don’t.  There are the logical reasons to cook; it’s how we get nutrition, it’s how I can control what goes into my body (and my people’s bodies….I wish for my people to also eat good food), because on Weight Watchers, it’s easier to make your own food so you don’t get stuck eating diet frozen meals every night. That’s a “HELLO! to sodium right there if I ever saw one.

But I don’t cook because I have in the traditional sense. I love to cook and bake and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it and out of watching people eat and enjoy what I make. But I’ve noticed lately, since around the holidays that I actually kind of, well, need to cook.

The holidays were tough this year, for a multitude of reasons. And they never really got any better by the stunning denouement of Christmas then they had been when December reared it’s ugly head.  In order to deal with it all emotionally, I became a one woman baking machine. Anything that crossed my mind to bake, I baked it. Cookies, peppermint part, cheesecake, raspberry squares. Christmas Day saw a ham dinner (I am the worst Jew ever, I know…but I like pork) that was a little silly, but delicious, for the three people it fed.   It was a lot of food and a lot of baked goods.  And so, I thought.  I thought about what possessed me to cook/bake like it was going out of style.

The beginning of January came and it hit me, like a ton of bricks…it was about control!

The one time during the holidays when I felt in control of the situation, my emotions, anything was when I was cooking or baking something.  For someone like me who has a bit of a thing about control anyway, you’d think I would have thought of this sooner.  Well, sometimes distance makes your head work better.   When I’m cooking, I am totally focused on it. I lose myself in the cooking but I feel in total control at the same time. I feel confident about what I’m doing and that it’s going to turn out, for the most part, fine.  I know that if I follow the steps of the recipe, then things are going to turn out. And even if I’m just experimenting, I’m in control.

I know people who don’t cook who don’t get this.  For them, the kitchen and it’s mysteries don’t make sense. To me, they do. It’s probably the one place in my life where things make the most sense. I know certain ingredients do certain things, have certain tastes and will give me certain results.  It’s comforting to me.   I feel at home among my tools and appliances. And I can tell when something is not in it’s right place.

So, I cook because I love it but I also cook because sometimes, I just need it.  I need to focus that strongly on something so that another part of my brain can either rest or work on other problems.  There are plenty of nights when I don’t cook but then I start to miss it and have to do something. Today, I broke in my new stand mixer and made brownies.  That was a labor of love for me. But, I also noticed that I worked off some frustrations I was feeling in another part of my life.

And seriously people, these brownies are good!

 

Food, glorious food!

Because, it is. Glorious, that is.  But lately I’ve come to think about food a bit differently. I decided that I really did need to drop some weight. There is no burning need to be a size 2 because that’s not my body type and frankly, I don’t think I have that kind of willpower. But no, I was starting to get a bit sluggish and wasn’t feeling all that hot and so I decided that my body would just feel better if I dropped some weight.  Just because I’m in my 40s, I don’t have to feel like I’m in my 70s.

So, I decided to do Weight Watchers. This came after a lot of research and thought and asking people I know and trust who are on it or have done it what they thought of it.  WW people have an almost fanatical devotion to the program and I do not mind saying that it threw me off a bit.  Groucho Marx said he would never belong to any club that would have him as a member and I kind of felt that way about WW. I’m fairly circumspect about what I weigh and I didn’t want it rah rah’ed all over the room. Once I was assured that this did not happen, I felt better.  And I was concerned about cost but it’s through work and that makes it all the more affordable. So, there were my two big issues blown to Hell.  And I did think I was going to be deprived of things I like. I’ve done diety type things in the past, Atkins being the big one. It wasn’t good long term and I put all of that weight back on when I went back to work after being laid off. Besides, life is too short to not eat a nice crusty baguette.  Bread, pasta, potatoes, all food of the Gods and I wasn’t prepared to live life without them. And the Atkins cereal sucked all kinds of serious ass.

But as you know, I love to cook and bake and I love to eat. I was worried that this was going to be curtailed by WW. Oddly, it hasn’t been. What WW has taught me is portion control. I bought a food scale and I am not afraid to use it. And yes, I did actually weigh a boob and no, I am not going to tell you what it weighed but I like to think that it explains a lot. It’s my fantasy, let me have it.  And I haven’t actually cooked less, I’ve been cooking more because frankly, they have some good recipes. And  I don’t deprive myself. Sometimes you gotta plan and sometimes you just gotta eat or have that cocktail and not worry about it. I think life is too short to not enjoy yourself when you can. If this was something that was going to make me think food was the enemy, it wasn’t going to work.  People thinking food is the enemy is the problem.  Food is wonderful. Especially cake.  Cake is beyond wonderful. Shit, I want cake now and we have none. Damn.

Where was I? Oh yeah…it’s amazing what you think is a portion and what really is a portion.  In some cases, it’s better than you expect and in others, you’re all “Seriously?  I can eat double that amount of cereal. Really?” and then I take a little extra because shit, it’s cereal. I love cereal. It’s one of my comfort foods.

And so far, it’s not a drag and I can do it easily enough and I don’t feel like I can’t eat what I want. I just need to eat less of it and exercise  (Feh…now this IS something I don’t like to do). And sometimes, I eat more. Whatever. I have Activity and weekly points. I can do that.  Now, let’s be honest..it’s me and that means I get distracted by shiny, pink objects a lot. In 6 months I could be over this but this is actually the one thing that seems to be consistently working at taking the weight off. Now, I just gotta stick with it. Again..me…distracted…shiny things.  I don’t even mind tracking. I’m a born list maker so to me, it’s like making a list.

I do have some blog guilt though. I go away for a long time and I come back and talk about diets. Blech. It’s more to share what’s going on but it is not going to become the focus of this blog. I shall be back to posting recipes, herb failures and smack talk about  Food tv shows very shortly.  And there is new season of Top Chef! Whhhooooo!

But yes, I do feel better and I do feel like I have more energy and I am still enjoying food and eating. I’m also craving fried chicken (my numero uno favorite/comfort food) so I need to get me some of that!

 

As we get into the season for nesting and stick to your ribs meals you start to hear the words “comfort food” bandied about quite a bit by the tv personalities on your favorite cooking show.   The food become a bit heavier as the days become a bit shorter and instead of thinking of about having a nice salad or piece of grilled chicken, your thoughts start to turn to stews and soups and heavier foodstuffs. Things that remind you of home, hearth and being a kid again.

Think about it. When you have a grilled cheese and tomato soup (Campbell’s please!) you know you are thinking about being a kid and having that as your weekend lunch or after school snack. Although, more often than not, my after school snack was cereal. No matter the season.  As a matter of fact, my after WORK snack is often cereal as well.  And yes, cereal does comfort me but it’s pretty easy. I don’t have to cook it. It takes maybe 5 minutes to prepare and it’s usually gone within 10 minutes.

So, if you make it yourself…is it still comfort food? Yes and no, I think. I do most of the cooking in my house…wait, who am I fooling? I do pretty much ALL of the cooking in my house. So, while I am gratified and often satiated by my food, I am not often comforted by it. Except for mashed potatoes.  I am always comforted by those, even if I make them myself.  I am comforted knowing that others are enjoying my food. But for me, true comfort food should be something made for you, by someone you love or who loves you, because they  love you.  Cooks of the world know that sometimes it’s just really nice to have a home cooked meal that someone else has cooked for you.

My mom hates to cook. And it’s a good thing I eventually grew to love it or else we’d all starve.  She makes a couple of things really well…the Thanksgiving turkey (although I help now) and meatloaf. And she can poach an egg like nobody’s business. When I am sick, all I want is  my mom to poach me an egg or two. It immediately makes me feel better.  But really, it doesn’t count if someone else poaches it. Like the inevitable braids I have to put my hair when I’m sick, poached eggs belong to mom and I have to have them when I’m sick.

And now we get to meatloaf. It’s important to note that I don’t actually much like meatloaf. Historically, the loaf of meat can be made of any kind of ground meat. Ground beef is the meat most commonly used but you can use pork, veal, lamb…etc. And this American staple actually came to us by way of Europe and who knows, maybe even those industrious and land  grabbing Romans!  At one point, veal was more commonly used as it was cheaper but I think that’s all meat under the broiler at this point.  Mom used ground beef exlusively. So, I don’t like meatloaf. I never make it, I never order it anymore and I never think “Hey, let’s get meatloaf”. Unless, it’s mom’s meatloaf. It is the ONLY meatloaf I like and the only meatloaf I eat. Someone once tried to make her and I one and we had one bite, tasted the dryness and ordered out. Man, was he MAD! But, his meatloaf sucked.  So, if I  make myself meatloaf, it holds no allure. If my mom makes meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans (from a can. Shut it! They have to be from a can), I immediately get the whole food that feeds your body and soul. Because it reminds me of being a kid and one of the few things my made that she knew she killed on. It makes me think of sitting at the table with her when I was little, just talking and having dinner. Discussing the day.  That’s comforting.

So tonight when I go home…because it’s been a tough year and I am a good girl, I get the comfort of my mom’s meatloaf.

What is your comfort food and is it as comforting for you when you make it, versus someone else making it for you?

Hiya,

I did take the summer off. It was hot and aside from my baking class, I didn’t really do much cooking.  Or baking. Or moving. I hate the heat. I like fall and winter. That’s the stuff of pies and stews and soups and pies. Did I mention pies?

The baking class ended well and as much as I would like to take Baking 2 with my classmates and my teacher, it is not to be. At least not for now. Next month, I eat and drink my way through the Germany. I am coming for you Riesling,  beware wine growers of The Rhine!

A couple of weekends ago I decided I wanted a pie, an apple pie. From scratch. Because I’m like that. Why walk when you can run? Why start small, with a small tart? Go for the pie! It’s like when I decided to make Coq au Vin. Why? Why not? I got a hair across and decided I had to make it.  I am not a fan of my Coq  Au Vin. I may try it again but I couldn’t get past purple chicken. Damned red wine!  I saw a recipe recently where it was made with Riesling and I wish I could remember where because I love Riesling (Germany, once again, you’ve been warned).

Anyhoodles…I made a pie. From scratch. Proof! Here is the dough.

Dough!

See! Dough! On my kitchen table! That’s my floor!  And it looks right! It was a bit drier than I think it should have been but it stayed together and it rolled out. I like doing pie dough. I actually find it, and kneading bread fairly cathartic.  So, this pie was made with granny smith apples, which I pre-cooked (handy tip…when you pre-cook, you will need 2-3 more apples…they cook down kids, at least I have gleaned this from every recipe I looked at) with some lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice (killer by the way!), brown sugar and white regular sugar. I like the bite of ye olde granny smith apple. I love apples but am not big on Macintosh or Red Delicious. I do prefer an apple with a bit of bite.   I got a bit lazy and did a crumb crust of flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and BUTTER! Pretty freaking delish. It’s the same topping I use for cobbler.

And lo…a pie!

Looks good, no?! Yes! And it was damned tasty, I am not even kidding.  Even I was impressed with it and I am tough on myself.

So, yes…we ate dessert first. But I did follow up this pie with a lemon rosemary roast chicken…which aside from the fact I didn’t like the chicken itself (forget you Tyson…holding out for Perdue or just not you next time), was very tasty. I have more proof!

roast chicken

It still had a bit longer to cook but I grabbed a photo of it before I put it back in for a bit, covered. See that bottom bit? That took forever to cook. Perdue doesn’t do me like that, why you want to do that to me Tyson?! I was really warm and hungry and tired by then so I wasn’t happy.

Last night I made the lasagna that ate Cleveland…no pics. Later in the week, Quinoa pilaf and maybe something with shrimp. I was watching the chick who won the Next FoodNetwork Star (Aarti Sequeira ) and she made this…it sounded really good. I am doing my pilaf with some different things so we’ll see how it turns out. And I may use Panko on the shrimp. I love Panko. I would marry it if I could.

So…what are you all eating? And cooking?

Your relationship with food

Think about it…you have a relationship with food.  Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent…it exists.   So, do me a favor and stop for a minute and think about this relationship.  Do sumptuous spreads spring to mind? Tables laden with your favorite comfort foods? A Weight Watchers brownie? A treadmill?  A lot of people think of food merely as fuel and not as an expression or extension of themselves and their personality.  Does the food you like to eat or cook say something about you? If you prefer foie gras to french fries, does this mean you are less of a person, or that you’re a jerk or that you just like an expensive piece of meat?

Does your dinner say something about you? My dinner today was hummus and pita along with Kashi asiago cheese crackers and garlic and herb spread. I like snacking.  I am pretty sure this means my relationship with food has a short attention span.  Or, that I was a bit lazy and didn’t feel like cooking.  And that I like to snack.

I have always run a bit curvy and I’ve always had a bit of  belly. I suspect I would have made a lovely courtesan. I would have lounged around all day, eating chocolates and calling for lovely nibbles to be brought to me while my lover of the moment brought me sparkling baubles. I wouldn’t have felt it necessary to get on the treadmill, or run or take yoga.  The truth is that I hate running and the treadmill but I like yoga a lot.   Kate Moss has recently said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels and for her, that might true and that’s sad. But I have never wanted to be thin so much that I was ready to give up the foods I love, especially on a permanent basis.  I believe in all things in moderation (except shoes, the more the merrier there). But I also know that every so often, I am going to eat too much. I just think life is too short and that food is too good to beat myself up about it.

I like to eat. I like going out with friends and eating a good deal. I love seeing what they get and how they enjoy it. I love talking about food and I love cooking it.   I find a perfectly fried piece of chicken just as wonderful as a seared piece of pork belly.  My relationship with food, my food personality if you will, invites all comers.  I just want something to good to eat. Sometimes it’s a salad, sometimes it’s fruit, sometimes it’s a deep fried twinkie. Sue me…I think “fried” should be a food group.  And I love to experiment. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that being in the kitchen is fun.  It helps me decompress after a bad day, it helps me focus. Over the last year, there has been nothing to help my focus so much as cooking.   It brings me joy. The day I was able to make an omelet a la Julia Child (complete with the pan flip), was a big freaking deal for me.  And when I make something new that people like, it pleases me to no end.

I am not looking to change my life through food, I am not looking to lose weight, or gain weight. I am not looking for that EPIPHANY that will all of a sudden make my world brighter and better.  I like my day job (although stressful lately) and I don’t want to change careers. I am just looking to gain knowledge about food and ingredients and cooking.

In short..my happy bloggers…I am just looking to…wait for it…take a taste.