:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

endeavorous adventures in cooking. (Amy)

I decided not to do a whole bunch of updates on my progress from last week's goals. Mainly because I ate stuff in mass quantities that would make Jackie Warner (and all those personal trainer guys from Biggest Loser as well as all other health nuts, worldwide) recoil from me in horror. And I have no intentions of eating healthy much next week either. And I'm not sure if I'll work out or not. And I've decided I'm okay with that, that I will own it, and set my sights on 2011 and a time of year when nothing fancy or big is happening to off-track me (I'm so easily off-trackable).

Also, I've been on the news blogs at lunch time this week. I've tried to stick to the Living and Entertainment pages,
but it's hard for me not to engage my schadenfreude and have a look-see at what Tiny Tim's evil twins (the ones born with misshapen hearts, who all grew up into Scrooge, Part 2) have to say about people down on their luck. (I hope for their sakes the ghosts of Marley and all the Christmases get to them before it's too late.)

So that's that.

Now! On to funner stuff!

Let's talk cooking, sh
all we?

1-I'm not
good at it. Example: once, I had a bridal shower/bachelorette party at my house wherein garlic buns were brought in from a restaurant. These buns came via a large pizza cardboard box, and needed to be warmed up before consumption. So, naturally, I turned my gas oven up to 350 degrees (because I think 350 is such a nice, round number, don't you? And it just feels like a good warming up food number, yes?) (I now know it's actually a good number to cook, say, salmonella-prone poultry at). And I popped those garlic buns right into my oven. In their nice large, cardboard box.

Fortunately, people who understand things like chemistry and physics and laws of nature were in attendance at this shindig. These people all sniffed the air and went, "W
hat's burning?!" And when one of them saw smoke coming out of my oven, that nice person promptly informed me cardboard is not a smart thing to put into an oven, and certainly not at 350 degrees which is the temperature you cook a chicken at. They let me know ovens are hot places, and other than the rare parchment paper product created expressly for use in hot places, most paper products of any thickness generally like to burn and will occasionally cause major home disasters. And so thank goodness there was an amateur fire marshall at that party, huh!

2-Also, I once put a pot of water on the s
tove to hard boil some eggs. Ten hours later, I sniffed the air and said to myself: "What's burning?!" That's how I found out that if you leave a pot of boiling water unattended, eventually the water all boils away and then your pot begins to cook itself alive. And then you have to place this pot (after cooling, of course, and while studiously avoiding your husband's many "You are crazy. You are SOOOOO crazy!" looks for several hours) into the garbage.

3-I love watching cooking shows. I like to watch how they cut stuff up. All kinds of stuff! Just chop chop chop chop, voila! Superbly cut little pieces of onions, nicely diced tomatoes, cute little cubes of cucumber. It's magic.

I also like to watch them mix all the ingredients together. They're always so very organized, and everything's in these sweet little Crate N Barrel type container
s, all ready to go. If they need 2 teaspoons of salt, they have it--right here in this super cute itsy bitsy little glass bowl someone got ready for them during pre-production time. And then they throw in some paprika in another pre-prepared cute little bowl, and some oregano, and some garlic powder, and some chives. All in cute cute CUTE little bowls.

Then they put their concoction into a really swank oven, cut to a commercial, and voila! When you come back 2 minutes, 2 seconds later? Dinner's served! And so fancy. They always cut stuff up just right and present it so nicely.

And their kitchen is still gleaming! How do t
hey do it! How do they do it. I would like a producer from Paula Deen or Rachel Ray to come to my house every night and set up my kitchen for our daily dinner production. And then clean it all up. That would be what I will spend $50 million of my $900 million powerball lottery winnings on. (I don't play the lottery.)

4-Despite my proclivity towards burning down houses while boiling water....and cardboard, I can cook. IF I have a recipe in front of me. Here's th
e thing, though: for my cooking endeavor to turn out semi-edible? The recipe itself has to be semi-edible. I always know I got a good recipe when Melissa eats everything on her plate. (Once, I made this whole wheat pasta/spinach/parmesan cheese/pine nuts/olives heart healthy recipe from a magazine. She took one look at it, poked it a little, and went, "Ewwwww! Mommy! No LIKE it. No LIKE it. No EAT it.") (But if I put a candy cane on this kid's plate for dinner, she'd have that thing devoured in 3.2 seconds and would immediately inquire about seconds.)

Now Charles, (I was calling him C here, but then realized in Patresa's comment area last time I accidentally wrote his whole name, which made me stop and think. And what I thought was: eh, what the heck)
Charles can COOK. Like, he can take a really (really, really) baaaad recipe, look at it, and go: "Oh, I know what this needs. It needs some of THIS, some of THAT, and a little pinch of paprika. There! Good to go!" And you swear you're eating something Emeril Lagassi himself cooked up for you personally.

I think people who can do that are magic, too. (This comment would also be directed at YOU, Tawni, Ms. I-Win-Creative-Cooking-Contests.)

5-I actually enjoy looking up recipes. I like to loo
k for the healthiest and cheapest stuff I can find, in recipe form I think looks semi-edible. And then, if I haven't had a really long and poopy day at work, and I don't have a headache and/or my head cold is bearable, I actually enjoy the process of cooking. I like getting all the stuff out and ready to go (minus the teeny fancy bowls, sadly). I like all the chopping (without the flare or the magical results, sadly). And I like throwing it all together, and then tasting the results.

Some times this goes well, and I have to give myself a little pat on the back and say, "Amy! Look at you, Ms. Kitchen Bad Ass! You can COOK, girlfriend!" And other times this does not go well, and I have to wonder about the taste buds of whoever
decided mixing THOSE particular ingredients was a good idea, and I have to wonder about where my head was at when I looked at that recipe and thought: "Yeah! Mixing those particular ingredients is a good idea!"

6-For this entry, I actually meant to cook one meal each night this past week, photograph it, and then display each meal here
for scrutiny.

....Except Wednesday nasty weather came through AND I ended up going out for an impromptu holiday gathering with my most favorite co-workers....so I brought home take-out Mexican instead (%$#%$%#) (that was Jackie Warner grumbling in a frowny voice). ....And Thursday
I had a head cold and just threw some spaghetti in a pot and then tossed a jar of marinara sauce on it (#@$!%$#@!) (that was Jackie grumbling and gnashing her teeth at the same time). And tonight I made turkey burger sliders which were actually not bad....but I served them with tater tots AND my head cold forgot to take a picture of them (%$^&%$##) (that was my head cold, who's simply not fun to hang out OR cook with).

So I threw in some pictures from several
weeks ago, when I thought we were going to go on a 4 days off/3 days on meatless adventure as a family (it's become more like a once in a while meatless adventure...though we don't do red meat anymore). Several of these came about because I was researching and cooking up a whole bunch of vegetarian entrees for Charles and Melissa to poke at and go "No LIKE it, Mommy. No EAT it."

Here they are (I have the recipes to s
ome still--if you want to try any out at home for yourself, I will post them in the comment section):

I actually forget what this dish was called. It was some type of whole wheat pasta with a whole bunch of cut up vegetables (I think I used tomatoes, zucchini, and squash). And then I was supposed to add lemon juice + dill sauce. I looked at 5 different grocery stores for this mysterious "dill sauce" and never found it. So I think there was a separate recipe for "dill sauce," but the recipe maker forgot to clue recipe readers in on how to make that. I put low fat alfredo sauce in it instead. It was fairly edible, and we ate it a few more times. (But minus the oil + pesto bread. SOMEbody who will not be named but has a beginning initial of a first name that rhymes with "bee" refuses to eat basil. Now, when I see basil-ful recipes, I bypass.) (I bet Mario Batalli never has this issue.)

This was one of my more successful vegetarian endeavors. Cheesy mac-n-cheese with fake burger crumbles. It was pretty good, an
d Melissa agreed with me by gobbling it up. But it was just too much cheese, and I'm trying to cut down on the cheese (theoretically) (and not in any kind of fully committed way until 2010 is over.)

This was a spinach quiche I made several weeks ago. Also not bad. Tips about cooking things with the term "quiche" in them: (1) put pie pan on a cookie sheet prior to entry into boiling oven, as goopy eggs will try to spill everywhere and much cursing will ensue while one attempts to avoid major skin burnage, and (2) buy a really (I stress REALLY) deep pie pan, as goopy eggs will try to spill everywhere and much cursing will ensue while one attempts not to spill goopy eggs everywhere while avoiding major skin burnage.

I made this little ditty Monday night. It's called Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Chicken . I liked it, Charles liked it, and Melissa ate everything but the broccoli. I give this a 1.5 out of 2 thumbs up for that (if somebody ever gives me a recipe with broccoli in it that she does eat, I will give that recipe a 4.0 out of 2 thumbs up AND I will include them in my last will and testament).


Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Amy, I once started a fire in my microwave "cooking" popcorn. Good thing it was the apartment's microwave!

Also, I think your "Cheesy mac-n-cheese with fake burger crumbles" looks delicious. I will take one helping (or 2) please!

Nice going Chef Amy. Rachel and Paul and all the Iron Chefs.... eat your hearts and appetites out! :)

patresa said...

oh, miss melissa, you are a cute little bug. i love her hair so much!

your cooking tales make me laugh! i'm sorry you burned your buns. (and your pot)

and good on you for owning your off-the-wagon week (past and future). i bet jackie has a secret weakness for grocery store sugar cookies--the kind with colored sugars sprinkled on top. regardless, january is a perfectly respectable time to renew commitments (because the cookies will be gone, hopefully).

also: charles won't eat BASIL? oh goodness heart.

i would like some of that pesto bread. and i love broccoli, so i will eat the leftovers. yum!

Katie said...

Hi Amy! So, I'm sitting at the Kansas City airport listening to Axel's running-stream-of-conscienceness commentary (I have a tissue, here, I wonder what that was for. Do you think they would give me a pat-down if I asked for one?) and thought, I need to check on those COFFEE girls before I depart American soil. And then I found your totally awesome post! I absolutely understand the cooking angst. I love, LOVE to cook, but only when the conditions are right and the mood is upon me, and I only have 2 mouths to feed! Well, three if you count my overeater status. Anyway, I loved your post, and am happy to know that you also own your pattern, and that together we will kick ass when all of this holiday business is over. And now I must tend to my man-child in preparation for travel. As I type he is saying to himself, I'm so disappointed that now they have a full body scanner and they don't use it. I wonder what would happen if I complained. Clearly you see my attention is required. Anyway, merry merry!!

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Of course... I did mean Paula Dean, who by the way is quite charming. I apologize for leaving off the "a" on Paula. FYI, Miss Paula once struggled with any public appearances due to lots of anxiety. I think she rocks for being who she is today!

BUT, you still are Chef Amy #1, and I think it's awesome how you've detailed this.

Also, your stories of Melissa and Charles make me smile. I also wish I could be the person who concocts such a meal with broccoli that she eats this, but I disclose very clearly right now that it is very unlikely to be me so please do not hold any breaths on this. I bet you had an inkling of an idea of this..... :)

Happy holidays COFFEE Amy.

amy said...

Tanner May, I didn't know Paul/a Dean had anxiety! She's so fun and friendly and personable and sweet--it gives me and my anxiety-prone self hope. Also, I bet Paul/a Dean would give you a big ol' southern hug no matter what you called her. And I will leave you in my last will & testament anyway, just because you're cool and I *like* you (I hope you're okay with inheriting 25 cents).

P-Melissa just got her hair washed tonight and I had to high five her on the rinse out part. Before tonight, if you entered my home during on a hair washing night, you'd swear you'd time walked into a medieval torture chamber. She's still not happy about the whole process, but she's learning to deal, and that's a big growth spurt. (She personally loves the bohemian/free style look, too, because it means no hair getting pulled back into tight hair bands...and I like it because I think she looks super fab as a bohemian girl.)

Also, I suddenly feel the need to bake...sugar cookies. I will air mail some to you, and to Jackie.

Katie--Yes! We shall overcome (as soon as January....5th-ish?....rolls around)! Together! Swimming or running or just casually strolling or thinking about how we would swim or run or casually stroll if it weren't so cold outside!

That Axel! You two are definitely at the top of my Funnest Traveling Couples list now. I would like Axel to have one of the new pat downs, just so someone could overhear his out loud stream of consciousness like that one kid who was overheard getting a TSA pat down going, "Please don't touch my junk." This went viral somehow, and now that kid is famous.

I would have a hard time deciding between the pat down and the x-ray, myself. I think it would depend on my mood, hormonal levels that day, and how patient I was feeling. And how cute the TSA person was.

Have fun overseas (lucky)!

And merry everything to all 3 of you (and all the fabulous COFFEE people and COFFEE readers)!

blj said...

Way to go Chef Amy! I would eat any and all of those scrumptious dishes. I'm impressed. I tend to injure myself when I cook. Sometime Holly and I will tell you about the time I tried to have a little dinner party for us and our men. I burned the crap out of 8 of my 10 fingers on the asparagus dish. My boyfriend spoon-fed me while I sat with each hand in a glass of ice water. I took what I thought was Tylenol (but was actually Tylenol PM!) and we headed out on the town. After a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and a beer at the bar, I passed out on the table. Good times. That was the last time I threw a dinner party.

Keep on cookin'!

Wendy said...

Amy, is it my imagination, or did you actually use the phrase "too much cheese"? Sacrilege!

Oh and I love cooking shows, too! My favorites are Tyler's ultimate and Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. I also like Giada, but mostly because she's so purty and I want to be her.
And I also marvel at their chopping abilities. I try to mimic them, with their chopping a carrot into perfectly sized 1/8" disks in 4 seconds flat, but when I do it, the carrots fly all over the room and Millie (the dog) starts creeping toward the kitchen, licking her chops. Come to think of it, she does this anytime I chop anything, which shows how accurately I chop.

But the point is, despite your roasted cardboard casseroles, I think you can cook. Because those dinners look dy-no-mite. And being a mostly-vegetarian myself, right up my alley. I'd eat them up.

amy said...

Becky: This dinner story of yours made me Ell.Oh.Ell. Too awesome. You're officially on our Open Invitation list to any of our dinner parties and summer barbecues.

Wendy: I'm sorry. I'm sorry! Yes, yes I said it: too. much. cheese. I will do penance (penitence? 100 Hail Marys? My vocabulary skills are on the down-swing lately) at the alter of my sister in law's cooking crush, what's-his-face (I think it's Tom Colicchio or something. I'm sure I've spelled it wrong, just like I misspelled Emeril's and Mario's last names here...it's because I just focus on their knife skills, not who they are) (which is how celebrity of any type ought to be celebrated in this country, I think).

I think the Giada girl is really pretty too! And I would like to know how she stays a size 2 after ingesting all that Italian food (I make her Chicken Piccatta recipe--it's quite yummy--and I know it by heart now).

You & Millie are also now on my Official Open Invite list to any of our dinner/barbecue parties.

So is everybody else! Just BYOB.

T-Free said...

I was laughing so hard by the third cooking section item that I had to stop reading to get a Kleenex for my eye-watering. Hilarious writer, you are.

I could also hear the slight sneer in your voice as I read this line: "All in cute cute CUTE little bowls." And I liked that sneer. We want cute little bowls too! :)

I thought I was the only one who didn't play the lottery, but still enjoyed talking about what I would do with my lottery winnings.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that there are good recipes and bad recipes. I highly suspect that there are people who make up recipes for publication without even trying them out. And that should never happen. Because when you get a bunk one, you've just wasted time, food/money and a good meal on it. What a huge bummer.

I hope you are wellllll past the nasty head cold now and feeling so much better. Nobody else is allowed to get sick until after Christmas. It's a RULE.

Mmmmmm... the tomatoes, zucchini and squash pasta dish looks awesome. I have an herb garden out back FULL of basil, so you can make me basil-filled food anytime. I love that stuff.

I like the burger crumbles and meat replacement products. Morning Star Farms always impresses me with their products. I have never thought to add them to mac 'n' cheese, but really love that idea. My son wants mac 'n' cheese constantly, but I hate to feed him starch and cheese all of the time. If I added the crumbles he'd be getting some more protein (besides the cheese). Thank you for the great idea!

You've inspired me to make a spinach quiche. I have extra pie shells from holiday pie baking, and a container of spinach that needs to be used up in my fridge. Perfect.

You had me at Lemony with the Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Chicken. My husband hates lemon in anything (even with fish!) and I love it in everything, especially pasta. That looks so good.

Thank you so much for sharing your culinary creativity with us! Now I'm HUNGRY. :)