I admit it – I’ve been a terrible blogger lately. The gardens have kept me overly occupied because the weather’s been so nice here the last couple of weeks. Here’s a shot of one of my new perennials…
It looms before me every day. I cannot avoid it, despite how much I try. Whenever I am forced to enter its presence, I feel a hopelessness bordering on despair. I attempt to fight my aversion with every ounce of my being. I try to make the best of it, even when it mocks me. I hear it whisper; sensing my inadequacies. ”Nice try, faker,” it hisses, “You know you can’t do it.”
I am talking about my kitchen.
Thus begins: The Kitchen, a post by The Underground Writer, which literally had me laughing until tears formed in my eyes. I recently shared a few of my kitchen mishaps that occurred within the early years of learning to cook. Often, people who know me or follow me here still think that I can do no wrong in the kitchen. For anyone still thinking such a marvelously ridiculous thing, I present to you this:
I don’t make a habit of photographing my kitchen disasters but this one was so funny that I had to grab my camera. And anyone who’s toasted bread or buns under the broiler knows that there’s a very fine line between perfectly toasted and incredibly burnt. I lucked out with this particular occurrence, as I had more buns for my lamb burgers with pesto and goat cheese. They were delicious and this first batch of buns fed the birds and the squirrels.
Even though I have moments like the photo above, I still love to cook. Love it. So I’m always fascinated by people who hate it. I mean, I get it; some people just don’t like to cook. I, for one, don’t like to ski. Some people love it. I do not. But I still love to hear WHY people don’t like to cook.
Which is one of the reasons I enjoyed The Kitchen so much. The other reason is that it’s simply hysterical. Thank you to The Underground Writer for letting me share an excerpt of your work – and for everyone else, I hope you’ll read some (or all) of her other stories while you’re visiting her; she has a terrific sense of humor and also compassion.
Thanks to Mother Nature’s generous spirit, it finally hasn’t rained here for 2 whole days. This means I actually got to go outside again and dig around in the dirt for a few hours. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit chilly out and the wind today is not kind, so my efforts were shorter-lived than I’d planned.
Though crocus has been up for weeks now, daffodils and other little bulbs are showing their blooms finally. This is a shot of what I’ve always called woodland flowers – tiny but beautiful!
So, after crazy husband and I spent way too much money at Village Green, a local garden shop, yesterday, a morning in our own gardens reminded me of how much I really enjoy flowers.
I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend.
I’ve been asked more than once about where my love of cooking comes from. Oddly enough, even my mom has asked me this question and she’s one of my food heroes, so maybe the explanation’s not as easy as it would seem.
My mom always had a vegetable garden and almost always made us home-cooked meals. I waxed poetic about some of my food memories in a previous post, but I guess my real love of cooking was a combination of events. Threat of starvation was one of them.
I ventured out on my own in my late teens and it didn’t take me long to realize that eating out was expensive. So, thanks to my mom’s ability to put almost anything in a pan and make it taste delicious, the insane, irrational part of my brains said “I can cook, too!”
Very early on, I started a new look with half-singed eyelashes and eyebrows. This, from opening a gas oven at the exact moment of ignition. To my credit, I never did that again.
My brother taught me that I could buy big slabs of bologna from the deli at the grocery store and save money by slicing it myself. With a cheap loaf of white bread and an even cheaper head of iceberg lettuce, I had sandwiches for a week on less than $10. (this was a few years ago, mind you…let’s not get too specific, shall we?) I try not to dwell on the saturated fat I consumed between the mayonnaise and the bologna. I’m pretty sure the white bread and the lettuce weren’t enough of nutritional powerhouses to save me that year.
Chicken was also super cheap at the time so I’d buy a bunch of chicken, some onions, a bag of potatoes and some cream of mushroom soup (arrggg…there’s that dreaded can of soup….) and put it all together in a pan and bake it. I’d eat that stuff for a week. But, to my credit, I could also pay my rent, damn it.
Fast forward a few years, into my very early twenties, and I cooked my first turkey. Oh, I know you think where this is headed so I’ll tell you now that I was smart enough to take the bag of giblets out before roasting that bird. I wasn’t a complete moron.
Except that after a few hours of cooking, a strange thumping sound seemed to be coming from my oven. Thump. *pause* Thump. *pause* Thump.
I opened my oven to find small clumps of stuffing stuck to the sides and door of my oven. My turkey was literally blowing it’s stuffing out. Those “Don’t over-stuff your turkey” warnings typically apply to being sure the stuffing and turkey reaches the correct, don’t-send-your-family-home-with-salmonella temperature but now you know…it can also get a bit messy. Maybe I do have a bit of moron in me, after all. Baked-on stuffing is not a joy to clean up off the sides and bottom of your oven.
Just a few years later I moved into an apartment with a yard. A real yard, with real grass. So, of course, I proceeded to dig up some of said grass and plant vegetables. Ta da! Come to find out, I could actually grow stuff. Like food. Amazing.
By that time I was a much better cook (practice makes perfect, y’all), so growing my own veggies made me want to cook even more.
A garden is not without its own problems though. Like slugs the size of your foot. And tomato caterpillars that you don’t see until you’re right in their little face because they look just like the tomato stalk. Eek! And those problems were minimal compared to the mysterious disappearance of almost-ripened veggies that seemed to occur late at night. Oooohhhh that used to make me so mad.
What’s your most memorable kitchen disaster?
Am I a horrible person because the word “casserole” sends me screaming to the hills? Just the sight of the tater-tot-topped, canned-chicken, Velveeta-cheese-oozing, can-of-soup-required concoctions that pass as casseroles all make me start to contemplate a Double Whopper with Cheese as a healthier option.
Sadly, “salad” also seems to take on a whole new meaning at times. I’ve seen bloated macaroni salad literally swimming in Miracle Whip and I’m still unclear on how anything that contains marshmallows and jello constitutes a salad and not a dessert.
So having said my little food-snob rant, I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe is not very fancy, nor very original. What I will say is this: it’s made with fresh veggies, no mayonnaise, (just like with my mayo-free coleslaw), and is a much slower way to clog your arteries and expand your waistline. Oh, and it’s pretty delicious if you like pasta and fresh veggies.
This is a dish that you have to customize to suit your tastes, along with using what you have on hand. I’ve made this pasta salad a number of ways based on the contents of my pantry and fridge. Black beans, cubed tofu, steamed broccoli or broccolini, snow peas, carrots, celery, chopped jalapeno, fresh basil, olives, artichoke hearts, goat cheese or feta cheese…use your imagination and your on-hand supplies. Here’s how I made this particular batch of pasta salad with my recent overly-ambitious veggie purchase at the store though I will warn you, it makes a big batch. Feel free to halve the recipe if this is for just a few people….
- 1 one-pound box dried orzo pasta, cooked al dente’ according to package directions and then rinsed under cold water and drained well
- 15 nice stalks of fresh asparagus, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces and steamed for 3 minutes (rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process)
- 1 English cucumber (really, any kind will do), partially peeled (I “stripe” mine with a veggie peeler), then sliced in half with the seeds scooped out and diced (the skin can be bitter and the seeds will add too much moisture, in case you’re wondering)
- 1 orange bell pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped
- 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 20 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or quarters, if they’re large)
- 3 scallions, whites and greens, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil (I used both)
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. You may have to add a bit more of the oil or vinegar, depending on taste – the pasta and salad does absorb it after sitting. This is best once the flavors have had a chance to come together – usually at least a few hours.
Pretty simple, right? And no jello or marshmallows required.
This recipe is proof that food doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated to be delicious. One of my favorite ways to do Cornish Hens is to rub them down with minced garlic, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper and fresh lime juice; the hens end up with a deep, intense flavor this way. They’re even better on the grill when they’re prepared like this; the grill amps up the flavor even more. But the easiest way to cook Cornish Hens, of course, is just to roast them in the oven with a bit of good oil and some salt and pepper. If you’re not afraid of using real butter, it will add a bit of richness to your hens and also aid in the browning process.
I like to halve or quarter my hens before roasting; they cook more evenly this way and brown up a bit nicer. To cut a hen in half, simply cut along the backbone on both sides with a very sharp knife and remove it. You may also hear this preparation called butterflied or spatchcocked, depending on where you live, but it all basically means the same thing.
To quarter the hens, do the above step but then also cut the hen down the center of the breast bone. This is usually the best way to serve them, as they make the nicest presentation and it’s also the easiest way to eat them.
- 2 Cornish Hens, fully thawed if frozen. Be sure to check for any giblets stuffed into the cavities and remove them – these, along with the removed backbone, are great for stocks, gravies and other things, if you’re so inclined…I hate for anything to go to waste.
- 2 tablespoons good oil, such as olive or grapeseed; even canola will be fine. Or go crazy and use real butter – even a tablespoon of butter will help with browning and add a richer flavor.
- 1 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°
- Quarter the hens and rub them down with oil, salt and pepper
- Place in shallow roasting pan and roast for approximately 40 minutes
- A few times during roasting time, spoon or baste hens with rendered fat from the bottom of the pan
- If hens need a bit of help with browning, place pan with hens under broiler for an additional 5 minutes
That’s it…that’s all there is to it! I served mine on a bed of baby spinach for a light dinner. Sometimes it’s good to remember to not over-think your food – simpler really can be better.
Today is my one year anniversary of starting this blog. Before I let more time pass, I must say thank you to some wonderful blogger friends who’ve done me a great honor by giving me some blogging awards.
Michelle, at And That’s All She Wrote, makes me laugh and cry, sometimes all in the same post. Michelle awarded me with The Versatile Blogger Award, which is such a lovely compliment to me! She has almost literally risen from the ashes and reaffirms my belief that people can have an innate goodness about them, no matter what hell they’ve been through. She’s also one hell of a cook.
Mike, the author who blogs about his book, The Eye Dancers, and so much more, is one of my escape blogs. I love to read and can lose myself in his short stories and posts. Mike awarded me The Shine On Award (oh, how I love the name of that!). I’ve read his book and, if you’re a fan of King or Koontz like I am, I recommend you pick it up.
Shaun, over at Praying for One Day has been kind enough to award me with The Dragon’s Loyalty Award and The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Shaun, from Scotland, has Chronic Pain Syndrome and yet, through it all, he remains amazingly optimistic. I hope you’ll visit his blog and follow along on his journey; he has a fantastic sense of humor and a true sense of what’s important.
I may not be able to do these awards justice and pass on the blogger love like I should, but I hope you’ll visit their sites. I believe you’ll find yourself as inspired by their courageousness, their talent, their laughter, their tears, their struggles and their successes as much as me.