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Friday, February 25, 2005
Friday Food... fooooood.... mmmm....

... The Friday Forum decided to touch on one of my absolute favorite topics: Food and cooking. Totally lovin’ this one. Get a cup of tea, coffee, soda, water, whatever your poison is… you’ll be here for a bit.

1) Do you enjoy cooking? Why/why not? How about baking? Do you do most of the cooking in your household, or does someone else? How often do you go out to eat (or order in) in a typical week?

I *adore* cooking. I live for it. There’s nothing like taking a bunch of raw materials and throwing them together to create something else extraordinary. Just like stitching – take some cotton fabric, and some brightly colored flosses, and put them together in such a way that is breathtaking! Just look at beads and metallics as the seasoning…

Ah, but I digress. Cooking is a major stress reliever for me – onions and garlic fall into ruin at the mercy of my 12” chef’s knife and to the relief of my psyche. I think when DH became unavoidably unemployed and started taking over the majority of the cooking, my stress levels were just never the same again. I had a routine, I had my menus and variety down. And it was all stripped from me. Not that I complained that much, but it definitely wasn’t good for me. I realize that now in retrospect. Now that he has an office to go to, or “work” to do (it’s still a hobby, there’s no funding that could create a paycheck yet) I’m getting my kitchen back. He’s still doing the grocery shopping though, so that makes planning menus while I’m at work a little challenging, since I don’t know exactly what’s in the fridge unless I take a full inventory before I leave for work and hope that he doesn’t eat any of it while I’m gone.

Before he was out of work, it used to be that I would cook most weeknights, he’d cook on weekends (unless the spirit compelled me, which it did more often than not) and we might go out once every couple of weeks. We don’t go out as much anymore, and it’s turned into me only cooking on weekends and the random Tuesday night. But I feel the winds changing and I’ll be back to my old schedule (and have my house back to myself) soon enough, I’m sure!

2) Do you have any dishes (or desserts, or beverages, or whatever) that you consider your "specialty"? Did you create the recipe yourself, from scratch? How often do you make this dish?

Specialties? I have quite a few. There’s a chicken dish that I make that involves doing a mostly dry sauté of chicken and onions and peppers with certain seasonings and tossing it over angel hair pasta (it just tastes better on angel hair than it does on rice or rice noodles). There’s the enchilada recipe that I tinkered and tinkered with until it was just perfect (yes, it’s a closely guarded secret since I created it from scratch). There’s my lasagna, and my stuffed pasta shells. The chicken and dumplings… the vermicelli and vegetable casserole… the spaghetti sauce from scratch… there’s so many more… All closely guarded secret recipes and all created by me.

I make them whenever the spirit moves and I have the ingredients, but the lasagna, the shells and the sauce are usually planned ahead – they’re an all day affair. Same with the enchiladas – they take two days to get just right.

3) Have you ever taken any cooking classes? If not, what type(s) of cooking class would you most like to take? Do you ever watch the Food TV Network? What are your favorite shows on there?

I was just talking with DH about me taking another cooking class to brush up some skills that are a little rusty the other night. I really think I need to refresh my knife skills, so taking a knife skills class would be a good thing, as well as a sauces class. I made a béchamel the other night that didn’t turn out quite the way that it should. I was teaching B how to make it too, so I know I was going slow, and I’m going to have to reteach her.

Yes, the 7 year old knows what a roux and a béchamel *and* what a mornay sauce is… does anyone else here know the proper progression from one to another without cheating and looking at the Food Network web site?

Yes, we watch the Food Network – we’re big Good Eats and Food 911 fans. Iron Chef America is also another favorite. Wednesday nights, after Mythbusters finishes, you can find me, A & B sitting and watching Good Eats for an hour and then Iron Chef America as well. They’re learning so much from that, and wanting to cook more. The most important thing they’ve learned? That even if you don’t like the main ingredient of something (like crab) you should still respect the care and skill that goes into making a dish that includes it and that other people *will* like it even if you don't. Yucky doesn't apply to food in our house.

4) What's something quick and easy that you like to just throw together when you aren't in a cooking mood at all? Are there any foods that you've been absolutely dying to try lately? Do you have any new (and yummy) food discoveries/combinations to share with us?

Quick and easy? There’s no such thing as quick and easy in my kitchen unless you open a jar of pasta sauce and put frozen veggies in a steamer. Everything involves some sort of prep work that adds time (and love) to the dish. If I’m not in a cooking mood, I suppose that would be the night to go out to eat…. Assuming that DH isn’t in the mood to cook either. Now with A & B being interested in cooking, it would be more like what’s a night that I don’t feel like cooking *or* teaching someone else the basics…

There’s not been anything that I’ve been dying to try lately, except maybe making a braciole (inspired by a recent episode of Good Eats and the fact that I’ve not made one in almost forever). We’ll have to see if I still have that desire to do it in a week – then I’ll consider it something I’m dying to make.

Since I’ve had an absolute lack of kitchen time in the last two years, I’d have to say I don’t have any new discoveries other than to suggest a dry sauté of chicken and green onion and throw it over pasta… really, that smoky taste is really good with pasta. Or do the sauté with extra virgin olive oil (until the olive oil is soaked up by the chicken and onion) and mix in the pasta. It speaks to me for some reason in terms of taste. Your results may vary.

5) What is your favorite kitchen appliance? Is your kitchen generally well stocked with equipment? Describe your kitchen to us ~ what it looks like, what's on the counters, etc.

Favorite kitchen appliance! I really feel bad for the people who says it’s the phone to make reservations or order in, because you’re really missing out on the wonderful world that is a KitchenAid mixer. Really. If I didn’t love them so much, I’d get rid of my bread machine and my pasta machine (I make my pasta by hand, except the shaped stuff) and use only my mixer. It does cookie dough for me, it mixes 3 pounds of ground beef into meatballs (OMG! That’s what I’ve not made in a couple of years and need to make! Meatballs! Yes yes… I need to write that down), it makes life in general just so much easier to deal with.

Describe my kitchen? It’s hay-uge. Most people’s kitchen’s would fit in there twice. I have a 7 foot by 4 foot island separating the kitchen from the living room – really, it’s a “great room” not a kitchen and a living room. I think there’s about 5 feet between the counters on the wall and the island – it’s a wide kitchen. Lots and lots of room. Tons of counter space, not too cluttered (we’ve been working on that) One corner is a little messy, but that’s where the toaster and DH’s coffee grinder resides, along with my spice racks.

I’m really not sure how to continue describing it – it’s a room you have to see to believe. And no, I’m not planning on taking any pictures of it anytime soon, sorry.