Stories from a Texas mom and wife, enjoying a blessed peachy life...

Monday, September 3, 2012

A year of cooking...

I think this year will be defined as a year of cooking. I began the year by joining a cooking group on Facebook. It's called Cook My Book II. (two b/c this is the groups second year in existence). I was so very fortunate to be invited by the group's creator. Basically the premise of the group is for each member to pick one cookbook. Then we mail in a certain rotation that allows all of the members to get every cookbook for about 3 weeks. We write in the cookbook. I know. Some of you book lovers will cringe at writing in a book. I did until I actually saw how cool it was! We write on the recipes we made. What we liked, didn't like, if we changed things up a bit or a tip/trick we think that'll make the recipe better. It's sort of like a yearbook but the people in the group are from all over the US. We started in February and will end around October just before the holidays kick in.

I am now in two cooking groups. The other group is called 37 Cooks.

I still think it's funny that lil' ol' ME is in a cooking group, let alone two. I was never the one who was known for my recipes, cooking, or the time I spent in the kitchen. I mean I do love to cook. I love being in my kitchen. It's the very first kitchen that belongs to me. I love to make food that people can enjoy, but I never thrived in the kitchen. I never had a meal, other than Thanksgiving, that my family begged me to make. I was ok with that. It didn't hurt my feelings and I just made meals to feed my family. I didn't give much thought to my menu before CMBII & 37Cooks. I had a very boring, easy rotation of menus that kept us all in a rut. I like easy. Easy isn't always fun and delicious though.

I was invited to CMBII at the perfect time. I had tried to spice things up a bit in the kitchen. I had started to feel like I wanted to do more in the kitchen. I felt like the meals I was preparing for my family could be better and could actually mean something. I didn't want to just make meals for my family, but I wanted the meals to be an extension of my heart. I wanted my family to know that I took the time to plan the menu with them in mind. I didn't just pull out an already written menu from my files, but that I took the time to think about each and everyones likes and dislikes. I thought about their health. I thought about what would make them smile with excitment. I thought about what smells would make their tummy rumble. I thought about meals that would make them BEG for more. I thought about meals that when they think of them, they think of me and the love I put into it. I wanted them to have very fond memories of me in the kitchen.

Now, reality has sunk in. Don't worry, I'm not livng in a Julia Child's fairytale. I have had many failures in the kitchen this year. But to me, that is also succeeding. I know what NOT to do now. Plus, having Chinese take out on speed dial can be the fastest recovery for any cook.

If there is one thing I have gained this year it would be to relax. Relax in the kitchen. Take your time. Don't rush and don't set yourself up to be in a hurry. Planning is still crucial for me. But that's just who I am as a person. My husband balances me by being the spontaneous one. I do everything with a plan in my mind. Well, if I'm telling the truth it's written down b/c my memory stinks.

Another thing I have learned: read the entire recipe first. I had a pork loin I wanted to make only to find out I needed to have it marinate overnight before roasting it. How do you tell a hungry family that instead of dinner being ready in an hour; we're having a bowl of cereal instead? There is only so many times in a week you can call for the Chinese take out before they recognize you. And to be called by my name....oh the shame.

These are two important lessons one should learn to be a bit closer at succeeding in the kitchen.

My favorite thing that has happened out of all of this cooking is that my daughter cooks almost every single meal with me. She is learning so much. The other day she said something that made me realize how much she is paying attention. The sad part is I forgot what she said. I hate that. I remember it was cute and she was right, but cannot remember what it was about. I just remember thinking, "Wow. She has learned a lot!" I'm going to go put a spiral notebook in the kitchen so I don't forget these times.

Another favorite: I made new friends!!! And we're like our own little gang. These people are THE best people to learn from. I have enjoyed each of them in their own unique ways. I have a genuine love for them although I haven't met them in person. Well, I've known the creator, Sandra, for years through homeschooling in TX together. This group has so much fun via FB that if we met in person the cops might be called. Bow, what a story that would be. I gaurantee you that the people in this group would befriend and cook something delicious for their cell mates.

Another favorite: my family is asking for certain recipes and meals now. I made a cake last night. My son sat down beside me and told me why he loved it. He went into detail about why he generally doesn't like cake, but LOVED this one. He said that he felt like the cake (bread) part is usually dry. He generally eats more icing on the cake b/c it takes away from the dry cake. And he's not a big icing person anyway so cake hasn't always been a favorite. He told me that last nights cake was very moist, but the best part was that it tasted good. He went on to say he has eaten a moist cake with no flavor. Who knew he thought about this with such detail? Anyway, he continued by saying the icing was also perfect. I made a homemade whipped topping/icing. Neither of my boys like sweets that much. Store bought icing has always been detested by them. So much so that they would scrape off icing and eat the cake part at birthday parties so not to offend the birthday person. This whipped topping I made last night was airy, not too sweet and just about melted in your mouth. This cake is even better the next day when it's been refrigerated overnight. The topping caramelizes with the cake and is out of this world. I very much enjoyed listening to my son tell me why he loved this cake. I loved his thought process and I loved that he appreciated the effort I put into making it. He thanked me more than a few times. That is happiness to me.

Here's a few of the recipes I have made this year:

Balsamic Grilled Bruschetta Chicken

Chinese Chicken Salad

Grilled Orange Chicken Drumsticks

Onion, Tomato & Basil Mayonaise Sandwiches

Peppered Porkchops with Balsamic Sage

Pineapple Planter's Punch

Shanghainese Mini-Meatballs, Five Spice Potatoes with Sweet-soy sauced broccoli

Texas Tortilla Soup

My friend, Willie, his creation: Frito Pie Burger

My latest CMB book is Mexican. I had not even opened the book before my husband looked it over & said we needed to buy it. Another fave: my husband loves this cooking group and year of cooking just as much as I do.

Until next time,