Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Food For Thought

A number of things have conspired to make me cook.

1. New pots and pans as gifts from my mom and mother-in-law. Having the right tools makes things much easier. Thanks, moms!
2. A bit more time to actually cook things, now that I'm staying at home.
3. Cub grocery store and I have a regular date night once a week, something I look forward to these days.
4. I've mastered the basics of one-dish skillet meals and crock pot cooking and I'm bored with the old recipes.
5. We don't go out to eat anymore.  We just don't.

About a month ago, I was making a grocery list, trying to decide what to make, when I decided to try some new recipes. My husband unwittingly inspired me to do this when he brought home a sampler pack of spices from his business trip to Turkey. I took out my big 'ol Good Housekeeping cookbook, (my cooking Bible) and a "healthy cooking" type cookbook I'd rarely used because I didn't know what some of the ingredients were. Made a list, shopped, and cooked. Here are the results:

1. The "healthy cooking" cookbook introduced me to lemongrass, thai fish sauce, and red curry paste. The recipes using those ingredients were just okay. Other recipes were terrible and I couldn't find some of the crazy ingredients! I've given up on that cookbook because, let's be honest, it's winter, I'm in the suburbs, in the Midwest...not gonna find that stuff at my neighborhood grocery store! The only one I kept after ditching the cookbook was "Sticky Sesame Bananas," where I got to caramelize sugar, pour it over bananas and dip them into a sugar/vanilla/mascarpone cheese concoction. YUM!

2. MUCH better results with the Good Housekeeping book! I've made homemade meatballs, stuffed cabbage, lemon icebox cookies, sweet potato pie, Italian sausage and peppers, cottage pie (because, did you know, that shepherd's pie is made with lamb, but if you make it with ground beef, it's cottage pie?), turkey chili, omelets, and frittata.

Okay, they're not ALL turning out great. For example, I needed to contribute something to the weekly brunch at my mom's group one Tuesday morning. The frittata recipe (beside my successful omelet recipe, below) looked easy enough. Just cook it "until the middle is almost set, about 10 minutes." Ten minutes goes by and it's looking like raw eggs in the pan still, so I keep cooking it. Fifteen, then twenty. Okay, this has got to be long enough, I think. I pop it in the broiler for one minute like it said, take it out...still looks goopy - pop it back into the broiler one more minute...yes! It looks like I think it should (wish I had a picture for this recipe), so I sliced it and...it's CRUNCHY on the bottom. Not just, well, it's still edible kinda crunchy. No, it's NASTY CRUNCHY. I cut myself a sliver. Yuck! Steve's curious, so I cut him a sliver. "We have a problem," he says. Yep. Five minutes later, I was walking out the door with a huge tray of orange smiles.

I'm very proud of my omelets. I wish I'd have taken a photo, but that was before it occurred to me that I could digitally document this foray into cooking. It's a simple recipe and I'm a bit ashamed it's taken me this long to figure it out, but I learned that the PAN is the key. Yep, I thought I'd been making omelets all along, you see, but I finally got a 10" pan in my box of pans (I mean OUR box of pans) for my OUR Christmas gift.  What I'd been making was scrambled eggs pressed down to resemble an omelet.  A TEN INCH PAN is what makes scrambled eggs into omelets!

Basic Omelets from Good Housekeeping
make your filling beforehand.  I halved the following recipe:
1Tb. olive oil
1 small onion
1 green pepper
8 oz. mushrooms
1/4 tsp. salt
cook until vegetables are tender and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes
add 4 oz. sliced ham, finely chopped (about 1 c.) and heat through.  Use 1/4 filling for each omelet.

8 large eggs
1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. butter (or margarine, but I've converted to the good stuff for cooking)
1. Prepare filling.  In a med. bowl, with a wire whisk, beat eggs, water, and salt. (Water?  I'd been using milk, so there ya go, something new)
2. In a nonstick 10 INCH SKILLET melt 1 tsp. butter over med-high heat.  Pour 1/2 c. egg mixture into skillet.  Cook, gently lifting edge of eggs with heat-safe rubber spatula and tilting pan to allow uncooked eggs to run underneath, until eggs are set, about 1 minute.  Spoon 1/4 of filling over half the omelet.  Fold unfilled half of omelet over filling and sline onto warm plate.  Repeat with remining butter, egg mixture, and filling.  If desired, keep omeltes warm in 200 oven until all omelets are cooked.  Makes 4 main-dish servings.

Soon, I'll be making omelets for my sons.  In the meantime, I'm adjusting to the fact that they are big enough to feed themselves Cheerios.  Here they are eating breakfast before this morning's mom's group
 By the way, they're loving the homemade babyfood.  Tonight is an extra-special treat.  They're getting the sweet-potato pie filling (before I added all the sugar and eggs): sweet potatoes with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Mmmm...I tasted it and it's good!

So is the pie:
I think I'll go have a piece now.


Pam Kelsey said...

Wow! the boys must have taken a long nap today for you to write a lengthy post! Glad to see that you are enjoying your new pans! And yes, it's called an omlet pan for a reason... Love the breakfast of champions picture - Grandma

April said...

Wow! You really are adventuring out! Im not sure Im that brave. If it needs more than like 4-5 things then count me out. :)

mrs. b. said...

good for you, mama! you're way ahead of me...i am terrified of the kitchen. maybe i could talk hubs into buying me some new pans though! ;)