Tag Archives: cook

Inspiration and the Waffle Iron

26 Mar

Inspiration. It comes from many places. A sweet smile from your child. The scents wafting out of a bakery. An impassioned speech from a respected figure. A plate with artfully arranged food.  Walking through a museum. Beautifully arranged flowers brightening a room. Inspiration, when it comes, affects us all differently.

Admittedly, I am a bit quirky, so when I get inspired it usually sends me into the kitchen. My kitchen represents an ideal arena for self expression, and allows creativity to be channeled in wonderful ways. Take, for example, a recent weekend morning. Inspiration came in the form of wonderful weather, the promise of a great bike ride, and a powerful hunger.

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The morning was a lovely temperature and getting outside to enjoy the budding day was in order. So Denis and I decided to take a long trail ride on our bikes. But first we needed to power up with a breakfast that would provide much needed energy for our ride. Eggs, Canadian bacon, and hash browns sounded delicious.

The thing is, I am not a big potato fan-unless it is breakfast. I just adore hash browns. They are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and just plain yummy. But they can be a pain to make, and take a bit of talent to make well.

I’ve tried pulling out my cast iron skillet, oiling it up, shredding potatoes, seasoning them, they frying the heck out of ’em. That was my best attempt at delicious home made hash browns. And they were just so so. Then inspiration hit in the form of my trusty old waffle iron. And I made the Best.Hash.Browns. Ever.

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This is how I started-my waffle iron, potatoes, and some cooking spray. I also had salt and pepper on hand as well. I plugged my waffle iron in and set it to preheat at a medium temperature. While that was heating up I pulled the preshredded potatoes out of the freezer and quickly defrosted them. I squeezed out the excess water.

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When the waffle iron was good and hot I sprayed it with a generous amount of cooking spray. I then placed roughly 2 handfuls of shredded potatoes on the bottom plate of the waffle iron. I sprinkled salt and pepper on top, then placed the top plate over the potatoes.

The potatoes started sizzling away. Denis was busy working on the eggs and Canadian bacon while I fussed over the hash browns. Since this was an experiment with no recipe, I was not sure how long to let the potatoes cook. I watched them closely. After about 6 minutes I gently lifted the top of the waffle iron to take a peek at breakfast project. What did I find?

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Perfection. Absolute deliciousness. I used a spatula to remove the “potato waffle” from the iron. It slid off the iron and onto a plate with ease. The waffle iron made amazing breakfast potatoes. This paired with our eggs and bacon very well. The trail ride, with inspiration from the breakfast, was a rousing success.

Will I try this again? You bet! But next time I will mix in some diced bell peppers and maybe even some cheese. I can’t wait for my next inspiration!

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A cake flop and kale fail tale…

11 Jan

Failure. It is a scary word with negative implications. Failure can be defined as: “An event that does not accomplish its intended purpose”. Well now that does not seem too awful, does it? Progress can certainly be made even when not accomplishing an intended purpose. Sometimes a new purpose can emerge. The word failure is more daunting than its definition.

I have failed. Many times. We all have. But failing does not make you a failure. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t taken any risks. So take risks, because if you are taking risks, you are succeeding. Failure appears  in big ways and small ways in life. Get over it, move on, and try again, and again, and again to succeed.

I recently tried roasting some kale. My technique just didn’t work. My son said I had a “kale fail”.  And he was right. My family will continue to enjoy kale…but I will prepare it in other ways.  Then there was the time I became a bit impatient, and tried to frost a cake with frosting that was too thin, and tried to put it on a cake that was still too warm.  Typically, for most frostings or icings, it’s just not a good idea to put it on a warm or hot cake. It melts off.  And I proved that right with my impatience.  Trust me…I know what I am talking about.

If a recipe flops, it should only happen once. The next time I try that recipe, or another recipe, the lessons I learned by having that recipe flop will help me succeed the next time. So how is that a failure? Learning something is always a success. The experience of making a recipe well as well as having one go wrong both make me a better cook and increase my understanding of the culinary arts. Either way victory is mine!

Failure, whether real or perceived, can produce many reactions. Fear, doubt, and depression to name a few. We need to shake free of that, because failing can lead to success. In other words, failure can, and should, drive us toward feeling empowerment, a step forward. It may not be immediate though. Sometimes success takes time to grow out of a mistake or failure. So failure can also produce the opportunity to learn patience. Wow! Fantastic things can come from “failure”! So lets not fear it. Take it for what it is. It is an opportunity. Success. Confidence. So go take the risk! You can’t fail!

The little cake that flopped! hahahahahaha

This cake wass a flop. It is ugly, but it tasted good. But since I strive for beautiful food, it was a flop.

Cannelini and Greens

31 Aug

I am a self proclaimed foodie.   I think about food a lot.  I think about how to grow it, how to prepare it, and try to conjure up interesting twists of flavor with what I have on hand.  Although I love the European method of shopping daily to prepare the freshest food, I am not a person that likes to hop in the car and zip out to the store for a missing ingredient when I cook.  Nope…I like to put music on, surround myself with my the folks I love, and get in the kitchen and cook.

That is exactly what I was doing when I created my cannellini dish lately.  I looked at ingredients that I had on hand, craved something different, poured Denis and I a glass of red wine and got to work.  This is what I came up with, and I must say, it was brilliant.  Here is my recipe.

Amy’s Cannellini and Greens

  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 cans cannellini beans-rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of fresh arugula and spinach
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh parmesan cheese

Heat a large pan on medium, and put olive oil in pan.  When hot, add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, and stir.   Let cook for 1 minute.   Add canned tomatoes with juice, thyme, parsley, and sage.  Stir to mix.  Shake in salt and pepper to taste.  Heat until hot and bubbling, about 4-5 minutes.  Add cannellini beans and give the mix a good but gentle stir.  During the last few minutes of cooking, add the prosciutto.  While that is heating through, take a large shallow bowl and line it with the fresh arugula spinach mixture.  Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over it.  Just a sprinkle will do.

Taste bean mixture.  Adjust seasonings as needed.  Pour hot beans over greens.  The greens will wilt a bit, and the scent coming off this dish is amazing!  Serve.

This dish is quick to put together and a great way to use some leftover greens when you are tired of regular cold salads.  It is a pretty dish, and packed with nutrition.  Cannellini beans are rich in antioxidants, loaded with beneficial fiber, and have plenty of heart healthy b9.   It is a beautiful dish to have on your dinner table, with the added benefit of being very nutritious!  Bon Appetite!

Oh yum!

Oh yum!

Fun Food!

12 Apr

Food is center stage in my home quite often.  The kitchen is truly the heart of our family home, and I love hanging out there.  When I say that food is important to my family, I don’t mean constantly eating junk laden food.  Taking the time to prepare food with family is enormously rewarding.  It is a family value and time well spent together in a warm comfortable accepting environment.

My children have always felt welcome inviting their friends over for meals.  My youngest son recently said “mom, my friends asked me what my mom would do if you told her 30 friends were coming over.  I told them that you would say…Are they staying for dinner?”.  He said it in a matter of fact way.  He meant it.  And he was right!  That is the true heart, the essence of my home for which I am truly grateful.  My children’s friends are welcome, and they know it.  My friends too.  I love a home filled with friends, family, food and fun!

We have great meals and nutritious food, but we have loads of fun too.  I enjoy cooking, but am not much of a baker.  I can sure improvise though.  And have a blast.  My kids do too!  I love to cook, but the teeny tiny side of me that bakes rears its ugly head every now and again.  Not really one for cookies, I turn to making cakes with the children.  We put a spin on it though.  We will make fun cakes for most any occasion!

My daughter Delaney and her friends Lorena making the traditional "Bunny Cake" for Easter!  So Fun!

My daughter Delaney and her friends Lorena making the traditional “Bunny Cake” for Easter! So Fun!

When we make cakes, we use a high quality cake mix.  Those work just fine for non bakers like myself.  But I always make the frosting from scratch.  I learned how to make out of this world frosting from my mom.  She very wisely advised me to “always make a little too much frosting by accident”.  Was she ever right!  I was never voted Prom Queen, but when I make frosting I am Prom Queen for a moment..the most popular girl ever!  What do I mean by popular?  Let me tell you!

When I bust out my frosting, a line forms in the kitchen.  Kids.  Denis.  His mom.  Everyone lines up to grab a spoonful of frosting before it makes its way to the cake.  Everyone but my youngest son that is.  The baby of the family (I am one too!) is a scrappy bunch.  We learn survival of the fittest at a very young age!  Anywhooo, my son doesn’t grab a spoon and stand in line. Nope, not him.  The moment he notices a naked cake cooling on the counter and a stick of butter nearby softening, he loudly “calls the beater”.  Now that is the holy grail when making frosting, let me tell you!  He is a smart kid.  No line, no waiting, and a solid guarantee of a good dose of moms incredible buttercream frosting.  Yup, that’s my boy!

But I digress!  Back to the cakes.  I do not have lots of room in my kitchen for a bunch of specialty cake pans.  So I improvise.  I make 2 round cakes, or a round cake and a square one,  and cut it to fit the occasion.  I have also made a rectangle cake for my sons, and with colored frosting made everything from a football field cake with action figures to a construction site cake with matchbox bulldozers.  So much fun, and the creativity flows.  Food should be fun, so go have a blast!

Our fun bunny cake!

Our fun bunny cake!

Our heart cake for Valentines Day.

Our heart cake for Valentines Day.

Simple!

24 Jan

Baking is an exact science.  A chemical reaction needs to occur for the recipe to work.  Cooking is the opposite.  It’s a little of this and a pinch of that.  Cooking and recipes can change with your mood, what you have available, or who will be eating it.  That’s what I love.

I am touchy feely, as so is my food.  I love to take a recipe and then adjust it to make it “mine”.  I try to make a recipe exactly according to how it is written the first time and then add notes.  My cookbooks are filled with notes of how recipes turned out, what changes to make, and if it should be made again.  ( I would like to think that these books will be cherished many years after I am gone and that it is what my kids will fight over..).  I write these notes next to the actual recipe.  I also have a 3 ring binder in case I print a recipe off of the internet.  I can 3 hole punch it and add it in…if it is deemed worthy!

Recipes can be simple, with very few ingredients.  Its a new year, so jump right in and start cooking…or should I say assembling!   A recipe can be something like a fresh parfait recipe:

  • Vanilla yogurt, 6 ounces
  • fresh or frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup
  • fresh or frozen blueberries, 1/4 cup

Layer 3 ounces of yogurt in a mug.  Add strawberries and top with 3 ounces of yogurt.  Place blueberries on top, and enjoy a healthy berry parfait.

Cooking takes experience, and it can be a little scary to begin.  I sometimes get frustrated if I make a dish that does not turn out and my ingredients and efforts are wasted.  But wasted is the wrong word to use.  When you learn something, it is not time wasted!  Just have a backup plan in the freezer to pull out just in case!  When starting, try a recipe that does not have expensive or complicated ingredients.  Then jump in and go for it!  Have fun!  And don’t forget to add your own personal touch!