Dinner’s Ready!!

10 01 2012

One reality of living in the absolute middle of nowhere is cooking.  We don’t have the option to run down to the nearest fast food joint – there aren’t any.  There are a few restaurants in Twisp, we can hit up occasionally, but the pickings are slim and that’s a 10 minute drive to town.  But this “inconvenience” has led me to a remarkable discovery: I love to cook!

This stems from the reality that what I actually love to do is eat.  I love food – correction, I love GOOD food!  Cooking is just the means to the end…or so I thought.  After my fall baking went so well, I started branching out.  And oh the wonderful things that have starting coming out of my kitchen!

Fear not, all you Internet junkies – I am not turning this into yet another food blog.  There are plenty others already doing a fantastic job at that, and my novice attempts to feed myself will not try to compete.  No, cooking for me is simply the newest adventure I’m embarking upon.

In fact, much of my inspiration to take up the spatula comes from my good friend in Bend, who happens to be one of the best cooks I know.  The ease with which she whips up amazing dishes piqued my curiosity to see just what I might be capable of, too.  She does actually have a food blog, full of tasty recipes I love trying for myself, which you should visit immediately.   Coming from the south, her cooking style is closer to what I grew up with.  🙂  And she’s a Pampered Chef rep to boot!

Are you curious yet as to just what exactly I’ve made?!  Ok, ok, I’ll tell you a few things.  Due to the winter season, I’ve done lots of soups – minestrone, beef and barley, cheesy potato, chicken enchilada, even chicken noodle last weekend when J and I were both super sick.  The crock pot has become my new best friend!  There is nothing like tossing a bunch of ingredients in the pot, letting it do its own thing in there all day, and having dinner ready after work!  The only problem is smelling it all day – it calls to me like a caldron to the witch.  I would guess I eat more on these days…drifting in the kitchen just to inhale deeply, then grabbing something from the cabinet to curb the desire to devour the entire pot before it’s even done cooking.

I tried a chicken veggie stew that was good, a chickpea and tomato pasta that I liked more than J did, then a chicken and sun-dried tomato pasta dish that was killer.  My eggplant parmesan turned out really tasty despite a few disasters along the way, and my spinach lasagna rolls were delectable.  Oh, and then one night I made stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and I think J decided he really didn’t mind how weird I am.  I even made my own bread!  Digging through my favorite cookbook turned up a recipe for French bread, so I made a couple loaves to contribute to our family dinner at Christmas.  I think it needed a little more kneading, but it was tasty!

Don’t get the idea that I’m now a master chef.  Most things turn out at least decent – I’m just following recipes.  But not all.  I tried to make some stuffed bell peppers in the crock pot – not a good idea.  My crock pot wasn’t big enough and I left them in a touch too long…long enough for the peppers to turn to a sad, squishy mush.  I cannot tell you how often I’ve had to “improvise” – I’ll get half way through step one and realize I don’t have the right pan, or I bought the wrong kind of cheese, or I don’t own the wacky implements they want me to use.  No, I do NOT own a damn food processor, ok?!?!  Thankfully, this hasn’t slowed me down much.  And I have turned out some scrumptious meals without ever buying any of their fancy appliances.  (Not that I am against using them and would gladly cook mountains of food for anyone who might want to donate any to the wonderful cause of…my kitchen.)

My other difficulty in the kitchen is one that I can’t for the life of me seem to prevent: the explosions.  Combining me and flour creates a chemical reaction that results in hurricane aftermath all over my kitchen.  Anything involving the smallest amount of tomato sauce will inevitable find its way splashed all over me.  Pasta found dwelling in my hair?  It has happened.  Spinach found in my pants pocket?  I couldn’t make that up.  I don’t know how I manage it – I’m actually pretty neat about everything else I do.  But in the kitchen, it’s like all rules go out the window.  I have a 100% hands-on philosophy and don’t hesitate to get my hands (and shirt, and face, and left shoe) nice and dirty.  In my mind, it makes the food taste better, like I’m mixing a little love in.

I think my love of cooking is just a personality trait – I love pretty much anything that involves me manually working on something and then reaping the fruits of my labor.  That statement has just never been so literal.  Or delicious.  It helps that I have a guinea pig, happy and willing to eat whatever I come up with.  J even got me a heavy-duty, brightly striped apron for Christmas.  I think he’s encouraging my new pursuit.  And doesn’t want me to need a new wardrobe because of it.  (He’s pretty smart.)

Well, now I am utterly starving to death.  The fridge is bursting with leftovers, so I think I’ll nuke a spinach roll real quick and pop in the latest Nexflix movie.  Ain’t life rough.  😀

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