Aside from desserts, one of the first things I remember cooking for other people is chili. I learned how to make my Mom’s “dump and stir” version–there wasn’t much to it. The recipe was exactly this: one pound of browned ground beef; one can Hunt’s “chili-ready” tomatoes; one can tomato sauce; and one can kidney beans. I made it often and people loved it–until one night I had friends over to my dorm room for dinner and I got busted by the RA. “No plug-in electrical skillets!” she scolded. Well, that was the end of my first dinner party era.
I moved to Florida when I was ten; my lazy summer days were spent in the pool and around the neighborhood with my friends. We would swim most of the day and occasionally come inside for a meal; our days were full, yet relaxing. I don’t remember how I spent my summer days when I was six years old, but I can’t imagine they were as busy as my son likes his days to be. Everett is ready to go the second he opens his eyes in the morning; he doesn’t stop until his head hits the pillow at night. As usual, he is ready to fill the day with activities–with no “lazy” time in sight. When trying to make the most of our busy summer days, fitting in time to cook is challenging. Lately, we have been dining out more often than we would like–convenience rules when you are on the go.
I got to enjoy a lazy day to myself last week: my husband, Ed, took Everett to work with him. While enjoying the quiet, I realized that it was time to get back to cooking. We can still fill our summer with fun things to do, but I also need to carve out the time to cook proper meals for myself and my family. So, with Pandora playing my French Cafe station, I reclaimed my kitchen as a workspace–rather than a dish collecting space. I raided the fridge, picked up my chef’s knife, started chopping away and ended up with my favorite summery salad–tabbouleh.
Confession: I don’t make everything from scratch. In our crazy lives, I’m not sure many people do anymore. Like many folks out there, I use frozen foods, canned goods and pre-made items at times. Someday, I will meet Martha and she will tell me that she cheats sometimes, too–she must! And if in fact, she really doesn’t take shortcuts, I will then persuade her to make me her protégé so that I can be privy to all of her secrets.
I take shortcuts in my day-to-day life; however, not when it comes to baking: I make my cookies, cakes, and other sweet treats from scratch. There is nothing more satisfying and relaxing than taking a few basic ingredients and turning them into something incredibly decadent. For today’s Tidbit, I wanted to share with you my top secret recipe for the best brownies in the world and—surprise!—they come from a box! Yes, I just said that I don’t take shortcuts when I bake—I’m a total hypocrite. The truth is I have just two exceptions to that rule: brownies and puff pastry.
Summer is right around the corner here in Florida: the humidity is getting higher by the day and hurricane season is about ready to begin. When the summer comes, I look forward to stone fruits, melons and sweet corn on the cob–I also can’t wait to get my hands on some in-season tomatoes.
When I was a kid, I would eat tomatoes fresh from my Grandfather’s garden and bite into them as I would an apple–with the added addition of a bit of salt. The smell of a fresh tomato is intoxicating: it smells just like the vine it grew on. If you don’t grow your own tomatoes, the next best thing is the on-the-vine variety from your local supermarket. I have found that these smell just like those back in my Grandfather’s garden and taste almost as good. Compari tomatoes, although small, are my runner-up at the grocery store.
What is it about ramen that is so darn comforting? Maybe it’s just the fact that you can slurp your way through an entire bowl and not be redirected once for being rude. In the world of ramen, slurping is actually considered a necessity; it helps cool the noodles down from your piping hot bowl of broth. There is a technique for properly eating ramen and this requires not only a spoon, but also chopsticks. More on that later…
Mention ramen noodles and most people think of the 5/$1.00 packages from the grocery store: a college student’s mainstay. There is some concern with fact that these packets of soup cost next to nothing; it makes me seriously question their nutritional value, or lack thereof. If you reap no other benefit from this post, know that there is a big world of ramen out there and it has nothing to do with those cheap packages or Styrofoam cups of soup.
We spent our Spring Break in Washington DC. We arrived at the tail-end of winter with 40-degree highs and in the course of six days we watched the spring usher itself in with blooming daffodils and 70-degree days. Those six full days were spent touring, hoping to see some cherry blossoms bloom, and eating–boy, did we eat! Nowadays, the way we eat when we travel has changed a bit. We aren’t always seeking out the most famous restaurants with the most famous chefs as much; now it is more about finding good, simple food that the locals love. When we travel, we have a rule: no chains–or rather, no chains that we have at home. This rule is not a problem in DC; every corner has something new and exciting.
Many months ago, when I was first hatching the idea of starting a food blog, I sat with my friend in her kitchen. While our boys played together, we chatted and baked chocolate chip cookies for the kids. When I told her about my plan, we started talking at length about food. Typically, I could talk about food all day, but then she asked me a question that made me pause: “What is your go-to meal?”