Forgive me, Father…

For I have sinned.  It has been roughly 30 days since my last bathroom cleaning.

Hi, MCYOD readers.  Long time no see?  Well, that’s what happens when you have a  baby!

My daughter E was born in February and motherhood is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  I. Love. This. Girl.

But it’s no lie when you hear about how hard it is to cook, clean, and exercise when you have a newborn.  E is ten weeks old and I have cleaned my bathroom ONCE since she evacuated my uterus.

Somehow I still manage to cook, which is good news coming from the woman whose blog’s name contains the word “cook.”  Most of the time it’s nothing fancy, like tacos or spaghetti, but every so often I get ambitious (like last night) and I make mashed potatoes.  If you think mashed potatoes aren’t fancy, you must be new here.  Potatoes are my arch nemesis.

Now that E is starting to have some identifiable nap time, I figured it’s a good time to make my way back here.  I’ve missed you all.  I hope you’ve missed me.

(And if you’re asking why I’m not using E’s nap time to clean my bathroom:  don’t.  When I can clean my bathroom sitting on my butt on the couch, then we’ll talk.)

Chasers: Or, How to Conquer a Dose of DayQuil

I’ve always been that person who absolutely MUST have a chaser to follow a shot of liquor.  It makes no difference if it’s top shelf, root beer-flavored, or paired with a cute little lime wedge and a dollop of salt; a chaser is an absolute necessity.  Soda, orange juice, V8 juice…I don’t care what it is, as long as it masks the taste of the alcohol.

After spending the week with a nasty head cold, I can say with certainty that the same applies to liquid cold medicine.  I’ve always been more of a pill girl, but this time around I decided to give the syrup a try.  Not only does the liquid require a chaser, but it also involves a lengthy pre-swallow pep talk and a post-chaser handful of cereal for good measure.  It’s too bad the liquid works a million* times better than the pills do.

*Rough estimate.

Cooking Wisdom: My Favorite Quotes

Happy Saturday!  I’m a big fan of quotes, because they offer a quick way to regain focus on a concept that otherwise toys with your emotions and leaves you a little scatterbrained.  As I am going to tackle homemade ravioli for the second time ever tonight, I figured this is a good day to share some of my favorite tidbits of advice and random humorous thoughts on cooking.  Feel free to share your own in the comments!

SaveAs

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.  In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”  -Julia Child

“A home cook who relies too much on a recipe is sort of like a pilot who reads the plane’s instruction manual while flying.”  -Alton Brown

“If you’re cooking and not making mistake, you’re not playing outside your safety zone.  I don’t expect it all to be good.  I have fat dogs because I scrap that stuff out the back door.”  -Guy Fieri

“I don’t like ‘gourmet’ cooking or ‘this’ cooking or ‘that’ cooking.  I like good cooking.”  -James Beard

“Once a dish is fouled up, anything added to save it only makes it worse.”  -Second Law of Kitchen Confusion

“Cooking is not difficult.  Everyone has taste, even if they don’t realize it.  Even if you’re not a great chef, there’s nothing to stop you understanding the difference between what tastes good and what doesn’t.”  -Gerard Depardieu

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“Zip it, kiddo.  Don’t ever admit you know a thing about cooking, or it’ll be used against you later in life.”  -Rebecca Wells in Little Altars Everywhere

“I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking.  If I wanted a picture, I’d buy a painting.”  -Andy Rooney

“That’s the trouble with cookbooks. Like sex education and nuclear physics, they are founded on an illusion. They bespeak order, but they end in tears.”  -Anthony Lane

cookinglife

“I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.”  -Madam Benoit

“Cookery is not chemistry.  It is an art.  It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.”  -Marcel Boulestin

“No one who cooks, cooks alone.  Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”  -Laurie Colwin

Cooking Zone of Familiarity: Missions for 2015

juliachildNo matter how much I improve in my cooking skills, I still have a list of dishes I’d really like to take a stab at, yet I am terrified to attempt. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to explain why I’m afraid of making them. Included in this list are:

  • Baby back ribs
  • Any kind of roast
  • A whole chicken or turkey
  • Anything “fried”
  • Lasagna
  • Homemade marinara sauce
  • Pie

I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m trapped inside my comfort zone. I have no problem trying something new as long as it’s within the confines of what is already familiar to me. Well, that needs to change! There was a day when I was petrified of cooking chicken breasts, yet today I cook so much chicken I’m surprised my husband and I haven’t sprouted feathers. All I have to do is try. I might fail. I mean, it’s me we’re talking about—there is a good chance my first attempt will be humiliating and inedible. But once I’ve tried, that particular dish will have migrated into my Zone of Familiarity, and that’s when I can try again and improve.

The list above isn’t all-inclusive, but in 2015, I will attempt ALL of the items at least twice—once to become familiar with it, and twice to apply what I learned during my first attempt.

I’m starting with baby back ribs; they’re on my list for my trip to the grocery store today, and I already have my recipe picked out. Be on the lookout for a post in the next week or so!

For the rest of the items on my list, feel free to share your favorite recipes with me in the comments! I am going to OWN my kitchen in 2015!

One last thing, and I promise it’s the only time I’ll push it: I just started up a Facebook page for my blog, and every single follower means a lot to me. I’ll be sharing recipes, articles, and other miscellaneous cooking humor, so please take a peek. 🙂

I’m Baaaaaaack!

It’s my first post on this blog since 2012.  YES, 2012.  And I have to say, it’s like being reunited with an old friend.  I originally stopped posting because life was hectic and I felt I’d acquired an acceptable knack for cooking.

Well, life isn’t so hectic anymore since I finished my second bachelor’s degree (mark my words:  NO MORE COLLEGE DEGREES).  What I’ve learned since my last post is that cooking–though less comical and disastrous–is still a talent that often escapes me.  But it’s not just the cooking.  It’s the whole “being an adult” thing.  I’m 29 years old, I’m married, I have a ten-year-old stepson, I have a real career, I’m a homeowner, and yet most of the time I still sit back and wonder what the hell I’m doing.  Replacing furnace filters?  Barbecuing?  Using Goo Gone to remove the hilariously large sticker that clung for dear life to our new trash can?  Pffff, not a clue.  Good thing I have a husband.

So.  I’m picking up where I left off, and I’m even expanding on my blog.  This will be my journal of sorts as I try to make sense of anything that happens under my roof that used to seem like a cakewalk until I became the responsible adult who had to deal with it.  Cooking, cleaning, pets, husbands, children.  Somehow I’m going to figure it all out.

It’s good to be back.

pretend

No substitutions allowed!

Tisk tisk.

I mentioned last night that I had a little mishap when trying to pour quinoa out of a plastic bag.  I really hoped the mess would be worth it in the end.  I was using the quinoa to make a pear, quinoa, and spinach salad I found on Pinterest.  In my classic fashion, I chose to make my own little alterations to the recipe, and I ended up paying for it.

I copied and pasted the ingredients from the original recipe, crossing out the items I either didn’t use or changed entirely:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 ripe but firm pears, diced
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives
  • 2 cups and 1 tbsp fat free vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

I’m not a fan of raw onion, so I ditched it altogether.  I forgot to add chives to my grocery list, so I thought I’d make do without them.  I’ve never heard of walnut oil–thus, I have no clue where one might purchase such an item.  In its place, I used a teaspoon of olive oil.  I cut it down to a teaspoon because I didn’t want the dish to be too oily (note to self:  if it calls for a tablespoon of oil, it’s because it needs a whole effing tablespoon of oil).  Lastly, I have also never heard of pomegranate vinegar.  Therefore, I went with the only vinegar I own:  balsamic.

Despite the changes I made, I still had confidence it would at least be edible.  After all, I love everything I put in it.  How could I not like it?  When I dished some up for lunch today, I clung so tightly to my pride that I forced three whole bites down before I finally admitted that it was awful.  Just awful.  And no, I don’t think it was the recipe.  It all boils down to my idiotic shortcuts–AKA “laziness.”

I need to remind myself what I’ve been told by many a decent chef: start simple.  If a recipe calls for things I’ve never heard of, I need to put it in my “parking lot” of things to return to only after I’ve gained the skills that will allow me to take on new things wisely.

I have also made this vow to myself:  from this moment on, I will never again make a choice to substitute and ingredient without knowing, 100%, without a doubt, that it’s not going to ruin the recipe.

Me cook yummy one day

I’m almost 27 years old and I’m finally learning how to cook.

Key word:  “learning.”

Though my intentions are good and my will is strong, I am about as talented in the kitchen as an armless person is at swimming.  In a nutshell, this is me:  I have a knack for overcooking and undercooking, I dirty 18 dishes for one meal when three would have sufficed, I get flustered when I have to cook multiple things at once, and–most importantly–I’m afraid to step out of my comfort zone.  Terms like al denteemulsion, and compote scare the bejesus out of me.  I stay far away from anything that involves bacon–not because I don’t like bacon, but because I’ve never cooked it.  Anything breaded is a guaranteed disaster.  And then there’s meat…

Meat is my worst enemy.  For the longest time my rule was, If it’s not charred, it’s not cooked all the way.  I have a phobia of undercooked meat, which means I often cook meat until it’s dry and tasteless.  Only once in a blue moon do I brave cooking any meat other than chicken and ground beef, because I’m afraid I’ll ruin it out of fear of preparing it wrong.  I get nervous just purchasing meat I’ve never cooked, so imagine what I’m like behind the stove.

Truth is, even though I have a lot of learning to do, I’ve developed a passion for cooking and I’ll be damned if I don’t become an admirable chef.  To do this, I have made a promise to myself:  to step out of my comfort zone and learn something new about cooking each week.  I will document my experiences here as I teach myself to be a great cook by overcoming my culinary fears.

As children, we had to learn the ropes of life through our experiences.  Reading, writing, riding a bike, tying our shoes, washing our hair.  Embarking on this adventure, I feel like a child.  I’m going into it with little knowledge, but I plan to laugh and cry through my fair share of failures and successes until it becomes as simple as tying my shoes.  Me cook yummy one day!