The never ending search

The planning for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year has been going on for a month and a half now in the food and crafting blogs. This past week I saw posts on planning, cooking, decorating, and recovering from Thanksgiving. Luckily, I only had to make two side dishes to the Thanksgiving dinner I attended.

This great big world of the internet is kind of funny.  I am sure that you, like me, have been searching for new recipes and looking for old standards to make and share with our loved ones. Dinner, cookie swaps, afternoon teas, potlucks, parties, brunches and cocktail hours.

A new favorite website of mine is Pintrest; my daughter got me hooked on it. I’ve discovered that the pictures are sometimes better than the actual recipe. That is the beauty and the downfall of the internet and blogging.

I recently read a blog post on Blogher.com about Martha Stewart’s comment where she was uncomplimentary to amateur internet food bloggers.  I like Martha Stewart, especially when she was new in the business and was more involved her television show and magazine. She’s been to jail, she’s been humbled, she knitted sweaters; she’s been there and did that. Her humble beginnings are now a big conglomerate. Her brand also has a professional blog , Martha Stewart “Up Close and Personal.”

I started The Fearless Cooking Club and this blog out of admiration for Julia Child. Julia had humble beginnings and was a pioneer in cooking and television. She wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. She lives on with her quotes, philosophy and recipes on PBS.com. The blogging world is a combination of Martha and Julia. There are big blogs and small blogs; there are blog businesses and blog amateurs. I am an amateur with a small blog. There are other small bloggers out there like me.

I’m a self-taught cook and blogger, I’ve learned a few things about recipes. So in the spirit of this blog and the holiday season here are my points on the never ending search for the great recipe.

Patty’s Points:

1. When reading a recipe, look at the ingredients first. I blogged about this back in 2011. I was philosophical back then.

Do you like the ingredients? Are they in your pantry? Will it take time out of your day to get them? Is the ingredient necessary to the recipe? or could a substitution be made?

I make substitutions all the time. I regularly substitute chard for kale. I am still harvesting chard from my garden. To buy kale specifically for a recipe would be wasteful. It is an equal substitute.  Sometimes substitutions just don’t work, like putting Stevia or Splenda to replace sugar in a baking recipe. I tried this with a blueberry pie recipe last year. I’m not sure it tasted very good. It definitely would not work with taking candy to a hard crack like this Pumpkin Brittle.

pumpkin brittle

2. Read the directions. Do they make sense? Are they easy to follow? How much time will it take? Will you need to refrigerate the ingredients over night?

smores picture

homemade marshamallows

I have never made homemade marshmallows –  yet.directions

When I first started cooking and baking I threw everything into a bowl or pot and that was it! Very little technique was involved. I read a hand written recipe that had the ingredients on the card and at the bottom the directions were ‘Cook for 1 1/2 hours.’  If you don’t have any cooking knowledge or memory of how it is made it would be difficult to follow. Many loved recipes my mother wrote on stationery from my dad’s business. I’ll never throw them out because they are priceless piece of my family history. But, I’ll have to draw on my cooking knowledge or memory to make it.

Cooking and baking is about technique. The directions help develop technique and skill. I’ve been reading about how to make croissants off and on for several months. There is a lot of technique to making croissants and some day I may tackle it. In the meantime, I am still reading about it, getting up the courage to make a mess in the kitchen. Croissants take at least two days to accomplish. It wouldn’t be a good idea to start making it then go out of town next week.

3. Have you made a recipe similar to this one before? From your past experience, is there an easier way to make the recipe than the directions?

I made a turkey meatball soup today. I had all but one of the ingredients on hand but it was easy for my husband to pick up while doing errands. It took a day of preparation before I made the soup. I had to thaw the ground turkey overnight and there were a lot of ingredients that needed chopping. I chopped all the ingredients and placed them in a container to refrigerate overnight.

The next morning I was putting the recipe parts together. The meatball recipe looked bland; the cooking technique looked like it might be mushy.  So I referred to two of my basic, stand-by cookbooks. One cookbook  mentioned that if making the meatball with poultry you should refrigerate the balls for one hour before cooking or they would fall apart. The other cookbook advised to put the meatballs in mini muffin tins to keep them firm and round.  Also, one of the ingredients was 1/2 cups brown rice. Was is cooked or un-cooked rice? I couldn’t tell, so I relied on my instincts of making a similar meatball recipe. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but it needs to translate to my kitchen.

meatballs

meatball soup

4. My kitchen, maybe like yours, is the dumping ground for purses, grocery bags, kitchen equipment etc. Sometimes I am spinning around my kitchen looking for the olive oil bottle and still can’t find it because of the clutter.

piles in the kitchen

kitchen clutter

dirty dishes

Before making the recipe: a) clean the kitchen, b) do the dishes, and/or c) clear the clutter. I think in the directions it should say have those as the #1 on the list. You run the risk of starting a fire or dumping ingredients all over. I accidentally dumped cake batter onto my Brighton purse once. That was crazy. Everytime I carry that purse I think of that day! Don’t you wish you would see Ree Drummond or Lidia Bastianach show how they clean the kitchen before and after making their signature dishes?

Good luck out there navigating the internet. Five weeks of the holidays are yet to come. And don’t forget, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!

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Taking stock of Turkey Day

To say I have been busy is an understatement. The same is true for the rest of The Fearless Cooking club members. Thanksgiving came early this year, darn it. I have to work 3 days this week and family is coming in. I made something I have never made before and I could give it to my fellow cooks: turkey stock.

I used Alton Brown’s Chicken Stock recipe . If you look at the recipe it says it takes 14 hours. What a great recipe to put on the stove and forget about while cleaning the house.

The carrots were the final product of the garden and added to the stock.

Two gallons of water with the veggies.

Four turkey thighs added to the pot.

I didn’t have a stockpot big enough so I divided it into two pots.

Cooling off the stock.

Quarts of stock.

Patty’s Points:

1. Don’t tell Alton Brown but I didn’t follow his recipe to the letter. I used four turkey thighs that I roasted in the oven then added it to the stock pots. I read once that roasting the meat brings out great flavors before making gravy so I thought it would work for stock as well.

2. At the end of the day, I used the turkey meat and one quart of the stock for turkey noodle soup. It was a nice meal at the end of a long day of cleaning.

3. It made exactly five quarts of stock as the recipe stated. The slow, medium-low heat reduced the mixture into a fine concentrated stock. I will be sharing the stock with Joy and Char as they use it for their gravy or stuffing.

This cute little turkey made of pipe cleaners and a pine cone, made by my mother many, many years ago. I won’t be able to spend the holiday with Mom and Dad. They are getting older and I get out to visit them every two months. Each visit is a precious moment of remembering good times, despite the daily challenges they face. Thanksgiving is a holiday of purely being thankful without any pretenses or expectations. Happy Thanksgiving Mom and Dad.

Never-before-seen Thanksgiving side dish

The food star of Thanksgiving is the turkey, but what guests remember best are the side dishes. This side dish is a staple of our friend’s Terry and Joy every Thanksgiving. They named it Norfolk Ruth’s Cauliflower after Terry’s mother who was the best cook in Stanton County Nebraska in the 1960-70’s. It is unusual but quite tasty. Maybe it was Ruth’s way of getting everyone at the table to eat their vegetables?

Ingredients
1 head of cauliflower
1 serving of homemade white sauce (like the one on the side of the cornstarch box)
1 small jar of drained and sliced green olives with pimento
1 cup of cornflakes, crushedDirections:
Steam the head of cauliflower until it is al dente. Don’t overcook it because after the toppings are in place, it is to be baked in the oven.
Make the white sauce according to the directions on the cornstarch box.
Drain and slice the olives.
Put the cornflakes in a zip lock bag and use a rolling pin to crush to small pieces.

Place the al dente cauliflower in a oven proof bowl or dish, leaving a 2-inch clearance on the side of the baking dish.
Sprinkle the green olives atop the cauliflower, then pour the white sauce atop.
Sprinkle the crushed cornflakes over the cauliflower.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the cornflake topping has browned. Serves 6-8 people.

Happy Thanksiving Ruth!