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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

I like to cook.  Usually, it is not under pressure, so I’m free to do things at my own pace, except for those frantic moments when meat needs turned and pasta needs drained (and I forgot to get out the colander).  I’m a fan of my routine, for efficiency and a balance of work, fun, and rest.  So.  Here’s the order of things I generally follow:

First, I decide what to eat.  Sometimes this happens in a moment, and I make one of my standard recipes.  Other times it is a result of a sale at the store that day or the day before.  On some occasions, I’ve been planning for weeks, researching recipes, collecting ingredients.

When I’m ready to cook, the first thing I do is get out my equipment.  This involves pans, pots, mixers, cutting boards, knives, and stirring spoons.  I get any of the appliances plugged in, turned on, or preheating.

If there are any supplies I’m not sure I have on hand, I check at this point.  I also check to make sure the things I planned to use aren’t spoiled.  If any of this involves digging through the fridge, I pull out anything else that seems old or spoiled, to be dealt with later.  When I don’t have enough of the ingredients, I either think of a substitute, or turn everything back off while I go to the store, or decide something different entirely to eat.

I start the longer-to-cook, or more hands-off items at this point.  Rice and pasta, for example, can be started, cook for a while, and can even sit for a while cooling if sauce is going to be poured over them. The sauce, if it is straight off the stove, will reheat them.

People who know me know that I multitask.  It is actually kind of hard for only one task or subject to fully engage my brain.  So.  In this moment while my hands are free, I turn on music, put up my hair, tell a funny story, or turn on a TV show.

This next part is where to insert a recipe.  I finish cooking: do the steps, taste, innovate.  As time allows, I alternate stirring and stuff with putting away the ingredients I’m done with.

Once the food is made, I put the dish together.  You know: veggies on the plate next to the meat, butter the roll, dispense sauces, fill a glass, grab a fork.

Then I turn everything off, and finish putting away ingredients.  This is especially useful if any of them ought to be refrigerated.

Eat!

I usually rinse my dish when I’m done with it, and leave it in the sink soaking if applicable.  When there are kids involved at the meal, usually their parents are taking care of dismissing them from the table, getting ready to leave or play or go to bed.  I’ve found that, being the single person, it is useful if I help finish the next several steps while parents are occupied.  This especially works in evenings.  After they take care of kids and I take care of the kitchen, we can spend relaxed time together.  As kids get older, I’ve observed it works pretty well to have them involved in the clean-up, even if they weren’t part of the preparation.  That way everyone is ready to move on to the next activity together.

After that, I put away all the leftovers.

Once the dishes and work area are cleaned, I’m free!

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A year and a half ago I tasted the first soup I’ve ever liked.  It was Olive Garden’s Chicken & Gnocchi.  I decided to try making it someday.  I looked up recipes.  Discovered I would need to buy all sorts of things I don’t usually have around my house (spinach, celery, garlic, chicken stock).  But I didn’t.  Not until this week.

On Tuesday there was a snowstorm in Denver.  Actually, when I got off work at 5, there was only rain and the sun was still up.  So I went to the Sprouts “Farmer’s Market” grocery store across the street, spent a half hour, and found my car covered in snow.  But I couldn’t bring myself to purchase the high-priced chicken at Sprouts, so I would have to wait to make the soup, however good soup sounded during a blizzard.

After a breakfast-for-dinner during the snowfall, my dad who loves to drive decided to joyride through the snow.  We had fun.  And at the end of it he let me run in to King Soopers where I procured the needed chicken.  So I would make the soup Wednesday while snowed-in.

To my dismay, when I came upstairs at about 11:30 on Wednesday morning, the sun was shining and the roads were melted.  I was just about to cook chicken when my family asked if I wanted to go to Chick-fil-a with them for lunch.  Scrap the idea of a 2 PM lunch, and head for Chick-fil-a!

I prepared the chicken, celery, spinach, garlic, and carrots Wednesday afternoon, but didn’t put the soup together.  I waited for that until Thursday afternoon.  With almost all of the ingredients pre-sliced, the pouring and boiling and simmering only took about a half hour.  It looked like this:

And then I served myself a bowl of soup beside some fresh blueberry muffins (Betty Crocker with modifications: in the old days, she had us put water in the mix instead of milk, and though the instructions say milk now, I still just put in water; it tastes better!).  Pour out some grape juice and some water, light a candle, and Voila!


It was good.  I had some more several hours later.  My brother tried it.  He thinks it needs more chicken.  He is a chicken fiend.

The changes I made to the Chicken & Gnocchi recipe I found were:  I left out the onion and the cornstarch.  I used heavy cream instead of half and half.  And because I don’t know what I’m doing, I used several cloves of garlic instead of just one, but I like garlic, so I don’t mind.  The recipe doesn’t specify how much salt should be added, and I didn’t put enough in at first.  Next time I will pre-cook the chicken less; I grilled chicken breasts, which can still work if I watch more closely.  Also the celery needed to be cooked longer before I added the chicken and chicken stock.  Someday I may also try making my own gnocchi.

I made soup!

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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On a chilly day in late autumn or winter, a lazy day when you “get around to” lunch at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, on a grey day when no sunlight dares cheer your kitchen, what you need is the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, and the homescent exercise of preparing one. 

 

What is a perfect grilled cheese sandwich?  There are three ingredients to a perfect grilled cheese sandwich.  Bread is the first ingredient.  When the sandwich is done, the bread is crisp, light brown, and buttery on the outside while remaining mostly soft on the inside, moving toward cheesiness nearer the center of the sandwich.  Cheese is of course the second ingredient.  At eating the cheese should be liquid in the middle, with the soft rubbery texture of cooled cheese on the edges.  Finally the crowning ingredient to a perfect grilled cheese sandwich is the margarine that coats, for full effect, the surface that will touch your tongue.  After grilling, the margarine should be fully melted and resting in the crevices of the toasted bread.  

 

How to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich using my stove.*  Turn on one of the burners to medium high and immediately place a pan on top.  Let it preheat while you prepare the sandwich.  Take two relatively thick  (3/4 inch) pieces of wheat sandwich bread and spread a thin layer of margarine over ONE side of each slice.  Place butter-sides together.  On top of this pre-sandwich, place one slice of Velveeta cheese (pre-sliced or self-sliced).  Check temperature of pan by flicking room temperature water into the pan.  If the drops bounce and sizzle quickly away, the pan is preheated.  Lift the pan and use a non-stick cooking spray to coat it.  Replace on stove. 

 

All together take the top slice of bread and the cheese on top of it.  Lift straight off the second slice of bread and set gently in the pan.  Add the top slice of bread in the same way, ensuring that the buttered side is on top.  Have ready a spatula for turning the sandwich.  After about two minutes, flip the entire sandwich.  At this point the cheese is not melted to the bread, so your sandwich will fall apart if you do not flip it quickly.  Align pieces of bread, and ensure that no cheese is protruding over the new bottom slice of bread.  If new top is now golden-brown, that side is done.  Turn down stove to just above medium.  Continue to cook for about two minutes.  If both sides are golden brown, use spatula to remove from pan.  If either is not golden brown, place that side down in the pan and cook for 30 seconds to one minute more. 

 

At this point your sandwich should match the description at the top.  I would not recommend slicing the sandwich, as it compresses the bread you intentionally left soft in the middle.  My favorite serving suggestion is to add slices of grilled chicken such as you would put in a chicken salad, only warm, buttered**, and spiced (at least with pepper).  Have oranges for the side and drink grape juice, preferably in a glass cup. 

Lady with Electric Stove, Retro
Lady with Electric Stove, Retro

 

*If you are not using my stove, temperatures and times may vary.  The idea is that you cook the outside quickly enough to make it crisp and golden brown without drying the inside of the bread.  One difficulty in this is that at the same time you must be melting the cheese, so you must find a balance.  Heating the sandwich in the microwave because the cheese was insufficiently melted is very unsatisfactory, as it turns the crisp outside edges of the sandwich soft. 

 

**A health conscious person may decline butter in this instance and rather increase the herbs and spices to taste.  For this I recommend one’s favorite blend of Mrs. Dash. 

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The beginning of the movie Bella is a man quoting his mother, “When you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” 

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6  

Monday I had a list of things to do a mile long, and I was convinced I could get them all done before their respective deadlines.  With relief I checked off each item.  Trying to multi-task, I turned on the oven to preheat and sat down to fill out my local ballot, for which I had made zero decisions.  The efficiency was already starting to wear away when I realized I needed my laptop and had just turned it off.  Forgetting what was behind and reaching forth to what was before, I pressed on. 

And spent about 45 minutes on my computer learning about candidates and issues.  All the while the oven was preheated and empty.  When I finally finished my ballot, the time it would take to cook lunch and eat it would eliminate one item from my list.  I chose to skip the library, because I didn’t have time to watch or listen to the items I had reserved anyway. 

After lunch I ran my errands.  Mom ran hers, too, agreeing to meet back at the house in time to depart for Bella.  The theater I chose was across town, the one offering the cheapest tickets.  (Even though we broke even for gas, I like to boycott expensive movie tickets.)  Before we left, I checked my email one more time to see if any friends had responded to my last-minute invitation to join them. 

By the time we got across the city, we were about ten minutes early.  But being out of our neighborhood, we didn’t know where the theater was.  I saw one on the left side of the street; Mom turned right.  Finally I explained I saw the sign across the street, so we made it over there.  Like a theater ashamed of its existence there was no marquis.  We parked and went in, but did not see Bella listed.  Sighing, I asked the cashier, “There’s another theater across the street in the mall, isn’t there?” 

Back in the car, we returned to the exact spot we had accidentally visited earlier, but still there was no theater in sight.  You know how malls work, though; you can start anywhere and get anywhere, especially in this one, which has a shortcut through the food court.  So we parked.  I hurried in and analyzed the map while Mom followed.  At this point the listed start time of the movie was already upon us.  I found the theater on the directory and took off in the direction, hoping my recent venture into map-reading would pay off. 

The whole race I was coaching myself, “God knows what He’s doing, Lisa.  This is for a reason.  Relax.”  Finally through the mall and across a little drive, we entered the theater, bought our tickets, and were at last standing just inside the door for screen 12.  And everything was pitch black.  The movie was just starting.  Once there was a little more light, we found our seats and heard the line, “…tell God your plans.” 

Hang with me, I’m not done.  About twenty minutes into the movie the entire screen went black.  Small fluorescent emergency lights began to flash and a calm voice informed us that an emergency had been reported in the building; everyone should move toward the exit.  Outside we moved back across the little drive. 

My brother has this laugh and dance he does when life is so unbelievable.  Rosalee on Win a Date with Tad Hamilton says, “Yikesabee.”  I sit down and watch with a smile ready to burst into a laugh.  Some people say, “You just can’t make stuff like this up.” 

In the end we got free movie passes for anytime, any in the family of theaters, with no expiration date or restriction – and we got to finish our movie after a mere 15 minute intermission.  I would have been fine if they carried sodas and popcorn to us on trays, but then they were already over the top on customer service. 

The drive home was one of those times of perfect peace.  I was trying to figure out what I thought about the movie without thinking.  Instead, feelings were just filling me, but not in an I’m-going-to-burst sort of way.  A nice thing about being the passenger is that you can pull your legs up into the seat and pretend that even though the world is flashing by at 60 miles per hour, you feel like you’re in a cozy library with a mesmerizing fire to watch.  At one point a car out my window exited the highway and I realized I’d been watching it for miles.  Outside the sun was setting, leaving shadows and light mixing in a way that is only accomplished by the looming presence of large hills in the west.  Peace is a nice thing. 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  ~ Philippians 4:6-7

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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