Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The best music to cook with

If I'm going to spend an afternoon in the kitchen, I need to have decent background music to accompany my day. Usually, I'll just throw some CDs in the player and let "shuffle mode" do it's thing. But sometimes I'm in the mood for something specific. And maybe it's all in my head, but I feel like the food tastes better if I've been preparing it while listening to something especially great.

One example of what happens when great music is blasting in the kitchen is Luciano Pavarotti, which I started listening to about a year ago when he passed away. There's something about an Italian tenor singing opera that makes cooking feel a lot more successful - and of course, it doesn't hurt to make Italian food while you're listening. Check it out:

One example of what happens when holy depressing music is blasting in your kitchen is Radiohead. I LOVE Radiohead but their somber music is really a bad combination when preparing food, especially when you're chopping. Radiohead is actually banned from my kitchen because I keep accidentally cutting myself when I'm listening to it. And it's no wonder with songs like this:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Pizza" Sugar Cookies

I made these cookies last weekend for the Pizza Party with Gourmet Friends. I wasn't sure how they would turn out, but they looked awesome and tasted even better.

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
(AKA Pizza Cookies)
1 Cup Soft Butter or Margarine

1½ Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
3 Tsp Vanilla

3½ Cup Flour
2½ Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Salt

Food Color

“Toppings” (I used assorted sprinkles, cranberries and almonds and chocolate covered peanuts)


1) Beat butter or margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy.
2) Add dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) and mix thoroughly.
3) Separate dough into two amounts and add food dye. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill (at least one hour).
4) Preheat oven 400 degrees
5) Pinch off small amounts of the two colors of dough and press together to make little “pizzas.”
6) Bake for 6-8 minutes or until done.

7) Let cool – Ice and add toppings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gourmet Friends

About a year ago, my friend Mary started a cooking group called Gourmet Friends.
I'm a proud "charter member," and it's always a really great time. We select a theme based on recommendations from the group, then everyone brings a dish to pass about the theme. We've had Spanish night, Southern Food, Appetizers, and this Sunday, a Pizza Party, just to name a few. What's great about the group is that we're all just a bunch of foodies (or wannabes) that love to cook, love to eat, and love to talk about it. We also bring copies of the recipes so if there's anything that we want to taste or try, we can do it. Plus, there's usually leftovers.

Here's a picture from the pizza party and the smiling (and stuffed) GFs are: (Left to Right, Back Row) Matt, Mary (The Gourmet Godfather), Bill, Beth (Vegetarian extraordinaire), Kyle (GF newbie), David, Jen, Kellie (Left to Right, Front Row) The Wannabe, Maddie "I don't want to sit still" Keefe, Hostess Stephanie, Cristina and Kim.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Joy of Cooking

When I graduated from college and moved away from home, my mom gave me a paper-back copy of the Joy of Cooking. I needed to have a good resource for all the things I was going to attempt to feed myself now that I was going to be 2,733 miles away from home. It has been a life-saver on more than one occasion and is now beaten up and marked up with everything from "how to hard boil eggs" (pg 220) to metric conversions (pg 591). I was able to compare the family recipe for Sauerbraten (which had been photocopied and marked up beyond recognition) with the standard recipe (pg 460) to make sure I was doing it correctly. There are a lot of things in Joy that I'm probably never going to make, (like Roast Duck A L'Orange on page 453) but it's a great go-to for ham (pg 482) and raisin sauce (pg 356) with roasted potatoes (pg 317).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What's for dinner? Italian-Style Stir Fry

Here is what was for dinner last night:

Rice-a-Roni: Ok, so I know as a wannabe foodie I'm not supposed to actually like this stuff but I'm not very good at cooking rice. It doesn't help that none of my pots keep the moisture in so all the water ends up evaporating and under-cooking the rice. And I refuse to buy a rice cooker because for some reason, that feels like cheating. Rice-a-Roni is nearly impossible to screw up, which is what makes it extra great.

Italian Stir-Fry: I am a SUCKER for leftovers so I always try to make extra so I'm not eating the same boring sandwich every day (or worse, paying someone to make a sandwich for me). So, first I defrosted the chicken and cut into chunks - that way two chicken breasts can be made into three meals (two for dinner, one for lunch). I chopped up some mushrooms, onions and smashed some garlic and cooked in a skillet with the chicken and some olive oil. Then I added some baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes (an ingredient I recently bought at Trader Joe's for the first time when I accidentally knocked a jar off the shelf. Even though it didn't break, I felt compelled to buy it since the "you break it, you bought it" concept was taught to me early in life when visiting a fancy shop with my mom and spending all my allowance on something I didn't want or need).

Jell-O Butterscotch Pudding: First of all, why didn't anyone tell me how easy it is to make pudding? I'm used to standing over a stove watching the milk like a hawk to make sure it doesn't burn and let's be honest, pudding isn't that hard to make anyway. But with the instant stuff, all I had to do was add some milk, whip for two minutes and pudding just magically appeared. This instant pudding may change my life. AND I get to have leftovers for lunch :-)