Monday, January 23, 2017

What I Have in Common with The Queen

I'm watching The Crown on Netflix, which is about young Queen Elizabeth when she ascended to the throne.

There's a flashback scene to when she was a little girl, probably about eleven or twelve. She's being tutored by the vice provost at Eton College. He is teaching her the difference between "the efficient" and "the dignified." The legislature is efficient and the crown is dignified, something along those lines. At one point, she stops the provost and asks if this is what he teaches his other students.

He responds, "No, just you. This is what I teach them." Then, he drops a huge stack of papers on her desk. Exam papers. She pages through. They include complicated math that makes me twitch. She asks, "Shouldn't I know all of this, too?" He's like, "No, ma'am. All very undignified."

Monday, January 16, 2017

My Love-Hate Relationship with Cooking Blogs

I have a love/hate relationship with cooking blogs. 

I love them because they offer hope: what I could be, if I just tried a little harder, applied myself, and got over my fear of cooking fowl.

But I also hate them because they all look so calm and lovely with their high quality photographs and pastel colors with plenty of white space. They don't show the angst that someone like me goes through on a daily basis when it comes to cooking. I mean, seriously: The color of my blog should be blood, sweat, and tears. Think vomit (for food poisoning) and charred-black for burnt dinners. No white space, because nothing about my literal or figurative cooking life is clear and uncluttered.

Listen, I'm not a happy person, and I don't find this fun. Even the people who have blogs where they're learning to cook—these people are not like me. They're married or have boyfriends and are young and chipper and many have kids. They're not this single, sad, 44-year-old chick living in a studio apartment and who doesn't even have a cat anymore because the cat is dead.

But I go to these blogs anyway.                


Often, I'll find recipes that look good and doable, but then I'll encounter this One Step or Sneaky Ingredient (or both) that throws me off and then I'm like, Hello, Papa Gino's. Come to mama. And don't forget the bread sticks either. No, they're not redundant with pizza!

Right now, I'm looking at, which is a great website. It's all about healthy recipes. They have their 25 Most Popular Skinnytaste Recipes of 2016.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sometimes This is Dinner

And you know what? It's OK.

It's OK to buy a chicken from Stop & Shop and boil bagged rice and heat up frozen mixed veggies and call it a day. 

Because sometimes it's a hard week and clients are pains in the ass (asses?) and the work-in-progress feels like you're trying to catch a pterodactyl with a butterfly net. It happens. And you want to cook and you want to eat healthy, but it's just you, not even the cat to guilt you into anything with his Stare of Condemnation, because the cat is dead (long live the cat!) and has been for almost two years.

But here's the thing. It's better than pizza, I guess. And when I went to the store, I avoided the cans of chocolate frosting calling my name even though I wanted nothing more than to open one up and eat directly from it with a spoon. And then buy a bag of Tostitos and layer them with cheese and nuke 'em for a minute and jump into bed with nothing but the memory of my dead cat and lots of Netflix.

THAT didn't happen, at least. 

And I WILL do something with the leftover chicken. I have an easy chicken noodle soup that I'll make with the remaining meat on the bone and I'll share that here, at some point. I haven't gotten to the point where I'll boil the carcass or make my own stock (haven't the first clue!), but that's OK, too.

I will eat tonight. And it will be relatively healthy. And life will go on. And tomorrow (or next week) will provide another opportunity for me to challenge my lack of culinary skills and confidence.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Goes Into a Well-Stocked Pantry?

A few months ago when I decided that I was going to do this cooking thing for real, I stocked my pantry because apparently this is a thing. You're supposed to have a well-stocked pantry as a cook.

Now, given the fact that I'm in a studio apartment and I don’t have an actual “pantry,” this was a challenging endeavor.

So I bought this little contraption at Ocean State Job Lot for 20 bucks or so. It’s cute, don’t you think? 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Food Poisoning: One of My Biggest Fears

One of my friends on Facebook posted this status update the other day:

THIS is what scares the bejeezus out of me. And this woman is no slouch. She cooks. How are idiot cooks like me to make it when the smarty pants people who KNOW how to cook get sick?

I realize this wasn't so much a cooking issue but rather an issue regarding freshness of crab meat WHICH I WILL NEVER EAT NOW BY THE WAY.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Should You Rinse Your Chicken Before Cooking It?

OK, so this question regarding chicken rinsing causes a lot of debate online. Apparently, the reason why is because most people, at least in the US, rinse their poultry, probably because that's the way people were raised and because Julia Child did it.

My mother rinses. For me, the rinsing itself isn't the problem. IT'S THE FRIGHTENING SCENE THAT HAPPENS POST RINSE THAT HAS SCARRED ME FOR LIFE.

When you rinse chicken in the sink, you need to clean everything in sight afterwards, and my mother is a wild woman with her bleach. To her, Clorox is a verb. She has to Clorox everything and it's very stressful for a germophobe and angsty person like me to watch and eventually replicate on my own.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Light Brown Sugar vs. Dark Brown Sugar: What's the Difference?

Light brown sugar versus dark brown sugar. I've always wondered about this, and I just never bothered to ask or look it up.


So basically, your brown sugar is a combination of regular sugar and molasses. 

Who knew? 

The molasses is what darkens the sugar.

So your light brown sugar doesn't have as much (as many?) molasses, and your dark brown sugar does.

Which one should you use? Are they interchangeable?

From what I read, it sounds like it comes down to taste. If you use the dark brown sugar, you're going to have a stronger molasses taste, and if you use the light one, you'll have a lighter taste, so there you go.

I'd say follow the recipe. If it calls for dark, use dark. If it calls for light, use light. But in a pinch, it sounds like you probably can get away with swapping one for the other, if necessary. Just know it might affect the taste a little. Or a lot.

I sound like Julia Childs, don't I? Wait. Is it Child or Childs? I don't even know that. 

[Editor's note: Child]

Friday, January 6, 2017

Should You Rinse Your Pasta After Cooking It?

Ah, to rinse or not to rinse—that is the question, a question that causes much debate. 

I've done my googling and here's what makes sense to me and what I'm going with. 


Here is the rule: There are times when you should rinse, and there are times when you shouldn't rinse.


Ha, ha. Just kidding.



If you've ever cooked pasta before, you probably noticed it was sticky after you dumped it in the colander to drain. (And if you're getting ready to cook pasta for the first time, take a close look at the pasta and even feel the pot—AFTER IT HAS COOLED OFF—because you'll feel a sticky residue.)

This is because of the starch.

So should you rinse off that starch—or not?

Well, Starch has a wicked crush on Mr. Sauce. Starch would like to get all good and cozy with Mr. Sauce. So you should leave Starch alone so she can work her magic with Marinara, Alfredo, Prego, and Ragu. 

Work with me here. I'm giving you a little story to help you remember.

So if you're going to sauce your pasta, do not rinse that sucker.

However, if you're making a cold pasta dish—pasta salad, people!—you WILL want to rinse the pasta. This will help stop the pasta from cooking, and it will remove the starch, which you want to do for pasta salad. Otherwise, your pasta will get all gummy and clumpy.

And two words that shouldn't be on a menu, even for an idiot cook like me, are gummy and clumpy.

Although they might make good names for cats.

Here, Gummy! Here, Clumpy!


Also! You should drain any pasta/noodles you plan on using in a stir fry. For the same reason. #youdontwanttogumitup

So, to recap:
  • Feeling saucy? Do not rinse your pasta.
  • Making pasta salad? Rinse.
  • Using noodles in a stir-fry (meaning a wok)? Rinse.
You're welcome.

And you're welcome to disagree. But I need rules, and I need to start somewhere. So this is the somewhere I'm starting at.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Heavy Cream vs. Heavy WHIPPING Cream: Is There a Difference?

Okay, so I've done some googling because I have questions about things, and I know I'm not the only one.

The other week, I had a recipe that called for heavy cream, and when I went to the dairy aisle in my local Stop & Shop, I encountered heavy cream and heavy whipping cream. I wasn't sure if they were the same thing, or if it was just someone's idea of a sick joke to try to confuse me more and defeat me.

I did some googling, and here's the deal with cream. It's all about the milk fat, especially with your heavy creams. Your heavy cream and your heavy whipping cream have 36% milk fat, or so the Google tells me, making them pretty much the same thing. 

However, just plain old whipping cream without the heavy in front of it has 30% milk fat, so it is a little different. One's going to—I guess, I don't know—stay aloft better as you whip it.

Don't ask me which one. I can only give you so much, but that's the difference. 

So heavy whipping cream and heavy cream, 36% milk fat, pretty much the same thing. Plain old "whipping cream" without the "heavy" has less milk fat.  

I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I certainly sound like I do. Anyway, that's what I'm going with.

[Editor's note: heavy cream and heavy whipping cream will hold its shape better than just "whipping cream." Save the half-and-half for coffee or for recipes that specifically call for it.]

Monday, January 2, 2017

That Time I Adapted a Recipe Called Easy Penne Pasta Bake

5:00 PM

Okay. I wasn't even going to do this, because I was kind of having a nervous breakdown today. But the whole purpose of this stupid adventure is to learn to cook even when you don't feel like it.

I was going to make firecracker chicken. I survived the garlic chicken from last week. Then, as the day wore on, I wasn't feeling well. I said, "You know what? I'm not going to make chicken, because if I don't feel well tomorrow, I don't want to blame it on my cooking unless I absolutely know that's the cause."

Then, I remembered that I have a fairly well stocked pantry. I should be able to whip something up. In theory.

This is the thing, this is why I don't know how to cook, and this is the thing that eludes me and I probably am never going to learn because I do think this is a skill, to be able to look at a whole bunch of ingredients and be like "THIS is what I'm going to make!"

I can't do that. I don't ever see myself having that ability. I can follow a recipe. But to figure it out on my own? I can't do that.

I was thinking how about some penne with mozzarella and some tomatoes and maybe some peppers and onions, because I have a frozen bag of peppers and onions? You would think there would be some sort of recipe online with those ingredients. They're not weird ingredients. But, no. Not having any luck finding anything remotely like that.

I found a recipe called "Easy Penne Pasta Bake." I'm adapting it, which, right there, is scary. That's a scary word for me when it comes to cooking. Adapting.