What's cookin' good lookin?
Since the stay at home order began here in New Jersey, when I am not outside in the garden, I've been in the kitchen cooking. I LOVE to cook-always have. I'm a pretty good cook, too, if I do say so myself. I am not much of a baker but definitely try my hand at it from time to time.
I thought it might be nice for me to share with you some of the things I've been cooking with all this time on my hands. If you are anything like me, you are probably looking for inspiration about what to cook-not just now while most of us have the luxury of staying home-but like, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I get you.
Please understand, I am not a recipe developer. The recipes I present to you here all come from someone else, and I will give them full credit. I always try a recipe exactly as written (unless I absolutely have to substitute an ingredient I don't have on hand) the first time. I usually ask my family or whoever I am serving if the recipe is a keeper or if it doesn't make the cut. If I choose to make it again, I may tweak it here or there, but honestly, I usually don't even do that. I haven't kept track of ratios of successes to failures but if I had to guess it's probably like 90/10. I read reviews pretty thoroughly before I will make a new recipe. That helps, believe me!
Please excuse the photographs that accompany some of the recipes/dishes. The lighting in my kitchen is terrible for taking Pinterest/Instagram/blog worthy photos. I eat every meal and drink every drink I photograph. I don't do much in the way of staging and setting up photo shoots because that would interfere in the enjoyment of the meal or cocktail. My skill level is subpar as well. Working on the skill thing. Hold please......
One of the first things I made during my current pandemic staycation is a homemade chicken soup courtesy of the Bon Appetit test kitchens and chef Molly Baz. I discovered their Youtube channel about two months ago and it would be a fair statement to say I am more than slightly obsessed. You can find the Youtube video link here. The soup calls for fresh dill and I would highly recommend it if you have it or can get it easily. If not, I would definitely still make the soup. A chicken soup stock made from a whole chicken like this is nothing short of amazing. I love the lazy, slow aspect of cooking something like this as well. It's going to take a while but it is totally unfussy, and the end product is just WOW. Make the soup and you can thank me later. Make it soon, before it gets too warm out.
I just looked carefully through the photos on my phone and, alas, I have 14 million dog pictures but not one of this delicious soup I made. Trust me, it was beautiful.
The world of Youtube has also led me to chef Alison Roman. She is a chef, cookbook author, writer for the New York Times cooking section, and contributor to Bon Appetit magazine. The recipe I made of Alison's is Creamy Farro with Crispy Mushrooms. I mean, come on, just read that again. I'm sold. Here is where you can find a link to this fabulous recipe. I've made it twice already. It's THAT good. I did make it with pearled barley because I didn't have any farro on hand at the time. On top of how absolutely delicious this dish is, your house will smell amazing while you are making it. Don't skip the sour cream. It is comforting, savory, you get umami from the mushrooms yet bright from the dill (see!? go get some dill and then you can make the chicken soup and this dish!) and lemon combo.
Do yourself a favor and just google #thestew. This is a recipe previously known as Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric. It is so outstanding that now it is known simply as #thestew. Most of the ingredients are pantry ingredients except for the fresh ginger, swiss chard, and mint. I didn't have swiss chard but I did have fresh spinach and it worked out just fine. This my friends, is a warm, spicy, delicious bowl of love and you should make it right away.
Featured with this warm, delicious bowl of love is Lavash made with a recipe from my long-time man crush, Alton Brown. Can I just fan girl for a moment here? I consider myself something of a nerd for a variety of reasons I will not discuss here. I love Alton Brown and have been a fan of his recipes for a really long time. I've enjoyed learning about the science behind cooking from him. I have become a better cook, in part, because of him and his television show. I have several of his books and I got to meet him some years ago when he did a book signing in NYC for his book, Feasting on Asphalt. I was ridiculously excited to meet him. The crappy picture I have with him brings me an immense amount of joy.
Alton has a Lavash recipe that my son and I found on a whim as I was making #thestew. It seemed super easy and straightforward and we figured we would give it a go. It turned out great and was the perfect partner for this warm, cozy meal. I only snuck a small piece to try, just for scientific purposes, as I am trying to be faithful to this whole gluten free thing. Yum. It was really good! It was also kinda fun to make with the method of cooking it on top of an upside down sheet pan. You can find the recipe for Mr. Brown's Lavash here.
Downshiftology is an account I follow on Instagram. Lisa has inspired me to do things like
meal prep, organize my pantry, and to try a gluten free lifestyle. Unlike her, I don't require a gluten-free diet, but I do find that I feel quite a bit better when I am not eating gluten. I do cheat-the pearled barley in above recipe is not gluten free but it is delicious and was a totally worth it splurge for me. Eating gluten free has forced me into better, more nutrient dense food choices which is always a good thing. You can try her recipe for beet hummus which I definitely recommend. It's great with veggies, gluten free crackers, or just eating it by the spoonful out of the food processor bowl when it is freshly made. Don't ask me how I know this.
I recently tried the Downshiftology recipe for taco soup and it definitely did not disappoint. It is a great recipe that can be easily made from things you may already have in your pantry! Canned corn? Got it! Taco seasoning mix? Got it! Canned green chiles? Got it! These things may not be staples in your pantry but I think they should be. This can be made with quinoa if you would like to make it a meat free meal. Super easy, super fast, and delicous-everything about this recipe is a big thumbs up from me.
Next up was some baking. I was lucky enough to score some yeast on my food shopping trip about 10 days ago. I've heard that yeast is hard to come by at the grocery store these days. There was tons when I went last time. I wish I would have thought to pick up more.
I wanted to make some bread but as mentioned before I am not a terribly experienced baker and I wanted something that would have a high probability of success. I came across a recipe for Milk Bread. There are a lot out there. Some will be called Japanese Milk Bread or just Milk Bread. The one I ultimately used is from Bon Appetit and I am happy to say it was a success! My husband and son both loved it! I would like it noted that I showed amazing restraint, once again, and just had a taste in the name of research, of course.
While I am not a prolific baker, I really enjoy the alchemy of baking things with yeast. I can't really explain it but it seems a bit like magic to me. This recipe was easy, didn't take all day, and yielded really beautiful and delicious results. You can find the recipe here.
I hope you have enjoyed perusing this blog post and these recipes. I hope it provides you with a little bit of inspiration for making something delicious. Along with gardening and making and drinking cocktails, cooking is something I do for enjoyment and relaxation. I have found solace in cooking during this time of self isolation. Cooking has always been an act of love for me. Feeding someone is showing them I love them.
I want to take a moment to say if you just can't manage to make anything other than a can of soup or a frozen dinner at night right now (or ever) that is perfectly okay. Whatever you are doing to get through this unprecedented time in all of our lives- IT IS ALL OKAY. You don't have to be productive. You can do everything or nothing at all or something in between. You don't have to thrive during this time, you just need to keep going. I do hope though, if you are struggling, that there is something out there that you CAN do that brings you peace and perhaps just a little bit of happiness.