Anyway, since I'm not particularly gifted in this area, I've had to learn a few tricks along the way. I thought this blog would be a good opportunity to share these with you. Maybe you're like me: having fun experimenting with new recipes, learning something new every day. Perhaps you're like I used to be: not wanting to have anything to do with cooking unless it was perfecting your method of re-heating the fries from Chick-fil-a.... Maybe you're like my mom, who can make a perfectly scrumptious meal when it looks like there's literally NOTHING in her kitchen (I still don't know how she does it!!). Here's to hoping you can take something helpful away from this blog post....or add your own personal wisdom (please add it if you've got it!!).
Before I start, I must give MAJOR props for everything I know about cooking to my mom and my two sisters. They taught me (and continue to teach me) everything I know. My dad also gave me the following invaluable words of wisdom: "If you can read, you can cook."
1) If at all possible, always use fresh ingredients. Fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, fresh mozzarella, fresh blue cheese, etc.
2) Use what you have. This is one I really need to work on (yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition...). I am infamous in our household for running out to the store for a last minute ingredient. I am learning about the art of substituting and adding to recipes. It is sort of fun!
3) Get the right kitchen tools. I used to hate working in the kitchen b/c I couldn't cut anything with my knives and my chicken never browned the way that it did in the recipe picture. Two kitchen tools that have saved my life: nice knives and a cast-iron pan. If you don't have anything else in your kitchen, get these two things. Knives can be expensive. My amazing mother has given me one nice knife for Christmas and my birthday for the past few years....add in what we got from the wedding....and I almost have a full set. Hallelujah! The cast-iron pan is not at all expensive. I recommend this one. It's amazing and will change the way you cook (and it only costs $30!! You can't go wrong!) I use this pan 95% of the time.
4) Be inspired by new recipes all the time. You can't see enough new recipes. They help you to get out of your weekday ruts and intrigue you to make something new. I highly recommend registering at Fine Cooking and signing up for their "recipe a day" e-mail. Best of all, it's free! I definitely don't make everything they send me, but I archive all of it or save it to my "favorites" if it looks good. The best part is, my mom and sister are registered there so we can let each other know if we made one and how it turned out. It's a lot of fun.
Tonight I made this one and followed a few of my own rules as well. The recipe didn't call for avocado, but I LOVE it and had one that was too ripe to pass up, so I tossed it in. Same with a few cherry tomatoes and bacon left over from making these for breakfast. Here are a some pictures:
This salad bowl is the best. We use it almost every night. Thanks again Liz & Bryce and Lane!!
Yummy steak cooks up really well in the cast-iron pan.
And then you can just throw in the shallots! I also highly recommend some nice bamboo cooking utensils. I use mine daily. This one is from Pampered Chef, but I also have some nice ones from Crate&Barrel (Thanks Rebecca and Pete!)
Adding in the tomatoes and bacon....
Sea salt (or kosher salt) is something I never cook without. It will change your life.
The finished product!
Curt was quoted tonight, saying this was the best salad he had ever had. Score! And yes, that IS a juice box next to him. It's his drink of choice....pretty much every night.