Highlights from my Kitchen - 2009
Highlights from my kitchen 2009: A Q&A interview with myself.
Q: What surprised you the most in your kitchen this year?
A: How stinking EASY it is to make homemade pasta, and how good it tastes. It's amazing what the power of two simple ingredients can do! I was also surprised at how good fried sweet potato chips were, because I really do not like sweet potatoes.
Q: What 3 ingredients in 2009 became your favorites to work with?
1. Sugar - in all it's shapes and forms. Fondant, powdered, colored, sanded, molasses, corn syrup...it's all good. It's insane the amount of powdered sugar I went through this year. I'm thinking at LEAST 15-20 two pound bags! I always buy two or three at a time now.
2. Shrimp - but honestly, that's always been a favorite. There are just so many things you can do with it!
3. Fresh vegetables - Growing up, what little vegetables we did consume in our home came from cans. Things that were supposed to be green were more of a gray color due to the canning process. We ate a lot of canned corn! Then I got older, and I moved on to frozen vegetables. They were already cut up and cleaned for me and I didn't have to worry about them spoiling if I went a week or two without actually cooking anything. The only things I ever bought in the produce section were lettuce, potatoes, onions, garlic, and maybe lemons or the odd fruit here and there.
This past year, however, I've started trying out more fresh vegetables. We discovered the simple joy of roasted green beans and asparagus. Making my own baby food brought a lot of different things into the house. We joined the food co-op and had to learn how to cook and eat new foods. (Persimmon sorbet, anyone?)
Q: What was your greatest culinary achievement?
The fondant shoes on that baby shower cake. They took six hours to make and I had no clue what I was doing. I just sort of prayed and winged it, and they worked out.
Q: What intimidated you the most before you tried it?
Definitely the fresh pasta. It sounded like so much work - why go through all the trouble when you can just grab a box for a buck or two at the supermarket? Then I tried it, and boy, did I feel dumb. Sure, it's a lot of work, but it's definitely not hard at all.
Q:What cooks inspired you this year?
Hands down, the Pioneer Woman. It was great getting to meet her, and I've made a lot of her recipes. I'm looking forward to trying more in the coming year.
Q: What was your biggest failure in the kitchen?
I still can't find the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have really high standards.
Q: What new dishes would you like to tackle in 2010?
More ethnic foods. I want to try making new Japanese, Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican foods at home. I have a ton of cookbooks, yet I rarely open them. It's a goal for the year to use them more often.
I also am dying to try the Parmesan Truffled Popcorn Jaimee Rose posted about on her blog. My mother in law got me a jar of the Truffle and Salt for Christmas and it smells SO GOOD!
Q: What 1 event was your culinary turning point in 2009?
I don't know if I would call it a turning point, but I finally figured out how to make bread rise when it was cold outside. Don't laugh! I know most people get into the bread baking as it starts to cool off, but for me, it was always a summer time activity. I'd simply cover the dough with a kitchen towel and put it outside on the patio!
Of course, in the winter it was too cold to do that. Some people said to put the oven on warm and stick it in there, but then it would get all nasty and dried out. Some people said to stick it in the microwave, but that wasn't warm enough to get it to rise. Neither was an oven that was turned off. Finally, the answer came to me on a bag of frozen loaves of bread.
I was supposed to bring rolls to Thanksgiving dinner, but I ran out of time, so I had to go buy some at the grocery store. Of course they were out of the frozen unbaked kind, so I just got a package of five loaves. There, on the back, I found their "rapid bake" method. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees, then TURN IT OFF.
Duh. It works. You just stick your bread in there to rise without worrying about it getting a dried out crust. Now I can bake bread year round!
Q: What was your go-to kitchen tool/cookware/gadget in 2009?