Okay, maybe I’m not quite up to Miss Stewart’s standards, but I’m working on it. Well, the cooking part anyway. I’m not exactly sure I would say a goal of mine is to strive to be just like her. Between you and I, she kind of walks around like she has a stick up her bum most of the time, all crabby and sour-puss faced. And let’s not forget the whole stint in jail thing. I bet her cell mates knew how to decopage and make things out of doilys like pros by the time her gig was up. No, I am most definitley not Martha Stewart but I have channeled my inner chef as of late.
Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a cook. Or a real chef (although I will say I am a pretty mean baker…Mrs. Fields, you have got some serious competition because I know my way around a cookie! Or pie. Or really anything with lost of sugar and butter…and more sugar.). I guess I have always loved to bake, standing on my tiptoes as a young girl, helping my mom and grandma measure out the ingredients for our Thanksgiving pies, our Christmas cookies, and dad’s favorite German chocolate cake (a birthday tradition). I loved not only learning the intricacies of baking: the importance of exact measurements, how baking powder helps make dough rise and stay nice and chewy, what sifting was and why it makes flour more airy resulting in lighter and fluffier cakes and pastries, but I also loved spending time with my mom, my grandma, and whoever else was in the kitchen. Baking is a labor of love, and that love can be seen and tasted in every bite of ooey, gooey chocolate cake, every crumble of peach cobbler, every spoonful of buttercream frosting. What could be better than that? I took the lessons they instilled, as well as their sinfully delicious recipes, and carried them with me into adulthood.
Besides the tasty end result, there is another reason why I love to bake. There is something I find so relaxing about whipping up a batch of blueberry muffins or a nice pan of brownies; the way the soft dough feels in between your fingers and the aroma of caramalized sugars and butter that fills the air all work together to make a bad day seem a little sweeter, pun intended. Baking (and eating) your favorite go-to treats also has a way of re-establishing fond memories proving an overall comforting effect, a great remedy for when you need a little TLC. It is terribly hard not to smile or feel good when you are eating a cookie.
Despite loving to bake however, I have never really felt the same about cooking. I’m not sure why; maybe it’s because I have always been given the impression that cooking is supposed to be hard and complex. The FoodNetwork is always on in my apartment (is it sad that I TiVo episodes of my favorite cooking shows when I am at work?). One Miss Paula Deen is my hero (it is AMAZING what she can do with a stick (or seven) of butter and a little southern charm) and it amazes me that Rachael Ray really can whip up a scrumptious dinner, complete with dessert in under 30 minutes. I also am a huge fan of Bravo’s Top Chef (or any cooking reality show for that matter. Move over Housewives of NewYorkJerseyAtlantaD.C.BeverlyHills; if you want drama, just throw a bunch of chefs into a kitchen and ask them to create a five-course dinner with one hand tied behind their backs.) These shows make it look so easy yet whenever I step into my kitchen, my chef hat and apron on, I always seem to get a tad overwhelmed at the task that lay before me. That, and I never was a real fan of touching raw meat; it just grosses me out a bit. Not that cooking always involves meat, but when it does, I have a hard time stomaching it. I like meat, just not when it’s raw and bloody.
In college, I managed, like most of my cohorts, to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza and of course the ever-favorite Ramen noodles. You may be surprised how many things you can make out of and with ramen when you really try; I am talking everything from breakfast to lunch to even dessert. Yes, I said dessert. Ramen Haystacks are sooooo good an deasy to make. I promise I will share the recipe with you all in the future 🙂
After a while though, your taste buds, at least mine, start to crave things of sustanance (and of a little higher nutritional value–although I still stand my ground that pizza is very healthy for you. I mean, you’ve got your grains, your tomatoes and other veggies, and your cheesy dairy. You’ve basically tackled the whole Food Pyramid–or I guess now it’s a ‘MyPlate’). I have been living on my own now for the past four months and have started to reevaluate my take on cooking. I have experimented a bit, and have learned that despite what I thought about cooking before, it really isn’t that hard and anyone, including myself, can do it. I have also found out that there is a lot more ‘give’ and flexability when it comes to cooking. You can take a recipe and alter it, change it, and make it your own, adding or subtracting ingredients as you like; with baking, everything has to be more structured.
I am proud to say that I have finally taken out my pots and pans, dusted them off, and put them to good use (who knew they were good for anything other than a fill-in drum set?), as well as my oven and stove. I am even thinking about investing in a Crock-Pot. Gosh, I feel so domesticated. What is happening? This past weekend in fact, I poached my very first chicken. Yes I, Wendi-I-can’t-boil-water-to-save-my-life-Hansen poached chicken. ANd you know what? It was actually easy easy lemon squeezy and my new favorite way of eating chicken. It turned out so moist and juicy and is actually the healthiest way of cooking chicken. PLus, you can take it and use for so many things: tacos, stir fry, sandwiches, salads, etc. Look for my poaching chicken 101 in my next post 🙂
As I continue in my Martha-fication process, I promise to include easy-to-make and of course, tres yummy recipes for you to try out as well. If I can do it, anyone can–trust me! Who knows, yours truly might be seen on the FoodNetwork someday. Hey, a non-cook/chef girl can dream right?
Have a great Monday…and go cook something!