Ok, this is the only real post you get this week. I found a ton of photos of the boy last night. To make my mother happy I’ll post them the rest of this week. I don’t have them processed yet so today you get food. Are you surprised? I didn’t think so. Oh, and one addition to the weekly menu. I’m now going to post what we had the preceding weekend. Just so you don’t think we eat crap on the weekends. Well… we do sometimes.
This post is actually as a result of what Jen posted today. Many of you have stated that you aren’t much of a cook. Jen being one of the major ones. She has 4 kids, I don’t blame her. I understand that it is much easier to go out and purchase a loaf of bread at the grocery instead of making one. With all of the kneading and measuring and waiting, and kneading. And like I told Jen, you can’t go from nothing to everything overnight. I certainly didn’t. I started with bread. Actually, cookies. I can’t stand store bought cookies, except Oreos. But now that they are trans-fat free they just don’t taste the same. Just like Crisco. That lack of trans-fat makes me not want to eat it straight out of the bucket. I might as well just eat margarine. The only one laughing at that joke is the trusty husband. He’s just now figuring out that I finished the section in In Defense of Food about saturated-fat, polyunsaturated-fat and trans-fat. And that trans-fat is the only one likely to kill you. I still cook with Crisco.
If you are going to make a few of the basics from scratch there are items that are essential for that. Flour is the first one. This isn’t to say that you can go over to your local grocery and pick up a bag of store brand all purpose. Especially true if you are making specific items. How do you expect to make whole wheat bread without whole wheat flour? Next comes the age old question of brand. Personally, I buy King Arthur brand. I like it. It works for me. They have and all purpose, a bread and a whole wheat flour. They have others too, but those are the 3 most likely found in your local grocery. Most other flours I buy in bulk at our natural market. I have 8 wheat based flours alone. I also have wheat bran on hand. I have a recipe for cream cheese filled wheat bran muffins that is to die for. Too bad I can’t eat them. I also have a container of bulgar wheat for my weekly bread, but I stopped putting that in. I like the texture without better.
Then, I have 10 gluten free flours. Plus Arrowroot powder and Xanthan Gum. Not to mention stone ground corn meal. Most all purchased in bulk from that same natural foods market.
Armed with this array of flours I can make nearly everything. (I’m still looking for mesquite flour for a really good flourless tortilla.) Each flour serves a specific purpose. The self-rising is for Irish Coffee Cake. The whole wheat pastry is for just that, pastries. The bread and whole wheat are my most used. All purpose if for everything else. Semolina flour is for stiffer pastas. See. Without the proper tools you can’t hope to have recipes that turn out correctly.
There are other kitchen utensils that make the job much easier. My Kitchen Aid stand mixer for instance. I use mine at least 4 times a week. If not more. I have the shredder attachment and hope to buy the meat grinder attachment soon. That bad boy gets a workout. My Cuisinart has been resurrected in my kitchen too. It is great for chopping up large quantities of nuts (or chocolate for truffles). I use it to mix pasta dough too. The boy hates it, but I love it. Love it so much that I bought a mini one. I use that for garlic/ginger paste and chopping small quantities of nuts. I have a whole kitchen full of gadgets that I love, but that is a different post*.
Even armed with the latest in ingredients and gadgets, the beginner cook can’t make a damn thing. Some have a natural talent to whip up dinner on a moments notice. I’m getting there. But cooking is an art. Baking is a science. I leave it to the professionals, for recipes that is. I scour the internet looking for things to bake. (Mostly the gluten free stuff) I also have an arsenal of cookbooks. If you are going to bake bread, one of the best out there is The Bread Bible. This is where my weekly bread recipe comes from. Irish Soda Bread is from there too. Ask my girlfriends, they love that stuff. If you are into “healthy” cooking try this book. The site takes pay-pal and it has great sugar free recipes or recipes using sugar alternatives. And yes, that is an Amish website. Oh the irony.
My biggest advice to anyone wanting to start cooking from scratch is to start small. Start with an easy bread recipe. Master that and then move on. Pasta is one of the most difficult because it really requires the aid of a pasta machine. You can do it without, but prepare for a ton of rolling. Find recipes that work for you and practice practice practice.
*Notice I didn’t mention a bread machine. I do own one, but it is collecting dust in the pantry. A bread machine is great for the mom on the go.