Bringing back “You’re Welcome”

Today’s post is a day late (Did you know I try and post on Tuesdays? Because I do. Try.) and it’s recycled, but it’s been rolling around in my head again recently and I thought it would fit in here. So, without further ado, here is a repost of an old blog entry from 2011 on a long-abandoned blog of mine. You can thank me later. (I’ll try and respond appropriately.)

You’re Welcome
(written March 18, 2011)

I’m on a few committees for different organizations and events, and I went to one of them earlier this week. We were meeting to discuss where our little committee was going to put its efforts next and brainstorming ideas. We had a new guy show up (and participate!) for the first time, and after the meeting was over I thanked him for coming and he responded, “You’re welcome.”

His response surprised me. Not because it was in any way wrong. In fact, it’s exactly what my mom taught me to say (and I think she’s right). When someone thanks you, you say, “You’re welcome,” because the person was indeed welcome to your help/time/etc. It surprised me because it’s a phrase I’ve heard and said(!) with less and less frequency over the years, and I’d been thinking about its disappearance for a while.

Instead of letting the person thanking me for whatever it is I did for them know they were welcome to my help, I shrug it off. “No problem.” It’s fine I did something nice for you, because it wasn’t a big deal anyway. It sort of implies that it’s not special to me to help you. Or that I only do it because it’s easy. Or, conversely, that it doesn’t even matter (to me) that I helped, because my time/effort has no value (in my eyes).

The other response to “Thank You” I hear/say is… “No, thank you!” This one is sort of ridiculous, like falling over ourselves to prove who is more grateful. This is the opposite of “No problem.” It implies I’ve just been waiting for the opportunity to do something nice for someone else and you finally gave me the chance to put the gold star on my chart for the day. Yay, me!

I think “You’re welcome” should make a come back. I’d rather my friends and colleagues know they were welcome to my help, and that’s that. No discounting myself and no puffing myself up. It seems like the best choice.

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Foodie Friday: Cheap Soup

Winter here in Ohio has been rough this year.  This is what it looked like out my window today:

There's a water main break over on that corner, hence the giant piles of ice.  It's supposed to be fixed by 1/31!!!…...

There’s a water main break over on that corner, hence the giant piles of ice. At least they’re going to have it fixed by 1/31! … … …

So of course I want warm, comforting, cozy food.  Who wouldn’t?

As it turns out, I also have a vegetarian houseguest this week, so my normal go-to comfort foods (pot pie, roasted chicken, braised beef/bison/vension) are right out.  No problem, I have lots of vegetarian go-to recipes.  We made veggie lasagna earlier this week (guess how many pictures I took?) and that wonderful lentil-mushroom pot pie with gouda biscuit topping which you should totally make if you haven’t yet.

But, as it turns out, I’m also on a budget, so I have my go-to low-cost comfort foods.  This recipe is a favorite fall-back.  It’s largely based on Poor Girl Eats Well’s Smoky Split Pea Carrot Soup, but (as with all my food) I don’t actually measure anything, and I throw in whatever sounds good at the moment.

You start with (you’re never going to guess this): some chopped veggies!  In this case, I started with garlic, an onion, and the most sad pathetic wilted limp floppy carrots you’ve ever seen, from the bottom of my fridge.

See that purple-skinned carrot on the edge?  I grew that one!  It's the last of my summer garden carrots.

See that purple-skinned carrot on the edge? I grew that one! It’s the last of my summer garden carrots.

It didn’t seem like quite enough, so I added these two hakurei turnips from the same bottom of my fridge.

They've been patiently hanging out since CSA season, which ended the first week of December.  Held up better than the carrots.

They’ve been patiently hanging out since CSA season, which ended the first week of December. Held up better than the carrots.

You could add all kinds of things here – potatoes, parsnips, celery (celery root?), jerusalem artichokes, salsify, maybe even rutabagas or a golden beet.  I think I’d stick with root vegetables, and I’d stay away from normal red beets unless I wanted split pea borscht.

Olive oil in a pot, start the onions and garlic first.  Add your spices now (cumin, salt and pepper, and smoked paprika – yeah!) so the flavors bloom some.

 Bonus smoky flavor if you, like me, let your onions burn a little bit.  It's a feature.  Really.  You can trust this faceless person here, right?


Bonus smoky flavor if you, like me, let your onions burn a little bit. It’s a feature. Really. You can trust this faceless person here, right?

What’s that, Lyz? Bloom?  Well, the flavor from spices comes from the essential oils in each spice, so you can really get way more out of your spices by adding them into your starting-saute and letting them sizzle for a few minutes.  Don’t overdo it – burnt spices are awful – and remember that it’s not as effective with herbs (and doesn’t do a damn thing with salt).

Add the carrots (and turnips or whatever else you’re using), your split peas (rinsed and picked over, please!), and enough water to cover everything by an inch or so.  You could also use broth, stock, or add in some bullion here – I didn’t, because I currently don’t own any vegetarian soup base.  You could also add a ham bone (my butcher carries WONDERFUL smoked ham hocks for dirt-cheap) and/or some chopped-up ham here, if you were inclined to do so.  Just remember, ham is not vegetarian.

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Bring it up to a simmer and let it go for a while.  PGEW suggests 20 minutes, which I have never found to be enough.  I let mine go for closer to an hour tonight and it was lovely – but you could probably stop somewhere more like 40 minutes and be fine.

Now, while you’re waiting for your dinner to cook, let’s talk about split peas.  Split peas are cheap, hearty food – lots of fiber and protein, plus some iron to boot.  They come in two colors (at least!) – the typical green ones, and also in yellow.  The yellow ones are theoretically a little sweeter, which sounds pretty good.  However, the green ones come at something ridiculous like 69¢ for a pound at Aldi, and you cannot beat that price – so I’ve actually never tried the yellow ones.  (Have you?  Let me know how they are!)

Since your soup is obviously not done following our little pea chat there, go make some biscuits or get some bread to go with this soup.  I got my spouse to make some herb-garlic-cheese dinner rolls, but even refrigerator biscuits or grocery store rolls/bread would be fine. Heck, sliced bread is fine.  Go to war with the bread you’ve got.

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Let’s assume that the soup has cooked for its allotted time by now.  Your peas should be tender, not crunchy – crunchy peas are a total bummer in this soup, not that I’m sure there’s ever a time and place for crunchy split peas.  Take about half the soup out, and blend one half or the other (or more or less, it’s up to you) with your favorite blending implement – if necessary.  Mine just sort of smoothed out as I stirred it.   (Incidentally, this is a good time to take out the ham bone if you put one in.  We’re not playing “Will It Blend?” here.)

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Then recombine your two parts of soup.  You may need to add liquid, adjust seasonings, or reheat it some if it’s gotten cool while blending.  If you didn’t add chopped ham before and you’ve changed your mind, this is a perfectly good time to throw it in and heat through.  Top with your favorite soup toppings: bacon bits (not vegetarian!), crème fraîche, croutons, shredded cheese, toasted bread crumbs, crispy fried shallots, whatever.  Or nothing.  Nothing is a totally valid soup topping.

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Eat.  Warm.  Cozy.  Bread.  Blankets.  Kittens.  Sleep.

Sleeping with the Enemy

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a really, really hard time getting up in the morning. Even with my fabulous, wonderful, amazing sunrise alarm clock, I still struggle to get out of bed (after waking up a little easier thanks to said clock) and will come up with any and every excuse to stay between the covers even just 30 seconds longer.1108252_59818138

One the absolute worst facilitators of my late rising each morning is my phone. My phone with all it’s “important” information (AKA distractions) such as work email, personal email, Facebook alerts, Instagram updates, and full Candy Crush lives is capable of keeping me glued in bed until I happen to glance at the time and realize I should be leaving the house in 20 minutes. I pick it up each day with the noble purpose of checking the weather so I know how to dress, but the reality is I spend time perusing Facebook and then check the weather for 0.2 seconds when the lateness panic hits.

I struggle with my relationship with my phone quite a bit, and will probably expound upon that more in the future. It drives me nuts how much I check it, and having it be the last thing that I touch at night and the first thing besides the snooze button that I touch in the morning seems like not the best choice for my mental state.

1131636_79596033So, what did I do to combat this? Two simple things:

  1. I got an alarm clock that is not my phone. This eliminates the need to grab my phone.
  2. I started plugging my phone in across the room. This eliminates the ability to grab my phone.

The first few days I plugged in my phone across the room were an adjustment. That nagging need to know what was up before I was up pulled on me pretty hard. But, after a few days, I was downright free to wake up in peace, without the pressure of overnight work questions (they waited this long, they can wait until after I’ve showered), mindless surfing, and the resultant shame of wasting time. By the way, if there were an emergency and someone called over night, I would still hear it and could answer.

Full Disclosure: I have recently fallen back into the habit of plugging in my phone bedside, but I realized today when I pried myself away from Facebook and my bed at 7:25 when I should be leaving the house at 7:45, that it’s time to take back my morning again. Friends, I love you, but I can “like” your statuses with my first cup of coffee.

Foodie…Sunday? Thoughts on Getting By

I owe you all an apology.  The past two weeks have been bonkers for me, and that resulted in my not having a post for you on Friday.  It’s not that I’m not eating (believe me, I am!), or even that I’m not cooking (gotta kill that stress somehow).  No, it’s a much sillier problem than that: evidently when I get busy, I forget to take pictures of what I’m making.

I tried!  I have first-stage photos of…

Oven-roasted chicken breast:

Proto-Roast Chicken Breast

Intended as part of the “what you do with a chicken” post, but I forgot to take pictures of the previous parts AND the parts that come later.

From-scratch caesar salad:

Proto-Caesar Salad

Totally worth the extra time and effort. I’ve been using the recipe at http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/classic-caesar-salad, with the shortcut of that tube of anchovy paste because what on earth are you going to

And yesterday I made some ice cream using the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home cookbook.  I have pictures of starting to make sugar-plumped apricots:

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Blackstrap praline pecans:

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And the ice cream itself:

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But I completely forgot to take pictures after this point, for each and every one of them, except the roast chicken, which wasn’t quite ready for prime time:

This chicken is not done.

This chicken is not done.

But I want to talk about that for a minute, in the interests of making small improvements in life.

Sometimes your chicken doesn’t get done, and you’ve carved it up and you now have two servings of not-quite-done chicken.  It’s not the end of the world!  I just plopped it back in that pan, now in two pieces, and stuck it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.   Dinner.  Sure, it wasn’t quite as glorious as my roast chickens usually are (I really do need to share that with you) but it was a perfectly tasty, wholesome meal regardless.

Likewise, one of the most interesting dishes I made this week was the least photogenic.  I didn’t even bother taking pictures of it because it was ugly from step one.  See, I had some leftover spanish rice and some leftover seasoned beans.  I thought, “hm, rice and bean skillet.”  So I chopped up an onion and sautéed that, then threw in the rice and beans (the rice immediately sticking to the bottom of the skillet and making a mess).  Then I thought, “hey, this would be pretty good with some corn!”  I quick-thawed a package of frozen corn under hot water and stirred it in.  “How about some shredded cheddar?”  In it went.  Topped it off with a sprinkle of a spanish-style spice blend from my market bag (although simple salt and pepper plus maybe a little chili powder, or a sprinkle of taco seasoning, or anything else would have been perfectly fine), and called it good.  Served with sour cream, lime wedges, and tortillas: warm, filling, wonderful food.  (And vegetarian, to boot!)  But let me tell you, it sure didn’t look like much.

So what’s the point?  Something I tell myself often: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

Maybe you forget to take pictures while you’re cooking.  Maybe you don’t have the time and energy to cook from scratch, but instead of dropping by the fast food joint, you drop by the market and pick up a rotisserie chicken.  Maybe you throw your hands up altogether, but you go to the little Korean food truck instead of the Bland-O National Chain Restaurant.  Much as Anthea was saying earlier this week, don’t criticize yourself for good decisions just because they aren’t perfect!

Oh, and maybe your Friday blog post went up on Sunday.  Better late than never!

Keep Your Self-Critical Mouth Shut

Today’s post is mostly an admonition to myself after I realized something I do pretty regularly. The title really says it all, but I’ll elaborate. It wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I didn’t!

See, I recently moved and I’ve been really trying to make this new apartment seem more like “home” and less like someplace I’m going to watch TV and sleep until my lease runs out. There are so many things I love about this unique apartment, and with a great landlord and a fabulous friend living in the same building, it really is a joy to live here. I have loved many apartments I’ve had over the years, but this is by far the best place I’ve ever had to myself.

So, after a couple years living in a comfortable but minimalistic place without a single knick-knack or decoration besides some pictures on the walls, I decided to buckle down, think through some decorative choices, invest in some bookshelves and furniture, and assert a little more of myself into the space. A few trips to IKEA and some relatively painless building time, I had myself a nice TV stand and a little set of shelves – some of which we put some glass doors on to make them “classy” – and I opened the long-packed boxes of books and random treasures and started to find them new homes in my new place.

I’m sure you’re wondering where the “shut up” part of this story comes, since all I’ve done is gush about how much I love my apartment so far. Well, it comes next when the occasion came along for a couple friends and I to meet to discuss a project we’re taking on and I thought it would be fun to host the meeting so I could show them my new place.

Perfectly Fine Imperfect Shelves

As I busied myself around the apartment before them came over, cleaning the sinks, shuffling things around the shelves, folding blankets, etc, I caught myself pre-emptively making excuses for the things I didn’t quite think were “right” yet. Serious thoughts came into my head like, “Oh, I can just tell them that the junk on the bottom shelves still needs to be sorted”…”I can mention how I think I probably need new sheets to match the new bedroom”…”I can point out the dust on the windowsills I didn’t clean yet and comment about how gross I am”…Wait, what?! *cue record screeching halt*

STOP.

STOP STOP STOP.

Here I am in a place that is not perfect, but that I still love and am proud of. Why on earth would I point out its flaws when I can share the things I truly love? Why criticize myself when I instead can take a little bit of pride in what I’ve put together? Will my friends notice the random un-done stuff? Maybe. Will they care? I truly doubt it. Does it matter? No. Right then and there I decided to not voice a single one of those thoughts.

Bathroom

Bathroom Peacocks. For reals.

When my friends showed up, I showed them the new shelves, and the peacocks on the bathroom walls (true story), and the washer and dryer (YOU GUYS. I have a washer and dryer!!), and I kept my mouth shut about the flaws. I shared my vision for things I didn’t have yet, but didn’t make excuses for not having them. They ooh-ed and ahh-ed and shared my excitement; I felt better about not tearing myself down. I consider that a win.

Even now, I still have sorting and arranging to do. I have bedroom furniture to buy. But I also have a great place to kick up my feet and enjoy, and now it even comes with a little bit of positive self-awareness. If you visit, there might be dusty windowsills or a dirty kitchen floor or a haphazard pile of sheet music on my book shelf, but I’m gonna do my best not to point them out to you.

Foodie Friday: Comfort Pot Pie

Yesterday, I did not want to get out of bed.  I spent most of the day wishing I could go back to bed.  The high was 10° F (with a windchill high of 0° F).  When I left the office, this is what it looked like outside:

Yeah, that sky only looks blue in this photo. It's about the same color as the road, snow, house, and trees.  And cars, since they're all covered in salt.

Yeah, that sky only looks blue in this photo. It’s about the same color as the road, snow, house, and trees. And cars, since they’re all covered in salt.

And I was starving.  All together, an urgent call for comfort food.  Chicken pot pie, here I come!

Incidentally, many of the ingredients in this recipe come from a chicken.  I’ll have to show you what to do with a chicken someday.

Here’s the cast of characters:

An onion, celery, a red carrot (I grew it!), and some sad little hakurei turnips from my CSA last fall.  Those things last forever.

An onion, celery, a red carrot (I grew it!), and some sad little hakurei turnips from my CSA last fall. Those things last forever.

Some chicken leftover from Sunday's roast.

Some chicken leftover from Sunday’s roast.

Chop up the veggies:

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By the way, this is a great time to introduce the stock bag!  Any veggie trimmings, peels, etc. (usually onions, celery, and carrots) go into this gallon ziploc bag that hangs out in my freezer until I make a pot of stock.  (Stock recipes coming soon.)  No brassicas, though – broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc. – they’ll make your stock smell like farts.

This is my stock bag.  Any ends of veggies (usually onions, celery, and carrots) go into this gallon ziploc in my freezer.  No brassicas, though - broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc. - they'll make your stock smell like farts.

This is my stock bag!

And sauté them in some butter until they’re tender, the onion is just barely browning on the edges, and the carrots are not rock-hard.  Chop up your chicken, if you need to – big chunks are nice, or you can chop it a bit finer if you have less chicken and want to stretch it.

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I had plenty of chicken, so nice big chunks here.

You can throw your chicken in now, or you can wait until after you make your gravy.  In general, if your chicken is frozen, wait until you make the gravy.  In general, actually, you’re supposed to put the chicken in after you make the gravy, but I got all excited and threw it in early, and it didn’t hurt anything.

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Then throw in a small handful (1/8 cup?) of flour:

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And stir that in until it’s mixed.  Then you add some chicken stock (do you sense a theme here?), somewhere around a cup or so, stirring as you go.  You want to end up with a nice thick bubbly gravy, but not glue.

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Homemade is best, but use whatever you’ve got – a carton, can, “Better than Bullion,” or even just a bullion cube dissolved in water.

And, because I forgot to throw this in before I made the gravy, add a handful of herbs, plus some salt and pepper:

I grew these!  And it's totally not weed - that's sage.

I grew these! And it’s totally not weed – that’s sage and thyme.

If you’re a little confused about the order here, the point is that it doesn’t actually matter all that much, as long as you have sautéed veggies, gravy, chicken and herbs together in a pan/pot/skillet at this stage in the game.

Put that in a baking dish that’s big enough to hold it.

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And then top it with your favorite biscuit, pie crust, or puff pastry.  I whipped up the biscuit topping from this (awesome on its own merits) recipe using whole wheat flour instead of cornmeal and mixing the cheese right into the dough:

Hell yeah, food processor.

Hell yeah, food processor.

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Biscuits on top.

And then you bake it.  I’ve found that when in doubt, bake on 350° F until it’s lightly browned and/or bubbly.  In this case, I left it in for about 30 minutes.

Golden brown on top, bubbly around the edges.

Golden brown on top, bubbly around the edges.

It’ll be kind of like napalm when you take it out of the oven, so let it sit for a few minutes.

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And let me tell you, it was terrible.

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And then I climbed into bed and went to sleep.

Foodie Friday: Dad’s Recipe Pot Roast

My mom did most of the cooking in my house, so it was only here and there that my dad made dinner.  He only did a few special dishes, and this is one of the top five or so.  I’d come home from school and the whole house would smell savory and mouthwatering (making that 6pm dinnertime seems awfully far away!).  The carrots and onions were my favorite, along with the meat that often couldn’t be sliced because it would just fall apart under the knife.  I’ve made this dish more times than I can count and it never disappoints!

Since I’m on a somewhat snug food budget at the moment, I’ve been looking for ways to help eat out less.  (Have I mentioned that there’s a lot of really good restaurants in Columbus?)  One of the biggest temptations for me is when I get home from a particularly brain-heavy day at work, and all I want to do is stare at a wall for a few hours.  If I don’t have anything I can make very quickly, of a tasty enough calibre to beat out the temptation of the several dozen wonderful places I can walk to from my house, I end up taking the walk.  So my theory here was to make a mongo batch of pot roast, enjoy dinner and then freeze dinner-sized portions of the rest.  This recipe also works just fine with normal amounts of food, so give it a try! Continue reading

Step Right Up!

Anyone else have a job that keeps you sitting at your desk all day? Anyone else feel like a lump who never geTin Tin Takes The Stairsts up and on her feet? Not just me, right?

There are a number of reasons why getting up and about is a good great idea during the day, and any number of reasons why you might not. But, one really ridiculously easy thing that I’ve been doing for the last few months to get myself up and about at work is taking the stairs to the bathroom anytime I need a break.

I have the mis/fortune of working on the 7th floor of my building, which means its a bit of a stretch to take the stairs all the way up (though there are impressive people with whom I work who do this!), but there’s plenty of room to go up or go down during the day. So, I’ve experimented with all my options within the range of +/- 4 floors before I settled on my current choice: Floor 4. Three floors down and three back up at 20 stairs a floor – you know I’ve counted! – that’s 60 extra steps up per trip, and I’m covering somewhere between 6-12 extra flights of stairs a day without much effort or thought. I started with one floor, then added another, and now I’m up to three.

This isn’t going to make you crazy fit and toned or lose 10 pounds, but it will get you into the habit of moving around more in an otherwise sedentary day and can help “refine your routine” towards some other healthy habits. I’m definitely finding those three flights of stairs getting easier over time, and might even start going for four soon. You can even mix it up with a variation like skipping a step on the way up to really work your legs.

Pro-tip: If you can do this, take the stairs down to the bathroom. If you go up and you get the blood pumping, you may find yourself breathing a little extra hard in the bathroom which I imagine could be pretty embarrassing if someone else is in there. Not that I would know. Definitely never happened to me. Nope….No way…

If you don’t work in a multi-floor building like I do, maybe take the long way around, park an extra couple floors up in the parking deck or find some other way to put a few extra steps in your day. Take a look at your typical day, identify an opportunity to do a little bit more and then try it. Start small and build on that over time.

Do any of you fellow office workers have suggestions on how you’ve added a bit of fitness to your work day? Skylar wrote a while back about her Stability Ball Chair, which still sounds intriguing to me, though I haven’t tried it yet. And, has anyone figured out how to avoid the office snacks yet?? I could really use a magic trick to build resistance to those sugary temptations!

a black plate with separate piles of onion, carrot and potato

Foodie Friday: Why Are We In This Handbasket?

So, Lyz, why food?  Why blog about food when there are already approximately one billion food blogs out there, all with fantastic recipes and beautiful photography and accompanying shows on TV?

Well, the short answer is that I love food.  The slightly longer answer is that I really enjoy cooking (and basically all other aspects of food), and I often post pictures of whatever I’m making on Facebook.  People seem to enjoy the posts, often ask for recipes, and engage with them – but to be honest, Facebook is a crummy format for that sort of thing.  So I toyed around with the idea of blogging about food, and here we are.

Two bowls of homemade caesar salad

Homemade caesar salad is pretty incredible!

How did we get to be here? (Sondheim, anyone?)  Well, when I was growing up, dinner was not optional.  My family sat at the dining room table to enjoy a home-cooked meal (and one another’s company, I suppose) at 6:00 pm, seven days a week, probably on the order of 355 days a year.  We ate from-scratch meals even when we were on our week-long summer camping trips (at 6pm, by the way).  Eating out was the most special of activities, reserved for either road trips or birthday dinners.

I brought that with me as I moved into adulthood.  While I eat out more now than I did as a kid (after all, there’s a lot of great food in this town, and you can learn a lot from eating things that other people make), and dinnertime in my house is more flexible, dinner itself is not optional – and I eat at a dining room table with my spouse every night.  (Location of said table may vary.)

A pot of stew with carrots, potato, and lamb meat

A few simple ingredients can become a warm, comforting meal for a cold night. What’s not to love?

But I’ve learned something along the way.  I’ve learned to really *love* food – not just eating (although I do love to eat!) – but everything about it.  Shopping – looking at all the lovely delicious things available, talking to the people making/growing/selling it, and choosing which ones I’m going to work with.  Cooking – using my hands to turn a pile of veggies and a chicken in to one or more delicious meals.  Eating – did I mention that one already? I really like to eat.  Reading – I love to see what others are doing with food, learn about new food, understand where our food comes from and how it fits into our lives and society and world.

bags of key limes for sale at a local grocer

Aren’t they just the cutest teeny little things?

And so my hope, in posting here on Fridays, is that I can share some of that love with you, and help you enjoy this weird thing we do several times a day, every single day of our lives.

To be fair, this is probably not going to be quite like most food blogs out there.  Food blogs employ many wonderful things that you will not find here, such as:

  • two grilled cheese sandwiches being cooked on a griddle

    These are grilled cheese sandwiches. They were tasty. They took about 10 minutes. Julia Child this is not.

    Fancy food photography – no light box, no SLR – I have an iPhone and an iPad.

  • Painstaking, complex, get-every-dish-in-your-kitchen-dirty-and-spend-three-hours-doing-it recipes.  Nope.  Who has time for that?  (Unless you do, in which case, more power to you.  But you’ll have to go somewhere else for recipes.)
  • Elegant, eye-catching food arrangement.  I love the way the Japanese arrange their food, and how really outstanding restaurants place things together just so.  I do not love doing it myself.
  • Recipes the way you think of them, with lists of ingredients and detailed step-by-step explanations.
  • Baking (such as bread, pastries, etc.) – it requires rather precise measurements, and I don’t usually have the patience for that.
  • Seafood – I live in central Ohio; there is not seafood here. I don’t have much exposure to it or experience cooking it.
  • “Woo” or preaching – this is food, not voodoo mysticism.  My food is not better than your food.

What you will find here:

  • a black plate with separate piles of onion, carrot and potato

    Chop up an onion, a carrot, and some fingerling potatoes…

    Walkthroughs on how to make tasty food, with pictures from my trusty iDevices.

  • Posts about both vegetarian and meat-based food.  Take what you want, leave what you don’t.
  • Links to recipes that I started from – very often I make something as a variation on another recipe, or just straight up make something that someone else made first.  I love sharing!
  • Real-world measurements (a carrot or two, about a handful of chopped parsley, that container of broth).  No “1/4 cup chopped onion” – what are you going to do, chop 1+ onions and then measure out the choppings?  No way!
  • Occasional musings about food in our society/media/etc., but only as relevant and only if I have something worth saying about it.  I generally won’t post anything if I do not feel educated enough on the issue to take a stance.
  • Occasional forays into the more obscure realms of food – canning, fermenting, cheese-making, etc.  Not that anyone is going to be coming to me to learn about how to make cheese or sauerkraut – I see them more as experiments and sharing experiences.  Sometimes these things are way easier than they seem.  Sometimes they’re a disaster.  They’re often good stories worth telling.

So there.  And in case you feel cheated from having a Foodie Friday post without anything edible in it, try this.  The next time you’re looking at a PB&J for lunch, get out the griddle and grill it up like you would a grilled cheese sandwich (thin butter on the outside of the bread, low heat, turn when it’s golden brown).  Be careful, the J will be a close approximation of napalm, but it’s so very worth it.

a grilled PB&J sandwich with a glass of milk

I did not take this photo, nor create this recipe: I found it on everyday occasions by Jenny Steffens Hobick.

5 Tips for the Overwhelmed Newbie Cook

I have spent the greater part of the last year attempting to learn how to cook. It has always been something that I figured that I probably could do but wasn’t sure where to start, and the sheer number of ingredients that are required to cook even basic things when you have an empty spice cabinet, pantry, and refrigerator makes even a basic meal “expensive” when it requires buying a whole bottle of chili powder, for example. Those of you who really cook may think that’s crazy, but I’m betting I’m not the only person who has found herself in the kitchen clueless about where to begin.

I’m sitting here a year later with the ability to read a recipe and realize that I have everything on hand or I only need to run to the store for a couple items on the way home. It’s a huge change and it took a long time to get to this point, so I thought with the new year I would take a look back and see if I could take a few lessons from the experience.

Note: I am by no means an expert, an expert cook, or have a perfect pantry. This is just my own newbie experience. 🙂

  1. Start small. This probably seems obvious, but I had to learn this the hard way. Look for basic recipes that include only a few ingredients so you don’t have to shell out $30 just to make a chicken breast with a chili garlic white wine reduction (Is that a real thing? I just made that up, but it sounds kinda good…) when all you own is salt and pepper. Find a recipe that includes garlic or chili and start from there to keep your grocery bill and your chances of things going wrong down.
  2. Stick to Google; avoid the shiny Pinterest beacon. I know everyone is Pinterest obsessed these days, but I’ve found that a lot of the popular/delicious looking pins are links that go nowhere or end up being the notorious chili garlic white wine reduction chicken. Instead, try a simple Google search for “garlic chicken” and see what your search savvy fingers can find! I’ve had a lot more personal success with Google than Pinterest. Also, I personally find Pinterest to be a time suck and by the time I’ve pinned 25 salmon recipes that sound good, I’m so over the idea of cooking salmon.
  3. Think small in the bulk foods. I’m very lucky to have a Sprouts grocery store near my apartment, and one of the things they have is a huge bulk foods section. Now, despite the name which sounds like you should be buying Sam’s Club-sized quantities, bulk foods means that you can buy tiny amounts of stuff of which you don’t need an entire container. If you want to try a quinoa, but you’re not sure if you like it, grab one of those plastic bags and scoop yourself a 1/2 cup from the giant quinoa bin and only risk a few cents instead of a few bucks for a prepackaged 1 lb. bag. Sprouts also has a bulk spice section which really helps cut down the cost on spicing up a recipe when your spice cabinet is bare. Whole Foods also has a sizeable bulk foods section if you don’t have a Sprouts.
  4. Pick an ingredient and start there. I found I had the most success when I started with an ingredient and looked around to see what I could do with it. For a couple months, I was quinoa obsessed and found a few recipes that were built on it. When I started with the entire world of cooking open to me, it was too much to figure out, but choosing a base to start from and expand from there was enormously helpful in giving me some focus.
  5. Have fun and make leftovers! Yes, cooking is a practical and life-sustaining skill, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, too! Don’t be afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and have enough leftovers to sustain your week in lunch. If you’re going to spend a solid chunk of your evening chopping vegetables, might as well make enough to take a couple extra meals for later.

I hope these were tips were at least mildly helpful. If you have any other suggestions for someone just starting out with cooking, leave a comment and maybe we can even build this list out more!

Also, stay tuned for a lot more great food-related content on the blog! Starting this Friday, Lyz is joining the Routine Refinement team and will be sharing her much more seasoned (see what I did there?) insight on all things food! So, be sure to check back on Friday! I can’t wait to see what she has to share!