Random Cooking Tidbits

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Whoa, two posts in one day?! Don't get used to it, but I did want to share a few little cooking tidbits that are on my mind after supper club last night.

1. I grew up cooking with my mom. 90% of what I know about cooking is thanks to her (thanks Mama!). The rest is thanks to FoodNetwork and trial & error. One of the things she taught me is that if you don't fill up all the spots in the muffin tin with batter, you should fill the empty ones with water. Something like it helps things cook evenly? Apparently she didn't make this up, because last night at supper club Meredith said her mom taught her the same thing! Anyone else?

2. I don't like sifting. It's a pain. It seems that it's just something else that has to be cleaned. Growing up I didn't mind sifting because we had this awesome retro battery operated sifter that would make your arm tickle because of the vibrations. But, now? Not so much. Thankfully, Ina taught me that I don't have to sift! She probably wouldn't make a blanket statement like that but I interpreted it that way and haven't looked back. What she does is whisks. She whisks her flour before she measures it and then whisks all the dry ingredients together. It makes them fluffy and airy, and I think it's just the perfect substitute for sifting.

3. As Andy can attest, I have an awfully hard time following recipes. I think it's in part because I'm impatient, part because I see something I like and want to highlight that (I think this needs double the cheese), part because I like cooking with what I have and sometimes you have to improvise. With that said, I've developed a more meticulous way (spreadsheets! excel!) of devising my own recipes. Each year, sometimes season, Andy and I set off to come up with our favorite version of something. One year it was chili. Another time it was pulled pork. Those were mostly Andy's undertakings, and I was the lucky beneficiary. But for me, two years ago, it was pumpkin bread. Regardless what it is we're making, the process is the same. Gather recipes that sound tasty. Each recipe then goes into a column on a spreadsheet (so, it's vertical). Then I align similar ingredients in rows so I can easily compare. Sometimes recipes have a lot of overlap (like when baking) and other times, there are few. Then everything that's different goes at the bottom. In the last column (far right), I write out our recipe based on the others-- what we like, what we don't like, how much of something to include, etc-- and add other ingredients that we want to try. Then it's off to the test kitchen. Make the recipe, tweak, repeat until perfect for us.


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