cooking

Signs of Success and Failures in Cooking

Image from Pixabay

Every expert has started out knowing little to nothing about his or her field or hobby, including chefs and people who cook in general. Before someone succeeds in something, he or she will struggle and need help along the way, especially when he or she starts out.

I am no different. I’ve started cooking at age 12, after taking a home economics course in middle school. In my early cooking days, I would constantly throw away foods I made. A little later, like in high school, I baked or cooked more items that people could enjoy, including myself. Now I can make just about anything that people would like.

These are the signs of success in a cooked creation:

-Experiencing a great taste

-Coming back for more

-Making the item again with the same recipe

Of course, this is more common for me now and in recent years. That being said, there are still rare occasions where I throw my cooked items away.

Which brings me to the signs of failure in cooking

-Finding the taste or texture of the food just okay or not good at all

-Letting it sit untouched

-Having to toss it in the trash not long after

Don’t worry if you fail to cook something good. If you keep at it, you will improve, just like with anything.

cooking

I Had a Blast with These Blueberry Muffins!

When lockdown began, I stress-baked like crazy. I normally love the blueberry muffins from Dunkin’ Donuts (or now just Dunkin), and I still could have gotten them to go. Where I live, many restaurants still offer take-out, delivery, or curbside pickup.

Anyway, I tried making these muffins using a kopykat recipe from the Internet. It called for a special Dunkin creamer. But I didn’t have that.

So, I used either half and half, heavy cream, or both. Whatever I did, it made the muffins super-moist and delicious. I had learned that the more fat content a dairy product contains, the softer it makes the baked good.

I also used a mix of frozen wild blueberries as well as fresh blueberries. I even included some fresh raspberries and blackberries. Mixed berry muffins rule!

That was technically what they were. But there were more blueberries than raspberries and blackberries. So, I guess they could have still been called blueberry muffins.

I ate them like crazy. That’s right, they tasted that delicious. I probably will remake these muffins again, regardless of when restaurants in my area reopen their dining sections.

Since making these muffins, I’ve sometimes been swapping out water or whole milk with half and half and heavy cream with other recipes. You could try that, too.

cooking

The Most Delicious Homemade Brownies Ever…it’s a Miracle!

Homemade cooking involves less preservatives and more control from you. And with the coronavirus forcing people to be in their homes pretty much all the time, I have to do most of my own cooking. I do love going out, and I will admit that prior to the covid-19 crisis, I barely cooked and spent more time eating out, and a lot.

However, now that dining out is no longer an option (only takeout and delivery are available in New York), and I’ve been cooking at home, I’ve noticed that I feel more energetic and am losing weight again.

Okay, this is not a health post. But all of that is true. Anyway, let me talk about the brownies I made.

They taste kind of like the ones made from boxed mixes. I’m not kidding. The only difference is that their textures at the top aren’t flaky, and most importantly, I know what went in them.

My guess of why they are fudgy and not cakelike is that the flour ratio is sort of smaller than the rest of the ingredients. Not once have I seen that in any other homemade brownie recipe. So, bravo to the creator of this one.

I can’t find the recipe again through my Google search. But I do find that the other recipes have similar formulas, by using less flour. So, if you try one of those recipes, you may be satisfied.

art, cooking

It’s Fun to Draw Cakes

Although it’s unlikely typical for people to want to draw designs for their cakes, no matter the reasons, I enjoyed it in my youth and still do now.

As a creative and artistic person, I’ve constantly come up with various ideas and specific envisions for just about anything.  With cakes, I’ve drawn how I wanted them to look. Sometimes I’ve had my own drawings scanned onto them. During that time, I also discovered that copyrighted images could not be scanned onto cakes. So, I had to stick with my own ideas.

I would also illustrate a few different ideas of one cake. I did that for my sweet 16 cake, and used every possible point-of-view (except the bottom, obviously). The bakery used one of the designs and that pleased me.

Recent years, though, I’ve designed cake appearances for me to bake from scratch. One of my college friends is allergic to peanuts, and unfortunately, there aren’t many commercial options near me that are 100 percent safe for those with nut allergies. It sounds strange, especially since I live close to New York City. But even there, I had trouble finding a place I could trust to be fully nut-free. There are some, but they’re also dairy-free, gluten-free, and so on.

Even though I’ve been cooking since I was 12, some of the cake designs I’ve envisioned were a little too advanced for me, like the ones below.

The gradient technique is called an ombre. It looks beautiful, but I’m not sure if I know how to do it properly (in spite of researching it). And some of the flowers are probably best for elite and highly talented bakers. Here’s another cake image I drew that I felt was too hard to actually do in real life.

It most likely would be easier than the one with the ombre and detailed flowers. However, this would have involved a lot of work.

So, at times, less can be more with designing and decorating cakes, especially if it’s a casual party at your house with a group of friends. I learned that cake appearances can still look dazzling, even with few decorations. That is what I did for my 26th birthday November 2019.

Okay, maybe me looking away from the camera might be kind of distracting. But if you look carefully at the cake I’m cutting, you see only two colors, one type of decorative design, and the writing on a white chocolate bar in the center. That was good enough for me, especially with all the cooking and other preparations I had to do.

So, there you have it.

cooking

Fudge with Just Two Ingredients

Fudge is delicious. It comes in many flavors and those are good, as well, even if they’re kind of expensive at times. While trying to find a healthy dessert recipe, I came across a fudge recipe with only two ingredients: chocolate and almond butter.

You read that right. Here’s how you do it. You melt the chocolate and combine it with the almond butter. I believe it’s an even level of the ingredients (i.e. both being a cup), but I’m not a hundred percent sure. Anyway, let’s presume it is. After combining the ingredients, you spread them in a pan and freeze them. You don’t bake it. Leave it in the freezer for approximately an hour. Then let it thaw for a few minutes, or maybe ten. Then enjoy.

While I usually like fudge, even though I rarely eat it, this one was honestly only okay. I ended up tossing half of it in the trash because I didn’t eat enough of it. And I added a little bit of coconut sugar, which was not part of the original recipe. I wanted to make it just a little sweeter, but not use white sugar.

I don’t recall if there were ratings and reviews. But my mom recommends I use only recipes with great feedback and reactions. I think it’s good advice.

cooking

Making Mac and Cheese Without Following a Recipe

Yeah, you read that right. You probably would look at me like I had four heads. But I assure you that this is correct.

It’s no easy task making a meal without a recipe. However, the reason I did that was because I couldn’t find the recipe anymore. Thankfully, though, I’ve used that one enough that I had it pretty much memorized.

That being said, I made a lot of the mac and cheese—perhaps too much. Without a recipe in hand, I couldn’t cut the measurements in half. So, I just had to estimate.

I probably used half a box and elbow pasta, a quarter cup of butter and flour, some salt and pepper, maybe a teaspoon of mustard powder, two cups of milk, and two 8-ounce packages of shredded cheddar cheese. After I cooked the macaroni, I mixed the other ingredients in a pot, blended it in with the pasta, topped remaining cheddar on the mac and cheese (so it doesn’t burn), and then baked it for 10 – 15 minutes. It still came out delicious.

I’ve been cooking since I was twelve. I’m now 25, and will be turning 26 in November, a couple months from now. Anyway, have you noticed that it’s easier to cook savory dishes without a fixed recipe than sweet dishes? That is because there are necessary precise chemical reactions that need to happen for the sweet food to successfully cook. With stovetop savory meals, you have more freedom.

cooking

Perfect Brownies from Scratch: They’re So Hard to Make as Good as the Boxed Mixes

Image from Pixabay

Brownies rule! Of course, you shouldn’t eat them all the time. But they’re delicious in moderation—just like everything else is, including healthy foods.

You know how people say everything tastes better homemade? Well, that is true for most things. Except…brownies. I don’t understand why. But brownies from scratch almost never taste like the boxed mix. I wonder why no one has found or created a kopy kat recipe for boxed brownie mixes.

I’ve experimented with so many brownie recipes from scratch. Nothing came close to the boxed mix nor did anything taste nearly as good. That was…until the end of 2017. I found a recipe which I liked. So, I used it to make brownies. They were almost like the boxed mix.

But the baking soda made the tops too crunchy. I don’t mind crunchy-topped brownies but these were too crusty. Luckily, at the New Year’s Eve party I went to, people enjoyed them very much. They said that those brownies were better than any other dessert there.

But to this day, I have still yet to find a brownie recipe exactly as good as the boxed mixes. Maybe I could try a flourless brownie recipe. Flourless chocolate cookie recipes often worked out for me. So, I see no reason why a flourless brownie recipe would not.

cooking

Everything is Better Homemade, Including Cream-Filled Cupcakes

I used to like commercial-made cream-filled cupcakes. Now I don’t because they taste artificial. There are, like, so many chemicals in them. I won’t even eat Twinkies anymore because of that.

Anyway, I have baked homemade cream-filled cupcakes in the past. They didn’t turn out as well as the most recent time. That was when I went to a New Years Eve party this past winter. That is why the cupcakes say 19 or 2019.

The writing there was done with commercial icing. However, the ganache on the tops was cooked from scratch. Some of the cakes were made from scratch too. But the others came from a boxed mix. Why, you may ask? I ran out of the homemade batter. So, I bought a boxed mix.

Regardless of what I said in the title, the boxed mix kind of tasted better. Don’t worry, the filling was also created from scratch. It had marshmallow crème. That was probably a crucial ingredient for the texture.

These cupcakes turned out to be popular at the party. Not like crazy, but people enjoyed them, including myself.

Now how did I fill them? Well, technically, you’re supposed to squeeze them into the bottoms from a pastry bag. But I didn’t have that patience. So, I scooped up the tops, spooned the filling in, removed the bottom halves of the parts I pulled out, and put the tops back on. Then I frosted them with the ganache and wrote on them with the icing.

There you have it. Do you love cream-filled cupcakes? I do!

cooking

Why I Microwave My Potatoes Before Cooking Them

Image from Pixabay

Many of us enjoy potatoes in various forms: roasted, mashed, baked, fried, and so forth. We eat them at home, in restaurants, and more.

However, when you make them at home, do they take longer to cook? Are they not as soft or crunchy as commercial potatoes?

If the answer is yes, I have a trick for you: microwave them before you cook them. Okay, this obviously depends on how you cook them. If you’re baking or boiling them, then microwaving is unnecessary. But if you’re frying or roasting them, it saves you a ton of time and impatience, especially if you’re in a bit of a hurry.

When the potatoes are already soft, they cook faster. You may have crunchier fries, hash browns, or roasted potatoes. If you like scalloped potatoes, they will be softer when you put them in the oven. Say goodbye to undercooked potatoes.

So next time you make French fries for you or anyone else, consider microwaving them as you heat the oil or oven, depending how you prefer to cook them. I hope this trick works for you as it does for me. Also, if you can, try to use not-very-old potatoes. They get crystalized after some time.

cooking

Cookie “Dough” Balls and How I Made Them

Have you ever eaten cookie dough? I used to, even though I wasn’t supposed to. Luckily, I never got sick.

But there is a way to make cookie “dough”. And no, I don’t mean the mysterious stuff ice cream parlors use. I mean crushed cookies and cream cheese. That’s right.

You can use store-bought cookies. Or you can bake your own. I’d recommend the latter more. Why? Because homemade is always better, of course.

You could bake the cookies longer than instructed, although they may burn a bit. Or bake them soft and let them harden, which I wouldn’t suggest unless you don’t like soft cookies. There are people who prefer crunchier cookies. You might be one of them.

What I do is bake them soft. If I find them just okay or get tired of them after a while, they end up hardening. So instead of tossing them, I crush them, mix them with cream cheese, and roll them into little balls. Then I refrigerate them. Sometimes, I dip them in chocolate or colored sugars. And guess what? They taste delicious. They taste like cookie dough, except that they’re not raw.

So if you want to make your own cookie “dough” without getting sick or trying to find the strange ingredients ice cream shops use, just crush your hard cookies and mix in cream cheese. You can use a blender. In fact, that’s probably better because it expedite the process.

Your cream cheese and crushed crumbs should measure about the same volume. After you mix the two, roll them into balls, like the size of a gumball. Then refrigerate them for about a half hour or so. Then take them out and enjoy, or dip them in chocolate, sugars, sprinkles, nuts, or anything you’d like. Believe me, you’ll feel like you’re eating cookie dough.