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

It Starts Bitter…Then it’s Sweet…Healthy Pudding

It was not until recently that I cleaned up my diet and lost my sweet tooth, which I’ve had forever. And it wasn’t a conscious decision.

Anyway, before that time, a few months ago or so, I experimented with healthier desserts. One was chocolate pudding that had almond milk instead of regular milk. I don’t recall all the ingredients, but I do remember it being a healthier alternative.

Regardless of that, when I first tasted the pudding, it was kind of bitter. I had to keep eating it in order for it to get sweet. Sounds like a treat Willy Wonka could make, huh? Well, the bitter to sweet taste actually happened. I’m not exaggerating.

After some time, though, I think I might have had to throw the pudding away. I may have possibly consumed a little more after, but I don’t remember.

I am pretty sure, however, that the reviews for the pudding recipe were good. My mom taught me to check the overall ratings and reviews before trying the recipes. It makes total sense. Too many times I’ve had to toss my cooked creations without checking the reactions.

I will make pudding and eat sweets on rare occasion. But I will probably not use that specific recipe again.

cooking

How I Make Mashed Potatoes

Image from Pixabay

Many of us love mashed potatoes, whether it’s with gravy or plain. No two versions are alike—nor are two formulas.

Because I have a short attention span and a tendency to be very impatient with food (but obviously polite), I try to get my potatoes to cook more quickly. That is because I cut them into small diced cubes and boil them.

Now why do I boil them instead of microwave them, you might ask? That’s because microwaving them tends to dry them out. Boiling them adds or retains moisture. I don’t know how, though, but it’s what I notice.

Another part of the process, which is mostly due to laziness, is leaving the peel on. That’s not a big deal. In fact, some say that potato peels are good for you. I’m not sure if that’s true.

Anyway, after the potato cubes are fully cooked and softened, I put them in the blender with salt, pepper, milk, and melted butter. Then I combine them. They come out creamy this way. Just be sure not to overmix, or else you’ll have dough-like potatoes. Unless you’re making gnocchi from scratch, I would recommend avoiding the doughy texture.

The amount of other ingredients will depend on your serving size and taste preferences. That is the beauty of savory cooking—there isn’t always a fixed formula.

cooking

My Experience with Cooking Seafood

Image from Pixabay

I love seafood, both fish and shellfish. Now these days, though, I prefer shellfish more, not just because of the taste and textures, but also that they’re quicker to make.

Sometimes, you can have lobsters steamed in the grocery store. However, that varies. Sometimes, you can buy just the tail. Other times, you have to pick something else.

That’s the thing with seafood. Its availability is not always consistent, especially if it’s fresh. I suggest buying the wild-caught kinds as farm-raised seafood can have some issues about them. I’ll stop there with that.

Anyway, there are a lot of ways you can cook seafood. The sky is pretty much the limit. With certain shellfish, though, it’s best to steam them. Those include lobster and shrimp. You can boil them, but then they lose their flavor. Maybe that also removes their nutritional value.

I learned to steam them after boiling them for a while. Guess what? They tasted better—way better. I like to have butter with my lobster and garlic seasoning on my shrimp.

Regardless of all this, some people can’t eat seafood, whether they’re allergic or for other reasons. But it’s rare that I’m in situations like that.

I will admit that driving has spoiled me a bit and made me too lazy too cook at times. Instead, I’m getting takeout. However, I want to change that—at least slightly.

My family has been kind of strict with protein at every meal, certainly when I was a kid. Now they’re more laid back. Yet, because of that guideline from the past, I’ve kind of developed that rule as a routine. If I don’t want meat or poultry, I get seafood.

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

A Trick to Crispy French Fries

Image from Pixabay

Most of us love French fries, even though too much of them aren’t healthy. Technically, that applies to everything, including food that is good for us. But that’s a different topic.

Anyway, many recipes will tell you to soak your fries for some time before you put them in the hot oil. I supposed that’s a good trick. However, here is the technique I use. It is far quicker and maybe even better. That is…to microwave your potato strips until they are soft enough to poke something all the way through them.

You could boil them, too. But then you have to wait for the water to heat up. Anyway, what I do is cut the potatoes into strips, microwave them till they’re soft (I can’t remember the number of minutes at the top of my head now), heat the oil in a pot or deep pan, put the potatoes in them, and cook them till I like them.

Did you notice that I omitted the peeling stage? You can still peel the skin off, as that’s conventional for making fries. However, I’m too lazy to do that. So, I keep the skin on. Believe it or not, the skin is actually kind of good for you. Or it’s, at least, tolerable.

Another thing to know is that if you use steel pans or pots, you need to heat the object first before you put in the fat, like oil. Then the base has to get hotter, too. Otherwise, your food will stick and cleaning up will be a pain in the butt.

So, there you have it. Does this sound like a good way to make French fries?

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.