Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oriental Adventure: Part II

Have you ever seen the episode of Seinfeld where George thinks his parents are avoiding him? After they abruptly hang up the phone on him and make the excuse that their Chinese food had arrived, George gets suspicious. The next day, he sneaks around their house and discovers a distinct lack of leftovers in the fridge, apparently proving his suspicions correct. While recounting the experience with Jerry he says that he knew that were avoiding him because "Where there's Chinese food, there's Chinese food leftovers!!" This was one of the few moments in Seinfeld where I didn't really get the joke...until now.

Feeling adventurous after a thrill-a-minute day of right-angle trigonometry and vector math, I knew it would be difficult to keep my heart rate at such a high level, so I decided I would order something that I had never even heard of and give it a shot. Enter the Dragon...Bowl, that is. Yeah, so there's this Chinese place here called The Dragon Bowl and I figured if there's any place I could get something I couldn't pronounce, this would be the spot. After asking for a takeout menu and browsing for a few minutes, I knew two things for certain: first of all, I had no idea what most of that stuff was, and second, I refused to get my usual side order of fries(my "security blanket"). Eventually, I settled on "beef foo young" and "deep fried wontons", sat down, and had a staring contest with the giant pink fish in the aquarium while I waited.

Now, I had(and still have) absolutely no idea what the heck I ordered, so when I got back to the hotel, it was like unwrapping a Christmas gift. Except after you open a Christmas gift you usually know what you're looking at. Take a look at the picture at the bottom of this entry. Using my advanced, Batman-like powers of deduction, I figured that the item on the left was the deep fried wontons, and by process of elimination, the beef foo young was on the right. There was also some kind of red sauce, which was pretty good, too.

Anyway, the wonton things were kind of like nachos..I might be waaaay off, but it seemed like some sort of deep fried flat bread or something. Very crunchy, and more like something I'd eat as a snack while watching a hockey game, rather than as a meal. Also, and maybe they're supposed to be this way, but they were a little bland, although dipping them in that red stuff fixed that little problem.

As for the beef foo young, it was nothing like I expected. I envisioned some sort of stir-fry type of thing, but when I opened it, it seemed like a bowl with some kind of crust on top(like the delicious mushroom soup I had at a fundraiser with Jenn several months back). I quickly discovered, however, that there were several layers of this crust. In fact, the entire dish was like a stack of pancakes that were stuffed with random things like noodles, vegetables, and of course, beef. At first glance, it seemed like a rather unappetizing combination of breakfast and dinner, but it all blended well. In fact, I couldn't taste any single ingredient above any others, it was more like a food harmony. Definitely something I'd be willing to try at other Chinese places, so I could actually have a point of reference.

Oh, getting back to the little Seinfeld anecdote, I was utterly shocked at how quickly this stuff filled me up. I mean, it's not like it's a huge portion...and anybody who has seen me eat pizza and garlic fingers knows how much I can pack away when I'm hungry, but holy crap, I could barely eat half of this before I felt 30 pounds heavier. Looks like George was right about the leftovers(and about his parents, incidentally, who actually *were* avoiding him). Good old TV, it's never led me astray!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The world's most underqualified food critic!

Guess what? I'm not going to talk about clowns today. That's right, no space clowns, no fast food clowns, no clowns, period! Well, other than this opening spiel, that is...

So, anyway, I'm in currently in the second week out of six in which I'm in a hotel room in another city, doing electrical training for my job. It's a great opportunity for me, and will certainly help me in the long run with career advancement and whatnot, but sweet jumbalaya it is freakin' boring here!! Away from home, my lovely fiance, and awesome, there's nobody here to listen to my rapier wit, clever anecdotes, and humorous observations...AND, I don't even have a kitchen. No kitchen = no cooking. You might be thinking, "Forget this! What's the point in visiting a cooking blog by a guy who doesn't even have a damn kitchen??" Well, that's a cynical point of view, isn't it? Luckily, I can't actually hear you say that, because it might just hurt my feelings.

Since I just started getting back into the groove with this little blog thing, I don't want to wait until the end of September to write about something, so I'm gonna take the easy way out. Instead of finding ways to ruin basic food staples and making a fool of myself, I'm going to judge other people on their cooking skills! Yep, for the next month, I'm gonna do what other, more important people do for a living: be a food critic! With the obvious difference being that I'll have no point of reference to compare anything to. So, join me, won't you, as I stumble from one restaurant to another(on company money, of course), trying things I probably can't pronounce while attempting(likely in vain) to compare it to something..ANYTHING, I've eaten before.

Come to think of it, this will probably be just as humiliating for me as cooking was...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rippin' off Ronald

Clowns are inherently creepy. This is not opinion, this is scientific fact. Don't believe me? Go back to chapter 2 and see for yourself...go ahead, I'll wait. There, you see? Creepy...and Ronald McDonald is no different. He's like the pied piper of fast food, smiling and giggling all the way to the bank as kids(and adults) all over the world follow him through the golden arches into a wonderful world of cheaply made toys and deep fried goodness. I'd probably smile and giggle too if I had the kind of marketing pull he does. That's why I don't feel bad for ripping him off with this entry: homemade Egg McMuffins(with bacon, not sausage). Truth be told, this one was Jenn's idea, and she did the cooking, but now I know how to do it too, so you can wipe that smirk off your face, Ronnie, you've got one less way to get into my wallet!

So, it starts off easy enough, just some good old English muffins, toasted with butter. Easy enough, right? Even I can manage that...most of the time. The next part takes a bit more effort: fried eggs. You may recall my first little experiment involved scrambled eggs, which I now LOVE...and since I'm stubbornly resistant to change, I have yet to make them any other way. Not that frying the eggs seems more difficult; if anything it looks a bit easier, just plop them in the pan with some oil or pam and let the magic happen. Jenn prefers hers slightly runnier than I do, but it's all good. Once you've got the eggs going for a minute, throw a slice of good old processed cheese on top, let it melt, and you're almost ready to go, just one more step: the nearly perfect food, bacon!

While I'm on the subject of bacon, I'm going to tell you something very important: floppy bacon is awful. I mean, really, really awful. Like gnawing on an old raw foot. There's nothing worse than ordering something with bacon on it and getting some flabby, reheated mess instead of the crispy, smokey flavored piece of heaven you had envisioned, so it's just better to stay home and do it yourself.

I gotta say, homemade Egg McMuffins are some of the quickest, easiest, tastiest snacks I know of. And to think...that stupid clown sells millions of them to lazy people everyday despite the fact that you can literally make them in the amount of time it takes to wait for one at McDonalds. know, maybe he's not so dumb after all...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Could it be...? Yes, a comeback is in the works...

Ah, it's been a while, hasn't it, my friends? Of course, I'm going forward with the likely flawed assumption that anybody even remembers about this little experiment of mine, and I'm probably just talking to myself at this point. But I digress.

Yep, I've been pretty busy as of late...the new career is going well, life is going great, and, oh yeah...I got engaged to the greatest girl in the world! So, while the lovely Jennifer and I begin to plan our life together, there's just one thing missing: my cooking skills have somewhat stagnated. Yes, yes, I get the joke..."what skills?", you say to yourself, smugly. Touche. Anyway, this blog was pretty good motivation for me to keep the ball rolling, so I figured I might as well give it another shot. Besides, from what I understand, my unique form of self-humiliation provided much amusement for many people...curse you people and your ability to successfully cook store-bought pizza...

So, I'll try to update every week or so and bring a little laughter to your day. Besides, what else are you gonna do with your time at the office? Work..? We both know that's not gonna happen.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A few tidbits of info

You've probably noticed a lack of updates as of late, and I apologize for that. It's with good reason, though! I recently started an amazing new career which, when I factor in time spent studying technical manuals, and the hour long commute to and from, cuts deeply into my blog writing time. I'll still update from time to time when I come across a recipe I'm particularly interested in, but it won't be as regular an occurrence. Still, you can rest assured that my new-found appreciation for the world of culinary delights isn't going anywhere, and when I screw something up, you can bet my humiliation will be up here in every minute detail for the whole world to read about!

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank Jenn and her family for a wonderful turkey dinner over the Easter weekend. Great food, great company, and great hospitality...couldn't ask for anything more!

Oh, one more thing, I just passed the 1000 visitor mark, too. I know it's not exactly viral, but hey, I'm proud to have attracted that many people to witness my little journey! Thank you!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chapter 9: A Temporary Setback

Yes, it's true, I have failed. While I'm certainly proud of what I've accomplished in the last month or so, I realize that it still doesn't take much to trip me up. Case in point: Kraft pizza. You know, the little box that contains the flour, sauce, herbs, and some parmesan cheese. The one with explicit, seemingly idiot-proof instructions plastered on the back, complete with diagrams. Diagrams!! You don't even have to be able to read to make a Kraft pizza, you just make sure your hands and cooking tools are in the same position as the little pictures on the box! Ah, but the fine folks at Kraft have never run into someone like me. Someone who, given the right set of circumstances, could easy catch a bowl of soup on fire.

So, there I was, in the mood for pizza. Sure, I could just order it, but where's the challenge in that? These days, I want to actually make things. After all, that's the reason I started this little experiment...and besides, I've made sauteed chicken, chocolate chip banana bread, homemade pancakes, etc, etc. I wouldn't even break a sweat on something like this! Brimming with confidence, I tore into the box and looked over the contents. With a smug smile on my face, I poured the flour into a mixing bowl, and gradually poured in the recommended amount of water, already assured of my victory. "Mix the flour into a ball with your hands, cover, and place in a warm area for 10 minutes", it said. Easy enough, I responded. After that was done, I sat down and watched some of the latest episode of the always classy Maury while I waited. After cheering along with the TV crowd over some "DNA drama" for 10 minutes, I wandered back into the kitchen to finish the job.

I anxiously took the cover off the bowl, and found...a still sopping wet, tiny ball of gross flour. What the hell?? This wasn't part of the plan! Where was my beautifully risen pizza dough? Suddenly, the plan came to a devastating stop. First round knockout...Adam had been sent crashing to the canvas by the upstart challenger, Kraft Pizza. When I recovered from the shock of my defeat, I grabbed the disgusting sphere and launched it into the garbage, complete with all the other contents of the box. Wasteful? Yes, but I didn't care. Cursing a fit of words mere mortals should never have access to, I stormed all the way down to the dumpster on the side of the apartment building and threw the bag of filth in there, thankful I would never see it again.

Yes, I've come a long way, but I have an even longer way to go. Oh, well, it's all about the journey!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chapter 8: Two for One Special

I know, I know, I haven't been updating regularly for the past couple of weeks. I realize that this is traumatizing for some of you...and I take full responsibility for that. After all, I spoiled you, my dear readers, with multiple updates every week and now that you're addicted I cruelly cut back on the dosage and may have forced some of you into withdrawal symptoms. So, to make up for my transgressions, I offer a double shot of kitchen-y goodness today: Stir fry, and spaghetti. Now, let's get this show on the road...

It appears that much of the later chapters of my precious book focus on large scale recipes and stuff like various sauces and whatnot. That's cool, and one of these days I'm gonna make some of these fancy sauces, but for now I could just as easily buy them for a few bucks at Sobey's. I have enough trouble making the main courses, so trying to multitask and actually make the sauce at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Yes, that pun was're welcome.

Anyway, I asked Jenn for a suggestion for something fun we could make together, and she decided on beef stir fry. I'm especially thankful that for this one, she did the shopping, which saved me the humiliation of buying the wrong stuff. Again. Once we got the ball rolling in the kitchen, she got started with the beef strips, which seemed to be pretty much the same procedure as the ground beef in the taco recipe, and I started cutting up peppers. If you've kept up, you know that I'm very, very slow at cutting veggies, and the peppers are no exception. You also likely know that I have to be told explicitly what to do, or I will inevitably do it wrong...again, the peppers are no exception. I figured I was suppose to cut them into tiny chunks like I did(verrry slooooowly) with the tomatoes and had already done the red pepper like that before she thankfully saw me and put me on the right track for the green one. I need to stop assuming things about cooking...if I assume something is right, YOU can safely assume I'm wrong. I also feel compelled to note that there was a yellow pepper as well, but she was quite insistent on not using that one for some reason. One of these days I'm gonna say screw it, and take a big bite out of a yellow pepper just to see why I shouldn't. Skipping the fluff and getting to the end, I was quite impressed with the stir fry. I didn't eat much of the beef and mostly stuck to the veggies, but still, it was really good, especially the unpronounceable sauce! Why have I ignored all of this stuff for so long??

Next up is something I've actually eaten before: spaghetti with garlic of the rare times where I know what I'm getting into. It's also shockingly simple to just throw the stuff in a pot of hot water!! Oh, and as Jenn and I found out from the "John Tesh radio show", always get cold water from the tap when you're cooking, not hot water, because hot water can take particles off the inside of the pipes and it can get into the food. Knowledge is power! I also LOVE Jenn's method for figuring out if the spaghetti is finished: just get a piece and throw it at the wall!! Seriously! If it sticks, it's done. That is hilarious and awesome. And not just normal awesome, but "Old Spice guy" awesome. I'm tempted to try it with other types of food, but something tells me it wouldn't work quite as well, not to mention it would likely be considered a social faux pas. Curse these societal norms.. Oh, and the moral of the story is, spaghetti is awesome. Go throw some at the wall and enjoy!

Friday, April 8, 2011

A retrospective

Well, it's been about a month since I bought my book, so I figured I'd take a look at myself and see how I've progressed. To be honest, it seems like ages ago since I stumbled my way through the basic scrambled eggs recipe, literally having never cooked anything that didn't go straight into the oven/microwave as is. If you recall, it took me a minute to even remember what a whisk was! The kitchen was like a foreign country to me...and not one of the good foreign countries, either. One of the countries where the hotel clerks carry assault rifles, where you're just as likely to be mugged by the military as you are by street punks, and where smiling in public breaks at least four laws. You know the ones. Thankfully, that's no longer the case.

Slowly, but surely, I've become quite a bit more comfortable in the kitchen. Granted, I've got a LONG way to go, and nobody in full control of their mental faculties should ask me to prepare a three course meal, but if you want some French toast and bacon for breakfast, or some tacos for dinner, I can probably accommodate that. It might not sound like much, but to anybody who knows me, this is nothing short of a miracle. What's even more incredible, is that I'm actually truly enjoying this stuff! I mean, right from the start, I was determined to at least learn how to cook basic stuff, but I wasn't sure if I'd actually enjoy what I it was a pleasant surprise to discover that the culinary world is quite a wonderful place, after all. Naturally, I won't like everything, and so far I've picked recipes that I think I have a better chance at liking, but still, you know what I mean.

You may also have noticed I haven't updated as often the past couple of weeks. Part of the reason is that I'm not *quite* as hilariously useless anymore, and a big part of why I write this is the humor. Another reason is that I've been having an absolute blast cooking together with Jenn recently, and in those situations, I don't have the opportunity to screw up as bad, thankfully!

Just wait, though! Remember that damn salmon from Chapter 2? While it was *sort* of a success, I admitted that I cheated my way through it, and just baked it rather than sauteed, plus the whole bone situation baffled me at the time. I know I said I wouldn't revisit recipes, but this will be a special case. Get ready,'s soon gonna be time for a rematch...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chapter 7: Mexican Revolution

Ah, back to cooking..seems like forever since I posted about a new recipe. Last week I said I was gonna get into soup and/or salad today, but you know what? I just didn't feel like that. To be honest, soup is a strange beast in my opinion. I prefer my nutrition to be either a solid or a liquid, but soup is like some bizarre hybrid, and my unsophisticated palette can't handle such oddities. A liquid with chunks of solids floating in it? Blasphemy. I suppose it's inevitable that I'll get to that stuff eventually, but I don't have to like it! Anyway, today's menu was something significantly more fun: good old fashioned soft tacos!

This one wasn't actually in my book, I just happened to see a commercial for tacos yesterday and decided that was gonna be next. I know it's not a complicated thing to make, but you must remember, without explicit instructions I'm utterly useless in the kitchen...but I was lucky enough to have Jenn give me a hand, so it's all good!

So, off to Sobey's I went in search of ingredients. It was pretty straightforward for the most part(I bought significantly more ground beef than I needed, but that's ok) until I went looking for lettuce. You see, I was under the impression that lettuce is, well, lettuce. How wrong I was...there's an absurd amount of different types of lettuce, each one confusing me more than the last. Ok, ok, so there was actually only like 3...but that's still 3 times as many as I anticipated. Naturally, I wasn't lucky enough to pick the right one, either. I found out later that I should've got "iceberg lettuce", and I bought...uh, I forget, but it wasn't that one. Thankfully, she already had the iceberg stuff in her fridge. Lesson learned.

I also found out that I slice up tomatoes far slower than any reasonably intelligent person should because I insist on making sure every little chunk is the same size; I guess that isn't as important as I had imagined, but hey, I'm a perfectionist...or something. Another thing I learned today is that it's pretty easy to cook ground beef. Granted, Jenn actually did most of that, but it didn't LOOK the end, this was my favorite non-breakfast recipe so far, I must say. Fun to make, easy, and tasty! Definitely something that will work it's way into my regular rotation.

Oh, and I forgot to take a picture again. Use your imagination...or go back and look at the space clown picture in Chapter 2 again.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Oriental adventure

This update is a wee bit different from the others thus far, as it's not about anything I actually cooked. Still, it's about food, and it was a fun experience, so I figured what the hell, I'll write about it. Before any of you write angry comments about how I'm breaking the rules of my own blog..know this: I know where you live!! Ok, that's a lie, I can't back that up. For some of you, at least.

Anyway, yesterday evening Jenn was in the mood for Chinese food, and there's a little spot not far from her place that she really wanted to try. I'm all about expanding my horizons and whatnot now, so I was more than happy to go and give it a shot. First thing we noticed when we got there was that our waitress seemed far too young to be working there. I'm talking like 10 years old, 12 tops. I mean, I remember the big scandal at the 2008 Olympics about the Chinese putting 12 year old kids in the gymnastics events and saying they were 16, but I had no idea it spread to waitresses too...unless that's gonna be an Olympic event next year in London. But I digress...

Jenn instantly found what she wanted on the menu while I stumbled through it, with a look on my face that likely resembled the look the dumbest kid in your high school physics class had on his face during the final exam. Seriously, I didn't recognize anything except rice. Luckily for me, she was helpful enough to make a suggestion: Chow mein with chicken fried rice and an egg roll. Sounds good, let's go with that. Oh, and as my "security blanket", I ordered some french fries from their Canadian menu.

A few minutes later our half-pint(but very pleasant) waitress brought us our egg rolls, and we cut into them preparing to find some sort of egg and vegetable combination. To our surprise, it was nothing remotely resembling that, and was instead some sort of mystery meat. We never did figure out what it was, and eventually assumed it used to be a turtle...if that's the case, turtle tastes pretty good. When our main course arrived, I was shocked by how much there was, and started to dig in. I still don't know what exactly chow mein is, but I certainly wouldn't mind giving it another go some time; and the chicken fried rice was amazing. I actually regret ordering the fries because I couldn't even finish half of them after all that(also cause they were way too expensive...). If there's one positive thing about never having experienced all this stuff until you're nearly 30, it's that now I have the ability to adequately put into words how eye-opening all of this has been.

So, next week, it'll be back to your regularly scheduled programming, where I'll likely be doing some sort of soup, or salad, or both. Until then, dear readers!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chapter 6: Sticking with this week's theme

Breakfast has been fascinating me this week, so I'm sticking with it. I've always been a "cold cereal and Eggo" kinda guy, so this has been quite an eye-opener for me, I must say. Not that this whole experiment in general hasn't been, but there's just something about breakfast that I'm really enjoying. Perhaps this will transfer over as I get more into the lunch/dinner recipes, or maybe I'll always be a breakfast guy, who knows. Either way, let the good times roll: this morning, pancakes made from scratch, and just for the hell of it, bacon again.

Before we begin, let me get this out of the way: I had no maple syrup. Yes, you read that correctly...I made pancakes without maple syrup. I'll give you a minute to absorb that, since I'm sure a number of you either broke into tears, gave your monitor the finger in a symbolic gesture towards me, or both. Take a slow, deep breath. Good? Good. Let's continue. Now then, this wasn't intentional, I just stupidly assumed there was a supply of it here(an oversight I'll be sure to rectify in the future), and didn't realize my error until I was already in the middle of things.

Anyway, the bacon served two purposes this time around. The first was's delicious. Secondly, I'm trying to get used to multi-tasking, since I have absolutely no talent at it, kitchen or otherwise. Overall though, it went fairly smoothly, I mixed my batter and got that ready to go, while flipping and pressing bacon, and was quite pleased with myself until I took the pancakes out of the skillet. I *think* I may have took them out a little bit early, even though I followed the timing instructions in my book. Maybe I made them too thick and should've left them in there a bit longer? I dunno for sure, I'll figure it out next time. Regardless, they still tasted pretty good, so I guess that's the main thing.

Now then, two things to note about the picture: yes, I like my bacon slightly burnt, that was completely floppy bacon for me. And before you punch the nearest wall in blind rage over the dry pancakes, I DID put honey on them after I took this picture. No, it's not maple syrup, but it was still good!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chapter 5: Breakfast of Champions

Wow, this was an easy one...either I'm getting better at this cooking business or this was just a really simple recipe. I'm not so bold as to say it's all skill, because if I do, you can damn well bet I'll burn down the whole block by Wednesday just trying to make Kraft dinner, so for now, we'll just say this was an easy day.

By now you're probably thinking "get to the damn point so I can get back to browsing YouTube videos of chimps peeing on each other", so here we go: today's recipe was French toast and bacon(with some delicious grapes on the side!). The only things I actually needed to buy this time was cinnamon and bacon, so right away I'm ahead of the curve. I'm used to having to bring a huge list of ingredients as I stumble aimlessly down the aisles at Sobey's, so this was a pleasant surprise..of course, it makes sense that once I have the basics, there will be less to pick up each time.

Anyway, I got started on the bacon and after a couple of minutes I cracked and mixed the eggs, added the milk and cinnamon, and stole some of Lisa's(my brother's girlfriend) fancy Italian bread since it looked better for this than my cheap white bread. Now, if there's one thing I'm not good at yet with this stuff, it's multi-tasking and timing. Since the bacon was done several minutes before the toast, I got sick of waiting and just ate it, hence why it isn't in the picture(hey, I was hungry!). I really gotta get the hang of cooking multiple things at the same time, but I guess that'll come in time, I've only been at this for a couple of weeks, after all.

Well...this is new, I got nothing else to say. No amusing anecdotes of my endless confusion, no failures, just some tasty french toast and bacon. Ah well, maybe I'll screw up next time and give you all something more to laugh at. Oh, two quick notes, first I gotta thank dad for a couple of quick tips on this one, and second, Jenn, you're right, bacon is the king of breakfast foods.

Until next time, true believers! (10 nerd points if you got that reference)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chapter 4: Bananas and chocolate and bread, oh my!

Yep, the time has come. While it's been fun doing some regular cooking, and I'm pretty proud of myself for my success(yes, by my standards, this all counts as success) so far, I've been itching to do some baking. Like I said earlier, I skipped over some stuff just to get to this, and when I saw this recipe for chocolate chip banana bread it simply had to be mine!

As is the case with everything so far, I went into this as a blank slate. The only thing I've ever baked in my life were those Pillsbury chocolate chip know, the ones that are practically already done for you. All I had to do was put each little circle of processed, preserved cookie dough onto the pan and shove it into the oven. Even then, I probably still would've burned them if it wasn't for the Pillsbury doughboy(who may or may not have been a figment of my imagination) constantly reminding me to check them while simultaneously berating and cursing at me. That story has a happy ending, however...I happily took the cookies out of the oven, left the temperature on 450, and carefully placed the doughboy inside it, excited to know he would never harass me again. Anyway...

This was probably among the most expensive two loaves of bread every produced, since I literally had none of the ingredients other than eggs. No, not even baking soda. I spent like fifty bucks just getting everything together for this momentous occasion...bread pans, vanilla extract, baking powder, etc, etc, so I HAD to succeed!

I was also told that apparently you're supposed to wait until the bananas have started to get mushy before using them for banana...a fact I was not aware of, unsurprisingly. I wasn't willing to wait that long for the stupid things, so I did what any man in my position would do: I called Mom. I desperately asked for a solution to the problem, and she informed me that a couple of tablespoons of apple sauce should make up for the banana situation. So, back down to Sobey's I went for apple sauce...c'mon, you didn't expect me to actually have any on hand, did you?

After getting that, I continued my journey, step by step, terrified to put in 3/8 of a tablespoon when the recipe asked for 1/3(for those you math-challenged people, that's a difference of only 4%, but I'm not one to take chances). Twenty minutes later, the kitchen looked like a localized hurricane hit it, but I was ready! I filled up the bread pans, put them in the oven, and prepared to wait...what an agonizing 45 minutes; I felt like someone pacing around a hospital waiting room. After half and hour or so, I poked them with a toothpick and continued to do that every few minutes until I just couldn't take it anymore and took them out. What would be the result? Did I do it??

SHAZAM!! Chocolate chip banana bread! Ah, the sweet smell of success...and chocolate.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And now for something completely different

The next chapter in my precious book deals with roasting all manner of things, and while I'll certainly get to that eventually, I'm skipping it for the moment. Why? A couple of reasons...first and foremost, they're all big recipes that are designed for when you're cooking for a pretty large group, which I'm thankfully not. Probably for the best given my current abilities, because I'm not fancy on making enemies of any large groups of people right now. Second, I'm in the mood for something a bit more "fun".

So, I skipped ahead to the baking section, and while I've only skimmed it so far, something caught my eye right away: Chocolate chip banana bread. I have to admit, I've always been of the mindset that bananas and bread are better off staying away from each other, but then again, I've also had the mindset that living out of the freezer is a good idea, so what the hell do I know? Regardless, it looks like it could be a bit of fun. Might not be easy, but the best things in life don't come easy, I've heard. Look for the update on this attempt by Friday!

Oh, a side note, these recipes are not some "one and done" type of deal, as I've gone back and repeated the results on them(or plan to if I haven't already), since practice makes perfect. I only write about a recipe once, since the humor is all about how dumbfounded I am the first time around.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chapter 3: Fowl Aspirations

As I mentioned earlier, today was the day I decided to call in the cavalry since, to be perfectly honest, I was pretty sure I'd screw this one up without help. And I was right..but I'll get to that eventually. Anyway, today's recipe was sauteed chicken with tomatoes and thyme, and luckily Jenn was happy to lend her assistance.

First stop was the grocery store, and while I'm at this part of the tale I might as well take a second to tie up a loose end from my last adventure. It seems the Sobey's guy who told me that my salmon had bones in probably needed my "Dummies" book more than I do, because now I'm quite certain that a fillet has no bones..and that he was an idiot. Also, I should buy fresh salmon, not frozen. Ah well, live and learn...I still blame him, though. Back to the present, we picked up the ingredients and were almost at the counter when I finally saw the price tag on the chicken and suffered what I believe was a mild heart attack. My god, why was this farm fowl so expensive?? Oh well, I just got my tax refund...I can take it.

After we got back to the kitchen and got the ingredients ready, I had to quickly read up on how one goes about cutting an onion. After doing so, I can't help but wonder why people say these things make you cry, cause my eyes were completely dry...even after the financial stress and mental anguish of having to pay for the damn chicken. So, once all the preliminaries had been completed(including us improvising how to de-seed a tomato by tearing it apart), it was on to the main event and I was prepared to put the chicken into the pan. Now, remember when I said I would screw this up on my own? Well, it seems I was unaware that this pricey bird is also capable of spreading around salmonella and likely would've succeeded in this sinister plot if not for my lovely assistant warning me to wash my hands immediately after preparing it. Nice try, chicken...better luck next time.

At this point, things were going quite well, and after 15 minutes or so of watching the chicken sit in the pan and spit olive oil back at me(likely in retribution for catching on to the salmonella plot), I was certain victory was mine. However, it had one more trick up its sleeve...luckily someone(...not me) knew that just because the outside was done, doesn't mean the inside was cooked. If I was alone, you can be damn sure that bird would've had the last laugh and I would've cut into a half-cooked chicken breast and screamed things that would make a lumberjack cry.

In the end, though, things worked out quite well! We ate and enjoyed it, and now I have an actual picture, so this time you won't dream about space clowns after reading my blog. Unless that's what you're in to...if so, go re-read the salmon chapter.

Adam enlists some help!

The full update will be coming later this evening, but here's what's on the menu for today: Sauteed chicken breast with tomatoes and thyme. Yes, yes, I can hear you laughing. You're thinking "Hah! This guy couldn't even figure out where the bones were in a salmon fillet, how's he gonna do this?", and truth be told, I'm thinking the same thing. To be frank, I might be a wee bit out of my league on this one, so I've brought in the lovely Jenn to be my assistant! Can our powerful partnership pummel this poor poultry? Stay tuned...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chapter 2: Maritime Warfare

Not that I expected otherwise, but salmon certainly proved to be more of a challenge than eggs. Hell, I even had trouble buying the thing. See, while I admit that my knowledge of seafood is about on par with my knowledge of Croatian parliamentary procedures, I was under the impression that a "fillet" is something that doesn't have bones in it, yet the package stated it was boned. So, when I asked the guy in the grocery store about it, I was surprised when he said that's not "always" the case...which raised more questions than answers. Rather than stand there and continue to look foolish, however, I just grabbed the salmon and went on my merry way. I also have to admit, I cheated on the recipe. You see, my book called for poached salmon, and it seems one of the ingredients necessary was white wine, of which I have none. I wasn't about to pour a bottle of Dos Equis in there, so I said screw it, I'm just putting the damn thing in the oven. If I can't do something *exactly* the way it's supposed to be, I have to find another method entirely, because I simply don't know enough about this stuff to improvise(yet).

It's difficult to convey just how overwhelming this is for me. Imagine that you're trying to play hockey with NHL players. Now imagine you have no legs. And you're blind. I mean, I don't even know how to pronounce the names of most of the types of sauces that go with salmon, much less make them. In time, I'm sure I'll look back at this and laugh as hard as you likely are now, but at the moment I truly am a culinary disaster.

Anyway, so I brushed the salmon with butter and put it in the oven while I got started on the mashed potatoes. Thankfully, I'm familiar enough with potatoes(in french fry form, at least) to understand their basic properties, and that went fairly smoothly. However, the salmon proved to be a far more resilient foe. Since I had no idea whether or not you're supposed to turn the fish while it's in there, I just left it the way it was. After a little while I checked on it only to find it was now stuck to the pan. After a moment of scraping fish and muttering various bits of inappropriate language, the smoke alarm went off(it must be noted, though, that our alarm is EXTREMELY sensitive). At that point, the cursing was kicked up several notches as I physically abused the alarm and put the fish back in the oven for another couple of minutes.

When it was all said and done, the salmon actually didn't look too bad. Pretty similar to my Google Image(thank god for Google...), I must say. It tasted alright, but I have to admit, it's not something I'd go out of my way to eat very often. Part of that might have something to do with how careful I was while eating it, though...where the F were the bones??? The Sobey's guy and the damn package said they were there, yet I found nothing. Did I eat them? How could I not notice? Or did they dissolve in the oven? Confusion reigns...

Oh, and my deepest apologies, but in the chaos, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. So, to make up for it, here is a picture of an evil clown that took over people's minds in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Real Conversation. Seriously.

Thankfully, my precious book doesn't simply throw me from one recipe to another, because that would probably make me cry. No, the authors are kind enough to realize that the type of person who is reading a book designed for dummies is likely just that, a dummy. So, for the next couple of days, I'm reading up on what exactly the difference is between a skillet and a saute pan, stuff like that. I also couldn't help but notice that there are way too many damn type of pots and pans, I mean, do I REALLY need a "sauteuse evasee"? I'm sure you could come back at me and say "Well, there are too many damn teams in the NHL, do you really need 30?", but you'd be wrong, very wrong, and you should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking that. Anyway, apparently I don't really need a "sauteuse evasee", because a sauce pan will do quite well until I actually know what I'm doing.

So, while it'll be a day or two until I get to another recipe, I did skip ahead to find out what will be(most likely) my next challenge, and it's looking like salmon is at the front of the line. Why am I telling you now, you might ask? Well, it's the source of the conversation mentioned in the title of this entry. Yesterday evening, Jenn and I were taking the puppy out for a little walk(such a cute pup, by the way!), when the topic of my blog/cooking experiment came up and I happened to say that I think salmon is up next. Here is what followed:

Me: So, uh...vegetables go well with salmon..right?
Jenn: *hysterical laughter*
Me: that a yes...or a no?
Jenn: *continued laughter*
Me: ...
Jenn: ...yes.
Me: Ah...
Jenn: You know I'll never let you forget this, right?
Me: ...yes.

That brief exchange will likely give you an idea of just how woefully unprepared I am for the rigors of cooking. Not that it's going to stop me, mind you. I've accepted a challenge, and by god, I'm gonna see it through! And YOU are gonna have a front row seat to laugh at me the whole way through!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chapter 1: The Journey Begins

You, dear reader, are about to follow our hero as he embarks on a fantastic voyage of self-discovery, through the most foreign and mysterious of places...the kitchen. Along the way, you will gain perspective into the inner workings of the mind of a man completely inept in all facets of cooking. You will bear witness to his triumphs and his failures as he struggles to learn things the rest of humanity thinks of as common sense. You'll laugh, you'll cry(from laughter, likely), you'll cheer, and you'll probably laugh some more. Now, let's join him on his quest to recreate the scrambled eggs he saw in a Google Image search...

Our hero enters a terrifying place...filled with things designed to cut, grind, boil, and fry all manner of objects. Has he entered some sort of medieval torture chamber..? No, no, something far scarier...THE KITCHEN!!! He has no sword, no shield, no armor; he is armed only with a skillet, a cookbook, and his own fierce determination. After taking a brief moment to survey the area and mentally prepare, Adam opens the cookbook to a page held by a makeshift bookmark(the receipt), and reads over the instructions on how to make scrambled eggs. One deep breath later, 2 eggs lay floating in a bowl, ready to be mixed with a whisk. "A whisk..what the F?" he asks himself out loud, in reference to the utensil mentioned in the instructions. It takes a second, but our hero quickly recalls that a "whisk" is a wiry device used for mixing things together. Huzzah! After procuring said device, he proceeds to beat the eggs into submission, whilst adding small amounts of water(as was instructed by his lovely companion...who FORCED HIM TO COOK ON HIS OWN...*ahem*), and salt for taste. By this point, the skillet has been sufficiently heated and sprayed with Pam, and Adam stares with grim resolve as he pours the concoction into it.

His trusty cookbook having been designed to make eggs for four people, our hero has accurately whittled down the ingredients to suffice for just himself and has assumed that cooking time should be cut down as well. Whether or not this is an accurate assumption remains to be seen. Tense moments follow as Adam moves his eventual breakfast around the pan with a spatula...will he emerge victorious, or will he suffer a crushing defeat?? Upon first glance, it seems he is successful...the meal he has poured on his plate looks quite similar to the Google Image on his laptop screen. He takes a bite...not bad, not bad at all. A little dry, but that's what he wanted, after all. His unsophisticated palette is unsure what to think, but his taste buds tell him these eggs are assuredly something he could eat on a regular basis! Success!!! A small victory, no doubt, but a victory nonetheless. Now that our hero knows the kitchen can be defeated, his mind races at the thought of what else he can eventually accomplish...who knows, he might even be able to impress the young nurse who is the object of his affection! The same young nurse, it should be noted again, who left the hero to fend for himself in this jungle of appliances and ingredients in the first place...but I digress!

Where will he go from here? Only time(and his Cooking Basics for Dummies book) will tell! To be continued....

Monday, March 14, 2011

An introduction

Well, you found this place, which means you're at least mildly interested in why I'm doing this. Or you're just lost. I don't really care one way or another, I'm still gonna explain my motivations.

So, like my profile says, I'm just some guy who has lived most of his life off frozen food and fast food, which isn't what one might call glamorous. And when I say "most of my life", I mean "all of my life". This has, of course, created obstacles for me since not being able to cook *anything* has many disadvantages. For one, it's just not healthy, and while I'm in good shape now, that likely won't last forever and as my girlfriend is so fond of reminding me, I'm not getting any younger. I also realize that I'm missing out on a hell of a lot by not experiencing what the culinary world has to offer, so I recently made the decision to learn how to cook.

The first step seemed obvious, I'll just browse through some cookbooks that my brother and his girlfriend own; you know, to pick up the basics. However, it seems that the authors of the aforementioned books are under the grievous assumption that the reader(ie. me) is NOT a moron. I was left with a does one learn the basics OF the basics..? With that question in mind, I took a trip to the bookstore and looked over some options: "The Best of French Cuisine"? No. "Greek for the Modern Chef". No. "Favorites of Wolfgang Puck". Lord, no. "Cooking Basics for Dummies". Now, we're getting somewhere.

So, yeah...this blog is basically gonna chronicle my journey from a guy who barely knows which end of a spoon you eat with, to (hopefully) someone who can make a meal fit for a king. Or at least something on par with McDonald's...