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...