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Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

grilled fruit

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Grilling!
You’re off and away!

You have coals in the pit.
You have fire at the ready.
Grill whatever you want
Just keep the heat steady.
You’re on your own. And you’ll do what you will.
And YOU are the gal who’ll decide what you’ll grill.
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100_1777

When I talk with people about why they don’t cook, “I have really lousy kitchen equipment” comes up a lot. Many people feel that if they can just buy that new set of knives and saute pan, suddenly they”ll be Julia Child. And this is the American way. You’ve got a problem, we’ll sell you a solution. There’s no problem that can’t be fixed at Wal-mart or your local pharmacy.

But whenever I hear this from people, I try to talk them down from the retail ledge. I think that things should go in the reverse order: You earn buying new cookware by cooking more often. The truth is that you can cook almost everything with some really basic equipment, and fancy new kitchen stuff just tends to sit unused along with all the unfancy old kitchen stuff.

But here’s an exception to this rule: In previous, posts I’ve sung the praises of buying bulk foods, and to store these bulk foods, I’m now giving you a papal dispensation to go out and spend $50 on some good new plastic storage containers. A pantry full of basic ingredients will do far more to get you cooking than a new omelet pan and will also make you look extremely organized.

Or at least mildly obsessive compulsive.

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100_1810Boot Camp is a back-to-basics series focusing on some classic easy-cooking staples. If you would describe your cooking ability as “my-easy mac-is-on-fire,” then this is a great place to start, and if you’re more of a veteran, we hope you’ll pick up on some new ideas and add advice of your own as a comment. If you’re only interested in how to sous vide heirloom romanesco, you might want to move on.

As I’ve worked my way into my twenties, I’ve lost my teenage ability to sleep in, especially when I’m away from my own bed. So when I go with friends to the beach or a cabin, etc., I am often among the earliest risers. In recent years, I have actually come to take a strange and almost certainly excessive pleasure in being the first person awake in a house. I really love having a quiet hour to myself to start the day, and it feels like winning to me in some way that probably suggests I’m in need of some good psychotherapy.

But it’s not an entirely selfish pleasure. My third favorite early morning activity, after drinking 2.5 gallons of coffee and reading in the morning air, is making breakfast for everyone. Scrambled eggs are always a good option for feeding a lot of people, but there’s something about a pancake breakfast that just feels special.

And with a little practice, pancakes are not very difficult. They require near-constant attention while cooking, but they’re much more forgiving than you might assume. The most frustrating aspect of making pancakes is that you wind up with a lot of batter-covered dishes to wash.

But given that you’ve just fed a houseful of people, I bet there’s something that can be done about that.

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Supermarket Weep

marketThe second thing you’ll notice about this picture is that “Canned Pasta” earned its own place on the Aisle 11 signboard. The first is that this supermarket looks like a really unpleasant place to be.

It’s been surprising to me to learn how grocery shopping-phobic many people are. When I ask my friends why they don’t cook or why they don’t cook more often, fear/hatred of grocery shopping consistently ranks at the top of people’s lists. And I can definitely sympathize: Wandering around a crowded supermarket, waiting in an interminable line, and then interacting with a surly or brain-dead cashier is not my preferred method for unwinding after a day at the office.

So, after the jump, a few thoughts on how I try to shop, in the hopes that they’ll be of use to you shopping-phobes out there. This comes from the perspective of a city dweller, but aside from not going to Costco and not having my own car to transport groceries, I think my shopping techniques are pretty universally applicable.

I don’t have any amazing revelations for you; I just want to share what I do in the hope that you find it useful. If this is all seems stunningly obvious to you, my apologies, but when I’ve shared these tips in conversation, people seem interested. Maybe they’re just indulging me. Or maybe they just want me to shut up about shopping already. Either way, they at least feign interest.

So please, no hate mail.

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img_0383Taking advantage of some excellent fare from the market that runs daily in Cambridge’s (UK) city center and a budget for an event I ran for the University to splurge on said fare, I made a shockingly satisfying meal out of outreach activity leftovers. This is less of a recipe than a suggested menu for simple refreshments while entertaining, and a strategy for “upcycling” leftovers from the entertainment.

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100_1725

Sorry for the inconvenience, but we’ve moved. You can now find this post and the recipe for this delicious granola here:

http://foodjunta.com/2009/03/31/breakfast-briefs-granola/

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bacon-fat-spice-cookies

About a month ago, I shared my consternation at that least evil of all evils: having too much bacon fat stored up in my freezer (now I store it in the fridge). But after some thorough research into just what bacon fat is, along with some prodding by bacon-fat-hoarding friends, I came to realize just what liquid gold the stuff is.

Still, I had too much to use it up in sautés and frying. I had a lot. I was still flummoxed. And then I found the Bacon Fat Spice Cookie. (more…)

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