Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Visit & My Cooking Journey {Personal Reflection}

Today we got a surprise visit from Aunt Gardening Goddess (we'll refer to her as AGG). She only lives down the street, but I haven't seen her that often lately. I'm currently in a tiff with her two daughters, Serena and Biogirl, my cousins (who have always been more like sisters). But that's another story and hopefully it will all be water under the bridge before I ever have a chance to explain it to you. I do miss them dearly and my heart often aches for their company :-(. AGG is such a dear. I don't think she has EVER turned her back on a family member. She is a remarkable woman. She knows something about everything. Without the crafting and the prison sentence, she reminds me a little of Martha Stewart. She is a lover of natural things and she is so kind to the earth. AGG grows and shares her own food year round, has her own chickens, and is an amazing cook. Although, I'm starting to think that I shouldn't give her all the credit for her cooking abilities. It seems ALL the women in my family have a gift in the kitchen. I think it's genetic. For a long time I thought it skipped me.

When I was first married, I didn't live near any family. I spent the first 8 or so years winging it. Occasionally I would call another one of my aunts, Aunt Marshmallow, or my cousin Jules. Then 4 years ago, we moved back to San Diego, where we were surrounded by family. Tons of family is all within 5 minutes or less of me!  All of us sudden I was required to cook on a whim for anyone who might stop by, or cook for 30 or more people for any given birthday or random-for-no-reason-at-all get together! I would stress out and become anxious at the thought.

Luckily I had my cousin, Serena, who loved to cook and also loved hanging out with me and we cooked alot together. We even had or own imaginary cooking show that we did every night. It was called Sexy Bitches Cooking. We were the stars. It reminds me of that new show that is on the Oprah Network. The one where the two girls cook things out of a cookbook and are seemingly pretty bad at it. We weren't bad though. There was a lot of dancing while cooking and a lot of back and forth bickering and bantering about how things should be done. It was a blast and there is no one in this world I love cooking with more than Serena. I have learned so much about cooking from Serena and AGG, I think they've learned a few things from me too.
Tonight's Dinner
Lately we've been having a lot of dinners like the one pictured above. Lots of fish and lean meats, those are tuna patties (Agg's recipe actually), always at least two veggies, and sometimes a rice or pasta side.

But as always I digress, my point is AGG was here and I started preparing dinner. She sat and watched while we talked. She asked me how I prepare my butternut squash, and I told her. She asked me about my squash preperation. There is no bigger compliment to a cook than someone asking for your recipe, right? Especially when it's someone you respect and idolize. She actually went home and prepared the squash like I said.

I've turned into a very good capable cook. I'm proud of myself that I'm one of those people who can create dinner on a whim, who can cook something without a recipe, and even create a recipe. Those people who could say, "I don't really know how much whatever I use, I just add it until it looks right." Oh, those people used to irritate me. Why couldn't I do that? Now I can :) I wonder what I'll be capable of five years from now?

My biggest goal and accomplishment I think is timing and being efficient. It's important to have everything timed right so it's not cold, and it's soooo important to clean as you go. Also a little advanced planning and you can think of how to use less dishes while you cook! Me being the one who cooks AND CLEANS up after dinner, this is very important!

For the butternut squash, you just peel, clean out the pulp and seeds,  and cut it up into squares. Place in a glass baking dish and drizzle with EVOO. Add some salt and mix it up. Add about 2 tbls. of water and bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees or 400 depending on your oven. Stir every 15 minutes. When it's done add a tsp. or two of brown sugar. You can also just slice the squash, leaving it unpeeled, remove pulp and place flat side face down in the dish with water. Then when it's cooked, just cut it in quarters and serve in the skin.

For the Sprouts, rinse and peel off outer leaves. Boil them for about 5 minutes in a pot of water. Meanwhile, cook some chopped bacon pieces in the microwave in a baking dish, covered with a paper towel. Remove the sprouts and when they've cooled a bit, trim the ends and cut them in half lengthwise, from top to bottom. When bacon is done, remove it onto a papertowel and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon or so of the bacon fat. To the fat add the Brussel sprouts and toss until covered with the drippings. Bake at 375 for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and stir in the cooked bacon pieces.

Who inspired you to cook,
who did you learn from?


Sue said...

Good for you, Lil! With confidence comes creativity! The "good cook" gene is a nice one to inherit:)
No one taught me to cook, but I can follow a recipe:) No one taught me to bake either. My mom made several kinds of cookies each Christmas, but other than that I don't remember other baking, and I never remember her having me bake alongside her. If I had known earlier how the baking bug would bite me, I would have gone to culinary school:)

Megan said...

Oh wow, you are amazing!! I wish that I was one of "those women" who just make everything up as they go! I just started cooking since we got married, so I am definitely a follow the recipe girl!

Siobhan said...

I have a recipe similar to this where I simmer the sprouts in milk and quickly remove them so they keep their color and texture, while mellowing out some of the bitterness. Also, I add some chopped hazelnuts for extra texture. YUM!

However, yours looks like a more sweet/salty version that I would enjoy. My Mom is visiting me tomorrow for a graduation reception and I think I'll try out your version for her =)