How I cook

Some people know how to cook, others know how to follow a recipe. These are both important but very different skills one may possess. Curious family, friends and colleagues have often said they’d eat “better”  or with “less meat” if they knew how to cook. This is one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog — sharing ideas, conversation, and information along recipes or even ideas about meals to develop a new set of skills and confidence. I want to write my of my recipes with slightly less precious, so you, dear reader, can make a judgement call and hone your skills. 

We returned home late on Sunday afternoon after a few days away.

With no plan for dinner in place, I was able to turn to my small pantry and fridge to put together something basic for the kids, and use the same ingredients (mostly) to make something a little more satisfying for me and my husband.  Being able to make something delicious with limited and basic ingredients isn’t always easy, but it does show the practical value of keeping having a well-stocked pantry.

Knowing how to balance the salts and fats, considering texture of different ingredients, and being cognizant of the general nutritional value provided are three basic skills you need if you want to know how to cook.  Of these, balancing flavor is the one that seems to be the greatest challenge. Some people seem to be born with the skill, while others work to develop it. I didn’t realize this was a skill I possessed until I was trying to explain how to make something to my husband. When it works the flavors come together in a new way, without overpowering the other.

Before getting started review what’s in the kitchen, and make a note of priorities for the meal. I needed to use a head of broccoli and a package of baby portobello mushrooms before they spoiled.  I also needed to skip anything with wheat, for the sake of variety and nutritional value because the kids have been eating a lot of wheat lately.

I put the produce on the counter, and surveyed my pasta options, selecting one made of chickpeas. The mushrooms informed the flavor I was going for – rich and savory.  The result was an excellent, healthy dinner that I was proud to serve and happy to eat.

I’ve been trying to write “real” recipes down, but it’s not how I cook, and I’m not interested in teaching you how to do something than to follow a recipe.

  • I sliced the package of mushrooms (about ¼ of an inch thick, stems removed)  and sauteed with one shot of balsamic vinegar and three soy of soy sauce, and a sprinkle of garlic powder and  scoop of Earth Balance (tablespoon?).
  • I cooked them on medium heat, and turned it up at the end fora little extra browning. Maybe eight minutes? Once a glossy, rich brown I set them aside. 
  • Steamed broccoli on the stove with exactly nothing special, only careful not to overcook the chopped florets.
  • Cooked one box of chickpea pasta per directions on the box.
  • Poured the cooked pasta into a large mixing bowl, add the well-drained broccoli, and mushrooms. Mix carefully so not to smash the pasta or the broccoli.  Add pesto (mine is frozen from the summer garden, approximately two heaping tablespoons. I just added more until it was well covered). Salt and pepper to taste. A little garlic and onion powder to punch up the flavor. Earth balance for richness. Generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast (probably two tablespoons) and a splash or two of soy milk.
  • To be honest I probably added some more Earth Balance at some point, knowing the key to this would be bringing up the fats factor to work with the salty one-two punch of the balsamic/soy sauce mushrooms.

Meanwhile, my once adventures eaters ate pesto pasta, steamed broccoli, and black lentils on the side with strawberries and peanut butter topped graham crackers for dessert. 

Bon Appetite!

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