Kitchen Chronicles: My Everest

Upon my return to America I decided it was basically detrimental to my sanity to fill my new life – full of structure and routine – with a couple of things to conquer. Nothing better to fill up time then with a little challenge.

So eventually, I finally buckled down and had a hard hitting conversation with myself. I said, “Self, you really should get your life together and figure something out in the kitchen because right now you’re standing on the whole chicken with a big butt fiasco and well, it’s a little embarrassing.”

And myself agreed. So here I am, three years later, ready to document my failures and successes. Let’s do this.

My first conquest upon returning to America was the gym: because well, 2 years of rice and beans had not done me good. So, there’s that.

P.S. I had this great idea to record the journey of conquering the gym with photos and inspirational messages throughout my ups and downs of muscle gaining and fat burning. Ya, that didn’t happen. I quickly realized that I’m totally not secure enough and pretty much thought I may make it through like three weeks before I just called it a day. However, 16-ish weeks later I’m on a roll and thoroughly enjoy finding some “woo-sa” time throughout the week. More on this later. It’s good stuff.photo4

So anywho, currently I feel like what better way to compliment my new healthy lifestyle then by conquering the hardest, and most intimidating/overwhelming challenge of my life.

The kitchen.

Sigh… my Everest.

I can’t quite pinpoint why, but it’s so terrifying to me. I can stand toe to toe with a 6’ 5” Haitian guard on market day, dodging loads of rice and chickens on wheel barrows, and argue in another language about why he won’t let my friends with work visas cross the river; but give me more spices than salt and pepper and I will buckle I tell you. Fear of failure doesn’t even begin to describe.

Ever since I was a little girl I was always the one to volunteer to peel the potatoes when my sisters were learning to gourmet the simplest of dinners. It gives me anxiety when people say things like “just put whatever marinade you might think would pair nicely with that raw, disgusting, chicken breast.” (or something like that.) And I’m all like, “first of all, gross, and second of all, what is a marinade, and third of all how the heck am I supposed to just ‘might think’ what might pair nicely?”

However, what I lack in passion or desire I make up for in determination. Or just desperation. Interchangeable. BUT I NEED HELP, PEOPLE!!!

I just don’t get it. And I’m a visual learner so most recipes don’t help much because all the terms are a little general, and across the board simply unfair if I do say so myself. How do you marinate? What is a “poach”? If it says “a pinch…” how do you know if your pinch is the same pinch as the chef? I already had to learn the hard way the difference in a “bulb” and “clove”… ya, it wasn’t pretty. Read here.

My current situation basically consists along the lines of Tyson Ready chicken in a bag, eggs (basic American staple), and cottage cheese. I know, I know. Just give me grace in this moment.

I need suggestions – tips, beginner meals, etc… okay, “meals” may be used loosely here because that’s another scary thing is multi-task cooking between different dishes all at once. I just think I’m gonna ruin it all. That is why I initially went for a crock pot. But, it’s been a few years. I’m ready to conquer. Plus, starting small may boost my ego and give me a little confidence in the whole process. Advice/tips/tricks below, please!!

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Kitchen Chronicles: My Chicken’s Got A Big Butt!!

 I am no quiter.

So I have given the crock pot a second chance.

I love the idea of cooking in a crock pot, and after the garlic clove/bulb fiasco of my last attempt I promised that I would redeem myself with another *simple* recipe.

 I even got a cute apron as motivation.

Listen- sometimes you just gotta do whatcha gotta do.

Thus, the chicken in a crock pot dinner.

I love the idea of a crock pot. You just put it all together and leave. Love it. Just absolutely love it. Because one of the biggest stresses of cooking (besides all those dang spice options) is managing each dish of the meal at once. I do enough multi-tasking in my day-to-day to not care so much about adding more on for a little grub.

Another thing is, I may have said this before, but apparently it bares repeating. I’m a busy girl. I’m the girl who forgets to eat because it just takes too much time and I would rather be able to eat a breakfast bar three times a day instead of pausing 20 minutes for a meal. It’s just annoying.

So shopping for the recipe list is one of the most tedious task ever. Okay, so that is a slight exaggeration, but when you don’t know exactly what to look for or where it can feel a bit sporadic.

 

I didn’t wanna miss any of the deep range of emotions that go along with cooking (wanted you to get the full effect. Your welcome.) so I talked this out as I went through the process and then typed it later. Yes, you can imagine how fabulous that was.

Talking to myself in my apartment.

Like a cooking show.

One of those moments that I’m glad I live alone. No witnesses.

Ingredients to be used:

Carrots

I love carrots.

I figured I would get them first because I knew right where to find them and it would build up momentum.

1 Onion

Why do they just put “onion”? Is that a red onion, purple onion? little onion? big onion? Doesn’t matter, just get one? I don’t know. Don’t assume, recipe people. Don’t assume.

Potatoes

(Again – How many? What size? What color?)

I went with little one because I think that’s what I’ve seen in pictures. And because that’s just what i did so hopefully it’s right.

Rice

You know the ones that cook in the microwave (aka gourmet meal).

Plus it said chicken on the bag so i felt like it had to be the right choice.

Cornbread

(which I never ended up cooking)

However, is not located on the bread aisle. Not even close.

Broth

Because it was in the cubbard (#thoughtitwaschickennoodle) and I’m feeling daring tonight.

Chicken

O goodness, what to say about this chicken.

I’m staring at it feeling as if I should give my condolences or something. It’s a little intimidating to me. I think he may be staring back at me. There were a few issues with the selection, but only because of all the choices.

I didn’t wanna make wrong decisions here.

There was a whole chicken with a families name on it. There were two little “hens”? Apparently it’s all chicken, just boys vs. girls and sizes. I went with the Roger Boling family chicken. Looked nice and plump and medium sized. And the Roger Boling family sounded like nice people.

I’m not gonna lie – through this entire process (especially selecting the plump chicken) I couldn’t help but think of my chickens as a child and being a little bit sad the one I chose was probably clucking around with his friends a week or so ago.

Sad story.

Last item –Crock Pot

And no folks, there should be no water between the crock and the pot… thank you for asking, a lot of people wonder the same thing. Very common.

 So my initial thoughts/ questions are: I’m kind of scared of this chicken. What I hear about what’s inside – do you eat the gizzard? Do you not eat the gizzard?

Broth or Water? How much? (because I hear that chicken’s create their own juices, apparently.)

After the initial cut into the chicken bag I was feeling pretty prepared. I tried to take a visual lesson from a friend just so that I would be ready for it, but it didn’t help much. I threw up in my mouth a little bit. It was just so juicy. Okay, so you want to know what really happened.

 I lifted it up and a bunch of stuff poured out and I screamed. True story.

It’s like a blood bath over here… now that i’m moving on from the battle field, and need therapy for murder.

 It pretty much looked like this:

 

That little bag was inside that chicken's butt!

 But then I was so sad cus I flipped him over and his little wings were all sad and bald. No feathers.

But I continued, took a moment for us to become aquainted, and I’m not gonna lie, I made the chicken dance for a second. I don’t know why, I just had to.

It’s just an awkward situation. This thing is too heavy and has muscles and bones and too much like a little alive thing to be washing and spreading his little wings. As if i’m giving him a bath or something. No joke. How disgusting.

 On to potatoes.

This is one thing that I actually used to help my mom do. It involved no spices, no animals, nothing super intense. Just wash, cut and into the pot. Simple enough.

 I chose to leave the peel on them because I think I read somewhere that it has the most nutrients. Hope so because if not I’m doing it anyways.

 My favorite part so far: Washing potatoes.

 How many potatoes are too many potatoes?

How should the pot be arranged? layered? sporadic?

 The only problems I had from here out were – the onion (it’s just grody) and the fact that once I had everything in the pot the chicken’s butt was too big to close the lid.

For one moment I was relating really well with that chicken.

 I had to pull it all out and rearrange the pot with less veggies and the chicken on bottom.

Now I’m gonna go about my merry way and clean some apartment because guess what? IT’S COOKING WITHOUT ME – absolutely love it!

Next day: I woke up a lot because of this great aroma brewing in the kitchen and for some reason I was just afraid that it was dangerous. Like the stove or something. Just-a boiling away (amazing how this thing works) and smelling good.

It took me a minute to try it. I really was scared. But I did… and… kind of dry. It did fall off the bone just like they said. But still kind of dry. How do I fix that? But the veggies were delicious and the brothy “juice” was great with them. I should have just skipped the trauma of handling dead chickens aka my childhood pets and I would have been good to go.

 I don’t know, people.

At this rate, I may be on my way to a George Foreman grill pretty darn soon!

No Promises, but I’m feeling it!

P.S. Big shout out to Heather Nance for the heads up on chicken/veggies in the crock pot… that woman is a plethora of cooking knowledge!

Kitchen Chronicles: Take II

I get the cleaning, but the stove top, really?! just sayin..

Just in case anyone was unclear, I officially do not like cooking.

It is actually one of my least favorite things to do. ever. Even worse than laundry. Ok, not worse than laundry, because NOTHING is worse than laundry.

So, genius over here, decides to tackle the first cooking attempt. Free Life has been on the Daniel’s Fast for most of January, which in all my eagerness was NOT about to stop me on a roll. So I looked up some recipes, got all the groceries (which takes FOREVER, btw) and back to the humble abode to impressively throw the knife around.

Definitely feeling like no one less than Rachel Ray, I plugged in my crock pot.

Okay let’s go ahead and address this.

I know what you’re thinking- because I heard it every time this story was mentioned- putting some stuff in a crock pot is not cooking, you were going to say? Well dear, in my case, I beg to differ. Dicing and “mincing” and slicing fresh vegetables, paired with tears because the onion is so strong, on a cutting board, with a big knife- no matter where their final destination may be- is cooking. Cooking at it’s finest, actually, thanks for asking.

So, like I was saying, I plugged in my crock pot.

Now, I had a slight discrepancy with the crock pot, no help in the manual (if you want to call it that). Do you put water between the metal and the ceramic pot? Do you leave it dry? Good thing I went with the latter, quite possibly could have been electrocuted.

And following my recipe, step by tedious step, because like I have said before, I am not a “dash here and a pinch there” kind of a girl, I noticed that I was stuck at the “mince three garlic cloves” step for an awful long time. Why was this? I didn’t know, I was just following the online chili-making site, because surely they wouldn’t lead me astray. No they wouldn’t. I however, I most definitely would lead me astray. Being a college graduate and all, my ex tenuous knowledge of life (please note the sarcasm) and memory of my food-art forming- chef-sister’s love of garlic, cued me to believe that there was no way in reality that I should be cutting this tiny mountain of fresh garlic on my counter (with the added fear all this time that I surely am going to cut off a finger at some point- just saying, I need one of those shark gloves that are metal so I am sure to keep all ten).

Now, I’m going to make this long story a short one for you and me because, 1. I don’t want to re-live it and 2. I am not going to humiliate myself by going through the thought process that went along with ruining this meal.

Needless to say, after I googled it- and ruined a Daniel’s Fast approved dinner for one- the bellowing aroma 8-hours later (side note: may have been an epic fail, but once I master that little red pot with a high and low temperature, that’s my kind of cooking) went straight to the trash because -surprise surprise- a clove of garlic turns out to be this:

clove.

instead of this:

not a clove. bulb, actually.

Which all-in-all means my mini mountain was enough garlic to prepare a Daniel’s Fast approved dinner for an entire troop of grown men.

Also, to which I found out later, no need to spend 76 hours, doing what some call, “mincing” those little cloves because apparently it comes already cut up in a jar, just twist off the lid, and scoop away! Who knew.

What is the moral of this story?

Lessons learned:

Read recipe thoroughly and google all suspicious terms BEFOREHAND.

Do not try to put water between the crock and the pot.

Learn some cutting techniques to avoid a visit to the ER.

Buy the jar.

Terms learned: Minced, diced, clove and bulb.

Things to look into further: shark glove.

So the journey continues- and I will surely try again.

Until then-

Love, Hope.

The Kitchen Chronicles

 

Chaos.

Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt.  That’s the one reason why I love vegetables, you know what they’re about!  ~Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt

In the true spirit of a twenty-something, my kitchen consists of any normal apartment basics, you know the box sets where they give you enough of everything for four place settings. That is until my parents came to visit for my graduation

(don’t you love it when they come to the rescue, just in time? Like a super hero movie)

and as food “connoisseurs”, as I call them, they were completely offended- yet knowing their daughter, not surprised whatsoever.

All through my childhood my mom prepared all the courses, most of the time from scratch, with the meals planned through the week, and fancy-shmancy techniques and recipes and dishes (even though she never followed the recipes.. I don’t get it, I’m a structure kind of girl, not a “dash here and a pinch there” kind of girl). She always tried to pull my sisters and I into the fiasco, where I would escape to “set the table” (fierce task, if I do say so myself, and I do) and my sister would indulge in the experience (to her defense, she can now turn anything- no seriously, anything- into a gourmet art form. Ask her to make you a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and it’s going to come out with three different cheeses, garlic, and little bits of chicken mixed in. So good it’s disgusting.) Although it was decided that I would “never catch a husband” it still wasn’t enough to make me want to touch raw chicken or to try and conquer one of my greatest fears- a.k.a the spice rack.

So when I first went off to claim the world as my own, with my two-week supply of gifted goodies and snacks, I thought eating bad as a student was one of those cliches that people made fun of in movies- ya know, “O ya, the hungry college kid”- but then two-weeks later I found myself in a dorm room with only a microwave and my stomach started to growl. This is the moment where I realized my quickest and most efficient survival method, and from that moment on -for the past four years- I have been in a committed relationship with ramen noodles and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Yes that’s right folks, in all of my 22 years, I have never cooked a real meal beyond boiling the pasta noodles and then pouring sauce over them (pulling out the big guns, I know) and toasting some frozen garlic bread if I’m trying to be real impressive. Works every time.

So, while I prepared for my graduation, my parents set out on a journey to establish my humble abode to any respectable level of sophistication in the category of creating simple cuisine (although, I personally think it was an attempt to inspire me to at least, “try”). They bought all the mixing gear, a knife set, a little skillet because according to my dad, “everyone needs an expensive skillet that they’ll take with them when they get married as a memento from their ‘single days’”, and the coveted- crock pot, among other things.

The brink of 2011 has come and gone and we are well into the first month. During this transition of a new year and a new season as a “big girl” I am embarking on a quest to gain a some what well-rounded knowledge of the kitchen. Nothing extensive- let’s not get crazy now– just a cooking 101 status.

Yes, it’s true, I am vowing to go beyond ‘playing the sport because I want to wear the cute uniform’, i.e. playing with the fun cooking gadgets in Target, and trying my hand at the ole stove top.

Wish me luck!

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated and I will post the results as I try them 🙂

Love, Hope.