Chef…a culinary experiment

I love to cook.  I love to buy colourful foods (vegetables and fruits) and figure out what to make with them.  I love to research (basically “Google” recipes) and try out new things.  I have now expanded my culinary skills to actually NOT following a recipe.  Does that mean I’m a chef?  Well, that is a definition I actually looked up.  Chef means that you cook meals for people.  Yes I do that!  It mentions something about restaurants too…ok, I don’t have a restaurant, but anyone eating at my home and people I work with think I should open one. Very complimentary, but I don’t think I’m quite at that level.  Anyway, in my mind “chef” has a different meaning.  CHEF – Can Have Experimental Food!  Yes, anyone eating my food is my chosen guinea pig to test new things.  Welcome to my thoughts and dissertations on food.

Food.  I could say it’s a love/hate relationship but I would be lying.  I LOVE FOOD!  I love experimenting with new recipes.  I love prepping it.  I love cooking it.  I love eating it.  Notice…there is a lot of love here.  The hate part is…I LOVE FOOD!  Let me explain my absolute food weaknesses…McDonald’s french fries.  I swear those are like crack-cocaine to me.  I don’t do drugs, but these hot little sticklettes make me weak in the knees.  After that or almost neck and neck is pizza.  What kind of pizza?   Hmmmm…thin crust, thick crust, tomato sauce style, white garlic/oil style.  Mozzarella or goat cheese.  Pepperoni or roasted eggplant and zucchini with balsamic drizzle.  To add to my super cholesterol heart-stopping food fest…CHICKEN WINGS!!!!  I am a Wing-nut!!  (In many ways…)  Those are my favourite, unhealthy indulgences.  Do I have an unhealthy relationship with food?  Perhaps…but what relationship is perfect?   Am I right?

History lesson:  when cooking as a child with my mother I got to lick the spinny-things from the hand mixer.  I got to mix the tomato sauce for pasta.  I got to eat pizza dough (oops…that was never supposed to be revealed).  My cooking lessons were as follows:

Mama:  NE TAKO!  (translation:  NOT LIKE THAT!)

Mama:  Sporije!  (translation:  slower!)

Mama:  Ovako.. (translation:  like this…)

Mama:  NE TAKO!  (translation:  NOT LIKE THAT!)

Mama:  Ovako mjesaj  (translation:  Mix like this)

Mama:  NE TAKO! (translation:  NOT LIKE THAT!)

So…there you have my basic cooking lessons.

Oh wait!  There are two more phrases my mother always used:

Mama:  Na umjerenoj vatri (translation:  bake at 350…she actually had to explain what middle heat meant and then I finally realized it was always 350 degrees)

And last but not least:

Mama:  Otprilike (about or approximately).  Yes most recipes had that included.  Any seasonings you were to use like salt or pepper, you were basically guessing how much was needed.  For a newbie learning how to cook that never helped.

So, when I started sharing my knowledge with others I improved the lessons I had received.  I liked to train by smell.  I also did not use measurements (bad teacher), but I would have the meat in a bowl, and then I would cover the tops of the meat with salt or pepper or paprika.  We would mix the meat and then I would ask my “student” to smell.  Yes…you can actually smell salt and pepper and paprika and you could know if there was too much.  Seriously!  Again, for beginners we would start with a few shakes because you can always start with less and add more but you can’t take away if you have added too much.  There.  That is my greatest cooking advice.

Am I a chef?  Yes, in my mind I totally am.  I cook food for people.  I love cooking!  I am practising baking (not quite perfect yet, but it’s all in the learning).  I have the best kitchen with my Wolf Subzero Stove.   I think that people who have tasted my creations can vouch for me.

To summarize…I LOVE COOKING!  I love filling my house with family (approx 20+ people) and cooking and enjoying their reactions to my recipes.  Nervous?  Absolutely!  I want everyone to love it!  Yes…there goes that “love” word again.  Why?   I truly believe that feeding people with food is nourishing, but I also believe that the love that I put into making my food transmits into internal happiness for those who consume it.  Food isn’t just about livelihood, it’s about sharing and caring.

My newest adventure is with old fashioned European foods (lately Italian), and putting my own educated spin on it.  Check out this lovely plain recipe full of flavoured layers and many “oh my this is good” in between bites!  My latest heartfelt and enjoyable culinary experiment.

RECIPE:

1 half baguette

1 large garlic clove

4 tbsp buratta (I think…approximately)

4 tbsp balsamic drizzle (basically balsamic vinegar and honey boiled down for 30 minutes until thickened…”google” for an actual recipe…otherwise…meh…approximately what you think will work)

THERE!  Authentic European recipe.  MANGIA!  (That’s amore…I mean Italian!)

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Toasted french stick bread, rubbed with fresh garlic. Buratta spread on top and drizzled with homemade balsamic drizzle

 

Cellulite…a love story

I love sharing stories about my life and growth.  In this particular instance, it’s about waist (not waste…as no leftovers were harmed).  I can discuss the long, cold Canadian winters which leads me to over-carbohydrate myself with ravenous amounts of bread:  sliced bread, pita bread, bagels (bread really), English muffins (still bread) and then there are the dunking-into-stew breads like baguettes or French stick or really anything that sops up that lovely stewed liquid.  So, today my topic is about curdled-cottage-cheese thighs, my “over” tummy and how I cope with the gym fever of the world.

I joined a gym once.  It was a long time ago…ahem…super long time ago.  I think there was a T-Rex with a pencil ready to sign me up.  The machines were enormous. There were mirrors everywhere. There was a machine which had me pushing my legs out and focusing my eyes on my hoo-haw.  Why was this good?   After a few months (and a call to the Mafia) I managed to cancel my membership.

Yoga is a two-digit word.  Yes, it is supposed to be about clearing your mind and learning to breathe.  Yoga doesn’t work for me.  I learned to breathe…that is true, but other than that, all it did was lead me to rehearsing (in my head) my grocery list of items that needed to be done.  Yoga was not for me.

Racquetball.  I love playing racquetball!  It’s my favourite sport!  I started playing in University with a friend (for an hour) and have never…ever…played again.  True!  (Note: This is an ongoing joke with me and Wiseguy.)

Cycling!  Yes, I recall my bro and I going for long bike rides around our neighbourhood and beyond.  We were explorers!  We would leave after dinner and wouldn’t be back for at least two hours.  I do recall two bad cycling incidents.  Once was a mosquito in my eye.  Yes, it flew in and I smushed it and I couldn’t see well.  The other was where I was turning around a curve and there were crushed stones.  I wiped out and my elbows and knees were bleeding.  Luckily I was able to walk home and keep up my sniffles in order to be pampered at the finish line.  Milk it baby…milk it.

I belonged to a dance group that met once a week.  We had numerous performances and I was in almost all of the dances.  Yes…I was svelte.  Also I was young.  I could jump and spin and twirl and sing.  I could do almost anything.  (Yes, it rhymes…read it again.)

So, here I am…almost 50 (yes…I’m surviving) and my body has decided that there are renovations needed.  No, I did not get the memo.  No notice.  No meeting.  NOTHING!  My gutsy-trusty body decided to go ahead and pillage me without any notice.  How rude!

Every morning, before I get out of bed, I have learned that I should stretch.  I have been doing this since my early thirties.  Well, lately my stretches sound more like maracas!  One comedienne said it best, “I’m an exotic dancer for the blind.”  I stretch and all of my joints take turns cracking like a bowl of rice cereal.

I have maps of some sort of my legs. There are blue lines which I can only assume are rivers.  Not sure where these rivers are but one day I’ll find them.

Finally there are the bubbles.  Yes, I always find silver linings in everything in life.  My wonderful legs that carry my body everywhere have these pretty little dimples.  Yes…they are everywhere.  These dimples are fantastic FAT deposits.  They are the storage units of my winter solstice and my packing on weight to keep warm in winter.  Yes, I love lying to myself.  I just love food and using hibernation always sounds like a good excuse.  Anyway, I jiggle.  My stomach, by butt, I even have jiggle arms.  Here is my crazy thought.  Follow me on this.  Once I get diagnosed with an incredibly bad illness I will have my 20 lbs of extra fat (like camels not needing water) to help me through any horrible surgery and recovery.  Skinny people have nothing to fall back on.  My excess will assist me in survival and then I will once again be slim and healthy after my horrible crisis. Crazy?  Nah!  I just think ahead.

I am “cuddly”.  My granddaughter came up and poked me in my belly. Oh yes! Wait for it… “Big belly”, she said.   Yup, that is what this almost 6-year old said.  Was she right?  Oh yes…absolutely.  Was I offended?  In my younger days I would have been, but I have accepted my body.  I would like to be thinner, but I am also happy with myself and my life.  I don’t want to diet.  I don’t want to give up foods I love.  I consider myself a chef of sorts.  I have the greatest kitchen in the world and I LOVE TO COOK!  My other favourite motto is “never trust a skinny chef”.

Flashback to my “big belly”.  I looked at Kennie and asked, “Baba has big belly which means I am soft and cuddly and I can give you amazing hugs so big bellies are good right?”  She thought for a bit.  Really, really thought about it and then looked at me, nodded and said, “Yup, it’s good.” Then she moved in for the soft, cuddly, Baba hug.

Cellulite and cuddles…a love story.

 

 

 

 

 

Geraniums and other mysteries…

I do stop and smell the flowers.  However, nowadays with the new everlasting hybrids, most flowers do not have a scent.  You need to go and stalk people who have been planting for the last 25 years.  They have the wonderful originals.  Standing around you can actually smell the lilacs when the wind blows.  I have tried to keep flowers in my house, but to no avail.  Besides aloe plants, everything else either gets too dry or overwatered  a.k.a. drowned.  So imagine my surprise when I realized that I can actually keep geraniums alive.  Yes it’s true.  I learned the secret from my mother-in-law.  It’s a simple trick and yet I find that it applies to situations in everyday life.

My mother had a green thumb.  I am not sure if she always had it, but our house could’ve been a greenhouse.  A botanical garden.  I recall a wonderful green plant (nope…no idea what it was called…all I know is that she used to use kitchen twine to tie this climbing plant to the spindles of the staircase.  Oh yes, this went on for years until my brother and I decided to challenge each other to slide down the bannister.  Keep in mind, this plant started from a cutting and ended up being 12 feet long.  It wound up the stairs and up to the bedrooms.  I will always remember this:

Me:  (whispering) No…mama is gonna kill you!

Bro: (whispering) not unless you tell her!

Me:  It’s a long way down.  You’ll fall!

Bro:  Don’t tell…

NOTE:  This dangerous endeavour was even more high faluting as our mother was sitting precariously around the corner in the family room watching tv.  Daredevils?  Idiots?  You decide.

And then he began his slide.  He started at the top of the stairs.  He straddled the bannister and launched himself down.  Suddenly,  his leg got caught on the foliage halfway down and then he flipped over and fell down onto the ceramic floor.  The only thing that saved his hide was that he had a frickin’ nose bleed!  Otherwise our mother would’ve whipped his butt!  The important thing was to fix him up and make him well…before she could beat him.  Oh…European upbringing…so logical.   The worst thing on my part was that, not only had I predicted the fall, but I couldn’t help laughing when he fell.  Yes, I was a good big sister.

I recall seeing the Giant Beanstalk strewn on the floor.  Not sure what happened afterward.  The fact that little bro lived AND did not receive any punishment that I can recall made this evergreen moment memorable.  The other floral memories I have are African violets.  My mother was obsessed with them.  We had them all over the house.  She prided herself on having these plants thrive and having family and friends comment on how she could make them live and grow exponentially when others could only condemn them to death.  My mother had a gift.

I myself thought repeated drownings were important in order for flowers to survive.  Yes I killed everything until I purchased geraniums.  Beautiful flowers.  Many colours and yet Wiseguy’s favourite were the bright ruby red ones.  Not pink or white.  The red ones were the ones that his mother always loved.  Her reason for loving geraniums was simple…they bloom all summer long and into fall.  A little chilly weather and they still bloom and thrive.  So, after being a mass floral murderer I tempted fate and extended my interest into the daring flora.  I bought and took care of the bright red geranium.

I bought fancy pots.  I purchased the good soil.  I hoarded and applied “miracle grow” to ensure that they would thrive.  I carefully planted these beautiful flowers and watched them bloom and grow.  (Reminds me of “Sound of Music”…”bloom and grow forever…”)  Then something strange happened.  My beautiful flowers started drying up and blowing away.  Did I do something wrong?  What happened?  I felt like a failure.  I slaughtered a living green being.  I felt horrible.    I didn’t know what to do.  My hubby’s favourite flower and I was killing it.

I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t keep any plant life alive.  One weekend we ended up visiting the in-laws.   We arrived and walked into the backyard.  My mother-in-law was beside a geranium and was bending branches off the geraniums.  The flowers were already drying out.  I asked her what she was doing.  She replied, “In order for the new flowers to bloom you need to cut off the dried flowers.  You don’t want to keep wasting nutrients on the dead flowers when you can feed the new blooms.”  I wasn’t sure what she meant.  “See,” she pinched the stem of the dried petals and pulled it off.  “Now, the new blossoms can bloom beautifully because the nutrients are going where they are supposed to go.”  I went home and I gently bent and tore away the dried stems.   It was time to feed the blossoming blooms.

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I compare my life to the blooming geranium.  Sometimes you need to cut off the dead blooms.  The dried out blooms being negative people.  They won’t feed you any wisdom, kindness, or goodness.  It is best to just let them go.  Learn how to handle things that grow.  That includes children, grandchildren, parents,  siblings, family, friends.  We are always learning and growing.  So instead of drowning those in order to save them, perhaps it is best to let them go.  It is up to them if they want to survive and move on.  For those newfound petals that are blossoming, be there for them.  They are vibrant, excited, and usually happy.  Those are the flowers you want in your garden because together you can make a happier life.  This is how I view my beautiful geraniums…mysteries leading to life lessons.  Happy growing!