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

 

Mmmm … savory tarts

I believe I had mentioned before that I love to cook.  My favorite meal:  the appetizer.   I love going out to dinner with Monkey Breath…a.k.a. my niece.  (One day I will explain my obsession with giving people bizarro nicknames…lol)  For now I will just tell you about our dinner dates.

Our meal outings involve us turning to the first page of the menu.  Yes, appetizers.  I can forgo any main meal and just enjoy nibbling and noshing on a variety of treats.  Well MB is the same.   Once we order our variety of nibblers, we suddenly have no room for our plates since every appetizer comes out on a large plate all prettily decorated.  But who cares right?  We will have garlic bread with cheese (always cheese…you recall that obsession of mine).  We will have sticky, chicken wings.  We will order mozzarella sticks.  We will order an oriental salad.  On other days, we will have nachos with cheese and bruschetta (Monkey Breath’s all time favourite).  Quesadillas are wonderful too.  We LOVE the appetizer dishes. Sadly, our great need for diversity has us clutching our stomachs because we just have to try everything and our bellies just don’t have that much expansion room.  So, we are extremely grateful to have those lovely little take away containers given to us so that we can enjoy our meal again the next day.  Hopefully we will have made some room in our stomachs by then.  Mmmmm, sooooo good.

Now, I told you that story so that I could tell you this one. 

While grocery shopping (at a leisurely pace) this past weekend, I came to the cheese counter to find out what yummy cheeses were on sale this week.  Mozzarella was on sale so that was good as I was running low and my cheese-aholics would surely be craving some soon.  I wandered around some more and saw that all the Greek cheeses were on sale.  That was nice.  I love making a salad for my lunches comprised of tomatoes and cucumbers and feta.  No salad dressing needed as the feta has a nice, salty taste to it and the juice from the tomatoes mixes nicely with the cheese to make a sort of salad dressing all on its own.  I was just about to leave the Greek display when I saw it.  OMG!  It was halloumi.  Yes yes…real halloumi cheese!  

Now, you may be asking yourself, what the heck is halloumi?  Short description:  It’s a brined cheese made of goats and sheep milk.  The longer description is that it has a higher melting point than other cheeses (i.e. mozzarella) so you can fry it, grill it, bake it.  Really neat right?

So, about two years ago, in the local newspaper, there was a recipe for halloumi tarts.  Wiseguy read it and said, “We should make this.”  Hmmm, what the heck was halloumi?  So, we went to our favourite grocery store and asked for this bizarre sounding cheese and yup…they actually had it.  We brought it home.  Opened up the plastic packaging and cut off a taster piece.  Hmmm, kind of salty, cheese.  Kind of like mozzarella, but firmer.  Then we took our recipe and began creating.  After baking, it was time to taste.  Mmmmm.  Just one more tart.  Mmmmmmm.  Ok, this is the last one.   Mmmmmm.  Ok, all gone…we have to bake some more.  Well, for the last 2 years I could not find this cheese again.  So, imagine my surprise and overwhelming joy at seeing that it’s back!

Let me tell you, this is definitely one recipe that you will love to make again and again. So easy and quick and your guests will love it.  Especially when it’s hot out of the oven.  Opa!

Welcome to my World of Appetizers!  (I will surely be posting many, many more for you to enjoy)

Halloumi Tarts

Ingredients:

  • 36 cherry tomatoes (quartered)
  • 5 oz. (about 1 ¼ cups) halloumi cheese (cut into ¼  inch cubes)
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 36 mini pie tarts
  1.  Preheat oven to 375 °F
  2. Place pie tarts (unbaked) on cookie sheet
  3. Place 4 tomato quarters in each pie tart. 
  4. Wedge about 3 -4 pieces of halloumi cheese between the them
  5. Season with chopped thyme
  6. Bake for about 15-30 minutes or until the pastry and the cheese is a bit browned
  7. Allow to cool a bit before serving

 Serves 12 people (approximately 3 each)

There was some assembly required,
but now ready for the oven

All baked and ready to enjoy.
OPA!

Hello world!

This is it!

I have finally decided that I should enter the exciting blogosphere world!

I myself am an avid googler and searcher of all things exciting and popular and fun and educational.

My life, like everyone else’s, is full of so many interesting people, places, and things.  I am hoping to share my joys and my sorrows (which I am hoping are few and far far between). Life is a wonderful adventure and with my husband (a.k.a. wiseguy) of 21 years, he has been the one that makes me laugh and has always been the one that could bring me out of a slump or make me laugh until my stomach ached.  I’m a lucky girl for that.

I have happily become the proud stepmom or 3 grown children and 5 grandchildren.  Being part of their lives has also been an experience in and unto itself.  Love you guys!

So, this is it!

Welcome to my blog and to my life.  I am happy to be able to share with you the interesting view I have of life and my opinions on it as well. Agree or disagree with me, it makes for an interesting read.

I welcome myself to the Land of Blogs and am really excited about my new journey into the realm of the unknown.  Computer illiterate…yes, that would be me.  I welcome anyone willing to spend any minute amount of time actually wondering what has gotten into my head on a daily basis.   (We’ll work through the cobwebs and the derailed trains of thought together.)

Looking forward to newfound friends and intriguing commentaries.  Enjoy because…this is it!