July 31, 2013

Cooking Doesn't Have to Suck!

By Kim
Introduced by Amy (ok, I also wrote the ridiculous title, but I hope it brings you hope if you're like me and cooking makes you wanna die.)

Remember my "time to face the fear" cooking goal?  So, I am one meal down, three to go.  

I will report on Friday.  During my first meal prep, I didn't light anything on fire, I never once burst into tears, and it actually ended up tasting pretty decent!  Woop Woop!  In the spirit of cooking, I asked my "foodie" friend Kim to write a post about how she keeps cooking fun.  I'm so happy that she agreed; you'll love her too!  She is so fun to be around, so laid-back and cool...AND let me tell you--this girl can cook.  Her food is "slap-yo-momma" good.  (It's a southern expression...)  When I asked her to write a post, she invited our family over to try out a couple recipes that she planned on sharing.  I was like, "Um, yes, I can do that favor for you."  It was all SOOO delicious.  Then, after dinner...we had MUFFINS.  You guys.  After tasting one of those, I had to concentrate all all my willpower on sitting calmly instead of acting on what my brain was telling me to do: jump from the couch with a territorial warrior cry , run across the room to the platter of scrumptious muffins, and SHOVE THEM ALL INTO MY MOUTH.  (Don't judge me until you make them and taste them for yourself.  I'm for real.)  Kim "made" me take one to eat for breakfast the next day, but...yeah, I scarfed it before we drove the block to our house.  Ha!  Enjoy Kim's confectionery wisdom!

I love food.  I grew up in a house where it was important for everyone to be together and sit down at the table for a home cooked meal.  My mom is a fabulous cook, and I attribute my love of cooking to her.  Some of my best memories revolve around helping my mom make delicious meals for our family.  I started out helping my mom in the kitchen, setting the table and cutting up veggies, or throwing together a salad.  It wasn’t until I went away to college that I really started to learn and cook for myself.  Ramen noodles and microwave food wasn’t going to cut it for me all the time because I was used to my mom’s delicious cooking.  I had her email me some of my favorite recipes, and I started making Sunday dinners with my roommates.

Cooking is a skill like anything else, and I didn’t start out great at it.  I remember calling my mom frequently asking questions like, “Mom, how do I know the chicken is done?” and things like that.  My wonderful, patient mom would answer my questions as best she could over the phone, and eventually she sent me the 75th anniversary edition of the Joy of Cooking.  For anyone who is learning how to cook, I highly recommend this book.  It is a cookbook with tons of good, tested recipes, but it also has explanations like how to roast a chicken or what basting is, so if you don’t have that knowledge it is a great resource.

My brother ended up joining me at BYU-I after I had been there 2 semesters, when he got home from serving a two year church mission.  I decided that I would make Sunday Dinner for him and my roommates.  This grew to be a great tradition and I really grew to love cooking; but it wasn't just the cooking that I love, it was making a meal for other people--that I truly enjoyed.

Now, I use cooking as my creative outlet.  I love finding and trying new recipes, and then making them my own.  I’m not saying that I have fabulous meals every single night of the week, and even I sometimes have 4:00 roll around and decide to order pizza or go out because I don’t feel like cooking, but I do try to be creative and have fun cooking for my family.  My husband also loves food, and so he is always willing to try a new recipe for me.  I like to have friends over for dinner because it gives me an excuse to go all out and cook a big meal and do a dessert too, and then my husband and I aren’t stuck eating a whole bunch of left overs by ourselves.

Kim, enjoying her yummy creation.
I am a Pinterest lover and I do get quite a bit of recipes from Pinterest.  I find something that looks good, and then I like to read through the comments to see how it turned out for other people, or what they did different to make it better.  I like to start with a recipe and then tweak it a little bit to fit our tastes.  For example I grew up in Texas so I like quite a bit of flavor, especially in Mexican food, so I will usually change things like add red pepper flakes, or peppers to fit our tastes.  Sometimes I try a recipe that isn’t the best, and I just move on and know that it isn’t our favorite.   A lot of cooking is just trial and error.

I had Amy and her cute families over for dinner a while ago and here are the recipes for what we had.

First, the fajitas: It was a big hit, especially with Jason and Patrick. 

Flank Streak Fajita Marinade
1 1/3 cup pineapple juice
½ cup soy sauce juice and
zest of 4 fresh limes
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 fresh jalapeno chopped
1/3 cup chopped onions
dash of cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a big zip lock bag and place flank steak inside, at least 4 hours, but overnight is best. Heat up your bbq grill and cook until it reaches desired “doneness”. We like our steak medium to medium rare, which is pink through the middle. The time will vary depending on how hot your grill is and how thick the piece of meat you have it. It is fine to cut into the meat as it will be cut into small strips for fajitas to eat to make sure you have it as done as you would like. Cut into small strips and serve on top of warm tortillas with your favorite toppings. We had shredded jack cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce, and chopped tomatoes. It is also yummy to sauté some sliced bell peppers and onions to put in your fajita.

Sorry, I'm no food photographer...this pic doesn't do them justice!
Banana Bread Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup butter (the real thing, no substitutes)
2 cups sugar
 4 eggs
½ tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup yogurt (plain, or vanilla)
1 cup mashed ripe banana ( about 3 bananas)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP baking powder
 4 cups flour
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Add ruM extract, vanilla, yogurt and banana and mix well. In a small bowl combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder, then add to banana mixture. Put paper or foil muffin liners into a muffin tin and fill about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant.

I don't blame you for gazing longingly....
Cream Cheese Frosting
3 oz cream cheese
2 TBSP butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/8 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla
enough milk to make it smooth and spreadable (add 1 TBSP at a time and then check consistency) Add all ingredients together and beat with either a stand up mixer or hand mixer. Add milk I TBSP at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Let the muffins cool completely and then frost them.

Well, there you have it!  Kim's wisdom and some yummy recipes.  The fajitas were scrumptious, but beware: the muffins and frosting were borderline addictive.

Your turn! :)  What do you do to make cooking more enjoyable, rather than a major drag day in and day out?  I have a hard time finding the "joy of cooking" so I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)


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