Sunday, January 25, 2009

Smalltown Home Cookin'

Since I tried, and failed, at the intricate salad recipe by Curtis Stone, I figure I should start some where a little bit easier. In comes Paula Deen. Deen is famous for her comfort food recipes from the South and with a glance at her website, Paula Deen Online, I notice she has a recipe section that is "Kid Friendly." Well, technically, I am no longer a child, but I'm thinking that this will be a great place to start.

Cheesy Broccoli Bake


1/2 lb softened cheese product
10 3/4 ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts
2 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 lb fresh broccoli, trimmed and cut up
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Steam broccoli for 10 minutes. In the meantime, saute celery, mushrooms, and onion in butter for 10 minutes; drain.

Combine broccoli, saute mixture, and water chestnuts. Heat soup and softened cheese product in saucepan over low heat until cheese melts. Pour over broccoli mixture. Add garlic salt and pepper and combine.

Place in greased casserole dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle top with grated cheddar cheese the last 5 minutes of baking.


Well, I did it (ahem, my mom helped me, ahem)! It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I had to make some minor changes to the recipe. I didn't use water chestnuts and also, since I didn't know what "softened cheese product" was, I used cheddar cheese. I was in charge of the ingredients preparation and my mom and I both did the sauteing and baking. The final product was actually impressive. Although the dish was very rich and cheesy, it was tasty nonetheless.

Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen

Take Home Chef. Curtis Stone.

Everyone, meet Curtis Stone. He may be familiar to you from the popular TLC show, Take Home Chef. Well if not, let me tell you a little bit about him and his cooking styles. Stone hails from Melbourne, Australia where he began his cooking career at the age of 18 at The Savoy Hotel. After developing his qualifications as Chef in Australia, he ventured out into Europe to seek cooking advice from the world renowned Chef Marco Pierre White. It was with White that Curtis Stone gained most of his expertise and popularity in the culinary world. Stone started at The Grill Room with White himself. From The Grill Room, Stone became Sous-Chef at Mirabelle restaurant. While Stone was cooking here, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin Star (fyi...the Michelin Guide sparingly awards restaurants 1, 2, or 3 Michelin Stars: 1 being a very good restaurant, 2 being excellent cooking, and 3 being exceptional cuisine). After gaining White's respect as a Chef, Stone became Head Chef of White's critically acclaimed restaurant Quo Vadis. After 4 years at Quo Vadis, Curtis Stone gained his celebrity through a book offering which led to television shows, books, and of course loooong waiting lists at his restaurants.

Although I don't know very much about cooking, I do know that I value fresh ingredients being used in my foods. One of Stone's trademark cooking principles is that "If you get your hands on good ingredients and treat them properly, you don’t need to do much." This principle is present in many of his recipes. Just by grazing through a few of his recipes, I noticed that he likes to make everything fresh--ranging from croutons, to raspberry puree, and even horseradish. There is no overload of preservatives or seasonings in any of his dishes because the ingredients themselves should provide the taste for the meal.

So I decided to try and make one of Stone's salad recipes. If I could only eat one dish for the rest of my life, I would definitely choose salad. There are so many possibilities for a salad it's just crazy. Anyways... I chose to make Stone's Salad of Baby Spinach, Crispy Bacon, and Cheese Croutons (you can find the recipe and method here!) At first, it seemed so simple...honestly how hard is it to rip up some lettuce or whatever it is you do to the lettuce. With the exception of the grape seed oil and specified sour-dough bread, I had all of the ingredients for my salad. I begin reading the instructions, "Preheat the oven to 400F/250C." Crap. I know how to use the oven, I think, but it's telling me to "ensure [the bread pieces] are evenly cooked" and I don't think I'll know when they are "evenly cooked".

I decide that I've started to run before I could even crawl, so instead, I mixed that baby spinach with some French dressing. Mmm Mmm, not so good.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Can't Cook

Like most other 20 year olds, I eat. "Okay..." you may all be thinking, well let me explain. I am taking a class this semester, Advanced Composition Theory and Practice: Theory and Practice of Blogging, that requires me to create my own blog. Our professor informs us that it can be on anything that we are authorities of and also, that it must relate to other people. So I am at home staring into a refrigerator full of food as I think about what I could possibly write a blog on. Just standing there, I imagine someone else. They pull out the yams, the chicken breast, even some parsley (who uses parsley, anyways.) They grab seasoning and spices and pecans. They move to the counter and whip up a gourmet lunch. Can I do that? NO, I answer myself out loud. I close the refrigerator door as it occurs to me, I really cannot cook. Minus the Kraft Dinner and the Eggo Waffles that I have mastered, if it doesn't come from a box, I probably can't do it.

So now that I have reached this depressing conclusion, I have an idea for a blog. Since I cannot cook a fresh meal, I will be following some acclaimed and also up-and-coming culinary artists and some of their cooking styles. In order to teach myself how to cook, I will be trying out some of their most popular recipes and sharing my trials with you.

So do I eat? Yes. Can I cook? Pretty soon!