Thursday, March 19, 2009

Immerse Yourself in Good Food

I'm not much of a gadget person, I don't really own that many electronics mostly because I really don't have much of a use or general desire for them. My cell phone and iPod are really the only ones I consider a necessity, and my laptop is just a huge convenience :D. I may have to get a little more interested in gadgets though... because there are so many out there for cooking!

So I'm sitting on my bed, pajamas on, surfing the internet and just hanging out, when Taylor sent me a woot link. When I opened it up my mouth dropped and my heart starting beating at an alarming rate. Me: "OOOOOOOOH, I don't know if I should get! It'ssoprettyIshouldn'tspendmoneybuti'vewantedoneit'sawesomeiloveshouldigetitohno...." Taylor: "It's usually twice that price. You should get." Me: "shouldigetitidon'tknowshouldn'tspendmoneyit'ssocoollookatit!" Taylor: "It's not that much, just get it, it's worth it." This went on for a while, but I did end up getting it. It being an immerision blender.

I'd seen an immersion blender before, on the Food Network or some kind of show like that. In case you don't know what they are, mine looks like this...


The concept is that you you can blend things without putting them in either a blender or food processor. BRILLIANT! The only thing I've seen them used for, and really the only thing I can think of using them for, is soups. So naturally I immediately went in search of a soup recipe, and came up with... um... actually i don't even remember what's it was called. I have to admit I made this soup almost 4 weeks ago. I've been too busy and/or lazy to actually get my latest creations up on my blog page, so this one has been waiting patiently for it's "debut." I guess I made it wait a little too long. I think it was leek and asparagus soup. It had a few other ingredients, but those two were the focus, and honestly it wasn't even really that great, the best part was using my incredibly awesome new hand held blender!!!

Just to give you an idea of the wonder of this thing, I took a before picture...

Leek & Asparagus Soup

and an after!

Leek & Asparagus Soup

Isn't the blendedness beautiful? And I didn't even have to put together or clean up a food processor. Oh yes. The best part is that not only does it have these amazing blending powers... but it also came with a bunch of other attachments, most of which I haven't had time to explore yet. Taylor and I did test out the whipping attachment, which made a lovely meringue, but I definitely have a lot to learn.

Leek & Asparagus Soup

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rolling in the Dough

Sometimes I feel like my life revolves around merely shuffling from one event to the next. I was rushing through the hallway today trying to get to my car fast enough to get to CosmoProf fast enough that I could get to the Monon Center fast enough to lift and run before going to a short class. I'm not going to lie, I kinda like routine, at least to a certain degree. I like knowing what I'm going to be doing in advance and planning accordingly and if that sounds boring then so be it. But, routine or no routine, life just isn't life without a little spontaneity. Thanks to not having a car for more than two months, my ability to be spontaneous has been sucked dry. Sucks.

What I do have to fall back on that breaks up the fast paced nature of life these days is the occasional blessing of some time to cook. I enjoy being in the kitchen, obviously, I think I've said that about a hundred dozen times, but I don't like cooking when I'm rushed. Being on a time crunch takes the love out of cooking and replaces it, at least for me, with overwhelming waves of stress. The other day I made some soup that I failed to take any pictures of and therefore neglected to blog about. But I had about a hundred other things to do that evening and had expected the stupid soup to take about half as long as it did so by midway through that the only reason I cared to finish was so I would have something to eat. Dad was out of town, which Mom declared to mean a cooking vacation for herself.

For this reason I try to avoid cooking or baking unless I know I'll have about twice as much time as I think I'll need to complete my endeavor. There are some foods you just can't rush, or it takes all the love out of it, and the love is what makes it worth while. One of my absolute favorite things to make is a baked good component you simply cannot hurry through. Pie crust!

What makes pie crust so unbelievably wonderful? It's so simple, yet at the same time so complex. The one that I made, that I highly recommend, is only flour, a little sugar, a little salt, and water. But it's so perfect! The recipe is so easy, too, but at the same time a little complicated. You have to be willing to take the time to make it perfect, which takes only about 15 minutes if you don't try and rush it, and you have to get the hang of a pastry blender which is only a minor detail... cutting butter can be a bit of guesswork if you don't know what you're doing, but I have faith in all of you.

Pie Crust

All pie crusts lead to something else, though. Serving just pie crust is a little odd. So mine lead to Dutch Apple Pie, or I guess Dutch Apple Pie is really what caused me to make pie crust, which I chose as a thank you gift for someone in particular and ended up making not once... not twice... but three times. For Taylor's dad, for my family, and for a neighbor. I'm not a huge fan of apple pie, so maybe that's why this didn't make my list of favorites. Personally, no chocolate, no peanut butter, no fun really, but I like to appease others more than myself and it's Lent so I decided to give this one a shot.

Dutch Apple Pie

Overall I'd say it was a success, everybody who had some seemed to enjoy it. I did run into a couple problems along the way though... First off, did you know pie crust can "shrink?" Me neither. Every time, never fail, the pie crust retreated into the pan at least a little bit, crushing my hopes of a gorgeously browned trim around the edges of my cinnamon crumble creations. Taylor and I did use one of the many pie crusts I kneaded out over the course of the past week to make a lemon meringue pie (unfortunately no photos were snapped) and I tried folding the dough OVER the edges of the pan and that helped a little... but only a little. I think the key, though, is the fresher the dough, the better it bakes. The recipe I used said it would keep in the fridge for up to a week, but I would try to make it the day of if at all possible.

Friday, March 13, 2009

There is No Love in a BigMac

Another recipe and photo free post. Sorry, I've discovered that this is not only an opportunity to share cooking experiences, but a great place to vent. So read or don't read, these are my thoughts on fast food.

Entrepreneurship class is a waste of my time, at least 99.99% of the time. Today, even though the movie we watched had very little educational value (no matter how relevant Mr. Clayton insists it is) I was actually, for once, interested. When the video started I was less than surprised to see Ray Kroc was the focus, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of modern times, and certainly one of the most influential men in the history of the food industry.

I'm not a fan of McDonald's restaurants, really not a fan of fast food in general, and Ray Kroc gave me one more reason to dislike them. I don't enjoy eating at fast food places because I feel like I don't know what I'm getting myself into. I know it's not good for me, I generally perceive everything about them to be rather dirty, and the fact that the food is so cheaply made makes me wonder if it's really, well, even food at all. I'm not a complete heath nut, but I'm conscious enough that Hardy's, Wendy's, White Castle, Taco Bell, Burger King, and so on just don't make my nutritional cut. I can't complete dismiss these establishments on the basis of their actual food, however. I will admit, some of it does taste decently good and they certainly have their place in today's world. More than anything though I dislike the concept on which fast food restaurants were founded and now continue to flourish.

I wouldn't even consider the McDonald brothers, who actually opened the original McDonald's in California, any type of chefs. They first started a movie theater in an attempt to make their fortune in the business world, and only decided to start a restaurant after observing the success of a hotdog stand on a nearby corner. The two opened their own hotdog stand that eventually evolved into a drive-up restaurant complete with carhops. The motivation behind the establishment, revenue. And that's exactly what Ray Kroc, pure salesman, had in mind when he became involved with the McDonald brothers.

Ray Kroc was undeniably a business genius. The globalization of McDonald's was initiated by his nation wide franchising campaign. Without him, McDonald's would have remained a single self-service burger joint in California. So what's my issue? What do I have against a self-made billionaire, and even most other fast food corporations?

Their food isn't about anything more than expansion. Than industry advancement. Than revenue. The idea at the core of any fast food restaurant is increasing speed and efficiency, minimizing cost, and maximizing profit. There is no love in the billions of hamburgers sold by McDonald's, their is only the motivation to make money. McDonald's is the way it is because they've found a way to capitalize on the vulnerable appetites of the ever fatter American population, and have no problem doing so. In the case of McDonald's, and really all it's competitors, it is quantity over quality. Who cares what's in the food as long as people are guzzling them down fast enough to fill a paycheck?

For those of those who loves McDonald's I suppose this really is of no concern. If you like the food who cares what the people making it think? I guess, with a real love for good wholesome food, my viewpoint is a little different. I hate to think so many capitalize on food without really haven't any respect for it, or for the people eating it. As I've said, and continue to believe, food is about love. There is no love in a BigMac.