Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Burning Marshmallows Does Not Mean Your Life is Over

I’m planning my next trip to Bellingham and I couldn’t be more excited to spend time with my partner-in-crime. There are a countless number of reasons why I love my friendship with Lisa – including, and not limited to the fact that she tells me when I have spinach in my teeth. That, is a true friend!

When I’m in her company, we also spend a lot of time together in the kitchen and I get to enjoy some of her amazing creations – because Lisa is a truly wonderful cook.

My love of being in the kitchen started early. And I’m still perfecting my kitchen skills...

I remember being seven years old and when my friend, Brittany came over for the day and asked what I wanted to do, I replied, “Make brownies?”

So we did.

The result was a batch of brownies as hard as hockey pucks.

Later that day, after we climbed on the roof of my shed and I wiped away my tears, I remember her saying, “They weren’t so bad.”

They were.

I’ve been blessed with really good friends.

Fast forward to 7th grade and my fist Home Economics class. For the first class, we were instructed to make Rice Crispy Treats because they’re “impossible to mess up.”


I burned the marshmallows and the entire class filled with smoke.

There are a few moments I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that everything was going to be okay. This is one of those moments.

I would tell myself this:
burning marshmallows does not mean your life is over.

Today, I still love being in the kitchen. I continue to make mistakes, but I’ve also hit some home runs. Nothing is a greater compliment than when my grandma calls to request a recipe of something I’ve made, when my brother asks if I can help him with dinner when I visit home, or when my mom refers to me as “The World’s Greatest Cook.”

While they are all very biased, I have a few lessons I’d like to share so you can have more good experiences in the kitchen than not-so-good ones.

Here they are:

#1. Master a few really good recipes. If you’re like me, you may be overly ambitious. Rather than trying to become Julia Childs or Martha Stewart overnight, try your hand at a few simple and delicious recipes – and master them. When the pressure’s on, I know I can turn to Ina’s Lemon Chicken, Rachel’s Pasta Carbonara, and Cynthia’s Luscious Beet Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. Since mastering a few favorite recipes, I’ve made my own variations, which leads me to tip #2.

#2. Be bold, be fearless, and don’t be afraid to fail. Once you’ve mastered a few favorite dishes, then the fun really begins. Experiment with spices, seasonings, and herbs. Not only will you discover what flavors you really love, you’re kitchen confidence will go through the roof.

#3. Have a back-up plan. If your fool-proof recipes lead you astray, take a deep breath and repeat after me:
Roast some veggies: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine your favorite chopped veggies. In a small bowl, combine about 3 tablespoons really good olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt, ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like. Toss the veggies with the olive oil mixture until they are coated. Spread them on a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 35 minutes (or until browned), stirring every 10 minutes. 
Embrace good quality carbohydrates: Whether it’s preparing quinoa or brown rice, adding roasted potatoes to your veggies, or toasting some really delicious hearty bread (serve with olive oil and balsamic), a good quality carbohydrate helps to round out the meal.
Sear some salmon: Heat a cast iron or heavy-bottom skillet over medium high heat. Coat the skin of the salmon with olive or canola oil. Place the salmon, skin side down, in the cast iron skillet. Cook for 4 minutes. Turn the fish over. Cook another 4 minutes for medium salmon and 5 minutes for salmon that is completely cooked through. Remove from heat.

#4. When baking, unless the recipe calls for it, do.not.melt.the.butter. I love to bake – so that means that I’ve made more mistakes baking than cooking. If there is one lesson I could pass along to aspiring bakers out there, it’s this. No matter how impatient you are, wait for your butter to reach room temperature on its own. Unless you want to deal with trying to counteract soupy icing or cookies that look like pancakes, be patient. Like most good things in life, it’s worth waiting for.

#5. Be patient and turn up the music. Practice makes perfect and practice takes patience. Patience is not one of my strongest attributes. If there is one thing that helps put my easily excitable and energetic self at ease when cooking, it’s turning on a good playlist. As soon as there’s music around me, I suddenly don’t mind how long the process takes.

#6. Smile. I’m a firm believer that the happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they make the best of everything. When you’re in the kitchen, put a smile on your face and make the best of it.

#7. Share, with those you love. My experiences in the kitchen often reflect my experiences in life. Whether it’s a set-back or a triumph, when I can share the experience with people I love, it always turns out wonderfully.

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