Reflecting on a Year in the Kitchen

spice-rack

I spent most of college in campus housing. My meals in Missouri and Sydney were mostly prepared for me. (Missouri had a network of dining halls serving thousands a day. Where I lived in Sydney had one chef for lunch and one for dinner, cooking for 50 people at most.) It wasn't until last August that I had a kitchen of my own, but cooking for myself was something I had been waiting to do.

I started simply. Barbecue chicken breast, baked potato and corn was my first meal in my new house. Pasta with sausage and zucchini, beef fajitas, vegetable pizza — solid, homey meals.

Then Michael started joining me to cook, and by the time we started the blog second semester, we were pooling ingredients, brainstorming and making dinner together nearly every night, constantly trying to outdo ourselves. We had food goals: roast a whole chicken, cook risotto, make pasta from scratch, roll our own sushi. We read books about food and flipped through cookbooks in our downtime. I looked at blogs every day and eagerly awaited food section Wednesdays of national newspapers. All I could think about was food.

This summer I challenged myself to make things most of my friends would never think to make: yogurt, crackers, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, ginger ale. These projects also helped me get better at managing my time in the kitchen so full meals could be prepared more fluidly, even without Michael there to split the tasks.

More and more this year I've been thinking about flavors, how they are combined and how they are manipulated. While I'm in Argentina by myself, I have been experimenting more with ingredients I have little to no exprience with. A lot of things are cheaper here, plus I don't have to worry about ruining dinner for my friends if something doesn't work out as I hoped.

There's much more to do, but here are some food feats I'm happy to have accomplished in the last year:

What are you most proud of culinary-wise, and what's still on your to-do list?

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Getting Closer…

smart-chicken

I sometimes do my grocery shopping at 1am. I don’t know why, maybe I like having the whole store to myself (with the exception of the guy on the zamboni floor polisher thing). Everything is pristine, ordered, in their rows. Granted, I’ve noticed a higher percentage of older/bruised fruit and veggies, but the solidarity of the moment and the lack of pressure to think about what I want far outweigh the occasional so-so tomato.

Last night was awesome, as far as grocery shopping experiences go. I picked up some Harvarti, which I first had at Britt’s over winter break on a sandwich. New favorite cheese, hands down. That’s standard fare though, not uncommon.

What else I noticed was over in the meat aisle, a new option next to Tyson. Now, I don’t hate Tyson, I think the chicken (and cornish game hens) are quite delicious, but

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I can only assume that such a large company doesn’t really give a hoot about the animals, only getting it into those well designed packages. I also realize that most chicken processing facilities accept up to a certain amount of death due to the close quarters and spread of disease. According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book on meat, broiler chicken houses can have up to 30% death rate and be considered healthy. Thats 30% of 10,000 to 40,000 birds. (That book has been my bible lately, expect to see a ton of references to it).

I’ve always felt bad funding what I can only assume is the standard intensive farming practice, but never really saw an easy option presented alongside it. That changed last night. Maybe it’s new (or maybe I’m just blind), but a brand known as MBA SmartChicken was available. They offer two varieties, vegetable and grain fed free range, and a full blown organic, which is everything the first level is, but even more natural.

Supposedly.

I know the words organic and free range get thrown around lot, so I’m still skeptical, but the website claims the chickens and the feed are both from right here in Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. That means less cost to get the feed to the birds and less cost to transport the chicken itself.

I thought, “what the hell”, and got a whole chicken, 7 bucks. $2.85 more than the Kroger brand sold at Gerbes. Not too much more, for hopefully a chicken that lived a much happier life, died in a much less stressful way, and in theory should taste much better because of it. Now again, I’ll have to do some more research into the topic. MBA may be blowing smoke up our collective “green”-loving asses, but I have a feeling short of buying chicken at the farmers market or raising my own, it’s the best alternative right now. We’ll let you know how it tastes soon enough.

Oh, I also found some free range eggs too, only 80 cents more than the generic store brand. We’ll see if they make a better omelet.

Pepsi Throwback

Read this bit of news over at Daring Fireball. Pretty exciting, hopefully it will spur more of the carbonated beverage industry to use cane sugar. I love Dr. Pepper, and I’ve never tasted it better than in Galveston, TX because they bring it up from Mexico, and don’t use any of that High Fructose Corn Syrup crap. I don’t really know the whole explanation behind sugar import laws and whatnot, but I know it would be more expensive to use pure cane sugar on a large scale. (Do you have any idea how much soda we drink every year? Coca-Cola sold 22.7 billion gallons worldwide in 2007 alone)

My personal favorite beverage companies

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using pure cane sugar are Fitz’s Sodas from St. Louis and Goose Island’s Root Beer from Chicago. (Goose Island makes some killer real beers too, I’ve tried every style they have bottled except two of the special seasonal brews. Maybe one day I’ll write up a review on 312 Urban Wheat, one of my favorite wheat beers.)

Let’s hope Coca-Cola does the same thing as Pepsi, let’s use our dollar votes to stimulate this economy everyone is complaining about, and let’s make throwback the new hotness.

UPDATE

Gerbes sells Mexican Coca-Cola in glass bottles in the “ethnic” aisle. Unfortunately, it was like 1.29 or 1.79 per bottle… lame. Still, if you’ve never had it, I strongly suggest you at least try it once, see what you’re missing.

Irony

So I found out my professor for Intro to payday loans by phone Food Science and Nutrition now posts our lectures to iTunes U. payday loans las vegas There goes all my incentive to go class. I could payday 2 masks sit at home with a sandwich, or I could sit next to 400 smelly freshman. OK they don’t all smell, and I usually get to sit next to our friend direct lender payday loans Kat, so it’s a good deal mostly. Lemme just clarify http://paydayloansnearmeus.com/ something.

This book is cool.

My class is nothing like this book. ::sigh:: My class ez internet payday system login is missing lore.

I don’t want to work for Kraft dodge build payday 2 Foods ace payday loans or online payday advance memorize all the chemical names for fake sugar. I want to payday learn about lore dammit.

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Oh well. I took the class because my advisor said I needed 3 more random credits to graduate. I thought maybe, just maybe I’d be interested in the topics. University lectures have let me down once again.

On a brighter payday 2 skills note, my sandwich was fantastic. I think we’re making Indian for payday dinner tonight? I hope so.