Cheese Cheese Cheese and More Cheese

I could never, ever truly have enough cheese. From appetizers to main course to dessert, I can really eat anything and everything cheese.

So when my sister gave me some cheese, all I wanted to do was eat them on their own and not share them with anyone. My second thought was less selfish, much to my family’s relief because they too love cheese.

At first, I toyed with the idea of making a pizza because it has been such a long time since I made any. Then I thought of baking something. After a few minutes, I figured it would be better to make a heavy dish so the kids would be full for several hours. My sister didn’t exactly give me a lot of cheese, so I thought it would be better to stretch them just so I could make different dishes over several days.

 

Shredded cheese

 

In the end, I made a simple lasagna and also some pasta carbonara.

Check them out and I hope you would find them easy to do too! If you tried them, let me know what you think.

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Chocolate Truffles: A Chronicle

I love chocolate.

I will never pass up a chance to gobble up some if I see anything chocolate. Okay, except perhaps chocolate-orange combo because I still can’t stomach the taste. Every now and then, I need my chocolate fix so I would scour my kitchen for anything I can combine my chocolate powder/bars/chips into.

One of my all-time favorite chocolate snack is the chocolate truffles. However, most of the chocolate truffles sold here cost a tad more than I’m willing to spend most of the time. I never really have enough ingredients to make a traditional chocolate truffles, so I’ve never really made any. Then one day I saw a video on Tasty on Buzzfeed about making chocolate truffles using condensed milk and butter. It looked easy enough so I thought I’d give it a go.

I was in a little surprise because I think I might have overestimated the “simplicity” of this recipe. Check out the Chronicles of My Chocolate Truffles here.

 

Homemade chocolate truffles

Table For One

A friend suggested I make a separate page for recipes using 5 ingredients or less. She’s renting a place with several friends and often, she has to share the fridge so she couldn’t store much ingredients.

I used to live like her before I got married and I wondered why I didn’t think of it in the first place. I mean, I know I have Hurry Up I’m Hungry! page, but some of the recipes have more than 5 ingredients in them. So I figured, I’ll make Table For One as my quick recipes, especially for those who live on their own, don’t have much ingredients, or don’t have space to store much items after cooking the dish.

Granted, I don’t have that many recipes that uses few ingredients, but I can think of several at the top of my head, and I can think of a few more that I can experiment and create. So for now, I’ll be posting super simple recipes on Table For One, and in the future, I definitely want to grow its content so that it can help not just those who are cooking for one, but also for the rest who don’t want to cook something too fancy or bother about buying too many ingredients.

My Food Looks Better Than Yours

I’d be lying if I say that I don’t want to take photos of my food the way some people do. Some people are just that good at taking photos of food that even a glass of ice cold water looks tempting.

I’d be lying too, if I say that I have never tried it. And I’d be lying again when I say that I didn’t take 150 shots of the food because I want it to look oh-so-glamorous. Most of the time, I just give up and post photos of empty plate instead because since the food is finished, I feel like there’s no one judging me for taking such crappy photos of my meal.

I love looking at photos of food.

I mean, that’s whole the point of food photography, isn’t it? To make you want to eat it. It welcomes people to visit a new place if the restaurant posts up great photos of food on their Facebook page, it makes you look like a great cook if you take gorgeous photos of your own food.

 

Food photography
I can’t tell you how many times I imagine myself doing this

 

However, after a while, I feel like I’m just doing it because,
1. Almost everyone is doing it
2. I feel like I had to show something to validate what I just made

Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing what I cook (or else why would I write this blog, eh), but I know I suck as a “photographer.” Yes, I used inverted commas there because I believe that just because I own a camera it doesn’t automatically make me a photographer. Of course, I could use it as a motivation and platform to work on my skills to photograph something (still, doesn’t make a photographer), but I took a break from trying to take beautiful photos of my food for a while.

I focused on improving the taste of the food. While I still have thoughts on how to photograph the dish lingering at the back of my mind while I’m cooking it, I don’t make this a priority.

I don’t know, maybe you’re saying I’m not trying hard enough, or that I’m not challenging myself to look into composition, depth, lighting, and rule of third or anything like that, but I felt like I was lying to myself. I could, of course, take photos of my food and not publish them so I could use them for the purpose of my own reference and study to improve myself. But I’d be lying for the 4th time again if I say I’d do that to study them where I think what I really feel is that I don’t want people to see my sloppy work yet and only post the gorgeous ones later.

Is it just me or does anyone else feel this way? I know it’s just probably my head going through this “social media validation needs,” or that I really do suck at taking photos of my food.

 

This scene is all too familiar now

 

This is another reason why you won’t find too many of step-by-step photos of my recipe because when I look at step-by-step photos of any recipe, I feel incompetent (and also like an idiot) if step 4 of my Pavlova doesn’t look like how the lady from a food blog makes them, I would feel like the dish would fail. I knooowww I could not just think about it, but I do.

So, I’m not being presumptuous by saying that if I post step-by-step photos of my recipe it would make you feel like an incompetent idiot too, because hey, you’re not me.

How I got over this feeling was when I looked up a recipe, I didn’t look at the photos of the dish at all; I skipped right to the ingredients and also the steps. This stopped me from having unrealistic expectations of how my dish should look like. But most importantly, it taught me to have confidence in my own cooking, technique, and personality.

Even if halfway through I feel like there’s something wrong, I stick to my guns, and follow the recipe through as how I understood it. Unless it’s some really outlandish dish (for me) that I have never tried before, I might take a quick look juuusssttt to have an idea. But most of the time, I taught myself to trust my own instinct and in whatever culinary capabilities I laughably have, and just, literally, wing it.

I do wish one day to be able to learn the art of food photography, but right now, I’m taking one step at a time.

I know people eat with their eyes, and most of you might not feel tempted to try any of my recipes because they don’t look like something out of Taste of Home on the account of what a lousy “photographer” I am, but I sincerely hope to help you learn something else –

to have trust in your cooking more than your desire to take photos of them.

Now, is it just me or does anyone else did feel the pressure to take gorgeous photos of their food? Let me know if you do too just so I won’t feel too bad about myself.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

I suspect you’re bored of the saying.

But I can’t stress how important it is to try and try again when you don’t succeed in cooking something.

Whether it’s a new dish you’re trying out or you’re cooking for the first time, it’s important to try and try again if you failed the first time. I won’t lie to you and say it will be easy. As a matter of fact, you might feel so discouraged you might give up on cooking altogether. Or at least give up on trying to cook that particular dish ever again.

Cooking fails
Photo: inspired by familia

 

Thanks to Pinterest and the rise of food photographers on Instagram, most of us now have the unrealistic vision of our cooking will look exactly like the ones we saw on these sites. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to have a point of reference and you might just discover you have a hidden talent for food photography. But sometimes, we might get a little carried away. We fuss over making the “perfect” dish and we made sure we take awesome photos of it.

Yes, people eat with their eyes, but as a person who is learning to cook, it’s not that important yet for you to focus too much on presentation.

Most of the time, I find uninviting looking food are the best. It may almost look like something the cat dragged in, but I can’t tell you how many times I was surprised by how good they taste!

What I do when I’m trying out a new dish so I won’t be too disheartened is to try and cook a small portion of it first. From here, it’s fairly easy for me to gauge what more I need to do. I can’t tell you how many times as well I have cooked something totally inedible that I have no choice but to throw it all away. Soon, the desire of not wanting to waste food overcame the fear of screwing up a dish.

Fear of cooking is sometimes good because it makes you cautious; you pay attention to what you put in, you keep an eye on the temperature, and you don’t miss any step. The downside of it is that, the total opposite of everything I have mentioned. I have forgotten an ingredient altogether, I burnt the dish before, and I definitely have accidentally skipped a step or two. All because I was too careful.

 

Cooking fails

 

So I guess, if you’re someone who dreads cooking either because you don’t like it or because you’re somewhat scared of it, here’s what I can share:

  1. Start small – Baby steps is key because not only you’ll learn about how to cook something, you will discover your very own cooking personality as well.
  2. Master the little things – Any fancy dish holds the basic of cooking. In order to get to where you want, take your time in mastering the little things (yes, even something as simple as frying or boiling an egg). Through the little things, you will know how they behave and soon this will be a second nature to you when you venture into something more adventurous.
  3. Get out of the comfort zone – One of the reasons most people get tired of cooking is because we tend to stick to the dishes that we’re good at. If these are edible, why risk something else right? However, it’s a good idea to try something different every once in a while. You don’t have to force yourself to cook something different each week. Even once or twice a month is a great start. The more varieties of dish you try, the better you will soon get.
  4. You don’t have to have it all – Sometimes, we’re all geared up to cook something but felt shot down when we discovered that the recipe calls for something that we don’t have. Most of the times, we skip this recipe and try something else, but feel annoyed at the back of our mind. Take your time to learn the appropriate and suitable substitutes because more often than not, substitutes work just as fine. Check out my list of appropriate and suitable substitutes when you don’t have all the ingredients you need.
  5. Breathe – That’s right. Relax, relax, and relax. I find that my food reflects my mood. If I’m stressed or uptight, my dish would taste…clutched, and when I’m annoyed or irritated, the dish would turn out almost horrific. It’s okay to feel a little anxious, but try to let yourself go once you start cooking.

What are your cooking “disasters”? Why not share them here!

 

“Food always comes to those who love to cook.”

Food is a very big deal in my family.

Or at least, I thought it is. For as long as I could remember, we always had food at our home. My mother seemed to be able to cook up something, even the simplest thing like fried rice or a simple vegetable soup. And my dad would be full of praises of her cooking.

Now that I’m older with kids of my own, I realized that the times when my mom cooked the “simple” food, it was really because my parents were short on cash. I understood that my dad praised my mom because she managed to pull off something edible for everyone when he couldn’t get her everything she needed to cook. I realized that my mom probably scoured her fridge to find any bits of anything so she could cook something for us.

Because that’s what I do too nowadays, when I’m short on cash.

All I know is, I have to put something on the table for my kids and husband to eat. It makes me sad that sometimes all I have to offer is a pot of potato broth, steamed vegetables, fried eggs, and rice.

Being someone who loves to cook, I revel in the notion that I could prepare extraordinary dishes day after day, twirling away in my kitchen preparing them.

The reality is often far from that.

Between writing, housework, sending kids to school, I’d be lucky if I could pull off a decent meatloaf or even a proper course of nasi lemak. I want to be able to stuff my kids with delicious food, with heavenly desserts that they would forever remember me as a mom who made the best chocolate cake in the world.

It gets to me, sometimes, when I can’t cook the food that I wanted because I don’t have all the ingredients since I couldn’t afford to spend a little extra on those fancy things I need for a dish. But most of the times, I just whip up anything I have in the fridge based on the idea of the dish I wanted to cook.

Then in 2010, I saw a cartoon where one of the characters said,

“Food always comes to those who love to cook.”

Ratatouille

 

To tell you the truth, I cried when I first heard these words because I felt as though Gusteau was speaking directly to me. I felt like that’s what I have been doing my entire life – making something out of nothing.

It was then I stopped feeling sorry for myself for not being able to cook what I wanted, but instead, focus on what I could cook.

Most of my cooking comes from whatever ingredients I have on that day, and figured out what I could make out of them. While it helps to understand the basic of a dish, it’s quite easy to improvise once you get the hang of it.

You see, the one thing that tends to get to me is, “What to cook today?”

I’ve been asking myself this question every single day as I stepped into my kitchen to prepare a meal for my family and it has been almost 9 years since I’ve had a family of my own. No matter how much I know how to cook, I have no idea what to cook that I have to ask myself that question every day.

But once I’ve started cooking, it feels like dancing to me.

I’m caught up in this music only I could hear. I move in steps of which the choreography is my own. I feel the food simmering and boiling and cooking and I capture the aroma wafting from my pots, searing them into my memory.

It’s simply…beautiful.

Cooking no longer became an obligation. I’m not slaved in the kitchen, preparing food day in day out for little hungry mouths. Even something as simple as fried eggs, I take pride in preparing it. You’re scoffing, I suppose.

I’m not sure I could ever describe it in words, but even something as easy as frying a sunny side up means a lot to me because I want to see it perfect. There’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that I got the pan hot enough, when to break the egg in, how long to wait, and how to remove it so it would stay the perfect shape.

I guess that’s why I tend to cook food that others find delicious. I put my heart and soul in it, I dance with it, I smile at it, I even talk to my food sometimes where I praise it for giving me this wonderful smell in my kitchen.

I completely understand if you don’t like cooking and you find cooking is just another chore in your day. I’m not trying to change your mind; I’m sharing what it does to me.

Cooking doesn’t have to be hard. It can seem like a daunting task to some because you’re dealing with food that others are going to eat and you don’t want it to suck. What more if you’re a woman and a wife, people expect you to “know” how to cook.

I say, nonsense!

Cooking knows no gender. Above all, it doesn’t judge, it doesn’t laugh at you, it doesn’t ask you to stop trying. Every time I failed at trying to cook a new dish, I know there’s something in it that’s begging me to discover what went wrong. It calls to me to fix it, it speaks to me to figure out what I missed.

It’s an art that anyone can master.

To close this, another quote from the same 2010 cartoon,

“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”