The Kitchen Counter Cooking School – Kathleen Flinn

Here it is. This is the first anniversary of SimplyFoodTales. While I have gained followers over the last month, there has been someone that has been with me for the last few months. No, it isn’t me (although that isn’t far from the truth (I have to be here to make my posts)). In any case, I am talking about Kathleen Flinn or more her book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. This book has been a godsend really. It came out in October and I checked it out of the library in December. It is a book in which, Flinn, the author tries to figure out why people don’t cook. Boring, right? Not! She then teaches them how easy cooking can be!

When I saw this book, I was like oh fun! I normally like group cooking shows, and I, being an avid reader needed something for night-time reading. Even though I only have read it for 2 months, this book has taught me more in those two months than I have learned in all my cooking life – which hasn’t been long, mind you!

I was sceptical when I saw this book. I’ve read my fair share of cookbooks and most of them either bore me (this is an onion! Sort of book) or make me really frightened to try things out (this is how you must braise and season, braise and season sort of book). While I do see myself as an adventurous cook these days (who has started a few fires or smoke detectors ping-ing), this book really gave me the confidence to hold a knife to start off with.

What am I talking about, you ask? Well, a big knife has always scared me. I have always been a bit of a coward when it comes to surface cuts (like seriously, I go through a box of 60 Band-Aids in a month on paper cuts (which I get a lot when I do marking and such)) so the potential of giving myself a serious injury with a knife has always scared me. Thus, I stick to paring knives (can you imagine the cuts I get with it?) and a 6 inch, thin serrated knife (that has me hacking through chicken). So Kathleen’s first lesson on knife holding really resonated with me. I had often seen the chefs on television holding knives in a certain way, telling you to keep your fingers curled, so that your knife’s side is resting flat against your knuckles, and that way, you won’t cut your fingers. Great. But what about my knuckles? What’s going to protect them? Oh well. Reading about how these chefs didn’t even know about holding a knife and Kathleen’s oh so detailed instructions, I went to work, armed with a new box of Band-Aids. And lo and behold! I chopped an entire zucchini, potato (boiled), a handful of mushrooms, and green peppers. I was afraid (and I still am), but now a little less so.

The recipe that goes with this is a simply tasty pasta that has been adapted from one of Kathleen’s recipes in the book. Oh yes, she actually provides you with recipes at the end of each chapter so that you can practice. So, get out there, check her book out – I promise you’ll feel the passion that exudes from her witty anecdotes and by the end of it, you’ll feel like one of the girls in that kitchen (that I wish I could’ve been a part of). And thus, it is only fitting that my one year blog post be on the book that has taught me so much in such little time.

 

Easy Pasta – think up a creative name please!

 

1 zucchini diced

1 boiled potato diced

½ green peppers diced

5 medium mushrooms sliced or diced

1 tablespoon garlic

½ cup fusilli

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chilli powder

1/3 cup fresh herbs or 2 tbsp. dried

½ cup cooked chicken

¼ cup sweet chilli Thai dressing

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp. oil

Okay a few notes before starting. I’ve suggested some vegetables here. I don’t think I need to say it again do I? –Sigh- okay, I will. Use whatever you have. If you feel like an eggplant, use that. Feel like avocado? Yum. How about carrots? Fabulous! Just remember to chop everything into uniform pieces. Now, fusilli? I used that since that’s what I had? What? You like rigatoni better? Totally. Use it. Do it! Any small pasta will work nicely. Now that I think about it, I think a long spaghetti or linguini or fettuccini would work too. Don’t have any pasta? Use Chinese egg noodles? None of that either? Well, do you have rice? Couscous? Quinoa? You get the idea – use whatever grain you want in there. Heck, if you’re feeling really creative, use no pasta in there! Lol, creative right? In this case, do a regular stir fry – in which case, julienning the vegetables would work well. Wtf? Okay, okay, cut the vegetables into matchsticks, or just regular sticks. Whatev. What about the spices? I use garlic, cumin and chilli powder. Use all those, use something else. Throw in a bit of curry powder! How about a little cinnamon – on second thought, no don’t do that – I don’t think it would turn out as nicely. The point is, use as much or as little spice as you like. Kathleen’s original recipe doesn’t call for any spices. It only uses garlic, zucchini, salt and pepper. I did try that to be fair, but thought it a little bland. The same thing goes for the herbs – use whatever you have. If you don’t have anything, I don’t see why a sprinkling of Mrs. Dash or other favourite dried herb can’t work. Then we come to the meat. Once again, don’t have chicken? Use pork, use turkey. Open up a can of tuna. Again, no meat, use tofu, use soy protein, or no meat. Just vegetables will work just fine. Finally. The sauce. Use whatever. I used the kind I liked, use the kind you like. I’ve also tried this with a fig balsamic and a zesty Italian. It works delightfully! A tomato sauce would work too – I’m just not a tomato fan unless you can get lots of flavour in there.

Okay you’re ready? Armed with everything? Great. Got a box of Band-Aids. No? Well, whatever. Go to this site: http://kathleenflinn.com/cookinglessons/ . Yes that’s right, Kathleen has her own website. Go and redeem the free knife skills lesson. Then get choppin’!

Is everything diced or julienned? Perfect. Now bring a pot of water with salt in it to a boil and add your pasta. Skip this if you aren’t using pasta. Once it’s cooked, drain the pasta but save a cup of that water! Now get a pan and heat your oil in it. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Hear the sizzle? Good! Now add the zucchini and stir till it gets mushy. If it starts to burn, just add a few tablespoons of the pasta water, or regular water – in case you dumped it. Next, add the mushrooms. When it softens, add the potatoes and peppers. Next, add the herbs, if you’re using them. Add the meat, and the spices. Stir fry it for a few minutes. Then, add the pasta. Toss it all, and add your salt and pepper. Then, turn off the stove, add the sauce and toss it to coat. And there you have it, you’re done. Enjoy!

 

Image

Soup in a snap

Go to recipe 4, here we come. So what is soup? In my mind it is a sweating down of your favourite meats and vegetables, they drowned in stock. Here is a go to recipe for soup that you’ll love. And remember, use whatever you have!

2 cups meat – mystery meat, horse meat, really, use whatever you like and have

2 cups veggies – again whatever

4 cups stock – whatever kind

2 tbsp. garlic

Salt, Pepper

2 tsp. parsley or other herbs you like

1 cup of lentils or beans – again, whatever kind you have

 

Okay, so even though this is a go to recipe, first things first – time will make this soup better. So if you have 30 minutes, your soup will taste substantially better if you have 2 hrs.

First, add your meat to the pan. Add oil if you need to. I used bacon (out of chicken and stuff), so I got a really nice flavour to the whole soup – tasted so warm… okay I’ll stop making you jealous and move on. But before I do, I should add, I used half regular bacon and half chicken since I found that the regular became unnoticible almost (a lot of the regular bacon is fat so I didn’t add much oil either).

To that, add your garlic and other herbs. Once it’s smoking and half cooked, add your veggies. For your reference, I used mushrooms (my love!), spinach (the other love!) and green peppers. Once you do that, add your lentils (the orange or green ones don’t need to be cooked, or you can even use canned – I used uncooked orange ones which kinda disintegrated…). Now add all the stock and bring it to a boil. Add your salt/pepper. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to medium. Simmer for at least 30mins, or up to two hours.

Once it’s done, ante up the spice, leave it like that, add some fresh herbs, it’s up to you. I added this Scotch Bonnet hot sauce (from Grace which I seem to be putting on everything these days) and some fresh lime juice. So, enjoy this soup and alter it to fit not only your tastes but whatever is in your refrigerator!

Kitchen Gadgets old and new – what I love or am thinking of getting

Ah kitchen gadgets! Many say, come the new year, out with the old and in with the new. But, I can’t bring myself to do that with most of my gadgets. This post (deviating from the last 3 go to recipe craze!) is here to ask your opinion. I love some of my gadgets, but there are some new ones I’ve been thinking of including into my collection.

The first gadget that I love is my peeler. I know, right, a peeler can do just about anything. Yes, yes, it can peel vegetables and fruit in a cinch, but I love using mine to slice cheese. You get these amazing curls or shavings.

My next favourite gadget has to be my whisk. I will use any excuse to use it. Though, I’d rather beat egg whites with my electric beater, for odd jobs around the kitchen, the whisk is a great life saver!

My other favourite gadget is my fork. And not just any fork – my big fork! I absolutely love it. I use it for poking things, beating things (it often wins out over my whisk). It does take longer, but I find nothing more satisfying than stretching out in front of the television, some batter in hand incorporating away.

Now I’ve been think about two main things to add to my collection. The first is silicone bakeware. I know that it has many benefits (health and otherwise), but wonder if any of you use it? Do you like it?

The second thing was a stand mixer. I know that these run pretty expensive, but feel as though an aspiring baker ought to have one. What do you think? Do you have one?

Also, what are your favourite gadgets in the kitchen? Share away!

Burgers with a crunch! – Okay, not really, but there are pictures and they are awesome!

Okay, so I’ve decided to change up the order that I was going to post my go to recipes. Today’s recipe is a meatless main. Curried Lentil Nut burgers – sounds great doesn’t it? I was sceptical I admit – though I am trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet, it still worried me to actually make a burger out of vegetables. Maybe it’s because commercially they can’t do it very well. I’ve had soy burgers but they taste bland and some even have actual vegetables that you can see?! I know! It’s an outrage! But Kary from CBC’s best recipes ever made them and I have faith in her – since the recipes are actually ‘tested till perfect’. So first of all, here is the original recipe as found on their recipe page: http://www.cbc.ca/bestrecipes/2011/10/curried-lentil-cashew-burger.html . Click on the link to see it. What I’m going to actually post is my variation of it, and one that worked just as well.

 

½ cup almonds

2 tbsp. oil

4 cups chopped vegetables

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp. garlic and ginger – each

1 can green/brown/whatever lentils you can get in a can (540ml)

1 cup fine semolina + more for coating

1 tbsp. curry powder

1 tsp. or more chilli powder

2 tsp. cumin powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Toppings

Burger buns

 

First of all, Kary says that this recipe yields 4 burgers. I think there is either a slight discrepancy there or her burgers were just very thick. I got 9 burgers out of this – it could’ve been 10 but there were two really large ones. Other than that, I followed most of the recipe as she stated.

Instead of cashews (pricey!), and because I’m too lazy to crack walnuts open, I used almonds. The other thing I suggest is that you use whichever vegetables you like. Chop them or leave them. The only thing is that they must be of equal size.

So first thing’s first. Line a baking dish with parchment – or grease, whatever. In a bowl toss the vegetables with the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the vegetables to the dish, and bake for 30 minutes on 350. This time is tentative. For example, if you use potatoes, it will probably take longer than say mushrooms or peppers (I used these in addition to eggplant). This is probably good to mention now – use whatever vegetables you have on hand, don’t go out buying stuff.

Once the vegetables are cooked – and they should be really mushy – like serious, like mash. Throw them into a food processor and puree. Also puree the lentils. Finally, toast the almonds or whichever nuts you’re using (I’m sure even peanuts would work well), and ground those finely.

Now comes the slightly tricky part. In a bowl you add all of the pureed mash and the spices. How on earth are you going to make burgers out of this, you ask? Well you can’t. What?! But I said that this was burger recipes – not a baby food recipe! Relax. Working with only a half cup at first add your binding agent. I used semolina because that’s what I had on hand but you can use breadcrumbs. Add them, and mix it well. Add more if needed. Mix. Now add more if you still need it. You’ve added enough when it feels like a soft dough. A good test is to take about 1/3 cup of it, and try to shape it into a burger. If it completely falls apart add more. Remember, it isn’t going to be like meat mince, so don’t expect it to shape like that.

Once that’s done, heat a pan with oil at the bottom. Fry until it is golden on both sides. Remember, everything is cooked, so there’s no worry about that. Serve immediately as you would burgers or reheat them in the oven to recrispify. I think I’ve invented a word. Enjoy!

 

(Below, the uncooked and cooked burgers)

 

 

Salted Caramel Chocolate baked porridge

Sounds delectable doesn’t it? It is. So Salted Caramel Chocolate Baked Porridge is the second of my go to recipes. I am proud to say that I invented this one. I was out of white milk and in the mood for porridge. For some reason, I always have packets as well as jars full of oats in all kinds of flavours. I think they add wonderfully to a cookie, cake or muffin. They are perfect in my everything cookies. I need to post the recipe for that too don’t I? Well, one thing at a time.

So I was skeptical as to how porridge using chocolate milk would turn out. No worries though, since it was amazing. Anyway, you first start with instant oats. Add the same amount of milk you normally do, but add chocolate milk instead. Oh, do this in an oven safe dish. Now, here comes the important part! Add 1/4 tsp of salt for every serving. Who adds salt to chocolate you ask? I do! I’ve been adding salt to anything chocolate, baked or otherwise ever since a fateful Modern Family episode. For those of you who don’t know what Modern Family is, OMG, OMG, email me! FAST! You cannot afford to miss the best sitcom in years. For those of you who faithfully watch all the episodes, I’m referring to the first episode from season 1. It’s called the station wagon episode but it includes chocolate milk. And salt.

Now that I have shamelessly self indulged my promotion of what I believe to be the best show since Friends (seriously!), I shall continue on. While you’re getting this ready, get the oven nice and hot to 350 degrees. Next, add two caramels on top of every serving. Put it into the oven for about 10 minutes and wait for it to get all bubbly and the caramels melted. Take it out of the oven, and put another 1/8 tsp of salt on top (you can skip this if you like). And enjoy! Oh and I feel like a coffee cup – “CAUTION! CONTENTS ARE HOT”. There you go. Stay tuned for recipe three – breakfast, lunch and dinner eggs. Talk soon!

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