While I have no doubt that I exasperate my husband on a fairly regular basis, I know it’s not due to cooking.
I am a good cook. I don’t say this to sound conceited but I do believe this to be true and I have been told this more times that I can count from lots and lots of people. I attribute this to a few different things… for one, I’m not intimidated by much. A 16 layer cake? Bring it on. Some kind of vegetable I can’t pronounce that looks like an alien and can only be found in the remote reaches of an ethnic food store? Let’s do it. A recipe that calls for some gadget I’ve never heard of let alone know how to use? I’m down.
Secondly, I love to try new recipes. I have several binders in my office related to just this topic in fact. They’re organized based upon the type of dish they are (breakfast, appetizer, main course, dessert, etc), then by subgroup (chicken, pork, seafood, etc for the main course), then by sub-sub group (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, etc). I try to cook a few new recipes every week if I can. The one thing I’ve learned through all my trial and error is this: when you first make a new recipe, make it exactly the way the recipe calls for it. Then, when you’re finished eating, ask those around you what they honestly thought. In truth, you can’t be upset if it was terrible, it’s not as though you wrote the recipe yourself. Then ask if there was anything that could be done to make it better. If so, write notes on your recipe and file it away for later. Next time when you cook that recipe again, cook it including the notes you made the previous-go-round.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, I have (mostly) willing guinea pigs. When I was a child my mom used to tell me that I had to try a bite of everything. If I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to eat any more of it. Now, I employ the same tactics with her and with my husband. For the most part, I don’t think they hate me too much. We call my husband the “human garbage disposal” because he’s just not a picky eater. Remember that whole “give it to Mikey, he’ll eat it!” thing? Yeah, that’s my husband. My mom is not particularly picky either which is great. Actually, since I’m such a picky eater sometimes I’ll even make recipes that I won’t eat and then I have to rely solely on my mom and my husband’s tips on how to make it better. I have a pretty discerning palate and a good imagination. I can be given a list of ingredients and pretty much know if the recipe made with them is going to be good or not. That being said, since I’m a picky eater and there’s a litany of things I don’t eat, even my imagination cannot help sometimes. So, when I’m making a new roast, I rely on others to tell me if it’s good or not since I don’t eat red meat.
This weekend since I was not feeling well I decided I wanted soup. I love soup and in fact I eat it several times a week. I cannot stand meat in my soup though. Chicken noodle soup? Ick! I love vegetable soups and though most people think that there isn’t a lot of variety with vegetable soups they’d be quite wrong. Yesterday I made Cheesy Vegetable Soup as well as Broccoli-Cheese Corn Bread. Both turned out delicious. Mom even said that they would be “great company fare” which in our house means that the meal is good enough to feed to guests (that’s a HUGE compliment). We’re super picky about what we feed guests at our house.
Anyways, since everything turned out so wonderfully I thought I’d share the recipes with all you lovely people. Neither recipe was hard and shouldn’t be hard even for a novice cook. Basically if you can chop vegetables and measure spices or liquids you’ve pretty much got this made. Enjoy!
Broccoli-Cheese Corn Bread
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup butter, cubed
- 2 packages (8-1/2 ounces each) corn bread/muffin mix
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese
- 6 eggs
- 1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) 4% cottage cheese (note: I used small curd)
- 1 package (9 ounces) frozen broccoli cuts, thawed and drained
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
- 2 tablespoons canned jalapeno slices, chopped (if you prefer a less spicy version, used canned green chiles instead)
- In a large skillet, sauté onion in butter until tender; set aside. In a large bowl, combine corn bread mix and shredded cheese. In another bowl, beat the eggs, cottage cheese and onion mixture. Stir into corn bread mixture until just moistened. Fold in the broccoli, corn, and jalapeno.
- Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and edges pull away from sides of pan. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers. Yeild: 12-15 servings.
Cheesy Vegetable Soup
- 1 large onion, copped
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1-1/2 cups frozen lima beans, thawed
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1 cup diced peeled potatoes
- 1 tablespoon chicken bullion granuels
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon paprika (I used about ½ this)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper (I recommend doubling this)
- 2 cups milk (I used organic skim milk but you could use anything)
- 1 cup half-and-half cream (use the full-fat version, not the light stuff)
- 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese (I used 2 cups / 8 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese)
- Minced fresh parsley (I skipped this)
- Note: the recipe does not call for salt but all of us thought it could use some. You can choose to let each person add salt to their individual bowls or you can add a ¼ teaspoon of salt when you add the black pepper.
- In a large saucepan, sauté onion in 2 tablespoons butter until tender. Add water, vegetables and bouillon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt remaining butter. Stir in the flour, paprika and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk and cream. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; stir in cheese until melted. Add to soup; heat through. Sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 8 servings.