Instinctively, I know which spices taste good together and which ones should not be combined. This is a blessed gift when cooking; I seldom make a bad meal.
I also rarely follow a recipe exactly as it is written. I don’t rush off to the store to get the perfect ingredients. If I don’t have carrots but I do have zucchini, I just substitute the zucchini. For some recipes, of course, I measure everything exactly. Cakes, for instance, need to have the proper balance of dry and wet ingredients. My favorite chocolate cake is delicious whether I make it with baker’s chocolate or I use cocoa; however, if I substitute melted baker’s chocolate for the cocoa, I add additional flour to compensate for the reduction in dry ingredients.
I learned to cook by watching my mom. She was a good, basic cook, but I learned early on that if I wanted it to taste like Mom’s recipe, I had to pay close attention when she was cooking. My mom also took a lot of shortcuts. Perhaps it was the period of time when people did that. She never made cakes from scratch; her macaroni and cheese started with the Kraft box; and she put Lipton Onion Soup on roasts to flavor them. I, on the other hand, never make cakes from a box (but I do make Ghirardelli chocolate brownies; they are delicious!), make Kraft Mac and Cheese only for the grandkids (because it’s all they will eat), and seldom use Lipton Onion Soup for anything.
I believe in using fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. I love whole grains and fresh-baked cakes, cookies and breads. I always read the nutrition labels for the foods I buy that are not fresh or organic. As I get older, I realize how important this is for good health, especially as I watch my friends and family die of various cancers and heart disease.
I tend to use baking and cooking as a stress reliever. My kids picked up on this pretty quickly. One time Roni said to me, “We must not be driving you crazy lately. You haven’t baked anything in a long time. Do I have to be bad for you to bake cookies?”
When I joined my first husband’s family, I was delighted with their mealtime rituals, and my outlook on eating together solidified. Unlike my family of origin, my new family not only all sat at the table together for the evening meal, but they had a conversation! Conversation and food make great company.
I do have many stories that go hand-in-hand with the foods I make. For many of the recipes I have am including on the blog, I will tell you a little story about them. I hope you enjoy the stories as much as you do the recipes. I invite you to add your own recipes and stories, too!