Monday, April 4, 2011

The Joy of Cooking

I am not a very good cook.  These people are cooks.  But I am trying.  I'm a decent baker, and I can cook enough to keep both Matt and me alive, which is a plus.  My dear former roommate Katie knows this is an improvement.  My problem with cooking is that I dream big.  I have a go big or go home complex, which involves me putting myself through probably needless pain and suffering while trying to prepare something that is complicated and way over my head.  Prime example: Two years ago, I was determined to make my father-in-law a lemon cake for Father's Day.  I was a newlywed and had a new cookbook, a new hand mixer, and a new cake plate begging to be used.  Now, despite the fact that any cake I'd ever made before had been from a box (not counting the pound cake I made in high school four times before I figured out I needed baking soda instead of powder), I went with a Triple-Layer Lemon Cake.  I also only had two cake pans, so I had to put two in, and then wait for the third.  The recipe called for lemon curd between the layers, which I couldn't find, so I went with more frosting.  Also, I'm not a patient baker, so I did not wait the recommended time before slapping the layers together with a thick gooey layer of homemade lemon cream cheese frosting.  As I was finishing the lemon peel curl garnish, I started to notice something was wrong.  The middle layer of the cake was slipping out.  In the end, the top and middle layers broke in half and skidded down a mound of icing to rest against the sides of the cake dome.  It was appallingly ugly, but the family ate it anyway.  It was good, and important lessons learned:  patience, preparation, and simplification.

So taking none of these lessons to heart, I decided that I wanted to learn more about cooking beef.  It's not something I cook a lot, but I would like to know how.  Naturally, I decided to go with Rachael Ray's Sirloin Tips and Arugula Rice Pilaf.  I should have simplified, but I saw that bubbly brunette make it on tv and just knew I could do it too.  My first mistake was spilling orzo all over the floor, which kept the dog entertained while I burned the orzo that made it into the pan.  I really should have minced garlic, chopped parsley, and zested and juiced the lemon before I put the steak in the pan.  It cooks in 5 minutes, which is not enough time for mincing.  I should probably just buy minced garlic anyway.  I should have looked up what it means to 'deglaze' before I dumped lemon juice and vermouth in the pan.  Overall though, it really didn't turn out that bad.  I would definitely make the steak again - the lemon and garlic combo was yummy.  As for the arugula rice pilaf, I think it could have done without the arugula.  Next time I make it, I'll probably just go with a salad or another green veggie instead of mixing it all together, but I'm also the girl that didn't like her food to touch on her plate until well into high school. 

I took this semi-success as a boost to my self-esteem and 'invented' my own recipe.  My cookbook has a recipe for Turkey and Pasta with Peanut Sauce, but instead I made Chicken and Rice with Peanut Sauce.  It turned out well!  Hopefully with practice, I will get better, and in the meantime, I'll space out my cooking with rotisserie chicken and pizza. 


  1. You cooked for us one night and it was good. Plus, you make really good special punch. And believe me, with enough special punch, nobody will notice the cooking!

  2. Yes, keeping you and Matt alive through nourishment is good.