Dine Together, Time Together [Blog #7]

As I sat to reflect on the eating experience of the first 18 years of my life, I realized that there are very few foods that actually stood out to me. Certainly when I return home from college my mom and grandma are sure to satisfy me with my two favorite comfort foods, my mom’s chicken pot pie and my Yamma’s oatmeal chocolate chip bars. But, I would not say food is the main aspect of our eating time together. Dinner, the meal I most often ate with family, is not as memorable as in regards to the food as it is about the time we spent together. As far as I can remember we always did our very best to have dinner as a family. Even when my dad was working an hour and a half away and wouldn’t be home until 7:30 or 8, we would still all hold out and wait to have dinner with him. As I interviewed my mom about cooking and feeding myself and my family she verified my memories of our meals. Dinner was not about the food, it was about taking anywhere from 15-30 minutes out of our day, with the TV turned off and cell phones put away, where we would focus on one another’s lives, sharing stories and making memories.

What did I hate eating when I was younger?

Not really sure I wouldn’t say you hated to eat anything maybe veggies in general.

What were my manners as a kid?

Always good, it was expected.

What are your favorite food memories of me growing up?

Most of the stories remembered about eating were about the eating together more than the food, but of course the famous ketchup story is the best!*

Is there a special meal that reminds you of me?

Chicken pot pie of course!

What were your goals regarding food for me prior to my birth, and how did they change?

I was small town comfort food was all I knew. I tried to do a balance of both.

What were the trials of cooking for me?

Pleasing you and not eating the same food over and over.

Did you cook for me or for yourself?

I would say in general to please the kids while also considering what I liked too.

What’s a memorable food experience?

The time around the table saying our highs and lows** for many years!

How did family dynamics affect your cooking?

It was always about pleasing my family!

What foods did you stop cooking once you started a family?

A lot of lighter meals like salads.

Do you regret cooking or feeding me anything?

No, not really.

How has your relationship with food changed over the years?

It has changed a lot actually, I am more willing to make better, healthier choices in general and choose less fast and fatty foods.

How did you start cooking—made you want to start?

I had a husband that needed to eat and then a family shortly there after that I needed to feed

What is your favorite meal to make?

My favorite meals to make are always the ones that make my children the happiest. But I love to make jambalaya.

What did your parents cook? Did you enjoy what they cooked?

Home cooking and yes most always.

Family meals growing up?

With 5 kids it was kinda crazy. I remember meals being at home waiting for us. I don’t remember us always eating together necessarily, but I remember my mom’s meals as a way to make us feel good. It was never about the food, it was about making us happy. Dinnertime was never about the food, we could eat as much or as little as we wanted. I think I used that similar mentality in raising my own family.

Our family meals?

Time for us to come together, and put everything else aside. Cooking our family dinners was a way for me to show my family I loved them. Eating together no matter what was on the table. It was important to have that family time. A niche in the day that we would always come together. It was a priority for us to be together.

What do you hope I will cook when I have my own family?

It’s not what you cook as much as having a healthy balanced life with good food choices-that is important.

Do you wish you made more of something?

Sometimes I wish I was more adventurous in cooking maybe when it’s just your dad and I and I don’t have to worry about what I’m making we will just try new things.

After the interview with my mom I found that we held the same views on our meal time together. We could have eaten take-out or a 5 course meal, and the memory of the food would fade behind the significance of conversation and bonding that enhanced the relationships between my family members. Much like my mom I aspire model my family’s meal times after the one’s I had as a child. Even as a 21 year old I find that I enjoy making food for others as a vehicle for happiness and satisfaction. At least once a week I will have what my friends and I call a “family dinner”, where we all get together and make dinner and spend the evening together. Often the food itself is great, but the point is for us to get together. Food brings people together, whether it is a horrible meal or one of the best. The time we eat with others ensures time we share together.

*Ketchup story: When I was about 3 years old I, my mom and grandma were having lunch at a restaurant in Julian, California. As my mom and grandma were chatting away about something I sat on the inside of the booth and began telling them how much I loooooved ketchup. Without paying too much attention they told me that was great and kept on with their conversation. For a few minutes I continued to claim my love for ketchup without much acknowledgement. Finally one of them looked over to me, straw in the ketchup bottle sipping away at the ketchup.

**High and lows: My mom came home with idea that during dinner we would go around the table and share the highest point of our day and the lowest. This led to us sharing many stories and laughs as we ate together.

Chicken- Kale Casserole [Blog# 5]

Chicken-Kale Casserole

INGREDIENTS:

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 pound large pasta shells
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced medium
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bunches kale (1 1/2 pounds), tough stems and ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken (from 1/2 rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 container (48 ounces) part-skim ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan, grated (2 1/4 ounces)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (That way when you are done prepping you can finally shove it in the oven and start cleaning up the disaster mess you made throughout the kitchen)
  2. Cook the pasta shells as directed on the box. Drain. Return to pot- not the casserole dish, you will find it much easier later, believe me.
  3. Depending on what kind of chicken you get, don’t forget to cook that too. If frozen foster farms chicken, 2 thighs should be enough and you may want to begin the boiling/cooking process of it before you start the pasta shells.
  4. In a large skillet (if like me your large skillet has seemed to misplace its cover you can use a large pot) melt butter over medium-high. Toss in at least ¾ of an onion that had already been used for a recipe earlier in the week and garlic; cook until onion is soft- suggest about 4 minutes but depends on if you used a pot or skillet.
  5. Add about ¾ of the suggested kale- as it looks from the fullness of the pot there will be more than plenty- to the garlic and onion. Cover over heat until almost tender- could take about 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer mixture to pasta (which again should be in the pot, not the casserole dish- yes I made that mistake)
  7. Still while in the pot mix in chicken, ricotta, ½ parmesan, and lemon (as a requirement for my recipe, as well as a lack of a grater to make lemon zest, I squeezed half a lemon over top the in mixture). Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Transfer mix to a 13×9 casserole dish (11×8 worked too). Top with flakes of parmesan- cause they are better than the grated kind.
  9. Hopefully you had preheated the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top becomes a golden brown.

PREPARATION SUGGESTIONS:

  • Don’t forget to pre-heat the oven!
  • The ingredient amounts are really just suggestions, don’t worry so much about more or less, it will work out with this recipe.
  • Have a few side bowls on hand for after you cut up the onion, kale, and chicken. Some believe this is makes you look more professional, I found it helps to make room on the cutting board as you multi-task waiting for the pasta and chicken for cook.
  • Cut the kale first. Making sure to remove the stems and ribs requires a longer process than just chopping up lettuce.
  • The kale will shrink once cooked, and although it seems to be more than plenty, as I was assured by my roommate, you can always have too much kale.

Recipe from http://garlicandsalt-tiffany.blogspot.com,  which got the Recipe from Recipe from Everyday Food with Martha Stuart, Nov. 2011 issue, which I altered to fit my own accommodations. 

Chicken-Kale Casserole

The final product will be salty chicken pasta casserole. Each bite should be a combination of soft conchelle noodle, with salty kale chicken and a bite of garlic. It has very soft, chewy texture. This was a delightful meal that I will certainly make again soon.

The BEST Thing I Ever Ate [Blog #6]

It was a cold day, on the verge of rain, as we toured San Francisco’s Mission District. Walking from restaurant to restaurant, we could hardly bear to stand outside too long as we would beg for our tour guide to speak to us inside as we tried out our tour’s meals. On this trip throughout the Mission District I unexpectedly encountered the best ice cream I have ever had.

As we entered Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream the first thing I spelled was waffle cones, just like any other ice cream shop. I couldn’t figure out why we would stop at an ice cream shop, what could be so special about this place?

After my first glance over the 12 flavors I knew this would not be an ordinary ice cream shop: Special Breakfast with cornflakes and bourbon? The flavors handwritten on place cards before the ice cream tubs were certainly not your average 31 flavors.

After a number of testers the decision was final, my scoop of choice would be the Chocolate Sea Salt. No matter how many bites I took of those flavors the Chocolate Sea Salt intrigued me the most.

Chocolate Sea Salt Ice Cream

Chocolate Sea Salt was exactly what the name deemed it to be.

Each bite of this chocolate ice cream was a deceptive pleasure.

The first taste was the smooth, creamy chocolate that tasted like chocolate truffles, just a sweet and milky taste that was just comforting and swell.  Just as you are being taken in by this warm chocolate embrace, a bite of salt overtakes such sweetness. It was exactly like eating sea salt caramel. As the seconds passed the taste of the chocolate faded and the sea salt overwhelmed my taste buds, counteracting the balance of sweet to salty. I could taste the grain of salt melting in my mouth. It was so strong at the end of each bite I anticipated the rough lastings of a piece of sea salt, and every time my mouth turned up empty, awaiting the next bite.

The ice cream would dissolve completely, revealing itself as a truly creamy delight.

Chinatown: A Little Taste of Reality [Blog #4]

Today I went to Chinatown in San Francisco for the first time! I had anticipated this trip all week long and I never would have been prepared for what I had in store. As my American mind has been trained to block out the idea of where food comes from, the Chinatown residents do not leave anything up to the imagination.

Frank, our tour guide shared his plethora of insight on the city he grew up in. As we walked along the streets of Chinatown there were a few restaurants with carcasses of cooked -ducks, head in-tacked. The duck was being hung by the neck with a metal hook, as its body dripped of the various greases and marinades that lathered the dead flesh. Seeing the face of the creature I could potentially be eating that day was only the first part of the torturous reality check.

Image

Duck

After a few other sights we made our way to the market. A crowded scene of fresh produce, only a day or two off the root, lined the west sidewalk. The misshapen fruits and veggies appeared toxic compared to the industrially processed foods I was used to seeing in safeway.

After venturing down a block we crossed the street to view the east sidewalk. The first shop simply had pounds of meat that took on colors I did not recognize for meat, such as a black shade of duck. It was a deceiving introduction for what was next to come. Just a few steps ahead reality set in.

The meat suppliers were all much like that of the restaurants serving duck. The bodies of dead animals hung on the window in order to show its costumers their fresh available options. According to Frank, the reason they showed the bodies of the meats was for two reasons: to show the freshness of the product and because the Chinese do not waste anything, they will use every last part of the body they can.

The freshness of the products went beyond displaying the entire body. We passed tubs of fish, shrimp, turtles, and frogs as they swam and took their last few breathes before being chosen as a dish for someone’s evening meal.

Image

I could not imagine seeing the food you were able to kill, butcher, and eat as a living creature. Now I knew why my friend Linsey is a vegetarian. There were certainly a few moments there that I had considered changing my life choices of a meat-eater as I watched the bodies of living beings be tortured. But then I came back to my senses as the sweet aroma of the cooked meats overtook my feelings of guilt and remorse for these creatures.

My Brownie Batter Milkshake [Blog #3]

When I was little I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents. I was the first-born child of 3, and the first grandchild of 12 (14 including “step”). My parents both worked full time so I spent much of the first few years of my life entertaining my grandparents. Of the many stories my Yamma loves to tell, there is one that I will never forget. It was when I learned my first important lesson in cooking: eggs are not to be eaten uncooked.

from facebook.com

One day in preparation a visit to my Yamma and Poppie’s house I decided to take it upon myself to create a recipe for a brownie batter milkshake. I wish I could remember all the ingredients on the list, it took up at least a journal page of lines with: ice cream, milk, bananas, and chocolate syrup as the more common ingredients. In lieu of a brownie batter milkshake, I wanted to put actual brownie batter in my milkshake, along with other necessary batter mix-ins, vanilla extract and eggs.

 

After writing out my recipe I called my grandma to make sure she had all the ingredients. She agreed to my terms and quickly hung up the phone assuring me I would see her soon.

When I proudly showed my mom my recipe she did have the same acceptance of my creation. She shook her head and told me sharply I could NOT put raw brownie batter in a milkshake, specifically a RAW EGG. I declared my Yamma had confirmed my recipe and that I would be making it. Not in a mood to argue my mom rolled her eyes she dropped it, probably well knowing that once I got to my grandparents’ house and my grandma realized what she had approved she would quickly retract her statement.

from fueledbyeggs.com

My mom was right.

You just can’t eat raw eggs, even if I thought it would make for a delicious milkshake.

The Captain’s Dessert [Blog #2]

I was 11 years old when I experienced the first food to change my dessert-eating experience for the rest of my life, an experience that you have with only a couple of things in life, in which the memory of the first and last bite of the meal are the only thing that would ever possibly live up to that one meal.

I was on a Carnival Cruise porting in locations throughout the Mexican Riviera. If you have ever been on a cruise you know how much you eat while stuck on a ship for days on end, the 24-hour buffet does not help the cause either. But my most memorable meal was more than just a buffet fix.

The “Captain’s Dinner” was held every night for all the guests on the ship. Passenger parties were assigned a time and table for the week-long trip, along with two waiters who served the table all week. We quickly established a very friendly relationship with our waiters, Arnie and Rocco (I’m surprised I remember their names). Each night we would be served a full course meal starting with bread and butter, and then either soup or salad, followed by two possible the main entrées, and finished off with a choice of desserts. Each meal was as tasty and satisfying as the next, and each night we went home with our bellies full. On the fourth night that consistent satisfaction was disrupted by my encounter with a chocolate soufflé dessert.

As the chocolate filled cup was placed in front of me, I was deceived by its appearance. A little cake in a cup, that doesn’t seem so special…oh but was I wrong. As my spoon broke through the powdered sugar doused cap of the cup, chocolate emerged from the epicenter, proving its molten lava chocolate name. Steam escaped from the eruption and followed the spoon which I slowly brought to my mouth. The warm bittersweet chocolate soaked the bite of delicate chocolate cake. As the cake was engulfed with the chocolate sauce it transformed into a soft mushy texture, much like soaked bread but instead of falling apart it held itself together and formed the perfect bite.

The combination of the smooth chocolate cream sauce and the chocolate cake, as light as a cloud, entranced me. That first bite is nearly indescribable; few words can encompass the feeling of warmth and happiness that spread from the tips of my taste buds to the light tingling of my toes. To this day I have not felt the same passion between myself and any other aspect of life as I did for those short-lasting bites of the Captain’s chocolate soufflé.

From the Mouth of a Apple- Skin Hater [Blog #1]

Pink Lady AppleI stare at my desk at the imperfectly circular red object I cannot help but think, “Oh I hope this doesn’t mean we have to eat this”. The pink lady apple that my professor has just passed around the class sits on my desk and we are instructed to dissect the fruit with our 5 senses: touch, sight, smell, sound, and finally my most dreaded, taste.

As I touch the smooth, waxy exterior all I can think is how deceiving this fruit is, appearing to be so perfect and delicate. No wonder it has been deemed the fruit of temptation from being the catalyst of human imperfection to the near death of a beloved, Disney princess with skin as white as snow. The apple appears to be a perfect fruit, a safe fruit, as it shines in the light and stands despite its rounded shape.

I know that despite its lovely appearance in just one bit the deception of the apple will be triumphant.  Despite the initially juicy, sweet and sour somersault that will play with the taste buds of my mouth and tongue, the experience with this bite will not end there. Quickly the beautiful layer of rosey, pink and red with a hint of yellow skin shreds away upon each bite that follows. The skin of the apple overwhelms the sweet and sour juices that first encountered my mouth, and replaces such great potential with grainy flakes of disappointment. The waxy exterior replaces the taste of juicy goodness, leaving a bland plastic taste in the mouth.

The time comes to take the dreaded bite. Although I did not faint in despair of the fruits deception, all that I anticipated came to be true.

From the mouth of an apple-skin hater, I will forever skin my apples, no matter how beautifully deceiving their skin may appear.