Who's That Girl

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WHO'S THAT GIRL: A higher education obsessed foodie who is documenting her life in the kitchen. I love to cook delicious, gourmet-style foods for those I love and always welcome a challenge in the kitchen. With that challenge comes an impromptu nature. I tend to avoid following recipes to the exact, so you are not likely to find very many posted here. Being that I am a Libra and am learning to be free in the kitchen, the story always goes, "A pinch of this and a smattering of that!" Thank you for visiting -- and happy reading!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Plushness That Is...


What a wonderful concoction. Amazing that a seemingly simple connection between dough, water and flour with a bit of salt and butter -- or egg if that is your attraction -- could be pounded and molded and massaged into such a gracious mound!

I made my first bread not too long ago. Actually, it was a loaf that. among other things, called for pumpkin puree and rosemary -- a combination that did not quite make since in my novice bread-making mind. But, my goodness! After 16 hours of patient waiting, that little mound turned into a moist burst of tasty bliss with a nice crusty skin. Topped with a pumpkin butter -- the recipe came courtesy of one of my higher education peers by the way -- I felt I had melted.

It was by no means an elusive recipe. It did not take a tremendous amount of time or effort to prepare. Fascinating, I thought! How could something carry so much allure, yet be so accessible at the same time. Goodness, this question applies to so much in life. It was only after taking the time to prepare bread that I began to realize how wholly accessible good and affordable cooking could be! How could one not be obsessed with such a concept?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pricey Appetizer Made Simple

Nearly $5 for six crab rangoons? You can kiss my grits!

Yeah, it's only five bucks, but that's pricey for what you are actually getting.

Oh, but not anymore.

I cannot believe how simple and stress-free it is to make these -- not to mention that they are extraordinarily cheap to produce.


Wontons at $1.50 for about 40.
Cream cheese at about $2 for a small tub
Fresh green onions at about $.50 per bundle
Imitation crab for about $3.99 (no luck finding fresh crab out of a can in the southwest, and rightfully so)
A pinch of onion salt at $1.99 per 6 oz. container

And there you have it. You can make batches of these for a portion of the price with tons of leftovers to make other equally delicious dishes! And you can alter the portion sizes, adding more crab if you like. Totally worth it to make these at home. And while it take about a half hour from start to finish, it is SO worth it!

To Do List: Lasagna

In college I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish in life. It was part of an assignment for an elective humanities course I was taking that had much to do about self-exploration. Among the items on the list: Learn to do the splits, visit Canada, lose 20 pounds and make lasagna.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can at least mark the last off on the list.

Tonight was lasagna night. I must confess, I am not a huge fan of Italian food. Yes, I do enjoy my cheeses. My goodness do I enjoy cheese! But I'm not a huge fan of pastas. I would much prefer rice. But I have long enjoyed lasagna.

The recipe turned out to be quite scrumptious. My partner Nancy and I have talked much about having alternate nights: meat nights, veggie nights, smoothie nights, etc. for dinner. So when I looked in the cupboard last night I had most everything for a meatless lasagna, sans the tomato sauce, which Nancy purchased during the day.

The recipe was simple: I prepared the tomato sauce with basil, garlic salt, onions, fresh garlic, pepper, red bell peppers and a tiny bit of olive oil. I then cooked the spinach with a bit of butter and salt. I added mushrooms, which Nancy had prepared with a number of other things, and mixed the ricotta cheese with cream cheese. We also used shredded mozzarella between the layers of pasta.


And what's more: We didn't even miss the meat :-)

Food Chronicles

When I tell people the types of foods I enjoy preparing or when I show them my food photos, I am sometimes fed the line, “I can barely boil a pot of water.”

That’s where I began.

I took an interest in at-home cooking in 2004. That year, I was working in Texas for newspapers. I was young, well paid and free. I cannot quite recall how the realization came, but I found myself paying closer attention to what I was eating and where. I had previously spent much of my life living on the West coast and in the Southwest – locations abundant for food inspired by Mexico and Central America, which I often ate. But moving away from those regions, I took note of the pervasive availability of cuisines I had previously had little exposure to – Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, Filipino, Lebanese and German.

I also was rethinking my relationship with food. During that time it was not unusual for me to stop in at a KFC and order chicken strips between my interviews or, at the end of the day, stop at the local Chinese restaurant for sesame chicken. But it made little sense to me to continue to pay upwards from $10 on meals I could easily cook at home – and better.

But it took time.

I started out cooking lots of Mexican food, actually. By 2006, I began reading cookbooks and food blogs, Last Night’s Dinner in particular, on a regular basis. My early experiments were with beef and shrimp mostly. Then I took an interest in steaks and fish. Then different types of pastries and deserts. It was by spring of 2009 that I was cooking at home on a regular basis and, earlier this year, I began to consider presentation and photography.

A friend of mine once described my cooking style as American chic. I fondly accepted the comment, though I do not stick to any particular cuisine. It’s more about the spices, herbs, oils and marinades. My mainstays – what I use most often – include garlic salt, fresh garlic, soy sauce, sriracha, olive oil, ginger, basil and parsley. But I also am attracted to saffron, cumin, curry powder, berbere, chives, cilantro, mint, rosemary, thyme and, most recently, Old Bay seasoning.

Why I Cook

I have fond childhood memories of food and of my relationship with food. I was raised in a household that enjoyed rich, savory and heavy soul food – fried chicken, meat loaf, grits with butter and cheddar cheese, deep fried biscuits and so much more.

My mother cooked often, and I loved her homemade biscuits. The short, solid but soft biscuits were delicious with grape jelly or honey. I have tried about a half dozen times to replicate her biscuits and have failed. There is something about the way she flicks her wrist, I am sure.

McDonald’s Happy Meal. One of my earliest memories is of my father taking me to McDonald’s where I enjoyed a Happy Meal, then hit the play pin. I also recall, at times, playing in the ball pit, which I recalled always smelled like feet. Yes, McDonald’s was always quite the experience.
KFC chicken. My parents would purchase the bucket of chicken for our family of five – you know, the kind with the strategically placed holes that would always cut into your finger as you were trying to remove the top. My favorite? Drumstick! Easy to handle; full of flavor.
Catfish. Growing up in Southern California meant having broad access to fish markets, which was a treat. There is something utterly amazing about a lightly battered and freshly fried Louisiana style catfish. Hold the chips, please.
Candy. I was more attracted to sweets when I was younger and was quite fond of Twix, Tootsie Rolls and those ginormous suckers sold at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

But as an adult I have come to appreciate a broader range of foods that stimulate the wholeness of my tongue’s palate – the bitter, sour salty and sometimes sweet. I find that my palate enjoys complex and spicy foods, the types of daring and heavenly flavorsome foods that require attention and care in the kitchen. Among my newfound favorites as an adult – foods I rarely ate as a child, or never at all -- are: Vietnamese bun, dim sum, doro wat, salmon, sashimi, sesame chicken, avocado (turns out my father is allergic; Ma can’t stand the stuff), crab rangoons, oxtails, leeks and so much more!

I took a more active interest in my food consumption in 2008, opting in 2009 to cook more often at home. It was during that year that I also began to consider more deeply how and where my food products were raised and harvested and how they arrived at my local grocer. This year, I began taking an interest in food presentation and have since begun photographing my meals.

I cook because I am a lover of food – good, wholesome, delicious and especially home cooked meals. I draw great pleasure from cooking for those I love and in being creative and complex in the kitchen. Happy reading!

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