Tuesday, December 13, 2011

JOY 2012

Joy of 2012
So many of my friends and fellow bloggers have long-standing annual resolution traditions. Jedi Jasmin’s Jasmin 2012 is her latest iteration and she is a rare individual who crafts these ideas and finds it interesting to live by, in and around them throughout the year.
I can’t seem to do that.  Years seems so long, and yet so blindingly short.  I committed to GingerMan 10 years ago, but for some reason this seems without the bounds of the discussion, for two main reasons.

1) 2001 was CLEARLY only 5 minutes ago.

2) Marrying him didn’t so much seem a commitment or huge undertaking or...I don’t know what... any of the things people usually describe it as in books or essays and columns.  It was more just, ummmmm...uploading to The Cloud.  The Us Cloud.  Like it was always there and always would be and that was just sort of it.  I cannot remember a moment where I seriously had to consider if he was The One.  The Cake was No Lie. (It was three tier and deeleeeshus).
My life has always been about catching up, jumping in the middle, trying to get my bearings in a mess of crazy, and The Mindfulness Project this fall has been a breakthrough.  So no Fairy 2012, unless I find some truly unusual inspiration. And because it’s a Tuesday, and still a couple weeks out from Xmas, it's generally just in the middle of everything so I give you my gift of wisdom now:
ALWAYS lick the spoon




> Eat your dinner.  Feed yourself to love yourself.
> You may Resolve, Schedule and Organise, but Life may Smack You Upside the Head anyway.  Live in it, around it and through it because you will be stronger.  Love yourself for that.  
I do.
Now here’s some cake!
This is the Magic Persimmon Cake.  Because I used to make this with my grandparents at their house, which had a persimmon tree, which I had never seen before in my life, and persimmons are Magically Delicious.  This is The Only Fruitcake I Will Ever Love.  This recipe calls for the flat, jovial-looking Fuyu persimmons.
INGREDIENTS:
-3 Cups Persimmons:  Peeled, chopped small
-2 tsp Baking Soda
-1/2 Cup Butter (Zoh. Mah. Lawd.  This calls for Margarine. DON’T DO IT)
-1 2/3 Cup White Sugar (Actually, this could probably be very good with raw crystalized sugar, just not regular brown sugar--I tried once and it changed the flavor)
-2 Eggs
-2 tsp Lemon Juice
-2 tsp Vanilla
-2 Cups Unsifted All-Purpose Flour
-1 tsp Baking Powder
-1 tsp Salt
-1 tsp Ground Cloves
-1 tsp Ground Cinnamon 
-1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
-1/2 tsp Ground Star Anise (Optional-this is a life-long favorite and reminds me of Grandma’s kitchen.  Some people don’t like it’s licorice-y-ness)
--OPTIONAL ADD-INS:  3/4 Cup of Walnuts, Pecans, Raisins, Currants or Chocolate Chips.


INSTRUCTIONS:
*PREHEAT OVEN: 350 DEGREES FARENHEIT
*LUBE AND FLOUR A TUBE OR BUNDT PAN
*TIME:  55-60 MINUTES


1. Peel the fruit like an apple.  The green tops will often twist right off or cut out if you angle a paring knife at an angle right under it and turn THE FRUIT, not the knife, and it will pop off as there is really no stem going deep into the middle.  









2. Cut into quarters, lay the quarters onto one side, then make an angled cut to remove the center fibrous bit.  Again, there is really no big core with pips so there is little, if anything to remove.






3. Continue to chop the fruit into fairly small bits.  The point is you don’t want big chunks in the cake, so use your judgement.  When finished, add the 2 tsp Baking Soda and mix thoroughly.






4. PREP:  In a large separate bowl, blend together the  2 Cups Flour, 1 tsp Baking Powder, 1 tsp each of Salt, Cloves and Cinnamon and 1/2 tsp each of Nutmeg and Star Anise.  Set Aside.


5. At your mixer, you will employ The Creaming Method, i.e. whipping up the fat all fluffy-like, then adding in the sugar and whipping till it’s all light and airy.  So toss the Butter and Sugar into the bowl and beat on medium for a few minutes until creamy and light looking. 




5. Lower the speed all the way down to Add 2 Eggs, 2 tsp Lemon Juice and 2 tsp Vanilla to the bowl-- this prevents Eggy Armageddon--then raise the speed back to medium and keep keep beating till everything is fluffy.




6. Stop the mixer, add in the Persimmon Mixture, then mix on the lowest setting for *just* 2 minutes.








7. Employ the Muffin Method:  Pour the wet stuff into the large bowl of dry stuff and mix gingerly until it is all only just well-incorporated.  Don’t overdo it.



YUM-IN-POTENTIA



8. Pour into your waiting cake pan and place in oven for 55-60 minutes.  Use a skewer, toothpick or, in a pinch, a slim steak knife or paring knife to test the cake by poking into the middle of the cake- away from the sides.  When it comes out clean, or with just a few crumbs on it, your are DONE!




9. Set the finished cake, in the pan, on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Jiggle the pan  and watch the cake loosen from the sides.  If it seems a bit set, use a smooth-blade knife to gently loosen the sides.  Then place a wire rack face-down on top of the pan. 


 Hold the rim of the cake pan to the rack, turn the whole thing over, then jiggle a bit more and the cake should come to rest on the rack.
 


Place a plate on top of what will be the bottom of the cake, then flip that bad baby! VoilĂ !


Sauce:  Any kind of sauce or icing will do with this, as the cake is dense enough to take anything.  I do about 2 cups Sour Cream plus 1.5 Fat Tbs Powdered Sugar plus 1 Tbs Orange Juice, whisked together and served to spoon over as desired.
Happy Christmas!!!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

HIGH ON POT (ROAST)

In the spirit of freezin’ mah arse off, I’ve continued my Winter Dinner Campaign, which, after conquering Roasted Tomato Soup and Roasted Squash Soup, I added Pot Roast and decided it was a formal endeavor. There will be points and a possible badge in the offing.
A few weeks ago, GingerMan’s favorite uncle passed away after a long term with prostate cancer, necessitating a quick trip to Belfast, NI.  I stayed behind due to work and the fact I can’t travel 5 time zones both ways in 4 days without losing my mind.  Jedi Jasmin invited me for dinner that Saturday night and served a meal theretofore forgotten to me and her hunky squeeze, the inimitable A.: Pot Roast. Paradise Reclaimed.
Two days later, having the day of Ginger’s return free, I reached for my Joy.  



What a lovely phrase.
Reach for your Joy.  No matter the circumstance, no matter the drastic event that has befallen you, for comfort, for sustenance, reach for your Joy.  No matter the depths this Seasonal Affective BS has dragged me to, cooking has somehow seemed my small triumph.  Food in the fridge, victory in the mental bank.  I picked the man up and we returned to a home redolent of comfort.
Our reading today comes from page 477 of the 2006 Joy of Cooking.  Actually, let’s back up the bus and refer to page 466,  where full discourse is given to different cuts suitable to Pot Roasting, Stewing and Braising Meat.  If you are Crock Pottin’ this sucker, time-travel to page 99 for recipe conversion information.  See?  Knowledge is Joy! Raaa-men.
Your next consideration after Procurement is obviously Soundtrack.  Today is 80’s Classic Hits, including Supertramp, Billy Joel, Duran Duran and Journey.  If you think "Don’t Stop Believin’" is an auto-tuned ditty sung by high-school be-boppers, stop here and hit iTunes right now. Search Journey.  Download "Don’t Stop", "Any Way You Want It", "Lights" (an ode to San Francisco) and "Separate Ways".  It’s Music for Red Meat.  And don’t forget the Scorpions. Rock your Chuck Roast like a Hurricane!
The recipe gives exact directions for pan/ dutch oven procedures. Follow those exactly, and if you have cast iron, this is the precise moment to employ it. I crock pot it.  If you haven’t given yourself this gift yet, DOOOO EEET!  I cannot express to you just how tender and gorgeous this formerly tough, chewy hunk of meat becomes after 8 hours on high--8 hours of cooking you do not have to be present for.  
Okay, start by reading through all the instructions.  Pull out all your aromatics.  I go for onion, garlic, carrot and leek. Pro Tip for onion cutting: do it last (duh), dump in a bowl and cover with a cold, wet paper towel.  This occurred to me as a naval recruit immediately after stepping out of the teargas chamber. As it was Illinois in February, we had had to wait days for this training exercise because cold wet air disperses the gas. 


Wage war on the bulb with Brawny.




Put them in bowls so they are handy when you have the hot pan going.  


 


This is called Mis-En-Place, basically meaning everything in place, ready to go. I mix kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl ready for rubbing on the meat.  I also mix my spices.  This go-round I’m experimenting with Penzeys Spices Forward! seasoning.  It’s like their seasoned salt, but without the salt, so I can control the amount the overall dish has.  







As Usual, I'm Smokey, Hot and Saucy



It’s made up of black pepper, onion and garlic powder, celery extract, paprika and a good amount of tumeric. Lovely, earthy, and evah-so-slightly hot but not overly so.  I add smoked paprika to nearly everything in the universe and the recipe calls for the traditional bay leaves that grace every soup and stew.
Oh, the hot pan?  Yes, this is the secret to successful Crock Potting.  Building flavor with a quick trip to the stovetop.  So a little oil in the pan and the aromatics hop in till soft.  I like to leave the leeks and carrots in a tiny bit longer for a bit of color, so I do these as a second batch and they all go in the crock as a nest for the hunk o’ beast. 




I like to deglaze the pan with some red wine and pour that in, then re-oil the pan liberally for the main event.
A word about The Taming of the Beasties.  


Warm up yer meat.  Take it out of the fridge before cooking, and if frozen, defrost in the fridge first.  Why?  No-one likes hopping from the A/C to the hot, mean streets, my friends.  We don’t and neither does our dinner, so give it a fighting chance or it will tend to seize up in an interesting and unattractive way.  It will also cook very, very unevenly.  Think spa treatment and everyone will be happier. Salt and pepper, pat lightly on all sides, and let it relax for a while.


Place the meat in the hot, oiled pan, then just leave it alone.  Sear it for color.  Sear it for flavor.  You will not be searing it to “seal in the juices”, as this is a myth.  Science has shown that this is not true, that the same amount of fluid is lost from seared meat as from meat placed directly in the long-term cooking vessel.  


But hummm-daddy, that Maillard Reaction, the gorgeous browning that imparts the incomparable flavor to seared meat will add that lip-smackin’ somethin’ special to your final dish.  You will need to turn the beastie, 5 minute per flat side, then use your tongs to hold it on the two long sides for a few minutes per. 




Voooy-ola!  Now just lay it on the bed of aromatics, deglaze the pan again and pour it over the meat.  


Pour in the requisite amount of liquid (I mix red wine and beef stock), place the crock in the machine, program and LEAVE IT!
BWOOOOHAHAHAHA!!!!!  Serious cooking, 1/2 hour of prep!
And that’s how I do (crock) pot.
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Of Darkness and Squash

Today I am not SAD.
It’s a +5 day.  I woke up a little late, cleaned the kitchen, fixed an omelet. I had three episodes of the new series Grimm TiVo’d, so I popped that on.  Grimms are a family of supernatural storybook character profilers, our star is one of the last few remaining and it’s set in Portland.  Two episodes in and I’m hooked.  I’m sitting in my jammies, tucked under a quilt my sister made me for christmas several years ago as it’s bloody cold, people.
It turned quite cold this week, and this is twirling up to be my second Winter of Disconnect.  Last winter I got cold. Freezing.  I needed sweaters and scarves and multiple layers.  When the chill set in this week, I was ready.  The minute warm gear hit Target in roasty, toasty September, I cleared out the jumpers section and the long-sleeved T’s to boot.  Friday I went to work, where I run like a rabid monkey all day and I still sported a T, jumper and my Citron shawl til nearly 2pm.  Which would be nominally annoying, season-wise, not a blip on The Scale. 
Until the Darkness sets in.
The Scale is a handy-dandy psychological diagnostic device, mine runs from -10 to +10 and describes how I’ve survived my day.  Which, when 6pm ushered in total darkness a couple weeks ago, sent me plunging further down the number line. My mind goes kinda blank and my heart sinks. Work has required more time and I thought it would help, but I’ve had to employ the energetically strenuous practice of mindfulness to maintain some positivity and connection to the world outside my hibernating brain. 
Mindfulness sounds like some tree-hugging, dirt-munching, new-age crunchy BS, but it’s a carefully formulated approach to grasping the last straws of my sanity in the dark wilderness of Winter.  I try to revel in events as they happen--dinner with friends, time with my parents, small things that mean connection to the outside world.  So when I inevitably forget things on a daily basis, I have these things to hold on to.  A second winter into Season Affective Disorder (SAD) and I’m getting a much better handle on it, so I have a lot more “+” days on the calendar. .
So really just a lot of blankness.  I get up, it’s dark.  Get through my day, leave work at 6.15 and it’s dark.  Drive home for an hour and while in Summer I reveled in sunshine and music and the open sunroof, I have discovered a new, deeper rooting to my SAD.  It is not as much a depression as anger.  Deep, abiding anger.  I feel betrayed by the Darkness. What I spent my younger life loving--the cold, the coziness, the holiday season, the sound of a storm at night when I’m inside--most of it I now find a grotesque imposition.  I am bitterly angry at the cold that is chilling me to the bone, the dwindling light, the night that swallows me daily.
It’s all about grabbing back the light.  Today is the first time I’ve been able to pull sentences together, culled from a few weeks’ worth of scribbled lines in my diary.  I’ve been knitting more--I’ve got a second sock going and Stephen West’s fabulous Daybreak shawl nearly done in A Verb for Keeping Warm’s Metamorphosis in Transnational Fury and Cascade Venezia in Black. Gotta keep warm!
My CSA veggie box provided butternut squashes several weeks in a row, so I learned to make soup, which was way easier than I thought and delicious.  I cut two of ‘em in half long-wise, scooped the seeds out, drizzled in olive oil, placed them in pyrex 9X13 dishes and roasted them at 375F for an hour.  Go do something else.  Get something done. Suddenly it’s not so hard when I realise it was 5 minutes of effort on the front end then letting it go it’s merry way.  It smells amazing and cheerful.  It comes out of the oven a dark and gorgeous orange.  
Scoop the lovely squash out into a pot then sprinkle with  2tsp Sweet Curry powder, 1 tsp Kosher Salt and 1.5 tsp Smoked Paprika, plus some hot sauce.  Then take your stick blender and a box of chicken stock, and having placed the pot over low-medium heat, blend away while drizzling in stock.  It will go from mashed potato consistency to a very thick porridge to a lovely smooth soup in less than 10 minutes.  
At this point, quit with the thunder stick and stir while heating the soup.  You may add cream at this point if you like, it creates a gorgeous unctuous bowl of warm deliciousness that will drive out the shadows of winter in no time at all.  I serve with a sliced baguette and brie.
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Of Fire and Shadow


The other day I put on brown eyeshadow.  Unimpressive, I know, especially considering the sheer amount of makeup I own and have tested. For every item in my drawer, I have probably passed on 3 pieces of briefly tested goods to friends and their nieces.  Then there are the ones which cannot be shared--all those mascaras I subjected my lashes to, assigning all the annoying ones in the bin.  So many foundations, concealers, liners, lipsticks and oh-oh-ohhh so many shadows.....

Rimmel's quads have been my recent discovery and I LOVE THEM.  Also checking out the 'new' winter Fiery Lips and Gloss trends, I picked up Maybelline, Revlon and L'Oreal glosses, and a Revlon lip stain in Gothic red.  The Revlon gloss is in Fiery, just bright and warm enough but not too yellow for a pale Irish girl.  I say "Trend" but have Red Lips ever gone out of style? It shifted to Orange over summer which I considered an affront to anyone with normal skin tones. 

288mlg
What? Really, Orange?


Now the fashion world has returned to it's Crimson senses.  But for Fiery Lips, one requires Neutral Eyes.  Thus Brown Shadow.
Glameyes Quatro
Glam'Eyes Smokey Brun

Which I have not worn in nearly ten years.  Thinking back now, Brown Shadow seems to be a Ten Year Cycle for me.

Something sniggled in my head as I walked the aisle, considering the Neutral shadows of Cosmetic Powerhouses, selecting the high-quality, versatile Rimmel one. Brown brown brown.  I have brown tops and sweaters but rarely wear them. I have brown pants, and wear them with green tops and red danskos. The bright reds of my hair are founded by a dark mahogany layer, but it's the boldness of the cherry red that people see.  My life is filled and surrounded by color, very little of it, save home furnishings, anything as bland as brown.

I've been chewing this over and over all weekend until I realised the Legacy of Brown.

Kathryn Sharkey would be 105 years old this year.  She married a Sicilian immigrant, Angelo Campello, and their first son was born in 1928.  Their second son was born in 1946, and he is my father.  His brother's children are much older than my older sister and I've never met them, but I've seen photos of the entire immediate family.  I introduce you to Kathryn here because we are the only two people in three generations who look alike.  Pale, creamy Irish girls, tendency to blonde and red, the only difference being our eyes and nose which my sisters, father, cousins and uncle all derive directly from our Sicilian heritage.  It's hilarious, really--we all look disparately different until you line up all the photos and follow the eyes/noses alllllll the way down the generations.

Then there are Kathryn (Grammy) and Me.  Growing up, once my parents bought our house and we moved from our apartment, I had a huge double-closet.  Half of it was taken up with storage of everyone else's stuff--a hideaway bed, boxes of--hell, I've no idea what was in there, but then--ohohohoh my, there was the Dress Up Stuff.

Hanging bags of Grammy's most glamourous clothes, a couple of hat boxes, clear plastic boxes of accessories and oooohhhh the furs! And if you ever see me in these, don't you dare throw red paint, these things are nearly 80 years old, those critters ain't never comin' back.

But what about the box of accessories?  Some pretty little powder compacts, a small box marked 'Mad Money!'.  And a small compact of brown powder.  On the lid was printed the name of a bank, so this was a premium for opening an account, like a toaster or a change purse, but such a strange thing to offer....

I would dress in these beautiful clothes with my tiny little sister, the two of us as adorably ridiculous as a Hallmark commercial, wearing an equally ridiculous hat of incongruous style, then crack open the little tortoise-shell shadow box and just fluff it on all over the place, then assault my sister with it.  It was just so plain. It was the past-- it was a box that closed, placed on a shelf and left.

Several years later I entered the realm of Adolescent Grooming, and unfortunately, this was in the 80's.  This was about the time Revlon created a black compact with a white hinged insert that would lift up and you could buy colors to pop in then click the white plate down to hold them into place.  Your choices were Pink, Baby Pink and Blue.  Which went with our Feathered Hair, Plaid Flannel Shirts and Stirrup Pants.  As I started my first job, my Grandmother Naomi decided to fix my errant taste with the gift of a color consultation by Beauty for All Seasons so I wouldn't be Wasting My Money and would Look Like a Lady.  

I was an Autumn, and ended up with a lot of green and brown eyeshadow. There was the brilliant Clarion Cosmetics computer system at the drugstore where you entered your eye, hair and complexion colors and it gave you number-letter combinations to find on their product packaging.  Lots of brown and gold. That christmas my family, in an attempt to lure me out of a closetful of black, bestowed upon me what must have been $400 worth of brown, cream, green and red clothing from Limited.  Didn't last long.

But as I said, I seem to return every so often the shades of Fall and forests and chocolate and deep wood.  Yet this time, I realised how I've come full-circle, or rather, realised that there is A Circle Unbroken.  Since Naomi passed last summer, I've spoken of her and the influence she had on my life as the person who was with me so often.  She also had style, a mid-century, cosmopolitan, international style full of clean lines and jewelry from foreign countries she had visited with Rotary.

Grammy, however, died when I was about 6 1/2, and while I remember nearly every single square inch of her beautiful home in Los Altos, 32 years later I remember precious little of her (except that she could apparently see through walls an entire house away,  knowing I was shoving peas under my mashed potatoes).  But the photographic evidence belies her early-century refined style.  I have her rhinestone and pearl brooches and jewelry which have stayed in fashion for nearly a century.  I cover our creamy, fragile complexion with levels of SPF unimaginable in her lifetime.  I still have her black velvet cocktail dress with a full circular beaded crystal collar. I'd need to lose about 110 pounds to get close to fitting into it, so I'm looking for a beautiful mannequin to display it.

And in order to assume the mantle of Beautiful Fiery Lips, we see this Circle described:  At the dawn of modern cosmetics, Max Factor and Revlon created a powerful, cultural icon in their Red lipsticks.  Think of a 30's Lucille Ball:

Lucille-Ball-Max-Factor-lipstick-ad-c-1930s
Not Just a Funny Dame

...or the 19-year-old Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not --black and white, but you know just how Red those lips are when she turns to Bogie...

Lauren_Bacall_by_AuroraMist

....she just puts them together and blows....


In all of those early black-and-white photos, Grammy's dresses and suits are carefully adorned with accessories and scarves and hats, her lips are that same Red-- the Revlon Red I stained my own with Saturday morning before work.  And her eyelids were the same smokey brown.

A Strong, Powerful, Fiery Mouth.

Stubborn, Proud, Resiliant Brown Eyes.

100 Years of Legends. Hope I'm living up to it.



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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WINNER WINNER--HOW TO MAKE DINNER!




So this contest was fascinating.  There were two comments, one from Kathy, a purple-crazed knitter with an envy-inducing garden who I love dearly and myveryown Jedi Jasmin.  JJ wants to tackle Candy.  This will become an area of continuing study, as neither of us has ever attempted wrangling what basically constitutes Culinary Napalm in search of Inner-Child Fulfillment.  
Kathy’s one comment spurred many others, the first of whom was Mary Kay Carol, a busy single mom, to approach me in the line of “She read my mind EXACTLY!!!!”. So to the Pink and Purple Ladies go The Prize.  As devout readers they own JoC and will receive a Spice Grant from You Know Where.  Kathy’s entry:
"My worst problem is getting started! Once I get started, I'm okay. I can easily psych myself out with "oh darn, I don't have enough time" or "well, I don't have the right ingredients and I'm not confident enough to substitute". I can plan forever on what I want to make, but get stuck even before I start pulling out bowls and pans.

Other than that, my next biggest problem is seasonings. I can taste and know that it's "missing something", but I don't know how to "fix" it. Ms.JoCF who works with spices all the time, help!”
A multi-faceted problem which will become the next few blog posts, and dovetail nicely with my promise of Mac N Cheese, as this will give you a foundation in these premises. So here we have the three most common problems that befall every one of us-yes, me- who venture into a kitchen:


1. Project Planning:  We see it in every third TV advert for convenience foods--At some point in our week, time may be against us, so we need to stock up on freezer convenience goods or plan, plan, plan. Then what? After we get to be very good at that focused weeknight game plan, on any given Saturday when we’re gagging lollies on the back patio, trying to get something new going in our culinary repertoire can be even harder to achieve.  Both parts of this problem can be solved with a little JoC Fairy Brand OCD Planning (TM).  Not really that OCD, but maybe a new approach to shake things up a bit and get you going!


2.  Substitutions and 911’s:  The Right Stuff problem can be approached with planning and organization, but we will take a look at 911 Substitutions and where to find Quick References.  We’ll also start to explore your creativity here, as this can help find ways around immediate shortages and last-minute situations.  


3.  Finding Your Flavor:  Here’s an idea I’ve been chewing on for a long time.  It's really been a dream of mine, and while we start looking into these other solutions, we’ll start building:
A Taste Dictionary for Your Tongue


einstein-tongue
...Yes, you read that right, and I am really quite confident we can do this.  


Q:  When people who have very little experience cooking come into a Spice Shop, are they:


A. Intrigued
B. Intimidated

Answer? Both.  Example:  They may have read that one type of cinnamon is considered the most refined or exotic among Gourmets and Chefs.  I gather the sniffer jars and introduce them to my secret guru: 




toco_toucan_parque_das_aves
M. Toucan Sam, Olefactory Consultant


Yah, you heard me.  Just Follow Your Nose!  What your senses tell you is delicious, what actually makes you happy or warm or turned on when you smell it is what is right for you!  We’re gonna start looking through some basic recipes and their required seasonings.  We’re gonna taste those seasonings raw, straight from the container, and begin to follow their flavor development through the end of the recipe. Remember the flour and seasonings in the White Sauce from last week?  After creating the roux with butter and adding the milk, the careful application of Heat + (Time X Whisking) = Creamy White Sauce which no longer tastes of raw flour and cold milk with a sharp dash of peppery blackness.


Once we’ve nailed where those more familiar flavors come from, we can begin to adjust amounts, then begin to add new ones.   From there you’ll feel more confident that since you used curry in this recipe that throwing a bit in that slightly similar recipe might  liven things up nicely.  You’ll find you really are a GENIUS!  
Because you are.  I encourage you to start a notebook and write it all down.  Make sections, use tabs and flags and colored pens if it makes you giggle.  These problems are presented as flat, one-dimensional predicaments solved in 60-second product commercials, but--BUT!!!!--AND PAY ATTENTION HERE!!! --- Food is important.  You are important, and you are way waaaay smarter and more capable than you probably give yourself credit for.  I can give you a couple of facile answers about making a menu and a shopping list and blah blah, but that’s handing y’all a fish today and not a pole to fish on your own forever.  
You can take these bits of information and start to build your own confidence. You will jump the hurdle into getting your dish started, learning substitutions and learning to build flavors.  From there, you are well-fed, you are loved, you are unstoppable.


Legal Notice:  No Toucans or Sams were harmed in the making of this Blog.  The Fairy does wonder, however, why Adrian Brody's image was included in the Google Image Search for "Toucan Photo".  Haunting, is all we're saying...
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