Whew!! Y’all-2016 is almost behind us, PRAISE!
For me, this was a year of a lot of highs, and some lows. My husband and I bought a house together (a dream of mine since I was a kid), I got to work with more amazing food styling clients than I could have dreamed, and I rediscovered my passion for being on camera and helping people navigate this journey we call home cooking.
But 2016 also had its frustrations- recipes that FLOPPED hard in our kitchen; cooking burnt food for some of our first-time dinner guests; and a fight against all-out frustration throughout the year that life wasn’t perfect (in lots of areas) like I had envisioned and wished for.
Then, lightbulb moment. I realized-thank you Lord- that the imperfections- the things that go wrong, my own lack of knowledge, my zoodle FAILS and the frustrating feeling that nags me daily to err on the side of perfection with food and forgo the real relationships that should be fostered instead- those are the things that I hope to share, and help you, work through.
And that’s what I want 2017 to be about for Luv Cooks. Sharing honestly about what didn’t work, what DOES actually work and the tips that have helped me along my journey toward thriving in the kitchen. And I’d love your input! Please comment or shoot me a Facebook message on what questions you have and what you want to see on the blog.
With that, I give you my Top 5 Cooking FAILS and TRIUMPHS in 2016:
Let’s give the bad news first: FAILS!
- Trying new recipes with “company”: Growing up in a Southern household, whenever we had friends and family over my parents always referred to them as “company.” For the longest time I questioned this- “Why on earth are business people coming over? This is just Harvey from down the street.” But what they meant by that was “These are people that deserve love, respect, and taking the time to make them feel special while they are with us.” Now that I am older, I appreciate and treasure that lesson. So, don’t be like me and attempt to make vegetarian curry for friends that you’ve never tested and it turns out feeds TWO instead of SIX. Also, make sure you have ice cream in the freezer for “company” and that your apple crisp doesn’t actually taste like lemon juice surprise.
- Zucchini Noodles: For the LOVE, I can not figure out how to make these work. I have tried Paleo style, Blount family style- and geez louise every time I make these they taste like soupy veggie water.
3. Water in chocolate: I was cooking for an event this year that required lots of my Gluten Free Toasted Pecan and Coconut Brownies, which I love. Well, you know what chocolate doesn’t love? WATER. Batch after batch was seizing (turning into a crumbly mess) and I had no idea why. I would make a batch, throw it out, wash my bowl, and start again. Lightbulb. Because of my frustration, I wasn’t taking the time to fully dry my bowl and water was wreaking havoc on the melting chocolate step. KEEP YOUR BOWLS DRY!
4. Flax Eggs. Y’all, flax rhymes with AXE. That’s what happened to every recipe that I tried to use flax eggs as a substitute for the aviary variety. Literally, my blueberry coconut pancakes looked like coconut mush dog food.
5. Inadequate cooking spray: **Embarrassment alert** I was on a food shoot this year making Vivian Howard‘s (who I loooveee) pecan pie. Well, I diligently stirred together the homemade pecan crust, carefully patted it into my pie pan and filled it with yummy pecan filling. Fresh out of the oven, it was beautiful. I arrive at my shoot and go to slice the pie- not happening. It felt like a brick had hijacked the spot where my crusty pie should be. In response, I began hacking at that pie like a deranged sugar addict. Yes, you guessed it, the pan was improperly sprayed/greased and the photographer ended up having to PHOTOSHOP the crust on the pie. Yep, I’m that professional.
Hope abounds! Successes WERE had and here are my top 5 favorites:
- Coconut flour. I love, love coconut flour. It’s a great fit for gluten free recipes. It tastes rich, is great for you, and has a nice texture. It’s also awesome to “bread”/toss veggies in before you roast them, and I like to add about a tablespoon of coconut flour to my smoothies to give them a coconut flavor.
- Kerrygold butter: One of my dreams came true this year as I got to work on a commercial for Kerrygold Butter! Praise. The theme of the commercial was holiday baking with Kerrygold butter, and before this shoot, I wasn’t very particular about my butter. I am now changed. THIS BUTTER IS AMAZING. It’s a totally different shade of yellow, makes all the difference in shortbread cookies, and makes things so wonderfully tasty and flaky, especially when a recipe only calls for a few ingredients. Love it!
3. Homemade broth: Making homemade broth has become both therapeutic and stress-relieving for me. It’s also an amazing use of leftovers. Just throw some chicken or turkey bones and skins in a slow cooker or large stock pot (preferably bones you have pulled from a roasted bird that week, or have in the freezer from a past recipe), leftover veggie scraps (whenever I chop for recipes, I throw my onion scraps, garlic skins, extra carrots in a plastic bag in our freezer) and enough (filtered) water to cover your goodies. Let that simmer for 24 hours, then strain and pour into a glass jar. It should keep for a week in your fridge, or you can put it in a freezer-safe bag in your freezer. If your birds were organic, you can even skim the fat that collects on the refrigerated broth and use it to saute or roast veggies or other meats! SO AWESOME.
4. Veggie bowls: Making these has radically upgraded our weekly lunches and made me feel like a healthier human being. A great recipe for them is on Jen Riday’s page.
5. Frozen Peas: Frozen peas are life-changing. Turns out that frozen snap peas are more than likely fresher frozen than they are at your local market. Peas begin losing their flavor the moment they are picked, so frozen ones tend to retain that flavor (and avoid the shelf-life starchiness) that grocery store peas can have. One of my favorite peas recipes is from America’s Test Kitchen: Gravy Training Blog
Ok, that’s this week’s tips and tricks my amazing readers! I hope you have such a great holiday weekend and amazing start to your New Year.