First Attempt

As it turns out, I didn’t use either of the two cookbooks I bought, nor the shelf-full of cookbooks that we had, nor the NomNomPaleo app on the iPad. I decided that good cookery should involve spur of the moment inspiration. And by spur of the moment inspiration, I mean that my husband asked me to pick up milk and butter at Costco and I promptly brought home three gallons of milk and two dozen eggs, which I put into the refrigerator next to the three dozen eggs that he bought the day before. So the inspiration here is: I need to use up some eggs, y’all. I thought to myself: Frittata! I have so much French blood flowing through these veins, surely I will intuitively make an amazing frittata. Wait… is a frittata French? Let’s not look that up. Let’s just roll with it.

eggs

It was the end of the week, and I felt that Friday was an excellent day to begin cooking. After picking up the kids from school, we headed to the grocery store where I needed ingredients for my frittata… except eggs. I was so proud of myself that I decided I needed a reward. For attempting dinner Friday, I would plan on baking King Cakes over the weekend. I absolutely love to bake cakes, and even more I love to decorate them. For some strange reason they always come out splendidly, unlike my attempts at dinner. (This is also one of the reasons I was so pleased with my frittata idea. I mean if it’s mainly eggs and you use and oven, it’s BAKING, right?) So, with my mouth watering at the idea of my absolute favorite King Cake recipe, I turned down the baking aisle. Back to this ill-fated diversion in a bit.

The girls and I made it home, and I was congratulating myself and them on their good behavior as we shopped, probably due to the big bag of Pirate’s Booty I agreed to open for them to eat as we walked, but hey, I’m not above bribery. We headed into the house and I sat down with my oldest to help her with homework. My husband texted as he was leaving work and asked if I needed him to pick up anything from Trader Joe’s (which is directly below his office). I proudly told him that I’d made an HEB run with the girls, and I was all set. Then I stood up to double check my recipe and my heart dropped. I’d gone to HEB with the girls. I’d bought groceries. Groceries that included cream cheese for the king cakes. Groceries that were still sitting in the the back of my car an hour and a half later in almost 80 degree weather. (Hashtag: February in Texas). I went flying out to the car and rescued the groceries, decided that if the cream cheese wasn’t warm to the touch it was probably FINE, and put everything away.

I pulled up the frittata recipe on my phone and scanned down it once again. “Cook until edges start to pull away from the pan. 5-7 minutes.” Oh, awesome! This is going to take no time at ALL. I’ll just wait until Eric’s almost home and get it started, so it will be hot. He texted from a couple of miles out, so I pulled out the ingredients and started chopping onions. As I pulled out the spinach, my brain said: “Mmm… Spinach and feta… so good.” Wait. Feta. The feta I went to the store to get… but then I decided to make king cakes and… dammit. I texted Eric and asked him if he could pick up feta right as his key turned in the lock of the front door. He graciously offered to run get some, and I continued cooking. I had finished it all up and was feeling rather pleased with myself and impatient with him to get back, so I ran my eyes down the recipe again. “Cook until edges start to pull away from the pan. 5-7 minutes.” My eyes kept scanning to see if I had to let it cool. “Bake at 350 until set, 16-18 minutes.” ARGH! Eric walked back in with the cheese, and I sheepishly told him that dinner was going to be a while.

frittatafixins

In the meantime, I poured the delicious eggy concoction into my Pappaw’s cast iron skillet and waited for the edges to pull away. The timer went off at 5 minutes and it didn’t look like it was pulling anywhere, so I sat down at the laptop to begin regaling y’all with this story of championship culinary skill. Some time later, Eric said, “Um, that smell is the smell of eggs about to burn.” Oh, FOR THE LOVE! I jumped up and went over to move the cast iron skillet to the oven. Funny thing about cast iron. It’s made of cast iron. Like all of it. Including the handle. Physics is real, y’all. Eric grabbed a dishtowel and gracefully deposited the pan into the oven while I shook my wounded hand all the way to the sink and plunged it into the cold water from the faucet.

Impressively, some pretty delicious smells started filling the kitchen. When the timer went off, I pulled out the cast iron skillet (using silicone hot pads– I CAN be taught!) The frittata looked fluffy and delicious. I cut into it and tried to scoop up the slice. Most of it came up. The rest was firmly burned to the bottom. With the second piece, I decided to get serious with it, so I grabbed the handle of the skillet to really get some leverage. Turns out physics was still working! (So “taught” might’ve been a strong word.)

burntfrittata

I proudly placed the bottomless slices on the table before my family. After grace, my husband took a big bite, and said, “This is great!” You can’t believe a word he says, I think he’s trying to sleep with me. My oldest who exists on crackers and air exclaimed, “This is amazing!!!” Eric said, “She now officially eats more things that you cook than I cook.” I was feeling pretty darn fantastic about winning over the picky eater, until my youngest, who usually eats anything and everything, took one bite, looked at me with tear-filled eyes and spit a huge wad of half-chewed frittata onto her plate. To be fair, she was so exhausted from school that week that she had fallen asleep and had to be woken up for dinner. I’m sure that was it… it had nothing to do with the spinach that she sullenly stabbed with her fork for the rest of the meal.

Overall:

  • 75% of the family ate and seemed to enjoy it.
  • I only made 25% of the family cry with my cooking.
  • I just burned myself twice and the bottom of the entire frittata once.

Sure it was BASICALLY baking, but maybe I figure out how to cook after all. And also grocery shop. And read ALL the directions.

I’ve got this.

Probably.

finishedfrittata

 

Chef Prep

A few days after deciding that I wanted to learn how to cook, I announced to my husband: “I’m headed to the bookstore to look at cookbooks.”

“You know, everything is online now. If I feel like using a recipe, I just type in some ingredients and a ton of recipes come up and they’re all rated. Plus, we have NomNomPaleo on the iPad.”

I looked at him blankly, “But… the bookstore.”

He shook his head and sighed, so I happily picked up my keys, gave him a kiss, and practically skipped out the door. The first step to truly enjoying your bookstore experience is of course caffeine, so I swung by my favorite tea shop and ordered a Texas-sized Pacific-Coast-black iced tea. Yes, my cute little tea shop uses “Texas-sized” as an actual measure. Y’all and your venti trenta foolishness can just take a step back.

I walked slowly and let my eyes run down the shelves, before admitting that I had no idea what I was looking at (Betty Crocker? She makes good cakes. Does that parlay into chicken picatta? What is chicken picatta?), so I plopped down in the middle of the aisle and started googling “best cookbooks for beginners.” The first hit was an article which listed How to Cook Everything as the first suggestion. “That seems… ambitious,” I thought uneasily. The second book was called The World Atlas of Wine. “Now we’re talking!” I started looking for the book on the shelf before realizing that there probably wasn’t anything in it to cook, but then again at least I would have great direction on something to do WHILE I cooked. I’m pretty sure what’s good enough for Julia Childs is good enough for me. The third suggestion was the Cake Bible. First, I can already bake, second… I wonder what flavor Cheesecake Factory cupcakes they have today at the in-store Starbucks?

I decided this site wasn’t helping and tried the next one in the search criteria. They, too, wanted me to know How to Cook Everything, and then suggested the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, whose red checkered pattern I recognized immediately. I’m pretty sure someone gave me that book for a wedding present. I’m equally certain that I butchered (no pun intended) any of the recipes I tried from it. It’s a pretty fair bet, since I once ruined beans… from a can.

At that point I decided that the internet was unhelpful and there were too unknown variables in this section, so I went to a more reasonable part of the bookstore and flipped through Hidden Figures until I ran out of tea.

As with so many things in life, I do better if I don’t over think things, and just kind of fall into them. So while my planned trip to the bookstore for resources didn’t bear much (okay, ANY) fruit, going to Costco to take advantage of a sale on a TheraPure HEPA filter fan that was on sale, yielded a brand new cookbook, whose main draw was that the picture on the front was of the tall and thin authoress, and I’d love to be a foot taller and look that fantastic in the red dress she’s wearing, so we’re PRACTICALLY bosom friends already! It also had words like FIT! and CLEAN! and promised things within a limited number of days (28!), and we all know how great those work out!

fednfit

Later, when taking a weekly wander through Half Priced Books, I decided again to peruse the cookbook section. After flipping through several books, at least one of which smelled strongly of smoke, which I decided meant very bad ju-ju on the cooking skills front, I found a huge book from Williams-Sonoma called Cooking at Home. Williams-Sonoma?! I LOVE Williams-Sonoma! They have the greatest aprons and that really lovely smelling lemon soap! Surely this will have good recipes. Besides, it was full color, and my Instagram addicted brain reasoned that if pretty pictures can be taken, the food must be delicious! Right?

wscookbook

Finally, while blowing dust off the cookbooks that are stacked in the darkest corner of our pantry, I found Tim Ferriss’s The Four Hour Chef. I have a strong affinity for Tim Ferriss. His whole brand is built around “life hacks” and learning new things as quickly as possible before moving on to conquer the next mountain. This jack-of-all-trades, learn-all-the-things mentality is basically my life’s blood, so I pulled his book down. The introductory title in big bold letters read: “6 Reasons to Read This Book, Even If You Hate Cooking (As I Did).” Oh, Tim, I always knew deep down that we were soul sisters! I used a paper towel to wipe the rest of the dust from the cover and added it to my stack.

4hrchef

Now I suppose the only thing left to do is wash all my cute aprons. If I have learned nothing else from that first book I picked out (and I really haven’t learned anything else, because I haven’t opened it yet), one of the keys to good cooking is looking fabulous!

Allons-y!

A New Chapter

I’ve got a few new cookbooks, a burnt orange apron, and a blog to document the fallout. What could possibly go wrong?

I used to write a blog called Dainty Cate. It was all about my adventures homeschooling my young girls and included a pretty personal look at my life through several health crises. My girls are growing up (tweenager in the house… please pass the Shiner!), we made the decision to move them into a local Catholic school, I started working a part time, and I found that some stories were no longer mine to tell. I saved all the stories and pictures from the early years of our family and shuttered the blog. My identity as a full time mom, a homeschooler, a blogger, was suddenly gone. The transition out of our home and into a brick and mortar school was a bumpy one. Tears were shed, teeth were gnashed, but we now have two happy children who love their friends, teachers, and new adventures. We are in the homestretch of their first year, and only now have I finally had a chance to take a deep breath, have a good look around, and decide which direction I want to explore.

My husband, meanwhile, has been so supportive as the girls and I up-end everything in our world. No matter how chaotic things get these days, one thing we can always count on is coming home at the end of a crazy day and sharing an amazing dinner. My bearded chef discovered years ago that cooking was relaxing for him, and with tears of gratitude in my eyes I handed over the dish towel that I had probably been using to fan smoke out of the house, and he swung it jauntily over his shoulder and started dividing ingredients into more tiny glass ramekins than the Cooking Network uses in a week of programing. The man is a veritable marvel. He has an innate sense of flavor combinations and rarely uses a recipe when concocting his latest creation. However, he has been a long time musician right here in the Live Music Capital of the World, and now that the girls are getting older, he is beginning to put more time and energy back into that life. I’m thrilled for him and love the chance to get out and enjoy any of his current bands in our beautiful city, but this also means that solo nights are becoming more frequent.

While the girls delight in the nights that Mom cooks (“Yay! Mac ‘n cheese, again!”), I’ve decided now that I’m on the downward slope of my thirties it might MIGHT just be time for me to attempt to cook something for my family beyond the same five fallbacks I’ve been throwing together since college (beans and rotel, mac n cheese from a box, chicken fajitas, chili, and cereal– just in case you’re keeping score). This is a big leap of faith for me (and everyone planning to gather around our table for that matter), as nearly every time during our early married life that I attempted to open a (wedding gifted) cookbook and branch out from the five old faithfuls, things ended with the smoke detectors shrilling, me in a puddle of disappointment on the kitchen floor, and an emergency call to pizza delivery.

I’ve got a few new cookbooks, a burnt orange apron (Hook ‘Em!), and blog to document the fallout. What could possibly go wrong?

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