Cooking at Eldrbarry's
Home cooking is an art that needs reviving. Many people now have grown up with "eating out", and never learned how to prepare meals at home, especially from scratch. I work in a grocery store and know that even when most people eat at home, it is often already prepared or partly prepared "convenience" foods they eat: frozen foods, deli foods - hot and cold, prepackaged salads, Hamburger Helper, Mac & Cheese, Rice-a-roni, etc., not to exclude all those beverages, snack foods and chips.
I started cooking in the mid 70's when my daughter was born - usually on my nights off - since I worked swing shifts. My chidren grew up tolerating Dad's dinners. Mom was good for comfort foods - honey baked chicken, meatloaf, tuna noodle casserole, etc. Some of these came from the recipe box of her mom, Anna Refnes Gaston. My wife also makes excellent pancakes, waffles, and cookies. After our "nest" gradually emptied - Paul and Sarah came and went for a decade - and with my wife working many evenings, I started cooking often since I would frequently get home first. When friends come over - often for Game Nights - or for potlucks, frequently I prepare the food. I enjoy cooking and even find it relaxing after a long day at work.
Often I have less than a hour to get dinner ready. The key is to figure out what to have for dinner early in the day. I generally do the shopping. I try to keep a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer. We have a open air produce market a block away, though it closes in the winter months. I like trying new things - so sometimes when I get ideas from my books or magazines for something, so I will get the things I need, couple of days ahead. Sometimes I will happen upon something - like fresh fish or something on sale, etc. Sometimes I will just poke around what we have on hand. It is generally a good idea to know what's for dinner or whose cooking the morning before. Then when I get home, I can start right in.
In the Spring of 2007, I started a Kitchen Journal. In it, usually two weeks to a page, I've recorded what I've cooked (mainly for dinner) sometimes with notes as to where I found the recipe, or variations I made to the recipe. There is one 8 month gap in 2009 where I seldom cooked due to my work schedule. I also record our eating out. Sometimes I've filled a past week's entries at the same time, with a bit of head scratching. But having the journal is useful. I can look back through for ideas for dinner. I can look back to find where a recipe was. It also reveals our trends in eating.
In addition to this page, Eldrbarry's Cook Book Pages also has:
Here are some links I use in searching on line for recipes:
Cooks.com . . Food.Com (Recipezaar) . . RecipeSource . . CooksRecipes . . AllRecipes . . Epicurious . . Rodale . . Emeril's "Green" recipes
Sunset . . Cooking Light . . Cuisine at Home . . Food and Wine . . Bon Appetit
And for locally grown ingredients: Puget Sound Fresh . . Washington Farmer's Markets Association . . Seattle Chef's Collaborative
Sno-Isle Natural Food Co-op, Everett . . Central Market, Mill Creek . . PCC Natural Markets, Seattle AreaFood choices that emphasize delicious, locally grown, seasonally fresh, and whole or minimally processed ingredients
are good for us, for local farming communities, and for the planet.
Here are some of my favorite cookbooks and why..... and coming soon, some of our family's favorite recipes.
The basics and getting started in the kitchen. . .
First of all, every kitchen needs a "bible" - a book that you can turn to when you have questions on what or how to prepare something.
Then there are the books that inspired us to better and healthy eating...
MyPLate Resources: Food Guides and Healthy Eating a web page on what should or shouldn't be on your plate.
The Stir Fry Stage - Learning Cooking with a Cleaver and Wok....
- The book that inspired us in the 70's was More with Less A cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre which I brought home from the RPCES Synod Meetings in Grand Rapids in 1976. Five Hundred recipes from Mennonite kitchens that tell us how to eat better and consume less of the world's limited food resources. Plenty of plain, good recipes using normal ingredients that you would typically have on hand in your kitchen to prepare from scratch nutritious meals that are cost effective and delicious. Lots of our family's favorites came from this book. Probably a must-have!!
- The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters. Her philosophy: buy local, high quality ingredients, and cook them simply. She then proceeds to give very explicit directions on how to cook things. What makes her recipes unique are the variations that she provides for each, and she does a very good job of explaining where you should improvise and where you should not. For more on Alice Waters, see below.
- How to Cook without a Book by Pam Anderson. This book teaches you all sorts of technigues for preparing dishes based on available ingredients and simple cooking techniques with plenty of flexibility to use what you have on hand. Each chapter consists of a simple technique, basic recipe, variations, key points and a little mnemonic device used to recall the technique. Such as Steam - Saute, Pan Sauces, etc. This is another Must Have!!
This author continues to be a favorite of mine:
The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great offers a sensible weight loss strategy - that we have combined with the Flat Belly (or Mediterranean) Diet effectively. She wrote The Perfect Recipe which got her a James Beard Award, The Perfect recipe for having People Over and CookSmart: Perfect Recipes for Every Day
- Julia Child and James Beard are two well known cook book writers. Their attitudes towards cooking are a part of their popularity. Julia Child was dedicated to simply good cooking - taking ordinary everyday ingredients and with a bit of love and imagination turning them into something appealing.She is also currently well known because of the movie with Meryl Streep enthusiastically playing the TV chef which was based on a blog turned into the book Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell. What Julia Child was to French cooking, James Beard was to American - he had a lifetime of experience with an emphasis on lightness, freshness, flexibility and surprise. I have books by both, haven't used them much, but need to get into them more. Here are a couple that might be useful for novice cooks:
James Beard's Simple Foods and
Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking. For more elaborate sampling of their cookery try The New James Beard or From Julia Child's Kitchen
- Our copy of Farm Journal Country Cookbook (Now out of print) is quite stained and worn. It has been used a lot.
In the early 80's, watching Wok with Yan, a TV show with Canadian Chef Stephen Yan inspired me to learn Stir Fry. (His books are now out of print.) It taught me how to "stir fry": i.e. how to cut veggies with a cleaver, mix up a sauce with tapioca starch, cook in a wok. Stir Fry with fresh veggies, a little meat and a tasty sauce over rice continues to frequently grace our table. I have a copy of The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. Martin Yan (No relation to Stephen, but a former employee) has a PBS show Yan can Cook and Sunkist has some of his hints.
Emeril Green is our current favorite cooking show.
Making Soups or Stews for dinner along with some bread or muffins began in the 80's.
Breads go right alongside soup or stew.
Usually there is isn't time to make bread, but muffins are great, for breakfast or alongside dinner ...
Recently I got a bread machine. They are almost too easy to use, but take some planning ahead.
The Cooking Magazines have provided plenty of inspiration and new ideas. . .
The Salads stage started recently.
And some New Trends in Cooking at the McWilliams'
Italian Cooking and Pasta
The Mediterranean Diet - (Prevention Magazine's version The Flat Belly Diet is what we used.) And yes, it's working, combined with walking 2-3 miles a day. We have both taken off about 15 pounds in a month!
Other books of interest:
See my Going Green for our "personal food revolution" via The Mediterranean Diet; Leafy Greens and Vegetarian Cook Books; and Growing Our Own Greens
- The Wycliffe International Cookbook is a useful book I gave my daughter when she was an International Messengers missionary in Hungary, it was especially helpful in offering substitutions for ingredients not available there.
- Gourmet Game Night by Cynthia Nins
- Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen by Amy Pennington is a practical guide for country and city folk who want to make better use of their kitchen, garden, and time. Amy Pennington offers great tips on shopping, food storage, canning, and gardening, along with creative recipes and lots of helpful explanations of ingredients and technique.
- The Locavore's Handbook The Busy Persons Guide to Eating Local on a Budget by Leda Meredith is a very practical book by an urban dweller that might help you in implimenting local foods into your diet.
- A Twist of the Wrist: Quick Flavorful Meals with Ingredients from Jars, Cans, Bags, and Boxes by Nancy Silverton. Aims to simplify meal preparation through use of canned and boxed ingredients without resorting to the worst of processed foods.
- Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson. Using the "natural foods" now widely available in co-ops and supermarkets, this book shows to become confident in a "whole-foods kitchen" by experimenting with alternative flours, fats, grains, sweeteners, and more. See also her Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen .
- Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Laura Krissoff. Fresh and new ways to preserve nature’s bounty throughout the year.
- All about Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking by Molly Stevens
- Best Slow and Easy Recipes: More than 250 Foolproof, Flavor-Packed Roasts, Stews, and Braises that let the Oven Do the Work by Cook's Illustrated
- Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison.
- The Food Substitutions Bible: More Than 6,500 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment and Techniques and Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tricks: 5,000 Ingenious Kitchen Hints, Secrets, Shortcuts, and Solutions by David Joachim
- The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs Definately the better book of combining ingredients and their flavors!
- The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook by Niki Segnit. Uncovers the essential flavors of food, and organizes them into 160 basic ingredients. This book is also full of quirky observations, practical information (hundreds of recipes are embedded in the narrative) and more than a few good jokes.
Contact Barry McWilliams at BMcW@eldrbarry.net