Do you have a hobby you love? One that you’ve dabbled in over the years, but then with the onset of COVID-19, delved into more and more. That’s how I feel about cooking. Today, in this post adapted from a speech I gave to my Toastmasters club, I’ll share with you some of my favorite kitchen stories, tools, triumphs, and failures.
Let’s Get Cooking!
When I was a child, I’d often stay for the weekend with my Grandmother Shuler. Once I got to watch her as she made her famous pound cake. She’d take the butter out of the frig and let it sit out on the counter, in the bowl of her stand mixer, at least overnight. She explained she did that so the butter would soften up.
The next day, she’d take every ingredient and line it up on the counter. Years later I’d learn that was what chefs called setting up a “mise en place.” As the cake finished baking, she’d make a tart lemon glaze to pour over the hot pound cake.
Not every dish was a hit – I STILL, to this day, cannot stand the taste and texture of lima beans – but my love of cooking started with Grandma Shuler in her country kitchen.
Today, in my Forest Acres kitchen, I’m creating my own culinary memories. Join me in a tour of my kitchen, won’t you, and let’s get cooking!
When we first enter the kitchen, you’ll see the vast quartz countertop which divides the back room and makes a nice square shaped kitchen. It makes a wonderful prep area where I chop all my veggies. Always on the counter: either my Air Fryer or my Crockpot, depending on the season.
And I adore baking. Years ago, my parents gave me a KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer in Empire Red – the Cadillac of Mixers. That wonderful appliance has turned out endless cakes and batches of Christmas cookies.
An awful accident
Last year I experienced one of my rare cooking fails as I used the mixer. I happily envisioned myself on a cooking show as I measured out all the ingredients for a carrot cake and put them in dishes, ready to use. I even went ahead and measured out all the cream cheese frosting ingredients and put those on the counter in little glass bowls too. Gordon Ramsey would be proud!
As I set the full cake pans in the oven, I turned around to begin cleanup. I noticed there was still a bowl on the counter – of what? It was FLOUR. I left out the Flour. But I knew I had mixed something white in! I had mixed in the four cups of confectioners’ sugar, set aside for the frosting, into the cake batter!!! I quickly yanked out the pans, threw it all back into the mixer and mixed in the flour. It actually came out well – the top was just a tad caramelized. Nobody tasted a difference. The only difference was visual: I didn’t have enough confectioners’ sugar left to make enough frosting for the sides. It was a near-naked cake.
Blood sugar up; Time for Keto
A lifetime of baking and sweets has raised my blood sugar, so I’ve stopped baking and I’m doing keto. So, what dishes am I preparing? Well fortunately Turkey is low-carb, and perfect for holidays. I decided to go all out on a Turkey this year for Christmas. We usually have ham at our holiday meals – because of the eight of my extended fam, seven prefer ham. Guess who prefers turkey – me! So, since I was cooking, I decided on Turkey for Christmas Eve lunch.
I found a super deal on ButcherBox.com and quickly ordered the turkey. But – my brother’s five weren’t coming for Christmas. I put out of my mind the fact that I purchased a 15-pound turkey for three people.
I cleared out an entire section of the freezer for it to live in until the Sunday before Christmas Eve. That Sunday I moved the turkey to the frig to start thawing.
On Thursday I created a beautiful brine and submerged the turkey in a huge turkey bag with the gallons of brine. It soaked for 18 hours. Early Christmas Eve morning, I dumped out the brine, cleaned the sink THOROUGHLY and let the turkey soak in a sink full of water for 30 minutes, to scrub off some of the salt.
Then I dried it off, shoved quartered onions, garlic and rosemary up its arse and trussed it up for a four and a half hour stay in the oven. I used an entire half cup of melted butter as my basting liquid throughout.
That turkey was DELICIOUS. Even my Dad, who dislikes turkey, couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. And the drippings made the most WONDERFUL gravy!
As I continue my Keto journey, those wonderful Turkey leftovers have helped immensely – Turkey/Broccoli casserole and Turkey Vegetable Soup. As I explore new recipes, I continue to set out the ingredients before I start cooking, just like Grandma did. But now, I make sure I have the ingredients lined up, in order.