Pinterest Failures – Improvised Cooking

A few months back, a friend introduced me to Pinterest and I became wildly enthusiastic about trying new things, mostly for cooking, gardening and DIYing. But so far, the results are just slightly off course 😉

You see, I lack any sense of perfectionism. Like seriously, if you look up the opposite for ‘a perfectionist’, you find my name. Which comes in handy once in a while. At work for example, you don’t find me stressing about finishing stuff and working until 11.59pm on the day of a deadline. At some point, I’ve simply had enough, and that’s when my work is finished. Which has always worked for me so far. (Although the question if it will actually get me as far as writing my dissertation and actually finish this PhD remains a bit of a wild guess.) Also, I do not get the point of cupcakes. I love baking, but for me it’s all about the flavour. And I do think I sort of got the hang of that part. But cupcakes usually are just boring cakes with insane decorations. And I just don’t have the patience for those decorations! Or actually, I’m not sure if it’s patience related, I might just not see the point for them 😉

Now for Pinterest, this has been a bit of an issue. Whenever I try to make recipes on Pinterest, I just sort of look at the picture and the title, and then go to the shop to buy ingredients. When I come home, I realise there’s more to the dish than its picture told me, and I start improvising. I do this really often, improvising dishes just from a first recipe glance, and usually they turn out fine. But the thing with the Pinterest ones is that I’ve been trying some rather new stuff. And it doesn’t always turn out the way I expect.

The other day, I wanted to make Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas. Now, I have no idea what black beans are. This happens to me more often when cooking of English recipes. I’m not a native speaker, and when it comes to food, I simply lack vocabulary. For example, I still don’t know what lentils are. I haven’t really come across them in Belgium, so I have NO idea what they are called here and where to find them. Also, I have this suspicion that sour cream, which is really hard to find here, might just be the same as platte kaas (which is something we consider a cheese rather than a cream). But let’s get back to the Enchiladas. I went for kidney beans instead of black beans. Also, salsa verde: never heard of. I asked a friend of mine who studied in Spain for a while. She said it’s a green paste. So I used pesto instead. Another one: green onions. I assumed they were spring onions, but I have to say, the spring onions really didn’t work in this dish for me. They totally overruled all the other flavours. The sauce also turned out way too salty because of the stock I was using. And I could not figure out how to wrap up the enchiladas so they wouldn’t fall apart as soon as I tried transporting them from oven dish to plate. Needless to say: not the best food I’ve ever had. But I will make it again though, this time my way. Mostly, I need to figure out something with that sauce. And get rid of the spring onions.

Yesterday, I tried making Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna. Sounds delicious, right? Well, I have to say, it was! I did pimp the recipe a bit though. You see, as I was grilling my mushrooms, I realised the recipe wanted me to make a roux-like sauce out of it. As much as I like my rouxs, I did not see how I would bring this to a good end. I was using a wide low pan to grill the mushrooms, and the recipe wanted me to add flour, and then whisk trough milk. This would end in roux splatters all over my kitchen. So I just threw in some platte kaas which I still had lying around in the fridge and added just a little bit of flour to thicken it. As it turns out, when platte kaas is heated up, it just sort of disappears. There was no sauce to be seen. How mysterious! I also added a tomato sauce to the dish. I figured that both a roux (or not) and ricotta cheese as only sauces, might just make a bit too creamy for my non-cream-loving boyfriend. So the result: a vegetarian lasagne with mushrooms, spinach, tomato sauce and ricotta cheese. Not bad I must say! A lot lighter than your usual lasagna because of the no-roux, and the ricotta cheese makes a wonderful alternative for this! Although since this was a vegetarian lasagna, I might just add a few more veggies next time. Maybe some courgette and fresh tomatoes? Or some celery in the tomato sauce. Umm, I already want to start cooking again just thinking about it!

But thanks to Pinterest, I totally found a love for lasagna. I never used to make lasagne because I always figures it’s waaaaay to much work. But it’s actually quite allright. You do have to make a few sauces, but because the lasagna has to go in the oven for a while, you can clean up the kitchen while you wait for the lasagna to cook and it makes the whole event of cooking a lot less stressful. If you would see the state of my kitchen sometimes when I’m cooking, you would understand. It’s like a bomb exploded in there. And if you then have four pans on the hob of things that need to be cooked at the same time, and then put on a plate before they get cold, and then want to eat them, it’s like freaking armageddon. None of that while making lasagne though!

I also tried a Zucchini Lasagna, where you replace the pasta with courgette (or zucchini, whichever way you like your English) and add loads of veggies. I figured this would add a lot of juice to the dish, and to fix this, they suggest you add a little bit of quinoa underneath each layer of zucchini. Didn’t really got rid of any of the juice it seemed, but man that was a tasty dish! (I did just make a normal lasagna tomato sauce though, rather than the weird turkey thing with a jar of basil tomato sauce like they suggested. Instead: diced onion, garlic, chilly, mince, red wine, canned tomatoes and tomato paste in that order. Perfect tomato meat sauce, I tell ya!) So to remember for next time: this one needs serving in soup bowls, with a big piece of brown bread to sop up the saucy soupness.

What are your experiences with Pinterest cooking? Any recipes I should try? Are you an improviser too? Or do you know what happens if you follow these recipes to the letter? I’m curious to hear about your stories 🙂

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Tech and Games for Non-Geeks

I’ve gotten myself a Fitbit! Why? Really, it’s the boyfriend’s fault. Have I mentioned how he loves his tech toys? Not in a million years would I have guessed I’d be living in an apartment with a television that big. Or even a television at all. I always do everything with my laptop and my phone. That’s the only tech I need. I never buy anything new until one of those two falls apart completely because I don’t like spending money on that stuff. But now the boyfriend has all this fun tech that he gets so enthusiastic about and it’s so contagious!

For example: I now watch him play Playstation games. Let me tell you, I am not a gamer and don’t think I’ll ever be one, but watching those story games is just like watching a super long movie and playing a board game at the same time. It’s something really fun to do together if you also happen to have a partner with a much higher level of ‘geekiness’ (which I use in a very loving way) then you have yourself. I for example really enjoyed Firewatch, about a ranger in a national park where someone disappeared, and some weird stuff happens. I also weirdly enjoy Hitman, because it’s kinda like an interactive Bond movie. You go to different places like Bangkok, where you get a target and a bunch of information, and you spend your game trying to find ways to get to your target without being caught and all that. Great fun! I tried playing it myself once but man, those controls are tricky to use! It’s much more fun having the boyfriend do the hard work while I just watch and make suggestions. And that way he gets to do his thing and play games, and I get to do my thing, which at that point is sitting on the couch and figuring out stuff, think riddles like in escape rooms and all that.

Also, he now has this super fancy super fast gaming computer (which he got under the pretence of needing a faster computer for editing his videos, as of course, he’s a bit of a vlogger) with some really fun simulator games. (This is when I found out that name The Sims comes from the fact that it’s a simulator game 😉 ) Once in a while, I enjoy a good Cities Skylines marathon. (It’s kinda like a new Sim Cities, but better apparently.)

I even didn’t let my old phone fall into pieces before I got a new one! Well, new one. My phone was starting to get slow and it didn’t really have much space for all the apps I like using (most of them recommended to me by the boyfriend, of course), so naturally the boyfriend had another phone lying around that I now get to use, an LG G3. Bigger, faster, newer. It does the trick 😉

And my latest addition: a Fitbit sports watch and activity tracker! The boyfriend somehow managed to get a free upgrade from his dad’s old broken Fitbit, and ever since he’s been super conscious about his physical health. We’ve always tried to be healthy, go for walks and runs and eat decent food, but only to the point where we enjoy it. We’re definitely not fitness freaks and still love our pizza and chocolate, but we’ve found it does help us to be happy if we’re healthy. And now, we’re really trying to change our lifestyle for the better!

This Fitbit also has a great app where you can have a little energising social network. The boyfriend’s been doing these challenges with his colleagues to see who gets the most steps and all that, and it really makes him get out and about more. For me, I always enjoy going for a run but I never really know if I’m making any progress, because I always end up running longer and longer but never really any faster it seems. Also, rather than just training on cardio, I should really try to burn some fat if I want my general fitness (which isn’t bad at this point really) to get any better. I’m overweight, so the best thing for me to do is train on a slightly lower heart rate until I have a more healthy weight. And then, my general fitness should start improving like a rocket. But obviously, apart from checkin my level of ‘red face’ in the windows of the houses I run passed, I have no idea how hard I’m actually training. So finally, now, my brand new Fitbit Surge tells me all I need to know! It tells me my heart rate, how fast I’m running, and on top of all that it also does the daily activity tracking and it’s super user friendly app totally let’s me keep on top of my health, which so far, I’m really enjoying.

Whether I’m enjoying it because it’s a fun tech toy and the idea of being active is sort of game-ified or I’m just enjoying being more active, at this point I don’t think it matters. All I know is that I feel healthier, happier, and I hope I’ll keep enjoying it like I am now.

So even for people generally suspicious of tech who might think, just like I did, that ‘you don’t need any of this stuff to be who you want to be, or to be happy’, I say true. But it definitely a lot more fun to have than I expected 😉