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 🙂

Advertisements

Holiday at Home – Delayed Final Update

Sorry to keep you guys waiting for my Holiday At Home finals! Let’s just say the holiday was so successful there was no time for blogging 😉

I’ll tell you a little bit about the last days of the holiday and then about the Result.

Now, where was I. Right. Friday.

Friday was a bit of a lazy one. I was still super efficient, but less so than the days before. I did go to the gym again, and again it was really tough! But I was proud for sticking it out. And then unfortunately it was cleaning time. Now, like most people, I’m not particularly a fan of cleaning. But I Love the feeling afterwards. The house smelling all fresh and looking picture perfect. Basically, the result is so much more awesome than the cleaning is annoying, that in the end I guess I kinda do like cleaning?

I dusted all our thingamabobs and cupboards, hoovered the whole house, and then I did a number on the bathroom. That’s the job I keep postponing but always needs doing the most. Our bathroom is really tricky to air out, so when I clean, I really need to clean the ceiling walls floor and then of course there is the scrubbing down of the shower, sink and toilet. Yay. But my gosh does it look lovely and clean! I took all the stuff outside so I could get to every little corner. I wish I had a high pressure cleaning thingy and could just hose down the whole thing in a jiffy, but I guess the cleaning up after might then take me a while. In any case, it’s done and it’s clean. Woopteedoow. After that, I couched.

But in the evening time we went out for drinks with friends in the Irish Pub! Ah, how I love my Guinness. And how I love the midnight snacks after, kebab!

Saturday the holiday feeling was slightly gone, it was just weekend feeling. Meaning the boyfriend was home, yay! We went into town and got this awesome sound bar for the television, with a subwoofer. The bass on it is genius, and it’s got a smart ‘night’ setting that is ideal for us apartment people, to keep our neighbours happy, that turns that said bass down and does other weird stuff. I don’t really know how it works, it’s the boyfriend’s thing. But I still think it’s cool.

In the afternoon I met up with a friend to celebrate her birthday with High Tea in a local cafĂ©, but more about that in another blog some time soon. And Sunday it was crafts day with another friend. Last time we did crafts day, we had some fun with paper machĂ©. I love doing paper machĂ©, because you can just keep adding stuff and mess about. But I never do it because I never manage to find that glue to use. Now, turns out you can do it with flour! Just add water, mix, and mess away! This time, we were going to paint our mess. Here’s the result before and after the painting:

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 13.53.46

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.31.36

What do you think? I’m quite proud really! The boyfriend even suggested we put it up in the house, so he must like it too 🙂

My holiday at home was a little bit of an experiment. My work was closed for a week, the boyfriend just started a new job. What to do what to do what to do… So I decided: a lot of sports, a lot of gardening, a lot of cleaning and a lot of cooking. It was the best. I got all these things done I’m otherwise struggling to plan into my schedule. I have a hedge, red current bushes, lavender bushes and roses planted and did up a little vegetable patch in the garden with leek, spinach and silverbeet. Our apartment looks sparkly and clean and for just a little while, it doesn’t remember what dust look like. I tried some new recipes and made samosas, and some of our all time favourites to stock up the freezer, like chilli. And I went to the gym 6 days out of 7 and am still trying! It’s nice to see myself make progress a little bit faster and it motivates me even more. I have to be honest, I don’t like the amount of time you have to put in to getting more fit, but I feel like it’s so worth it. My body hasn’t felt this tired in a long time, but I love it. It makes my mind so much more alert and I feel on top of this world. The holiday may have finished, but I am so ready for work again. This was exactly what I needed. Not a lazy relax holiday, but a super efficient and active holiday. I’ve done more work in the last two days than in the two weeks before my holiday! Success!

What stuff do you like getting up to when you have a Holiday At Home?

Holiday at Home – Day 2

I am totally getting everything I can out of my week of no work. This morning I went to the gym again. I have to say, this idea of had of going to the gym every day, I’m slightly regretting it. It’s a lot tougher than I’d thought. I used to have a super active lifestyle when I was still a waitress. On my feet at work all day, and in my free time to the gym with my bodybuilder friends. I could eat whatever I wanted and had never felt stronger and fitter. Yes, those days seem to be long behind me and harder to get back to than I had hoped. I’m still making good progress at the gym though, I think if I could keep it up I really could get back to my fittest self. But once work starts again, no more time for daily gym sessions unfortunately. So I’ll try to stick out this week and see how far I get. I wonder if I’ll feel a difference!

Now, I’ve told you before that the reason I work out, is because I like to eat too much. I do Not want to go on a diet because it makes me more than sad. So now that I have time for daily gym sessions, I also have time for extensive cooking sessions. Today I was in the kitchen for four hours! I made samosas for the first time ever, from my new Indian cooking book. It was a lot of work, also because our kitchen is quite small and I had to be very inventive with where to put all the bowls and cutting boards and oven dishes. But the result was amazing. I made two different kinds: one was a veggie one, with beetroot (first time I ever cooked beetroot; even though I love eating it, I’ve never bothered to cook it myself) and feta cheese and of course a whole load of spices like cumin and coriander seeds, the other was with lamb mince and even more spices, like ginger and chilli flakes. I served it with a nice salad in which I put some of the left over ingredients, like the rest of the beetroot, the feta, and some spring onions. Definitely a succes.

Unknown

I also did some more gardening, even though the weather wasn’t on my side. It was quite cold, and very windy. I hope my seeds didn’t all blow away. I cleared the space on the side of the garden for the veggie garden of all weeds and sowed some silverbeet. I also want to plant horseradishes and rucola, but I’ll have to wait until May for those. I then started digging the little ditch to plant the hedge tomorrow. My goodness, I am still amazed at the volume of dirt that comes out of the ground! It’s like the soil quadruples once you shovel it out! Our garden is now full of boxes with dirt in them, which I can’t move anymore because they’re too heavy. I’m seriously wondering if I’ll be able to put all the dirt back once the plants are in the ground. Well weird. I also found a lot of potsherds, unfortunately none of them antique. Otherwise I could’ve opened a serious museum by now. Maybe even become rich. Oh well.

The boyfriend is now doing the dishes (such a hero) and I am finally sat down. I have to say, I am even more tired than I was yesterday! And so are my legs! But I’ll try to go to the gym again tomorrow. Then plant the hedge. And also do some cleaning. No rest for the wicked!

Happy Sunny Ramblings

Yes! Finally! It has happened! Ladies and Gentlemen, Spring Has Arrived!

My goodness you have no idea how much I’ve been craving for this. Or if you’ve been following my blog, you probably do, as I often complain about how I miss the sun. And not just the sun, but the possibilities it brings. Coming home from work when it’s still light out, it changes your whole day. I feel like doing stuff in summer after work, rather than just sitting on the couch and relaxing, I want to go for walks and do some spring cleaning and garden and cook and just listen to music in the sun. And that’s the funny bit. In winter, when I don’t do anything I get frustrated. But in summer, doing nothing is the best and makes me feel amazing.

Yesterday, it was that first day of sun-laziness. It was 19 degrees out and super sunny! So I put out the picnic blanket in our tiny little garden and just lied about. Bit of music, cup of coffee, maybe a book for a while… Ah, the life! I felt on top of this world! (And sunburnt by the evening, so I bought myself some new sunscreen.)

Today, the sun has gone again, but I am ready for its return. We went out to buy a hammock 😀 It was a bit of a disaster to build the stand, but it’s up now and ready to be used extensively! We also got some extra gardening equipment and later this week (I have a holiday from work this week) I will go to the garden centre to buy a few small plants for a hedge. Exciting! And then I can also start planting some veggies. And a berry bush!

I have a massive to-do list for this holiday week. And I feel like, if the sun does indeed stay out, I might just actually do all of it! I have to urgently clean the shower, go through my papers to see if I haven’t missed some important stuff, do that gardening, and I am planning to do some awesome cooking. I am going to try a shrimp curry, samosas, and I’ll also make a big load of chilli to put in the freezer in one-person portions for a lazy day. Painting is also on the list, some sort of super colourful paint splash out. I’m really excited to get started, but oddly enough, even though I am well excited, I am still sitting on my butt on the couch and have been doing so for the last two hours.

Time to get up! Off I go 🙂 Oh yeah, and not to forget: I’ve challenged myself to go to the gym every day of the week! Let’s see how it goes, I’m looking forward to giving you a hopefully very succesfull update 🙂

Cooking or experimenting: My Stew

Lately I have been talking a fair bit about food. I guess that is still one of my favourite hobbies. So maybe I will start posting some recipes on here! I would like to add another page to my blog for all the recipes, but since I have still not figured out how to add posts to a page that is not the main page, I will put my favourite yums here.

Today: my stew! I would like to give it a name, like Guinness and Apple Stew. But I have to be honest, I tend to change around the ingredients a fair bit and sometimes one flavour is so much stronger than another time, so I’ll just stick to My Stew.

As with any of my recipes, feel free to mix and match. My recipes are always based on a sound basic recipe and then you make it your own with a few spluts of this and a sniff of that. So here’s just one of the many ways to go about it:

MATERIALS

  • Large cooking pot
  • Cutting board
  • Potato skinner
  • Something to stir
  • Yup, this is gonna be easy!
  • (Maybe a can opener for your tomatoes)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1kg of diced beef (or stoofvlees as it is called here)
  • 6 potatoes
  • (maybe 1 or 2 sweet potatoes as well, or to replace to of the normal potatoes depending on how thick you want your sauce to be)
  • 2 or 3 apples
  • 1 can of whole tomatoes. Or if you feel confident, try some fresh ones!
  • 1l of beef stock (I use stock cubes in water, not because it tastes better but just because it is easy)
  • 1 can of Guinness (if you want your stew to taste like Guinness a lot more strong, replace some of the stock by more Guinness, and you can also add a little bit of soda-bicarbonate, because oddly, I find it adds to the Guinness flavour)
  • A bunch of carrots
  • You can also add other veggies, like parsnips, … I like to add peas right at the end to add a bit of colour
  • A few twigs of rosemary (or a leaf or 2 of laurel for the more traditional cooks)
  • Oh yeah, and an onion. Duh.

PREPARATION

  • Skin the carrots, potatoes, apples, and anything else you want to add and cut them into big chunks.
  • Cut the onion into pieces and glaze them.
  • Make sure your fire is piping hot when you add the meat: you just sort of want to scorch it closed on all sides (which means almost constant stirring) so that the blood does not come out anymore. On the inside, the meat will still be close to raw.
  • Now add the fluids: stock, tomatoes, Guinness.
  • Add your veggies. Be careful: anything you add now (except for carrots and large chunks of parsnip) will mostly disintegrate into a perfect thick sauce. If you want your stew to have more chunks and less thick sauce, either don’t cook it for a day or leave some veggies out and put them in only one hour before serving.
  • Now you let it simmer for a day. 3 hours works as well to be honest, but then you will have to boil it a bit harder and use your stirring device to sort of mash up the contents.
  • About two to one hour before serving: add the rosemary or laurel. (Feel free to improvise with other spices and let me know how it goes! I usually like it with only rosemary, but who knows what heavenly combination you come up with.) Don’t forget some pepper.
  • About ten minutes before serving: add peas.
  • Serve with bread and salted butter.

I would love to hear how your version of My Stew turns out, did you add anything else or change anything? Have fun experimenting!