Sometimes Life Throws You A Curve Ball

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Life has a funny of way of going off course when you least expect it. One minute everything is humming along and the next minute you find yourself in a tailspin. That was my life just a couple of weeks ago.

Back when I was pregnant with my children I was diagnosed both times with gestational diabetes. I was very strict with my diet and did everything I could to make sure that my children were born healthy and without issues. Both times after delivery my GD went away and I was back to my old self however, I knew that down the road I was at a higher risk of developing pre-diabetes or worse, Type 2. As with many things in life, even though you KNOW the risks you sometimes put those aside and carry on in the hopes that you’ll be fine and not have to worry about them. But then, life throws you a curve ball.

I hadn’t been feeling great for a week or two and I was noticing some unusual things with myself such as an increased thirst, frequent urination, feeling more tired than normal, and slightly blurry vision when reading small print. Independently I wouldn’t have thought much of either one of these but the fact that they were occurring together started to raise a red flag. I knew what to look for when it came to high blood sugar so on a whim, I decided to test my sugars to see if something was going on. Up until that point my sugars had been in the normal range and all seemed fine with my health but then I saw 328 flash on my glucose monitor HOURS after having eaten and I almost fell on the floor! Just as reference, a normal person should be under 140 two hours after eating. Here I was probably 8 hours after eating and I was in the 300’s. Not good. Not good AT ALL.

My first reaction was panic. My second reaction was panic. And well, my third reaction was panic. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I was so nervous that my sugars would go even higher and if they did, I knew I ran the risk of feeling worse. I felt completely out of control, like I was in a tailspin with no way out. At first, I didn’t say anything to anyone, not even my husband who I share EVERYTHING with because I was afraid I would panic him. I also felt like if I said it out loud it would make it real and I really wanted to be wrong about this. I really wanted to live in denial for just a bit longer. By the next night after tossing and turning, crying in private, and panicking all day I finally told him. In hindsight, I wish I did it right away because being able to talk with him about it and cry on his shoulder was the only thing that started to finally calm me down. I am so thankful to have him to lean on, he’s my rock, and he got me through the panic so that I could take the steps needed to fix this.

I was faced with two choices, fight or flight. I wasn’t going to take this lying down or put my head in the sand about what was happening so I made the decision to immediately overhaul my diet, it was the best (and only) thing I could do to make a quick change. I cut out white flour and sugar, all junk food, and anything processed. I ate lean proteins, plenty of veggies and fruit, and I drank nothing but ice water. I started to feel better almost right away. I also saw my endocrinologist who put me back on Metformin to help to bring my sugars down and control them. Surprisingly, within just 4-5 days I had dropped five pounds and my sugars were coming down little by little. It was such a relief and it felt great to start to feel in control again. Making the immediate changes that were necessary to protect my health was the smartest thing I could’ve done and now just a few weeks later, I’m feeling better and still doing everything I can to get myself healthy for myself, my husband, and my children.

I consider this my wake-up call. I am 42, not getting any younger, and I can’t afford to neglect my health. So as part of these lifestyle changes I’ve also decided to join a gym because regular exercise is a great way to keep your sugars in check. I’m also overhauling how I cook because I can do better in the kitchen. That doesn’t mean that all sweets and goodies are forever off-limits, it just means that they need to be more of an occasional treat instead of an everyday thing. I want to set a good example for my kids and keep them and my husband healthy too! We’re in this as a family so together we’re trying new foods, new recipes, and new mindsets about the food we eat. I know it won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

Going forward my blog will still include lots of yummy indulgences and goodies but it will also feature lighter, healthier treats and meals too! Whether you have a health issue or not, everyone can benefit from making better food choices. I feel like I was lucky in that I recognized the signs and was able to catch this early so now I have a second chance to do better and that’s exactly what I plan to do! This curve ball was what I needed to realize that it’s time I take care of me because I don’t want this ride to end. I want to be around for every minute and every moment with my kids and I want to be 100 years old sitting on a rocking chair with my amazing husband and looking back on the awesome life we had together. So with that said, here’s to trying new things, doing better, and making a change!!

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Meal Planning Made Easy

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For most, meal planning is the trickiest part of cooking and understandably so. It’s hard to think about what your want for lunch tomorrow let alone for dinner a week from now. Even I have found myself staring into the abyss of my fridge and freezer wondering what I can pull together at the last minute for dinner. But then I discovered meal planning and my life got a whole lot easier real fast! If you take the time to meal plan you eliminate that 5:00 panic where you’re scrambling to find something to get on the table for your family. I love knowing that I have a diner plan every day and more importantly, that I have all of the ingredients that I need on hand as well. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom like me or a working mama having a meal plan will absolutely make your life so much easier.

It might take a little work to get your meal planning going but once you build up a base of “go-to” recipes it’ll be easy peasy going forward. Go through your cookbooks, Pinterest pins, bookmarked online recipes, and magazine clippings and pull together a handful of recipes that you love or want to try. They can be quick and easy meals or even fancy schmancy dishes, whatever works for you. Next, put those recipes into a simple binder so they are all in one place and easily accessible. Then take a handful of index cards and on the front write down the name of one dish and on the back list the ingredients needed to prepare it. Do this for at least 15-20 recipes in order to get you started. Once you have a nice little handful of cards place them into an index box and now you have a collection of recipes you can access quickly when planning your meals for the week. If you’re feeling ambitious, throw a few index dividers in there too and make sections – chicken/poultry, beef, fish/seafood, pasta, side dishes, quick meals, Crock-Pot, etc.

I like to do my meal planning on the weekend but choose whatever day works best for you. Before I decide what to make for the week I like to look ahead and see what my schedule looks like and I make notations on my menu to indicate if we’ll be eating out on a certain day or if we have activities scheduled where I might need a quick meal on the table or nothing at all for that matter. I just grab a small sheet of paper, label Sunday through Saturday, fill in my meals for the week and then I hang my menu on the inside of my cabinet so I know exactly where to look to see what’s for dinner. My menu usually looks like this:

Menu List

To get your menu planned for the week simply pull a few cards from your recipe box, put the cards in order of when you plan on cooking them and then flip them over to write a quick shopping list based on the ingredients needed for each recipe. A good tip is to base your menu around what ingredients you already have in the house OR plan around what is on sale in the supermarket. Once you have your menu planned out and your shopping list in hand the rest of the week will be smooth sailing. Every week try to add at least one new recipe to your collection in order to build it up so that you have more choices from week to week. Rotate your recipes and menus as often as you like.

A few other great tips for meal planning are:

  • Stretch your ingredients – Try to choose meals where you will need to use the same ingredient more than once in a week, this cuts down on waste and trims your grocery budget too.
  • Incorporate Crock-Pot meals into your menu – They are quick and easy to pull together and when it’s time to eat dinner your meal is hot and ready to go. These types of meals are especially good on days where you’re running around all day, working late, or just pressed for time when it come to dinner prep. Crock-Pots are great for making sauces, stews, soups, roasts, and more!
  • Use up your stash – Check what you have on hand and use what you have before buying more. If you have a lot of chicken in your freezer, make a few chicken meals one week. Heavy on beef? Focus more on beef dishes.
  • Cook once, eat twice! – Try and make a few meals where you’ll have leftovers that can be used to create a whole new dish for another night. For example: A pork shoulder will make a ton of shredded pork, use some for sandwiches one night and use the leftovers on another night for shredded pork tacos.
  • Make big batches of dinner staples – Soups and sauces are great to make in big batches as they freeze well for later use. When you want pasta once night it’ll be as easy as defrosting some homemade sauce and boiling the pasta. For soups, just defrost and heat up. It doesn’t get more simple than that.
  • Designate an all day cooking day – Spend an afternoon prepping meals that you can use throughout the week OR freeze for later use. A vacuum sealer is a great thing to have in your kitchen because it’ll keep your frozen food fresh and freezer burn free. Check out my blog post, Kitchen Must Have – Vacuum Sealer , for more information on vacuum sealers.
  • Theme Nights –  This keeps meal planning fun and allows you to narrow down and focus your cooking. Try things like Meatball Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Breakfast for Dinner Wednesday.
  • Make the first meal of your week the easiest – Everyone is tired on a Monday, you don’t want to be standing in the kitchen stressing over a complicated meal. Make a quick pasta dish or a Crock-Pot meal and keep your Monday a little less hectic.
  • Prep basic ingredients the day you food shop – Portion out meats and prep veggies and fruits so that when you go to cook throughout the week everything will already be chopped, diced, portioned, and ready to go!
  • Keep a well stocked pantry – Having a few staples always on hand makes cooking and baking a breeze. Check out my blog post about Pantry and Fridge Essentials to help you stock your house.
  • Shop the sales – Plan your meals around what is on sale that week to save money. Also, take advantage of great sales to stock up on pantry and fridge staples.
  • Getting dinner on the table isn’t about starting from “zero” every night  – Use any time that you might have throughout the day to get things ready for dinner later. For example – Prep and shape your meatloaf in the morning so at dinner it’s just a matter of putting it in the oven, peel and cut up potatoes in the afternoon and leave them in a pot covered with water so at dinner you just have to turn on the stove.
  • Not every dinner has to be a from scratch meal – Take advantage of shortcuts and store-bought items to help make things easier. There are some really great ready-made foods available that will cut down on your time in the kitchen but still allow you to serve a delicious dinner for your family. Some things to try are frozen veggies and fruits, ready-made pie crust and pizza dough, and pre-cut veggies in the produce section.
  • Get to know your grill……………year round! – A BBQ grill is a great way to cook because it’s quick and there is no cleanup. No pots and pans and no mess in the kitchen. You can make everything from burgers to quick pizzas on your grill and have a hot meal on the table in minutes.
  • Stuck on what to make? – Try out the Allrecipes “Dinner Spinner” app! Just plug in the ingredients that you have on hand, what type of meal you’re looking to make, and how much time you have to cook and it’ll shoot back a few meals ideas for you. It’s a fabulous app to make use of because aside from the Dinner Spinner you can also access hundreds of recipes, tag your favorites, and even create a custom shopping list!

There are so many benefits to thinking about your meals and planning ahead of time and once you get in the habit of meal planning it will be come second nature to you. You’ll have less stress at meal time, you won’t overspend on groceries you might not use, you’ll eat healthier, you’ll reduce food waste, and you will save yourself valuable time in the kitchen. All good things! Once you get the hang of meal planning you can even try to plan other weekly meals such as lunch. If you work, planning out what to bring from home for lunch every day is a great way to eat better and save a ton of money in the process. Use these tips and tricks to help guide your meal planning but feel free to implement a system that works best for you and your family.

25 Common Mistakes in the Kitchen That You Might Not Realize You’re Making

oops-1432954_1920.pngMistakes happen to the best of us but when it comes to cooking certain mistakes can quickly make or break your dish. Overwork your potatoes and instead of creamy mashed potatoes you will have wallpaper paste. Boil instead of simmer and you can end up with food that is dry and tough or mushy and flavorless. It is crucial that you follow a few important tips and guidelines when cooking or baking so that you obtain consistent, delicious results in the kitchen every time. There is nothing worse that spending money on ingredients and valuable time in the kitchen only to end up with a meal that falls flat. Follow these few simple rules and you’ll be a kitchen pro in no time!

  1. Not seasoning your pasta water – Generously salting the water will allow the pasta to be seasoned internally. As it cooks and swells it will absorb the salt flavor which makes for a better tasting dish.
  2. Not reading a recipe through before beginning to cook – It is imperative that you read through a recipe before doing anything else. Familiarize yourself with the steps and ingredients and make sure you have “everything in its place” (mise en place) before getting to work. You don’t want to dive into your cooking only to realize when you’re halfway through that you’re missing an ingredient or that you missed a crucial step.
  3. Not using a meat thermometer – Miscalculating if meat is cooked through is the difference between a great meal and getting sick. An instant read thermometer is a great, inexpensive tool to have in your arsenal so that you have perfectly cooked meat every time.
  4. Mishandling egg whites – Egg whites are an extremely delicate and finicky ingredient. Take care to whip, mix, or fold them as directed in your recipe. Do not overwork them, ensure that no yolk gets into your white because fat is the enemy of whipped whites and always use room temperature eggs so that you achieve the proper aeration and height.
  5. Using butter that is too soft – When baking, make sure your butter is softened only enough to where it gives just a little when pressed. It should not be a super soft mushy mess, overly soft butter will result in improperly baked treats and it will also cause your cookies to spread in the oven.
  6. Boiling when you’re suppose to simmer – When a recipe calls for something to be gently simmered do not try to rush the process by boiling it. Rapidly boiling delicate food that is supposed to be cooked low and slow will cause it to be unevenly cooked, too mushy, or even tasteless. Alternatively, your food could also come out dry, tough, and overcooked. Simmering may be a longer cooking process but it will result in a better finished product.
  7. Overcrowding the pan – Overcrowding will cause the temperature of your pan to decrease and food will not sear or brown properly. Also, too much food in the pan means more moisture will be released and instead of browning your meat or vegetables, now you’re boiling them. For food to cook evenly it needs to have good contact with the hot pan so make sure to leave a little room and cook your food in batches if you need to.
  8. Overmixing dough and batters – Overmixing flour releases gluten which can give baked goods a firm, elastic structure which you do not want in delicate pastries and cakes. Go slow and use the low setting on your mixer to avoid overmixing.
  9. Cooking with a cold pan – If you add food to a cold pan it will adhere to the pan like glue however, if you have a nice hot pan your food will release much more easily and brown nicely.
  10. Adding garlic too early – Garlic browns in about a minute, add it to your pan too early and you’ll end up with scorched, burnt, bitter garlic.
  11. Not letting your meat rest – That beautiful steak you just grilled will be a lot more juicy and flavorful if you let it rest for about 10-15 minutes after cooking. Resting your meat gives the juices a chance to redistribute, cutting into it too soon will cause those delicious, flavorful juices to just pour right out of the meat. What a waste!
  12. Not tasting your food as you go along – Taste, taste, taste and then taste some more. Check your seasonings and adjust as needed. There is nothing worse than serving an overly seasoned or under seasoned dish. Always taste your food!
  13. Overworking your mashed potatoes – Mashed potatoes can go from fluffy, creamy and delicious to glue in seconds. The more you work your potatoes the more starch they will release, this starch will cause your potatoes to become very gummy and glue like. Gently mash your potatoes and then mix them just enough to incorporate your seasonings and achieve the right texture.
  14. Turning meat too often or too soon – When your meat is properly browned it will release itself from the pan or grill. Trying to turn it too soon will cause your meat to tear. Gently nudge the edge of your meat, if it releases it’s time to turn, if you’re tugging and the meat isn’t giving, let it go a few minutes longer. Also, resist the urge to constantly flip your meat. Just leave it alone and let it do its thing, you can’t rush the process by constantly moving it around.
  15. Measuring dry ingredients in a liquid measuring cup – Liquid measuring cups, as their name suggests, is for liquids only. You will not be able to measure with any accuracy if you use the wrong tools for the job.
  16. Using the wrong knife – The right tools make your job much easier and won’t damage the food you’re trying to cut. A chefs knife is a great all-purpose knife that’s perfect for dicing and slicing firm ingredients, a paring knife is good for peeling and removing seeds and pits, and a serrated knife is used to slice delicate pastries, breads, and soft skinned fruits and veggies like tomatoes and plums.
  17. Boiling your pasta in a pot that’s too small – Crowding your pasta pot will result in mushy, sticky, clumped pasta because there is not enough room for it to move around while cooking. Also, when the pot it overfilled the water temperature will drop substantially and your pasta will not cook properly.
  18. Storing tomatoes in the fridge – Temperatures that are too extreme (cold or hot) will damage the delicate cell walls of the tomato leaving you with mealy, inedible tomatoes.
  19. Using very lean ground beef – There is nothing worse than a dry meatloaf or burger, don’t be afraid to use meat with a little fat to it, most of it will cook off anyway. The fat acts as a basting agent during the cooking process which means you’ll end up with a juicy, flavorful, and rich piece of meat.
  20. Using a tiny cutting board – You won’t be able to properly maneuver your knife or corral your diced ingredients if your prep area is too small. Use a proper sized cutting board and give yourself some space.
  21. Your breading doesn’t stick to your food – Make sure you follow these simple steps: First dredge in flour, then dip in your liquid (egg, buttermilk, etc), and lastly coat with breadcrumbs.
  22. You remove the Crock-Pot lid – Every time you remove the lid you’re letting valuable heat escape and in turn, increasing your overall cooking time.
  23. Making random substitutions in your baking – While cooking affords you a little more leeway when it comes to substituting ingredients baking is a very precise science. Increasing, decreasing, or substituting ingredients at random can (and will) affect the final product. Unless you have a through understanding of how baking ingredients play together it’s best to stick to the recipe.
  24. You overheat your chocolate – You should always melt chocolate slowly and on low heat. Rushing the melting process or cooking over higher heat can scorch the chocolate or give it a grainy texture. When using a double boiler, make sure your water is simmering, not boiling. If using a microwave, be sure to check on the chocolate every 20-30 seconds, giving it a stir each time.
  25. You don’t know your oven – If you cook even a little bit you need to become intimately familiar with your oven because they all have their own quirks that you need to account for when using. To ensure your food cooks properly you may need to adjust your cooking time, temperature, and/or the placement of your racks. If you think your oven might not be holding the right temperature, get yourself an inexpensive oven thermometer to see if it’s running too hot or too cold.

Why You Should Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

“By starting small, you can build the foundation that eventually leads to confidence in the kitchen”.
– Author Unknown

Children should learn how to cook. Period. At some point our cute little humans will grow up to be adults who will need to have a basic set of life skills in order to function and take care of themselves. Cooking is without a doubt one of those basic life skills. I would like to think that when my kids are grown and out of the house they will be able to do better for themselves than a bowl of cereal or an icky frozen meal. I want them to have enough knowledge and experience in the kitchen to be able to pull together a few simple dishes on their own without having to rely on prepackaged foods from the supermarket. I also want them to one day be able to prepare great meals for their own families and for that to happen, it begins with me.

I’ve been cooking and baking with my kids since they were toddlers, which I know sounds young, but they used to love being up on the counter helping to stir and mix ingredients. Helping me cook really made them feel useful and good about themselves. It is simple tasks like these that become the foundation from which you build up their skills and confidence in the kitchen as they get older. Every small task they accomplish is another step towards gaining independence in the kitchen. My daughter is almost 9 now and when she sees a dish in a restaurant or watches a cooking show her response is usually, “I think I can make that Mommy! Can we try to make that?” and it’s because she’s gained enough confidence in herself and in her skills in the kitchen to want to try. That confidence and belief in herself will carry her even further than just being able to cook, it’ll help her in life.

Got picky eaters? Involving kids in the meal planning and cooking process is a great way to get them to try new things and broaden their palettes. As a mom of two picky eaters myself I completely understand the challenge other parents face in finding foods that kids will actually eat. My daughter, who inspects every fleck of food on her dish, can be impossible to deal with at meal time. Recently, she took a cooking class where she made something called “Veggie Yakisoba” which in a million years I would never think she’d eat. Aside from the veggies it was made with soba noodles, an ingredient she’s never had before, so I was sure she’d resist that dish at every turn. To my surprise, she dove right in and ended up loving it! I know for certain, had I made that same dish and served it to her she’d turn up her nose but because she was involved in the process of cooking it she was intrigued to try it. It’s nice being able to add another food to the short list of things she will eat. So instead of fighting with your kids about eating and stressing yourself out, involve them in the process so that you’re working together to make mealtime a more pleasurable experience.

Cooking and baking with your kids is also the perfect opportunity to teach them a little math. Allowing them to measure ingredients is a great way to reinforce concepts such as adding, subtracting, and even fractions. Mathematical concepts when used in “real life” tend to stick with kids much better than when just seen on a page. You can also show them how recipes can be converted from the U.S. standard of measurement to the metric system and vice versa. Teaching them how to halve or double a recipe is another great way for them to stretch their math skills. Cooking, while fun, is also an excellent learning experience for children. Don’t miss these teachable moments in the kitchen!

Healthy matters! As you cook together, talk to your children about healthy eating habits and healthy foods. Show them how you can make their favorite treats even better by using fresh, wholesome ingredients instead of all of the junk that is in prepackaged foods.  Who needs to eat gross things like guar gum, carrageenan, and 40 different types of dyes? You will find that your kids palettes can change quickly and before you know it, they will prefer the healthier made foods more than the store-bought ones they were once used to. Show them how you can easily make your own cookie dough, granola bars, snack mixes, and more which I promise will taste better than anything from a store. Got a green thumb? Try growing a small garden together so they will have a bounty of fresh ingredients at their disposal to turn into delicious meals. There is nothing better than a summer warmed cucumber from your own garden! Start them on the right foot early so that later they don’t have to struggle with food issues.

Lastly, cooking brings families together. Being in kitchen with your kids is a great way to slow down, connect and make memories. The cell phones are away, the TV is off and you’re all focused on a common goal which is to make a great meal to share. This time together is the perfect opportunity to talk to your kids about their day, about their dreams, about anything under the sun. Relax, smile, laugh, and make beautiful memories together. The times you spend with your kids in the kitchen will be the times they remember when they look back on their childhood. Learning to prepare treasured family recipes and cooking alongside elders will undoubtedly become some of your children’s most treasured memories.

There really are no drawbacks to having your kids in the kitchen. Sure it might take a little longer to pull a dish together but in the end it will get done and your kids will have learned another skill, gotten another boost of confidence, and taken another step towards becoming an independent, functioning adult. Bonus for you? Maybe one day when you’re older and your kids are grown you’ll be able to sit at THEIR kitchen table and have them cook you a delicious, homemade meal. Then you can smile and give yourself a little pat on the back for a job well done because you paved the way for them to be confident in the kitchen.

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Get in the Kitchen and Get Your Cook On

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“This is my advice to people: Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun”

– Julia Child

Not only do I adore this quote, I live it. Every. Single. Day. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to be a chef to cook well. You don’t have to attend culinary school to cook well. Heck, you don’t even have to have grown up in the kitchen alongside your great grandma Agnes to cook well. The ONLY thing you need to do to become proficient in the kitchen and cook well is summed up perfectly in Julia’s quote. You need to be open to learning, you need to take risks and try, you need to learn from your mistakes (and their WILL be mistakes) and you must have fun. It really is that simple. If you’re afraid to fail and you dread being in the kitchen than you’ll never get any better. But if you keep yourself open to new challenges and you learn to enjoy the process of cooking instead of just the destination, you will soar.

I wasn’t born with a burning love and desire for being in the kitchen however, my experiences growing up in a big Italian family definitely helped to foster a love of cooking and baking. I loved the way food brought our family together whether it was to celebrate a holiday or a milestone. No matter the event, somehow everything centered around food in some capacity. My paternal grandmother had this way of always making people feel welcome around her table. She didn’t have a big gourmet kitchen, she had just the basics, but whether two people or twenty showed up at her house she would be in that kitchen whipping up a pot of sauce or some other simple Italian dish for everyone to enjoy. All were welcome at her table morning, noon, or night. She would feed you and love you and make you feel like family.

My grandparents were of the “kids should be seen but not heard” generation so I distinctly remember being at their house with all of the adults gathered around the table drinking, laughing, and talking while all of the kids were off playing together. The adults were able to enjoy their “grown-up” time and we were free to just be kids, carefree and happy. But when dinner was served, we all squished into every available space in their small dining room and kitchen and we ate together. Meals would be eaten slowly and with care, nobody was on a phone or in a rush to get up from the table and it was the food that brought us together. It slowed us down, made us relaxed, and in the process we made memories. Really great memories. I loved those meals. I loved the sounds of constant chatter at the table and everyone enjoying themselves. It was safe and cozy. It was happiness. In looking back at my childhood I realized that so many of my fondest family memories included a good meal where we were all gathered together around the table.

When I was younger, it was also an important tradition to prepare food with my immediate and extended family. On my mom’s side we would always descend upon my grandparents house a few weeks before Christmas to prepare the holiday treats and bake our traditional holiday cookies. We made fudge, homemade chocolates, butter cookies, cake balls, struffoli, and my absolute favorite of all time, Italian pizzelle cookies. Everyone, kids and adults, would be gathered in my grandparents small kitchen and dining room and we would spend the whole weekend baking, laughing, and listening to Christmas music. It was such a wonderful, fun, festive weekend and again, we were gathered around food.

Just as the kitchen is the heart of the home, food is the heart of the family. So many of our memories are somehow tied to a good meal, a special food tradition, or cooking alongside our elders. As I got older it became important to me to carry on my family traditions and to learn how to become a really good home cook. I wanted to be able to prepare special meals for my family and put a good dinner on the table for my husband and future children. So after college, when my husband and I moved out on our own, I threw myself into the kitchen and attacked every recipe I tried with gusto. I asked my grandparents, aunts, and my mom for all of the traditional family recipes so I could learn how to make everything from Easter bread to Christmas fudge. I was determined to learn and get better and I’ll be honest, not everything was a success. I failed. I made mistakes. Just take a look at my blog post, Kitchen Disasters – We’ve ALL Been There, and you’ll see that sometimes I created an absolute disaster. But from the disasters I learned and the more I learned, the better I got. Over time I started to realize that being in the kitchen wasn’t just about the cooking or the baking, instead it became my sanity, my outlet, my passion and some of my best memories too!

When I am in the kitchen I feel so relaxed and calm, I feel at home. I have learned to stop focusing on the finished product and instead, enjoy the process as well. I love the delicate task of sifting flour, or watching the paddle of the mixer cream the butter and sugar together, or melting chocolate into a shiny, smooth ganache. I love watching each step of a recipe come together, piece by piece, until there is a beautiful plate of food in front of me. I love feeding people and seeing the joy on their faces as they taste a delectable bite of food that was made in my kitchen with my own two hands. But most of all, I love the memories that are associated with so much of what I make. There was the time my teeny tiny toddler daughter sat up on the counter mixing brownies for her Daddy’s birthday, or the time my kids, my husband, and my parents gathered around the table to decorate gingerbread houses, or the first time I let my daughter cook us a pasta dinner on the stovetop. All great memories, all centered around food.

The kitchen doesn’t just have to be the place to get a quick meal on the table, it can become a place where memories are made, where you can calm your frayed nerves, and where great meals and treats come together. I know that old meatloaf recipe is easy and you’ve made it countless times with ease but why not break out one of your cookbooks, blow off the dust, and dive into something completely new? Be fearless, remember? Learn a new cooking technique, try out a new herb, get your hands dirty, make a mess and above all, have fun! Embrace the challenge, learn from the mistakes, and recognize that with every new thing you try you’re taking another step towards becoming a better home cook.

Developing yourself into a success in the kitchen is such a wonderful journey. I love looking back on how I use to cook back in the day and then looking at myself now and being able to appreciate just how far I’ve come in the last 20 years. Although I’ve learned so much and gotten so much better I’m also still a constant work in progress. I love to devour every word in my cookbooks and cooking magazines, I read tons of other blogs and websites, and I am always challenging myself to grow on a daily basis. Cooking, baking, and this blog have become my absolute passion in life. Both are at the core of who I am and I love to share my passion with others. If I can help even one person cook better or gain more confidence in the kitchen than I feel like I am a success.

So, the moral of this story is this: JUST GET IN THE KITCHEN AND GET YOUR COOK ON! Don’t look at it as a chore. Don’t dread it like you do going to the dentist. Make it a challenge. Make it interesting. Make it fun. Keep pushing yourself and in time, you will become a pro in your own kitchen. Bon Appétit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Little Chef/Baker-In-Training

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My eight year old daughter has loved to cook and bake since she was itty-bitty. When she wasn’t in the kitchen with me trying to help she was spread out all over the den in her make-believe kitchen whipping up everything from milkshakes to croquembouche. She was, and still is, very passionate about her cooking and she has a constant thirst to learn more. For the first time last year she attended a Sur La Table cooking camp for kids and she had the most amazing experience. So when it was time to sign her up this year for summer activities at the top of her list was more cooking classes. She just completed a three-day baking series and was so proud of herself that I promised her a spot on the blog!

In this three-day camp she learned:

  • Day 1 – Pies and Tarts (Perfect Pie Dough, Cherry Hand Pies, Vanilla Short Crust Dough, Vanilla Pastry Cream, and Summer Berry Tartlets)
  • Day 2 – Bakeshop (Morning Glory Muffins, Ham and Cheese Scones, and Monkey Bread)
  • Day 3 – French Pâtisserie (Pâte à choux, Vanilla Pastry Cream, Chocolate Eclairs, and Gougères)

I couldn’t believe how much she learned and how great her treats turned out. Pictured above is the Summer Berry Tartlet and Cherry Hand Pie. Not only did they look good, they tasted great too! On top of learning the above recipes she was also taught the proper way to hold and use a knife, the importance of preparing your work space and ingredients, kitchen safety and hygiene, and proper measuring techniques. I was very impressed with how much she developed in the kitchen in those three short days. She also gained so much more confidence in herself and her abilities and she couldn’t wait to put her newly acquired skills to work.

In a few weeks she will be taking a full week cooking class. She was so torn on which class to take for a week but ultimately she decided that she wanted to spend more time learning to cook since, in her words, “I am already so good at baking“. In the cooking camp she will learn essential kitchen skills while mastering more cooking techniques and recipes.

In this five-day camp she will learn:

  • Day 1 – Knife Skills (Rainbow Salad with Toasted Sesame Vinaigrette, Grilled Ginger Chicken Skewers, Veggie Yakisoba, and Pineapple Lime Sorbet with Fresh Mint)
  • Day 2 – Measuring and Baking (Perfect Pizza Dough, Pizza Margherita with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil, and Calzones)
  • Day 3 – Sauté and Sauces (Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas with Buttermilk Ranch Dip, Grilled Chicken with Honey BBQ Sauce, and Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with Strawberry Sauce and Sprinkles)
  • Day 4 – Pasta (Fresh Pasta Dough, Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce with Homemade Meatballs and Cannoli Dip with Orange Zest and Mini Chocolate Chips)
  • Day 5 – Sur La Table Restaurant Skills (House Smoked Mozzarella and Tomato Crostini, Corn Soup with Basil Foam, Ham and Cheese Soufflé, and Summer Berry Parfait)

I highly recommend the Sur La Table cooking classes because they really go above and beyond the typical scrambled egg or frosting a cupcake that other classes might teach kids at this age. I love that she is learning advanced cooking and baking techniques like making a Pâte à choux, which is something even an adult might be afraid to attempt. As an added bonus, she made a lot of nice friends and learned to work cooperatively in the kitchen. It’s been a wonderful experience for her all around.

Even if a cooking class isn’t your child’s thing at the very least, encourage them from time to time to cook and bake alongside you. Not only will you be creating lots of fun memories with them but by starting them in the kitchen at an early age you’ll also be giving them a leg up as they get older. They will develop confidence in the kitchen and learn skills that will be essential once they are out on their own in the world. Plan meals together, let them cook a favorite recipe with you, and simply make them part of the process in the kitchen and you’ll be surprised at just how capable and eager they are.

My little sous chef is still saying after all these years that she’d love to go to pastry school and open her own bakery one day. Although she’s young and might change her mind a 1000 times from now until she’s an adult, if she did end up in pastry school I think it would be pretty awesome to watch her become exactly what she wanted to be from the time she was three years old. Time will tell and in the meantime, I’m just going to encourage her to keep on doing her thing in the kitchen.

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Keepin’ It Real in the Kitchen

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I know that everyone expects a food blog to be filled with beautiful pictures of perfectly cooked or baked foods but sometimes, you just gotta keep it real. Sometimes, a recipe (or the baker!!) goes totally wrong. Really, really wrong. Like today when I attempted to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies. If you haven’t noticed yet from the picture, these my friends were an EPIC FAIL!!! But you know what? That’s completely okay with me because not every recipe will turn out right and not everything will always be delicious. The good news is, it’s in the mistakes that we become better cooks. If you have ever read my Kitchen Disasters – We’ve ALL Been There post then you’re already keenly aware that I’ve had my fair share of disasters in the kitchen. Today was just one of those days. I was off my game and I messed up.

I am someone who thrives in organization and struggles to maintain my focus and keep my cool in chaos. Truthfully, I picked the wrong time to attempt a new baking recipe because at that current moment things in the house were utter chaos. The kids were running around being kids which basically means loud, giggly, and wild. To add to that I had my dog stalking me in the kitchen hounding me to feed her. Music was blaring, the phone kept ringing, and so on and so forth. I’m sure all of you parents out there can vividly picture this scenario. Most of you would have had the common sense to just step out of the kitchen. I, on the other hand, decided to bake cookies. Brilliant idea, right? SO wrong! So, so wrong!

I’m not even sure where it started to go off the rails but I suspect it was somewhere around when I added the butter. I think, although I am not 100% on this, that I added too much butter AND it was too soft. Obviously, at that point I was doomed to fail. But alas, it continued to only get worse. You would think after chilling the dough for an hour I would notice or even care that it still felt mushy. Nope. I just pressed on determined to make these damn cookies. While yelling at someone, I can’t even remember who at this point, I grabbed the wrong size cookie scoop and subsequently rolled out balls of dough that were literally the size of my toddler son’s head. Sure they looked wrong but, whatever! I didn’t have time to sweat those details as I was pulling my kids off of the walls and losing my mind. Then, oh yes…………..this story gets better!!…………….the recipe said to “flatten the cookies into disks“. Sure, no problem. SQUASH!! My gooey, pancake sized cookies were ready to hit the oven. I was killing it with these cookies!!!! ((insert eye roll here))

I am sure that you can assume what happened next in this cautionary tale. When you mix GIANT, mushy, over buttered, pancake sized cookies with heat, you know what you get, right?? Can you say……………SPREADING??!! I kid you not, when I checked on my lovely batch of cookies they were no longer round and cookie like, instead I had three pans each filled with one, huge rectangular blob of cookie. It was such a disaster. I should have pulled them out at the point and given up but again, I just kept pressing on. I let my cookie blob continue to cook, in fact I even let them OVERcook (for good measure) so that when I finally removed them from the oven they were black on bottom, raw on top, and pretty much glued to my Silpat.

After letting these horrid things cool, I tried in earnest to transfer them from the pan to the wire racks however, they weren’t budging. I was literally attacking them with my spatula the way one would use their shovel to hack away at a four foot frozen block of snow at the end of their driveway. It was hopeless. So, I began to just shovel my cookie mess into a pile on the pan so that I could chuck them into the garbage where they belong. As I am doing this I also had to pry my kids fingers from the cookie slop because it didn’t matter to them that they were a hot mess, if it’s sugar and it’s sweet they just want it in their bellies. They thought the cookies tasted great! My sweet babies, I appreciated their confidence in me but for real, these things were awful. So, with the kids finally out of the kitchen away the cookies went into the pail and out to the trash can. Good riddance!

Here’s the thing though, I fully recognize where I went wrong in this whole process but in the end, aside from wasting some ingredients, it was really no big deal to have a kitchen mishap. It happens to the best of us. I would bet good money that Bobby Flay has had a few doozies in his day too but like I said, it’s the mistakes that make us better. Just look at Bobby now!! I chalked up today to bad timing, crazy kids, and lots of distraction. That’s life, it happens! So tomorrow I’ll just get back up on my mixer and try, try again. That’s all I can do! With any luck I’ll be posting a pretty cookie picture and recipe soon!

Feel free to share your kitchen mishaps in the comments section. You know you have them too!! LOL Happy baking home cooking friends!!

 

In the Kitchen with Kids

My kids love to cook and bake, especially my daughter, and while I enjoy having them in the kitchen with me it can be a bit chaotic at times. My kitchen (unfortunately) isn’t very big so we’re usually tripping over each other constantly and then of course there is the constant bickering between the two of them. They bicker over who gets what spoon or whisk, who got to stir longer than the other, who did more than the other, and on and on. It’s usually a very noisy, messy experience with them but even with that, they always end up having fun and they are so proud of the meals and treats that they create.

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I’ve learned that in order to have a successful experience in the kitchen with them there needs to be some guidelines for both the kids AND for me so that we have fun and don’t drive each other completely crazy. As with anything where kids are concerned, having routines and expectations in place really help to make things run a little more smoothly. With that being said, here are my top tips to survive having kids in the kitchen with you!

Choose A Recipe Together – It’s important to involve your kids in this step because if you don’t cook/bake something they are excited about they will lose interest, be completely bored, and end up walking away leaving you to finish on your own. Give them a few kid friendly options to choose from and let them pick which they want, they will appreciate feeling like they have a say in the cooking process.

Gather Your Ingredients – Teach your children to first read through the recipe and then pull everything they need from the pantry, fridge, and freezer so that it’s ready and accessible as they go through each step of the cooking/baking process. Having your ingredients organized, prepped, and ready is called “mise en place” which is just a fancy term for having everything in its place. Your little chefs will love knowing that fancy French term, my kids do!

Teach Them Good Kitchen Hygiene – Make sure to encourage hand washing both before you begin cooking and throughout the process. Also, remind them that good cooks do not stick their fingers in the food, lick their fingers or hands, or lick any of the utensils being used. If your kids are anything like mine, they will need CONSTANT reminding of this.

Get Ready, Get Set………. – Hair up, hands washed, aprons on!

ANNNNNND Cook!!! – Read through each step with them and then let them take ownership of each phase of the cooking process. Depending on their age and ability, assign them different tasks such as dicing, slicing, measuring, sifting, mixing, etc. Let them do as much as they can as you supervise, jumping in to help them only as needed.

As they are cooking/baking take this opportunity to teach them. Teach them about flavors, cooking technique, what certain tools are used for, kitchen safety, etc. The goal is for them to grow into competent, knowledgeable cooks as opposed to just getting one recipe over with.

Be Patient, Expect Messes – Things go much slower in the kitchen when you cook/bake with kids. So allow yourself some extra time and remind yourself to be patient with them. They don’t have the ability to measure, chop, and stir as fast as you or I. Give them the space to work at their own pace.

Also, kids are messy little creatures by nature so cooking with them is not usually a very neat and tidy experience. Expect that they will get messy as will your kitchen. Once you accept that fact, you’ll be a lot more relaxed throughout the whole process.

Don’t Forget To Enjoy Yourself – Remind yourself to enjoy the experience. My kids get SO excited to be in the kitchen and as chaotic and messy as it gets while we’re in there, I always try to remind myself to have fun with them, laugh a little, and enjoy our time together. Cooking and baking together should be a fun experience that you share. So enjoy it. Every crazy, loud, messy minute of it!

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Food memories are some of the strongest memories we have as humans. Don’t believe me? Just check out this article: Why Food Memories Feel So Powerful When I think back over my own life some of my best memories center around food. I specifically remember the times when I was in the kitchen cooking with my family and those are same kind of memories I want to create for my own children. I would love for them to be 40 years old, cooking “Mommy’s Tomato Sauce” for their own kids, and thinking back to that time when they learned how to make it cooking alongside me! That would be awesome!

So get your kids in the kitchen and get cooking! More importantly, enjoy every single second of it so that they do too!! Have fun, make memories, and eat well!

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Pantry and Fridge Essentials

How did you just whip that up?”

It’s the one comment I get over and over again. People always seem surprised that on any given day I’m able to pull together a from scratch dessert or a quick dinner. My response, it’s SO simple to do when you have a well stocked pantry and fridge. Seriously. That is literally all there is to it. If you keep a healthy stock of the basics on hand you will be shocked by just how many dishes you’re able to pull together without having to make a list and run off to the supermarket.

So let’s jump into it. Below is a list of items that I find to be essential in my pantry/freezer/fridge. This list isn’t written in stone so depending on your likes and needs, adjust it so that it works for you. I know the list sounds like a lot but I’m sure many of you already have *most* of these things on hand, just fill in the gaps with the essentials that you’re missing. Once you stock up, you’ll be good to go for quite some time. Most of these items I’m not buying often, only a few do I have to buy more regularly.

Once you get in the habit of stocking up and having the essentials on hand, you will find that is so much easier to get dinner on the table or whip up a quick dessert. Keeping my house well stocked has really changed the way I cook, with these essentials there are countless things that I can make or bake with NO advanced planning or running to the supermarket. It doesn’t get any better than that!

In the Pantry

For Baking

  • Flours (All-Purpose, Wheat, Bread, and Cake)
  • Sugars (Granulated, Light or Dark Brown, Turbinado, Confectioner’s)
  • Semisweet Chocolate Chips
  • Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Vanilla Beans
  • Pure Extracts (Vanilla, Almond, Coconut, and Hazelnut)
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Cinnamon
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Nutmeg
  • Honey
  • Yeast (Rapid Rise and Regular)
  • Sprinkles
  • Cupcake liners
  • Shredded Coconut
  • Molasses
  • Raisins
  • Jams and Jellies
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Evaporated Milk
  • Peanut Butter
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Marshmallow Fluff
  • Popcorn Kernels

For Cooking

  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Stocks (Beef and Chicken)
  • Long Grain Rice (Brown and White)
  • Beans (Small Red Kidney and Baked)
  • Pasta in various shapes
  • Breadcrumbs (Seasoned and Panko)
  • Onion Soup Mix
  • Black Olives
  • Bread
  • Oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Vegetable, and Canola as well as flavored oils)
  • Vinegar (A really good Balsamic, White, and Apple Cider)
  • Extra condiments so I don’t run out (Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo etc)
  • Syrup (Pure Maple and Aunt Jemima)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Various Seasonings and Spices (Paprika, Basil, Oregano, Poultry, Red Pepper, etc)
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Coffee Beans
  • Various Teas

Fridge

  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard (Dijon and Deli)
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Hot Sauce
  • Pickles
  • Green Olives
  • A-1 Steak Sauce
  • Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • Wondra
  • Large Eggs (at least 2-3 dozen)
  • Butter (Whipped, Salted Sticks, Unsalted Sticks)
  • Half and Half
  • Heavy Cream
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Cream Cheese
  • Various Cheeses ( Mozzarella, Cheddar, Shaved Parmesan, Locatelli, etc)
  • Bacon
  • Pie Crusts
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Baby Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Apples and Oranges
  • Lemons and Limes

Freezer

  • Various Meats (Chicken Breasts, Ground Beef, Stew Meat, London Broil, etc. – I buy in bulk at BJ’s, portion it out and vacuum seal it so it lasts a long time and stays fresh)
  • Bacon
  • Homemade Waffles and Pancakes
  • Homemade Cookie Dough
  • Butter Sticks
  • Mozzarella (I stock up when they go on sale and freeze)
  • Veggies – Steam Bag variety
  • Various Frozen Fruits
  • Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Thyme, etc)
  • Italian Bread

 

Kitchen Disasters – We’ve ALL Been There

Most of the time recipes go as planned, your food looks great, and everything tastes delicious. But every now and again something goes wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong and all you can do, besides toss the mess into the trash, is laugh at yourself, learn from it, and move on. I have had my fair share of moments where a recipe went completely awry and I was left with a meal or a dessert that nobody wanted to eat. Or alternatively, that tasted fine but looked less than appetizing. It happens, even to the best of cooks! But hey, we wouldn’t grow as cooks (or people!!) if we didn’t fail and have to get back up again. So here are a few of my less than shining moments in the kitchen.

Metal Tomatoes

After college my husband and I moved to Florida and into our first apartment. Through his work we had made a few friends and one year when we couldn’t make it home to NY for Easter we decided to invite some of these friends over to our place for Easter dinner. I am Italian and Easter in my family is always lasagna, meatballs, sausage, and a baked spiral ham. So naturally I wanted to keep with tradition and serve the same meal to our new friends. Now, I knew how to make sauce and pull together lasagna and meatballs however, what I did NOT know at that time was the importance of using the right tools in the kitchen. Aluminum pots = NOT the right tools to make tomato sauce.

Before we moved my mom had given me a set of her old Farberware aluminum pots and pans. They were great for many things, not so much though when cooking tomatoes. Aluminum is a reactive metal and as such, will interact with the tomatoes and impart a distinct metallic taste into the sauce. Needless to say, I had an apartment full of people coming over who I had never cooked for before this gathering and I had a HUGE pot of sauce on the stove that tasted like metal. In a panic, I started adding sugar and extra spices to the sauce to try and counteract the metallic taste. It helped somewhat but I still noticed the “off” flavor in the sauce. At that point, I had to just cross my fingers and hope that once the pasta and cheese were in the mix the metallic flavor would be masked. In the end, everything turned out fine despite the sauce and thankfully everyone seemed to enjoy the meal. I learned a very valuable lesson that day about using the right tools for the job. Both cast iron and aluminum are NOT the right tools when making tomato sauce. Safe to say, I never made that mistake again.

Chicken Flip

A while back I decided to roast a whole chicken for the first time. I bought a nice little Purdue that had the pop up timer built in and I thought, easy peasy, there will be no messing this up. Ummmmmm. Yea. I messed it up! Let’s just say that the cooking time came and went as I was repeatedly sticking my head in the oven trying to find this stupid little pop up timer to let me know the chicken was done cooking. I could’t find it anywhere and was convinced that somehow they forgot to put the pop up timer in the bird. Since the chicken had been roasting for what seemed like forever I decided to finally just pull it out and take my chances. I put the chicken on the counter to rest while thinking to myself, “this chicken looks kind of odd“. The breast looked pretty flat, sort of bony, and wholly unappetizing. I figured I just got a weird looking bird (with no pop up timer!!) so I just brushed it off and didn’t give it another thought.

But then it came time to carve up the meat and to my surprise, there wasn’t really any breast meat. It felt hard, looked pretty gross, and seemingly had nothing I could get my knife through. My husband walks over, asks what the deal is with the funny looking bird and together we realize, OMG!!!!!…………………..I cooked the damn chicken UPSIDE DOWN!!!!! I wasn’t looking at the breast after all, I was trying to carve up his back! All I could do at this point was to flip over the poor chicken and laugh at my sheer stupidity. Once we flipped it over low and behold!!!………………there was the pop up timer that I was convinced didn’t exist along with all of the breast meat that I thought was missing! Having cooked upside down the whole time, the breast now looked a little less than appetizing but thankfully, in the end it was fine to eat and it was cooked pretty well too!! After that little debacle I learned which side is which and I’m proud to say that I’ve never cooked a chicken (or a turkey!!) upside down ever again!

Salt Lick Cookies

I have a great recipe for Fudgy Brownie Cookies that I’ve made countless times and every single time they’ve turned out perfect! I even made batches and batches of them one year to give out in cookie tins as Christmas gifts and everyone loved them. So one day I had my parents over for dinner and decided to throw these cookies together for dessert later that night. It’s a quick and easy recipe that I was very familiar with so I thought I could pop into the kitchen and bang them out pretty fast. My thinking was on point, my reality though, that was a different story! I was being interrupted about 1,458 times a minute by my then toddler son, Grayden. Trying to follow a recipe while at the same time attending to him is pretty much a recipe for disaster!

The recipe called for 1/4 tsp of baking soda to be added. Because I was reading the recipe while at the same time dealing with Grayden, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the measurements that were called for. Instead of adding a 1/4 tsp of baking soda, I added 1/4 CUP of it. Baking soda, in case you weren’t aware, is VERY salty. Drop a 1/4 cup of it in your cookie dough and I promise you’ll gag, which is EXACTLY what I did when I tasted my dough a few minutes after mixing. There was simply NO way to salvage the cookie dough so in the trash it went and I had to start all over again. Lesson learned for sure, pay CLOSE attention to your recipes and measurements or you’ll end up with one big kitchen disaster on your hands and there is nothing worse than having to toss food! Oh!………….and avoid cooking with a toddler in the kitchen if you can help it!!

Zombie Pasta

Fairly recently I made a dish called “Drunken Spaghetti” which sounded pretty yummy when I read the recipe and it looked decent in the picture too. It was basically pasta that was cooked in both water AND red wine, the idea being that the pasta would absorb the wine as it cooked and impart a nice flavor to the finished dish. Once the pasta was ready you tossed it with chopped nuts, herbs, olive oil and cheese. All good things however, pasta that’s boiled in wine doesn’t look very nice or as richly colored as you might hope. Instead, it was kind gray. Gray pasta. Mmmmmm…………..sounds delish, right??

Overall, the flavor was actually somewhat interesting and the meal itself wasn’t terrible but it really didn’t look “pretty” or even appetizing for that matter. (I didn’t even attempt to get a picture of it!) My parents were over for dinner that night and my husband was working late so we ate before him and everyone kinda sorta liked the meal even though we were all put off by the overall appearance. So when my husband came home and I served him he looked at me like, “WTF is this???”.  I insisted it tasted good and to just try it. He kinda sorta liked the meal too but REALLY struggled with the color of the pasta and the overall look of the dish as we all did. He ate most of it but then gave up towards the end and said he couldn’t really take another bite. He subsequently named the dish “Zombie Pasta” since it was kind of gray, kind of reddish, and overall kind of unappetizing looking. He also told me to never, EVER make it again. So the lesson here is pasta doesn’t really look pretty after boiling in wine AND the photo editing programs they use in cookbooks is simply amazing because they somehow made “Zombie Pasta” look good and inspired me to actually try it!

As you can see, kitchen fails happen to even the best of us! So the next time you burn a cookie, forget an ingredient, or plate something that is zombie colored just know you’re in good company. We’ve ALL been there and done that! The best thing to do is to just chalk up your fail as a learning experience and then get back in the kitchen and do better the next time.

If at first you don’t succeed, just try, try again!