My mom recently purchased a slow cooker that just sits in the kitchen, practically unused. So when I saw this slow-cooker recipe on Kalyn’s Kitchen of a Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burritos, I was sold. The plus side to this recipe was that the sweet potato fillers substituted rice, which I’ve been trying to avoid…. with fail. Let’s face it, you can’t separate Romeo and his Juliet.  Romeo: rice. Juliet: me. Except on this meal.

Due to my flusterality in the kitchen, I do not think to take photos of the cooking process.   I had prepared this particular meal for lunch at work. But the tortilla broke while in-transit from home to work that I had to take a zoomed-dark picture–otherwise, it looks pretty ugly.  You know how burritos can get right?  You understand. You sympathize.  I’m encouraged.

The only thing that made this simple meal not quick-and-simple was the slow cooking process for the sweet potato (more like yam) filling.  I gave my (mother’s) slow cooker a light, olive oil coating.  Then I dumped 1 can (15.5oz) of drained and washed black beans, along with 2 large, diced yams.  I didn’t have any cumin at home or any coriander, so I added some Adobo with pepper and salt for taste.

For taste–yea–I should’ve followed that direction.  I was too generous with the salt because my previous dish was just so flavorless. In the end, I was scolded with fillers that were saltier than I liked.  I suppose I can’t mix and match portions between dishes.  Lesson learned.

Filler cooked for about 3 hours while I tried to learn the Bm chord on my guitar, Javi. Eeks.

The original recipe didn’t have any meat in it, but I wanted to add some beef chunks.  Since I would be bringing the food for lunch the next day, and I sure wasn’t going to wake up early enough to cook the meat in the morning, I cooked the meat longer than I usually like em.  I honestly didn’t know the rule on refrigerating under-cooked meat for the next day. So I went with the safe side. Needless to say, my meat was chewier than I liked.  Is it safe to keep pink meat for lunch the next day??

Then I cut up some lettuce, tossed everything together in my white corn tortilla and squeezed some lime juice. Taste was tolerable.  Much better than the pasta experience. Very filling. I do strongly feel that the filler had too much flavor. It kind of took away the taste of the yam.

Overall, I think it would be an easy meal to prepare on a lazy day. Will definitely revisit.

Depressing title, I know.

The other day I stumbled across this simple pasta recipe titled, ‘The Best Spaghetti Sauce You’ll Ever Have’ at A Cup of Jo.  I read through the process and it seemed too simple to be true! So I hurried over to Fairway Market after work and bought all the ingredients.

Just to set you up with the environment of my cookery–when I’m cooking or baking anything, I feel so utterly flustered.  I feel like a bomb will go off any minute, anywhere. I think one of the main issues with my anxiety is that the kitchen layout just doesn’t cater to this newbie’s needs.  Minimal working area, utensils everywhere, bowls every other where.  I need a system. A reorganization.  Maybe a kitchen spring cleaning-and-buying!!! Maybe one day…

I started out with a can of peeled tomatoes.  But, when I poured the can into my pot there was very little juice.  My thought process?  ‘Oh, okay.. I’ll just make little pasta.’ Then I added 2 cloves of garlic, thinly chopped, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and allowed it to boil. When it was all bubbly, I turned the heat down, added some dried basil and allowed it to simmer. In all honesty, it didn’t look good nor did it taste good.  But I just had no idea what else to do to make it taste better!  Nothing came to mind other than salt.  And it seemed salty enough. So I trudged along…

While my unappetizing sauce simmered away, I boiled a pot of water with some… salt. Then I put a handful and then some of gluten free penne into the pot.  I think they sat there for a little less than 10 minutes when I thought they were, ‘al dente’.

Drained the pasta.  Dumped them into my pot full of unhappy sauce.  Added a spoonful too much of ricotta.  Mixed.

Debby downer, I know.

One of my friends told me later that if I squeeze the tomato, I’ll get more juice/sauce out of it.  Perhaps next time I can also use additional tomato paste. Or, if I wanted to use the tomato chunks, I could’ve sauteed the tomato to give it some flavor. Another friend told me to add some sugar, which will help offset the acidity of the tomato.

Well, I have another can of peeled tomato and more gluten free pasta sitting in my cabinet.  But til’ next time I’m stuck with this….

Image

L.E.F.T. O.V.E.R.S. I can’t let my food go to waste, right?

 

 

 

 

 

So while I was browsing around, I stumbled across these beautiful cookies baked by Deb on Smitten Kitchen. At that time I had just gotten into baking cookies (I think I’m already over it), and was super excited to make these because it meant I can use cookie cutters!

The experience|For the next experience

 

  • Makings of the dough was pretty exciting.  I learned recently that you’re supposed to mix the dry and the wet ingredients separately, to which I cheerfully obliged to. Using the mixer was actually a little bit scary. I’m not sure if it’s because my bowl was too shallow or because my butter wasn’t soft enough, but I had chunks of sugar coated butter flying off. It also made me want to purchase a new, pretty mixer–my wallet shuddered. |  Any word of advice on taming the flying sugar-butter-chunks?
  • I meant to chill the dough over night. But, I got lazy the next day and ended up making my first batch of cookies 2 days later.  I cut off a quarter of the dough and started to roll it.  When the dough was too rigid to roll, I immediately got scared.  WHAT IF I DID SOMETHING WRONG AND THIS ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS COLD?!  But, I didn’t give up, and kept at it, and it eventually got soft and pretty as it rolled out into a nice flat surface.
  • It was SO hard to find cookie cutters, pretty cookie cutters rather. I first went to Target, then Bed Bath and Beyond, then William Sonoma. Sure, these places had them, but they were plastic and ugly, came in a tub of a 100, or was just boring and dull.  I was really hoping to find some leaf shaped ones, crossing my fingers as I entered every store.  But, came up dry. :( Eventually, I stopped by Macy’s and found star shaped Martha Stewart Professional Series Cookie Cutters.  I actually really liked them.| Maybe one day I will use them to make Linzer cookies.  Hah! Any good recipes?
  • As I was pressing down through the dough, I realized that sometimes the dough would come up with the cutter nice and clean, but other times it wouldn’t.  When it didn’t, I’d have to peel the dough which curled up the star edges.  Not so pretty.  In the beginning I thought it was because the dough got too warm and soft.  I think that’s partially true, but at the end I concluded that if I sprinkled more flour on my surface, I can avoid that problem.
  • The baking part. So, the directions said to bake it for 8-11 minutes.  After 8 minutes, I looked into the oven like a hawk.  I saw some cookies brown lot faster than others.  And, I had to decide how to compromise between them.  I suppose this is because my dough wasn’t rolled out evenly? I also had difficulty figuring out what was brown enough! I decided to experiment and have the first batch lot darker than the second batch.   My first batch came out way too hard.  The second batch was softer than the first, but I wish it was softer even still.  | Try to roll dough evenly.   Experiment more to discover the right color! 
In the end, my friends said the cookies were decent.  Personally, I think they were less than mediocre.  They’re such sweethearts. :D Well, there’s always next time…

And, voila! My first cooked dinner–Arroz con Pollo.

Yes, it does not look very appetizing. Perhaps if I had a pretty dish and a nice camera, the photo could’ve lied for me a little.  But the truth is, it neither looked nor tasted very good at all.  When I asked my father if I should leave it out in the pot or store it in the fridge to take it for lunch tomorrow, he responded with “why would you want to eat that again?” Nonetheless, I cleaned up two full plates because I MADE IT!

The experience | For the next experience

  • I had bought chicken thigh strips instead of the whole pieces that the recipe called out for. I tried to estimate the right amount of chicken for the ingredient. Overall, I think there was a decent balance of chicken and rice.|  But I would’ve liked more chicken for my liking.
  • The directions told me to heat the pot, then when the pan is hot pour in olive oil and the chicken.  Okay, maybe the pot was too hot or I put in too much olive oil, but when I put the chicken in to brown, FIREWORKS!  I have 5 dotted burn mark battle wounds to remind me to be more careful next time. | Try heating the pot on medium high. Use less oil? But if it still sizzles too much, what do I do? What am I doing wrong?
  • On to the Vegetables.  The directions told me to place all the ingredients into a food processor. I was afraid of this because I didn’t want a mush of veggies.  ‘But, maybe it’s a magical short-cut know-how that I don’t know about. Maybe the food processor cuts them into nice pieces,’ I thought.  So after I placed chunks of the ingredients into the processor and pressed start, I saw that this was going to end with a mush.  So I took it all out, and cut them up.  Between the almost mush, the mush and the chunks, I made a mess on my kitchen counter.  What did I miss here? | Just chop them up!
  • I sauteed, I added the tomatoes at the end like the direction told me to, I added the rice, poured the water in, the bouillon, boiled, and now the time for tasting.  My friend once told me that her biggest mistake when learning to cook was never tasting the food during the process.  Oops.  This is my first time tasting.  Is that okay?  Seemed a little bland. I timidly added salt because I’m notorious for pouring in too much salt, thereby ruining everything! (Like this Thanksgiving when I was making packaged Mashed Potatoes, and I added tablespoons of salt instead of teaspoons.  Yikes!) I still felt like it needed more. Added a tad some more.  But when it was all cooked, despite the fact that I had evaporated most of the water, the flavoring just didn’t cut it.  I think it needed more salt. | Take more time searching for the right taste. I felt like I was rushing myself because I just wanted to finish it and eat it! Be more patient.  Someone did tell me that cooking was an art…
  • The rice seemed a bit dry.  I was expecting a more paella-type moist rice.  Could it be the kind of rice I used? | Try evaporating less water next time and see how it taste.

The whole cooking process took a good hour and a half.  It was long, but I was pretty focused.  The end product, though not supreme, did make me feel accomplished.  I also enjoyed the grocery shopping experience.  I don’t think I mentioned that I clipped coupons!  I’m actually looking forward to the next meal. It’s a whole new side of me that I never knew.

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