Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking

November 28, 2007

Napa

Filed under: trips — Emily @ 6:00 am


Aaron and I went to Napa for the weekend. We spent a lovely day wine tasting and exploring some magnificent food shops. Here are a few pics of the weekend:

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Some shops in old train cars in Calistoga

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A beehive in a shop in Calistoga—they made their own honey and beeswax candles

joy-of-cooking-039.jpg Main street of Calistoga–the northernmost town in Napa

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Culinary Institute of America—gorgeous building!

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One of the buildings at the Beringer Winery–it was also very beautiful.

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Taylor’s Automatic Refresher–an awesome restaurant—it’s been around for a long time and the wait is crazy! But the burgers are really good.

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Check out that line!

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Yummy burgers—and some garlic parmesan fries that were also excellent. The chocolate shakes were very tasty as well.

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Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco–breathtaking

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Ferry Building Marketplace on The Embarcadero–filled with all sorts of wonderful food shops.

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The sea lions at Pier 39.

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A trip to Ghiradelli

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Yummy cookie sundae

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Thanksgiving Dinner

Filed under: holiday — Tags: , — Emily @ 4:34 am

We had our Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday before Thanksgiving because I had to work on Thanksgiving. I did most of the prep on Monday: chopped my veggies and put them in ziplock bags, baked my cornbread for stuffing, made my casseroles (sweet potato and corn) and put them in the fridge ready to bake, and I bought my pies. I also brined my turkey the night before. Then, in the morning all I had to do was prepare the turkey (we just had a turkey breast), bake the casseroles, throw the stuffing together and make the mashed potatoes. It was actually quite easy if I do say so myself! Here are my recipes:

Heavenly Sweet Potatoes: 

6 small cans sweet potatoes-drained and mashed (approx. 3 cups?)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla


Combine well and pour into a 9x13 pan.


1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/3 c flour
1 cup chopped pecans


Mix together and pour over sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

*I use fresh sweet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes) instead of canned. I bake them the day before, then follow the recipe.

 Corn Casserole

1 can regular corn (with juices)

1 can creamed corn

1 cup sour cream

1 stick butter

2 eggs

1 box Jiffy corn mix

Melt stick of butter and place at bottom of 9×13 pan. Mix rest of ingredients thoroughly. Bake at 350 F for 30-45 minutes.

Cornbread Stuffing

12 tbsp. butter

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped green peppers

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

4 cups corn bread

3 cups crumbled toast (I oven-dried my bread–I recommend Pepperidge Farm white bread)

1/2 cup chicken broth

3 raw eggs

Saute vegetables in the butter until onions are translucent and they are soft. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl then place into a casserole dish and bake at 350 until browned.

Roasted Turkey breast with Gravy

I cheated a little bit this year with the turkey. I figured since it was just the two of us and I was doing all the cooking, I didn’t really want to do everything from scratch. So through the help of a few awesome ingredients from Williams Sonoma, we were able to have an awesome turkey! First, I brined my turkey with WS turkey brine. I put it in a large stockpot and brined overnight. Some people use apple cider, but I used ice water. There are instructions with the turkey brine. Next, I made a butter baste with WS turkey herbs (organic sage, organic thyme and organic marjoram) and about 6 Tbsp. butter. I used a brush and basted the turkey all over.

 My strategy for roasting a turkey is as follows: I buy a package of carrot and celery sticks (they come together in a tub). I place them on the bottom of my roasting pan to set the turkey on–it creates a little “rack” for the turkey to sit on. Then I place chopped onions on the bottom (I buy the prechopped ones) and finally, put 1/2 cup of chicken broth on the bottom to create steam.

I finished our meal with mashed potatoes (made with heavy cream and Yukon gold potatoes) and a pumpkin and pecan pie from Dupar’s and it was fabulous! Here are some pics:

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My prep for the turkey

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Turkey bath

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Sauteing the veggies in butter for the stuffing

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Ready for the oven! I roast at 325 F until the turkey reaches between 160-165

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Oven-drying my bread cubes (put in the oven at 200 F for several minutes until dried and crispy)

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Success!! I did not bake the stuffing with the turkey.

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Our table

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Even the dogs got a little Thanksgiving treat—baked sweet potatoes!

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November 20, 2007

Baked Mac and Cheese (page 320) and Applesauce (pag 446)

Filed under: fruit, pasta — Tags: , — Emily @ 6:19 am

Aaron was out of town for business on Sunday and I had to work overnight at the hospital, so I was looking for something that I could throw together quickly. On Sunday morning I woke up extra early so I could take a nap in the afternoon. I decided to go over to the Studio City Farmer’s Market near our house. It is an awesome little farmer’s market. Has anyone heard of the actor Ed Begley, Jr.? He’s been in a lot of movies/TV shows and he’s one of Hollywood’s leading proponents of living a “green lifestyle.” He lives in Studio City and he has a booth set up every week at the farmer’s market selling his environmentally friendly cleaning products called “Begley’s Best”. It’s kind of funny. It was such a nice morning—it was slightly cool and foggy (which is a nice change from the always sunny southern California weather)–trust me, it gets annoying, especially at this time of the year. I went over to the market and got a croissant from the local French bakery that sets up a stall—-a legitimate Parisian, flaky croissant, and a fresh squeezed lemonade from another stall—it was heaven! I sat and people watched for awhile and then got some of my shopping done—both for dinner Sunday and for Thanksgiving. There are a ton of vendors: fruits, veggies, pastas, baked goods, pre-prepared meals, jewelry, handmade soaps, clothing, etc… They even have animal rides and little kids rides—it’s really cool–and every Sunday year round.

On to my meal—sooooo good!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

An especially good rendition of a timeless classic. The sauce can be made ahead and blended with just-cooked noodles before baking, or the entire casserole can be assembled a day in advance (I prepared it in the morning and baked it after I woke up from my nap)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 1 1/2-quart deep baking dish. Bring to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan:

6 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Add and cook just until tender:

2 cups elbow macaroni (8 ounces)

Drain and remove to a large bowl. Have ready:

2 1/4 cups grated sharp Cheddar or Colby cheese

Melt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat:

2 tablespoons butter

Whisk in and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes:

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Gradually whisk in:

2 cups whole or skim milk

Stir in:

1/2 medium onion, minced

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Simmer gently, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in two-thirds of the cheese. Season with:

salt and ground black pepper to taste

Stir in the macaroni. Pour half of the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining macaroni and then the remaining cheese. Melt in a small skillet over medium heat:

1 tablespoon butter

Add and toss to coat:

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni. Bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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It didn’t look quite as blurry on my camera–oh well.

Applesauce

This can be chunky or smooth. A blend of 2 or 3 apples makes the best-tasting sauce. Begin with a tart-sweet apple like Gravenstein or Newton-Pippin, then mix in spicy McIntosh with Gravensteins or winy Staymans with Pippins. Golden Delicious adds sunny sweetness to any blend. This recipe doubles easily (this makes 4-6 servings):

Place in a large, heavy skillet or saucepan:

3 pounds cooking apples, peeled if desired, cored, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1/2 to 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, depending on tartness of apples

1 large cinnamon stick

Cover and simmer, stirring often, over low heat until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Stir in:

Scant 1/2 cup white or turbinado sugar or 6 tablespoons mild honey (I used white sugar)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional–I omitted)

1/2 teaspoon ground mace (optional–I omitted)

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cook, stirring, until the sweetener is dissolved and blended about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Discard the cinnamon stick. For chunky applesauce, break up the apples with a wooden spoon. For medium texture, crush with a potato masher. For smooth sauce, pass through a food mill or coarse sieve. Serve warm or chilled. I sprinkled cinnamon on top.

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Again, I need to work on the close-ups.

November 18, 2007

Chili con Carne (page 671) and Jalapeno Corn Bread

Filed under: beef — Tags: , — Emily @ 2:29 am

For more flavor in this dish, I made my own chili powder (page 1060):

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New Mexico Chili Powder

Combine and toast in a skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes:

5 tablespoons ground mild chili peppers (I used New Mexico, can also use pasilla or ancho)

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

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Either use 1 recipe of this chili powder of 1 cup store-bought chili powder

Pat dry: 3 pounds beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Season with:

1-2 teaspoons salt

Heat in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Brown the meat in batches, adding more oil if needed. Remove the browned meat to a Dutch oven. Add to the cast-iron skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large onions, minced

10 cloves garlic, minced

7 fresh jalapeno peppers, stemmed and minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook, stirring often, over medium-high heat until the vegetables are softened, 6-8 minutes. Remove to the Dutch oven with the meat. Stir the toasted spices into the meat mixture and cook for 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add:

One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, with juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

6 cups water

Season with:

salt to taste

Simmer, uncovered, until the meat is tender and the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 1 1/2 hours. I served with sour cream and some shredded cheese. I also added pinto beans (1 pound dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked for 1 1/2 hours in the morning—then added to chili at the end and heated through)

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(Using dried beans for the first time)

Jalapeno Corn Bread

I strayed away from Joy for this recipe because, frankly, it looked better than the recipe in my trusty cookbook. My good friend Elise sent it to me the other day and I’ve been dying to try it:

3- 7 oz. packages of corn bread mis (if you use Jiffy, eliminate the sugar in the recipe)

1 large sweet onion, chopped (I didn’t use onion because I was sick of chopping onions)

2 cups shredded Colby/Monterey Jack cheese

2 large beaten eggs

2 1/2 cups whole or buttermilk (I used buttermilk)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons sugar

1- 15 oz. can creamed corn

6 oz. diced jalapenos (I only used 1 4-oz can and it was plenty hot for me)

Grease a 9×13 pan, mix ingredients, pour into pan and bake 45 minutes at 375 F. Makes 12-15 servings.

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November 17, 2007

Pancakes and Eggs (page 795 and 130)

Filed under: breakfast, eggs, Uncategorized — Tags: , — Emily @ 7:57 pm

I admit that I generally use Bisquick to make pancakes. This time, I decided to make them from scratch. I’ve never used a recipe for scrambled eggs either, but I thought I’d check out what Joy had to say to see if my technique was up to par. My intention was to make buttermilk pancakes, but in the heat of the moment, I forgot to make the proper substitutions, so I just made regular pancakes—and made a few chocolate chip ones. Making pancakes was a nice excuse to use my wonderful All Clad griddle that I got for a wedding gift and have rarely used. It was such a treat to make pancakes on a real griddle. I’ll definitely have to start utilizing it more often.

Pancake-making equipment:

“Although a skillet can be used, pancakes are more easily made on a flat griddle. The most efficient of these fit over two burners, providing enough room to cook 6 pancakes at a time.”

“A griddle should always be heated before use. You will know it is ready when a few drops of cold water flicked onto the surface bounce and sputter; if the water just sits and boils, the griddle is not hot enough, and if it evaporates immediately, it is too hot.”

Basic Pancakes (makes about twelve 5-inch cakes)

Prepare and preheat your griddle

Whisk together in a large bowl:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together in another bowl:

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoons vanilla (optional–I used it)

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined. If you wish, fold in one or more of the following:

1/2 cup plump raisins or other very finely diced soft-dried fruit

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts, toasted

1/2 cup thinly sliced ripe bananas

1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon

1/2 cup shredded cheese

1/4 cup shredded sweetened dried coconut

1/4 cup grated semisweet or milk chocolate

Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake, nudging the batter into rounds. Cook until the top of each pancake is speckled with bubbles and some bubbles have popped open, then turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 F oven while you finish cooking the rest. Serve with:

Pure maple syrup or honey

Pats of butter

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My husband and our friend who is staying with us were so eager to eat, that they whisked away the pancakes before I could take a proper picture, so this is the only one I have. However, I think you all can use your imagination to figure out what pancakes and eggs look like!

Scramble Eggs (Basic recipe):

You can use a nonstick pan and cut back on the butter if you prefer.

Beat together until the whites and yolks are completely combined:

3-4 eggs

Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper or paprika, or a few drops of hot red pepper suace.

Melt in a skillet over low heat:

1-2 tablespoons butter (I used 1)

When the butter begins to foam, pour in the egg mixture. With a wooden spoon or a heatproof rubber or metal spatula, push the eggs gently as they set, folding and stirring them into soft curds. Stir more quickly as the eggs thicken. Continue to cook until the eggs are just set, creamy, and still moist, 2-5 minutes. They will continue to cook and firm up for several seconds off the heat. Transfer the eggs to warmed plate and serve immediately.

I added a sprinkle of cheddar cheese before I removed from the skillet and let the cheese melt a little. Very tasty.

Raspberry Crumble Bars

Filed under: dessert — Tags: — Emily @ 6:32 am

This is not from The Joy of Cooking, but it is an amazing dessert, nonetheless. I came across this recipe a few months ago when I attended a cooking class with a few friends in La Canada, California at Chez Cherie. It is also one of the easiest desserts you can ever make. I have even been known to make a small batch in my loaf pan (smaller surface), so I can get a few single servings. I usually don’t even manage to get a bar out of it because I scoop it up and eat it with a spoon while it is still hot!

Raspberry Crumble Bars

6 oz. room temperature butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 3/4 cup flour

1/3 cup pecans (or walnuts), finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

pinch salt

1 cup raspberry preserves (my favorite is Bonne Maman–with the checkered lid)

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the brown sugar and beat until light. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Switch to a spoon or spatula, and stir in the pecans, almond or vanilla extract and salt. Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of a 9×9 pan. Spoon the raspberry preserves evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the reserved butter/flour mixture over the top. Bake for 30 minutes. As soon as pan comes out of oven, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, so the heat of the dish will melt them slightly. Cool at least 15 minutes and cut into squares.

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Bolognese Sauce (Ragu Bolognese) page 307

Filed under: beef, pasta, sauce, Uncategorized — Emily @ 4:43 am

I was initially hesitant about this sauce because it did not seem to have enough tomato in it—but it was still fabulous!! Aaron was in LOVE with this sauce (and he works at a really good Italian restaurant). I may try it sometime with some tomato sauce in it, just for a variation, but it was definitely yummy as is. I served with some parmesan garlic bread. And for dessert—we are having raspberry crumble bars (with chocolate chips).

With beef as the main ingredient and surprisingly little tomato, the many subtle tastes in this famous sauce come together beautifully:

Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta

Heat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ounce pancetta, finely chopped (optional)–I skipped this step because I forgot to pick up pancetta–I definitely want to try it with this next time

Cook, stirring until the pancetta releases its fat but is not browned, about 8 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add:

1 large carrot, peeled and minced

2 small celery stalks, minced

1/2 medium onion, minced

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Cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

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Add and brown:

1 1/4 pounds coarsely ground beef skirt steak or very lean ground chuck

Stir in:

3/4 cup chicken or beef stock (I used beef)

2/3 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

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Two of my favorite cooking products: 2 buck Chuck from TJ’s for cooking and tomato paste in a tube (from Monsieur Marcel gourmet grocery store at the L.A Farmer’s Market)

Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered and skimming occasionally, until the sauce is the consistency of thick soup, about 2 hours. From time to time as the sauce simmers, add, 2 tablespoons at a time:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Skim the fat off the top before reheating.

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November 16, 2007

Oven-Fried Chicken with Parmesan Cheese (page 603)

Filed under: chicken, Uncategorized — Emily @ 5:26 am

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Tonight I had to quickly throw something together for dinner. I wasn’t initially planning on using The Joy of Cooking cookbook, but then this recipe caught my eye and I happened to have the recipes on hand, so I went for it. I wasn’t in the mood to throw together any side dishes so I just paired it with frozen organic green beans and Trader Joe’s frozen organic sweet corn (soooo good!!)

Oven-Fried Chicken with Parmesan Cheese

Crisp, savory, and quickly made, this oven-fried chicken is equally good hot or cold. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Rinse and pat dry:

12 chicken drumsticks, thighs, or breast halves, or a combination (I used chicken breasts)

Mix in a medium bowl:

1 cup whole-milk or low-fat yogurt

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup Dijon mustard (all I had was deli style grainy mustard, but it was really good)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Combine in a wide, shallow bowl:

3 cups dry-unseasoned bread crumbs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon ground sage (I didn’t have sage, so I used savory seasoning instead)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Coat each piece of chicken with the yogurt mixture, then roll in the crumb mixture, then roll in the crumb mixture, patting with your fingers to make the crumbs adhere. Arrange the chicken on the baking sheet. Bake until the coating is nicely browned and the dark meat pieces exude clear juices when pricked with a fork, 45 to 60 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

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My inspiration for this blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Emily @ 2:41 am

This blog has been an idea in my mind for quite some time now. My inspiration for this project was Julie Powell’s book: Julie and Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. In this book, Julie cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 in only a year. While very inspirational, I have no desire to eat cow’s tongue or sweetbreads, so I decided that Julia Child’s cookbook was not really for me.

I fell in love with cooking when I was a little girl. I have fond memories of assisting my mom in the kitchen. I vividly remember my first solo cooking experience (with ample help from my father). It was Mother’s Day and I was about 9-years-old. I planned the menu using one of my kid’s cookbooks (I wish I could remember the name—it was yellow and I think it had a bear on the cover). I made cinnamon raisin bread (the real kind—it had to rise and not using a bread maching), roasted chicken and twice baked potatoes. It was a success and I was hooked.

Over the years, however, I seem to have lost some of my zest for cooking. I can’t exactly put my finger on it—perhaps because my time is so much more valuable these days, the lure of takeout is so strong or because my less-than-gourmet apartment kitchen is less-than-inspiring–probably a combination of all these. But whatever the reason, I found that I do not cook very often and I do not have the same level of enjoyment. I have all the necessary supplies—gourmet pots and pans, a Kitchenaid standing mixture, cupboards full of cookbooks and recipes jotted down from friends, and a fully stocked pantry. I also have a fairly decent skill level and confidence in the kitchen. But that hasn’t seemed to be enough for me over the last few years.

Recently I was looking for a fairly classic pumpkin bread recipe so I turned to my staple cookbook–The Joy of Cooking. It was written in 1931 by Irma S. Rombauer. I always remember it in my mom’s kitchen and was one of the first cookbooks that I purchased for myself. It doesn’t have a flashy cover or a famous chef or Food Network personality associated with it. In fact, when you look at it—the cookbook is somewhat daunting. With 1136 pages of recipes and cooking techniques, it looks more like a college textbook than a cookbook. When I found it in the back of the cupboard recently, I was immediately drawn to the title—the JOY of Cooking. That’s it—that’s exactly what I want! I want to start finding joy in cooking again! Thus, I have embarked on a new cooking journey.

I don’t have a time frame, or a specific schedule. But I went through the cookbook and picked out what I consider to be the “essential” recipes. This translates into a 12-page Word document of all the recipes that I want to cook and master in this cookbook. This doesn’t mean that I won’t still be regularly cooking Kraft mac and cheese (had that for dinner last night) or running down the block to Bollywood Cafe or Sushi Dan and getting my favorite take-out. This just means that I want to start incorporating cooking back into my life and finding the happiness in it that I once had.

So keep reading and help keep me accountable. I hope to include pictures as often as possible—and I will definitely include recipes.

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