After a holiday pinning binge (pingeing?) on Pinterest, I realized I have amassed 3,000 pins. Not all are recipes, but a lot of them are because Pinterest is a great way to keep track of recipes I want to try without creating a stack of printed recipes and hand-scratched scribbled notes.
That’s my Pinterest story and I’m sticking to it.
Seriously, I won’t pin anything that I don’t plan to actually make, and I have un-pinned recipes that we tried and rejected.
I am simultaneously adventuresome AND particular about recipes I will even consider. As a result my family has collectively “raised the bar” over the years, snubbing most pre-processed and fast food in favor of dishes made with fresh, wholesome ingredients in an array of colors, textures, and flavors.
And so I am often surprised (and saddened) when I find a much-hyped recipe (“This is the best thing I’ve ever made!!!!”) is bland or poorly seasoned, or the food consistency is mushy, hard or otherwise blech. It’s not inedible; it just isn’t good.
I’m not a food snob….truly I’m not. In my pantry are some sodium- and fat-laced foods that would make true foodies cringe. Things like cream-of-something soup. Powdered soup mixes. The occasional ready-to-make rice or pasta dish. Velveeta. Onion and garlic powders. Quick oats. The list goes on.
In certain dishes, these ingredients have a role to play. Not every dish needs to be totally scratch-made from just-plucked farm-fresh foods and gourmet seasonings in order to taste good. The trick (in my humble opinion) is to know when to use a short-cut and when to not short-change your dish. And that knowledge comes through a lot of trial-and-error.
You don’t have to dirty every pot and pan to create a great weeknight dinner, either. In case you hadn’t noticed, I really love my crockpot. Crockpots and slowcookers are true kitchen workhorses. And like any good workhorse, they are great for some things, and disastrous for others. Case in point: I tried recipes for crockpot oatmeal and hash brown casserole over the holidays. The oatmeal suffered from my inattentiveness when I mixed it together. (Using a smaller second container as an insert and creating a water bath is a good idea. But use good steel-cut oats, NOT quick oats. Trust me.) A hash brown casserole can be made the night before and baked in the morning with good results, but it is not a good dish for cooking overnight. I should have known better, but I tried it because there were so many glowing comments. Which makes me wonder if those blessed souls have ever had a really good hash brown casserole.
Yesterday I made a “forgotten chicken” casserole and stuck it in to bake before we headed to worship. The result? It has potential, but to those who raved on the original recipe….really? It was bland, even though I used a wild rice and mushroom pilaf mix. I can’t imagine a 3-hour baking would do anything good to the minute rice in the original recipe. I will try it again, with some serious alterations and adjustments, because three hours at 275 yielded reasonably tender, moist chicken breasts. There is hope for the concept, but the ingredients need a tweaking, and maybe a complete overhaul.
I realize that every family’s tastes and sensibilities will vary wildly. But if I could wish for one thing, it would be that families everywhere would stop settling for overcooked and badly seasoned food; if the reviews on recipe sites are any indication, there’s far too much of that going on. Home-cooked food should be anything but greasy, dry, tasteless, bland or mushy.
Trust me, anyone can learn to recognize high-potential recipes and then modify them to suit their tastes; when you do, cooking can become a very fun adventure. If your family is in an eating rut, slowly introduce more contrasts in flavor and texture. Not every food has to be an all-out assault on your “gustatory senses,” but stop settling for bad or same ‘ol, same ‘ol food every day.
Happy Monday…and happy cooking,