How I learned to cook

Before I get into how I learned to cook, I thought I’d point out that if you’re reading this somewhere other than on my site, like a reader, you might be missing out on seeing our lovely new family photo in the header. We recently did a mini photo shoot with the talented and lovely Whitney Loibner, and I’m thrilled with how the pictures turned out. I highly recommend a mini shoot if you have toddlers– 15 minutes was about all my kids could handle, and we were outta there and off to get pancakes as a treat in no time. And if you have a talented photographer like Whitney,  you’ll still get plenty of great shots in a short amount of time.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog programming:

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I’ve kind of become notorious among my friends for Instagramming my food. One friend joked that whatever we have on Friday night, they have on Saturday. Others have joked about their dinners being “one-upped by the Orsborns.” Another Instagrammed her dinner last night and said I inspired her to do so. For all the hating posting food pics can get, most of my real-life feedback has been that my friends like my dinner posts and don’t want me to stop. Thank goodness, because I wasn’t planning to! (There’s a reason I joke that my Instagram brand is “all the things you hate:” kids, food, drinks, selfies, pets.)

Another question friends have asked is when I’m going to teach them how to cook. While I would like to occasionally host some kind of cooking party where everyone walks away with a couple freezeable dinners, that’s not really in my plans anytime soon, either. But what I can tell you is how I learned to cook.

Continue reading “How I learned to cook”

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best thing since sliced bread*

Image via the Google LIFE image archive.

This morning I woke up and did something I never thought I’d do: I baked a loaf of sandwich bread.

Sure, sure, I’ve written extensively about my love of No-Knead Bread, but this just might be a step too far.

See, when I was in school, I had a crazy person for a mom. She made me re-use the same brown paper bag to carry my lunch every day for a week, because it would be wasteful for me to throw a bag away every single day, when they could be re-used. She probably would have made me carry a lunchbox, but I threw a wailing hissyfit about how UNCOOL lunchboxes were and BUT ALL THE COOL KIDS CARRY THEIR LUNCHES IN BROWN PAPER BAAAAGGGGGGSSSSSS. As if the cool kids gave two shits about what my lunch was carried in, but these things strangely matter in high school. So, I carried my lunch in brown paper bags, which I carefully folded and tucked into my pocket to take home and use again the next day. Because clearly, my mom wanted me to be unpopular.

Beyond the bags, there was what I carried in them. Always, always a turkey sandwich with ranch dressing. But the bread, well… it wasn’t NORMAL. It didn’t come in a nice little sleeve all sliced up from the store. Nope. It was the uncoolest bread ever. It was made by my mom in her breadmaker, and the last slice was always wonky because it had a hole in it from the machine’s little kneading paddle. The slices were always slightly uneven and often too thick, and I was, for some bizarre reason, convinced the other kids would think I was like, poor or something because I didn’t have normal store-bought bread. Yep. I looked gift bread in the mouth and basically acted like a brat over BREAD. What can I say? I went to a “rich kid” high school where even bread and lunchbags could be status symbols.

Fast forward to today and my high school self is rolling her eyes at me as I proof dough and shape loaves. It’s possible that in the new locavore, DIY, Etsy world we live in, homemade bread is now actually more of a status symbol than I thought store-bought bread was in high school. But it’s also possible that homemade bread just tastes better, especially warm from the oven and slathered in butter. I love the way my house smells all yeasty and delicious. I love the satisfaction of making something with my own hands. I love knowing exactly what is in my food. And I love my mom for lovingly baking bread and packing lunches and taking such good care of me, even when I was such an ungrateful brat. I’ll have to bake her a loaf sometime…

*the title of this post comes from what Jon always says about my homemade bread: “It’s the best thing since sliced bread!”

kitchen catch-all

My Kitchen Catch-all posts are a roundup of what I cooked, where I ate, what I’m thinking of cooking, and what’s got my brain cooking each week.  Let me know what you think, and tell me what you’ve been cooking lately!

eating in

This isn’t everything I cooked this week, but more of a highlight reel.

  • The best dinner I made all week was this French Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart. (At the time of writing, this link was giving me “database errors” but I swear it’s where I got the recipe.)
  • The same night we ate the tomato tart, I also made us a fancy dessert: Honey Lemon Pots de Creme.  Usually, you see chocolate pots de creme, and though I love them, they’re not very summery.  This recipe makes a VERY lemony, tart, creamy dessert. Jon wasn’t crazy about them, but I was a fan. Be sure to grate the lemon zest very fine or it will make for a strange texture.
  • Berries in Meringue bowls with Orange-Scented Chocolate and Vanilla Cream: Because the pots de creme used a bunch of egg yolks, I had a bunch of whites left over.  I had seen an episode of Jamie Oliver this week where he made a big meringue with pears and chocolate and cream and decided to try something similar.  My vision was to have little bowls made of meringue, filled with summery berries and drizzled with orange-scented chocolate and sweet vanilla cream.  To make the meringue, I whipped my six egg whites until they formed firm peaks, then added about a cup and a half of sugar and a pinch of salt and whipped on high for about 8 minutes.  I formed the meringue into 6 little bowl shapes on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and baked for about an hour at 300.  I filled each bowl with blackberries, and drizzled them with chocolate (the chocolate was bittersweet chocolate, melted with the zest of 1 orange and thinned out with a little cream) and topped them with a vanilla cream (1.5 cups heavy cream whipped with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla). SO YUMMY.

    Ok, so, you can't see the berries, the cream would look better if it had been piped on, and the chocolate wasn't thin enough for pretty drizzling. STILL. This was amazing.

eating out

Much like I did for Charleston restaurants, I plan to make a running list of places I’ve tried in Little Rock.

  • Wednesday night I joined some girlfriends from church for a girls’ night at Salut Bistro on University.  The restaurant is a little hard to find, as it’s in the first floor of what seems to be a tall office building, and the entrance isn’t clearly marked.  I had a yummy $6 glass of Kung Fu Girl riesling from Washington and enjoyed a beef brisket sandwich with a side of fries.  The sandwich was tasty, and the fries were well seasoned.  The menu was a bit scattered, but the food was good, and I think everyone I was with enjoyed their meals.  They also have a late-night menu that looked pretty good– might have to go back and see what that’s like sometime.

food for thought

  • I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making my own pitas for a while. Now I’ve got my eye on making some tzaziki sauce to go with them (Serious Eats).
  • My favorite restaurant in Charleston was the Glass Onion.  Located just around the corner from our house, the GO was a regular haunt for us. I liked things there that I wouldn’t eat anywhere else, including biscuits and gravy and meatloaf. Their delicious Southern food is also deeply local, and they served as the pickup point for our CSA. All this to say, they have a blog, and word is they’re going to be putting out a cookbook.  I was happy to see they shared their Country Captain recipe and plan to make it soon. It’s a Southern curry dish– yes, there is such a thing!
  • I’ve also been dreaming of replacing my non-stick KitchenAid cookware for a stainless steel set. Serious Eats says the Tramontina sets sold at WalMart are basically as good as 5 x’s pricier AllClad sets.
  • First cupcakes, then macarons, then whoopie pies. Apparently the next big dessert trend, according to The Kitchn, is Moon Pies.
  • From The Atlantic, a theory about why we love food TV so much.