flavors...and football follow-up

so, i have been thinking about food for the past few days. oh, who am i kidding, i'm forever thinking about food, a trend that goes back much further than just the past few days. but anyway, i have been thinking about my favorite flavor combinations and realized that many of my favorite flavors utilize the same few ingredients. so i decided to write about my top 10 ingredients. 10 ingredients that i just can't live without; so basic, yet able to be combined in unexpected pairs. or at least unexpected to the lay-cook, with my lay-palate. perhaps not so unexpected to a professional cook's palate. so, here's my top 10 ingredients (and how i typically use them), not in any preferential order:
1. oils: sesame oil and coconut oil are two particular favorites of mine. coconut oil is supposed to be a fairly healthy option, no trans fats. both of these oils have a slightly more interesting taste than your run-of-the-mill canola or cheap-o superstore brand olive oil. i like to use coconut oil to sauté instead of using butter. sesame oil is particularly yummy to use in dishes when no cooking is involved because there are some oils that no one would prefer to taste (or you have to invest in REALLY good, REALLY expensive extra virgin olive oil), but sesame oil has a generally good taste to it. it goes well with asian-inspired dishes and can be combined with soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, veggies, and noodles (try soba or whole wheat spag noodles + edamame + sesame oil + toasted sesame seeds...mmm.).
2. organic chicken/vegetable broth: choose the low sodium variety so you can salt to taste; this is just a good basic ingredient to keep in your pantry at all times; use to make soups, chicken pot pie, or steam veggies, quinoa, or rice for a little more flavor.
3. fruit: i love most fruits...and even my favorite "veggies" happen to be fruits (squash, avocado, tomato). i like dried fruits, fresh fruits, cooked fruits, grilled fruits, fruit-pies, fruit salad, fruit-in-my-cereal...you name it. i like fruits with savory foods, like pork chops or chicken, or dried cherries or golden raisins in a curried rice dish, or fruit in a spinach salad with feta cheese and almonds, avocado and tomato salad (with simple salt and pepper), avocado with eggs, home-made guacamole, or grilled peaches and plums with cinnamon, sugar, cayenne (see spices), and topped with vanilla ice cream. delightful.
4. pasta: there's just so much you can do with pasta; it's easy to feed a lot of people on a little pasta; it's easy to cook, easy to experiment, good with a glass of red wine, and a little sprinkling of parmesan on top (see cheeses). i love to cook a bowl of pasta and toss in yesterday's leftovers from the grill (grilled chicken and veggies) with a little splash of oil and sprinkling of cheese.
5. eggs: another easy meal. scrambled with a soft cheese (my mom dad used to always make scrambled eggs with cream cheese...so good), fluffy omelette with peppers, onions and avocado or mushrooms and thyme, crepes with steaming blueberries and brie (see fruit and cheeses), or french toast (if you haven't had my french toast, you should come over for breakfast sometime!). our neighbors have hens, so we try to either use their eggs or we buy eggs from cage-free, grain-fed hens at the grocery. you'll notice a difference in taste. more flavorful. i hope this isn't bragging, but i'm rather good at cooking eggs. sometimes we'll go out for breakfast and there's really not an egg dish on any menu that i could not cook better. largely because eggs taste best hot off the skillet, not heated under a warmer while waiting for the rest of the order to fill.
6. spinach: spinach is my go-to green. we always keep it on hand for salads or to chop up and add to almost any dish to add extra nutrients! if you can't tell, i'm not a huge veggie-lover (unless you count my fruit-veggies!), so any way to add extra veggies into my diet is a must. I chop it finely and add to pasta dishes, omelettes, and my chicken pot pie. i don't particularly love cooked spinach but when you chop it in fine ribbons it doesn't clump quite so much. also, try adding it to hot dishes at the very last second so it does not completely wilt.
7. cayenne pepper/spices: i love all spices, especially cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne. i use these three in almost everything, sometimes all together! cayenne + dark chocolate (thank you mexico!) is one of my favorite flavor combos. i also add cayenne to fruit salads and eat with a good soft cheese. i sprinkle cinnamon on frying bacon (no joke!) or add nutmeg to creamy pasta dishes (i know, sounds strange, but it's good...promise). the key is not to over-do-it. in the mornings i usually make a chocolate protein powder + soy milk + cinnamon + cold coffee shake for myself so that i can consume my breakfast while driving to work, thus allowing myself to hit the snooze button one last time.
8. thyme/basil: i've been fairly successful growing herbs (fingers crossed!) so i enjoy adding them into just about everything. i have two flavors of thyme growing right now (one variety that i got from my mom's garden is a little bit lemon-y). basil makes a good addition to a toasty panini sandwich!
9. cheese: top 3 cheeses for me are brie/camembert, feta, and parmesan. but i also love blocks of cheddar, mozzerella, etc. no stinky cheeses for me, though. there's almost too much to say about cheeses. i honestly don't think i could live without them. cheese makes everything better. trying to eat more salads? no problem, just add feta. what would pizza be without cheese?? cheese makes my world go 'round. ok, that's just a little overly dramatic.
10. honey: a good substitute for sugar. add to fruit salads, grilled fruit, oatmeal, or marinades for pork or chicken. one of my favorite breakfasts is toasted walnut sage bread (from Wheatfields in downtown Lawrence), with a little bit of brie cheese and honey.
so, that was my top 10 ingredients list. if you haven't tried some of those ingredients, you really should. i don't really do recipes (i just kind of eye-ball it!) but if you want to know how i cook something, just leave a comment.
here are a few cookbooks i've picked up recently. In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite includes recipes with lots of fun stories and tips from the author, Melissa Clark. her approach to food seems to be similar to mine: keep it simple, but still interesting. she also has an entire chapter about breakfast foods for dinner (clearly i feel the same, particularly about eggs!) and another entire chapter devoted to cheese (hello!). Everyday Italian features a lot of great pictures so that i can get inspiration from photographs instead of having to read a recipe! i tend to like picture-cookbooks! the last book is a little gem i found in 1/2 Price Bookstore printed in 1963 featuring recipes and cooking techniques/trends throughout the ages in European history...pretty fascinating! i'll probably NEVER cook anything from this book, but it is still very interesting to me!
ok, in keeping with my recent trend of bipolar-blogging (that's the term i've coined for my range of unrelated blogging topics): i will now discuss my thoughts about ku football to follow up on my take on turner gill from last weekend. i have to say, i am utterly stumped. i have no words. i cannot fathom how a team that lost at home to a 1-AA team, who wasn't even able to score a single touchdown, managed to beat the 15/17th ranked Georgia Tech yellow jackets! it makes no sense at all. i still stand by my opinion that coaches should not name a starting quarter back one week and bench the same QB in a knee-jerk reaction to a loss that cannot be entirely pinned on said QB. but, i have to admit that, in this case, it appears that switch made a difference for ku this week. what i cannot understand is: did jordan webb suddenly show up in practice this past week, only after kale pick was dumped as starter? or was he always that good and the coaching staff erroneously decided to start kale pick for some unknown reason? sure, he's more experienced. sure, jordan webb's a redshirt freshman. but i just cannot believe that there was such a discernible difference that only became apparent after that hideous showing against NDSU in KU's opening game. turner gill opted to start webb, but still gave kale pick some playing time against GTech...i think probably just to maintain diplomatic relations with kale should he have any need to go back to him as starter. so, i guess i will withhold judgment for now, because, honestly, i just do not know what to expect. i felt like my predictions were pretty safe last week. no one seems to be able to explain that quick of a turn around, so neither will i. it defies logic.


tiff said...

YOU have a food gift, Miss Julia Child. I'd like to eat your advanced food combinations and gourmet meals...so when you're not busy...:) I'm so impressed and out of my league!
PS...can you please leave me the kitchen table in your will just in case you go before I do.

Mendy said...

tiff - the table is yours when i go, for sure. and if my deal with god pans out, it's yours before we hit 50! too morbid? eh.