Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cooking Experiments

Now here's a new topic for this blog - cooking.  While it may have been mentioned in entries before this one, this will be the first time, I think, that I devote an entire entry to food preparation and enjoyment.

It's all ME's fault.

You see, one of her favorite vegetables is the turnip.  My reaction when she mentions (or when anyone mentions) turnips is to try to suppress a shudder.  At one point in my life, I was served mashed turnips.  Gleefully, I dug into them thinking I had winter squash.  Oh my.  No, no, no, turnips were not for me.  So of course, I lumped rutabagas (though I loved the word and a book called Rutabaga Stories when I was a kid) and parsnips in with turnips.  Actually, I had at various times in my childhood been served rutabagas and parsnips and hadn't like them at all.

Then in the newspaper or in a magazine I read that parsnips had suffered from the same overcooked vegetable practice that almost all vegetables had been given while I was a child (need I mention gray, mushy asparagus?).  That on the contrary, parsnips when cooked properly are not the soft, mushy things hiding in soups or stews, but they are instead a tender, slightly sweet vegetable.  So I went to the store and bought two parsnips, brought them home, and planned to put them in soup - but not overcook them.

Due to D's travel schedule for two weeks running no soup was made.  During that time (fortunately root vegetables keep longer than leafy, green ones!), I read the most recent Victoria magazine ( a subscription given to me by my sister-in-law N so I guess this is partly her fault, also) and found a recipe for root vegetables - note the plural, please.  

I thought of ME, and I thought of my ruling principle which is to be open to opportunities and new experiences.  Off I went to the store with the recipe in hand.  I had to wait until D was home again to cook those vegetables, but cook them I did.

Parsnips.  Turnips.  Beets.  Carrots.  The radishes were too far past freshness to buy, so we'll have to try them again some other time.  I did have to change the recipe slightly to omit some things that are not kind to us or to suit our tastes, but here's the verdict.

ROASTED root vegetables are absolutely incredible!  Both D and I were amazed and are happy to have more vegetables to add to our long list of favorites (beets and carrots were always okay by us).  Plus it also encourages us to try some other things that we haven't cooked ourselves.  Okra, for instance.  In New Orleans, okra is in almost everything, and it was never slimy! 

It shouldn't be such a surprise to me.  After all, my mother made hot cereal regularly.  She made Wheatena, oatmeal, Maltex and some others I have managed to forget.  I loathed them all even when she tried hiding raisins in the bottom of the bowl to tempt me (I am still not overly fond of raisins).  But now I make hot cereals using steel-cut oats, quinoa, wild rice, barley, grits, and Maltex (although not all of them at the same time!) and throw in apples, cranberries, honey or brown sugar or dark amber maple syrup or molasses during cooking, and then top a bowl off with loads of fresh fruit.  

Then there's my newest chili.  I found a recipe for Sweet Potato and Black Bean chili in one of the grocery stores, and since we like those two ingredients, I had to try it.  It's now earned a place in our regular soup/stew of the week line up!

Experimentation keeps our meals interesting, makes me use the produce that's in season and therefore, not as expensive, and keeps me aware of what we are eating instead of returning to the same old, high fat, high calorie, high sodium foods (though I'm not as good about the sodium as some people who put me to shame - E!).  I know enough to substitute or eliminate altogether things we really don't like or to add something that I think will enhance a dish.  The fact that I enjoy cooking helps a lot, of course, and having good friends to encourage one to try something new or a sister-in-law to broaden one's horizons through a magazine are definite pluses.

But turnips and parsnips?  Well, I'm just floored.  Thanks, ME and N!

1 comment:

  1. We recently tried Trader Joe's Cabernet beef cooked in our slow cooker with water, parsnips and an apple. I used a blender on the cooked Apple and parsnips. Made a terrific sauce for the meat.