Sunday, May 12, 2013

Is cooking boring? Three suggestions for heating it up...

I'm pretty sure that most of the people who come to my cooking classes either enjoy cooking or enjoy watching the process of cooking.  But every once in a while, a remarkable thing happens...someone slips into class who thinks cooking is boring, at the least, and a horrible exercise in pain, at the most.  Frankly, I love that because it presents me with an opportunity.  It's not that I will necessarily convert that person into a cooking queen (or king) but a glimpse is provided into a cooking experience that may eventually lead to a shift in perspective.  The oven will become something more than a big box with fire coming out of it.  So, here are my suggestions to help make cooking a satisfying time for you. 
  • Add some spice.  The fun of cooking is that it can be an adventure.  You can travel around the world without ever leaving your home.  Flavors from Asia, Europe and beyond are easily available.  If you make the same things, day in and day out...well, of course, it gets boring!  Who wants to always see the same thing on the plate in front of them?  I know, I don't!  So make a point of trying one thing new a week.  I'm not suggesting that you tackle pheasant under glass (does anyone even know what that is anymore?) but try a new herb or spice or vegetable.  Instead of grilled chicken with salt and pepper, try adding some smoked paprika and see what happens...not only to the flavor and fragrance but the beautiful color it produces. I, personally, think they should make a smoked paprika perfume.  I would buy it and wear it...just sayin'.
  • Open a bottle of wine.  Yes, I am a big advocate of having a glass of wine while you are cooking, for several reasons.  The person bored with cooking is often out of ideas, had no ideas to begin with or worst of all, if afraid to make a mistake in the kitchen and so never makes anything outside of his/her comfort zone.  Let me assure you that having a glass of wine will help you with this.  I'm not talking about getting hammered...I'm talking about relaxing and making cooking in the kitchen an enjoyable experience.  We find that in the classes at Urban Kitchen, a group of complete strangers have a glass of wine, cook together and then end up leaving together as friends headed down the street for dessert at one of our local restaurants.  They become friends because they have created a bond over a glass of wine and cooking a good meal.  And, it was FUN!
  • Turn up the music.  Just as tunes make exercise more enjoyable, they also make cooking more fun.  Think of your favorite music and you will often have a food memory associated with it.  Restaurants spend much time and money creating playlists that make their dining rooms more conducive to a pleasant, relaxing meal.  Do the same in your kitchen!  Richard Simmons sweats to the oldies...okay, maybe that's a bad analogy but you could cook to the oldies as well.  Your taste in music is personal just as your taste in food is personal so design your cooking environment to make yourself happy.  Spend a little time enjoying the time you spend cooking...see it as a creative time and not drudgery and you may just find that it's not so boring.
 Here's a fun recipe to get the juices flowing...easy to make and easy to change up with your favorite veggies...great for Meatless Monday!  Enjoy!!

Vegetable Calzone Roll

Serves 6

1 sheet of puff pastry
1 egg
1 tbsp water

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper , cut into strips
1 cup button or cremini mushrooms , sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
5 oz baby spinach
½ cup grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese , cut into 8 slices
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus another 2 tbsp

Heat the oven to 400°. Whisk egg and water together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add vegetables and oregano and cook until tender and the liquid is evaporated.  Let cool slightly.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 16x12-inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, spoon the vegetable mixture onto the bottom half of the pastry sheet to within 1 inch of the edge.  Top with the cheeses.  Starting at the short side, roll up like a jelly roll.  Tuck the ends under to seal.  Place seam-side down onto a baking sheet.  Brush with the egg mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining grated Parmigiano.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove the pastry from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

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Come join the fun and take a class with us!  Visit my website at Urban Kitchen on Cherry Street and check out the Class Calendar.

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