"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Bad Home Cooking: Eight resolutions for 2009 (and six things that make me happy)

by Julie Tilsner on January 2, 2009

in Chew on This

I love a new year. Like a newly-cleaned house or a freshly-scrubbed kid, a new year is a clean slate, full of potential and hope. I like to keep my expectations low in the kitchen, but I thought it was worth coming up with a list of possibly actionable items that will make my life (and that of those forced to live near me) that much better in the new year. To wit:

Here are EIGHT resolutions for 2009:

1.) I will learn to dice an onion (Kelli, if you’re still knitting me those gloves, you might want to subtract a finger or two…)

2.) I will learn how to roast a chicken in one go.

3.) I will figure out something to do with the tin of tomato paste I’ve used one tablespoon of other than cover it with tinfoil and let it go fuzzy in the back of the fridge.

4.) I will update this blog once a week, damnit. And OK, I’ll try to fix the photos, too.

5.) I will not waste so much food. If my kids won’t eat it, I will find someone who will. Any volunteers…?

****************************** crickets *********************************************************************

6.) I will learn the ancient art of timing. That is, I will learn how to get three things on a plate and serve them before any of them get cold.

7.) I will bake Linda’s white bread this year. I will not be afraid.

8) I will identify three more meals my kids will both eat. (It’s the both part that will prove tricky)

What’dya think? Are any of these doable? I think they all are, but you, plucky readers, may think otherwise. Which one(s) is/are the most likely to fall through the cracks?

Oh, and in other news, I found out that I’ve been sent my first Blog meme of 2009, along with a little award of unknown provenance. I saw my blog mentioned on a food blog called Joie de Manger, written by a woman trained as a chef and now trying to juggle cooking and family (and dog).

If I understand these things correctly, I’m supposed to do something (in this case, list six things that make me happy), then pass this award onto six other deserving blogs. This does seem like the blog version of a chain letter, but hell. I’m flattered enough to do as I’m told,

As such, here are six things that make me happy:

1.) Hearing, “Mom! Can I have some more of your (insert home-made foodstuff here).

2.) Dinner parties with friends

3.) Farmer’s markets

4.) Noodles of all sorts

5.) Flamenco, especially live, when it’s caught fire

6.) Cute scarves.

I pass this forward to:

Matt Bites
xxstream — Housewifery in real time
Talk of Tomatoes
The Perfect Pantry

Visit these excellent blogs and see what they’ve got for you.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

transiit January 2, 2009 at 11:40 pm

These are not insurmountable goals.
Dicing an onion, well, I’m sure people will have some advice, but the technique I’m aware of has done me well.
1) Take a look at your onion. It’s got a blossom end and a root end (You can tell the difference between the end that tends to taper off and the end that looks like it should’ve been attached to a stem, respectively.) Cut off the blossom end, just enough to get rid of the tip (note that the onion is still not peeled.)
2) With that cut made, put it down towards your cutting board. The chemical compounds that are prone to making you tear up have less chance to be airborne the longer that you can keep any cut surface away from air. It also makes it easier for explaining the next step.
3) Cut the whole affair in half lengthwise. That should leave you with a bit of root end on each half. Those now being bigger exposed surfaces, put them cut-side-down.
4) You should now have two half-globes sitting there on your cutting board. Leaving the root end will help ’em stay together for now, and having cut off the blossom side, peeling is way easier. Just pull back the top few layers towards the root end. Don’t need to tear ’em off unless it makes things easier.
5) Make a few radial cuts with your knife. Three or four. Nothing fancy, but everything’s still connected back to that root, so it’ll largely stick together. Think of it like a half clock, make a lengthwise cut at 10:00, 12:00 and 2:00.
6) If you want a finer dice, now go ahead and make some horizontal cuts starting with that same clock face. Don’t bother with angles, just go straight back keeping your knife parallel with your board. I usually skip this.
7) Now attack from above. Just thinly slice with downward cuts, and all the little bits will come off cleanly. Toss the root end once everything else is free.
8) If you want it even finer than that result, just pile it up and work the knife through the pile as necessary.
Speaking of knives, probably better to go with a longer blade to do this (so paring knives are out.) If a serrated blade makes it easier, ignore any internal voice that says “But that’s for slicing bread!” and just go with it.
As for the tomato paste, the current trend is to take a shallow pan (pie pan, sheet pan, whatever. I say a plate or something improvised out of tinfoil works just as well. Heck, an icecube tray would be perfect.) Scoop out individual tablespoons of tomato paste and freeze the whole shebang. Once they’re solid, harvest the little tomato cubes and put ’em in a freezer bag, even if they stick together a little, you can break off a tablespoon’s worth far easier than if you’d frozen the whole mass.
I’m reading up on your roast chicken troubles and I’ll think about it.


Bayleaf January 3, 2009 at 6:44 am

Well, one solution for the fuzzy tomato paste dilemma is to put the remainder in some plastic ice cube trays (I personally like Oxo — the trays come with their own lids, and the cube shape is nice; they slide out in a satisfying oozing motion) and freeze it. Then you always have a little more than a tablespoon’s worth pretty much at your fingertips, and you cut out the moldy waste…


kelli January 4, 2009 at 9:37 am

Tomato paste is the big problem on this list. I solve it by tripling the recipes and using the whole can.


LH January 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm

(8) is the trickiest. The rest are within BHC’s control; what the kids will or won’t eat is another thing entirely. I think the solution is to stop giving them any choice in the matter . . . mwah hah hah hah.


elfini (Dawn) January 5, 2009 at 10:06 am

I personally don’t like #6 – the Ancient Art of Timing. Why? Because it involves math! And I think you know how I feel about math. It is evil. It ages you faster than remembering “I’m a Believer” as a Monkee’s tune!
Uh, yeah. So – you tagged me. Hey! My first meme. Ever. Wow. Thanks. I’ll start pondering now… work be damned!


"Mister J" January 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Tomato Paste can be now found in “TUBE” form like toothpaste. Search it out next time when at the store.
If you are gonna do more dicing learn how to sharpen a knife. Not w/ a steel rod, but by using a whet stone. You can buy them at Bed Bath and Beyond and you can use that coupon you get in the mail.
Also a “cut glove” would be helpful, you can get that at William Sonoma and Sur La Table. That’s to protect your other hand not holding the kife. (A kitchen industry must)
Or you can say “F-it” and just get one of those instant dicer devices.
Also the best recipes are the simplest. How about keeping it simple this year? How can you mess up simple?


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