Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Cooking Philosophy and My First Recipe Post

Being not only a student in college but an aspiring actor (ie. "starving artist") as well, food needs to be affordable, healthy, AND delicious. Though I have always valued leftovers, I find myself incredibly bored if I have to eat the same thing all week. Cooking has interested me from a young age-- I was too short for our kitchen counters and had to stand on a stool in the kitchen if I wanted help my dad make Saturday morning pancakes! My parents have been tremendous enforcers of balanced diets and good, home-cooked meals. Every evening we would sit down to a delicious array of foods that one or both would make, and we got such a wide variety of flavors. Some nights we'd have Mexican food, other nights Chinese, sometimes the usual American burgers or ribs, and always lots of rice and veggies. I have learned so much about cooking and found my love for it through my family (and having several summers of boredom in high school helped, too).

These days, college has taught me that I don't have all the ingredients I want and I also don't have the money for it (visiting home and opening the fridge/pantry is AWESOME), so how would I be able to eat nice things while being poor? Easy. Take different recipes (books, online, family recipes) and 1) use less expensive ingredients, 2) find shortcuts with frozen and canned items, 3) do everything in your power to make it healthy, and 4) make it your own! And I seriously mean "make it your own" by mixing it up with new flavors and new ideas. My parents and my boyfriend would tell you immediately that I RARELY follow recipe instructions. I read "1 tbsp" and I pour in what I figure it must be. Through this carefree and perhaps reckless cooking strategy, I have not only gotten more accurate at estimation but have learned how to flavor things myself without the help of uber-specific numbers. However, this has brought me to a whole new place with the start of my I have to start writing things down. And it's a big mess trying to put things into tablespoons and cups for me...but I'm doing it! And you should be happy for me. It'll help you if you ever want to try something out, too! That said, though, I will ALWAYS encourage you to try my recipes, then feel as free as a bird to tweak and adapt! I find that's the only way people ever really "learn to cook", anyway. :)

So be on the lookout for all sorts of recipes, all messed up by me (haha), and I can guarantee you that a majority of them will be completely affordable and very healthy! Here's a recipe to start!

Firstly, I had the wrong noodles. I know, I know, Asian girl with only Italian noodles in her possession...but when I make it again, I'm definitely getting the right noodles. Again, being lazy and poor means using what I have sometimes! Extra-firm tofu is great for this recipe because it will hold its shape after all the cooking and tossing. Firm will probably do all right as well, but I personally wouldn't venture into soft tofu unless you want it scrambled up with the rest of the ingredients. I also used canned green beans instead of fresh based on availability, but feel free to use fresh! I'm sure it's even better. Make sure that you rinse the beans well because most canned items have salt included--the rinsing gets some of that extra sodium out of there! Speaking of, don't expect the flavor from this Chinese-inspired dish to be purely from added salt! The soy sauce and peanut butter add a lot of salt on their own, but I made sure to keep the dish relatively sweet-tasting with the brown sugar. If you're a salt-lover, add away!

Cold Sesame-Peanut Noodles with Tofu and Ginger

-1 tsp salt
-3 cups fusilli noodles (or any other pasta—I’d personally recommend soba or thick rice noodles)
-1 carrot
-1/2 package extra-firm tofu
-1 can (14.5oz) green beans, drained and rinsed
-4 tbsp. sesame oil
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
-1/2 c. water
-3 tbsp. peanut butter (I used all-natural chunky style)
-1 tbsp. brown sugar
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-2 large green onions
-2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
-salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper to taste

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

1.       Bring salt and a pot of water to a boil. Add noodles, cook until al dente.
2.       Slice the green onions, cut the carrots into matchsticks, and cut tofu into ½ inch cubes.
3.       In a large saucepan, add 2 tbsp. sesame oil and the olive oil. Add tofu and fry for five minutes, stirring throughout. Add carrots and green beans and sauté until tender.

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

4.       Drain the noodles and return them to their pot. Add the veggies and tofu and stir.

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

5.       To the used saucepan, add remaining sesame oil, soy sauce, and water (for even more flavor, combine half to a full chicken-flavored bouillon cube to the water to make a basic broth). When it begins to bubble, add peanut butter and stir constantly. I used the back of my spatula to squish the peanut butter around and melt it faster. When a nice, thick sauce begins to form, quickly add brown sugar, garlic, ¾ of the green onion and ginger. If you’d like a thinner sauce, add more water/broth and soy sauce (be careful, though, if you don’t want too much salt).
6.       Add the sauce to the noodle pot and mix well. Season with spices as you see fit. I love lots of cayenne and fresh-ground black pepper. Garnish with remaining green onion.

Tasted better than it looks! :O Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

Happy Cooking!

P.S. If you don't know already, I am a BIG fan of spicy foods. At almost any occasion, I will add copious amounts of garlic, hot peppers, black pepper, etc. to everything. If you don't like it, remember that you don't have to make it that way!

P.P.S. My camera sucks. Ehhhh. I'm going to borrow Ethan's next time and see if it's any better, but I'm apologizing now. I always look at pictures and get SO jealous...a beautiful image always makes the food look THAT much more don't judge if my food is ugly. One day I'll have the money to have an apartment/house with sunlight (our apartment has windows but faces another building...) and a fancy camera. Hee. :)

1 comment:

  1. One way to find discount countertops is looking through Home Depots or stone warehouses. Some stone fabrication shops also sell leftovers that are very cheap but still have the same quality and shine. You can also find them via the internet. You can check out the websites of stone manufacturers to find cheap granite.