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My Thoughts on Cooking

 

As I have approached learning to cook with what I call a positive attitude combined with a healthy level of trepidation I can say that I have really given it my best effort. In the past two months I have made a variety of recipes (not all featured on my blog) that have been both fun to make and at the same time, quite challenging. Cooking was never something I gave any thought about; I never endeavoured to improve my skills or learn anything about the subject. Now, I have seen that cooking and baking are both enviable skills and talents!

Here’s what I have learned:

  • cooking takes time, patience, and practice,
  • understanding what flavours work well together is a lot of trial and error,
  • it does not always turn out pretty,
  • new cooks should invest in a high quality heat thermometre because there’s nothing like throwing an entire meal in the garbage because the meat is undercooked,
  • quantities of ingredients do not have to be measured to a perfectly precise degree, you can “eyeball” it in most cases
  • do your research, there are many videos and instructions online, at your fingertips.

Going forward, I am going to continue to try new recipes and improve my skills. I have discovered that as a very visual person, my favourite ways to learn how to cook something new is to watch a video about it. If that’s an approach that works well for you, feel free to check out some of the great YouTube channels from the content creators I have listed below.

Here are some videos I have used to cook and/or bake lately:

All and all I’m excited to continue cooking and learning new skills.

If you have any recommendations on what I should try cooking next, leave a comment and let me know!

If you haven’t already, you can find me on Twitter @alexdifresca or on Instagram (username: discoveringmykicthen). Let’s connect and keep on cooking!

chicken soup

Chicken Soup

I know I have already made a Spicy Sausage and Kale Soupย but I felt like mastering a great chicken noodle was a challenge I was ready for. Really, everyone should know how to make a basic chicken noodle soup, right?

Here’s what I used:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 packs of chicken legs
  • 1 pack of chicken breasts
  • 3 cups of baby carrots
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 4 large onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley

Start this recipe off by boiling 4 cups of water in a large pot.

chicken noodle soup

Wash and cut the parsley and celery.

chicken noodle soup

Peel the onions and garlic but don’t cut them.

chicken noodle soup

Yay more raw meat, my favourite thing ever….

It’s good to use some chicken with skin but try to use the chicken breasts that are skinless. Too much skin will equal too much fat in your soup.

chicken noodle soup

Drop that chicken into the boiling water!

chicken noodle soup

Yup, looks disgusting.

chicken noodle soup

In a half hour, add the onion and garlic to the boiling water.

chicken noodle soup

After 15 minutes, add the celery. I had to cut my celery stocks in half so they would fit in the pot.

chicken noodle soup

Right after you have added the celery, drop in some fresh parsley.

chicken noodle soup

Now it’s carrot time! I love carrots so I put a lot in. You can add as many as you’d like!

chicken noodle soup

Let this simmer on medium heat for 4 hours.

Once you are ready to serve, boil your pasta and mix both together into your serving bowls and you have a great soup for a winter day.

My next goal is to make this Creamy Sweet Potato Soup:

Do you think I’ll be able to do it? Are you going to give it a try? Let me know in the comments!

french toast sticks

French Toast Sticks

THIS IS THE MOST TASTY THING I HAVE EVER MADE!!!

I’m sorry for yelling, but not really, because seriously these little sticks are HEAVENLY!

After a busy weekend, I decided to break from a pretty healthy eating routine and make something that’s pure comfort and delicious. French toast sticks are like the fries of breakfast time. It’s like eating french toast, but instead it feels more like a light snack.

This recipe is incredibly fattening and high calorie, so if you’re looking to stay slim over the holidays, maybe keep this as a special treat rather than a weekly ritual.

Let’s get cooking!

These are the ingredients you’ll need.

french toast sticks

  • 1 cup of whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 slices of thick white bread
  • Syrup to dip the sticks in afterwards
  • 2.5 tablespoons of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of nutmeg

Start by cutting each slice of white bread into 4 long pieces. Leave it out and uncovered for as long as you can as it helps the bread become a bit more stale which actually helps it to old when you are soaking it later on.

french toast sticks

Measure one cup of whipping cream.

french toast sticks

Mix the whipping cream with four eggs into a bowl that is both deep and as a large circumference so that you can eventually dip the slices of bread into it.

french toast sticks

Add one tablespoon of white sugar.

french toast sticks

Mix in the cinnamon (2.5 tablespoons), nutmeg (1 tablespoon), and vanilla extract (1 tablespoon).

french toast sticks

Whisk!

french toast sticks

Now you’re ready to dip those slices of bread into the mixture until they are coated in it completely.

french toast sticks

Place a large frying pan on medium heat and add butter to cook. Place as many stick on as you can fit, without crowding them.

french toast sticks

Depending on your burner and pan, it should take about 5 minutes on each side for the bread to brown.

That’s it!

There’s two ways you can enjoy these little yummy sticks. I prefer them simply dipped in syrup.

french toast sticks

One of my guests enjoyed it with a bit of lemon juice and white sugar sprinkled on top.

french toast sticks

This is a fantastic way to treat guests who stay at your home to a great breakfast that’s sweet, comforting, and filling.

Try this out and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment!

chicken stir fry

Chicken Stir Fry

Is all of your food about to expire? Then this is the recipe for you!

Wow does that ever sound appetizing. But seriously, on those evenings when you’re close to grocery day but you don’t want to order-in or go out to dinner, a stir fry is a healthy and filling meal that can even be saved as a delicious lunch for the next day.

My stir fry consisted of chicken legs that I left in the refrigerator to thaw while at work for the day, all of the vegetables left in my fridge, and a great Kikkoman sauce I just happened to have.

Disclaimer – I have never in my life cooked raw chicken so this was definitely a new and daunting experience. Here we go!

First I prepared my veggies by cutting them into thin pieces and washing them thoroughly.

1 container of mushrooms:

chicken stir fry

About 5 tablespoons of Kikkoman Stir Fry Sauce:

chicken stir fry

1 zucchini:

chicken stir fry

1 package of shredded carrots:

chicken stir fry

1 red bell pepper, 2 tomatoes, and a quarter of a large red onion:

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As I cut each of the vegetables I placed them into a container just to keep my kitchen clean and organied.

chicken stir fry

Now comes the disgusting part. This is my thawed chicken… blood and all. Believe me, I was not looking forward to cutting it, let alone touching it.

chicken stir fry

I used a plastic cutting board instead of my usual wood board because I was (probably irrationally) scared of contaminating it with chicken germs.

chicken stir fry

Using a large knife, I sliced each skinless and boneless piece into thin strips.

chicken stir fry

I read that you are supposed to wash chicken before you cook it. I still don’t really know how rinsing it with water is going to eliminate any germs that cooking it wouldn’t though. If you know, leave a comment!

chicken stir fry

Time to get cooking! I put the chicken in a pan on high heat and put some of the stir fry sauce on it.

chicken stir fry

It took roughly 15 minutes to cook completely, as pictured below.

chicken stir fry

Veggies are so much more fun to cook in my opinion. In a separate frying pan, I started to cook the peppers, onion, zucchini, and carrots because I figured they would take the longest to fully cook.

chicken stir fry

Once those vegetables had fully cooked (took about 10 minutes) I mixed in the tomato, mushrooms, and fully cooked chicken. Again, I added more of the stir fry sauce and let it cook on low heat for 10 minutes.

chicken stir fry

After the tomatoes and mushrooms were soft, the stir fry was complete!

chicken stir fry

In total, the recipe took 30 minutes and was a great way to use a variety of ingredients in one easy to make meal!

chicken stir fry

What do you put in a stir-fry? Next time I am going to be a bit less lazy and make my seasoning or sauce from scratch. Leave your comments and suggestions in the comments!

food apps

My Favourite Cooking Apps

I recently downloaded a few cooking apps to help me find new recipes and guides. I thought it may be helpful to fellow new cooks or those new to using food apps to do a short review of my top two picks.

Yummly

app review

Yummly is a highly customizable app that allows users to “discover recipes just for you”. When you begin the signup process it guides you through a series of questions including;

  • What are you favourite types of foods?
  • What foods do you dislike?
  • How many people do you cook for?
  • How old are you?
  • What is your gender?
  • Which type of cuisine appeals to you most?

app review

Once you have answered these questions Yummly prepares a list of top recipes that match your previous selections. The more you “like” or “yum” recipes that are suggested to you, the more tailored the suggestions become. This is a feature I particularly enjoyed as it made it easy to find new recipes that I had no idea existed but would definitely try.

One of the top features of this app is the “see what you can cook right now” option. By entering in the ingredients you currently have at home, the app will generate recipes that you can make.

app review

Overall I would rate this app an 8/10.

My only drawback is that some of the recipes tagged as beginner, seem a bit advanced. Maybe it’s just me… we all know my level of skill.

If you’re interested in trying Yummly, click here to checkout the website.


Food.comapp review

The Food.com app is the most user friendly cooking app that I tried. As soon as you open it, you are not prompted to immediately sign up but instead are given an exhaustive list of recipes that fall into a number of categories.

Each recipe is displayed as it’s own content block containing a high quality photo, the name of the item, the rating it has been given by users, and the time it takes to prepare. The organization of recipes in this manner made it easy for me to scroll through a long list and quickly decide what I wanted.

app review

Organization is truly the best feature of this app. If you add a recipe to your “grocery list” it is simultaneously added to your “menu” which helps you to create weekly plans for your meals. You can also select your local store and find out what items are on sale.

My overall rating for this app is 9/10. The only drawback is that the sale feature only allows you to select stores in the United States, so users from other countries are out of luck!

You can learn more about the app by clicking here.

What are your favourite apps or websites to find recipes on? Let me know in the comment section!

Checkout my latest recipe, broccoli salad.

*This post was not sponsored, all opinions are my own.

broccoli salad

Broccoli Salad

If you read the title of this blog post and thought “ew, broccoli salad?” but stuck around long enough to read this… you’re my new best friend! I promise this salad tastes great and is somewhat healthy (just ignore the calories in a cup of mayo or this recent article about bacon).

I felt like making something that was easy to prepare and would make a great lunch food so, voila! This salad is my very own mix of coleslaw and caesar salad except it tastes even better.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Have your own kitchen dance party: 5 minutes

Let’s get started.

Here’s what you’ll need:

broccoli salad

  • 2 bunches of broccoli
  • Dijon mustard (1 tbsp)
  • Mayo (1 cup)
  • Apple cider vinegar (1 tbsp)
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1 pack of bacon bits (1/2 cup)
  • 1 pack of craisins (1/2 cup)

Start by finely chopping your red onion. You will only need to chop half of the onion. I’m pretty sure I used the wrong knife and didn’t chop it small enough but after doing this much I was crying like a baby. Seriously, my eyes were on fire!

broccoli salad

Next, I cut the stems off the broccoli and ripped it apart so that it was in small pieces. I rinsed it and let it soak in water to be sure it was clean.

broccoli salad

Time to measure out the fun ingredients! I used about 1 cup of craisins. You could probably make this recipe much healthier by using dried organic cranberries… but really, who has time for that? Not me. Craisins it is!

broccoli salad

Look at me cutting all the corners. Rather than actually make bacon, I opted for bacon bits. It’s like 10 times easier and keeps your kitchen clean so don’t take the high road and actually cook your main ingredients, just buy as many as you can. At least the package says “real” right? You’ll need about a cup (or more, if you really love bacon).

broccoli salad

This is where things get tasty, and really really really high in calories. Measure out 1 cup of mayo.

broccoli salad

Your other wet ingredients include 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

broccoli salad

broccoli salad

Mix all the wet ingredients together into a bowl. Add a bit of pepper and salt. You will be mixing this into the dry ingredients soon.

broccoli salad

Now it’s time for more chopping!

Take your clean broccoli and cut it up into tiny pieces.

broccoli salad

You’re almost at the finish line of deliciousness!

Mix the broccoli, onion, and bacon bits together in a large bowl.

broccoli salad

Now, add the wet ingredients and mix it allย together with a big spoon.

broccoli salad

Guess what… you’re done!

Your final product is a crunchy, savoury, and salty salad which you won’t be able to pass up!

broccoli salad

Who would have thought a broccoli salad would be this good? Certainly not me!

broccoli salad

Tired of boring salads? Try this one and let me know if you like it!

Interested in making another healthy dish? Checkout my Spicy Sausage and Kale Soup!

Peanut Butter Cookies

Feeling lazy but want to cook something delicious? Do I have the recipe for you! It requires only three ingredients and is fun to make!

The prep time is about 10 minutes and depending on your oven I would say takes about 15 minutes to cook (but check on them often).

Here’s how to make peanut butter cookies!

The three ingredients you need to make about 36 cookies are:

  • 2 eggs (large size),
  • 2 cups of peanut butter (smooth),
  • and 1 cup of sugar.

eggs

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sugar

First, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees Celsius.

Combine all the ingredients into one bowl.

peanut butter cookies

peanut butter cookies

Looks delicious, I know.

Next, you want to combine (stir) them all together until they blend into what looks like granulated peanut butter.

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20151013_203256

So here’s where I could have improved. Being my first time baking cookies, I did not realize how much they would spread on my baking sheet. Can I blame the fact that the recipe I was following, measured in inches rather than centimetres?

You need to take the mixed ingredients and roll them into 1 inch balls and spread them on your cookie sheets, 2 inches apart.

However, mine were much too thin (unless you enjoy crunchy cookies) so make sure to make your balls a bit bigger than what is pictured below. You will in that case, probably need to spread them out more.

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After you have placed each on your cookie sheet, which I recommend covering with aluminum foil (helps eliminate cleaning time), use a fork to flatten each ball.

peanut butter cookies

peanut butter cookies

Flatten in a “criss-cross” manner using a fork.ย You have the choice to make them thinner (crunchier) or thicker (softer)ย depending on the type of cookie you prefer.

Place your cookies in the pre-heated oven. Note, the cookie sheet on the bottom will cook faster than the one on the top, which is something I noticed as I checked on them.

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After about 15 minutes, your cookies should be all done! If you notice the cookie sheet closer to the top of the oven, is less cooked than the one at the bottom, just leave it in the oven for a couple more minutes. Remember to check it frequently.

Remove the cookies from the oven and place them on a cooling tray for about 10 minutes or until they are no longer soft.

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When they are cool, put them on a nice serving plate so they look much fancier than they actually are. The goal here is to impress peopleย with your “hard” work.

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Now go enjoy!

Let me know if you try this simple cookie recipe or if you have ways that I could improve, by commenting on this post.

spicy sausage and kale soup

Spicy Sausage and Kale Soup

Well I’ve made it to round two. The kitchen hasn’t burned down and so far everyone who has tasted my food is still alive. I call that a success!

Today I was planning to make a dessert dish, but when my sister offered to teach me how to make this soup, I was extremely happy! First off, following along to instructions from a human rather than a written recipe is infinitely easier (since I have no idea what I’m doing). Secondly, it’s fun! So together we prepared this delicious spicy sausage and kale soup which is both easy to make and healthy to eat.

To start, I sliced the vegetables that will go into the soup:

  • 3 cloves of garlic,
  • 1 onion,
  • 1 pack of mushrooms,
  • 4-5 potatoes,
  • and 1 bag of chopped kale (not pictured below but included later).

spicy sausage and kale soup

spicy sausage and kale soup

spicy sausage and kale soup

Next, on medium heat we oiled the frying pan and put the onion and garlic in to “caramelize”. For people who have no idea what that means (like myself), let it cook until it’s brown and your kitchen smells nice.ย 

spicy sausage and kale soup

So this weekend, I learned that raw meat is on my “Top 10 Things I Don’t Want To Come In Contact With” list. Other things on that list include sharks, tornadoes, and large spiders (so you can gain some perspective on the level of discomfort raw meat gives me) …I digress.

Take 5 spicy sausages and remove them from the gross little case they come in (sounds so appetizing, I know).

spicy sausage and kale soup

You’ll be left with a tiny mountain of disgusting looking but delicious meat.

spicy sausage and kale soup

Time to cook! Place them into the pan where you have your onions and garlic cooking. Use a wooden spoon to break the sausages into 3 cm long chunks.

spicy sausage and kale soup

Stir them and turn up the heat. You’ll know they’re cooked when they change colour and basically look like something you would want to eat. So technical and precise, I know.

spicy sausage and kale soup

Place the vegetables in one or two large pots (my sister says when you put it in two, the flavour is stronger). Mix the vegetables you cut up earlier with the chopped kale.

spicy sausage and kale soup

This is where it starts to become a soup!

Add 3 boxes of chicken broth. Stir it all together and let it start to boil.

spicy sausage and kale soup

Now you get to add the meat! Drop it all in and stir in 1/2 cup of white wine into each pot.

spicy sausage and kale soupspicy sausage and kale soup

Stir and let it come to a boil for 20 minutes.

Like magic, you have soup! If you want to make it spicier, add red chili flakes but be warned, the sausage gives this soup some kick!

spicy sausage and kale soup

All in all, I think that the total prep and cooking time (about 30 minutes) is completely worth it and I’ll definitely try to make this without my sister’s supervision.

What’s your favourite type of soup? As the season changes to autumn, I’d like to try to make something with a squash base. Leave a comment with any suggestions you have!

Now I’m going to get cozy and eat my homemade soup.

Checkout my last meal, Penne alla Vodka and don’t forget to subscribe!

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka

My first recipe ever has been a success… sort of.

Question: It’s a simple sauce and boiling pasta, how hard could it be?

Answer: Not difficult or time consuming at all, just cook your bacon completely before adding more ingredients (more to come on that).

Here’s how it went.

First I purchased all of the ingredients I needed, the total cost was about $15.00 (not including the vodka).

penne alla vodka

Next I prepared everything I would need for the sauce.

Start by cutting 3 cloves of garlic. I was told there’s a specific knife to correctly chop various vegetables, but to me a knife is a knife. This one did the trick.

penne alla vodka

Drain 1 can of tomatoes and cut into chunks. You can also buy them already cut (but how would I know that)!

penne alla vodka

penne alla vodka

Measure your heavy cream (1/2 cup). Note that it is also called whipping cream… I may have stood in the aisle trying to figure out if my sauce was going to taste like dessert.

penne alla vodka

Measure 1/4 cup of vodka. It’s best to use a kind you would actually drink (so I have been told). But honestly, I couldn’t even taste it.

penne alla vodka

This was the gross part. If you’ve never touched raw meat (like myself) get ready. You will need to cut about half a pack of bacon into small chunks. The best method was to use scissors instead of a knife (you can thank my mom for that tip).

penne alla vodka

Turn on the burner and get a medium-large size frying pan. Put 3 tablespoons of butter in and add the chopped garlic. Watch that baby sizzle until the garlic is golden brown (or basically when it starts to smell good).

penne alla vodka

Toss in the chunks of bacon and let it cook completely. I repeat, completely.

For some reason, it won’t continue to cook once you add in the other ingredients. So if it is not fully cooked before you add the other stuff, you’ll end up with chunks of raw inedible pork… yum.

penne alla vodka

Here’s where it actually starts to look like pasta sauce. Throw in the cut up tomato for about 1-3 minutes and then stir in the cream.

Keep stirring everything so the cream doesn’t curdle (another “ew factor”).

penne alla vodka

You’re done! Now all you have to do is boil your pasta and leave the sauce on low heat.

If you’re fancy, you could cook your own pasta or add parsley to your plate. Let’s remember, I am not fancy and I was shocked it even turned out looking like it did.

I added some freshly grated parmesan cheese and chili flakes.

penne alla vodka

Voila! My first “meal”. Pretty easy and tasted great!

penne alla vodka

What do you think? Will you be trying this one out or is it already a favourite? Let me know your take and if there’s anything I could have improved on by leaving a comment.ย 

Now it’s time to eat!

starting from scratch

Starting From Scratch

Confession: I’m 25 years old and have never cooked a proper meal in my life. There I said it.

As shocking as it may be to some, I have no idea how to cook, no idea what most cooking utensils and tools are used for, and not the slightest understanding of how to produce something that’s actually edible.

So how did this happen? I blame my family for being amazing in the kitchen and masters of almost any meal you could dream of. For starters, I grew up eating fresh food and home cooked meals made by my mom. As I got older, my dad started expanding his skills beyond the barbeque and has become a much better cook than I think I’ll ever be. Lastly, my sister is not only good at making new meals that our family doesn’t eat as often but she is one of the best bakers I know. So between the three of them, I really haven’t ever had a reason to learn to cook! Though each of my family members have tried encouraging me or teaching me simple recipes and cooking tips, I’ve never given cooking any real effort. The family joke is that I’m the one who could find a way to burn water.

When I was given the task to start a blog, my first thought was to focus on travel as it is one of my passions. However, I knew that would be the easy route; travel is a topic I’m both comfortable writing about and have great content (photos, videos, packing tips) for a blog. ย So, I’ve decided to do something that both scares me and challenges me.

This blog is going to take you along with me while I discover my kitchen.ย My plan for this blog is to:

  • shop for all of the ingredients each time I cook a meal,
  • prepare (almost) everything from scratch,
  • and cook at least one new recipe weekly.

As I complete these recipes, I’ll share my first impressions and general thoughts about the experience. To most, these recipes won’t be anything groundbreaking or difficult… but I hope that other novice cooks can use my articles as a resource. The challenges I face will probably seem very elementary and unimaginable to someone who’s comfortable in the kitchen but I hope other newbies like myself, will relate and take something away from what they read and see.

I’m going to ask family and friends for ideas about what to cook, but if you have a suggestion leave a comment! Resources I have started using and prefer most include Whole Foods Recipes, Food52, and Pinterest (specifically, Fake Ginger).

Here’s to the start of my journey! Don’t forget to subscribe so that you can keep up with my progress. Into the kitchen I go…