I’m starting off 2013 with an honest confession.
I’m a lazy cook. A really, really lazy cook.
Don’t get me wrong. I love food. I love eating it. I love making it. I love photographing it. I even sometimes love writing about it. But I am a faux-food blogger. I tried on that chef hat for awhile, but it didn’t mask the fact that I’m truly not that experienced, talented, or creative in the kitchen. True food bloggers create their own recipes, adapt recipes, test recipes, and stage their recipes well. I represent neither.
This is who I am. I occasionally like to try different recipes. I enjoy thumbing through cookbooks, surfing food websites like Fine Cooking and Rasamalaysia, and ripping out new ideas from my magazines. I even subscribed recently to Cooking Light. I love to host dinners and cook for friends and special occasions. I love doing extensive research on visiting restaurants when I travel. That is about the extent of my food expertise – a willingness to try new and delicious things.
I am an awful baker. When I come home from work, I don’t like to spend more than an hour throwing together a meal. My eyes glaze over when the ingredients list looks about as long as the instructions. I think my tolerance is five ingredients. Bonus if I already have two of them stocked in my pantry. Small, minute amounts of herbs annoy me (a 1/2 tsp of thyme – really?). I love an uncomplicated meal that can taste really, really good.
What do I also love? Shopping at Trader Joe’s. It’s the ultimate dream for lazy cooks like me who enjoy food and want to still feel adventurous in the kitchen. It’s like a treasure hunt every time I step foot inside one – I never know what buried brightly packaged gems I’ll find.
For a recent girls’ get together, I was on the prowl for savory appetizers. As much as I love the whole expected wine-cheese-fruit-salami combination, I suspected there would already be plenty of that. I came across TJ’s chicken parmesan lollipops. Savory chicken pops! Just pop them in the oven, then pop them in your mouth. Simple and tasty. They reminded me of cheesy chicken nuggets. They even come with their own sticks for that added homemade look.
Since bringing over an alcoholic beverage was mandatory, I ended up buying both the Lambic Belgian beer and Fragolino strawberry wine. I’ve had Lambic before and love it’s fruity, semi-tart taste. The Fragolino was a gamble because it sounded interesting, and truthfully, I had once embarrassed myself asking for it while traveling in Italy a few years back. Apparently, I was mis-pronouncing “Fragolino” and called it “bean wine” instead of “strawberry wine.” Coming across it at Trader Joe’s seemed to be fate’s way of giving me a second chance
As some gambles go, I didn’t fare so well with the Fragolino choice. It tasted like bad strawberry soda with a strange bitterness that lingered. At least two out of three wins in Trader Joe’s purchases isn’t so bad.
For last night’s New Year’s house party, I quickly whipped up a batch of savory spinach and feta pastries. I’ve made Gail Simmon’s version of sweet potato and goat cheese pastries before, which are also delicious. I figured – new year, new pastry filling. In less than an hour, I had a pile of warm, flaky spinach feta pastries ready for the party. It was a “Bond” themed night of appetizers and cocktails, so these babies fared well with girls in cocktail dresses and guys in suits. Imagine James and Jane Bonds munching away on spinach feta pastries! My friends loved them, and the dish cleared out soon after the countdown.
After this recent experience, I remembered what else I loved about food. Trying and buying new ones so that I could share with friends. I also love the simple joy of discovery – whether it is tasting a new product, trying a different wine, or testing out a recipe. Besides, food is more fun when you have people you care about to enjoy it with.
And with everything I’ve learned this year about myself, I need to stick with what I know I love and stay true to that. Cheers to authenticity. Happy 2013.