Test Kitchen & Security Blankets

I’ve mentioned before that I get lots of inspiration from Pinterest, magazines, Food Network and church cookbooks. I very seldom try a recipe as it is written (unless it has been given to me personally of course). Every once in a while, I have “experimental menu night”. I grab a couple of gee-that-looks-interesting recipes that I’ve set aside (it’s an impressive pile) and pretty much destroy all counter space available in my kitchen.

So last night when my guys asked the proverbial questions “what’s for dinner?” I said “international experimental menu night” … I heard the silent “here we go again” response complete with mental eye rolls. That’s okay. They’re good sports.

Editor/Son’s note: It’s more of a precautionary “fingers crossed” silent response than a “here we go again”.

Our first course (if you will) was “Flash-Roasted Broccoli with Spicy Crumbs”. This recipe caught my attention because of the words “broccoli” and “spicy” as well as the beautiful picture that was featured in the magazine. The fact that the recipe had absolutely no spicy ingredients in it should have been my first clue. But I was curious because the first step to the recipe was making a ground pepperoni, garlic and bread crumb mixture. The second step is to roast the broccoli with olive oil. When the edges of the broccoli start to brown, and here’s where my second clue hit, you spread a little Dijon mustard on the broccoli and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. So first I’m thinking “spicy” and then I’m thinking “Italian” and then “French” comes into my head … strike three.

I am so lucky my guys are brave, curious and forgiving. We each took a bite and looked at each other with the same look: “That’s just weird.” Then they looked at me with the “are you going to make us eat it?” look.

Editor/Son’s note: “Are you going to make us eat it” is spot on.

Nope.

This is the risk of “experiment night”. Sometimes things do not turn out for the best. For us, it was the mustard in combination with the pepperoni. It just didn’t work. I think a broccoli/mustard/almond combination would be worth exploring.

What I did gain from this experiment was an awesome Italian bread crumb mixture.

Put 1 ounce of pepperoni slices (cut in half or quarters), 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, and a large garlic clove in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add one cup bread crumbs and pulse until well combined. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and add crumb mixture, stirring occasionally until browned. Remove from heat and cool.

I haven’t yet decided how I’m going to use these crumbs but I’m tossing around the ideas of: Italian mac-and-cheese, a salad sprinkle, maybe a breading for baked zucchini and tomatoes.

The second course featured “Nutty Kale Chips”. I saved this recipe because:

  1. I like kale.
  2. I like kale chips.
  3. The idea of adding a nut butter to kale had never occurred to me.
  4. The recipe had only four ingredients.

I took my usual liberties with this recipe. I used peanut butter instead of almond butter. Soy sauce is a perfect accent for kale, and soy and peanut butter make for a wonderful Thai flavor so I added that too. I was pretty excited for the Asian portion of our international experimentation.

That excitement turned to disappointment quickly. It smelled great and it looked great. It just didn’t taste … good. I don’t know if it was the ratios, or the substitution of peanut butter for almond butter, but it just failed. I didn’t even put it on the table. Bless his heart, my husband tried a tiny bite anyway. Poor thing.

Part of the reason I wanted to start writing a food blog was to encourage people to cook more and try new things. If this blog seems to defeat this purpose, I want to make one thing clear: good cooks understand that not everything turns out as planned. Taking a risk is part of learning and growing. It’s knowing how to manage your risk that’s important.

I’ll leave you with a final tip: ALWAYS HAVE YOUR SECURITY BLANKET!

What is a “security blanket” but an item that you can rely on to make things better.

On this experimental menu night, I had my security blanket: chicken quesadillas! What is it about Mexican food that always makes things better for me!?! Combine leftover cooked chicken (Roast Chicken recipe), refried beans, salsa, pepper-jack cheese, and diced green chilies, spread the mixture between tortillas and “fry” both sides in a skillet coated with cooking spray or a little oil. I used a little jalapeno olive oil from The Olive Tap for a little extra flavor!

No one went hungry. I eliminated a couple recipes from my pile and gained some new inspiration. And I had fun sharing my story with you!

It’s okay to carry a security blanket when you are being brave.


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Anita Hinkeldey McVey

From the farm in Alta ... to college in Ames ... to the suburbs of Des Moines in Waukee ... I am an Iowa girl through and through. I married the cute, but quiet, guy who made me laugh out loud in Statistics class and we have two awesome, but terribly sarcastic, boys. In 1999, I quit my research job to be home with those active boys. Staying home allowed me to spend more time preparing meals, trying new recipes and striving to serve healthier options for my family. Now that my boys are men ... well, "adults" anyway ... and my husband still appreciates what I accomplish at home, I have time to explore my creative side and knock "writing a blog" off my bucket list. I love trying new things, traveling, gardening, reading and clean countertops. I love baseball (watching, not playing) and concession stands. Choosing a favorite food is impossible but if I was forced to pick just one, it would be pie! I thank God that He has led me to this place. Here's to a new adventure and hopes that others will be able to use what I post to discover the benefits of family meals and living a picnic life.

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