Rebecca's Cooking Journal

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Archive for the ‘lessons learned’ Category

Another Way to Get a Three-Year-Old to Eat

I dyed our Kraft dinner purple the other night. I personally thought it looked revolting, because it was more of a greyish blue color. I had to close my eyes with each bite. But my son loved it! He likes Kraft dinner to begin with, but he sure ate that quickly and with a smile!

Train Restaurant, AKA Getting a Picky Eater to Eat

My husband is out of town for a two nights, the first time he’s travelled in a long time, and as he left in the afternoon, as dinner came around I was feeling a bit down. This was not fun! Trying to cook for two (and Raisin often does not like what I cook) does not feel worthwhile. Plus, we had leftovers in the fridge, so I decided the lazy side won out and went for those.

Then I had a brilliant idea. Raisin loves going to a restaurant, and he always orders Mac and Cheese. As soon as I say “restaurant,”  he yells out “I want Mac and Cheese!” So I told my son we were going to a restaurant for dinner. I welcomed him to the restaurant, sat him at the table, handed him a “menu” (really a piece of junk mail that was sitting on the counter) and asked him what he wanted: Mac and Cheese (left over from the other night when we did go to a restaurant) or Chicken Nuggets (other leftovers I had in the freezer for just such a night). He had a big smile as he pretended to read, then said, “Mac and Cheese!” I gave him two crackers to eat while he waited and a cup of milk with a straw, and he happily waited.

Then, out of the blue, Raisin said, “Mommy, it’s a train restaurant!” A few months ago (a year ago?!) we went to a restaurant that did have trains. We sat around a counter and a train “delivered” the food to us. He loved it. So I agreed it was a train restaurant, and got some GeoTrax from the basement. Soon, we had a small, circle track for our battery-operated train. But I wouldn’t turn it on until he took a bit of food!  Repeat for each bite.

I had mentioned that maybe after he ate we could have dessert. After a little while, he asked me for the “menu” again, and then he said, “I want some blueberry yogurt for dessert, please.” I hadn’t even suggested it, and I had been thinking of ice cream, but it was fun to know that for him it was a treat to have yogurt.

I noticed a lot of interesting things about this. I was treating him as if I were a waiter (“Hello, young man. What can I get you today?”) and acting all polite. As a result, instead of demanding as he usually does (“MILK! NOW!”), he mellowed out. “Can I please have some more milk please?” Was it the fact that we were in a restaurant (where he normally is more well behaved since it’s in public) or the fact that I was treating him nicer than I normally do?

At any rate, it made for a fun dinner and it got him to eat more than he would have eaten if I was grouchy as I had been when I was feeling sad that my husband was gone!

Experimental Cooking

Our dinner guests the other night asked us if we are “experimental cooks.”

“No way!” I immediately responded. I like to cook recipes. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. Anything I cook will be common. That’s not “experimental.” Experimental would be using odd ingredients and cooking without recipes: just making dishes up.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

I realized that every recipe I cooked Saturday night was brand-new to me, including the churros, which had to be fried in oil. I had “experimented” with three new dishes. And I’d only done so because I thought my husband (whom I consider the cook) would be in the kitchen helping me. I probably wouldn’t have attempted new recipes if I knew he was going to be in the basement fixing the water softener, as he was. I would have been afraid to do so, for some reason.

And yet, I was fine. I cooked new recipes by myself and they were delicious and easy. Now I consider them in my repertoire, and cooking them again won’t be a “challenge.”

So I am an “experimental cook” in that I try new recipes that sound good, even if they are new to me. My husband’s encouragement and implicit faith in my cooking helps me to be more experimental.

As I ponder that little bit of experimentalism, the more I think that such willingness to experiment is part of being a cook. In order to improve, I have to try something new. If my baby hadn’t experimented with walking, he would be crawling still.

My hope is that as I become more comfortable experimenting with new recipes, I’ll also become more comfortable experimenting beyond “new recipes” and into the No-Recipe Improvisation that I’m always so impressed with.

Are you an experimental cook? In what ways do you experiment? What are the best techniques for becoming more experimental and less timid about new foods and recipes?

Where Do You Get Your Recipes?

Before I was married, I had a three-ring binder with family recipes stuck in it. It was a mess.

Then my husband created an Access database of those recipes; I now have them on my computer in an easy to search, sort, and review format. I can also print them out. It is wonderful!

But most of the time I resort elsewhere to get recipes.

Image representing Epicurious as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

One site I like to visit They have classy recipes that have been tested and reviewed by, usually, dozens of eaters. Those fellow eaters have good insights into the recipes: making them tastier or easier.

One favorite place I visit is It searches hundreds of food blogs for your specific search terms. For example, last week, I wanted to make French Toast. I know I’ve made it before, but I like to refer to a recipe; as I’ve mentioned, I’ve learned from experience that my cooking can turn out quite poorly if I don’t check before I start cooking. Well, epicurious only had “fancy” french toast options, but I found a great recipe for very basic french toast at Pinch My Salt, thanks to the Food Blog Search. I’d highly recommend using Food Blog Search; I”m going to add it to the sidebar for our convenince.

Cover of "The Art of Simple Food: Notes, ...

Cover via Amazon

The other day I also found myself refering to a book. I don’t normally refer to cookbooks. I find the internet so much easier to find just what I’m looking for. However, I’ve started reading The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, and there are so many basic recipes in there: just what I’m looking for. I wanted to make a basic white sauce, and I found it.

I’m still pretty new to cooking, and I look forward to discovering many more sites and cookbooks that can help me in my journey!

Where do you get your recipes? Any favorite sites or books you can recommend?