My mother used to say a cook is only as good as her equipment (she had an avocado green electric with three busted burners—I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions ). As a teenager, I conquered Kraft macaroni and cheese—mainly because I couldn’t yet drive to McDonald’s and I didn’t want to starve to death. When I got married, I received all sorts of casserole dishes and pans, but I had no idea what to do with them. A lovely lady in my office gave me a hand-written stack of her tried and true recipes. She’d been married for over forty years and was a seasoned cook. I took one look at the recipe cards and asked what broil meant. She thought I was joking. So trust me when I say my culinary skills are few, but hard won.
I mainly learned to cook by reading countless cookbooks and watching Martha Stewart. What I lacked in skill, I made up for in enthusiasm. Fortunately, my husband has a strong constitution and my kids weren’t picky eaters.
Over the years I’ve had a few triumphs: chili, pork carnitas, killer pot roast. Nothing exotic, yet very comforting and definitely palatable. Still, there have been more flops than I can count (I’m talking to you, clam chowder with scorched milk). But my failures didn’t stop me from trying.
I just bought a new stove. Now the oven door closes all the way and the burners put out more even heat than their predecessor—it’s all terribly exciting. And so I decided to try my hand at canning. Not scary pressure cooker canning (I’m not that brave yet). But I have been making jams and apple butter, experimenting with different flavors and combinations—apple pear butter sweetened with honey makes me googly-eyed. And there’s a lemon marmalade recipe I’m dying to try. Although it’s sometimes tedious work, I find it satisfying, and I like keeping those old-fashioned traditions alive. Also, it’s nice to have a taste of each season all year round.
And talk about kitchen equipment—I also got a new Dutch oven. Anyone know why they’re called that? For its maiden voyage, I experimented by making strawberry syrup. Strawberries and sugar. Pretty easy, but tasted fabulous. I plan on using it for pancakes this weekend.
Lemon marmalade. Strawberry syrup. See the theme? In my Rose Strickland Mystery Series, I write about a waitress who works at a breakfast-only establishment. Despite the setting, it’s not a culinary mystery. Rose doesn’t cook, unless you count ramen noodles. Still, I’ve done a little research on interesting breakfast foods for Rose to serve up: eggnog pancakes, pumpkin spice French toast, and peach breakfast cobbler to name a few. Since breakfast is my favorite meal, I’m always on the lookout for new recipes to try.
So Jungle Red readers, can you help Rose Strickland? Do you have any tasty breakfast recipes? (Has anyone made gingerbread pancakes? If so, how they turn out?)
And what’s your favorite new piece of kitchen equipment?
(Jungle Red Writers—thanks for having me on today! It was a pleasure to be here and share my culinary journey.)