Sunday, March 6, 2016

Adventures of a Food Nut by Amber Leigh Williams


I fell in love with food at a young age.
Cooking was another story....
When I married, I had never cooked for myself. Toasting bread for breakfast was challenge enough. The hub had been cooking for himself for years and so tried to teach me the basics. How to boil eggs, fry bacon, brown meat, peel potatoes, etc. I say tried because I didn’t have much inclination to learn. There was always take-out, right?

When my son was born, I realized I didn’t want him to grow up eating freezer meals. I wanted him to have the same wholesome, home-brewed memories I did around the dinner table. I read Julia Child’s My Life in France and grew hungry. I joined Pinterest and grew even hungrier. Finally, I decided to satisfy my appetite while challenging myself to learn to cook just as my mother had. Last summer, I began to blog about these cooking exercises every week on Facebook with my Toast of Tuesday feature. I’ve gathered all my favorite Toast of Tuesdays together for you. Here’s a peek into my kitchen as well as my adventure in becoming a foodie….

My first cooking experiment was a strawberry cream cheese confection, a decadent gift for the hub on Valentine's Day 2013. He cooked me a big steak dinner. I made him dessert. We rolled out a quilt on the living room floor, lit candles, dressed up and ate until we couldn't eat anymore. The icing of the cake was messy and a teensy bit clumpy since I didn't let the cream cheese reach room temperature before spreading it, but the cake was every bit as yummy. That original recipe has been lost but I’ve found one pretty similar at Cooking Classy.

This was the recipe I was trying out when I nearly set my kitchen on fire. Word of advice: use a deep fryer if one is available, not a pan on the stove with hot oil. Prior to my near brush with the fire extinguisher, I was determined to master the art of home-style fried chicken because my mother made her own and it was one of my favorite dishes when I was little. Coupled with lima beans, mashed potatoes, and sweet tea, there are few dishes that taste more southern. This recipe from Jo Cooks so far is my favorite...aside from the part of the instructions that involve a pan on the stove. I make it with garlic mashed potatoes and I'm working on the perfect blend of sweet tea....



Teaching Young Skywalker to make ice cream....
Bragging on another family favorite, requested at least twice a month here at Chez Williams: Rosemary Mustard Chicken. This recipe is surprisingly easy with few ingredients. I double the sauce to make the chicken extra juicy and flavorful (and for leftovers). The Like Mother Like Daughter recipe calls for Coleman's mustard but I have trouble finding that brand at my grocery store so I just use regular mustard and it still turns out yummy-licious every time. Whenever there's a special occasion and I need something with little fuss to make for dinner, Rosemary Mustard Chicken is my go-to recipe. (I serve this dish with carrots glazed in honey and lime juice.) 

Long before I began my foodie adventures, the hub was the cook. One cool fall day we were craving something warm and filling but had only an odd assortment of food in the fridge and pantry - eggs, sausage, yellow rice, and peppers. He decided to improvise, giving us what is now Jake's Fried Rice. A few years ago, I bragged on this original family recipe with author Anna Kathryn Lanier at her blog. I'm bragging again 'cuz Jake's Fried Rice is on the menu tonight here at mi casa. Dinner cannot come soon enough!

It’s soup season! When the wind picks up and the leaves start falling, my first foodie instinct is to make soup – particularly if somebody’s sick. And speaking of sick days, there’s nothing better than a warm bowlful of Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup to fill your belly when you’re feeling under the weather. I’ve made this version from Cooking Classy for two winters. Whether the hub and I are suffering from seasonal allergies or cold toesies, there’s nothing more healing than this blend of herbs, chicken, and vegetables (served with soda crackers and hot tea)….

$3.99
Years ago, I was going through my mother's recipe tin when I found a wrinkled, yellow type-written page crowned with the words "Hash Brown Potato Casserole" and initialed by my paternal grandmother. I got really excited because this was one of my favorite comfort foods growing up. It's warm, it's hearty, and it's classically southern. I copied it down on a legal pad and snuck it into my own recipe box. I attempted the recipe many times. It was well-received, but to my taste buds there was something missing - a small thing I couldn't quite define. Finally, I brought my frustrations to my mother who admitted that through the years she had secretly swapped one of the ingredients for one of her own. (She's sneaky and brilliant like that.) When the heroine of my second Harlequin Superromance novel Married One Night needed an edible pick-me-up, I enlisted the help of my fictional foodie, her cousin Briar Browning (from A Place With Briar), and Hash Brown Potato Casserole. Enjoy with a slice of Texas Toast or two, with breakfast in lieu of quiche or as a side dish for dinner....

$3.99

Hash Brown Potato Casserole
Ingredients:

 2 1-lb packages of frozen hash brown potatoes (the cubed kind make the best texture), partially thawed
 1/4 cup chopped onion
 1-1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

 1 stick butter, melted

 1/2 tsp. pepper
 1 carton of sour cream

 1 can cream of mushroom soup

For the topping:
1 cup crushed Ritz cracker crumbs

1/2 stick butter, melted

Instructions:
Mix all casserole ingredients. Pour evenly into a 3-qt. oblong casserole dish and pack down. Top with Ritz crumbs. Pour extra butter evenly over the crumbs. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not cover while baking. Serves 10 to 12.


For more foodie adventures, join me on Facebook every Tuesday for The Toast of Tuesday. The fun doesn't stop there! At Super Authors, I blog about various kitchen disasters. Here's Kitchen Disaster Log 1  (with my infamous Broccoli & Cheese Soup) and Kitchen Disaster Log 2 (where I explain that near-kitchen-fire with fried chicken).... 

Do you have any  personal foodie adventures? Please do tell! as the entrees and it was a huge personal triumph. It made me a foodie and the process of assembling it made me fall in love wi

12 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

Those potatoes sound yummy, Amber. But you almost lost me up above when you mentioned lima beans. LOL

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Jannine, I guarantee you'll think differently about limas once you've had them cooked with onions and bacon!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Amber, you've made me hungry just thinking about you and your hub cooking up great stuff to eat. And homemade ice cream...oh, my! Love it. You've shown us you can go from zero to 'good cook' in a matter of years...good for you! My mom and grandmother made wonderful dishes...but I have to say, the calories in them...through the roof...so I only make them when company comes so I don't eat too much of that great food. This causes my husband to grumble...but that's the way it goes :-)

Brenda Whiteside said...

Great post. I have a few meals I like to prepare, but once the honeymoon was over, I gladly let my hubby cook. He enjoys it, I don't.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Rolynn, the homemade ice cream (lemon sorbet) is my favorite thing but it's strictly a summer treat. The kiddies love it, too! I love to cut back during the week with lighter meals or no meat dishes but on weekends it's time to indulge!

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Brenda, lol, the hub likes to grill. I leave that to him. I like to brag and say I can now make his fried rice better than he can. He likes to cook breakfast. I'm not a morning person so I let him :-)

Brenda Whiteside said...

Yep, mine does breakfast. I like to be up about 2 hours before I eat. He gets up at least 2 hours after I do so it works perfectly!

Amber Leigh Williams said...

That is only fitting, lol! Our son rises with the sun, too, so the hub's teaching him to make pancakes....

Nikki Weston said...

Oh my! Reading this post made me wanna swap edits for entrees. Yes, yes, and yes to all of these amazing recipes, I cannot WAIT to try some of these babies out, especially the Rosemary mustard chicken!

Thanks Amber, happy cookin' and even happier eatin'!

Nikki.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Nikki, you absolutely cannot go wrong with Rosemary Chicken! And I'd trade edits for entrees anytime, lol

Enjoy the recipes and happy eating!

Leah St. James said...

You had me at "Food Nut," Amber. I've never been much of a cook, but there are a few family favorites my family demands throughout the year. Luckily--or sometimes "un"luckily--hubby is an exceptionally picky meat-and-potatoes type of eater, so my "skills" aren't too strained! Loved your post, and I see a few Mr. Picky will enjoy!

Alicia Dean said...

Loved this post, and I love your Tuesday regular post idea. Very cool! Yum, yum, your recipes sound delish and I'm going to try them all. You've come a long way for only beginning to cook recently! Your book sounds yummy too!