Friday, June 21

Q & A with the wandering Chef!

Hello! 

How is everyone today? I have been writing my blog for just under two and a half years. In this time I have been asked a wide array of questions, most of which I answer in a timely fashion. But I have begun to notice a common theme and a general set of question I get asked very regularly. 

So I thought, as a special note to everyone, I would share the answers to many of my frequently asked questions. I hope you enjoy reading about me and the blog.

Sincerely-
The wandering chef


Question: Why the wandering chef?
Good question, it refers to my cooking style and how I learned to cook. When I was in high school I traveled as an exchange student to 14 different countries. This opened my eyes up to  experimenting with food, cooking styles, and ingredients. I was given a open view of different cultures, their food, and what they considered comfort everyday food. This created my recipe knowledge which combines a wandering array of styles.

Actually, I did not even come up with the name. My other half did. He inspired me to start a blog. I was talking about writing a cook book. He said it was the perfect way to try different writing styles and create a base of readers. He came up with the name after I talked about how diverse I wanted to be. He said it would encompass my cooking style and the readers trek through them.

Question: Do you honestly cook like this all the time?
Yup, seriously. We very rarely eat out, I would say twice a month max. That includes getting take out. We eat home cooked dinners every night and at least once a week I bake something fun for breakfast. 

Now, do not get mislead. We cook every night but, not huge fancy meals filled with multi-course dishes. Most nights are simple dinners main, veggie, starch or bread, salad and that's it. Usually, once or twice a week I will go over the top. Food crazy nights, we eat too much, love it and then eat just salad the next night.

Roughly once a month I get really inspired and will go way over board, bake or cook like crazy and then spend a few days living off of it.

Question: How do you have so much time to cook and bake?
Okay, truth-I do not. I actually probably cook or bake far less than it seams. I work a full time job so I actually do not have large amounts of time to devote to cooking and baking. Dinner usually takes thirty minutes to an hour, some nights less. I usually have a weekday off, that tends to be my cooking/baking cleaning day.

In all honesty I tend to list out what I want to cook/bake for the day and create a time table. It includes when things need to be started, rise times, when things can go in oven. This way I can do other things at the same time.

Question: Does your family enjoy your cooking and baking experiments?
Most of the time I tend to stick to what I know will be a success with taste buds. I usually taste anything I have questions about and sometimes they go horribly wrong. Sometimes they do not even make it to the table, it is very rare but, sometimes I won't even serve the outcome.

I actually like the reviews and feedback. Having three other sets of taste buds really helps with fine tuning the outcome. I am always amazing when something unexpected makes it to the "family favorites" box. To this day I am still in awe of how much Baked Cheddar Chicken can be eaten in a single meal.

Although, to be honest I think my work place loves the baking experiments more, who does not love walking into baked goods in the break room?

Question: Homemade verse store bought, how often do you substitute one for the other?
If I can make it and it is cost effective we use it. Barbecue sauce, frosting, cake batter, sour cream, ricotta cheese, and doughnuts tend to be what I make mostly. I also make mixes ahead of time cookies, brownies, Bisquick, doing those and keeping them stored helps out a lot.

Things like condensed milk, evaporated milk, sliced bread, bagels and English muffins are easy but not always time friendly. So I will usually use store bought. If my recipe calls for "store bought or homemade" chances are I am using homemade. 

Question: How often do you grocery shop? How much do you spend?
Usually, once a month I do the "big shop", which will load up our pantry shelves, freezer, and refrigerator. I tend to only buy proteins once a month. I freeze most of them, buying the big packs and breaking it down really saves on money and time. Having a vacuum sealer really helps. It took a while but, once I figured out the family "most often consumed" I came up with the list, which very rarely changes. Once a week I will grab milk, bread, cereal, produce. Nothing major.

As for cost, well that can range. Figure family of four and include everything from groceries to laundry detergent to toilet paper, probably $800-$900 a month. Rough estimate off the top if my head. I bookmark $40 a month for fun or interesting ingredients. Everything else is done from the everyday ingredients you can find in any grocery store.

Question: Is there anything you cannot cook?
Microwave popcorn. Let's just say if microwave popcorn was on Facebook we would not be friends. I do not like it, it does not like me. We are not going to ever be happily ever after together. Once a year I usually give it a try, once ever three or four years I am successful. But nope cannot do it. 

I know microwave popcorn has a button, listen for the slow down, but nope I am all set with it.

What was the worst kitchen incident you had?
Well, it was not actually a kitchen disaster. It was a grill disaster, I actually set the whole grill on fire.

Oh, and I mean on fire! Flames shooting everywhere thought the house was going to go up. Still not sure what I did, to this day the other half makes fun if it and so do I.

Question: Where do your plates come from?
Pier 1 Imports. Most of my plates, glasses, serve, and bake ware come from Pier 1. Why? 

Two reasons-First, I love their style, color, seasonal look, and you can always find something new. Second, I work there. I have been shopping there since I was in collage and now I work there, love it! I raid the clearance section every few months for great platters, serving plates, bowls, ect.

Question: Cast Iron, why do you use it so often? Is it better than regular pans?
I love cast iron. Seriously, just love it. I like the ease of use, cleaning, stove top or oven, grill or camp fire. I just love it. Dutch ovens are my close second favorite, but if you can invest in cast iron, do it.

Are they better then regular pans? Not sure, I really prefer them. I have a nice set if sauté pans that were bought at a fancy chef store so those ate pretty nice, but I really just like cast iron.

Question: Shallots verse onions, why do you use them when you do?
I tend to use shallots a lot. I prefer the sweet and subtle flavor when eating them whole. Most dishes which call for onions can be substituted, but I really only do this if they will be eaten whole. Dishes which need a base or the robust onion flavor should really be cooked with onions instead.

I also love using dried minced onions, I find they are a great thing to have in a pantry. They add texture and tang when you want just a little something extra.

Question: Dried verse fresh herbs, when and how do you choose which to use?
Most of the time I would love to use fresh, I say most. I really tend to use dried only because that is what I have on hand. Some recipes absolutely need fresh but, most times dried can be used. I have a small variety of fresh on hand most days and will use them accordingly. 

Also, drying your own herbs allows you to have a nice fresh bold flavor in the convenience of dried herbs.

Question: Do you have a garden? Do you grow your own herbs?
Yes and yes. I have a small family vegetable garden I plant every year. Filled with the basics tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squashes, and hot pepper.

I have an indoor herb garden which has basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, rosemary, and mint. I also grow self-sustaining green onions and lettuce inside by my windows. Do not forget my aloe plant though, my other half's favorite thing.


Question: Sifting, why do you not sift?
I hate sifting, it is boring, tedious, bothers my hand, and...I just hate it. Do I sift, nope, very rarely have I come across a recipe where I thought sifting was an absolute. So if I have told you to sift-trust me do it. If not nope I do not sift, do not plan on ever really making part of my process either. 

I have never once been told anything was to dense or firm, no one has ever said "hey this flour does not seam sifted for your cupcakes", never saw the difference. Yes, air and flour changes volume, but hey have not had a problem yet.

Question: Trends in food, I notice you tend to post recipes in groups, are you following food trends?
Nope. I do not follow food trends, clothes trends, shoe trends, or any trends for that matter. If I have talked about something trendy, it's because I was asked. My recipes get published in groups because, that it how they were cooked. As I have mentioned in the past I tend to have one day a week that I will write all the recipes for the blog. 

Sometimes I will be writing weeks ahead. Cooking so many dishes the same day means I try to stick to a theme for a meal or a general set of ingredients. That is why you will find a come trend in them. I try to mix them up when posting, but it does not always work that way.

Question: Who takes the photos for the recipes?
Me. I take them as I go. iPhones are handy for that, I used to use and iTouch. But when I upgrade phones I started using that. I also write and post everything right from my phone. Isn't technology great somedays? It really helps when I am due to post but, not at home!

If you have a question you want answered email me: maybe you will see your question added here!

Eclecticchava@yahoo.com