Five Things I Like to Cook (including baking)

1. Apple Pie.

Home baked apple pie is one of the best foods known to man. My struggles to make pie crust have been well documented here. However, I do it anyway because no matter how badly it’s patched together it always tastes and smells fantastic. I like mine still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I probably make at least 10 apple pies a year and it’s one of my favorite things to bring to a function. No one ever says, “Bummer. Apple pie.”

I use the Betty Crocker recipe from my Mom’s cookbook and use unhealthy shortening in my crust. One of my tips is to use a mix of apples but at least half should be of a tart variety.

Yesterday on the radio a guy was talking about how he makes pies from scratch and he always wants to try other peoples pies to see how they measure up and so on. Another guy asked him what he means by scratch and he says he gets the pastry shell at the grocery store and then cuts and spices the fruit himself. This does not fit my definition of baking from scratch.

[Aside: while looking for pie stories I found I’ve already written about the futility of the Great Pumpkin. I have zero recollection of this. ]

2. Tamales.

I learned how to make these fairly recently. We have a friend from Mexico and I was hoping she would teach me but it never worked out and I had to take matters into my own hands. I read as many recipes as I could find in books and online and then went for it and it turned out to be labor intensive, but easy.

Now I’ve made them a bunch of times and can whip out a big batch without breaking a sweat. The corn masa bag has a recipe, too. I use real lard for the tamale and fill them with a mixture of cooked chicken, cheese, chiles and lots of spices.

They’re super delicious with green salsa and perhaps a dab of sour cream. Great to freeze and serve later and a great gift. People love tamales.

3. Gumbo.

I use the Cooks Illustrated recipe and I would give you the date of the issue if I had it handy. It’s pretty labor intensive so I have to want to spend most of the day in the kitchen. It has shrimp and sausage and all kinds of seasonings and is magically delicious. Unfortunately, this is one of the foods I ate leading up to the digestive system meltdown I had in April so now I’m afraid of it.

4. Bob’s White Bean Chili and other Taco-ey Things.

Bob’s white bean chili is a recipe I got from the Oregonian and is basically chili using chicken and white beans. But it’s easy to make, great for leftovers and yummy every time. We do a lot of chili or taco type variations. We use regular tortillas or Safeway sells tortilla crowns which are taco salad bowls made out of corn. I use Penzeys Taco Seasoning, I just bought a ginormous bag, and ground turkey. The usual toppings: grated cheese, lettuce, onions, salsa, sour cream. If we’re getting crazy we open a can of olives. My favorite food group.

5. Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve turned into a cookie snob and only like home baked cookies. A chocolate chip cookie is my favorite sweet. I make a batch every couple of weeks and put them in ziplock bags and freeze them and keep them at the office for an afternoon treat. I use the Toll House recipe or the Cooks Illustrated and use lots of nuts, pecans or walnuts, which I toast before I chop. One of my favorite foods.

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