Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cooking Lessons in Life & Twice Baked Potatoes

A funny thing happens when you move out into your own house with your fiancé. You have to learn how to cook. I sometimes say to Luke that this is not the 1950s and I’m not required to cook for him every night.

But truthfully, it’s a nice thing to cook for your significant other. It makes me feel good when I can feed him a good meal and impress him. So  I’m learning. Albeit very slowly.

Growing up with a father who is an amazing Italian cook, my cooking experience never truly developed. Now that Luke and I are living together, I always want to prepare great dinners for us and am just learning the true lesson in being a great cook.

To just have fun with it!

I love baking, because of how scientific and exact it is. Baking is all about measurements and following the recipe exactly. Cooking- truly good cooking- comes from guessing and experimenting and winging it.

Ron, my father, has mastered this art. He'll watch 2 minutes of cooking show and produce the most amazing stuffed quahogs you'll ever taste. His sauce recipe is perfection after years of making it- from his army days (which is why he always makes a ton of it, or anything for that matter) to cooking every night for my mom, sister and I.

To Ron, cooking is carefree and something he has an innate ability for. He loves cooking huuuuuuge batches of food, and loading up our plates against our (unconvincing) pleas that that’s enough!!!! (somehow we always manage to clean our plates). He makes these big batches of meatballs, sauce, eggplant parmesan, chicken cacciatore and corn chowder and feeds everyone he knows—the golf pro at his country club, my mom’s co-worker-- you name it. He loves people to enjoy his food and even since I’ve moved out, I’m still fed quite well by Ron--  Tupperwares of sauce and freshly gathered clams from Duxbury Bay. It’s the truest form of comfort food to me.

In my ongoing pursuit of becoming a more carefree cook, I have been trying more to just glance at a recipe for ideas and wing the rest. Sure there's the risk that it could come out awfuuuuul. But I think this lesson applies to a lot in life. To not think too much (*something I definitely am guilty of) and just go with your gut.

Luke loves twice baked potatoes, even choosing them as a side at our wedding. His mom has always made them and in an effort to keep him from getting too homesick for his mom’s cooking, I decided to make them for him. My experience with twice baked potatoes is limited to the frozen ones (how good are those though?!)

I found a few recipes online and whipped these up. I didn’t follow a recipe exactly, or  measure anything for that matter so here are the ingredients. And go ahead, throw caution to the wind and just wing it too, you daredevil!

Twice Baked Broccoli Potatoes

2 Russet Potatoes, scrubbed clean

Shredded Cheese (I used Stop & Shop Mac and Cheese Blend)

Frozen Broccoli, defrosted and chopped up

Low Fat Milk

Butter (I used margarine, as it’s all my poorly stocked kitchen had)

Garlic Powder

Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Poke the potatoes with a fork a couple of times around and microwave until softened, turning a few times throughout. (I used my microwaves potato setting) Slice the potatoes in half and carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving a very thin part of the potato attached to the skin. (Don’t worry if they begin to fall apart. I freaked for a minute, but then it was ok. phew) Combine the scooped out potatoes, a splash of milk (add a little now and more as you stir them), a handful of cheese (as much as you like), a couple pads of butter, the chopped up broccoli, a few shakes of garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Mash it all up and add more milk until you get the right consistency of mashed potatoes. Scoop it all into the potato skins, press down, and top with more cheese and baked for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve with a steak.

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