Okay, I'm just going to jump back into this blogging thing. Ready, set, GO!
For the past month or so, I have been learning how to cook. I have tried learning how to cook a few times before, as evidenced by the previous blog entries here and here. But those times, I was doing it alone, trying to follow recipes without any real background knowledge about spices or how things worked. This time, my aunt has been helping me and teaching me some things. I've made some very successful dinners! So successful, in fact, that I decided to plan a "dinner party" for some friends. The only friends I have here so far really are Phylis and Lisa (who has 11 goats) so I invited both of them and their husbands. Lisa and her husband couldn't come, because they also have 5 dogs in addition to the 11 goats, and 3 of their dogs had an agility event that day. So it was just Phylis and her husband Charles, plus Auntie Em, Uncle J, and I.
I really love holidays, so I thought it would be fun to have a Valentines-themed dinner. I made some decorations, plus bought a few things at Dollar Tree. Doesn't this area look decorative? I made the banner using printer paper, washi tape, markers, and string. I made the hearts dangling from the chandelier using construction paper, glue, string, stickers, and some pennies (to weigh down the bottom hearts so that they would spin a little.) I also made a paper chain of hearts, not seen here.
The main course was Vegetarian Three Bean Chili. You can find the recipe I used here. I did make a few changes, which chefs are allowed to do. First, we didn't have vegetable broth, so I had to use chicken broth, which means the chili wasn't completely vegetarian... but close! Second, I left out the cilantro, because my aunt doesn't like it and I am not sure about it. Third, I did not use as much chili powder, because the first time I made this chili to practice, it was really spicy. (But this time, it was not spicy at all, so I have a suspicion that last time I might have added 2 TABLESPOONS of chili powder instead of 2 TEASPOONS.) Fourth, the recipe called for one tablespoon of corn meal, which thickens up the chili. Both times that I made it, the chili still seemed really thin after about an hour of simmering (you can let chili simmer indefinitely) and I added more and more cornmeal. I think I ended up adding about half a cup, total, this time. I may have actually made it too thick. I don't know. I sort of like it thick. If you don't like it thick, don't add as much cornmeal.
It turned out really good, especially topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream!
Next, I made some cornbread muffins. I do not have the recipe on hand, but I just followed the one I found on the back of the cornmeal bag. The time before when I made it, the muffins came out good, but I remembered cornbread being much sweeter than that. So this time I added some extra sugar, resulting in sweet, moist cornbread muffins! I also had some Valentines cupcake papers and toppers, so the muffins were presentable. They were mm-mmm good! This is something I think I will take to a potluck dinner, if I ever get invited to one.
Finally, the best part... dessert! I found these heart shaped miniature cherry pies on Pinterest and fell in love with the idea. They are super easy to make. You can find the recipe here, but really it is very simple. You can either use storebought pie dough (the kind that is not baked yet, because you need to be able to cut it with cookie cutters) or whatever pie crust recipe you like, and canned cherry filling. I found a large heart shaped cookie cutter at Wal-Mart (don't tell my cousin BT I was there) and used it to cut lots of heart shaped crusts. You need to make an egg wash out of one egg and a little bit of milk. Set down one heart, brush around the edges of it with egg wash, and then spread cherries in the middle. I found out that it is best to use a thin layer of cherries and cover as much of the heart as possible, but not quite up to the edges. Then you set a second heart crust on top of it, and use your fingers to pinch the edges of the two crusts together to seal the cherries in. Then you paint the top crust with eggwash, and sprinkle on some sugar and cinnamon. It is like a Handi-Pie! (Why doesn't Google know what a Handi-Pie is? Didn't you ever get one of those? It is like a rectangle shaped fruit pie, or chocolate pie, in a wrapper, sold at the grocery store? You never had one? Wow. That sucks.)
In the end, everyone said the whole dinner was great. It was a cooking success! But it was pretty exhausting. I slept half the day away the next day.
I've decided I'm going to try making a vegetarian recipe from a different culture or country each week. I decided this after I realized that almost all of the recipes I'd made were Italian, with the exception of Burrito Bowls, which were sort of Mexican, at least based on Mexican food. People might get sick of pasta every single week (I won't, but other people might) so I need to be more adventurous. Tune in next week to see what my latest recipe will be!