I’m finding great joy as well as comfort in learning about food and how to cook. And what I love best is sharing the love by cooking for friends and family, and seeing the joy transfer from my hands through the food and come to register on their faces.
I have started making notes here and there when a particular idea hits me or to record important lessons I have learned that I think others should know. As I look at these notes, I see a common theme. Make NO Substitutions when cooking. IE use real ingredients. There are three cardinal sins in my opinion. Or I shall limit this blog post to mentioning three, let’s put it that way.
One: real Vanilla. Imitation Vanilla has no place on this earth and thus it’s very existence is ridiculous. What could one possibly have the need for fake vanilla? The only thing I can think of is an allergy of some sort. I have never heard of a vanilla allergy, I’m not saying it’s doesn’t exist, well yes, I kind of am. Another possible area of concern could be those who do not partake in any kind of alcohol, whatsoever. Now if I’m not mistaken, imitation vanilla does contain alcohol, but I can not say for sure because I myself do not have a bottle in my pantry to reference. But hear me when I say there is nothing to worry about because through the cooking/baking process, you are cooking off (as they say) all of the alcohol and you are simply left with the flavor of pure vanilla. If you still have concerns, purchase a magical substance called Vanilla Paste by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. While this product does have vanilla extract, it’s got a high concentrate of vanilla beans and works in the exact same equivalents when cooking or baking. It’s a richer and deeper vanilla and it’s an awesome product. Once you try it, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
Two: real whipping cream. Once again, the canister of Reddi Whip or the beloved Cool Whip tub are just wrong. Yes, yes, the allergy bit is a possibility, but are you really going to subject yourself to fake, 1/16th as good, god knows what’s really in it, man made chemicals? Freshly made whipped cream is truly one of life’s little pleasures. Pour in a tiny amount of the above mentioned Vanilla Paste and a bit of sugar and you have yourself freshly made vanilla bean whipped cream. Not some white mystery substance that poops out of a canister. Or an almost gelatinous glob of oily who knows what. I bet it’s a little like Coke, if you put a quarter in it, in a few days it will dissolve. What’s in that stuff anyway. By making your own, you know precisely what’s in it. Pure heavy cream, (REAL) vanilla and sugar. Whipped goodness, it’s a beautiful thing.
Three: Parmesan cheese (parm). Years ago, I chastised two past boyfriends for having the tall green Kraft canister of grated whatnot in their fridges. Don’t do it. For one it has the same shelf life as a Twinkie – and that’s never good. Here’s what you do – go to the grocery store and seek out the cheese section (I’m talking about wedges of cheese). You’ll always find a wedge of parm. If you want to splurge, go for the good stuff and get Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s a little spendy, but your dishes will taste amazing. Don’t get me wrong, a good wedge of parm is great too. Anything is better than the canister. I do admit to being a little lazy and from time to time, I’ll get pre-grated parm (deli quality) – usually with your grocers label on it, so you know it was done in house and not in some distant land. The point is, to grating fresh cheese makes all the difference in the world. I promise your dishes will be better, and your family and friends will taste the love.
Okay, what have we learned? Fresh is better! Accept no fake substitutions. If you don’t know what it is, it’s probably not a good idea to eat it. Bottom line, we ARE what we eat and I’d rather be real than fake. This philosophy is also good for designer purses and diamonds.