Summer Cooking

One of my favorite things about being home for the summer is cooking. Cooking here at home for my family is very different than cooking in my apartment for only myself. For one thing, I don’t have to pay for groceries when I’m at home, allowing me to use good-quality products and try new ingredients. Secondly, I have a lot more time on my hands, since I’m not constantly studying / in class / working on other projects, so I can make meals that are more elaborate and more fun. And thirdly (and most importantly) I have other people to eat my food! I will admit that cooking for one can get old when you’re forced to eat leftovers for 3 days in a row before you can start a new meal. While leftovers are a big time saver, they don’t exactly allow for regular culinary adventures.

In my family of 4, my mom and I are both vegetarians, while my dad and sister are proud meat-eaters (or flesh-eaters as I like to say). My mom does eat seafood however, calling herself a pescetarian. So, mealtimes are always fun here. I don’t feel like I can feed my dad and sister meatless meals everyday, but they are definitely eating a lot less meat now that the cooks in the family are vegetarians. Last night, for example, we made a pasta dish with tomatoes, spinach, garlic and pine nuts, as well as side dishes of scalloped potatoes, grilled vegetables, and grilled chicken breasts for the meat-eaters. It all works out fairly well in the end. Although my mom is the one who grilled the chicken. I have this irrational fear of completely forgetting how to cook and prepare meat, and running into problems with it later in life. Not sure exactly what kind of problems I could encounter, but anyway, that’s my brain working in overtime.

So, here’s a list of some of the meals I have conquered so far this summer. Once I get better with my blogging skills I’ll add links to the recipes, but for now we’ll just make do with a list:

  1. Tiramisu – so proud of this dish. It looked wonderful. Unfortunately, I made it for my sister and her friends at prom, so I never even got to taste it.
  2. Sweet potato fries – still trying to figure out how to make them crispy. I used the recipe from “Vegan with a Vengeance” and the seasoning was great, just not the right texture. This is still a work in progress.
  3. Zucchini pancakes/latkes – had these the other night and really enjoyed them. Basically a mixture of grated zucchini, sliced scallions, feta cheese, eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Yum.
  4. Macaroni and Cheese – reminded me of my old roommates who loved it when I cooked homemade macaroni and cheese for them. I changed my recipe this time, making a lot more cheese sauce so it didn’t dry out. Again, this was for the prom group, so I added bacon for them. I actually bought and cooked an entire pound of Jimmy Dean premium bacon. Ugh, the grease, and the splattering, and the unfortunate smell of bacon that lingered in the house for days! Will not be cooking bacon again anytime soon!!
  5. Pot pies – mmm, so good. I made 2 for the family, one a classic chicken pot pie, and the other with Morningstar farms ‘chickn strips’ for us vegetarians. I couldn’t find puff pastry at the store, so I made my own dough for the top from scratch. It was wonderful, but perhaps could’ve use a little more sauce next time.

I know I’ve done a lot more cooking than that, but those are the main recipes that pop into my head. Things that I’m still wanting to make in the near future:

  1. Gnocchi – never made them from scratch, but it can’t be too hard, right? :)
  2. Dumplings / pot-stickers – haven’t made these since becoming a vegetarian, but I found Mark Bittman’s recipe for vegetarian potstickers, so as soon as my grocery store restocks itself with wonton wrappers, I’ll give it a try
  3. More desserts – I love to bake, and with graduation/birthday celebrations coming up soon, I have the perfect excuse!
  4. Farmers market ingredients – I’m going to start biking to my local farmers market each saturday morning and picking up some fresh produce to cook with. I’m excited about the possibilities :)

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