Adventures in Cooking: An Update

Ok, so: I had all these great plans to write a follow-up post to Tuesday’s rant – but then I woke up with a gnarly sinus headache, which has drained away all my brainpower. I’m working on a giant cup of coffee in an attempt to revive the contents of my cabeza, but it’s slow to start this morning.

So, failing the level of cognitive function needed to write something actually, y’know, think-y, I’m going to focus on our dinner recipe adventures of late.

As you may recall from last week’s Great Crock Pot Experiment, the rate of return on those recipes was loooooooooow. 1 out of 4 = no likey.



We decided to opt for a different approach this week: we picked two Crock Pot recipes and two stove top recipes. The one stove top recipe we’ve tried so far (chicken with sage browned butter) was a quasi-win, in the sense that following the recipe exactly to the letter didn’t produce the results we’d hoped for — but once I improvised a bit, it turned out well.

The one Crock Pot recipe we’ve tried so far, however, was another fail. I don’t understand how this is possible, y’all: I use the Crock Pot all the time for soups and stews during the winter, and they turn out beautifully. Chicken Marsala made in late May, on the other hand, does not.

There’s obviously something veeeeeeery different between the way certain foods react to slow cooking; chili, for example, loves it mightily. Dishes that are generally made on the stove or in the oven, however, appear to be made that way for a reason.




So, with all these Crock Pot shenanigans going on, I decided that the remaining Crock Pot recipe — Coq au Vin (chicken with red wine sauce) will be made on the stove instead. We’re gettin’ sick of the barely edible dinners, so it’s time to stage an intervention.

The remaining recipes this week are the aforementioned Coq au Vin, which I’ve loved since the moment I first tried it in my junior high French class (really, anything with red wine sauce is almost guaranteed to be awesome), and Chicken Saltimbocca, an Italian recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for aaaaaages.

Meanwhile, in the name of cookbook test-driving, last night I also checked out two new culinary tomes from the library: another Barefoot Contessa book and the Epicurious Cookbook. As I was checking out, the woman working the check-out desk commented on how much she loves Barefoot Contessa — and in one of those awesome made-for-TV moments, she and I said in unison, “She’s just so calm.”

This, I think, is one of Ina Garten’s best qualities: in addition to seeming totally down-to-earth, genuine, and just plain nice, there’s a certain Zen to watching her cook. Unlike other shows where the hostesses are entirely too perky — or, in other cases, frenetic to the point of stressing me the eff out while they cook — watching Barefoot Contessa makes me feel like I’ve just had a glass of sangria and am chillin’ in a hammock. So, to put it mildly, I’m excited to try these recipes.



I’ll post an update on these culinary adventures once I’ve tried out said recipes — but in the meantime, I have questions for you lovely people!

Do you have a favorite cookbook or cookbook author?

Do you ever watch cooking shows?

If so, which one do you like the most — and which one makes you run screaming for the hills whenever it comes on?
(For me, the latter award goes to Rachael Ray. I can’t deal with her, like, at all.)

What’s your favorite week-night recipe?

39 thoughts on “Adventures in Cooking: An Update

  1. Dana May 23, 2013 / 7:42 am

    Ha! I agree. Sometimes crockpots hate us! I looooove Ina! She’s just amazing and I as well have felt very relaxed watching her cook. I get so mesmerized by her. Haha. Rachel has some good recipes but that’s as far as I will go with her.

    I also adore Giada and watching her cook. It’s a bit lazy, but more recently if I cook and because it’s warmer, we either grill or I like to come up with an original pasta dish. Nothing too fancy.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 10:34 am

      “Mesmerizing” is the perfect way to describe Ina’s cooking! That’s exactly what I feel like when I watch her too — I get aaaallllll caaaalllllm and totally relaxed, and I can’t tear my eyes away. ๐Ÿ™‚

      And your warm-weather cooking sounds fantastic — grilling plus pasta is the perfect way to go!

  2. Taryn May 23, 2013 / 7:59 am

    I always just find my recipes online, so I don’t have a favorite cookbook. I couldn’t buy an expensive cookbook without knowing whether or not I liked any of the recipes – I’ve never thought to take one out of the library though.

    My favorite weeknight meals are stir fry, meatballs (so easy to change up the flavors and reheat later), and a beef and quinoa mixture with diced tomatoes and jalapenos.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 10:36 am

      Your weeknight meals are fantastic — stir-fry is wonderfully quick, and you make an excellent point about the meatballs. The beef and quinoa sounds delicious too! Mind if I steal some of your ideas? ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Taryn May 24, 2013 / 10:47 am

        That’s why I shared them! My boss read somewhere that you should have 21 meals that you’re comfortable with making and that you enjoy eating – then you’re set! I’ve been trying to get to that number (and I may actually write a post in the future about finding those 21 recipes now).

  3. Meredith May 23, 2013 / 8:25 am

    I feel like I’ve been seriously slacking on cookbooks, I always just look at blogs now ; -) but I do love cooking shows! In Australia, Master Chef is really popular and I’m hooked. Back home I loved Chopped and pretty much anything on the food network. They make it look so easy, if only that was the case!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 10:37 am

      Right? I feel like cooking shows make things look super simple, and then I wind up all spastic when I try to re-create it. Aaaah, well: there’s a reason why they’re paid to do this stuff and I’m not. ๐Ÿ˜‰ That said, though, Food Network is fantastic!

  4. livliveslife May 23, 2013 / 8:26 am

    What a bummer about your headache! I hate those things. I hope you’re starting to feel better!
    The not-so-great meals are a bummer too. They sound so good. Hopefully these next two will be fantastic to make up for the others!
    You’re so right about Ina Garten’s zen. That’s a perfect word for it. Maybe making her recipes will put you in a zen mindset too? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 10:51 am

      Good call on the Ina-Zen connection! Hopefully cooking her recipes will lull me into a fabulous culinary trance… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Have an awesome weekend!

  5. Charlotte @ Commitness to Fitness May 23, 2013 / 8:38 am

    Team Ina!! All the way. That woman is the cats pajamas. there is something soo zen yet so productive about her and i want whatever it is. I heart giada, but i dont belly up to my screen the way I do when ina comes on. rachel- blah- but i admire her work ethic. and i dont particularly like trisha yearwood’s new show, she kinda starts talking in baby talk at times and it drives me nuts. i keep watching though, bc i WANT to like her. and paula deen, oh paula deen ๐Ÿ™‚ i love her jolliness. fav week night recipe is pasta sauteed in olive oil with tomatoes basil and garlic. so easy, so good.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 10:54 am

      Oh gawd, baby talk?! I haven’t seen Trisha Yearwood’s show, but UGH. I love her music, and she’s a seriously talented musician — but I can’t deal with baby talk. I think I’d feel patronized just by watching someone use baby talk in a cooking show! That said, I also love Paula Deen’s jolly ways. Her recipes aren’t my jam, but I do appreciate how gosh-darn happy she is. ๐Ÿ™‚

      You weeknight recipe sounds great — anything involving basil and garlic is guaranteed to be delicious!

  6. thepaceofitall May 23, 2013 / 8:46 am

    Sorry to hear about the headache, those are the worst. Bummer about the meals not working out either, hope the next ones you’ve got going on are totally edible.. or rather, edible and awesome. Good luck!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 10:57 am

      Thanks, Ari! Happily, the chicken saltimbocca turned out to be a huge win — so there’s redemption in my future! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hope you have an awesome weekend!

  7. Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama May 23, 2013 / 9:08 am

    It’s funny because I really do NOT enjoy cooking, but I was absolutely hooked on the Food Network during both pregnancies. I love Giada and Ina is definitely addictive. So soothing!

    I hope you have some summer crockpot success so I can steal the recipes. I love the crockpot because it requires very little work on my part, but we don’t use it much in the summer. Although, we do make some yummy pulled porked BBQ crockpot style.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:02 am

      Pulled pork in the Crock Pot sounds fantastic! I think shredded meats probably have a higher success rate than their in-one-piece counterparts, so that makes a lot of sense.

      Also, I can totally see why you’d be hooked on the Food Network while pregnant — my friends say that pregnancy hunger is like nothing they’ve ever experienced, so gravitating towards cooking shows sounds totally legit. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Christine May 23, 2013 / 10:11 am

    I love Ina! I think my favorite “celebrity” chef would have to be Ree from The Pioneer Woman. I love how down to earth she is and it’s so much fun to hear about her unique life. The fact that most of her cooking is based off comfort food doesn’t hurt either ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:04 am

      I love the Pioneer Woman’s website, but I haven’t seen her show — it sounds awesome! From what I’ve read, she sounds totally down to earth and genuine, which is a lot more enjoyable than the hyper-staged/”this is my slightly manic on-screen persona” antics of, cough cough Rachael Ray cough cough, some other cooking show celebs. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

      • Christine May 24, 2013 / 11:51 am

        I couldn’t agree more! I don’t enjoy watching Rachel. You should definitely watch Ree though, I look forward to her show so much! It’s weird how a cooking show can captivate you so much ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. The Siren's Tale May 23, 2013 / 12:07 pm

    I was just over in Pinterest world, and I came across this:

    As soon as I saw it, I thought of you!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:05 am

      AAAAAAH, I LOVE IT! That’s freakin’ awesome — thanks for sending the link over this way! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. liveandbeawesome May 23, 2013 / 2:03 pm

    I am absolutely NOT a cooking aficionado. I have a limited selection of dinner recipes that I cycle through, and they’re all pretty simple. My area is definitely baking (which is bad for my waistline haha).

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:06 am

      Oh, but it’s so awesome that you can bake! Believe me, as someone who grew up barely able to put together the contents of a Betty Crocker box, I seriously admire anyone who has baking abilities. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Greg May 23, 2013 / 2:51 pm

    Crock pots are false hope. They only work, as you have noted, for soups and stews. It doesn’t see to matter what you do, meat always tastes dry when cooked in a crock pot. The idea of throwing something together in the morning and coming home to a delicous home-cooked meal is sooooo appealing. But your hopes are generally dashed when the time comes to eat it. Alas. False hope.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:08 am

      You hit the nail on the head, Greg: false hope, indeed! It’s so, so enticing in theory — but then any non-soup/stew/shredded meat recipe we’ve tried has, exactly like you said, come out incredibly dry. (This makes no sense to me, since Crock Pots provide an uber-humid environment. Alas, I’m no culinary scientist, so I have no freakin’ clue why this is the case.) Le sigh.

  12. Greg May 23, 2013 / 3:07 pm

    To answer your questions, I have a ton of cookbooks. Once upon a time, my daughter and I particpated in a cookbook club. However, none of them are favorites. I glean a recipe here and there but have never found an entire cookbook to be spectacular. Instead, I have now been accumlating recipes on a flash drive for several years. I have two categories: stuff I want to try and stuff I have tried and know is good. If I try one and don’t like it, it is unceremoniously deleted. Life is too short for bad food.

    Regarding cooking shows, I like America’s Test Kitchen. My wife laughs because other men love swimsuit models but I refer to Bridget Lancaster as a goddess.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:11 am

      I love the idea of a father-daughter cookbook club — did y’all enjoy it? I also love the idea of a flash drive recipe collection: that’s brilliant, and I may have to steal that idea from you!

      As for ATC, you’re absolutely right: they’re amazing. I really appreciate their methodical approach to finding the best way to prepare things, the best ingredients, etc. They’re an awesome resource!

  13. Amanda May 23, 2013 / 5:05 pm

    I’ve had good luck with the crockpot recipes from Skinnytaste. I love Ina and Giada. Chopped is fun to watch too!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:12 am

      That’s a great idea! I’ve had great results from Skinnytaste recipes, so I’ll have to check out her Crock Pot offerings. Good call! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Amanda May 23, 2013 / 5:07 pm

    I’ve had good luck with the crockpot recipes from Skinnytaste. Ina and Giada are definitely my favorites. Chopped is so fun to watch!

  15. Alex @ therunwithin May 23, 2013 / 8:42 pm

    with my whole 30 adventure starting may 31st I am going to have to make good use of actually cooking and getting creative. I think my adventure though may not be as successful as you are

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:14 am

      I think you’ll do far better than you anticipate, Alex! You’re definitely creative — your blog topics are evidence of that — and I’ve heard good things from people who’ve done the Whole 30. I’ll be rooting for you from Arlington! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. jessielovestorun May 23, 2013 / 10:48 pm

    Ah, I am so glad you feel the same way about Rachael Ray. It’s not even like her dishes are bad, it’s her voice & her stupid jokes/sayings. I think I could only watch her if the tv was muted… gosh that sounded horribly mean!!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:17 am

      LOL – it’s not mean at all! (At least, I don’t think so.) She’s just so…manic. It stresses me out to her her talk, between her high-pitched voice, hyperactive TV persona, and bad jokes. Whenever I see her cook for more than 30 seconds, I find myself saying things like “Good gawd, woman, calm the eff down!” at the TV, and I find myself hoping that someone can nail her with a tranquilizer dart.

  17. Sara @ Nourish and Flourish May 24, 2013 / 1:10 am

    Ahahaha, I laughed out loud (really, I did—I promise I’m not just typing that for the sake of sounding enthusiastic) after reading this line: “or, in other cases, frenetic to the point of stressing me the eff out while they cook.” Truth, sister. Truth! I’m SO with you on Rachael Ray. The EVOO acronym (and the following “extra virgin olive oil” explanation) drives me crazy! :-p Just say one or the other, woman. Okay, enough hating. I don’t mind Rachael’s magazine, though–in fact, I pick it up from time to time because it’s full of fun foodie facts and recipes. As for Ina: adore her! I actually own of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and actually *use* them. Her recipes are simple, and more importantly, ALWAYS delicious. Have you tried the roasted Brussels sprouts yet? So good.

    The Food Network is my default TV station. The stars keep me company when I’m doing odds n’ ends around the house. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I hope the Coq au Vin and Chicken Saltimbocca were a thousand times more delicious than the Crock Pot flops! xoxo

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:21 am

      Omigod, the EVOO acronym drives me NUTS — I get all twitchy whenever I hear her say it. (*Twitch* Just! Say! Olive! Oil! *Twitch*) I think it wouldn’t bother me so much if she weren’t so freakin’ hyper. The combination of the hyperactivity, bad jokes, and her voice is just too much for me. Needless to say, I don’t watch her shows. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I love that Food Network is your default TV station — when I lived on my own, it was mine too. (Well, that and HGTV. Have I mentioned that I really like being domestic?)

  18. Melissa May 24, 2013 / 1:32 am

    Great questions all around on this post:

    1. My top cookbook of the moment is Jaden Hair’s Healthy Asian Favorites – I love cooking asian dishes and so far all of her’s have turned out awesome.

    2. I love watching cooking shows on weekend mornings! My favorites are Ina Garten and The Pioneer Woman (she’s cheesy in such a genuine way, haha). I used to watch Rachel Ray but now I can’t stand her or Paula Deen. An immediate search for the remote ensues as soon as their faces appear.

    3. My favorite weeknight meal is either a big ass salad or breakfast for dinner – omelets for days!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:23 am

      Oooh, the healthy Asian cookbook sounds fantastic. I love cooking Asian dishes too (Brandon’s not into them, though, so I don’t cook them often), and it sounds like a veritable treasure trove of recipes.

      I’ve also heard great things about the Pioneer Woman — cheesy in a genuine way is totally endearing, too. It’s a different can of worms than Rachael Ray’s stage persona!

      And a huge amen to breakfast for dinner! It’s seriously awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Jorie May 24, 2013 / 8:50 am

    I’m sorry to hear that the crockpot experiment went awry! You’re so right that there are certain dishes that just don’t cook well in the ‘pot. I think it really is best for stews, soups, and side dishes like chili.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte May 24, 2013 / 11:24 am

      You’re totally right — it appears that there’ve been many valiant attempts to use the Crock Pot for things other than soups/stews/chilis, but to no avail. Stove top it is! ๐Ÿ™‚

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