I've always liked to cook, but never had much extra time for it until the last few years. More on that later. I recently found a printed recipe from AllRecipes.com dating back to 2006. I had no idea that I had found this site way back then, but my
first active involvement at AR, and more importantly, the community of chefs called the Buzz dates to December 21, 2012, when I asked the newbie question of how to sort recipes in your recipe box. ConkyJoe was quick to supply my answer and I was off. Now
I have 689 recipes in that box, with most of them sorted, but a lot of them not.
It's been a huge year of achievements and firsts in the world of cooking. I can't even begin to remember them all, but I have a few that I must mention, mostly because they are so basic.
EGGS! Who knew something so simple could be so difficult? I always had a hard time cracking an egg without getting shells in the mix. I tried all kinds of sharp-edged bowls and counter top edges and still, no success. Then I tried a flat surface
as suggested on the buzz. What? This makes NO sense but it works! No more shells! And I learned how to make nice looking hard boiled eggs that are easy to peel. Omelets! I could always make them taste great, but never purdy. Sometimes I still fail,
but my success rate has increased dramatically in the last year.
TATERS! Mashed, fluffy non-gooey potatoes. Yep, have it down now, thanks to the pros at the Buzz. So simple, yet so difficult if you don't know the tricks.
KNIVES! A year ago I couldn't go two days without cutting myself, and sometimes quite badly. I decided to buy a better (not great) knife and to learn how to use it. I went online and found a video for $5 and watched it, then practiced, then watched
it again. I'm PROUD to say that I can't remember the last time that I cut myself and I do more cutting now than ever. A new, great, chef's knife is on my wish list, but for now, I'm happy with my decent knife.
BREAD! This is probably one of my most significant breakthroughs this year. I've finally perfected a pizza crust that works for me and have many very breads and rolls successfully. Yesterday I even made a batch of homemade pasta for the first time.
A linguine that turned out fantastic. I hand rolled and cut this. Today I made another batch of wider pasta for a veggie beef soup for when my girls get home from Texas. I can see pasta roller attachments in my future!
INGREDIENTS! Wow, what a year this has been in expanding our tastes and ingredients! I now have spices and herbs in my cupboards that a year ago I had never heard of and I've been buying and using fresh ingredients when possible. Garlic, lemons,
limes, nutmeg, to name just a few. I also set up a grow light and started growing many of my own herbs. Christmas dinner featured their debut in my gravy with fresh sage and thyme. My plants aren't big enough yet for me to go fresh on the stuffing, but
the gravy was fantastic. Heck, I'm even using wine from time to time now!
TOOLS! Little things mean so much! Like my steamer and my garlic press. Not to mention my fine grater, my new thermometers and my wife's favorite: My
This really helped keep my floor much cleaner. My least favorite tool of the year 2013 but most necessary? My reading glasses. Most days I don't need them, but some days they are a must.
RECIPES! In the year since I've been on the Buzz, I've had two recipes published! My first, Spinach and Chicken Enchiladas
, which is a favorite with
my daughters and their friends, and my second, Slow Cooker Philly Steak Sandwich Meat
, which was a recipe by accident. The Philly is one that I
threw together and tasted as I went and I liked it, so wrote it down as best as I could remember, then submitted it for publication. I had only made it that once and had forgotten all about it until I got the letter that it had been published. Now it's
another of our regulars around here.
These simple accomplishments I give a huge amount of the credit to the chefs of the Buzz on AR. In the past year, they have answered a lot of my silly questions. Looking back at this last year, I realize that when I filled out my profile, my cooking
level should had been beginning, and just now, maybe, it should be intermediate. There are so many chefs on the Buzz that have a ingredient and procedure knowledge that dwarfs mine. MANY times I have to google search an ingredient or a procedure to see
exactly what it is. I can't even imagine how someone could accumulate such a vast repertoire of cooking knowledge. I bow to those of you with this knowledge and I also tip my hat to the chefs that pass on their experience. You've told me the way you've
done it for years, and how your mothers and grandmothers did it, not because of being stuck in a rut, but because it works! I thank you for that. Because of you, my family is eating tastier and healthier food than ever before.
So because I don't think it's possible for me to properly thank you, and because you've treated me like a friend, I want to introduce you to me and my family.
My name is Jay. I live in a small town, population 3, in north eastern North Dakota. I own and run a small agriculture related business based out of my house. I'm THE employee. In the summer of 1990, 23 1/2 years ago, I married the lady of my dreams,
Stacy. I'm telling you this, because I'm tired of referring to her on the buzz as "the missus". I just seems dirty and disrespectful to me, and DW doesn't seem to fit either. So 23 1/2 years ago, we married and a few days later, Saddam invaded Kuwait.
Six weeks later I was in Saudi Arabia for a year. I returned home to the best home-coming a man could ever have. I feel my greatest accomplishment coming home was being a part of the country FINALLY thanking our Vietnam vets for their outstanding duty.
I salute you.
We made our home in the home where I was raised. In 1993, we had twin daughters, Alison and Alexis.
Alexis is on the left, and Alison on the right. Now these two are like most siblings, they've had their shares of ups and downs and fights. Gosh they can fight, but one thing remains true through the
years, when they needed each other, they were there for one another.
Stacy and I always had one goal with raising our kids: Raise nice people. It looks like we succeeded. There are a lot of things that I attribute our success to. One: Stacy was a stay-at-home Mom
until the girls were about 14. Even then, she only took a part-time job so that she was home in the summers, when they were, and she was home when they got off the bus and on the weekends. Once the girls started college, Stacy started working full-time.
She's a GREAT Mom. Two: We parented with a united front. We made lots of mistakes, but we stood together. And Three: The oak table. Our family dinners have always kept the girls coming home. Even now, after three years in college, they are
home most weekends to be with us. They bring their friends and their boyfriends to us, rather than being somewhere else. We love that. In the summer, on the weekends when we go to the lake, the girls are there, and the boyfriends, and the friends, etc.
It doesn't get any better than that.
With the changing farm economy, cell-phones and changing demographics, Stacy was able to go to work full-time and I could handle things here pretty well. There are times of the year when I have zero
time for cooking, etc., but a big part of the year, Stacy works much harder than me. As mentioned, her return to full-time work coincided with the girls leaving for college, but also my increase in cooking. I figured that if I'm at home, and have time,
she should come home to good meals, just like she did for me when the roles were reversed. Stacy had cooked a lot for many years, but never loved it. I guess in this we differ.
Alison and Alexis are now 20. They will be 21 in April. When they left for college three years ago, they didn't like each other very much. They were too close for too long, but after a few weeks
at separate colleges, they became best friends again.
Alison is on the left in those pictures and Alexis is on the right. The young man in the middle is Adam. He and Alexis have been dating for quite a while and we really like him. He's a nice guy and a hard worker. Alison also has a nice young man in
her life named Jordan. He's a nice guy and a hard worker too.
Alexis is going into elementary education, a job she was meant for, and Alison is going into agronomy. Two years ago she would have never have considered this, but she discovered this through a summer job and has now found her calling. It looks like
they both will be graduating on time. We are so proud of both of them.
We didn't know what to give the girls for Christmas this year. They are practical ladies and they didn't think they needed anything and didn't really want anything. Smart phones weren't even on their list! Then they asked if maybe they could go see
Grandma & Grandpa at their winter home in Texas. I was able to find affordable tickets and they are with their grandparents in south Texas right now. Maybe it's odd for 20 year old girls to want to spend a week of their vacation with their 78 & 80 year
old grandparents, but it's normal to them.
Having said that, we aren't vacation people. Stacy and I went to Florida for two weeks in 1992, after I returned from Saudi Arabia. That was our last vacation until a year ago, when we took the family to Jamaica for a week. Even though our home is
nothing fancy, we like it and we like being here. It was -21 this morning, real temperature, and we like that just fine.
Now back to Stacy and I. I won't show you pictures of Stacy, because she hates her picture being taken, but trust me when I say that she's a beauty, inside and out. Stacy does activities at the local nursing home and she's danged good at it. Stacy
loves her flowers, her camping and taking care of us. She's good at that too. I'm the stinker of the family. I can be rough around the edges and will say what's on my mind, but I have a big heart. I like to hunt and camp in the summer and I shoot
pool and curl in the winter. When I'm camping, shooting pool or curling, I could be found with a beer in my hand. Oh, and I like to cook. It's my therapy :)
I feel that there are so many other things I wanted to include, but this is probably long enough :) I hope that when we chat on the Buzz, that this peek into my life gives you some perspective into my way of thinking.