Hello, Payson! Welcome to Shirley's Kitchen!
As a child, growing up in Lima, Peru, I loved playing with pots and pans, pretending that I was cooking. My ingredients were Mom's colorful, scented roses and geraniums.
Dad was considered the chef in the house. At the age of 7, we went to the orchard where we picked four bushels of wonderful smelling apples. That afternoon, together we made my first pie. He made it fun and relaxing, and the aroma of sugar and spices was heavenly. The rest is history.
When I am in the kitchen, there is no crisis in my life. My schedule is already full with wonderful smells, colors, tastes and creativity. The rewards: the beautiful smile on the faces around you because their palates are satisfied and, like my grandson Jesee would say, "You can't get food like this in a restaurant, Grandma!" (He is 9 years old.)
Following family tradition, Jesee and sister Amanda started cooking with me at the ages of 4 and 6. I split the ingredients, and they put together their own personal touches. Results were lots of laughter and goodies to take home and share with mom and dad.
The key to enjoy creating in your kitchen is knowing ahead of time a menu and how many servings. Always try to incorporate garden-fresh vegetables and herbs that are in season. Do all the prep-work ahead of time, if possible. Never try a new recipe if you are having company. For picture appeal, try using clear glass or crystal containers.
Food is an international language. No words are needed, because the aroma, taste and presentation do the talking.
Cooking is not just about food. It's also about setting a mood, bringing out your decorating skills and more -- subjects we can talk about in future columns.
For now, here are two delicious recipes to try:
Mediterranean Tomato and Basil
Ingredients are one each per serving. For six, you will need:
6 fresh thick tomato slices
6 mozzarella cheese slices
6 leaves of lettuce (red, green leaf or Romaine)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Dressing: Cranberry walnut, raspberry vinaigrette, or your favorite salad dressing. Line bottom of dish with the lettuce. Arrange tomato slices. Add a slice of cheese to each tomato, sprinkle chopped basil and pour dressing just before serving. Slices of garlic toast are a nice touch. Add shrimp or fish, and you have a great meal. Enjoy!
1 bag fresh spinach
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges, drained
1 pint fresh blueberries or raspberries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup feta or blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup red onions, sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
5 slices of bacon (fried and chopped)
Fresh sliced mushrooms (optional)
Put all the ingredients in a salad bowl, toss them together, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make dressing (or use raspberry dressing -- look in the dressing aisle for any one of a number of different brands or try Chinese Chicken Salad by Gerard's)
1 cup oil (olive or canola)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Mix dressing and pour over salad prior to serving.
Make a meal by adding spices, cooked chicken breast, and garlic bread on the side. A glass of white wine is a nice touch.