New recipes and twists on the old

Jam of the Week: “L” by Tycho.

The response to my column’s sudden shift to cooking from the perspective of a newbie has been surprising. Ever since I took up the resolution to take up cooking as a hobby and partially for my health, it’s been a regular topic with people I run in to. It’s amazing how many people have been happy to share recipes and ideas with me. I also talked someone through how I made macaroni and cheese in a teapot. Short answer: carefully.

A special thanks goes out to readers Randa and Teresa. Randa gave me a magazine filled with southern cooking recipes and Teresa gave me a few ways to work with the “Margaritaville” salsa that’s stocked at Fareway. I’ll plan to report back on some of those dishes and share some of my favorite recipes next week.

So far, I’m still working my way up the food chain. I started with some simple dishes. Some that I usually made from packages like a chicken and caesar salad I’ve been making from scratch as much as possible. Some things I’ve made for a long time like omelets are easy, but I love finding recipes that put a new spin on them.

Now, I’m looking to try new things. I made some good pad thai a couple weeks ago. The recipe called for shrimp, which I’m admittedly not a big fan of unless it’s as much breading as it is shrimp. I went with the vegetarian option for the recipe, which is available on the website for the cookbook I was gifted for Christmas, “How To Cook Everything.” I’d imagine the recipe would work well with chicken or beef substituted for the shrimp.

Of course, for every good meal I manage to toss together I have another slightly embarrassing story. After getting off work one day last week, I decided I was a bit too out of it to make a nice meal. Thankfully, boxed macaroni and cheese was there for me at my time of need. About halfway through boiling the pasta, I realized I didn’t have any butter or milk. Rather than accepting a fate of raw pasta and cheese dust, I tore into my cabinet to find a substitute.

In a few recipes found in the aforementioned cookbook, I saw that extra virgin olive oil can be substituted for butter. I figured it would work as some sort of liquid medium between the dust and pasta so I wouldn’t literally inhale the cheese. The taste was acceptable. It was notably different from using butter, but I figured it was a healthy alternative at least.

I happened to mention my quick thinking substitution to my mom, who was horrified at the thought. The general consensus among Google searches agrees. Reactions mostly ranged from fairly negative to calling the mixture an “abomination.” There were some recipes that called for it in a homemade mac and cheese dish. Maybe it would work better that way. Perhaps Kraft brand mac is just something you don’t mess around with.