Last updated on February 21, 2019 by Liza Hawkins
I just spent a lovely weekend at a lakeside women’s retreat with members of secret society group I’ve been a part of for the past couple years.
Annually, this tribe of supportive, down-to-earth, fun and funny women converge for this retreat, and we…
I’d tell you more, but then you know what would have to happen next—secret society rules, and all.
What you DO need to know is that post-retreat, my friend Lauren penned a sweet and spot-on snarky memoir-style humor piece, about … cooking with me.
My sister, Josie, read it and said, “That is hilarious!!”
Josie’s the only person with whom I cook on the regular (I tend to enjoy solitary cooking … it’s relaxing for me) and she’s been exposed to much of what you’ll read in Lauren’s post—equal parts kitchen mastery, kitchen frustration, and kitchen problem solving.
This expression below, for example, is “kitchen frustration” mixed with “kitchen problem solving” in my own space while I made Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake Bars with my sister a couple years ago.
Given my sister chuckled while reading, clearly know that Lauren has a gift for both storytelling and for capturing my “everyday foodie” cooking spirit.
I won’t spoil Lauren’s post by sharing my own personal lessons up front, so be sure to check them out at the end.
Cooking With Liza
By Lauren Haddaway
We all have that friend.
The one who’s super talented in a way that makes you love them a lot, and despise them a little.
Well, that friend for me is Liza.
She has this amazing blog called (a)Musing Foodie (if you’re reading, this means you’re probably aware—or, at the very least, just now connecting the dots), which means two things:
1. She cooks beautiful meals.
From scratch. That my kids will eat. Sometimes she even grows the food herself, because she’s a little bit of a show off. But she hasn’t just mastered her own food chain.
2. She writes about it.
Which means she has to be interesting, informative and a little funny. And grammatically correct; something I’m not doing so well at the moment.
So, given my little crush-fest above, you can imagine my delight when I was able to manipulate her into cooking with me during a secret society women’s retreat this past weekend.
“What?” you ask. “Liza is in a secret society? Do tell!” you say.
No. It’s a secret.
Anyways, this was going to be my opportunity to observe Liza in her element, and in my mind this experience would be like flying with Tinkerbell.
Just a little bit of “Liza dust” and I’d be able to fly … er … cook. Well, let’s just say I learned a lot.
Our goal was to cook two gluten-free breakfast casseroles for the morning meal.
We both read through the ingredient list and the directions (I may have read through it three times to be prepared), and started to pull out the eggs and vegetables from the fridge.
“The recipe calls for one onion, but this onion is huge,” Liza noted. “Approximately the size of two-and-a-half onions.”
I’m thinking to myself that isn’t too big of an obstacle; I’ll just use a third.
“Let’s use the whole thing,” Liza says.
I go to turn on the stove, and am a little confused as I am not sure if I’ve turned the gas on to medium-high, or medium-low.
I’m embarrassed to ask for help, but Liza is right behind me to make sure the skillet is getting hot. “How do you turn this on?” asks Liza.
I’ll admit at this point I was a little surprised that she didn’t know how to turn on a stove.
But in her defense the stove was really fancy. Unnecessarily fancy.
While she tinkers with the knobs I’m desperately looking for measuring utensils. And here is the reality of this kitchen: the appliances were nice and complicated, but there wasn’t a measuring spoon or liquid measuring cup to be found.
“For four teaspoons of olive oil, just do this four times.” Liza pretends to hold the bottle and quickly twists her wrists to demonstrate the timing needed to get an appropriate amount of oil in the pan when measuring utensils have been stolen by prior vacation renters.
I do as she instructs and start stirring three times more onions than is called for.
“That’s not enough oil, do the wrist twist again,” she remarks after noting the onion to oil ratio.
After adding four more teaspoon-twists of olive oil, she tosses in the peppers and then gasps at the realization that the recipe doesn’t call for salt.
“No salt! I’m not going to cook something bland.”
LESSON TWO: To cook like Liza you need to go a little rogue when following someone else’s recipe. I tend to be a rule follower, so I had a hard time salting the monstrous pile of onions, but I didn’t let Liza see my hesitation.
She then threw in some mushrooms only to realize the mushrooms should have cooked first. I’m not sure why exactly, something about not being mushy and absorbing oil.
I was trying to crack twenty eggs at this point in time and was too worried about losing count that I didn’t quiet catch what she was saying, but I still noted what became lesson three…
LESSON THREE: Cook mushrooms first.
The twenty-one eggs (turns out I did lose count) were ready to be whisked with a half a cup of milk, and while the wet measuring cup was still missing, I was able to find a half-cup DRY measuring scoop. “Use two of those for a half cup,” she said matter-of-factly.
My eyes went big at the realization that wet and dry cups are not the same.
Guys, you have to double your wet ingredients when using dry measuring utensils.
This was the kind of cooking secret I was hoping to unleash! I could feel the “Liza dust” as I started to fly towards being a master chef myself.
LESSON FOUR: Don’t trust Liza to give you measuring advice.
Turns out that dry and wet measuring cups are the same*, and that Liza gets tired and loopy after 9:30 p.m.
The sautéed veggies, milky-egg mixture and cheese were put in the casserole dishes and then we realized that there wasn’t any bread in the recipe.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed from her blog posts here on (a)Musing foodie, but Liza doesn’t suffer from a gluten intolerance, and I personally love my gluten-filled carbs.
I think Liza was really tempted to throw some bread in the dish for good measure, but she did restrain herself, all the while mumbling about the retreat not pulling recipes from that amazing blog (a)Musing Foodie.
“How do you turn on the oven?” asked Liza.
Okay. I’m not honestly sure if she was messing with me at this point in time or not, but I can say that we spent five minutes trying to get the oven hot.
Again, super fancy appliances.
The oven didn’t set, and then the timer didn’t set. And then the oven set, but turned off when the timer wouldn’t set. It was a mess.
In the end she was able to get it hot enough on a convection oven setting to cook, and she knew that convection needed to cook less than a regular oven.
I don’t honestly know what the difference is between a regular oven and a convection oven, but…
LESSON FIVE: If you find yourself with a weird oven, Google what to do (or ask Liza if she is standing next to you).
The casserole ended up coming out light and fluffy, with a golden crisp cheesy topping and everyone raved about how well Liza prepared the breakfast casserole.
She also made a beautiful fruit salad. But her coffee was sludge.
And MAYBE that was because of a faulty high-end coffee pot that needed to be tossed**, but I was able to salvage the morning by making perfect coffee for the secret mom society.
In summary, I learned to add more of something if you love it, go rogue when following others’ recipes, season to taste, pay attention when counting, trust your science teacher’s lessons on measuring liquids, and double-check appliances when they are not your own.
But most importantly, to laugh at your cooking (mis)adventures and enjoy the fun in sharing good food (and coffee) with great friends.
P.S – writing a blog is hard!
And now (Liza here), my learned lessons:
LESSON ONE: I’m unpredictably knowledgeable in the kitchen.
Trouble managing a fancy gas stove top with zero labels? Check.
Able to work a fancy double-wall oven between regular and convection settings? Check.
Make an otherwise bland recipe for egg casserole tasty and delicious? Check.
Fail completely at figuring out how to work a timer on said fancy double wall oven? Check.
Also, regarding the mushrooms, if you’re a fan of Julie & Julia like I am, then you’ll remember quite simply that Julie learns how to properly sauté mushrooms after following Julia’s recipe for chicken with cream, mushrooms and port:
“But then I came home and cooked chicken with cream, mushrooms and port, and it was total bliss. Here’s the big news. I had been cooking mushrooms the wrong way my entire life. Don’t crowd the mushrooms, otherwise they won’t brown.”
Julia is right! I mean, are we surprised?
Of COURSE Julia is right.
Crowding the mushrooms (or throwing them in AFTER the onions and peppers, in this egg casserole recipe’s case) means they steam instead of brown. Womp-womp.
LESSON TWO: Cooking after 9:30 p.m. is not when I’m at my best.
*Measuring. Clearly conversion between measuring vessels should be simple, and yet I was soooo wrong. Also, there IS a slight difference in dry and wet measuring cups, which is why you should have both types of cups in the kitchen.
The difference, however, isn’t SO great that you can’t use one for the other in a pinch.
Why I told Lauren to “use two half-cup dry measuring cups in place of one half-cup wet measure” is beyond me.
Maybe skip to number three for a little clarity…
LESSON THREE: Wine makes cooking with friends more fun, but doesn’t offer the clearest problem-solving mind.
Case in point: the stove.
What I meant to say was, “How did you turn this on,” which is quite different than, “How do you turn this on,” especially when the stove is already lit, and the skillet is warming.
“How did you turn this on” because that might help me determine what’s medium-low, versus what’s medium-high.
The flame never seemed to adjust much regardless of where the dial was set, unlike other glass ranges I’ve used.
That said, we made it work.
LESSON FOUR: I’m a fan of simple things.
Top-of-the-line appliances don’t make me excited when they function terribly.
What’s the point of bells and whistles if they break all the time, or if they’re hard to figure out?
(Especially in a rental house, where there aren’t any manuals at the ready.)
**And, yes. A fancy coffee pot that wasn’t working properly was responsible for making coffee sludge. T’wasn’t me.
We retired that coffee pot in favor of a simple coffee pot with an on/off switch and no other settings.
Lauren saved the morning by brewing an awesome pot of coffee in the basic pot, and she’s not even a coffee drinker herself!
Give me simple, steadfast, workhorse appliances, thankyouverymuch.