The best meals are ones filled with love.

Bummer no pictures, but it was glorious, I tell you.  On Sunday I cooked up some black beans for tacos, which were too late for the tacos, but made a great dip.  My partner’s roommates are not huge fans of beans, but I made these using liquid smoke.  The entire main floor smelled like a campfire.  They both declared the beans good.  I felt that might be a stamp of approval.  They then decided that I needed to make some soup they could add this lamb they had to.

I was requested to use the liquid smoke and add whatever I would normally add to split pea soup.  If you have never used liquid smoke, beans are the perfect medium.  As a vegetarian I am always looking for ways to create dishes that resemble the original without a fake meat product.  Liquid smoke is my new favorite “spice”.  As a food freak, I researched it and read the labels.  The ingredients on my little bottle of liquid smoke are: liquid smoke, water.   Ok so what is it exactly?  Oh that is right, I have the power of Google.  So I researched it.

As a chemist I  understand the process, once I realized it was a simple evaporation, distillation process.  Similar to that of moonshine still.  You simply burn hickory wood in a contained area, allow the smoke to go up into a distillation unit, utilize condensers of cold water to bring the smoke into a liquid form.  It truly is not magic at all.  But the flavor, that is magic.

So back to this soup, split peas, carrots, onion and celery with salt, pepper and some liquid smoke, and I like to use better than bouillon vegetable base. I also bought some spinach and a honey goat cheese for a nice salad.  When I say salad, I really mean a way to get boys to eat things like spinach.  Chop spinach, crumble the goat cheese add some currants, similar to tiny raisins, but better.  I also took a bag of pecans and set them in a frying pan with olive oil, heated it up and then drizzled maple syrup over them.  Keep heat on low, constantly stir and watch it caramelize.  Add salt to taste, and put these bad boys on top of said salad.  Dressing for this type of art must be simple.  Juice a lemon, mix that with olive oil, drizzle over salad and sprinkle a course salt and grind pepper over.  Apparently the only thing that makes this better is the remove spinach and use bacon, or so I was told.

I truly love to cook for other people.  What I like most about it, is when the dish is unexpectedly tasty.  When people like the food they are served there is no better reward.  For those of you who think you are not creative or you cannot cook, give yourself a break.  Go back the basic foods.  The flavor of the food should be what people remember, not the thick sauce that will later harden their arteries.  There is no magic in meal preparation, except love.  If you make a meal for people you love, the magic will arrive.

I take many of my ideas from recipes I have seen on-line, and modify them to fit what current ingredients I may already have.  If you keep in mind what is on hand, making a fabulous meal is not as daunting and expensive.  Be creative, look for new ideas, and do not be afraid to make a mistake, some of the best dishes I have created were mistakes.


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