Cooking with the Master

Christmas has always given me some of my most memorable moments; the coming together of family and friends can have that affect.  This year I was able to see so much family, although with two large families to see, I never manage to see everyone I would like on Christmas.  I was also the happy recipient of some pretty nifty Christmas gifts and some amazing cooking insight.

My boyfriend’s family lives in Oliver, a small town in the Rocky Mountains that is home to some of BC’s best wine. We aren’t able to make the five and a half hour drive as often as we would like, but we make a point of going up for Christmas to watch the young kids open their gifts.  I enjoy my time with them.  I spent a large part of my youth as an only child and Christmas with them is very different from what I remember from my childhood.  Everyone in my boyfriend’s family is charismatic, vibrant and ready to laugh. They clearly enjoy spending time together, making it hard not to enjoy time with them.

With eight children and spouses, friends and other relatives to serve, ‘a small meal’ is not in the vocabulary of The Cooking Master (my boyfriend’s mom).   From shopping to breakfast, I’m blown away by how much goes into feeding such large groups of people.  Her level of organization, her eye for how much is needed and the quality of her food, is enviable. This is clearly evident by how many people will rave to you about one of her many popular dishes.

Being able to cook with someone who loves to feed her family is one of my favourite past times.  I like to follow behind a good cook and while watching what they are doing, clean up and prep for them.  You can learn so much just by watching and listening.  Often times they are more than willing to share with you all that they know.

The Cooking Master is no different.   I came home with tips and tricks galore.  She is the second person I have seen whose recipe book is actually an index card box.  This really sparked my interest and I liked how easy it was.  There was less risk of me wrecking the book if I spilled something and it was easier to manage an index card than an entire book.  I think this might be on my list of things to do next week.

The morning I offered to make french toast for breakfast, The Cooking Master chuckled as I pulled out a frying pan. “You’ll be at it forever if you use that,” she told me and directed me towards her counter top grill.  I quickly realized that when cooking for thirteen people, you go through about a loaf and a half of bread.  I was very grateful for the grill.

When Christmas morning arrived and I opened my very own counter top grill, my imagination took off.  When we got home, I whipped out this bad boy and reveled in how easy it was to cook breakfast.  Not having to squeeze bacon, eggs and hash-browns into my medium and large frying pans was heaven and my boyfriend laughed at my oooh’s and ahhh’s.  When I pulled it out for dinner, we were treated to a delightfully grilled salmon seasoned with McCormick Garlic and Herb Seasoning Mix, accompanied by scalloped potatoes and seasoned California vegetables.  For me, not having to wait an hour and a half or cook with any butter or oil, made this a highly desirable cooking utensil.  Cooking with my new grill gave us fantastic salmon in under fifteen minutes; turkey bacon was even faster.

As if that wasn’t enough, I received a silicone pig puppet/potholder and a fresh herb grinder, “for those who shouldn’t use knives”,  my friend said.  I think these gadgets are going to make cooking a lot more fun over the next few months.

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