Introducing: Tina (the Yankee Baker)

Well, I am as shocked as you are that my partner in crime, Crist (the Southern Belle) has not formally introduced herself on this here blog. Even an etiquette-challenged Yankee such as myself knows that it’s only polite to introduce yourself before you just start talking at someone! Clearly I will have to do a little work with her on her manners.

So… Hi. I’m Tina. I am the Yankee Baker half of this blogging team, and I live in Michigan (affectionately known ’round these parts as The Mitten). Crist is one of my nearest and dearest friends – and given that we spend a considerable amount of time emailing recipes to one another, sending crappy iphone photos of our meals back and forth, and introducing our favorite regional foods and dishes to each other, we thought – why not start a food blog? Even if we are the only two people that read it, we think it’ll be a fun venture. And if this blog leads to me being introduced to more Southern delicacies, such as shrimp and grits, or pimento cheese? SIGN ME UP.

I should start off by saying that I am not much of a by-the-book type of cook. I like to use recipes for ideas, and general guidelines… and that’s about it. In general, I prefer an off-the-cuff style of cooking – where I use what I have on hand, I make things up as I go, and I RARELY measure anything. I wasn’t always this way, however. When I first started really cooking (after college – I don’t consider cooking plain chicken or baking a potato in my college apartment “cooking”), I was AWFUL. So, so bad. My husband will happily tell you that he wanted to run screaming from my house, the first time I made him dinner. And I genuinely do not think he’s exaggerating. It was a dark time in my culinary history, unfortunately. But, I spent a few years using recipes, watching an incredibly inappropriate amount of Food Network, and just COOKING… and gradually, I got better. And I started to really enjoy cooking, and improvising while I did so – and while there have been a few duds along the way, I don’t think my husband has run screaming from the dinner table in a very long time (well, at least not because the food was awful).

(As someone who also does a lot of baking, please note that I DO measure while baking – I am quite fastidious about it, actually. But when it comes to cooking? Why dirty up extra dishes for no good reason?? People. I HAVE NO DISHWASHER. This is reason enough to minimize the number of dishes and utensils I use while cooking.)

All that to say – my tendency in the kitchen is to just… throw things into a pot or pan, stir, simmer, taste, add more stuff, taste again, repeat. And hope for the best.

I will do my best to give fairly accurate measurements when I post recipes here. I can’t say that they’ll be exact, or perfect – but I hope that that will maybe encourage those of you who are clinging to exact measurements to experiment a little. There is a lot of room for adjustment in most recipes – if you are making chili, and you love lots of tomatoes in your chili? Add an extra can! If the chili calls for kidney beans, and you HATE them? Use cannellini beans instead! If you can’t stand spicy food? Leave out the cayenne pepper! None of these things will ruin the dish, I promise you.

If there are two rules I would give you to follow when you’re improvising and playing with recipes, they would be:

1.) Always. season. everything. with salt and pepper. If you’ve ever had a dish that was just incredibly bland, I can practically guarantee you that it was underseasoned. Salt is your friend! A lot of people shy away from it, thinking that salt is “bad” – but just a pinch of salt (or a teaspoon of salt, in a multiple-serving dish) will bring out a TON of flavor in the food you’re using, and it won’t hurt anyone.

2.) You can always add more – but you can’t go back in time and add less. Whatever it is you’re adding to a dish, just add a little – and if it feels like the dish needs more? Add more. You can’t pull a tablespoon of cayenne pepper out of a pot of soup – but you can add more, if a 1/4 teaspoon didn’t give it enough spice.

So, that’s me. I’m hoping that posting recipes here will encourage me to try out new recipes, make some of my own, and keep learning more about cooking. If nothing else, it will give Crist and I yet ANOTHER electronic/internet-based way to keep in touch – because heaven knows that texting, hey-telling, calling, tweeting, facebook-ing, and g-chatting are not NEARLY enough!

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