I'd wager that when most people first pick up a mortar and pestle, their first thought is something like, "you can't be serious!" Very rarely is there a tool that you can buy at, say, Williams-Sonoma––perched alongside the electric pepper mills and the seasonally-themed waffles irons––that has not really changed since the invention of the wheel. A gigantic, blunt mineral rod and a heavy rock bowl is, quite literally, stone age technology. And for anyone who has not yet seen the magic and serious power that this tool puts into your hands, there is an instinct to look for electrically-powered appliances that can replace it: A food
Let's start with this: I like to eat. Really, really like it. I have all the respect in the world for people who can live by the adage "consume for nutrition, not for taste," but I will never be able to count myself amongst 'em.
I'm a level-10 introvert who works from home, and often, the process of procuring food for myself is the only thing that gets me out of the house during the dark days of winter. I live in Portland, Oregon, one the greatest food cities in the country, and I have a list in my phone of to-be-visited food establishments a digital mile long. It's updated almost daily.
And, because I like to eat, I like to cook. I'm a full-time DIY blogger who gets to make cool stuff, photograph and write about it every single day, and, yet, a Tuesday night dinner compiled from whatever's in the fridge often feels like the most creative thing I do all week.
So... cookbooks. They're fantastic, and they provide both inspiration and a depth that you can't find on food blogs or Pinterest. (And I love food blogs.) You don't have to buy all of these, but you should definitely check them out from the library or peruse next time you're at the bookstore. Because they read as well from cover-to-cover as a novel, and they'll actually teach you how to eat better.
If you think of the elements of cooking that feel the most like a chore, cutting vegetables can rank pretty high on the list (just under scraping off blackened cheese from a sheet pan.) But when you’re holding your knife correctly, it can be one of the most satisfying parts of the cooking process...second only to eating.
Practically speaking, you’ll significantly reduce your kitchen prep time while making sure that all of your digits stay intact. So, more efficient and safe.
Who doesn’t want to save minutes and fingertips?
Freaking out because you haven't finished everything you need to do on your list? No worries! We have some last minute tips for you.
It's not that hot chocolate is hard to make...especially if you go for the little packets of powder. But there's definitely something seriously straightforward about making a fresh cup with only two high-quality ingredients that makes it much more likely to enjoy a cup every night between now and the new year.
We all need a little inspiration. When you make something, you are producing output: a physical object or idea that draws on your inner well of creativity. And just like any set of reserves, overtapping the well can leave you with diminished resources. When that happens, the single best way to restock your inspiration stores is to simply experience other people being creative. Books are great, and listening to your favorite music is always energizing, but sometimes, the best thing to do is simply watch other people make stuff. Like, on an episode of TV.
Sure, there's an entire channel that's supposedly about "DIY"ing, but mostly, it's about the relationship drama between people doing home improvement projects. So, I thought I'd share some of my go-to series for when I'm looking for a little inspiration.
You know those little pumpkins you practically trip over in the supermarket this time of year? It turns out: they're good for more than just Instagram props. With, like, no work, they make a really tasty pumpkin butter you’ll want to have in the fridge all year long. I’m talking about pumpkin butter with the magical spice flavor of pumpkin pie, but simple, less sweet and much more, well, pumpkin-y.
Your kitchen stove is a recent development in human cultural evolution. For millenia, all cooking was live fire cooking. From traveling groups building beds of coals in the wilderness, to stone and earth homes centered around the hearth, the use of wood as fuel for food represented what it meant to be human for tens of thousands of years.
These days, cooking over an open flame makes a meal an event. Live fire cooking is portable, sure, but more importantly, it adds flavor and ambience your electric oven can never achieve. Whether grilling over glowing hardwood or slow roasting in a cast iron pan, cooking with real fire makes the meal the point of the evening.
Looking to add a little of the "roasting on open fire" flavor to some of your seasonal libations? Check out this cool technique for making smoked cocktail garnishes to add some toasty, earthy notes to your drinks.
Editor's note: From time to time, we like to feature the voices of ManMade readers on the site. We love hearing what you're up to, what you're making, and how you stay creative. When ManMade reader Scott Huntington wrote in to share how he hadn't fired up his grill once for the entire summer and it revolutionized his cooking, I asked him to share his experience.
My life changed forever this summer. It was the summer I didn’t grill a single time. It was also the summer I made the best meats I’ve ever had, all because of a simple backyard ssmoker. It took my cooking level from “yeah I’ll eat that” to “I need to share this with the world.” And it couldn’t be easier.
One of my favorite cocktail mixers is the spicy ginger beer, used for the summer favorite "Moscow Mule", or evening sipper, the "Dark and Stormy." But I've had enough of the spendy, over-sweetened bottles from the supermarket, so I figured: it's time to make our own. Here are three ways to make an extremely tasty version happen at home.
Lately, I've been on a quest to find better breakfast foods. Without getting into much personal, and overbearing, health details, most breakfast foods just aren't all that great for you. Whether it's a pile of dried wheat or a sugary toaster pastry, grabbing something good on the go can be so dang hard! Well, no more! Kolache to the rescue!
During summer, it's my goal to bust out the charcoal and chimney starter as much as possible. Call it a masculine stereotype if you must, but I never miss an opportunity to take advantage of extended daylight to cook dinner outside. It avoids heating up the house with the oven, and, of course, makes everything taste amazing.
And, if you want you grilled food to taste even better, here's my tip. It takes all of five seconds to set up, and takes your meal up to the next level:
You know how an olive in your martini tastes awesome? Or the necessity of a pepperoncini in a Bloody Mary? Those salty, vinegary flavors seriously enhance the flavor of a beverage, somehow becoming more of themselves in the presence of ethanol. So, ready for the next step and inevitable conclusion this summer? Put a pickle in your beer.
Yeah, seriously. Trust us on this one.
In wintertime, I'll gladly take a complicated cocktail. Something made with rich spirits, amber brown from barrel aging, made more tasty with fortified syrups, flavorful modifiers, and just-so preparation. These drinks are imbibe-abble equivalent of a long simmered soup or stew, designed to make you feel warm inside when the weather is not.
But summer is a whole different beast. It's already warm — too warm — and your drink's job is to cool you down while keeping everything easygoing. You need something that works while standing next to the grill, or for sipping on the deck with your feet up.
Enter the vodka soda. It's deceptively