Since the stroke, writing is much more difficult than it used to be. I’ve been in cognitive therapy for almost six months and it has really helped. I’ve been in Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Therapy Therapy and next week I am going to repeat Cardiac Rehab. Each one has helped tremendously.

Thanks to PT I can stand for 30 seconds on just one foot on a mushy rubber cushion with my eyes closed. I can easily walk heal to toe down a straight line…even backwards. The more advanced patients are made to juggle while riding a unicycle. Ok, not really but some days it felt like it! I can’t help but think that if I ever get stopped for a DUI check, I will be very impressive.

With all that in mind, please be kind as I attempt to blog. Except for therapy I haven’t been doing too much. Being sick is a full time job. So I decided to do my copycat “ Favorite Things” blog early this year. I already have lot of ideas so it will make writing a little easier.

Here goes!

2019 Favorite Things my Cooking Secrets Edition

1. My Instant Pot.

You might think the Instant Pot is just the currant kitchen fad but anyone who eats at my house knows this thing rocks. It’s crazy fast. I don’t even think about what’s for dinner until 5 o’clock. Even a frozen solid pot roast with potatoes only takes 45minutes and it tastes like it cooked all day. Once you get the hang of it there are a million things you can make. Some of my regulars are: Meatloaf, Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Marsala, yogurt, apple sauce, Pot Roast and any kind of soup. Maybe I’ll write an Instant Pot blog next.

2. My Lodge Cast Iron frying pan.

I never really used cast iron because it’s so darn heavy and my hands don’t work that well. I kept reading about how they are good lots of unexpected ways, so when I received this one as a gift I decided to give it a shot. Cast iron frying pans now come pre-seasoned so this is no worry about all that. It gets very very hot so it sears steaks, burgers and chicken beautifully. Nothing sticks so you can use very little to no oil. It transfers iron into your food every time you use it. Who can’t use a little extra iron in their diet? You can transfer it right into the oven. It’s great for corn bread, pineapple upside down cake and lots more. Splurge for the slip on silicone handle and a glass lid, they are handy extras. Cleaning: I use water and a stainless steel chain mail square to clean it.

No soap! It cleans up easy peasy. I don’t even bother putting it away. It’s too heavy and I use it constantly.

3. Dave’s Killer Bread- White Bread Done Right.

I’ve screen trying to eat healthier but whole wheat bread just sucks. I tried so many kinds of bread.. then I found Killer Dave. Dave did 15yrs in prison and now he bakes bread. It’s made with quinoa, spelt, rye, millet and barley. No HFCS or bleaches. Blah, blah…it just good bread. I find it most mostly in the more upscale markets. If you are looking for a healthier alternative but are kind of a baby about eating whole wheat that tastes like sawdust, give this one a try.

4. Stash Earl Grey Tea

I don’t know much about tea. I know I like Earl Grey but when I get to the tea section of thegrocery store, I get overwhelmed. There are so many brands and flavors and loose and bags and on and on. Tea is not cheap so I really don’t want to by a box, drink one cup and say..meh. This one floats my boat. It has a citrus thing going on and I really look forward to a nice of this stuff in the morning.

5. Better Than Buoillon

I love this stuff. It’s a jar full of flavor. Like cans and cans of chicken stock in a small jar. It comes in chicken, beef, vegetable, roasted garlic and mushroom. It adds umami in a subtle but delicious way. I add it to soups, chili, gravy and so many things. I add it when my recipe just needs a little something but I don’t really know what. I think I have almost their entire line on my refrigerator door. It’s in the bouillon area at the grocery store.

6. Garlic Festival – Garli Garni

My favorite seasoning mix. It’s like garlic powder but way better. Garlic powder always tastes like old plastic to me. The stuff in a jar is even worse. They are both made from that crappy white garlic from China that they sell in the grocery store. We have a large garlic producing area in California that grows tons of garlic. California garlic is smooth and sweet , not that hot, bitter stuff in a jar or powder. Why do we buy the Chinese imported junk? If your grocery only sells Chinese garlic….complain! If your store has an organic section you can usually find better garlic there. Back to Garlic Festival, I came across this product at a Home Show years ago. Now I buy it on Amazon. It smells and tastes like fresh garlic. It has other spices too, mostly typical Italian style spices. I put a shake or two in almost everything. A few shakes in olive oil and shrimp and POW— you have damn good shrimp scampi. I add it to meatloaf, salad and even tacos. Seriously good stuff. Remember, every time you open one of those precrushed garlic jars…and Italian Nonnative cries.

7. Sea Salt

What is sea salt and why bother getting some? Sea salt is basically ocean water that is evaporated. The stuff left behind is salt and bits of minerals, sea weed and other things that I prefer not to think about. Salt with just a little more flavor. Usually it’s used as a finishing salt but I use it in everything. It’s another great tool to up your game in the kitchen. I like Colima Sea Salt. I buy it online and buy three bags at a time. Good stuff.

8. Black Olive Dust

I found this little miracle online. Just a pinch or two and wow. My recipe just got better. It adds flavor to my recipe but it’s subtle. It had to say exactly how it’s better, it just is.

9. Herbs de Provence

What the heck is this stuff? It’s basically just a generic spice mixture but French style. Usually it contains rosemary, marjoram, thyme, oregano and lavender. I add it to chicken and fish. Just a shake or two. A great staple for any kitchen.

10. Sicilian Oregano.

On our last trip to Italy, we hired a chef to come to our apartment and make a home cooked dinner. The first day in Europe is always exhausting from travel and lack of sleep. This was one of the best travel ideas that I have come across. The chef was a Sicilian lady that spoke very little English. She was able to explain that she had made fresh ricotta and handmade pasta for our four course meal. I sat at the kitchen counter and watched her every move, trying to remember all her secrets. When she pulled out a small plastic bag full of green leaves, I took notice. She treated the contents as if it was special magic dust. I had to know what it was. She explained that oregano that grows wild in Sicily and is the best in the world. Every year she returns to her home town there and collects oregano for cooking. She opened the bag and offered me a sniff. OMG. It was wonderful. A little whiff of heaven.

When I got home, I was on a mission. How could I find this magical stuff for myself? In an instant I knew where I must go. Amazon. Yes, amazon sells dried, still on the twigs Sicilian Oregano. Order some now. I’ll wait here.

That’s it. All my current cooking secrets. No longer secrets!

If you use some too, comment and tell me what you like. Or better yet, tell me about your secret ingredients and how you use them.