Tips for Experimenting When Cooking

Cooking pic
Cooking
Image: meatventures.com

At his home in Hawaii, Dr. Jonathan Vrban enjoys a number of creative pursuits. For instance, Dr. Jonathan Vrban likes to cook and come up with new recipes.

While cooking, many people rely on following recipes exactly as written, which can be enjoyable and produce delicious results. However home cooks can combine their creativity and cooking skills to improvise in the kitchen to build new recipes.

When first getting started with improvising or giving your own twist to recipes, it’s a good idea to take baby steps. You might try using a different seasoning for one component of a tried-and-true recipe, for instance, or replacing one ingredient for another one with a similar texture and consistency. Having plenty of basic cooking ingredients and seasonings on hand can make the selection process easier and afford you plenty of options.

Additionally, try a new approach when you have plenty of time to experiment with no pressure, such as on weekend day. Doing a cooking experiment when are very hungry or tired after work or when you have guests coming over that you want to impress isn’t the best idea. With practice comes increased confidence and know-how.

Tips from a Hawaiian Gardener: Protecting Your Plants and Saving Money

Hawaii resident Dr. Jonathan Vrban, DNP, pursues a number of pastimes outside of his professional life as a family medicine practitioner. One of his passions is gardening. A cook in his free time, Dr. Jonathan Vrban grows his own herbs and vegetables and maintains several tropical gardens around his property.

Hawaii, with its even climate, offers an ideal place for year-round gardening. At the same time, however, this presents challenges, including 24/7 pests that can threaten plants not properly protected. Hawaiian gardens often need fencing to keep out wild pigs, mice, and other animals. Natural and environment-friendly insect repellents and/or insect-repelling plants also have their uses.

Gardening in Hawaii also requires carefully picking cultivation spots. Not every place in the Aloha State boasts nutrient-rich soil ideal for planting. Property owners may have clay, sand, or even volcanic ash or rock to contend with. Gardening beds may need preparation with good soil before planting.

Lastly, gardening anywhere often requires time and money. While we all usually enjoy the time we spend gardening, the cost can diminish that excitement. To pursue gardening without breaking the bank, gardeners can create their own compost and use self-seeding plants, like perennials.

Appreciating the Difference between Cooking and Baking

Jonathan Vrban holds a doctor of nursing practice and is trained in family medicine. He currently lives in Hawaii and in Italy. Outside of his professional activities, Jonathan Vrban enjoys writing his own recipes as an amateur cook and baker.

While some individuals may use the terms “cooking” and “baking” interchangeably, there are a number of differences between the two processes, particularly when it comes to the types of food that are being prepared. Baking refers to the process of working with a flour-based food that requires heat from an oven to set its structure. Common foods that fall under the baked-goods umbrella include cookies, cake, muffins, various breads and loaves, and a number of additional desserts and breakfast foods.

Cooking, meanwhile, is a broader term that encompasses a number of different techniques, including baking. Other styles of cooking include roasting and dry heat cooking. When a chef chooses to roast a meal, he or she cooks meat or vegetables by exposing the food to a radiant heat source. While roasting can take place in an oven, an open flame, like that provided by an outdoor grill or barbecue setup, may be preferred.

Making Pasta

Jonathan Vrban earned his doctorate in nursing practice in 2008 from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals and has spent nearly 30 years in the field, in clinical and academic settings. Outside the professional environment, Jonathan Vrban is a passionate cook and enjoys making his own pasta.

Some home cooks prefer making their pasta themselves for a variety of reasons. It gives the diet-conscious the opportunity to assume complete control over their ingredients. For others, it’s the opportunity to experiment with different consistencies and flavors.

Pasta is made by combining flour and liquid to form a dough that can be rolled fairly thin — about 1/8 of an inch. Once rolled out, the pasta is cut into strips or other shapes by hand, shaped cutters, or machine and hung out to dry, after which it can be cooked.

The fun in pasta-making comes from experimenting with the ingredients – most pastas have egg as part of the liquid, and some have additional yolks. Pasta made for vegan diets cannot use eggs, and so those recipes substitute water. Tomato paste can be mixed with the liquid to give the pasta a reddish tint; a small amount of pureed spinach will make green pasta. Both coloring approaches will also impact the pasta’s texture and flavor.

The liquid isn’t the only part of pasta that’s open to experimentation. While western cultures often make pasta with wheat flour, other cultures use all manner of grains and legumes as the flour used for making pasta. Cellophane pasta is made with mung bean flour, and rice flour, sometimes mixed with tapioca or corn starch, is popular in Asia for making noodles. Japanese soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour, while udon — thick, chewy, and soft — and the thin ramen noodles so popular in the U.S. are both made with wheat flour.

Unusual Dishes from Around the World

Dr. Jonathan Vrban worked in San Francisco as a practitioner at Kaiser Permanente. Dr. Jonathan Vrban enjoys cooking and traveling. When he travels, he likes to immerse himself in the local culture and sample new dishes.

One of the most exciting parts of traveling to another country is having the opportunity to try its lesser-known delicacies. While many people will want to order pasta in Italy or enjoy an authentic Swiss dessert, there are countless exotic dishes most tourists likely never seek out. China’s bird’s nest soup, for example, is comprised primarily of a swiftlet’s nest. Rather than collecting sticks and leaves, swiftlets use saliva to make their nests. The idea of eating bird saliva might not sound so appetizing, but swiftlet saliva ranks among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. A quality bowl can carry a price tag of $100.

When it comes to the American diet, few – if any – meals come to mind that emphasize fried insects as a key ingredient. In Cambodia, however, fried tarantula is considered an affordable delicacy. World travelers can further broaden their tastes in Korea, where live octopus can be found on the menu. The meal is prepared with a light sesame oil seasoning, and is famous for severed tentacles still moving.