Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Pantry Meal...

When friends are coming over I always have the best of intensions to cook up a storm for their pleasure.  Well lets face it... the cooking part really is my pleasure as well.  Feeding those around me  is my way of showing care and concern for them as well as some hospitality.  It is also my creative outlet, I love to try new things.  I am that person that will attempt something new and unfamiliar for the first time when guests are coming over, so far I've been pretty lucky with this.  I am also increasingly more flexible and willing to go with the flow as I get older.  So recently we had a group of friends coming for dinner and it was the end of a busy week as well as a particularly grey and rainy day.  I had planned to head to the grocery to shop for a lovely meal to share with our friends, but as the day wore on I lost steam and could not steal myself to head out into the cold.  So I raided the pantry and freezer to come up with a fitting meal.  The following is what I came up with... roasted red pepper and tomato bisque with basil (made the hours of roasting and freezing summer's tomato crop so worth it), open-faced tuna melts (because I had to stretch the bread supply), and a simple salad.  I did whip up a flourless chocolate cake, because now that I wasn't schlepping to the grocery store I had more time to bake.  I loved that I was able to make this all happen with what I had on hand, and more over that it was likely just as pleasing to my friends as my more "formal" planned meal.  Because really, no matter what I cook, the enjoyment of any gathering is really about the company more than what is served.

**over the summer I had cases of tomatoes that I processed in a variety of different ways, the soup came from a batch that I had simply cut in half and roasted with red peppers coated in extra virgin olive oil then pureed and froze.  I simply reheated the puree adding some cashew cream, salt, pepper and fresh basil leaves.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Scramble...

I have a friend who regularly posts on Facebook pictures of the most amazing looking scrambles she makes herself for a late breakfast once the kiddos are off to school.  Seriously, every picture gets my mouth watering and sends me into a Pavlovian state of hunger.  She has totally inspired me to amp up my breakfast and lunch game when I am at home.

We have these lovely ladies who lay for us nearly every day, and I often have bits and pieces of leftovers that will not stretch to feed a family of four a second time around.  Put them together and it is usually pretty wonderful.  Today, my oldest had brought home some leftovers from a meal out with her fabulous aunties, a roasted veggie mix of squash and brussel sprouts, lentils and chickpeas.  I tossed the lot of it in a pan to heat up, scrambled a couple eggs and topped it all off with a bit of siracha, that is my kind of meal!  This has come to be my favorite go-to, not just as meal for one (sauté leftover cooked veggies and/or meat and serve topped with an egg cooked your favorite way) but its also a great way to stretch a quick family meal as well.

We started raising chickens a few years ago (something I encourage everyone interested to try, I mean there is nothing like eggs from your own back yard -- really) and have loved watching these ladies grow from day old chicks to the more mature bunch that they now are.  In the years we've had chickens we have counted ourselves very lucky to not have lost a single one... until now.  We lost our sweet little Daisy a couple weeks ago, and even just today I was telling my oldest how strange it is to arrive home and not see her big waddling white and black self running to great me.  She was the smallest chick when we started, we really didn't expect her to survive as she always seemed to be in utter distress, but she grew to be on of the biggest of our flock and a true personality.  We miss you Daisy...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Keeping It Simple and Ritual...

Last year for Lent our family chose to follow suit with this idea, and ate only beans and rice for dinner on weeknights.  We took weekends off, because we are only human after all.  Though it was a bit of an adjustment at first, I came to absolutely love the simplicity of this little ritual: beyond the fact that it streamlined grocery shopping and meal planning, there was something so striking about sitting down together night after night to a meal of just beans, rice and a simple salad.  And day after day as I prepared those beans and rice I thought and marveled at how much for granted I had come to take the absolute abundance we live in today.  I can walk down the isles of my local market and find such a vast variety of options, even just within the beans and rice selections.  So many options are really just at my finger tips every day, I am finding it to be a real distraction for the way I want to live my life and the way I would like to see my family living.  I really am a simple girl at heart, give me those I love and some space outside  (well ok and a nice cup of coffee too) and I could be very happy.  I could ramble on and on about this all, and if you'd like to join me for a coffee sometime soon we could commiserate together.

Fast forward to the current Lenten season, though we are not doing beans and rice this year (I found my systems just cannot take all that grain), we have settled in to some mealtime rituals.  This year we are gathering with a few folks on Friday evenings for some thoughtful reflection and sharing over a soup supper.  Soup is a staple around here, we all love it and never tire of many of our tried and true favorites.  And there is something so lovely about gathering with friends around that steaming pot, watching ladleful after ladleful being served to all those gathered young and old alike.  As is our tradition we abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent so all of these are either vegetarian or contain fish.  Here is a rundown of our soup suppers so far this season...

Week One we had Brazilian Coconut Soup with tofu
Week Two we had Black Bean and Quinoa Chili
Week Three we had Smoked Salmon Chowder

The other ritual I have come to really appreciate, though honestly it began long before Lent and will (I hope) continue on for years to come, is the big Sunday morning breakfast.  As is likely in many households with teenagers, my husband and I are generally the first to wake on weekends.  We have sort of settled into this big breakfast slowly over time, I am usually out the door pretty early for my milking rotation with the neighborhood goats and he us up caring for our own animals.  By the time I return, eggs and bacon on well on their way and I start the pancakes or waffles and get all the various toppings and sides out (we do love our toppings in this house).  I always try to pick up a Sunday newspaper on my way home from the goats as well as a round of coffee and or juice for the family.  About this time the kiddos start to wander downstairs, sip their morning drink of choice and peruse their favorite section of the paper; comics are a must, Suduko and horoscopes are always fun, and checking out the travel section while fantasizing of future trips makes everyone happy.  I love that we are all gathered in the same space, comfy and cozy, sharing stories from the week or interesting bits from the newspaper, and enjoying a meal made by shared hands and love.

These two rituals make my weekend feel complete, week after week.  I'd love to hear about your rituals, what makes your week?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(Almost) Daily Ritual...

I occasionally go through phases where I drop coffee from my nearly daily level of consumption. But for many reasons I always come back to it; I really love the flavor of a good cup of coffee and it really is often a social outlet as well, either as a quick post school drop off checking in with friends or a chance to linger and really catch up with someone.  But there is something about a quiet cup at home that I love too, the waiting for the kettle to boil, the smell of the grounds as they are being scooped into the filter, and that first sip as you settle down to enjoy this freshly brewed cup are among favored moments of the day.  Oh, and that jar back there, yep that is fresh, milked-myself-two-days-ago goats milk.  No better coffee creamer out there in my humble opinion.

A friend recently gifted me with this handy coffee making tool.  Do you call it a filter?  I am not even sure what it is called, but I LOVE it!  It is perfect for making just one cup (well OK maybe I have been known to run more water through that used filter for a second cup on occasion, kinda like reusing a tea bag right?).  What I really love about my new coffee tool is that without fail, every single cup of coffee I enjoy made with it, is even better because it always brings my friend to mind.  Thank you Lisa!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another Birthday Means More Kitchen Creations...

OK, so I think I'm kind of on a roll with all these winter birthdays and truthfully I am loving it.  This time around, I made a couple batches of Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread.  I may have had to do some quality control sampling along the way, I mean who can refuse roasted hazelnuts blended with Penzy's Dutch Cocoa Powder, ooohhhhhh YUM.  I got so carried away with the making I totally spaced the photographing, so here are just a couple pics from the beginning and the end.  I really hope anyone who enjoys Nutella will give this a try, it takes the spread to a whole new level.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Thank Goodness For Birthdays...

So it seems that Birthdays are my mojo in the kitchen of late.  I took the time to get busy making a special treat as a belated gift for a friend the other day, I am so hoping she supports my "better late than never" theory.  We were about out of our last jar of curd (a favorite of my youngest to top pancakes with) and I know my friend loves curd as much as we do here.  Up until last year, lemon was the only flavor of curd I had ever tried, it honestly never even occurred to me that there were even other kinds.  Last year I happened upon a orange vanilla curd recipe from my trusty advisor to all things jarred and it is now my absolute favorite.  It has a bit of a softer flavor than lemon and the addition of vanilla beans takes it to a whole new level of delicious!   It is well worth the time to make a batch or two for yourself,  we love it on pancakes but I also like to mix it into yogurt with nuts or granola and fruit.  I imagine smeared on a  nice thick slice of your favorite toasted bread it would be heavenly.  Though my recipe sites a fairly quick cooking time, it has never worked that way for me, generally I need to give a solid hour of time standing and string at the stove, but really please don't let that stop you from trying this out.  I promise you it will be well worth your time.

Monday, February 2, 2015

More Cake...

This winter has found me feeling a bit blah in the cooking department for some reason.  But I'm trying to shake it off and today I found myself itching to bake a cake.  It helped that there was a special someone celebrating a birthday today, and I really wanted to make something homemade for this celebration.  After a quick look through the pantry, a little help from Google and knowing that chocolate would be a choice ingredient for this Birthday Celebrant I landed on this gluten free chocolate cake made with almond flour.  I also had a bit of marshmallow fluff on hand from holiday fudge baking so I did some searching for a marshmallow frosting.   And well, I think I have hit on a new birthday favorite!  If you really wanted to get fancy you could top the cake with some graham cracker crumbs and call it a s'more cake.  The cake was a crowd pleaser and came together fairly simply and with ingredients (minus the marshmallow fluff) that we always have on hand.  I love it when things come together so simply and deliciously.  I'd love to hear what other folks do to get out of the winter slump when it comes to cooking, do you just let your self roll with it -- sure that it will pass or do you try to jumpstart things in some way to get back on track?  I feel I've been "rolling with it" a bit too long and am hopeful that this cake will serve as a bit of a jump start.  I don't know what tomorrow has in store but I am hoping to find myself back in the kitchen letting some creative juices flow.