Saturday, April 25, 2015

In our kitchen

Lately, our cooking has felt a little more inspired, which is a very welcome change. I love to cook, and so does the Bear, but you know how it is. Ruts happen. I've been noticing a general trend in myself in the past year or two, though, maybe since the children are getting older. Cooking doesn't feel as stressful as it did when they littler; I know they'll eat most things and even try something new every now and then. They can be more involved too, which helps a lot. They'll even do some of the grunt work; as I write, the LB is grinding wheat in our WonderMill, which is clamped to the kitchen counter. It's hard work but he's plenty strong enough, and very game. Go to it, kiddo.

Ready for a food post? Here it comes...


Every few weeks, I buy a new potted basil plant at Trader Joe's, determined to keep it alive for easy access to fresh basil in the kitchen. It usually lasts a week or so, then I forget to water it or move it around for better sunlight. I use as much as I can before it dies, though. I do love fresh basil. My current basil plant is doing better than they usually do; we're going on two weeks already and it's still healthy and green! Maybe I'm getting the hang of it. How hard can it be, really? I'm using it nearly every day in something while it lasts. Here are some of the highlights:


I've made tomato-basil sauce twice in the past two weeks. I love this easy recipe, which I found years ago in an early Rachael Ray "30-Minute Meals" cookbook. I blogged about it here in 2013 if you'd like to read the recipe (there's a cannellini bean salad in that post which also made use of some basil). This sauce is fast and very simple and is my go-to recipe when I'm in the mood for something a little nicer than Ragu from a jar (which is also good, I'm really not that picky).


I used lots of fresh basil (along with fresh spinach) in my slowcooker minestrone soup (that recipe is here). I make soups year-round, especially when they're full of vegetables like this one. I loved it with fresh basil; it tasted completely different from the times I've only used dried herbs. I will definitely make sure to plan a minestrone soup every time I have fresh basil around.


We used basil on a pizza, of course. We sure do love our pizza around here.


I concocted this pasta dish on a hurried Friday night before the LB's guitar lesson. It was delicious! I cooked a 12-ounce box of tri-color rotini pasta with about 8 ounces of fresh broccoli florets added in the last few minutes of cooking. Meanwhile, I halved about 15 grape tomatoes and put them in a large serving bowl with one cup of ricotta cheese. I added the pasta and broccoli once cooked, along with salt, pepper, a little olive oil and about ten torn-up basil leaves, stirring everything to combine. We all loved it. It was fresh-tasting. The ricotta got a little warm and spread creamily through the other ingredients. We had enough for lunch the next day too.




For the past few months, the Bear has been on a sort of self-improvement quest; he wants to become better at baking bread. We recorded a podcast on this subject, if you'd like to know more (way more) about this endeavor. Last week, he made crackers, which turned out amazingly well. He used a recipe from the Washington Post, Everona Market Crackers, which he liked a lot. He made a few batches, with different combinations of toppings: "everything" (like the bagel), with poppy, sesame and caraway seeds plus kosher salt; sesame seed and black pepper; poppy seed and salt. They came out great and they didn't last long!


Our two little hens produce at least a dozen eggs a week. I never expected such an output and while I know it may not last, I'm thrilled about it for now. It's great for baking, of course, but it also forces me to look for different ways to incorporate eggs into our daily meals. I really wanted to make better frittatas, for one thing. After lots of tries, I can make a pretty good one now! They aren't burned on top, they come out of the pan in a neat slice and they're set all the way through. This one was made with spinach, onion, mozzarella and parmesan, really simple, and it was my best one yet, I think. What a relief.


A delicious marinated pork loin, which I'm showing you just because it was soooo good.


The Bear and I still enjoy our "stove popcorn" every Friday night. It's a special treat that I truly look forward to each week. The company is wonderful too.


I love to cook from scratch but I'm not above taking shortcuts; we have meals like this one - Shake 'N Bake chicken and Rice-A-Roni - fairly often too.

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Let's talk about food. What are you cooking lately? Have you tried a new recipe? Please share!

35 comments:

  1. I think being relaxed about food and sometimes cooking and sometimes (like we did this evening) buying ready made is good.
    I love your pasta dish and those crackers look great.

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  2. Oh my... I had supper only an hour ago, and looking at your blogpost, I get hungry again !! That pasta with broccoli and ricotta, yummy !! Going to try that !!
    As for supper - since you asked about what we are cooking :-) - I made my own version of shepherd's pie. My version, that means with chicken mince in stead of lamb, and with parsnip mash on top, in stead of regular potato mash... Not bad ;-)))
    As for the chickens and their egg production, my chickens are also on a roll - 3 eggs a day ! Which is a lot for five (really old) chickens...

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  3. Oh lovely! So much scrummy food. I am delighting in the fact that my little ones are much less picky as they grow. I have a homemade chicken curry on as I type. I can't wait to tuck in! Enjoy your weekend, Bee xx

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  4. You are making my mouth water, the crackers look especially scrummy! I am not great at keeping supermarket herbs going either! I do love fresh herbs though and like you do my best to keep them going but I am hopeless at watering, the only plants that survive in my house are desert plants! :-)

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  5. Yum, lots of deliciousness there. Love the look of the pizza and the crackers, especially the crackers, I'm making a note of the recipe. I love spaghetti with a really good tomato sauce as well. I made a nice lentil dahl this week, and a vegetarian bolognaise which every ate. I did it with homegrown spinach sauteed in the last of our own garlic, and surprisingly everyone ate that as well. It's such a triumph when I make something that everyone likes. Doesn't happen that often! CJ xx

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  6. It is good to mix things up a little every now and then isn't it and to try different things. Always good to learn new cooking skills too. Glad you are enjoying your cooking and experimenting, and yes, fresh basil is just one of the best isn't it! xx

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  7. Everything looks so fresh and good! I would love a basil plant to have it fresh, but I would probably kill the plant in a few days!
    I'm quite impressed with Bears crackers. :)

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  8. Those crackers look amazing and your frittata looks yummy too. I also struggle to keep supermarket basil alive for very long - I'm convinced they put something in the compost to ensure that it doesn't last and you're forced to but a new one! We've found that they do last longer if you re-pot them with fresh compost. Ottolenghi's veggie paella for supper - that man certainly knows his stuff! Have a happy Sunday. xx

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  9. Those crackers look awesome! We have been making our own for awhile, but a new recipe is always nice. Trying them this week!

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  10. I am totally impressed with those crackers. I too use a lot of basil in my cooking we grow it from seed in our herb garden.

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  11. oh those crackers look good. I'm hopeless at frittata, mine always disintegrate.... I'm quite good at quiche though when we have lots of eggs.

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  12. Everything looks so delicious but I'm really liking those crackers too!

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  13. I love basil too, Jennifer, and often buy those potted ones to hold in the kitchen for a while. Then I pop them in a pot outside, and some of them live on! All your food looks so delicious - I am yearning for some carbs. Since I am a bit older, I have had to give up on carbs after mid-afternoon, which restricts the meals quite a lot! It is all veg and protein round here. I make a potato or rice on the side for HB.

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  14. Love basil here and it is one that does like to die off to easily....unlike rosemary which I have heaps of
    Been cooking up Frittata here and of course bread which I try not to eat too much of....Soups yes yes xoxoxo

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  15. I'd invite myself round for supper if I lived closer! Your cooking looks and sounds fantastic. x

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  16. Hey Jennifer,
    I enjoy cooking, but I have three boys with a limited palette. Every now and again I try them out with something new, but it invariably gets looked with suspicion. Sam will always inspect anything new 'for mushrooms.' He's convinced that I'm on a crusade to get him to eat them in every meal. I like to cook Marc and I something different, usually on a Saturday evening. It can be quick and simple, or take longer. It depends on my mood, and whether he's annoyed me ;)
    I don't think that you can beat a simple tomato based pasta sauce though. And I'm not against popping a jar of Ragu into my shopping trolley either!
    Lovely post Jennifer.
    Leanne xx

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  17. I get you about the rut, I find myself in one of those every now and again. I end up putting the same dishes on our weekly menu. It is fun to find new recipes and yours look wonderful! Enjoy!

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  18. Your food looks so delicious. I've been meaning to make crackers for awhile now, seeing those in your post has given me the prod I need.
    Anne xx

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  19. There's some wonderful dishes there and I'm impressed with the crackers, they look very tasty. I seem to be stuck in a bit of a rut where cooking's concerned at the moment, I must take your lead and try something a little different.

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  20. I am not a cook and I fully admit it. Cooking causes me stress. I have about six dishes I can make so I am thankful that my husband likes to cook and does most of it for our family.

    Your post is delicious,
    Meredith

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  21. I like your down to earth approach to cooking, mostly from scratch but happy to use convenience foods, too. I am making note of the cracker recipe, these sound like a good after school snack! Thanks for sharing. Cxx

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  22. It all looks yummy, Jennifer! I get in cooking ruts too, but then the pendulum swings and I get into a cookbook buying rut, anxious to try out new recipes. It looks like everyone has been eating delicious things at your house!

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  23. I'm finding cooking so much easier now that the kids are older too. I try to involve the kids in the kitchen add much add possible and they love it. We pick out new recipes together, plan our weekly menus and often cook together. I find then that they are much more open to new flavours and textures in food. At the moment we are testing a lot of new Jamie Oliver recipes. Friday it was polenta chicken and caeser salad. Very yum indeed!! Have fun cooking.
    Rosie xx

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  24. All of your dishes look terrific, Jennifer! That beautiful tomato sauce! I'll have to give the pasta salad with the ricotta a try. I'm impressed with your hubby's crackers. They look really good. I just love a good food post. I had Spaghetti-Os last night! I'm not picky either. :)

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  25. Hi Jennifer.. I enjoyed all your inspirational cooking ideas.. especially the crackers! I've been too busy traveling to cook much and my DIL does most of our dinner making.. but occasionally I get the wild hair to make something for the family. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  26. Yum Jennifer!!! This post made me hungry. :-). I am so very impressed with your cooking skills. The frittata looks especiallygood to me. I've never had much luck with cooking and growing basil. How fun the whole family is involved.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  27. It all looks delicious Jennifer I can't even pick a favourite so I would have to have a bit of each. I like to bake more than to cook but don't do much of either now that I live on my own, I will stir myself when
    when family are coming to visit, one of my favourite ingredients is spinach I will put it into anything I can. Have a great week. :)

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  28. Mmmmmmm good! I want to try to make gluten free crackers...but the Bear's crackers look perfectly yummy and it doesn't surprise me that what he made disappeared fast! My son Tim and I arrived at a condo at Gearhart by the Sea to stay in a condo for five days: he to play golf and fish and me to craft and both of us to enjoy the ocean and some exploring. I made minestrone soup and gluten free chocolate chip cookies tonight since it is gray and rainy. We had a fire in the wood stove and played a game of Scrabble. Do you like to play Scrabble, Jennifer? xx

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  29. Hi Jennifer, loved your post. The dishes all sound (and look) delicious. I had a mammoth cooking weekend as we had three girlfriends and their daughters to stay from our previous home town. It was wonderful to see them and to cook for such an appreciative crowd. I made a Victoria sponge cake for tea on Saturday, dinner was chilli con carne followed by chocolate cheesecake, and we had roast chicken with roast veg followed by sticky toffee pudding for Sunday lunch. We don't often have puddings so my children were delighted! Have a great week, Sam x

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  30. Oh, wow. Can I come round for dinner please? You've reminded me that I need to buy a basil plant. My two most used herbs are probably basil and coriander (cilantro I think you call it?) and these two you can't really grow in the uk, unless you have a greenhouse. So I buy them. I love basil, and love the look of all the recipes you've shown us.

    I want to make pesto now. xx

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  31. Mmm...cooking and food ~ two of my favorite subjects! That pizza and pasta salad look extra yummy to me and so do the crackers. As for the basil, why don't you stick the plant in the ground so that you have fresh basil all the time? It will keep producing. That way, you won't have to keep buying a new plant every couple of weeks.

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  32. Those crackers look delicious! And you have me craving a bowl of salad ... tomatoes with wild garlic pesto ... if only it weren't almost midnight I'd have already hot footed it to the kitchen!

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  33. Love the look of the crackers. I have grown basil from seed many times, it grows quickly on a sunny windowsill and seems to last better than the shop-bought pots. X

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