October 27, 2013

Adapting a Recipe to Feed 3

Nesting: making a batch of pumpkin granola big as my belly!

It's a funny thing to go from cooking for one to cooking for two (and then cooking for two humans and one four-legged companion), and then to cooking for a family of three. But that's where this year has taken us!

Just as we began our kitchen remodel, we learned we were pregnant with our first baby. And the same week, I started a new job—so it's been a year of growth and excitement in many ways. Sadly, it has left very little time for gardening, cooking and blogging. 

The first trimester was devoted to grilled cheese and baked potatoes; starches and dairy were the only vegetarian-friendly things this mom-to-be could choke down. At some point near the end of those first twelve weeks, we stopped in a burger joint. I ordered the veggie cheeseburger with bacon, and then... things changed. Suddenly the vegetarian pregnancy thing was out the window and I must say, life got a little easier. 

And now that anything goes food-wise (well, anything except that list of pregnant no-no's, which has made me acutely aware of my love of over-easy eggs), the goal in the kitchen has become efficiency. Instead of trying to innovate, I've been trying to change my way of doing things, knowing that as a mother who will be going back to work full-time, I'll need to be able to put a healthy, sustainable dinner on the table in much less time than I'm accustomed to. 

I'm learning the value of casseroles (chicken pot pie with homemade biscuit crust is on the docket tonight) and crock pots. And much to my former self's chagrin, I'm happy to take a few shortcuts here and there. Picking up a rotisserie chicken or can of pre-made enchilada sauce never felt so good!

I have no doubt that we'll find a good rhythm once the baby is here (the countdown is 20 days!) and I am very much looking forward to making homemade baby food in a few months, too. But it's also very liberating to let myself off the hook just a little. 

Do you have any good kitchen tips for a first-time mom?

May 29, 2013

Simple Mediterranean Pasta

Tomatoes, basil, and zucchini from the garden make this a meal!
With the summer bearing down on us, it's time to turn to lighter evening meals punctuated with an array of fresh flavors. Since we seem to have a steady supply of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes in the garden already, I threw together a simple pasta dish that brought together some of our favorite Mediterranean tastes: briny capers and olives, aromatic basil, tangy feta, and sweet tomatoes.

This is a quick, easy dinner to whip up in just about 20 minutes; serve the pasta with a side salad or fresh steamed zucchini, straight from the garden. This is a perfectly light and easy summertime dinner. I'd even recommend enjoying it with a glass of wine!

This is also a great dish to take to a potluck; if you make it with penne pasta, it can be easily served chilled.

Simple Mediterranean Pasta

3 cups (about 3/4 pound) cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, drained and cut in half
1 tablespoon capers, drained
handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup shaved parmesan

salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces whole-wheat pasta (I used angel hair/cappellini)

Set a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove.

Meanwhile, get to slicing the tomatoes, olives and basil. Toss them in a bowl together with the capers, vinegar, olive oil, feta, and parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the noodles, then toss with just a little bit (1 tablespoon) of olive oil. Mix the tomato-olive salad in to the pasta. Stir well so that the noodles soak up the dressing. Serve with a green salad or side of steamed summer squash.

May 23, 2013

Garden Goings On

Sun gold cherry tomatoes, purple islander bell peppers, and a sweet carmen.
The garden is back at it, which is always a nice way to encourage me to get in the kitchen and cook. Of course, there have been many other reasons to get in the kitchen and cook. Lately, I've been baking goodies for family and friends.

Despite the warming temperatures outside, I've been doing a lot by way of baking in the kitchen. From salted caramel brownies to lemon poppyseed cake, chocolate sheet cake to cherry cobbler, the sugar has been pouring. I have been inspired to turn to my cookbooks recently, namely the Joy of Cooking, for some old-fashioned inspiration. The fact that the cookbooks have a beautiful new home in our refreshed kitchen is, of course, icing on the cake!

When a friend comes over to help, bake him cherry cobbler.
A very special lemon-poppyseed bundt cake.

Another very special baked good: Texas sheet cake, made for my Dad.
As we wait for the cucumbers and beans to start producing (I saw one on the vine this morning) and the tomatoes to turn red, we've enjoyed at least one batch of fried green tomatoes with homemade less-mayo pimento cheese.

Fried green tomatoes.

The zucchini and squash are off to a strong start, and most of them have been very simply prepared. A quick sauté in butter with some onions is really all it takes to enjoy these summer staples.

The zucchini are starting out small and delicious.

As temperatures near 100 degrees, I'm anxious to pick up a few Texas-grown watermelons this weekend, and get started on the summer's popsicle recipes. What are you up to this summer?

April 23, 2013

Early Summer Garden Tour


It is definitely spring, and the garden is loving the weather! Last weekend we were able to clean up the backyard, and my wonderful hubcap even fixed our garden shed (which was falling down). I love when "spring cleaning" finds its way outdoors. The grass is green, and the plants are all budding. 

The summer garden is taking off!

I stuck to the plan for the most part, but we decided to add more okra rather than grow any eggplants. The okra and corn plants are tiny right now (it's still a little chilly for them), but everything else is off to a strong start. 

Pictured, you'll see squash and zucchini blossoms (I tried to start these from seed, but the cold snap we got a few weeks ago wrecked that attempt). Next up, tiny figs on the tree — followed by little peaches. We're hoping to have a respectable crop of fruit on our trees this summer!

Keep scrolling, and you'll see the pepper plants, which are six different varieties from Johnson Backyard Garden. They range from hot to sweet, and I can't wait to taste the rainbow of peppers we'll have!

The strawberry patch is doing well, and tiny berries are beginning to redden on the vine. Sadly, though, the local fauna (cats and birds) have been getting to them before I can. 

Tiny cherry tomatoes are already on the vine, nice and green for now. I'm looking forward to sumptuous salads comprised only of these sweet bite-sized morsels. 

The beans and cucumbers are beginning to start their journeys up the trellises. I planted French climbing beans and two varieties of cucumber this year, Diva (which I had great success with last year) and the National Pickling variety. Both promise wonderful yields, so I'm hoping for the best. 

What's growing in your garden?

April 11, 2013

Cooking Again!

A sneak peek at the finished kitchen!
It only took three weeks (and then a plumbing hiccup), and we're back in our kitchen! I don't want to spoil it just yet; I will have some lovely photos to show soon for a full "reveal." We are still putting the final touches on it, too—I may or may not have splurged on some hand-crafted shelves to go on our empty wall. Oops!  

Meanwhile, I'm getting back into the groove of cooking. It's amazing what a bigger countertop means for meal prep. It is so exciting to envision what all we'll be doing in this kitchen soon. I'm thinking cinnamon rolls, pizzas, and dog treats; I have to make the most of my enormous countertop so I plan on doing lots of rolling.
Easy Vegetarian Pad Thai
At the moment, though, as I continue to transition my routines with my new job and our updated kitchen, cooking just means simple stuff, like this Easy Pad Thai recipe.