in my kitchen || journal #1


"Cooking well doesn't mean cooking fancy." 

Julia Child

DA66A489-E04F-4A6C-BC27-49FE176E3EC8.JPG

 

Such good words. Wasn't she just a wealth of culinary wisdom? I think I should frame this for my kitchen. It's a good reminder for me, for what I want the heartbeat of our kitchen to be. I want to cook well; to learn and love the art of it, to stretch myself, to know my ingredients, to get comfortable creating on my own, to make good food, whether it's scrambled eggs, a simple salad, or a charcuterie board.

A part of this comes from the atmosphere we create in our kitchen, I think. I want to bring people into my kitchen, to let my kids make messes -- heck, to let myself make a mess, to be brave with flavors and attempt new things like homemade pasta. I want our kitchen to be a place where people desire to be, to nurture that atmosphere of good food and great conversations. I want to do things well, just as Julia said. 

This kitchen journal is my desire to document not just the new recipes we try and love, but much more than that, the scenery that's going on behind those recipes. I want to document what we were doing, what was the atmosphere in our home, who was present, what was my heart feeling, what did I notice in that moment on that day in this sweet sacred space: our kitchen.


On this particular evening, I was craving some alone time. The afternoon had held a very fussy baby, a sad Anna Kate who had spilled hot chocolate on our off-white carpet (the day we finally get to rip that carpet out will be one met with much rejoicing), and a needy puppy annoyingly begging for her dinner. I was feeling a bit frayed.

Enter some evening sunshine and that superhero man I'm married to. Once I got the babe asleep, he took the fur-child and our big kid out for a walk in the brisk February air and said, "enjoy yourself, love." A calm fell over the house. I'm learning in those first moments of calm to just be quiet for a minutes, to reset my heart a bit, to ask the Lord to help me make the most of the time and bed ready to meet my people well when they walk back in the door. 

With Sinatra and a glass of moscato as my companions, I set to making dinner. Greek Chicken Souvlaki and Potatoes from Half Baked Harvest were on the menu that night. It was chopping, tossing, and sneaking bites of feta and kalamata olives as the evening light poured through the window. The pan went in the oven (this recipe is delightfully simple), the rice cooked up, and I set the table, swaying to "the way you look tonight" as I laid the plates and forks on the table.

J and AK walked in at just the right time, red-cheeked from the chill and ready to settle into a warm dinner. The meal itself was a winner, but more than that, it was conversation around the table, hearing about the walking adventure, a peacefully sleeping babe, and the faces of the ones I love most. It was a real evening of "us", marked by the still very new adjustment to life with 2 little ones, a reminder of where I must always draw my strength, and a sweet husband handing me a bit of time.

The Lord is so good to meet us in our imperfect ordinary. He doesn't waste a thing.

recipe | chicken marsala & mashed potatoes

Earlier last week we had the sis and her man over for dinner -- we like to feed them home-cooked things as often as possible as they are in that stage of life that is gloriously marked by college cafeteria food. Also, because we love them. I opted for a good comfort food meal and these mashed potatoes were on the menu. I got them all mashed up and dipped my spoon in them to check the salt and pepper balance. After taking said bite I quietly concluded, with my eyes closed and my arms thrown into the air, that I will never make another type of comfort-style mashed potatoes again. They are just that good. Look at the ingredients list and you'll understand why. 

This meal will not be making any diet list, but on the weekends we splurge, and this was our splurge. Any sauce involving mushrooms, wine, and cream is a win in the Coobs household and when it covered potatoes that are filled with butter, cream, and cream cheese, the combination is utter decadence. I believe that this is the very type of meal that Julia Child would cook up and then proceed to exclaim joyfully over throughout the whole of dinnertime, as she soaked up every last bit of the sauce with her baguette.

In her honor, Bon Appétit!

Chicken Marsala

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

12 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered

1 cup Marsala wine

1 cup beef broth

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup heavy cream

mashed potatoes or cooked noodles, for serving

chopped parsley, for serving

Directions

Hold one hand on top of one piece of chicken, then use a sharp knife to carefully slice it in half horizontally. Pull the two pieces apart. Repeat with the other chicken breast, to give you four thinner chicken cutlets total. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then pour the flour in a dish and dredge the chicken pieces in flour. Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken cutlets and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side, until browned. Then turn them over and cook them on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. They should be well browned and cooked through. Remove them to a plate and set them aside. 

In the same skillet, add the mushrooms and stir them around, cooking them until golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Pour in the Marsala and beef broth, stir to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the liquid reduces by half. Whisk the cornstarch into the cream in a small bowl. When the sauce is dark and rich, pour in the cream mixture and let it bubble up and thicken for another minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. To serve, place a piece of chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes or noodles. Then spoon on some of the sauce and sprinkle on the parsley. 

*Trader Joe's sells thinly sliced chicken breasts so that's the perfect shortcut for this dish. 

Stovetop Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled or unpeeled and scrubbed clean

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/4 cup heavy cream, more to taste

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

4 ounces cream cheese

Directions

Cut the potatoes into wedges. In a pot or large saucepan, boil them in water over medium-high heat until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Pour them into a colander to drain them, to set aside. Return the same pot to the stovetop over medium heat and add the milk, butter, cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to heat the milk mixture and melt the butter, then add the cream cheese and stir as it melts. When the mixture is melted and creamy, throw in the potatoes and turn off the heat and use a potato masher to mash them until they're totally smooth. Put the lid on the pan and keep warm, splashing in a couple tablespoons of cream if you need to reheat them. 

original recipes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

collections || quick and simple

I love being in my kitchen. I'd happily spend all day trying out new recipes and honing my culinary skills and knowledge. Being in my kitchen is soothing and inspiring for me, and one of my favorite creative outlets. 

However, there are days that are long and time or energy is not on my side. There are days/weeks that grocery store runs have been minimal or we're at the end of a pay period and waiting to make the big grocery trip. There are days with evening plans and dinner has to be quick. Every day, we don't have a dishwasher, and sometimes I just really don't want to stand at the sink anymore. There are days when dinner just really needs to be quick and simple. 

Quick and simple doesn't have to mean lunchmeat or peanut butter and jelly; however, sometimes a good pb&j is the perfect dinner to consume. Childhood revisited. Quick and simple can still have a little flare or elegance to it, or quick and simple can be just the comfort meal you need that day. And I think it's a bit in the way you approach the meal, too! Gratitude, joy, and creativity are required elements in the kitchen, my friends, whether you're laboring over a 4 course dinner, waiting for the timer on a frozen feast, or sandwiching together grilled cheese. Speaking of grilled cheese......it's first on my list.

1. Grilled Cheese

                                              photo via   pinterest

                                              photo via pinterest

It can be comforting, it can be fancy, and it is always good. It's hot cheese and bread! How can you possibly go wrong? Here's some ideas:

-- saute onions and mushrooms and add them to your sandwich.

-- make a "caprese" grilled cheese using fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil (substitute spinach or arugula if you don't like a strong basil flavor).

-- add avocado, bacon, tomato, ham or turkey, spinach or arugula, cranberries.

-- instead of grilled cheese, make it a grilled mac and cheese. AHH!

-- or a grilled pimento cheese.

-- make a brie & apple or gouda & apple grilled cheese. perhaps add some bacon. 

 

Next on the list:

2. Pasta

                                                    photo via   pinterest

                                                    photo via pinterest

There's a part of my heart carved out just for pasta. Pasta and bread, all the day long. 

-- make our new favorite: this simple, light homemade marinara sauce. add meatballs if you'd like.

-- a baked ziti that you can easily prepare earlier in the day or a day previous and bake that evening, and it's kid friendly. Cook your penne and mix it with marinara sauce or a marinara/alfredo combo and top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. 

-- make spaghetti carbonara or a bolognese sauce.

-- make pasta e fagioli. it's truly Italian comfort food. my lovely friend, Lauren, makes the best. 

-- shrimp scampi. it's light, fresh, and simple.

-- a favorite way to prepare some bread to go alongside. take a baguette and cut into serving slices, just DON'T cut all the way through, so the loaf is still connected at the bottom. slice slivers of butter and place into each crevice and then sprinkle garlic salt all across the top/crevices of the bread. Then sprinkle mozzarella cheese all over the top. Wrap the bread in foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 15  minutes. Pull back the top of the foil so the bread is exposed and cook for 5 more minutes so the cheese gets nice and golden brown on top. we devour this bread. 

*I'm linking to a few Pinterest links for some of these recipes, but I haven't tried all of them

 

In slot #3 on the list:

3. Salads

                                               photo via   pinterest

                                               photo via pinterest

a good salad makes for a great dinner, especially in spring & summer months. sometimes "light" is just what you need. 

-- greens, veggies, chickpeas, cranberries or dried cherries, grapes, avocado, olives, nuts, cheese, meat (leftover chicken, salmon, tuna, lunchmeat). it's quite simple to create your own salad and homemade salad dressings are delightfully simple as well. and a good salad in spring/summer is perfection.

-- chicken caesar salad. roast chicken breasts earlier in the day and later shred them/slice them/cube them up and mix with romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan. one of my favs.

-- egg salad or chicken salad. 

 

To end this little compilation:

4. The Mish-Mash

                                           photo via   pinterest

                                           photo via pinterest

Little bits and pieces to wrap it all up. 

-- make a simple homemade bread or buy a nice artisan loaf from the grocery, cut it up and serve alongside a cutting board topped with different cheeses, meats, olives, pickles, pepperoncini or banana peppers, apples, grapes, or oranges. It makes you feel fancy and it's so easy. 

-- grilled tilapia in foil. wrap tilapia fillets in little foil packets and before sealing sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and squeezes of lemon juice, then set them on your grill or grill pan over medium heat. it falls apart and it tastes so good.  

-- salmon patties. 

-- homemade mac n' cheese. try one made with greek yogurt!

-- quesadillas -- easy to fancy up or dress down and always good dipped in homemade salsa.

-- baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

-- in the spring & summer some of the best sides are roasted or grilled veggies and/or fresh fruit.

 

And, my friends, there is never any shame in frozen pizza, boxed mac n' cheese, frozen chicken tenders. It just makes the day easier sometimes. Plus, the frozen food game has been greatly upped in the last little while. We always have purchases from Trader Joes frozen aisle in our freezer and I'm always thankful we do.

Embrace creativity, friends, and don't find your value in how many culinary marvels you can whip up every week for you and your family. Frozen pizza and a side salad can be the best meal ever when it's accompanied by good conversation, laughter, and a table full of cherished faces. 

Happy Cooking, lovelies! And please share any simple recipes you have, as well. 

xoxo, Jenny

 

follow me on bloglovin'