Folks, the truth is I am not comfortable in the kitchen. In a cooking capacity, that is. Let’s be honest, I am incredibly comfortable eating food other people prepare. That is not an issue.
I have been reading two books that have encouraged me (a nicer word for “forced-me-kicking-and-screaming”) to step out of my comfort zone and don my apron. Figuratively, of course, as I don’t actually own an apron.
Jen Hatmaker and Carol Brazo have really kicked me into gear.
Jen has caused me to rethink my every purchase and the motivation behind said purchase with the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I can’t throw away a single ziplock bag without regretting the fact that I actually used a disposable bag in the first place. All kidding aside, it is an incredible book that has changed my life. She has highlighted areas in my life where excess occurs. She has motivated me to simplify to make more room for my Savior. If you have seen me in the past month or so, there is a 0.001% chance that we haven’t had at least one discussion about this book. This book has helped me see the importance of cooking at home. Sharing a meal at my own table with family and friends. Hospitality, fellowship and food go hand in hand.
And then there’s Carol.
By the way, I love that I’m calling these authors by their first names like we’re friends. I do feel like we have had many long chats and enlightening discussions in my living room over a fresh cup of steaming coffee. They feel like friends and mentors.
Back to what I have learned from Carol’s book, “No Ordinary Home: The Uncommon Art of Christ-Centered Homemaking.” I’ve already mentioned this book since it was the original motivator for our Lent tree. Carol has also encouraged me to plan ahead for things like mealtime. I know it sounds simple but planning ahead really helps create a sense of calm and peace in our home. Typically, The Builder and I get home after a long day and scramble to find something, anything, to throw together as quickly as possible for dinner. It is stressful and chaotic. I want less stress and less chaos in my life. I have found that the crock pot is a life-saver. I am loving me some warm slow cooked meals lately.
Now that I’ve given the background story around why I am suddenly Betty Crocker and am about to post recipes…let me get to it. I wanted to share a few of the big hits around our house lately. I promise you that if I made it, you can too and there is a high likelihood that it will turn out even tastier coming out of your oven. And, these are all simple to prepare. Simplicity. I’m completely into that now, remember?
First, we have been making a lot of these Green Smoothies that I found from Amy’s recipe book over at New Nostalgia. The boys LOVE these smoothies for breakfast and I love that they get a huge serving of spinach and fruit in the morning.
|Start with a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach…|
|Add a cup of frozen berries and one banana…|
|Pour in some Almond milk…|
|I add some YoToddler yogurt for the boys’ smoothies…|
|Sometimes, I add a little bit of honey…|
|Then, blend and serve. Ta-da!|
|These two are big fans!|
|These smoothies are a perfect compliment to steel-cut oatmeal.|
Next up, the most delicious baked ziti recipe on this planet. I’m serious. I got this recipe from my brother-in-law. He got it from his Aunt Silvia who moved to America from Sicily. I don’t know when she actually moved here but that does not matter. She is a Sicilian. A Sicilian recipe for pasta is hands-down the best. I made this for The Builder’s birthday last weekend. It was a hit.
Now, bare with me because there aren’t a whole lot of actual measurements. It’s just a little of this and a little of that…
Aunt Silvia’s Baked Ziti:
Begin by blending 3 cans of whole, peeled tomatoes very briefly in the blender. They should still be runny after blending.
Next, saute fresh garlic, onions and olive oil in a big pot. When the garlic and onions are sauteed, add the tomatoes.
Season with (make up your own measurements here, sorry! I added a little of each and then tasted and modified):
- Garlic Powder
- Black Pepper
- Baking Powder
- Fresh Basil
I also added cooked ground beef because this was for The Builder’s birthday dinner and he is a self-proclaimed “Meat-atarian.”
Allow the sauce to simmer for a few hours.
After a few hours simmering, cook the pasta (I used rigatoni) in salt water and olive oil. Cook pasta “Al Dente” (I sound like I know what I’m talking about. The truth is I watch the Food Network), drain and then add the pasta to the big pot of sauce.
In a flat baking dish, start with a layer of pasta (and sauce), top with shredded mozzarella cheese and then parmesan cheese. Continue to layer until you have used all of the cooked pasta.
Bake uncovered at 350 for 30-45 minutes.
|I’m hungry just looking at these photos again…|
Lastly, I served Parmesan Knots with the pasta. I don’t remember where I found this recipe, so I apologize to whomever the “source” is! Again, these are SUPER easy to make and delicious!!
Easy Parmesan Knots
- 1 Tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (I used Pillsbury Golden Layers Refrigerated Buttermilk Biscuits)
- 1/4 cup canola oil (I used EVOO – another Food Network reference, I feel so knowledgeable)
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
There you have it. Easy pees-y, right?
Oops. I lied. One more recipe. After dinner, we enjoyed this delicious Frozen Strawberry Crumble:
And the boys helped Daddy blow out his birthday candles. You may notice that they are not blowing out the candles on top of the strawberry crumble. You caught me. I had everything planned out with what I needed to make and when I needed to start each dish. I forgot that the frozen strawberry crumble had to actually freeze and started it a little too late. It wasn’t actually ready until after the boys went to bed.
So, we improvised and used the candles on the neat driftwood candle holder that Dave’s Uncle Bob made for us!
|No, I didn’t die my hair darker. Aunt Katie joined us for dinner!|
All this food talk has made me hungry. I need to go find something to eat for lunch!
Have a happy Friday everyone!