a moment of truth: how I cook all those dinners

A friend asked me a good question the other day. She’s just had her second baby, and she wanted to know, with two toddlers, how in the heck I’m managing to make all those dinners I’m Instagramming all the time.

Here’s the truth: my husband works unusual hours in the ER, so he’s usually home between the hours of 3 and 7. If he works the morning shift, he’s off by 2:30, and if he works in the evening or at night, he goes in at 10 or 7. Of several possible shifts, only one keeps him out of the house at dinner time. It’s one reason I *love* his specialty. So: if he’s home, and he usually is, my hour of dinner-making (and usually, while things cook, kitchen cleanup) is mine all mine because he’s playing with/caring for the kids. He even often takes them to a nearby playground at that time. It works out great for both of us, because I get to actually enjoy my dinner making time since I’m not trying to multitask with toddlers and can just exercise my culinary creativity, and he brings home two very happy kids and we all sit down to a lovely dinner.

If he’s not home? We eat leftovers or I choose a quick recipe that can be put together in the time it takes the girls to watch a Daniel Tiger episode in the den, behind a baby gate, where they can’t be underfoot.

So, there ya have it. I figured I should come clean, lest anyone think I think an hour-long dinner prep time works for most people. I know we have a weird lifestyle made possible by my staying home with the kids and my husband’s unusual work hours.

All that said, I thought I might share a few recipes that we’ve enjoyed lately. All three are from the Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman, which I use more than any other cookbook, and which I highly recommend, but, for you, I found each of the recipes online, so you can make them too!

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This Pasta with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Bacon was delicious. I used one fewer sweet potato than the recipe called for and still had enough for the dish. I also think this recipe would work great with roasted winter squash like butternut instead.

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This Red Bean Paella is a dish I’ve made several times. I usually use canned tomatoes instead of fresh because it makes it a true pantry staple dish. We ate it with an arugula salad and brie on toast.

 

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This Arroz con Pollo is another I make frequently. I like that it’s a one-pot meal. The recipe in my cookbook called for chicken thighs, but I used legs because that’s what I had, and because Etta loves eating chicken legs. I also only used one package of chicken legs, added pinto beans and tomatoes and served it with avocado on the side.

 

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kitchen catch-all

My Kitchen Catch-all posts are a roundup of what I cooked, where I ate, what I’m thinking of cooking, and what’s got my brain cooking each week.  Let me know what you think, and tell me what you’ve been cooking lately!

eating in

This isn’t everything I cooked this week, but more of a highlight reel.

  • The best dinner I made all week was this French Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart. (At the time of writing, this link was giving me “database errors” but I swear it’s where I got the recipe.)
  • The same night we ate the tomato tart, I also made us a fancy dessert: Honey Lemon Pots de Creme.  Usually, you see chocolate pots de creme, and though I love them, they’re not very summery.  This recipe makes a VERY lemony, tart, creamy dessert. Jon wasn’t crazy about them, but I was a fan. Be sure to grate the lemon zest very fine or it will make for a strange texture.
  • Berries in Meringue bowls with Orange-Scented Chocolate and Vanilla Cream: Because the pots de creme used a bunch of egg yolks, I had a bunch of whites left over.  I had seen an episode of Jamie Oliver this week where he made a big meringue with pears and chocolate and cream and decided to try something similar.  My vision was to have little bowls made of meringue, filled with summery berries and drizzled with orange-scented chocolate and sweet vanilla cream.  To make the meringue, I whipped my six egg whites until they formed firm peaks, then added about a cup and a half of sugar and a pinch of salt and whipped on high for about 8 minutes.  I formed the meringue into 6 little bowl shapes on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and baked for about an hour at 300.  I filled each bowl with blackberries, and drizzled them with chocolate (the chocolate was bittersweet chocolate, melted with the zest of 1 orange and thinned out with a little cream) and topped them with a vanilla cream (1.5 cups heavy cream whipped with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla). SO YUMMY.

    Ok, so, you can't see the berries, the cream would look better if it had been piped on, and the chocolate wasn't thin enough for pretty drizzling. STILL. This was amazing.

eating out

Much like I did for Charleston restaurants, I plan to make a running list of places I’ve tried in Little Rock.

  • Wednesday night I joined some girlfriends from church for a girls’ night at Salut Bistro on University.  The restaurant is a little hard to find, as it’s in the first floor of what seems to be a tall office building, and the entrance isn’t clearly marked.  I had a yummy $6 glass of Kung Fu Girl riesling from Washington and enjoyed a beef brisket sandwich with a side of fries.  The sandwich was tasty, and the fries were well seasoned.  The menu was a bit scattered, but the food was good, and I think everyone I was with enjoyed their meals.  They also have a late-night menu that looked pretty good– might have to go back and see what that’s like sometime.

food for thought

  • I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making my own pitas for a while. Now I’ve got my eye on making some tzaziki sauce to go with them (Serious Eats).
  • My favorite restaurant in Charleston was the Glass Onion.  Located just around the corner from our house, the GO was a regular haunt for us. I liked things there that I wouldn’t eat anywhere else, including biscuits and gravy and meatloaf. Their delicious Southern food is also deeply local, and they served as the pickup point for our CSA. All this to say, they have a blog, and word is they’re going to be putting out a cookbook.  I was happy to see they shared their Country Captain recipe and plan to make it soon. It’s a Southern curry dish– yes, there is such a thing!
  • I’ve also been dreaming of replacing my non-stick KitchenAid cookware for a stainless steel set. Serious Eats says the Tramontina sets sold at WalMart are basically as good as 5 x’s pricier AllClad sets.
  • First cupcakes, then macarons, then whoopie pies. Apparently the next big dessert trend, according to The Kitchn, is Moon Pies.
  • From The Atlantic, a theory about why we love food TV so much.