Monday, September 1, 2008

I heart cooking

Yesterday, our niece had a birthday party. L took the kids and left me with a quiet house for a couple hours. I lazed around a bit, read on the hammock and then picked up Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook.

The pictures in this book are heavenly - I actually gasped at the Summer Borscht photo with the vibrant fuchsia color. So pretty. I turned the page and found a recipe for Mexican Chicken Soup and got out of the hammock to make this.

I really enjoy cooking. I love the process. I love creating something tasty for my family and friends. Good times.

So over the vacation, I wanted to get some cooking done. For fun, and to also use up some of the CSA bounty and to get some food ready for back to school. It's my nesting instinct kicking up.

Over the vacation, I made a pilgrimage to Penzey's Spices. After reading Jilly's rhapsodizing about the awesomeness of Penzey's and realizing that I live fairly close to a retail store, and, in need of cumin, we took the kids to Penzey's to check it out.

Oh. My. God. I never have experienced anything like this. Unbelievable smells. (In a good way) The staff was super friendly and shopping was a pure pleasure. The prices are very, very reasonable and the quality is superb.

Here's what I got:
Bay Leaves
Parisien Bonnes Herbs
Ground Chipotle Pepper
Italian Sausage Seasoning
Hungarian Sweet Paprika
Vietnamese Cinnamon
Spanish Smoked Paprika
Ground Cumin
Bouquet Garni
Herbes de Provence

(Okay, I got a lot of similar French blends, but I was loading up my basket and I got a little grabby.) When we got in the car, I sat and dug through the bag and just started (nearly) huffing the spices. I opened up the bay leaf packet and was blown away by the aroma.

When I got home, I cleaned out the spice rack. We've been married for 14 years and there are some spices (foengreek, anyone?) that predates our marriage in our spice rack. So I dumped, consolidated and cleaned out the little bottles. I sniffed a few spices as well - I so want to do something with the smoked paprika. Heavenly!

So, what did I make this week?

Potato and Leek Soup
- from the Julia Child MTAOFC - Leeks and garlic from the CSA
Blueberry Zucchini Bread - two regular loaves. I omitted vanilla and cinnamon and added lemon zest and lemon extract, which pairs beautifully with the blueberries. (Zucchini from the CSA and 1.5 pints of fresh blueberries I had to use)
Tomato Jam - recipe from Bittman's Minimalist column in the NYT. I had two pints of cherry tomatoes that needed to go somewhere. I've never made anything like this.
I thought the tomatoes looked pretty in the blue pot

It was like a very sweet, thick ketchup. I took some liberties with the recipe and added Worcestershire sauce and some garlic to this.
Corn Dog Muffins - this sounded intriguing. Perhaps it would be good to pack for the kids' lunches. I halved the recipe, cut the dogs in small bits (with Stella's help) and was able to get 12 muffins out of this recipe. It's okay cold and Sammy gave it a thumbs up for a lunchbox item.
Mexican Chicken Soup - This was the Ina Garten recipe I tried out. I got to use the cumin for the first time and was so giddy at the scent when I opened it up. I had some leftover chicken from a work party that needed to be used, onion, carrots, and garlic from the CSA, a couple jalapenos from my garden, and chicken stock I had frozen from this past spring. Very homemade. This turned out tasty and I liked the idea of cutting soft corn tortillas into strips; it makes a egg noodle effect.

Today, I think we need to make cookies.


coppercorn said...

Ah, now that is cooking!

I'm glad to see you share the Penzey's lurve. How many types of cinnamon do you have now?

Greta said...

Just the one Vietnamese Cinnamon. Baby steps for me, Jilly, baby steps!