Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just Kidding. . .

So obviously, this isn’t a post about sautéed mushroom risotto. In fact, it’s been a while since we’ve posted about anything. We’ve had some major life changes since the last time we were here (all good things, though).

We moved! Jackie and I both got new jobs about an hour away from our home town and it’s been quite an adjustment. I don’t think either one of us expected the amount of stress that came from starting two new jobs in a new house in a new town all in the same week. Things are starting to settle down a little more now; we’re both getting more used to our new routines with a lot of support from our friends and family.

Unfortunately cooking has tended to go by the wayside in the midst of all the craziness. I think it’s happened to all of us: you come home from a hard day’s work, step into your kitchen and just stare at the cupboards while trying to muster up the energy to open one. While this setback in our own kitchen enabled us to explore the restaurant scene in detail, we knew we had to get back in the habit of cooking our own food in our own kitchen. The first meal officially cooked in the new Garden Fresh kitchen was actually a frozen pizza, but the first real meal came together in almost as much time and reminded us of what we were missing.

In our frantic state, we forgot what it was like to take charge of what we ate, the satisfaction we felt from turning an assortment of raw materials into something greater than the sum of the parts, trying to treat those materials like the gifts they are. We were missing the connection that comes from preparing and sharing a meal together as a family. It was almost embarrassing to me when we finished, that an entire home-cooked delicious meal took the same amount of time to prepare as that first frozen pizza (now I sound like an infomercial).

We also remembered the best food is the simplest. Season carefully, pair ingredients thoughtfully, relax and enjoy the process, and you should always be satisfied with the results. No part of this meal required a recipe, and only three of the items were actually cooked, but all of it was wonderful.

What’s the moral of the story? Is this the end of frozen pizza and ramen noodles in the Garden Fresh kitchen? Not even close. I guess what I’m trying to get at is cooking isn’t a chore that should be dreaded; it’s a blessing we should be thankful for and participate in no matter how busy we get. I try to remember that now every time I turn on the stove.

Bruschetta – Slice French bread ½ inch thick, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake at 350° along with the sweet potatoes below until lightly toasted. Rub toast with garlic cloves, top with chopped Roma tomatoes and basil. Season tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper, drizzle with more olive oil and serve.

Roasted sweet potatoes – Wrap in tin foil and roast until fork tender. We sliced ours width-wise, seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil.

Bell peppers – You could serve them raw, but we chose to lightly steam them. Either way, slice the bell peppers thinly, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. We steamed our peppers until tender and topped them with chopped basil.

Cheese – This is by far the easiest thing to prepare, but my absolute favorite to serve and eat. We picked up some aged English cheddar and mozzarella from our favorite grocery store. Crumble the cheddar (since the more aged a cheese is, the more crumbly it is), slice the mozzarella, season lightly with salt and pepper, top with chopped basil and drizzle with olive oil. Sensing a theme yet?

Cajun-season crab – We picked these pre-seasoned beauties up at our favorite store as well. We steamed them in the same pot as the bell peppers until they were heated through.

All these dishes were uncomplicated, put together quickly, and absolutely delicious. If you keep it simple, you’ll never be disappointed.

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