Everyday Life, Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking

I’m still enjoying The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I’m flirting with The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (i.e. I read a page or two between reading Huck Finn because I am so eager to really sit down to read it and find it if it’s good like The Forgotten Garden or not so good like The House at Riverton–I’ll let you know soon!). 

But today, I’m not reading a whole lot other than cookbooks, which is really not my preferred genre. Here’s a little known fact: I don’t really like to cook. Bake, yes. But cook, not so much. I can cook and we do eat most of our meals at home. I’m committed to feeding my family of four healthfully and I’m trying to learn how to do that on a consistent budget. But since cooking is not a passion of mine (and I’m definitely not a foodie, either), I struggle to consistently plan and cook well-rounded and/or scrumptious meals. Here’s what I’d eat for every meal if I didn’t have a family:

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Yes, this is really my kitchen.

Dark chocolate, fruit, almonds, granola, and coffee would keep me happy for weeks.

When I hit on a good and easy recipe, I serve it into the ground. Or so it feels to me. So today I spent the morning developing a monthly meal plan with a daily theme, such as Mondays are Asian food, Tuesdays are Mexican, etc. I’ve tried monthly meal plans before, but I generally pick 30 meals and have a hard time sticking to it. So this time I have more like 12 meals that I’m repeating 2-3 times in the month. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook: Over 1,250 of Our Best RecipesSince I have cooking on the brain, today I’m sharing my favorite cookbooks of all time. I know, who uses cookbooks when you could just search the internet? Well, I don’t have many cookbooks, but I feel I need them when I’m trying to find dinner ideas–allrecipes.com is great but it overwhelms me. I’ll start with the best cookbook in the world: The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. My grandmother gave this book to me for Christmas a year after I got married (thanks, Gammy!), and since then I have tried at least forty recipes. They are always perfect or nearly perfect. It’s my go-to idea book when it comes to meal planning. The recipes vary from ridiculously easy to more advanced, but you can generally tell in a glance how hard the recipe will be. If you look into it, definitely try the recipes in the Healthy Eating section. The cake section and the breakfast section are also especially good. One of our favorites is the chicken and bowtie pasta recipe.

Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious RecipesAnd when I feel like cooking some Italian food, I always look first in Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis. I don’t actually watch any cooking shows, mostly because we choose not to have cable or satellite television (it’s becoming clear how I have time to read, now, isn’t it?), but I think Giada de Laurentiis’s books are awesome.  I’ve had this one since it first came out and it’s literally falling apart. The “Everyday Sauces” section has changed my cooking life. And if you’re a visual cookbook viewer, there’s a photo for almost every recipe.  A photo that will make your mouth start watering before you even read the name of the food.

And lastly, I love this:

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This is the recipe notebook a couple of my bridesmaids gave me and the recipes they had everyone at my wedding shower give me for my book. I’ve added so many more shared recipes since then and it is a treasure in my house. It’s also falling apart and rather covered in muffin batter in places, but it will never be retired.

So what’s for dinner tonight? Here, my husband is grilling chicken (yes, about a third of my menu plan includes my husband grilling, but he likes to grill…I’m pretty sure he likes to grill…) and we’re having Ginger and Honey Glazed Carrots and muffins. Because my kids love muffins and it’s an easy way to add whole wheat flour and wheat germ into their diets. =)

Everyday Life, Reading

Book Messes and Real Life

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For some reason, book messes don’t bother me as much as other kinds of messes…

But life has certainly been messy around my place lately.  My progress on the books I’ve been reading lately has been slow.  One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, often writes, “Life is not an emergency.”  As much as I appreciate and need that perspective, sometimes, life does feel urgent.  Sometimes your whole family gets a stomach bug; or you really do have to get those errands done before two birthdays and two anniversaries occur in one week; or your husband has to travel for work and it’s all on you, mama; or your first nephew arrives and (happily) other things get put on hold for a few days.

That’s been the month of May for us, so the book messes are some of the nicest messes that have been going on around here. I’ll spare you photos of the other ones.

Even in the frantic days, however, I have to read something.  A lot of times I find I turn to my old favorites; they’re kind of like comfort food for a bookworm.  When I’m having a hard time on the family and home front, reading the later books in the Anne of Green Gables series cheers me up.  (On a side note, if you’re one of those people who says, “Oh, I read Anne of Green Gables but I didn’t know it was a series,” I am jealous of you because there are EIGHT books in that series and they are wonderful. I have read them to mental shreds.  But I still love them).  If I can’t seem to think anything but negative thoughts, I re-read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp or I Capture the Castle (because it’s just fun and strangely uplifting) or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  When I’m sick of life in the fast lane, I read Austen or Gaskell (usually Wives and Daughters) And if I feel like my brain is mired in the mundane, the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis or some other fantasy fiction is just what I need.

Those are just a few of my comfort books that come to mind.  I have to mention the Bible because I’m always reading that, and it is comfort and beyond.  What about you? Do you have books you turn to when your mind is troubled? I’d love to hear about them.