Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday night fun cooking: only two weeks late edition!

Last time the kids and I cooked together was two weeks ago. Two weeks! And we're due for another round of TNFC tonight, but right now I've got so many balls in the air I can't make any promises. Next post will feature my kitchen and how badly we need a new one (there's progress on that front, albeit slow).

But for now, how about some catch up? We made tomato soup and cornbread a fortnight ago. Summer really stuck around for most of September (warmest on record for southern Wisconsin), so it didn't really feel like soup weather. However, we had a whole bunch of lovely tomatoes from our CSA and my garden and a couple spares from the school garden, and fortunately the excavators didn't dig up all the herbs growing in my front yard. So we made soup with rice and fresh herbs. (Come to think of it, pasta with fresh tomato sauce would have been pretty good, too. Maybe next time...)

What follows are the few pictures I could take, along with what little I remember from cooking that day. I think Daniel was hot and tired and didn't really want to help out until I told him he could be totally in charge of the cornbread. And Anya was happy to slice tomatoes for 30 minutes. And then Daniel got mad that he wasn't getting a turn with the tomatoes. Someone explain to me why my children like chopping tomatoes so much?

I find it extremely tedious to chop fresh thyme, so I opted for the spice ball.


Chopping herbs
Slicing tomatoes
Below is a picture of my kitchen table, aka my main work space. Isn't it awful? That's what happens when you have three people making two things in a confined, ill-designed space.


Sometimes I look at my kitchen and start grinding my teeth involuntarily. There's no room for anything and if you have more than one person working in there you're constantly bumping into each other and getting in each other's way. This time of year, there's a lot of stuff on the counter like onions and tomatoes and squash and apples and all that lovely fall produce that doesn't go in the fridge, so it's particularly cluttered. Stuart can't really stand to be in there. We've lived here for just over 11 years, so I think the overhaul is long overdue.

Anyway, below is a picture of Daniel's hands carefully measuring flour. Too carefully! He likes to be super-exact about measuring dry ingredients so sometimes it takes forever.


Below is another Instagram-worthy photo of colorful ingredients that tells you nothing except that tomatoes and herbs are pretty.


And here's a snapshot of my dinner right before I ate it: tomato soup, blue cornbread, a little bacon. It was pretty good, if not pretty to look at!


Tomato and rice soup with fresh herbs
Recipe originally from Williams Sonoma Vegetarian, a surprisingly useful book I picked up at the used bookstore when I started TNFC.

  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves cut in half (I used more like 1/4 cup because dude, that is a LOT of garlic)
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2.5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (I probably used twice that amount)
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (I think I used more)
  • 1/3 cup long-grain white rice
  • 3 T. mix of chopped fresh parsley and chives
  • 1 T. chopped mix of fresh oregano and thyme (I used dried oregano and fresh thyme)
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In a heavy saucepan over very low heat, warm the olive oil. 
  2. Add garlic and onion and sauté until very soft, about 15 minutes. 
  3. Add tomatoes and stock, plus 1 cup of water and simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add rice and herbs and continue to simmer until rice is cooked, about another 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 2 minutes before serving.
Blue Cornbread
Recipe from Breads of the Southwest by Beth Hensperger. I don't remember where I got this book - bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble, perhaps? - but it's a good one, featuring several recipes from Mexican and Native American traditions.

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup fine-grind blue cornmeal, or marina para atole 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sour cream or yogurt
  • 1/4 cup corn oil
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9" round pan.
  2. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In another bowl, combine sour cream, oil and eggs.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stirring just until combined. Don't overmix.
  5. Spoon batter into the greased pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until it is golden around the edges and the top is dry and springy to the touch. A cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean.
It's been a while since I've done pros and cons! Let's see what I can remember from two weeks ago.

Pros: Both recipes proved delicious. Baking with kids is always a good idea. (Always? Usually.) They like to measure and mix and stir and break eggs. Sharp knives aren't involved. And we all love cornbread. This recipe doesn't call for any sweetener in the batter but we like eating the cornbread with maple syrup, southern style. As for the soup, using fresh local ingredients like tomatoes and onions is a plus, as is harvesting fresh herbs from the yard.

Cons: This meal lacks protein (hence the bacon up there, but I think that's mostly fat.) That could easily be remedied with an egg dish of some sort, or cheesy toast instead of cornbread. 

Also, ever since Anya had to have her finger glued shut that one time, I'm a little more nervous when my kids are using knives. They're careful, I'm careful, and I take care of the trickier vegetables for them. But even slicing tomatoes with a serrated knife I'm watching them like a hawk. The other drawback to these savory recipes is that anything calling for onions sends them running from the kitchen with their eyes streaming. I wear contact lenses and don't have that problem, so I cut the onions for them and start them cooking, and by the time they come back I've got half the soup made. I'm not sure what to do about this. Get them goggles? Avoid onions for the next few weeks? Make them tough it out? 

Anyway, thanks for your patience on this post. We made another delicious soup tonight (which you know about already if you follow me on IG), and I promise it won't take me two weeks to write it up!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Onions. Onion goggles might be too large for them. What about goggles used for swimming? Or, lots of ventilation. Tell them they get their onion problem from Opa.

I did see a few clear spots on the table. Lots of room for more bowls. :)

The Boy Scouts teaches their youth to use knives and build fires, but very few become chefs. Your kids are learning to use (kitchen) knives, and that is great.

Garlic press. I have seen Jacques use a chef's knife to smash garlic cloves, the "rocks" the knife to create a puree. Boy the knife flies. There is not way I would try his speed. But I would rather do something like that--albeit in slow motion compared to him--then clean a garlic press.

Good to see the kids cooking again.

Opa