What to do with an abundance of tomatoes and basil

If there’s one thing that we can grow in our garden, it’s tomatoes and basil.  Thanks to earwigs and gophers and such, our eggplants and okra and beets haven’t done too well, but in the two years of having a garden, it has literally overflowed with tomatoes (next year we’re planning on caging them to keep them out of the walkways).  And, thanks to a $3 pot of basil starts from Trader Joe’s, we also have an overabundance of basil.  So, to try to make a small dent in all of it, I came up with this dish last year and finally christened it “Bruschetta Pasta”.   Though there’s a lot of chopping involved, it comes together pretty fast and is so yummy and fresh.  Such a summer food!

Bruschetta Pasta

Cook a pound of pasta; drain and set aside.  While pasta is cooking, roughly chop one to two small heads of garlic.  Place in a three-quart saucepan and add several big glugs of olive oil, enough to completely cover the bottom of the pan and then some (yes, I know you’re technically not supposed to heat/cook with olive oil much, but you really need the flavour in this dish and it doesn’t actually cook that long).  Start cooking on medium heat.  While garlic is cooking, chop lots of tomatoes (I usually just halve our Sungolds and quarter the cherries, and cut the Romas and other larger tomatoes into bite-size chunks), making sure to try and keep most of the juice with the tomatoes, as it’s an integral part of the sauce.  Chiffonade lots of basil by stacking the leaves, rolling them into a cigar and slicing that as thinly as you can.  As garlic cooks, stir occasionally to keep it from sticking the bottom of the pan.  Once it just starts to brown, add all the basil…and stand back, since it sputters a lot, especially if the basil was wet.  Once the sputtering has calmed down, stir a couple times and let cook for a minute or so.  Remove from heat and immediately add your chopped tomatoes and stir well for the oil and tomato juice to emulsify.  Add a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar; salt and pepper generously.  Return to low heat and add chopped grilled chicken.  Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is heated through.  Pour over cooked pasta and add some grated Asiago cheese.  Mix well and enjoy!


Efficiency and mothering

I love efficiency…always have.  Doing something quickly and effectively gives me a thrill (yes, that’s weird) and is so satisfying.  It also helps that Aaron really likes efficiency too and so I know that he appreciates it when I do things that way.  And in general, it’s a good thing.  But in the last weeks, I’ve been realizing that sometimes it isn’t, especially when it conflicts with my loving and mothering.

Here is a common scenario at our house: I’m making dinner and the kids are “playing together” on the floor (Genoa sits in her bouncy seat and Cedar brings her toys, shakes her rattle for her and tries to cuddle with her…it’s really cute!).  Something is sizzling in the skillet and I’m chopping up stuff for a salad (our living room, kitchen and dining room are all in one great room) .  Cedar gets a little too rough and starts throwing his toys, something he’s not allowed to do.  I reprimand him from my spot at the island because I don’t want to leave my efficient dinner preparations.  He does it again, and this time I leave the kitchen and respond more sharply because I’m frustrated that he’s interrupted my efficiency.  He responds to my frustration by whining and throwing himself on the floor, or maybe even throwing more toys.  And things just go downhill from there.  Yes, I have a very strong-willed toddler and we both have Irish tempers…great combination!

But I’ve discovered something in the last several weeks.  Now, when Cedar disobeys, I try to push aside all thoughts of efficiency and “getting things done”.  I try to take the time to go over to where he is at and kneel down to his level.   I try to make him look at me and I talk to him in a calm voice and remind him again that he shouldn’t be throwing his toys.  If he then disobeys again (which ends up happening much less than when I would brusquely reprimand him before), he’ll be punished, but neither of us get so frustrated.  Yes, it may take longer to deal with, and my efficiency is sometimes out the window, but in the long run, does it really matter if dinner a few minutes later than I said it would be?  No, not compared to building my relationship with my baby-quickly-turning-little-boy.

So yeah, that’s what I’m working on right now.  And believe me, some days go much better than other (the key word in the previous paragraph was “try”).  But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in this whole parenting journey is that there’s always more grace.  Grace for me to give my little guy, and grace for myself.  Always more.


Gifts in a little boy and his stuffed animals

1146. Dancing with Aaron around the living room to samba music (and no, we don’t know how to samba…yet).

1147. An hour-long trampoline date.

1148. Cleaning and getting caught up on laundry after being sick.

1149. How mopping with essential oils acts like a diffuser.

1150. Getting to see some friends for lunch.

1151. A pasta salad that I threw together turning out so well.

1152. Relaxing (while the kids napped) in a clean house full of clean laundry.

1153. Aaron and I taking Cedar for a quick canoe ride.

1154. Cedar’s utter enjoyment of playing in the shallows of the lake.

1155. Sunset clouds all around.

1156. Aaron holding me on the couch before he left for work.

1157. How it seems like everything will be okay, as long as you’re in your love’s arms.

1158. Genoa sucking her thumb, putting herself to sleep while I got Cedar ready for his nap.

1159. Cedar asking for a piece of grilled chicken I was cutting and then proceeding to “feed” it to his stuffed dog.

1160. Reading books with my little guy.

1161. Cedar giving his stuffed bear piggy back rides.

1162. Being encouraged by Scripture.

1163. Aaron liking a meal that I threw together out of an almost empty refrigerator.

1164. Wiping down the refrigerator.

1165. Cedar wearing his stuffed dog in a “wrap” (his blanket).

1166. Eighteen purple roses from my love…and garlic (he knows me well!).

1167. My “new” rocking chair (found on Craigslist).

1168. Some fun food from Trader Joe’s.

1169. Replenishing the refrigerator.

1170. How much Genoa likes being rocked to sleep.

1171. The bright yellow of pastured organic butter.

1172. How it seems like everything is better when Aaron gets home.

1173. Friends who are also young parents…and how we all understand if we’re all so tired if we don’t “do anything” when they come to visit.

1174. Creamy French toast casserole.

1175. Mocha cheesecake bars.

1176. Sweeping in the quiet evening.

1177. My rocking chair nook.

1178. How effective my Nosefrida “snotsucker” is.

1179. Seeing pictures of a friend’s wedding…so happy for her, but wishing I could have been there!

1180. My wonderfully sweet husband who takes such good care of me when I’m very tired and still getting over being sick.


From my cookbook shelf – Part One

(These aren’t even all of them…just the pretty ones!)

I’ve always loved cookbooks.  From my first one (Sunset Best Kids Cook Book…which I still have and is one of Cedar’s favourite books to look at), a gift from my parents at the tender age of eight, until now with a collection of over twenty, cookbooks have always been something I’ve enjoyed.  Maybe it’s the combination of food and books, but they’ve often been something I could just sit and read for a long time.

Because yes, I read cookbooks.  As many of you probably guessed from the “recipes” I post on here, I rarely ever actually cook from a written-out recipe.  I get an idea and start throwing in whatever sounds good and it usually turns out pretty yummy.  As such, cookbooks serve as inspiration for me, and in reading them I can glean little tidbits of info on processes and ingredients that will hopefully continue to improve my cooking overall.

Recently I went through my cookbook shelf and got rid of the few that I didn’t like anymore, and added a few courtesy of some birthday money (the “Cookbooks” section of my Amazon wishlist always has something in it!).  And in the long process of trying to decide which cookbooks to buy with my birthday money, I thought about cookbooks a lot (ask Aaron how long I obsessed over it…or maybe don’t!).  And after I made my decisions and added them to my shelf, I decided that I should blog about my cookbooks since their shelf is one of my favourite parts of our house (I have many).  So, in this post and several more to come, I’m planning on going through my cookbooks and telling you a little bit about them and what each have contributed/are contributing to how I cook now.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order…my cookbooks!

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution – by Alice Waters: If I had to choose just one cookbook to have for the rest of my life (other than my massive black binder full of recipes I’ve collected over the years), this would be it.  Aaron gave it to me for my birthday the first year we were married, but that’s not the only reason I love it.  Compared to many of my other cookbooks, it doesn’t really have a lot of recipes, but it makes up for it in the notes and lessons.  From this book, I learned how to roast a chicken properly.  But it didn’t just show me how to roast it for their particular recipe for roast chicken, it taught me how to roast one in general so then I can take that knowledge and expand on it and come up with all sorts of delicious possibilities.  And all the recipes are like that.  The book is divided into two parts: first are the seventeen chapters of  “Lessons and Foundation Recipes” and then part two contains more recipes that build and expand on the ones from the first part.  Definitely a cookbook I would recommend to anyone, regardless of their cooking expertise and ability.

The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes + Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life – by Tom Hudgens: This is one of my recent acquisitions and my current read.  And even though I haven’t even finished it yet, I put it right up there with The Art of Simple Food.  Another of those cookbooks with lessons along with the recipes, in this first reading I’ve already learned many different things that can help my cooking even if I never cook specifically from this book.  I think I’ll be using this book often…several the recipes I read last night made me anxious for things to start to cool down so I can cook and bake more.  Also similar to The Art of Simple Food, this cookbook doesn’t contain any photos, but you don’t find yourself missing them since there’s so much good info in what you read.

Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Famers’ Markets – by Deborah Madison: This one was a thank-you gift from one of Aaron’s brothers for helping him with a meal he was catering and I’m so thankful he picked it out for me.  While I haven’t ever actually cooked anything from it, I’m often inspired by the myriad ways she prepares vegetables…and all the different combinations too!   And I’ll admit, sometimes I just page through it to look at the pictures…the photography of the vegetables and the farmers’ markets they came from are just beautiful.  And sprinkled throughout the book are little essays on the different farmers’ markets that she’s visited around the country, very fun to read.

Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes – by Caroline Jeremy: It’s no secret that Green & Black’s is my absolute favourite brand of chocolate (we even had them for favours at our wedding!).  And so I was very excited when one of my best friends gave me this cookbook for Christmas several years ago.  I haven’t actually made anything in it yet (mostly because any Green & Black’s chocolate I have gets eaten quickly and not cooked with!), but all the different ways they use chocolate are delicious to see.  And throughout the book is information on how cacao is grown and Green & Black’s chocolate is made (it’s fair-trade).  A book that will definitely make you drool and then go and eat a handful of chocolate chips!

More to come…

Carmelized onions make anything better

Yesterday we had some friends passing through the area and they were going to stop by for lunch.  I wanted to make a pasta salad, but my options were somewhat limited since Aaron doesn’t really like creamy-type pasta salads (I’m working on him though!) and we had just finished off some quinoa salad (made just like my orzo salad, but substituting quinoa for the orzo) so that meant that an oil-and-vinegar dressed salad was out too.  So, I ended up throwing together what I had that sounded good and…it turned out yummy!

Carmelized Onion and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Cook a pound of pasta until done; drain, and pour into a large bowl.  Roughly slice several purple onions and several yellow onions and place in a skillet with about two-thirds of a stick of butter.  Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are very browned (about 20 minutes?).  Salt generously, remove from pan and pour over pasta. Without cleaning, return skillet to stove and add the remaining third of a stick of butter.  When butter is melted add a small head of garlic, several grilled chicken breasts, and a good amount of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, all roughly chopped.  Let cook for several minutes, until garlic is starting to golden and chicken is heated through. Remove from heat and add a little bit of balsamic vinegar.  Stir until it finishes bubbling and then pour into pasta bowl.  To the pasta, add lots of fresh Sungold cherry tomatoes, cut in half, and lots of fresh basil, roughly chopped.  Also add some hard, pungent cheese, roughly grated (I was out so I used some Romano that I got from my mother-in-law, but I would have normally used Asiago or Parmesan).  Toss everything together until well-mixed.  Salt and pepper according to taste.  Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

Gifts in sickness and in health

1111. A yummy Mexican salad for lunch.

1112. Visiting the local historic village.

1113. Doing two crosswords with Aaron and beating our record anew.

1114. The feature I just discovered on Gmail that keeps all my unread e-mails at the top of the page.

1115. Chatting with a new mommy and passing on what I’ve learned in my brief time as a mama…in the same way that my friends chatted with me when I was a new mommy.

1116. Cedar banging on the keyboard when he’s supposed to be napping and then turning it off as he hears us coming.

1117. Early mornings that are now cool enough to drink tea in.

1118. Sunset walks.

1119. Cedar repeating sentences word-by-word.

1120. Looking forward to a fun weekend of visiting friends and going to a birthday party.

1121. The anticipation of an afternoon spent with a good friend and our combination of four kids under two.

1122. Cedar saying “Go, Dog. Go!” when he picks out that book.

1123. Genoa in her little brown sweater.

1124. Nights where you sleep so well that you wake up in the morning knowing that you nursed your baby, but having no memory of it.

1125. Followed by a night where your restless baby kept you up a lot, but at least you have a baby to be restless.

1126. Mommy talks.

1127. Getting to see a friend’s new baby.

1128. Having Aaron’s parents over for dinner.

1129. My mother-in-law’s mocha panna cotta.

1130. Cedar being so good (mostly) when Aaron and I were both sick with bad colds.

1131. Finally having a successful trip to the potty after Cedar told us he had to go (he has often told us he had to go, but we never made it to the potty in time).

1132. Cedar sitting in a chair, looking at books on the coffee table.

1133. Remembering three years ago when I first got a random message on HomeschoolAlumni.com from this guy I had never heard of before…and now I’m married to him and we have two kids!

1134. An impromptu dance during supper…Aaron with Genoa and Cedar with me.

1135. Kisses shared when we each are holding one of our babies.

1136. Grace and strength to get through a night of being up with Genoa almost every hour.

1137. Learning to trust God’s timing when we had to cancel our plans for our fun weekend with friends because of being sick.

1138. A freezer stocked full of good grassfed beef.

1139. Watching “Rio” with Aaron and Cedar.

1140. Getting through both of us being sick at the same time.

1141. Lemon-honey tea.

1142. Spoonfuls of raw honey to calm my cough.

1143. Sitting on the couch with my love and our babies, relishing feeling human again.

1144. How Genoa tracks me all the time.

1145. Placing a co-op order.


Gifts in life together

1076. Picking blackberries with my little family.

1077. Early morning sunlight.

1078. Aaron holding both Cedar and Genoa while they all watch “Bob the Builder” on Aaron’s laptop.

1079. Organizing the freezers (upright and above the refrigerator).

1080. Fresh beans from our garden.

1081. Ordering a teething necklace for Genoa.

1082. How much Cedar’s being-read-to attention span has grown.

1083. Finally finding some flower headbands for Genoa.

1084. Dark chocolate cream cheese brownies.

1085. Talking with Aaron about the different places we would like to move to.

1086. Thinking about how, Lord willing, I get to spend the rest of my life with Aaron and all the amazing adventures we’ll have together.

1087. Seeing the daughter of a friend baptized.

1088. Randomly coming across a very funny blog.

1089. Finding out that a blog post I was unsure about encouraged someone.

1090. A friend’s post relating her struggle with feeling beautiful as a nursing mommy…since I struggle with the exact same thing.

1091. Crispy edges on pancakes.

1092. Giving Cedar piggy-back rides.

1093. Cedar figuring out how to close the buckles on the Ergo.

1094. Finding out that “Tummy Time” maybe isn’t as important as I thought (since both my babies rarely ever officially get it).

1095. Bowls heaped high with watermelon.

1096. Cedar and Genoa in their matching Hawaiian outfits from Grandpa and Grandma Telian.

1097. Grocery shopping with Genoa (while Cedar stayed with Aaron).

1098. Find a shirt for me and an outfit (3T!) for Cedar at Costco.

1099. How much Cedar loves his new coat (also from Costco).

1100. Banana chocolate peanut butter smoothies.

1101. Celebrating my brother-in-law’s graduation.

1102. Talking with other moms in the church nursery.

1103. Conversations with my love about how to best encourage each other and keep each other accountable with different things.

1104. Realizing anew how amazing marriage is, on so many levels.

1105. Lazy Sunday afternoons, spent with my little family.

1106. Bio-Kleen Bac-Out and how well it takes out stains.

1107. Being able to mend my favourite skirt so that the little hole right in the front is hardly visible anymore.

1108. Leftovers of my version of beef stroganoff.

1109. Knowing I’m providing the best possible food for both my babies (through nursing).

1110. How good-looking my husband is.