How to get your husband to like curry

I’m not a big menu planner at all.  My personality is such that if I made a menu plan, I’d want to stick to it for the most part, but I’m too much of an experimental cook to want to be constrained to a plan. (If that sentence made no sense to you, that’s okay.  Just smile and nod.)  I’m doing really good if in the morning I have a general idea of what I’m making for supper that evening…but there’s no guarantee that is what we’ll actually have.

Example: yesterday, around three in the afternoon, I decided that we would have baked fish, baked potatoes and salad for supper.  Simple and easy since yesterday was supposed to be a rest day for me.  I started to defrost the fish and was struck by a major curry craving.   As in, “I MUST MAKE CURRY TONIGHT”.    And since curry must be served with basmati rice, I nixed the baked potato idea and sprinkled the fish with some garlic powder and curry powder before sticking it in the oven.  I sometimes have a bottle of Trader Joe’s curry sauce on hand for quick curry fixes, but I didn’t this time so I came up with my own version of it.  And this one was so good that I’ll probably stop buying the other stuff.   Homemade is good.

Quick Basic Curry 

Finely chop a head of garlic, and saute in about a half stick of butter for several minutes. Add a bunch of curry powder (I use Trader Joe’s brand) and saute that in the butter/garlic mixture until it just starts to smoke. Dump in a can of coconut milk (I like Native Forest brand — super creamy and supposedly that’s the only one in a BPA-free can) and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Salt generously.  Mix a large spoonful of arrowroot powder with some cold water and whisk into the simmering sauce. Once thickened, remove from heat. Stir in baked fish or chicken and serve over basmati rice. We love our curry topped with a tomato/avocado/red onion/cilantro mixture (lightly dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper)…SO yummy!

Of salt

After we got settled in our new house, I did a photo tour of our home that I posted to Facebook.  One of the pictures showed my lovely IKEA spice rack that houses some of my different salts and my most-used spices. Then a couple days ago, I got an email from a friend asking about my “salt collection”…what different kinds of salts I had and what I used them for.  It was such a fun email to answer!  Yes, it’s rather silly, but I love talking foodie stuff like different salts.  And when I asked on Facebook to see if there were other salt geeks out there, I got a couple requests to share what was in the email…so I decided to make a blog post about it.  And here we are!

My Salt Collection

Celtic Grey Sea Salt: I love this salt and it’s definitely the one that I use most often. I buy the five pound bag from our co-op, Azure Standard (though I’ve seen it on Amazon as well), and then keep a wide-mouth pint jar of it by my stove so I can easily add it to things as I need it. I use it in most of my cooking from scrambling eggs to sauteing veggies, in some baking, in making most salad dressings, etc. It’s a coarser-grained salt so there’s a bit of a learning curve in regards to how much to use if you’re used to finer-grained salts, but it’s totally worth the trial and error. (Supposedly, if you generally measure your salt, there are certain ratios you can use to figure out how much you need of a coarse-grain salt as compared to a fine-grain salt, but I never actually measure my salt so I don’t know what those are.)

Himalayan Coarse Crystal Salt: This I also get from Azure and it’s what I use to fill my salt grinder for at-the-table use. Therefore, it usually gets used to salt oil-and-vinegar dressed salads or if someone wants their food saltier than it already is. This a very large-grained salt so I would really only recommend it if you have a salt grinder. Otherwise you could end up with big globs of salt in your food!

Fine Sea Salt: I get this at Trader Joe’s and it comes in tall blue and red/pink container. I don’t use it super often since it’s kind of boring and is very white which usually means that there aren’t as many trace minerals in it (one of the big reasons I like using other salts is because they’re a good source of trace minerals). However, the fine grains do come in handy sometimes when I need the salt to dissolve quickly so I use it mostly for making certain salad dressings, for making saline solutions when they’re needed and in this amazing homemade calamine lotion recipe.

Vignalta Sea Salt with Herbs: This was a gift from my mother-in-law and I’m so glad she introduced me to it. It’s a sea salt mixed with rosemary, sage, black pepper and garlic…so good! I’ve used it in many things…herb and butter rubs for roast chickens, on foccacia, etc. My latest use for it is when I want a quick salty and savoury pick-me-up…I toast some sprouted bread, slather it with butter and then sprinkle this stuff on…YUM!

Black Lava Salt: This is the latest addition to my salt collection and I’m excited to try it out. I was ordering some other stuff from Mountain Rose Herbs and wanted to try one of their culinary salts and this was the one I chose…though it was a very hard decision since they have so many fun-looking ones! Since it’s new, I haven’t used it much yet…but from its description on the website, it sounds like it would work great as a finishing salt for pretty much anything.

Smoked Sea Salt: This I also got from Trader Joe’s and I’ve loved it to use as a natural way to add smokiness to a dish. However, I haven’t seen it around TJ’s recently and I’m wondering if they’ve discontinued it. If that’s the case, when I use mine up, I’ll just use their South African Smoke seasoning. That one isn’t just salt (it has some paprika, garlic and basil in it too), but it’s still totally natural and works great for adding smokiness.

Kosher Salt: This is just your basic Morton’s Kosher salt.  I don’t use it much in cooking since it’s still pretty refined and therefore lacks many trace minerals, but I still like to have it on hand for things like salting eggplants, making brines, etc…basically anything that uses a lot of salt, but will be mostly rinsed off or thrown out (that way I don’t have to waste my good salts on that stuff).

I also have a little jelly jar half full of some salt that Aaron’s parents brought me back from Salzburg, Austria. It’s a fine grain mineral salt and since I’m pretty sure I won’t ever get some again (unless I go to Salzburg myself…which would be so much fun!), it’s my “special” salt and so gets randomly thrown in dishes whenever I feel like it.

And that’s it.  Nothing super fancy, but still fun to cook with and add a little variety!

Breast to Bib review and giveaway

Modern Alternative Mama, written by Kate Tietje, is one of my favourite blogs. I frequently share her posts to Facebook — and I’ve probably been guilty of clogging my friends’ feeds from time to time!  But I can’t help it.  So many of her posts are full of information that I think every mama should know…and since most of my friends right now are also young mamas, there you go!

Because I’m so passionate about mamas being informed in the decisions they make about their little ones, I was very excited earlier this year when I heard about Kate’s upcoming eBook entitled Breast to Bib: Modern Alternative Mama’s Guide to Nourishing Your Growing Family.  At the end of February, I wrote a testimonial about it to be included in the book.  It said:

“With a two-year-old and an almost ten-month-old, feeding babies is something I’ve thought about often in the last couple of years. Breast to Bib is full of great information regarding the all-important question of how and what babies should eat. And while when starting solids, our family’s general philosophy is to just feed the baby what we’re eating, the recipes included for babies and toddlers offer great inspiration and ideas to fall back on when what’s on the table isn’t the best for the littlest ones. I would recommend this book to any new mom!”

I’ve posted before about how we’ve gone about introducing our babies to solids and the resources I’ve found helpful — this book would definitely join them!  If it’s a subject that you’ve already researched pretty extensively, there may not be a lot of new information here.  But at the same time, it offers an easy way to brush-up on your knowledge: to be reminded of just what exactly baby-led weaning looks like or what to do if you’re struggling with low milk supply while breastfeeding.  And for someone just starting to research the best way to feed babies and toddlers, this eBook is full of good information.

Like I mentioned in the testimonial, we usually just feed our little ones whatever we’re eating and I’m not a big fan of making special foods for babies, but sometimes what’s on the table isn’t suitable.  This is when the multitude of recipes included in Breast to Bib can come in very handy!  With everything from baby custard to chicken nuggets, and even pate, nothing is very complicated to make and it’s all real food.

Modern Alternative Mama has offered to give away a copy of the eBook Breast to Bib to one Something Simple reader.  All you have to  do is visit Modern Alternative Mama’s store, then come back here and leave a comment telling me which of her eBooks appeal to you the most and why.  The giveaway ends Sunday, June 10th, at midnight PST.

If you want to get a copy of Breast to Bib now, you can get 25% off using the coupon code “SOJOURN25”.  But hurry, the code expires this Friday, June 8th!

This giveaway is now closed.  Congratulations to Brianna Graber for winning!

And the winner of Real {Fast} Food is…

…comment #26 from abigailbraaten.  The change she would like to make in her diet is:

“I would like to prepare my breakfasts ahead of time or at least plan my breakfasts so I am not skipping that super important meal or grabbing anything in the cupboard in desperation for protein.”

That’s actually something I want and need to get better at too…  I hope that Real {Fast} Food can help you with that change, Abigail — there are quite a few yummy-sounding breakfast recipes and ideas in there!

For those of you who didn’t win, you can purchase a PDF copy of Real {Fast} Food here, or if you prefer, it’s also available on Kindle and Nook.  For only $6, it’s definitely a valuable addition to any kitchen!

Real {Fast} Food review and giveaway

I love good food.  A lot.  And I love feeding my family food that tastes good and that is also good for them.  For us this is usually “real food” — i.e. food that is fresh and minimally processed.  This means using a lot of produce, good meats and dairy, healthy fats (like butter!) and whole grains.  It means trying to cook mostly from scratch.

Making and eating real food involves all these great things, but it also can involve something else. Time and lots of it.  And as a young mama to two little ones, that’s something I don’t have an overabundance of.  Enter Real {Fast} Food.  The eBook by my friend, Trina Holden.

Trina is another young mom who is passionate about feeding her family real, good food.  But since she has three little ones, she knows that it doesn’t work to spend oodles of time in the kitchen preparing meals.  So she wrote a book explaining all she has learned about making the most of your time in the kitchen and interspersed it with many yummy-sounding recipes.   She walks you through everything from menu planning to batch cooking to making your own mayonnaise and sour cream.  And along with recipes for everything from white lasagna to pineapple muffins, she also shows you how to make things like ranch dressing mix, whole wheat tortillas and vanilla ice cream to give you the tools to eliminate even more processed foods from your diet.

Real {Fast} Food is very informative and helpful, but I don’t “follow” everything in the book.  I don’t currently menu plan (though I can see it happening in the future) and we still occasionally eat white flour.  But that’s okay.  I’m doing what works for our family right now and adapting techniques and information to our situation.  And in her book, Trina recognizes that.  Unlike some other cookbooks I’ve read, there’s no condescending attitude of “you must cook exactly the way I do if you want to feed your family healthy food”.  Instead, Trina gives you the tools and recipes to help you prepare real food and then gives you the freedom to figure out how that will work for your family.

And the best part?  Making real food doesn’t have to take up half your day!  In other real food cookbooks I’ve read, the authors seem to assume that you have hours to spend in the kitchen preparing and cooking.  As a young mom, that’s doesn’t work for me since cooking is something I have to fit in between chasing toddlers and keeping my home.  And since Trina is in that place too, she understands and Real {Fast} Food is a clear reflection of that.

Real {Fast} Food is an essential for any young mom wanting to feed her family healthy food without spending all day in the kitchen.  It’s available on Kindle and Nook, but my copy is the PDF version that I printed out and put in a binder — that makes it much easier to reference with hands messy from cooking!

And Trina has graciously offered to give away a PDF copy of Real {Fast} Food to a Something Simple reader.  Just comment and answer the question: “What is one change (large or small) that you would like to make in your family’s diet?”  Giveaway ends Wednesday, May 2nd at midnight (PST).

Want to increase your chances at winning a copy?  Enter the other giveaways on the Real {Fast} Food Blog Tour:

from Homemaker’s Challenge (ends April  26th)
from Gretchen at From: the Little Pink House (ends April 30th)
from Chantel at A Beautiful Song (ends May 1st)

Read more reviews of Real {Fast} Food:

at the Young Ladies Christian Fellowship
at Homemaker’s Challenge
at Dandelion Haven
at Life in the White House

And be sure to “like” the Real {Fast} Food Facebook page for great real food photos and tips.

This giveaway is now closed.

One of my favourite things to do with lemons

Living in California, it’s a somewhat regular occurrence for people with a lemon tree to give you a bunch of lemons.  To this girl who grew up in Idaho, this still amazes me as good lemons are not easy to come by in that dry northern state.  So I revel in this abundance and love adding lemon to many different things.  Thankfully, lemon and garlic go very well together and so I invented the below pasta “recipe” (though a friend tells me that I should quit calling these “recipes” since they’re so vague) and it’s one of my favourite things to eat.  After not making it for a couple months, I threw it together last night and remembered how amazing it is…so refreshing and delicious!  (And yes, I know this is the second pasta recipe in a row, but pasta happens to be one of my husband’s favourite foods, so I’ve invented quite a few pasta “recipes” since we’ve been married.)

Lemon Garlic Chicken Pasta with Spinach

Cook a pound of pasta (I like to use fusilli).  While the pasta is cooking, melt a stick of butter in a small saucepan and add one head of garlic, roughly chopped and one small onion, chopped fine.  Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, making sure not to let the garlic and onion burn, but develop a nice browned outside.  While the garlic and onion are browning, zest three to four lemons using the fine side of a cheese grater.  After zesting, juice the lemons and set juice aside.  Without washing the grater, finely grate some asiago cheese and mix with the lemon zest.  After the garlic and onions are browned, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Once the butter and lemon juice have emulsified, whisk in a little water.  Salt and pepper generously.  By this time, your pasta should be almost done.  Drain and pour into a large bowl.  Dump a bunch of fresh baby spinach on top of the pasta (remember, it will shrink down considerably as it wilts so make sure to use a lot).  Add some thinly-sliced grilled chicken on top of the spinach.  Pour the lemon-garlic sauce over everything and top with the grated cheese and lemon zest.  Mix thoroughly and set aside for a couple minutes in a warm place to let the spinach wilt some.  Mix thoroughly again and serve.

Of broken routers and yummy pasta

Wouldn’t you know, as soon as things slow down and I have enough time to blog again, our router breaks and we don’t have regular internet anymore!  I had a couple different posts that I was planning on writing and posting this past week, but for now we can only get internet by going up to my in-law’s house or to a local coffee shop…neither of which happen often for me.  But oh well…hopefully the new router will come soon and in the meanwhile, I’ve had more reading time than I usually do.

But as a quick post, I thought I would share one of our favourite pasta recipes.  I made this the other night and Aaron mentioned that it should definitely be included in the recipes on my blog as it is very good and something I make pretty regularly.  I can’t remember where online I found the original recipe — it was awhile ago.  I like to keep a recipes folder going in my bookmarks where I put anything that looks remotely yummy (though Pinterest is messing up my system now!) and then transfer those to a Word document when it gets pretty full.  Then I format them all and try to fit as many as I can on as few pages as I can…which are then printed out and add to my big black binder recipe book.  So, the original recipe for this was from one of those, thus rendering it untraceable.  But I think that I’ve modified it enough from the original to make it my own.  At any rate, make it soon and enjoy!

Louisiana Chicken Pasta

Cook one pound of pasta (I usually use fusilli) and set aside. While pasta is cooking, melt a stick of butter in a large saucepan. To it, add several small yellow onions and one head of garlic, roughly chopped and saute for several minutes. Add some chopped mushrooms and some chopped bell peppers (we often use the jarred Fire-Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers from Trader Joe’s since they’re cheaper and you can’t really notice the taste difference) and saute until all vegetables are soft and starting to brown. Add a couple handfuls of flour to make a roux, and let cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally until flour starts to lightly brown. Pour in about two-ish cups of strong chicken broth  and stir well to avoid clumps. Let thicken and add enough whole milk to reach the consistency you want. Season with salt, dried basil, crushed red pepper flakes and some kind of smoked seasoning (I used to use smoked paprika, but then I found Trader Joe’s South African Smoke seasoning blend which is perfect for this!  If you use smoked salt to add smokiness, you probably would want to make a weaker chicken broth so it’s not too salty). Let simmer for several minutes to let the flavours meld. Finely grate about a cup of Asiago cheese and toss with some flour. Add by the handful, stirring well to prevent clumps. Once everything is well-incorporated and smooth, remove from heat. Add some sliced grilled chicken and pour over your pasta.