Three of my favorite things – my littlest chicken painting a still life of the cover of one of my favorite cookbooks.
The kids love this simple and slightly unique banana bread recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It has a nice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves that give it just a hint of spice. (We left out the bourbon.) It’s totally addictive and doesn’t usually make it much past breakfast the next morning. (Yes, that’s Anakin Skywalker guarding the bread.)
This recipe is so easy that I asked O, who is 7, if he thought he could make it himself. He said, “sure.” We had three overripe bananas the other night so it was on.
I took the instructions and turned the paragraph into a numbered list of steps, which I thought would be easier for him to follow. I watched and answered questions. And I helped with the oven door. But that was it. He did it on his own: measuring, stirring, smashing, beating. He was super excited. He would have eaten the whole loaf if I’d let him.
Today was unusually warm for these parts—topping out at 90 degrees. So my dinner plan might seem a little unusual…
I’m not particularly good a planning meals ahead of time, so Stuart’s (borderline obsessive) meal planning is a life saver. But often, when I’m following his menu, I get a bit distracted and don’t feel inspired. So I start to improvise. Shockingly I’ve become reasonably competent at kitchen improvisation, considering my lifelong struggle with spontaneity. So I took his menu as a mere suggestion and while he was off coaching little kid soccer practice, I got cooking.
My inspiration: local veggies from Thor, my CSA farmer at Red Goose Gardens , and eggplant from my own garden.
When I don’t have a recipe, I roast. Despite the already toasty interior, I started with these beauties. I turned up the oven to 450, threw in some garlic, garden thyme, olive oil and started roasting.
Next I toasted tricolor quinoa. I’ve never had the pleasure of toasting quinoa before, in any color. It reminded me of Rice Krispies with the snapping, crackling and popping.
Then it simmered in a 50/50 mix of (my first attempt at) crockpot chicken stock and water.
I adore caramelized onions, so at the last minute I decided to get that going, too, along with thyme from my herb garden.
Next up: seared thick cut chops which I popped in the oven with the veggies to finish.
I topped off the quinoa and veggies with a healthy drizzle of decent balsamic, red pepper flakes, fresh cracked pepper, and more garden thyme.
And now the final act of our little mealtime coup (I will get to that in a later post): Fancifying dinnertime. Flowers from the garden, cloth napkins, breakable plates, wine glasses for our Pellegrino served slightly and unintentionally lukewarm. And candles. Don’t forget the candles. At my kids’ request, we’ve been eating more frequently by candlelight. Well, with candlelight may be more accurate. We started this new tradition in the summertime, but given that our sun doesn’t set here until nearly 10 pm for three months, it was a challenge to get the dining area dark enough for such ambiance. But with fall soon approaching, by candlelight will be possible. At 4:30.
Mealtime was a success—mostly. Sweet A had three helpings of quinoa (well, sans veggies but we are fighting battles, not the war) and did choke down a roasted carrot. Meanwhile Little G abruptly declared “Guys, if you see a piece of pork chop with fat on it give it to me. I love the fat.”
Ah yes, we raised ’em right.