Sunday, January 30, 2011

From One Mom's Kitchen to Another

I would never go so far as to call myself a "foodie"...mainly because I don't have the budget to go to all the fine places and do all the traveling that I think is needed to really experience Food. However, I do love food. I sit and read cookbooks and obsessively pull recipes from magazines. I read about cooking online and am a member of every recipe site. I LOVE to cook.

I have always loved to cook. As a young girl, my parents had us cook at least a meal a week for the family. I love preparing delicious food and watching my family enjoy it. My Dad's favorite, roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, biscuits, and sliced tomatoes. I quickly learned other Southern favorites like black eyes peas, rice, fried chicken. I pride myself in making great comfort food. My lasagna, arancini, Chicken pot pie, chili, chicken chili, enchilada casserole, oatmeal raisin cookies, butter pecan whiskey cake...all dishes that I happen to do REALLY well.
I recently taught myself how to make salted caramels...and at Christmas time, my husband and I made batches and batches of maple cinnamon rolls (see Pioneer lady for recipe).


I am currently dieting for the first time in my life. Yes, I was one of those people who was naturally thin and active and diet never really entered my mind..if anything, I worked at keeping the weight on. Then I went and had three kids in three years, and suddenly, I joined the ranks of most of the women in the USA...and I must diet.

I have been waking at the crack of dawn and working out each morning...only to find that diet is 80% of getting fit, no matter how much you work out and run.

So, I needed to develop some healthier recipes, lower in calories but still delicious and comforting...because I just won't eat bland cardboard flavored food.

This has been a challenge, as I love to bake and my "healthy banana bread" was pretty mediocre.

I have gotten some pretty amazing recipes out of my new venture though.

I thought I would share on my blog a few of my favorites, my recipes or amazing finds. All will be tried and true.

I have considered taking photos of my food and putting recipes (I LOVE those sites)...but frankly, at this point in my life, I do not have the time for such things. Leave that for the Real "Foodies".

This is for the Mom's who work 40 hours a week, come home from work to three screaming kids and have to wear a baby on your back while quickly whipping together a dinner... you are the ones who will get the most out of the tips I have to offer.

Don't worry, I will not pull a Jessica Seinfeld and try to find ways to hide brussel sprouts in birthday cake - but I am going to aim for easy, quick, healthy and delicious foods that are both mom and kid friendly.

I don't strive to be a "Top Chef"...In fact, I am guilty of setting off the fire alarm at least once a month.

BUT, I am one of those mom's who wants my kids to be excited to bring their friends home from college for some of mom's famous roast, and I want to be the mom who makes the best cookies for class, and to hear my husband praise my cooking.... and I think that most of the readers of my blog have the same goal: To Be Queen of our own Kitchens!

For now I will start with the basics and hope to hear any comments or tips from all of you...I am encouraging input from other mom's like we can all be culinary experts in our homes.

Now, We don't eat out much, for lack of babysitting, money and I have learned to keep our kitchen fully stocked in order to cook things on a whim.

I will start by listing the basic ingredient must haves for delicious, fully flavored meals...(I keep other things like frozen broccoli, and frozen chicken nuggets and hot dogs on hand as well, but this is because my children do not yet have sophisticated palates).

Ingredients I have learned to keep stocked and can always be found in my kitchen are:
Broths (chicken, beef, and vegetable)
Produce: yellow onions,potatoes,carrots,celery,garlic cloves, cherry tomatoes
Meat: If you eat meat, keep a stock in the freezer of your preferences. I like to keep lots of boneless skinless chicken breasts on hand because it is a go-to dish----look for sales
Canned: coconut milk, evaporated milk, beans: kidney, all kinds of white beans, black eyes, black beans, etc)
canned green chilies
canned tomato sauce and paste
canned tomatoes
canned corn, cream corn
Cheeses: pre-shredded: cheddar, Parmesan and Italian blend
frozen:peas, corn, broccoli
Worcester sauce, lime, and lemon juice
all kinds of boxed pasta
red wine (yes, for drinking, throwing in sauces and just making life happier)
dried spices (I have these fully stocked but find the following to be most essential):thyme, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, basil,mint,seasoned salt,curry
extracts:almond, maple,vanilla, mint
and of course:flour,baking soda,baking powder,sugar : brown, white and powdered

I realized that the key to great cooking, regardless of healthy or basic are a few key ingredients. For the purpose of this blog, I will just say that I have been trying to determine which key fresh ingredients do I need to add to my stock list in order to be able to add a bit of gourmet to any recipe. So far, I have come up with this:

red onion
Olive oil
goat cheese
pine nuts
really great sea salts (invest $8-15 at William Sonoma- they will last forever and truly make a difference in anything to which they are added)
A pepper grinder
balsamic vinegar

Yes, so far, just those few little extra ingredients added to a otherwise stocked kitchen...and it is amazing the added level of flavor and sophistication.

For example: I was in charge of snacks for book club Friday night. I worked all day...and had 1 hour to put everything together and drive to Spartanburg.

I made three dishes...
caramelized onion tart-lets
white bean, rosemary, walnut dip with toasts
Ritz topped with cucumber and Italian cream cheese

The women in my club were raving (doesn't it always feel good to hear another lady's praise) and calling me Martha Stewart (but not in a jail bird kind of way). It felt good and was all because I made a small stride to have a few special extras in the fridge.

I hope that with this and future blog excerpts, as well as input from my pals out there...we can put a little more homemaker into our busy lives...isn't that what is most important anyway.


  1. Hi, I was blog hopping and came across yours. You made me tired to read about all the things you do. I loved reading about your Dad's favorite meal and the recipes you learned to cook as a young person. I am a Southern cook and love all things Southern. I enjoyed your blog. Thanks, Judy

  2. Lisa, try Splenda brown sugar. I truly can't tell the difference between it and the real stuff and it's much lower in sugar! I tried a great meal last night that was just a new recipe for pot roast. I've made pot roast a zillion times but this was definitely the best recipe I've ever tried! Yum!

  3. Mandy, can you share the recipe. And thanks on the splenda...I have a big bag of the white stuff...but haven't tried the brown sugar substitute. Maybe that could help with the quest for healthier but still delicious banana bread.

  4. Great Post! Looking forward to trying some of your recipes! And reading your list of staples. . . I think I need to re-stock my kitchen! You should add rice to your list (I know you keep it in stock!) Sun-dried tomatoes, pre-cooked bacon and craisins are also good special additions to have on-hand.