Friday, November 14, 2008

From the Kitchen (and Elsewhere)...

What God gives and what we take,
'Tis a gift for Christ His sake:
Be the meal of beans and pease,
God be thanked for those and these:
Have we flesh, or have we fish,
All are fragments from his dish.
~Robert Herrick

One eats in holiness, and the table becomes an altar.
~Martin Buber, Israel (1878-1965)

Michelle loaned me her camera (thanks a bunch, Michelle!), so I've been messing with it this evening. I've posted photos of the kitchen, or part of the kitchen, several times in the past. Anyone who has looked closely (and I know at least one person who has) will have noticed that almost every time I take a picture in the kitchen, different stuff is out and about. For some reason, I am always and forever changing things around. I go from way scaled back and uncluttered to having more vintagey-- even cute-- stuff about. I get tired of either extreme quickly (especially "cute"), so I end up moving things around again. Oh, well. I like messing about like that. I took after my mom. (These pictures are kinda yellow and glowy, and I know you're supposed to try to avoid doing that, but I sort of like the warm color for fall, so I'll go with it!)

This is what I ate tonight for dinner (wish I'd have captured more of what was in my bowl!)-- Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans from Heidi Swanson's good book, Super Natural Cooking. I love this particular dish, and it's really fast and easy to make. Tonight I was careful to cut the recipe way back so that I won't be eating leftovers for days. If you haven't checked out Swanson's website-- you might like it. The food is great, and the website is pretty.

Dinner detritus. I left everything as-was when I snapped the photo. I usually use sea salt, but I do like the way kosher salt makes things taste, so sometimes I use that.

I love to be in the kitchen and to cook, even when I'm just cooking for myself. It can be relaxing if you let it. :-) I made myself a menu and went grocery shopping today. Cooking for one takes some concentration at first! It's hard to make small enough portions to keep from having to eat leftovers for four days, like I did when I made braised red cabbage with apple. I cut that recipe in half, and in spite of the fact that I've eaten some of the cabbage every day, I still have leftovers in the refrigerator.

So I made my shopping list trying to think in terms of very small portions. I bought Cornish game hens that can take the place of whole chickens when I want to have roasted chicken. I bought a small cod fillet to make Bangladeshi coconut milk fish curry. I bought a whole (big) chicken to make chicken broth for the freezer. I bought some prawns because I want to make Thai red curry with prawns (a favorite). And I bought some nuts and parmesan because I need them to go in the filling for stuffed Delicata squash.

I'm cooking lots of winter squash lately because it's fall and that's what's in season. I got six more Delicata squash in my CSA produce last night (I already have some Sunshine squash, a Hakaiddo Blue squash, a Buttercup squash, and another variety or two stored here). But I do love winter squash-- roasted by itself, then smashed with butter and maple or with Moroccan butter; stuffed and roasted; made into soups; made into pasta sauces (even though I rarely eat pasta); and more.

After I picked up my CSA produce, I went straight to Michelle's house to give her at least half of it (I can't possibly eat it all myself), and I fortuitously happened by her house just in time to catch her pulling roasted squash and carrots out of the oven. She'd cooked it exactly the way I like it. Tender with just enough dark-roasty crispiness to the vegetables. She and the boys and I sat at the table and ate (Monty was at school), and, oh, it was delicious!

When I eat so many delicious foods, and I can, for the most part, cook what I want, I feel incredibly grateful. I know that the food I have is a gift. A blessing. And I prepare and eat it with an immensely grateful heart.

I was going to take some photos of my favorite cookbooks to answer Susan R's questions about which ones I liked and why. I only took photos of two books, though, before I realized that it's really, really hard for me to narrow down and isolate favorites. I use sooo many cookbooks all the time, mostly as reference. I'll go ahead and think about this some more and answer Susan's questions (because I love to talk about my cookbooks!), but for now, these are two of my favorite books from two of my favorite authors-- Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

I have five of Alford and Duguid's cookbooks, and they're all gorgeous. The photography is lovely. The information is fascinating. The food is delicious. This couple has traveled for decades in the regions they write about. The books are expensive, but even if you don't cook from them, they make nice coffee table books! I do recommend at least browsing through them if you can get them at a library or peruse them in a bookstore.

Here, I'm just snapping away with that camera to see how it works. I have loads of colored glass that I've picked up at Goodwill. I don't know why these particular two are in the kitchen window unless I was thinking that I liked looking at them for fall, along with the little pumpkins. (?)

Speaking of Goodwill, Michelle and I met there this morning. We do this once or twice a week because we have fun going together. The little boys ride around in our shopping carts while we take our sweet time browsing. When the boys get squirmy, Michelle goes to the children's bookshelves and gets them some books to read, and this expands their willingness to stay in the carts. When we visit the Goodwill store, there are the obvious things that stand out that a person wants to snatch right up, but there are also those things that you notice but don't really see the first time around. That's why you need to circle the store more than once. On another look, you might realize that you've found something worthy! And into the cart it goes. Or maybe not.

Today wasn't an overly successful day. I found a few vintage Christmas ornaments (nothing spectacular, but cute and fun, nonetheless). Sometimes I'll find so many things I like that I can't buy them all (don't want to overbuy and overspend, even at Goodwill-- the whole point is to save lots of money, not to waste it), so I'll have to do some evaluating and choosing.

I'll have to do a Goodwill post soon, maybe focusing on Christmas finds. Michelle and I have found some good things that we really like!

I keep seeing photos of the insides of people's refrigerators and freezers lately, so why not take pictures of mine, especially since I'm trying to get a handle on Michelle's camera?! Everyone is dying to know what I have in there, right? And this post is mostly about the kitchen, after all. Hey, Aimee and Melissa! See that container of Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss? Mmmm. It's all mine! But I'll share it with you if you come home to visit. :-) And there's my sprouted grain bread and some coffee beans and frozen strawberries for smoothies and Acai pulp and cranberries and a Cornish game hen. There are kaffir lime leaves and more berries in the door, but you can't see that.

Oh, I'll just post the top shelf of my fridge because these pictures aren't really that interesting. I just tidied the refrigerator today (or I probably wouldn't have snapped this photo!). Eggs from local, pastured hens. European style butter. Pyrex dishes holding leftover potatoes, braised red cabbage, and roasted winter squash. Miso, all-natural yogurt, grape kombucha (are you jealous, Melissa?), Yumm! sauce, and raw goat and cow milk.

Once again, I just have to say how immensely grateful to the Lord I am for the food that is in my cupboards, my storage areas, and my refrigerator. I have been blessed so very abundantly. It's wonderful to enjoy, with gratitude and joy, all of God's good gifts. Like my home and my family and, yes, even the food I so enjoy cooking.