In the Kitchen Lately

I thought I'd share some things I've been up to in the kitchen lately, but before I get into it, fair warning...there is no real unifying thread here.  It's a pretty random post but maybe there is a recipe or two you might add to your rotation?  Or just a picture to make you smile on this dreary Minnesota Wednesday.  
 I have an emotional tie to food, I don't think it's an unhealthy one, but I really love to cook and I love to serve meals to other people.  I'm like my Mom in that we both show love through cooking.  There's a creative element to it that fuels me, I like tweaking recipes and trying new things.  I'm a lover of cookbooks, cooking shows or someone who will stand in my kitchen (or theirs) and cook with me.  I love this picture above because it is so full of interest~beautiful fall color, various textures and amazing flavor!  When I was pregnant with Ava, I last made this.  Like days from delivering pregnant and looking for something spicy to get that little girl moving :) For no good reason at all, I haven't made this since??  But recently it came to mind and I knew I had blogged about it, so I tracked that post down here and pulled up the recipe again.  And then I got totally distracted reading old posts about waiting for Ava to be born, which led to tears as I re-read my first posts after her arrival and I re-lived all that sweetness again.  Are you starting to get why food is emotional for me??  All those memories are now tied to this dish forever and therefore it will go down as one of my all time favorites for that reason!  

But I digress... This is a Chicken Curry and Sweet Potato Dish with a Coconut Cream sauce.  It sounds fancy but really it's pretty basic with some toppings and rice.  When I say it is fabulous, I am not exaggerating.  Also?  It's a crock-pot meal which means it can fill your house with aroma all afternoon and it's truly something you can serve in minutes.  The original recipe is here, but I will tell you I made a few tweaks this time around.  Here are the additions I made, basically to cut the spice and make it a little sweeter for the little palates around our table: 
I used 1.5 C of OJ and after 5hrs on high when it was done, I took 1C of the broth out of the crockpot and set it aside. I made a roux (1T butter, 2T flour) then poured in the reserved broth. Let that simmer for a minute or two then pour in a 1/4 C or so of coconut milk. This made a great "sauce" to pour over everything. You could totally tweak it to fit your family! Enjoy! 
This summer I got hooked on this dish.  I could eat it for lunch, for dinner and anytime for a snack.  I've called it "girl food" but actually, Travis went for it and so did Ava!  Carter wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole, but I was pretty happy that 3 out of 4 us could agree on it.  I grew basil for the second summer in a row and I looked for many excuses to use it because it grew ten times more than I could ever use.  This little salad is simply tomatoes, mozarella, avacado, and basil with some dressing.  I enjoyed it with a balsamic vinegarette, a vinegar and olive oil vinegarette, and sometimes just olive oil with a little salt and pepper.  Either way it's light and fresh and feels like summer to me.  I regret that when we had a crazy heat wave last week I let my basil plant go and it's officially dead now.  But I got some great months out of it and I will definitely grow it again next summer!  
Now interestingly, if I served that same salad like this??  I'd be the only taker.  Little bites of tomato are the only way Travis will entertain them :) But this is my favorite way to eat them.  I can't tell you how many plates like this I think I consumed this summer. 
Travis and I also got on a major blueberry kick recently.  I blame Costco for that and their huge container of blueberries that is so reasonably priced.  It was always a no brainer to buy and in order to use them up I was throwing them in everything.  Granola and yogurt were my favorite pairings, and speaking of yogurt and Costco (this post is so random and you are kind to still be reading this!) we are in love with this new Greek yogurt.  Have you tried it?  It just might be the best yogurt I have ever tasted.  
It's also pricey so the kids are banned from it, ha ha!  But seriously, Carter is a total yogurt fiend, he'd eat it all day long if I'd let him, so I buy him the cheaper greek yogurt...Chobani.  Seriously. The kid is not suffering.  This yogurt with blueberries and granola??? To die for.  Really.  The real vanilla blended in it makes it so yummy.  We could eat this anytime for a snack, unless you're offering blueberry pancakes, because then it's a toss up.  As I told someone this weeked, I never met a carb I didn't love!   We are a little *obsessed* with making these, so much so that we might start turning blue soon.  Like the girl from Willy Wonka :) That's a mental picture, right??  
In an interesting plot twist, our kids also love blueberries and they love pancakes, but they WILL NOT TOUCH blueberry pancakes.  Baffling to me, but whatevs (somewhere a high school student just read my pathetic attempt at being relevant and they rolled their eyes.  Trust me, it happened.  I'm old, I'm a Mom now, I get it!!)  More for Travis and I!!  
The other kick I have been on recently is making PW's homemade pizza dough.  Have you tried it??  It's crazy good and so easy.  Plus, I feel very "June Cleaver-ish" when I make pizza from scratch.  Maybe even Betty Crocker like when I let the kids help me??  
My go-to combo for Trav and the kids is to use pizza sauce, mozarella and a little cheddar, with sauteed/diced onions and ham.  I always have ham and onions on hand and if I don't have pizza sauce I use spaghetti sauce.  If I'm feeling very fancy and energetic, I make myself my own little half of a pizza and my fave combo is basil-pesto sauce, sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, topped with arugala after it comes out of the oven.  It is so good.  I usually even convince Travis to try a piece, which he does, and then he says "it's not as bad as he expected it to be."  I never know how to feel after that statement!  
In reference to my dear PW, have you seen this?? Her newest cookbook releases in like October or something and I can't wait to get my hands on it.  Except that I've been warned not to, as it may be showing up in my pile of Christmas presents.  Not a bad carrot to dangle in front of me...
Side note, doesn't her hair and jewelry and that purple shirt look amazing on this cover??  Well done to her marketing peeps...Makes me wish I had red hair!  And a ranch, and her kitchen.  But I'll keep my own husband, although hers' seems lovely.  Same goes for my kids.  And hers.  I think I'll stop now as this is quickly getting weird.  And all because I love the cover of this cookbook :) 
Here's my last non-homemade tip in this incredible post.  That pineapple chili-lime marinade??  
It's perfect with chicken on the grill, for fajitas, or just by itself.  SO good.  One of my new favorite buys.  And it's only $3.19 at your local Target.  

That's all I've got on this Wednesday.  What's for dinner at the Armstrongs tonight?  Pizza!  Ham and onion for the kids and BBQ chicken and pineapple for Trav and I.  At like 10pm tonight, after Trav gets home from Church.  Duck Dynasty and BBQ chicken pizza at an unhealthy eating hour, sounds good to us!!  So what's cooking in your kitchen tonight??  

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