Friday, May 25, 2012

Small Kitchen Adventures

I love mornings. I wondered for a while if I was a "morning" person. But, whether by choice or habit, I have determined I certainly am a morning person.
When I was in 2nd grade, my parents started getting us up at 5:15(A.M.) for family devotions before my dad left for work. I have been getting up early ever since. For the most part, "sleeping in" for me is 7:00. My inner alarm goes off by then, if my crickets haven't.
A new day is so calm, quiet, crisp, and full of new possibilities. I do love mornings.=)
New beans
My pole beans sprouted yesterday! I enjoy planting seeds, and then watching their whole life process. You plant the seeds, and water them, and you don't see anything for a few days. But then the surface dirt cracks, and you see the seed pod right at the surface. The next day you usually-at least with green beans-have an inch or two tall plant with a new leaf. And it is amazing! It seems like you can literally watch the plants grow every day over the next weeks. I love it.=)
Corner #1
We often think in terms of ideal growing conditions for our entire lives. In gardening you have what is known as perfect growing conditions-sunshine, heat, soil and rain. If these 4 elements are balanced, you will get a great crop. And we all hope life is like that too. We will prosper and be joyful and grow, if all our circumstances are perfect and balanced. But, there is the other gardening term that we like to think of rather less...blooming were we are planted. To live full, joyful, growing lives-even when circumstances are not ideal.
We can fall into the trap of,
-I would have people over if my house was bigger (or cleaner, or as nice as Martha Stewart's=))
-I would go swimming with my kids if my bathing suit looked better.
-I would read if I had time.
-I would_________if________(you fill in the blanks)

I have learned that you can't live like that. You must bloom where you are planted, so to speak. You must live life to the fullest with what you have now. Because if you wait for perfect circumstances, you will wait forever. If you don't use what little you may have now,  you won't use what you have later.

The north end-all my drawers and probably 50% of my cupboards
Btw, this gardening analogy was so not where this blog was going today. But, whatever.=) We're going with the flow.=)

I have a small house. It is 1500 square feet-including the unfinished half of the basement. But I love my house. I love the fact that we have 3 bedrooms-boys, girls and master.=) I love the fact that we have 1-1/2 bathrooms-the half being right next to the back door. I love my arched doorways in the living room, and the white spindled railing heading upstairs. I love our back porch.
Corner view again
And I love my kitchen. All 8' x 11' of it. My kitchen is tiny. I know, other people have smaller kitchens. But for the amount of cooking I do, it is really small. Especially when you add in cupboards, counters and appliances lining all four walls. The available floor space is about 6' x 3-1/2'. Practically this means that when the dishwasher door is open, you can't open the freezer, or the opposite cupboard. Or when you are 8 months pregnant, you have to be in just the right position to open the refrigerator door.=)
Opposite corner-same end-you can just see the sink edge
But, small truly means efficient. I have never been in such an efficient kitchen as mine. Whoever planned it, used the space in the best possible way. If we ever build a bigger house, I will try to do a similar lay out, only bigger.

Anyway, I do love my kitchen-small and efficient as it is.=) And that is a good thing, because I spend a lot of my time in it. Even more than my kitchen, I love cooking. It is a way for me to be creative. It is a stress reliever. And it is fun. I often blog about my kitchen adventures. I cook, and feed people, not because I have the ideal kitchen, but because I am blessed with the kitchen I have. I am using what I have. I am thankful for what I have. And maybe someday I will have a bigger kitchen, but I am not going to wait to cook until that happens. Because I might never get a better kitchen, you know.
I do realize that not everyone enjoys cooking as much as I do. And some people enjoy it more. My favorite types of recipes are the ones that take 30 minutes or less. I don't have any patience for making recipes that take tons more time to make than to consume. And I am not really into the recipes that call for 25 exotic ingredients, and that have 100 steps. That is not my kind of cooking. I like the recipes that have a lot of bang for your buck, both flavor-wise and aesthetically. Good food doesn't have to take hours to make. And it can look pleasing without lots of fuss.

chicken sautéing
Here are two of my favorite delicious, quick, and aesthetically pleasing dishes. They are crowd pleasers-everytime.

salsa, no cheese yet
Easy Chicken Enchiladas
4-5 medium chicken breasts
1(ish) cups of salsa (my favorite is Pace, but any works fine)
1-2 cups shredded yellow cheese
10 8" flour tortillas
sour cream and additional salsa for serving

Cut raw chicken into 1/2" cubes, and sauté  in a large skillet with a bit of oil until cooked through. Drain off any liquid. Add the salsa. I "eyeball" it. You want it to look rather red. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add 1 to 1-1/2 cups of cheese-making it cheesy according to your preference. Place approximately 1/2 cup of filling on each tortilla. Tuck in ends, and roll up. Place in a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts- usually 15-20 minutes. These can be made ahead and frozen, or just baked later. In that case, just bake them until they are heated through.

right before putting on tortillas
*Round out your meal with crudités, or a lettuce salad.
Easy and delicious!

Perfect BLT's
*BLT's have a special place in my heart because BLT used to be my initials=)
For each sandwich you need
-2 slices of toasted bread-preferably sour dough. And this is not the sandwich to use "healthy" bread on.
-2 slices of tomato
-2 pieces of fried bacon
-1 to 2 leafs of romaine lettuce or a layer of baby spinach leaves
-salt and pepper
-MAYO (!!!)
-cheese-this can be mozzarella, provolone, feta, or parmesan
-optional (if you want to take it to the next level) chopped kalamata olives

*if you are making several sandwiches-assemble first, and then toast the whole batch in the oven at 450 degrees until browned, otherwise just toast your bread in the toaster.
*To assemble: spread both slices of bread with mayo. Put tomato slices on one slice. Salt and pepper. Next layer your cheese of choice, olives if using, lettuce and bacon on top.
All I can say is "AMAZING!!!"
Me, Vanna White-esque in my kitchen.=)

Ummm...where's the bacon?=)