The only downside in moving to the country - aside from the ridiculously slow and limited internet options - is that with the longer commute, my dinner prep time has been drastically cut. But I am finding a way!
This quick and easy meal tasted restaurant quality if you ask me and even though, after every bite he was gulping down milk to cut the spice, Mr. Midwest even enjoyed (tolerated?) it too. I'm thankful that he will eat anything I make even though I tend to be a little more diverse in my food preferences.
The key to this meal is the sauce. A good friend and co-worker of mine did the research for me. Born and raised in Singapore, she is always on the lookout for what local gem she can find at Asian groceries and this one (pictured left) had her stamp of approval.
Since the hard part was out of the way all I had to do was cook up some chicken, make sure to use butter to get a nice browned finish, throw in some local farmer's market veggies, and boil some pasta. BAM. The purple carrots really made this dish look special. They taste about the same as orange carrots but liven up the dish. DISCLAIMER: The purple will die the chicken and pasta if stored together for leftovers resulting in some really 'interesting' looking lunch the next day. Also, you'll want to save extra sauce for the leftovers as it soaks in and gets a little dry. Adding a little bit of water before reheating can help too.
One quick meal down, and I've officially become a fan of the one-bowl-meals for weeknights.
It was a simple evening in our farmhouse but the perfect end to the day.
With all of the home grown goodness popping up all over Indiana this time of year and not having a garden yet myself due to the move, I picked up three pounds of green beans a couple of days ago. Had my bag been bigger it could have easily become ten.
I haven't yet expanded my canning experience to beans but I'm more partial to the blanch and freeze method for taste. Just love that "snap!" of freshness and the green flavor they pack in when sauteed even weeks later. All they will really need is a slab of butter and some sea salt to hit the spot, but add some onion, bacon, and a dash of vinegar and they steal the show. I'll have to share that recipe at a later time - thanks to my mum for that one. Spoiler alert: it's amazing. Even Mr. Midwest gobbles down those veggies.
Speaking of Mr. Midwest, I had some help snapping beans tonight in our work-in-progress kitchen. As we filled each other in about our work days and schemed of what project to tackle this weekend (if I can catch up on laundry I'll chalk it as a win) I had a quiet realization - It's only been a month, but this, this feels like home.
It's hard to believe that as of Friday, this will be our new home! SO many thoughts running through my head. The possibilities are endless with the potential of this 1900's craftsman farmhouse. It's been relatively kept up (incredibly well maintained when you consider it's literally over a hundred years old) and only minor personal preference design changes are needed. But oh, how I will garden the heck out of this house.
And here I am again, changing up the content of this blog. Thankfully I am treating it as a living, organic thing and not trying to force fit my content into categories I pre-planned. I think that is alright. I decided early on, while talking with a good friend, I will write for myself - write to organize and explore my own mind and not to gain numbers or amass a following.
So here it is, the start of our journey on a little homestead. A real opportunity to get back-to-the-basics and focus on quality of life. I've already engulfed myself in chicken garden books and self-sustainability guides. I've been trolling Houzz and Pinterest to find just the right way to make each room our own, but appropriate to the history of the house.
It's a nerve-racking anxiousness that keeps me up each night this week. Like the day before going on vacation or a big party... Have we packed everything? Did we remember the sunscreen? What if someone has an allergic reaction to the shrimp? and then OH! But I'm just SO FREAKING EXCITED! It's the week before Christmas in our house, we've both been reduced to children anticipating opening gifts. We have two days to move and get out before closing on our current house. Which leaves a lot of packing, organizing, and fretting to fill the next 60 hours or so.
But ready or not, here we go. This is where it begins...
When it comes to feeding a meat-and-potatoes guy, he pretty much only wants... meat and potatoes. Insert mind explosion sound effect here. But on my quest to raise a healthy family, I've been trying to explore other routes to getting more greens on the plate and replacing those potatoes. [Enter one of the oldest grains on Earth - FARRO!]
Every time I go to the grocery I have been trying to pick up a different kind of grain or starch to try out. So far Mr. Midwest is open to cous-cous, quinoa, and now farro. I get the questioning eye every time I start peeling potatoes and he asks if they are 'normal potatoes.' Sweet potato fries seem to be only a nod towards the Five Guy's or Penn Station fries he loves so much. We do indulge every once in awhile, life's too short to not occasionally let yourself splurge.
But back to farro... I decided to make a farro salad of sorts and paired it with baked bacon-wrapped free-range, organic chicken breasts. I had to have a bargaining factor here and bacon is always a strong 1-2 punch to seal any deal.
After rinsing the farro with cold water, I cooked 1 cup of farro with about 3 cups of water. I've read that a lot of people like to salt the water but I wanted to hold off until the end to season it to avoid adding extra sodium. It took about 20 minutes of cooking at a low boil to reach al dente status. From here, I pretty much followed the suggested recipe on the back of the farro package. I really only dropped out the parsley and added more garlic and adjusted the measurements based on personal taste.
After a quick drain, I added the farro to a bowl with 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 1/2 yellow onion, a handful of chopped chive (from the garden - yay!), a pint of cherry tomatoes chopped in half, a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and turn or two of fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Toss and serve! It was a bit spicy due to the garlic and onion, but it was just how we like it. I might have been the only one that went for seconds, but Mr. Midwest did say he'd eat it again. I'll call that a win.
Do you ever think about how difficult true focus is?
I think that narrow, well-defined focus is perhaps the least attainable concept in today's world. We are surrounded constantly by THINGS. Call them projects, distractions, goals, lists, whatever you like, but you must agree that regardless - there are a LOT of them. How do we choose what to focus on? What we'd like to be good at? What we'd like to be known for? How do we decide what mark we'd like to leave on society?
I grew up in a generation where we have been repeatedly told, "you can be or do anything you set your mind to." As an adult, I realize now that those words present a new struggle. My desires are somewhat simple. I'd like to be good at what I do. But my long list of 'anythings' would spread me far too thin to be good at any one of them. So where do I place my focus?
There are different levels of focus. On a high scale I'd like to be a woman of faith, a good wife, a good mother. On a professional scale I'd like to be a creative designer, a leader, a valued employee. And then there are my personal interests. I'd like to be an excellent cook, a leader in my community, an appreciator of art, and keep a good house... I could go on and on.
Even as I decided to write and design this blog I keep re-asking myself: WHAT will it be about? One of my personal annoyances are blogs that try to do too much. It's like a caffeine overload to my system. My brain can't process what direction or frame of reference to take in the information. Is it a cooking blog? Interior design? A personal journal? Are they trying to sell me something? And usually before I have time to figure it out, I've given up. Moved on. Noting to self, what a fine example of what NOT to do.
I guess what it comes down to is this: I have decided in my own life, for my family, I want to live honestly. I'm tired of the trends and fads of artificial-sugar and can't-believe-it's-not-butter. I want to teach a life of moderation.
I don't always buy organic, it's not in our budget, but I do grow my own vegetables whenever possible. I want to be realistic and not guard or shelter my family from the world - there's still surprisingly a lot of good out there. But at the same time, hold myself to high goals. One of my favorite quotes by Henry David Thoreau has always been, "In the long run, men hit only what them aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high."
So I return full circle. What IS this blog about? I want it to be about what inspires me in design. And food.
My brain says, "No, you have to choose one. And inspiration is a lame category - its way too vague. What is the connecting factor between the two? Why must you do both?"
Maybe the fact that I enjoy both should be enough. I keep riddling my brain looking for the one line that simplifies it all. Maybe it's just this - this is my blog on living. Due to the fact that I crave organization, I will divide it into two spaces. The Plaid will house my curiosities and inspiration. Quirky details, motivating tunes, the little things that challenge the mundane. And The Asparagus will be where I share anything food related, because let's admit it - what is living without eating.
"Do it well, or not at all."
I was drawn to design by a combined love of physics and fine arts. I just love the problem solving aspect of it.