So, first things first: I picked up and moved. From California to this relatively unknown but totally awesome gem of a place in what's called the Inland Northwest: Spokane, Washington. The car was pretty much full to bursting on the approximately 1,035-mile journey. Yep, that's a tree in the front seat. My ficus, to be exact. It's a tree I've known longer than my husband, so naturally it took up some prime real estate in the cargo space.
I 10 plants to keep me company for the journey, and we really hit the ground running when I arrived. You see, my husband has been living in this teensy tiny one-bedroom apartment for a month (with the 3 houseplants that he brought with him) and then I had to find a place for the plants I brought with me plus the rest of the packed carload when I arrived. Confession: there are 6 plants in total adorning the tops of the kitchen cupboards, and with only one window in the entire kitchen/living/dining/everything-that's-not-the-bedroom room, I find myself apologizing to them daily.
Plus the jade was pretty suicidal. He never really recovered from the road trip from Chicago to California, and this latest (and hopefully final!) road trip nearly did him in. He's now throwing a constant tizzy fit sitting on the media stand, sadly far from daylight, but I try to send good thoughts to him daily.
R-cubed, or my goal of cooking three new recipes a week, is still going strong! 12 new recipes tackled in April, and I kept it up despite cooking in the tiniest kitchen of my life. So here, I offer simply a "best-of-April" round-up of 5 share-worthy recipes that I tried.
Well, there's no better way to start off than with the best dinner of April: hands-down, Tomato and Sausage Risotto from Smitten Kitchen was the most delicious home-cooked meal of the month.
The result is a silky smooth yet hearty meal with the perfect combination of creamy rice and chewy sausage meat, plus ribbons of spinach running throughout the bowl. I was a little nervous about making a risotto (you know all those scary stories about constant stirring? Well, Deb's instructions of "stirring occasionally" were spot on). Try it! Smitten Kitchen's Tomato and Sausage Risotto.
Next up: two incredibly easy and hearty meals that provided leftovers for dinners and lunches (thereby minimizing my time spent preparing food in a week, which is a godsend these days). Now, it's only in hindsight (because I made them a week apart) that I'm realizing why my husband loved both of these dishes: ground beef and pasta. Need I say more? I just asked him what he wants for dinner next week, and he said. . . spaghetti and meat sauce. At least the guy is predictable.
First was Easy Beef Lasagna from Jo Cooks blog. The recipe calls for uncooked, REGULAR lasagna noodles, and I just had to find out for myself if it works.
Well, folks, it works. In fact, I had an assembly line going on Sunday afternoon with the cooked tomato and beef sauce, the ricotta mixture, and the UNCOOKED regular lasagna noodles, assembled this dish, stuck it in the fridge, came home on Monday after work, popped it in the oven, and it was awesome. The lasagna noodles were nicely cooked but also didn't turn to mushy goo like a lot of lasagna. Plus this dish fed us for days (and without complaint from my husband!).
The second beef-and-pasta dish was Chili Pasta Skillet from Better Homes and Gardens. I'm all about one-pot meals these days, and this was super easy as you add raw pasta to the simmering sauce, cover it, and 20 minutes later the pasta is cooked and the sauce is thickened and you've got a hearty complete meal. The black beans add a decidedly Mexican spin to this dish, so we enjoyed it garnished with sour cream (and anything that acts as a vehicle for sour cream at our dinner table is a winner).
And then there was breakfast. Oats have become my go-to lately, and I wanted to find out how else to transform them besides granola. Overnight oats was a total winner (but I forgot to take photos. . . oops, but it made great pre-bike-ride fuel!) and for the record I favored this blog post among the 80 bajillion hits you get on Pinterest for overnight oats.
Then I tried baked oatmeal, and while the photos below look frighteningly similar, the recipes (yes, two recipes) and outcomes were totally different.
Top row below: Amish Baked Oatmeal from Cooking Classy
Bottom row below: Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal from Southern in Law
The magic of both recipes was this: I made each one on a Sunday afternoon but didn't bake it. I covered it, popped it in the fridge, and baked it on Monday morning (after preheating the oven the moment my alarm went off), and presto! A warm, baked, homey breakfast to kick-off the work week! Plus it made the apartment smell divine.
Both of these baked oatmeals cut nicely into squares and I had fun playing with garnishes: defrosted frozen blueberries, raisins, drizzled honey, a dollop of yogurt, a smear of peanut butter--the bars made great blank canvases. Now, the second one did have a decidedly banana flavor (which I love, but my husband wouldn't eat it--still, he loved the first, non-banana version) and was a good way to use up some browning bananas. The bananas also resulted in a slightly 'creamier' oatmeal whereas the first version was a more crumbly, chewy-granola-bar texture. Either way, these are a great spin on oats for breakfast!
Alright, so that was April in a nutshell! The best 5 recipes of the month, recapped here: