Friday Favorites ~ In The Kitchen

I love being in the kitchen. It gives me great happiness and satisfaction cooking and baking for my people. There are things about this kitchen that we will eventually update (I’m looking at you 1990’s tile countertops) but one thing I love is the west facing window over my kitchen sink that gets the most lovely light in the afternoons.

I also love my big kitchen towels I found at Target a few years ago, too. And apparently the dogs liked them as well and they had a grand ole time playing tug-of-war with one. Sad, I know.

But the good news is that I had to replace it and wouldn’t you know it, Target not only still had them but also in some new colors. They’re part of the Hearth and Hand With Magnolia collection. I am not a brand specific person, I like things that are well made, affordable, and do what they’re made to do, but I will say I haven’t bought any other kitchen towels since I found these.

I also found some napkins at Target because wouldn’t you know it, when the pups realized how much fun kitchen towels are they had to give napkins a whirl! We’ve had the majority of our cloth napkins for at least a decade but my favorites were some Pioneer Woman sets I got a few years ago. I liked the colors and they had the right texture to them. The way a napkin feels is the deal breaker around here so I am always on the lookout anyways but after the kitchen linen olympics with the dogs it has become more of a priority. I loved the color and subtle pattern to these sets, also done by Hearth and Hand, that come in packages of four. They also have some solid colors but I was drawn to these because they seemed so summery without being obnoxious.

I’m really excited about this next Friday favorite because it’s a book! A cookbook to be exact. I have been wanting to make a sourdough starter for a long while but the two times I attempted it I questioned what I saw and smelt happening and ditched the efforts. I have friends that tried it years ago and ended up basically giving themselves food poisoning and they are accomplished cooks and bakers so I am treading lightly with this kitchen adventure.

However, in our farm quest Rob came across a youtube channel and sent me a link to a few things knowing I would like it. The Prairie Homestead is just a well done online space for all things farming and homesteading. What I have found so engaging about their website is how easy it is to follow and understand…they present things in a way that makes you feel like they are just like you; and that you can do what they do. They seem normal, not like polished professionals and I mean that in the best possible way.

One of her videos was a tutorial on sourdough starter and I loved watching it. Next thing you know, her cookbook landed in Rob’s Amazon cart and then it arrived on my doorstep. It’s like magic, y’all 😉

I can’t wait to get back from Florida next week and start my starter! I will keep y’all posted on what I am sure will be my success. (Said totally tongue in cheek…I fully expect some bloopers because that’s the way I seem to roll.)

The last item on my list to share with you today is the reason my blog will never hit the big leagues, friends. Because y’all are going to love this dish and somebody is going to wonder where I got it, how much I paid for it, and how big is it. And I can only answer the first two questions.

TJ Maxx and $12.99

If you pushed me I might would say it’s a two quarter but honestly that is information I never paid any attention to. But isn’t it so pretty? Microwave, oven and dishwasher safe too! But sadly, not driveway safe. I had a companion dish that was oval shaped that met its demise, along with the English peas it was carrying, on our driveway one Sunday morning as we headed to church.

So there you go, friends, a few of my favorite things in the kitchen right now. What are some of yours?

Have a great weekend!

In Which I Talk About Rice

I know, a whole post on rice. Really? Really.

I have never been good at making rice. Honestly, rice has always seemed to me to be one of those foods that’s really just a vehicle for other foods like a hot dog bun or such and was best used in casseroles and corned beef hash. I’ve never been very good at making it so I rarely served it as a side.

Kitchen confession: I got really good with minute rice when I did need it. I had no idea what we were missing out on by going this route though. No judgement if you too love those convenient little boil in the bags or dehydrated just add water boxes of rice. I get it. Real rice can be intimidating. It takes more time. It’s tricky to get the water to rice ratio just so to ensure soft fluffy rice. And boy, oh boy, brown rice is a whole other category altogether!

But I have learned some tips and tricks recently that changed my rice making game and maybe they will be of help to you. Or maybe I am the only one who has had a problem with rice making. It is entirely possible I am in a club of one. I know what you are probably thinking. “Woman, why didn’t you just read the package directions and follow them?” Y’all, I totally would! But would somehow still end up with undercooked rice. I will totally cop to it being user error but that’s the simple truth. Making good rice eluded me for years, people. Years.

But I am living in a different rice zone these days so here are the tips and tricks that I found helpful.

IMG-0759Basmati rice. Other more experienced and knowledgable cooks in the kitchen may roll their eyes and say what type of rice doesn’t matter but I have found that basmati rice turns out perfect every.single.time. It’s a little more expensive but totally worth it in my book for the fact of consistency alone. And may I just point out that I had no idea there were different kinds of rice other than white or brown and the cheater minute rice and the real stuff reserved for elite rice cookers? Who knew?

The Rice Association apparently. Guys, there is a fascinating website all about rice! According to them there are over 40,000 varieties of rice. Crazy, huh? Apparently rice plants need a ton of rain in their early days but then require a long dry spell to finish growing. Because the plant is so particular about its water and climate Great Britain has never been able to successfully produce it’s own supply of rice.

Historians believe that America owes it’s original source of rice seed to a storm that blew a ship bound for Madagascar off it’s course. The ship made it’s way to the safety in the harbor of South Carolina and out of gratitude for help with repairs the ships captain is said to have given rice seed as a thank you gift. But then the American Revolution started and we hit a snag but I will let you read about that on your own.

Now where was I before I found that fascinating website?

Oh yes, another tip from a rice making guru…after combining liquid and rice together, bringing it to a boil, cover and reducing heat, walk away for twenty minutes. Literally forget about it. Go paint your fingernails. Fold a load of laundry, whatever, but ignore the rice on the stove. Don’t open the lid to check the liquid. Trust the process. Difficult I know but letting the steam out does something unkind to the rice making magic I think.

Two tricks I have found that make for some really tasty rice are actually pretty simple.

Toast the rice before you make it. Put a couple of tablespoons of butter in your pot and when it is all melted add in you desired amount of uncooked rice. Toast it for about two to three minutes. It will smell heavenly. Add in your liquid and cook as usual.

You might have noticed that I keep saying liquid instead of water. Two words for you. Chicken broth. It adds so much flavor. I even use it to make mashed potatoes. You can use plain old water if you wish but salt is your friend. Either way, when your rice is ready don’t forget to dash some pepper on it too. It’s delish!

IMG-0449

So, that’s that. I’m certainly not some rice aficionado now (although I am certainly much more knowledgable than I was before this post. Thank you, Google!) but I feel confident with a few months of successful rice making under my belt. Maybe I will tackle quinoa next. Slow down there, Scooter! Don’t get carried away.

Here’s a link to this summer’s favorite cilantro lime rice. Enjoy and be sure to check how America almost ended up being a riceless nation.