Rhubarb-Strawberry Delight

Lately to keep sane during these cloudy wintry Wisconsin days I’ve found myself spending more time in my small kitchen trying out new recipes. I didn’t realize how versatile Rhubarb Strawberry Fruit Spread could be.

I was in the mood first of all to try out the Rhubarb Strawberry Glazed Salmon recipe in the Tastefully Simple 30-Meal Kit and the Fix-It-Fast 10-Meal Kit.  Besides, I had a craving for salmon. It didn’t hurt that a friend who also loves salmon happened to be visiting at the farm that afternoon. The more testers of this recipe, the merrier!

I’ve had salmon with cranberry in salad at a local restaurant but wasn’t quite sure how it would pair with rhubarb and strawberry together in the form of a fruit spread sitting on top of a salmon fillet.

So, after I took the fruit spread glazed salmon fillets out of the oven, I really hoped they tasted as wonderful as they made the kitchen and dining area smell. This smell really made the salmon-loving friend eager to try a serving, and he didn’t want to go anywhere until he was served.

I was delightfully surprised. As was my friend who not only loves to fish but loves to eat a lot of it.  He said this recipe brought out the salmon flavor in a different way. A “good different” as he put it. He commented further that while rhubarb-strawberry wouldn’t work well with other types of fish, it’s a perfect match for salmon. He thought this recipe was a nice change from the way the salmon he has eaten is prepared.

If you’d like to try this recipe, click here.  Recipe and photo courtesy of Tastefully Simple.

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So I Disappeared For A While

It’s been weeks since my last post. The small kitchen didn’t swallow me up whole and spit me out.

Rather, I chose to literally live in the kitchen and only crawled out when I had to do laundry and activities of daily living, take Farmer to his physical therapy appointments and then eventually go back to the job after a week off and accepting an offer for a new job, same clinic.

What a ride it’s been.

But, I’ve come out of the kitchen unscathed, armed with recipes and ideas to share.

Now that the son who used to eat a lot is out of the household, I’ve noticed it’s become a challenge to take my cooking down a notch. I think it needs to be downsized to the size of my kitchen.

While this is great for the food budget, it sure has put my meal planning habits out of whack. I’m used to batch cooking a week’s worth of meals. I found out in a short time meals do not disappear like they used to.

Plus, I got into a meal planning rut. I plan for 2 weeks at a time, making a trip to the local Walmart grocery once very 2 weeks because I absolutely hate grocery shopping. Now that I can shop from my Walmart grocery app on my iPhone, that has become more tolerable.

Back to the meal planning rut, I think I may have conquered that.

It all started when I was invited to a Facebook Tastefully Simple party. I had no clue what Tastefully Simple was until then. Now I wished I knew about it sooner.

What got my undivided attention was the meal kits. I just had to try them. I just had to get on board and be all in, so I became an independent consultant.

I got going on the 30-meal kit right away, after informing Farmer and our son who lives here yet that they would have to be my culinary guinea pigs and test these meals out. The photos of the meals included the kit sealed the deal.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine became a partner in this 30-meal kit test project, after discussing it with her husband. Again, the photos of the meals got her on board. In her words, just looking at them was enough to make her want to salivate. She wanted that 30-meal kit ASAP.

So, almost 30-meals later and then some planned out, I believe I’ve got this meal planning rut smoothed out. The same can be said for my friend who just told me that the kit was a success for her too.

I took lots of photos of the meals I made and took notes along the way. Can’t wait to share this with you … another day, another time as it’s late.

Round One: CB & Mangled Baking Sheets

So, I’ve been in battle with this small kitchen from hell for years.  During this holiday season I’ve decided to give it a chance.  It may for all appearances look like the kitchen has won out and worn me down to surrender.  But, really not.

Initially, the kitchen had me thinking that way.  You know – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  But, the farmer’s daughter in me said, “No, not happening.”  I’m not resorting to “small cooking.”  Or, cooking fast junky stuff.

Yes, I could wallow in self-pity and say Farmer can’t afford to provide me with a bigger kitchen with a nice kitchen island and acres of counter space.  If only he didn’t have to rely on those stinking low milk prices for a non-existent income that really has been the case for 5 years, now going on 6 soon.

But, no, not happening.  I’m a doer, not a wallower.  A trait of a farmer’s daughter not easily lost or tossed aside.

While this small kitchen appears to be an innocent lemon, it can actually be a farm animal I know well about – a bull.  Well, being the experienced cattle woman I am, we’ll see about that!

Or so I thought until I tried to make some cookies for Christmas.  I let the culinary bull or CB for short (aka the small kitchen) catch me off guard.  I don’t know if it had to do with the very cheap, low quality baking sheets or my being exhausted after weeks of preparation for Farmer’s total knee replacement surgery and letting CB overwhelm me.

Let’s say the cookies looked great until I tried to get them off the baking sheets.  And, yes, I did grease the sheets well before placing the cookie dough on them.

Rather than let CB trample all over me with his inferiorly shod baking sheet hooves, I got rather aggressive.  Choosing not to cower under the kitchen table, I decided to grab CB by the horns and ride him despite his sorry state.

Farmer was resting in his recliner nearby with his leg propped up post surgery, when he heard quite a clatter.

Needless to say, CB wasn’t very pretty when I got done with him.

After I cleaned up shards of cookie and mangled baking sheets, I decided to let the dust settle between CB and me until I mustered enough ambition to bake another batch of cookies, using parchment paper this time, which turned out rather nice.

So Begins This Journey: Small Kitchen Vs. Farmer’s Daughter

The Kitchen:  Small galley kitchen in central Wisconsin granary converted into a farm house.

The Challenge:  Batch cooking and making meals in a tiny space for starters, as part of a plan outlined below.

The Contender:  Alora Rueth – farmer’s daughter first, now farmer’s wife and drug reimbursement counselor by day, devoted foodie armed with a retirement gig plan by evening and weekends.  Yes, this plan is crazy because retirement is about winding down, but winding down is not in a farmer’s daughter’s vocab.  The driving force behind this plan – determination to make delicious culinary “lemonade” from a small galley “lemon.”  Farmer is 100% behind this craziness (he has nothing to lose being the culinary guinea pig).

Timeline To Get This Gig Going:  Over the course of 2 to 5 years.  So many ideas, so little time, but if there’s a will, there is a way.  As long as there is enough coffee and Advocare Spark Energy.

So begins this journey that will delve deep into what doesn’t and does make a small kitchen tick.  One thing I do know is that it’s harder to adjust to a small kitchen when you’re used to the amenities of a large kitchen.  This I realized after having to move from a kitchen that had a full-sized stove and oven with an open area to cook and bake to what I called a kitchen from hell that has a built-in cook top, built-in small oven and close quarters.

In reality, the kitchen from hell is really a galley-type kitchen that is more tailored for a cook who is very old school without a microwave and just cooking for one person and belongs in an apartment, not a farmhouse.  But, this kitchen was the culinary card I was dealt when I moved in.

Now, after over a decade of dealing with it, I have decided to make peace with that kitchen and use it for what it is.  The last 4 years of dairy farming have been a struggle financially due to a surplus of milk resulting in the farm taking in next to no income.  That means, doing anything major to my small kitchen is not possible financially so I will make do with what there is and make changes that I can afford with the day job income.

The change in attitude recently though had a lot to do with some great products I became aware of.  I didn’t know there were kitchen tools that served more than one purpose and didn’t take up a lot of space.  I didn’t know anything either about how meal kits could make cooking in a small space more tolerable.  That is when I decided to start doing something about that galley kitchen to make it a better place to cook and bake.

I don’t think of myself as a great cook or baker, but I admit that I am sort of a foodie.  I analyze what’s in a dish from time to time the few times I go out to eat after seeing it advertised on television.  I find myself captivated by television shows like Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef and cooking competitions broadcasted on food television channels.

Here’s my small kitchen before I did some changes–rearranging items, cleaning out cupboards and getting rid of items not used or replaced with multipurpose kitchen tools and counter appliances.

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