Friday, June 15, 2012

It's the little things...

I commented to Chris the other night that I haven't been enjoying cooking as much lately. I haven't had the urge to spend the whole day in our kitchen trying new recipes or attempting to recreate something we ate somewhere. He started to get worried that the novelty of living in a foreign country was wearing off on me. I assured him it wasn't. But as I thought about it more, I realized that because our lives have been a little busier lately our meal experience has changed. We were eating the same stuff as usual but often separately due to him working late or me having plans. To me, this changed the whole way I perceived "enjoying" a meal. The Italians got it right in that sense- you won't often see them eating alone, or in 20 minutes or less like we do. This new insight rang true last night as Chris and I sat down to eat Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, which I have been wanting to recreate after our trip to Sorrento last month. Our evening plans fell through, so instead of rushing through it (like we had intended to) we opened a bottle of wine, set the table, and lingered over our meal. It was so much fun to recount the day we spent in Sorrento, recalling what we did and what we ate. We kind of experienced it all over again!
Impromptu date night!

Chai Latte ala Emily at the beach house

We started talking about other examples of meals we really enjoyed. Often, we couldn't even recall exactly what we ate, but what we did remember was who we were with and the sentiment attached to the occasion. For example, I love drinking tea in the afternoon.  Chai tea, to be exact, with milk and honey, like my old roommate Emily taught me. When I went to Florida to visit in April, we made it a point to do this together. And you know what? That was the best-tasting chai latte I've had in months. It's the little things.

The whole crew sharing a meal in Capri

Also recently, my parents and their friends came to Italy. One of my best friends and her husband happened to be in town the same weekend and we got to share a meal all together. 8 people sitting around the table eating a 3 hour Italian meal. Sharing meals with family and friends has become one of my favorite things. I have always loved them, but being so far apart has caused me to treasure them even more- especially when we only get to do it a few times a year!

Last example, Chris and I have a favorite meal that I make once every other month or so. It's a Muñoz family fave- NOT because of it's extravagance (which it is not at all), but because of the sentiment. It was the first meal we made together in our home as a married couple. At the time I was only trying to rid his bachelor-pad-pantry of high sodium canned goods. But it turned out delicious and was so easy that it has made it into the regular rotation of dinner meals. And every time I make it- I say "do you know why this meal is special?" And Chris gets the frantic look that says "I should know why this meal is special but I don't, so please let her tell me before I have to make up an answer!"  (Which is part of the reason I ask in the first place- ha!). But we get to share a little moment of "aww, the first dinner!" And then we move on with a little piece of happy remembrance on our minds. Thank God I married a sentimental guy!

Muñoz Family Fave- Stewed Chicken & Tomatoes Over Rice (with artichokes)
Serves 4

  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  •  12oz skinless chicken breast or thighs, sliced into strips or chunks of equal size
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4c olive oil
  • 1can green beans OR 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Cook rice according to package directions
2. Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and cook until softened (2-3 mins).
3. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken and garlic to pan and cook until chicken appears cooked on the outside.
4. Add stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 mins, or until chicken is cooked through.
5. Add canned green beans or artichokes and cook 1-2 more minutes until heated through.
6. Serve chicken mixture over rice and top with Parmesan cheese.

Making this meal for the first time in 2011!

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