Despite my lack of home cooking posts, we have been using our new kitchen, though not for anything fancy. Two months of hotel life means I will never take my kitchen for granted again. Losing my kitchen was the best cure for feeling burnt out with meal preparation.

Even though we were able to move into the house last month, we couldn’t utilize the kitchen. The owners left us with a stinky fridge. And, to make hte matters worse, contractors plugged and unplugged the fridge without leaving the doors open. After four rounds of washing the fridge with soap and water, vinegar wash, and bleach, it stopped stinking and so I could cook.

Comfort foods are what we crave. I’ll experiment with more exotic recipes later, but for now we want the foods that our moms used to make.

Our First Meal In Our New House
The first meal I prepared in our new house was spaghetti with meat sauce. Nothing gourmet, just a doctored up jar of marinara with ground beef served with fancy pasta our friends gave us during my last weekend in North Dakota. I typically pour the jarred sauce over slightly browned onions and some minced garlic. Then, I add a splash of red wine and let it simmer for a while. Nothing ever tasted better.

Then, I made our favorite roasted eggplant pizza with caramelized onions, red bell pepper, and goat cheese. Of course it wasn’t as good as Broders’ but it was best knockoff south of the Iowa border. I prefer this thin crust pizza dough.

I make all kinds of pizzas with whatever vegetables are in my fridge. Two of our other favorite combinations include roasted beets, beet greens, caramelized onions and bacon, and shaved radishes.

Plus, the recipe for lahmacun is fantastic. It’s like a spicy, thin crust meat pizza. I use ground beef instead of lamb.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta
Jake’s most requested meal of all time is roasted vegetable pasta. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest recipes. I dice whatever vegetables I have on hand and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then, I roast them at 400 degrees F. until they are caramelized. Finally, I add them to spaghetti and season with Parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of whatever vinegar I have on hand, salt, black pepper, and hot red pepper.  If the pasta is too dry, I add more olive oil or pasta water. I’ve roasted every vegetable from green beans to kohlrabi. 

Spicy Chili Over Baked Potatoes
Last week I returned home for a birthday celebration with three bags of potatoes grown by a relative who is a potato farmer. Hopefully a batch of lefse will take care of the russets, but that still leaves the waxy Yukon gold and red potatoes.  I made my favorite spicy chili and served it over
baked potatoes (usually I serve chili over rice).

Growing up, my folks always microwaved potatoes. This method is much faster than baking, but you lose the fluffy texture and crisped skin. Baking potatoes is simple. Simply preheat your oven to 350-375 degrees F. Scrub and dry the potatoes. Rub them with olive oil, sprinkle them with course sea salt, and prick with a fork. Place them directly on the oven shelves and bake until fork tender. This will take about an hour.

Whatever you do, don’t wrap them in foil. This will steam the potato and you will not have that crispy, crinkled skin.

I used the leftover baked potatoes by chopping them into bite-sized pieces, crisping them in a pan along with diced onion, and adding them to scrambled eggs.

What are your favorite comfort foods?