Life In My Kitchen

Spaghetti Dinner at the Cains

One of my favorite pictures! Spaghetti and Roast Chicken at the Cains.

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”
Julia Child

They say the heart of the home is the kitchen and I cannot help but agree. It is at my house for sure. We do everything in our kitchen and over the years, we have the best memories that one could ever hope for.

First I have to tell you that Jim’s mom graciously sold us her house when she remarried. That was thirty years ago this week. What a blessing. I doubt we would have been able to afford much at the time and my mother in law made it happen. Thanks Mom. 🙂

From the birth of our son John (Michelene was already born by this time) to the acquisition of cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, cockatiels, you name it, our kitchen has witnessed the evolution of our family. But besides pets and friends, what is really noteworthy is the volume of food that has been consumed over the years from our kitchen table.

Hundreds of pounds of Greek food- spanakopita, baklava, fish plaki, roast lamb- have graced the table. Tons of pasta, interesting soups, Thanksgiving turkeys, Jim’s famous flank steak, amazing chicken egg omelets, bacon, mounds of salads with Michelene’s heirloom tomatoes have all been a part of our food landscape.

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

If the walls could talk they would tell the tale of the recipes, good and not so good, and certainly the triumph of success with feeding the entire Cain family on Christmas Eve. Everyone pitches in and the noise, bedlam, fun, and gaiety is simply exquisite. This Christmas there was spiral ham, potato salad, amazing cheeses, little hotdogs in crescent rolls, shrimp cocktail, potatoes, green beans, cranberry orange relish, and my son’s smoked brisket. Oh my.

Jim and his siblings hamming it up! From Left, Chuck, Tom, Katie, and Jim.

Jim and his siblings hamming it up! From Left, Chuck, Tom, Katie, and Jim.

At other times, our kitchen table is the forum for discussions, problem solving, joke sharing, and hilarity over steaming plates of fish plaki and mashed potatoes. Afterwards, during cups of coffee and whatever sweets are in the house- usually something chocolate!- we finish the conversations and clean up the dishes.

I don’t have a fancy kitchen but it is well worn, tried, and true. It has everything I need including a gas oven and two refrigerators- one of which is at least twenty years old and one fairly brand new. It was my intention to take the old fridge downstairs and use it as a backup, but that has never happened. It doesn’t matter now. It’s so darn convenient to have two fridges during holiday entertaining and summer garden harvests. I really like having them both.

About seven or eight years ago, we decided to expand the kitchen and add on a real dining room. Our cousin Clint broke through the wall (a momentous occasion) and added on a spacious extra room. I have a large wooden table with two inserts that I absolutely love and we made the addition big enough to accommodate the table when both leaves are in it. Now we have a small kitchen table and the larger dining room table, perfect for when we have all those family gatherings.

My sister Cally and her husband Raymond in the new dining wing

My sister Cally and her husband Raymond in the new dining wing

My grandson is at our house every day after school and his mother (my daughter Michelene) comes about an hour later after work. It is not unusual for us to eat dinner together four nights a week; true sit down dinners with plates, silverware, warm meals, and dinner conversation. When I tell people this they almost always say “wow” but to us it feels entirely normal.

I’m going to share my fish plaki (meaning braised or baked fish with vegetables) recipe as this is one of our evening favorites. It’s very simple and when served with mashed potatoes or rice, it’s a definite winner. Believe it or not, I made this last night to test the recipe and I forgot to take a picture!! I promise you’ll love it.

Joanne’s Fish Plaki

4-6 Tilapia Loins (thawed & patted dry), or other meaty white fish

1 large sweet onion

4-5 Carrots

16 oz diced tomatoes, (canned, organic, whatever you have in your cupboard)

6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

6 tablespoons of butter

Salt and Pepper

1 Lemon

Hot Mashed potatoes or cooked rice to serve on the side

Peel and slice carrots into small medallions. Microwave 3-4 minutes covered or steam in a double boiler until just barely tender. Set aside.

Cut the sweet onion into medium slivers and lightly saute in a large skillet in 4 TBS of the olive oil and 3 TBS of butter over medium heat. Lightly salt and pepper them. Cook until barely soft but do not brown. Turn heat down to medium/low.

Spread the sauteed onions out flat and lay the tilapia loins on top of the onions. Lay small slices of the remaining butter on each of the tilapia loins (more or less to taste!). Salt and pepper the loins and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Pour the diced tomatoes over the tilapia, coating them as much as possible.

Cover the pan and simmer on medium to low for approximately 20 minutes. If you need to, flip the loins mid way through the cooking time to evenly cook them. When they are almost done, add the carrots on top of the whole tomatoes. Salt and pepper everything, cover and simmer for another five minutes.

Check your fish loins at this time by breaking one of them in the center. Cook more or less to taste. (I don’t like my tilapia over done)

To serve: Present fish with mashed potatoes or rice and spoon the tomatoes and carrots over top of everything. Splash alittle lemon juice over all or serve a lemon slice with the plate.

*Notes: This is a pretty healthy recipe. (well, minus the butter!) If you want more flavorful fish, lightly brown the loins in butter and/or olive oil before placing them atop of the onions (then adjust your cooking time as well). You can also add cooked green beans or peas at the end, really any kind of vegetable that would go well with the tomatoes.

Happy Eating!

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26 thoughts on “Life In My Kitchen

  1. Cathy McElhaney

    I love your kitchen! It has always been a welcoming place. Jeremy ate plenty of meals there when he was young and I will never forget the day Jim called to explain what they had for dinner. Ha! Roadkill! (which is on my menu for tonight!)Chicken and gravy over rice!
    If you’ve never been in Joanne’s kitchen, it’s one of those places you just feel at home from the first time you walk in the door. A comforting place.
    Although I don’t like fish (none at all), the recipe sounds good and I am thinking I could use chicken instead! Chicken Plaki!Happy New Year Joanne!

    Reply
    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      Make chicken plaki! I have had it and it is very good. Thank you for your memories and kindness about my kitchen. I want it to always be a homey place where everyone feels welcome. xoxo

      Reply
  2. JOANNE COTTAGE

    WHAT A GREAT WAY STARTING OUT THE MORNING, BY READING YOUR BLOG. BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES OF FAMILY GET TOGETHERS ON HOLIDAYS AND EVERY DAY VISITS TO OUR PARENTS HOME. WE ALWAYS HAD COMPANY AND OUR MEMORIES ARE BLESSINGS. IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE CALLY AND RAY. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK JOANNE. GOD BLESS .

    Reply
  3. Cindy

    Morning Joanne, I was in your kitchen once and I felt so comfortable and at home! You are such a welcoming person and your kitchen certainly reflects it. I imagine your grandson enjoys your kitchen after school.(how nice for both of you that he is there) The first things my grandkids( & kids) usually do when they walk in our house is go to the kitchen and open the fridge! I love the picture in your kitchen…looks so comfortable and relaxing & the roast chicken and pasta looks delicious. That’s a favorite at our house!

    Reply
    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      My grandson goes straight to the fridge too! He always wants an after school snack and looks forward to that. Glad you felt comfortable in my kitchen. That makes me smile. xoxo Joanne

      Reply
  4. Cathy

    You are blessed with such a large family on both sides and I know how much joy they bring you! Love the recipe. I will try it when Harmony, David and Hadley come for a visit.

    Reply
  5. Julie (aka Cookie)

    Love it Joanne—I’ve done several posts using those very immortal words of Julia’s —my kitchen is also my heart and my happy place—-happy cooking my friend—hugs from the south–Julie

    Reply
    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      Happy New Year Julie! I love those words of Julia Child. She must have had such a sense of humor. Thank you so much for stopping by today. xo Joanne

      Reply
  6. Michele

    Joanne the recipe sounds delicious! Will definitely try it. Also great pictures of your family! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  7. Marylin Warner

    Oh-oh, I copied down your recipe, Joanne. It looks so good, and Sunday evening–if the weather cooperates–we’re having friends over for dinner, and they love fish dishes! So I’m set. 😉
    The pictures are warm and joyously happy family reminders of what my mom always reminded me: the kitchen is definitely the heart of the house! (But my favorite picture also includes the dogs.) 🙂

    Reply
    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      Hi Marylin! I hope you love the recipe. It will have little pools of butter around the skillet and your friends will love it. Let me know how it turns out. The big black dog in my picture is my daughter’s great Dane Molly. The blur of yellow gold is my lab Jordan. That is one of my favorite pictures of us in our kitchen. xo

      Reply
  8. Marianne

    Seriously, you are a full rounded woman, Joanne! So many interesting aspects to you. Creative women are fascinating women, and you certain fall into that category. Thank you for letting us visit in you kitchen, just like one of the family. Much love to you, dear friend, and…

    Blessings for many more years of kitchen gatherings,

    Marianne xoxo

    Reply
    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      I wish you lived closer so you could come and visit. I have several blogger friends I’d love to have come sit around my kitchen table for sweets and coffee. You are one of them. Blessings, Joanne

      Reply

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