This week’s feature is from Laryssa Moore, my sister-in-law and recipe maker behind The Simple Plate – a fresh food blog featuring healthy dishes and decadent sweets anyone can (and should!) add to their weeknight recipe list. Laryssa is an amazing cook, and I am so excited to be featuring some tips and tricks from her about cooking for and with your spouse (and family, too!).
I got The Newlywed Cookbook as one of our wedding gifts when we were first married, and it’s one of my favorite wedding gifts because I LOVE to cook with my husband John. We will cook together and for each other, and both really enjoy being in the kitchen trying both regular and new recipes. So when I found out that my brother’s fiance loved to be in the kitchen as well, of course I had to get them the same cookbook! A gal after my own heart, Laryssa takes recipes and turns them into her own modified yummy creations that fit her lifestyle and taste. Even if you wouldn’t call yourself a natural in the kitchen, cooking together is something you should try at least once a week! It will bring you closer in marriage, make you want to try new recipes together, and will challenge your patience with learning a new skill.
Make sure you don’t miss out on Laryssa’s free recipe for French Bread (in a downloadable PDF) at the bottom of this post, too! 🙂
Favorite thing to cook? “I love cooking Mediterranean food, particularly Italian and Middle Eastern. Pizza is on the menu regularly as well as humus and pita bread. And with the herbs from our garden I like to make lots of pesto and put it on everything!”
Are you a coffee or tea person? “Definitely coffee! I take it black and have up to three cups a day. And occasionally I’ll enjoy a simple, unsweetened latte or iced coffee.”
Favorite season? “As someone who doesn’t like the cold, summer is my favorite season for sure. I could live with sunshine, hot weather, flip-flops, and fresh garden produce all year round!”
Thank you Laryssa for being a part of our Real-Girls: Wives community! Finding magic in the midst of motherhood + marriage is something we are all doing, together. Motherhood is not easy for every mama, and goodness knows it takes time to adjust into that new role. Read below for Laryssa’s post on cooking for and with your spouse!
“For most of my childhood, I really enjoyed baking – I was always whipping up cookies and cakes and breads. I loved making things from scratch and found pleasure in serving others delicious, homemade food. Growing up, I had a dream that I wanted to be a wife and a mother who was able to stay at home and cook delicious homemade meals for her husband and family. Though I loved learning all I could from my own mother, who was also a stay at home wife and mother,I really just couldn’t wait to finally be able to have my own house and my own kitchen where I could be free to fill my fridge with fresh and home-grown ingredients and cook recipes that I loved, for my own family and husband one day. I obviously had to wait (prayerfully!) until the Lord brought me to the man He would have me to marry. In the meantime, I wanted to make the most of the time God was giving me in that stage of life. I knew that if my plan was to be a homemaker, then cooking daily meals would be my responsibility some day. So I began to branch out into breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes (which I discovered were more flexible and forgiving than baking).
^Mango, Banana, and Coconut Muesli from The Simple Plate Blog
While we were dating long-distance (and peppering each other with a million questions), I was absolutely thrilled when I found out my now husband, Daniel, was just as passionate about eating healthy and cooking his own food and I was! One of the topics our conversations always came back to was how we were excited about cooking fresh, natural food together when we were finally married. When I think about how cooking has shaped and impacted our relationship, I immediately think of the time when Daniel first told me that knew he wanted to marry me. It was a Sunday morning and Daniel was visiting me from San Diego. He had just woken up and sat down in the kitchen, when I poured a cup of coffee and handed it to him. Whoever said that food is the way to a man’s heart was pretty spot on because right then he told me he thought to himself, “This is the woman I want to marry.” Of course, he was seeing more than just the cup of joe in front of him! He was seeing my heart for serving others in my home, and he knew that’s just what he wanted in a wife. And it’s what I had always envisioned for myself as a wife: being able to connect with my husband through a mutual love of eating and cooking in the kitchen together. It allows us to be present, connect with one another, and have good conversation while enjoying a cup of coffee or a home cooked meal.
Fast forward two years, and you can find us living a quiet, simple, beautiful life in our little house in Central Pennsylvania. And our common passion for great tasting food continues to connect us on a day-to-day basis, and we love living a healthy lifestyle and cooking together with whole ingredients. One of our favorite meals to make from scratch together is pizza. When Daniel comes home from work we pull up our sleeves, crank up some music, heat the oven, and start chopping vegetables and stretching pizza dough. Cooking is such a fun activity to do as a couple. It’s a great way to learn from each other and work as a team!
^Strawberry Arugula Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette from The Simple Plate Blog
After I married Daniel, I had the sudden urge to cook all of our meals every day (which actually was kind of daunting task at first!) – but having that responsibility forced me to be in the kitchen more than ever. Because of that, I was really able to develop and expand my own cooking style and feel confident in the kitchen. Here are a few things that I’d suggest to other wives/moms who are also aspiring to expand their culinary skills:
1. LEARN FROM OTHERS.
This might go without saying but is so important! Glean all the advice, teaching, and know-how of all the learned cooks and chefs out there. Buy fun cookbooks, try new recipes, watch cooking shows, try different dishes at restaurants. Expose yourself to new foods and cuisines will inspire you to broaden your palate. It can be easy to get in a cooking rut with tried and true recipes (even though that list of favorite meals is important).
One of the most influential chefs who helped me to expand my cooking skills was Mark Bittman and his book How to Cook Everything. His recipes are based on fresh, natural ingredients (which I love)! And my favorite part about his book is that he fuels your creativity. At the end of the recipes, there’s a list of different versions of that recipe. So for instance, he gives a basic muffin recipe, and then suggests a plethora of muffins you could create from a base recipe (such as banana-nut muffins, spice muffins, savory muffins, etc.) by using slightly different ingredients or add-ins. So you can come to that base recipe and then go whichever direction you want with it. This concept really helped me to branch out in my cooking and to use those recipes as a launching point to get creative. If you want to teach yourself how to cook, I highly recommend getting this book!
2. USE FRESH INGREDIENTS.
Using fresh, quality ingredients will bring your dishes to a whole new level. For me, cooking is all about finding the best, most fresh ingredients and then transforming them into dishes that make the flavors all come together and shine. When looking for quality ingredients, buy food that is simple and fresh. Steer away from the processed and pre-packaged stuff. Though it may be convenient, it’s far inferior in taste as well as nutrition. If you’ve tasted the difference between fresh bread and store-bought, you know what I’m talking about. The spongy bread you find on store shelves (with an ingredients list a mile long) is nothing like fresh bread made with just the basics: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Incredibly simple ingredients, but amazing taste!
Also, cook with food that is super fresh. If you buy a whole pineapple and chop it up yourself, it’s going to taste far better than a can of pre-cut pineapple, just as a head of lettuce will taste far more fresh and crisp than a pre-packaged bag of lettuce. Now don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place for canned or frozen foods…but in general, when selecting ingredients (particularly produce), try to get your hands on the freshest you can find. One way you can do this is by taking advantage of local farmers’ markets. This is a great way to support local farmers and to embrace the kind of food that is native to where you live.
^No Bake Cocoa Chia Energy Bars from The Simple Plate Blog
Eating seasonally will help ensure that you’re using fresh ingredients too. I LOVE strawberries. And I can find them at the grocery store even when they’re not in season in our area because they’re shipped from another part of the US. But do they taste the same as fresh, summer strawberries picked right from the field down the road? Not at all. So for that reason, I don’t typically buy strawberries in the fall/winter because I know that I’ll be sacrificing taste.
Another way, and in fact, probably the best way you can ensure that you’re using fresh, quality food is by growing it yourself! Daniel and I love having a garden each summer and a beautiful bounty of delicious home-grown vegetables. Produce that you can pick straight from your backyard is as fresh as it gets! Growing your own food, even if that means having a few fresh, indoor herbs, is a wonderful way to be more in tune with the ingredients you cook with.
3. FIND YOUR INSPIRATION.
I would say that my husband Daniel has been the real inspiration behind all of my cooking and blogging. Without him, I wouldn’t have the motivation to keep learning and trying new things, nor would I have the confidence to start a food blog because I’m actually a very shy person. And for us less-confident folks, something like starting a blog does not come easily. But when I told Daniel I was thinking of starting a food blog, he was thrilled! He loved my idea and fed my excitement with encouragement and support. And wherever I’m lacking in self-confidence because of how a recipe turned out, he more than makes up for it by (sometimes excessively) praising my work. When I make something that he loves, he raves endlessly about it and tells me that I’m a wonderful cook. And of course he never tires of thanking me for all that I do in preparing and making meals for our family. He also takes the responsibility of providing for our family financially, so that I can actually stay home and do what I love to do most. And for that I’m incredibly grateful!
4. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.
Just like any other kind of skill, cooking takes time and practice. Take small steps, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes because you’ll just learn from them! When I was about 16, I decided to teach myself how to make bread. Every week, I’d make a new loaf, getting better and better as time went on. I learned from my mistakes and just simply from repetition. Eventually, making bread became second nature to me. So don’t be intimidated if you try something and it doesn’t turn out well. Take notes of what to do differently and try again.
God has blessed me so much. I get to do what I’ve always wanted to do by running my own kitchen, planning and making meals each week for my family, buying and cooking with real, whole food that I love. Most days, the kitchen is where you’ll find me – like all day long! It’s my happy place and where I love to be. But most importantly, I’m living my dream of being a wife, to the most wonderful man I could ever ask for.”
Laryssa | Blogger and Recipe Creator at The Simple Plate
Follow along on social media for simple but decadent recipes, kitchen tips and seasonal cooking inspiration! @laryssamoore on Instagram and Facebook.
DOWNLOADABLE RECIPE FOR: BASIC FRENCH BREAD
Feeling like you could use some fun, new and simple recipes to add to your weeknight meals, but don’t know where to start? Laryssa is giving The Mini Apartment readers one of her favorite homemade recipes, Basic French Bread! Just click the text to save the PDF file – plus, it’s ready to print in a 5×7 format so you can tuck it away into your recipe bin!