By Maria Lichty
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TWO PEAS & THEIR POD celebrates a family, friends, and community-oriented lifestyle that has huge and growing appeal. Maria the genuine, fun, relaxed mom next door who’s got the secret sauce: that special knack for effortlessly creating tantalizing and wholesome (and budget-friendly) meals with ease. From a Loaded Nacho Bar bash for 200 guests to quick-and-easy healthy weeknight dinners like never-fail favorites like One-Skillet Sausage Pasta or Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps (always followed by a fab dessert!), Maria shares her best lifestyle tips and home cook smarts.
An essential resource for parents looking to update their healthy, inexpensive, time-saving, kid friendly meal roster; aspiring home cooks who want to eat-in delicious food more than they eat out; as well as anyone looking to share their love of food and the giving spirit with their neighbors, TWO PEAS & THEIR POD will help readers bring home that (achievable!) slice of Americana, where families come together to enjoy fresh and nutritious meals and there’s always a batch of still-warm cookies waiting on the counter.
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COME ON IN!
From the moment I met (my now-husband) Josh, cooking together was a natural part of our relationship.
While we were dating—after a year of being best friends—instead of going out to eat in restaurants we would stay in to whip up a batch of something like pasta, tacos, or from-scratch pizza. It certainly helped us save what little money we had, but that was almost beside the point. We both just loved to get in the kitchen and dream up new, delicious takes on standby dishes that were simple to shop for and easy to prepare, and yet used whole, fresh ingredients. Not a small challenge! But we were both cut out for it. I grew up watching my dad turn our rural Illinois house into the go-to spot for a tasty meal and even tastier baked desserts. Josh learned to cook out of necessity, feeding his three younger brothers, but then continued feeding just about everyone—roommates, dorm mates, neighbors, everyone. We developed a great dynamic in the kitchen: Josh was the scientific one who loved to figure out the why behind how certain ingredients work together (coming a long way from Frito pie and from-a-can sloppy Joes), while I was usually standing over his shoulder going, “Just make it already!” (I guess you could say I’m more of a creative spirit!) So, you can see how we ended up catering our own wedding, complete with a giant Mediterranean spread of chicken and veggie kebabs with lemon rice, Greek salad, homemade hummus, and fresh pita bread; plus an over-the-top dessert bar with some of my signature confections that coordinated with our black and white theme: classic chocolate chip cookies, chocolate crinkle cookies, chocolate-dipped Oreos, and hazelnut macaroons. Oh, and did I mention this was for 300 people?
Being in the kitchen was our happy place; it’s where we felt the most calm—even when we were feeding hundreds of people. (Which we’ve continued to do and we will give you our secrets for pulling off—but more on that in a bit!) But most importantly, our food was a success, so much so that many of our wedding guests asked for the recipes. At the time, Josh had a Blogspot account (it was just the beginning of the blogging craze!) that he used to keep in touch with family and post updates about things like hiking and skiing trips. So I posted some recipes there, along with pretty terrible photographs of the food (who knew you shouldn’t use the flash?!). Lo and behold, people loved it—and demanded (okay, asked nicely for) more recipes. Since we were already cooking at home all the time, I was able to share new recipes every week. And because friends and family were following along, I could pepper in all kinds of stories that related to why we made the food we did—feeding our community, including our neighbors, our congregation, and our families; feeding friends whenever the mood to entertain struck (which, as you’ll see, is often!), and eventually, feeding our two little boys, Caleb and Maxwell. At one point, we noticed that complete strangers had started checking out the site—and a steadily increasing number of them. At that point, we both worked full-time jobs and had no idea where this blogging business could possibly go. But we were intrigued, so we started going to conferences, meeting other bloggers, and getting tips on how to build a site, fill it with accessible recipes and tantalizing photographs, and most importantly, give it a name. Two Peas & Their Pod was born, and about two years later, we both quit our jobs to make what was once our favorite hobby our very favorite career.
I’ve spent a good amount of time trying to wrap my head around what makes people love our blog so much because, at the end of the day, we’re a couple of folks from Salt Lake City who are usually just trying to get dinner on the table or racing to pack up something to eat on the way to soccer practice. Maybe it’s because there aren’t many husband-and-wife teams who can say that they truly and honestly love to cook together. We really do believe that four hands are better than two! If we’re making pizza, Josh is kneading the dough while I’m simmering the sauce and chopping the toppings. Sometimes one of us will say, “Go ahead, you just relax or get some work done while I make dinner,” but nine times out of ten, we can’t resist jumping in to help out. We’ve also honed a really great dynamic—I’m the vegetarian while Josh is the vegetable-loving meat-eater. Josh is the methodical one who is great with doughs and breads, while I love fresh new flavor combinations and coming up with twists on the classics like Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Soup (here) or Pesto-Havarti Mac and Cheese (here). Josh is great at tackling the grocery shopping (except when he’s bringing home way too much fresh fruit; see Peach Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Topping, here), while I’m the writer of the family (though he’ll be popping his head in throughout the book to offer his two cents!).
Being in the kitchen was (and still is!) our happy place.
But mostly I think what makes our recipes special is that the food is real and fresh, though it doesn’t take hours of prep. It’s not from a box or a can, though it’s not crazy gourmet. You get gourmet-type flavors, though nothing that’s too trendy or out-there or that requires having to buy intimidating or expensive ingredients. These are recipes that every family can make and enjoy, no matter the cooking skill, no matter the budget, and no matter the time restrictions. And there’s always something for everyone to eat, whether it’s a loaded-up veggie dish like Spiced Cauliflower and Chickpea Tacos (here) that will satisfy even the meatiest of eaters (I’ve got the e-mails from our readers to prove it!), or gluten-free or vegan options, if those are your dietary preferences or your guests’.
This isn’t a gimmick for us—this is life. We have two small boys, so there’s no getting away with fussy and complicated. At 5 p.m., these guys want dinner and they want it now, so good and fast are the name of the game. The same goes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks—and everything in between that can be packed up and parceled out. It’s why we’ve developed recipes such as Maple-Roasted Berry Yogurt Parfaits (here), Slow Cooker Meatballs (here), and Enchilada-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (here): so there’s always something to feed our kids, whether we’re sitting around our dining room table, jetting around in the car between after-school activities, or joining friends for an impromptu neighborhood picnic. And it’s not just food to put in their bellies, but also food that will nourish them. All the while, we’re saving money, saving calories, and teaching our boys the importance of getting the family together in the kitchen.
When it came to figuring out what our book would be, I didn’t have to think too hard: It’s real recipes—with real ingredients—that work. If it’s in this book—just as if it’s on our site—you better bet that the recipe is going to turn out… and will most likely become part of your family’s rotation. You’re certainly welcome to keep this book on your shelf or nightstand, but I’d rather it get battered, splattered, coated in flour, and dog-eared within an inch of its life. My other hope is that you’ll start to see cooking as not just something you have to do, but rather something you want to do. We have a saying, both in real life and on our blog: “Our kitchen is always open.” And we mean it. If we happen to make a few too many of Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies (here), Josh’ll be out on the porch yelling, “Hey kids, we’ve got extra treats!” Our neighbors, friends, and family will stop over unannounced because they know that either we have way too much food going on the stove, or we’re only about 30 minutes away from a great meal. And we love that! The kids on the block will come hang out and watch a movie while we make some Baked Chicken Taquitos (here); we’ll throw on a pot of Tomato Basil Soup with our favorite Cheesy Garlic Dunkers (here) while everyone packs in to watch the Golden State Warriors, University of Utah Utes, or the Patriots play; or if Josh’s Steak Tacos with Chimichurri (here) are coming off the grill, we’ll definitely have a few more settings at the table that night. And yes, for Fourth of July last year, we threw a Weekend Waffle Bar (here) breakfast for 200 people! It’s because we’ve always wanted to be that house, the one with the open-door policy where kids and adults feel comfortable to make themselves at home. It’s what I grew up having and what Josh always dreamt of, and we both really wanted that for our kids.
This isn’t a gimmick for us—this is life.
So in addition to our favorite simple and quick recipes, you’ll find entertaining-friendly dishes and tips to capture that kind of giving-and-gathering spirit, from how to set up an Ice Cream Sandwich Party (here), Loaded Nachos Bar (here), or DIY Pasta Party (here), to creating the perfect party cheese board (here). I’ve also included a special section devoted to Cooking It Forward (here), so you’ll always have just the thing for packing up and sending to kids in college or friends and family abroad, contributing to church and school events or neighborhood get-togethers, or bringing to new moms or anyone else in need of a home-cooked meal.
And of course there will be desserts, from Peanut Butter–Fudge Ice Cream Pie (here) to Lemon–Poppy Seed Bundt Cake (here), plus an entire chapter devoted to cookies (my pride and joy—see all 200 of my recipes on the blog as evidence!), because nothing says being neighborly like a batch of freshly baked cookies, and there’s nothing easier than having a batch of dough in the freezer that you can bake off at a moment’s notice.
Ultimately, I want to share all the incredible bounty that we’ve been so blessed with. I can honestly say that so much of our happiness started with great meals, no matter how simple or humble. Cooking good, nourishing food is what brightens our day every morning, brings our family together every evening, and connects us with our friends, family, and neighbors. There might not be time to sit around the table every day, and home cooking might mean defrosting a frozen batch of Chipotle–Sweet Potato Chili (here) or using leftovers for Chicken Pot Pie (here), but we always do our best to spend mealtime together. It’s at the foundation of what brings us joy, and it’s creating traditions that our kids will get to carry with them. I can’t wait to pass this on to our readers and say: Come on in, pick out something tasty to whip up, then roll up your sleeves—your kitchen is always open!
FOR BECOMING A
CONFIDENT HOME COOK
Cooking at home is super easy when you have a few things in place:
Useful kitchen tools
A well-organized kitchen, including a fridge and pantry stocked with versatile staples
Great meal-planning skills
An efficient system for buying groceries
I included this section so that you too can gain the confidence in order to become a great home cook. Imagine a kitchen that’s a comfortable, happy place and full of ingredients that you love. You can have that! It takes a little planning, and it might require you to clean out a drawer or two that are full of past-their-prime condiments, but I promise that the tools in this chapter will help you create a home-cooking culture that your family will be so thankful for. Feel free to refer to this section again and again until you get into a rhythm that feels best for you and your family.
Kitchen Gear and Gadgets
When it came time to make a list of my “essential” kitchen tools, I had a hard time narrowing it down! The truth is, the items below get used in my kitchen almost every week. And because I have a tool for every job, cooking and baking are a whole lot easier. I’m not recommending that you go out and buy every single item on this list. Collect items over time, don’t buy the best and the fanciest, and do the best you can with what you have.
POTS AND PANS
Cake pans (round, rectangular, and square)
Casserole/baking dishes (small, medium, and large)
Skillets (small, medium, and large)
Saucepans (small, medium, and large)
TOOLS AND UTENSILS
Dry measuring cups
Liquid measuring cups
Good knives (chef, paring, serrated—different sizes)
Silpat baking mats
Ice cream scoop
Kitchen Gadgets We Couldn’t Live Without
While it’s helpful to be prepared with a variety of tools you might need, these are the ones we find ourselves reaching for every day.
Food processor: For chopping, pureeing, and mixing. I especially like using ours for making galette dough (here) and pesto (here).
Sharp knife: Every kitchen should have a good, sharp chef’s knife.
Immersion blender: Pretty much the best thing ever for pureeing sauces and soups right in the pot.
Tongs: You gotta have a good pair of tongs for cooking, flipping, tossing, and chasing kids around the kitchen. Our boys call our tongs alligators, so we make a game to see who can escape getting chomped!
Stand mixer: My stand mixer is my BFF in the kitchen. (Please don’t tell Josh—he might get jealous!) I love all of the different attachments—the paddle for creaming and mixing, the whisk for whipping egg whites and cream, and the dough hook for kneading bread and pizza doughs. I also love using a different color mixer for every season, but that’s another story!
Microplane: Great for zesting lemons and limes, grating garlic, and shredding Parmesan cheese over pizza, pasta, soups, salads—just about anything.
Spatulas: I have a colorful collection of spatulas—you can never have too many! They’re the secret weapon for clean, precise baking and essential for scooping the last drop out of cans and jars. And who doesn’t like to lick it after making brownies, cookies, and cakes?
Blender: For making smoothies with the boys. I love being able to hide things like spinach, kale, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and nut butters in their breakfast. They think they are drinking milkshakes, so it’s a win-win!
Organizing Your Ingredients
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: The key to becoming a great home cook isn’t all about the actual cooking. A lot of it has to do with being organized. I’ve found that by keeping my kitchen orderly—including my pantry, fridge, and freezer—I have an easier time planning meals, coming up with last-minute meal and snack solutions, and cooking. That’s because it’s easy to see exactly which ingredients I have on hand, and I always know where to find them. (And if you don’t have a pantry, all of these suggestions work for a kitchen cart!)
Here are some tips for keeping your kitchen in good order, no matter how much or how little space you have.
Divide your pantry items into categories. For example, Canned Goods, Baking Items, Grains, Kids’ Snacks. Use what you already have in there as your guide, and then group like items together.
Use baskets, bins, and containers. Organizational tools like baskets and bins will help you keep the items from each category grouped together, while glass or plastic containers make it easy to see items you use frequently, such as flour, cereal, grains, or nuts (and look so much nicer than plastic bags or boxes!). Clearly label each basket and container. While you primarily want these items to be functional, if you choose coordinating bins, it also happens to look really nice!
First in, first out. Arrange things in each bin so that older items are on top/in front.
Make it kid-friendly, or not. If you want your kids to be able to help themselves to cereal in the morning or snacks in the afternoon, make sure those items are on a lower shelf where they can be reached. On the flip side, if there are treats that you don’t want the kids getting into, make sure they’re on a higher shelf.
Only buy what you need and have room for. It can be really tempting to stock up on items that are on sale, but if you see that your assigned bin for soup ingredients is full, maybe hold off until you’ve put a dent in what you have. If you don’t have room for an item or won’t be able to use it before it expires, pass.
Use what you have before going to the store. Challenge yourself to use what you have in the pantry to make meals and snacks—turn it into a game! And definitely use my un-recipes here to here for inspiration. It will save you time and money.
I keep my spices in a drawer, laid flat, in alphabetical order so I can easily find them. If you don’t have a drawer large enough for this, you could store spices in a cabinet on risers or a turntable. There are tons of great organizational products out there, and I highly recommend using one.
Another thing to keep in mind is that spices do actually expire! Here’s an easy reference guide for how long you should keep spices before tossing:
Seasoning blends: 1 to 2 years
Dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley): 1 to 3 years
Ground spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric): 2 to 3 years
Seeds: 4 years (except for poppy and sesame seeds, which should be discarded after 2 years)
Whole spices (cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks): 4 years
Extracts: 4 years (except for vanilla, which will last forever)
Keeping your kitchen stocked with multi-purpose, mix-and-match-friendly ingredients is essential for making meal prep convenient, easy, and, most importantly, tasty! You’ll be much more likely to reach for that new recipe if you know that most of the ingredients are already in your home, and that ultimately saves you time and money. It also makes on-the-fly meals and snacks so much easier to whip up when you’re short on time.
Grains and Breads
Bread: Keep your favorite on hand for avocado toast or a quick sandwich. (And remember that bread freezes really well!)
Tortillas: We like to have both flour and corn tortillas for tacos, wraps, homemade chips, and nachos.
Dried pasta (whole-wheat and regular)
Rice and grains: Keep a stash of your favorite short- or long-grain rice plus other options like quinoa, couscous, and farro.
Packaged Goods, Canned Goods, and Condiments
Roasted red peppers: Perfect to toss into salads and pastas.
Canned tomatoes (diced, crushed, whole, and fire-roasted): Great for slow cooker meals, soups, and sauces.
Tomato paste: For great depth of flavor in stews and sauces. Try to find one that comes in a tube so you can save what you don’t use.
Chicken and/or veggie broth or stock
Mayonnaise: For sandwiches, salads, dips, and dressings.
Ketchup: For the dippers!
Mustards (yellow, Dijon, and whole-grain): For sandwiches or to add to sauces, vinaigrettes, and marinades.
Soy sauce (or tamari soy sauce if you want a gluten-free option)
Coconut milk: A great nondairy option for adding instant creaminess.
- "Maria is one of my favorite longtime food friends, and I already thought she hung the moon. But this cookbook has completely knocked it out of the park and given me a whole new collection of delicious recipes to dive into! Maria's signature flavors, textures, and gorgeous colors are all over the food in these pages, but the best thing about her recipes is that they are user-friendly and they absolutely work. This cookbook will become a go-to bible for home cooks everywhere!"—Ree Drummond, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks
- "Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook is going to be a new staple on my bookshelf! It's gorgeous and filled with everyday recipes for the whole family."—Gina Homolka, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of Skinnytaste
"Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook is chock-full of unfussy recipes for every occasion: easy family dinners, casual weeknight entertaining, game day . . . the works. Plus, Maria's 1000% my leading resource for all things cookies: she knows what's up!"
—Gaby Dalkin, author and creator of What's Gaby Cooking
- "Maria's style is smart and practical, her food nourishing and easy to make. Whether it's breakfast for kids or dinner for friends, Maria's recipes and her good advice-make sure to read her tips and notes-will see you through, even if you're a beginner in the kitchen. This book is bound to keep the peas in your pod happy and well fed."—Dorie Greenspan, award-winning author of Dorie's Cookies and Everyday Dorie
- "I've been waiting for a Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook for years! Maria's recipes are so approachable and simple, while being perfectly delicious and family-friendly. This book is my new must-have guide in the kitchen!"—Jessica Merchant, author and founder of How Sweet Eats
- On Sale
- Sep 3, 2019
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Grand Central Publishing