When I woke up on Wednesday to a cold, rainy morning in Houston, I knew the only thing that was going to get me out of bed and out the door was promising myself I could come home and spend the afternoon doing one of my favorite things: making my house smell good.
I’m such a scent person. I’m a sucker for anything — or anyone! — that smells fantastic. I have my favorite non-foodie smells: new house — new carpet, fresh paint, and wood and the smell of girls getting ready, especially blow drying their hair (I know it’s a strange one, but it just smells so clean). Of course, as one would expect, I also love food smells. To me, that is what makes a house smell like a home!
Here’s how to make it happen at your place.
Step 1. Roast garlic.
Just find some reason to cut the tops off a few heads of garlic, wrap them in foil, and pop them in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Need a reason? Well…
Step 2. Bake bread.
To achieve the first two steps, I went with garlic and parsley hearthbread, using one of my favorite Nigella Lawson recipes. It’s a bit time-consuming, but it’s not hard — and it is so worth it, for the way it makes your house smell alone.
Step 3. Simmer something meaty.
I don’t have a lot of “things my mom made me growing up” comfort foods, but I do have one: beef stew. Coming home from school and getting hit with the smell of it simmering in the crock pot was the most delightful surprise. I loved eating it with fluffy white bread and a glass of chocolate milk.
For something as classic as homemade beef stew, I turned to Joy Of Cooking for the perfect recipe and was not disappointed.
To make: brown one pound of cubed beef sirloin with 1/2 cup of onions in olive oil and transfer to a soup pot. In a separate skillet, cook 1/2 cup dry red wine over high heat, stirring and scraping until it is reduced by half. Pour over the beef and add one 8-ounce can of tomato sauce, one 10.5 ounce can of condensed French onion soup, 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, three cups of mixed veggies (I used carrots, parsnips, and green beans), and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for ten minutes, until the veggies are tender, and then stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley.
Step 4. Bake chocolate chip cookies.
I mean, why not? If we’re going to make the house smell good, we might as well go all out.
I used a chocolate chip cookie recipe I hadn’t tried from Eat, Live, Run. It is the easiest chocolate cookie recipe imaginable — yet somehow, I messed it up! I let the butter get too soft and the oven was a bit too hot, so the cookies didn’t look very good. I was so disappointed…until I tasted one. Even though they looked pretty blah, they were the perfect slightly-chewy, melt-on-your-tongue chocolate chip cookies.
Step 5. Welcome someone.
I don’t mind cooking for one, but I had a feeling this was going to be a meal I’d want added to the “You Should Probably Wife Me” Google doc. I e-mailed Eric and told him he was cordially invited to my feast for the nose and mouth.
The food was delicious. For how easy that beef stew was, it tasted pretty damn legit, and we just tore up chunks of bread and put them right in our bowls. Then we finished off with chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream.
Just thinking about it (and eating the leftovers each day) makes me feel all warm inside!
Besides bread, soup, and cookies, I also love the smell of Eggo waffles in the toaster (another childhood favorite), burgers on the grill, cupcakes, melted butter and brown sugar, bacon sizzling, and sauteing onions and garlic! What are your favorite kitchen scents? I know your comments are going to make my mouth water, but I think it’s worth it.
How do you make your house smell good? Any favorite candles or air fresheners? Right now I am loving Yankee Candle’s lavender and lemon — it’s the perfect blend of comforting and clean. But I’m always looking for new things to sniff, so please share your favorites with the rest of the class!