Friday Favorites ~ Thanksgiving Edition

Friday Favorites ~ Thanksgiving Edition

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
A favorite Thanksgiving memory from two years ago. The firecracker wore her swimsuit inside out and backwards the entire day. 

My little kitchen has been a flurry today whipping sweet potatoes, chopping pecans, and making Matt’s grandmother’s broccoli cheese casserole. I took a moment in all the cooking frenzy to write that recipe in Lydia’s box earlier today. Matt’s late grandmother Kitty made it for me the first Thanksgiving I went to her house. Matt and I had only been dating a couple months, and I was nervous about the first holiday with his family. I really wanted his grandmother (and grandfather) to like me because I really liked their grandson. ūüėČ So when she passed me a dish and said it was broccoli casserole, I put a big spoonful on my plate even though I was very doubtful about how this would go down. But like everything Kitty made, it was delicious. I ate three servings that first Thanksgiving, and she loved to make it anytime she knew I was coming. We miss her so much, but I love making her recipes and telling my girls stories about her.

In case you have some reading time over this holiday, may I suggest…

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp: I read this the week of the election, and it was the perfect quiet place for my brain and my heart that week.

A story about one of my most favorite homes ever. Mrs. Becky is the mom to one of my most favorite people, and her home is just about the coziest spot imaginable. (Jess and I call it the Hagood Bed & Breakfast.) I loved reading how she made this home their own. In a culture that says everything needs to be Pinterest-perfect in microwave speed, Mrs. Becky whispers a different story–a home that grows and changes as the people within it live out their God-given story.

There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene: I bought this one because it was (and still is) $1.99 for the Kindle version and I saw that it was about Ethiopia. It was an eye-opening and emotional¬†read for me. The book weaves together the author’s personal story of international adoption with the AIDS crisis that contributed greatly¬†to Africa’s orphan crisis.

Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg: Feinberg invites us to “awaken to the nearness of God” which on the cusp of Advent seems perfectly fitting. I loved this one, and the Kindle edition is $3.

And if you’d rather watch something…

Make sure you have Kleenex before you watch this video about a Sudanese man being reunited with his family. Amazing.

The Crown on Netflix: Matt and I are a few episodes in, and we love it. All about the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, it’s fascinating stuff and I really like the actor who plays the queen. Perfect for turkey coma time.

And with that the girls are in bed (not asleep, but in bed), the food is all prepped for tomrorow, and Matt and I are going to watch more of The Crown. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

And if Thanksgiving finds you brokenhearted or missing someone, that’s okay. I texted a friend earlier saying we can be both grateful and brokenhearted. Or grateful and sad. Or grateful and longing. Or grateful and waiting. Our God sees us. He knows what our hearts are feeling. Holidays don’t have to be all “happy” or all “merry.” Our God made us with wonderfully emotional souls, and I bet if we were honest each of us is a mix of emotions with every holiday we celebrate. One of the things I’m most grateful for are friends who are a safe place where I can share my real emotions even if they don’t match the sugar-coated expectations of a certain day on the calendar. Maybe we could each be that for someone else this week. A safe spot for another broken soul.

 

Advertisements
Friday Favorites- Cookbook Edition

Friday Favorites- Cookbook Edition

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetI read cookbooks like novels–cover to cover, on the couch, with my fuzzy blanket. I feel like Ina Garten taught me how to cook, well Ina and my parents. Mom taught me the value of dinner around the table every night. Dad taught me that recipes¬†are a guide, something to be tinkered with, not steadfast rules. And Ina taught me the whys–why vegetables taste so yummy when roasted, why good ingredients matter, and why certain flavors go so well together.

Every Thursday when I’m planning meals for the upcoming week, these are the cookbooks I usually¬†go to. They are my favorites–stained, watermarked, with flour tucked in between pages.

Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?: Favorite recipes from this one include roasted shrimp with feta, pank0-crusted salmon, and spicy turkey meatballs and spaghetti.

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Favorites from this one include roasted potato leek soup, white pizzas (this is the pizza dough I use for every pizza I make), and oven-roasted vegetables.

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist: I think I’ve cooked just about everything in this one. The blueberry crisp is a staple for Sabbath meal. The risotto, turkey burgers, pork tenderloin, Gaia cookies, sweet potato fries, and white chicken chili make regular appearances on our table. The steak au poivre is a perfect date night meal!

Savor by Shauna Niequist: Shauna does my favorite type of recipe–simple with good ingredients. My favorites from this book include blueberry yogurt morning cake, lemon dill soup, fregolotta, Sara’s lasagna, wild rice salad, grilled peach & caramel sundaes, and Emily’s poppy seed cake. (I just listed half the recipes!)

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl: This one is newer to me, but so far we’ve loved the french toast, the Cake that Cures Everything, and the Sriracha shrimp with coconut rice.

Except for Savor, all of those books will also teach you cooking techniques–how to cook eggs low and slow, how to braise meat, how to season your food. I have a lot of friends who are intimidated when they step into the kitchen.¬†But you have to treat cooking like you do other things. It can’t be about perfection. It has to be about the journey, about the learning, about trying new things. Sometimes, you will create something genius. And other times you will throw it in the trash and cook Annie’s mac & cheese and feed it to your family with apple slices and call it dinner. And both of those are perfectly fine. Over time, you will gain confidence to move out of your comfort zone.¬†You might even find the rhythm of dicing and the sound of sizzling oil in a pan relaxing. And there’s always something fulfilling about putting something on the table to nourish those you love, something you made with your own two hands. Maybe it’s fancy or maybe it’s grilled cheese, but it’s the table, the food, the laughter, and the people surrounding it that make it something special.

 

Soup Weather

Soup Weather

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetSo, apparently it has cooled off outside. I think the saying “bun in the oven” must have come about because you always feel like you’re living on the inside of a toasty oven¬†even when the weather app on your phone says differently. Matt looked at the weather forecast a couple days ago and saw where the low is 34 degrees Saturday night. He then remarked that we were going to have to turn on the heat for the first time this fall. To which I shot him the look¬†and he realized this was treacherous water he was heading into. Yes, I realize this means three people will be playing freeze out for the one hot, puffy, swollen person, but they can add layers. I can’t take anymore off. One, because it ain’t pretty and nobody wants to see that. Two, because it’s a struggle to get clothes on and off these days. So, they will wear parkas to bed, and I will sleep with my feet out from under the sheet.

But I will cook them yummy soup. That’s something, right? In the cooler months, we eat soup almost every day. My Le Creuset is my favorite thing in the kitchen this time of year, and I love knowing something yummy is bubbling under that bright red top.

A few of my favorite soups…

Ina Garten’s Roasted Potato & Leek Soup– If you’ve never cooked with leeks, you have to try them. They are in the onion family and add so much flavor. Also, the arugula is a must. It adds a peppery bite. And you will blend everything together so it’s smooth and creamy, so the kids won’t even know it’s in there. I always substitute buttermilk for the heavy cream and sour cream for the creme fraiche. This is Lydia’s all-time favorite soup, and I always think of Heather when I cook this one.¬†Slice up some rosemary olive oil bread, put a slice of Brie on each piece of bread, and toast in the oven until the Brie gets all melty. Serve it with the soup. Delicious!

Ina Garten’s Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup– I learned the secret to roasting vegetables from hours spent watching The Barefoot Contessa on Food Network in college. (I’m quite the party girl, huh?!) This roasted tomato soup will make it next to impossible to ever eat the Campbell’s processed stuff again. We like it with ooey, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches.

Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili– Someone was going for alliteration when she made that title, but this one is great and so easy. We especially love it for game day, and I always serve it over rice, usually with cilantro and lime. You can make your own Ranch seasoning and taco seasoning if you like to avoid preservatives. (Or buy them from Penzey’s which I just discovered and now love, love, love.)

Roasted Ham and Cheddar Soup– This is a new one for us, but I made it a few weeks ago, and it was a big hit. I add a ton more potatoes (like three pounds worth) and a couple extra carrots and celery, and I didn’t mess with the pretzel bowls. These are fun to serve with those little ham and cheese poppy seed sandwiches or just a loaf of bread for dunking. Who doesn’t like dunking bread?? (Update: I forgot to mention two things. First, since I add so many more potatoes I roast the veggies for the better part of an hour. Also, I use my immersion blender to make everything smooth before I add the cheese.)

I’m also going to confess that Matt and I have been making oven s’mores every single night while we watch Cutthroat Kitchen with Alton Brown on Netflix. Apparently, I’m adding on an extra layer for hibernation this winter. But I tell myself it’s because we like chubby babies.

Happy cooler weather! May your little goblins be full of treats and not tricks this weekend!

Friendship, Chicken Pot Pie & Inevitable Messes

Friendship, Chicken Pot Pie & Inevitable Messes

photo (63)So this happened yesterday. That’s a freshly baked chicken pot pie that had an unfortunate meeting with the floor. It turns out disposable pie pans are not very sturdy. I cried. The girls both grabbed forks. After my tears subsided, I laughed at the fact that my girls aren’t too proud to eat chicken pot pie off the floor. Of course they aren’t. They eat chicken off the floor at Chick-fil-A all the time. (Disgusting, I know. I try to stop them, but they’re fast I tell you.) The worst part was the chicken pot pie wasn’t even for us. It was for a family I only knew through mutual friends. I texted a pic of the disaster to the momma I would soon meet and told her I was working on a Plan B.

We ended up taking their family the chicken and rice soup I had made for us to eat. When we piled out of the van at their house, I went up to the door with my humble dinner offering and a slightly embarrassed heart. We walked through the front door, and I saw a Lindsay Letters canvas¬†with a quote from Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine¬†hanging on the wall, and I knew this was a divine meeting orchestrated¬†by God despite any pot pie fiascoes. I think Shauna said it perfectly, “This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter…” Within minutes, my heart had attached to this fellow momma, our journeys both having so much in common. She introduced me to her four daughters, one of whom they adopted from China a year ago. We laughed and even teared up a couple times. We shared adoption stories and homeschooling stories and several only-God stories.

After I left her house, I got in the car and saw a text from Liz telling me to bring the girls over since we were already in her neighborhood. So, we stopped by intending to only stay a minute. One of my kids wasn’t even wearing shoes, and Liz was in the middle of folding laundry. But the kids ran around like banshees, giddy to be with their best friends. And pretty soon Liz and I were throwing biscuits in the oven and pushing eggs and sausage around on the stove. Friendship is a messy, beautiful gift.

Chicken Pot Pie

from Matt’s sweet step-mom Jan

  • 1 chicken boiled and shredded or 4 chicken breasts boiled and shredded (Or use the meat from one rotisserie chicken to save time!)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (you can find an organic version on the natural food aisle if you’re interested!)
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 can of peas and carrots, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (use a little more if you use the organic version of cream of chicken soup because it isn’t as salty)
  • Good dash of pepper
  • 2 pie crusts (store-bought or homemade, whichever you prefer!)

Saute the onion in the stick of butter. Mix shredded and cooked chicken, onion, cream of chicken soup, peas and carrots, sour cream, salt, and pepper together. Line a pie plate with one of the crusts and lightly brown crust in the oven. Pour chicken mixture into lightly browned crust. Top with the other crust and seal the edges. Make slits in the top crust to let the steam escape. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the top crust is lightly browned. Then, allow it to rest for 30-45 minutes so the inside has time to set.

I’m going to have to recommend you NOT use a disposable pie pan. But if your pot pie should end up on the floor, grab a fork and remember Shauna’s advice, “Tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six…throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter…” And maybe a few residual tears.

 

A New Table & Recipe

A New Table & Recipe

tableWe have a new addition to our home. Not a wee one yet, although only eleven weeks to go! Sunday, my parents brought us the dining room table and chairs from my grandparents’ farm. As Daddy and Matt were putting the chairs around the table, one of them placed¬†the chair¬†with arms at the head of the table. And I could so clearly see my Papaw sitting in that chair, spreading sorghum molasses on his biscuits with Folgers coffee in the cup next to him. I could see those strong, tanned hands from many years spent herding cows¬†reach out across the table to grab the hands of those near him to say grace. When the light hits it just right, you can see little dimples in the wood. I imagine my mom sitting at the same table as a little girl. ¬†Much of our life happens around the table. This isn’t just a piece of wood.¬†It is the place where Matt tells me about his day. It’s where Lydia is learning to read. It’s where Charlotte has already figured out how to scale new heights–literally. It’s where, Lord willing, this sweet baby kicking and squirming while I write¬†will take his or her first bites, and it’s where our Ethiopian child will learn what family means.

Monday morning, with Charlotte wearing an ensemble of swimsuits and plastic princess heels and with Lydia still in her pajamas, we sat around with my parents and christened the table in its new home with pumpkin chocolate chip bread, scrambled eggs, and bacon. This morning while I did my priority time, I ran my fingers along the grain thinking of the million memories varnished in its sheen and of the million more I hope to make. We will continue to gather around that table, light a candle, and share this crazy, wonderful, hard life together.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

recipe from my sis-in-law many years ago

Ingredients

  • 1-15 oz can pumpkin
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips (to taste)

Mix wet ingredients in mixer. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add to mixer. Grease loaf pans well. (Note: this recipe makes three large loaves or one large loaf and four mini loaves.) Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

All you need to know is this tastes like fall to me. And, also, if your local Memphis Kroger is sold out of pumpkin… it wasn’t me. (Except it was. And I’m sorry. But not really.)

 

Recipe for Game Day

Recipe for Game Day

IMG_1669For some, cooking is a means to an end. For others, cooking¬†is therapy. I fall into the latter category. But no matter which group you happen to land in, I firmly believe everyone should be able to take basic ingredients and make some simple meals to feed themselves and those they love. I’ve been toying with this idea of doing Saturday cooking workshops to help ladies take away the fear factor¬†from cooking. I grew up learning to cook from my parents, and my dad especially believed the kitchen was the perfect place to experiment. He rarely measured, and a recipe was a launch pad, a starting point from which he could add a little bit of this and a pinch of that. From all those times in the kitchen, I learned that the worst that can happen when you have fun in the kitchen is the occasional last minute run to the pizza store. But most of the time you come out with something super¬†delicious.

We’ll see if anything comes of the Saturday workshops, but in the meantime I thought I’d start sharing a recipe every week on the blog. I’ve shared a few recipes here and there, and you’ve given me good feedback. (Of course, my bestie was cursing my name last week when cooking her eggs low and slow was making her very hungry two-year-old have a meltdown. You’ll thank her one day, Charlie, when you know how to make the world’s best scrambled eggs.)

My goal is to give you recipes that are yummy, easy, and most of the time nutritious.¬†We don’t follow any certain diets, but we do eat clean most of the time, so most of the recipes will be made with clean ingredients. We also use mainly organic, non-GMO ingredients, so you’ll see me reference those. Every once in a while, usually on the weekends, we splurge and have something not so clean, so I’ll share some of those too.

Make the recipes your own. If there’s a spice you don’t like, try similar spices you do and see what you think. Change up the type of meat. Use a different sauce. Like I shared earlier, don’t be afraid to try something new. Occasionally, dinner will be a disaster, and then you’ll slap together some PB&Js or pick up a pizza. But almost every time, you will smile at the end of the meal knowing you’ve created something special, something that feeds your family’s bellies and hearts.

After all that talk about clean eating, I wanted to give you a delicious and clean meal, but college football season starts Thursday, so I’m going with a favorite recipe of my man’s–Buffalo chicken dip. It’s all the flavor of Buffalo wings without the need for massive amounts of napkins.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

originally from fabhousewife.com

  • 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 12 oz bottle Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 8 oz container cream cheese
  • 1 cup Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 cup Ranch dressing or Blue Cheese dressing
  • 1 bag tortilla chips or veggies for dipping

What to do:

  1. Boil chicken. My favorite way to do this is to put the chicken (mine is usually frozen because I buy my organic meat in bulk once a month and freeze it) in the Crockpot with a couple cups of water. Turn on high for 3 or so hours or low for 5-6 hours.
  2. Shred chicken. You can either use two forks, or you can put it in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. (The paddle attachment is the flat, white one.)
  3. Combine chicken with sauce. Make it as spicy or as mild as you like it. The more sauce, the spicier it will be. We use a LOT! (My Louisiana birth certificate coming through.)
  4. In the bottom of a square casserole dish, spread the block of cream cheese.
  5. Next, add your Buffalo chicken on top.
  6. Sprinkle the cup of Mexican cheese (or a little more if you love cheese like me) on top of the chicken.
  7. Finally, drizzle on some Ranch or Blue Cheese dressing. I find it works better if you don’t let the dressing go on in big blobs, but rather thin little ribbons. That way the cheese can still melt and bubble properly. Who doesn’t love bubbly cheese? (Except vegans.)
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until cheese is all yummy.
  9. Serve with chips or veggies. I usually slice up some organic apples (preferably Honeycrisp if available because they taste like fall) to serve with it. That makes me feel a little healthier. And you can find organic non-GMO corn tortilla chips on the natural aisle at the grocery store or at Costco.

Thursday night, we’ll spread out the quilts on the living room floor with dip and chips and lots of apples and toast, “Roll Tide,” to a new season of ¬†college football. Keep this recipe in mind for college football, Super Bowl weekend, or March Madness. I hope your man likes it as much as mine does.

 

Recipes for Hot, Lazy Days

Recipes for Hot, Lazy Days

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI love to cook, but the hot days make me want easy meals that taste fresh and yummy, filling but not heavy.

These aren’t anything fancy and they barely even count as a recipe. But here are a few things that are easy and yummy for summer meals.

Southwest Chicken Salad

cooked chicken//spinach and mixed greens//black beans//shredded cheese//cherry tomatoes//diced avocado//diced red onion//cilantro-lime dressing

To make the chicken, put one pound of chicken breasts in the crock pot with one jar of salsa (I prefer verde salsa) and one cup of water. Cook on high for three hours or on low for five to six hours. Then shred your chicken. (Hint: You can put your cooked chicken breasts in your KitchenAid mixer and let it shred for you!) For the dressing, mix one small container of plain Greek yogurt, a handful of cilantro, the juice of one lime, two tablespoons of olive oil, two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, a little garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Feel free to omit or substitute seasonings. The main things are the Greek yogurt, cilantro, lime and olive oil. Put all the dressing ingredients in the food processor and pulse until smooth. Layer all the stuff on the salad. Drizzle the dressing and enjoy!

Burrito Bowls

cooked pork tenderloin//brown rice//black beans//shredded cheese//cherry tomatoes//diced avocado//diced red onion//cilantro

This one is very similar to the salad, but swap out greens for whole grain brown rice. I like the organic kind from Costco, but use whatever you like. Cook the rice ahead of time. (It takes about 45-50 minutes.) I make my pork in the crock pot too, just like the chicken. I add my pork tenderloin, one jar of verde salsa and a cup of water to the crock pot and cook the same amount of time as the chicken. When the pork is ready, it will be super tender and pull apart with a fork. Layer all your ingredients in the bowl and enjoy! This one is a huge hit with the girls. They call them “rice bowls” and love them!

Fish Tacos

wild-caught cod//buttermilk//flour//preferred seasoning//sliced red onion//sliced red pepper//black beans//avocado//lime//tortillas//shredded cheese

Cut the cod into chunks. Heat oil (I like to use coconut oil) in a cast iron skillet on Med/Hi heat. Season your flour with whatever seasonings you like. (I use a mix of garlic powder, cayenne and cumin.) Dip each chunk of cod into the buttermilk and then into the seasoned flour. Place into the hot oil and turn until all sides are golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. While the cod is frying, saute red onion and red pepper in a pan with a little olive oil. Once the cod is fried and the onions and peppers are sauteed, fill up your tortillas with all the yumminess. Squeeze a lime over each taco for a little fresh flavor. The next time I make these I want to add some sliced red cabbage on top for a little more crunch.

I’m realizing I must be in a very Tex-Mex sort of a mood these days. Ole!