Tasty Tuesday–Crispy Potatoes with Leeks, Lemon & Honey

1 Sep

potatoes

After plowing through a gazillion loads of laundry yesterday, not to mention the who-knows-what I mopped up from the kitchen floor, I decided to make a well-earned dinner to take the sting off of Monday. After all, discovering that one of the kids left more Kleenex in his pockets, via a paper explosion upon opening the dryer, was a call for a pick-me-up. I originally saw this recipe on Food Network, and it sounded incredibly bizarre. The honey and lemon seemed just unusual enough to ensure that these would either be really tasty, or a big, fat, Nope. They ended up as an amazing combination of flavors and textures, with each element bringing a perfect balance to the dish. I have adapted the recipe since then, and it’s the perfect side dish when you want something a little different and just a bit decadent.

Crispy Potatoes with Leeks, Lemon & Honey

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 2  lbs  fingerling potatoes or small yellow potatoes
  • 2  Tbs butter
  • 1  leek, halved, thoroughly washed and sliced up to pale green part
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2  Tbs  olive oil
  • 1  tsp honey
  • 1  tsp dried parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Procedure

1) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Gently poach the potatoes for 10 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a fork. You don’t want them to be completely mushy or they will fall apart when you try to pan fry them. Drain the potatoes, cut in half, and dry thoroughly.

2) Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Melt the butter, add the leeks and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

3)  In the same pan, heat the olive oil. Put the potatoes cut-side down in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes; flip and repeat on the skin side. Add back the leeks, drizzle with the honey and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

4)  Sprinkle with the parsley and lemon zest. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Finished Project–Ugg-Inspired Knitted Slippers

31 Aug

slippersI finished these slippers this weekend, after putting them away for a few weeks. I originally started them when Mom was first admitted to the hospital. I thought she would love some toasty, Ugg-inspired slippers to wear as she recovered. After she passed away, I didn’t have the heart to work on them, but I finally picked them back up on Saturday and sprinted to the finish line.

slippers 2

Here’s the details:

Pattern Name: Little Red Riding Slippers by Drops Designs. The original pattern was poorly written, so after searching Ravelry, I found rewritten instructions for both the main slipper and cable cuff.

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick Solids. Spice colorway. Required two full skeins plus a little more from a third. I made the largest size so the smaller sizes could probably get by with two.

Needles: Size 10 DPN.

Overall, I liked the way these turned out, and they were a quick, fun knit. Since I am not a fan of the yarn, I would probably select something else next time. However, as a rule, I buy bargain yarn for slippers as you really do have to factor in the wear and tear element.

Next on the knitting docket is something just for fun with a beautiful yarn I picked up on vacation earlier in the summer. However, I did spot a pattern for adorable pumpkin dishcloths this weekend that may be calling my name too.

But alas, it’s Monday. You know what that means, right? My house looks like a tornado ripped through it and I was hit with a rush job from a client first thing this morning. Guess I better get to work, because contrary to popular opinion, the fairies don’t keep this circus running.

 

That One May Not Make the Family Christmas Card

28 Aug

outtakeIt’s Friday! Mom needs a cocktail.

You’re shocked, I know.

Tasty Tuesday–Hot Sausage Cornbread With Jalapenos and Black-Eyed Peas

25 Aug

I’m back in the kitchen so let’s make something tasty, shall we? This recipe of is one of my husband’s favorites. My mom used to make it frequently, and it’s practically a meal unto itself. Laced with spicy sausage, corn, cheese  and black-eyed peas, it’s a snapshot of southern traditions. You can serve it plain, or add some salsa or sour cream on the side if you’re really feeling rebellious.

bread

Hot Sausage Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1          lb         hot bulk pork sausage
  • 1                      medium onion, chopped
  • 1          box      corn muffin mix (Jiffy Mix)
  • 2                      eggs
  • 1/3      cup      vegetable oil
  • 1          cup      buttermilk
  • 1          cup      grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4      cup      chopped jalapeno (jarred jalapenos are fine)
  • 1                      (15-oz.) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1                      (7-oz.) can cream-style corn

Preparation

1) In a medium skillet, brown sausage and onion until the sausage is thoroughly cooked. Drain off any excess fat, and set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, combine corn muffin mix, eggs, oil and buttermilk, stirring until blended and smooth. Add cheese, jalapeno, peas, corn and sausage mixture, stirring well to combine. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 9×13 casserole.

3) Bake at 375 degrees for 55 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and let sit for at least 20 minutes for bread to set before slicing and serving.

 

 

The Point at Which My Heart Broke

22 Aug

B and G

So, yeah. I don’t even know how to start. Last summer was, what I thought, the worst summer ever. I lost my grandmother and dealt with the grief that came from realizing how much her passing affected relationships with our extended family. Dealing with that grief was a long, slow climb to acceptance, with plenty of setbacks along the way. My sister and I vowed that this summer had to be better. We’d have fun, and wash away the last of those bitter memories.

And then my mom called. She hadn’t been feeling well and the doctor sent her to the hospital for some tests. She told me not to worry, to enjoy my weekend, and talked about taking the Heathens to a movie that next week. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there and that’s a long story for another day. Three weeks later, we lost her after an exhausting fight for hope and healing. She was only 57.

Grief like this is an acid that is constantly bubbling in the back of your throat. It robs you of common sense, good judgement, and makes you do and say a lot of things you regret. That’s why I don’t want to write about it just yet. I need time to let wisdom come out of the chaos. However, in the midst of the suffocating fog, there have been incredible family and friends who lifted us up and carried us through. That has helped me get barely back into perspective, and is holding me up as we try to move forward. Right now, every day is a battle to breathe, but I know I’ll learn something through this process.

What I realized so far is that I have been so busy working and keeping things going over the past year that I’ve stopped doing so many things that bring me joy. My camera has a layer of dust on it. My knitting bag sits abandoned. I’ve thrown together meals thoughtlessly when I love to cook. I can’t even tell you the last time I went to the gym or finished a book. I’ve just been plodding along, and if I look back over the past year, I feel like it just passed me by. Then, this tragedy changed my world overnight.

So, if there is one thing my mom taught me, it’s that if you don’t like the way things are going, get off your ass and do something about it. She was the hardest working person I knew, and her memory reminds me that my family deserves a mom who checks back into life and promotes joy in all things. One day, when I can write about this, I will. But for now, I’ll commit to making the effort to shake off this fog and live. If that wisdom and serenity part could just hurry up, I sure would appreciate it.

Sausage, Peppers, And Cheese Grits–Weeknight Dinner for a Crazy Day

16 Apr

We’ve had a busy, post-Spring Break week, and dinner each night has been a thrown-together affair as I try to get some traction against the overflowing to-do list. My dryer latch broke last weekend, and though the fix was easy, I had to wait until the appliance parts store opened on Monday to do so. You know what that means, right? My laundry pile was left unattended for three straight days, which means it ate my laundry room. It took me an additional three days to dig my way back in.

When things get this nutty, I dig way back into my cooking memory for all of those fast meals I made when I was still working fulltime. I invented quite a few bizarre dishes during my career days, blending the weeknight rush with my desperate attempts to combine the items I had on hand (grocery shopping was hit and miss).  This dish may seem weird to start, but the smoky sausage pairs well with sweet, slightly crunchy peppers, and the creamy cheese grits bring it all together. It could also be a great brunch dish if paired with something a little sweet. Here’s how I did it (with crappy iPhone pics to affirm my crazy day), and I’ll post the recipe with quantities at the end of this post for easy reference:

First, I assembled the ingredients, which was a couple of packages of smoked sausage links, bell peppers, onions, quick-cooking grits, chicken broth, salt, olive oil, and some Velveeta.

ingredients

I immediately set the chicken broth in a sauce pan with a dash of salt to boil, since getting anything to boil takes the most amount of time. I also placed a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and set it on medium-high heat. Next, I sliced the sausage into 1/2-inch pieces on the bias:

sausage

Then threw it into the skillet with the olive oil to brown, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, I thinly sliced the pepper and onion:

sliced

Once the sausage was browned, I removed it from the skillet to a paper towel-lined plate. I added a couple more tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet, and added the peppers and onions to sauté. While that cooked, I added the grits to the boiling chicken stock, stirring for about 10 minutes until thickened. I know the box says five minutes, but it’s a lying liar who lies. Unless you like watery grits, don’t trust the box; If you do, go make yourself some cream of wheat, you weirdo.

Anyway, once the onions were translucent and the peppers had softened up a bit, I added the sausage back into the skillet and stirred the whole mess together:

all together

Last, I cubed the Velveeta and stirred it into the grits until melted. I then removed the grits from the heat, and let them sit for about 5 minutes to thicken up a bit more, stirring occasionally. If I had served the grits immediately, they still would have been too runny (and hot). Letting them rest for a few minutes tightens them up to the right consistency:

grits

Finally, I spooned the grits onto a plate, and topped with the sausage mixture. The creaminess of the grits is almost sauce-like, but the texture is right on.

final

Smoked Sausage With Sweet Peppers and Creamy Cheese Grits

Ingredients

  • 2 packages of smoked sausage links (whatever kind you like), sliced into 1/2-inch pieces on the bias
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking grits (NOT INSTANT)
  • 5-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Place chicken broth in a medium-size sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until well-browned. Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined plate. Add remaining olive oil to skillet, then add bell peppers and onions, cooking until onions are translucent and bell peppers have slightly softened.

While the vegetables sauté, add salt and grits to chicken broth, whisking well to avoid clumps. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring often. If mixture bubbles up too much, reduce to medium-low heat. Add cubed Velveeta, and stir until melted. Remove grits from heat, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally during cooling.

Return sausage to skillet with vegetables, and stir to combine. Spoon grits onto serving plates, then spoon sausage mixture over grits. Pat yourself on the back, make a cocktail, and eat up.

Mission Accomplished–My First Sweater

10 Apr

sweater 3

I just checked off another one of my New Year’s goals by finishing my first sweater. Even though I have been knitting for a couple of years, I’ve always stuck to small projects that never strayed too far outside of my comfort zone. However, this year I decided I wanted to challenge myself in several areas of my life (curse you treadmill!), and build some new skills. Bean, though still in tornado toddler mode, is now a little more manageable, allowing me to spend more than two minutes at a time on a task. So, after finishing up my husband’s socks, I cast on for this owl cardigan and hoped for the best.

sweater

Overall, I loved the pattern, and this was a much easier project than I anticipated. My only pitfalls came from my paranoia about the fit. I was petrified that I would end up with a too-small, too-tight sweater after all of that work, so I went a size up from my measurements to play it safe. I should have trusted the pattern and stayed true to my size, because the end result was just a bit bigger/baggier than I wanted. However, it still is a nice, warm, snuggle-able cardigan that is perfect for a crisp fall day.  My OCD tendencies want to fuss about a few imperfections here and there, but before I can nit-pick the finished product to death, I have to remind myself…I knitted a sweater. That’s pretty cool. Time to tackle another goal…

sweater 2

 

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