Summer’s End


imageimage image imageimage imageAfter the past two crappiest summers ever, I was determined that this summer would finally break the curse and help me not want to curl up whimpering under the covers until October. I’m happy to report that we managed a great couple of months, and in the end, I accomplished a singular goal–To live this season in the moment, enjoying my family, and making connections with my extended family.

At the close of this summer, I can say that there were: swimming, pools, pool games, waterslides, rivers, bonfires, barbecues, cookouts, card games, cabins, road trips, fishing, going-away parties, fire works, block parties, family reunions, and much more. Alas, however, I am ready for fall, and I foresee many Halloween crafts in the near future!

A Fish and a Finished Knit.

DSC_0011We ran down to south Louisiana this weekend for a little fishing and catching up with friends. Despite the fact that it was eleventy-million degrees, we still had fun.

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Despite the fact that I am working on my husband’s epic sweater, I needed an easy project for travelling so I whipped up a hat for charity. My cousins participate in a big Christmas project for the Seamen’s Church Institute  and I promised to send some hats their way. Overall, we caught many fish and had a blast. We’ll definitely go back when the weather cools off a bit.


Pattern: Oliver’s Cap

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Forest Green

Needles: Size 8 circulars and DPNs

Notes: As many other knitters noted, this pattern runs small so I added about 3/4 of an inch before starting the decreases. Next time, I may add another inch or so of ribbing as well.



Dang Tasty–Honey-Roasted Carrots Everyone Will Eat

image I wish I had a better picture for these amaze-balls carrots, but I barely had a second to capture the last of them before they were gone. My picky eaters dove into these, and promptly declared that, from this day forward, this must be the official carrot recipe of our household.

Honey-Roasted Carrots


  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into fairly uniform sticks
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. butter, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbs. bourbon or whiskey
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. chicken broth or water
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme


  1. Place a sheet pan in the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Once the oven reaches 450, remove the sheet pan from the oven and add the olive oil and 1 Tbs. of butter, stirring to combine. Add carrots, salt, and pepper, tossing to coat. Bake for 10 minutes.
  3. While the carrots are baking, in a small saucepan, melt remaining 2 Tbs. of butter over medium-high heat. Add shallot and sauté for 1 minute. Remove from heat (so you don’t set yourself or your kitchen on fire), and add bourbon, honey, and chicken broth. Return the pan to the stove and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, or until syrupy.
  4. Drizzle syrup over carrots and return them to oven for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until they reach crisp-tender. Sprinkle with thyme before serving and watch the minds boggle.


Steaming Up The Kitchen

tomatoesWe are deep in the heart of summer, and my husband’s garden is putting out veggies faster than we can use them…much to the delight of his co-workers. I’ve been using up or canning as fast as I can, and I love seeing the cabinets slowly filling up:

jarsI’m about to embark on a batch of enchilada sauce (because who doesn’t like that idea), and as much as I hate turning my kitchen into a sauna on an already 100-degree day, it’s totally worth it. Our booming tomato crop is one of the best parts of summer, and I’m going to stretch it as far as humanly possible. I also added two new books to my preserving collection to ensure we have as many options as possible:


While I love canning, I have to admit that sometimes, expectations and reality need a little reconciliation, regardless of your level of experience. If you’re ready to hop in the kitchen with a fresh crop, here’s my five basic tips/thoughts to get started:

  1. If you’re a canning newbie, by all means, buy a book. The Ball Blue Book is a great reference for all things preserving, including what can be water-bathed and what needs a pressure canner. Most of the recipes in this book are basic staples, but it really is a great starting point. Unless you love a good case of life-threatening food poisoning, don’t go surfing Pinterest for canning recipes. You want to start with published, tested recipes that are crafted by people who actually know a little something about food safety.
  2. Dispel any notions you have about “quick and easy.” Yes, canning is easy. However, if you think you are going to transform those 10 pounds of tomatoes into salsa in under an hour, you’re in for a reality check. While that salsa may only have a 15-minute processing time, the majority of your time will be spent preparing the vegetables and cooking the mixtures. If you have help, it will go faster, but if you’re coring and chopping all that mess yourself, you’re in for a project. It’s no big deal if you know what you’re in for, but when a project takes significantly longer than people expect, they can get discouraged.
  3. Make sure you have everything you need laid out before you start. Once you get going, you’re usually stuck. So, if you misjudged how much sugar/lemon/pectin you’d need, you may be SOL depending on the recipe. While this is true of all cooking, canning does not allow shortcuts or substitutions so you cannot improvise on the fly.
  4. Don’t can something just to can it. Use recipes that you will use or your family will actually want to eat. Otherwise you will just end up with a cabinet full of jars you’ll throw out next summer. For example, my family would never use enough tomato juice to justify that effort. I’ve learned to be honest with myself and stick to things that I know I’ll use.
  5. If you’re working with your own garden, learn to be flexible. My plants’ production varies week to week (including how much damage the birds inflict). So, while I was hoping for 14 pounds for crushed tomatoes this week, I only ended up with 8 pounds. I always have 3-6 recipes on deck that vary in their requirements. By planning for a few contingencies, I can make the most with what I have.

As much as I’m not doing cartwheels at the thought of an steamy afternoon in the kitchen, I’ll keep at it. There really is something nourishing about caring for the harvest that started way back in January.


OMG They Actually Ate It–Chicken Ramen Stir-Fry

imageIt’s a truth universally acknowledged that, if all of my family were to agree on a dinner selection, we would eat the same seven meals for the rest of our lives. Likewise, trying new meals is met with groans, skepticism, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth. However, every once in a while, I try a new recipe that actually squeaks by and gets added to the rotation. I first saw this recipe on Food Network, and after making it a couple of times, I adjusted the proportions to better suit the consistency that they wanted.  While the Heathens pass on the final squeeze of lime and the Sriracha drizzle, I promise that you really should try it as it brightens up the whole dish.

Chicken Ramen Stir-Fry


  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. grated ginger
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. honey
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 2 large or 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced purple cabbage
  • 1/4 cup water or chicken stock (preferably the stock but no biggie)
  • 3 packages ramen noodles (just throw out the seasoning packets)
  • Sriracha for serving
  • lime wedges for serving
  • (Note–The recipe originally called for a few green onions in addition to the yellow onion, but my husband says green onions are the devil’s playthings, so there goes that)


  1. In a bowl, whisk together soy sauce, ginger, honey, vinegar, and garlic. Add the chicken and let marinate 15-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrots into ribbons and set aside. Also, get a medium pot of water boiling. You will use this to cook your noodles, but since they only take a two minutes to cook, you want the water ready when you get toward the end of the recipe.
  3. Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of canola oil in a large skillet over med/high heat (or a wok if you have one, fancy pants). Remove chicken from marinade, reserving marinade. Cook chicken until done (5-6 minutes). Remove chicken to a plate. Add onion to the skillet and cook two minutes, then add carrot and cabbage and cook an additional minute (while this is cooking, cook your ramen noodles now in your pot of boiling water and drain). Add 1/4 cup water or chicken stock to deglaze the pan while your noodles are cooking. Add the cooked noodles to the pan, the chicken, and the reserved marinade. Bring to a serious simmer for at least four minutes.
  4. Dish up in bowls and serve with Sriracha and lime wedges for squeezing over the top.


Book Review–Southern Spirits: Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South

In case you missed it, summer has hit the hell-mouth that is commonly referred to as northern Louisiana. It’s the time of year when my husband makes me watermelon mojitos, and I try not to succumb to the Southerner’s version of cabin fever. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than one post, you know that I’m a girl who loves a good cocktail…or ten. That’s why I jumped at the chance to check out this book. Good food and cocktails are clearly ingrained in my DNA.

While there are numerous recipes in this book, it’s not a recipe book at all. Rather, it’s the best history book this Old Fashioned-swilling girl could ask for. It’s the “who, what, when, where, and why” of Southern cocktail history and culture. Yes, it’s a niche book that is probably more Father’s Day than anniversary gift (unless you’re weird like me), but this truly is a well-researched book about Southern hooch in all of its glory. So much of Southern food and drink is steeped in our stories that it’s sometimes fruitless to try and pinpoint their origins. Mr. Moss really did a great job of tracing back to those iconic drinks and brands that set the stage for the staples we know and love today.

That being said, this book isn’t for everyone. I think you have to be a history geek, cocktail geek, or Southern Living culture junkie to get it. For all its 300-plus pages, you’ll find less than 45 cocktail recipes, most of which are VERY specific about their ingredients down to the independent purveyors. While this book is definitely a niche product, I can say firsthand that it’s perfect for hooch connoisseurs like me.

**I was provided this book in exchange for a fair, honest, and no-BS review**

Butternut Squash Fries with Maple-Yogurt Dip

I know what you’re thinking, and no, I have not gone off the deep-end.

imageThis week, I tried a new recipe for shrimp tacos since shrimp was on a serious special at my local store. I can post that later if anyone is interested. As a lighter side dish, I whipped up these butternut squash fries and a dip for them that sounds weird, but trust me, makes the dish. On principle, the husband and Heathens promptly set the house on fire in squash protest (not really), but I ate the whole dang pan of this awesomeness. Those clowns need a taste bud transplant anyway. If you are not in the butternut squash=arson camp, you should try them.

Butternut Squash Fries With Maple Yogurt Dip



  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into fry-like dimensions
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (extra-virgin is fine)
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder


  • 1/2 cup good quality, unflavored Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbs. pure maple syrup (do not even think about using pancake syrup here)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan, toss squash fries with olive oil and arrange into a single layer. In a small bowl, combine salt, cumin, and chili powder. Sprinkle this mixture over squash evenly. You do not have to use all of it if you don’t want to, but seriously, the squash can stand up to a good level of seasoning.
  2. Place pan in oven and roast for about 25-35 minutes. I don’t care what anyone says, squash and sweet potatoes can be kind of finicky in that they can go from firm to burnt on the bottom very quickly. Oven temps can vary widely so my 425 could be your 400 or your 465, (unless you’re smarter than me and have an oven thermometer). You don’t have to babysit it too much, but start checking at the 25-minute mark. If the bottoms are browning too fast while the squash is still too firm, give it a toss. Take it out when you think it’s tender with a little crisp on it.
  3. While the squash is cooking, make the dip. Whisk the yogurt and syrup until smooth and set aside.
  4. Serve the squash immediately with the dip. Try to get over the fact that it seems too weird to be true and enjoy the deliciousness. (FYI, I did not get a pic of the dip. I’m clearly not a food blogger, and you try toasting tortillas and making individual, custom shrimp tacos for five people. The pic you see is the three seconds when I snapped a shot of my plate before another Heathen asked for a napkin).


Finished Knit–Zuzu’s Petals

imagePattern: Zuzu’s Petals, available for purchase on Ravelry

Yarn: MadelineTosh Pashmina in Moorland colorway

Needles: size 8

Notes: Very easy, cute knit that will be perfect for fall/winter. I picked up a skein of this yarn at my LYS’s mega sale, and since it’s discontinued, I had to find a project that would work with the yardage. I had about 15% of the skein left when I was done, so no yarn chicken here!


I’m about to cast on for a sweater for my husband, and actually took the time to swatch, though we all know swatches are lying liars who lie. I’m hoping to make it my summer project, but I also have enough yarn on stand-by for three more projects in case I get bored. My stash is overtaking it’s storage space, so I better get to knitting!

Cookbook Review–Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings

I’ve been on a cookbook tear lately, trying to get some inspiration and get back my cooking mojo. I’ve also been trying to reframe my approach to casual entertaining, as my OCD usually drives me to be Martha Stewart-perfect when I have people over. You know what that means? I don’t have friends over as much as I would like. I want to embrace an attitude that every gathering does not have to be an over-the-top affair I slaved over for a week. This new book caught my eye, and it seemed like just what I was looking for to jumpstart a season of summer entertaining.

This beautifully photographed, highly stylized cookbook showcases how the author’s international travel experiences influenced her cooking. On it’s own, it’s a nice book that I think features very unusual, creative recipes that many people will find inspiring. However, I truly believe that this book is misadvertised and that unless you flip through it before you buy, you may be in for an unfortunate surprise. First, with the exception of eggs, cheese, and yogurt, this book is exclusively vegetarian. You’ll find no fish, beef, pork, or shellfish in these recipes. I double-checked the description on Amazon, and nowhere does it mention this as a feature. Also, as other reviewers noted, this book leans heavily toward sweet recipes, and while she includes some savory options, I still feel like it was unbalanced if we truly want to see this book as a more comprehensive approach to entertaining.

Another drawback to this book is that many of her ingredients must be sourced from specialty stores, or are very specific to a region (and she doesn’t necessarily offer substitutions). For example, I know that I can’t find organic untreated rose petals, ghee, or bee pollen in my neck of north Louisiana. Furthermore, I think that many of her recipes are small batch and labor intensive (i.e. fussy), which limits them to smaller gatherings. As a family of five, our gatherings are never really small by default.

Finally, I really didn’t find a lot of practical tips for simplifying entertaining. Rather than tips for selecting drinks, or setting up a buffet, she focuses more on “styling” with a full page on how to photograph food. I don’t know about you, but when I have guests over, I’m not really concerned with styling my food for photos–I’d rather focus on my guests and setting a tone of heartfelt hospitality. Ultimately, I feel like this book is way more niche than the description would have you believe.

However, for all these issues, this truly is a gorgeous, interesting book! I just think it was not what I expected at all, and the publisher did not give it the best description. I’m not saying don’t buy it at all. I’m saying I’d flip through it first at your local bookstore so you have a better idea if it will meet your expectations.


*Disclaimer–I was provided this book in exchange for a fair and honest review*

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