Things I’m Into This Week

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We are deep in the heart of Mardi Gras season, which means lots of crawfish, parades, and King Cakes. When I’m not overindulging, I’m enjoying time with family and friends, making memories and celebrating everything good about my neck of the woods.

In the meantime, here’s a round up of the things I’m into this week, which are clearly food related given my current climate:

Watching: A Chef’s Life. I guess I am late to this PBS gem, but I now binge watch it on the weekends. The combination of a character-driven documentary that still focuses on southern food culture is like crack for peeps like me. If you need some inspiration for your own garden, this show also delivers on that front. Bonus: It’s free to watch online via PBS.

Reading: Speaking of which, I’m reading Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard, the chef in the aforementioned show. This cookbook is an opus, and I love every page. I found it after hearing about the documentary, and it’s one of the most well-executed cookbooks I’ve seen in a long time. However, I will give the disclaimer that it’s more of a 40/60 balance between recipes for home cooks and wannabe chef/foodies, so flip through it before you buy. I’m really particular about the cookbooks I will drop cash on (versus online spelunking for recipes), so I understand if this brick isn’t for everyone.

Listening: I’ve gone down the podcast rabbit hole, and I was probably last to know about The Sporkful. I come from a family that talks about our next meal while we are eating the current cuisine, so I appreciate a podcast that constantly looks at food and culture with the same obsessive eye that we do.

So there ya have it. A snippet of my indulgence for your foodie pleasure. Back to the kitchen, and that leftover piece of King Cake.

**Disclaimer–This post was not sponsored in any way, and none of these people know who I am. I’m not that cool, dude, just tunnel-vision afflicted.**

Finished Knit–Azel Pullover

azelI have been working on a sweater for my husband for months now. It’s this lovely, intricate, cabled pattern that I now refer to as “The Sweater of Doom.” Why? When I started the project, I forgot that he’s a tall man with extra-long, monkey-like arms. And no, I’m not being facetious. I have to special order his dress shirts and he can’t wear off-the-rack long-sleeved shirts because the sleeves end at his mid-forearm.  This sweater has become the opus I may never finish.

Anyway, as I trudge along, I occasionally have to take a break and knit something, ANYTHING else. This is a popular pattern that has been making the rounds, so I whipped one up for Bean, who, of course, never wants to wear it. She’s about to go on the banned knitting list if she doesn’t get with the program.

azel-2Pattern: Azel Pullover (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Bernat Softee Chunky is Wine colorway

Needles: Size US 13

Notes: I made the 8/10 size and am glad I did. Bean is 4 years old and wears a size 6 in clothes. As you can see, it fits as intended, so if you are making this for a small human, I’d go up a size. Also, I typically stick to bargain, machine-washable yarns when I make anything for the kids. I save the good stuff for me.

Super Bowl Snack–Bourbon Meatballs That Will Make People Love You More

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Ya know, for the life of me, I do not understand why the Super Bowl is on a Sunday night. Rumor has it that many of us have work and school the next day, so staying up late, partying, and feasting would probably be an event best served by a Saturday timeslot. Alas, since we all do have to do that whole responsible work/school thing, we usually keep our festivities low-key. I make some snacks, maybe have a family member or two over (if that), and put on my fat pants. I love an excuse to have a menu consist entirely of appetizers, because I like variety…and not having to construct a singular meal that at least one picky eater is going to complain about.

Rather than the fancy Crab Mornay or Lamb Chops from holiday parties, the big game is all about hearty, easy-to-make (and eat) food. These Bourbon Meatballs are just that. Stir everything together, cook for a bit, then settle down and watch your attendees go bananas over them. You can transfer them to a slow cooker to keep warm, making them an easy, hot appetizer for any event. I even took them to a Mardi Gras parade last year. My husband thinks these are manna from heaven, and no one ever needs to know how freaking easy they are. It’ll be our secret, ok?

Bourbon Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 32-ounce package of frozen, Italian-style meatballs, thawed
  • 2 cups good-quality barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays or KC Masterpiece for this. Just avoid the $1 bottle crap)
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

Procedure

  1. In a large pot, combine barbecue sauce, bourbon, honey, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add meatballs and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Provide toothpicks to your hungry guests and give them death threats if they even think about double-dipping.  Oh, look, there some bourbon left in the bottle! Whatever shall we do?

gmanI’m baaaacck. When I ended my summer, I never had any idea how far my fall would go off the rails. I could give you the gory play by play, but let’s cut to the chase: the Hubs woke up one day in pain, this carried on for weeks, he lost the use of an arm, had a spinal surgery, then had another surgery when that first one failed epically. So, in sum, the Hubs was out of commission for a long, long time, he scared me to death, and I am still waiting on my free pass to throw a toddler-like tantrum as a result. Not really……..but maybe. Good news is that this last scalpel party seems to be successful. He’s recovering by bits and pieces, and I managed not to lose my s—t along the way.

In the meantime, I’ve been knitting, cooking, crafting, and cooking some more. But more than that, I’ve been embracing those small moments with the people I love most. The past few years seem to have been fits and starts of both feelings and voices. Grief is really hard to process when what you hear it in your head is a scream, but everyone around you hears  it as a whisper.

 

Yeah, long story.

 

 

Summer’s End

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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.

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Procedure

  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:

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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

Ingredients

  • 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)

Procedure

  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**

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