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**

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

Ingredients

Fries

  • 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

Dip

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

Procedure

  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!

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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.

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

Finished Knit–Grrlfriend Market Bag

imagePattern: Grllfriend Market Bag

Yard: I Love This Cotton in Pewter and Buttercup

Needles: 6 (base and handle), 10 (body), 7 (top band), plus crochet hook for magic circle cast on

Notes: Super stretchy, quick knit just in time for farmers’ market season! I love this project, and would definitely make it again.

When Life Lessons Slap You In The Face

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In case you missed it, I work from home. After I birthed the tornado commonly known as Bean, I painstakingly developed my writing/editing business that, while it certainly doesn’t produce a full-time income, it fills in the cracks and lessens some of the month-to-month budgetary pressures.

But here’s the thing about freelance work–if you can’t advocate for yourself, you’re SOL because no one else will. After four years, I’ve learned many good but also many harsh lessons, including that some clients will never be happy, I need to own up to mistakes and do everything in my power to correct them, and that working from home means that you actually have to, you know, work.

This past week, however, introduced me to a situation that I finally realized is all to common for many women, and I believed I was better than. It also helped me see that I have a long way to go before I can be the kind of role model that my daughter needs.

So, let’s set the stage: I have a great client. This was one of my first clients, and we’ve had an incredible, long-term business relationship. Great client merges with larger company and that’s when the trouble starts. Great client is still my boss and the work is still the same. But new company now handles billing/payments/taxes. Soon, payments become sporadic, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get new company to pay me in a consistent manner. Now, a logical person would have put her foot down months ago, but my inner-need to be a people-pleaser prompted me to keep working and let months go by with no payments. In fact, I’ve never been paid without having to ask (as in “could you please pay that two-month old invoice…pretty please?”).

Finally, this week, I essentially went on strike. I told great client that we’ve reached the breaking point, and that I wasn’t working anymore until I received payment and my long overdue tax documents. Right now, you’re thinking “good”…but let’s back up and see what the heck is wrong with this picture:

  1. Why in the world did I let this situation drag on for 10…yes, 10 months?
  2. Even worse, when I did go on strike, why did I feel the need to send an apology-laden, meekly-composed email that was basically a sugar-coated crap fest?

It only took me a few days to wake up (as well as some strong words from the hubs), and to realize that I was playing into every stupid stereotype we have about women in the workplace. As I waited and agonized, he repeated the same phrase over and over, “It’s business! The only person that’s making this personal is YOU!” Why was I fretting over a perfectly reasonably request? Why was I shying away from standing up for myself? But most importantly, why did I feel the need to apologize for asking that my client fulfill the most basic element of a contract?

What’s really pathetic is that, even with all my fancy (and expensive) education, and a plethora of strong female role models, I still approach advocating for myself with apologies, disclaimers, and deep, inner panic. Hubs is right in that I need to eject the emotion and treat business like business, and I need some serious self-awareness when it comes to this issue. I can teach my daughter to have determination, but how can I teach her to be her own advocate if she sees me apologizing my way through life as I ask for fairness?

So, I’m still on strike, and while I don’t want to lose my best client, I’m reminding myself that you teach people how to treat you. If I teach them that this is acceptable by not standing up, then I am giving them my permission to continue.

 

Finished Knits–“Molly” Hat and “Exploration Station” Shawl

I finished up a couple of knits recently, just in time for the end of the pathetic winter we had. It’s already unseasonably warm here, which make me anticipate summer with abject fear, If it’s nearly 90 degrees in March, what the hell will July look like? Time to switch knitting gears and decide what’s next.

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Pattern: Molly (Available for free on Ravelry)

Yarn: Berroco  Comfort Worsted in Burgundy colorway

Needles: US 4 and US 6, both circulars and DPNs for the decreases

Notes: Molly is a great, well-written pattern for a slouchy-fit hat. This is the second time I’ve knit it, and I just used leftover yarn from the Antler Mittens I made in December. Great pattern for advanced beginners.

ES 1ES 2Pattern: Exploration Station by Stephen West (Available for purchase via Ravelry)

Yarn: MadelineTosh Tosh Merino Light in El Greco, Betty Draper’s Blues, Black Currant, and Moonstone colorways

Needles: US 6  circular

Notes: I’m not a big shawl person, but something about this pattern kept me coming back for a second look. Stephen’s patterns are always an interesting combination of techniques, and some are more like artwork than what I would consider wearable accessories. This shawl, however, had so many interesting components I finally just had to knit it. It combines short row shaping, brioche, slip stitch rows and more. I learned a lot during this project (including that brioche knitting is not for me), and I’m happy with the final results after blocking. Overall, this was a really well-written pattern, and Stephen even put up a couple of tutorials on YouTube, which made it well worth the 6 bucks I paid for it.

Tasty Tuesday–Mom’s Pound Cake, a Good Book, and a Reworking of Priorities

cake

After two straight months of working myself crazy, I decided last week that enough is enough. While I’m blessed that I’m able to earn extra money while working from home, I’ve always sucked at that whole balance thing. When you add the post-holiday budget strain, I felt this maddening need to cram as much work into my days as I feasibly could, which was in direct contrast to my pesky resolution to not do that anymore. It’s so easy to slip into survival mode, and let your days fall into a continuous series of necessary tasks. Where’s the joy in that? None, I can tell ya.

So, rather than let my clients’ needs become my life, I’m enforcing a daily limit on my worktime so I can also focus on my home, my kids, and things I actually enjoy doing. That includes getting back in the kitchen.

So, it’s Tasty Tuesday, and since I’ve been felled by a cold/allergies that are slowly sucking the life out of me, I decided to stick with classic comfort. My Mom’s Pound Cake is oh-so-easy, and also a simple staple that was almost always on hand when we were growing up. It’s a basic, effortless recipe that everyone should have in their back pockets, and it can be repurposed in so many ways. For example, it can serve as the base for strawberry shortcake in a pinch, or you can go all Bobby Flay and throw it on the grill.

ingredients

Remember that, unless a recipe specifies differently, you should shoot for room temperature butter and eggs when baking. It helps your batters mix up and bake evenly, and is one of those baking tricks that separate the boys from the men. (not really, but if you’re gonna dirty up some dishes, why not hedge your bets for the best outcome?)

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Mom's Pound Cake

  • Time: about 10 minutes to prep and an hour or so to bake
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks butter (preferably room temperature)
  • 6 eggs (preferably room temperature)
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract (seriously, dude)

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a standard Bundt pan and set aside.
  2. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, or until you’re sure it’s not going to fly all over the place. Increase speed to medium and mix for 10 minutes, stopping once halfway through to scrape down the sides.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until done.
  4. Remove pan from oven and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto cake plate and let cool completely.

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Finished Read

book

Speaking of cake, I just finished reading The Cake Therapist, which is the debut novel from cookbook author Judith Fertig. I picked this one up because, not only was the cover attention-grabbing, but the summary reminded me of Sarah Addison Allen novels, which I love. I truly enjoyed this book, and was impressed by her descriptive prose. The plotline resolutions could have been a little more satisfying, but overall, I’d definitely recommend it. Unless you’re on a diet, that is.

 

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