Saturday, April 22, 2017

DIY wall storage for fruits and veggies

We have a narrow section of wall that faces into our kitchen seating area, but is completely open to our living space.  I have looked at for over two years wondering what in the world I could put there.  It didn't seem right for photos, I didn't want to just go buy any ol' wall art to fill it up, and I really, really wanted to find something with some depth and texture while keeping the rustic natural feel of our furniture and color scheme.  Meanwhile, I had potatoes, onions, and an assortment of other produce that I kept moving from inside a cabinet, to the steps of the garage, to the counter, never really finding a place for those to land.  And then one day I had an idea.  Why not combine the two problems and find one solution?!?  I explained my idea to John, he looked at me like I had three heads, I gave him my, "Just think about it" spiel, as I held up this and that to mimic the picture in my mind, and then he was sold.

I have really enjoyed what we've done with an old ladder that belonged to John's dad, three baskets from the bathroom section at Walmart, and twine.  After taking apart the ladder, John attached wall hangers like these to the back of it on the sides of the highest rung.  I used a HUGE needle with a large eye to thread my twine and "sewed" through the back of both sides of the baskets and around each rung for what felt like a hundred times to ensure it could hold the weight of the produce.  John put a couple of anchors in the wall with heavy duty screws, and the "wall art" was finished.  I had space for storage, as well as the depth and texture I was hoping for, and it has been a great conversation piece.

Some still may look at the finished product - then me - like I have three heads, but we love all things distressed, food-related, and farmers-market-like.  It's right up our alley and thanks to the great prices at Walmart, it cost less than $30 to make.  I couldn't be happier!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

love your neighbor oatmeal cookies

One of the things I have enjoyed about living in the style of neighborhood we've now been in for three years, is we actually see - and have to talk to - our neighbors.  We're so close in proximity, especially on this cul de sac, that it would be utterly rude to not speak or even make eye contact. I always hear people say they're looking to get further out of town, further away, find more land... I get it. We've said those very words in years past and will probably look to do the very same in years to come.  But in this moment in our lives, as I believe fully that God plopped us right down here in the middle of this village for a reason, I'm thankful for the closeness.  I wonder so many times about His plans for us in the lives of those who are living just feet away.  Are there words or actions we're supposed to share that might impact them?  I wish I were more prayerful and dedicated to that question.  Hm.  Maybe that's a prayer goal I should set.

Living so closely to one another we can hear their conversations, it it not hard to notice when new folks are moving in.  Just a short time ago when that very thing happened, I decided to try a stack of these cookies to take along with us as our family of four went to meet theirs.  It wasn't hard.  It didn't take a lot of time. But as all food prepared by one and given to another does, it sent a message that we love them.  And what I really like about that idea more than anything, is that it showed we did before we even met them.  We decided to love, just because.  Because they were our neighbor, because they were joining our community, just because.  

At the end of the day, God asks us to love.  It's not asked of us only when it's easy.  It's not asked of us in response to what they've done first.  He just says love.  I encourage you to look for a neighbor to love and take a pile of these.  You'll love them, and even better, so will they. 

Oatmeal Cookies

makes about two dozen

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cider or white vinegar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, quick cooking or old-fashioned
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease (or use parchment paper) two baking sheets, light-color preferred.

2. Beat together the butter, shortening, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vinegar until fairly smooth; a few bits of butter may still show.

3. Beat in egg, again beating until smooth.

4. Add the baking soda and flour, beating until well incorporated.

5. Add the oats (and raisins, if using), stirring to combine.

6. Drop the dough in 1 1/4 inch balls onto baking sheets.  I used a cookie scoop.  Place 2 inches apart, as they'll spread.

7. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, reversing pans halfway through (top to bottom, bottom to top).

8. Remove from oven and let them cool.

**I'm a HUGE fan of King Arthur Flour's products and site.  This recipe comes from them, and you can find all kinds of tips when visiting this link!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SUPER-EASY pulled pork loin over hoe cakes

It has been a really great week of eating.  We were gone all last week for Spring Break visiting family in Indiana, and when we take those trips, I always take the stack of magazines I've saved to read.  I watch Create TV, of which I have fallen in love, and I surf the internet more than ever.  I prepare and plan meals the way I wish I always did, and it makes for such a smooth week when we return.  Grilled burgers and romaine, fish tostadas with cilantro lime crema, roasted salmon with lemon butter...  Good, good and good.

I'm in the middle of planning for this coming week and am thinking of using one of the greatest gifts given to working moms - the crockpot.  It's a lifesaver and a planner's - or, in my case, a wannabe planner's - dream.  If you have a hunk of meat and any spices at all, you can usually pull something together and make it great.

Enter this recipe.

Once upon a time, there was a pork loin roast hanging out in my freezer, and the rest is history.  It comes out tender, juicy, wonderfully good, and you can use the results for just about anything. As you can see here, I just added some more BBQ sauce and spooned over Paula Deen's Hoe Cakes. Southern goodness.  Almost zero work.  Sounds like a plan to me!

Pulled Pork Loin in Crock Pot

makes about three pounds of meet

  • 3 pound pork loin
  • 8 ounces of BBQ sauce of choice
  • 1 small onion minced (I grated mine - quick and easy to incorporate)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced
  • hot sauce as desired
  • salt and pepper 
1. If you have time, salt and pepper the pork loin and let sit for at least an hour.  If not, just do right before using.

2. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over loin.

3. Cook on low 6-7 hours.  

* Towards the end, I did give the meat a good stir and left off the lid to cook off some of the liquid, although you don't have to.  You can drain.  At this point, the meat is not overly BBQ-y.  That's what makes this a flexible dish.  I did add more sauce, as we were wanting a BBQ meal.  And extra sauce is definitely a must for the following hoe cakes to taste their best!

Paula Deen's Hoe Cakes

makes about 15-17 cakes

  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 cup self-rising cornmeal or mix (Aunt Jemima recommended)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or BACON GREASE (can you tell which one I prefer?)
  • Oil or butter for frying
1. Mix all the ingredients except for the frying oil.  Heat that oil in a medium or large skillet (a griddle or cast iron skillet is my preference) over medium heat.

2. Drop the batter by tablespoons (two per cake) onto the hot skillet.  Fry until brown and crisp and then turn to do the other side.  

3. Remove cooked cakes with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Will keep in fridge for two days.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

chocolate chip pie

Life it just good with friends and food.  Life is even better when friends bring you food.  But it honestly is the best of the best when those friends who bring you food are your neighbors.

Some of our dear neighbors came for dinner during the Christmas break.  We really enjoyed our meal, but my absolute favorite part of the evening was sharing this pie, laughing, and talking recipes over the next couple of hours.  In fact, I followed Lynda right over to her house, after eating at ours, and she pulled out some of her favorite cookbooks and showed me a few of her tried and true recipes.  It was such a treat and a moment I had always imagined having with neighbors.  

Linda is a wonderful cook.  We've both had fun carrying sweets and various dishes back and forth to each other.  I snapped a picture of this piece of the pie the day after our meal and asked her if I could share it on the blog.  She gladly gave me the recipe.  It was so very good with vanilla bean ice cream and coffee, I just had to ask to share it with you.  

For those who aren't big coconut fans, this isn't strong.  I LOVE coconut, but it isn't the stand-out ingredient, so don't worry.  I do think my favorite part of this dessert is the chewier texture.  I've had chocolate chip pie before, but it reminded me more of a slice of chocolate chip cookie dough. Although that's not a bad thing, this pie is even better and different.

I hope you'll make room for this dish sooner than later.  Whip it up and share it with a neighbor you love.  I'm sure glad ours did!

Chocolate Chip Pie

makes one 9-inch pie
  • one unbaked pie shell
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 c chocolate chips preferred
  • 1 c broken pecans
  • 1/2 c flaked coconut
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Blend sugar, flour, eggs, butter and vanilla well.

3. Stir in chocolate chips, pecans and coconut.

3. Pour into unbaked shell and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until firm.

4. Serve warm with ice cream or cooled with whipped cream.

Recipe by my neighbor, Lynda.

Monday, February 6, 2017

valentine cookies ~ chocolate cut-outs

Valentine's Day in elementary school was always one of my favorite holidays.  I would get so excited about filling out cards for all of my classmates and then spending the following day decorating the brown paper bag with cut-out pink and red hearts to glue on the outside.  We'd slide the finished bags to the edge of our desks and eagerly wait and see what had been collected in our own while we filled others' with their valentines.  And wasn't it fun to give your teacher the bigger "teacher" card that came in the pack, making extra-sure your penmanship was just right?  So many memories... doilies, cookies, chocolates... Sweet and simple times.  I miss them.

I do have to say that I'm bringing you a sweet and simple treat you may want to try for the special day next week.  I love cut-out sugar cookies.  They're fun and versatile.  For quite a while, I've wanted to find a chocolate version.  The Christmas before last, I actually began thinking about how fun it would be to find one and sandwich peppermint ice cream in between.  It only took me about 13 months, but I have found a very dependable chocolate sugar cookie recipe that is just enough sweet so as not to overly sweeten the dessert once paired with a filling.  In this picture, I used my favorite strawberry icing.  They would be so good with a buttercream or peanut butter frosting.  Strawberry or cherry ice cream would ROCK!  It would also be so pretty to dip half of the heart in a chocolate ganache and then again in pink or red sprinkles.  There are endless possibilities, so bake and decorate to your "heart's" content!

one year ago: egg-in-the-hole sandwich

Chocolate Cut-Outs

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
1. Combine egg, butter and sugar; blend until creamy. 

2. Add remaining ingredients and form dough into two flattened rounds; chill.

3. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.

4. Cut with cookie cutters as desired; place on ungreased baking sheets.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

Friday, January 13, 2017

winter salad with citrus poppyseed vinaigrette

Never in my life can I remember January 12th equaling 70 degrees.  Not in any way, shape or form.

But January 2017 in Nashville has beat all odds.  Ugh.

I honestly cannot even believe this weather.  While many might be thrilled, I am not at all happy with having to remove my light sweater while walking Hoosier at 9:00 AT NIGHT!

Double, "Ugh!"

This snow-loving girl is going to be really disappointed if the semi-snow we got last weekend is all that's coming.  Surely not?!?  But with 60-70 degree days in the ten-day forecast, I can't say I'm too terribly hopeful.

Dearest Winter... Please come back.

I will act like it's the season it's supposed to be and share my newest, and John's favorite, salad.  I had put together a lunch for my dearest friends and coworkers as my Christmas gift to them a few weeks back, and I was trying to think of something to freshen up the menu.  It included this beef stew, Ma's cornbread, and a spice cake.  I knew I wanted color and I knew I wanted citrus.  So, I started thinking about some things I enjoy and put it all together to make this salad.  I've made it two more times since.  John is crazy about it.

This is so incredibly easy and just as pretty in a big 'ol punch bowl on the table.  The goat cheese crumbles paired with the bright dressing is a winner.  If you wanted to, you could add some grilled chicken - or better yet - salmon, and it would be a delicious meal all by itself.

So until Mother Nature decides to right her wrong, I'll make this salad, put on a tank top, turn down the thermostat and get my Winter on in one way or another.

Winter Salad with Citrus Poppyseed Vinaigrette 

For the Salad
  • mixed salad greens
  • mandarin oranges, drained
  • pomegranate seeds
  • goat cheese crumbles
  • Craisins 
  • toasted walnuts
For the Dressing
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp diced onion
  • 1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • zest of half an orange
  • 1 tbsp poppyseed
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
1. Layer all salad ingredients in large bowl.

2. Place juices, sugar, onion, mustard and salt in blender and mix.  Add oil in steady stream to emulsify.  Stir in zest and poppyseed.

3. Dress salad right before serving.

Recipe from The Lazy Daisy Kitchen.

Friday, January 6, 2017

weekend cinnamon rolls

Let me start out by saying that my favorite thing about this recipe is the fact it comes from my newest cookbook, My Recipes from Ruth's Kitchen, which is a collection of recipes beloved by John's great-aunt, Ruth, and put together by her daughter-in-law.  Let me tell you, it's a treasure trove of recipes, many of which came from Ruth herself and others contributed by close family.   I adore the intermittent stories behind some of the contributions, the family history woven throughout is endearing, and I love the nostalgia.

From what I understand, Ruth was not only an incredible cook, but she was quite a well-known candy maker around town, especially at Christmastime.  Every single one looks like such a treat!  I am already counting the days until the Christmas 2017 season, so I can give them a try.

And then there's the icing... Oh, my goodness-gracious, sakes alive.  It is absolutely delicious.  I did substitute the milk or half-and-half it called for with whole cream.  Maybe that's what took it over the top. 

These really are simple, hence the name of them.  And most of you, if not all, should have all ingredients on hand.  These rolls don't even require yeast, which is why I wanted to give them a try.  They had me intrigued, that's for sure.

If you are looking for a yeasty, fluffy roll, this is not it.  You'd be better off with my Amish Cinnamon Rolls, or better yet, Heavenly Cinnamon Rolls.  But if you think you would enjoy brown sugar and cinnamon all nestled in a spiral, flaky, tender, biscuit-like pastry, this is the recipe.  I'm hoping to make another pan this weekend and take to some neighbors that just moved in, which means there will happen to be an extra pan of them just lying around.  Hmm... wonder what I'll do with those?

With the slight let-down that always follows the week after the holidays for me, nothing sounds better than firing up the Keurig and popping these babies in the oven on a cold Saturday morning. Thank you, dear Lord, for the warmth and comfort even the simplest of life's pleasures can bring.  

What's your favorite sweet roll at sunrise?

Weekend Cinnamon Rolls

makes about 16 rolls

For the rolls
  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • Buttermilk 
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • Brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
  • Cinnamon (I used 2 tsp)
For the icing
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • half-and-half or milk heavy cream to make a fairly thin glaze
1. Cut shortening into flour until it resembles meal.  Stir in enough buttermilk until dough leaves side of bowl (I used about a 1/4-1/2 cup).

2. Place dough on a well-floured surface and knead a few times.

3. Roll out dough into a rectangle (about 10x20-inch) about 3/8-1/2 inch thick.  Soften the butter to spreading consistency. Spread over the surface of the dough.Spread the brown sugar over the butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.

4. Roll up the dough along the long edge; I used a bench scraper (like this one) to help lift it off the counter and help prevent sticking.  Pinch the edge of the dough to seal.

5. Cut the dough into 3/4-inch slices.  Place the rolls (touching) on a greased cookie sheet. (I used two cake pans for mine).  Bake at 425 degrees until lightly browned.

6. Meanwhile, mix the powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla with enough cream to make the glaze.  Spread the glaze over hot rolls and serve immediately.