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Recent Kitchen Happenings

Saturday, October 18, 2014

SOUPer saturdays - sausage and bean soup with pasta

I really do love the blogging world, because one simple search for something so insignificant can lead you straight into the significant life of someone you would have never "met" otherwise. Such is the case with the "Italian Dish" blog.  

I was searching weeks ago for a sturdy whipped cream, and I came across Elaine McCardel's work.  I am in Heaven reading her entries, watching her how-to videos, and being transported straight to her Italian roots via her Michigan kitchen.  I do enjoy so many kinds of foods, but my default is always Italian, and when I imagine what cooking in a true Italian kitchen is like, I think fresh, homemade, laughter, and family.  I can't imagine anything better.

I really haven't spent near as much time as I'd like to scrolling through this gem of a site, but what I have viewed makes me want to be Ms. Elaine's neighbor.  I want to RSVP for her in-home cooking classes and be the recipient of her homemade goodness.  But since I live several states south of her, I'll continue to peruse her wonderful site and try my hand at many of the recipes I've already marked.  

I, unfortunately, injured my back a couple of days ago and have been kind of "stuck" in the house in more ways than one.  The kind of issues I have with my back does not allow me to sit comfortably.  And anyone who knows me knows that lying around is not at all who I am, either.  So… I have been cooking in spurts as my pain tolerance will allow.  Because getting in the car to get groceries has not been an option, I started thinking about what I already had in the house and scoured the blog to find a recipe to match.  This one was a perfect 10!  I did an Italian sausage soup a couple of years ago, but this is different and full of just as much flavor.  It comes together quickly, so give it a try.  Your Italy is less than an hour away!

one year ago: in a pinch pie filling,  autumn chicken stew
two years ago: creamy tomato soup

Sausage and Bean Soup with Pasta
makes 6-8 servings
  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tsp fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup small pasta
  • grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
~ In a large pot, cook sausage until brown and remove.  If a lot of oil is left, pour out, but do not wipe.  

~ Add onion, carrots, and oil, cooking five minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and cook another minute.

~ Add tomatoes, six cups stock, beans thyme, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.  At this point I used my immersion blender to puree some of the soup, but you don't have to. 

~ Add the sausage and cover the pot, cooking on a low simmer for 30-45 minutes.

~ Remove lid and add pasta, cooking until tender.  If soup is too thick, you can add more stock.

~ Top servings with cheese.

Recipe from The Italian Dish

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

lemon ice cream

I know this recipe seems as though it should be right smack in the middle of Summer, but with my countertop ice cream maker, we can have the stuff any time we want it.  It's fabulous!

I had most of this on hand one night and thought I'd try the recipe.  I've only made lemon ice cream once, and I was really disappointed with the results.  The flavors weren't very balanced... all the zest sank to the bottom...  Ick.  Just a real failure.  So, I've been on a hunt for a better option, and this recipe is certainly a keeper!  If you need to bring a little sunshine indoors, give it a try.  Tart and creamy, it's just perfect!

Lemon Ice Cream
makes 1.5 quarts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup lemon juice
~ Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour into ice cream freezer and freeze
    according to manufacturer's directions.

Could it get any easier?

Recipe from The Peacock Pantry.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

SOUPer saturdays - southwestern chicken stew

I get way too excited about grocery shopping.  Especially at Aldi.  I know this about me, as do many of my friends, and I'm OK with it.  

I like seeing what's new, I like getting my regular staples, and I LOVE the prices.  I can't hardly go anywhere else to do major shopping, because I know how much less I'll pay at Aldi for a basket full.  They have fabulous organic items, consistently the best produce, and a wonderful array of gourmet cheeses and international foods I never would/could splurge on at other stores' prices.  And did you know they're owned by the same company as Trader Joes? 

I have tried really hard lately to try not to buy way over what we need.  I've really tried to use what's in our freezer, leftover veggies in the crisper, and anything else I can find to scrounge up a decent meal for the family.  Today's recipe is a result of doing just that, and all of the major ingredients happened to come from Aldi.  If you have one nearby, it's definitely worth a try. Take your recyclable grocery bags, a quarter for your cart, and an open mind.  If you're all about the thrill of the hunt, you'll love this place!

I am excited to say that in Nashville temperatures have plummeted and I am totally pumped for a Fall weekend.  This stew will warm you nicely and doesn't take any time to throw together. Totally versatile, a ladle full would be great served over rice, corn cakes, nacho chips or just in a bowl.  


Southwestern Chicken Stew
serves 4-6

  • 2 (10 oz) bags frozen southwest corn blend
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted salsa style tomatoes
  • 1 (46 oz) can tomato juice
  • 4 cooked chicken breasts (mine came straight out of the freezer)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • garlic, sour cream, and cilantro for garnish
~  Stir together corn, tomatoes, juice, and spices in crock pot.  Add frozen chicken breasts.

~ Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken shreds easily with two forks (I just did it in 
    the pot).

~ Ladle into bowl or over rice, corn cakes, etc., and garnish to taste.

Friday, October 3, 2014

the lazy daisy decorates - our ottoman (finally) gets a makeover!

There is no telling how many hours this project took.  If you could have seen inside my brain and my original intent for this ottoman, you wouldn't have dreamed this would be the result. But I could not be happier!  I just love taking a creative road and winding up down a path I would have never originally planned to travel.  It's exciting but exhausting, and in the end, rewarding.  

Actually, all together, this was probably only about four days of work.  But it's not because it was so hard.  I mean, really.  How hard can stitch witchery, a staple gun, and some basic sewing be? It just took a while because I didn't plan exactly what I was doing ahead of time, so as the ideas morphed, some things had to be undone, redone, and adjusted.  

I have had this material for years.  Yards of it.  I fell in love with it long ago and knew it would come in handy one day for something great.  It's so us, with it's perfect red toile design on top of a bit ruddy, tea-stained backdrop.  In my opinion, it's the exact balance of old, yet refined. Once we received our new couch, and I pulled out the material and laid it over a cushion, I couldn't wait to use it!  I had to come up with something to cover ASAP! 

As you can see in the "before" picture, our ottoman was screaming, "Recover me!"  So, I did. John's mom came in to town, I showed her the material, she had the same reaction I did to how beautifully it worked with the couch, and all of a sudden we were pulling 11:00 and 12:00 bedtimes, because we couldn't wait to see it finished.  Unfortunately, she had to go back home before the ottoman was complete, but I know she's going to love it as much as I do.

The only problem now is how protective I am about it.  Every time the boys put a finger on it, I find myself cautioning them as though it has a sign saying, "Don't Touch - Just Look."  We laughingly joke the whole scenario reminds us of the episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" when Marie finally takes the protective plastic off the couch after years of using it.  If you need some comic relief, just watch it.  Only four and a half minutes long, and hilariously funny!

So, if you have a project in mind and have plenty of materials for trial and error, I say, "Go for it!"  Sure, I could go somewhere and find something more beautiful, more well-made, and more durable, I'm certain.  But it wouldn't mean near as much to me, and handing over my credit card wouldn't be near as fun as it was tying off the ottoman's  sash and looking at the completed project with satisfaction.  As long as I have time, I'll take homemade and handmade any day.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

heavenly cinnamon rolls with caramel icing

You may or may not remember this post, when I expressed my slight frustration with the fact that Luke rather have Pillsbury cinnamon rolls than mine.  And here I shared that I finally found a version he would approve.  I am excited to say, the recipe below is another tally mark for me, and it came from a rainy Saturday night stuck in the house trying to scrounge up ideas for Sunday breakfast.  Because who in the world wants to go to the grocery store for a can of Pillsbury in the rain on a Saturday night, right?

I have used this yeast roll recipe time and time again, with no trouble.  In fact, I recently found out it goes above and beyond in the "can't mess this one up" category.  Those of you who can struggle with successful yeasted breads, prepare to be amazed!

A couple of  weeks ago, I had put the dough in the fridge over night so I could make fresh rolls for a meal I was taking to friends the next day.  To my frustration that morning, I found the lid had come off, leaving the dough deflated and even dried out on the top.  I figured I had nothing to lose, removed the dried layer, re-kneaded the dough slightly, then let it rise in a warm oven.  Before we left for church that morning, I had plenty of warm, soft rolls that tasted as good as if nothing had gone awry. 

I love recipes like that.

So back to the rainy Saturday night.  I thought about the yeast roll recipe and figured I could try adding more sugar to the dough, find a delicious icing, and maybe - just maybe - I'd have a couple of happy boys the next morning.  To my delight, and theirs, my trial baked up beautifully and my wish came to be.  Luke gobbled them up, and my heart was warmed.  

So here's to the third cinnamon roll recipe on the blog.  Can there really be too many?!? 

Heavenly Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Icing     

For the rolls:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 4 cups bread flour
For the filling:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
For the icing:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp caramel sauce
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
~ Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water.  Let sit until foamy; about 5 minutes.

~ With dough hook, mix in salt, butter, and flour until fully incorporated.  Continue to mix 
    about 10 minutes (or you can remove the flour and knead by hand a fully twenty minutes;
    MAJOR triceps workout!)

~ Remove dough and place on lightly floured surface, kneading 10 more minutes (if you
    kneaded the first 10 with the hook) until smooth and elastic.

~ Place dough in large, lightly greased bowl, turning once to cover the top.  Cover and let
    rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

~ Uncover dough and punch down. 

~ Roll dough into rectangle, approximately 1/4 inch thick.   

~ With a pastry brush, cover dough with butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border around edge.

~ Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon, reserving 1 tbsp of mixture.  Sprinkle dough 
   liberally with remaining sugar/cinnamon.

~ Roll dough, starting with long side, and evenly slice.

~ Heat oven to 375 degrees.

~  Place cut rolls into greased pans and let rise about 30 minutes.

~ Cook rolls about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.

~ While rolls cook, whip together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add caramel and 

~ Mix in milk and vanilla until incorporated.  Gradually add in sugar and mix well.

~ Top warm rolls with caramel icing.  Sprinkle tops with reserved sugar and cinnamon.

Caramel icing recipe from Annies Eats.

Friday, September 26, 2014

white chocolate snickerdoodle blondies (and a working mom's lament)

No one ever told me it would be this hard... the balancing act, that is.  I feel like my mind is racing with idea after idea after idea of what I would love to do to be a better Christian, a better daughter, a better wife, a better employee, a better... well... mom.  When things settle at the end of a day, the boys are in bed, and the house is perfectly still, the question hits me from all sides.  

What kind of mom was I today?

I was so very blessed to be home for the first years with my boys.  Well, actually, I had a small music business that served nearly 100 children and families, but it allowed me unbelievable flexibility and it was the next best thing to being home.  When the boys were three and five and I had the opportunity to go back to work full-time, there was a fire inside of me that was lit immediately, and the excitement of becoming another version of myself was fascinating.  I was in grad school at the time, I was craving more and more knowledge, and I was ready to do it all.  

Then I did.  

And the big burning fire was quickly squelched by that big, fat, ugly monster with whom all of us moms have become dear, dear friends.


Flash forward seven years, and I still question myself on the worst of days.  But rather than being swallowed up by it, I'm trying to remind myself of what I am providing my children.  Along with those stressed, short-tempered, call-it-like-you-see-it kind of mom moments from time to time, I'm allowing myself to recognize I am showing my boys how to work hard, how to apologize when you've directed your stress towards others needlessly, how to calm down when anger gets the best of you, and how to follow a life's calling within a career path that allows you to get outside of your own self - and them -  and influence others, learn from others, share gifts with others, and be blessed by seeing others do the same.

I admit I've longed, more times than not, to be the mom with the warm, homemade treats (like the ones below) to greet my children after a long day at school and practice.  Or to be the mom who can have the laundry washed and stacked and ready to be put away all while a full, rounded out meal is spread on the table when the family walks in the door.  But I have learned that the quick drive-thrus, or the package of Oreos are just as wonderful - and appreciated.  

So I implore moms everywhere… especially those who are working tirelessly outside of the home…  As Satan comes prowling about, clothed in the "guilt attire," tell him to get behind you! Rest in the peace God calls us to have in Him.  He is proud of you, and so are your children. And honestly, in the end, isn't that all that really matters anyway?

White Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Blondies
makes one 9x13 pan
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
~ Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

~ In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

~ In a large bowl, beat butter on high until light and creamy.  Add sugars.  

~ Gradually add in eggs and vanilla.  

~ Slowly add in dry ingredients, on low, a little at a time,  just until combined.  Stir in 

~ Spread into pan.

~ Bake 22-26 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool.

~  While cooling, mix powdered sugar, milk, and 1/4 tsp vanilla in bowl until smooth.  
     Drizzle over cooled bars and cut into 24 squares.  

Recipe adapted from Sallys Baking Addiction.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

fall harvest salad with maple vinaigrette and honey-glazed pecans

The time is here.  It's Fall, ya'll, and I love it, love it, love it!  This season is rejuvenating, exhilarating, and worth celebrating with all things food.

Before I get to the fantastic salad I threw together to honor the ushering in of this grand (and my favorite) season, I need to apologize for being absent for a while.  Quite honestly, I've been cooking up a storm and even taking pictures of the finished results, but I've also been brainstorming about how to update the site and make it easier to navigate - doing a remodel, if you will - and through my research have found that it's going to take quite a bit of work and time.  Foolishly, I'd hoped I could do it quickly and come back with all of these new recipes and a new look, but I haven't figured out a way to do so, so I'll continue as usual for now.  The food's the best part anyway, right?

This past weekend was a busy one.  Between my husband and two boys, there were four football games, a 9-2 Saturday event I worked for school, church services and loads of laundry.  I did get our front porch semi-decorated for the season, just so I'd have a little "happy" to enjoy each time we pull into the drive, and our back patio also received the last of the mum and pansy planting.  I was so hoping I could finish a wreath I'm working on for the front door, along with the ottoman I decided to start recovering (20 days ago, but who's counting?!?), but as Scarlett said in her sweetest southern way, "Tomorrow is anotha' day…"

And so I did manage to get this salad put on a plate as a part of our Sunday lunch and fell in love.  In love, I tell ya.  Honey-glazed pecans, cranberries, goat cheese and a homemade maple vinaigrette drizzled over a smattering of chopped apples caused this beautiful mixture to scream, "fall!"  The combination is nothing new, except in the Green household.  I'm sure you've had similar salads just as I have.  But now that it's made its way onto our table, it'll be a regular.

Stay tuned for the return of SOUPer Saturdays, beginning this weekend.  I'm having a hard time deciding which soup to post, as I've accidentally come up with two we've really enjoyed.  Do I go with creamy and cheesy or southwestern-y and tomato-y?  Ahh... so many decisions; so little time.  

one year ago: maple-cornmeal drop biscuits
two years ago: orange-cinnamon french toast

Fall Harvest Salad
serves 2-4
For the salad:
  • 10 ounce'ish mixed baby or field greens
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions (white parts only)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 5.5 ounce small log goat cheese, crumbled (I used herb goat cheese)
  • 1 apple (Honeycrisp or Gala are wonderful for this), cored and chopped
For the pecans:
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Kosher salt
For the dressing:
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped, fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 "swirls" of maple syrup 
~ Heat oven to 350 degrees.

~ Place all salad ingredients in a bowl.

~ Spread pecan halves in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until 


~ Put honey in small saucepan and add roasted pecans.  Heat and stir until mixture is 

    foamy.  Remove from heat.

~ Spread pecans on parchment-lined baking pan to cool, separating with a fork.  Sprinkle 

    with salt.

~ For the dressing, put all ingredients in a glass jar with lid and shake.  Obviously, you can 

    use a bowl, but I love doing it this way, because it's a cute serving option and leftover can 
    be easily stored.  You'll have more than you need for this salad.  

FYI's -

  • The pecans are super-sticky but SO worth it.  Just have a couple of utensils at the ready; one to pick up with and the other to get the pecan onto the salad.
  • I find it's better to "dress" the salad before serving.  Place all ingredients in the bowl, pouring the desired dressing over the top and gently "turning" the ingredients with tongs.