Finished Knit: Leafy Baby Blanket

I took a break from my gigantic Slipstravaganza blanket, well, because I just need one. It’s up to about 900 stitches per round (true story) so it needed a timeout, or rather, I needed a break from the endless slog. I have cast-on-itis, but I have so many projects on the needles in various stages that I have to exercise some self-control.

Meanwhile, my cousin announced an impending new arrival, which, of course, means baby knitting. I broke my self-imposed project limit, because babies knitting doesn’t count. There’s a finite timeline for that kind of project, ya know? So, I narrowed down some patterns on Ravelry with similar attributes and let G-Man pick amongst the final contenders. Here’s what we got:

Pattern: Leafy Baby Blanket available for free on Ravelry.

Yarn: Yarn Bee Soft & Sleek Solids in the Viridecent colorway (I used about 2.75 skeins).

Needles: US 10/5.0mm

Notes and Mods: I totally forgot to start my project page in Ravelry, but I know I CO more stitches because the pattern, as is, comes out narrower than I would like, per other knitters’ project notes. I looked through other projects, and I’m pretty sure I CO at least 130 stitches. As for length, I just kept knitting until I thought I was getting close to the size I wanted, then continued out the current pattern repeat before moving to the final steps. This pattern is both written and charted, fyi. Overall, beautiful, easy pattern, especially for a freebie. I pinned the completed blanket out with my Knit Blockers and aggressively steam blocked it to “kill” the acrylic. Sending this off to my cousin, then it’s back to the blanket of doom.

Le sigh.

Our Easter Menu 2022 and a Carrot Soufflé Recipe

I finally planned out the Easter menu, because procrastination is apparently my thing this Spring. The days are flying by this year, for sure.

While I know that ham is traditional on many a southern Easter table, we usually opt for lamb. My family goes bananas for my grilled lamb chops, and with such easy prep and a fast cook time, I’m not juggling cook times and oven space as I often am on other holidays. I also aim for dishes that I can prep ahead, then just toss in the oven or on the grill come lunch time. I’d rather be hanging out and visiting with everyone than stuck in the kitchen on a holiday.

So, here’s the rundown of the big meal:

Maple Mustard Grilled Lamb Chops

Cheesy Hash Brown Potato Casserole

Roasted asparagus (olive oil, salt and pepper, roast at 375 for 10-15 minutes)

This fruit salad

Garlic breadsticks (shaped and baked into rolls instead of sticks)

and Carrot Soufflé (see recipe below).

However, if you are hell-bent on ham, I love this Maple Orange Bourbon Ham, and this Jalapeno Honey Glazed Ham. Both of these would go well with this menu, though I’d switch out the rolls for biscuits.

As for dessert, I will probably whip up a carrot cake, assuming my lost motivation shows up sometime soon. Or maybe break with tradition and do a chocolate fondue-type spread. Now, here’s hoping that I can actually get my hands on everything I need, as the grocery store has been looking a little on the lean side lately.

Carrot Souffle

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds carrots peeled and sliced
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs large
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter room temperature

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x13 casserole dish.
  • Cook carrots in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a food processor or blender, pulse the sugar and eggs until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, carrots and butter, and pulse to combine. Pour mixture into prepared dish.
  • Bake casserole until set, about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve immediately.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday–Rotisserie Come Back Dressing

After spending a lot of time in Utah last year, my husband got really into what he calls “fry sauce.” While I usually just throw a bottle of ketchup on the table when I make fries, I decided to be less lazy and up my burger-night game.

This recipe comes from Pirate’s Pantryfirst published by the Junior League of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and was submitted by Mrs. Edwin DeWeese. It was originally listed as a salad dressing, but I modified the recipe a bit so that it ended up being a perfect sauce consistency (see notes below). This sauce offered a great balance of creamy, slightly sweet, tangy, and savory. I whipped it up, and the entire crew gave it a resounding thumbs-up.

Rotisserie Come Back Dressing

Prep Time 10 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cloves garlic pressed
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 2 tsp prepared mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • salt to taste (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 6 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup Wesson oil
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 3/4 cup ketchup

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender or small mixing bowl. Will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. Serve on green salad or head lettuce.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

As always, I am posting the recipe as it was published, but I did make a few modifications to make it more fry sauce and less salad dressing.

  • I did not use the vegetable oil at all. That kept the consistency of a sauce, instead of diluting it to a thinner dressing.
  • As such, I adjusted the seasoning to about 3/4 of a teaspoon and pepper each. Even if I did use the oil, one tablespoon of salt would probably have been way too much in my opinion.
  • I only used half a small onion.
  • I think this sauce tastes a lot better after it has time for the flavors to meld, so I suggest making it ahead if you can.

Cookbook Review: “Save-It-Forward Suppers” by Cyndi Kane

Save-It-Forward Suppers : A Simple Strategy to Save Time, Money, and Sanity (Hardcover)

Ok, I have a confession to make. With the exception of post-Thanksgiving, my family will rarely eat leftovers. I don’t know what it is about this clown car of a household, but these peeps act like a “leftover night” is more of a punishment than a valid meal option. As such, I’ve gotten pretty adept at meal planning and portioning, but when I heard about the premise of this book, I was intrigued.

Cyndi Kane, otherwise known as Ree Drummond’s best friend, has long been featured on Ree’s blog and TV show, so I was familiar with her in that capacity. However, I don’t follow her on social media, so I didn’t realize she was venturing into her own cookbook publishing.

This book aims to provide a weekly meal plan where components of certain dishes are reimagined or repurposed into different meals later in the week.  For example, Sunday’s Ham shows up in Jambalaya and Ranch Beans later in the week. I will say that, to that effect, this book holds very true the premise. The weekly meal plans are diverse enough so that the “leftover” components appear as entirely newly imagined dishes. It reminds me very much of how I aim to transform Thanksgiving leftovers beyond the turkey sandwich. However, rather than rambling, I’m going to break down my review into neutral notes, pros, and who this book is or isn’t for.

Neutral Notes

  • This book has ZERO photographs. Instead, there are lovely watercolor illustrations throughout, but if you judge a cookbook on the photo situation, be aware that it’s 100% artwork. I know people can be damn picky on this front, so the disclaimer is important.
  • Cindi is self-described mother, wife, homeschooler and home cook. She focuses on family-friendly meals that are somewhat healthy and budget-friendly. As such, she includes an occasional supermarket shortcut like a commercial seasoning packet, jarred sauces, Bisquick, and jarred garlic. The recipes are very much aimed at a home cook. If you are averse to a few processed ingredients or are on a special diet, look this over to see if it goes against your current approach to food.
  • The author admittedly grew up in the low-fat, diet/crazed/weight watchers’ culture of the 80’s. Occasionally, this shows in some of the choices and language in her recipes.

Pros

  • This book really is accessible for home cooks. The recipes are all straightforward and approachable, with no complicated techniques or hard-to-find ingredients in the average US supermarket.
  • The meal-plan menu approach is budget friendly, reduces waste, and does lean toward a good mix of home cooking with a healthy-ish direction here and there. If you want to open a cookbook and have a week’s worth of meals planned out, this IS for you.
  • The author includes timelines, lunch ideas, and “getting ahead” tips that I appreciated.
  • Even if the meal plan approach isn’t for me some weeks, there are still some solid recipes I will be trying on my selectively picky eaters.
  • The writing is conversational and aimed toward home cooks, and the layout is visually appealing and easy to use. I especially chuckled at the way she talks about “biohazard” chicken.

This book is for:

  • Home cooks who want family-tested recipes that are approachable/accessible.
  • People starting out in their next chapter of life (newlyweds, college students/graduates, anyone jumping into the deep end of home cooking/planning with no or rusty experience).
  • Budget-conscious cooks who value using up ingredients to their fullest.
  • People interested in streamlining meal planning and prep.
  • Busy homemakers short on time and interested in a ready-made weekly game plan.
  • Really, this reminds me of the old-school Junior League/church cookbooks from my childhood. Uncomplicated recipes that are designed for busy families with supermarket ingredients.

Pass on this one if:

  • If you are into “chefy” or “authentic” or coffee-table cookbooks.
  • If no photos in a cookbook is a dealbreaker.
  • If you are a hyper-foodie and get a thrill from test-driving complicated techniques or bold flavors.
  • If you are on a specialized diet or a food philosophy, including paleo, whole 30, are a vegan, or keto. (I’d still look it over, though)
  • If you have such severely picky eaters to the point that you can only see using one or two recipes out of it.

Overall, I’m glad I bought the book, and I have earmarked several recipes to try on weeknights. Knowing that dinner will be a little easier after escaping the fifth circle of hell (otherwise known as school carpool line), made it well worth my twenty bucks.

 

Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday–Spicy Sausage Balls

Breaking with tradition, we decided not to host anything for the Super Bowl this year. I hosted a LOT of parties last year, and I’m still just kind of burnt out. While I love entertaining, I was just not up for a party on a school night. I wanted to watch the game and relax, preferably with PJ pants and a cocktail.

Despite it being just us, I planned on a small scale spread so we still had a special occasion feel. While I was looking up a dip recipe, I stumbled across these sausage balls and since I had everything on hand, I decided to give them a try.

This recipe comes from Revel, a cookbook from the Junior League of Shreveport/Bossier Louisiana (1980) and was submitted by Edie Broyles Williams. These were super quick to make, and the sauce showcased a really good balance of sweet, savory, and (a very mild) sour. The boys devoured them, and considering the incredibly low effort, it was a winner all around. For a pantry pull recipe, you really can’t beat this one for fast and easy. It’s safe to say that Spicy Sausage Balls will definitely remain in the appetizer rotation.

Notes

  • Remember, I publish the recipes for CCTT as written. I write these notes to clarify how I interpreted the recipe or streamlined it.
  • For this recipe, I used red wine vinegar and ginger powder (which is what the author most likely intended).
  • My broiler resembles a fire-breathing dragon, so instead of smoking us out of the house, I baked the sausage balls at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
  • I was in a hurry, so rather than rolling out 80 balls, I used my one-inch scoop which resulted in about 30 balls.
  • Next time, I will use one pound of sausage and one pound of ground beef, rather than straight sausage. I think the sausage seasoning flavor can be pretty strong depending on the brand and cutting it with some ground beef would balance things out perfectly.

Spicy Sausage Balls

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds hot sausage
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ginger

Instructions
 

  • Roll sausage into balls about the size of pecans. Broil in oven 10 minutes. Turn while broiling. Drain. Mix sauce in a saucepan and heat until bubbly. Add sausage balls to sauce. Serve in chafing dish. Men especially love this.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Spicy Tamale Meatballs–Stupid-Easy & Delicious Party Food at Its Best

If you are looking for a new, easy, and delicious snack for your big game party, have I got the recipe for you. These tamale-inspired meatballs combine the sweetness of cornbread with the spice of enchilada sauce, while the cumin comes in to punch up the flavor. My family devoured these meatballs at the Christmas party and have already requested them for our game-day spread.

Recipe Notes

  • While this recipe calls for ground beef, you could use ground pork or a combination of the two. I have not tested these with ground chicken or turkey, but commonsense tells me that, should you attempt it, I think they would end up on the dry side so take that for what it’s worth.
  • If you want more spice, use the spicy enchilada sauce, or add some hot sauce. I stuck with mild to make sure the gaggle of kids at the party could eat them, but will use the medium this weekend since it’s just the five of us.
  • To make portioning easier, I use my one-inch cookie scoop, and spray my hands with a little non-stick spray, but that’s because I truly suck at eye-balling portions.
  • I whipped up a box of the Jiffy Corn Muffin mix in an 8×8 pan as a shortcut, which was the perfect cornbread portion for this recipe.

So, overall, this ended up being a stupid-easy recipe that wowed the crowd, and I’ll take that kind of victory any day (especially one that gets me out of frying some damn wings come Sunday). Whip up a batch of these this weekend and you will become everyone’s new best friend.

Spicy Tamale Meatballs

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Appetizer

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups cornbread crumbled
  • 2 10-ounce cans mild red enchilada sauce divided
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil and spray it lightly with nonstick spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce, and salt, stirring lightly to combine. Add the beef and mix well, but not to death. Shape the beef mixture into one-inch balls and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes.
  • While the meatballs are baking, spray a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, and cumin, stirring well to combine.
  • Remove meatballs from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Transfer meatballs to prepared casserole dish, and pour sauce mixture over them, being sure to coat meatballs evenly. Place casserole in the oven and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  • Top meatballs with cheese, and return to oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Off the Shelf–Recent Reads and Reviews

Alrighty, here’s a roundup of my recent reads:

 

Nonfiction–Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss

I really enjoyed Paperback Crush. It’s a deep dive retrospective of the teen fiction novels I devoured in the ’80s and ’90s. Divided up into a thematic approach, it explores the evolution of popular teen fiction and the history of the most iconic series. While it primarily focuses on the titular decades, the author has done her research and mentions how certain themes can be tracked back through the decades. Just browsing the classic artwork brought back memories, and the author’s humorous and sometimes wry tone made it a fun read.

Overall, pure nostalgia made me buy it, but I’m glad I did. Series like The Baby-Sitters Club and Fear Street made me catch the reading bug, which I still have today.

Nonfiction–Hooked by Sutton Foster

This book is basically a memoir from Broadway and television star Sutton Foster. It follows her extensive career and travels as a rising stage talent to mother and TV star, while also describing the tumultuous relationship with her problematic agoraphobic mother. While she does incorporate how her crafting projects served as touchstones throughout her personal journey, this book is still very much a memoir at its core, with crafting as thematic tool for the stories. Overall, it was a good read, but I was already familiar with and a fan of the author. Because it’s mainly a memoir with crafting as an ancillary topic, it could be misleading if you don’t read the jacket or reviews.

Nonfiction–Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off

I’d say this book is solidly for knitters. It’s a fun, whimsical and funny look at the knitting community, including how specifically diverse, strange, and neurotic we can be. As a prolific knitter who fits many of the author’s descriptions, I found it to be an entertaining, lighthearted read. So, if you are a knitter, it’s great. If not, it’s not for you (unless you live with a knitter and need a guidebook to our world).

Fiction–The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This novel brings together a diverse cast of characters as they take a cooking class at a local restaurant. The chapters focus on their backstories, while weaving together the lessons from the class into their personal journeys and future goals. It’s beautifully descriptive, and a short, easy read if you like novels with food/cooking as a backdrop to the story. I will say that, while I enjoyed this one, I was slow to finish it. I appreciated it as a whole, but it was more of a pickup-putdown read for me.

So, there’s the recap (excluding the trashy romance novels that get me through carpool). That puts a respectable start to my embarrassingly tall TBR pile, I hope.

Creamy Garlic-Herb Tomato Tartelettes

It’s no secret I was on the struggle bus this holiday season. By the time I hit New Year’s Day, I was so dang tired of cooking, while also trying to balance menus for various events. When I was planning on what to bring to the family Christmas party, I knew I was sick of the usual dishes and wanted something different. However, when I bring food to large parties, I have to follow the basic rules of etiquette: nothing that requires reheating, an electric outlet, or assembly in the host’s kitchen. They already have their hands full, so commandeering counter space or a stovetop burner is a big no-no.

So, in my abject laziness and apathy, I dove deep into my fridge and came up with a super-simple, yet tasty and beautiful appetizer. These Garlic-Herb Tomato Tartelettes combine ready-made garlic-herb cheese spread with a touch of cream, which is scooped into frozen phyllo tart shells. The mixture is then topped with sliced cherry tomatoes and parmesan and baked until nice and hot. A drizzle of balsamic glaze finishes them off. These can be served warm or at room temperature. If you need a quick, easy appetizer, this fits the bill.

Creamy Garlic-Herb Tomato Tartelettes

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1.9 ounce boxes of frozen phyllo tart shells (approx. 15 shells per box)
  • 1 6.5 ounce container garlic & herb soft spreadable cheese (such as Alouette brand) room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 to 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup botted balsamic glaze
  • chopped basic for garnish, if desired

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place tart shells on a baking sheet.
  • In a medium bowl, combine cheese spread and whipping cream until smooth. Spoon about a heaping teaspoon of cheese mixture into tart shell and top with two of the tomato halves. Sprinkle tarts with parmesan cheese.
  • Bake tarts for 12-15 minutes, until hot, being careful not to burn the tart shells. Remove tarts from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Lightly drizzle tarts with balsamic glaze and garnish with chopped basil if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

This may make more or less tarts depending on how heavy-handed you are when distributing the filling. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Stepping Gingerly into the New Year…But At Least There Will Be Cake

Whelp, we made it through the holidays, and though they were full of fun times and togetherness, I confess I was ready for the new year. I am more than happy for things to slow down so I can focus a little more inward. I love the holidays, I really do, but it’s been busy, and there’s always something externally to focus on–planning, cooking, shopping, list-making, and task after task that goes with the season. Honestly, I think we are all a little tired and rough around the edges, and it doesn’t seem like relief is on the horizon anytime soon. As the pandemic drags on, it’s hard not to feel disillusioned and mentally fried.

As I’ve posted before, I don’t necessarily think resolutions are a four-letter word, and this year especially, I’ve been taking a hard look about the common theme when it comes things I need to work on. This year, rather than a specific goal, like a 5k, diet, or other drastic change, I realized that a lot of things I need to work on come down to a simple question:

“Will this make me feel good?”

I know, it sounds counterintuitive toward improvement when vices are aplenty. But really, that’s what it boils down to for me. I’ve been working on an internal dialogue during the day that is helping me self-reflect when I’m making small choices, For example:

  • “Is all that scrolling on social media apps making you feel good? Actually, you usually end up feeling anxious or checked out, and like you’ve wasted so much time. You know what does make you feel good? Reading and knitting. Isn’t that the better choice for this bit of free time?” (I have since deleted several (not all) apps, and you would not believe how much better I feel mentally and emotionally).
  • “Is skipping your workout going to make you feel good? Actually, you always feel better after a workout, even a small one, and like you are letting yourself down when you don’t. Do you really want the self-disappointment voice nagging the back of your mind all day? You know the better choice here.”
  • “Yeah, another cocktail sounds great, but will that make you feel good? Nope, it will zap your energy and wreck your tomorrow. Water will set you up for more energy in the morning.”
  • “The pantry looks like the Ghostbusters just exercised a demon in it. It’s overwhelming to tackle today, but you can set a 30-minute timer and commit for that much. Doing anything will make you feel better than nothing.”

I know it sounds silly, but the simple act of consciously reminding myself that I feel soooooo much better when I am choosing even the smallest of better choices helps build momentum. For example, after tackling the Mount Everest of post-holiday laundry this week, I had a few extra minutes to spare. After looking at the pile of clean napkins, I thought, “Ya know, if I just go ahead and iron these now before I put them away, that’s one less thing to do next time we entertain.” So, I did. Small victories and all that.

It’s hard to imagine what this year will look like but working on small steps feels doable. That’s what I’m telling myself, at least. The bright side? Epiphany is tomorrow…and you know what that means? It’s Mardi Gras kick-off baby, and I foresee king cake and crawfish in my future.

 

Book Review: Finding Freedom by Erin French

I’ve been plowing through my to-be-read pile lately, and just finished this memoir by acclaimed chef Erin French. A few years ago, I heard about a restaurant in a tiny Maine town that not only opened for a few short months a year, but also booked up for the entire season within minutes of the of the phone lines opening (and has since going to a postcard lottery method that has tens of thousands of entries). I totally forgot about it until I checked out the new series, “The Lost Kitchen” on the Magnolia Network (via Discovery+).

The show itself is produced by Joanna and Chip Gains, and follows Erin and her crew as they create a nurturing space and stunning culinary experience, as well as the ingredients and purveyors she uses to do so. The show reminds me of the PBS hit “A Chef’s Life,” and is beautifully shot and produced. If you liked that show, “The Lost Kitchen” is definitely for you.

When this book came across my suggested reading, I jumped right in. Erin’s memoir weaves through the places and relationships that forged the foundation for the person and chef she became. Readers get immersed in her life in the kitchen, her love of food, and her ability to envision both the spaces and sensations she wants to create for others. However, those memories are intertwined with her tumultuous relationship with her father, an abusive and toxic marriage, and a battle with addiction and its consequences. Throughout it all, her descriptions draw readers in so much so that we can perfectly envision the landscape of her memories.

Overall, this is an incredibly well-written book that showcases the breadth of Erin’s creativity, and also serves as a satisfying triumph-over-adversity tale. If you love cooking, food, small towns, or creator origin stories, this book is worth a look. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and definitely recommend.

**Usual Disclaimer: My blog is not sponsored nor monetized. I’m not that cool, y’all. Any reviews you see are things I’ve purchased with my own money and reviews are just my personal opinion.**