Butternut, Collard, & Pear Pizza

Butternut, Collard, & Pear Pizza

As a long time home cook it is often extremely difficult to come up with new recipes, especially quick and easy weekday meals. If you are anything like me you find yourself cooking the same chicken dish over and over. Inspiration can be hard to find.

A few weeks ago I took a gamble. I ordered a box of fresh vegetables and fruit from Misfits. The idea is way different than those meal delivery kits. For a few bucks you get an assortment of fresh produce. Each week the box is a surprise. The best part, it has actually inspired me to come up with the recipes.

This recipe is a result of a Misfit Box. One week I received a whole bunch of mismatched fall vegetables and could not think of what to do with them. So, I roasted them and threw them on a pizza. Ta-da, a unique and new recipe.

Like most savory recipes, this one is up for interpretation. You can exchange out the vegetables for whatever is in your fridge or for whatever is seasonal. It would even be cool to go to your local farmers market and use what you find there.

I threw on the pear for a pop of sweet crunch. The onion and collards add a deep umami flavor, and the base of goat cheese adds a real punch. The crust is thin as to not overcrowd the entire dish. Hope this inspires you.

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Apricot Roasted Chicken

Apricot Roasted Chicken

There are often extremely difficult moments in life—days during which you feel as though you will not be okay. In the end, time will heal almost everything, but waiting seems impossible.

In those moments, food plays an important role for many. Personally, I gravitate towards homecooked meals that warm and ease my soul.

Two weeks ago I made the difficult decision to let go of my dog and best friend of 13 years. Although I know it was the correct decision to ease her suffering, it was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. My friends and family really stepped up to be there for my husband and I. The showering of food (and booze if I am being honest) kept my home full while my heart was empty.

I cannot think of a more soul warming meal than roasted meat and a couple of sides. A meat and two or three (or four) is a staple southern meal. Growing up, dinner most nights included meatloaf, country fried steak, pot roast, salmon patties, or pork chops.

So when you go through something difficult you often lean towards bits of nostalgia—the good moments. A full plate of love-filled food is a plate full of nostalgia for me. A lot of my childhood consisted of sitting in the kitchen with my mother as she cooked me dishes from the heart.

Although she never roasted chicken like this, I think this recipe is easily one that you can add to your repertoire of food to cook and share with others. The preparation calls for an arrangement of vegetables at the bottom of your roast pan and a slathering of sweet sticky apricot preserves. The result is a juicy home roasted chicken with a slight Asian flare.

I am going to leave this recipe here because it is my hope that you share a homecooked, heart-filling meal with friends or family. Even if you are not going through your own battle, and just want a good meal, this dish will serve you well. Now get in the kitchen and make memories.

The Ultimate BLT

The Ultimate BLT

A bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is one of those dishes that instantly triggers nostalgia for me. A good BLT is one of my mom’s favorite foods, which means so often growing up she would throw together a BLT for our supper.

Her recipe did not require special ingredients or fancy techniques, just a bit more care. She would quickly pan fry some bacon, which she usually had on hand in the fridge, slice some tomatoes from the garden, and slather toasted white bread with mayo. After watching her prepare countless sandwiches I realized what made her homemade version my favorite version. Aside from the addition of love, my mom seasoned every layer of her sandwich with salt and pepper.

First the mayo is lacquered on the bread then hit with a sprinkling of seasoning, the next layer is added and seasoned, and so on. As you can imagine, building a sandwich with tomato that has a sprinkling of salt and pepper far exceeds a sandwich with plain tomato.

And although I feel that you can never go wrong with classic BLT, I wanted to push the limits on what a BLT can be. With that in mind, I did not want to change the backbones of the sandwich by adding or using a bunch of random things. In the south people love to throw a fried green tomato onto a BLT in an attempt to heighten the recipe–I was not about to do that.

My approach is to amplify the already existing ingredients of a BLT. Add some garlic to the mayo, use better tomatoes, etcetera.

I use this Balsamic Onion Jam recipe to make the jam I use on the sandwich.

A few notes:

  1. Garlic confit can make you very sick if you do not cook it and store it properly. I recommend using it immediately and if you want to save it, freeze it.
  2. I purchased a loaf of homemade bread from a local baker. I recommend opting for a better bread than normal sliced bread from the grocery store.
  3. The true secret to making any BLT so much better is to salt and pepper every layer, even your smear of mayo.
  4. Finally, bake your bacon. This is a trick I learned during my short time as a line cook. Most restaurants place bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake it instead of pan frying it. It keeps the kitchen cleaner (bacon grease does not spatter everywhere) and you are able to tend to other things in the kitchen while the bacon bakes.

 

 

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Colder weather means throwing something in the crockpot before work, letting it cook all day, and coming home to a bubbly, home cooked meal. The preceding is especially true when your book club decides to host their monthly meeting at your house.

I can think of no better way to feed a bunch of hungry ladies than to prepare something that is quick and easy.

If you are like me, crockpot cooking can be difficult because there are so few dishes or variations of dishes that you can make in a crockpot—soup, roast, or chili seem to be the go tos.

I tested out this recipe a few weeks ago on my husband, so when my book club meeting was scheduled for my house I thought the recipe would be perfect. The most work this recipe requires is steaming some jasmine rice for the side.

A beautiful bowl of lentil and butternut squash curry

There is no added fat or meat, which results in a relatively healthy dinner. The base is made entirely of vegetables and a little bit of low sodium chicken stock. Low calorie cooking means more room for wine.

As the seasons change you can trade out the butternut squash for something more seasonal like mango or sweet potato. You literally throw everything into the crockpot the morning before your meal is planned, and let the lentils cook down with the vegetables until a thick creamy curry is created.

Just like you can switch out the vegetables that fill this curry, you can pick any of you favorite toppings to sprinkle over each finished bowl. I opted for cilantro and pickled onion, but the leftover seeds from the butter squash would have also been delicious roasted then peppered over the top.

Chopsticks sit besides this rice filled bowl of curry

Boiled Peanut Hummus

Boiled Peanut Hummus

For this post, you get a very short and simple recipe. This recipe that I love and go back to time and time again, so just because it is easy does not mean it is not delicious. I also wanted to share with you a savory recipe, which I feel as though I so rarely do.

Boiled peanuts are about as southern as it comes, and if you have never tasted them I am truly sad for you. For many southerners boiled green peanuts, although the concept of are one of those snacks that we turn to time and time again. Stop in almost any gas or this post, you get a very short and simple recipe. This recipe that I love and go back to time and time again; however, just because it is easy does not mean it is not delicious. I also wanted to share with you a savory recipe, which I feel as though I so rarely do.

Boiled peanuts are about as southern as it comes, and if you have never tasted them I am truly sad for you. For many southerners boiled green peanuts are one of those snacks that we turn to time and time again. Stop in almost any gas station below the mason Dixon, and you can grab a cup of hot (maybe not so fresh) boiled peanuts. On the short drive to Tybee Island from Savannah, there is a stop to get fresh steaming hot boiled peanuts, and let me tell you there is nothing better than sitting on the beach eating salty peanuts with an ice cold Coke. I even served boiled peanuts as a passed hors d’oeuvre at my wedding alongside pimento cheese sandwiches.

Often times our eyes are much bigger than our stomach, and we buy a bag that is too large to consume. Instead of letting the extra peanuts go to waste, I use them up replacing garbanzo beans with boiled peanuts in my hummus recipe. The result is something salty and delicious, perfect for scooping up with a toasted triangle of white bread.

I use this recipe time and time again because it is one of those dishes that your friends rave about when you bring it to a party or tailgate. When I am feeling extra fancy, and southern, I love to put a jar of the hummus on a platter next to homemade pimento cheese, bacon jam, and my pickled vegetables.

For those of you that have never tried boiled peanuts, I hope this recipe pushes you to step out of your comfort zone, or at a minimum inspires you to create something totally new from an everyday classic recipe.
I included red pepper in the recipe, which is optional. If you are like me and like a little kick, then add it. The hummus is just as delicious without it, so use however much you like.

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Smoked Oysters Two Ways

Smoked Oysters Two Ways

Since the holidays are officially over, my friends and I are looking for excuse to continue having celebrations. Last year, by happenstance, we threw together an oyster smoking and Christmas Tree burning party. I can’t decide if this was due to receiving a Big Green Egg as a Christmas present making my husband and I anxious to cook every meal on it or because my friends and I ‘s had nothing to do with our leftover Christmas trees. Nevertheless, the first party was a hit. I threw together a menu with almost everything done on the egg, including smoked bread, oysters, and sea bass.

This year my friends were sure to ask that we have another party with he same oysters, but instead of preparing the entire menu I asked everyone to bring over something we could throw on the egg. The result was perfect, first course was smoked bread to rip and dunk in truffle white cheddar spread and top with prosciutto. Next, my friend, Maria, prepared a traditional Caesar with romaine we lightly grilled, then topped with homemade dressing and fresh cracked black pepper. Finally, we had smoked oysters two ways. These babies are quick and easy. Together we all quickly shucked the fresh oysters, then I topped them with the butters, threw them on the grill for three minutes, then passed around the tray. Each oyster flavor stands up on its own. The chipotle butter is balanced with sweet honey, firefly chipotle, and bitter whiskey. The Parmesan brings needed relief from the heat with the savory taste of garlic and herbs.

Once our bellies were full, we gathered around the fire pit in my backyard and picked off each tree one at a time. It is amazing the hours of fun burning dry christmas trees results in. I am not going to lie, we coordinated each tree burning with a related song. Nelly’s Its Getting Hot in Here, Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, and Lil Wayne’s Fireman were just some of the our brilliant picks.

Chipotle Bourbon Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of chipotle sauce
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

In a small food processor, combine all ingredients until fully combined. Transfer into small Tupperware container and store in fridge until ready to use

Parmesan Parsley Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick of softened butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

In a small food processor, combine all ingredients until fully combined. Transfer into small Tupperware container and store in fridge until ready to use

Smoked Oysters Two Ways:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bushels of cleaned fresh local oysters
  • Wood Chips
  • Chipotle Bourbon Butter
  • Parmesan Parsley Butter

Directions:

An hour or two prior to cooking, soak your wood chips in a bowl of water to prevent burning too quickly. Once ready to cook, get your smoker, grill, or big green egg to a semi-high heat; I cooked these at about 400 degrees farienhiet. While smoker is heating, start shucking your oysters making sure to keep all the briny juice in. Organize your oysters on a large tray, and top each one with a teaspoon of your desired butter. Set aside until your smoker is ready.

Once the smoker is at desired temperature, add you wood chips. Give the chips a minute or two to begin smoking. Place your oysters in single layer on the smoker, and cook for three minutes until the butter is bubbly; you should be able to shut the lid for a minute or two. Remove, place back on tray, and serve immediately.