Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Comfort with a twist

There is not one thing wrong with simple comfort food.  I grew up on it.  I still make it.  Everyone loves a plate of well made, simply good food that reminds them of childhood.  And the one simple, home-cooked meal that defines my childhood would have to be my mom's roast chicken with buttered white rice and curried carrots.  It was nothing fancy, but it was a big fat hug on a plate.

I requested it every year for my birthday dinner and still have cravings for it.  I make a roast chicken for my family every single week and I love it, so does my family, but I could never remake that meal mom made me.  I wouldn't want to.

Some things moms just do better and should never be touched.

But I did make this last night when I was thinking about my mama and that meal.  It's still deliciously comforting, and different enough that it doesn't compete with my memories.  I did my roast chicken the way I always do (check out my method HERE- it's so simple and amazing) and served it with carrots that I slow roasted whole, then sprinkled with fresh mint, and farro (my favorite grain) cooked in chicken broth and finished with a little butter.  Then I made a cheese-less pesto with the carrot tops and served it over the chicken.

It's a great meal.  It's a pretty meal.  It's even a simple meal.

And it's a comforting meal because it makes me think of mama.


Slow Roasted Whole Carrots

carrots. oil. salt. sugar.
that's all

I made a ton of these because I had so many and figured I could use the leftovers for another meal later in the week.  But the recipe doesn't change if you make a few... or a ton.

Slice off all but the very ends of the carrot tops, reserve for the pesto. Thoroughly wash and scrub your whole carrots and dry.  Place on an oiled cookie sheet/s and cover with more oil so they're all coated.  Season well with kosher salt and a smaller amount of raw sugar.

Roast in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 1/2-2 hours (shaking the pans about halfway through), or until they're a little wrinkly on the outside, golden brown, fork tender and amazing.

Carrot Top Pesto

(I had a big, fat handful of carrot top leaves but if you didn't cook that many carrots and don't have that much- supplement with parsley.  The flavor is very similar.)

In a small food processor, throw in the following...

large handful of carrot top leaves (with parsley to bulk it up if necessary)
1 clove raw garlic
a small handful of cashews- maybe a few TB worth (pinenuts could be used but cashews are cheaper and have a similar buttery flavor)
fat pinch kosher salt
zest of 1 lemon 
juice of that lemon
fat glug or two of extra virgin olive oil (may need to add more)

Pulse until a paste forms, adding more oil if necessary to make it spoonable.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle... Fashion

I don't spend a lot of money on my clothes.  I don't mind if you do, I don't have a prejudice against buying expensive clothing.  But I just don't.  Never have.  I like the thrill of finding something I love at a really good price- whether it's consignment, or mark-down department stores or good ole Target.  I find I like the pieces better when I had to work a little harder finding them.  I shop clearance racks everywhere I go, love a good sale and the occasional coupon, I am not above buying my stuff from Goodwill and I will gladly accept your hand-me-downs.

Please don't confuse this as begging.  I'm just not too proud to wear cheap or free things.  Even if I had all the money in the world, I would still shop this way.  I mean... I'd buy me some fancy stuff just to see what all the hype was about, but I would absolutely still be thrifty.  It's just fun.  And putting together new outfits with all my pieces- new and old- makes me giddy as a school girl.

Here I'm wearing lots of fun stuff with fun stories.  The top is from one of my oldest friends.  We give each other clothes from time to time and I love wearing her stuff cause it makes me think of her. It's by Velvet Heart and I believe she got it from Lavendar Boutique.   It's so soft and comfy and easy breezy- it's one of my favorite pieces she's ever given me.

The cream lace shorts come from Marshall's and are by Free to Fly.  I bought them several years ago.  They're double lined, have an elastic waistband so they're really comfy, and have a pink ribbon strip down the outside of each leg.  $10.  Super cute.

The hot pink pumps are Chinese Laundry by way of Goodwill.  Paid $4.99 for those babies.  By the time they got to my feet, they were perfectly worn in and comfy as hail.

The clutch is mushroom grey vinyl and faux leather from H&M in LA several years back.  It came with straps but I detached them because I preferred the look of it as a clutch.  I use it a ton- both fancy and casual.  It goes with everything.  $15.

This outfit called for a messy ponytail.  I made sure to have some product induced thickness and a little wave in it before I loosely gathered it into a pony.  I left my long bangs down in the front and swept to the side to add to the casual feel of the outfit.

My sunglasses are Kenneth Cole via Marshall's.  I've had them for years.  And they're my favorite pair of aviators I've ever owned. They've taken a beating throughout the years and are still good as new.  $7.

My rings are both from Charming Charlie last year- the green one was in a basket of discount rings at the register and I paid $2 for it.  The bigger one is one of my favorites- It was $13.

The bracelets are both from a boutique I walked past on vacation, whose name I simply cannot remember.  Both were on sale for $7.  The wrap-around is one of my new favorite pieces.  I've been wearing it all the time.

The earrings come from the same shop- $15.  Also one of my new favs.

Looking put together doesn't require a lot of money.  It may take more thought and creativity to style yourself with inexpensive, odd pieces but I think that's a positive thing.

The best things are never easy.

You get more satisfaction out of something knowing you had to think a little harder to create it.  We should all try harder to share and appreciate what we already have instead of be on the prowl for something new and shiny.

The world would be a happier place if we just trusted that what we already possess is simply good enough.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Circle, Unbroken

I just got another tattoo to add to my collection.

And this time I had a buddy.


"Your rings are sacred circles.  
A circle is the symbol of wholeness, peace and unity.  
As circles, your rings have no beginning and no ending.  
They are the symbols of this growing relationship you have come here to celebrate and confirm.  
You wear them as a blessing that you have a partner in life and that you are each other's life partner."

I won't harp on it, I won't get atop my soapbox because enough better qualified people have done so, but I am so incredibly proud to now be a member of an all inclusive institution.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Nama Recipe #3- Tennessee BBQ Chicken

The smell of this chicken cooking is my earliest food smell memory.  I can remember my mom making it in her electric dutch oven... I can remember being so short that I couldn't see, only smell.  It's such a big part of my early childhood and I am so damn happy I got my hands on the original recipe.  This is another one from Nama's recipe book by way of her childhood best friend, Ninnie, who last brought you Caramel Fudge Cake.  Nama and Ninnie grew up in Tennessee and although they never referred to this as 'Tennessee Barbecue Sauce', that's what mom and I call it.  And when I opened the book and saw a recipe titled 'Sauce for Barbecued Chicken', I knew exactly what it was.  As I read the ingredient list, my adult culinary mind knew immediately that this was what my childhood palate had enjoyed so much.

This isn't the prettiest dish, but it is so dang good.  It's also really easy to make... you're marinating the chicken in the sauce that you're cooking it in on the stove top.  It's as simple as that.  You have to make it.  You just have to.  It's like barbecue sauce...but different.  The chicken becomes so tender too...it really begins to fall apart as you're thickening the sauce.  It's rich and buttery and sweet and tangy and savory and you will not be able to stop eating once you start.  The smell alone is worth cooking it.  When I told my mom that I was making it, she got so excited for me.  She kept texting me and asking me about how it was coming along and how good my house was smelling.

It's so wonderful to have found something that has graced the mouths of so many generations.  Isn't that such a magical idea?  The smell of it cooking in my grown-up house that day was something I cannot describe properly.  Taking that first slurp of the sauce took me back to those electric dutch oven days.  And watching my children gobble it up, sauce all over their smiling faces made me one happy mama.

Please make it.  Please.  And tell me when you do.  It will make me so so happy. 


This recipe makes enough sauce for 1 whole chicken, cut up.  I do not recommend scaling it back, I only recommend making the entire batch.  And we always ate it over rice with some kind of green veggie.

In a large bowl (big enough to house an entire bird cut up), add the following ingredients to make your sauce...

1/2 cup butter, melted (I only use unsalted but I'm sure both Ninnie, Nama and my mama used salted... and I melted it in my big glass bowl first, then added the following ingredients to it)
5 T worcestershire sauce 
2/3 cup ketchup (although Nama wrote catsup)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T (heaping) brown sugar (I only use light and I'm pretty sure heaping tablespoon really means 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup vinegar (mom says either apple cider or white- I used white)
garlic powder and salt to taste (Nama said garlic salt, but I don't generally keep that around)
dash of tabasco

Mix well and add in your chicken pieces...

Nama says it's good to marinate the chicken for several hours before cooking.  I was short on time and only had about an hour or so to let it sit in the fridge and it was awesome... I'm sure longer would be even better.

Heat an extra large skillet with high sides (or large dutch oven) on med-high heat until it's super hot.  Carefully add your chicken pieces, skin side down.  Reserve sauce in the bowl.

Allow the skin to brown well, then pour in your sauce....

Bring to a boil and then cover.  Reduce the heat so the sauce is simmering well.

Check after an hour, but it may not be ready to uncover until after 2.  Once it looks like the picture below- chicken fully cooked, sauce deepened in color,  etc., crank up the heat and leave the lid off so the sauce bubbles until it reduces a bit and thickens to a syrupy glaze.

Serve over rice and something green ;-)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Short People Got...

This post is gonna be short and sweet.

Big fat emphasis on the short. 

I have very short legs. It's just a fact. And when you're one of us short legged people, finding the perfect fitting bottom part of your outfit is a challenge. If we're talking shorts or mini skirts, they really do have to be fairly short... or else you're lookin' like the Hulk. 

A shorter length makes the legs appear longer... Which is pretty much what we want. 


However... Some skirts are too short to ever leave the house in.

Exhibit A...

Thank god for that clutch

It's a super cute skirt from Forever 21.  I love it.  In fact, the whole outfit is from Forever 21.  Head to toe.  It's funky and fun and makes me happy.  But I have never ever left the house in it.  I've put it on, thought about wearing it...  Then every single time put that tiny thing back on the hanger and walked away. 

But I bought it.  And I've felt bad for not giving it attention.  I just don't like to waste things...

So now I feel better. 

And back on the hanger it went. 


(Accessories cred: Orange vinyl clutch from FiFi's Fine Resale (unknown label) , white leather cuff from Express (back issue). Black and silver leather cuff- gift from my sweet brother, and turquoise cocktail ring also from FiFi's.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Thai Chicken Noodles

This was one of my favorite childhood dinners.  I think it entered into the rotation when I was a teenager and it was a family favorite.  It's noodles dressed in a Thai-inspired peanut sauce with chicken and a ton of veggies.  The sauce is just so good.

So.  Good.

Some peanut sauces can be so sweet, or too salty... this one is the perfect sweet-salty-spicy-tangy combo.  I make mine a little different than my mom did, only because it adapted into this version based on what I happened to have in my own kitchen when I was making it, but the flavors are all the same.  For instance, my mom used orange juice concentrate in her sauce and I use orange marmalade... I use natural peanut butter 'cuz don't f*** with my mom's JIFF... I cut back on the sugar a bit just because I tend to do that sort of thing... and I cut back on the sesame oil because I didn't think it needed so much oil.

I've made this dish for my husband off and on since we were married and just introduced my children to it tonight.  It was certainly sweet watching them enjoy something so familiar to me... something that tastes like home.

And now it's part of our rotation.

4-6 servings...depending on tummy size 
Start your big pot of water to boil 1 (13 oz) box of whole grain linguini, or rice noodles.  White linguini can absolutely be used as well.  Once the water comes up to a boil, salt heavily and drop your pasta.  Drain and reserve.

While your water is boiling, pasta cooking, etc., saute your veggies...

I use a different combo of veggies every time I make this because it really is good no matter what.  In the summer when it's easy to get a lot of squash and zucchini from your garden, this is a perfect way to use it.  Broccoli florets are great, carrots cut on the bias, bell peppers...there aren't many veggies that won't work here.
But for tonight, and the photo above, I used about 3 cups of sugar snap peas and baby corn, a red bell pepper, sliced and a small onion, thinly sliced... roughly 4-5 cups of veggies total.

Saute in some canola or light olive oil until they begin to color.  Season with salt.

Add in your 2ish cups of shredded, cooked chicken breast, which is what you get from 2 large bone-in, skin-on breasts.  I tend to make this meal after I've roasted off some chicken for a previous meal and just reserved some.

Stir to warm the chicken.

Deglaze the pan with a good splash or about 1/3 cup dry, white wine.  Scrap up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet and let the wine bubble for about 30 seconds before stirring in your peanut sauce (*recipe below).  Stir to coat everything in the sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve warm and garnish with fresh cilantro (sesame seeds are a great garnish too!)

But leftovers are mad good cold.

*Peanut Sauce
In a blender, or an immersion blender cup, combine the following...

2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
1 japaleno or serano pepper, seeded
6 TB orange marmalade
2 TB low sodium soy sauce
1 TB toasted sesame oil
1 TB light brown sugar (may need to add more later after tasting)
2 TB seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
good squirt of Sriracha (any hot sauce can be subbed)

Blend/puree until completely smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.


And I haven't forgotten about the Nama Project... I have plenty more to share!

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Take care, guys and have a killer rest of your week!  XOXO