Thursday, February 26

Roasted Vegetable Medley

Cooking has become second nature to me (like wearing Spanx...I do it without thinking). Techniques or recipes I use every day have become so routine, I don't consider them blog-worthy.  

Then I receive a message from a young newlywed, inquiring about a simple spaghetti recipe, and I have a "hand to the forehead" moment. Not everyone feels comfortable diving in with a torch to crystalize the perfect Crème Brulee!
Today, in honor of beginner cooks everywhere (I salute you), we're going back to basics. Roasted vegetables was one of the first things I cooked...that was edible. There was an unfortunate incident with a salmon and salsa still pains me (and Super Hunk) to talk about it. FAIL!
Here's a brief "how-to"...with a "woo hoo" result!

Whatever floats your veggie boat!
I followed my hunger and it led me to the fridge, recovering baby carrots, broccoli, red bell pepper, corn on the cob, one very sad zucchini, a couple of red potatoes, and their sweet potato cousin.
Garlic Powder
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Just look at 'em..."Isn't she lovely"...because every good recipe needs a few Stevie Wonder lyrics.

Preheat oven at 450 degrees. Rinse all veggies thoroughly before preparing. Cut each one in medium pieces, not as small as diced...more like bite-sized.

Tip: When chopping anything, always use the back side of your knife to move items around on your board. This prevents your blade from becoming dull...and your husband saying "I told you so" while he sharpens it for the 25th time!
Go crazy, anything goes. The more, the merrier...the more, the prettier!

Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Add seasonings and drizzle with olive oil.

Toss vegetables to coat. Feel free to add more oil, if needed. It's not an exact science so pour until you're comfortable. That reminds me of wine...but I digress.

Spread evenly in shallow baking dish and place in oven. Roast for 35-40 minutes, removing from oven to stir every 10 minutes.

Tadaaaaaaa, "Isn't she wonderful"!  Pair it with a few slices of barbecue beef sausage and your house will be a happy one!

Even happier if you trim the corn off the cob for a certain someone...I won't name names, but he's super hunky! To my Southern relatives, I apologize...please forgive me for this butchery.

Corn on or off the cob, it's a delicious...SIMPLE...dinner! I hope you'll give it a try.

Stay tuned for more "Back to Basics" recipes. If you have a request, please email me...I enjoy hearing from you!

Monday, February 23

"Vanilla & Honey What?"

I recently stumbled upon a recipe for "Vanilla & Honey Panna Cotta with Poached Cape Gooseberries".

My first thought was "Huh"!

My second thought was "This is why people feel too intimidated to cook"!

Seriously, when was the last time your husband inquired about dessert and you whipped up a little "Vanilla & Honey Panna Cotta with Poached Cape Gooseberries"?

I'm pretty sure Super Hunk would look at me the same way he would if my hair was ablaze.

While I appreciate fine cuisine, on occasion, real life is a big ol' pan of brownies...made with love! This recipe, presented as an "easy dessert", is why people throw up their hands in defeat...and call for takeout.

Recipes shouldn't be scary...they shouldn't leave you bewildered...wondering how many berries a goose can actually carry (or is that just me).

If this was posted here at S&S, it would be entitled "Vanilla & Honey Italian Cooked Cream with Moisture-Heated Sour Tomato Berries".

I know, it doesn't have the same elegant ring to it...but it makes way more sense. Don't you think?

My outlook on life usually falls in the "If ordinary is good, extraordinary is better" category. But time is limited, let's not spend valuable cooking minutes attempting recipes that require googling.

Keep it simply delicious and, in case you're wondering, here's a little clarification (you can now talk it up at any Food Network Superstar Mingle)!

"Panna Cotta" is an Italian dessert made by blending thick cream, egg whites, and honey. It is also described as cream jello.
Poaching is a cooking technique defined as submerging something in low temp liquid. It is ideal for delicate foods, such as eggs or fish, that might fall apart when boiled at higher temps.
Cape Gooseberries are similar to cherry tomatoes with a yellow exterior and tart interior. They are surrounded by a husk that resembles a cape. Available year round, they are sold in stores by the other berries.
Now that we're well-informed...join me in making the "ewwwww, no thank you" face!

I'll stick with butter, flour, and sugar!

Wednesday, February 18

Smashed Potato with Avocado - Little Man's Lunch Choice

As Little Man gets older, he shows more and more interest in the preparation of meals. He grabs his stool and joins me to "wook"...which really means, I do the cooking and he does the tasting.
He's recently started having preferences so I allow him to choose what he'd like to eat. Some days it's cottage cheese, other days it's apple pie...he keeps me on my toes.
This day, he selected potato and avocado. To encourage his creativity, I channeled mine...and this is what we made. He enjoyed helping...and surprisingly...we both enjoyed eating!
I encourage you to try it, this toddler has good taste! Look out, Bobby Flay!
Pardon the blue fingers, he chose berries for a snack and well, three days later...they're back to normal.
1 red potato, washed
1/2 avocado
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ranch dressing
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Pepper to taste
Diced ham (optional)
Once potato is rinsed, drizzle with olive oil (about a tablespoon) and rub to coat.

Sprinkle both sides with garlic salt. Pierce all sides with fork. Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes (longer if the potato is extra large). If you're in a time crunch, you can also microwave for 7-10 minutes (rotating every two minutes).

Once potato is cooked and tender, slice avocado in half (horizontally). Scoop 1/2 out with spoon and placed sliced side down on hot skillet or griddle for about 1-2 minutes. Flip and do the same on back (this is to slightly heat the avocado and make it creamy).

While avocado is heating, in small mixing bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of olive oil with 2 tablespoons of ranch dressing until well blended (it will take a little persistence but you can do it).

Once potato is slightly cooled (not scalding "hot potato, hot potato" hot), smash to about 1 inch thick. I used the bottom of a mason jar because I've yet to find something it can't be used for (weird sentence alert)!

Place potato on plate with 1/2 of avocado.

Drizzle ranch mixture generously over potato (this will act as your moisture instead of half a stick of butter...which makes everything better in my book).

Top with salt and pepper, finish will a sprinkle of diced ham (completely optional).

Maybe I should let him choose my lunch because this was sinfully easy and wonderfully delicious!

Disclaimer: Even though this seems like world's strangest recipe, the point of this post is to inspire you to get creative. Take a few unlikely ingredients and see what you can create. See cooking through the eyes of a child and I promise, it will be so much more fun!

I give you permission to play with your food...ready...set...GO!

Tuesday, February 17

Inspired to cook!

Back in December, I shared with you the next chapter of S&S would be Cooking with Courtney classes. I made the decision to partner with North Texas Farm & Ranch Magazine and share with other busy women, the joy of cooking.
The first class was held in January and it was nothing like I planned. Another illustration of God doing what He does best. I envisioned an instructional class, where we discussed recipes and tips. The ladies attending had other ideas, they wanted to COOK!
Cue the hand to the forehead.
With recipes in hand, I stepped aside and let them take the kitchen reins. I was present in strictly a supervisory capacity and loved every minute of it.
With two months under our belts, new friendships are being formed.
New recipes are being mastered.

And laughter always fills the much laughter.

Watching the seed that God planted in my heart become a harvest has been priceless. Cooking ruts, be gone...these ladies are ready for anything (even the burned dessert we repurposed from strawberry shortcake stacks to strawberry shortcake was delicious)!

Teaching, sharing, cooking, and let's not forget...eating...with each other has inspired a new love of cooking...even in me.

As if that wasn't enough, I also get to exercise my "giving" muscle and send every class attendee on their merry way with one of my favorite kitchen items. You get a spatula, you get a spatula, you get a spatula!

If you want more information on classes, email me or follow S&S on Facebook.
Cooking doesn't have to be hard...just inspired!

Tuesday, February 10

2014 stretched me!

I read a quote once that changed my life..."A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions." (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. )

This week marks my one year anniversary in the blogosphere. One whole year, sharing my life...and its beautiful chaos...with you.

Whether you've been with me from the start, or are just tuning in, this blog has exposed me to a multitude of new experiences (and many firsts). Here's a look back...

The journey began with my first post, The Reason I write Letters. It was dedicated to my sweet, letter-writing Memaw and illustrated why a handwritten note is so priceless to me. Thank You Thursday (a campaign designed to inspire people to dedicate one day a week to thank you notes) was born! It's now a recognizable hashtag! #thankyouthursday

I shared my Mom's famous Cricket Cookie recipe, which has become an outright S&S Reader Favorite. I've had more messages and comments related to this recipe than any other. Follow the recipe exactly or branch out and add a few more ingredients, it's still a testimony to the delicious simplicity in life we all seek! 

As I began to get my feet wet, I felt comfortable enough to publicly proclaim my new love of Brussels sprouts (and learned I'd been pronouncing them "brussel sprouts" all these years)! I have since joined a "sprout fanatics" support group.

And let's not forget, one of my finer moments, when I actually posted the phrase "when you're feverishly rolling your balls" while posting three days of Meatball Trifecta recipes. Mmm hmm, it's officially out there for the world to read. I've since joined a "no filter" support group.

I said goodbye to an old friend and you cried with me.

I met a few new ones and you rejoiced with me. 

I became part of the North Texas Farm & Ranch Magazine family as a monthly food columnist, which still seems surreal considering I once googled "How to boil an egg"!

In January, we kicked off Cooking with Courtney classes, which seems even more surreal considering I once added coca-cola to a recipe that called for "soda"!

In the midst of all this stretching, I continued my most important role as Super Hunk's wife and Little Man's Mom.

"A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions." 

2014 has stretched me. It redefined the parameters of my brain. Its opportunities developed me to the point where I will never be able to return to my old dimensions. Glory be to God!

I pray your 2015 is full of experiences that stretch you beyond your comprehension. Thank you for being part of my journey!

A Spot of Tea

It was a day of tea and etiquette with two of my favorite ladies. Let me clarify, it was NOT High Tea. Apparently, High Tea first began after a hard day of men plowing the fields. Tea was served with savory foods (such as sausage) while sitting at high tables. There was no fine china, delectables, or frilly hats. I prefer today's Victorian tea and glad I now know the difference.

Our table mates were four swanky ladies, oozing with society class and jewelry I can only guess were family heirlooms. My bobbles were clearance items at Dillard's but it's not what you have but how you carry it. Right? The conversation was lovely and I'm certain we have at least two new acquaintances (the other two seemed as if they had enough friends).

Why don't women wear hats more often? The room was a sea of color, bows, and feathers. In my opinion, hats make you walk a little taller (partially because your spacial recognition is distorted by the large circumference of your head).

Seeing my name next to a place setting of fine china makes my etiquette insides dance a jig!

This tray of goodness was almost too pretty to eat but I took one for the team...or three!

What is it about "steeping" that automatically elevates the caffeine consumption experience to high-class?

And we're back to "plain folks" by attempting a silly selfie. It was delightful to be transported to the Victorian era for a few hours, sharing it with my dear friends, and realizing I should never take selfies!

Saturday, February 7

You're never prepared for goodbye!

It's been a week since we said goodbye to our sweet Old Man. I've wanted to post this numerous times but couldn't see through my tears. 

Today, the sun is shining and it's his favorite kind of day so this tribute only seemed appropriate.

Even though he was 16, you're never prepared for their absence. We tried to mentally accept our limited time but our heads couldn't convince our hearts.

I met this sweet face six years ago when I started dating Super Hunk. The story goes...I knew right away Super Hunk was the man for me but I fell in love with his dog first. 

Just look at this face...

He had a howl that sent chills up your spine. It was so awful, you couldn't help but love it. He was never any trouble and required very little. In fact, much like Super Hunk, he preferred to observe instead of participate.

Until it came to snuggles. He'd come, for a brief moment, to fill his love cup...

And then he was done. Just enough to say "I love you"...but not too much to be considered a nuisance.

He was the silent, strong, leader of our pack.

Happy everywhere and never met a stranger.

Like many dogs, he liked balls...even things resembling a tomato that fell from my grocery bag. "There's something not right about this round thing."

But, at the end of the day, the frisbee had his heart. He loved nothing more...and could care less if others were around or not. To him, it was all he needed for complete and utter happiness.

So I dedicate this to the easiest dog I've ever loved. He and his frisbee will always hold a special, quiet place in my heart!

RIP Fitzgerald, "Old Man"
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." ~ Winnie the Pooh