Sometimes wonderful recipes just happen by accident. Yesterday, I had planned to make a roasted chicken breast recipe from Ina Garten. The recipe calls for fresh garlic and herbs to be sautéed in olive oil. Well as soon as I got started, and the air began to fill with that delicious garlicky aroma, I realized I hadn’t actually bought any chicken breasts. Oops…it was a classic case of “mom brain,” and I certainly wasn’t dragging Maverick back to the store at that point.
However, I really didn’t want to let that garlicky goodness go to waste, so I started looking to see what else I had on hand. I noticed the garden fresh cherry tomatoes on the counter that my mom had brought me, and then I remembered the orzo pasta I bought on a whim, and bingo!
That’s how this recipe came about, and let me tell you as simple as it was, it was so flavorful. I boiled the pasta and added some lemon juice to the garlic and oil. As soon as the pasta was cooked, I drained it, and coated the pasta with the lemon-garlic oil. Divine! Instead of just using raw garlic, the pasta was infused with the garlic oil, which didn’t overpower the delicate flavor of the tomatoes. This is going to be staple at our house until those delightful fresh tomatoes go out of season!
Garlicky Summer Tomato Orzo
1 cup orzo pasta (most any pasta will work)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (use the freshest ones you can find!)
2 tablespoons fresh basil
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional but why not?!)
Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water after the pasta has cooked.
While the pasta cooks, sauté some garlic in the oil, in a large skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute. Be careful not to let it burn. Remove the garlic from the heat once it has softened and add the lemon juice.
Add the warm pasta and the reserved pasta water to the garlic and lemon oil. Toss this around until the pasta is completely coated. Toss in the tomatoes and basil, and serve warm or at room temperate.
This weekend we had some new neighbors that moved in beside us. Even though we have had a pretty busy couple of days, I kept thinking we needed to go introduce ourselves, and I knew I wanted to make something for them. Since I was short on time, I decided to take an idea from my mother in law and make some good ol chicken salad for them.
When we were moving into our house a couple of years ago, my MIL showed up with a loaf of bread and chicken salad, and it was simply perfect! It was so nice to have something to throw in the fridge that we could snack on or have for lunch while were in the unpacking/organizing process. Chicken salad also seems appropriate right now considering this super hot July we are having here in Tennessee.
I threw a pack of crackers in the bag and Voila, I’ve got an easy and thoughtful “welcome to the neighborhood” gift! This would also be a helpful gift for a new mom or someone recovering from a surgery or illness. Plus, you can double this recipe and have plenty leftover for your family as well, that’s a win-win in my book!
Be sure to scroll on down to the bottom of this post for these Quick Chicken Salad Melts!
Classic Pecan Chicken Salad
2 lbs chicken breasts
1 cup halved green grapes
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
3/4 cups roughly chopped pecans, toasted*
3/4 cups mayo (light, if desired)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper
Fill a large pot half way full of water and bring to a boil. Place the chicken breasts into the boiling water. You may add seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper if desired to the water.
Boil the chicken, covered, for 20-30 minutes depending on how big the breasts are. Remove from the water and allow the chicken to cool, and then shred it with your hands or using two forks.
In a larger bowl, toss the chicken together with the grapes, celery, and pecans.
In separate bowl whisk together the mayo, lemon juice, dijon, honey, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and stir until the salad is completely coated.
*To toast the pecans, place them in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 6-8 minutes until they begin to smell nutty.
Check out these Chicken Salad Melts we had last night for dinner with the remaining chicken salad. Place a few slices of bread on a sheet tray, scoop some chicken salad on each one, top each with a slice of cheese, and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees, top with a fresh tomato, and dinner is served!
What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than with homemade ice cream?! I come from a long line of ice cream lovers, and homemade ice cream during summertime celebrations has always been a staple in our family. My grandparents use one of those old fashioned ice cream makers that makes a whole bunch of the good stuff, but to keep it simple, I use my Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker at home. It’s super easy to use, and the possibilities are endless when you start thinking up new flavors.
In my cookbook (The Outdoor Table), I have two delicious ice cream recipes that are made the old fashioned way, with an egg yolk custard base and all. However, I know many of us are looking for something a little quicker than that, so this ice cream recipe just uses good old heavy whipping cream to make it lusciously creamy. Is it low fat? …Um no! BUT, remember this is a special treat, and wouldn’t you rather have a small bowl of the real thing than a bigger bowl of a not so creamy, low fat alternative (probably ends up being about the same in calories when you get a larger portion anyway).
Plus, this ice cream is made with real ingredients, completely from scratch, which makes me feel better about any dessert I’m eating. The kicker in this one is the buttermilk, it gives the ice cream a slight tang that cuts some of the richness. It’s the perfect complement to the quick strawberry jam that gets swirled in at the end of churning. If you haven’t made homemade ice cream yet, give it a try, you simply can’t beat it!
TIP: The possibilities are endless when it comes to baking with buttermilk! Use the leftover buttermilk from this recipe for biscuits, pancakes, cornbread, cakes, or maybe even my Strawberry Upside Down Cake!
Strawberry Swirled Buttermilk Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chopped strawberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Place the heavy cream, buttermilk, 3/4 cup sugar, and vanilla in a large saucepan over medium heat, stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Chill the mixture completely in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, place the strawberries, lemon juice, 3 tbls sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Use a potato masher, (or the back of a fork) to mash the berries slightly and mix the ingredients together.
Bring this to a boil and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
Once the cream mixture has chilled, pour it into a 1 1/2 quart ice cream maker and churn according to package directions. Usually for about 20-30 minutes.
Once the ice cream has churned, layer it with the strawberry mixture into a resealable container. Then use a knife or skewer to swirl the two together. Place in the freezer for 4 hours.
Wow. What a month June has been! First things first, I can’t thank all of my friends and family enough for your support at my book signing/release party at Parnassus Books. The support was overwhelming and The Outdoor Table was their NUMBER 1 best seller for the month, which was published in The Tennessean! Seriously, so cool!
On top of all of that excitement, we closed on the house Zach built this week (I was the agent), so needless to say, this has been quite the month. We are overjoyed, exhausted, and humbled with all of the blessings that the past few months have brought. Life is not perfect, but we sure our blessed to be living out our passions, even if it does make things complicated and uncertain at times.
Now for a summer sipper, this recipe is sure to cool down during this super hot and humid summer we are already having, at least here in Tennessee. I love a good homemade lemonade, but I don’t love all of the sugar that comes with it. This version isn’t sugar free (it is lemonade after all), but you get some natural sweetness from the blueberries and mint, so no need to overload on pure sugar. Not only is this drink mouthwateringly refreshing, it’s also a gorgeous shade of purple. Add a few fresh blueberries and mint to garnish, and I’m thinking this is the perfect festive addition to your 4th of July spread!
Minted Blueberry Lemonade
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pint blueberries
2-3 sprigs of mint
3/4 cup sugar
5 cups water
2 cups ice
extra mint and blueberries to garnish
In a large pitcher combine the lemon juice, blueberries, and mint. Use a masher or wooden spoon to muddle/mash the blueberries slightly.
In a saucepan combine 1 cup of water and the sugar. Bring to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the sugar syrup to the pitcher as well as the remaining 4 cups of water and ice.
Serve over ice and with a sprig of mint and blueberries to garnish, if desired
Today is the long awaited (at least at my house) release day for The Outdoor Table! This book has been almost two years in the making, and I am humbled and so very excited that today has come. Get one for yourself, and perhaps one for dad for Father’s Day too, it’s filled with lots of great grilling recipes! So, I’ve talked about the book so much on here, and I really hope you’ll buy it, because it truly is a wonderful book. But today I want to share a little bit of the story behind the book…
I’m telling you, if you would have told me 5 years ago that I would author a cookbook, like a real cookbook sold in stores nationwide – I would’ve thought you were totally crazy. This whole cooking journey I have been on has been the craziest ride of my life. There have been some amazing highs, but there have also been some pretty low lows. I’ve spent many days doubting myself and my ability, wondering if I was being completely unrealistic, feeling like I should just get a “real job,” and asking God if all of this will ever to amount to anything?
Contrary to what people might think, I haven’t had this whole cooking journey planned out, it’s been a roller coaster. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God has led me through each door to get to this point. Everytime I considered just giving up, the Lord gave me a little reassurance to keep going. Even if it was a small thing, He would open a door right when I needed it, and I would walk through it.
I have had lots of ideas that didn’t work out, I’ve gotten my hopes up about the possibility of things that didn’t happen, and I’ve tried to force things that just weren’t working. And I will do all of that again I’m sure, but sometimes pieces of the dream actually do happen, and this cookbook is one of those pieces. People always ask me, “so what is your end goal with all of this?” And I have had a hard time answering that question. There are many things I would love to do, but the bottom line is, I’m not driving this boat. I had no idea a cookbook would’ve been part of the plan, but that just goes to show, it’s really not my plan at all. The Lord led me here and, to be honest, I don’t know where I’ll end up next, and I’m [finally] okay with that. His plans have always been better than mine anyway.
I suppose I say all of this to encourage anyone out there who has a dream. If you feel like God is calling you to something, even if you don’t know what the end result looks like, just follow in the direction of that dream. I do believe God places dreams and ideas in our hearts, and if He has a plan for you and you say yes to Him, that’s an unstoppable force. Ultimately, I want this book to be used for His glory. Even if it is a cookbook, the story behind it, is one of redemption and new life. He took food, the thing that could’ve destroyed me through years of disordered eating, and He gave me total freedom. What the enemy meant for evil, the Lord has used for good in my life.
That’s the real story here, and I am grateful and humbled beyond words. He is good, and He deserves my praise every hour of every day.
I am thrilled to announce that my first cookbook, "The Outdoor Table," published by Thomas Nelson Published is available to purchase wherever books are sold! This beautiful book includes 175 EXCLUSIVE recipes, not found on this site, perfect for all of your outdoor entertaining! Find out more and order your copy here...
Hey Y'all! Well I'm a southern gal, raised in Tennessee, where I still live with my husband and baby boy! Creating fresh and simple recipes with a southern flare, while sharing bits of my life with y'all on camera is what this site is all about. Also, my very first cookbook with Thomas Nelson Publishers will be out Spring of 2015, and I just can't wait to share it with you all! Read more about April...