Wow, I have not posted on here since October. It has seriously been the craziest and most unexpected 5 months or so in my world. Last year, I was “wheelin and dealin,” you might say; cookbook author, national and local TV spots, selling a few houses in Franklin, oh and being a new momma on top of that. My how quickly things can change. One thing is for sure – we really aren’t in control. Ha. I’ve had to learn that the hard way this winter. Countless times I have considered writing a new post on here, but I really didn’t have the words. I didn’t want to make any promises or declare anything about what was going on, because I really didn’t know what was going on. Since so many people have supported my cookbook and even just my recipe posts over the years, I figured an update on WHERE THE HECK I HAVE BEEN might be appreciated.
In Charleston soaking up the sun right before all of the craziness began.
So, here’s a run down of events, I finished most of my book marketing events and signings in October. We went on a trip to Charleston for a wedding, and I was feeling totally normal. I was a little tired from the busyness of the summer, but over all, I was fine. The weekend after we got back, towards the end of October, I woke up feeling very strange; light headed, nauseas, chills, and just overall unwell. It hit me ALL OF THE SUDDEN. I went to the doctor immediately, and they said it was probably a virus and gave me something for the nausea. After a week, I still wasn’t better. I could hardly get off the couch and just feeding Maverick or changing his diaper seemed to take all of my strength. At this point, I was pretty worried. I knew my body, and I had ever experienced anything like this. I had a speaking event coming up at a church a few weeks later, which was really the last thing I had on my calendar work wise for the year. I thought surely I would be fine by then, but to my surprise, the weeks went by, and I still wasn’t well.
My sweet friends who came to support me at my speaking event at Calvary Baptist Church. God gave me the energy I needed for this, but I had barely eaten for 3 weeks prior…pictures are deceiving.
Doctors seemed to be baffled, I had lots of tests and scans, and everything came back normal. I kept hearing from God that I needed to just “WAIT,” but that seemed pretty counter intuitive. As time went on I would feel better for a day or two, and then I would have a relapse of symptoms. This was forcing me to put my life on hold. I had so much anxiety about what was wrong with me, and I have no doubt that made my symptoms even worse. Typically, I would not call myself an extremely anxious person, but during this ordeal my lack of control was enough to send me into a panic at times. I couldn’t stand not knowing what was wrong with me and continuing to wake up just feeling ill and not myself. I researched all kinds of strange diseases and illness, none of which I actually had, but I couldn’t help myself. Throughout this season, I had definite moments of clarity and times when I heard God speak loudly, but I had many dark days of confusion and uncertainty as well.
Finally at the end of January, I started to see some real improvement. I also saw one last doctor, an internist at St Thomas, who confirmed what other doctors had suspected all along, I had a virus that my body was just having a really hard time fighting off. I realize people have much more difficult health battles to fight than this, but for someone with no medical history, 3 months of a mystery illness was super hard for me on so many levels. In the past, I have definitely prided myself on my health and ability to control my circumstances. I’m pretty sure “I can do it all” has been my motto since having Maverick, but God pretty much said “Hey, you aren’t defined by all that “stuff” you pride yourself on, am I really enough for you?.” Whoa. Talk about a REALITY CHECK.
Even though, I have felt well since February, my immune system has still been weak, I’ve caught several colds and even Hand, Foot, and Mouth from Mav last week! Obviously, I’m not totally out of the woods, but I’m taking lots of immune building supplements as well as keeping my diet pretty clean. Except for the occasional Saturday morning doughnut!
Doughnuts with my boy!
So, what’s next for my cooking career? Well, for right now I am cooking as much as ever, but without an agenda! It’s been all about using real ingredients, and taking healthy cooking to a new level for me and my family. I am experimenting with new recipes and just enjoying cooking for my people. This was the whole reason I fell in love with cooking in the first place, and I’m just getting back to my cooking roots, if you will. During my illness, I had totally taken a break from “creative cooking” and definitely from recipe creating, it was survival mode. Once I got my feet under me, I found myself unsure of where to pick back up with this whole cooking gig. The book is out and the marketing of that is pretty well over, I don’t really have an obvious next step in my cooking career.
The truth is I have continued to hear God saying “WAIT.” Even now, I believe I am supposed to cook for my family, and serve my son, husband, and those around me in a way I haven’t had the time to do in the past year or so. I’m going to be supporting Zach with real estate and the houses he is working on this spring and summer, because to be honest, it’s his time. He has been so supportive of me and my dreams and put up with a lot during this crazy winter. He deserves me to be “all in” as a wife, business partner and manager of all things McKinney house and home for now. I know that God has a plan, and my cooking career is not over, but for now it’s on hold, until God says GO.
Before my illness, I would have never dreamed this is how I would be starting 2016. It’s very hard for me not to be on the hunt for a new project now that I am feeling better. I feel the pressure that I’ve put on myself that says being a mom and wife is not enough. I feel the tension of wanting to do more, but I must be obedient in what I hear God saying to me now. I don’t know if that means a month, a year, or longer of taking a break, but I’m trying to be WILLING (my word for 2016) to do as He asks. His plans are always greater and ultimately, I want to serve Him and others with my whole heart.
So, I may post a recipe for fun here or there, but for now, no big plans. I guess you could say I’m just high on LIVING the simple life. Spring is here, sun is shining, Easter is coming, and Jesus is making ALL THINGS NEW.
Thank you for the prayers of healing and support, I’ll be back!
Today I’m off to the Southern Festival of Books for a presentation and signing, and I made these thumbprint cookies to take with me for about the fifth time this month. So I thought I’d share them with y’all! Lately, I have been really into all kinds of shortbread cookies. They are so simple, but they feel special and sophisticated at the same time.
One important tip when making shortbread is don’t skimp on the butter! The butter is the main ingredient in shortbread, so try using Kerrygold or a brand that is a little higher quality than the store brand. There aren’t many ingredients in shortbread dough, so you’ve gotta make them count!
Instead of the usual sweet shortbread, this savory cookie is unique and absolutely perfect for this time of year. A version of this cookie is also in my cookbook, and I just keep going back to it. I’ve made these for book signings and even for my son’s first birthday. The dough can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, which is great for party planning.
Maverick’s party spread featuring the Cheddar Thumbprint Cookies!
Also, to make these extra special try a local pepper jelly, from a company such as The Nashville Jam Co or Marcy Jams, which you can find at local stores, farmer’s markets, or Whole Foods.
I hope you enjoy these, and be sure to let me know what you think!
Sharp Cheddar Thumbprint Cookies
makes 18-20 cookies
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg yolk
- ¾ cup Sharp White Cheddar
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
- ½ cup Pepper Jelly
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a mixer, beat together butter, flour, and salt until well combined, and then mix in the egg yolk.
- Add the walnuts and sharp cheddar and mix just until well incorporated.
- Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone.
- Press your thumb gently in the center to make a well in each cookie and fill with ½ tsp jelly
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until cookies are golden.
I wanted to share with you a few events I have coming up. If you are interested in getting a signed copy of The Outdoor Table and/or attending a fun event this Fall, here are some opportunities to do so! Visit my Speaking/Book Signings page for events and updates.
All Booking Inqiuries: email@example.com
Sunday October 4th -3:30 pm, Sigourney Cheek Literary Garden
Join us to listen as celebrated local authors share their stories, describe their processes, and offer ‘behind-the-text’ accounts of their work in our intimate garden setting. Cash bar available.
Offered in partnership with Parnassus Books. Space is limited; first-come, first-seated.
Sunday Dinner and Outdoor Entertaining: Meals that Bring People Together
Tammy Algood, April McKinney
Friday, October 9, 2:00-3:00 pm
Room 30, Legislative Plaza
There will be more information about this to come, but I’ll be doing a recipe demonstration as well as speaking at the banquet about my personal testimony and story with food. Tickets will be available online. Stay tuned for a link to that!
This is the time of year I always find myself creating at least one new “Buffalo” style dish. A couple from years past would be my fave Buffalo Chicken Tenders and these adorable Buffalo Turkey Sliders. This year I attempted Buffalo Cauliflower. I’ve been eating it at restaurants when I see it on the menu for some time now, and I’m addicted! It’s not too filling, has a little kick to it, and it’s even kind of healthy! Well, sort of, at least when it’s not fried…
In this version, I decided to roast the cauliflower with a light coating to give it some crunch, so no need to fry it, and then the crispy florets get tossed in some delicious buffalo sauce. It’s super easy and a fun appetizer especially for this time of year. I actually made this the other night and ended up eating it for dinner by itself with a little blue cheese dressing and celery. What can I say, with a 1 year old in the house, I’ll take what I can get for dinner, and this did the trick. So, whether it’s a game day party or dinner for one, this one’s got ya covered!
Baked Buffalo Cauliflower
serves 4-5 (appetizer servings)
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup Buffalo Sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot Suace)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon each garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl and toss in the cauliflower florets until they are coated in the egg.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Toss the cauliflower in the crumb mixture, and then place on a large baking sheet.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden and crisp.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the buffalo sauce, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, and butter. Once the cauliflower has finished roasting, gently toss it in the sauce. Serve immediately with celery, blue cheese and/or ranch.
I know, long time, no post…right?! Well, things have been a little crazy over here the past few weeks. I had a whirlwind of a segment last week on Fox and Friends, which was fun but a little crazy, and a TON of work! So, I’ve been recovering/settling back in, and I can’t tell you how good it has felt to be back in my kitchen, cooking regularly again. I suppose, I’m a little odd when it comes to that, but cooking is a sort of therapy for me. Especially, if Zach is home while I’m cooking to watch Mav…
Anyway, in an effort to avoid the “let’s just grab something for dinner” phrase we’ve used so much recently, I’ve been trying to plan our meals ahead. For example, this past Sunday we went to the late church service, so I had time that morning to make this layered casserole and stick it in the fridge. It is sort of a twist on Chicken Cordon Blue, in casserole form, perfect for a make ahead meal. All I had to do was stick it in the oven that evening, and dinner was done!
I’m usually not much of a casserole kind of gal, but I like the simplicity of this one and the use of real ingredients (for the most part). You won’t find any “cream of … soup” in this bad boy. It’s full of protein and low on carbs, a nice change from the traditional, carb loaded casseroles. The easiest way to make this is to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go. At that point, it’s just a matter of assembling!
Layered Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
For the Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
- 2 smashed garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
For the Topping
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1/2 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs
For the Layers
- 2-3 cups cooked and chopped chicken breasts (I used a rotisserie chicken from the store, but leftovers works too!)
- 2 cups frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
- 6-7 slices of thinly sliced ham
- 6 slices provolone, swiss, or mozzarella cheese
For the Sauce
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour, allow this to cook for a cook of minutes while whisking. It will seem gummy, but this will thicken the sauce.
Slowly whisk in the the milk, making sure to break up any lumps. Add the smashed garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. Allow this to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes, or until thickened. Remove garlic cloves once this is finished.
For the Topping
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and toss it with the bread crumbs until they are moist, set aside.
To Assemble the Casserole
Place chicken in a single layer in a 13×9 inch baking dish. Top evenly with the broccoli. Cover the broccoli with the slices of ham, followed by the cheese.
Pour the sauce over the layers and then top evenly with the breadcrumb mixture. A this point, you may refrigerate for later baking or bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Baking may take longer if the casserole is coming straight out of the fridge.