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.
I hate to admit this, especially since we are less than 2 weeks from my cookbook coming out, but I just haven’t been cooking very much lately, at least not cooking to come up with new recipes. We have been going through probably the busiest, most stressful time of our lives for the past month or so. Hard work and chasing your dreams can be really hard, especially when you throw a baby into the mix. Sometimes I forget that it’s supposed to be hard, and it’s going to take a lot of work. If my life ever looks like it’s all sunshine and roses from the outside, just know that on the inside it’s chaotic, risky, and pretty tense at times. Thankfully, we are finally getting to the fun part of all that we have had going on, and I really can’t complain about a thing. There are seasons for everything, and I am learning to embrace the present not just look to what’s next. Easier said than done, especially when the outcome is uncertain, but I’m trying!
You’re probably not surprised to hear that when I’m feeling stressed, I like to pray…and cook. I love to turn on some calming music and just zone out in the kitchen when life feels chaotic. At least I have some control in that space, as opposed to so many other aspects of my life. Cooking allows me to get my creative juices flowing and focus on something fun and beautiful. That’s actually how this pasta recipe came about.
I have been buying zucchini every week lately, because it is so plentiful and inexpensive right now. Usually, I roast it and serve it as a simple side. However, this time I roasted it with some frozen corn, which gets almost candied in the oven, and I added it to pasta shells. Then I tossed it all in a light, creamy sauce. The awesome part about this recipe is that it’s total comfort food, but without all of the calories and fat from a heavy, cream sauce drenched pasta dish. I also love that this dish is filled with zucchini, making for an easy way to get the kiddos (and adults) to eat those veggies!
If you want to add some fresh Parmesan cheese to this dish, I certainly won’t be mad at ya. But I will say, it’s pretty tasty as is!
Roasted Zucchini and Corn Pasta in Light Lemon Cream Sauce
2 medium zucchini, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup frozen corn
1 tablespoo extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces pasta shells (whole wheat may be used)
3 slices bacon
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
Place the chopped zucchini and corn (still frozen) onto a large baking sheet and toss with the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper.
Bake the veggies for 16-18 minutes, tossing halfway through baking. The corn should be golden and the zucchini should have a slight char.
Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain and set aside.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet, and then chop it and set it aside. Reserve about 2 teaspoons of the drippings in the skillet. Add the butter to the drippings and let it melt over medium heat.
Stir in the garlic and flour into the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk to prevent any lumps and continue stirring until the mixure thickens. Then stir in the lemon juice. Season the sauce with the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.
Toss the veggies, pasta and chopped bacon into the sauce and serve warm.
Well, I can hardly believe it, but we are less than 3 short weeks away from the release of The Outdoor Table! Since we are so close, I plan to share a few more sneak peak recipes from the book over the next couple of weeks. Remember, the recipes in the book are exclusive, meaning you won’t find them online! So be sure to pre-order your copy today, so you can get all of the deliciousness this book has to offer.
Now, before I get to the recipe, I wanted to invite you all to my first book signing which is also serving as a release party for The Outdoor Table! This will a be fun, laid back event at Parnassus Books, right across from Green Hills mall.
We will have some delicious refreshments, recipes courtesy of the cookbook, of course, for you to enjoy as well. So help me out on this first one, we would love to have a big turn out for this event! Bring your friends, grab some food and your copy of The Outdoor Table, and make a night of it! Thank you all for your support!
And now back to the recipe! As you may have heard, this cookbook originally started out as a southern book, so many of the recipes do have a southern flair, which I’m actually thrilled about! It really brings some character to the book, and this process made me fall in love with southern food all over again. And no, it’s not all fried chicken and cornbread, although those are included of course! One of my favorite warmer weather dishes is fish tacos, it’s just a go to dinner for me. I really wanted to include a recipe in the book for them, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to make fish tacos southern. And then I thought…Catfish! I didn’t want to fry the fish, because I wanted this to be something quick and light. In fact, that’s how most of the recipes are in this book. Fresh, fast, and colorful!
So, go on and get you some good catfish, maybe even fresh caught if you know a guy, and whip up these southern style fish tacos in no time. You’re gonna love them!
***A note about buying fish: I try to buy my seafood from somewhere that I trust. One thing to remember, fish should never smell fishy, if it does, don’t buy it. Also it’s best to use fresh fish the same day it is bought!
Tennessee Fish Tacos with Creamy Jalapeño Slaw
I call these “Tennessee Tacos,” because you probably won’t find fresh catfish tacos anywhere by the beach. Our ponds and lakes in Tennessee are full of good catfish, usually perfect for frying, but also for grilled tacos.
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
3 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds catfish filets
For the slaw, place the green and purple cabbage in a large bowl. Mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, jalapeño, green onions, and salt. Pour the dressing over the cabbage, and toss to coat the cabbage completely. Refrigerate the slaw until you are ready to serve.
For the fish tacos, mix together the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and salt. Sprinkle the spice mixture all over the catfish filets.
Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the fish for 3 minutes per side, or until it is flaky. Meanwhile, wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil, and place them on the grill to heat. Remove the fish and tortillas from the grill, and use two forks to flake the fish apart. Assemble the tacos and top them with the slaw.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Tip: Be sure your grill is very clean and oiled before grilling this delicate fish.
“It’s a shame when we box up hospitality in entertaining. We lose sight of the true spiritual significance behind it, and in doing so we rob ourselves and others of the blessings God intends to come through it.” -Logan Wolfram, From the She Reads Truth Hospitality study
I just love a good chicken leg, it comes with a handle after all! Even back in the day when we would get a bucket of KFC fried chicken after church, I always preferred the legs. So, in honor of my love for legs, I’m sharing my Sticky Sesame Chicken Leg recipe! You may have seen some similar recipes to this on Pinterest, but this is my version of the mouth waveringly delicious, Asian flared main dish.
You have probably noticed that lately I have had some type of story to go with my recipes. Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking on what to write for this post, and I got nothin! Ever since I have been getting more personal on here, I’ve waited to write a post until I felt like God was really speaking to me and guiding my writing. I kept coming back to this one, and I finally decided I was just going to publish it today without anything extra. And then, this morning, I read my She Reads Truth devotional and boom, God gave me something! I love when He does that, sometimes I go for days where I just can’t hear Him, but He always shows up at just the right time.
If you haven’t checked out the She Reads Truth app, you should, it’s an awesome women’s devotional app with all kinds of different studies to choose from. I am currently doing a study on hospitality, and as I read the one for today, I realized that I use the word “entertaining” quite a bit, when what I really mean is hospitality. As you might have guessed, we haven’t been doing much entertaining since Maverick was born. We haven’t thrown any Pinterest worthy dinner parties, and I haven’t hosted a fancy ladies’ brunch. It just feels like I can’t really entertain right now, because we are in such a busy season of our lives. My husband, Zach, is finishing up building his first house, I’m listing it this month, my cookbook is coming out soon, and of course Maverick complicates things a little too.
In reality, maybe it’s not the time for me to entertain, but there is still time for me to be hospitable. I can still have people over to my house, and I can show hospitality to others even when I’m out and about by just having a welcoming spirit. I don’t have to have a big spread of food or send out formal invitations to create community. It might mean I make this chicken recipe and some good ol baked potatoes, or maybe we just pick up BBQ and hang out with friends after Mav goes to bed. It’s easy to make excuses and find reasons why “we can’t,” but the bottom line is we all need each other. Heck, sometimes I just need to talk to someone other than Maverick and Zach. Haha! And I’m thinking I’m not alone. People want to feel safe and comfortable, and I believe that happens most at the home of someone (like me) where a laundry basket of clothes is waiting to be folded in the corner and a Boppy gets used as a couch throw pillow.
To entertain, I may have to get everything pretty and perfect, but to be hospitable all I have to do is say, come on in!
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7
Now that that’s settled, back to my chicken legs, which are super easy and baked in the oven, making them perfect for when you’re being hospitable. No running in and out to check the grill and plenty of time to socialize while they bake! They also get slathered with an ooey,gooey sauce that is sticky and sweet and just plain yummy.
Also, shameless plug, the recipes in my cookbook are also perfect for showing hospitality this summer! Seriously, they are easy and uncomplicated, so no need to stress over food when you want to invite others to hang out and enjoy a meal on your patio. Bonus! Outdoor eating, means not so much cleaning!
Time. I have always been aware that it passes quickly. I remember when we would be going on a family vacation, I would think about how before I knew it, we would be on our way home and the trip would be over. Sort of a sad thought when you are headed out on a fun family trip, but for some reason I always thought it. However, my awareness of how fast time passes has escalated tremendously since having a baby. I admit, when I began taking those monthly pictures of Maverick with the stickers, I was happy and even excited to take them those first few months. I loved to see how much he had grown, especially since he started out so small. Each pound he gained and inch he grew made the month feel like an accomplishment. But now that he is caught up on weight and length, I’m not so excited about taking his 7 month picture next week. Don’t get me wrong, I love this stage, and seeing him explore and constantly learning and trying new things. It is truly amazing to watch, but the reality that we are over halfway to having a one year old is setting in.
Sweet 6 month picture of my boy (Photo by Montgomery Lee Photography)
The good news is, I do feel like I have gotten in my groove (most days) with being a mom while carrying on with my career. He has a couple of babysitters that we trust now, and I can even leave him without worrying too much. I can actually take him places now without being paranoid that everyone is watching, knowing that I’m a new mom, and I don’t really know what I’m doing. Insert story about how when Maverick was about a month old, I spent 30 minutes in the parking lot of Publix wondering how I was going to grocery shop with him and wondering if I should ask a random person to help me strap him in the ergo…
Well, we’ve got that figured out now, and the confidence I have in being a mom now compared to the beginning feels really good. But man, these months, they pass so quickly. He won’t be a baby too much longer and that’s hard to swallow. I always thought babies stayed babies for a long time, but they just don’t. While I was pregnant, another mom of 3 young kiddos told me to enjoy every stage, she said she spent most of her first born’s first year mourning the fact that he was growing up and feeling sad that it was all going by so fast. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, of course they grow, and you finally get to sleep, isn’t that the good news?! Now, I know what she meant. I find myself rocking my baby boy a little more lately, hoping he might doze off while I nurse him at night. Just so I can hold him while he is actually still and cozy in my arms. As much as I love that he can fall asleep on his own in his crib now and he has a routine, there’s a little piece of me that knows I’m going to miss his dependence on me to sleep. I don’t really miss that yet, because I am really enjoying sleeping at night and these longer naps, but I know I will. I still want to keep him on a schedule and do all of the things that allow me to get things done. But I’m just holding and rocking him a little longer than necessary these past few weeks, and I think I’ll keep that up as long as he lets me.
So how does this tie into a flatbread recipe?! Well, since time goes by so fast, and I don’t want to miss anything if I can help it, I’m really not cooking things that take up too much of my time these days. I do still love to cook and create in the kitchen though, so right now I’m all about making pretty food that can be ready in about 15-20 minutes for dinner. I have a delicious flatbread recipe in my new cookbook, and I have created a few more flatbread recipes since then that I absolutely love. All you have to do is buy some Naan, you can get it at any grocery store, usually near the other breads or in the ethnic section. Once you buy the Naan, have fun with whatever ingredients you like or have on hand. Since I’m a sweet and savory kind of girl, I’m using a little fruit on this one. I like to serve this with a simple salad for a light, fast, and beautiful spring dinner!
Pineapple and Pancetta Flatbread
makes about 12 pieces
1/3 cup diced pancetta (my substitute 4 slices cooked and chopped bacon)
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 (3-ounce) pieces Naan- whole wheat if available
3 ounces Fontina cheese
1/2 cup pineapple, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium skillet, cook the pancetta until it is crisp. If you prefer cooked onion, you may cook the onion for several minutes in the pancetta drippings.
Bursh the pieces of naan with the olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Thinly slice the fontina and place it evenly on the naan. Top with the cooked pancetta, onion, and pineapple.
Bake the flatbreads for 10 minutes, and then sprinkle them with the parsley. Use a pizza cutter to slice each one into about 6 pieces.
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...