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.

Charleston

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.

Speaking event

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! ;)

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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! ;)

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Date posted: March 21, 2016 | Author: | 8 Comments »

Categories: Mommyhood Personal Thoughts

Is this not the most beautiful cake?!  And just wait until you taste it, I’m thinking this is the perfect Mother’s Day dessert.  I’ll get to the recipe soon, but first a little about the star of the show, strawberries!

If you haven’t noticed from social media yet, it’s Strawberry picking time!  A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a “Strawberry School” at Wagner Berry Farms conducted by my friend and mentor, Tammy Algood with Pick Tennessee Products (check out http://www.picktnproducts.org to find local strawberry farms in your area).  Tammy is the southern cooking queen, and she has played a huge role in this crazy cooking journey I’m on.  She actually introduced me to her book agent, who is now my agent and the talented man who came up with the concept for The Outdoor Table.  Needless to say, I’m a big fan of hers, and I’m so incredibly thankful for her generosity and wisdom.

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The fabulous Tammy Algood and I

Now back to the berries.  Strawberry season here in Tennessee starts in May and runs through late June, it’s pretty short and sweet.  So, I wanted to share 5 takeaways I had from the class, that will hopefully allow you to get the most out of these delicious local berries!

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All you need for serving beautiful strawberries is a pretty platter and a bowl of powdered sugar!

 

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It’s amazing the difference in the store bought berries compared to freshly picked.  Did you know that it is logistically impossible to buy a ripe strawberry from a grocery store? (Find out why in my 5 tips below)  Not only will you get the best berries locally, it’s also a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors with your family.  Oh and once you get them picked, go home bake up my Strawberry Upside Down Cake!

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5 Tips for Strawberry Picking and Storage

  1. Strawberries do not ripen after they are harvested.  Once you pick the berry, it won’t continue to ripen like some other fruits, so be sure to pick the ripest berries you can find!
  2. The ripest strawberries to pick should be red from the tip to the cap (where the stem is).  Leave those green tipped berries on the vine!
  3. Store your berries in a single layer, on a jelly roll pan, in your refrigerator for the longest shelf life.
  4. DO NOT pre wash the berries and then store them, wash them right before eating/serving.  This will prolong shelf life and keep them from molding prematurely.
  5. The shelf life of a strawberry is about a week from the time it is picked.  This is why strawberries in a super market, usually from California are rarely at their peak.  The ripest berries from huge farms actually go into juice anyway, not into the cartons for consumers.

strawberry upside down cake

Since Mother’s Day is this Sunday, I thought that this Strawberry Upside Down Cake would be appropriate this week.  I mean what mom doesn’t love cake and strawberries?!  Oh and it simply must be served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Okay, my mouth is watering.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mommas out there.  Now that I am a mom myself, I can appreciate this day more than ever.  Enjoy!

 

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Date posted: May 6, 2015 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Dessert Holidays Mommyhood

Sticky Sesame Legs

“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.

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Anyone else?!

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!

Have you preordered the The Outdoor Table yet?!  Click here to reserve your copy now!

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Date posted: April 22, 2015 | Author: | 2 Comments »

Categories: Inspiration Main Dish Mommyhood Personal Thoughts Poultry

Pineapple Pancetta Flatbread

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.

View More: http://montgomeryleephotography.pass.us/maverick-6-month

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 Pancetta Flatbread

 

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Date posted: April 14, 2015 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Appetizer Main Dish Mommyhood Pork

 

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Okay, I admit it.  Even though I am a food writer/blogger and have a cookbook coming out soon, I don’t make all of Maverick’s baby food.  I really feel like I should because buying the organic jars/pouches is pretty expensive, especially since I have a big eater on my hands.  The bottom line is being home 3 days a week with him and trying to work in between naps, on top of making sure the house doesn’t look like a bomb went off is about all I can handle most days.  However, I had some time this week, and I decided to dedicate a couple of hours to making some baby food for him, using some fun and unique flavors.  So, if you’re a stay at home mom and don’t make your baby’s food, don’t feel bad, my job revolves around cooking and creating recipes, and I don’t even do it all of the time!  I’m working on not feeling guilty about this…

Anyway, if you can carve out a couple of hours one day, I do think it is worth the time if you are trying to feed your baby organic, pure food.  It’s much more affordable to make your own, plus it’s kind of fun and rewarding to create something for your baby and watch them explore new flavors.  Which brings me to the three new recipes I made for my little man this week.  I decided to add in a few spices and even herbs to these purees, but they are totally optional.   Since I cook so many different things, I am eager to expose him to new flavors now, so (hopefully) he’ll be open to trying more foods as he grows.  For now, Maverick is just really into all baby food, and so far we have not found anything he doesn’t like or has had a bad reaction to.  Which is really not surprising at all, since his dad is the least picky eater on the planet.  Yay for me!

Here is a little video of Maverick trying the “Bunny Bait,” a little unsure at first, but he ended up loving it!

Even though it may take a little extra time, baby food really is easy to make, and you certainly don’t have to be a great cook to pull this off.

Here are the items you will need to make your own baby food…

Steamer Basket – I actually just bought one at Kroger when I was grocery shopping for about 8 bucks.

Food Processor – Grab one at your next Target outing, a must in the kitchen in my opinion!

Ice Cube Trays (about 4) – This is an easy way to store the food in the freezer.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or expert in what to feed your baby, so be sure to consult your pediatrician before trying any of these recipes and feeding them to your child.

 

3 baby food recipes

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Date posted: April 8, 2015 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: baby food Health and Diet Mommyhood