Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fresh food!

One of the most exciting things about summer in Arkansas ( besides the 100 degree weather, humidity, and hardly any rain..) is the fresh produce. The return of the Farmers Market is always an exciting day for us! It's so exciting to load up on random veggies and then figure out what to do with them- and we do this almost every week while the market is open. Well, this week we got double the produce load! We picked up a fair amount at the market this Saturday, and then on the same day we received our first farm box FULL of awesome stuff.  Like...grapes? I have to admit that I have never had a fresh grape in my life. and the crazy thing is....it sort of tastes like the grape flavoring they put in popsicles and the like...but in a good way! Those went directly into the freezer  because, c'mon , what's more fun than eating frozen grapes?

Along with the grapes came onions, apples, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, etc, etc, etc.....add that to the Brussels sprouts, kale, MORE onions (good thing we like onions!) green beans, etc that we picked up that morning PLUS whatever we harvest from our own garden ( mostly peppers at this point..)  and you've got a produce overload! Don't worry, don't worry..nothing will go to waste. I hope.

Last night I decided to put a lot of those veggies to work. With only an idea in my head and a determination to use plenty of veggies in one meal, I got to work sauteing a 'soffritto' consisting of onions, garlic, carrots, peppers, and mushrooms. while those softened, i stuck my entire collection of tomatoes in the oven with some garlic to roast. Once they were done I mixed it all together for - i'm not kidding - one of the best sauces ever! Since we're trying to avoid pasta, I opted to fry up some slices of eggplant (because that sounded healthier..?) and then roasted the brussels sprouts, and boom -  we had ourselves a straight-from-the-farm-all-vegetarian-dinner,  and it was pretty darn good if I say so myself...

ohh, yes...

Farmer's Market Dinner ( clever title, I know.) 
(disclaimer- most of this is estimated- i didn't really measure, it was an experiment, after all!)


De Sauce: 
  • 2 small ( or 1 large) yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 3-4 banana peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely shaven ( or finely chopped- i just "peeled" it down and then chopped it up. cheater)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
  • 2 button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil - enough to cover bottom of the pan
  • 3 + tbsp butter  
  • chicken broth 
  • a couple of handfuls of fresh herbs- I used what was in my garden: rosemary, parsley, oregano, and basil- finely chopped
  • salt and pepper 

Roasted Tomatoes:
  • a whole bunch of tomatoes ( I used multiple types, cherry, grape, even one brandy wine) cut up into even sizes
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • extra virgin olive oil to coat
  • salt and pepper 

Fried Eggplant:
  • 1 whole eggplant, cut into slices
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
(note: I wasn't sure if the eggplant i had was small enough to avoid the de-bittering process, so i went ahead and did it. all you do is put the slices on a baking rack with a pan underneath, salt both sides, and let sit for a while so that the bitter liquids come out-and then rinse the salt and excess liquid off)
  • Breading: about 80% cornmeal, 10% flour, 10% Italian breadcrumbs ( i planned on using panko, but we were out..) 
  • salt and pepper  
  • regular olive oil for frying


  • heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  • once oil is hot, add onions and cook for about 5 minutes 
  • add peppers, mushrooms, and carrots and continue to cook until soft
  • add garlic and continue to cook until everything is soft, onions nad garlic are translucent
  • add butter and about 1/2 cup chicken broth and cook until liquid is reduced

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • place tomatoes and garlic in a bowl, coat with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
  • place tomatoes on oven-proof pan covered in parchment paper 
  • (the parchment paper will allow the tomatoes to slide right off and into the pan)
  • roast for 30-40 minutes 
  • add tomatoes and garlic to sauce pan and mash, either with a spoon or a potato masher, until desired consistency)
  • add a bit more broth and reduce over medium-high heat.
  • lower heat to medium-low and stir in herbs
  • cover and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, until desired consistency. 
(if you're going for a soupier sauce for pasta, etc, you can add more broth - i was going for more of a bruschetta-like consistency to go on top of the eggplant, so i kept mine fairly dry and chunky. )

  • add regular olive oil to a medium to large skillet, depending on the length of your slices- about 1/2 inch thick, enough to slightly cover the slices
  • heat on medium-high
  • once oil is hot, dredge eggplant slices through egg and then through the breadcrumb mixture 
  • place one piece in the oil to ensure that it's hot enough for frying( oil will begin to sizzle and pop if it's ready...common knowledge? probably.)
  • fry on both sides, a few pieces at a time, until coating reaches desired brown-ness (techincal term)
  • place on cooling rack to allow any excess oil to drip off- immediately sprinkle with salt
  • top with tomato sauce

The finished project - the picture is so bad, i almost don't want to post it...

Tomorrow I will get to our dinner date post- but until then, here's a preview of the end result..


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why Blog?

Right? Why keep a blog when 1. you completely forget to/are too lazy or unmotivated to post for months at a time, and 2. no one reads it?

I'll tell you why.

I have no idea.

BUT in an effort to keep my mind sharp and myself entertained while continuing to help support our family and our mortgage by holding down a job with way too much  just enough down time until a school district buckles and finally hires me (that's another show), I believe I will have another go at this ever-so-popular blogging trend.

 Who knows? Maybe something good will come of it.

Not much exciting has happened in our kitchen lately. Namely because we've been on vacation in.. wait for it.. NAPA. Yes, yes, our family vacation in Napa, CA. was last week and it was fantastic. Filled with tons of..
 family time

 photo bombed by Pinky!

Oh, this girl...so precious

 amazing wine

 We even made our own! Well, blended it.. at this awesome winery! Such a cool and funky experience!

Our label design
Pinky and Laura blending wine in their 'space suits'

 amazing FOOD

 amazing scenery




One of the best things we ate while there was the fresh mozzarella from Tra Vigne in St. Helena. We discovered this place last year while out celebrating our second wedding anniversary. The whole experience was quite lovely, but what really brought, no, dragged us back was that darn cheese.  E and I HAD to sneak away one night so we could experience it again. I swear, I could have eaten three orders of the hot, oily cheese all by myself. ALL it is is super-fresh, super-soft mozarella with olive oil, served on crusty rosemary bread and. i. just. die. I miss it already.

 Our view at Tra Vigne. Look at that table. That's a fountain, y'all. For real.

We had plenty of other amazing foods while we were there as well. For instance, we visited Gotts Roadside.. twice.

Three words. ahi.tuna.tacos. Best thing ever.

It was truly an incredible week. Plenty of relaxing, chatting with family, doing yoga on top of a mountain, tasting some incredible wine and food, and just enjoying being away from real life for a while. Can't wait for our vacation next year in Oregon!

As far as cooking goes, this week has been fairly basic - lots of veggies and easy, simple meals while we get back into the swing of things.  Soon, though, I will be posting recipes again - in fact, tomorrow night we're having an at-home date night. Yep, we're cool like that.

On the menu for tomorrow is an apple pecan salad with a crazy-knock-your-socks-off  dressing made with Roquefort cheese and will probably cause me to gain 5 pounds, grilled corn and avocado salsa, flat iron steak with pan jus, and a baby yellow potato recipe that I am SO excited to try after tasting some of the most ridiculous yellow potatoes at a winery in California. I'm sure they won't be as phoenomenal but..you never know ;)

Happy Thursday! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Chicken Masala

Last night was my second attempt at creating a recipe out of what we already had at home. And, I have to say, I win again!

I'd also like to just throw in a shameless plug for evernote. It has changed my life. After i took inventory of everything we had, i put it into list form on evernote, which shares on my computer, phone, and kindle! Whenever i go to figure out what i want to cook, i can just go through the list, check-box the ingredients i want to use, and then WRITE OUT the recipe ON evernote. As an avid list maker, I'm in love...


Last night I wanted to finish off the potatoes and FINALLY use that darn spaghetti squash we bought last month because I was determined to try it out again even though the first time we tried one we did not enjoy it. It was definitely much better this time around. The other ingredients I pulled included a masala marinara sauce we picked up at a local store a while back. It sounds weird, I  know. but its SO. good.

Spaghetti Squash Chicken Masala


extra virgin olive oil
1 chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/2 jar masala sauce
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tbs butter (optional)
1 spaghetti squash
2 yellow potatoes, cubed
Juice of 1 lime 
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut squash in half lengthwise 
(FYI: THIS IS THE WORST PART OF THE WHOLE RECIPE!!! its like cutting through a rock. i'm not kidding. its scary. If at all possible, let a man do it.)

Once you've cracked that thing, remove the seeds and rub the inside of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Place both halves face down on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes

boil potatoes until cooked, but still slightly firm, drain and set aside
Heat olive oil (enough to cover the bottom) in a large skillet over medium heat
add onions, cook until soft
add garlic and chili flakes, cook until garlic is soft- about 2 minutes
Scoot (yes, scoot) the veggies to the outside of the pan 
add chicken (and butter if desired) to pan until fully cooked
add potatoes and masala sauce to pan turn heat down slightly and cook for about 10 minutes

remove spaghetti squash from oven, scrape out "noodles"
add squash to pan, cook until mixed ( not too long, the squash tends to get soggy quickly)
mix in lime juice, and you're done!

It was  so GOOD.  I was afraid the squash would make the texture too mushy and..funky but it was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Definitely doing this again! 
Dinner was also accompanied by this pretty little drink. nothing special, just grapefruit sparkling water with orange. I just  found it pretty to look at.
Happy Wednesday!
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Monday, January 16, 2012

pantry soup

Yesterday, thanks to a sudden burst of energy combined with the need to be productive, I cleaned out our freezer, fridge, and pantry and then took inventory of absolutely every food item in our house. Wow. It was enlightening. It's amazing how much food you can have while at the same time you think you've got nothing in the house. I'm so glad we didn't go grocery shopping!

This unexpected project was definitely the inspiration behind last nights dinner. I decided to start listing items that we needed to use before they went bad (mainly vegetables) and thus the pantry soup was born! I assumed ti would be mediocre, good enough for simply combining a few ingredients on the whim. No. It was....fantastic.

(mostly a rough estimation..can definitely be manipulated)

1/2 onion chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4-5 tbs fresh rosemary
1/2 butternut squash peeled and cubed
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
chicken or vegetable broth (roughly 6 cups)
( we used chicken bullion cubes. cause it was in our pantry!)
3 yellow potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup corn  
2 green tomatoes
2 cups okra, cut into pieces
1 bunch red kale, torn into pieces
1 handful cilantro (for garnish)
Plenty of salt and pepper 

heat extra virgin olive oil in a large pot ( enough to cover the bottom) over medium heat
add ontion, cook until transparent
add garlic and rosemary, cook for about 5 minutes, until garlic is soft and oil is fragrant
add butternut squash- cook until soft and slightly browned
add cabbage, cook for about 5 minutes, until cabbage cooks down
add salt and pepper, broth, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and okra- cook until potatoes are soft
add kale- cook for 10 minutes

Garnish with cilantro and a little extra virgin olive oil if desired (do it. )


I am so glad i wasn't afraid to try something like this. Its...so good. Super chunky, fresh, and just..all around amazing. The cilantro, which E thought was just weird, turned out to be my favorite part!  I'm definitely doing this again. In fact, I'm eating some right now...and, as I think I've mentioned before, I hate eating leftovers. I'm just weird.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My first roasted chicken


Disclaimer:  There are very few pictures to go along with this recipe. There are very few pictures because I was too busy freaking about about cooking a WHOLE chicken..and having to...touch...a whole raw chicken.....and i forgot to take pictures. Oops.  Thankfully I survived! I know, I'm such a baby. I even freaked out when i was washing it and the giblets fell out in the sink.  (they were in a plastic bag - i did not know this). I wish I was kidding.

anyway. The chicken was fabulous.

The recipe is roughly based on a Williams Sonoma recipe card via bon appetit.  By roughly, I mean i used the cook time.....I substituted most of the suggested veggies for seasonal ones, and - of course- upped the garlic amount. we're going to call it...

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~~ Autumn Harvest Roast Chicken ~~ 
sure. why not.


1 whole chicken (roughly 4 pounds)

1 large russet potato (unpeeled) scrubbed and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 large sweet potato (peeled) cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 rutabaga (not kidding) peeled,  cut into 1 inch cubes

4-5 cloves garlic

3 TBS unsalted butter (@ room temperature) + 2-4 small pats (optional)

1 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 sprigs of rosemary
(1 sprig minced, 1 kept whole) 

1/4 cup vegetable broth



Preheat oven to 400  

in a small bowl  combine butter, minced rosemary, and 2 cloves garlic (minced)
(if butter still isnt soft enough to mix, stick it in the microwave for about 20 seconds)

Place pats of butter in each corner of a large roasting dish or pan
( again, optional. but i think it adds a lot to the vegetables..)

Add russet potato, sweet potato, and rutabaga to pan 
(I learned through this experience that it's best to keep the veggies on the outside of the pan, so they don't get squished under the chicken. those veggies were really not good eats) 

Add remaining cloves of garlic (whole or halved..up to you) to vegetable mix
(omg. just trust me) 

loosen skin from chicken, spread rosemary butter mixture under skin - spread remaining mixture all over chicken and vegetables.
(can you say GROSS?! really though, it's worth it)

 place whole rosemary spring inside chicken.......carcass. *shudder* 
(again....worth it)

add salt and pepper to chicken and veggies

roast on middle rack at 400 for about 15 minutes. 
( at this point, just for laughs, i poured the vegetable broth over chicken and vegetables. We liked it.)

lower heat to 375 and roast for another 1 hour or so, until chicken reaches 165 degrees

This is literally the only proof I have that I actually made this chicken


and ..it looks so greasy. i promise it wasn't! I'm definitely not done tweaking this recipe, I plan on having loads of fun with it in the future - different vegetables, seasonings, who knows. BUT I am quite proud of how this one turned out- super flavorful and JUICY! My  biggest fear was that it would be super dry. not even close. what a relief! 

Tonight we are making one of my FAVORITE recipes of all time via the great Alice Waters - plus a little broccoli and quinoa - Cassimus style...

Have a wonderful evening! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The B.L.A.T.

Yes, the B.L.A.T. It is quite possibly the most fantastic sandwich ever conjured up in our kitchen. it stands for Bacon Lettuce Avocado and Tomato. It's been a staple in the Holder household ever since I decided to slap some avocado on my BLT one night last spring. Even E, who isn't the biggest fan of avocado, LOVES these things. I used to make two or three a night. I couldn't help it. It's just so simple: toasted bread, avocado slices (I usually squirt on a little lemon or lime juice before slicing), some schmancy "lettuce" such as spinach or arugula, bacon, and tomato. 

Well, recently we took the B.L.A.T. to a whole different level of incredible. with just three words. FRIED. GREEN. TOMATOES. excuse me while i show my Mississippi roots, but there is little in this world that I love more than fried green tomatoes. They're just perfect. 

Also, for this fancified version of the B.L.A.T.,we tried to go a LITTLE healthier (to make up for the fried goodness) and used turkey bacon. Man, I love turkey bacon. Turkey sausage and ground turkey are also high on my list- and low in fat! yessir. unfortunately these amazing additions create sort of a predicament when it comes to the name of the sandwich......still haven't come up with an acceptable acronym..but here goes..

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~~ The T.B.A.F.G.T.L ~~
(it's actually quite amusing if you sound it out..)


1 Avocado -peeled, pitted, and sliced 

Lettuce of your choosing 
{we stick with spinach or arugula. or both, whatever we have on hand}

Toasted Bread of your choosing 
{we typically skip the fancy breads like french or sourdough and go for sliced wheat. i dont know why, but its just better that way in our opinion}

Turkey Bacon

Green Tomatoes, sliced

1/2 cup corn meal

1 tbs Paprika

2{ish} TBS all-purpose flour

3-4 TBS vegetable oil 
{depending on the amount of tomatoes you want to fry}

Salt + Pepper


Start by cooking the bacon - { cook until crispy }

while the bacon cooks, add corn meal, flour, paprika, salt and pepper into a bowl

heat oil in medium sized skillet on medium-high heat

coat slices of tomato with corn meal mixture and add to oil 
{if the oil doesn't start sizzling when you add the tomato, wait a bit longer to add more}

Fry tomatoes until golden brown on each side
{I always transfer my fried foods onto a plate with a couple of paper towels to soak up some of the oil}

Combine all ingredients into the best sandwich ever! 
{Side note: I ALWAYS add salt and pepper to my sandwich. and sometimes a little EVOO- not necessary, but definitely a good choice}

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Avocado Fevah

We've been on a bit of an avocado kick as of late. Then again, I'm always on an avocado kick - but I was able to drag E along with me this time (yay!).  We seriously had avocado 2 nights in a row. this never happens, people.  Previously  the only way I could work avocado into a meal was to make BLATS (yes, you read that right - but thats another show) but now I have a new method of getting my husband to eat those healthy little mushy green things..Baked avocado fries.

I'm not kidding.
~~ Baked Avocado Fries ~~


2 Avocados - peeled, pitted, and sliced into wedges {about 1/2 inch thick}

1/4 cup Flour

2 large eggs - beaten

1/14 cup panko bread crumbs {LOVE this stuff!} 

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper {optional - but so worth it}

salt + pepper

olive oil {in this case, I'd say regular is best}

grated parmesan


preheat oven to 450

mix together panko and seasonings into a bowl - add egg and flour into separate bowls

dredge avocado first in flour, then egg, then panko

place each slice onto a cooling rack - place cooling rack onto a sheet pan

spray wedges with olive oil 

place in oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until they look a little somethin' like this..

sprinkle wedges with parmesan, and voila!

I promise, the quasi-smiley-face was unintentional.

These are addicting - and healthy! my favorite combo!

what a horrible picture :-/ one day i'll stop being lazy and use my real camera instead of my phone. 
one day 

tomorrow, i'll explain what a BLAT is. Let me just say- its AH-MAY-ZING. seriously.