killing time between meals

where talking about what's for dinner while you're at lunch is totally acceptable


Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Day

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorites. There seems to be extra time to go to the movies and return stuff that didn’t fit and read the new cookbook you bought yourself for Christmas.


Ree begins her book of holiday meals with New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John. This is a tradition I’ve never participated in before. But after my first encounter, I see many a black-eyed pea in my future January 1sts (as well as other chilly days ahead). Hoppin’ John over rice is a filling, simple, flavorful meal. Add another dimension by serving it alongside kale, with cornbread, or over grits instead of rice like my friend Caroline does.

pot of beans

Hoppin’ John
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 6

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 thick slice country ham, diced (about 1 cup)
White rice, for serving

  1. Soak black-eyed peas in cool water for 6 hours or more. Rinse and drain.
  2. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeño, garlic, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in rinsed beans, then add the chicken stock, salt & pepper, and cayenne pepper. It’s a lot of beans to season, but go easy on the salt since the country ham you’re about to add is very salty. Start with a teaspoon and see how you feel.
  3. Toss in the diced country ham (bone and all) and bring to a boil.
    country ham
  4. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Stir periodically, and check the liquid level after about 45 minutes. I like a thick stew consistency so some liquid remains to spoon over the rice. If the mixture is too soupy, remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes or so. If it’s too thick, add more stock.
  5. Taste for seasonings. Remove bone. Serve over rice.

Happy New Year, friends!



Leave a comment

A Few of My Favorite (Kitchen) Things

1. A new recipe. Confession #1: I easily get into cooking ruts. But last Saturday I unearthed an Everyday Food cookbook I hadn’t used in a while and decided to branch out. So I made this. (Scroll down for Lime-Marinated Flank Steak recipe.) sliced

2. This juicer. For only $20 you can have fresh squeezed citrus juice in seconds. Generally I am against buying appliances that are only good for one thing, but I am never sorry that I have this citrus juicer when I am making drinks or marinades. (Watch for sales. I swear I saw this thing at Kroger for $12.)

3. Microplanes. I have two. One for smaller zesting (lemon zest, garlic, ginger) and one for larger grating (hard cheeses, chocolate shavings). If you put one of these on your wedding registry, I WILL buy it for you. Heck, I might buy it for you anyway out of that tiny piece of goodness left in my heart.

4. Culinary treats from abroad. I purchased a cute jar of red pepper flakes while in Sorrento (which I didn’t know is known for their chili peppers) at Aromi di Sorrento, a spice shop off the beaten path. This is a fun thing to look for while traveling. I’ve picked up vanilla in Mexico, maple syrup in Canada, bacon in Knoxville … you get the picture. And speaking of picture, look at the difference!

red pepper

Kroger brand (left), the real Sorrento deal (right)

5. Le Creuset. This little roaster has become my favorite size around the kitchen. Clocking in at 8×11 3/4 inches and holding 2 1/2 quarts, it’s the perfect vessel for half a casserole recipe, a Thanksgiving side dish, or holding my marinating meat in case of any drips.
6. New skills. Confession #2: I don’t know how to grill. The fire scares me. Plus it’s already hot outside when you grill, so I know I’m gonna sweat, what with the blazing sun and the flames that you are reaching your hands into. Nevertheless, I feel this is a skill that it is beyond time I learn. So my brave neighbor Nate has agreed to teach me. And the first lesson didn’t go too badly, even if I did squeal like a small child when putting the meat on the hot, hot flames.

What are your kitchen essentials? I’m sure this post is just the first installment of many.

Lime-Marinated Flank Steak
Adapted from Everyday Foods
Serves 4

Juice of 4 limes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 scallions (about 1/3 cup), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
Vegetable oil, for grates
Coarse salt and ground black pepper

  • In a resealable plastic bag, combine lime juice, soy sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, and red-pepper flakes. Add steak, and seal bag; marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour.
  • Heat grill to high; lightly oil grates. Remove steak from marinade, letting excess drip off (discard marinade). Season with salt and black pepper. Place on grill and  cover.
  • Cook, turning once, for 6 to 8 minutes (for medium-rare). Let rest 10 minutes before slicing thinly.
  • Serve with sides or on top of a salad.

Leave a comment

It’s In the Books

Guess what? I made it into a real-life, hardback cookbook!


At My Grandmother’s Table is a collection of stories and recipes from Southern grandmothers, and I am honored to be a part. Check it out here. Below is one of the three recipes I submitted from my great grandmother, Mamaw Lucy.

Lemon Ice Box Pie
Makes 1 pie that serves 6 if you’re lucky

1 box vanilla wafers
¼ cup butter, melted
3 eggs, room temperature and separated
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¼ to ½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
5 to 7 tablespoons sugar

  • Crush the vanilla wafers (about 1½ cups) and mix with butter. Press crust into pie pan.
  • Beat together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Slowly beat in lemon juice. Beat until very thick. Pour into crust.
  • In a glass bowl, beat together egg whites with cream of tartar, adding sugar one tablespoon at a time. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. Layer on pie. Place under a broiler on high to brown. Watch closely so meringue does not burn. Line the edge with whole vanilla wafers to finish.


Cookbook Confessions

Amazon is such a lovely thing. You click buttons and they send you stuff like this:

The Pioneer Woman’s second cookbook contains tasty treats and guilty pleasures. Farm Anatomy is filled with whimsical, yet precise, illustrations identifying everything from barn styles to sheep breeds (along with recipes, of course). See:

I might be a bit of a food book hoarder. It seems the cookbook shelf runneth over.

Not that that stops me.
Another reason I love Amazon is because they let you preorder things. Like this:

That’s right, people. My favorite girl Ina has a new cookbook coming out! There is one downside: I won’t get it until October 30th. Sheesh! That’s more than six months away. I’m sure it will be well worth the wait. If you’re a crazy fan like me, preorder your copy here.

Do you have any food books you can’t live without?

1 Comment

New Year, New Books & Boards, New Traditions

To be known is to be loved. And I am certainly feeling the love after this Christmas. Four of my nearest and dearest gave me these lovely gifts.


Two cutting boards and and three cookbooks later, I’m a happy girl with a year full of new ideas to look forward to. The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen and Super Natural Every Day both have exceptionally beautiful photography, not to mention unusual (but accessible) recipes.  The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook officially completes my Ina Garten collection. And y’all know I have been dreaming of that AR cutting board for nearly a year.

Gift giving is such an enjoyable tradition, don’t you think? I’m a big fan of traditions in general. They give you a framework for how to spend your holidays. Something to plan for and look forward to. In a lot of ways, they make you, you. In my little family, we have a nice meal and open our gifts on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day we go to the movies. This year, I was happy to be in charge of the Christmas Eve dinner. We had The Pioneer Woman’s lasagna and Ina’s tiramisu. Both were divine and eaten for days. Here’s a peek at the lasagna:


I have some simple traditions for myself, too. Each Christmas I watch Love Actually and The Family Stone while I put up my “travel tree” and reminisce about the places, friends, and memories each ornament represents. But I realized that I don’t have any New Year’s traditions (and NYE is usually a let down), so I thought I might attach one. While I love the idea of Hoppin’ Johns, my grocery store run ended with lentil soup ingredients, which I’d never made before. So, I’m thinking New Year’s Day should be Try a New Soup Recipe Day. Why not? Packed with veggies, protein, and rich flavor, this lentil soup is filling and warm on a chilly New Year’s Day.

Lentil Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 4

½ pound green lentils
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 leeks, chopped (white part only)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Kosher salt & ground black pepper
½ tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 stalks celery, diced
2 or 3 carrots, diced
1½ quarts chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.
  • In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 more minutes, until the lentils are cooked through.
  • Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.


Home, Home on the Cooking Range

In case you haven’t already heard, The Pioneer Woman has gotten her own show on Food Network. Yee-haw! I have been a big fan of Ree Drummond’s blog and cookbook for awhile. Apparently I’m not the only one—the woman has 13 million people following her blog. And if her on screen personality is anything like her writing style, the whole rest of the world is gonna fall right in love with her too.

If you don’t have this cookbook, check it out. I tend to use it more in the winter because Ree serves up some very hearty meals to her cowboys & cowgirls. So far my favorite recipe is the lasagna—it is always a huge hit and bound to be a future post.

Anyway, I’ll be tuning in August 27 at 10:30. Will you?


What’s Your Go-To Dinner?

I have Ina Garten to thank for many foodie things in my life: a collection of her cookbooks that I use again and again, an appreciation for the simple truth that less honestly is more when it comes to good food, the courage to cook with new ingredients because she makes it look so easy, and (most importantly for my daily life) my favorite go-to dinner recipe—Summer Garden Pasta.

You should buy this if you don’t already have it.

We all have that one easy dish we rely on, right? This recipe from her Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook is so simple and satisfying, and the ingredients are things I keep on hand.

You remember garlic, my first love.

This stuff is the BEST. Just put it in a glass of water on your window sill and it will last for weeks.

These are delish in all kinds of dishes. Keep them around. You’ll be glad you did.

I make this pasta at least once a week, especially in summer when the tomatoes are at their finest. Click the link above to see Ina’s original recipe. My version is just slightly adapted. If you are a serious carnivore, feel free to throw some grilled chicken or salmon on top. As Ina would say, “How bad could that be?”

Summer Garden Pasta (aka Garlicky Tomato Pasta)
Adapted from Ina Garten; Makes one generous serving

½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (Adjust this to your preference—the garlic is raw, so it’s very strong. I use 3 cloves, but I am crazy like that.)
5 or so large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Kosher salt & pepper
1 serving dried long-cut pasta (I usually have whole wheat linguine, so that’s what I use. But you can use regular angel hair or whatevs you have.)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature. Ina says to let this sit for about 4 hours (at least 2 ½ hours), but sometimes I just don’t have time for that. The longer it sits, the better; however, I have thrown it all together in 20 minutes and it still tasted good to me.
  • Just before you’re ready to eat, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
  • Drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Add the cheese and some extra basil, and toss well.

I may or may not have sprinkled more cheese on top after I snapped this picture.

1 Comment

Gwyneth of All Trades

First she’s an Academy Award-winning actress, then she wants to sing, next she writes a blog … Maybe I sound cynical, but I generally don’t like it when celebrities to try branch out of their forte. (i.e. Shaquille O’Neal decides that he wants to be an actor and gives us Kazaam. I’m sorry, but the world did not need that. Stick to shooting hoops, please.) However, Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook, My Father’s Daughter, might prove my skepticism wrong and demonstrate a step in a new direction for her that I can approve of. Plus, she’s just so dang likable.

Starting the introduction with, “Okay, I wrote a cookbook. Why? You may ask.” tells me that Gwyneth knows that I know that she’s not a trained chef. I find this attitude endearing, and it makes me trust her culinary sensibilities more. And besides the fact that this overall effort is a sweet tribute to her father, Gwyneth manages to make things even more personal with quotes by her children, memorable stories, and old family photos.

The book has an atmosphere of ease and approachability, and I like that. Gwyneth also includes great tips (from a well-stocked pantry list to tasks for kids), recipes using ingredients I like to eat anyway, and handy icons to let you know if the dish is make-ahead, quick, vegetarian, one-pot, etc. But perhaps the most drawing piece of this cookbook is the photography. It. Is. GORGEOUS. Definitely worth checking out if for that reason alone. (I would post a picture to tease you, but Amazon won’t let me. Psh!)

Side note: Other celebs are jumping on this cookbook bandwagon, too. Eva Longoria just published Eva’s Kitchen, a cookbook with Hispanic flair, and Sheryl Crow has given us If It Makes You Healthy (I wish I was joking about that title), based on eating seasonally. Can these people really cook? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a fad or another way for the rich & famous to keep expanding their empires, but who am I to turn down more recipes to explore for myself?