Time. That’s the key, y’all. I miss planning and cooking complicated and semi-fancy dinners. I miss trying out new recipes not knowing if they’ll turn out. I miss trying new recipes and being completely surprised how great they turn out. I miss my tried and true recipes. Let’s face it, I miss Ina Garten.

Reality is setting in. I know that next week when school and work start back up, we’ll be back in the routine where cooking won’t look the same when you have days off, but I’m finishing the break STRONG.

Truth is, I haven’t seen my friends this year. I’m not sure how in the world that happens, but it does and I’m sure you can relate. Last night, I had two of my dearest friends and my Mama over for dinner and I decided to throw down. Here’s the menu:

Smitten Kitchen’s White Bean Soup with Crispy Kale
I started on this recipe earlier in the day so that all I had to do was warm it up when it was time for dinner. It’s rather straightforward and simple, but tastes incredibly complex and delicious. We added crispy kale and pancetta and a little bit of a sour cream as toppings. Truthfully, it was great on its own. The photo below is of my leftovers: White bean soup with crispy kale AND the walnut/parmesan/olive oil mixture I used on the cabbage (see below).


Main Course:
Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken Piccata
There are a few recipes that you know will be good no matter what and they tend to have one common denominator: Ina Garten. I love love love her Chicken Piccata and Chicken Parmesan recipes (both are similar). I decided to do the Piccata recipe. The trick is making sure you get the chicken breasts pounded (yes, pounded) flat. The other trick (and something I’ve learned from Ina) is to mix olive oil with butter when pan frying. The lemon reduction sauce on top (as well as the cooked lemon slices) added the perfect brightness.


Smitten Kitchen’s Roasted Cabbage with Walnuts and Parmesan
When I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s website, I got excited. Sure, I could have done a salad of some sort, but I liked the idea of highlighting cabbage. First things first: Savoy cabbage is hard to find. I asked my colleagues atJones Valley Teaching Farm if any of our sites had it before trying grocery stores. Nada. Called every grocery store and they didn’t have it either. My heart was SET on this recipe, so I decided to grab a huge head of Napa Cabbage determined to make it work. I cut the cabbage horizontally in thick rounds and guess what? It worked. The only thing I’d add next time is a little sweetness (maybe balsamic?) to dress it up. Also, because it was Napa cabbage, it kind of fell apart on the plate, which was totally fine because it ended up coming together as a warm salad.


Alexandra’s Kitchen’s Roasted Acorn Squash with Maple Butter
So by now you can see that we have lemons featured in the chicken dish and lemons in the cabbage dish. I really needed a sweet side to round us out. I found this recipe on Alexandra’s Kitchen’s website. Pause. Do y’all follow her on Instagram? You should. Her stories and how-to videos are equal to 15 minutes of meditation. Okay back to the dish. I’ve never cooked acorn squash and was a little nervous. This couldn’t have been easier and during the meal it got the most comments. It was much easier than cooking a butternut or spaghetti squash. Embrace the acorn squash, y’all. It’s absolutely worth it.


Alexandra’s Kitchen’s No Knead Buttermilk Pull Apart Rolls
Shoooooo-wee! I was capital S-C-A-R-E-D to do these rolls. I don’t do bread. I don’t do rolls. Never have. I honestly never thought I had the patience. There were a few bumps in the road, but overall it turned out great. First bump was the yeast. I didn’t get instant yeast — I got active yeast (ugh), so I got behind in my timeline, borrowed some instant yeast from my Mom, and then just scrapped the part where the rolls were supposed to sit overnight in the fridge. See? This is the patience part that comes into play. The good news is that it all worked out in the end. I encourage you to watch her videos first before trying it out. Will you fold over the dough and perfectly separate them and round them out like she does? Nope. Not at all. Will it still work? Yep. The husband and kiddos are eating them this morning and can’t stop talking about them, so go for it. Go forth in your buttered roll confidence — you GOT this.


One other thing I wanted to share, was a book that was mentioned twice in two of these recipes. The husband checked it out from the library for me and I can’t wait to start reading it.


As the holiday break comes to an end, I’m completely aware that I may not post again until next break. It looks like the last time I posted was around the same time last year. I hope that’s not the case, but jussssssst in case, I’m sending love and light to all of you in this New Year.