Saturday, May 31

Summer Reads

Since my kitchen has been packed up and is ready to move, recipe posts may be on hold for the time being. To spice things up a bit, I decided to share with you my other love, reading. Here are a few books I've read recently just in case anyone was in the market for a new summer read. 

Although, I doubt any of these will be new or ground breaking discoveries as I tend to get my book suggestions from pretty common reading lists like this one, 50 books that define the last five years in literatureWhile this has been my go to reading list for several months,  I didn't just want to just replicate it here. It was though not to include Super Sad True Love Story, 1Q84, or Swamplandia on this list, but in keeping with the theme of TOAST, I  added a few foodie books that don't get enough attention. Enjoy!

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner // Thrilling, with a feminist vibe, and all why paying mind to art and photography. This book was written for a reader like me.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt // Some have regarded this book as sad or depressing, but for me it was much more a story of holding onto hope, breaking conventional rules, and learning what it means to cope.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis // By far my favorite book of short stories in years. This would be a great book for the beach or keep handy when you are pool-side this summer!

How a Person Should be? by Shelia Heti // Comprised of transcribed conversations, emails, and plenty of narration, some have said this book reads like part literary novel, part self-help book, and part confessional.

Kerrigan in Copenhagen by Thomas E. Kennedy // At its heart a love story, this book also serves as a guide for drinking establishments in one of my favorite cities.

My Life in France by Julia Child // You can hear her voice coming through the pages as your read. I read this book on our honeymoon and it couldn't have been a better choice.

Gaining Ground by Forrest Pritchard // A very well written look into modern agriculture, and what it would really mean to quit your day job and become an organic farmer.

Just Kids by Patti Smith // Possibly the best autobiography I've ever read. Smith examines what it means to aspire as an artist during a time much like today - when everyone is creating something.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle // A ploy, heart-warming look into how living your dream may not actually be everything you thought it would be.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot // As much a probe into ethics and race as it is a captivating story of a tobacco farmer whose cells became a driving force in medicine.

Friday, May 9

Portuguese Roasted Chicken with Potatoes


From the moment I saw Miss James from Bleubird Blog repin this recipe on Pinterest, I knew I'd be trying it. After glancing at the ingredients list, I thought, how perfect, it's literally made up entirely of pantry staples (that is, if you keep dried chilies on hand)! AND - bonus - it all goes into a single roasting dish for easy clean up!

One thing that really drew me to this recipe was the technique it utilizes. I had never butterflied a chicken before, but it was definitely something I had been wanting to try. 

This week I finally sharped by knife and got my hands dirty. Butterflying chicken before you roast it really speeds up the cook time. However, if you don't want to mess with all that - just buy your chicken already cut-up. No doubt this dish will turn out just as satisfying. 

So back to Bleubird for a second - You should really check out her new collab with Katie Hintz-Zambrano, Mother Mag, it's as gorgeous as you might imagine :)

Now for the recipe!


1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
1 ½ lbs potatoes (yukon or reds), thinly sliced
4 fresh red finger hot peppers (or two dried ancho chilies)
2 T smoked paprika
6 cloves garlic
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp coriander
1/4 C plus 1 T sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/4 C plus 1 T Olive Oil
1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat your oven at 425 degrees.

Rinse and butterfly your chicken. (The feasting at home blog has very good instructions for prepping your chicken). Make sure to pat it completely dry. 

Mix the marinade ingredients (hot peppers, paprika, garlic, salt, coriander, sherry, olive oil, and black pepper) in a food processor or blender. Brush marinade on bottom and the sides of your roasting pan. Then brush both sides of your chicken with marinade, saving enough to coat your chicken halfway through the cooking process.

Slice your potatoes and line the bottom of your pan. 


Set the chicken on top of the potatoes skin side down. Cook for 15 minutes.


Remove chicken from the oven, and flip it to where the skin is now facing up. Place the chicken back in the oven to cook for 10-15 more minutes. 

After cooking, remove from the oven a second time, and coat generously with remaining marinade. Replace the chicken into the oven, and cook for 15-20 more minutes or until internal leg temperature reaches 180 degrees. If you would like your chicken to be more blackened, broil for 5 or so minutes.

Recipe adapted from the blog: Feasting at Home

Thursday, May 8


Growing up I only ever had spaghetti made with a deer meat sauce. Beef was a rarity around our home place. Unlike many, I had to acquire a taste for beef (rather than deer). Literally, I had never had spaghetti with meatballs until last year when Sam requested it for dinner one night. 

After digging up a couple recipes online (Martha Stewart and Simply Recipes to be exact), I set out to make this classic dish. Low-and-Behold! It's super easy, and doesn't take much longer to prepare the meatballs than it does for your sauce to simmer. 

Add this little recipe to your weeknight rotation, and your husband will know for sure it was you who hung the moon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for the tomato sauce:

2 tbs olive oil
1 onion
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper
2 tsp red pepper flakes
fresh basil

Ingredients for the meatballs:

1 pound ground beef (at least 16 percent fat)
2/3 cup milk 
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
About 1/2 cup of flour for dusting
1/3 cup olive oil

This recipe makes about four servings, but can easily be doubled. 

To make the sauce:
Start with your sauce as it will simmer while you prepare the meatballs. I used a regular pot as I wasn't going to use all my sauce for these meatballs, but I recommend starting out in a large saute pan you can add the meatballs to directly (and less dishes to wash!). 

After thinly slicing up your onion, add it and the oil to your pot and saute about 3 minutes until the onion begins to soften. Pour in your can of crushed tomatoes, stir, and bring to a simmer about 5 more minutes. Then add your seasoning: salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cover your pot and let simmer on low, stirring occasionally. Right before you add your meatballs, toss in your chopped fresh basil.

To make the meatballs:

In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, ricotta cheese, grated parmesan, eggs, salt, parsley, oregano, black pepper, garlic cloves and the breadcrumbs. Mix it well with your hands until it barely combines. Don't overwork the mixture or it will become tough. You may have some discernible bits in the mix; better that than overworked meatballs.


Form the meatballs (you may want to wet your hands so they stick together better). A traditional size for this sort of meatball is 2-3 inches across. Once you roll the meatball in your hands, roll it in the flour to give it a good coating.

Once all the meatballs are formed, heat olive oil in a large skillet (I used cast iron) over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on at least two sides. Don't worry about the center getting cooked through, as you will finish these in the sauce.

Once all the meatballs are browned, you can then arrange them in the sauce. Turn each meatball around in the sauce to coat. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Serve with the sauce and pasta or crusty bread. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and freshly grated parmesan. 

Saturday, May 3

My First visit: Tampa in Review

As you may already know, next month we'll be living in Florida. For the first time in my entire life, I'll live outside of my beloved Arkansas. As we get closer to moving, I have found myself getting more and more anxious. Though, like any real adventure, I believe the move will be great for us and stimulate our growth as a family as well as in our professions. Each time I start to feel doubtful, I look back at the photos from the trip we made in April, and get excited all over again. 


There are several places I can't wait to return to food wise. We had the best luck; Every restaurant we ate at was a hit. At Boca, I had a killer brunch with quiche, mimosas, and roasted potatoes to die for! It had a nice atmosphere (complete with fresh greens growing on a wall inside) and was in Hyde Park, but it didn't take itself too seriously. Not only did we have perhaps the best waitress in town, Boca had a hangover special on the menu that consisted of a breakfast sandwich, a PBR, and brown paper bag which I thought to be pretty clever.


My favorite meal from the trip was a toss up between the turkey, apple, brie croissant at The Independent and the fish of the day served with greens, cornbread, and a sweet corn puree at The Refinery. Both restaurants are in Seminole Heights, a neighborhood I just cannot get enough of. We were fortunate enough to be visiting during the neighborhood's tour of homes, and were thoroughly impressed with its historic features and preservation efforts. Our hope is to find a home in the area (fingers still crossed the perfect place comes through for us)! In addition to The Refinery and The Independent, we had an awesome meal and listened to a kick-ass band at Ella's Americana Folkart Cafe. This place is top-notch, and their soul-food Sunday is not to be taken lightly. I'm talking bloody mary's served with a pork rib atop and plate-licking good homemade bacon mac and cheese -- also in Seminole Heights! 

I must also confess I should have NEVER tried Oxford Exchange's  Coffee Nut iced coffee. OMG! It's going to be habit forming I am afraid. Oxford Exchange is probably the nicest bookstore I have ever entered. Near the University of Tampa, they have a great cafe (lunch was stellar) and a market next door where they serve up all these on-the-go coffee's and smoothie drinks. Sadly, we were there the weekend before Anna Rifle Bond of Rifle Paper Co. visited and just missed that amazing event. Anyway, you should follow their instagram @oxfordexchange because I am pretty sure it's like the coolest place in town.


So if Oxford Exchange is the coolest, Schiller's is screeching in at a very close second place. If a design and architectural salvage yard exists it is always where I am going to end up. They had the biggest selection of old doors, windows, iron work, and barn wood I had ever seen. Such an eye for detail these folks have! We will definitely be back! I have to pick up some fun letters for sure.


I'll admit that I was totally skeptical of Ybor before we visited, but it's vibe sucked me in immediately. The smell of insanely good Cuban coffee coming out of the shops, watching cigars being rolled through the street windows, and chickens roaming around the sidewalks - I honestly didn't want to leave!



On the last leg of our trip we got to enjoy some beach time! We stayed at the Postcard Inn in St. Pete's, a really cute motel right on the beach. It was such a great break from the stress of home buying, trying to make offers, and line up inspections. I loved the details of this place: green vines, wood worn naturally from the salty air and splashes of water, and cute details painted along the hallways. Really, I can't wait to get back to the PCI beach bar - killer sandwiches, watermelon salad, and endless icey cold margaritas. We had a blast watching college kids drink too much and played a little volleyball. My favorite part was when a 19 year old said she thought I was her age :)


Once we get settled in our new city, I am sure plenty more Tampa photos will follow as I begin to explore, camera in hand, and start to spread my roots. I hope to get some good shots from all the Seminole Heights restaurants I mentioned, too. You'll definitely want to stay tuned!