.family supper club.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable, blessed Thanksgiving.  We ventured down to Augusta to celebrate with my Mama’s family.  After losing Mama’s stepfather and mother within 48 hours about two weeks ago, it was wonderful to be surrounded by family.

When Josh decided to go back to school in order to gain a teaching certificate, we knew our already hectic schedule would morph into this crazy monster.  I knew our precious quality time was going to be pushed aside for things like term papers, teacher work samples, and endless hours of studying for seemingly endless certification tests.

As someone who craves quality time, I was dreading Josh’s foray into graduate school.  By nature, I crave the quiet and the familiar.  Grad school + football season + wrestling season does not equal the time I desperately need at home with my husband and family.  Over manis and pedis, I confided in my mother about my concerns and she {as usual} came up with a most brilliant plan:

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Family Supper Club.  The concept is simple:  plan and cook meals with the people you love.  This isn’t meant to be a nightly dinner party or anything particularly fancy.  It’s a way to spend maximize quality time while minimizing both stress and grocery bills.  It also eliminates leftovers altogether, something that makes Mr. C very happy.

Our Family Supper Club has been going strong for nearly a year now and I cannot say enough about what a blessing it is.  Even during our most hectic weeks {those weeks where football season and wrestling season intersect…nightmare!}, we were able to sit down to home cooked meals instead of relying solely on fast food or take away.  Some weeks we rely heavily on Mama and Daddy and other weeks they rely heavily on us.  In the end, we typically have four to five nights plus a Sunday dinner together.

I cannot stress what a blessing my Mama’s little idea has been.  Instead of worrying over what to cook seven nights a week, I might cook three nights a week at a maximum.  It has also been a wonderful incentive to follow our chore chart each day to keep our house “company ready.”  Is it a perfect system?  No, but it’s a lot better than getting home at 7:30 in the evening and guiltily eating fast food.

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1.  Find Your People.  Does Family Supper Club have to be strictly for family members?  Absolutely not.  Find a core group of people that you love and you’re all set!  Our FSC consists of the “core four” of Josh, Mama, Daddy, and me.  Sometimes we include my Grandma and Pop in the mix.  Other times, my cousin Clay and his wife Lauren join us.  The most important thing to remember is that if you don’t want to cook for a group of twelve, keep it small.

2.  Plan.  This was the part of FSC that was most difficult at first.  If you don’t plan together with your group members, someone might screw up {or get their feelings hurt!}.  Mama and I sit down each Sunday either in person or via text to discuss our comings and goings for the week.  All members of the core four have access to one another’s Google Calendars so we know exactly when Josh and Daddy have fire meeting, I have cheer practice, or Mama has a board meeting.

After we’ve established the who and where, we plan the what.  I typically cook on Mondays and Wednesdays while Mama takes Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We keep Fridays and Saturdays open for date nights or whatnot.  Sometimes Mama and I go grocery shopping together and sometimes we don’t.  Regardless, we always have a plan in place before the work week begins.

3.  Prep on Sunday.  One of the best things we’ve ever done in our marriage is to go to the market and prep all of our meals on Sunday.  Anything that needs slicing, dicing, chopping, or marinating gets done on Sunday.  We also prep our breakfasts {chia seed overnight oats} and lunches {usually grilled chicken, a complex carb, and a roasted veggie} at the same time.  It’s such a relief on our scheduled nights when I can come home, play with Atlas, grab the gallon-sized Ziploc bag labeled Monday, dump the contents in a pan, and call it a day.

4.  Cook!  It doesn’t have to be fancy!  I love spending time in the kitchen and I especially love trying new recipes, but I’ve learned to save that experimentation for our summer holiday.  Mama and I both utilize the Crockpot quite often and we each have a handful of healthy, filling recipes that are both tasty and easy to prepare.

5.  If at first you don’t succeed, fry, fry a hen.  Just kidding.  Working out the schedules of a family in the 21st century is a little bit like origami.  Sometimes our most well-planned weeks fall to the wayside.  Sometimes life just happens.  Don’t let one bad week ruin something that is ultimately meant to simplify your life.

Would you ever start your own Family Supper Club?  Or have you already got a similar system in place that works?  Let me know in the comments!

Happy Holidays!

XOXO,

Court

P.S.  My favorite recipe ever.

This makes washing up after FSC a breeze.

If you want to follow our FSC exploits, follow our hashtag #familysupperclub.

My Favorite Things: Cookbooks

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a great cookbook.  I keep them in stacks on my nightstand and read through them like my favorite novels.  The best recipes are like love stories, full of both richness and sweetness and hints of bitter.  Here are my top favorite cookbooks:

1.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking by:  Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, & Simone Beck

As a worshiper at the throne of the Great Julia, this was an easy investment.  The recipes are detailed and methodical and Julia is just so terribly charming.  I’ve read both volumes from cover to cover several times over.  Order here.

Favorite recipes:  Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, Chicken with Mushrooms, Port, & Cream

2.  Foolproof by:  Ina Garten

The Barefoot Contessa is my favorite after school program {no, really}.  Ina is one of my top role models {a political analyst turned home chef!} and when my brother-in-law gifted me Foolproof for Christmas, I instantly ignored all my other presents to read through this gorgeously detailed book.  Purchase here.

Favorite recipes:  Perfect Poundcake, Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and Straw & Hay Pasta

3.  Nigella Kitchen:  Recipes from the Heart of the Home by:  Nigella Lawson

All cocaine charges notwithstanding, Nigella Lawson is an awesome home cook.  Every recipe is equal parts comforting, accessible, and sexy.  She’s delightfully entertaining to watch and she’s equally as entertaining in writing.  Many of the recipes in this book are quick and tasty.  Order here.

Favorite recipes:  Curly Pasta with Feta, Spinach, & Pine Nuts, Indian Roasted Potatoes, & Slut’s Spaghetti {no, really}

4.  It’s All Good by:  Gwyneth Paltrow

Set aside any preconceived notions about Gwyneth Paltrow & her goop lifestyle before reading this book and you’ll adore it.  The salad section alone is enough to feed us for the entire summer and the Captain goes nuts for the different dressing recipes.  This cookbook is especially helpful to anyone with Celiac disease or food allergies {like me}.

Favorite recipes:  The Best Chicken Soup Ever, Mexican Green Goddess Dressing, and Brown Rice Pasta with Tuna, Olives, Capers, & Parsley

5.  The Pioneer Woman by:  Ree Drummond

Technically I don’t own any of Ree Drummond’s cookbooks because I frequent her blog so often.  What’s more shocking than how comforting and simple her recipes are is the fact that so many people hate The Pioneer Woman.  Like, I’ve had other women harass me online because I’ve pinned her recipes before.  I think it’s because she’s not a trained chef and she sometimes takes shortcuts or maybe it’s because she’s built a profitable empire.  Either way, women tearing down other women online is not cool.  Ree is personable and her recipes are easy to follow.  You can access her recipes by clicking here.

Favorite Recipes:  Cajun Chicken Pasta, Salisbury Steak {no, really}, and Sunday Night Stew

What about you?  What are your favorite cookbooks?  Do you have shelves full of them like me or do you download ebooks on your iPad?

XOXO,

Court

A Southern Thanksgiving

2. RUSTIC

Is it any surprise that I’m a holiday junkie?  On August 1st, I’m known as the-girl-who-buys-all-the-pumpkins-at-Bilo and on November 1st I transform into the-girl-who-listens-to-Christmas-music-until-Epiphany.  Because we have a tiny farmhouse and we are without children, Thanksgiving gets a bit lost in the shuffle.  We’re back and forth between Georgia and North Carolina every year and while I enjoy visiting with family, I’d love nothing more than to host a Southern Thanksgiving of my own someday.

I am a very detail-oriented person.  That’s what I love most about Thanksgiving…you can serve a green bean dish and everyone will be satisfied…or you could serve a green bean dish with seared garlic and pancetta and everyone will stop and wonder.  Here are a few of my very favorite Southern Thanksgiving dishes and decorating tips.

Is there anything that screams Thanksgiving like autumnal decor?

And let us not forget the humble Thanksgiving dessert…

What about you?  Are you dying to throw your own Thanksgiving bash or do you think I’m nuts?

XOXO,

Court

The Best Chicken Soup

Over the summer, the Captain surprised me with Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook, It’s All Good.  It’s a gorgeous book with simple, healthy recipes and loads of new ideas.  I made a notation in my meal planning journal that the very second the weather turned cool, I’d make her chicken soup.  She likens it to “Jewish penicillin” and after making it myself, I must agree.  It’s light, yet filling and it’s so flavorful.  The ingredients are easily interchangeable and I feel it would freeze beautifully.  I changed a few things to reflect what is available in our tiny rural town {finding a leek in Franklin Springs would be akin to finding buried treasure}.

You’ll need:

For the broth:

  • One whole organic chicken
  • 1 rib of celery, quartered
  • 1 carrot, quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 bunches fresh Thyme
  • 10-12 cups cold water

For the soup:

  • 2 cups carrots, diced
  • 1 bunch Kale, removed from stems
  • Chicken broth {see above}
  • Shredded chicken, white meat only

Rinse the chicken well and remove innards {keep the neck}.  In your largest stock pot, add in all the vegetables and turn the setting to high.  While the vegetables sizzle, add the salt, peppercorns, and thyme.  Then, deglaze the stockpot with the wine.  After that, settle the chicken onto the vegetables and then cover completely with water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours.

Strain and remove the chicken and discard the cooked vegetables.  Pour the broth into a new stockpot and add in the carrots and kale.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for twenty minutes.  In the meantime, pick the meat off the chicken and add into the stockpot.  Once the carrots are soft, serve the soup with crusty French bread.

Do you have a favorite cold-weather recipe?  I think this is our new favorite!

XOXO,

Court

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

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Today I needed cookies.  Instead of making a mad dash for Chick-fil-a {and don’t act like you haven’t done it}, I decided to make the old standby:  Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.  When I was a little girl, we didn’t eat a ton of sweets…Mama was pretty careful about sugar.  The one exception was Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies–we’d make them together on Saturdays and then enjoy the fruits of our labor with a tall glass of milk.  You’ve probably got this recipe tucked into every church cookbook in your cupboard but it’s so simple and delicious that it bears repeating.

You’ll Need:

  • One stick of unsalted butter
  • Four tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Two cups granulated sugar
  • One cup of crunchy peanut butter
  • Three cups of quick cooking oats

Combine the butter, cocoa powder, and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, add the milk and peanut butter and increase the heat to medium high.  Bring to a rapid boil for one minute, remove from heat, and add the three cups of quick cooking oats.  Mix until the oatmeal is well-coated.  Using a tablespoon, drop batter onto waxed paper.  Allow the cookies to cool for one hours.

And go ahead…lick the spoon.

Yields approximately three dozen cookies.

Brussels Sprouts Pasta

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Dear Little Brussels Sprouts,

I’m sorry that Americans have made you the butt of a lot of cruel jokes.  I for one can hardly resist your charms.  You’re delicious, nutritious, mild, and just plain adorable.  When paired with comfort foods like noodles, chicken sausages, and white wine, you really shine.

XOXO,

Court

We’re three days into the 2013-2014 school year and tonight we just needed something comforting and we needed it fast {15 minutes!}.  This pasta combines so many things that I love into one perfect dish.  If you don’t share my fondness of Brussels sprouts, feel free to substitute in cabbage or perhaps even kale.

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You’ll need:

  • 1 pound of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • One package of chicken sausage
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Prepared pesto {I used bought pesto but feel free to make your own!}
  • 1 pound bowtie pasta
  • Salt & freshly cracked pepper
  • Parmesan cheese {for serving}

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Begin by trimming and halving one pound of Brussels sprouts.  Mix with two tablespoons of olive oil and liberally salt and pepper.  Place on a cookie and roast for ten to twelve minutes {until cooked through and nicely caramelized}.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and drop in the pasta.  While that’s cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Slice the chicken sausage and cook through {eight to ten minutes}.

Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and add in with the chicken sausage.  Turn the heat up to high, create a “well” in the center of the Brussels sprouts and chicken sausage, and carefully add the white wine.  Immediately turn off the heat and place a lid on the pan.

In a pasta bowl, mix together the noodles, Brussels sprouts, chicken sausage, and pesto {I used an 8-ounce jar}.  Liberally dust with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Hope you enjoy!

XOXO,

Court

Dieting & Transparency & Eating Crow

1Me at a happier time with a hand-battered corndog in my hand and a Romney sticker on my blouse.  Though, for the record, I still have my Ron Paul sign proudly displayed in my front yard.  That’s another post for another day.

Please let me preface this post by saying that Josh has a goal to lose 20 pounds this month.  Coupled with the 25 pounds that he has already lost, he’ll finally be at his desired weight.  Also, I’ve been having very painful, very random allergic reactions to some mystery food item that I cannot quite pinpoint.  I’ve considered allergy testing, but I’ve read over and over again that the testing is often inconclusive and to be honest, I have to lay down to even get a flu shot.  Needles and I are not pals.

On Sunday, Josh and I began a no dairy, no gluten, no sugar, no red meat diet.  For him, it’s all about weight loss.  For me, it was all about avoiding dairy {for my eczema} and possibly pinpointing grain as the culprit of my allergic reactions.  Josh surprised me with Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cookbook, “It’s All Good,” as a way to have tasty, gluten-free alternatives in our diets.  The book is beautiful and I’ve found multiple recipes I’ll use for many years to come.

I’ve tried the vegetarian thing before.  I gave up meat for Lent one year and then my iron levels went all wonky and my doctor advised against continuing my fast.  So I went to Firehouse Subs and ordered the most delicious, most horrific sandwich laden with every possible Italian meat and it was glorious.  Then, I got sick.

Last year after watching Forks Over Knives, Josh and I gave up all meat, meat by-products, and all dairy.  Cold turkey.  We lasted four days.  On the fifth day, I drove straight to the market after work, bought the most expensive, thickest bacon I could find, and I fried up the whole lot.  Then I ate it.  Again, it was glorious.  Again, I got sick.

Fast forward to last night, merely a few days into this month-long experiment.  It was late and I was hungry.  Our fridge was stocked full of healthy snack options like watermelon, citrus fruits, and cherries.  I had the option of Ezekiel toast with avocado or even a fruit smoothie with coconut milk and Kefir.  Instead, I threw a massive temper tantrum and begged Mr. C to drive me to McDonalds.  I purchased a Big Mac, fries, and a large Dr. Pepper and I devoured it.  I attacked that food like Rosemary attacks that raw beef in Rosemary’s Baby.  I was unstoppable.  I nearly had tears running down my cheeks.  It was magnificent and disgusting and completely glorious.  And then…once again…I got sick.

Mr. C, in his supreme wisdom, very gently said that we needed to talk.  He was right.  He’s always right.  So we talked.  We talked about moderation and my cravings and how it’s okay to indulge every once in a while.  We also talked about how it’s okay to have a Dr. Pepper every once in a while and how using three Chick-fil-a sauces for my waffle fries is probably not something to feel guilty about.

Together, we developed a few ground rules that will offer really healthy options while allowing for the occasional craving.

1.  All meat should be free of hormones and antibiotics.  Poultry should be free-range and all beef should be grass-fed.  When in doubt, cook venison.

2.  All eggs should be free of hormones and antibiotics.  Eggs should be free-range.

3.  Unsweetened almond milk is perfectly fine for day-to-day consumption, but if a recipe calls for cow’s milk {or even heavy cream!}, it’s okay.

4.  Most vegetables should be locally grown.  Out of season vegetables will be avoided.

5.  Salad Sundays, Meatless Mondays, and Soup Saturdays will be respected.

6.  Ezekiel bread is the only bread for us {barring the occasional loaf of French bread}.

7.   MSG should be avoided.

8.  Cookies are okay in moderation.  Like, once a week.  The same goes for Dr. Pepper.  Baking a pound cake is not the end of the world.

In essence, Josh stressed the importance of whole foods, lean meats, and minimal junk.  Moderation has never been my strong suit…I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal.  But the rules we developed will allow for the flexibility this free spirit needs while still adhering to Mr. C’s desire for law & order.

I felt like I needed to share my breakdown because I desire true transparency in my life.  On Saturday, we went from Trader Joe’s to the Fresh Market, and then we ran to Wal-Mart in order to stock our pantry.  I silently judged everyone I saw reaching for those Cool-Ranch Doritos or a package of terrible-horrible-no good-very bad Purdue Chicken {seriously guys, don’t eat that crap}.  To the people I judged, I’m sorry.  To everyone that received my YOUR BODY IS A TEMPLE, HOW DARE YOU PUT EVIL GLUTEN {OR MSG, OR CORN-FED BEEF} INTO IT?!? speech, I’m sorry.  

This is me, eating crow.  And I’ve wrapped that crow in the most gloriously buttered crust you can imagine.

Life is for living, bacon is for frying, butter is for eating.  Amen.

XOXO,

Court

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops with Apple & Onion Chutney

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A typical Saturday afternoon includes jammies, catching up on DVRd television shows, and copious amounts of coffee.  Though it’s not in my nature to sleep late, I do enjoy lounging about with Josh.  Saturdays have a tendency to slip away from us.  This morning we settled in for a movie and before we even knew what happened, it was nearly 2:30!  Our tummies were rumbling and I remembered that I’d stashed two smallish pork chops in the refrigerator.  They’d been swimming in aged balsamic vinegar for at least twelve hours.  Because we were so hungry, I knew I needed to whip up something quickly.  I roughly chopped two Red Delicious apples and finely diced a small yellow onion before tossing the chops into a hot pan coated with coconut oil.  Ten minutes later, Josh and I sat down for a hearty lunch that made me secretly think of this.

This recipe is sinfully simple and perfect for a lazy lunch or quick dinner.  Enjoy with something creamy like cheesy polenta or orzo cooked in rich chicken broth and you’re all set.

You’ll need:

  • 2 pork chops
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar {set aside 1/4 cup}
  • 2 Red Delicious apples, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Marinate the pork chops in 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar for at least thirty minutes.  If at all possible, marinate the meat overnight in the refrigerator.  When you’re ready to cook the meat, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Salt one side of the pork and lay them salted side down in the pan.  Salt & pepper the other side of the pork.  While the meat cooks, roughly chop the apples and finely dice the onion.  After four minutes, flip the chops.  Cook for two to three more minutes. Plate and allow to rest.

Toss the apples and diced onions into the hot oil.  When the onions become translucent, add in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Place a lid on the pan and allow the poor-man’s chutney to come together for approximately four minutes.

Top the pork chops with the chutney mixture and enjoy immediately.

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XOXO,

Court

I apologize for using so many Instagram pictures as of late.  Sometimes pulling out the DSLR is just too cumbersome. 

Lemon Vinaigrette

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Salad dressing is such a simple pleasure, especially when it is homemade.  Though it seems fussy and pretentious, making things like mayonnaise and salad dressings gives you complete control over what goes into your body.  Banish the Wishbone bottles from your refrigerator with this simple & tangy vinaigrette.  You’ll soon become addicted!

You’ll need:

  • 2 lemons
  • ¾ cup quality olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed & peeled
  • 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese {grated}
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar

Simply combine all of the ingredients in a Mason jar, give it a furious shake, and pour over your favorite green salad {or even pasta salad}.  Bon appetite, y’all!

 

XOXO,

Court

 I based this concoction on a recipe found here