You’ve heard happy wife = happy life, right? Well, I’ve got the real secret to marital bliss and family harmony.
Marry a pizza guy.
When I met Daddy, he was a pizza delivery driver. Shortly thereafter, he regularly wooed me with perfectly placed toppings brought straight to my door.
And he’s still got skills — they especially come in handy on dreary nights when it’s too cold to go out.
I mean, really. Look at this beauty (or what’s left of it, anyway):
No one turns this dinner down. Especially when they get to help make their own. (Cheese only, obviously.)
Last but not least, this.
It’s pure love. Family pizza night rocks.
In preparation for the holidays, a group of us from Arkansas Women Bloggers were treated to an amazing day filled with fresh food, drinks and even a few cooking lessons at Cajun’s Wharf Christmas Camp.
I’d never once before strayed from having Cajun’s dinnertime-only Boston casserole, which features shrimp, King crabmeat, lobster and scallops, linguine, broccoli and water chestnuts bathed in newburg sauce and topped with mozzarella. It’s so ridiculously good. (My husband always gets the Six and Six — bacon-wrapped shrimps paired with grilled sea scallops. We’re predictable people.)
But now Cajun’s is open for lunch, too, giving me a chance to cheat on my Cajun’s favorite with something else.
After sampling a few wines and an amazing array of appetizers with my fellow bloggers, I settled on a classic for lunch — the Cajun Po’Boy with shrimp. As much as I loved the sandwich, I could have eaten a whole vat of the loaded hashbrown casserole. I’ll most definitely be returning for that.
After stuffing us to the brim, co-owner Mary Beth Ringgold presented us with a cooking demonstration that included an elegant mussels and clams dish, tips on how to make a great turkey and a new take on sweet potato casserole.
Ringgold suggests brining and later stuffing a turkey with leeks, lemons, pears and honeycrisp or Granny Smith apples. Another pro tactic she shared was crisping the turkey skin to a golden brown first at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes. Afterward, turn down the oven to about 340 degrees and foil tent your turkey for the remaining cook time, without opening the door again to get a juicy yet perfectly done breast.
She also shared her mom’s sweet potato casserole recipe. It’s sneakily similar to one on the Gourmet-to-Go menu at Cajun’s sister restaurant, Capers, so you know it’s a winner.
- 4 lbs. sweet potatoes, sliced and oven roasted ahead of time
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Topping (can be made ahead and frozen):
- 1 cup coconut
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup melted butter
Mix main ingredients and spread in a casserole dish, then evenly spread the topping. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. If the topping browns too quickly, cover with foil until finished. (Or, heck, pick one up at Capers!)
Another thing Cajun’s Wharf is famous for is its Play-De-Do drink, a delicious pink concoction served in mason jars that never fails to please. Its seasonal twist on the classic is a Holly-De-HoHo — and I can attest that it will make you just as happy.
If you want to try making your own version, here’s the recipe:
- one bottle of red wine (use the kind that you like!)
- 2 cups pomegranate juice
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup triple sec
- 1/4 cup simple syrup
Cajun’s suggestions for adding holiday flair are to garnish with pomegranate seeds, orange slices, green apple slices and grapes.
While the rest of us are dreading the SNOW PANIC of the season, at least someone was genuinely thrilled to wake up to see the extremely light dusting of white powder on trees, decks and cars this morning.
Among the morning howling for oatmeal to warm their bellies and dogs scratching at the door to get out, I realized what had happened and yelled out, “Snow!”
Kendall was immediately overcome with the sense of excitement and yelled out in return, “Christmas!” (Ava quickly explained to her that, sadly, it’s not Christmas every time it snows.)
It’s looking like we may get another shot at this snow thing this weekend. So everyone, do as we do in Arkansas and run out to claim all the milk and bread you can find at the store. Meanwhile, I’m feeling well stocked already. I’m about to fill up the crockpot, as nature instructs you to do on a frozen day.
Stay warm out there.
We’ve reached what is officially the busiest time of year. It’s full steam ahead from now until January, when the holidays are over. But a little advance planning can help take the edge off from the stress of seasonal meals — along with stocking up for unexpected party invitations and guests of your own.
While you’re out shopping, eating or running errands, a quick stop into Strippaggio’s at The Promenade at Chenal can help you gather up a few supplies to carry you through.
One of my in-laws’ favorite appetizers is a zippy jelly or sauce over cream cheese with crackers or Triscuits. It’s a tasty snack to put out with a fruit or veggie tray while you’re cooking, and it’s something easy to stash away for one of those times when an event pops up with little notice.
The best part is that you’ll nearly always have some sauce left over for another use. I’d pick the raspberry chipotle sauce to recycle as part of a guest-worthy lunch panini, featuring turkey, brie and spinach.
The Peach Jezebel sauce would be fabulous to glaze your holiday ham. I’m a simple gal when it comes to cooking — just pour it over when it’s got about 15-20 minutes left to bake, and you’re done. (You could chance it earlier, but sweet sauces may tend to overcarmelize sometimes.) If you don’t want to mess with the traditional “big meal,” you can hold onto it instead to jazz up leftovers.
As I’ve noted before, I’m in a squash period right now. Can’t get enough. It’s both in season and easy to cook. And if you’ve got any guests who are going gluten-free, it’s a good option for them. My favorite pairing with it is Strippaggio’s Milanese Gremolata oil, plus a little salt and pepper.
After it’s prepped, pop it in the oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or more, depending on the size of the squash. Once it’s done, scoop out the tasty strands and perhaps re-season a bit, if needed.
You most definitely can’t forget dessert. I’m a little bit in love with sweets featuring sea salt, so my heart skipped a beat when I saw this on the shelves:
I can think of so many things to do with this sauce. Ice cream. Brownies. Frozen carmel bananas on sticks. Topping an apple pie. Whatever treat your crowd is into, this would surely add a touch of luxuriousness appropriate for the holidays.
Enjoy the season, everyone! It’s a beautiful time to celebrate food and family.
Note: This is a compensated post. Of course, all opinions/thoughts/feelings are my own, however.
Apparently, my kids are behind the times and haven’t figured out yet that it’s trendy to dig in and eat every veggie in sight.
I’ve tried engaging them in meal planning, with limited success. Each Saturday, when I sit down with my menu board, coupons and grocery store flier, I plot out the week’s dinners. As I fill in each section, I’ll often ask the girls what they want for dinner and get crazy replies or none at all. But over time, I’ve honed in on them a bit. I’ll sometimes ask each of them directly to just pick one vegetable to go with a certain dinner, and it can’t be one that another child has already picked — otherwise we’d explode in a mountain of corn each week. Then, when their veggie lies on the plate, there’s at least some ownership of that choice.
Another way to go about it is at the actual grocery store, where they can ogle over all the choices in the produce section. This will often lead me to some random things that are harder to put together, like purple cauliflower and eggplant. And somehow less guarantee that the kids will actually give them a try, although you’d think the opposite. I suppose that they’re just like the rest of us, who are spontaneously tempted to buy jicama once in awhile and then have no idea what to do with it when it’s actually sitting in front of them.
This week, we fell down to flat-out trickery.
I’m in what you’d call a squash period right now. Last week, I roasted butternut squash in chunks with oil and grill seasoning. And it was delicious! I figured the would take better to it, given that it’s almost like sweet potato. But no dice. So I knew this week’s acorn squash selection was going to be even more difficult.
I prepared it ahead of time, so they wouldn’t see it in its original state. And there was nary a peep about squash. Instead, chef Daddy presented “brown sugar flowers” at the dinner table, with a wonderful pairing of salmon (also known as “Barbie chicken” for a more palatable presentation), asparagus and multigrain bread.
Alas, Ava moved too quickly and bit into the blechy rind of the flower, which was still intact. Sometimes, one bite is all you get — especially with picky kids like her. However, I’m willing to call that a win, because at least it’s trying something new.
Other tricks up my sleeve include :
- adding spinach to smoothies, particularly with apple juice or pineapple masking the flavor
- Capri Sun’s Super V pouches, a gateway toward straight-up veggie juice — someday!
- veggie soups, which tend to go over easier in our house for some reason, especially blended up
- dips for raw veggies, or warm spinach and artichoke dip over chicken or pasta
- zucchini bread, most delicious served warm
If there’s something I haven’t thought of, please share. We could all use the help!
I’m happy to report that now that we’ve gone a few weeks with the twins in separate classes at daycare, they’re doing just fine.
Splitting twins up can be a nerve-wracking thing. Most families I’ve encountered seem somewhat hesitant to do it early on because twins can be so interdependent. And they’ve always been together, so they don’t know anything but being together.
I was pretty much feeling the same way.
In case you missed the first part of this saga HERE, we ended up making the twin daycare separation decision because our daycare director had suggested to us that it might be a good move for Kayla and Kendall — especially Kayla, who’s prone to letting Kendall step in and do all the talking for her. And a spot was open in the daycare’s highly coveted kindergarten prep class that I didn’t want to lose.
The girls HATED the idea of being in separate classes at first. There was a lot of whining involved.
But after the first week or so, that all dried up.
I attribute part of that to the fact that they’re still playing together on the playground at recess and still getting back together in one class at the end of the day, as teachers leave and the rooms consolidate. So they’re not completely apart all day.
But they’ve also reached the point where they’ve made separate friends to play with, as opposed to mostly torturing each other. And they’re developing they’re own interests, too — all Kayla wants to do is art, and Kendall’s apparently big into playing kitchen right now.
Their teachers have said they’re doing great while gaining some independence from each other. I also can’t tell one bit from how they’re acting at home that anything has changed, which is also reassuring. They’re still bugging each other at bedtime yet waking up snuggled like two peas in a pod.
Now, I’m moving on to fretting that Kayla is moving ahead of Kendall on some things, like coloring in the lines better. In contrast, Kendall is much better at containing her emotions, whereas Kayla still tends to cry if you glance sideways at her. Although I have faith they’ll each develop their own different skills on their own different timelines eventually, mamas always gotta worry about something.
Fall’s biggest trends in Little Rock shops are on display at The Promenade at Chenal tonight as part of the Lights, Music, Fashion event held in conjunction with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and The Pointe Brodie Creek.
If you have a few minutes to get over there before 7 p.m., you have a chance to win one of these great outfits — which are all about $200. Just take your picture with the model and post it to Instagram using #LightsMusicFashion and tagging @ChenalPromenade and the store you’re in.
But if you’re on the hunt for a new game day outfit or something to wear on a night out with your girls, these outfits will all be available at the featured Promenade stores for longer. Bold colors and Aztec-looking prints are clearly winners in this lineup, along with everything red. (Go Razorbacks!)
Here’s the picks:
Another chic event is coming up this Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at The Promenade at Chenal — a red carpet-worthy fall fashion show presented in partnership with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and The Pointe Brodie Creek that will also kick off the ASO’s Pops Live! series.
Lights, Music, Fashion will include a chance to purchase and/or win tickets to Bill Conti’s Academy Awards at Pulaski Academy’s Connor Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Oct. 4 and Sunday, Oct. 5, when a FREE kids matinee is available. (More information on the show featuring tunes from familiar favorites such as Rocky and The Godfather can be found here.)
Best of all, the fall fashion showcase featuring clothes from the hip and trendy stores at the Promenade will include a chance to win your favorite outfit out of the lineup — a prize valued at $200 that no one would want to turn down.
Sample bites from A.W. Lin’s Asian Cuisine will also be available to tide you over until after the show, when you can relax with your besties while plotting out the rest of your shopping trip.
Can’t wait! See you there!
Note: This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions are my own, of course.
Today is the twins’ last day being 3. And although they don’t entirely get it, they know big things are headed their way.
In addition to turning 4 tomorrow, we’re about to split them apart a bit and see how it goes. It’s a gamble, but we’re hoping it pays off for them.
Our wonderful daycare’s kindergarten prep program has an opening — only one. And it’s hard to predict when another one will come along, as it stays pretty full since it’s so great. It might be months.
We’re nervous as all get-out about making the right decision here. They are EXTREMELY dependent on each other. To the point where Kayla will often let Kendall, her more boisterous sister, do most of the talking for her. And everything else.
In fact, that’s why the daycare director is trying to nudge us to separate them into different classes for a bit and see how it goes. Apparently, Kendall spends most of the day pretty much forcing Kayla to do whatever she wants her to. Kayla, being a people pleaser like her mama, goes right along with it.
They just had their yearly speech and development evaluations. For the first time ever, they didn’t come back with a bunch of terrifying notes. So we know they’re making big leaps and bounds. And we asked the director if we could pull out and put them back together if splitting them apart turns out to be a disaster. So there’s a safety valve in place here.
But I have a feeling it will be a bumpy ride, in any case. Habits are hard to break. And who wouldn’t want a best friend just like themselves to help get them through the day every day?
Wish us luck!
It’s already that time — the time of the year when most of the weekend is filled with yelling, stomping and pouting. But this time, it’s not from the kids.
Football season is upon us!
Ava asked this morning on the way to school if it was “time for the Razorbacks yet.” But she doesn’t particularly want to watch the game.
Instead, she’s excited because I promised her some “girl day” time together this football season while Daddy is off in Hog Heaven. And then heavens of every other SEC team out there. And then the purgatories that are the rest of them.
We’ll be doing a little shopping and maybe stopping for special treats, like ice cream. Perhaps going to the library and the park, too, along with more boring duties like heading to the grocery store together. As the season stretches on, I’m sure I’ll have to get a little more creative. So if you’ve got ideas out there, I’m all ears.
I’m generally all about trying to find fun gameday snacks, too, to keep the herd happy. Pinterest, I’m headed your way. Can we top last year’s peppers stuffed with cream cheese and little smokies, then wrapped with bacon? Oooh, I don’t know.
In the meantime, Woo Pig Sooie! And Go Big Red, my Nebraskan friends!