A journey of a thousand miles…

I am addicted to the learning curve- yes seriously- I go through hobbies and interests like people go through paper plates.  I grew up an Army brat moving every 3 years, but have now lived in the same place for 20 years and the only way I can satisfy my need for change is to continuously learn.  While I LOVE it, I know it drives my family crazy because they can never pin down my likes.  Things that have NOT changed in my life, my love of adventure, reading and the color green.  When I fixate on a subject, I am all consumed by it, almost master it, then drop it like a bad habit.  It’s all very normal for me, but to outsiders, I’m sure I come across as flaky.  You want to a list of things I’ve explored?  Here goes…

  • certified beekeeper
  • belly dancing (2 yrs)
  • candle making
  • quilt making
  • beading
  • chickens (yes the ones that lay blue eggs just like Martha Stewart)
  • cooking- I still love this one
  • stone masonry
  • tile
  • remodeling houses
  • camping- still love this too- only it’s starting to feel like a lot of work
  • travelling- love to go, but LOVE to come home
  • costume making (won Halloween couple contest 2 years)
  • reading- never gets old
  • writing- this comes in waves
  • painting
  • stuffed animal making- short lived
  • gardening-flowers
  • gardening-produce
  • gardening-fruit trees
  • archeology
  • tubing
  • rafting
  • horseback riding
  • voice lessons
  • soap making
  • road tripping
  • National Parks

As you can see, the list is diverse and there is no connecting theme.  It’s just the way I’m built.  My current goals are to learn Mandarin & to learn 6 basic chords on the guitar.  I’ve attempted these several times, but want to get serious this time.  So, I’m going to watch Stephen Duneier’s TED Talk and get started.  Please hold me accountable!  I’ve got the Living Language course in Mandarin to follow and a Youtube series for guitar.  I’ll post updates on my progress which I hope you’ll cheer me on!

Why Chinese?  Well, I watched the series Firefly years ago and that started a spark, then just read Crazy Rich Asians and that has now got me fired up to learn.

Why guitar?  Well, let’s just say that when I run into Johnny Depp, I’d like to have something in common to talk about.  AND playing guitar is probably as cool as I will ever get since I am a straight up NERD.

Crazy Rich Asians made me do it: Pork Stir Fry & Jasmine Rice with Tamari Soy Sauce

Pork Stir Fry Melanie Knight

Yes, I watched the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, then heard the book was better, so I read that too.  The book is ALL ABOUT FOOD; food and flavors I’ve never even heard of.  As you know, I live is a small Southern town, but apparently I also live under a rock too.

So, I like to eat what the characters in my books/movies/shows eat (Lemon cakes- Sansa Stark?).  In this case, I was so out of my league on Singapore cuisine, the closest I could get was pork stir fry from my NFL Gameday Cookbook, which was a hit, and Singapore Chili Crab- which was a bust 🙁

Pork Stir Fry by Melanie Knight, inspired by Big Time Stir Fry from The NFL Gameday Cookbook.

Marinade

  • 1/8 cup cornstarch
  • 1tbl olive oil
  • 1 tbl rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

 

  • 1 pound pork tenderloin cut into bite sized cubes ( I used precooked from my grocer’s deli)
  • 2-4 tbl stir fry oil
  • 1/2 onion- sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1 tbl crushed garlic
  • 1 serrano chili pepper- diced
  • 1 tbl ginger
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbl hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  •  1/4 cup water mixed with 1/2 tbl cornstarch
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut on an angle for topping
  • cooked jasmine rice
  • Tamari soy sauce to serve with the rice

Marinade directions:  Mix the ingredients and coat the pork cubes.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Stir fry directions:  Heat the stir fry oil in a large frying pan, add the pork cubes and cook, stirring often as the marinade thickens.  Push to the edges, add more stir fry oil to the center and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili pepper and ginger.  Cook for 30 seconds, then stir everything together.  Add the mushrooms and mix well.  Add the broth and soy sauce, hoisin sauce and white pepper.  Push to the side and add the water/cornstarch mixture.  Stir as the sauce thickens.  remove from heat and top with green inions.  Serve with jasmine rice and tamari.

This was a hearty stir fry dish that was full of flavor.  Everyone went back for seconds.

Caution:  Serrano peppers leave hot oil on your hands!  Even after washing my hands with milk, my eyes burned the next day when I put my contacts in.

Green beans with crispy pancetta & pecans

Green Beans by Melanie Knight.pngWe hosted Easter this year and everyone pitched in and cooked 1 item.  I volunteered for green beans, which was a stretch for me since I’ve never cooked fresh green beans.  I knew I wanted them sautéed with crispy pancetta, but beyond that- I did not have a recipe.  After scrambling this morning and reading several recipes online that called for ingredients I did not have, I finally had to make do with what was in my kitchen.  The results were delicious.  The green beans were crisp and the pancetta and pecans were crunchy.  This is going into my hall of fame recipes of “keepers”.

Green beans with crispy pancetta & pecans by Melanie Knight

Ingredients

  • 3 slices pancetta
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (from a jar)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 pounds fresh green beans
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • salt to taste

Bring a sauce pot of salted water to boil, add green beans and boil for 5 minutes.  My water stopped boiling when I added the green beans, so I had t wait for it to boil again before I started the timer for 5 minutes.  Strain the green beans and wash with cold water.

While you wait for the water to boil, sauté the pancetta in a large pan until it is crispy, then add the garlic and pecans.  While the garlic & pecans warm up, cut up the pancetta into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces with kitchen scissors.  There will be a build up on the bottom of the pan, deglaze it with the 1/4 cup of wine.

In the now empty sauce pot, melt the 2 tbl of butter, then add the mixture of pancetta, garlic, pecans and wine.  The add the green beans and the onion powder.  Stir until the green beans have been tossed with the pancetta mixture.  Add salt to taste and enjoy!

 


 

Delicious Homemade Margaritas

 

 

Margaritas Melanie Knight

I have never really like margaritas from a restaurant because they tasted like they were made with sour syrupy koolaid.  But, I happened to watch Alton Brown on Food Network mix up margaritas from scratch- that and I kept looking at a Pampered Chef catalog with a gorgeous display titles “Fajitas & Margaritas”.  Once we finally wrapped up  our taxes, I decided to go for it and create a new family tradition- Fajitas & Margaritas to end a crappy day of doing taxes and end on a high note.

The first time I made these- I had to hand squeeze everything and it was a LOT of work.  The second time- I bought the little juicer at Walmart for $2 and life got way easier.

I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this deliciously tart cocktail- I think it’s the high $ liquor and the agave.  Try it and let me know what you think.

Margarita Recipe by Alton Brown Food Network

  • 2 ounces 100 percent agave silver/blanco tequila, divided (I used Tequila Reserva 1800 Silver 100% Agave)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I only had pink Himalayan sea salt)
  • 4 limes, divided
  • 1/2 small Hamlin or Valencia orange (I could only find navel)
  • 2 tablespoons light agave nectar
  • 3/4 cup ice cubes, about 3 to 4

1-Pour 1/2-ounce of the tequila into a small saucer. Spoon the salt in a corner of a bowl. Dip the rim of a martini into the tequila. Lift out of the tequila and hold upside down for 10 seconds to allow for slight evaporation. Next, dip the glass into the salt to coat the rim. Set aside.

2-Halve 2 of the limes, cut a thin slice for garnish from 1, and set aside. Juice the halved limes into the bottom of a Boston-style cocktail shaker. Cut the remaining 2 limes and the orange into quarters and add them to the juice in the shaker. Add the agave nectar to and muddle for 2 minutes until the juices are release.  I had to hand squeeze all the fruit and  did my best to “muddle”.  I think I did OK since my drink was delicious.  Strain the juice mixture through a strainer into the top of the shaker and discard the solids.

3-Return the juice to the bottom of the shaker, add the remaining 1 1/2 ounces of tequila and any remaining on the saucer. Add the ice to the shaker, cover and shake for 30 seconds. Strain the mixture through a cocktail strainer into the prepared glass, garnish with reserved lime slice, and serve immediately.

We savored ours on our patio as we watched the sunset.

 

Margarita Ingredients Melanie Knight

Pretty Little Liars and the Arts Council

Melanie Knight That 70's GalaYes, I am college educated grown woman and I loved loved loved Pretty Little Liars.  I grew up with Scooby Doo and the never ending mysteries to solve, so this glammed up show was right up my alley.  It was the perfect mix of fashion, suspense and uber frenemies.  The young ladies in this American Telenovella are perpetually going to one costume ball or another; basically any excuse to dress up and avoid getting murdered.  Who knew joining the Lancaster County Council of the Arts would feed my PLL soul?

Yes, by joining my local arts community I get to live out loud and fulfill my inner Pretty Little Liars fantasy of hair, nails, makeup & costumes!  Seriously, it is a dream come true.

So here we are at the Black & White Gala last year 2017 and the That 70’s Gala in 2018.  Both were just the right mix fun, food and dancing.  Seriously, I am already planning for 2010, Midnight in Paris.  Really, what does one wear at midnight in Paris?  This will take some time.  If you have any idea- please leave me some advice in the comments!

So, if you are like me and would like to play dress up as an adult, go out and JOIN the arts council of your town.  It’s a fabulous way to support your local art community and have a blast while you do it.

Melanie Knight Black and White Gala
Enter a caption

 

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

2 years ago I ate dinner in Portland, OR in the middle of a blizzard and had my first taste of parmesan roasted cauliflower.  I had never really liked cauliflower, so when the group decided to order this as an appetizer, I was not that enthused.  Cauliflower has always seemed like a wanna-be-broccoli to me with no flavor; just another vegetable to add to your veggie tray that no one wants to eat.  This dish however, is quite a tasty winter treat.  So when I was asked to bring a side dish to Sunday dinner and all the usual side dishes were spoken for, I remembered this West coast treat and my inner flower child smiled.

Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower www.bonappetit.com, edited by Melanie Knight

Ingredients

  • 48oz bag frozen cauliflower florets
  • 2 Vidalia onions- chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 tbl garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • Himalayan salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425

In a large bowl- combine all of the ingredients and mix.  Cover a baking pan (with edges) with aluminum foil and spread the mixture out evenly.

Roast, tossing occasionally for 35-40 minutes.  Toss again, and roast another 10-12 minutes until edges are golden.

Serve and enjoy.  You can thank me later.

 

Chop Suey- Went so fast I didn’t even get a pic!

chopsuey

I cooked this tonight using thin rib eye steaks cut into thin strips and it was so good I didn’t even get a pic!  This recipe works with chicken, beef or pork and is a staple in our house.

Ingredients

  • 5 thin ribeyes- cut into strips (like fajitas)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 sweet onion- but into thin rings
  • 3 stalks celery- cut at an angle
  • 1/2 cup Kikoman soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice

Heat olive oil in skillet over med high heat.  Sautee onions until they begin to brown.  Add in ribeye and cook until done.  Add in celery and broccoli.  Cook until done.

In a bowl or glass- mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger & corn starch.  Pour over veggies & beef.  Let cook 5-10 minutes over med to low heat until sauce thickens up.

Serve over rice and enjoy!  If you make this- send me a pic!

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Clemson Blue Cheese

Buffalo Chicken Salad www.theluckywife.life

I love hot wings, but not the calories or cholesterol, so I use this simple spicy recipe when I want something savory.  I usually eat mine with a salad (lettuce, tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, diced celery), but these are delicious dipped in ranch dressing too.  *Yes- for the record- blue cheese is the only thing I like from Clemson.

Buffalo Chicken by Melanie Knight

  • 4 chicken breasts- slice thin, butterfly if you need to
  • your favorite bbq dry rub
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Hot sauce
  • 3 tbl butter

Salad option:

  • Clemson blue cheese crumbles- your choice, I like a lot
  • Romaine lettuce- 2-3 leaves per salad
  • tomatoes diced- 1/2 tomato per salad
  • celery diced- 1/4 cup per salad

Season the chicken breasts, then grill over medium- high heat until done.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Melt butter and stir in hot sauce until mixed.  Dip each chicken breast in hot sauce and serve.  Can also be served on a sandwich roll with lettuce, tomato and crumbled blue cheese.

 

 

Deviled Eggs & Candied Bacon, a decadent upgrade

Devilled Eggs www.theluckywife.life

These were the best devilled eggs!  I had them at a J. Alexander restaurant in Chicago last year as an appetizer and they were the highlight of my meal.  Seriously, I don’t remember what else I ate, but I had to look up this recipe once I got home.  Are they really worth the effort?  Yes.  And the candied bacon totally makes this dish decadent.

 Deviled eggs & candied bacon by Melanie Knight, inspired by  J. Alexander’s copycat deviled eggs by Claire Perez

  • 6 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise (DUKES)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon pickle sweet relish
  • Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 slices candied bacon, (See recipe below)
  • Paprika, for garnish

Directions:  Cut boiled eggs in half.  Remove the yolks to a bowl.  Mash with a fork and add mayonnaise, mustard and relish.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Next, spoon yolk mixture back into egg whites or use a pastry bag and pipe yolks into whites.  Sprinkle with paprika and top with 2- 1 inch pieces of candied bacon.

 

Candied Bacon- Recipe courtesy of Chef Alex Guarnaschelli revised by Melanie Knight

  • 12 slices bacon (or 1 pack bacon)
  • Finely-ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup light-brown sugar

Directions:  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Put bacon slices in a bowl, season them with pepper and toss with the brown sugar.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment or foil, and arrange the bacon in a single layer on top.   Top with another layer of parchment or foil and top it, squarely, with another baking sheet. The baking sheet will flatten the bacon as it cooks.

Next, place the tray in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Check the bacon by lifting the top tray and parchment.  If it is not golden brown and fairly crispy, resist the temptation to turn up the oven temperature, and cook it for 10 to 15 minutes longer. Check it again.  Keep in mind that when you remove the tray and transfer the bacon to a serving platter or individual plates, the bacon will “crisp” up a little more.

MK- I had to microwave my bacon before it became crispy- I had it in the oven 40 minutes and it was too “floppy” raw looking for me.  I microwaved it 30 sec at a time until it was crispy.

Watch out!  Candied bacon is really really really good.  Trust me, set aside the slices you need for the devilled eggs before you pig out 🙂

Vanilla Cupcake recipe from my favorite cupcake shop…Cupcrazed!

Cupcrazed Vanilla Cupcakes www.theluckywife.life

I am addicted to Cupcrazed cupcakes and thank God that they are 30+ minutes from my house- OR I would stop by there every day and 2x on Tuesday.  Why 2x on Tuesday you ask?  Because cupcakes are $2 each on $2 Tuesday that’s why.

Remember the show Cupcake Wars?  I loved that show!  I used to watch it while I was on the elliptical and drool.  When I learned Heather McDonnell of Cupcrazed Cakery won Cupcake Wars, I had to check it out and I have been hooked ever since.  The only time I get to enjoy these gourmet treats is when I have a dentist appointment, so basically 2x a year.

I do follow them on instagram, so I at least get to see all their decadent ever-changing flavors.  For instance, yesterdays flavors were:  pineapple upside down cake, strawberry cake batter, Panther-fetti, cookies n cream, white chocolate raspberry, caramel macchiato, Reese’s, s’mores, salted caramel & Oreo.  See?  Decadent.

I knew they posted the Cupcake Wars recipes online, so when I googled this, I found that Cupcrazed posted some of their recipes on their own blog too.  You see, they bake AND they are crazy (their tagline).  I found the vanilla cupcake and icing recipe and HAD to make them for myself.

Did I mention I have an issue with portion control?  Well I do, so this was flirting with disaster since each recipe makes 36 cupcakes.  I cut it and made 25% of the recipe expecting 9 and still ended up with 12 cupcakes.  Only 4.5 are left…looks like I’ll be doing some yoga later tonight.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Will I make them again?  Yes, but only for a party with actual people in attendance.

Cupcrazed Cakery Vanilla Cupcake Recipe (makes 36)

  • 1 lb butter
  • 4 cups granular sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tbs vanilla
  • 2 cups whole milk room temp
  • 3 cups self rising flour
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup canola oil

Whip butter in the bowl.  Add all 4 cups of sugar and whip it into the butter for about 2 minutes.  Add all 8 eggs and vanilla to butter/ sugar and whip until completely combines.  Add 3 cups self rising flour and the first cup if milk, combine.  Add the 3 cups of all purpose flour and the second cup of milk.  Combine.  Stir in the canola oil.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Frosting

  • 1 lb butter
  • 6 or 7 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tsp whole milk (maybe)

Add 1/2 the sugar to the pound of butter, whip together.  Add the vanilla and 3 more cups sugar.  Whip together and check for consistency.  If it’s too runny, add more confectioners sugar.  If it’s too thick, add a little whole milk.

Enjoy!  And FYI- if you like raw cake batter- this is the best I’ve ever had.