DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte- when your town is too small for a Starbucks :)

Pumpkin Spice Latte www.theluckywife.life

Yes, the perils of living in a small country town will at one time or another come with a few drawbacks.  While we don’t have bumper to bumper traffic, we also don’t have a Starbucks.  Well, technically there is a Starbucks in the county, but it is 20 minutes from my house.  So, while I do love coffee, I don’t “drive 40 minutes round trip” love coffee.  AND Starbucks won’t debut their PSL until later this month anyway and I want one NOW.  Which brings me to today’s recipe, DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte by Melanie Knight

  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee (I used Eight O’clock coffee- very smooth)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp Watkins Pumpkin Spice Extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1tbl brown sugar (I used demerara- but regular brown sugar will do)
  • whip cream (from a can, not cool whip)
  • sprinkle of nutmeg

For the frothy milk:  heat the milk in a small sauce pot over medium heat.  Use an electric hand mixer to froth the milk as it heats.  It will get foamy and light.  Be careful not to let the milk burn.  Once the milk is warm and frothy, remove from heat.  Alt- you can also froth the milk with a whisk or shake in a protein shaker until frothy- be careful since the milk will be hot.

Assembly- Adjust depending on the size of your coffee cup:  Fill the cup 1/3 of the way with coffee.  Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, then add the pumpkin spice & vanilla.  Next, pour in the frothed milk until 1/2 inch from the top of the cup.  Scoop up the froth from the frothed milk in the saucepan and spoon it on top of your latte.  Top off the latte with whip cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Enjoy!

The World’s Best Lasagna, yeah it’s that good

Lasagna from the oven www.theluckywife.life

It always shocks people when I give them a lasagna, then after they taste it and say “wow- that is the best lasagna I’ve ever had”, I say “Yeah, it’s the World’s Best Lasagna” at which point I can see them visibly shocked at my cockiness.   I immediately have to follow up with ” No, I’m not bragging, even though it is that good, that’s the name of the recipe.  It’s called “The World’s Best Lasagna”.  With this, they visibly relax, but I can tell they still think I’m bragging- which I totally am.

Lasagna hot slice www.theluckywife.life

Come on people!  It’s lasagna, which is food for the gods.  This is a meal that should be savored.  It is decadently delicious and my family begs for it.  I post a paper menu on the fridge every week, and they count down the days until we are having lasagna.  It gives them something to look forward to- and that’s the basic definition of happiness isn’t it?

 

Lasagna pre bake www.theluckywife.life

World’s Best Lasagna by John Chandler Allrecipes revised by Melanie Knight

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (6.5 oz) cans canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbls white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Brown sausage, then ground beef in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Remove from heat.  Next sauté onions and garlic over medium heat. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, water and add the sausage and beef back in. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered while the noodles are boiling- maybe 10 minutes max.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese (or cottage) with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

To assemble, spread 2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce.  Spread with one half of the cottage cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese. Spoon 2cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  If think you’ll have leftover sauce- you can add another layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes before serving.   Top each slice with shredded parmesan.  Serve and enjoy.  You can thank me later.

Ham & Swiss on Hawaiian Rolls

Party Ham & Swiss www.theluckywife.lifeI saw ham & Swiss biscuits on Ree Drummond’s Instagram feed last weekend and they looked so tasty.  She didn’t share the recipe, so I found this one on Pinterest instead.  This heartwarming sandwich is typically reserved for a party- so here’s to my very merry un-birthday party of 1 on the patio.  It was quite a delicious affair.

Baked Ham and Cheese Party Sandwiches by allrecipes.com

  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 24 mini sandwich rolls (I bought Hawaiian Rolls)
  • 1 pound thinly sliced cooked deli ham (I bought Hillshire Farms Black Forest ham
  • 1 pound thinly sliced Swiss cheese  (I bought sliced baby Swiss)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.  In a bowl, mix together butter, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds, and dried onion. Separate the tops from bottoms of the rolls, and place the bottom pieces into the prepared baking dish. Layer about half the ham onto the rolls ( I used 2 slices of ham per roll). Arrange the Swiss cheese over the ham ( I used 1 slice of cheese per roll, cut into 4 pieces and layered on top of ham). Place the tops of the rolls onto the sandwiches. Pour the mustard mixture evenly over the rolls.

Bake in the preheated oven until the rolls are lightly browned and the cheese has melted, about 20 minutes.  Serve while warm- these make me feel all safe and warm inside.

 

Down-Home Fish Fry

Peferct Fish Fry www.theluckywife.lifeFish Fry Ingredients www.theluckywife.lifeFish Frying www.theluckywife.life

My father always used a beer batter to fry fish.  I was not raised on a lot of seafood, really just canned tuna, salmon patties & fresh caught fresh water fish.  I have no idea what kind of fish- as a kid, I just knew we were having “fish”.  When my father was stationed in Panama, he would take us fishing on Gatun Lake and we would catch a ton of fish.  I took my family back to this same lake almost 3 decades later- and we also caught a ton of fish (that story is for another post- memory lane is a beautiful place, but I can get lost there for hours).  On to the fish fry recipe-

It wasn’t until I met my father-in-law that I was introduced to light & crispy fried tilapia.  Tilapia is my favorite for this because it never tastes “fishy”- yes that is a technical term.

We have blazing hot sultry summers here in South Carolina that for some odd reason make you crave fried fish.  I personally think it’s related to heat stroke, but it really hit both me & my husband this week.  I don’t fry fish (or eggrolls- the only 2 things I do fry) in house, so luckily the sun had sunk a little in the sky before I fired up the hot oil on my concrete sun drenched patio.

Typically, this meal is served with sides like cole slaw and baked beans, but we’ve learned over time that everyone just wants their fill of this spicy crunchy flaky white fish and we don’t know what to do with all the leftover beans and slaw so we save ourselves the trouble and skip them.  Enjoy!

Recipe:  Fried Tilapia- Melanie Knight

Ingredients

  • Louisiana New Orleans Fish Fry Breading Mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 Tilapia filets per person (I always ask how many each person would like up front, so everyone knows how many they’ll get up front)
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Frank’s Hot Sauce on the side

Directions

Heat the oil in an electric frying pan.  I use olive oil, which has a low burning point.  I set my pan on 350 degrees.  While the oil is heating up, set up your assembly line by pouring the milk into a wide bowl and your dry breading mix into a separate pie plate.  Now, dip a fish filet completely into the milk, let the excess drip off, then dredge in the dry breading mix on both sides until well covered.

Once the oil is ready, lay your fish filet into the oil, careful not to get hot oil splashed onto you.  I don’t time the frying, I fry until each side is a golden brown+ since we like our fish crispy.  Once done to your liking, remove to a plate lined with paper towels.

Serve with hot sauce and enjoy!  No need for plates or utensils- we eat family style off the main plate.  Something about this intimate dining experience really brings us together.    We ate this last week, and now I’d love to have it again for dinner tonight, but alas, I ration my fried foods to 1x a month so I can truly savor them.

 

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp and Grits www.theluckywife.life

Shrimp and Grits by Melanie Knight, inspired by Emeril Lagasse

  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 tsp creole seasoning
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces country ham-diced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, or canned, low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbl finely chopped green onions
  • 2 tbl minced parsley
  • Grits- see recipe below

Season the shrimp with 1 teaspoon creole seasoning and salt. Heat a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat and sear the country ham, cooking for about 3 minutes. Remove the ham to a plate, and add the shrimp to the pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan, and heat the oil. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons creole to the pan, stirring well, then add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the chicken broth to the pan and cook until reduced slightly, 5 minutes.

Stir the cream, green onions and parsley into the sauce and return the ham and shrimp to the pan. Return sauce to a simmer and continue to cook until reduced slightly. Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over grits.
Makes 4-6 servings

Tyler Florence
Grits:

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the grits, place a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. When the grits begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cream and butter, season with salt and pepper.
Makes 6-8 servings

Are you a member of the “Country Club”?

Country Club www.theluckywife.life

This image says it all.  This house is country, end of story.  It’s a badge of honor for my children, they love living the small town life outside of a big city.  3 sides of my house face the woods, so I didn’t even have curtains or blinds until 5 years ago.  Our home is at the end of a gravel road off a two lane country road.  We have rabbits that frolic through the yard and aggravate the dogs, deer creep around and nibble my garden and possums that come into my garage if there is too much dog food left out.

One year, we had a flying squirrel that would come down the chimney and crawl up the rock fireplace, hop to the TV and glide down across the living room.  He’d hop all over the house, even upstairs.  He liked the nuts we’d leave out, but did not like peanuts.  He also did not like us leaving a loaf of bread on the microwave- he’d knock it on the floor.  That ended when we found a giant black snake in the house.  He had also come down the chimney, so we put a critter guard on the chimney after that.

Last year, we raised chickens.  We started with 4, but my son got “baby chick fever” and we ended up with 3 dozen baby chicks (you have to buy them by the dozen).  That was a lot of chickens!  These free range chickens laid multicolored eggs that were absolutely delicious.  We’ve since gave some away, and something ate the ones we had left.  I did say I lived on the edge of the woods right?  We can hear coyotes howl at night, so my guess is either coyotes or a fox got them.

We have a creek that runs behind our house that the dogs love.  It keeps them cool in the summer.  We find crawfish and turtles in it.  Once I found a horseshoe (remember I’m lucky!)  When it rains, it fills with rushing water and we splash around and try to build make shift damns with granite rocks.  Water always finds a way around no matter how many times we rebuild the damn.

This time of year is magical.  The air is filled with the sweet scent of honeysuckle and the lightning bugs (or fireflies depending on where you are from) sparkle across the yard at twilight.  It is truly a time to reflect on the infinite creative nature of God.  At night, the entire sky is filled with stars and they glitter like diamonds across the night sky as we sit around the fire.

So tell me, are you a member of the “Country Club” ?  🙂