Anniversary Gift Giving & Smart Shopping

uncommon goods

This post is sponsored by UncommonGoods. All opinions are my own.

Gift giving is a super important part of life…in case you haven’t noticed.

Birthdays are always happening, people are getting married, buying houses, having babies, getting jobs, having anniversaries, and there’s always something to celebrate! This sure makes me happy!

What’s even better about these gift occasions coming around is that it can give you a chance to use your money to support artisans. Give a gift, support a maker.

It’s totally a win-win!

uncommon goods

I always try to seek out gifts that are:

  • Unique
  • Made by local or individual artisans
  • Long-lasting
  • Special
  • Within my budget

Although there are quite a few things to mark off the list, UncommonGoods is pretty great for meeting all of those requirements.

UncommonGoods is a privately-owned retailer that endeavors to feature unique jewelry, designer décor, tabletop items, and handcrafted gifts created in harmony with the environment without harm to animals or people.

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The Secret to Great Chocolate Chip Cookies

tahini chocolate chip cookies

It’s Thursday, and I think it’s time for a little treat.

I’m back with another cookie recipe. If you haven’t checked out the other cookie recipes on this blog, then you really should. From banana to oats to coconut oil, there are lots to choose from.

Today’s cookies are a little different in that they contain tahini. You know, that sesame, peanut butter-like stuff that we use in hummus and baba ganoush. Other than the tahini, these are just good ole creamy, crunchy, satisfying chocolate chip cookies.

AND this recipe confirms my theory of the secret to great chocolate chip cookies.

tahini chocolate chip cookies

Let those cookies sit in the fridge (or freezer) for at least a few hours.

This is how we used to treat cookie dough when I worked at a bakery in high school, and that’s really the best way to get cookies that are nicely shaped and textured.

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Ingredient of the Month: Apples

apples: ingredient of the month

By last week’s apple season post, you might have been able to guess the Ingredient of the Month.

There’s a reason why apples have been a staple in our diets for hundreds and hundreds of years. And I love how farmers and apple enthusiasts are doing all they can to keep the heirloom varieties alive. Because, ya’ll, those less-heard-of varieties are some of the best!

Check out this Gravy podcast for more heirloom apple info.

arkansas-black apples

I’m betting that you already know all about how to buy apples (go local!) and how to store them (put those babies in the fridge to keep them crisp and cool), so let’s talk unique varieties in apples. Put down those red delicious apples…and don’t ever buy them again. You’re about to be introduced to some of the most fun, delicious apples!

Pink Lady

You might have heard of this one, but have you tried it? I’m a HUGE fan of pink lady apples (and the cocktail). Cripps Pink apples are a great all-around eating, baking and well anything apple.

Why you’ll love them: Sweet, tart, beautifully pink

How to use them: Crisps, for snacking, baking

Senshu

senshu apples

This is a new variety to me (a relative of the Fuji) that’s available in these early days of apple season. It’s a refreshing apple with a light crisp and hint of sweetness.

Why you’ll love them: Balance of tart and sweet, light crunch, juicy

How to use them: For snacking, pies, baked goods Read more

6 Recipes for Apple Season

6 apple recipes

It’s heeeereeee!

Apple season! And yes, if you were here with me in real life, I would be acting just as excited as I sound.

Apples are absolutely one of my favorite foods. They might be the perfect food: filling, sweet, tart, crunchy and local (if you’re lucky). There are so many wonderful varieties of apples, but I think I’ll dive into that another day on the blog.

Now is the perfect time to head to your best farmers market or orchard and grab every crisp apple variety that you have and haven’t heard of.

Without further ado, here are 6 apple recipes that will help you make the most of this blessed apple season.

Recipes start from top left

1. Arkansas Black Apple Crumb Cake

Whether you’re using an heirloom variety of apple (like the Arkansas black) or whatever you have on hand, it will be great in this cinnamon-filled, fluffy crumb cake.

2. Carolina Apple Sidecar

You’ll only need fresh apple for a garnish on this fall-inspired cocktail. Grab some apple brandy, lemon and apple cider for this refreshing treat.

3. Salted Caramel Apple Tart

Bust out your sea salt and puff pastry to make this simple yet beautiful apple tart that is sure to impress.

4. Apple Pear Crisp

This is one of the best crisp recipes I’ve stumbled upon in the past few years. The apples and pears make a great marriage of flavors and create the perfect foundation for vanilla ice cream.

5. Aged Cheddar & Apple Grilled Cheese

Make your apples savory and great as a side for soup with this easy but fancy cheddar and apple grilled cheese sammy.

6. Puffy Apple Pancake

The Puffy Apple Pancake is a Pennington family classic (thanks, mom), and it has made many a Saturday morning extra special. It’s crisp, sweet, tangy and a step above your average pancake.

Happy apple season, ya’ll!

Simple Saturday: Beer Floats

beer floats

People keep talking about how the summer is really ending.

Labor Day has come and gone, vacations have too (for some of us) and bloggers are typically trading tomato pies and zucchini bread for pumpkin anything and everything.

I was against it, until my favorite pumpkin beer came out. I might have already drank some…

In honor of transitioning from long days spent grilling and enjoying the porch to fall leaves, cinnamon and grandfather sweaters, I give you this Simple Saturday special: beer floats.

beer floats

Whether you’re a beer lover (stout and porter lovers especially) or you just like some homemade ice cream, this is for you! Grab your favorite vanilla or peanut butter porter, Prairie Bomb or whatever is dark and rich with sweet or coffee notes, and throw in a scoop of the best vanilla ice cream you can find.

Just treat it like a normal float…but 100x better, am I right? It’s not just sweet on sweet like your traditional root beer or coke float, but it will have a little hint of bitterness and complexity.

Enjoy!

Easy Enchiladas

black bean enchiladas

No matter the weather, season, season of life or time of day, it’s always time for Mexican food, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s comforting, easy to throw together and bursting with flavor.

As far as enchiladas go, I haven’t been able to find a recipe that suited my need to get dinner in the oven quickly but still have something really tasty (and leftovers)!

black bean enchiladas

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Labor Day Planzzzz!

pumpkin field nc

It’s almost Labor Day, a glorious long weekend (and the last of the summer). The pumpkins are starting to take shape, and the heat is maybe behind us?!

That’s basically the only reason that I’m allowing myself to use the blog title above. #yolo

What are you doing for Labor Day?

We’ve got a few small plans and a lot of plans for relaxing and Netflixing.

Plans

  • Get this Whole Foods deal and grill with family (local cheeseburgs!)
  • Find a TV series to rival Emma (which I just watched while getting through a 24-hour fever)
  • Attend a Mexican Fiesta party with some friends
  • Make these no-bakes or these tahini chocolate chip cookies to take to the party
  • Eat Wavy Lays & french onion dip (because my husband already bought those)
  • Enjoy some rainy days (don’t get too crazy, Hurricane Hermine)
  • Start a new book (just finished this one)
  • Plan out restaurants for our Paris trip in 42 and counting days! (any recs?)

I hope you can find some time to relax and enjoy summer, nature, people, ice cream, tacos or whatever sounds good this weekend!

Confessions of a First-Time Gardener

garden

One of the most memorable things about this summer was starting my first garden.

After many years of just growing herbs outside of apartments, I was excited to literally dig in to my own backyard and begin a garden.

As with any new adventure, there is always so much to learn. And undoubtedly, you probably get better with each passing year and each set of lessons.

For our garden, we decided to do a raised one with a mix of vegetables (heirloom tomatoes, squash, collards, kale, onion, chives and peppers) and herbs (rosemary, lavender, basil and sage).

building a raised bed garden

Jason took care in putting our box together, and I have to say that he has been such a help with the garden. He would get just as excited as I would to see little green shoots emerging from the ground, and he has enjoyed eating the fruits of our labor, too.

Here are a few of the big lessons I’ve learned from being a first-time gardener:

Be patient

Again, this is one of those life lessons that’s always rearing its head and inserting itself into daily situations. I was keenly aware of the patience that gardening requires when you can’t control what will grow, when or how much or little.

garden

Gardening requires that you do your best to plant seeds in the best of conditions and then wait, and hope and pray. Weather happens, bugs happen and only God controls what comes of your sweat and prayers.

I find it a beautiful picture of the frailty of life in that we ultimately cannot control so much, and yet there’s always beauty and new life to be found.

garden

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Simple Saturday: Grilled Fries

grilled fries

There’s no wrong way to make fries, right?!

I mean any way you slice it (pun intended), fries take a potato and make it super tasty!

At our house, we don’t mess with making regular fries (we leave that up to Cookout), but we do like whipping up a batch of baked fries.

My husband is the master of cutting the perfect wedges or strips, and he’s even got his seasoning mix down pat. Cayenne and smoked paprika are the secrets.

So, he or I (I can’t quite remember) had the idea of grilling our fries. This way, they get that burger-ish flavor, they have a perfect crunch on the outside and soft, creamy inside.

grilled fries

If you’re still savoring the last of summer using the grill, then throw on some fries next time!

Here’s how you make them:

  1. Slice a few potatoes into strips or wedges and throw them into a large bowl of salted water. Let them sit for at least 10 minutes, then pat dry on a towel.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss potato slices with a few tbs. of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and a few pinches of cayenne and smoked paprika.
  3. Grill the fries on a 400 degree grill, turning until they have a little char on each side.