Of all the parties and all the gatherings that we have each year, this one is by far my favorite. It is a time for Lil’ Hatt and I to get to know Coach’s boys better and to celebrate their season. It makes all the hours, all the sacrifices, all of the exhaustion of football season, all the loneliness, all the time away from Coach worthwhile. Coach does it for them and we are happy to share him because of each one of THEM. This is a family, a relationship like none other and I am blessed to be a part of it! Wishing you and your family and these boys in particular sweet enchilada, rice and beans, guacamole, cinnamon cream cheese square dreams! Until next week…
10) Season Everything – The best way to NOT end up with bland food is to season each and every component along the way. Seasoning is not just for meat! All veggies love to be seasoned. Pasta desperately needs salt. Sauces, stocks, rues, etc. all say YES to more flavor. Seasoning typically consists of salt and pepper, however I read through an entire recipe and see what other spices and herbs it calls for and I add those flavors into the other components as well. When you taste my food, I want you to TASTE my food!
9) Taste throughout – The only way you will know if each and every component is seasoned and how the flavors are coming together is if you taste each and every component. So before moving on to the next step, taste what you have done so far. If it tastes bland, add a little more salt or pepper or herbs or spices. If you taste one flavor, such as salt but not much else, add in more spices to balance out the salt flavor. This is a process and one that you only get better at through practice. I highly recommend having some tasting spoons handy. Coach bought me these from Party City and they sit in a coffee cup next to my stove top.
8) Double: Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Garlic – There are a few spices that I automatically double and sometimes triple, in a recipe no matter what. For me an ingredient list is a suggested guideline, it is not something you are married to for life. I have a lot of friends who are nervous to deviate in any way from a recipe but I am giving you permission to loosen up the playbook a little and call an audible. There certainly are some ingredients and techniques you don’t want to stray from, but seasoning, spices and sauces such as Worcestershire are not one of them. Most recipes are made to appeal to the masses and as such, are light on flavor. If you want more flavor, then you have to add it in and Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Garlic are a good place to start. ANY recipe that calls for these ingredients, I automatically double the amount it calls for and then I add a pinch more. If you aren’t comfortable playing with flavors yet, start with the recipe exactly as it calls and then taste and add a little bit more and taste again and add a little bit more, etc. I bet when it’s all said and done, you will find you have doubled these 4 ingredients.
7) Sharpen knives – A sharp knife is a cook’s best friend. A dull knife will make you want to never cook again. There are several places around Dallas that will sharpen your knives and there are even some mobile sharpening trucks that are awesome. Every third Saturday of the month a mobile truck pulls up to Central Market and from 10-2 you can have your knives sharpened while you shop! Sur La Table will sharpen your knives any day, but you will be leaving them overnight. There is also a permanent vendor in Shed #2 at the Dallas Farmers Market who will sharpen your knives while you shop. Most chefs sharpen their knives every day, so, depending on how often you use them, you should have yours sharpened once a month to every six weeks. You can use a steel sharpener in between professional sharpening to keep your knives in tip-top shape. If you don’t have any where close to you to have your knives professionally sharpened, I recommend using any of these Wüsthof knife sharpeners.
6) Rest your meat – No matter what kind of meat you are cooking, steak, roast, chicken, pork, lamb, etc., they all need the proper time to rest and absorb all of those delicious juices back into itself. The best rule of thumb on how long you should rest any cut of meat is when the internal temperature has reached 120˚ it is ready to be sliced. For a steak this might be 10 minutes. For a roast it might take 45 minutes. I know how difficult it is to wait on this process sometimes, but the worst thing you could do is to spend all that time preparing a delicious cut of meat and then lose all of the flavor because you didn’t properly let it rest. So when planning your meal, make sure you allow time on the back-end to let the meat rest when you set your time to eat. Your friends and family will thank you!
5) Pinch and roll dried herbs and coarse ground pepper – Whenever I use dried herbs and coarse ground pepper, I roll them between my fingers with some force or rub them between my hands to break them into smaller pieces which opens them up. This brings out the natural oils causing them to be more fragrant and flavorful. Dried herbs are great to use if you don’t have fresh herbs, which is why I always have some on hand. Typically you need less dried herbs than you do fresh herbs and you will want to add them in the beginning of the cooking process so they have more time to infuse their flavor into your dish.
4) Cast Iron Skillet – I get asked a lot if cast iron makes a difference, and my answer is unequivocally YES! It can take the heat (it gets screaming hot, stays hot and the heat is evenly distributed), its non stick, it is durable, it makes the best fried chicken (or fried anything), it is cost-effective as they will last forever, and when properly seasoned, they add so much flavor to your food. Here are the 5 things you need to know to care for your cast iron skillet. 1) Don’t use soap, soak with water or clean with metal scouring pads. And for goodness sake, NEVER put it in the dishwasher. 2) After each and every use, rub it down with kosher salt and a kitchen towel that you don’t mind getting dirty. The kosher salt and some pressure from the towel will remove any bits that are burned onto the pan. If it needs a deep cleaning use 1 cup of Kosher salt and make sure the skillet is still warm while you scour. Rinse the skillet with warm water and immediately dry it or put it over a low flame to evaporate the moisture. 3) “Season” the pan with lard or fat. I use Canola oil to season my skillet. You want to pour enough in to coat the bottom (1-1 1/2 tablespoons should do the trick) and then you will wipe the entire pan including the sides with your towel to make sure the oil is evenly distributed. This is a very important step as it helps the skillet to maintain its non-stick properties, fights off rust, and develops a glossy thin protective layer. 4) Store your skillet with a paper towel covering the interior bowl. This will ensure it stays clean and seasoned. 5) If you need to “start over” and re-season your skillet due to rust or for some other reason, you can do so by scrubbing it clean and then coat the interior and exterior of the skillet with your lard or fat of choice. Place your skillet on a sheet pan and “bake” it in the oven for one hour on 350˚. You will want to let the skillet completely cool in the oven before removing and storing it.
3) Take a cooking class – I love taking cooking classes to learn new flavors, new techniques and new cuisines. It is so much fun to do with a group of friends, for a date night or with your kids. It is a great place to ask questions and to sample new things. I prefer a hands on class where I get to cook along with the host as I learn better by feeling my way through the recipe. (Shameless plug here: Beginning in July, I will be offering cooking classes! Check back here and on my Facebook and Instagram pages for more details and announcements on when, where and how to sign up).
2) Find a Foodie – Central Market has been my go to store for years. There really are a million reasons why I love shopping there (I’ll save those for another post) but my #1 reason is the Foodies they have throughout the store. I befriended two of them and before every single party I have, I go there and I run my menu and my counts and my thoughts by them and we create an effective game plan that I use as my playbook for the party. They help me to make sure my menu is balanced with flavor, starches, colors, etc. and that my wine and beer pair well to bring everything together. I highly recommend you find a Foodie either at your local grocery store, a friend or me! I’d love to be your Foodie and help bring your vision to life!
1) GET IN THE GAME – In other words, don’t be afraid. You will never know what you can do or how good you can be if you don’t try. I try and fail all the time and each failure makes me better and stronger. My friends and family think I’m crazy when I have a dinner party and I have things on the menu I have never cooked before. The only reason I can do that is because of what I have learned from all of my failures along the way. I’ve learned how to adapt on the fly and figure out how to bring it all together if it starts to go sideways. Now a days, I thrive on the challenge and I up the ante with every party. That is how I stretch and grow, and it is how I get better.
Don’t forget to comment with any questions you have and let me know any other topics you’d like advice on! Stay tuned for my next Top 10!
So anybody who ever said that planning a birthday party while running a new business and preparing for our summer activities was a good idea, well they should be scolded immediately! The entire month of May was insane! The school year ended for both Coach and Lil Hatt as our little business keeps growing and now, somehow, my little guy’s birthday has snuck up on us leaving me less than a handful of days to make this the extra special day he’s been excited about for months.
Can anyone else relate?
As with any party I throw, I typically start off with my handy-dandy check list that I pull out with notes from the previous year’s successes and failures and suggestions for new things to implement. Except… Gulp… I couldn’t find the notes from his party last year or the year before. Apparently, several files were corrupted and erased on my flash drive. After a few tears, a glass of wine (alright, maybe two) and several words I cannot repeat here, I decided to build anew.
As I mentioned in my first blog post about Lil Hatt’s birthday, I start off with a theme. This year it was easy as I had wanted to do a farm theme last year. I always start with the invitation. Call me old-fashioned, but I still love to send a paper invite. I found this adorable invitation at Sweet Cotton Paperie on Etsy. Mia was so easy to work with and she customized some of the wording for me. I mean seriously, how cute did this turn out???
Next on the list is THE LIST. I break down the menu, the snack table, the beverages, the cutesy names for the games and food, the activities, the decorations, the party favors, the house needs and most importantly – the schedule. This is what keeps me sane and on track throughout the process. (Can you tell I like lists and checking them off?)
I found this adorable shirt at Pixie Stitch LLC on Etsy. I have purchased several shirts from this shop and they are very well made, good quality thick cotton shirts that withstand washing, drying and Lil Hatt. There are so many styles, colors, and themes to choose! I had a custom shirt made last year for the 4th to go along with his birthday shirt and it still fits him!In addition to what I purchased at Nebraska Furniture Mart, here are a few more decorations and the start of the party favors. The animal figures and animal stickers came from Oriental Trading Company. I purchased the “Farm Animals Action Figures” and the “Vinyl Farm Animals” from OTC. I wouldn’t get the vinyl farm animals again as they are teeny tiny and they don’t stand on their own very well. However, the farm animals action figures are awesome and I received 23 animals for only $13.99! I plan on using them on the tables for decoration and then the kids can take them home, as well. I just loved the cute “Simple Face Farm Animal” stickers which were only $2.55 for a roll of 100. They will be on the tables and in the favors as well. The “3-piece Garden Tool Set” ($7.80 for prime members when purchased as an ad-on) and the planters ($12.49 for 8 planters) I found on Amazon. Each favor will include one tool, a planter, strawberry seeds (the kids will get to plant these during the party), a custom activity sheet (more on these in the next post) and a few other goodies I’m still pulling together.
The adorable banner at the top of this post came from Sparkle My Party on Etsy as well and it will hang on my mantle with the party favors lined out below.
I can’t wait to share with you all how it all comes together in the next post! Wish me luck and sleep this week. I think I’m going to need it!
MMMM… Pork, “the other white meat”. This is my go to pork recipe. It is so simple, and low maintenance and it turns out perfect every time! I use this for fancy dinners, casual get-togethers and as sandwiches on the buffet table at our annual Christmas party.
The stars of the show: fresh rosemary & thyme, lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and of course the pork!
We planted a little garden for the first time this year and the herbs have come in nicely! Before I started growing herbs, my go to store for fresh herbs was Central Market. I find their assortment to be consistently the freshest and most diverse. You certainly can use fresh herbs from any grocery store, I just recommend you check through the boxes to get the one that is the freshest and dried herbs would work too in a pinch. If you go the dried route, make sure you roll them around in between your fingers to bring out their aromatics and breathe a little life back into them!
I start the marinade with the herbs and lemons. They are the most work in the whole process so I like to get them done first!
The best way to strip herbs is to hold onto the softer of the two ends with one hand and you pull down the stem against the grain (meaning the leaves are facing up and you are pulling down) with your other hand. Then you go back and pick the leaves off the softer part of the stem. It certainly won’t hurt anything if you get some of the stem in the pile. In fact, I do quite often with thyme, but I try to minimize the stems as much as possible. When chopping herbs you want to use a sharp knife. The force of the chop will depend on the herbs you are using. Rosemary and thyme are fairly sturdy and they can take the weight, especially the rosemary. Aside from the fact that you are chopping the herbs smaller, the other benefit to chopping herbs, even a rough chop, is that you open the herbs up and bring all of their yummy flavor, oils and aromas to the surface so you can get the most out of them.
You will want to use a fine zester so the lemon zest is not to big. My biggest recommendation on zesting is that you don’t press too hard when you are running the lemon down the grater. You literally just want the lemon peel, not the white pithy part as that is very bitter. I zest down, away from me and I twist the lemon as after each stroke so I am only zesting a single area one time.
Once I have zested all the way around the lemon, I roll it on the counter top with a little force to get the juices flowing. From there it’s a slice and a squeeze!
Make sure to check for seeds in the juice before you pour it into the bag.
The last steps in the marinade are to combine the rest of the ingredients into a sturdy gallon resealable bag, add the pork, squeeze out the air and seal the bag. You will want to lay the bag flat in a Pyrex dish to catch any potential leaks (this may or may not have happened to me more than once…) and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight. I always marinate the pork overnight as I think it infuses the most flavor into the pork and makes it very tender. I will typically flip the bag about halfway through the marinating process to ensure all sides are evenly coated and soaking.
To cook you will start off by preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade to a plate or cutting board. Discard the marinade but leave the herbs that are clinging to the meat. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large OVEN-PROOF sauté pan over medium-high heat. Oven-proof means that the skillet can cook in the oven and it has no rubber or plastic on the handles or the skillet itself. **Just a side bar here… Speaking from experience, make sure when you grab the skillet to remove from the oven, you use an oven mitt! The handle will be VERY HOT!!
The pan should be very hot so the meat sizzles as soon as it hits it. Place pork in the pan seasoned side down. Season the face up side of the pork and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. If the meat is not searing, turning brown and crusting up then there is too much liquid in the pan. Drain some off and continue to sear meat. Place the sauté pan in the oven and roast the tenderloins for 10-15 minutes or until the meat registers 137 degrees at the thickest part. Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Rest meat for 10-15 minutes. Carve in 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. You should get between 12 and 15 slices per tenderloin. The thickest part of the tenderloin will be pink and the thinnest part will be well done. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and serve warm, or at room temperature with the juices that collect in the platter. I always serve mine at room temperature.
See below for the printable recipe. I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as we do!
Ahh, spring football. For those of you wondering exactly what this means to a coach’s wife (I feel like my experience as a coach’s wife is a totally relatable subject to many of you whose spouse travels all week, works long shifts, or you experience moments in time where you are “mom” and “dad” to your kids.), it means the following:
1. Coach gets home about 2 hours later than normal*
2. If we are going to eat dinner as a family, we eat 1.5 hours later than normal*
3. As a result, Lil Hatt goes to bed 1 hour later than normal*
4. Therefore, my downtime at night is 1 hour less than normal*
*When I say normal, I am not referring to football season as most that happens during football season is not normal.*
5. Coach has to work Saturday mornings, either at practice or a scrimmage or a position competition or the red & white game or game planning or…..6. Coach becomes extremely limited in his ability to fully engage in conversation, decision making, home front productivity, etc., as football is ever present on his mind
7. As a result, we talk a lot of football. A LOT…8. Coaches wives start to rally and gatherings including our kids (or girls’ night out with babysitters) start getting scheduled so we can take the edge off, commiserate, celebrate and support one another in this “pseudo single parent time” (I will say that we would gladly take THIS every day of the week and twice on Sunday versus the complete “mom & dad” time period we experience during football season)
9. We start to get excited about the upcoming season and the promise of our teams and the arrival of summer time when we only have to share our husbands for a few hours each day (this is the time that the “honey do” list gets pulled out, dusted off and added to).
10. We get ready to say goodbye to the senior boys who have become family, stolen our hearts, enriched our lives and are ready to spread their wings and enter their next chapter.Spring ball is a wonderful, and somewhat tiring, time of year for us as coaches wives and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
How can it be time for my baby to turn 3?? I promise you, I just had him yesterday! I mean, I’m still carrying those last 10 pounds of baby weight (ok, maybe 20 pounds) and surely if he was really turning 3 I would have lost it already, right? Sorry, I digress…
My entire life I wanted a family. I always pictured myself with 3 or 4 kids and then life happened, and as it tends to do, it hasn’t ended up how I pictured.I married my amazing husband, Coach, in 2010 and we started trying right away, but God has a different plan for us.
Maximus came into our life first during his junior year of high school. He was not what we had expected, but he enriches our lives more than words can express and watching him blossom into the man he is today, is a gift like none other.After lots of fertility treatments, many miscarriages and more heartache than I care to remember, we were blessed again with our beautiful, perfect, independent, ornery, sociable and lovely little boy. Now he is turning 3 in a month!Coach is from a small town in Kansas and Lil Hatt loves being on the farm with the animals and crops when we are back home visiting. We planted a garden for the first time this year in our back yard and he has so much fun watching it grow, watering it and learning where our food comes from. So I decided on a Farm/Farmers Market theme for his party. I must preface anything else I say with this: I AM NOT CRAFTY IN ANYWAY SHAPE OR FORM. What I am good at is research, copying and adding my flare to other people’s amazing, hard thought and planned ideas. So that is what I will share with you so you can take my research and copy my ideas and add your flare and voila’!
I always start with the theme and then I research on Etsy and Pinterest. I have to pause and say that Etsy and Pinterest are overwhelming and nerve-racking for me as there is so much to sort through and many ideas to take in. So this process can take a few weeks as I often need time to digest and process all of the amazing things I find on both sites. Once I narrow down the theme, I start in on the invitations and décor. I found all of these fun props at Nebraska Furniture Mart, which in and of itself is very similar to Etsy and Pinterest, awesome yet overwhelming!We had to go there to buy a new breakfast table because this happened when I was cooling my ice cream bases. Just an FYI, you cannot put hot items on a glass table without mitts and expect it to survive…
I can not wait to put all of these adorable items together to create a Farmers Market wonderland (ok, wonderland is a bit extravagant, but it is what I am aspiring to achieve!). I’m working on the invitation now and next comes the menu. I’ll post on both of those updates soon! Pray for me that I don’t fall into the overwhelmed abyss!!!
I’m Mrs. Gridiron and I am thrilled that you have found my blog! This little adventure has been a long time coming and after years of encouragement of friends and family, I’ve decided to share my story and the four F’s in my life with each of you – from homemade to hashmarks, this is a Gridiron Wife’s guide to, food, family, fellowship and football.
Food, entertaining and cooking have been an enormous part of my life from the very beginning. My mom was truly an amazing cook and my parents entertained often. When my mom was the hostess it was a special event. She was old school and knew just how to bring everything together to create a moment where time stood still and guests were present in their fellowship. My mom always made a point to know her guest’s likes and dislikes and as a result there were little personal touches throughout the entire evening. I’m sure many went unnoticed (as my mom would have wanted), but they were there to help in creating a very special evening. This type of entertaining is a lost art and largely viewed as out of style. As an homage to my mom – who passed away many years ago – I would like to reintroduce it to you, and show how it can be done with a modern twist. I am so excited to share my passion and mother’s gift through this blog, while reconnecting with her. I am honored and humbled to share my kitchen, my recipes, my family, my memories, and my mom with each of you!
In addition to this blog and after years in sales and advertising, I’ve launched a new home cooked meal delivery and catering business where I offer all-natural, made from scratch, delicious meals delivered right to your doorstep. Weekly options include main dish, salad, bread, dessert, breakfast, snack and ice cream. Check out our weekly menu here.
When I am not cooking or entertaining, I love spending time with my husband, “Coach”, son, “Lil Hatt” and our bonus son, “Maximus” who is in his final year of college.
During football season you can find my son and I front and center under the Friday night lights cheering for the Lake Highlands Wildcats.
On Saturdays we mostly cheer for, sometimes yell at, the LSU Tigers (Unless Coach is off, then we might cheer for the Kansas State Wildcats!) or watching Maximus in his final college football season (sniff, sniff).