Harvest + Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.

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gemelli with radicchio, mushrooms and sausage

Gemelli with Radicchio, Mushrooms and Sausage

Gemelli with Radicchio, Mushrooms and SausageGemelli1

This week, my husband informed me that he HATES casseroles. “They’re just the lowest form of food that you can possibly eat, that’s all,” he said, scoffing the entire genre with the casual wave of his hand. It’s not very Southern of him but everyone’s entitled to their opinions, I guess. I, for one, love a good casserole. Continue reading

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bluegrass “irish” cream

Irish Cream with BourbonwinterIrish Cream with Bourbon

“In the time of the Irish chieftains, from the first through the twelfth centuries, poets were revered as highly as the kings themselves. Each king had his own poet. With the arrival of Saint Patrick and his monks in the fifth century, the written word began to complement the oral traditions. Thanks to Patrick’s lasting influence, the Irish were one of the few literate people in Europe throughout the Dark Ages. Their reverence for the spoken and written word has remained unswerving.” (www.najapan.com)winter1 Irish Cream with Bourbonwinter4winter2

I played fetch with my daughter today. I literally chucked a ball down the hall countless times and, totally delighted by the game, she ran and ran and ran after that ball, never tiring of the monotony. That was the point though. As the end of a long Winter comes slightly into view and the weather is consistently prohibitive of outdoor activities, you have to become increasingly creative with ways to wear your kids out, I’ve discovered. We’re entering the fourth (calendar) month of Winter so I’m starting to run low on ideas. Case in point: today’s rousing game of fetch. Last I checked that game is typically reserved for those of the canine persuasion, or the occasional feline (my cat Henry will fetch like nobody’s business). I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this game of fetch. She loved every bit of it so I guess it’s fine that I resorted to animal games? Eh, I dunno. Jury’s out on this one. But you know what? Upon further inspection I actually discovered that the ball is, in fact, a chew toy. A light-up, spiky, blue, rubber ball chew toy. Yes, tomorrow we will bundle up and go back outside … freezing temps be damned!

But you know what? Irish cream makes the cold weather make more sense. Truly, when the weather has been cold and drizzly and dreary for so long that you can hardly even make sense of the situation (i.e. you start playing dog games with your human child), you can just curl up with a mug of hot coffee or chocolate, add some of this dreamy Irish cream and all is right with the cold cold world. Ahhhh solace.

So, as for the recipe, it is a fantastic one and it makes for the perfect winter drink. I swap in Bourbon for the more traditional Irish Whisky because when you’re from Kentucky, that just feels right. But the recipe works with both. I love giving little bottles of homemade Irish cream as a gift as well, and actually did so this Christmas. People are usually surprised by it – in a good way – as it is a little departure from your regularly scheduled DIY holiday offerings. Creamy. Dreamy. Slightly dangerous. This is easily one of my favorite Winter cocktail recipes, and the perfect thing to have around on St. Patrick’s Day, as well. You can’t live on green beer alone, you know. Continue reading

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milk toast

Milk Toast16 Dulce de Leche French Toast

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chicken n’ dumplings, collard greens + hummingbird cake

Chicken and Dumplings and Collard GreensSouthern Food Post

Growing up, some of the best school days were the ones that involved some sort of field trip. Whether it was to a different city for the day, a museum, or maybe a theatrical performance, the opportunity to leave the regularly scheduled educational premises for a while was always a bit of a thrill. For my friends and me, the destination was usually secondary to the leaving aspect of field trips. It was purely the fact that we were leaving school and getting to soak up some fresh scenery for a little while that was best part of the gig. Unless, of course, the field trip was to Cracker Barrel.

Hummingbird Cake Chicken and Dumplings and Collard Greens

Yes, Cracker Barrel. For some reason my third grade class took a field trip to Cracker Barrel once and I’ll never forget it. Why we went still remains a bit of a mystery to me, I’ll admit. But to a bunch of bright-eyed, small-town eight and nine-year-olds, this was a glorious occasion for some truly delectable dining. I’m pretty sure my younger brother’s class also field tripped to The Barrel at some point so it must have been a thing. A Kentucky thing? Maybe. A Southern thing? Probably.

Hummingbird CakeBest ever collard greens

I remember the school bus pulling up to the restaurant in Richmond, KY and all of us kids anxiously spilling out of it like we’d just arrived at Disneyland (that’s the leaving again – it often results in increased excitement levels not necessarily appropriate for the situation at hand). No offense to Cracker Barrel …

Fights over the rocking chairs on the “front porch.” Intense games of oversized checkers. Significant time spent perusing the ample candy section of the country store – you know the drill. Or actually, maybe you don’t. If you’re reading this post from say, Hong Kong or Sri Lanka, you might very well have no idea what I’m referring to here with all this talk of Cracker Barrel. Essentially, it’s just a chain restaurant that you will find, quite literally, at almost every exit in the American South. When we were on lengthy drives or road trips in high school and college, my friends and I used to play that game in the car where you amass points for certain things you spot along the way. Two points for a rest stop. Five points for a car with a missing headlight. Twenty points for a car with Hawaiian plates. I can tell you that Cracker Barrels usually garnered very little by way of points in this game because they’re everywhere, and they’re almost always crowded. People love a good comfort food filled meal, to be sure.

Chicken and Dumplings and Collard Greens

I don’t remember the last time I ate at a Cracker Barrel, but I definitely remember that field trip. We didn’t actually get to choose what we wanted to eat when we all sat down at our reserved tables, my classmates and I. No freedom of menu for us that day, but it was no matter. We were there for the chicken and dumplin’s, and that’s what everyone was served. I truly wish I could remember why we were all at Cracker Barrel eating chicken and dumplin’s instead of being back in the classroom working on our multiplication tables. What was the significance of it? What was the educational value? Ah well. Doesn’t really matter so much, I guess. All I know is that those bowls of chicken n’ dumplins were the subjects of so much excitement and anticipation for my classmates and me that day. Probably due to the “leaving” again. We were eating them away from school, which automatically made them more exciting. Doesn’t take much.

Southern Food Post11Best collard greens

These three recipes I’ve got here are some of my new and old Southern favorites. I say “new” because prior to making these, I had no idea how much I loved collard greens. Hummingbird cake and chicken n’ dumplins, sure – I was well aware of how wonderful those two recipes are. But these collards with blue cheese and toasted pecans were the star of this show, no question. One of the tastiest and most satisfying things I’ve made in a while, this is a recipe that will make its way into my regular mealtime rotation, I’m quite sure. It’s a stunner. As for the chicken n’ dumplins, I make mine very traditionally but I add a bunch of black pepper to the dumplins and I boost the flavor of the traditional broth a bit. For my cake, I swap in freshly pureed pineapple for the canned stuff and incorporate some vanilla pudding mix and fresh nutmeg as well. This cake is impossible not to love, I’m telling you. Moist, sweet, and nostalgic for most Southerners, this Hummingbird Cake will complete ANY meal beautifully, be it dumpling filled or otherwise.

Southern Food Post10Southern Food Post12



Chicken and Cracked Pepper Dumplings

 1 (3 – 4-lb.) whole chicken

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 carrot, cut into chunks

1 stalk of celery, cut into chunks

1/2 onion,

2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon pepper, divided

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules


For the dumplings:

3 cups self-rising flour

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/3 cup shortening

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1 cup milk

Garnish: chopped fresh parsley, chives, scallions, etc.



Bring chicken, water to cover, garlic powder, thyme, carrot, celery, onion, 1.5 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to a rolling boil in a Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for an additional hour and a half. Take out the chicken, and strain the veggies from the broth. Reserve broth.

Cool the chicken for half and hour. Remove the skin and pick the chicken meat off the bones – dark and light. Skim the fat from the top of the broth. Add the chicken, bouillon and the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the broth. Return the pot to a simmer.

For the dumplings: Combine the flour, poultry seasoning and black pepper in a bowl. Cut in the shortening and bacon drippings with a pastry blender or fork until crumbled. Add the milk, and stir to combine. Transfer the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to a thickness of 1/8-inch and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Drop the dumplings into the broth, stirring gently as you do. Cover and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes. Garnish as desired.


Collard Greens with Blue Cheese and Toasted Pecans

12 slices of bacon, finely chopped

2 medium Vidalia onions finely chopped

3/4 pound smoked ham, chopped

5 cloves of garlic cloves, minced or grated

3 (32-oz.) containers chicken broth

3 (1-lb.) packages fresh collard greens, washed, trimmed – ready to use

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Crumbled blue cheese, for serving

Toasted chopped pecans, for serving (to toast: place the pecans in a dry pan over medium heat and toast for about 5 minutes, tossing/stirring occasionally)



Cook the bacon in a 10-qt. stockpot over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until it is almost crisp. Add the chopped onion to the pot with the bacon and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the ham and the garlic, and sauté for another minute. Stir in the three boxes of broth and remaining six ingredients. Cook the collards for 2.5 hours or to your liking (sometimes I go longer, if I’ve got the time).

Serve hot with crumbled blue cheese and toasted pecans on top.


Hummingbird Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 box of French vanilla pudding

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup fresh pineapple puree (I process 1.25 cups of fresh pineapple chunks in my food processor until smooth)

1 cup finely chopped pecans

2 bananas, mashed


For the cream cheese frosting:

1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 box confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla, and stir gently, just until all of the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Stir in the pineapple, pecans, and mashed bananas.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, and then remove the cakes from their pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Spread the frosting between the layers and on the tops and sides of the cake.


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blood orange cake with lavender buttercream

IMG_2229Blood Orange Cake with Lavender Buttercream

I stood stock still in the doorway of the old man’s house, my eleven years on this earth not having quite prepared me for a moment like this. Sticking his head out far enough for me to observe his bushy eyebrows and stark white strands of long, stringy hair, he wrapped his fingers around the edge of the door and pulled it open just enough for me to catch a glimpse of a glowing TV in the other room. The sound of the Jeopardy theme song was playing softly in the background. 

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cookbook roulette + ottolenghi’s eggplant with buttermilk sauce

Roasted Eggplant with Curried Buttermilk Sauce and Dried FruitRoasted Eggplant with Curried Buttermilk Sauce and Dried FruitFullSizeRender-91

I’ve got a real thing for cookbooks. Always have and always will, most likely. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve read them like novels. That practice, combined with my love for cooking shows and frequent observance of my mother, is really what taught me how to cook. I would come home from school and grab a cookbook off the shelf where my mom displayed them, make myself a giant bowl of cereal, and get lost in the recipes and their charming anecdotal stories. I loved them all – from Southern Living’s Annual Christmas book and hand-me-downs from my grandmother to all of the utterly charming homegrown church and community-driven books. I have a real soft spot for those; the dependable, tried and true recipes from local people who take so much pride in them, passing them down from one generation to the next. My favorite cookbooks in my mother’s kitchen were usually the ones with the tattered and torn pages and simple plastic-ringed binding, stained from many years of use and eventually, the pink tinted milk from my own cereal bowl. Continue reading

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slippin on the dock of the bay (plus cioppino, sourdough and a chocolate bar)

Homemade CioppinoCioppinoHomemade Cioppino

“If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco. If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life. San Francisco is a world to explore. It is a place where the heart can go on a delightful adventure. It is a city in which the spirit can know refreshment every day.”  - William Saroyan

I think it’s true that San Francisco is a place that will bring you to life. I distinctly remember the first time I visited, crossing over the Bay on that famed bridge, eagerly waiting for the fog to lift so I could catch my first real glimpse of the city. I’d seen it so many times; in magazines, on screens big and small, and in others’ photographs, and while yes, a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, it cannot hold a candle to seeing something in person, live and in living color. There’s really nothing like seeing a new place for the first time, feeling its distinctive heartbeat and taking in all of the myriad sensory experiences with which vibrant cities are always waiting to provide you. Continue reading


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