Hoppin’ Johns

We love soup. There’s a man at our church who says that “soup is for the weak and feeble minded.” If that’s true, I don’t want to be strong of mind or body. Also, to him I say, “No soup for you!”

Our good friends, Kate and Gilbert, introduced us to this awesome soup that you can just throw together. It gets better the longer it cooks, but we usually can’t wait that long – either because it’s time to eat, or because we just can’t resist it.

We make this soup often for family and friends when they come over because it’s delicious and easy and it warms you to the core. However, it’s one of the recipes that I don’t have written down anywhere. The first couple of times I make it each cold season, I have to dig around through emails, chat records, Facebook messages, and texts from Kate to see where it was that I last asked her for the list of ingredients. Lately, my family has asked for the recipe a lot, so I thought I’d put the list of ingredients here so that it’s easy for me to access and I can stop bothering Kate each Fall.


  • 1 pound sausage (You could use a brand other than Tennessee Pride, but then I may not respect you as much. Just so you know.)
  • 1 onion, chopped, sautéed in sausage grease
  • 1 box Near East Long Grain and Wild Rice, prepared (You can use other brands, but Near East is the only one I’ve found that is gluten free. Unfortunately, the 90 second Uncle Ben’s microwave pouch has wheat in the ingredients.)
  • 1, 14.5 ounce can beef broth
  • 1, 14.5 ounce can chicken broth
  • 2, 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes (don’t drain!)
  • 2, 14.5 ounce cans of black eyed peas (Don’t drain! Also, we usually get the “southern style” ones that have been seasoned… and cooked in bacon fat…)
  • If you need a bit more saltiness (I find we usually don’t – the broths are usually plenty salty), use Liquid Aminos or Gluten Free Soy Sauce instead of salt
Hoppin' Johns: Loved by big people with big people bowls and little people with little people bowls alike.

Hoppin’ Johns: Loved by big people with big-people-bowls and little people with little-people-bowls alike. Also, those are corn muffins in our bowls. A must with Hoppin’ Johns. An absolute must.


Cranberry Orange Relish

This. This is the Thanksgiving dish that is the most versatile. It makes an awesome snack, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I’ve had it, by itself, for all of those meal opportunities. It’s also great because you can make it way ahead of time, freeze it, and set it out on the counter to thaw on Thanksgiving morning and it will be ready by dinner. Simple.

Also, please note the awesome pumpkin tureen that I serve it in. No particular reason. Just notice it. Because it’s super cool.

cranberry relish


  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 medium oranges
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


Shred the zest from one orange. Peel and coarsely chop both oranges.

Pulse the cranberries and nuts in a food processor until finely chopped.

Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. That’s it! You’re done. It’s delicious!

Italian-Style Green Beans

Simple side dish. My mom suggested this for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago and it’s perfect. It has awesome flavor and it doesn’t require the busy oven on that busy day. It also makes a great side any of the other 364 days of the year.



  • Fresh green beans, as many as you’d like
  • Onion, as much as you want
  • Olive Oil, as much as you need
  • Kosher Salt, Freshly-Ground Black Pepper


Wash and snap the beans. Dice the onion. Sauté the onions in the hot olive oil. Add the beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. So simple. So good.

Yields: As much as you want.

Lovely November

I love November. I love November for so many reasons.

My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is in November. I love Thanksgiving more than any other holiday because in recent years Jeffrey and I decided that, since we travel north to Michigan and down to southern Indiana at Christmas, we’ll stay home at Thanksgiving. We treasure those quiet days at home together, snuggled up on the couch watching Christmas movies and eating Thanksgiving leftovers. Leftovers are one of the best parts. I love, love. love to cook, but after cooking and baking for days for one meal, by the time we sit down, I’m mostly ready to take my chef’s-privilege nap while everyone else does dishes. Leftovers take zero effort and taste even better than the food at the main dinner.

My favorite season, autumn, stretches into November. The leaves are still vibrant and holding on here. But every morning driveways are plastered with more and more leaves. Soon, the trees will be bare and delicate white frost will cover the roofs in the morning until the sun chases it away.

November 1 – today! – marks the beginning of what I call “It’s-Finally-Socially-Acceptable-to-Listen-to-Christmas-Music-So-That-Other-People-Can-Hear-It Season.” Some people just call this “Christmas Music Season” (and some people of the Scrooge variety aren’t even ready to call it that). I happen to be of the opinion that Christmas music deserves a year-round spot on my iPod, but I respect that not everyone can be as jolly as me all the time. However, I am also of the opinion that from November 1 – January 31, I can listen to Christmas music all the time without regard for who gets/has to hear.

I just think November is lovely. And today has been a lovely start to a lovely month.

Christmas music. People’s posts on Facebook of the not-so-little things for which they’re thankful. A big cold glass of well-brewed unsweet tea. (I do love sweet tea, but, you know, calories…)

Another thing that made today great is that it was the first time since cooler weather hit that the Ravellettes have had Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes for supper. You read right. Kielbasa. Smashed Potatoes. Butter. Red Wine Vinegar. Onions. Spinach. All mixed up together in a bowl of comfort, hugs, and cuddly food-love.

kielbasa mashed potatoes

Does it look sloppy? All the better. Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes is a comfort food. It doesn’t stand on ceremony. It doesn’t mind if you eat it in your pajamas on the couch in front of Netflix. It just wants you to be cozy.

danae is the genius behind this dish that has become a staple in many households among our friends. Check out her recipe on her cooking blog here. (Really. Check it out. You’ll add it to your cool-weather meal rotation tout de suite.)

Since I’m counting calories, I plugged the recipe in to myfitnesspal.com. I followed danae’s recipe for the most part, except I only used half a stick of butter and instead of the milk or cream, I used a half cup of plain soy milk. Be sure to keep extra red wine vinegar on hand – Jeffrey loves to add a lot of extra vinegar to his. In case you’re counting calories or carbs or are just somewhat interested in the nutritional information of this dish, I’ve included what I came up with through myfitnesspal at the end of this post.

This was not just our first Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes of the season, it was also Paige’s first experience with the dish. She gobbled it right up, but she was quick to pull out the spinach. I guess I can’t blame her. I accidentally picked up the regular spinach instead of baby spinach, so it was pretty long and slimy when isolated from the rest of the delicious mixture.

So I’m definitely thankful for Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes. I’m thankful for November. I’m thankful for a lot of things. So this lovely November, I’m going to try to take part in thankful November on Facebook by posting something for which I’m thankful each day. I won’t post them all here because, you know, redundancy, but here’s today’s:


I’m also going to be participating in No Make-Up November. At first when I read about it here, I was like, “That’s a sweet idea, but I don’t just participate in things just to participate in them. It’s not for me.” Then, I read this

Even after I agreed to participate, it wasn’t easy at first for me to jump wholeheartedly into this challenge. After all, I wasn’t a teenage girl with fresh skin. I’m a woman in my 30s. What will my friends think, I wondered? What will other women think of me, especially at church on Sunday? It was then that a revelation struck me: Aren’t we into beauty sometimes more to please other women in our lives, especially church women?

Ouch. That one hit a little too close to home. I decided, like the author of the article, that if it was really this hard for me to give up the idea of wearing make-up for 30 days, then I probably need to give up wearing make-up for 30 days. I’m a little freaked out about this one. I’ve been wearing make-up every day that I’ve left the house since college. I don’t know why I started wearing it all the time, but I did. I don’t think I wear way too much make-up. (If I do, please message me in private. I promise I’ll forgive you for not saying anything until now, although your mistake would be akin to letting me speak to a room full of strangers with basil in my teeth x 1,000,000.) The way I think about make-up is just wearing enough to make myself look fresh and not dead tired each morning. However, the point of No Make-Up November is to focus on allowing God to fill me with the confidence that comes with knowing – really knowing – that my beauty rests in Him.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
– Psalm 139:13-16

So the make-up’s been moved to the closet. I’m going to try to keep it there all from now through December 1 (since I didn’t find out about No Make-Up November until after I had already put on make-up today).

Here’s to a lovely, comfort-food-filled month filled with the sounds of Bing, Frank, Dean, Sammy, and Karen crooning Christmas music while we rest in gratitude and in the deep-soul knowledge that we were made beautifully by a Loving God who loves us still. Dayenu. It is more than sufficient.

Grace and peace,


Here are the nutrition facts for danae’s Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes per serving based on her recipe making 8 servings (which is realistic for a my-size portion, but completely ridiculous to someone like Jeffrey who could eat the entire bowlful, if he really wanted to): 332 calories, 27g carbs, 20 g fat, 12 g protein, 550 (gulp) mg sodium, 1 g sugar.

Beer Can Roasted Chicken

Note: I’ve moved this post over from an old cooking blog I started in February of 2011, but then kinda forgot about. There are good recipes there, but I really want all of my blogging to be in one place. Let’s be honest, I’m not good at keeping up with one blog, so how would I keep up with two? :)

February 3, 2011: I almost fell over when I saw this recipe listed in January 2011 Martha Stewart Living! I guess I never pictured Martha poppin’ the top on a can of beer. However, I’ve come to trust that most recipes in MSL – no matter how odd sounding – are worth a shot (no pun intended… ok, maybe a little bit intended).

This recipe goes super well with Thyme + Garlic Roasted Potatoes. I’ve changed it up a bit because the original recipe called for a fig jam pan sauce (Call a spade a spade, Martha. It’s gravy.). Fig jam isn’t on my list of pantry staples and because I’ve never tasted a fig I like, I wasn’t about to buy it just for this recipe. I substituted a little blackberry jam and some lemon juice (I know it sounds odd, but trust me) and it turned out really great! Enjoy!
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • coarse salt
  • 1 can stout, such as Guinness (If you and your fellow eaters can ingest gluten, I wouldn’t change this – the Guinness not only gives a deep flavor to the chicken, but Guinness cans are tall, which helps support the chicken better in the pan – a super important quality since you’ll pull the bird in and out of the oven a few times. I haven’t made this yet with a gluten-free beer, but I’ll update when I do to let you know which beer[s] are good/better. I’ve read there are some serious flavor issues with most gluten-free beers, especially stouts.)
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme (OK… so I used 2 large bunches. Yum.)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (Gluten-free, if you please!)
  • 2 tablespoons fig jam (I would definitely recommend blackberry jam because it gives another deep flavor and just the right amount of sweetness… a splash of lemon juice helped to brighten it up a bit, too.)


Take all your oven racks out save one. Put that one rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 450º.

If your chicken is damp, dry it with paper towels. Rub butter on skin and season with salt.

Pour out 1/2 cup of the beer and reserve it for the pan sauce (ahem – gravy) later. Drop the thyme bunch(es) into the can. Poke a couple of extra wholes in the top of the can and place in in the middle of an oven-safe skillet. (I used my large cast iron skillet, which worked out really nicely for when I made the gravy.)

OK - I promise I didn't make this just because it looks funny, but you have to admit - it looks funny!

OK – I promise I didn’t make this just because it looks funny, but you have to admit – it looks funny!

Place the chicken over the can. With the tall Guinness can, I had no trouble getting the chicken to stand upright and stay stable. Martha recommends using the legs to act as a tripod, if you need some help balancing it.

Carefully move the skillet to the preheated oven. Roast for 20 minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven, baste it with the pan juices, and then return it to the oven. (Remember, the oven is 450º, so I wouldn’t recommend reaching in to try to baste it.)

First basting - already looking yummy!

First basting – already looking yummy!

Remove the can from the chicken (that was the trickiest step of all and required Sweet Husband’s help), discard the beer in the can, and allow the chicken to rest on a platter for 10 minutes before carving it.

While the chicken is resting, place the skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan drippings are sizzling, add the reserved beer. Add flour to the pan while whisking rapidly to avoid clumping. Whisk in blackberry jam and just a splash (not too much!) of lemon juice. Use chicken stock (or vegetable, or beef – whatever you have) to thin out the sauce according to your preference.

It only took like 45 minutes and it was so easy!

It only took like 45 minutes and it was so easy!

beer can roasted chicken 4

Any meal that looks like it took way more effort and time than it really did gets a bajillion bonus points in my book.

Yield: 8 servings

I don’t have the nutritional stats on this one yet because I haven’t made it since I started using MyFitnessPal.com. Next time I make it, you can bet I’ll be coming up with Nutritional info so I can count the calories (although… I probably don’t want to know!).

gluten freeEasy Gluten-Free Substitution

Again, you can easily make this Gluten Free by making sure that you use gluten-free all purpose flour (or corn starch, but remember to cut the measurement in half if you go this route!) and a gluten-free canned beer. Again, I’m not sure what gluten-free beer would be a good fit here, but I’m willing to do some testing and let you know! If you have any suggestions, please share in the comments. I’m not really much of a beer-drinker, so I hate to have to spend beaucoup bucks testing a bunch of different brands!