Instant Pot Jambalaya and Sweet Potato Soul Review

In my small area of the country, we find ourselves at a crossroads between two cultures. We are one part down-home southern and another part yuppy hipster, creating an interesting social mix. There’s  the well-dressed church crowd who stuff themselves into the mom and pop BBQ  joints every Sunday at noon,  but we also have the man bun and skinny-jean wearing crowd who fill Vegan restaurants on Friday nights. My area is an eclectic loop within the Bible belt, and I love it. It reminds me that cultures are not only able to coexist, but they’re also able to intermingle and mix.

If there is one thing both cultures have in common, it’s a love for food. We all agree that food is an enjoyable experience that can magically bring people together. The challenge, however, comes when you begin sifting through various dietary restrictions. Having my own convictions regarding food, I’m well aware of how awkward this situation can be. My primary example being that I have a religious restriction against pork, and yet here I am living down the road from the annual “Ham and Yam” festival. For the vegetarians and vegans that flock to the area, there are obvious clashes when it comes to soulful southern cooking.

This is what makes Jenne Claiborne’s cookbook Sweet Potato Soul a gem. Having grown up in Atlanta, GA Claiborne was raised on traditional southern cooking. After becoming vegan she spent years experimenting with food, working to find the perfect fusion that fits the cuisine of her heritage into vegan standards. Sweet Potato Soul is her successful masterpiece.

The book is filled with 100 easy recipes and a variety of flavors to work with, each page perfectly capturing the essence of both southern and vegan cooking. There are enough photos to satisfy those who tend to”taste with their eyes” when choosing recipes out of cookbooks, and although there are short introductions to each section, the majority of this book is straight to the point with easy to find recipes.

I’m thrilled to work my way through this cookbook, and it is a perfect resource for entertaining friends who avoid the consumption of animal products. For our regular weeknight meals, however, it is totally easy to tweak these recipes in order to satisfy my carnivorous ways. For example, I decided to give her “jackfruit jambalaya”a try (found on page 137), however, instead of dragging myself to the Asian market for jackfruit I used chicken. I also used my instant pot instead of cooking this stove top.

Definitely not vegan like the cookbook intended, and I changed my cooking method in order to utilize kitchen toys, but Claiborne certainly inspired a delicious meal.

Instant Pot Jambalaya


3 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves
3  celery stalks (chopped)
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas
3 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
*3 Tablespoons creole seasoning
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce

*A recipe for creole seasoning can be found on page 36 or Sweet Potato Soul)


1) Add chicken breast and 1 cup of water to the instant pot. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.

2) When chicken is cooked, remove and set aside. Switch the instant pot to the saute setting and heat olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add onion, garlic, celery, and bell pepper. Saute until onion is transparent.

3) Add tomatoes, rice, chickpeas, bay leaf, pepper, creole seasoning, worcestershire sauce, and salt to taste. Seal the instant pot. Switch the setting to “soup” and cook on high pressure for another 15 minutes. When cooking is finished, unseal the pot and enjoy!

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review

Raspberry Lemon Scones

Valentine’s Day is underrated. Over the past couple of years, I’ve begun to see a little more value in it besides a day of last-minute chocolate purchases and sitting around a chaotic restaurant waiting your turn for a table. Lately, in my house, Valentine’s Day is an excuse to be festive during inarguably the most dreary and boring time of the year. It is a month of red and pink decor to replace the blue and white of Hanukkah. There are crafts to attempt, delicious baking adventures to experiment with, and no one can argue against celebrating love.

Last year, during the first 14 days of February, I started a small and simple

tradition focused on making my kids feel loved. Every night I stuck

a paper heart to my son’s door, which listed something I loved abo

ut him. We used it to build his confidence and encourage positive behaviors. In the mornings he was so excited to find a new heart on his door and the entire process was a way for me to express sentiments I feel are not shared nearly as much as they should. I’m looking forward to continuing the precious tradition, this time slipping the hearts into a decorative envelope or mailbox outside his door.


Already I’m starting to think of the baked goodies we should try tackling in our kitchen. I live by the idea that food is a way to express love and between the sugar cookies and chocolates associated with Valentine’s Day I know I’m not alone in that mindset.

As it turns out, we already began our themed baking. At first, I didn’t intend for it to be Valentine’s Day related treat. This week’s Five In A Row book was Peter Rabbit, and therefore our geography lessons concentrated on England. As we move around the world in our homeschool curriculum, I wanted to incorporate culinary projects representing the various cultures we learn about. This week we made raspberry lemon scones.

As soon as I pulled these things out of the oven, I realized just how perfect they are for Valentine’s Day.  Visually they have the beautiful red and pink tint for a festive look, but more importantly, they are delicious. I couldn’t stop sneaking into the kitchen for another taste, my very honest husband greatly approved, and my son ended up finishing them off while I wasn’t looking.

My suggestion would be to include these little cakes in the breakfast in bed you intend to make your spouse. Or bring them to the brunch you’re sharing with your girlfriends on Galentine’s Day. Or make them with your kiddos and have them for dessert.


Rasberry Lemon Scones



1 stick of cold butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup frozen raspberries


Juice of 1 large lemon
1 cup powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. and line a baking tray with parchment paper
  2. Cut butter into pieces, about 1/4-inch and set aside in the refrigerator.
  3.  Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  4. Using a fork, add the sliced butter and toss to coat. Use fingers to rub the butter into the mix. It will begin to have a mealy texture.
  5. Mix in frozen raspberries until they are well coated.  Add heavy cream, and continue mixing with a fork.
  6. When the bowl is well mixed, begin kneading the dough with your fingers. Turn dough out onto the prepared baking sheet. Gently shape the dough into a square on the baking dish. The texture may be ragged, and that is okay.
  7. Slice the dough into 9 squares, and then slice them diagonally to give them a triangular shape. Give the scones some space between them to bake. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  8. While the scones are baking, prepare the glaze by mixing lemon juice and sugar in a small bowl. When scones are finished, give them 15-20 minutes to cool before drizzling the lemon glaze on them.


Sweet Potato Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

I am not ashamed of the fact that I am the most typical American girl when it comes to fall. I obsess over pumpkin spiced things, I’m over eager to pull out my sweaters and boots even if the weather isn’t quite cold enough to warrant such attire, and come September I’m immediately diving into autumn themed recipes.

Even as a child, before social media caught on to the fact that fall is the best season of the year, Autumn was my happy place. I have fond memories of Friday night football games and sitting around the campfire with friends in jean jackets. I remember the feeling I got when I woke up Thanksgiving morning to find my grandmother already working her way around the kitchen as she prepared our meal.

Baby’s first Autumn

It’s something I will never out grow, and I will continue obsessing over fall probably for the rest of my life. Even my son is well aware of how much I love fall. The other day while running errands with my husband, he picked up a pumpkin spiced candle at the drug store and asked to buy it for me.

I do feel a great need to point out, however, that there is more flavor to fall than pumpkin spice. I love pumpkin, and I am creating quite a collection of pumpkin flavored food for myself, but there is a tendency for pumpkins to spend a little too much time in the spotlight while the cider, apple, maple, and zucchini flavors are neglected.

When Thanksgiving comes around, and you’re trying to decide what unique culinary creation you want to contribute, try something a little different. For example: A sweet potato cake.

This recipe is truly delicious, and captures that spicy fall goodness we all love. Ever since I posted a photo on my facebook, people have been asking for the recipe, and those who’ve eaten it so far seemed to enjoy it quite nicely!

The cake itself is sweet potato, however, the frosting is actually homemade marshmallow fluff. Basically this is a creative alternative to the typical sweet potato casserole. The store bought fluff isn’t going to work as well for this frosting, and it does require a decent amount of patience to get right. I also loved the crispiness of torching the surface once the cake was put together, but if you don’t have a kitchen torch than it isn’t too much of a loss.

The end result looked like a giant marshmallow, and it certainly captured a great deal of attention. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cake With Marshmallow Frosting

For The Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
6 tbs butter, melted
6 tbs vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 sweet potatoes
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

For The Frosting
8 egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp creme of tartar
2 tsp vanilla
(have powdered sugar on hand)

For The Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  and prepare 2- 8 inch cake pans. Begin by preparing a sweet potato puree. Boil sweet potatoes in a pot. Every now and then poke them with a fork. When the potatoes are softened, drop them in a food processor to puree them.

2. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl whisk butter, oil, sugars, eggs, and sweet potato.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until well combined.

5. Divide the batter into the two pans. Place them in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

6. Cool on a rack for at least ten minutes, or until cakes are completely cool.

For The Frosting
1. While the cake bakes in the oven, prepare the frosting. Begin by placing egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heat proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water. Whisk the until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is warm (about 5 minutes).
2. Remove from heat and beat with an electric mixer. Begin on low and slowly increase speed. White peaks will begin to form.  Add vanilla and continue to beat the mixture for about 7-10 minutes. If the mix is too runny, add powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup at a time) until you’ve reached the desired consistency. The frosting will be slightly softer than store bought fluff.
3. Place frosting in the fridge until ready for use. To assemble, spread frosting in between the two cake layers. Spread frosting over the top of the cake as well as the sides. For the roasted look at taste, run a kitchen torch over the surface of the cake, being careful not to burn the frosting.

Back To School and Bannock Recipe

Last year, when my son was two (almost three) years old, I decided to start our adventure into homeschooling. Beginning at this young of an age has given me the practice of routine, scheduling, and also getting to know my son’s learning style all before we enter into the school aged years that will eventually require more depth, focus, and discipline.  We learned how to read an write our alphabet, counting and writing numbers, basic shape and color recognition, and we explored more abstract concepts through various books we read. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience to see my son absorb knowledge, and I was excited when he started to express interest in reading and math toward the end of the year.

After a summer break (which included an amazing vacation), I have been so excited to get into our homeschooling routine again. This year, however, I decided to include a lot more material to meet his interests and abilities. I receive a ton of questions regarding how I’m homeschooling him. Do I use a curriculum? What is my routine? How do I plan? It’s always a little awkward trying to answer those, because truth be told I’m just trying to go with the flow. I’m still sorting through what works best for my son and me, and it takes a lot of trial and error before getting it right.  So far I think we are starting this year off with a good rhythm, and as we get better at the routine of having a designated “school time”, I’m feeling significantly more confident in my abilities for the future.

With regards to curriculum, there are a variety of resources we are using this year:

Five In A Row – Five In A Row is a literature based curriculum that covers a little bit of everything. Each week we have a book that we read together, and various themes and lessons are pulled from the story. The curriculum provides weekly ideas on math, science, literature, geography, and art to create a well rounded curriculum that is very much appropriate for young children. The expectation of Five In A Row is simply to read and converse with your children. It’s nothing fancy and tedious, and it’s effective (at least it has been with my son). There are ideas for extra activities to go along with each book, however, most of the learning is intended to take place via reading and discussion. We use Five In A Row for geography (each book takes place in a different place), science, art, and any other abstract subject presented in the curriculum. For other subjects, particularly reading and math, my son needed/wanted something a little more concrete.

Math U See – As someone who had significant struggles in math, I have come to adore Math U See. It’s manipulative based in that the curriculum uses block pieces (think legos) to physically demonstrate the concepts being taught. I also love how the lessons build on one another. The sequence of learning follows a logical path – introduce, review, practice, master – and the order in which students progress helps solidify their understanding of concepts. At the moment we are using the primer, which has been amazing. We’ve gotten through basic number identification and counting, identifying shapes, and at the moment we are introducing place value. We picked up Math U See toward the end of last year, and this year we are continuing his lessons at the pace he naturally sets for himself. The good thing about the primer is that, unlike the rest of Math U See, it is not meant to provide mastery. It’s simply an easy way to introduce math in preparation for future lessons, so it’s great for younger ages. It’s a significant relief for me to see that my son is forming a love for math, because that was a major stumbling block all through my personal school experience.

Spelling-You-See – Since Math U See has worked so well, I decided to pick up Spelling-You-See to help with reading and writing. It’s a very simple workbook that teaches basic phonics. So far the progress I’ve seen has been absolutely wonderful, and my son learned very quickly how to sound out small words.

Time To Read Hebrew: A very simple workbook series that teaches Hebrew. You are given a few letters at a time, and immediately you begin seeing them used in words (for example, the first letters you learn are shin, bet, and tav…which spell “Shabbat”).  We use the workbook as a guide for progress, but mostly we are working with various games we play with flashcards.

The Bible Story Series by Arthur S. Maxwell – Chances are you’ve seen these books while sitting in a doctor’s office. They are everywhere, and yet most people don’t pay too much attention to them. Yes, they are a little outdated in artistry (think 1950’s or 60’s), however, I am finding these books to be fantastic reads for my son. The main focus I have at the moment with regards to teaching my son the Bible is simply familiarizing the stories. What has worked the absolute best for us has been to follow the model Five In A Row intends – we simply read through the story and discuss. These books are associated with Seventh Day Adventists, though there are very few grand theological pushes within the stories. The thing I absolutely love about this series is the fact that it covers Biblical stories your typical storybook Bibles leave out (for example – we just the other day read a chapter specifically about Enoch, and later on they cover various prophets that are seldom mentioned in storybook bibles).  While I do have to switch up some of the language while I’m reading (again, a few decades outdated), I do find these books to be a great way to introduce my son to the Bible (on top of the children’s Bibles we’ve already been reading).

Our first couple of weeks started out smoothly! Week number one was a lot of short, sweet, and simple activities that got us back in the swing of having a “school” time in the morning. I introduced the theme of Geography, and we spent a lot of time studying the map we now have hanging on our wall. Together we read Flat Stanley, and he even created his own Flat Stanley for The Flat Stanley Project! (Now, I just have to send those out…)

Week number two was a little closer to what I’m aiming for a far as goals and routine. We started Five In A Row with the book The Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews, which introduced us to Canada! More specifically we focused on Inuit culture. We placed our story disk on Ungava Bay, learned about how the Inuit fish beneath large blocks of ice , we studied igloos, and we also listened to Inuit throat singing (it was hilarious watching my son give that a try). We also learned about aurora borealis (northern lights). This provided an awesome opportunity to introduce my son to water colors while we painted pictures of the northern lights!

I also have a goal of bringing the various cultures we learn about into our home through food. I’m hoping that with each location we “visit” in his schoolwork, we try at least one culinary dish from that culture.

Since we were learning about Inuit culture, our food this week was bannock!

Bannock is a type of bread that can be found in a variety of cultures, but is pretty popular among the Inuit. Essentially it is flour that’s been fried in lard or shortening, and can be eaten in a variety of ways. We made ours for breakfast, and included some jam to go along with it. To make it extra delicious, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top for a tasty treat (it’s similar to an elephant ear you would find at a fair).

My son loved the stuff, and gobbled down the entire batch before noon. It’s super easy to make, and I will definitely be making it again as a special treat!



2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 cups shortening


In a frying pan on medium heat, heat the shortening.

While you are waiting for the shortening to completely melt, mix together in a separate bowl the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Gradually add water, mixing it well, until you have the consistency of batter.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot shortening. Once the bottom is golden brown, flip it over once to brown the other side.

There are a variety of ways to serve bannock. As I said, eating it with jam is a tasty breakfast and sprinkling them with powdered sugar makes them a delicious treat. However, you can also eat them with soups and stews!

Homemade Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

Living in an agricultural state, we have this trend of finding entertainment in paying other people to let us preform the work of picking produce. I know some of my Yankee friends like to poke fun of the concept, but there’s an odd satisfaction in enjoying fresh fruits I’ve picked myself. It’s also a wonderful educational experience for kids, and helps build an appreciation for where our food comes from. I enjoy the tranquility, and kids somehow find it fun and exciting. It’s totally worth it to me.

Since reading Blueberries for Sal as part of our Before Five In A Row curriculum last year, blueberry picking has been a tradition we’ve recently started to pursue every summer. We go to a small family owned farm in our area and fill a bucket with as many blueberries as we can possibly gather. Once we bring our fresh fruit home we immediately can them and add to our ever-growing-never-ending collection of homemade jam.

This year I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a lot of blueberries left over after the canning process. Considering that I’ve been in love with making homemade ice cream lately, the next idea I had for the blueberries was, of course, blueberry ice cream!

When I got around to actually making the ice cream, I decided to play around with texture and taste a little more than I intended. The result was incredibly delicious, and now a new favorite of mine. It’s rich in flavor, has a great texture, and I cannot stop eating it!

Also, if the blueberries are replaced with bananas this would make an excellent “banana pudding” ice cream!

Blueberry Pie Ice Cream


1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 tbs vanilla
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 11oz box of Nilla Waffers


Combine milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk for about two minutes, until the sugar is well dissolved.

Mix in blueberries.

Fill a zip lock bag with Nilla Waffers (I used about 3/4 of the box). Using a meat cleaver or hammer (or whatever tool you have on hand), smash the cookies to a powdery consistency.

Mix the cookie powder in with the ice cream mix.

Prepare ice cream according to the manufacturing instructions of your ice cream maker. I have a niffty Cuisinart ice cream maker that has a freezable bowl I prepared a head of time. Your ice cream maker might require ice to be added. Read up on the instructions and become familiar with your maker.

Once the ice cream is finished, pour the rest of the Nilla Waffers into the zip lock bag. Once again crush the cookies, however, this time keep them a little more chunky and textured.

Pour the rest of the Nilla Waffers into the ice cream and mix well. Put the ice cream in a storage container and pop in the freezer to continue forming.


Lavender Maple Vanilla Sufanyot

I love Hanukkah. A celebration of miracles. The warm glow of candles for 8 nights in a row. Oh, and fried food. Let’s be honest, the fried food is a major highlight. After kicking off the first night my house now has a delicious leftover smell that reminds me of the state fair. For dinner we had latke grilled cheese sandwiches, which I’ve established as a family tradition since I discovered the idea last year. That scrumptiousness was then followed by sufganiyot (Israeli donuts). We also may have slipped in a few pieces of  cheap gelt after some dreidle playing. No one ever claimed Hanukkah was about health, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

It had taken me a couple years to figure out all of the tips and tricks to frying, but once I got the hang of it I immediately began playing around with various flavor combinations and recipes (hence the latke grilled cheese sandwiches). This year I continued my interest in experimenting with lavender, and decided to try out a jelly concoction in my first round of sufganiyot.

I’m happy to say that it turned out to be quite enjoyable, and the flavor paired excellently with the donuts. I used one full jar of the jelly for  donuts, and the rest is going to be given away as gifts. Pretty soon I’m definitely going to make another batch!

So…how to make these things…

For The Jelly

3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup lavender buds
1 tsp cardamom
1 lemon
1 envelope of pectin
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 vanilla bean
4 cups sugar

Bring water to boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Once the water reaches a boil, take the pan off of the heat and add lavender. Cover pot, and let it steep for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or other fine mesh cloth into a deep pot. Discard the lavender buds.

Stir in the juice of the lemon and pectin until the pectin is completely dissolved.  Add the maple syrup and vanilla bean.

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and add sugar. Return the mixture to a rolling boil. Stirring occasionally, allow it to boil for about 3 minutes.

To determine the consistency of the jelly, and whether or not it has cooked enough, use “the spoon test”. Keep a metal spoon in cold water nearby. Dip the spoon into the boiling mixture. If the jelly runs off of the spoon, keep cooking it for a little longer. If it turns to a “jelly” consistency when the spoon is lifted out of the pot, it’s done.

For The Sufganiyot

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 packet of yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 salt
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbs butter
6 cups canola oil (plus more for coating a bowl)
Jam or jelly
powdered sugar

Combine flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a bowl. Add yolks and milk, and mix until dough is shaggy. Add butter and continue to mix until dough is smooth.

Coat a large bowl with oil. Form dough into a ball, and roll in the bowl until it is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

When dough is done rising, coat a baking sheet or cutting board with flour. Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thickness. Using a round cookie cutter (about 2 inches around) or the rim of a cup, cut out as many rounds as possible. Take the leftover dough and roll it out again to redo the process until all of the dough is used.

Lay out the cut out rounds on a baking sheet. Loosely cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, heat the 6 cups of oil in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot. The temperature of the oil should reach about 350 degrees.

When the dough is done rising, pick up a round with a spatula (not your fingers, as this can deflate the donut). Drop them into the oil to cook. Once the bottom of the donuts are browned, flip them over using a fork. Once completely cooked, lift them out of the oil and place them on a baking sheet lined with a paper towel.

Once the donuts are finished cooling, pour jelly into a piping bag. Puncture the side of the donuts, and squeeze about a teaspoon of jelly into the donuts.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and enjoy!


Lavender Cookies With Rosewater Icing

Someday I’m going to have a Jane Austen themed ladies night where my friends and I will dress elegantly, giggle over tea and crumpets, and watch Pride and Prejudice. It is going to be splendid.

I’m also going to make this brand new recipe I’ve tried out today. It is so deliciously appropriate for a tea party like gathering, and it reminds me of something I would eat while chilling with the Bennet sisters.  Until then, however, our friends who join us for a monthly Bible study will be enjoying these uniquely flavored cookies over our discussions.

I’ve been experimenting a lot with lavender lately since I have such a huge bag of it sitting in my cabinet (no matter how much I use, that bag seems to remain constantly full!) . A couple months ago I made lavender cupcakes with honey frosting, and this past week I created lavender hamentashen with rosewater jelly for Purim. It’s a very unique flavor that isn’t widely used, but once I started working with it regularly I realized that it really brings a wonderful touch to baked goods. Not only that, but it smells so incredibly fresh and scrumptious it becomes rather comforting to work with.

What You Need:
(For The cookies)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbs lavender (chopped finely)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

(For The Icing)
3cups powdered sugar (possibly more)
6 tsp water
6 tsp rose water


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine melted butter, sugar, and eggs into a bowl. Gently stir in lavender. Add flour, baking powder and salt.

Spoon cookie dough onto well oiled cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes.

While cookies are baking, prepare the icing by combining powder sugar, water, and rosewater. If the consistency is too runny, add more powder sugar.

Once cookies are out of the oven and cooled, spread icing over cookies. A little goes a long way since the icing is going to be rather strong (you can adjust the strength of the flavor by adding more or less rosewater to the icing recipe).