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Lessons I learned from Tara Root

The question really is, what have I not learned from Tara Root?

Tara has been my faithful friend, mentor and like a big sis to me for the past fifteen years (I think we look a bit like sisters in the pic below!). I owe much of what I know in the kitchen to her, and she is the source of many of our all time favorite recipes. Besides being able to rely on Tara for delectable food, I have relied on her for so much more. She has been my prayer partner for over a decade, and has given endless advice to me as I journey through marriage, motherhood and ministry. Tara has modeled for me what it is like to be a faithful wife, a generous friend, a loving mother and a gracious host. I could go on and on and on about Tara, but I’m going to let her take the reigns for the rest of this post! Here are just four from her repertoire of many outrageously delicious dishes that come straight from the heart. I can’t wait to try her recipes along with you!


Pumpkin Pancakes

I love brunch. I love going out for brunch but I also enjoy having friends over for brunch. It is a perfect way to relax with friends and enjoy delicious food that is typically pretty easy to make. Brunch has become my favorite meal to invite guests over for instead of evening dinner parties. Mainly because I’ve become much more of a morning person so I wake up energized and ready to entertain. It is especially ideal if you want to invite families with young children: It is early in the day so the kids are still full of energy without any concern for bedtimes and the food is generally kid-friendly.
One of my favorite things to prepare for a fall or winter brunch is pumpkin pancakes. These little beauties are fragrant with the aroma of fall and are covered in a silky caramel sauce with crunchy pecans. This recipe was served to me in a bed and breakfast almost 20 years ago. It is still a favorite. And for you moms out there this is one way to get a vegetable into your kids . . . just ignore all the sugar that goes along with it! Serve with breakfast sausage or bacon to complete the meal. Don’t forget to brew some strong coffee and you’ll have a splendid visit with old or new friends!


2 cups buttermilk pancake mix

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 can pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. Ginger
1/2 tsp. All spice
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

Mix spices separately then combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. Heat griddle to 350 F and grease. Cook pancakes until puffed and dry around edges. Turn and cook other sides until golden brown. Makes about ten 4-inch pancakes.

Caramel Pecan topping

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/4 cup pecans

Combine all ingredients (except pecans) and mix in saucepan. Still occasionally and heat to boiling. Remove from heat and mix in pecans.


Currant Apple Scones

Let’s face it, Ladies, some days instead of squeezing in groceries, doctor’s appointments and vacuuming between school drop-off and pick-up we’d much rather don a pretty dress, meet our girlfriends at a dainty tea room and talk the afternoon away while nibbling on scones and sipping English Breakfast out of a fine china cup.
It’s probably safe to say most of us only get to have that type of tearoom experience a handful of times in our lives but what is stopping us from taking a little time to enjoy a scone, sip some tea and have a long-overdue conversation with a good friend – you can even wear your work-out pants.
Here is a scone recipe that doesn’t take a lot of time to make and it is always a satisfying treat for a friend who could use a little dainty pick-me-up in the middle of the week. Set aside one morning soon to have a friend over. Dust off a couple of china cups, iron a table cloth (do we even use these anymore?), put a favorite flower or two in a vase and once the kiddos are off to school or down for a nap plan to serve these scones with your favorite jam and tea while catching up on some girl talk. Plan to serve them warm and fresh. They are definitely not a bake the day or even the night before treat.


2 C All purpose flour

3 tbsp sugar

2  1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 C cold butter

3/4 C grated peeled apple

1/2 C currants or dried cranberries

3/4 C buttermilk

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add apple, currants and buttermilk; stir to form a soft dough. Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently about eight to ten times. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into a 6 inch circle; cut each circle into six wedges. Please on greased baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for fifteen minutes. Let cool on wire rack.


Roast Chicken

Our family recently moved from New York State where we had lived for almost 2O years to Virginia. The logistics and the work of packing and unpacking 20 years of stuff were physically exhausting. It was a challenging move infused with raw emotion every step of the way. A few days before the moving company was suppose to arrive and completely pack up our beloved home, friends called us to say they were bringing over a meal to share with us. I can barely express how loved and cared for I felt with this gesture. My eyes filled with tears as our dear friend explained her plan to bring over a prepared a feast for us . . . Korean Bar-B-Q, potato salad, pickled cucumbers from her garden and a special sparkling beverage. The food was exceptionally delicious and nourishing but as we all sat around our table talking and eventually praying together my soul felt full, fed and nourished by their love and friendship. I felt overwhelmed by the time and care they put in to the meal for us.
One week later we were sitting in our new home in Virginia surrounded with unpacked boxes when we received a text from pretty much the only people we knew in Virginia. She said, “We are bringing you over a meal.” Again, I felt tears filling my eyes. The next evening these friends showed up at our door with an entire meal . . . a noodle casserole, tossed salad and homemade chocolate zucchini loaf for dessert. She even brought the drinks and paper goods. Again, we sat and talked and laughed and prayed together and again, in our new home, I felt fed and nourished in my soul by their generous gesture.
Over the years I had taken meals to families who had just had a baby or were dealing with illness but it never occurred to me before to take an entire meal to share together as friends. I would encourage you to look for an opportunity to bless a friend with an entire meal. I guarantee it will nourish them both body and soul.
Here is a perfect dish to take to a friend. Add a salad, a dessert and voila! You have a beautiful meal to share. (This recipe is from Ina Garten’s first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa)

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
Olive oil


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.


Babysitter Approved Honey Chicken

This August my husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. When our first child came along almost 15 years ago we committed to make a weekly date night a priority. This was not an easy feat and we certainly weren’t successful every week but we persevered over the years in our commitment and have many wonderful babysitters to thank for helping us out.
Our date nights were rarely fancy but on occasion date night meant dressing up, actually putting on heels, and trying a trendy new restaurant in the city. It was fun to see my daughter’s face on those nights: Mommy went upstairs in the work-out pants she had been wearing for a couple of days in a row, ponytail and no make-up to return with hair and make-up done wearing a pair of shnazzy heels. Her eyes would get large in disbelief as she inspected my eye make-up and accessories closely. For at least a couple of hours a week it is fun to dress-up! Our dates, however, were mostly meeting up at our favorite sushi spot or burger joint in jeans and comfy boots. Just getting out for a little while for face-to-face, uninterrupted conversation was worth the effort.
To make date-night possible over the years we were blessed with young women who babysat for us so we could enjoy a little time alone. We were fortunate to have young ladies in our church community who were finishing college or between college and career who needed extra cash to help them along their way. Many of these young women have become dear friends to our children and to me personally. Some moved on to other jobs and some married and moved away but the recipe that they always ask for after they have moved on is my Honey Chicken. Over the years I left meals prepared or partially prepared for them to serve my kids while we were out. The meals were usually simple and easy to prepare such as pasta or quesadillas but the one they all love is the “Honey Chicken”. It is easy, delicious and you don’t have to coax the kids to eat it.
I would start the chicken in the oven 30 minutes before the babysitter arrived. During this time I would make the honey sauce and put it aside. I would also cook the rice and leave it steaming and covered in the pot. Finally, I would chop the broccoli and leave it in a small amount of salted water ready to be steamed in the last few minutes before the meal was ready to serve.
When the babysitter arrived I had clear written instructions waiting for her so she could finish the meal. Even those with limited experience in the kitchen had no difficulty finishing the chicken: The babysitter would have to turn the chicken over and pour the honey sauce on top for the last 30 minutes and steam the broccoli. (I am convinced delicious, easy, kid-friendly meals like this one keep the babysitters coming back!)

2 split chicken breasts, skin on or off — up to you ☺
½ cup of honey
¼ cup of butter
2 tsp. Of Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
1 – 2 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a 9×13 glass-baking dish drizzle the olive oil. Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts. Coat both sides with salt and pepper. Place the skin side up in the pan. Bake, uncovered, @ 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the butter, honey and mustard together, whisking to combine. After 30 minutes turn the chicken breasts over and pour the honey mixture over top of the chicken. Cook for another 30 minutes, uncovered. The honey mixture will darken and begin to caramelize around the edges. Take the chicken out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes. Slice and pour honey sauce all over the meat. Serve with rice and steamed broccoli (or green beans . . . whatever your kids prefer). Serves one babysitter and two kids ☺.

Tara and I at my 30th birthday celebration, which she so gracefully hosted

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