Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Feta Tart




Right now, and actually for the past month, I have been in tomato heaven. Well, some days, I don't really think of it quite like that but.... let's just say that my garden has been PLENTIFUL! There have been days when I go out and literally pick twenty or more pounds of tomatoes. Yes, really! Several days, I have come home from work dressed in my summer dress and have gone out just to look at the garden!!! Next thing you know, I am in the garden in heels and dress with a skirt full of tomatoes (uggg... yes, I have witnesses. Including a very special guy in my life who said he was gonna take a pic for me to blog! Who wants to see that??)  I do give a lot of the tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, etc. away to friends and family but I also use a lot of them myself.  And, lucky for you, I want to share how. My next several posts are going to highlight the wonderful summer tomato. I am also gonna remind you of some of the past tomato greatness I have posted (psst... remember Mom's Tomato Sauce).

Hey, I am trying to help you out!  Believe me, at times this year, I have been slightly overwhelmed at the sight of every flat surface in my little house covered in tomatoes. Are you feeling this same stress?? Or maybe you just bought a great box of homegrown tomatoes from your favorite farmer and are wondering what deliciousness you can whip up in your kitchen?  Let me lead you in the direction of  true tomato happiness. Follow my recipes and let's not waste even one!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Smoked Whole Chicken

 


So this is something that I have wanted to try for a long time! I love smoked meat of all kinds and for the past few years I have wanted a smoker. Well, this summer I joined one of those Facebook online garage sale feeds to get rid of a few things from my past life- an huge area rug I have no use for, some golf clubs that never inspired me to actually play and a few pieces of clothing that were brand new and too big (Yes!!!)  I needed to purge and as most of you know when that feeling hits, you gotta do it! So I had a pretty successful run of getting rid of my crap and making a little extra money. The thing is when you join these sites, you also get front row seating and first dibs on other people's no-longer prized possessions. (I think you are beginning to see how this ends.)  As most of you know, these garage sale sites get quite a bit of attention and if you do not have a knee jerk reaction to an item you lose! So this smoker popped up and I quickly typed, "I want it."  I then pressed send and held my breath!  I was first in queue!! Whoohooo! After much negotiation of where to meet, when to meet and which gas station had an outdoor electrical outlet so I could see it work, I was the proud parent of a new electric smoker. And the best part is, I paid seventy-five percent off the retail price. Cha-ching!!

So now my adventures in smoking have begun. Yes, I know BBQ and smoking purists, I did say it is electric! And you can argue that this is not the "pure" smoker's technique, but this first timer is having a ball learning the basics. Perhaps next year, I will be cruising Facebook garage sale ads and find one of those huge pull behind, (a dually truck, of course) full pig smokers!!! Then you better watch out!! I might take this blog on the road!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pickled Okra



So, my garden is prolific this year and I am picking okra by the bagful. Fifteen years ago, when I moved to South Carolina from Pennsylvania, these furry little pods were foreign to me. I had never seen them let alone cooked one. Around this time, my southern Mema gave me a big bag of these and instructed me to fry 'em up for my dinner. I politely accepted her generosity and then meekly told her I had no idea what she meant. She looked at me and said, "Why of course you don't. Get in this kitchen and I will show you." In true Mema form, there was no official recipe. Over the years, in all the recipes she taught me (and there are many,) her only measurement reference was "ya just add ya a lil' bit" of said ingredient. It was not so much about the measurement, but more about the experience and the feel. That day, we ended up eating fried okra on her porch and watching the world go by. I miss her and everything she taught me about southern cooking and my local area.  She never judged me, or made fun of my lack of southern heritage. She took me under her wing, taught me what she knew and provided a lot of good laughs in the process. She was happy to have me as her granddaughter; regardless of where I came from.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Blackberry Pie


 
In the past few years, I have been through a lot and quite honestly, have lost a lot. Some things I willingly gave up and others were taken from me. No matter how it happened, it was painful and hard to overcome.  I know I have lost a lot but I have gained even more.  I understand more of what I want and what I need and am happy to see myself as a more diverse individual. I have rediscovered interests and developed new passions.  
 
In saying that, it does not mean that, at times, I won't mess up in some way.  I make mistakes. I don't trust well. I am self-conscious. I don't always communicate effectively. I can be impatient. And, I just generally have my moments!! Recently, I almost lost someone who is very important to me for all of these reasons. Of course, no relationship is perfect and each person brings their own problems or issues to the party, but now I see some of mine more clearly. I have a tendency to over-analyze and recently, I was just too inside my own head.  This prevented me from seeing the greatness that was right in front of me. Do you ever do that? Well I did!  It is like that old saying, "you can't see the forest for the trees!" I was not seeing the whole picture and I was panicking when little things went wrong. I was asking for one thing and then holding my hands over my eyes when it was happening. I was not allowing people to love me in THEIR WAY! I know a lot of this comes from fear. In the past, when I thought I had my whole life figured out, the bottom fell out and I realized just how hard I can fall. And honestly, I am scared of that again. What I realize now, is that recently, I was falling again. I was falling into bad habits and allowing fear to make my decisions instead of letting things take a more natural course. By following this path, I was allowing things that are very important to me slip away.
 
I know, that deep down, these are all things we know about ourselves but sometimes it takes a great event to really bring it to the forefront. I know now that have some more work to do!  There is another circle of healing that I need to conquer. And I will! I know that I will never be perfect but ever-growing might be a good compromise!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rebecca's Ratatouille

 

As most of you know, this is one of my favorite times of the year- mid July is when my garden is prolific. That means good food right outside my back door. This year my garden is like a jungle. We have been blessed with rain and sun in just the right quantities to grow tomato plants almost as tall as my 5 ft 6 inch self. I am harvesting tons of vegetables every day and really I have eaten little more than veggies for most of my meals. I have been sharing with friends and neighbors and am really proud of my little plot of earth and what it has given me.



I am happy to say that I have helped these plants grow with no artificial means or chemicals. They are as organic as they come. I only use fish emulsion and compost for fertilizer and a little insecticidal soap and natural bacteria for pest control. It is possible! It is easy!! It is something that I am proud of!! These plants are made to grow and produce. Artificial chemicals are not necessary to MAKE this natural process occur. I know certain chemical companies are really promoting a lot of blogs right now that will use their product to grow their food and therefore poison their recipes, but I can't join that bandwagon. I am proud to know that I am putting healthy fresh fruits, herbs and veggies into my body. I am also relieved to know that when I leave the garden smelling like I just walked through a patch of tomatoes, that is the only thing on my skin. No decontamination shower is needed after picking in my little urban farm. If you are in my area, bring a basket. I will let you forage and then we can sit on the porch steps and eat a warm, sun ripened tomato. Nothing better!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Congee


At times throughout my life, bad things happen- stress, illness, sadness, etc. When it does, I, like a lot of women I know, begin having digestive problems. As though all the crap (no pun intended) that life hands us is not enough to deal with, now I need to feel like I have food poisoning or some horrible flu! Well, this week I do! Stress and sadness have reappeared in my life in a BIG way and they have their hands tightly around my digestive system (and my heart) and they are not letting up!

For most of you that know me, you know that aside from the occasional adult beverage, I do not like to put chemicals or foreign things (medication) into my body.  I am a strong advocate for health through whole foods, nutrition and supplements.  I am also a firm believer in listening to your body and using the symptoms it gives you to make a change. There is more and more proof that stress brings down immunity. In these hard times, it is best to listen to what your body is telling you and give it what it needs to reestablish health. That is what I am trying to do now. Does it make the stress go away? Or change a sad situation? No! Sometimes only time will do that, but I have learned first hand over the past few years that without your health you have nothing.  At times you have to step back, rest and nurture YOU! No one else will do it for you! The hard times will come and go and then come again, but as I have proved to myself before, I will still be standing when they do!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cinnamon Toffee Ice Cream on Grilled South Carolina Peaches




It is officially SUMMER!! And what is better this time of year than ice cream and fresh grown local peaches??

These past few weeks, here in South Carolina, we have been "treated" to true summer weather in the south. Everyday, it has been well over 90 degrees. Ugggg.... There is nothing more horrible than getting into your car at the end of the day and your car saying that it is 105 degrees. Some days, you can barely touch the steering wheel.  At first, when I moved south in 1999 (from the frozen tundra of Pennsylvania), I thought that the heat was going to be the death of me.  I remember several times gasping as I walked outside and telling friends that I could not breath. I was feeling as though the humidity was going to suffocate me. Since then, I have learned to look at the hot summer months more as a compromise for the temperate fall, winter and spring. Thinking now.... If given the option of shoveling 3 feet of snow in freezing cold conditions or sweating a little downtown while watching a band and having a cold beer on a Friday night- I choose that cold beer!



One of the jewels of this area is the great produce that we have in abundance. Whether you are a local Carolinian or a transplant like me, the one season that everyone looks forward to here is peach season. We follow the peaches from the first buds on the trees in very early spring, through every frost that might damage the crops, until the time we bring home our first basket of pure South Carolina goodness.  Most people here await that first peach of the season because it is one of the true signs of summer. Lucky for us, this years peach crop has turned out to be prolific and we are loving every single bite!!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sweet Potato Hummus





Well, this recipe came with a lesson! It seems lately that I have been super busy and feeling like I am not getting enough done around my house or in my private life. So on Thursday of this past week, I made a list. Now for those of you that really know me you know how I feel about lists. They make me feel like I am going a bit CRAZY!! I like to believe that I am highly educated, intelligent and together enough that I do not need to put on paper what needs to be done. Also growing up in my parents house we lived by lists. My mother is the queen of lists. She even called yesterday to say we have to go over lists for the upcoming beach trip. I HATE LISTS!

But... in a desperate moment this slightly overwhelmed multi-tasker finally gave in and wrote it all down. In all efforts to be ambitious and accomplished, (are you seeing a serious Type A problem here!!! Ugg....) as soon as I got home on Thursday, I set about completing tasks so I could cross off them off that dreaded list. I had laundry going, I had remade all of my bed, dinner was in the oven, bills had been paid, and I set about peeling sweet potatoes for this recipe. Although I know potato peels don't do well in the garbage disposal, my mind was on everything else I could get accomplished before bed, and I hit the switch. Down they went but the water did not..... #@&*!!!!! I had just blocked the drain and in the long run stopped all progress on completion of my list!!! For the rest of the evening, I had only one task!! I worked on the drain. Eventually, with a good friend's advice and instructions, I got it unstopped but it was almost 10 pm.  Out of desperation, I promptly put the offending list in the drawer, poured myself a glass of red wine and plopped myself in the bath tub. Tasks complete for the night!!!

Oh, so what is the lesson?? Don't make lists!!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Crock Pot Chicken Tacos


OK y'all, next week is Cinco de Mayo. And this year it falls on a Monday. A Monday... Uggg!! Well, what does that mean? It means we don't let the "Monday Blues" get the best of us!! We rally!! So, in my opinion... we have two options.
Option 1: You can sit back and celebrate on Sunday afternoon with a large back porch fiesta and make this awesome taco recipe to impress all your friends. Margaritas and Modelo required!! Live it up, but remember work starts very early on Monday morning!!
Option 2: You throw all these ingredients in your crock pot Monday morning and have tasty tacos waiting on you and your friends when you get home from work. This will assure that you have adequate time to mix large batches of margaritas before the party starts. (Those Coronas should be chilling in the fridge before work too!!)

It is not too late to send out those E-vites!! A little planning goes a long way. Due to this gentle reminder, you now have no excuses for missing out on this holiday!!  And don't forget, once you have impressed all your friends with this easy recipe and an awesome party, toast the host/hostess. Yes, I know that is YOU!! That is the point!!!

Cheers!!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Herb de Provence Soft Cheese


When approached by Earth Fare to write a few blogs for them I was super excited but slightly stumped! I have so many ideas of things that I could make that would be awesome and was unsure what direction to take. I talked to quite a few friends and family members about what recipe would be the best to represent my blog. I do not specialize in vegan foods or gluten free meals. I am purely a cook that makes things that she loves; incorporating all types of foods into my repertoire. So after some thought I decided that is exactly what I should write about.... a food that I love and that drew me to Earth Fare.

What made me first LOVE Earth Fare??    Mmmm..... Cheese!!!!

Around 2002, I began to shop at Earth Fare in Greenville, SC for their healthy outlook on eating and all things food. Earth Fare was one of the first "whole food" stores in my area and it was like a new world to me. I loved going in every week and trying something new, discovering a new local producer in my area or gaining knowledge from one of their educated employees. I enjoyed all parts of the store, but I especially came to love their wonderful world of different cheeses! Over the years, I have frequented the cheese counter almost weekly; so much so that the employees that works in that area usually knows my name (ugggg.... the beer guy does too. But that is a different post!) 


Through these visits,  I have found my love for all types of cheeses, but one thing I always purchase are different spreadable cheeses. Some days, I buy a great triple brie and on others a creamy, herbed chevre log. I love to have these on hand for entertaining or just for a snack with a glass of wine after a long day at work. So after some thought, I decided I would challenge myself to make a spreadable cheese in an "Earth Fare" style just like the cheese I buy from them that I love so much. Of course, part of this challenge was using all Earth Fare ingredients, but that was not hard for me!! I always invite a chance to fill up my cart at their store. 

Enjoy!

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