Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sauerkraut and Potato Cheddar Pierogi




Today is January 25th and it is a day to be celebrated!!  I got to call my Dad for his birthday!! In August, that was something that I feared would never happen again.

This is the reason that you have not heard from me in a while. As you know, I started this blog in a time that I was going through some hard issues. I have blogged through the separation of my marriage, my divorce and all the heartache that comes with separating that life. I have blogged through finding new love and all the greatness and adoration that goes with that. You have seen me in my highs, my lows and my appreciation of multiple people in my life. I have held little back!! That was the reason for starting this blog. From the very beginning, I have said that cooking is my therapy and MY LOVE begins in the kitchen. This blog has been an outlet for me to speak in times when I needed to get thoughts out and until this time, I have not had any problems with that.

 I have learned to realize that a lot of people don't deal with feeling and emotions well and can not express to others what they want and need. I see this daily with my patients who hold things in until their problems express themselves physically and this lack of feelings has been a problem in the relationships of my past. I have worked diligently to be able to say what I feel when it is pertinent, but, nothing has stopped me in my emotional tracks like this August.


This August my family experienced an event that shook who we were. With out much detail, my Dad became incredibly sick very suddenly and was hospitalized for a significant time. The details are not important and quite honestly too much for me to talk about. But since that time, I have not been the same person. None of us have! In just a few days in August, everything changed for me. Since August, we, as a family have been collectively holding our breath... waiting, hoping, praying and whatever else it took! I have learned there is one thing that happens when you hold your breath. You lose passion and desire to do anything... but wait and hope. That is where I have been. Kind of suspended in time... waiting! I am afraid when my phone rings. I am worried when it doesn't. A lot has happened since August. And most of it I have had little influence on nor have I had the power to create (which I hate to say.) Time has passed, for me relationships have been lost and we are still taking it day by day. I am in no way saying that this struggle has been mine alone. My Dad has had the biggest fight and once again in his life has come out strong, but we have all taken some burden in this ordeal.

In some ways, this past month has been healing for me. I feel like I have rejoined a part of my life. Since I live a far distance away, I was able to take a breath in this situation when I got to spend an extended Christmas holiday at home. It was so empowering to see the progress firsthand. It was good to talk and appreciate and love the people most important in life- family.  It was good to just be present in someone else's life who has done so much for me. There are things that will never be the same and I am careful to not say some things will be better, because we don't really know yet. But there are some things in life that will just be and how you deal with them will determine your character. If there is nothing else I have learned from him; that is it. We can't control everything, we can't change fate but we can deal with in the most powerful way we know.

Today on my Dad's birthday, I celebrate him and everything he has taught me. I appreciate all the times he stood by me and hope in some way, I have supported him in this past few months. And lastly, I hope he knows I am proud of him. He has come back to us in a way we never would have imagined and has shown us again what strength is.

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!!


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