Wednesday, February 25, 2015

White Lasagna with Sausage, Spinach and Portabello Mushrooms



Look at me! Baking and blogging up a storm these past few weeks. Am I just overly ambitious? Hmm... I wish!  I am BORED!  I have been iced or snowed in my house for 3 days in the past week with more days off probably tomorrow and possibly Friday! I don't sit still well.(It is how I was raised.) I can not watch any more Netflix or worse than that, daytime TV.  Dr. Oz and Steve Hardy make me want to jump off the bridge downtown.... if only I could get there!

So, instead of causing bodily harm, I have been spending my time reading blogs and recipes and pulling out a lot of the cookbooks that I have stashed away and making things that are on my wish list. That list is actually so long that I could probably have a whole year of snow days and still not complete everything on it!

This has been my new South Carolina "snow life!" Waking up, showering, putting on fresh Pjs, scouring books and webpages and then getting busy in the kitchen. Usually, at some point in this process, some wine or craft beer might come into the mix. My biggest fear is if this weather doesn't clear up and I continue to churn out these rich, comfort food recipes, the only clothes I will be able to wear is Pjs or elastic pants. Ugh.... Praying for no more snow!!!




Sunday, February 22, 2015

Herbed Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Palmetto Olive Oil Company's Tuscan Herb Olive Oil



Love and support comes in all different forms and these past few weeks I have see a lot of that. I am not just talking about Valentine's Day. I am talking about every day little gestures that let you know you are important in someones life. In this way, I am fortunate!!

As you know we had our HUGE Icepocalypse and it seems like one of those weeks when no one has gotten the motivation back to do much of anything. Unfortunately for me, I have been busy on this computer searching for my future and closing up last minute things from my past. Last weekend, thanks to some really great supportive friends, I had a cleaning out party!! They surprised me by not only the brute strength of moving boxes but with flowers and mimosas. Mimosas make all things better!! All girls know that! Quickly, with their liquid courage, a job that seemed overwhelming was almost fun. Almost... Well, anyway there was a lot of laughing and even more encouragement. It feels good to be loved!


So, a little bit about the local product used in this recipe. On my birthday an amazing person went out of their way to drop a gift at my door so I would have something to open on my special day. Sweet, huh? It made my so happy!! The very thoughtful gift turned out to be this fabulous Tuscan Herb Olive Oil from Palmetto Olive Oil Co. here in Greenville, SC. I am obsessed with it!! I am using it on everything but at the same time trying to save it for only the best entrees. Lol! The other day after I got done tossing fingerling potatoes in this my hands smelled heavenly and were so soft that I debated using at as bath oil.

Joking, of course! Hmm... maybe!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Old Fashioned No-Bake Cookies


On the cowl I knitted last night when I was iced in!!

I am iced in my house.  NO, I am iced in my house in SOUTH CAROLINA!  Ughh!



 Did I go to the store before this event? Sure I did! I have plenty of wine, cheese, crackers and smoked meats. I know- no bread? No milk? What am I going to do with that? Well, it seems that I forgot something! Or at least have a sudden craving for something because I have no access to it. (Isn't that how it always works?) Maybe I am just bored, or maybe I am reading too many food blogs, but..... I NEED CHOCOLATE! And I don't have any. Well, I don't have anything other than a jar of Nutella, chocolate chips and cocoa powder. What can I make, what can I make???? No- Bake Cookies!!! How simple and quick! When you gotta get your chocolate fix there is not time for baking cakes and whipping up a perfect ganche. Nope!



With a HOT cup of espresso... hmmmm.... I think this is the best part of my day.

I also hope tomorrow I am FREE!!! It is hard for this Pennsylvania girl to be stuck in her house because of weather! But if I am still iced in... wonder what I will whip up in my kitchen tomorrow. Stay tuned!!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tiramisu Cheesecakes



So, this year I don't have a Valentine in the traditional sense of partner in life and love... and that is OK. It is not that I am opposed to that sentiment in any way. I think that good things will come in time. This year, I am in love with me! I am giving me what I need, nurturing myself! I feel like the past few years have been a culmination of hard times and emotional changes. I have gone through times of insecurity and times of true joy. It has been a roller coaster! But at the end of this month, I am making a change that should allow so much of that uncertainty and insecurity to go away. I am making a leap! It is long overdue and I am a little scared... but I am so ready to let go and move forward in whatever life has waiting for me.

Of course this Valentine's Day, I hold in my heart everyone who has been true to me and stands by me. I love you all and hope that I show you everyday. I guess this Valentine's Day for me is more like a homecoming, coming back to me; coming full circle. Shedding the past and really just letting me shine. It feels GOOD!

Happy Valentine's Day and remember Love Begins in the Kitchen!!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Venison Portobello Shepherd's Pie


In rural, western Pennsylvania, I grew up eating venison. It is what most families in our "neck of the woods" waited all year for.  Most of the men were hunters or sportsmen and waited for deer season to arrive. My father was no different. He could not wait for the fall (and not just cause he was a freckled, redhead who hates the sun.) The changing colors of leaves, the crisp fall air and being able to see your breathe when you went outside, meant deer season was right around the corner. My Dad was always an avid archer; which takes a lot of skill and practice. And over the years, he has brought many deer home using this method.

When my Dad had one of his hunting days, us girls would go shopping or do other girl-centric activities but we were always home when Dad got home. We would wait at home to see if he had struck big that day and brought us a deer. It was always an exciting time for him when he brought a deer home. It was exciting for us all. And when I say all, I mean the whole neighborhood. It seemed back in those days, everyone was looking out their windows for the hunters to come home. If there seemed to be an unusual amount of activity as the trucks pulled in, the whole neighborhood would convene in that persons driveway. It became our little neighborhood tradition.

Some might say that this is an unusual or cruel event but it is the gathering of food. Food brought home to feed a family. Food that we had a pretty good idea of where it was raised and how it was killed and we were thankful that our area was so abundant in this food source. As my Dad always told us, when he killed a deer it was exciting and an accomplishment. It was the culmination of a lot of practice, anticipation and time, but he quickly felt thankful and appreciative of what the animal would give us. And there was also a slight sadness and desire to give the animal back to life. This shows great reverence! He taught us all that this thought process is what makes a great hunter!

Because of what he taught us about respect, when my Dad brought a deer home his girls were proud of him. We still are! Even though I live far, far away I still get a phone call when Dad brings a deer home. It takes me back to being a kid in that little town in rural Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Moroccan Lamb Chili with Kale, Chickpeas and Sweet Potato





As most people know, I am a craft beer enthusiast. I love all things about craft beer. The atmosphere of the breweries, the people and the laid back culture. I am a huge fan of several of our local breweries here in Greenville, SC and the neighboring Asheville, NC. I am excited to try new places, new beers and new flavors. Just this past weekend, I spent a Saturday with my best friends in Asheville, giving them a brewery tour of some of my favorite places. Of course, we had to kick it off at the brewery that I am obsessed with, Burial Brewery. We then moved on the several others including Green Man Brewery and the new Funkatorium which opened in October. It was a great tasting event and a great time out of town with my BFFS. I was so appreciative that they came out to celebrate me in a way that I adore!

 
A little fun at Burial Brewing with my girls.


Enough about Asheville, lets talk about the best brewery in Greenville, SC and one that I support often. A few weeks ago, my girlfriends and I went to Quest Brewery for their chili cook off. This is my favorite brewery here in my Greenville, SC area. We all had an exceptional time. The event took place in the actual brewery right under the fermenters. I was going to enter with my Turkey Pumpkin Chili but since the event was only a day after I returned home from my big Pennsylvania excursion, I decided to just go and enjoy and imbibe rather than putting a bunch of work into it. As it turned out, there were several great chillies to sample. They had everything from venison chili to an awesome spicy sausage chili with handmade sausage ravioli floating in it, to chili that featured some of the porter that is made by the brewery.  Some impressive cooks were represented. 

A Smoking Mirror Smoked Porter last Friday Night  when we came to see Zac Parks. Check him out!!
I have to admit that I got this recipe idea from there. This chili was the chili that my friends and I loved! The unfortunate part is this was one of the employee submissions so we could not vote for it. When I got home, I scoured the web for the recipe and found this one, which is spot on. And what better way to celebrate it than with a Quest Smoking Mirror Smoked Porter. 

Cheers!


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.


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