Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas and Fruitcakes

I just had to share this article that was reprinted in my newspaper this morning, about fruitcake traditions.  Click here to read Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory.

Our family ate a lot of fruitcake.  In the 60's my mom made homemade fruitcake, generously dosed with bourbon.  My husband's mother did the same.  We actually loved it.  The fruitcake finally morphed into fruitcake cookies, also wonderful.  When Larry and I were stationed in Iceland with the Navy, a family friend sent us a tin of fruitcake cookies heavily laced with bourbon.  We joked that we were surprised Customs let it through, it smelled so strongly of the liquor!

Homemade fruitcake sadly gave way to the infamous Claxton Fruitcake.  My parents were members of Civitan and that was the fundraiser for years.  I dutifully ate some of the little squares, then finally refused, they were so flavorless
(I imagine it was the lack of being soaked in 'spirits').  My mom had the final Claxton fruitcake in the back of her fridge for years.  When she sold her house and moved to be near me, we had to pry it off the fridge shelf, where it had glued itself.  I don't think she wanted to throw it away!

I have not eaten fruitcake in years, but I guarantee I would enthusiastically eat a slice of either my mom's or Momma Mable's creations.  I think fruitcake became a big joke when it stopped being steeped in a wine or liquor dampened towel from Thanksgiving til Christmas Day.  Mmmmmmmmmmm.................

Happy Holidays to all and maybe you will find a fruitcake in a gift basket this year! hehehe.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Jenni Speaks

My daughter is a good cook.  She gives me lots of ideas and has gotten me to move away from recipes and 'wing it'.  She sent me an email about her weekend cooking along with a photo and I wanted to share.

See this lovely cinnamon toast snack I have here? Would you believe I made that bread from scratch using nothing but my own two hands and a wooden spoon?? Must say, making homemade bread is pretty satisfying! I made my first batch this weekend from the starter that Kat gave me. It's not perfect by any means, but it is edible and even pretty tasty so I'm darn proud of my efforts :-) Did not get much rise, I'm blaming the cold for that, but the texture is still pretty decent. It's a full 24 hour process, and a little messy, but not that much work overall surprisingly.  (Nan speaks:  I am really looking forward to tasting this bread she is now baking.....hint, hint, hint)

Also had one more kitchen success this weekend that I have to share because it was easy and amazing - baked coconut shrimp! Really simple, don't even need a recipe really - take the peeled, deveined shrimp (we also took the tails off, although I know it's prettier presentation with them on). Coat them in flour, then egg, then a mixture of panko breadcrumbs and shredded coconut seasoned with S&P. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray and bake at 400 for 10 minutes (I ended up flipping mine and giving them an extra minute at the very end).

 For dipping sauce I used a mango coconut sauce from HT (its basically mango puree with chilis and coconut) thinned out with a touch of rice vinegar and soy sauce. Seriously, amazing, came out nice and light and crispy -and the leftovers were good, too. Next time will chop up the coconut shreds a bit since they were a little large, but beyond that wouldn't change a thing!
Nan again:  (I found a photo from a similar recipe on  This recipe is so going in my recipe queue.  I have some lovely Mexican Wild Blue shrimp from Trader Joes'....they are from Gulf of Mexico of course, so have that sweet pop in your mouth).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tomatoes, again

I wanted to share with you a way to have yummy tomato-based meals all week, almost work-free.  I found this in a Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine.  Here is the link if you want to print it off.

I opened two large cans of whole tomatoes, dumped them into an oiled roasting pan.  I pulled the tomatoes apart with my hands, discarding the hard stem ends.  Stirred in some jarred mince garlic and drizzled some olive oil and stirred.  Then I roasted it for an hour or a little more at 400.  Next time I will probably go down to 375, because the tomatoes did begin to burn on some of the edges.

Now let this mix cool and you can refrigerate it for up to a week.

So far I have stirred it into canned soup, and made a tuna marinara sauce for pasta.  The tuna dish is wonderful for this winter.  I made it for lunch today.  Simply opened a can of tuna in olive oil and dumped it in a pan, added some spoonfuls of roasted tomatoes, thinned it down with water, and simmered it until my pasta was done.  I topped the dish with just some panko crumbs straight from the package.  This was really, really good.  I think I am going to keep roasted canned tomatoes in the fridge this winter.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It is all in the simmering

Now that summer tomatoes are gone, I am once again faced with canned tomatoes.  No more BLT's and lovely sliced tomato plates.  Just stews and soups and pasta sauces.

If you notice, most of the recipes that call for canned tomatoes include the words....sautee onions, garlic, green pepper, add canned tomatoes, heat for 10 minutes.  Quick.  Tasteless.

I have become a fan of the Hallmark Network Show, Mad Cooking with Lucinda.  She is personable and her food is based on the basics.  And she simmers her sauces.  Not for ten minutes, but for at least thirty.  So I tried it. 

I made a fish stew yesterday.  I chopped my onions and green pepper and started them in some hot oil in my ceramic glazed cast iron dutch oven.  Tossed in some minced garlic from a jar.  When it began to caramelize, I opened two cans of tomatoes (in the pantry I had one can "stewed" and one can diced with garlic and olive oil.)  I lowered the heat to simmer and went to my computer to make some scrapbook pages.  I did also toss in some fresh cilantro.

Much later I added some water and some chunks of flounder.  Trader Joe's had a package of flounder chunks, designed for tacos.  Poured a glass of wine and relaxed from my scrapbooking frenzy (I made 14 pages yesterday for a Christmas gift project....whew). 

Just before serving, I stirred in some red wine vinegar.  I threw a handful of chopped cilantro on top of each serving and then squirted some squeeze-bottle lime juice (the best money-saver around) over it all.

Restaurant quality, thank you very much.

(If you want to add some shrimp or other shellfish....remember to do it at the end so it does not overcook...)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gourmet College Football Weekend?

Now that is surely an oxymoron, I always thought.  Auburn games have generally been at night, so we would leave Charlotte early morning and drive straight through, stopping at the grocery on the edge of Auburn to get a contribution for a tailgate we might have been invited to.  I felt I was lucky to get a decent meal the whole weekend, much less a healthy one.

Well, that changed this year.  Auburn vs Arkansas was a midday game. My lovely SIL's niece works at the local Golf Club and got us the apartment over the golf school.  We drove down Friday and stayed at the apartment two nights.  Gourmet dining room on the property.  My oh my.  Good food, good friends, and we won the game.

Along comes Auburn vs Georgia, another afternoon game.  Miracle of miracles, Larry got a room at a Holiday Inn Express in Auburn.  We drove down Friday, checked in, and drove into Opelika's historic district for a dinner at Cafe 123.  Oh my.  I don't think a restaurant in Charlotte or Atlanta could beat that meal.  And the service was begging for a glass of water or refill!  We went back Saturday after the game and it was just as good.  According to the server, the chef never went to culinary school, he just knows how to cook.  A tiny little storefront on historic Opelika's main street.  Heaven.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The calendar may say Oct 12, but Jenni's garden thinks it is July 12.  Go figure.

October tomatoes

I was in her garden last Friday and can attest to the lushness.  I can also tell you that all her bell peppers smelled wonderful.  The air was perfumed with that spicy scent that you lose in the grocery aisle.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Angel Food Cake

Remember angel food cake, before supermarkets stocked it in those awful cellophane packages? I now tend to think of it as the tasteless cardboard we ate back when everybody got scared of the cholesterol in egg yolks in real cakes. However, I had some real angel food cake this past week and oh my...........

I got to tour Johnston and Wales University cooking school this week (another post is coming about that). Afterwards we ate at the student cafeteria, run by Compass Group. The food was basic college food, wraps, taco bar, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, all made fresh and delicious.

Then there was the dessert station...........I spotted the slices of angel food cake and would have skipped it, but it had a citrus syrup on the bottom. Oh my, oh my.....I remembered just how good homemade angel food cake was in my youth. I'll never consider actually making it, but it was so nice to remember why it was called Angel...........Food.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Not a typo....this is not Mac and Cheese.  It is Mac and Squash (or pumpkin, or sweet potato).  What do the three veg's have in common....they are all orange; what color is cheddar  Get my drift?

I found this recipe in the Charlotte Observer and just had to try it.  It looked very questionable in print.  And I was absolutely not going to buy a pumpkin or a butternut squash and puree it.  Then, I found this on the grocery shelf.

This version of mac and cheese is seriously good.  It is also a good way to hide your vegetables.  I don't actually like butternut squash, but adore this.  I garnished mine with fresh basil.  I also used whole grain macaroni. I did not mix the prosciutto into the dish, but used it as a topping.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I'll admit to not particularly liking breakfast.  I don't like breakfast foods so much.  I was happy travelling in Europe because their breakfast consists of rolls, ham, cheese, smoked salmon....that sort of thing.  My husband usually found the sausage and eggs, while I sat down with the salmon.  A mixed marriage. 

The big advantage of that sort of breakfast while travelling, is that you could take the bread, cheese, and ham and make sandwiches, wrap them in napkins, put them in your purse and have lunch under a nice shade tree beside a castle or on a park bench in the city.

So I digress.  The point of this blog post is to send you to this article; scroll down the page, enjoying the lovely scrapbook page layouts as you go.  Ro really lays it on the line about breakfast, and I agree with her...once I started making myself eat breakfast I found I actually woke up hungry and had a better day.  I go to yoga classes three mornings a week and if I don't eat first, I start shaking halfway through the class.

So find a breakfast you enjoy and eat it!!!  (mine is usually grapenuts, granola, sliced almonds, frozen blueberries, almond milk, french vanilla flavored CoffeeMate.  Yum.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Somebody Likes Chick-Fil-A

My daughter just sent me this pics of her cat:

Wonder if she got one of those nuggets?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Her Garden is Still Growing

My daughter's garden is finally in high performance.  She sent me these photos this morning and I wanted to share.  Two weeks ago she brought me a nice sampling and I can attest that they grow gorgeous, yummy veggies!

Oh, for some of her grape tomatoes....hers actually have taste.  (Remember when these tomatoes first appeared in the supermarkets, they were actually sweet......mass production ruins everything)

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Yes, I am talking about bacon again. Best food in the world! I love salt and I love crunch, so what is not to love?

My daughter found this lovely photo of bacon. It has to have been Photoshopped, it is so perfect. Enjoy the photo and if you click on the picture, it will take you to an interesting bacon story.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Chicken Salad

I am not generally a fan of chicken salad; I won't order it on a menu. I don't even much like my own homemade version. A couple of years ago I discovered Harris Teeter's salad bar had some I liked, so when I get hungry for it, that is what I buy.

A few years ago I was at a sandwich/salad restaurant that was advertising chicken salad with walnuts and grapes and I forgot my rule and ordered it. My portion had 1/2 of a grape and one walnut. I complained and they looked at me like, "so?"

What is the point of this blog post? I have discovered another source of delicious chicken salad. Quite by accident, I must add. I was shopping in Trader Joe's and about to finish up and noticed a woman drinking a little cup of coffee...Trader's has free coffee of the day and a sample of the day in the back. I usually don't stop. Well, I needed caffeine, so I walked back to the counter. I asked what they were sampling and was told 'chicken salad'.

Well, I was hungry. And the portion was small. So I picked up a sample and WOW! I still don't know how much the carton cost; I just grabbed it.

I checked the ingredients, and they are unusual. There is celery, onion, parsley, cider vinegar, white vinegar, lemon juice. Also, there is toasted almonds, honey, and apple juice. And the best ingredient, that I would never have thought of using: currants.

I'm still not going to order chicken salad at a restaurant, but you'd better believe the TJ's chicken salad is going on my regular shopping list!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Egg Salad Wow

I am not  a fan of egg salad sandwiches.  And neither was the creator of the delicious one at the left.  But my neighbor found this recipe and told me about it.  He was so enthusiastic, I thought I'd give it a try.  I followed the egg cooking directions exactly, down to the second on the timing.  I did depart from the recipe on add-ins.  I only added chives this time.
You have to click on this sandwich and read the story it and then try it yourself.  You will thank me, and I will then thank my neighbor for finding it.

The recipe was posted in 2007; aren't we glad the internet can search so well?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Signs of Fall or Extreme Heat?

The other morning I found these on my driveway.....

I looked up and saw this....

and this......

We have had plenty of rain, but our heat has hovered near 100 degrees for weeks. 
Are we going to have an early Color Show this year???

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Iceberg Goes Uptown

Remember when the only lettuce available for salads at home was iceberg? Then romaine, microgreens, baby lettuce, etc stormed the market and iceberg sat somewhere in the produce section, lonely and overlooked.
Steak houses, looking for something "new", brought out "the wedge".....a huge plate of calories.  A wedge of iceberg covered with blue cheese dressing, bacon bits, diced tomatoes.....a meal in itself.
Frankly, a wedge is too hard to eat.  But I did not want to go back to the chopped up iceberg presentation of my childhood and early marriage. 
Enter my "best friend"...the mandoline.  I love the lettuce at Subway...and you know how it gets that way...shredded.  So I decided to shred my head of iceberg.  It makes it a lot easier to eat, although I do miss the "crunch" that iceberg is famous for.
So whether or not this salad is as good as chopped iceberg or a "wedge", it surely is fancy.  It would be easier to eat on a taco, too.
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not Red

This is a BLT....what is different about it?

Not red, you say?  Well, that is correct.

Made with yellow plum tomatoes.  Tastes pretty much the same, maybe not quite as "acidy".

I still think red is prettier

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Two Best Friends

These are my two best friends in the kitchen this summer.......

My mandoline


My microwave bacon cooker.

The mandoline slices the most beautiful veggies. It makes eating fresh onions, peppers, and all that so much easier.

The bacon cooker cooks the bacon nice and flat and crispy. I do not use paper towels while cooking....I put a microwave food cover on while it cooks and then blot up the grease from the bacon strips.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gorgeous and Useful


I just simply have to brag. This inset bookcase was installed by my son and the decorative painting done by his wife. They put it in the upstairs hallway just outside of Harrison's room. I can't wait to see it in person.

He swears it just took a day to make.  Of course he did a lot of studying of the situation and figuring it out in advance, just like his Dad.   To make it easier they bought a ready-made bookcase.  Sounds like a great idea to me!!!

I'll have to remember this idea for his Dad to do when we get our retirement home in Georgia!Posted by Picasa

Note:  I just got an email from Lindsay and she says she did not paint it, she bought removable ( vinyl sticker type) from the wall decor department at Kohl's. They can also be found at various places online.

Leftovers Taking Over

Last night I realized my kitchen cabinet had no more fridge containers......they were all full of dribs and drabs of fresh veggies in the refrigerator.  Uh Oh...

Fast forward to lunchtime today, following a trip to the farmer's market.  I really could not justify digging into the fresh purchases while the bits and pieces from last weeks trip languished, just about ready for the rubbish bin.

So....I got out all those containers and dumped the contents on the cutting board and started chopping.

Then I softened a big tortilla wrapper in the microwave, cooked some bacon, dumped on some Ranch dressing and piled up the goodies.
Wrap and Roll!
I did serve one item from the market trip.....

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Glammed Up Egg and Toast

Toast and egg is a basic, simple breakfast. And if you don't actually like eggs first thing in the morning, impossible to eat.

The photo on the right looks like weird shaped waffles, right? Wrong. It is (artisinal) bread, dipped in a mixture of egg and milk and cooked in a waffle iron. Ha.

Healthier than waffles, because those two slices of bread are coated in one whole egg. Healthier than french toast, because no oil or butter was used to fry the toast. And even the syrup (added after the photo was taken) is a small amount because I bought the new Log Cabin with cane sugar and it is thick enough to not glug all over your plate.

The blueberries and peaches take it up another notch, of course.

So, get out your bread of choice, whisk up an egg with milk (and flavored coffee creamer), preheat your waffle iron, soak the bread in the egg mixture and cook it on the hot iron. Voila!
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Saturday, August 07, 2010

watering can_JPEG

The water falling from the watering can was scanned from a magazine page and I created this page around it. Just because I wanted to.....

And, yes, this should be on my other blog; but the default from picasa came here.  So all you foodies, enjoy the scrapping!

If you click on the photo, it will take you to my web album.  Click on it again and it will enlarge.

Polenta is the cornmeal mush of the new Millenium...

I tried "polenta" when I first started seeing it appear in the recipe/menu section of magazines.....bought one of those "chub" packages in the produce section, sliced it, fried it, and tossed it into the garbag.  Ick. 

I continued to see it mentioned in magazines, online, and on local restaurant menus.  Avoided it like the plague. 

An article appeared recently that suggested polenta in place of pasta and rice, using either a box of instant polenta or adding water to the stuff in the chub pack.  Surely there is a bag called 'polenta' in the supermarket for me to cook.  Nope.
So I come home and google "polenta"....guess what it is?  Good old fashioned southern cornmeal mush!  Now I can cook that.   I headed to my pantry and got out my bag of cornmeal and went to work.

I served it with roasted zucchini and tomatoes and it was absolutely delicious.  I actually liked it better than rice or pasta with this particular vegetable mixture.
The zucchini and tomato part is here.  I did not have a garlic bulb this time, so I just tossed some jarred garlic into the roasted vegetables when I put them into the skillet to heat with some water and 2 T tomato paste (for richness).

To make the polenta, or cornmeal mush:

For 4 servings:

Whisk together 1 cup cornmeal with 1 cup water.  Bring 2 cups salted water to a boil.  Stir in the cornmeal mixture and simmer, stirring, until it tastes done.  The recipe said to stir til thick, but mine thickened up immediately, so I kept tasting it til it tasted cooked, not like raw starch.  Stir in butter and add more salt to taste.  Ta da!!!

"polenta"                                                                            "cornmeal mush"

The above photos are free from and I searched 'polenta' for one photo and 'cornmeal mush' for the other.  Admit that polenta sounds much more elegant.

And before you comment that, of course, polenta is simply cornmeal mush...everybody knows that,  I want to defend myself.   I knew that polenta was just cooked cornmeal, I just figured I had to buy cornmeal ground specifically for polenta.....I mean, polenta just sounds so exotic compared to cornmeal mush....

And, please tell me why anybody would opt for mixing water into the chub to get their cornmeal mush, when all it takes is cornmeal and water + butter and 20 minutes of your time???????

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Good news that the Gulf oil spill seems to be ending. 

The news constantly talks about oil on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and people have cancelled vacations to go elsewhere.  Yes, many beaches do have oil globs on them, but not all. 

Here is a photo of the beach that I took 2 weeks ago in Panama City, Florida.  Not retouched.

Also, our local seafood market was keeping the displays full and the fish and shellfish was delicious.

I know school is reconvening and vacations are over, but I wanted people to know that not ALL of the Gulf beaches were ruined......................

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Watermelon musings

I finally made it to the farmer's market today and got a wedge of fresh watermelon.  It was so sweet!  Everytime I eat fresh watermelon I think about my mom.  She did not really like watermelon; she would eat a few bites of her slice's "heart" and push it aside.  She grew up with a watermelon patch and the kids would cut open a watermelon out in the field and eat the "heart" and move on.  At least she did.  Her brothers might have finished them off, being boys with appetites and all.

My Dad grew up on a farm, not sure if they grew watermelons;  he put salt on his.  I always thought that odd, too, but I now put pepper on mine!!!  And sometimes salt.

I am into digiscrapping now and was inspired to make this page:

And, yes, I know you cannot read the journaling on the page, that is why I told you the story!! 
Also, I made the elements on the pages....wheee!  I use freebie clip art and then turn them into embellishments in PS2.  It took me weeks to learn to do this. I use MemoryMixer to make my digipages.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Stack Happy

Yum....look at this salad.  We had our neighbors over to dinner Friday night and she asked to bring something, so I suggested a salad.  Assuming some chopped up romaine.  The doorbell rings and in they come with the most gorgeous stacked salad...beefsteak tomatoes, red onions, fresh mozarella, fresh feta (a lovely surprise), fresh basil.  All resting on  green leaf lettuce and dressed with  balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  I could have just had this salad for dinner and skipped the dishes I made.

For the record, I served whole wheat ravioli topped with a roasted zucchini/tomato sauce, margharita puff pastry pizza squares and homemade frozen peach yogurt.  As to the yogurt, I preferred the mango version I made earlier in the week.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Asian Lunch Buffet?

Nope, not even close. These are lovely, deep-fried (thanks to my FryDaddy) asian chicken dumplings from Trader Joe's. Who loves the deep fried goodies at asian buffets? Me, me, me. These are even better.

The slaw is simply shredded cabbage, carrot, and green pepper, drizzled with an asian dipping sauce. I only had 7 dumplings for the two of us and the slaw s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d them into a meal.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

No Fuss Frozen Yogurt at Home

(Photo off of yahoo)
I have just discovered the most amazing, almost instant, homemade frozen treat.  The idea appeared in our newspaper yesterday and I tried it immediately.  I did no measuring so let me tell you the process.

Open  a bag of frozen fruit (I had mango) and put a portion (or the whole shebang) into a blender
Add a bit of sugar (to taste...the recipe calls for 1/2 cup per pound of fruit) and blend it to a puree

Add some yogurt (I used vanilla greek...the recipe calls for equal parts yogurt and sugar, but you choose)

You can also add a dash of lemon juice to wake it up but I did not.  Mine did darken a bit.
Whirl that food processor and the creamiest, most luscious frozen treat emerges.  You don't need a trip to the local ice cream parlor when you can do this so easily.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Banner size

I know the banner size is not right.  But my old banner clashed with all the Shabby Blogs backgrounds.  And until I learn, someday, how to make the right sized banner they are going to be scrapbook pages.  Shabby does have banners, but I could not make them work, either.  And its the blog content that counts, right???

And if Cutest Blog on the Block gets its act together I'll go back and download the old background.  Like I said, it got removed, and not by me!!

Blog background

Yes, I have a boring background.  No, it does not go with the banner.  For some reason The Cutest Blog on the Block removed my background.  And I could not load another from the site.  So I went to Shabby Blogs and chose a neutral one until I can do some designing. 


Just got back from spending a week at our beach house in Panama City, FL with my son, DIL, and the three grandsons.  And they are surely grand........

We ate shrimp, crab, and fish, played minigolf, dug holes in the sand.............

Lindsay got plenty of Alaskan crab legs, her fav.  I made killer fish tacos that everybody liked.  We got our annual "fix" of Cap'n Dusty's fried soft shell crab po-boy.  The final night I got a fried shrimp po-boy at Hurricane Oyster Bar in Grayton Beach and it sure runs a close second to that crab one.  Unfortunately Margaritaville changed how they make their fish tacos without changing the menu description.....not getting those again....gloppy, gloppy, gloppy.....they used to top them with fresh mango cabbage slaw, this time it was guacamole of some sort.  I was digging soggy chips out of the nachos to scoop the guac up and eating the fish as separately as possible.

Jenni's Garden

My daughter sent me more pics of her garden. I am so jealous I trek to HT for my zucchini......



Posted by PicasaBonus.......look at the vegetable bin in the fridge!!!!!!!!!!