Switching gears…

So, the turkeys have been stuffed and pumpkins taken down, now Christmas trees and greenery do abound.  Switching gears is a lot of fun, and this year as the days between the Holidays seem fewer, the Holiday spirit feels bigger.  Then again, after having a delicious leftover sandwich, how can you not feel happy?  This year I changed my favorite sandwich just a tiny bit, but the results have been big flavor!  Usually it is pretty traditional in our kitchen the days after, and that is a good thing…sliced roast turkey and butter lettuce sandwiched between sourdough bread, Duke’s mayo (so sorry if you’re a Hellman’s fan, but in our house it is Duke’s only), cranberry salad, sometimes toasted and sometimes not.  So this year I really stepped out on a limb and I have been making my sandwiches with a chipotle mayonnaise.  It is the perfect kick and bite married with the layer of sweet cranberry salad, you almost don’t even need the turkey, almost.  And speaking of, cranberry salad gets a bad rap sometimes, but maybe that is the canned cranberry people talking.  My mom shared her recipe with me a few years ago for her amazing cranberry salad, and let’s just say our holidays aren’t the same without it.

This picture is cranberries growing, still green…aren’t they beautiful?

If you know my husband and I, you know we are big oyster lovers.  For us Thanksgiving and oysters just go hand in hand.  My mother in law had a change of plans and was unable to come up this year, and along with her not arriving neither did those beautiful clusters of low country oysters.  So, it was a true gift when friends shared some beautiful oysters with us.  Typically when we do oysters we are serving A LOT of them, and we use our big steamer pots.  Instead, since it was just us and a couple of neighbors, we roasted ours on the grill and the results were equally as yummy!  Paired with our hot cocktail sauce, a glass of wine and a roaring fire inside, the day after Thanksgiving sure was tasty too!  And who said change is a bad thing?

Now we will all be switching gears to get ready for December and the next 24 days of crazy!  I know for most of us it will be like a race has started and we are all trying to cross the finish line before the 25th with a little sanity, grace and patience still in tact.  Nothing can challenge your opinion of yourself, or others, quite like waiting in line for a sugar cake, and trying to get in and out of Thruway to do so.  I won’t even mention the Hanes Mall area for those of you who actually attempt that.  Instead treat yourself to sugar cake the old fashioned way from Winkler Bakery.  There will still be a line but for some reason it just doesn’t seem as mentally challenging when you are in Old Salem, maybe it is the simple beauty around you and how time seems to stand still there.  I try to support local businesses throughout the year, and what I now realize about doing this is that it makes me feel much better in a few days, when I am cozily tucked at my house with a hot cup of coffee, no crowds and rude people, as I order away on Cyber Monday.

I’ll close with wishes for a fun December of preparations, great memories of the past few days of Thanksgiving, and best of all great family and friends to share our blessing with.  Enjoy the best of food and life, all year long!

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soul searching…

The cold weather is here, and that Holiday feeling is in the air, just in time for Thanksgiving week.  I hope you enjoy a wonderful Holiday and the abundance of the blessings around us.  Take the time to soak it all in.

I saw an advertisement recently that inspired me to think about why I cook, to really look deep and try understand why and what it is that I love about food and all things about it.  For me it is sometimes simply learning about food cultures across the globe, making a meal at home for friends, shopping at a Farmers market or going to Whole Foods, setting the table and lighting candles, reading a cookbook.  I love what food encompasses.  It made me do a little soul searching, and although my reasons extend far, far beyond words on a page, here are a few of the reasons for my passion.  Enjoy.

“Soul searching”

I cook because I love to.  I cook because, it is who I am. 

For me, cooking is my canvas and ingredients are my paints. 

It is a way I show my love.  It is a way I share my love.

I cook to celebrate, I cook to remember. 

I cook to inspire, and to comfort. 

I cook to create memories, and to cherish memories I have.

I cook…for Holidays, for my business, for family and friends.  I would cook for the whole city if I could.

I cook to nourish, feeding the body, mind, and the soul. 

I cook because I am thankful, for having plenty of food, and plenty of people to share it with.

I cook, for fun, as a relief, as an escape, some might say to fill a void… we all have them. 

I cook to teach, and to learn.

I cook, because that’s just what I do.  I share it, because I want to.

I cook to carry on traditions, and to bring new ones. 

I cook because I am hungry…for food, for life, for love. 

-Julia S. Chandler-

With love and thanks to all my customers, bloggers, family and friends, Happy Thanksgiving!

A dollop of Daisy…

Dollop of Daisy...cover from inside of the sour cream container

Dollop of Daisy…cover from inside of the sour cream container

If you were to call me a broken record, it would very often be true.  I have said it before and I am certain I will say it again, but sometimes joy can be found in the most simple of things.  Tonight for instance, I opened a fresh container of Daisy sour cream, and the foil lid had a picture of Glacier National Park in Montana.  Between the hustle of helping kids do homework and making dinner, it certainly caused me to pause for a second and take a deep breath, remembering times spent out west and the mountains that I love so much.  All of the sudden the baked potatoes in the oven that were the reason for the sour cream turned into a simple reminder to pause and enjoy, to pause and remember.  All because of a simple Monday night dinner of peel & eat shrimp, baked potatoes with garlic butter and sour cream, and steamed broccoli…simply good.

This time of year brings so many reasons for us all to be thankful, and while you don’t need me to tell you that, I think writing about it makes me thankful as well.  I thank you for being interested in my ideas, and food, and giving me the chance to do what I love.  As you go about your days getting ready for the Holidays and guests, enjoy it!  Enjoy it over food and drinks, and with the love of family and friends wrapping around you like a blanket.

Simply enjoy. Simply enjoy life, one dollop at a time.

Our simple Monday night dinner...

Our simple Monday night dinner…

SoHo-Ho-Ho!

Cinnamon Caramel Waffle Stack

Cinnamon Caramel Waffle Stack

Pecans…how do you say it?  “Pea-cans” or “pea-cahns”?  This was a funny topic of discussion this past Saturday during a cooking demonstration I did at Southern Home & Kitchen, affectionately referred to as “SOHO”.

It was a fun, waffle filled morning at, Southern Home & Kitchen , which opened in August at Thruway shopping center.  This cute store is filled with goodies for the kitchen and home, and they installed a small kitchen in the back of the store where they hold demo’s and cooking classes.  (Be sure to check their website and Face Book page for detailed information on this.  I will be doing cooking classes, along with many other great area chefs, beginning January 2014, you are sure to find a class that intrigues you.)

On Saturday, I used Stonewall Kitchen waffle and pancake mixes to create some fun, “foodied” up Holiday entertaining ideas.  True, I start most things from scratch, but when there is a great product that helps you out- go for it, especially at busy times like Holidays!  SoHo sells a lot of Stonewall products, and by far the popular ones that day were the Pumpkin Waffle Mix, Gingerbread Waffle mix, and the Coffee Caramel Sauce.  The waffles alone will fill your house until it smells like a pumpkin or gingerbread cookie for everyone this Thanksgiving or Christmas!  When paired with the infused syrups and butters, the combination can’t be beat.  Not to mention, you will feel like you have whipped up a gourmet breakfast or brunch with ease, yet you won’t be covered in flour, up since 5:00 am cooking, or feel exhausted before the turkey is in the oven.  So, as promised to the many of you who came by, here are some menu’s, recipes and ideas to make breakfast quick, easy, and most importantly yummy, this year!  Enjoy, the best of food and life, one Holiday at a time, or one waffle at a time!

(All of the items below I paired with either Pumpkin or Gingerbread Waffle mixes.  Pancakes are fine too, but the style and ease of the waffle maker is just great.  You could even make a French Toast Casserole and serve with the following, too.)

Infused Syrups:

Begin with the maple syrup of your preference.  I used the Trader Joe’s, 25 ounce bottle for only $16.99.  Measure out about one cup of syrup into a small sauce pan.  Add to it a combination of any of the following: fresh mint, ground cinnamon, fresh raspberries, fresh strawberries, fresh cranberries, Meyer Lemons, fresh whole apples, nutmeg, and orange peel.  Trust me when I say it is hard to stop listing ingredients there, but I am going with what I did this past weekend- let your mind explode with ideas and what you have on hand!

Holiday Cinnamon & Cranberry Syrup– to the syrup and a handful of cranberries, a dash or two of cinnamon.  Bring to a low simmer until the cranberries pop and the aroma is wafting into the house.  Serve over your waffles or pancakes, with the berries, for a yummy sweet syrup that has a tart surprise of cranberry.

Raspberry Mint Infused Syrup– add about 8-10 raspberries into a cup of syrup.  Place a 2 inch sprig of mint (more or less based on how strong you want the mint flavor to be) in the pot, being sure to bruise the mint leaves well with the back of a fork or spoon to release the oils and flavor.  Simmer on low for a bout 5 minutes.  Place a strainer over your serving dish and pour syrup with berries and mint into strainer.  Press on fruit and mint to extract all the flavor, and that pretty pink color, into your syrup.  Discard ingredients in strainer, and serve warm syrup over waffles topped with sliced strawberries and fruits.

Julia’s Better Butters:

Meyer Lemon Zest Butter with Thyme & Honey: Place one stick of softened butter in a small mixing bowl.  (The butter should be easy to mash with a spoon.)  Add to butter 2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only; zest of one Meyer lemon, and 2 teaspoons, more or less, to butter.  Using spoon incorporate ingredients well, then place in serving dish and keep room temperature.

Grapefruit, Cinnamon and Thyme Holiday Butter:  Place one stick of softened butter in a small mixing bowl.  (The butter should be easy to mash with a spoon.) Zest one grapefruit into butter.  Add 2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only; and one teaspoon of ground cinnamon.  Using spoon incorporate ingredients well, then place in serving dish and keep room temperature.

Waffle Toppers:

Apple Caramel with Cinnamon Waffle Topper:  Melt half stick of butter in small shallow saucepan.  Thinly slice half an apple, leaving skin on.  Add to the melted butter, swirl with a dash or two of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add half a jar of Stonewall Kitchen Coffee Caramel Sauce, and stir in until apples are just soft but intact.  Serve over top of Pumpkin Waffles with a dollop of whipped cream!  Another variation on this recipe is to segment a grapefruit ( like the one you just zested for the butter) into the sauce for a delicious addition.

Sweet Thyme Butter with Honeycrisp Apples:  Melt half stick of butter in small shallow saucepan.  Add to butter the leaves of 3-4 sprigs of thyme.  Next, thinly slice half a Honey Crisp apple, leaving skin on.  Sprinkle brown sugar about 1/4 cup, and mix until melted into butter.  Serve over Gingerbread Waffles with whipped cream dollop and fresh grated nutmeg, bon apetit!

Cinnamon Roasted Pecans:  It doesn’t matter how you say it, pea-cans or pea-cahns!

Toss one cup chopped pecans with three tablespoons melted butter in a small bowl.  Add a dash or two of cinnamon and one teaspoon vanilla.  Roast in 375 oven about 15 minutes, until lightly roasted and aroma is strong!  Set aside to cool, then place in serving dish and serve with any of the above recipes, or just as a nibble, too!

Waffle Stackers (pictured at top): 

Prepare your preferred waffle.  Cut into the four triangles.  Place one down on serving plate, then top with thinly sliced strawberries.  Place next triangle on top and spread with Better Butter Recipe.  Place third triangle on top and spread with fruit, heck, go ahead and spread whipped cream in this layer, too!  Top with last triangle, and top with fruits, and then generously pour waffle topping or infused syrup over the top.  Remember, generously drench it, then serve and enjoy!  This is a fun thing for kids or grandkids to make:  simply place cut waffles and toppings in bowls and let guests make their own “Waffle Stack”!

The best thing about everything above is that it sounds fancy and delicious, and looks it, but the preparation and time involved are simple.  So as you think about the Holidays keep these easy ideas in mind, and SOHO-ho-ho your way into some delicious fun and merry yummy ideas!

talkin’ turkey

Turkey & Dumplings...

Turkey & Dumplings…

Tis the season for turkeys!  Ironically, I cook turkey breast all year round, and in fact did so two days ago.  I love having it sliced for sandwiches and lunch boxes, and then you really reap the rewards by using the breast meat and bones to make a hearty stock.  With the stock and meat you can make turkey & dumplin’s, turkey & okra gumbo, how can I stop there with all you can do?  Therefore, I was inspired to share a little gobble with you, if you are so inclined to try doing this at home.  It does take a little time, but it is simple and the smells and flavors are worth it, a perfect Sunday afternoon activity on a chilly day!

So, here is what happened…I went to the Teeter and bought a turkey breast.  A simple 7+ pound turkey breast, not the whole bird.  (You’ll be doing the whole bird soon enough, and this is something I hope you’ll find easy to do throughout the year and not just on Thanksgiving Day.)  Roast according to the package instructions, which took about 2 hours 15 minutes at 325 degrees for my 7.41 pound bird.  Using my hands, I rubbed mine prior to roasting with olive oil, then generously salt and peppered it, nothing else.

Okay, so the house is smelling awesome just over an hour in.  Hard to wait, but don’t peek yet!  Each time you open the oven to look at something you loose valuable heat, which only takes things longer to cook.  Finally, the wait is over and it is time to check the girl.  Often they come with handy dandy pop up timers, and if not, it is always reliable to check with your meat thermometer for 165internal temp in the thickest part of the breast.  After it was done, I let it cool, then covered and put in the fridge overnight.  Okay, I admit, I did rob it of some of that hot crispy skin, but to me that is half the reason for doing it!

The next the morning I sliced the breast meat off the bone, then into thin slices I sealed in a Ziploc for using the next few days.   For simple instructions on how to slice the breast meat, this link from monkey see is an easy to follow guide!  For lunch I made Hot Turkey Melts which were gobbled up (pun intended).  Simple sandwiches on a day off from school: fresh roasted turkey, mayo & mustard, cheese, and we added a sliced or two of salami, then grilled with butter in the pan until toasty—yummmmy.

Awesome—now you have some tender sliced turkey and a gorgeous carcass to go with it!  Throw that bad girl in a stock pot and let the fun begin.  (carcass only, save the already sliced meat for other uses).  To start, cover turkey carcass with water, at least an inch above.  Next, go to your fridge or pantry and use up some things, or feel free to buy just for this purpose.  I added to my stock pot with the turkey:

3 whole carrots, unpeeled and cut into 2 inch pieces

1 whole onion, skin on, quartered

1/3 stalk of celery, leaves included, cut into 2 inch pieces

generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, and any fresh herbs that you may have ( I like to use thyme, parsley and a bay leaf)

1.)  Bring to a good simmer, but not a rolling boil, then continue to let simmer on low for at least one hour, or more.  Remember, all the meat is cooked, you are simply trying to slowly extract all the flavor you can from it.  I simmered mine about a total of 1.5 hours today.  2.)  Taking care not to burn yourself, lift the carcass from the stock pot onto a plate.  Don’t take it straight to the trash can, as that meat from the bone is so tender you won’t believe it, in fact it will likely just fall off.   3.)  Next, carefully pour the remaining stock and vegetables slowly through a strainer resting over a large pot, where your pure stock will be able to cool.  4.)  Discard ingredients in strainer.  5.)  Let stock cool on the counter at least one or two hours.  While stock is cooling, pick the meat off and reserve for using later.  6.)  Once stock has cooled, place in the fridge, uncovered.  The fat will rise to the top, and once it has separated and cooled completely, then you remove the fat with a slotted spoon or skimmer.

What’s left?  A delicious, homemade, low sodium, low fat stock that you can use in many recipes.  I portion mine into quart containers and freeze.  The day I made stock we had delicious Turkey & Dumplings for dinner, pictured at the top.  I have enough for sandwiches again today, and will freeze a small amount for using later in a soup, plus plenty of stock in the freezer too.  And if you don’t want to do this with Thanksgiving just down the road, challenge yourself to a little fun and use the whole leftover bird this Holiday to make stock!  One of our favorite family traditions just after Turkey Day is having gumbo, turkey & okra gumbo with Andouille sausage and crusty bread.  Only a few more weeks to wait!

Enjoy the best of food and life, and homemade goodies like this!

Pot with strainer set over it...

Pot with strainer set over it…

Beautiful pot of stock!

Beautiful pot of stock!