just whistle while you work…

 

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This past Friday Centenary United Methodist Church hosted “Voices of Hope”, an event and a retreat weekend with Glennon Doyle Melton, well known author and blogger of “Momastery”.  I was honored to cater the dinner preceding the event on Friday night, a seated dinner for 100.  One hundred might sound daunting, and at times trust me, it felt like 500 hundred when I was on my own, but it was a very fun day and the dinner flowed smoothly as planned.  Quick timeout—-I can’t say enough how much the work of my wonderful helpers meant, and without them I truly would have felt like an earthworm drying on the sidewalk, thank you.  There is a lot of list making that goes into this, a lot of organizing, a lot of planning.  Down to the time the food goes into the oven to heat for dinner service, to exactly when the bread baskets go out to the table, to when the salads get set out, dressings get poured, the minute the first plate is plated…this is a science on a night like this.  This doesn’t cover a fraction of the job, and I’m not one to seek out sympathy for the ins and outs of a job that I love, we all have our own challenges.  Challenges are good for us, something to work for and to achieve.

In addition to the Friday night event, Saturday morning “me and my blue moose” were flattered to serve the brunch at Schiffman’s for the Junior League of Winton-Salem’s “Tour of Fine Spaces”.  (A small event that ranged in preparation from 200-300…piece of cake!)  So when does one prepare 400 petite ham biscuits for Saturday morning with a Friday night event as well?  Tuesday, of course!  Boy, this week was a S.C.I.E.N.C.E….biscuits and cheese wafers made and frozen Tuesday so they would be ready to bake off first thing Saturday morning, ready to roll.  Let’s put it this way, I am a morning person in every way but Saturday morning came very early, even for me.  The flow of the brunch was fabulous though, well worth the efforts and a joy to contribute to.

Now, all events are over  and the calm after the storm has arrived.  It began as I was served breakfast in bed this morning by my sweet children who wanted me to have the morning off.  They are the gift that keeps on giving.  Their gesture came from the heart and meant more than anything else.  It couldn’t be wrapped, couldn’t be bought.  Pure love from their heart.  They gave to me what they always see me give, and their show of love to me by making breakfast in bed spoke more than words ever could.  They are a breath of fresh air, and for no other reason than them, this week I am slowing it down.  You can bring on another snow storm for all I care…we will be happily watching the gorgeous snow blanket the ground one last time instead of complaining about a nature we can not control.  And if it is a cold rain instead, we will still be thankful.

May you enjoy the satisfaction that hard work brings, in whatever way it might apply to your life.  Enjoy, the best of food and life, now and always.

The pictures below are a glimpse of the fun involved in my week- enjoy the show!  Pictured in order from left to right: lots of lemon chicken marinating; find the “Sunshine” in your life; kitchen helpers Jamie Stacy and Amy Lawson on a “tartlet” assembly line; Kim Dameworth plating salad 21 of 101; beautiful set tables; great helpers; cleaning up; brunch at Schiffman’s; the fruit plate portion of my breakfast in bed.

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easy peasy, pork chop cheesy!

Ok, so I need to plan these recipes a little better.  I have no pictures to share with you of this easy and yummy dinner, none.  Not the process, not a picture of it while it’s cooking, or the end result of an easy weeknight meal.  Can you believe I thought I was too organized earlier this week?  But never the less, this recipe is easy enough that you don’t need pictures.  Just like a good old Junior League cookbook recipe, take a leap of blind faith and with a tried and true recipe my family has enjoyed for years.

Like your day I hope, yesterday was a typically good day.  The kind of day that ends with a smile on my face, although my back hurt and my feet ached from standing entirely too long all day.  As usual I was asleep on the couch before 10:00 pm, despite my intentions of watching the NC State basketball play in’s (BTW, go wolfpack!).  Oh well.  This isn’t my typical week though, but that is a post for another time.  A post that I am taking pictures of along the way to share with you the in’s and out’s of preparing for two fun filled days of catering for hundreds.

Days in the kitchen are always two things: 1. fun and 2. physically tiring.  So last night after taking a much needed shower, it was time to think about feeding my family dinner.  Wait…did I mention that the kids were out of school yesterday because of winter weather?   Talk about a kink in the plans, I went to bed the night before thinking there was a two hour school delay.  Delay, no problem, but I awoke to a phone call that school had been cancelled, as in no school at all.  Let me take this time to repeat the paragraph above, this isn’t my typical week, food for hundreds and school is out!!??  REALLY?   Thanks to having some wonderful family in town and a husband who graciously helped out,  I was able to accomplish all I had planned to do at work.  I left feeling even better than I would have if it had been a normal day.  Just goes to show, sometimes we just have to go with the punches, since we just can’t control the things that happen around us.

So, fast forward to when I got home, didn’t shower until 5pm and got dressed to find hungry kids waiting.  I had to do something for dinner, but I had nothing planned.  Terrible, isn’t it?  Sometimes I am so busy cooking for the rest of the world that cooking a meal at home seems so much harder!?!  How can that be?  Drudgery set in as I opened the fridge door.  I simply didn’t want to wash one more dish.   I am relieved to say that after a brief inventory of available options, I was able to prepare a quick and easy family favorite, Pan Fried Parmesan Pork Chops.  This is a similar base to my popular oven crispy chicken, so if you enjoyed that give this a try.  I served the plates in about 30 minutes from start to finish, and I knew I wanted to share it with you in case you need a home cooked meal that is quick to fix, and one every one will enjoy be it two, four, or ten guests at your table.  Served with Israeli cous cous, Naan bread, and steamed asparagus, this meal was just what the doctor ordered.  I literally only had two pans to clean…I could handle that.  The asparagus was leftover and just had to be reheated, can I get an hallelujah to that?  Success.  Sweet success, job (s) done, time to go put my feet up.

I hope you enjoy it, too.  The best of food and life can be found all around us, no matter how tired we are, how much things don’t happen according to our plans, as long as we are willing to look for the best in the situation.

Pan Fried Parmesan Pork Chops

one package thin cut pork chops, can be thin cut with bone in or boneless.  (You’ll want at least 6 thin chops to serve 2 adults and 2 children, without leftovers.)

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1-2 to 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

oil for sauté pan

Directions:

  • In two plastic grocery bags, measure out the flour, parmesan and salt and pepper.    (Feel free to adjust the seasoning here to your liking, you could add herbs, Garlic salt, Cajun seasonings, get creative!) 
  • Add oil to a skillet, enough to coat the bottom very generously with a little left over coming up the sides, about 1/8 inch. 
  • Turn heat up to just over medium high and get pan hot, then begin adding chops one at a time straight from the bag.  (you might have to do chops in two batches) 
  • As soon as you can see that the chops are nicely browned on the bottom, flip it over. 
  • The key is to have your pan hot enough that it sizzles as soon as the pork hits it, and don’t flip your meat more than once- you want golden crispy on each side!  With the thin chops, once it is golden brown on each side it should be cooked through.  IF you are using bone in, you will want to cook your pork a little bit longer.
  • Quick and easy, throw the bag away and just wash the skillet
  • Enjoy, you deserve it!   

“Seeing green”… Grandma’s Family Reunion Punch

Saint Patrick’s Day is Monday and a lot of people are seeing green.  In our house we enjoy a slow simmered corned beef brisket and potatoes, after a morning of leprechaun traps and searching for rainbows by the wee ones.  Leprechauns are messy, but I do hope one day we find them with a pot o’ gold.

I think it’s interesting how so many people without Irish heritage celebrate this green holiday, don’t you?  I am not into the green beer type of thing, nor Irish Whiskey for that matter, but it made me wonder what Irish Whiskey really is.  Last week a friend brought me a bottle of rye whiskey as a gift, and then it really had my wheels turning and caused me to really look into the science behind whiskey.   Here is what I learned.

In a nutshell, whiskey is any booze distilled from fermented grain mash and must be 40% alcohol by volume. The differences in whiskey relies on the type of grain used.  For example, Scotch is whiskey made from malted barley and bourbon is whiskey at least 51% corn.  Things go much deeper than this, and where the whiskey is made has a lot to do with it as well, such as Tennessee Whiskey and the aforementioned Irish Whiskey. For those of you interested you can click here to go to a website that will give you much more information, but for now that is about as scientific as I’ll get on this post.

If you’re like me, it is always nice to have what we call “kid friendly” drinks for fun days like this.  Mom and dad can have their adult beverages, and the kids have fun as well!  So today I am sharing with you a green recipe that is truly so delicious I’ll have it, too.  It has been something we have made in our family for generations, particularly at Holidays and family reunions, basically anytime where young and old have gathered to celebrate over food and family.  I simply call it “Grandma’s Family Reunion Punch”, and I hope it might inspire you this St. Patrick’s Day, or any other time as well.

In closing, as the Irish say:” For each petal on the shamrock this brings a wish your way, of good health, good luck and happiness, for today and every day.”

Grandma’s Family Reunion Green Punch

2 packets lime kool aid

2 cups sugar

2 quarts water

1 quart container lime sherbert or pineapple sherbert

1 liter ginger ale

Dissolve kool aid, sugar and water in large container.  Add the ginger ale and sherbert just before serving, stirring in.  Serve and enjoy!

a long shot…

saveur 2

Have you ever felt like the under dog?  Even if you know you have a good thing going, sometimes this is just natural.  Kind of like feeling like a small fish in a big pond.  The funny thing is, even the big fish start out small, and sometimes what sets us apart is a determined spirit and attitude.  Thomas Edison embraced this “never quit” spirit very well.  Did you know he tried over 1,000 times before inventing the light bulb?  When asked about it by a reporter he replied “I didn’t fail 1,000 times.  The light bulb was a 1,000 step process.”  That is genius.

One of my favorite cooking magazines is called Saveur.  I pour over each new issue more than any other culinary subscription I receive.  It is about food, and life, all of it together.  Sound familiar?   It is inspiring to me in every way, from the recipes, to the stories about the life, countries and people that accompany them.  It is also the reason I feel like a small fry in a big fryer today.  I received notification they want to hear about favorite food blogs.  Of course, I started my wheels turning…Should I nominate myself?  Should I ask my readers to nominate me?  I mean, let’s get real, these other food bloggers are the big dogs with thousands of followers, blogs posted frequently, most of them have sponsors.  Then there’s mine…local, occasional, and clearly not a “trend” or even sponsored.  Then I wonder, do the others have as much heart in the matter?  Many might, but for some I know it’s just a job.  To me it is my meaning.  And like I said, even the big fish start out small, so why not go for it?  It will be a long shot, but as the saying goes…It isn’t about the destination but the journey.  If you’d like to participate, go to Saveur for more details, or click on this link to take you there.  A long shot for sure, but if everyone who reads this votes, shares it, believes it, who knows- that’s how big things can happen!

And in the meantime, enjoy these last days of winter the best you can.  Only a few days will be left of cold days and freezing nights, which I know makes almost everyone happy as they welcome spring.  Make a nice soup to warm your soul, if you need some inspiration check out my recipe below for “Southern White Bean Soup with Sausage & Greens”

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”
~ Confucius

Southern White Bean Soup with Sausage and Greens

Serves a crowd, or can be halved!

 Ingredients:

 2-pounds ground pork sausage- (Neese’s is a great choice)

1-finely diced onion

3-4 finely diced celery stalks

4-finely diced carrots

2-3 cloves minced garlic

1 cup, more as needed, all purpose flour

6-8 cup chicken broths- low sodium best- homemade is better!!!

3 cups diced tomatoes with juice

4-6 cups canned cannellini beans, drained

1 bunch kale, chopped & stems removed

1 bunch fresh spinach

1 bunch collard greens, chopped and stems removed

Salt & Pepper

 ***use the freshest, best greens you can find, a local Farmers market is a great resource!

Directions:

Brown sausage until cooked through, drain a little if needed but keep most of the fat and add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic to cook in it about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour, use enough flour to coat veggies, but don’t make too thick of a paste, stir about 30 seconds.  Stirring constantly, add stock over medium high heat.  Once desired thickness is reached, then add beans.  Stir in tomatoes with juice.  Add water/stock as needed to get right consistency.  Then add in greens and cook until tender, at least 30 minutes.  Season with salt & pepper, simmer a little longer, then enjoy.  Delicious served with garlic crostini’s.

in the blink of an eye…

friend bowl

In the blink of an eye a lifetime of change can occur.  Children grow up, people we love die, friends move, life happens.  Where does the time go?  One day you’re changing diapers and then you’re looking at colleges.  In the blink of an eye I have gone from 20 to 40, and it feels like it happened overnight.  However, it looks like it took all those twenty years as the gray hairs start to emerge.  Regardless, what a beautiful thing it is.  As I write this today I relish the memories, love the moments, and anticipate the future.  I know I sound like a broken record sometimes, so accept my apology and listen once again.

One of the greatest gifts in my life has been the gift of true friends.  It can’t be bought, it can’t be forced, it just happens.  A piece of the puzzle that just fits together.  Of all the gifts I have ever given, my only hope is that a listening ear is among the best of them.  As I sat with friends last night over dinner after a long day, the love and calm it brings to my life makes me catch my breath.  Moments in time, moments that turn into a lifetime.  Every now and then moments in life happen, reminders put there to stop and enjoy it as each day goes by.  Reminders to enjoy it, as we never know when it is our last.  A reminder that life can change in the blink of an eye.

So enjoy the best of food and life, hug the ones you love, and cherish today.  Wrap your arms around your family and sit down together a few times during the busy week ahead, it does wonders for the soul.