November 20, 2012 § 2 Comments
“Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.” – Estonian Proverb
With my wonderful mother-in-law and both girls in tow, I braved the grocery store this afternoon for “the big shop” – the annual gathering of all my essential items for the perfect Thanksgiving meal. I love this holiday: time spent relaxing with treasured family and friends, the football games, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and, of course, THE FOOD. I’ve got our family’s perfect southern meal down to a science, with a number of recipes that are must-haves – I’m not even sure my brother would show up without my Grammy’s corn bread stuffing or our dad’s green beans (which, like all his great recipes, includes a can of beer). Even my addition of marbled mashed potatoes in recent years has quickly become a staple. I’m sure most people are like me and have tons of traditional family recipes they can’t live without but, if you find yourself searching for something new, look no further. These favorites of mine cannot be beat and are another little thing in my life that I’m so thankful for!
Sweet Cornbread Stuffing
4 boxes of cornbread mix, prepared and cubed (MUST be Jiffy brand)
3/4 cup butter
2-3 cups chopped celery (including leaves)
1 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste
poultry seasoning to taste
dark meat turkey and broth
Make cornbread ahead of time and cut into cubes. (I make it the night before and let it sit out overnight to dry out.) Heat butter on the stove. Add celery, onion, salt and pepper to taste and cook until softened. Stir in the cubed cornbread and add poultry seasoning and more salt and pepper to taste. In true southern-girl style, I boil up some turkey parts (neck, thighs, etc.) with butter and lots of salt and pepper the night before and add a bit of this along with some of the turkey broth to moisten. I save the rest for the gravy the next day. In our family, we always cook our stuffing in the bird, but this still tastes great baked in the oven on 350 degrees for 30 minutes in a casserole dish.
Dad’s Green Beans
fresh green beans, ends broken off (as many as will fill a large stockpot)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1 thick slice ham steak cut into pieces
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can beer (I sometimes use wine)
2 tablespoons butter
Combine all ingredients in pot with a few inches of liquid in the bottom. Cook on low heat covered for at least 4-5 hours. Let it cook down slowly overtime – beans will reduce by at least half. Stir carefully to not break up the beans too much. Lid can be removed toward the end to boil off excess liquid. Additional salt and pepper can be added to taste.
Marbled Potatoes (from “True Grits” by the Junior League of Atlanta)
1 pound red potatoes (I substitute russet potatoes)
1 pound sweet potatoes (I use canned)
2 large scallions, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped
nutmeg to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper (may want more)
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Cook the regular and sweet potatoes separately and mash in separate bowls (no need to cook canned sweet potatoes). Saute the scallions in 1/4 cup butter in a skillet until tender. Stir half the scallions into each bowl of potatoes. Whisk the sour cream with the whipped cream in a bowl. Fold half gently into each bowl of potatoes. Add half the nutmeg, salt and pepper to each bowl. Layer the potatoes 1/2 at a time in a greased 1-quart dish. Swirl with a knife to marbleize. Sprinkle with a mixture of the bread crumbs, melted butter and parsley. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.
August 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
I have no idea how I made it through the first 35+ years of my life without guacamole but now, honestly, I can’t imagine my world without it. I’m not sure if I’d never really tried it, or perhaps just hadn’t tried it enough – but when it’s done right (and several of our close friends can get it really right!), homemade guac is a perfect creation. Our weekly taco nights with friends over the last couple of years have truly clinched the deal for me, and now chips with guacamole is one of my favorite foods.
On our recent trip to Sunriver, I watched my friend Jenn closely as she made a batch and took careful notes to be sure I could remember her essential ingredients – it’s important to get all the flavors in there for the full effect. Hers is a variation on a recipe she found in the Williams Sonoma cookbook, and the directions are simple: combine all ingredients (Jenn just mashes hers together with a fork) and enjoy. Just estimate the proportions to get the quantity and flavor that you like. Now that I’ve realized my love of guacamole, I can’t get through summer (or really any time of year) without it!
cilantro (finely chopped)
white or red onion
cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
Roughly combine all ingredients to taste.
July 19, 2012 § 1 Comment
On vacation, I spent some time with my latest find in the self-help department, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, reminding me why these types of books are so valuable. I’ve always been the kind of person who can’t turn my brain off (I even cheat at yoga: when you’re supposed to be clearing your mind and renewing your spirit, I’m making mental to-do lists). As a lifelong over-thinker, over-analyzer and worrier it’s important that I work to find my happiness along the way. I first took notice of these happy books and thoughts in my twenties; fresh out of college and overwhelmed by the demands of life, I stumbled upon Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. It literally changed me overnight – things seemed easier when I focused on the important things and counted my blessings. Amazed by the fact that such a small book – that I picked up on a whim – would have such a lasting effect on my outlook, I began to focus on the joys in my life and try to keep the negative to a minimum.
Over the years, I’ve looked to similar books for a fresh perspective and to remind myself of what truly matters. I spent a year with the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, reading the once-a-day essays with great results; I still pull it out from time to time to read the day’s entry and can always find something to apply to my life. Although I’ve honestly only read a couple of pages, just researching, talking with friends about and buying Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret was helpful to me; I think believing that there could be a secret to happiness and fulfillment in life made me feel happier and more fulfilled – strange, huh?
My most recent addition, The Happiness Project, tells the story of one woman’s journey to find the joy in her life and live in a more appreciative way. Her struggle resonated with me, and I realize I’ve been on a similar quest for most of my adult life. It’s the path that has led me to this blog and to taking note of the little things that make my life worthwhile. It’s my love of writing and crafting and decorating and clothes and cooking and parties and family and friends and traveling – it’s all the pieces and parts of my life that I love, that make me happy and that make me: me. Life is a long and winding road, but finding the joy – anyway you can – makes the journey so much sweeter.
May 11, 2012 § 6 Comments
At last weekend’s Cinco de Mayo party, I brought my chicken and cheese enchiladas, always a hit. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, True Grits: Tall Tales and Recipes from the New South, published by the Junior League of Atlanta. I loved living and eating out in Atlanta for almost 10 years, and this cookbook includes recipes from many of the city’s best offerings, along with some great stories by southern authors. (I find Junior League cookbooks in general to be fantastic and have ones from Houston and Seattle as well.) These enchiladas are perfect for kids and adults, either plain or spiced up with salsa and fixings. They go fast, so I usually double or triple the recipe – so perfect for a taco night get-together with friends.
Creamy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion
10 flour tortillas
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
Rinse the chicken and pat dry; cut into thin slices. Saute the chicken in the olive oil in a skillet until brown; drain. Combine the chicken, cheese and onion in a bowl; mix well. Spoon the chicken mixture onto the center of each tortilla; roll the tortilla to enclose the filling. Place the enchiladas seam side down in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Heat the butter in a saucepan until melted. Stir in the flour until blended. Add the chicken broth; mix well. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in the sour cream and chiles. Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.