Happy Mother’s Day and Weathervane in Chapel Hill

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I know that you all know how much I truly love my mother.  The things she and I have been through the last two years have made us stronger than ever.  She is indeed my best friend, confidant, and amazing beyond words.  She is my rock and the reason I go out everyday and try to be the best version of me that I can.  I owe that to her for all of her sacrifices, heart ache, and money spending that I have put her through.  I owe it to her to continually pay back in life what she has given to me.  I owe it to her to always treat others with kindness even though they may have hurt me.  I owe it to her to always take the high road and choose my battles, because she has taught me that I can choose how I react to situations for the best.  I owe it to her to be thankful of where I am in my life and recognize that life is always going to improve beyond where I am at in the present moment.  I owe it to her to hold my head high with confidence as a beautiful woman that she has created from her own beauty.  I owe it to her to be the best daughter she could possibly have prayed for all those years ago, because she has been that mother that God knew I was going to need.  She has shown up every single day for me, and I owe everything to her.

So when it came time to think of a Mother’s Day gift, it became difficult.  I knew she was missing her own mom, and I remembered that we didn’t make the traditional birthday cake at her birthday earlier this year.  It was time…yes time…to make Bishop Bread.  It seems almost sinful to be making it any other time than on her birthday.  I mean, it has been a time honored tradition for an incredible amount of years to be made only on her birthday (that’s me not telling you how young my mom is).  Sometimes life calls for throwing tradition out the window!  But wait, the recipe calls for candied cherries, which makes complete sense why this cake was only made around the holidays.  Grocery stores always had an abundance of candied cherries during Christmas.  If only for those god awful fruit cakes everyone seems to make.  I had to find them somewhere, right?  Very wrong.

After running out of time and places to hunt them down, there was only one option.  I had to make candied cherries myself.  One of my friends had suggested I make them out of Marschino Cherries.  Bleh.  Sorry, folks, I am not a fan of these artificially brightened treats.  However, I needed my candied cherries.  I took to Google, and Google came through with flying colors.  It landed me on ShaunaSever.com.  Thank goodness there was a recipe out there.

They were incredibly easy to make, and here is the link to her post… http://shaunasever.com/2010/12/how-to-make-candied-cherries.html.  Her recipe is below.

  

Candied Cherries

This is a full recipe that will yield about 8-9 ounces of candied cherries. It’s easily scaled up or down, even if you just need a tiny amount for a recipe.

  • 1 16-ounce jar maraschino cherries
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Drain the cherries, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. Combine the reserved juice and sugar in a small saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Add the cherries, and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes-1 hour, until the cherries are slightly shriveled and firm to the touch. Remove from the heat, uncover the pan, and let cool completely.

When the cherries have cooled, remove them to paper toweling (leaving the syrup behind, your recipe doesn’t call for it) and pat dry. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six months.

  


Weathervane

We were originally headed to Fearrington Village for brunch, but considering the weather, Mom decided she would rather go to Chapel Hill and visit A Southern Season and Weathervane.  Love love love going to A Southern Season.  It should really be named A Southerner’s Food Heaven.  First, we ate!  

We lucked out and got a seat in the cafe area.  It’s really not that bad, but if you are more than two, you should ask for an extra chair when sitting at the booths. We were immediately advised that their regular menu was not available, and they were only offering a $34 Prix Fixe menu for Mother’s Day.  Which isn’t a bad thing.  I just missed their main menu.  Overall, it was a great experience because I was with my Mom/parents.  It is Mother’s Day afterall.   

They had a beautiful menu and a fresh daisy on each table.  It was set nicely, just as would be expected.

Mom ordered the baked baby brie, orange blossom honey, fig preserves, and toasted country bread for her starter.  I’m not the biggest brie fan, but this had a really nice flavor with all of the elements combined.

 I ordered the Grilled Summer Squash Soup as my starter with charred peppadew peppers, and a sweet corn crem fraiche –  No, I didn’t shake it up or stir it before taking the photo.  It was presented this way.  You eat with your eyes first, and although this ended up tasting decent, it certainly wasn’t plated well.  A little bit of a let down for as amazing as this place normally is. 

 

My Stepdad ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes with a buttermilk cucumber, green tomato relish, and crispy greens.  He said the greens were so soaked in grease, it was hard to enjoy them.  However, they were indeed fried, and we came to the conclusion that maybe that’s the only way some people can eat healthy greens…fried.  The dish was perfect otherwise.

They both ordered the out of this world Weathervane Shrimp and Grits with heritage Andouille Sausage, redeye shrimp gravy, shitake mushrooms, and pimento grits.  Even though we never saw actual pimentos in the grits, this was the best dish of the entire meal at the table.  Very thankful this is on the regular menu!!!


I ordered the Tea Glazed Organic Salmon with heirloom pea succotash, preserved lemon, skinny bean salad, and a green tomato vinaigrette.  This was probably the best cooked piece of salmon that I have had in an extremely long time.  Delicious and buttery.

They copied each other again at first with both ordering the Salty Caramel Apple Cobbler with a brown sugar streusel and buttermilk ice cream.  However, contrary to what your brain tells you, this cobbler was served cold.  I asked the server if it was supposed to be served cold (we were kind of early in their lunch service so maybe they just hadn’t had time to warm it thoroughly), and after going to the back and returning, she informs us that it is supposed to be served cold.  Hmmmm…if this is a new trend, you can have it.  Ice cream (especially such tasty ice cream like the one on this dish) should be melting gently over the HOT apple cobbler.  Maybe next time put that it is served cold on the menu?


After the Cobbler debacle, Mom ended up with the same dessert I had chosen – 11 Layer Chocolate Cake with dark chocolate ganache, roasted strawberries, and a peanut butter mousse.  This was a win in the richness of the cake and the perfection of the peanut butter mousse.  I’ll take a pound of that to go, please!

The few little things that I wasn’t pleased with didn’t outweigh the stellar service, the ambience, or the overall enjoyment of being with my family at a nice restaurant.  It truly was a good experience.  I can’t wait to go back and order my own plate of Shrimp and Grits!

If you’ve made it to the bottom, I hope that you have all enjoyed your Mother’s Day.  If you’re like me, and have only been blessed with being a mother to a cat, then Happy MeowMa Day to you (as I refer to the day).  If you’re not able to be with your Mom, then I hope that she left you with wonderful memories that you can look back on today, and know that you are a better person because she was in your life.

With love to my own Mom,  J

Today’s the day…

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It’s no April Fools joke…today’s the day the house was sold. It’s been a very emotional ride since Maw-Maw passed. Isn’t it always when someone you love dearly passes? I thought I’d share a few thoughts through photographs I’ve taken these past 15 months…

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This was the last time I looked through this window the other day with Mom by my side. Maw-Maw always had to make sure the birds were well fed, and depending on the season, the sun would come busting in, and the bay window became one of her favorite places to rest. Paw-Paw always made sure the grass was green and well manicured on his John Deere. Even though I may spend years creating a beautiful view, this will remain the most beautiful window I’ve ever looked through.  Not just because of my own memories, but because it holds memories for our entire family…especially Mom.

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I found my love of cooking in her kitchen…and maybe found my sweet tooth there as well. It was just one of the two kitchens where I truly learned how to cook with heart.  It’s where I remember making Lemon Meringue Pies with my cousin.  He always knew how to show the saran wrap who was boss.  That’s still a skill I’m working on!

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I inherited her plants. Those poor orchids! Do you have any orchid advice for me? My green thumb does not seem to be translating to them. However, they remind me her love is alive and well in my home, and that’s alright with me.

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Mom and I had fun finding all the treasures (although sometimes odd) in the house while cleaning out. Oh the life loved and lived in this house. Some of the walls even told stories.

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Inspirational messages and her handwriting were found often. The days you found these little messages, were always the day you needed to read it. They became little reminders of love.

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We were blessed with new bundles of joy in our family that are carrying on the legacy of lives well lived before them…yes, even the cat.

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Sometimes new hobbies were good to find and take the mind off sadness. Yes, I’m a good shot! I get it from my momma.

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We learned how to cut up again, not take life so seriously, and how to put a beard on a cat without losing an arm. We also learned to smile again…that one took a while.

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I learned it was ok to be “basic” and find the joy in the little moments of my day.

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We made sure her homemade Halloween flag flew proudly in the wind on its final flight. They sure did love Halloween and the joy it brought to everyone around them. Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw were a blessing to many people.

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Christmas was a time to remember a beautiful life that was taken too soon from us. I blew that candle out that night, but the memories will never extinguish.

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I found sympathy cards on days I wished I hadn’t. Then I was reminded that people really do care about one another. Humanity is a magnificent creature.

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Some days I just wanted to sleep it all away.
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Some days I just wanted to play outside like a kid again. Only this time I was using fall leaves to make a heart.

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The backyard will forever be remembered as a safe place for all of us grandkids to run around in. My first memory of the smells, tastes, and sights of grilling out. There were a few barns.  To the younger grandkids, the barns were off limits, especially when we were told snakes were in them. On the back deck, the screen door always made this loud smack when closing. You knew it was coming, so you braced yourself for the abruptness of the slam.  Never were prepared in the end.  I hope everyone knows that sound. There’s truly nothing like it.

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Some days I gave life a not so nice face, and some days I smiled. The smiles became more often. I’m not sure they’re the same as before though. It’ll get there.

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This woman was my second best friend. My second confidant. My second love. She was my first Maw-Maw though. There’s nothing that can replace that hole left after her death, but it helps to remember that life is still beautiful even after all the heartache. This house, it will live on in a new family.  The house has moved on, so shall we.

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This really sad day will end, and tomorrow begins for another go at life if we’re fortunate enough. I find it’s good to remember where we came from (along with the homes we shared) and all the people who invested their heart in supporting our life. Life is truly a journey, and journeys always move forward whether you think they are or not.

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On a final note…we left behind the Elephant Egg. When growing up, our grandparents always told us it was an elephant egg. Now, I don’t know where it came from, or its story, but that thing never did hatch. I’m beginning to think a couple of grandparents were really great storytellers as well. We’ll never know…

The Last Kitchen Tip

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This was originally supposed to have been published in Alamance Magazine before it ceased publication. However, I’d like to share it with you now. It was meant for their February run, so it’s a little aged. Still the same sentiments of love though.

With love,
J

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The Last Kitchen Tip

It’s comforting sitting in her dining room chair right now – just feet from the kitchen. There’s so much I want to tell her, to share with her, and to enjoy with her. See, Maw-Maw passed away on December 17th. She was my confidant, my friend, my grandmother. Life changed after she passed that day. It changed in ways I would never be able to explain to you.

Her love for cooking and her family was always apparent. Her kitchen was where I learned my love of cooking. I learned an incredible amount in her kitchen. There were old Southern tips and tricks, cookbooks used, and I learned just exactly what a “pinch” and a “dash” are in a recipe. Those were tricky to grasp at first. All in all, there were tons of smiles in this kitchen. They were smiles that I will treasure forever and ever, and wish I could still share them with her today.

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~ A few of her kitchen utensils ~

The Sunday before she passed, she called me. I was busy making homemade cinnamon rolls for the first time…that’s right, from scratch. I hadn’t dabbled much in yeast. That just isn’t my thing. But, I wanted to learn. Little did I know, and I should have read my recipe thoroughly, that my dough would have to sit overnight. Being a little on the impatient side in the kitchen, I wasn’t looking forward to the waiting time. But, my best advocate in the kitchen was on the phone. I had to ask for suggestions.

I explained my predicament to her, and she offered a little piece of advice. If I placed the pan of dough on the eye of the stove that “releases” heat from inside the oven, then cover it with a large pyrex dish that would completely cover the pan, and finally a couple of towels, it should speed up the yeast and my dough would rise faster. Now I know this isn’t exactly what a Baker would do, but sometimes a little bit of good Southern tricks can come in handy. I did as I was instructed, and in about three and a half hours, my dough was perfectly ready to make my cinnamon rolls.

Maw-Maw would always send me kitchen tips through email. She was a very tech savvy Grandma. A lot of that came from us grandchildren showing her the ins and outs over the years. A few hours after the dough tip, she called again. She was reading through her emails and had another kitchen tip for me. She told me to always put a wooden spoon over a pot of boiling noodles and it would keep the pot from boiling over. Little did I know that it would be the last kitchen tip she would give me.

It wasn’t all about kitchen tips with her; there were life tips as well. While I’d love to share them with you, those are tips that are from a grandmother to her granddaughter, and I only pray that you have someone to share that bond with in your own life…to learn your own life tips.

Sadly, I’m not sure what to do in life without a grandparent anymore. But, I know I’m not the only one that has experienced this heart ache. In that thought, I find peace that life will improve and her spirit will live on with me for the rest of my days. I also find peace that I know God will reunite us all one day, and Maw-Maw will have a cookie jar full of her delicious chocolate chip cookies waiting on us – although, I may have to request some of her Apple Turnovers or homemade stuffed Oatmeal Cookies. But mostly, I’ll request a warm Maw-Maw hug for the soul. They always made everything better.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the women in my life!

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Mom and I…2011
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Maw-Maw and I…2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess grief comes out differently for everyone.  It also seems to come out at different times for everyone as well.  It’s impacted a lot in my life lately, hence the absence (although I know you’re probably tired of hearing excuses, but I’m going to do better.  Promise.).  I did, however, want to share this with you…

I was asked this week to write a little something for my home church.  Well, I was asked to say something about Maw-Maw in relation to Mother’s Day.  The preacher thought it would be nice seeing as how she was a very loved woman in the congregation.  I knew that I surely couldn’t make it through reading anything as much as I wear my heart on my sleeve.  Nonetheless, I agreed, with the condition that I didn’t have to read what I wrote.  I thought all week about how to relate Maw-Maw to Mother’s Day when she was really my Grandmother.  It wasn’t Grandparent’s day.  It also seemed selfish to single her out on a day meant for mothers.  But, she was a mother, and still lives on as one in my own mother’s heart.

I began to relate it to how women were created by God to be a motherly presence and guide us all in the eyes of Christ.  I, myself, don’t have children, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t acted as a Mother at some point in time to someone.  I love everyone, and that in itself requires that motherly instinct.  I started thinking about all of the mothers in the church.  All of the wonderful memories they made for me growing up, and all of the protection they provided me at the same time.

This, my loyal friends, is what I ended up with today.  Happy Mother’s Day to you all, whether you have children or not.  Love your Mother today, and if she’s sadly physically gone from us, then have a talk with her today and know she is waiting for you with milk and cookies in Heaven.

Love, Jennifer

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This Mother’s Day won’t be like they have normally been in the past.  Our family is missing a very important Mother.  Things honestly haven’t been the same.  I guess things aren’t supposed to be the same when a Mother passes away though.  See, Maw-Maw was an integral part of our everyday lives.  From the like clockwork phone calls at 9am, Noon, and 10pm every night between Mom and Maw-Maw, and then me at night.  To the motherly advice that was always available when needed.  We’re missing all of that, everyday.  I, myself, am extremely fortunate to have my own Mother living, but I know she hurts today at the loss of her own.  And I know that no amount of love and Happy Mother’s Day cards or flowers to the best Mom in the World will take away that pain.

When I relate Maw-Maw to Mother’s Day, I’m reminded that Maw-Maw was an example of what God put women on Earth to do.  We are meant to be Mothers – to guide and encourage others in the name of Christ.  Take for instance this beautiful church I grew up in.  Whether someone had 5 children, or they had no children, they were all acting mothers at one point in time.  It could have been as simple as just keeping an eye out when a little one was getting a little too close to the edge of the stage in the Fellowship Hall.  No one knew you were keeping that eye out, but you know you did…and so did God.

Just as I know Maw-Maw was to most of you, I had many mothers at Shallowford, and I still have a place in my heart for all of you.  I remember Choir…lots of mothers in our Choir helping me to hit the right notes in life and on the pew each Sunday.  Mothers in Sunday School, especially my own, who I know was a mother to a lot of you out in the congregation today on Sunday mornings.  There were Youth groups, fantastic Vacation Bible Schools, covered dish lunches after church, Girl Scouts held here, and lots of laughs.  Church fellowship time was always my favorite where we were able to walk around and greet others before the Sermon began.  Towards the end of my childhood, I found it incredibly difficult to leap over Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw and make it to hug the neck of every single person in Shallowford.  If I didn’t make it to you every Sunday, well, the piano music just wasn’t ever long enough.  It sure did make a nice backdrop though while going around hugging all of the Mothers in our church that I love.

At Mother’s Day, and always, I want to make sure you realize that mothers are all around you.  Women are made special.  We are a special gift from God.  So whether we have children ourselves or not, it doesn’t mean we can’t be mothers in God’s eyes.  It is, in the end, about loving others.  And here at Shallowford, I have never felt a lack of love.  To my mother, to all of the mothers in the audience, and to the mothers that are waiting in heaven for us with milk and cookies, I wish you all a very special Mother’s Day.

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My lovely Mom
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Her lovely Mom, Maw-Maw.

 

Maw-Maw died today…..

*Please forgive the rambling nature.  This post is pure and unproofed. 

I held her cold hand for a while today.  It was odd though.  Her skin was just as soft as the last time I touched it.  Her hands just as cold as they always were.  She was always cold.  It was like she was just going to wake up and miraculously tell us to put a blanket over her because she was cold.  But, she was cold.  Dead and cold.  I don’t know what I expected sitting in the hospital room.  Did I expect her to wake up?  Did I expect her to look at me and smile?  Did I expect her to squeeze back while I was holding her hand…cold cold hand.  It was all so surreal. 

Mom and I knew she was real sick these past two months.  But, she was improving now with Dialysis.  She was.  I promise.  For the last 4 nights, she had been able to stay at home on her own.  She didn’t need someone to mirror her every move to make sure she was ok.  She was good.  She was getting better.  She was. 

I guess I can keep telling myself that she was getting better.  She was.  In the end though, it’s on God’s time.  It was her time.  Damn saying that sucks ass, and to this grieving heart it offers no solace. 

We went back to Mom’s to do some cleaning after the funeral home took her body away.  We know there will be tons of people visiting and bringing food.  We are well loved.  While I was cleaning the bathroom at Mom’s, it felt as if I were cleaning the house for Christmas.  That we would all go and pick Maw-Maw up and bring her to the house for Christmas dinner tomorrow.  But we weren’t.  This was it.  That was it.  It was it.  I mean….what do I say?  It is what it is?  That saying can kiss my ass right now.

Maw-Maw loved my writing.  She never could wait to see the next magazine issue that I had written in.  Not sure she’d love this one too much.  Quite a lot of ass in here.  *smirk* 

I remember while growing up and standing beside her in church…hearing her voice.  Man could she sing.  My love of music came from her and Paw-Paw.  The joy of cooking was found in her kitchen.  The lesson of food is cooked with love was found in her kitchen.  A lot of lessons were found in that kitchen.  If only I had figured out the bread making….

Driving home tonight from Mom’s, it all hit me.  That was my last grandparent.  What does one do when they no longer have a grandparent to confide in?  There’s nothing like a grandparent/grandchild bond.  Nothing.  But that’s it.  It will have to live on in my heart. 

Every single night, she would call me at 10pm.  Mom, Maw-Maw and I were close like that.  We were the 3 amigos, 3 muchachas, the 3 generations of strong, stubborn women.   We shopped together, ate together, and cried together.  I wouldn’t trade a single phone call or “I love you” for anything ever. 

The last kitchen thing she said to me was when she called me while I was making my cinnamon rolls.  She said she had a kitchen tip.  “Place a wooden spoon on the top of a pot of boiling pasta water, and it will not boil over.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her I already knew, so I accepted my new piece of advice with love and thankfulness that she thought of me to tell me. 

Oh shit.  No more emails from her.  She was an email queen.  I was so happy when she figured out how to use the computer.  She was a tech grandma for sure.  Last email she sent me……was yesterday at 7:11pm.  A religious one.

As I’m sitting here writing, I can still feel my hand holding hers earlier.  Oh the softest skin.  I’m sure I’ll forget what it feels like one day.  Sad.  

Words cannot express how sad I am.  They can only express what I am feeling, and all of the thoughts I am trying to process.  In a nutshell, the holidays have sucked ass thus far for my family.  We can’t choose our time to leave, but I’m pretty sure Maw-Maw just didn’t want us to buy any Christmas gifts for her again this year.  She hated us spending our money on her. 

Devastated.  Broken.  Lost.  They all apply.  I feel like a huge chunk has been ripped from me.  I guess it was.  She was and is a big part of who I am today. 

Now let’s hope this Ibuprofen PM kicks in soon.  It’s going to be a long couple of days ahead.  Days of sadness…….It’s like Mom has been saying… “What do I do now?”

The Most Wonderful Part…Mom

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Thanksgiving and Christmas have passed us now, and it’s time for a New Year already. Can you believe it? I’m not sure about you, but my last year literally flew by. There are things I could have handled differently in that year, and there are things I would do over and over again if given the chance. That’s what life is truly about. It’s about living, learning, and appreciating the gifts we are given on a daily basis.

When the New Year rolls around, I don’t normally make resolutions. I find that I’m quite rebellious when I least expect it and those resolutions quickly exit my life. Instead, I take stock of my life and all the wonderful parts of it. There’s always one part that comes to mind first though. It’s my Mom’s birthday, and she is the most wonderful part of each and every year of my life. Therefore, when I take stock, she’s first on my list.

I feel that I must share a little bit about our Mother/Daughter relationship.

Throughout all of my years (now 30 of those years), my Mom has been there for me unconditionally. Black Eyed PeasThe following are just a few examples. When our cool Southern nights would roll around, Vick’s Vapor Rub was present. I used to love Mom’s tender touch when I was sick rubbing the Vick’s on my upper chest to soothe my congestion. Sometimes on a sick day home from school, we would have cheesy mashed potatoes with chopped up ham and sliced cheese in them. It was a mild dish that I could enjoy. Mashed potatoes are very special to me because of this. There was always sight-seeing in different states when we would travel to make sure I learned about different cultures and history. We were and still are best buds. I can talk to her about absolutely anything.

She allowed me to make the mistakes I needed to in order to grow, and she was always there to pick my broken heart up off the floor and apply some “Mom Glue”. Many times she told me I could do better. Many times she told me you can’t quit a job until you have one. Many times she told me to simply and purely follow my dreams. Many times she told me to always trust in the strength that is God. Many times – many, many times – she has told me she loves me.

For a time, it was just me and Mom. And, you know what? We made it – we would go out to Arby’s and split a meal to save some money, we would have our own little celebrations at home, and we survived, as many single parents and children do.

There are countless magical memories of my Mom I could share…but, alas, there aren’t enough pages for this.

Meal Photo 4See, my Mom is a good Southern woman. Luckily for her, on her birthday, some of her favorite Southern foods make up our traditional New Year’s Day meal. We gather at my Grandmother’s home and enjoy a birthday meal for her. It always consists of turnip greens, cornbread, and the all-important black-eyed peas. I remember growing up and always being told to eat plenty of it all so I could have good luck and prosperity in the year ahead. Sadly, I grew a strong disdain for turnip greens over the year – which probably explains a lot. I make up for it though, with eating lots of black-eyed peas and cornbread! Both of these are two of my favorite Southern foods as well.

While the New Year’s Day meal is strictly Turnip Greenstraditional fare for most households, it’s a special meal for my family. I encourage you to look into all of the different versions of a “traditional” New Year’s Day meal and all of the various meanings. The one story I found the most, and enjoyed the idea of the most, was this…

“Back in the days of civil war, Union troops swept through the south, confiscating crops and livestock to use as provisions for their troops. Southerners who weren’t off fighting were left with precious little, save for peas and greens. You see, Union soldiers considered “field peas” and greens to be fit only for animal fodder. These dishes became cherished and appreciated as what saved many a family from starvation during those times and the tradition of celebrating these dishes on the New Year was born.” – Christy Jordan, www.SouthernPlate.com

Mom’s “Birthday Dinner” is deeply rooted in the Southern traditions and love – just like my Mom. My Mom loves the South. I love the South, and I love my Mom.

As I think about how to close this article for you, I can’t help but think of how many people are without a Mom like the Mom I was blessed with. Hold your Mom’s and Mother figures close. Never forget to appreciate them or tell them you love them in the year ahead and all the years to come. My Mom is magnificent. She is my inspiration. She is my shining and constant reminder of God’s love, and she is the most wonderful part of my life. Happy New Year, everyone!

~Originally published in January 2013 issue of Alamance County Magazine.

Sundays with Friends: My friend Jen and her Peanut Butter Balls…

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022Do you remember my good friend, Jen? She last wrote for us about Wild Turkey Stew, and this time she’s bringing us a very near and dear to her heart recipe for her Mama’s Peanut Butter Balls. I meant to get this to you before Christmas, but we all know how busy the Holidays can become. However, you have to forgive me….I AM bringing you one of the most delightful recipes I have EVER put in my mouth. From my friend that understands the importance of loving her mother and hanging onto handwritten recipes, all the way to your kitchen, please welcome back Jen!

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I love Christmastime and one reason why is because I love making my mom’s peanut butter balls. My 020mother passed away over eight years ago from cancer. We used to make Peanut Butter Balls together every year before Christmas. When my mother became sick she didn’t have the strength to make Peanut Butter Balls with me. I had to make them on my own. She passed away in October 2006, and that Christmas I went to her house. I made the Peanut Butter Balls like I usually did, except that year she wasn’t present to help; however, I felt her spirit there with me.

I try to make my Peanut Butter Balls every year because it was me and Mom’s Christmas tradition. I didn’t make them last year because I was trying to eat healthier and knew if I made them I would about eat all of them. I promised Jennifer that I would make them this year and write for her Sunday’s with Friends. I hope that you can take this recipe, make your own Christmas tradition, and enjoy it like I do.

Oh and by the way I still have the handwritten recipe that my mother wrote.

Mama’s Peanut Butter Balls Recipescan0001

  • 2 cups of Graham Cracker crumbs
  • 1 lb of powdered sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter melted
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts
  • 4 oz of flaked coconut
  • 12 oz jar of crunchy peanut butter
  • 12 oz or more of chocolate candy wafers

Mix first 6 ingredients in order given. Form into balls, which may need to be chilled for a while. Melt chocolate wafers in a double boiler and dip balls into melted chocolate. Place dipped balls onto wax paper until hardened. You can put them in the fridge or keep them on the counter. But, let them sit out on the counter for a bit before eating if you’re storing them in the fridge.

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Delancey’s – Perfect Southern Goodness

Brownstone Front Cake

I know some of you already know this, but if you’re late to the Foodie Party, I also write for a local magazine here. I try to share each article with you after it’s published. However, I’m a month behind. This one is from the December 2012 issue of Alamance Magazine. It’s about the most wonderful little Southern restaurant and catering company, Delancey’s in Burlington, NC. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did eating the food photographed! *smiles*

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Sorghum Syrup, Green Beans, Sausage Balls, Cheese Straws, Meatloaf, Macaroni and Cheese, Pintos, Chow Chow, and Brownstone Front Cake – are you hungry yet? I guess hungry isn’t the question. The one thing I should be asking you is if you felt a little warmer in your soul reading the names of good old-fashioned Southern delights. I have found that food can evoke wonderful memories of times gone by, especially at the holidays.

I have many memories of my family and extended family always gathered around one or more dinner Mac and Cheese 1 copytables during the holidays. Not a one of those memories would I trade for anything. In thinking of the ones involving my first cousins, I can still remember the table full of us when I was much younger. Of course we had to sit separate from the grownups at a card table in the kitchen. We were definitely a messy bunch! Ham, Turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, broccoli casserole, homemade biscuits, you name it…I grew up in a family of amazing Southern cooks and we knew how to devour and make a mess while doing it!

We’re not all together anymore, which is sad, in and of itself. The cousins were scattered as parents moved. Three moved to the West Coast, one to the Mid-West, and three of us were fortunate enough to remain here in the Burlington area. Later on in the years, the three of us that were left remained close. Fast forward a few more years, and sadder still, one of us three is now in Heaven. But, the good thing about families is that they are continually growing and making new dinner table memories. We have been blessed greatly in our family to have the addition of four more cousins here local, and marriages have brought many more with all of our spouses. Even though we’re not around the card table together each holiday now, on rare occasions we have been able to get back together around the “Grown-Up Table” since we are now officially grown-ups in our thirties. Don’t tell anyone.

Collard Greens copyI have my own household now and found my own relationship with Southern Cooking. I love cooking for my family and whoever wants to enjoy a meal. Along with that, I have learned the importance of planning meals out and juggling time. I’ll be honest, it’s no fun stressing away in the kitchen while everyone else is sitting in the den or around the dining room table enjoying the food you have prepared. I definitely don’t like missing out on hors d’oeuvres, because they are my favorite part of any meal. I also end up missing a lot of the conversations and the time that is so rare with family nowadays.

Well, Thanksgiving has passed, and we now have that constant reminder of planning needed to ensure the Christmas meals go smoothly and everything is organized and stress-free. This is where I imagine a good plenty of you just had a silent chuckle to yourself. If only because you know that the holidays bring on a different kind of stressor that you normally don’t deal with throughout the year, and to some, a stress-free holiday is truly a joke.

This is where I want to introduce you, or reintroduce you, to the blessing of Delancey’s during the holidays.

About four years ago I found myself completely stressed about what to fix for a family Christmas meal. IPintos and ChowChow was working a full-time job and time and money were extremely hard to find. There wasn’t much hope for our meal until I ended up having lunch with Maw-Maw (my Grandmother) at Delancey’s one day. Sitting beside their register was this paper. It wasn’t just any paper…it was my saving grace for Christmas.

I had never put two and two together that Delancey’s did take-home meals, catering, or anything like that until then. This was a combination deal where I could choose a meat and two sides to feed a family of 6-8 for quite the low price. I jumped on it, and I picked up my meal the day I needed it. The entire family loved every morsel of food I had ordered, and I got to spend time with them that I otherwise would have spent in the kitchen. That, my friends, is priceless in my book.

Peach Cobbler2 copyLucky for you, Delancey’s still has this along with all of their other Catering options. Even better for you, they’ve sweetened the pot since I took advantage of it. For just $79.99 you can feed 12-15 people. You have your choice of a moist Turkey Dinner which consists of the whole Turkey, dressing, gravy, and cranberry relish, or a delicious Dinner Sliced Ham. Along with your meat, you have your choice of three of their mouth-watering Southern sides. Folks, they have everything your Southern heart can imagine: Broccoli Casserole, Crowder Peas and Corn, Collard Greens, Baked Apples, Squash Casserole, Pintos, Candied Yams, Macaroni and Cheese, and the all-important Sweet Potato Casserole. Those were just a few options. You don’t just get that though. You also get a gallon of Sweet Tea and a dozen Yeast Rolls. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a great Southern option for a stress-free holiday meal!

After learning about this year’s deal, I couldn’t help but want to tell you about it! (This is where I want you to know that I write what is honestly in my heart, and I wasn’t asked to write about Delancey’s. After deciding that I wanted to tell you about Delancey’s and their Holiday Family Meal option, I went to talk to the owner, Mike Thomas, and find out about his Southern roots. You won’t find any quotes from him here. But, I used his words and passion to inspire what I would take away from our conversation and share with you. He was very inspiring to say the least.)

It all started when his father began making wedding cakes many years ago. Later on, his mother joined Brownstone Front Cakehis father by adding good Southern celebration staples like Sausage Balls and Cheese Straws to the mix and they began catering small events. It wasn’t long before it was a family affair, and fast forward many years later, Mike began his own food adventure with Delancey’s. He felt so passionately about bringing good quality to his guests, that he wanted to ensure the recipes he used stayed true to the South. He explained to me how they are the result of sitting with his father in the kitchen for hours upon hours watching him to get exact measurements. See, his father was a lot like many of us and our parents and grandparents. A dash of this and a pinch of that would make anything taste amazing, but if someone asked for the recipe, they were pretty much out of luck. When Mike felt that all of the recipes were perfected, that’s when he brought Delancey’s to us. On a side note, they also have their own Sorghum Syrup business, for us true Southerners. You buy it directly from Delancey’s to put on your homemade biscuits Christmas morning…just a tasty thought.

In closing, from the Chow Chow made fresh, to the Brownstone Front Cake (just $34 for a 4-layer 9-inch cake!), all the way to his Mom’s Broccoli Casserole recipe, you really can’t describe Delancey’s any other way but lovingly Southern. So when you think to yourself this Christmas Season that you aren’t going to be able to combine family and food preparation easily, think of Delancey’s. Let them do all the prepping for you, so all you have to do is take it home, pop it in the oven, enjoy the company of your guests, and then serve a piping hot Southern meal with Southern hospitality. After all, the holidays are meant for spending time with your loved ones and making memories. Don’t miss out on them because you’re stuck in the kitchen. They will still love you the same, even if you don’t come to the table worn out in a food stained apron.

The Beauty of Pimento Cheese…

Pimento Square Plate with Names

I just remembered that I never posted the November 2012 article I wrote for the November issue of our local magazine here.  Enjoy you guys!  December will be posted in the next couple of days!  *smiles*

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There aren’t many moments when I went to Maw-Maw’s house and didn’t see a plastic container of Pimento Spoons Red 2 with Nameshomemade Pimento Cheese sitting proudly in the refrigerator. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the first things I learned to make growing up – besides homemade Buttermilk Biscuits that is. It wasn’t always about the Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Cookie Jar, the paintings we would do, the late nights watching Statler Brothers on PBS, or the playing of (banging on) the piano. Part of the joy at Maw-Maw’s was that container of orange-colored goodness named Pimento Cheese.

Let’s take a look at what Pimento Cheese is for the folks that may not quite understand this Southern delicacy. It’s typically shredded cheddar cheese, diced Pimentos, a little mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. That’s it. You can eat it slathered between two pieces of lightly toasted white bread, sandwiched on crackers, or even spread into the hollow of a celery rib if you’d like. It’s one of those treats you can eat how you prefer and no one judges the method to your madness.

Speaking of how you prefer your Pimento Cheese – there are many different ways it’s prepared. Some like more mayonnaise so it’s creamier. Some like it thicker and chunkier. You can use Mild or Sharp Cheddar Cheese, depending on your preference. Some like it hot and add jalapeno, or even get adventurous with green olives and pecans in theirs. There are just so many tasty options when you start with such basic ingredients!

This brings me to my point – Did you know there are three different Pimento Cheeses that start with the letters “St” made right here in Alamance County? We have Stan’s, Star’s, and Steve’s. Out of curiosity, I went on a tasting spree the other day, and I wanted to share with you what I discovered with each one.

Before we start this, I think you need to know that I’m not one to be swooned by elaborate wrappers and labels. I’m a no-nonsense kind of Southern Gal. So, these were judged strictly on taste, and these are my Pimento Square Plate with Namesown opinions. Let’s go over each one’s high and low notes, just like at a fancy wine tasting.

· Stan’s (Burlington, NC) – Other than Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese, this one was the other staple in our house. There are nice large shreds of the cheddar cheese which gives it a thicker consistency, but still creamy. The coarse grind of black pepper in it helps balance out the mayonnaise twang. Pimentos are scattered evenly throughout the container, and the label even says it has Texas Pete in it. It’s a little higher in calories, and the high fructose corn syrup may contribute to that. However, I’ll make the sacrifice for a nice overall flavor.

· Star’s (Burlington, NC) – The “cheese” is quite a bit more processed in this one allowing it to be a thicker and creamier spread. The fact that it has a creamier texture would make it easy to pipe into cherry tomatoes or onto crackers as an appetizer at a holiday gathering. It’s definitely sweeter than Stan’s. The only thing that I found to be a negative about this one was the ingredients read “imitation” cheese, and this might explain the much embellished orange color of the spread. I guess this is why they call it Pimento Spread and not Pimento Cheese.

· Steve’s (Graham, NC) – You buy this little gem at Steve’s Garden Market in Graham, so that makes it a Pimento Cheese Bowls with Namesnice buying experience with the super friendly staff and great looking produce. If you’re a mayonnaise fan, this would be your choice. The first ingredient listed is mayonnaise, and it’s obvious why it’s listed first. The texture is very smooth, almost runny, with large chunks of cheese throughout and plenty of pimento. This was the only commercial one without High Fructose Corn Syrup as well. It ended up being pretty tasty. I personally prefer a little less mayonnaise with a thicker texture, though.

· Maw-Maw’s (Burlington, NC) – You knew I couldn’t leave hers out! Even though you can’t purchase it, I added it among the taste test so I would have my constant. Maw-Maw’s has always had Sharp Cheddar Cheese in it to give it a very cheesy deliciousness. She leaves the pimentos somewhat chunky so you can see and taste them. Very little mayonnaise goes in it, and just a hint of mustard. Salt and Pepper of course join those ingredients, and you end up with a nice chunky Pimento Cheese. What was that you asked? Any negatives about Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese? Only one negative…that you aren’t able to enjoy it with me.

Who would have thought they would have such similar names, but have such different flavors? Now I’m not one to tell you which one to go out and buy. I am one, however, to tell you to go taste them all. Life is about making your own decisions and enjoying the variety of options that you have in front of you to feed off of. Fortunately for you, food is one of the easiest decisions in life. I’m just here for guidance, and right now, I want you to smile. For the simple reason that you just read an entire article about the Southern delicacy that is Pimento Cheese. Say CHEESE y’all!

Pimento Spoons Words