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.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Artichoke Frittata Love

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Do you remember, Sara? She’s the one that did the Sundays with Friends Lasagna recipe. She is a sincere fellow Foodie, and she graced me with a wonderful birthday present yesterday. As if the gift bag (the best gift bag in the world!) wasn’t enough, the item contained in the gift bag was perfect!

That morning, Sara walked around the cubicle wall with a long white gift bag. She said Happy Birthday, and handed me the bag which had Williams-Sonoma scrolled across it. For a foodie, the gift bag is just an appetizer to a wonderful gift! I opened the bag to reveal a neatly wrapped jar. I could only imagine what would be in this jar with the green ribbon tied around it’s packaging. Williams-Sonoma has the best selection of specialty foods in their stores. After unwrapping, I found a jar of Sun-Dried Tomato and Artichoke Frittata and Omelette Starter. I certainly had my reservations about the artichoke part, but it was going to be something new to try, and Williams-Sonoma has NEVER steered me wrong with their items or their recipes (nor has Sara). So, excited I was to receive it, and excited I was to prepare the recipe on the jar.

Let me tell you something…never be afraid to try something new. Whether it is a gift, a new item in the store, something a friend has prepared for you, never be afraid of it. All of our food items we consume were created out of love at one point. Someone, somewhere had a little dream to create good food products…in turn, that dream and the food was created out of love, no matter how old the company is. The truth is, some of us don’t eat many different things because we honestly haven’t been exposed to them. Try, try, try my friends!

This concoction in a jar ended up being absolutely mouth-watering! I originally thought that maybe I do need to purchase a Frittata pan…until I prepared it in my Jumbo Muffin Pan. I don’t need no stinkin’ Frittata pan…or do I? *smiles* Either way, below is the recipe I used, and it made a great Vegetarian Breakfast. Enjoy!

Sun-Dried Tomato and Artichoke Frittata

(The actual recipe on the side of the jar makes a normal sized Frittata, but since it was just me this morning, I made the portion smaller.)

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 spoonfuls of the Starter (Or, any tasty vegetable and seasonings of choice…however, I do recommend the ease of the Starter. If you like your veggies softer, sauté them a bit and allow them to cool completely before adding them to your eggs.)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese (I’m not the biggest fan of Mozzarella, so I used what I had. This was a shredded mix of Mozzarella and Cheddar.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Whisk eggs, then mix in the cheese and Starter to the eggs, and set aside.
  3. In a jumbo or regular muffin tin, spray with Pam, then pour the mixture into the cups until they are 3/4 of the way full. You won’t be able to fill them all up with the above measurements. Not sure where I heard this, but fill the remaining empty cups with a little water in them. This is supposed to promote even baking, and supply moisture in the oven. (Every time I have done this, my muffins come out perfect and moist.)
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops no longer jiggle (you like that word, don’t you?), and they are slightly browned.
  5. Slide a plastic knife (to not scratch your pan) around the edges of each and slowly pull it out of the pan (they may stick a bit, but with a little encouragement and patience they come out fine). Serve by itself, or with a little hot sauce if you’re feeling spicy. *smiles*

***Thank you, Sara, for the wonderful birthday gift! It was delicious and perfect!  I love it!  Next time, I’m using it as a light pasta sauce.  Yum!

A special Thank you to Rebecca at Rebecca's Whims for my new PhotoProps! The hearts are beautiful! Click on the photo to purchase your own beautiful handmade hearts.

Caking with Mom: Be Prepared

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Shouldn’t that always be the motto for life?  You never know what is around the bend.  Some events are hard to be prepared for in life.  For instance, the earthquake in Japan that caused a continuous strand of chaos to follow it.  There is no way anyone could have been prepared for all that followed those fateful 5 minutes.  But, there was another way to be prepared.  Being prepared with your faith is important in circumstances like this.  It’s not about questioning why things happened.  It’s all about knowing and having faith in your higher power that once the event has occurred, you will get through the events that you were unprepared for physically and material-wise.  We can’t always be prepared for heartache and disaster…these things make us stronger as people.  They connect us more, and they remind us we are all human.  But we can be prepared with a knowing that we are being taken care of after it’s all said and done.

Speaking of being prepared…let’s talk about cake prep!!!  Yay!

You must be prepared before making your cake.  Ingredients out, pans out, and everything properly organized.  The less stress in the kitchen, the better!  That’s my take on things at least.  Not to mention, my Mom is one of the most organized people out there, and I love her for it!

Everyone has containers for their dry goods nowadays.  Some are tall, some are clear, some are round, some are square, etc. (you get the point).  But, then there are the ones that you  know, just know, have seen a lot of history in the kitchen.  From previous generations sometimes in fact.  The ones that have helped to contain a variety of brands of flours or sugars, maybe some that are no longer made.  Then there is my Mom’s sugar bowl.  The worn sugar and flour containers have so much history around them, I can’t even get in to it all on here.  The one thing that stands out though…the perfect olive green scoops.  I can say it’s one color of a kitchen utensil that always makes me feel warm and fuzzy.  It’s a color that reminds me of being in the kitchen with Maw-Maw, and now Mom.  Just a classic color.  I love thinking about the history of old containers.

These strips go around the edge of the pans to promote even baking.  You apply them before baking.  Yes, as the label says…saturate with water. 

You must choose ingredients that you know and love.  Our family absolutely loves Daisy Sour Cream.  It either comes with a beautiful picture of scenery on the seal of it, or an uplifting phrase.

We also love Happy Home Flavorings.  We have to find this brand at specialty stores.  It’s made in Virginia.  So, it’s semi-local.  *smiles*

You can’t go wrong with OXO tools in the kitchen.  These little bad boy measuring cups are a blessing for small measuring when you don’t want to deal with measuring spoons.  Or, they work great if you’ve already dirtied up your measuring spoons.  In fact, almost all of my own personal utensils are OXO.  Yay for OXO!

You must grease (couldn’t think of a better word) the bottom of your pans so the cakes come out perfect.  Although, I do love the goodies left in the pan once the cake is removed (I will go into that another time). 

When baking cakes, have a handy-dandy toothpick ready to plunge deep into the heart of the cake.  If it comes out clean, odds are it’s done.

Some of the above items you will see again in this series.  There is just so much more to talk about with making a cake. 

Especially a cake made with love…