Keeping it local with The Blend & Co.

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When it comes to supporting local businesses, I’m one of the first to stand up and show my support.  Recently, a 

little coffee shop opened up in our historic downtown area of Burlington, NC.  I had been trying to get there since they opened, but hadn’t been able to until this morning.  Lucky for me, I had company and there was a car show in town.  Two great reasons in my book of life!

As soon as you step through the door, you notice they have very charming decor and you immediately get a  

 sense of brightness when inside of The Blend & Co.  It feels very modern, clean, hipster, but yet still classy and Southern.  They have a room that is semi separated if you had larger parties or just wanted to join others at a  

  

 community table type seating area.  They also have a bar area to sit at and plenty of windows to enjoy the view of downtown.

I know that they get their coffee products from Fortuna Enterprises out of Greensboro, so they truly stick with a buy local feel.  It was indeed one of the best lattes I’ve ever enjoyed.  With that being said, I would highly recommend the Caramel Latte if you join them for a pick me up.  The blueberry muffin was also equally delicious and looked gorgeous.  You know as well as I know that you can never go wrong with a blueberry muffin for breakfast.

If ever in the downtown area, you should stop in and check them out.  The coffee is top notch, the decor is refreshing, and the service is outstanding.  It’s a can’t miss gem of downtown.

The Blend & Co. – 127 E Front Street, Burlington, NC

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…

LaRue – A great addition to Greensboro dining

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Sitting here on a cloudy afternoon, bored and with no one to talk to but my cat, I can’t help but think about last night’s meal. Another blogger friend and I were invited to a special preview of the new LaRue restaurant opening in downtown Greensboro on Monday, March 23.

It’s a small French restaurant right across from the Carolina Theatre, and it’s owned and operated by a very passionate Chef. Trey Bell’s passion shows through in his staff and especially the food. The staff was involved in the prepping of the space, and it’s very evident they all have a great source of pride in LaRue. I find that very charming about this place. The use of reclaimed wood all throughout the restaurant on the walls, the handmade bar and top (that was all created or made by the staff) really brings this restaurant together and shows it can fit in with the trendy downtown crowd.

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When you first arrive, they have you sign in on an old typewriter (the owner loves his antiques, but mainly typewriters). I’ll admit it, it’s been a long time since I’ve touched a typewriter, so I had to ask for assistance. Next time I’ll know (because there will be a next time).

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We were seated at the bar, which is pretty much like a Chef’s Table. We could sit and watch as food was finished and sent off to other guests. It was fun being in the middle of the action and talking to the chefs.

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Did I mention the retractable heat lamps??? Those should be in every kitchen!

We decided to order three of the four small plates…

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Marrow Butter was first up – house made cultured butter, bone marrow, and epi bread. The bread is brought in from Loaf Bakery, and it’s Trey’s actual recipe/creation.  The bread was prefect with a chewy outside and soft on the inside. $6

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Pigs in a Blanket was next – while it’s not my traditional Southern experience of Pigs in a Blanket, it was extremely tasty. The Chinese sausage wrapped in phyllo was spot on delicious with the mustard seed caviar. $6

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Next was the Duck, Duck, Duck – foie gras, duck confit and duck jerky went perfectly again with the bread. This was a first for me to have foie gras, and I must say that I quite enjoyed it! It went well with the butteriness of the confit. Duck jerky, where have you been all my life? $12

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We switched to main courses and chose the Cassoulet as one of our dishes. The pork belly paired well with the duck breast and white beans. We asked Chef for a suggestion of a sauce for the dish, and they whipped us up a sauce from scratch that was beyond what we expected. That says a lot about this place when they are willing to accommodate.

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The other course we chose was Spottail Bass – it came with romesco, wild onion and root greens. My friend is allergic to nuts, so the romesco was served on the side and not pictured. Trust me when I say it was phenomenal with the bass.

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We both enjoyed selections from a large wine and beer menu. It had all bases covered, even though this is a small restaurant. There’s no way you couldn’t find something to pair with your meal.

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Instead of dessert, we ended with a beautiful and delicious cheese plate. All three of the cheeses were accompanied perfectly with the peach, nectarines, and dried fruits.

This was truly a pleasurable experience dining out that I haven’t had in a while around town. The prices were right for the quality and quantity, and I can’t encourage enough to try this new gem. Most importantly, it’s nice to see fresh faces, fresh passion, and fresh ideas downtown. I can’t wait to go back!

Visit LaRue at 313 S. Greene St. in Greensboro, NC starting Monday, March 23rd!

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Happy Four Year Anniversary to The Onyx Plate!

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Wow. Just wow.

Four years ago I decided to open up to a world I never thought I could connect to. Well, let’s be honest here. I really started writing it just for friends and family. Isn’t that really who we start writing to anyhow? I wanted to share recipes, Southern family stories, and my love of life. No one expects to end up with gobs of followers from around the World across various social media platforms. From avid Foodies to Nutella lovers alike, they have come from all over to show love for what I do here on the site.

Sometimes, things like this just happen.

No truer words have left my fingertips lately. It seems that this last year has been nothing but things just happening. These “things” are not all bad. The loss of Maw-Maw was what hit me the hardest over the last twelve months. (I still have yet to read the post I wrote about her death.) After that, everything seemed to happen and change.

With reflection on that fact, it has remained important to remind myself that there is a bigger plan with all of these “things” that happen. Life isn’t solely about what happens to us, it’s also about how we handle the situation. Some days, all you can do is live in the present and take things one day at a time. Breathing becomes incredibly important and remembering to “Let go, and let God.”

The most important information I can pass along to you on my four year anniversary of us being together is to not be afraid of growth, change, or taking a risk. Who cares if you fall flat on your face at first…you’re going to get back up and be better than ever. While on that journey though, remember to respect and love others around you. Be there for your people when they need you. Extend a helping hand to someone when they need to be helped up. Love unconditionally without fear of being hurt, again.

This is life, and sometimes things just happen. But those things, yeah, those things can turn out to be breathtaking if given the chance.

"Rise up this mornin', Smile with the risin' sun, Three little birds Each by my doorstep Singin' sweet songs Of melodies pure and true, Sayin', "This is my message to you" Singin' "Don't worry 'bout a thing, 'Cause every little thing gonna be all right." ~Bob Marley~

“Rise up this mornin’,
Smile with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Each by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is my message to you”
Singin’ “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
~Bob Marley~

Gift Giving – Music and Brownies

Brownies recipe

This was published in the December 2013 issue of Alamance Magazine.  I want to share it with you now, because it’s never a bad time for gift giving.

With love,

J

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Gift Giving

There’s so much that comes to mind with the term, gift giving. No matter what has crossed my mind to write about for you this month, I always go back to thinking about our gifts that we were blessed with and giving to others. Being giving of our personal gift is important to a happy society. Your gift doesn’t have to cost money. That’s the wonderful thing about gifts. You were blessed with your talents, and they were given to you, to pass on and bring joy to others.

 

EggsI remember growing up and singing in church for various occasions. It may have been for a birthday, a wedding, or just with the choir. But, one of my gifts was singing. It was and is something I can give freely to others. It was the priceless birthday gift I could give my grandparents. It was an irreplaceable gift.

There are a few gifts that I think people look over as just a “skill”. Our local firemen and police officers – they have the gift inside of them that allows them to save lives daily. The carpenter that volunteers with Habitat for Humanity – they have a gift and use it to build homes. The funny friend that you have – that’s a gift that allows them to bring a smile to so many others with just a simple joke. The beautiful friend that always remembers you on birthdays and holidays with the perfect card – they freely give their gift of love and remembrance. You know that shoulder you cried on last week? That person was gifted as a natural born comforter, and they never hesitate to use it.

Your gift could be just being a good motivator, an amazing hair stylist, or even a delicious cook. In short, I do believe that our talents were gifts we were given in the beginning of life. Sometimes we don’t know when those gifts will shine in us along our journey, but we have the choice to embrace them and share them with others whenever we can.

Sometimes stepping out of our comfort zone and sharing our gift can be scary, which can hold us back.

In the earlier part of the year, I volunteered at a local high school in their Exceptional Children class. I thought it would be a great way for me to share my gift of cooking with someone else – a way for me to bring joy to others. Little did I know, it would change my life.

It was like any other day when I woke up. Except this time, I was packing my car full of brownie making items. We weren’t Ingredients 2just going to make box brownies though, we were going to do it from scratch! I got loaded up and headed to the school. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never had an experience with a student with disabilities, and I certainly hadn’t been back in a high school since I graduated. Honestly, it was a little nerve-racking in many ways. I didn’t want to say the wrong things, do the wrong things, or hurt anyone’s feelings. After waiting uncomfortably at the front desk for a bit, I finally got into the room and met their teachers. Wow. They were amazing and explained everything to me before we entered the room. Maybe I looked nervous? It was a good possibility. That was until I was introduced to the students – those beautiful young people.

The teacher called their attention and introduced me. Every single one turned around and greeted me. They each told me their names, and we were off to the kitchen! One by one we packed into their kitchen, and one by one we went through the ingredients we were going to use. There were a few that found it fun to crack the eggs. Others decided it was fun to play in the flour and sugar. One in particular wanted to wash the dishes. With hardly any help from myself, we had the brownies mixed up and ready to go in the oven.

Brownies CookedThat’s when it hit me – I had brought too large of a pan! Oh, I was devastated inside! I so wanted this to be perfect for them. After one of the students sprayed the pan, the brownies were poured in the pan and set to bake. My heart sank. I knew they wouldn’t be nice chunky, thick brownies for these wonderful students once the batter was spread out in the pan. We did the dishes, waited a bit, and then the brownies were ready to come out of the oven. I pulled them out to cool for a few minutes before calling the class back into the kitchen. They were so flat. Sigh.

The teacher kept reassuring me that it was okay, because we knew they would taste wonderful. Napkin by napkin, little flat brownie by little flat brownie, they were all passed out to the students. It was about the time the last brownie was going out that I realized what this was all about. It wasn’t about just sharing my gift of cooking with these children; they shared their gift of love, kindness, and appreciation with me. Their smiles, hugs, and words all said the same thing to me – BEST brownies ever!

They didn’t need to be perfect by any standards to actually be perfect. They were made with love by every single one of those students and myself. It was about the time I took to share my gift that was so precious and wonderful to them. That afternoon I learned that a gift we are blessed with, is a gift that we are meant to share with others. So whether it’s a smile that you give freely, or a passion that you use to help others, it’s all about freely giving your gift. Pass it on.

Oh wait! I mentioned brownies! Hands down…the perfect brownies. Enjoy, and pass them along this holiday season as gifts!

 Brownies recipe

Fudge Brownies by KitchenAid

 

  • 1 cup margarine or 1 cup butter, softened and divided
  • 4 (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate squares
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnuts or 1 cup pecans, chopped

 

Directions:

 

(If you don’t have a KitchenAid mixer, don’t fret. The higher the number on the speed, just means you need to stir it more. Also, if you’d like to make a brownie that is a little more salty and sweet, use Sea Salt instead of regular salt and double to one teaspoon.)

 

  1. Melt 1/2 cup of margarine/butter and chocolate squares in a small saucepan over low heat; set aside to cool.
  2. Place remaining 1/2 cup margarine/butter, sugar and vanilla in mixer bowl.
  3. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer.
  4. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds.
  5. Turn to Speed 6 and beat about 2 minutes.
  6. Turn to Speed 4.
  7. Add eggs, one at a time, beating about 15 seconds after each addition.
  8. Stop and scrape bowl.
  9. Add cooled chocolate mixture.
  • Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds.
  • Stop and scrape bowl.
  • Add all remaining ingredients (flour, salt, nuts).
  • Turn to Stir Speed and mix until well blended, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour into greased and floured 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Cool in pan on wire rack and cut

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 Birthday, Sara!!!

Shells

I think in life that we always find that certain someone that changes the way we look at things.  They change the way we do things.  Frankly, they change our entire existence at times.  Then sometimes, they scare the crap out of us with how much they know our heart.  That’s my friend Sara.  I met her in 2004 at our then workplace.  Wherever she advanced in the company, I seemed to follow her lead (minus the management part).  She was the perfect example of what hard work and dedication looked like in the job place.

Sara and I moved to our final department together in 2009.  We shared intimate moments from our lives outside of the workplace as well as gathered inspiration to get through the day at times.  She left the workplace first, and then I followed suit.  We both took leaps of faith with leaving the security of one job to another.  She, to be a wonderful stay at home Mom to her beautiful girls.  Myself, to pursue a career path closer to my passion with food.

Sometimes we go through life not knowing what to expect in our next chapter of life.  But, it is Cobblertimes like that when it is so reassuring to know you have someone in your corner.  See, Sara moved about 4 hours away a few weeks ago.  Up until her moving time, we gathered a few last times for a few “last meals”.  Sara makes the best tuna salad, lasagna, and was holding back on these amazing stuffed shells that she makes.  I enjoyed our meals and conversations together immensely.  They always seemed to come at the right time.  I am also thankful that she is a great friend of mine that loves food as much as I do and is always willing to open up her kitchen to me! —- The last meal, when we had the stuffed shells, Sara’s daughter was so excited to give me a gift she had picked out for me.  They had a bible for me.  Not just any bible, but a pink bible.  Sara had given me explicit instructions to read a certain book in the bible for the situations I have been going through lately, and I know she was making sure I had absolutely no excuses not to read it.  Sara and her husband have moved through life with leaps of faith.  With every leap she takes, she spreads the love of God as well.  This was just another example of her inspiration to others.

In that…she is the perfect example of God’s love everyday, and that is something I hope to follow in her footsteps with as well.

Happy Birthday to my amazingly beautiful friend, Sara.  I love you.

She’s made an appearance on TheOnyxPlate.com before, and you can find that recipe for her easy Lasagna at this link here.  We normally paired our meals with a good salad, bread, and a tasty dessert.  Of course by tasty dessert I only mean brownies or Peach Cobbler.  *smile*

Below is the recipe for our “last meal” while she was in town…her Stuffed Shells.

Shells

Sara’s Stuffed Shells

  • 12 oz pack of jumbo pasta shells

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 – 15 oz cartons of Ricotta Cheese

  • 2 cups shredded Mozz cheese

  • 1.5 cups grated Parmesan Cheese (I’ve used both grated and shredded before; both work)

  • 2 tbsp dried parsley (or 1/2 cup fresh–I’ve never had fresh on hand, so I always use dried)

  • 1/2 tsp salt (I also add about 1 tbsp basil and 3/4 tsp oregano–or roughly 1.5 additional tbsp of a mixed italian seasoning when I don’t have the specific herbs on hand)

  • 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Cook jumbo shells according to package directions. Drain and let cool. Mix eggs in separate large bowl. Add Ricotta, Mozzarella, parmesan (directions say to add 3/4 cup and using reserves for top–I’ve been adding all it lately in the mix and then sprinkling extra some on top), and all the seasonings/salt. Spoon the cheese mix into each shell. Spread some spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking dish. Arrange shells in dish. Top with spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle with parm cheese and mozz. Bake for 25-30 min or until heated through. ENJOY!!!!

 

Surprise yourself…you’re worth it!

Shrimp

ShrimpSome days are harder than others to move forward in life.  I have had a few of those in the past few months (maybe quite a bit more than a few, to be honest).  Now that it is just me, I find it harder to invest in good meals for myself.  It seems like a waste of time to go through the trouble of cooking when it is just one person, and no one to share the outcome with just seems sad.  Unfortunately, I have thought this way for a while now.

Cooking was always about cooking for someone and cooking with love for them.

The trouble with the above statement is that I am basing the effort on someone else.  I am not basing it off of myself being worthy of a good home cooked meal.  I am not thinking about or showing love to myself.  I was judging the happiness of the meal off of someone else being there.  When in the end, it was not about who I was sharing something with, but it was about being happy with myself.  Some may say, respecting yourself and giving yourself what you deserve.

After thinking about these things this morning, I went to the grocery store with an open mind.  I promised myself that I was not going to have just something simple for dinner tonight.  I am worth much more than simple.  A little inspiration was received, and I was off to the store.  I ended up buying fresh shrimp, string beans, red pepper, basil, and WINE.  Wine makes everything better!  After the cooking process, I ended up with a white wine-butter-garlic-basil-shrimp concoction that surprised even myself!!!  It was then that I realized…I’m totally worth a good home cooked meal on my own.  Try not to forget you are worth it as well!  Now…what shall I make tomorrow?

Don’t forget to keep up with me on Facebook for much more frequent activity!  *smiles*