A note to my readers…

I’M STILL HERE!  I’ve just been taking time to enjoy life lately.  As I had posted about in the past, electronics take up too much of our time in life.  We don’t take time to smell the world around us enough.  I have been lately, and I want to smell it more often (maybe not some of the things, but you get my point).  I work a 10-hour day, work out at the fitness center after work (most days, honest), and then come home to cook.  By the end of these events, I am exhausted.  I found that a majority of my evenings in recent weeks had been spent blogging after these long exhausting days, and I began to miss out on my world at home.  I can admit it, some of the chores fell behind a bit, the cat wasn’t too happy about her lap being taken up by a laptop instead of the lapcat, and I wouldn’t blame the hub if he felt a little neglected.  He hasn’t said anything about this though, he has been quite supportive. 

With all of this being said, I am withdrawing from the PostADay2011 challenge.  I fully give my support to all the others doing it, but I, myself, must embrace the world around me more, so I can have beautiful wonderful Southern food and things to write to you about.  Not to mention, one of our most beautiful seasons in the South begins soon!  Yay for Spring in the South!!!  In fact…the daffodils are already blooming in my backyard…and Spring is in my heart. 

Now, I’m just waiting to plant all my goodies and those tomato plants the hub still doesn’t know we’re planting…………………*evil grin*

Love to you all,

Jennifer

Taking time to create and learn…

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Learning to cook is one of the most wonderful things you can possibly do in life…in my opinion that is.  With something as simple as learning to pit a cherry, you instantly receive that gratification of a job well done.  Soon enough, you’re putting things together, off the top of your head, you never even thought about.  It becomes quite the adventure in the kitchen, and even more of an adventure in your local grocery store or market.  Your possibilities are endless!

This creation was an ode to my croissants again.  I love to prepare things with croissants.  In fact, if you haven’t read about my enjoyment of croissants and the dough, please do so by clicking here.  You might get a little chuckle out of reading it.  *smiles*

Back to the recipe……It’s my own take on Salmon Puffs.  Enjoy!

Salmon Pockets

  • 1 roll/tube of croissant dough
  • 1 shallot
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of butter/margarine  (I use Brummel and Brown tub margarine.)
  • 2 salmon filets
  • 1 avocado
  • salt and pepper to taste or Smoked Paprika

Directions:

  1. Lay the dough out and form into 4 evenly shaped triangles.  This may mean you need to press the seams together of 2 of them to form your triangles.  Otherwise, if you bought a sheet of croissant dough, cut it in to 4 even rectangles.
  2. Slice the avocado.
  3. Cut each salmon filet in half.  I use frozen salmon filets.  I find it easier and they were pretty much in rectangle shapes already, and easy to cut in half.
  4. Chop the shallot and onion up finely.  Place them in a small sauté pan with the butter and cook down until softened. 
  5. Once the shallot and garlic are softened immediately spoon it onto each rectangle, and spread it out on the dough to “butter” it.
  6. Next, on one end of the rectangle of dough, place one piece of salmon, then one avocado on top of the salmon. 
  7. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper, or you can sprinkle Smoked Paprika like I did on top of the avocado.
  8. Lastly, pull the other side up and over the salmon.  Do your best to seal it off how you want to.  As long as it ends up covering the salmon all the way, then you are doing great!  Not everything has to look perfect, folks.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the croissant dough is light golden brown and serve.  Enjoy!

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The BIG 1-0-0 and Tillamook! Thank you!

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“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” ~ Jacob A. Riis

Along with all of the posts before this one, all 99 of them, this one definitely is a milestone as well. Yes, each one has been a milestone. The fact I even took a leap of faith and love to begin The Onyx Plate is still amazing to me. What was it that began it all? What was it that compelled me to strike out on a journey of my own self-discovery through cooking? Was it the biography I watched on Ina Garten? Was it the repeated askings of my friends when was I going to write my own cookbook? Was it Julie and Julia (cheesy, but could be)? Was it the love and support of my family wanting me to find something I could call my own? Or, was it a spark inside of me that lit itself and has never went out?

Whatever it was, I am thankful and blessed to have felt moved by the beautiful life that surrounds me every day. There have been times when all I could hope for was a hobby of my own. All of my family members have something they enjoy or are very talented at. Even the hub has a passion. I didn’t. I needed that, and I found it. It’s doing these posts…for you. Knowing that you are out there reading my inner most thoughts, adventures, and food-related Southern stories, and hopefully being inspired yourself, makes it all worth while. This is the hobby I hoped for…dreamed of…and still have dreams of what this hobby can and will become.

Obviously, along with any life, one desires support and love from the ones around them. I can tell every single one of you reading this, that I am not lacking, in the least little bit, in the support department from family or friends. Even when I wasn’t sure of myself and this journey, someone in my circle was. I love them all for this and am grateful for them in my life daily.

Speaking of support…you may remember reading about a special delivery I received before Christmas. It was a tasty gift box of Tillamook Cheese from none other than my wonderful Uncle! On the invoice it read, “Hope this makes it into a cheesy recipe”. His support meant the world to me, and it still does. Thank you, Unc!

You can read the original post on my heart-warming, cheese-inspired, Tillamook delivery by clicking here.

I have made many recipes on this site using the Tillamook Cheese I received that day. Sadly though, I am down to one more block. It’s time for me to order more! I refuse to run out! You can order yours by clicking here and visiting their site…they have a lot of great sales on their masterpieces!

Recently, Tillamook ran a recipe review contest. You made one of the new recipes posted on their site, you reviewed it, and submitted it. After that, they would pick a winner to receive a Baby Loaf Love Gift Box. I bought all of the ingredients and ended up having an extremely busy week (no complaints though…Kid Rock concert in there one night!), and I was unable to make it in time for the deadline for the contest. But, that’s fine and dandy with me (congratulations to all of the winners), I still wanted to try it…the recipe seemed quite yummy. Below, you will find the recipe link from their site, and also see what I changed or added (since I was out of the contest time, I could adjust, hehe).

The recipe is from Dave Danhi of The Grilled Cheese Truck (one of their local food trucks on the West Coast). It called for Tillamook Unsalted Butter, and of course I don’t have that on the East Coast. However, I do know that Tillamook supports their local farms and companies, and they have a passion for good quality farm-fresh items…hence the AMAZING cheese quality! So, with that being said…I used Homeland Creamery Unsalted Butter from Julian, NC (absolutely fabulous butter!), and I used Neese’s Bacon (I know all of you local yokels are confused with the word Neese’s and Bacon being together, as they are traditionally synonymous with fabulous sausage, but I found it in my local grocery store) from Greensboro, NC. To add that yummy Southern-style to it, I used Duke’s Mayonnaise from Richmond, VA. Local is always good! Sidenote: I was out of Tillamook Smoked Medium Cheddar Cheese, so I used the Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar Cheese…oh my, taste explosion!

(For the record, Neese’s Bacon was oh-so-very tasty. You know how some bacons are way too salty? This wasn’t at all. Very good quality and flavor! If you can find it, buy it.)

Visit Tillamook’s website here for the full recipe and instructions for the BLAT I made. You won’t be disappointed!

I did add one naughty Southern thing to the mix…I took the bacon grease and fried Jalapeno slices in it, and added them to this wonderful sandwich. I would probably add some sautéed onions to it next time for another flavor layer. The avocado, although very good on the sandwich, controlled the flavors almost too well, and some of the flavors were lost. More Spinach next time, as well!

Wow! Can you believe it? This is the 100th post…

101 breaks the block in two pieces according to the quote above…therefore, The Onyx Plate is going on a ride…are you coming with???

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I Un-Skinnied my Cow…

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I have fallen in love with these fabulous Skinny Cow bars…win.  They are white mint truffle flavored.  Such a nice, refreshing, and light treat.  I also was already in love with Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies…fail.  As a majority of you know, it is Girl Scout cookie time.  We have a few boxes of them here, of which I have only had a small portion of each box.  We are maintaining self-control very well, surprisingly. 

The two aforementioned items seemingly were meant to be together.  I took the ice cream off of the bar and into a bowl.  I topped it with 4 crushed up Thin Mint cookies…this was a match made in heaven!

I shouldn’t unskinny the cow very often, but this was a nice change.

Easy Breezy Rib Preparation…

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I’ve never been one to make ribs, but I couldn’t pass up this easy way to prepare them.  I completely enjoy Food Network, and I have definitely picked up on a lot of tips over the years of watching the channel.  This tip to cooking ribs has definitely soared to the top of my tips list from Bobby Flay.  I recommend you try it, but I also recommend you get creative with it.  Remember, a recipe is normally there to guide you, don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit as I say.  Make your dish, your own.

The two times I have done this method, I have used Country Style Pork Ribs.  They look almost like a bone-in steak somewhat, not the traditional baby back ribs.  He preheats his oven to 500 degrees, seals the ribs in a pan with liquid in the bottom and ribs on a roasting rack in aluminum foil, and bakes them for an hour and a half.  To finish them off, he baste them in whatever sauce he is using, and then broils them for 5 minutes approximately on each side.  Super simple and delicious!  For this recipe, I marinated my ribs in a strong Espresso, and used an Espresso Rub I picked up at A Southern Season a couple of trips back. 

Espresso Ribs

  • 1 pack country-style pork ribs (my pack came with 6 large ribs. We eat one a piece at the meal, and save the rest for another meal as chopped barbeque.)
  • 4 cups of strong espresso
  • Rub of choice (I used a bought premade Espresso Rub.)
  • Deep baking pan
  • Roasting Rack (I use a cookie cooling rack.  I’ve never had an issue using these in the oven.)
  • Aluminum Foil

Directions

  1. Place your ribs in a gallon or larger Ziploc bag.
  2. Next, prepare the 4 cups of espresso.  I just use instant espresso, and dissolved a good amount of the granules in 4 cups of water.
  3. Pour the espresso into your bag and seal tightly.  Allow to marinate for 4 hours or more.  Mine marinated for about 6 hours.
  4. About two hours before you’re ready to eat, and after done marinating, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. 
  5. Place the roasting rack inside of the deep baking pan, or roasting pan.  Spray the pan and rack with cooking spray to prevent the meat from sticking to it.
  6. Next, lay each rib on the cookie sheet and massage your choice of rub on to each side. 
  7. Pour the espresso from the Ziploc bag into the bottom of the pan.
  8. Lay Aluminum Foil over the pan and seal tightly around the edges.  You may need to use one or two pieces depending on how large your pan is.
  9. Place in the preheated oven for 1 and a half hours.
  10. Remove from the oven, and unwrap.  Be careful, the steam will escape rapidly. I usually cut the foil off by first, stabbing the middle to allow some of the steam to escape, and then, pulling the foil off in pieces.
  11. Finish the ribs off under the broiler for 5 minutes approximately.  This is where you would baste them with sauce if you wanted.  Sauces that are high in sugar will burn, so watch them closely.

This method seems to leave them deliciously moist…enjoy!

I paired them with a can of whole baby potatoes…yes, I said canned.  I put the potatoes in a pot, added 1 cup of water, 2 heaping tablespoons of tub margarine, a little Sea Salt, and half of a red onion sliced.  I simmered this all together for the last 30 minutes of the ribs cooking.  They made an excellent, tasty, and easy side dish to accompany the ribs!  I also served the the ribs with a dollop of Tandoori Sauce…I love this stuff!

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Product Recommendation: Caribou Coffee–Amy’s Blend

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It’s no secret to those that know me.  I absolutely adore a good cup of coffee.  It has to have just the right flavor blend, and it can’t be any of that weak stuff either.  I need to taste it, feel it, and smell it brewing.  With this out of the way…I have found a new top-three coffee, folks.

Caribou Coffee – Amy’s Blend

Not only is their slogan perfection on it’s own…”Life is short. Stay awake for it.”  But, this blend in particular is quite warming to the body and soul.  On the back it reads…

“About Amy: Amy Erickson, our beloved Roastmaster, loved life, laughter, tulips and, of course, coffee.  In fact, the craft-roasting standards she established still make our coffee what it is today.  When Amy began her fight with breast cancer, we created Amy’s Blend to help with her medical bills.  We now bring this special blend back yearly in memory of Amy – and to help find a cure.  Here’s to Amy.”

In fact people, one dollar of each bag of this particular blend sold goes to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Why wouldn’t you want to support a wonderful product, supporting a wonderful cause?  Breast cancer isn’t something to be taken lightly.  It affects both women and men.  My prayers to all that have been touched by this. 

Although, we hate to see our loved ones affected by such awful cancers as this one, if they do lose their battle, we are fortunate enough to rest in the peace and faith that they have become angels to remain with us always…..Here’s to Amy…

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Oven-Roasted Asparagus…Amazing!

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This household has really become addicted to oven-roasting asparagus.  It is so delicious!  When preparing the asparagus, you are supposed to bend them towards the bottom and break the ends off.  You are supposed to trust the asparagus that it knows where to break itself off.  After I have broken all the ends off, I sometimes wonder if I am missing out on a part of something so delicious that I want more of….it feels like a waste.  Although, I believe I missed one last night, and I got it on my plate.  It was quite hard and woody on the end that I didn’t snap off……not appetizing in the least little bit.  Therefore, I will continue to snap my asparagus, but always long for the what-if’s……

Directions for Oven-Roasted Asparagus

Take each spear of asparagus and hold it towards the non-flowery end, and bend it until it snaps on it’s own.  Then place in a pan with sides.  Drizzle with a little EVOO and Sea Salt.  Then toss them around to coat them all evenly.  Place in the oven at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they start to turn brown on the tips.  Once they start, they will turn very quick, so watch them.  Take out and serve!  So delicious!

This asparagus was paired with Cajun Turkey Breast, and Quinoa that I cooked in chicken broth.  We’re not quite sure about the Quinoa, yet.  It was a lot like our good Southern grits in texture.  Yet, resembled insect larvae in site….too much description?  Maybe.  The truth can sometimes be unappetizing though.  I will say this…I am sure with the correct seasonings in the liquid you cook it in, it could be more appetizing.  If you find a better way to prepare it, let me know…please.

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Hungry Jack and Honey Bear

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No, these aren’t sweet Southern nicknames…although, they would make great nicknames for the right people.  In my under-the-weather kind of mood lately, I have still been cooking and keeping the hub fed well.  This morning, I woke up and asked him if he minded making me some warm buttered pancakes with syrup.  He happily obliged (sort of).  Anytime I tell him that he can be creative with the pancakes, he always ends up making a delicious pancake. 

As I finally mustered up the energy to make it into the den, I discovered he already had the coffee going, and he was in the process of squeezing the honey bear into the batter of whole wheat Hungry Jack pancakes.  Yum, Yum!  He proceeded to prepare his creation of honey-wheat pancakes, and we enjoyed a nice warm Sunday morning breakfast. 

My Honey Bear may not cook very much around here, but when he does, it is truly delicious.  His Hungry Jen appreciates it very much!

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Customer Service and My Appetite go hand in hand, folks.

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We all know that feeling…the feeling where you know you aren’t getting adequate customer service.  That moment that makes you say, “I won’t be coming back here again.”  Hopefully, you haven’t had to experience that very often, but unfortunately I believe it happens in our societies all too often.

Being an ex-waitress (sidenote: I would totally go back to doing that if I didn’t have to clean up after people, and if it actually paid…both of which would not happen), I know a little bit more about giving and receiving good customer service than your average patron out and about.  Consider this a curse and a blessing at the same time.  A curse because I know what good customer service is and when I’m not getting it.  Sometimes, it’s better to be left in the dark and not understand what super good customer service is, instead of knowing what you’re missing out on.  A blessing for the one’s that give me good customer service…their tips increase greatly, as well as the compliments to the managers in regards to the service I received. 

In the end of this soapbox…there are two things that relate to each other when I’m out and about shopping.  The level of customer service I receive directly affects my appetite.  If you don’t give me good customer service, I’m less apt to spend money in your store (as I hope this is with anyone).  Case and point today…………

Let’s start today’s journey at A Southern Season (one of my most favorite stores ever).  You can read all about A Southern Season by clicking here, where I originally described it in mouth-watering detail (I won’t go into all that again on this post).  We ate lunch at the Weathervane (their restaurant), and had a delightful server.  He was a little dry, maybe because he didn’t know how to take my redheaded sense of humor.  All in all, great service and amazing food (OMG, yes I just OMG’d, the burger I had was oozing with goodness!).  Next, we caroused the store for anything we could get our hands on.  Below you can see pictures of what I ended up purchasing…more Tandoori Sauce, a cool coffee mug, Quinoa, a gorgeous Bamboo Cutting Board, Bacchus (German wine), and a heavenly wedge of Panforte (which has a nice customer service story to go along with it).  The gentleman giving the wine samples was  absolutely delightful and very educational.  I enjoyed him. 

My favorite guy though, quite the handsome fella if I might add, was my cheese guy.  I am going to call him Mr. Cheese for this story.  It all began with the Panforte.  I was reading the sign on it, quite intrigued by the description.  It looked like a cheese wheel, but it’s ingredients consist of dried figs, walnuts, sugar, honey and spices.  I was confused why it was in the cheese section.  Mr. Cheese was quick to assist me.  He took me by the hand…ha!…I wish…he waved me over to the other end of the counter and immediately unwrapped a wedge of the Panforte for me to try it.  I tried the nibble he had cut off for me, and I was quite surprised of the intensity of the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Although, it was quite tasty.  Mr. Cheese then threw me a curveball.  He grabbed a pinch of me…ha!…once again, just kidding…he grabbed a pinch of blue cheese, another nibble of the Panforte, put them together, and handed me the bite.  Odd as it sounded and looked, he assured me it would be delicious.  I trusted Mr. Cheese, and placed the nibble in my mouth.  Talk about sensory overload!  It was a taste explosion in my mouth.  There was salty, there was sweet, there was sour, there was nutty, and then there was that cinnamon/nutmeg bite to it.  It was a completely complex idea that my brain couldn’t wrap around, and still can’t quite wrap around….maybe he would be kind enough to provide me another taste test in the future.  Just kidding, folks!  A girl can dream, right?  I kid, I kid!  Anyways, all kidding aside, I remembered I had some blue cheese at home, and I continued my trip with buying the wedge he had let me sample off of.  It was an excellent customer service experience, and I appreciate Mr. Cheese introducing my palate to something new and different.

The next place we stopped was Trader Joe’s.  It’s a nicely organized organic foods store.  Yes, I am on this quest to find a good fresh foods store…this trip took us here next.  Everything looked delicious, and the prices were super low and affordable!  We didn’t know it was a game day, so it was no wonder the stores were all slam-packed.  I enjoyed Trader Joe’s a great deal.  I bought a couple of things there…Calbee Snapea Crisps, and Bench & Field Feline Treats (had to get the baby something).  The crisps are delicious, and to me, they scream Southern.  They are like a cheese puff texture, but green, minus the cheese flavor, and substitute a green pea flavor.  Weird sounding, yet very pleasing.  I didn’t have much interaction from a customer service standpoint until the cashier.  He was super nice.  I told him this was our first time here, and he proceeded to tell us about Trader Joe’s and it’s history.  A very knowledgeable fella indeed.  I enjoyed him as well.  Yes, he was quite attractive also.

The third and final place for us food-loving individuals, was Weaver Street Market.  As much as I would love to chalk this up to this particular individual having a bad day, I can’t say I experienced excellent customer service skills at the cashier either.  In short, as to not call anyone out, I asked a question of someone working there, they argued with me in a couple of sentences exchanged, and then condescendingly and sarcas-ass-tically replied to the point where all I could say was thank you and walk away.  This didn’t leave a great impression in my mind, and unfortunately, it was at the beginning of the store where I had this encounter.  Therefore, the whole time in the store, I really didn’t feel like buying much in there.  I wasn’t hungry anymore, my appetite was shot.  Luckily, before I encountered this employee, I had already picked up some French Fingerling Potatoes (of which, I am super excited to use).  I mustered up the nerve to purchase a candy bar as well, but that was it.  I was prepared to spend much more money there, but in the end, my appetite was lost on the poor customer service I had experienced.

Will I go back to A Southern Season?……DUH!  I love this place, and until I have a sour experience, which I extremely doubt will ever happen, I will continue to be faithful to my store.  Also, as long as they keep Mr. Cheese employed…I will be good…*smiles*

Will I go back to Trader Joe’s?….Absolutely.  I will need to go back when I have a cooler though.  They seemed to have some beautiful, tasty items.  Excellent prices, and great quality!

Will I go back to Weaver Street Market?….I’m just not sure at this point.  Isn’t that sad?  As much as I love food, I feel that strongly about good customer service.  I very well might consider trying one of their other locations, much further in the future…I strongly urge the support of local farmers, and they stand strongly for our local farmers.  That is something I can respect about them.

Enjoy the pictures of what I purchased today below…and thank you for letting me tell you about my day…Oh yeah…I forgot to mention, my dear friend and I ran out of gas on the way home today, priceless.  But…wait for it…we had Snapea Crisps and wine (screw-cap) to survive until her hub came and brought us gas!  Thank you A Southern Season and Trader Joe’s for our out-of-gas supplies!  Thank you to her hub for bailing us out, since mine wasn’t local to us (I know he would have been there immediately too if we had been closer to my house)!  At the end of the day, it didn’t hurt to have great company to kill time with….*smiles*

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