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

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

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*

Chicken Salad and Spring

Green Sandwich Star

Green Sandwich Star

I guess losing someone never gets easier. Or maybe it does, and I don’t remember things being so tough after losing Paw-Paw so many years ago.  I was a teenager then, and now an adult.  The heart understands more now, and in turn I believe it does hurt more.  With that being mentioned, I’m looking forward to Spring.  I really am.  It was a gosh awful Fall and Winter.  Sometimes I think only my head understands, and not another soul can relate.  But, I know out there others have dealt with the same situations I have been going through recently.  Which is just proof that survival happens.

Which brings me back to Spring.  Spring always reminds me of renewal and a refresh on life.  From that first bird chirp waking me up in mid-January, to the ever questionable weather leading up to the first day of Spring, it’s always exciting.  For the past month at least, we’ve had snow, thunder, and 70s.  I love the North Carolina weather.  Seriously.  *smiles*  I am, however, looking forward to sunshine again.  That nice, warm, sunshine that kisses the skin (at least when I’m wearing my 5,000 SPF sunscreen, *wink*).

Sunshine reminds me of picnics.  Picnics remind me of sandwiches.  Sandwiches remind me of my favorite kind, Chicken Salad.  Now I’ll fully admit that I definitely cop out and always get Chickfila Chicken Salad Sandwiches in lieu of making my own homemade.  (It’s so good!  If you haven’t tried it, the next time you’re around one, please do.)  Sometimes though, I get the feeling like I need to grow up and make my own like any self respecting Southern lady does.  But it’s so easy to just buy the best!  *sigh*

The initial search began with a quest to find St. Patricks Day food.  I wanted something kind of green or “March” for y’all.  I then came across, somehow, a Lemon Chicken Sandwich recipe featured on one of Oprah’s Australian Outback shows in 2011.  Ummmm….no idea why that came up in that particular search.  But, I had a hankering for chicken salad recently, and something was screaming at me to make them!  That, and the photograph featured was beautiful to me.  So I had to accept the challenge to duplicate it.

20101214-tows-donna-hay-chicken-sandwiches-300x205
…their photograph…

If you haven’t figured it out yet, you should know that I don’t always follow recipes (unless dough is involved…I suck at dough) in my kitchen.  I take them under advisement.  It’s just more fun that way.  *smiles*  The version I came up with was basily delicious.  Honestly.  With NO lemon and NO mint as the original recipe suggested.  I’m not that dainty when it comes to cooking.  Just seemed like I could find a better use for the lemon juice and mint by making a cocktail later.  *wink*

After it was all said and done, and the photo was to my liking, I decided I couldn’t possibly eat all of the Chicken Salad sandwiches I had made, and they were deconstructed.  As you see below, one outside edge was decorated with chopped chives.  I scraped those off into the Chicken Salad as well and mixed everything together before storing it in the fridge.  It was best the next day, and even though you may feel it was a lot of chives to include in the recipe, the basil and chives balanced each other perfectly.  Don’t forget, salads like this are always better the next day after the flavors have had a chance to meld together in the fridge.  Hope you enjoy!

Green Up Close Sandwich

Basil and Chive Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 chopped cooked chicken breasts (I chopped mine very fine for a less chunky consistency)
  • 3/4 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise (plus extra for spreading)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped basil leaves
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped chives
Directions
To make the Chicken Salad: Combine the chicken, mayonnaise, basil, salt and pepper.  If you do NOT want to garnish your sandwiches, throw the chives in the mix as well.  Set aside in the fridge until ready to eat.
To garnish the sandwiches: Cut into small triangles and brush one side with extra mayonnaise. Press the mayonnaise into the chives and serve.  On a side note: to prevent getting too many chives caked on to one sandwich, I spread a thin layer of chives on a cutting board, and then pressed the mayonnaise smeared edge into them.

*For the original recipe that includes the Lemon and Mint on Oprah.com click here.

To go along with the green and March theme, I did make candy coated Jumbo Marshmallows that day as well.  *big smiles*  Jumbo marshmallows that I dipped in Vanilla candy coating and pressed Lucky Charms marshmallows into.  Easy and magically delicious!  *wink*

Green Marshamallows Lucky Charms

Changing the way we cook: Dialysis friendly recipes

20131128_121551What a crazy month it’s been!  Four weeks ago tomorrow, Maw-Maw was first admitted to the hospital for kidney failure and a myriad of other things.  Two weeks before that approximately she had a pretty bad fall, and that started the downhill roll for her kidneys.  Between work, home, and hospital (or rehab center for 4 days) we’re all exhausted and ready for a break.  

Good news is that she came home Friday – hopefully for good now.  All of us are tired of hospitals to be perfectly honest. 

The bad news….

She is now on permanent Dialysis.

We’re a family that eats together a LOT.  I grew up around the dinner table and have wonderful memories of everyone being together with a warm meal.  Chicken Pie, Roasts, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, brownies, cakes, pies, etc.  We always had a delicious meal.  Well, times have changed a bit.  With Maw-Maw’s dietary restrictions, we really have to think outside the box.  Things that were once second nature to throw together for a decent meal, now have to be prepared special ways, or have many normal foods that we cook with excluded.  Needless to say, it’s been a challenge.  But, it’s a challenge we’ve all accepted and are determined to conquer! 

We’ve been looking at this site, http://www.davita.com/recipes/.  It’s been able to provide us lots of recipes and ideas for meals that Maw-Maw can enjoy.  Below are a few that I have found tasty.  If I made any substitutions, I listed them in parenthesis.  I’ve also linked each recipe from the actual site if you want to read other people’s comments and suggestions.

As a whole of any situation we’re handed, we have a choice.  We can lie down and pity ourselves and feel like life is over as we know it, or we can pick ourselves up by our boot straps and make the most of it.  In the end of this hurdle, it’s not really bad news.  If only for the simple reason, that she IS able to do Dialysis and continue living with us. 

One person’s health may impact the entire family with holiday meals and all, but it takes that entire family’s support to help one person’s health.  We do what we have to do, and we do it out of love in this family.  Love of one another, and love of our time spent together.

 

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 All-American Meatloaf

These were actually really tasty when I made them in the Muffin pans.  This was one of our  items we had in the hospital on Thanksgiving.  The review from the patient was that they would be best served fresh.  Unfortunately, hospitals don’t just have microwaves near the rooms.  *smiles*  Unfortunately, we ate these before I could snap a photo.  *wink*

Ingredients

    • nonstick cooking spray or oil to grease pan
    • 1 pound lean ground beef (10% fat)
    • 1 egg (I used Egg Substitute)
    • 20 squares saltine-type crackers, unsalted tops, finely crushed
    • 2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped  (I used minced onion)
    • 2 tablespoons liquid nondairy creamer  (Coffeemate)
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/3 cup catsup  (no-Salt added)
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon milk (Coffeemate)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Coat a loaf pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray or oil (I used a muffin tin to make mini meat loafs since I was carrying them to the hospital for us to eat there on Thanksgiving.)
  3. In large bowl, combine ground beef, egg, finely crushed crackers, onion, nondairy creamer and black pepper. Mix well.
  4. Form into a loaf and place in loaf pan. Bake for 40 minutes.
  5. To make topping sauce, mix catsup, brown sugar, vinegar and milk in a small bowl.
  6. Remove cooked meatloaf from oven and cover with sauce.
  7. Return pan to oven and bake for 10 additional minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160° F.
  8. Slice into 6 portions before serving.

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Soft Ginger Cookies

THESE ARE AMAZING!!!  I didn’t change a single thing about the below recipe.  Not being a huge molasses fan, I was surprised I loved these so much.  They were good for a few days after, but were honestly best the first and second day.20131128_094120

Ingredients

    • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose white flour
    • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 3/4 cup butter 
    • 1-1/8 cups granulated sugar(divided use)
    • 1/4 cup liquid low cholesterol egg substitute
    • 1/4 cup molasses

Preparation

    1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
    2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.
    3. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Beat in 1 cup sugar.
    4. Add liquid egg substitute and molasses; beat well.
    5. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture.
    6. Shape dough into 1-1/2″ balls, using about 1 heaping tablespoon of dough for each.
    7. Roll balls in the remaining sugar to coat.
    8. Place balls about 2-1/2″ apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
    9. Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown and still puffed. (Do not over bake.)
    10. Cool cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

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Cranberry  Muffins

I’ll be honest…these were ok.  Just ok.  The flavor was spot on, but instead of using sugar, I used Splenda.  That may have impacted how bad they stuck to the muffin liners.

20131128_083054

Ingredients

    • 1-3/4 cups + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 7 tablespoons sugar 
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 3/4  cup cranapple juice
    • 1/4  cup cooking oil
    • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries coarsely chopped

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease twelve 2-1/2″ muffin cups or line with baking cups; set aside.
  2. To prepare streusel topping, combine 3 tablespoons of the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
  3. To prepare muffins, combine remaining flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.
  4. In another bowl whisk egg, juice and oil together. Pour egg mixture all at once into flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in chopped cranberries.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Sprinkle streusel topping over muffin batter in cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. 
  6. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm. 

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Pancakes

That’s right….I said Pancakes.  These were absolutely perfectly fluffy and tasty!  I ended up with a  VERY happy Maw-Maw this morning for breakfast, and I was quite pleased myself.  Don’t be alarmed at allowing your milk to sour with the vinegar.  It was easy.  *smiles*

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preparation

  1. Make sour milk: add 1 tablespoon vinegar to 2 cups milk. Let sit for about 5 minutes until soured.
  2. Sift flour; add baking soda, salt and sugar.
  3. Beat eggs with mixer until fluffy. Combine with “sour” milk and oil.
  4. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
  5. Cook on a hot griddle or heated frying pan, greased with nonstick cooking spray until bubbly. Turn only once for fluffy, light pancakes.

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Sundays with Friends: Kelli and her Crawfish Soup

Crawfish soup

I’ve had this one in my back pocket for a long time now, and frankly, I have my usual story about being incredibly busy in life.  However, I’ve also been waiting for colder months.  A very dear friend of The Onyx Plate sent in this recipe back in June, and I couldn’t wait for it to get a little colder to share it.  It’s finally cooler, and I’m finally sharing your recipe, Kelli!  Thank you so much for your patience, and I love the story attached.  It’s all about improvising and making a dish your own!  You are one cool foodie in my book!  :)

Don’t forget to follow The Onyx Plate on Facebook as well….. https://www.facebook.com/TheOnyxPlate

Take it away, Kelli!

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About a month ago, I bought this massive amount of live crawfish and did a crawfish boil just for my family. My extended family all seemed to be busy and couldn’t make it so it ended up just being my mom, my two kids, and me, so there were plenty of leftovers. I knew they would never get eaten before they went bad and that it would be blasphemous to allow such a delicious crustacean to go to waste, so I froze them.

Thursday evening, I decided to thaw some out for dinner but I couldn’t decide how I wanted to make them. I threw suggestions at my 6-year-old daughter and she got excited about the soup suggestion. She just adores soup, you see. So, I naturally headed over to Pinterest.

First, I looked through my soup board and found a Crawfish and Corn Soup recipe but I didn’t have everything for it. I left it open for reference but went back to the main Pinterest page and typed in “crawfish soup.” I found many recipes for Crawfish and Corn Soup. I looked at a couple more of them and they were all quite similar but a few had different ingredients. Either way you sliced it, I didn’t have all the ingredients. So I kept looking. Then, out of nowhere, there’s this different crawfish soup called Crawfish Broccoli Cheese Soup. Broccoli Cheese soup is one of my favorites and adding crawfish just sounded like heaven. Unfortunately, I didn’t have all the ingredients.

I refused to go to the store so I improvised. I sort of combined the two recipes and added my own flair.

First, since my crawfish were already cooked and frozen, I thawed them out and had to shell them. I have a raw spot on Crawfish soupmy thumb where shelling that many crawfish ripped skin off. I would recommend purchasing live ones and boiling them in Swampfire, but only if you like yours a little spicy. If you can’t get or don’t have swampfire, crab boil will work. I steamed broccoli and chopped it up, reheated leftover corn, then gathered these things around my soup pot.

First, I put in a can of broccoli cheddar soup with a can of milk. Then, in went a can of cream of asparagus soup with a can of milk. (I know some people don’t use condensed soup and I’m sure this soup would be better with homemade broccoli cheese and cream of asparagus soup but I didn’t have the ingredients for those so canned it was!) I added another cup of milk and whisked it. Then I dumped in the crawfish, corn, and broccoli and turned on the stove. After that, I had no idea what I was going to put in it but I knew it needed something else.

While the stove was warming up and I stirred the ingredients into the soup base, inspiration struck. I wanted this to be oh-so-creamy and cheesy so, I had my little helper (my daughter) go get a block of cream cheese from the refrigerator. After cutting that up, I put each little piece in and pushed them down to the bottom to help them melt. I threw in some spices and some shredded cheese (because, let’s face it, what’s a cheesy soup without cheese stringing cheese?) When I was throwing in the spices, I realized I had forgotten to sauté the onions so I just threw in some onion powder. I let it simmer for a few minutes then served it. As an afterthought, it would be good with some sliced carrots in it, as well.

My mom added salt and pepper to hers. My kids and I decided it needed a little shredded cheese on top. My son doesn’t usually care for soup but he ate two bowls, my daughter had her usual amount, and my mother ate 3 bowls and wanted a fourth but her stomach was exploding so she stopped. My son thanked everyone who had taken part in the production of the soup because it was so good. I win!

Crawfish Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of cooked crawfish tails, shelled (add more if you want)
  • 16 oz of broccoli florets, steamed and roughly chopped
  • 4-5 cups of warm buttered yellow corn
  • 1 can of condensed broccoli cheese soup
  • 1 can of condensed cream of asparagus soup
  • 2 cans of milk + 1-2 cup(s) of milk
  • 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese, cubed
  • 2-3 cups of fiesta blend shredded cheese
  • 1 yellow onion, sautéed (or onion powder, to taste)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, to taste
  • Fiesta blend shredded cheese, to taste

Directions:

1.   Clean your live crawfish, boil them in swampfire (or crab boil if you want it less spicy). Then shell them once they’ve cooled.

2.   Steam the broccoli then roughly chop it.

3.   Heat your corn with butter.

4.   Get a soup pot, put in the can of broccoli cheese soup and a can of milk.

5.   Add the cream of asparagus soup and a can of milk.

6.   Measure a cup or two of milk, add it, and whisk.

7.   Add the crawfish, broccoli, and corn and stir.

8.   Turn the eye on to high and let the soup warm up a bit.

9.   Add the cubed cream cheese and stir.

10. Lower the temperature to medium-low and push the bits of cheese to the bottom.

11.  Stir frequently.

12.  Add shredded cheese and stir.

13.  Add spices (and onion if you went that route) and stir.

14.  Reduce heat and cover to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Serve with your favorite warm bread. Enjoy!

Sundays with Friends: Wild Turkey in the Crock Pot

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I hit my two-year Anniversary this week since TheOnyxPlate.com was started. Woohoo!  What an amazing two years it has been with new places, new foods, and wonderful people I’ve met along my journey that has only just begun.  I can’t wait to reflect further on it for you in a post coming up (you know how I get all mushy about reflections and such). But, for now, we have a special Sundays with Friends to get to…Thanksgiving themed!

My very good friend surprised me with a Sundays with Friends centered around her son’s first kill of a Wild Turkey. She was so very proud, and I don’t blame her one bit! Good parents, good kid, good hunter. *smile* You might remember her first submission when she taught us about making Salsa. If not, you can read that one by clicking here. So on to her second Sundays with Friends! Welcome back, Jen! Can’t wait for your Peanut Butter Balls post either this year…hint hint. *wink**wink*

***Sidenote: I’m always happy to feature any of you on here. I just need a recipe, a short story about the recipe, and at least one photograph pretty please. You can email it all to TheOnyxPlate@gmail.com. Frankly…I’ll take any recipes! *smiles*

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In April 2012, my seven year old son and husband went turkey hunting. When they came home, my son had killed his first turkey. My son was so excited and wanted me to cook the turkey right away. I promised him that we would save it for Thanksgiving. He was happy and couldn’t wait to eat it at Thanksgiving. By him killing the turkey it saved us money from having to buy a turkey this Thanksgiving.

A week before Thanksgiving, I got a call from my mother-in-law inviting us to go out to eat on Thanksgiving. I told her that we already had plans to stay home and cook because I promised my son that I would cook his turkey.

The weekend before Thanksgiving my sister-in-law called to say that they would be able to attend our Thanksgiving gathering, and she asked if her husband could fix the turkey. I told her that was fine; however, I was still planning to cook my son’s turkey.

I was determined that I would cook this turkey regardless, which was all for my son that I love and adore.

Wild Turkey Crock Pot Recipe

  • 2 large turkey breasts
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom
  • 1 packet of onion soup mix
  • 1 small bag of baby carrots
  • 1 container of fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 1 ¼ cup of water
  • 1 can of turkey gravy

Directions:

Clean the turkey breasts and place them in a large crock pot. Add all of the ingredients on top of the turkey, except the turkey gravy. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until done. Check the crock pot often to see if more water needs to be added. Poor turkey gravy on top once done. Enjoy!

Rambling on my way to my 30s and a Cooking Class on 9/5/12!!! Yay!

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First, I must apologize for all of the “reflection” posts lately, and lack of recipes. I’ll be back on the recipes shortly, I promise. I’m just in a very pivotal moment it seems in life. By no means is it a bad thing, but it is definitely causing me to think a lot about the future. A LOT.

For instance…let’s go through my current To-Do List…or should I call it my “What I’m Involved in while trying to maintain my sanity” list? *wink*

  • I have my regular day job – 10 hours a day/4 days a week.
  • I go to the gym each of those above 4 days I work, at 6am in the morning.
  • I write the blog for Iron Hen Café in Greensboro, NC.
  • I work part-time for Darryl’s in Greensboro, NC, managing a portion of their Guest Relations.
  • I have been submitting articles to various magazines, and one of which should be published in the month of September in our local Alamance County Magazine.
  • I also (you’re my witness) maintain my own baby the best I can, TheOnyxPlate.com.

Last but certainly far from the least…

  • I have been asked by Savory Spice Shop in Greensboro, NC, to do a cooking class for them. YAY!

Not only is this a great month of September coming up for me with the magazine publishing me, and the class happening…but, I’ll be turning 30 on September 4. 30! I’m excited about it. I’m not where I expected to be in life, honestly. By now, I expected to have a child…maybe two if the birthing process didn’t gross me out too much. Seems God had other plans though, as we’ve been trying for around four years now. I’m finally at a point where I’m ok with this for the time being. He’s brought so much more our way, and I have to trust that he knows what he’s doing. I also expected to not be in marriage counseling (however, I do believe it’s good for anyone to do…this is a good thing that we’re in counseling, folks). Sometimes you have to reach out and admit that you need a little help reconnecting. *smiles* I also expected to be stuck in a dead-end job (sorry, but I did)…and I’m truly not. Now, I’ll admit it, I want to be out of my current job by the end of the year. That may or may not happen. It’s not because I dislike the company I am working for…it’s because my passions in life are leading me elsewhere. I have been given so many opportunities to pursue in life, that I would be a fool to give up on this and stay stagnant in my ever-evolving life. There’s food to taste…people to meet…lives to inspire! *smiles*

So as I get ready to turn 30 in a little over a week, I will be preparing for my trip to Savannah, GA, with my Mom. She and I are going on a Mother/Daughter trip for a week to see the beauty, sights, and food of Savannah for my birthday. I can’t wait! What more could you ask for than going on a road trip with your best friend?

But, before the trip…I’ll be kicking off the first day of my 30s by exploring yet another avenue of my passion of inspiring people with food by doing the cooking class on September 5. I am so dang excited, y’all!

If you’re near the Greensboro, NC, area, I’d love to see you there! It’s going to be held at the Savory Spice Shop location in Friendly Center. The class is from 7pm-8:30pm, and the cost is $10/person. You must pre-register by calling them though, as there is a space limit for the shop. However, if more than a certain amount are interested, I get to do a second class! Woohoo!

With all of this being said, and thank you for listening, I’m going to trek on to my 30s. My 20s were absolutely amazing (with a little heartbreak and sorrow mixed in, as life does continue to happen), and I learned a lot about myself and life in general. I can only imagine where I’m headed in my 30s….but, you know what?….I’m ready!

A few shots of the advertising for the cooking class. I need to get my hands on some of these for mementos. *huge smiles*  There’s also some shots of the very rough draft prep work below while I was formulating some of the recipes yesterday.  I love taste testing!