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

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~

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*

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Fire in the Triad: Marisol vs. Meridian

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I had one of the most amazing experiences last night in my foodie adventures.  I was asked to guest blog over on Nik Snacks for the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Fire in the Triad.  Last night, Marisol was up against Meridian.  The two mystery ingredients were Pepsi and America’s Best Nut Co. Peanuts!  Wow!  How much more Southern can it be made?  Love it!  Enjoy!

 

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There are moments in life where you just can’t believe what you’ve been asked to do.  These are moments that you seize with every fiber of your being, and you enjoy them!  When Nikki of Nik Snacks asked me to guest blog in her place, I couldn’t have been more excited.  I was one of those people that always checked the CompetitionDining.com site to see who the Chefs were, and what they were cooking.  I wanted to be there incredibly bad!  Sometimes life finds ways of connecting us to where we are supposed to be, and this was where I was supposed to be that night; enjoying the battle between Marisol and Meridian.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.  

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

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Mom and I…2011
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Maw-Maw and I…2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Love, Jennifer

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

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

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

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

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My lovely Mom
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Her lovely Mom, Maw-Maw.

 

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.

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…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

My 10 Flavors I Love in Alamance County and Beyond

Greek Orthodox Baklava

This was the February 2013 article published in Alamance Magazine. I’m sorry I haven’t been around much. I’ve began a new job since the last time I posted, and I also closed my right hand index finger in my car door. It was broken and horribly swollen. That hasn’t made it very easy to type, hence me being missing in action. So my apologies. I hope this makes up for it though…*smiles*. Love to you all!

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Time and time again I find myself longing for some of my favorite flavors as I drive through the area. It wasn’t too long ago that I can remember not having all of these wonderful dining options. However, through growth of our county, I am extremely proud that we have grown as a community that fosters different types of culinary delights. Now, I haven’t explored everything we have to offer around our area. So, when I think of the flavors I love in Alamance County and beyond, I am drawn back to many childhood memories and places and people I hold dear to my heart. After I made my list, I took note of what I had listed. In the end, the flavors all ended up being at places where good people work and give back to our community. Those are the places that deserve our patronage, and I’m honored to share them all with you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see one of your favorite flavors listed as well. I encourage you to savor life and try every last one of them.

  1. The Souvlaki at Skid’s Diner on Church Street is absolutely one of my favorite flavors here. Maw-Maw and I always have excellent service from Todd, and he always knows I like grilled onions on my Pork Souvlaki. Souvlaki and amazing service always make me smile.
  2. I grew up on visits to Tasty Bakery where the Chocolate Pie quickly became a favorite of mine. It is the closest to our family’s tried and true Chocolate Pie recipe. Even better…this little personal Chocolate Pie is only $1.59, and they have them all the time. It’s perfection in the form of a pie.
  3. There isn’t much that compares to the Apple Jack sauce at Blue Ribbon. It’s good on everything in their restaurant, especially the grilled chicken. I’m ashamed to admit that I could almost drink it out of a glass. It’s sweet, tangy, and mustard like taste makes it the best dipping sauce around!
  4. When the strawberries come in at Iseley Farms, I can’t help but start thinking of all of the recipes to make with them! One of my favorites is a Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Jane Iseley’s strawberries are perfect for every dish since they always have the sweetest flavor one expects from a well grown strawberry.
  5. If you like pickles, then you will love the Rusted Bucket Shot at the Rusted Bucket Tavern in downtown Burlington. I picked this as one of my favorite flavors not only because I like pickles, but because it was so creative. In an effort to not waste all of the pickle juice left behind from pickles served at the bar, Angie, the owner, decided to serve a combination shot of whiskey followed up immediately with a shot of pickle juice. It’s definitely worth the try! Trust me.
  6. The pizza dough at Vesuvio’s Pizza is another favorite of mine. The dough for their mouth-watering pizzas is the same dough they use for the rolls served with their pasta dishes. It’s hard to find a good crust, and this has topped my list since I first tasted it.
  7. I am aware that when I say Pulled Pork BBQ in Burlington, that Delancey’s is not the first place that comes to mind. However, this is a BBQ you must have on your plate…and often! It’s juicy with just the right amount of smoke flavor, and I don’t even need to put a sauce on it. But, if you do want a sauce, the owner makes his own BBQ sauce that I hear is fantastic! It’s rare to find an equally moist and flavorful plate of BBQ. Delancey’s gets their Pulled Pork BBQ from Brookwood Farms in Siler City. Delicious!
  8. If you’re looking to indulge in something rich and creamy, I highly recommend you stop in at Six Scoops in Gibsonville. Their ice cream tops my list of any ice cream option around. Their ice cream is truly made with love, and you can’t go wrong with any flavor. I am absolutely in love with this little place and their creamy ice cream. It’s great that they serve other food now also!
  9. When I’m looking for fresh seafood to cook at home, I head to Michelle’s Kitchen in Burlington. She has a great selection of fresh fish, and the Tuna Steak she sells is hard to beat. The Tuna Steak always tastes fresh, and she has large meaty steaks with the best coloring. While I love the Tuna Steak there, it’s hard not to pick up some of the other take home meals and sweets! It’s a one stop shop of enjoyment.
  10. Baklava, Baklava, Baklava…what more can I say? When the Souvlaki Dinners come around at St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church on Front Street, I’m almost always first in line each time to consume a piece of their treasured Baklava. Its sticky sweetness makes those particular Sundays even better, and I have yet to find a Baklava around town that compares.

Skid's II on Urbanspoon
Tasty Bakery on Urbanspoon
Blue Ribbon Diner on Urbanspoon
Vesuvio's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Delancy's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Most Wonderful Part…Mom

Meal Photo 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mama’s Peanut Butter Balls Recipescan0001

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

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

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