Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions from a Southern perspective

I don't make New Year's resolutions. I don't keep New Year's resolutions. I am consistent in most things and very obsessive about many things. I'm eating healthy and exercising every January till March or April. Then Easter comes and I fall to my knees at the site of chocolate Easter eggs and jelly beans. I try to do my best to get back on track but then along comes the Memorial Day picnic and it would be wrong to not celebrate. I always start off with a healthy menu then someone says..."but we have to have..." and then we slide off into the depths of potato salads and baked beans for the rest of the summer. August, September and October are easy months to stay on the straight and narrow until Halloween candy has to be bought for the little ones...then it's a straight sugar slide into Christmas!

Thinking about this yesterday as I made the plans for New Year's Day menu. I made the choice to think healthy...well at least healthier. We are having Spicey Mama's Texas Chili with cornbread muffins, Texas Caviar dip and Blueberry Salad. My husand has requested that I make Fried Black-eyed Peas. I have never fried a black-eyed pea but I will tomorrow. We are all about the Rose Bowl parade and have always watched it together since we were married 33 years ago. This year I'm looking forward to the Rose Bowl game as well becaue the Texas Christian University Hornfrogs will be playing.

Whatever your plans are for tonight and tomorrow, be safe and enjoy. Make wonderful food to share together but mostly just make memories that last a lifetime! Happy New Year's from New Southern Pantry.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Southern Orange Slice Bread

Southerners feel passionate about their food because it connects us to people and brings back wonderful memories. When I was a child my best friend's mom made these wonderful orange slice cookies. I loved those cookies and they remind me of her when I taste them. I went in search of a recipe that would combine those wonderful sticky orange slices with a sweet bread. After combining several recipes this is what we came up with. Having made it quite a few times now this is the final and well tested recipe. It is wonderful warm out of the oven, but I also like it cold too!...Not a recipe I would use year round because it has lots of calories and I can't stop eating it! Just make sure you have family or friends to help you devour this bread. I had a loaf that cooked to long and it was really dry so being the frugal person I am...I made french toast out of it!! I think if I did that again I would cut it into "french toast sticks" and chill it really well before dipping in egg mixture. Be sure to cut the orange slices into small pieces after freezing them, makes it lots easier and less messy. I use kitchen shears instead of a knife and be sure and flour the cut candies well before adding to the recipe.

Southern Orange Slice Bread
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter , at room temperature
3 cups flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup of coconut
2 cups of chopped nuts of your choice, we use pecans
8oz. chopped dates, can substitue 1 cup of raisins or any dried fruit
8oz. bag orange slice candies, freeze until ready to cut
1/2 cup flour for dusting orange slices

Preheat oven to 300 degrees
*If using dark metal pans, decrease oven temperature to 275 degrees

Bake for 80-90 minutes
Makes 2 8x4" loaves

In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and the soft butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each egg.
In a medium bowl stir together flour, salt, and baking soda
Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar, alternating with the buttermilk.
Add vanilla, orange zest, coconut, chopped nuts and dates mixing well.
In a medium size bowl place 1/2 cup flour
Using kitchen shears, cut the frozen orange slices into small bite size pieces. Place in bowl with the flour and toss well to coat each piece.
Mix floured candies into the batter by hand and pour into 2 greased 8x4 in
loaf pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
This bread freezes very well. I wrap in foil after cooled and then place in gallon size freezer bags.

I combined several bread and cookie recipes for this , but I would like to give credit for the basic recipe to KISS Recipes website. Neat places for sharing family recipes. KISS stands for Keep It Simple Silly. Fun easy recipes with some old favorites.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Southern Women love to reign over their domain...

I love to be in my kitchen more than any place on Earth. I get up in the morning and can't wait to make coffee and sit at my computer and start my day. This morning I started out by breaking the glass coffee pot. Like any good southern lady...I had a replacement just waiting in the wings. I'm a newcomer to this coffee thing, when I lived in Texas I never drank warm things everyday. After moving north I started drinking more hot tea and then I found coffee. My life has never been the same since that little bean became my new friend.

I have only two other people that use my kitchen, my husband and my son when he is home from college. Evidently I have instilled a small element of fear in them from being a tiny bit neurotic about this room. Now I like it clean, but I use it alot so it's not always decorator magazine worthy. My countertops and my work island have to be free of all clutter when I am going to cook. It only took me a few years to get my family to realize ..if you want to eat don't leave junk on Mom's countertops! I also have certain places that I want things returned to and have been known to go a slight bit crazy when I am looking for an item, but as the years go by I have learned to let it go. I love those two more than my Calphalon most days...

I have been fortunate to have inherited lots of dishes..LOTS! I just can't let any of them go. I have a set of 1916 China that is just beautiful that belonged to my grandmother in law. It even has the salt dishes and placecard holders. The beautiful pink Azaleas remind me so much of the East Texas that I love. My most treasured piece is a silver Water Pitcher on a stand that tilts to pour into the cup. I think I just love the story the most, it was buried behind a plantation in Tennesse during the Civil War when the Union soldiers raided the house. Such great history and love is in each piece and I am proud to call them my treasures now.

Antiques and vintage items for the kitchen are so unique and easy to find still. I would rather have 1930's Fire King bakeware than brand new items. My grandmother had one piece of brightly colord enamel ware. I have found so many to match it and know I have some family's memories and feel proud to be the keeper of those treasures. When you go into an antique or collectible shop buy what you love. Don't look for the most expensive item or what you saw on the last decorator show,unless it's what you want. One of my favorite things from a shop was a bag of old cookie cutters with enamel painted handles...they cost less than $5.00 but they touched my heart. I use those cookie cutters along with others that I have purchased new. I hope one day someone finds mine in an antique booth somewhere when on vacation and says...."I have to have those for my kitchen". Then the love and the memories keep moving on through generations of people who love their kitchens as much as I love mine.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chicken Fried Steak Perfection

This blog post has been the most shared since I started blogging last year. Thought with the cool weather coming it was a good time to repeat it for those who missed it before. I will say that over the years I have become more open to trying all different types of foods. Once I even ate a Country Fried Steak with Brown Gravy.....

How do you make a perfect chicken fried steak? When we moved from Texas to Colorado in the early 90's I found out really fast to ask how a food is served before ordering. We went into a local chain restaurant that someone told us had great Chicken Fried Steaks. I was so excited, so we called up Texas friends who had moved with our company and went to dinner. We had moved about 2 months prior and I had been without this Southern delicacy for too long.

We were seated by the waitress and started searching the menu for the treasure of crunchy breaded goodness. I could just envision my plate coming out of the kitchen with a beautiful lightly browned, crunchy battered piece of hand pounded steak. My mind was swimming already in the sea of white creamy gravy. I saw the waitress round the corner with the huge tray up on her shoulders and we all knew the 4 Chicken Fried Steaks were almost to their destination. Slowly she lowered the tray and set the first plate in front of me. I try to keep decorum in most situations but before I could stop or my husband could throw his hand over my just came out. I blurted out ...BROWN GRAVY!!!! Everyone's face at the table fell and they seem to all be trying to decide who was going to tackle me and cover my mouth. I apologized to the server and told her in much longer detail than I'm sure she wanted to hear how REAL Chicken Fried Steak should look. She explained to me that if you wanted the thick white gravy you had to ask for that, brown gravy is what they put on their Country Steaks. My husband put his hand on my knee because he knew that this would send me into orbit. The menu said Chicken Fried Steak and then it's really thin cut sirloin in cracker crumb breading with brown gravy...16 years later and it still makes my heart race. Some things in life just shouldn't be messed with and don't mess with a Texas Girls Chicken Fried Steak! Needless to say when we went back there I tried Colorado specialties and really enjoyed them. Some things are sacred to a Texan and shouldn't be changed.

A real Southern meal would include Chicken Fried Steak that hang off the edge of the plates. There should be plenty of white, thick creamy gravy all over the steak and on top of the mound of mashed potatoes. Fresh green beans cooked in bacon, onions and garlic always goes with my dream meal. Got to have cornbread or yeast rolls with butter just to round out the plate! Some do Texas toast but I love cornbread baked in an iron skillet so we usually have that. So the next time you go to order a Chicken Fried Steak..take my advice and ask questions if you want it to be the real deal!

Texas Chicken Fried Steak

2 pounds of 1/2 in tenderized sirloin or round steak,cut into 4-6 pieces
2 cups flour
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1-2 cups Liquid oil or Shortening, I prefer canola or peanut oil

Cut steak into desired size pieces, salt and pepper and set aside. In a large bowl beat eggs with a fork until frothy, add 2 cups of milk and stir to mix. Add dash of salt and pepper to egg/milk mixture. In a large shallow pan mix flour and 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. In a deep skillet
(I prefer iron) add enough oil to cover 3/4 of steak while cooking. Heat oil over medium high heat until a tiny bit of flour sizzles when sprinkled in hot oil. While oil is heating batter steak dipping first in egg mixture, then flour, then back to egg and ending with flour. Place in skillet and cook 5 minutes on each side. Never cook fried food on low in oil, that's what makes it greasy and not healthy for you! When done take out and drain on racks over paper towels. Not a complicated recipe but sometimes takes a few tries to get it just right. Enjoy!

Texas Chicken Fried Steak on FoodistaTexas Chicken Fried Steak

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cookbook writing will make you fat!

I am writing a cookbook in celebration of Texas and Southern favorites. Being a perfectionist I have to cook all these recipes before I publish them to make sure they are right. My website is up but only has Spicey Mama's Chili Seasoning on it right now, but later today we will have 2 new dips. One is Chocolate Orange Cheesecake Dip, it's so addictive and the taste testing on it is completed. I took it to a party last Sunday night and it went over great so it's a keeper!! The other is a Loaded Baked Potato Dip that I'm still trying to give a better creativity is lagging. We have eaten too much of this one trying to get it just the way I want it. I made my husband's grandmother's Date Squares at Thanksgiving. They were good but something was not in that recipe and that happens alot with older recipes. They were good and we ate them but too dry..of course all the calories were there regardless.

I have been so lucky to have had great cooks in my family. My grandmothers both lived on farms in Texas and survived the Great Depression. My maternal grandparents lived in Dime Box, Texas and yes that's a real place! My paternal grandparents lived in Ben Wheeler, Texas. They have recipes that are so simple and have few ingredients but taste like pure heaven. My plan this Christmas is to cook several of their recipes so they can be tested for the cookbook. I also have had the privelege of knowing so many other Texas grandmothers that fed me well when I was young, they have to be included also! So by the time I finish with my test kitchen...I may have to live at the gym 24hrs/day for a few weeks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas cooking makes you happy!

Christmas is the best holiday in the whole world! I love the traditions that each family adopts for their own. There are no rules at Christmas. Some have turkey and some have ham, while some do expensive cuts of beef to celebrate. We have some things that just can't change on Christmas morning or my husband and son get a little out of sorts. We have to have eggnog with freshly grated nutmeg and orange juice with ginger ale. I love the fact that so many dairies now do a low fat eggnog so you feel a little less guilty. My husband and son would think I had been replaced by aliens if we didn't have Little Smokies and Orange Danish rolls from the can. I know, from the can isn't real creative but it's what makes them happy and that makes me happy! I don't do many prepared foods, but I make exceptions for the holidays on some things. This year I am going to stretch a little and kick up the orange rolls with a little toasted pecans. The little sausage are just begging me to do something to make them more festive but I'm still pondering that idea. I know I can leave those alone because Christmas dinner is all mine!!!

We start our holidays with Seafood Sausage Gumbo on Christmas Eve. Now finding the ingredients for this recipe in Nebraska can be a challenge. I have located a local sausage maker who does a fabulous Andouille sausage and our local grocery store is now carrying fresh raw Gulf shrimp. I know for those of you on the coast that doesn't seem like such a big deal, but for those of us in the landlocked's huge! Cajun food is all about using what you have to make something that warms your heart and soul. Texans are lucky to share so many cultures with our neighbors and I just call our food Southern Soul. If it warms your soul and makes you smile....then the cook is happy.

Last week my website was published on line. It's a very limited site right now but by next week should have more spices and dip mixes available. In hindsight I should have let someone else do the site and I should have focused on production of the products, but I have a teeny little control issue. My products are all free of msg, artificial colorings and preservatives. I have two nephews who are on the autism spectrum and I will be donating a portion of the profits to several Autism groups. Autism affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys according to Autism Speaks website. When it affects your family the statistics do not matter. The thing that matters are those sweet little eyes that look up at you and are trapped without words. As a nurse I know that genetics play a part, but I feel that removing or limiting preservatives and other additives in our food would be a place to start. The new catch phrase the last few years is "Old School" , well that's what home cooking is all about. Old School can be new school in an old way and that's why my company is called New Southern Pantry. Our grandmothers and mothers called it cooking from's more work but well worth the time. If we can do that more than 50% of the time then we are starting to make a difference in our families health.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spicey Mama's Texas Chili Seasoning

This week I will have my website finished and ready for business. This seemed like such an easy task but once again I will say I was wrong. I like to be in control of everything but am learning that is just not possible. I do not have a degree in computer science and unless a computer has a blood pumping heart I'm probably not an expert! As a nurse I can swim in most waters in that field and be comfortable, but with the computer I'm learning something new everyday. Thankfully I'm married to a computer whiz so that works out well and luckily he still ask me if he should take Tylenol for a headache.

Thanksgiving cooking is over and now I'm thinking about Christmas. I go from one big cooking event to the other the way some women look for shoe sales. Starting a business dealing with food products is so exciting for me and I can't wait to start seeing the feedback from customers. All my products will be free of MSG and salt. We all need some sodium in our diets to help our bodies function but the amount that is added to foods is just crazy. Salt covers up the the use of cheap ingredients by increasing the flavor effects on the taste buds. Food that is produced in the United States has strict guidelines for that product and it's labeling. Foods produced outside the US are not regulated well and may have much more than is even on the label. I am very sensitive to MSG, I know immediately after eating out if a food had it hidden in a sauce or seasoning. I try to avoid foods that have sauces, creams or gravies on them for that reason as well as the salt content. Chinese food is the biggest problem for me, but you can avoid the MSG problem when you eat at Panda Express. They do not add MSG to their foods, although there may be some in the if your sensitive be careful.

I developed a chili seasoning myself over the years so I could control what went into it and know it wouldn't make me ill. Last year my husband used it in the annual chili cook-off at our church and he won 1st place. Now that in itself is great, but we live in Nebraska and they normally don't care for the spicey foods. Spicey Mama's is a well balanced seasoning that has a deep chili flavor that gives an all day cooking taste to your chili or soups. It is pure Texas in a little zip lock bag!! Chili isn't about how hot you can get it to's about how deep and layered you can get the flavors. I don't add any salt, sugar or preservatives to this seasoning but do add a small amount of salt to my meat as it cooks. Nice thing about this is the cook is in control...which makes me very happy indeed!

I'm a Texan living in Nebraska who loves spicy Tex-Mex foods. When you think you have found a resturant that serves real Tex-Mex...they either close or you find out they use frozen burritos..YIKES!!! To my Midwest friends..that would be like you finding out they use frozen corn and pass it off as the wonderful fresh corn we have here in the late summer. Some things are just sacred and meant to be fresh. We do have some real Mexican food resturants that serve great tamales and baja style Mexican which I enjoy alot.

So Spicey Mama's Texas Chili Seasoning was born from despair but has grown to be the cornerstone of my spice and seasoning line. I love developing new products and have some great rubs that will be on the website soon. Killa Dilla Rub...hmmm...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I admit I have a cookbook addiction...

I love cookbooks. I can't seem to let them leave my home once they enter the doors. I have them everywhere and will never use recipes from some of them. Let's just say I give some away, what is the worst thing that can happen? The first thing that comes to mind is that I will feel sad, then the second thing I think is what if the next recipe I search for is in one of these and the third thing I think is....I need help! Do they have Interventions for foodies?

I am drawn to regional cookbooks when traveling. They are my favorite thing to take back home with me. My husbands loves the hats and t-shirts, just give me my recipes and I'm happy. My favorite's list changes from time to time but right now it's old family or community & church cookbooks. I have one from the church we attended when we lived in Texas and it is my workhorse for holidays with my family. We all have such precious memories of the "grandmothers" of the church and their wonderful sweets!

Being a displaced Texan...I have a dozen cookbooks with Texas in the title. My very favorite is The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh. It not only contains great recipes that are genuie Tex-Mex, but also lots of history and information. My very favorite recipe in this cookbook is Ninfa's red and green sauce. It is so Texas to me and that makes me happy!! The most unusual Texas cookbook I have is Baytown Texas Aggies Cookbook. One of my favorite recipe from that one is Texas Caviar which I will share with you...everyone needs to be a little Texan!! Happy Thanksgiving

Texas Caviar
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, finely diced (choose a firm one)
1 can sliced black olives, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion chopped
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 chopped fresh cilantro
1 T lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together, Toss with seasonings and lime or lemon juice. Cover and let chill for 1 hr. if possible
May sprinkle grated Pepper Jack cheese on top when ready to serve if desired.
Serve with tortilla chips or crackers

Wow,that made me hungry so now I have to go to the store and make one more thing for Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

7 Days of Cooking

Okay, I have 7 days to cook everything for Thanksgiving. Timing on some of these dishes is so important, but if it has to be warmed up it's like eating the leftovers that are so good on Friday after Thanksgiving. I started the day off with baking 18 Turkey Sugar Cookies which my nephew requested. When I asked him what he wanted me to make for him..he said white cookies with orange icing. If everything was this easy in life we would be so much happier and less stressed! But since I am a woman and I see Holidays different than the male gender I will be making much more than that flock of turkeys cooling on my counter.

Our favorite sugar cookie recipe comes from a sweet lady who we always called Nanny. She was the grandmother of family friends but we adopted her as our own. Nanny always had a smile on her face and the softest voice ever. Her sugar cookies are renowned and the only recipe our family ever makes. Nanny was my son's first Sunday School teacher and this summer at 25 yrs old he made her cookies for another group of kids...time rolls on. She is no longer with us but her legacy of Southern cooking lives on !

Nanny's Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup Crisco shortening
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cream sugars, shortening, vanilla and egg. Mix together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Stir with spoon until mixed together. Flour surface and roll out to 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Dip cookie cutter in flour and cut dough in desired shapes.
Bake for 7-8 minutes. Cool on wire rack, can be iced when cool.
Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies depending on shapes and size.

Now I think after reading that recipe again I may have to go make more cookies...Of course first I have to go get a new cookie cutter from the coolest store...Any excuse to by more kitchen items works for me!! If you try this recipe please post a comment and let me know how you like them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving is an excuse to cook!

Thanksgiving is an excuse to cook. It is the day we celebrate the bounty of the harvest. Okay very few of us are really involved in the harvest but we love to celebrate... For those of us who love to cook it's a day to go crazy. For me it's a day to pull out all the family recipes and remember those who are no longer with us. I am so lucky to have inherited all the recipes, cookbooks and note's written on little pieces of paper. If I'm honest inherit might be defined as I scooped them up while no one was looking! I am the oldest of three sisters so I pretty much get to do what I want. I fear what will happen as I age because my sisters are 10+ yrs younger than me, God help me if they are my caregivers!

One Thanksgiving I went outside the traditional box and no one was very happy with me. I wasn't happy with me. We never go very far from the traditional because it's what makes Thanksgiving. Our biggest departure this year will be the smoked turkey, although I will do a traditional one also. We are cornbread dressing people, totally southern thing. My Grandmother's dressing used cornbread and toasted bread so that's my favorite. My Granny's dressing was cornbread only with lots and lots of sage, I love it but my Mom always made her Mom's so that's what I make. My husband's Grandmother made bread stuffing which was a shocker to me the first time I ate it. Nannie was a fabulous cook from Maine who could make pie's that would bring you to your knees. Her stuffing became one of my favorite things but I still make Grandma's because that is what we all remember as Thanksgiving. I'll make Nannie's Date Squares for my husband because he loves them and...I love him!

Simply put, Thanksgiving is the day we give thanks for all those things we hold closest to our hearts. The best part is that we can loosen our belts, throw the diet away ,rest up for Black Friday sales, watch football all weekend and pray that someone helps clean the kitchen! Hmmm...I wonder what would happen if I served a spicy Deep Fried Cajun Turkey and Andouille Dressing???....wait that's what I did the year every one cried!!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Southern women working from this a new concept?

I love the "new" working from home concept. Women have always worked from home, at home, in the home and in the community! I have always wondered how it would feel to know that mowing the yard and taking out the trash completed my weekly chores list at home. Not to say that my husband won't do anything I ask and do it gladly...he just has to be asked. Women married or single are responsible for the majority of the household management. This is a job I love and honestly don't want help if I can do it myself.

Now Southern women are unique in a few ways as are women in other areas I have lived. Being a Texas born and bred girl I tend to be a little particular about things in my home. It's not easy to admit being a little neurotic about possessions. We tend to want family treasures, grandmother's dishes, and for some of us..don't touch that piece of paper the old recipe is on or you will draw back a nub. Having lived in several states across America I can say women everywhere have some of these issues. For me it's all about my kitchen and cooking. I love to read cookbook's like others read novels. On my bedside table there are 3 cooking magazine's, 1 cookbook, and a Fannie Flagg novel...oh and a decorating magazine. So that's me..I'm a true food fanatic.

Dave Ramsey says that a wife can be the greatest home economist there is.We love a bargin. We love coupons. What is the first thing we learn to do as girls? Shop! I always loved going to town on Saturday with my Mom and going to the grocery store. It was like walking into a toy store for me. Even at age 10 I had an unusal thrill of seeing all the different foods, spices, and things from other countries that were so foreign to me. Even to this day when we travel I want to go to the local grocery store and check out the regions food specialties. I will skip mall shopping ,which I hate, to go to the grocery store. As I write this my mind is on the fact that our town has a Trader Joe's grand opening this morning. I will drive by malls, furniture stores, outlet malls...never slow down until I get to the newest food playground in town.

Several weeks ago my husband was trying to be helpful and met me at the grocery store to load my purchase in the car. After doing this he put the cart in the rack and we left. When we got home I started looking for my well organized and jam packed coupon folder. It was a lovely green organizer that contained my favorite coupons. He left it in the cart and it is gone forever. Honestly I acted a little childish about this, needless to say he was very sorry and looked a little nervous as he explained what happened. I have since gotten a new bright pink organizer and realize I shouldn't have let it out of my sight. Neurotic or a great home manager??

This week has been one where the wife's work at home overwhelmed the working from home job. I would have it no other way because I do the first because I love my husband, son, and family so much that they come before everything. I work from home for my job because I love these special people and nothing will ever come before them again. Now if I can get that coupon organizer's demise out of my mind I will get on with my life.......

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wow....I'm still me huh??? !!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. We are so blessed in this country to have the chance to do anything we dream. It has been a long battle and opinon has swung both directions, but a woman can now be anything she wants!
If she chooses to be a doctor, chef, corporate executive or lawyer she has a busy and exciting life. On the flip side if she chooses to stay home, raise her children, manage her home and her life it is just as exciting and busy. It is okay to choose either direction and enjoy them completely! I have done both and can say they are equally rewarding and challenging.

After your children are grown and that "empty nest nasty stuff" hits, you look around and say...what now??? Although I was in the workplace when my son left for college the change was overwhelming. I began to look at my life in a much different way. What do I want now? Where am I going? Does this job really make me happy? I knew I would leave my stressful job and do something I loved. Life is just too short not to step out and see if your dreams are going to be a reality.

Now, I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. When I was 20 I had the crazy idea to open a craft store and let people put their crafted items there for resale. I took 15% of the cost and managed the store. It was going strong and we had to move out of town for my husbands job and I closed the store. Years later while living in Colorado I found a large craft mall and stood in the middle of it and laughed. Timing is everything! Always made me feel good to know I should trust my gut and step out and just do it.

Took me a while but I have realized that I'm still that 20 yr old girl with dreams of bigger and better days. We all need to remember that sesons occur for a reason, they prepare for the next harvest. So I think it's time to get my plow out and kick up some dirt!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

What is chili?

What defines the dish called chili? Does it always have to have one common ingredient to all chili's? Being from Texas I see a big steaming bowl of dark red chili topped with cheese and onions. I see cornbread sitting beside it or saltine crackers nearby. Next to it is a huge glass of ice tea with lemon in a wide mouth quart jar. My senses are excited by the strong smell of the spices and the sweet smell of the tomatoes.

I have learned to not be so critical of other's chili fantasies. Some people feel the need to add various beans to the rich, deep pot of chili. This does add to the quanity you have to feed a crowd and adds great fiber content to your diet. I may loose my Authentic Texan status but I have been known to add beans to my chili and it Chili Beans. I am learning to adapt to changes slowly but chili is my sacred dish!

There are those who are very misguided and actually use chicken in their chili. Chicken is not meant for chili...period. I love those of you who do this but please I can't in good faith be a part of you calling that chili! Now I've had great soup in the Midwest with chicken, chili spices, and great veggies in it that could be called...Chicken Enchilada soup or Mexican Chicken Stew. And if anyone needs to borrow my hot peppers to give it some kick I would be glad to help!!!

Being born in Texas it was a food shock to me to move to other areas of our country. In Colorado I learned all about Hatch Chili peppers. I am a huge fan of these peppers now. I have some roasted and in my freezer for Green Chili Stew. In Missouri I discovered true Italian food on the famous Hill in St.Louis, the wonderful Nicoletti's Pasta con Broccoli, and the irreplaceable Provel cheese and Zia'a Sweet Italian Dressing...Only made in St.Louis. In Nebraska the fresh corn in late summer is so sweet and juicy it runs down your chin when you take a bite. Have to buy it straight from the farmer to get it the freshest. So regardless of where you land in life..there is always good food and memories to make.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I love Pancake Mix!

Pancake mix is the busy girls best friend. I just got out of the bed, dressed, (husband made my coffee..I'm keeping him!) and made gourmet pancakes in 30 minutes. Most days we try to eat very healthy. I started following the low glycemic eating style 5 yrs ago. It is the only "diet" I have ever been able to follow. So most of what I cook is whole grain, fruits, veggies, and lean meat. My halo is tarnished though because when I want something from an original family recipe I make it. I try to limit this behavior to once every few months. Most recipes can be "low-glycemic" corrected. I refuse to be one of those who never keeps white's a neccesary ingredient and when used in small amouts with whole wheat flour it can help a recipe.

This morning I used Krusteaz Wheat & Honey Pancake Mix. Target Superstores and many grocery stores carry it. It has a great fiber count and is quick and easy. I have tried most of the whole grain mixes and this one has the least after taste. The box calls for only water to make the original pancakes, but you can really do anything you want with this mix. Today we had Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Chips. If your shooting for high fiber this is your power pancake!!!

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Whole Wheat Pancakes
1/4c. orange juice or milk
1/1/4 c. canned pumpkin (unsweetened)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp orange peel or zest
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1-2 T. of sugar or sugar substitue
Mix well and add to
2c. whole wheat complete pancake mix
add water to achieve consistency you like , thinner makes thinner pancakes.
Add 1/4 to 1/2 cups of dark chocolate chips if desired
Cook at medium heat for 2-3 minutes each side
Serve with butter or whipped cream.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Southern food will not kill you....

It's a evil premise that eating Southern food will kill you. I agree there can be lots of butter, red meat and deep frying going on but it doesn't have to be that bad. Our grandmothers had lard and butter when they learned to cook. Can you imagine there excitement when shortening came along? And those who saw the first cooking oil probably thought they had hit the jackpot. I love an ad I saw in a vintage magazine for oleo..margarine to those younger than said "A healthy way to cook". So they threw out the natural butter and went with synthetic margarine. Hindsight is 20/20 and we now know that was a big mistake.

My philosophy is that if you eat most things as close to natural as possible your hitting a good balance. We all eat out and at times can't control what is in our food completely, but we can make good choices. As a Southern cook I try to bring all those childhood flavors and traditions to a healthier dish. I refuse to change some things because it just alters it too much, but those are dishes we have on special occasions only.

I learned several years ago that the reason I always felt ill after eating Chinese food was the MSG. I thought I just hated vegetables! When I started taking all foods out of my diet with MSG I felt so much better. Now my husband is so happy we can go to his favorite Chinese resturant. I'm happy I'm not nauseous and swollen..everyone wins!

That set me on a journey of removing added junk from my meals. The following things are not allowed in my shopping cart: products with MSG, Trans-Fats, high sugar or salt content, and items with more words I can't say than words I can. The new term is clean eating. That's what generations of people did and never had the ailments we have now.

I love to cook, feed people and eat good food. Everything we do in
the south has food involved. Sunday dinners, weddings, funeral..we know how to bring food for every event! When I moved to the Midwest I learned that food wasn't the center of everyone's life. Horrified I found out there were women my age who could not cook. And even more terrifying were those who bring pre-cooked food in their dishes to potluck. No Southern Lady would be caught dead doing that!!!! She would just leave it in the container and sweetly say the dog ate the cake her husband left on the table.....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Southerner's love to talk

     Southern women love to talk!  We have lots to share and are sure no one can wait to here what we have to say. We have gained this talent from listening to our Mom, Grandmother, Aunts, Sisters, and friends.

     Along the way I listened to my Grandmother's the most when they were in the kitchen making me the most fabulous food ever. Both grandmothers were great cooks who sometimes had a recipe and sometimes didn't. I learned to cook by watching them measure dry ingredients in their hands, use the splash method for some wet ingredients and cook till it looks done. I will admit I meaure most things and always set a timer when I bake...

     Cooking makes me happy, being in my kitchen makes me happy, going grocery shopping makes me happy...I love to walk into a new grocery store and wander the isles to see what they have that is new or different. When we moved to Colorado from Texas my first culture shock was that they didn't carry the chili seasoning I loved. My second lightbulb moment was when I realized that chili could mean anything: beef, chicken, bean, meatless(still haven't figured that one out). Chili could even be white..that is just not right!!! I have never seen any white chili powder or white chili peppers so that is just wrong. Being a Texan I think all chili should be dark red and spicy. And just to let you all know..beans are never in Texas chili...that is chili bean soup!