Thursday, August 18, 2011

Successful Marriage Secrets

In 1974 I was an innocent 15 yr old girl who possibly was a little naive. I was raised very strictly but with incredible love from a Mom & Dad who were the best! My Dad was an Engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad so he was gone overnight several times a week. Mom had her hands full with a teenager & my two sisters who were both under 5yrs old.  

Of course I was the perfect teenager who never caused any trouble. My Dad helped me buy a car at 16 yrs old & I had a job at the local grocery store. I went to high school at small rural school, so the "big city" was not influencing me much....until my Dad got a CB radio...yes I fell quickly then! 

In 1974 or so the Citizen Band Radio was all the rage! For those of you who were born after 1985, you may not remember CB's, but you had to pick the equivalent of a twitter name. We called it a "handle". that was the name you went by on the CB radio. I thought of lots of names, discussed it with all my naive friends & someone suggested"Shady Lady" for me! A boy I liked told me it just meant I liked to sit in the shade......... I fell for that one hook, line & sinker! What were my parents thinking, they wouldn't even let me wear pants or shorts!!!

So Shady Lady started modulating on the radio..tweeting in today's lingo. We had a base station in our home & my dad had a mobile CB in his car. I wanted a car & a mobile CB so I could drive around and talk on the radio to my friends. Didn't have a car or a mobile, so I settle for Dad's base station. The only problem with a CB radio was anyone & everyone could hear your conversations. There were different channels but it was easy to find people talking on other channels. Eavesdropping paradise!

One night "Shady Lady" was up at 1am talking on the CB to a was the next day & I lost track of time. My Dad just happen to be coming home from work that night earlier than I expected & he heard me talking. I heard a sound that made me want to crawl under the table. The sound the mic on Dad's CB made was a very recognizable bing. The next thing I heard was "Shady Lady you better be in the bed asleep by the time I get home" The sound of my Dad's voice when he took that tone would sends shivers down my spine...I went to bed & faked being asleep! He never had to do anything but speak to me!

On January 5th 1977 I was driving home from church on a Wednesday night. Of course I was on the CB radio being my ever talkative self. I was talking to several friends & a new voice broke in. Now CB etiquette required a new person to say who they were..well this person said "General"....Another friend told me..that was his really good friend, nice guy "he's okay".
 I was driving up & down our "drag" in our little hometown. Everyone went to the Walmart parking lot to meet & talk so I said I was headed there. Not a lot to do in a small town but hang out talking!

Only picture I have of the bug car! Of course it was after our wedding!

When I pulled in a strange car pulled up, now by strange I don't mean unfamiliar..I mean strange. A 1971 El Camino with 108 inch long antenna's on both sides of the car, right behind the cab. Looked like a demented bug sitting there. This strange guy hopped out & came up to my car. He stuck his head in my car window & said "nice interior". I looked at him like he was an alien! He removed his head from my 1971 Dodge Challenger right before I punched him!

He got my phone number from his friend, called me that night & told me he was going to marry me one day! I couldn't stand him, so full of himself thinking I would marry him....we celebrated 34 years of marriage last Saturday!

Thank God for the CB radio...although social media has changed over the last 30+ years, true love has not.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Southern Comfort Foods

Southerners love comfort food...wait what am I saying, we eat food for comfort! How do we define comfort food? For most of us, it's what we grew up eating. These are the dishes our Grandmothers & Mothers made everyday or maybe just on special occasions. Regardless of where you are from, you have your own definition of comfort foods.

Just saying "comfort foods" makes my mouth water for mashed potatoes & gravy, fresh green beans & new potatoes or chicken & dumplings. My Southern grandmothers were such great cooks, they put love into everything they cooked & that's the secret to comfort foods. 

Last week I found two new side dishes that have joined the ranks of our families comfort foods. I reviewed "If You Can't Stand The Heat" by Robert Medina several weeks ago. The BBQ Shrimp were beyond delicious! If you feel the need to salivate over a computer image, read my blog post about these little treasures.
Last week I tried Green Beans with Fried Sage & Cheese Grits from "If You Can't Stand The Heat".
The green beans are an easy recipe but they definetly need to be fresh if available. Green beans, bacon,butter, & more great ingredients make these delicious for sure! I had never fried fresh sage, so I may have gotten it a little overdone..notice I don't say I burned it! Regardless it was still good & had great sage taste. This recipe called for applewood bacon, this is a key ingredient. The bacon added so much flavor & the applewood was really great. Don't just use a plain bacon if you want to experience the beans at their best! It is defiantly a go to side dish for lots of meats. We had it with BBQ Chicken & Blue Cheese & Chive Smashers.
Blue Cheese & Chive Red Potato Smashers

Serves 4
Serving size : 1 cup
8-10 medium sized red skinned potatoes
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
2 tsp. dried chives or 2 T fresh chives, depending on what’s available
½ cup half & half
1 T butter
¼ tsp. salt (blue cheese is very salty, so taste & add more if needed)
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper (can be omitted)

 Wash potatoes & place in a pot, I prefer the rustic look of leaving the skins on but you can peel if you want to.  Add cold water to cover the potatoes well, add the chives now to the water   Place pot on stove at high heat & bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Check often because all potatoes are different depending on type & freshness.
While potatoes are cooking, in a smaller saucepan mix together the half & half, butter, & salt. Bring to a medium heat, but do not boil. Add the blue cheese & stir well to blend. Add the cracked black pepper. Turn off heat...

When the potatoes are fork tender, drain them well in a colander. I always put the drained potatoes back into the pot I cooked them in, it’s still warm & that helps keep your potatoes warm until you are ready to serve.  Just be sure the pot has no water left in it, it needs to be dry, don’t wash it out though!  
Add the cheese & milk mixture to the hot potatoes. I prefer a hand masher for these, but an electric mixer would work okay, just don’t want to over mash or they become creamed potatoes. Mash until well mixed with the milk mixture. Taste & add salt & pepper to your taste. 
To serve you can sprinkle some fresh green onions & cracked black pepper on top!

I must admit only a few years ago I learned to eat grits. My mom never cooked grits because her mom didn't. My dad's mom did but they were simple grits that I will admit I never acquired a taste for. Granny always added blackstrap molasses & butter to grits. Blackstrap molasses is an acquired taste & not one that a child is happy to experience. If we complained of feeling sick because we didn't want to do something, she would reach for the blackstrap...we recovered very quickly from our ailments!

This may look like chocolate but it's bittersweet blackstrap molasses!

As an adult I love molasses, blackstrap is hard to find but I buy all they have when I do find it! Granny would be so proud to know I not only enjoy it ,but according to her I should be the healthiest person on the planet!

Robert Medina's Cheese Grits from "If You Can't Stand The Heat" are why Southerners love grits!
They are decadent, full of whipping cream, butter & cheese. I didn't have whipping cream on hand so I used fat-free half & half. I will say that if using the whipping cream makes it better then I couldn't stand it. The recipe calls for sharp white cheddar cheese, I used chipotle cheddar in my grits. They were delicious, creamy & full of spicy flavor. That's what Southern cooking is...making substitutes when you don't have something in the fridge or cabinet. I am now a grit lover thanks to Bob! Now when I have to go to the gym an extra day a week I will remember it's all worth it for the grits!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Granny's Fig Preserves Cake

My Dad's mother was so much fun, that is her sitting on a rock in the middle of the river. Notice the lady in the photo with her, she has a pair of dress shoes in her hand. They were probably at a family reunion, dressed up for it & my sweet grandmother thought a wade in the river would make the day better!  Granny was the kind of grandmother that would get in trouble with our Mom's for letting us play outside in mud puddles in the rain! She was mischievous, laughed all the time & had the best sense of humor ever! She raised three sons who were all gentle, kind & wonderful men. I miss her everyday!

I was very blessed to have Grandmothers who were incredible Southern cooks. They were young brides during the Great Depression & sometimes ingredients were not always available. Going through a box of photos that belonged to my Granny, I found a hand written recipe on a yellowed scrap of paper. It was titled "Fig Cake", that got my attention right away, I love figs & if Granny thought it was worth had to be good!

Granny's Fig Preserves Cake

1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp white vinegar
2 cups fig preserves
1 cup chopped nuts
Bake in a tube pan or bundt pan. Rub pan with solid shortening & dust with flour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a mixing bowl combine oil & sugar, beat at medium speed until well blended.
Add the 3 eggs to the oil & sugar mixture & beat till foamy, about 2 minutes.
In a separate large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon & baking soda.
Slowly add to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl with mixer on low speed. After all the dry ingredients are mixed in , add the vinegar , fig preserves, & nuts.
Mix at low speed until all ingredients are blended, about 1 minute should do it, don't over beat.
Pour into the prepared pan, batter is thick so will have to be spread in pan.
Bake for 1 hour, let cook & remove from pan
Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze
1/4 cup half & half or milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup of powdered sugar
Heat half & half over low heat, add the cinnamon & vanilla. Mix well & turn off heat.
Add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, mixing well. 
Add more powdered sugar to create the thickness of glaze that you like.
Drizzle over warm baked cake, It will harden as it cools.
Granny didn't use the glaze, that's my recipe but I think she would have approved!

This is a delicious cake that brings back such great memories of warm toast with fig preserves spread on top. It's easy & quick, I hope you try it & let me know what you think.