Comfort Food and all that means, to me at least

Comfort food is a term used very widely these days, and it means a lot of different things to different people and different cultures. But the common thread here is that it is usually food that you had growing up that someone who loved you more than anyone else ever would, cooked for your nourishment and happiness. It can be pie that your Granny cooked like no-one else ever has. It could be beans and cornbread served with homemade chow-chow and fresh sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, chicken and dumplins, corned beef and cabbage, spaghetti and homemade marinara, stir fried chicken and vegetables in a wok, kimchee made from scratch, chopped chicken liver pate made with schmaltz. Where you come from, the food you eat, the things you crave, most importantly the food that gives you comfort, speaks to who you are. And who you are sometimes needs a little pat on the head and warmth in the tummy. A comforting meal can be like a shoulder to lean on when times get tough. Now I know there are people out there who do not put this much importance in the food they eat, I have never met them, but I hear tell they are out there.

One of the absolute toughest times in my life involved a desperate dash to New York City on a week long mission I hope to never repeat. I was alone. I was immensely focused on the many tasks I had to accomplish and I was short on money. It has been over a decade since then and I can still remember how it felt in the pit of my stomach the whole time I was there. I was in full fight mode for the entire week. Every lesson I had ever learned in my life up to that point was necessary to accomplish what I needed. It was winter, it was cold and it was grey. There was one lucky thing, one wonderful family owned a cafe that fate allowed me. Joe’s on 5th avenue, the Avenue of the Americas. They were a Greek family that welcomed me like I was their own. I sat at the counter most times and spoke with one of them as they worked. I found out much later they were quite famous for their hamburgers cooked on the flat-top. They had like 400 things on the menu, I couldn’t believe the offering. But I found down near the bottom, something called a chopped egg sandwich. It was $3.50. An amazing price in NY city at that time. It was beautifully baked handmade white bread cut in very thick slices with about 4 boiled chopped eggs mixed with a touch of mayo piled 1 inch thick between the bread. It was huge. It was nourishing. It tasted like home. It was a small reprieve, an exceptional ray of hope served to my southern soul when I needed it most. It helped fill the pit that had become my stomach. It was $3.50. And the conversation I had daily with the many different family members that ran that narrow cafe became like home to me for a few minutes. Human kindness and good food can save your life.

What I would like in this astonishing time in these United States, times I never thought I would see again, is to sit down at a very long table with all different peoples and all different comfort foods to share a meal and human kindness. Because human kindness and good food can save your life and it can lead to an understanding that we all are indeed one. And those people that I hear tell don’t think food is that important, we’ll invite them too.

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Soup and Love

I love soup. I love a big hot bowl of something good to eat. It can be a big hot bowl of beans, or soupy potatoes (my Mothers special thing she cooked when someone was feeling ill) or a big hot bowl of Thanksgiving dressing floating like an island in a copious serving of giblet gravy, (pretty much dressing soup). That last one is probably my almost favorite, cause I only get it once a year. Although my favorite at any given moment is the one that is sitting on the table in front of me, steaming it’s intricate melding of herbs, vegetables, rich stock, and general goodness into my face as I bend over to have my first spoonful of luscious liquid comfort. Sometimes soup is just a vehicle for a large wedge of buttery golden cornbread, laying in the bowl soaking up all that goodness from the soup. Cornbread is good with almost all soups. Certainly it is a given with beans. I don’t remember eating a lot of different soups when I was a child. Mostly it was vegetable soup made with my Granny’s beautiful canned summer vegetable soup fixings, shining like precious jewels in their glass jars… okra, tomatoes, corn, and green beans. Add a few diced potatoes, onions and some stock and you had soup, magical summer tasting soup, that warmed a winters cold day. Plus if you make it in large batches like I do it’s food for like 3 days.

These days I always make beef vegetable soup, as the men in my house like it that way. But you could skip the beef part and use vegetable stock as the base. But I would add 2 cups of pinto beans to up the protein level, either canned or cook dried ones until almost done in the vegetable stock, I have also bought fresh black eyed peas at the market, they could be added with the potatoes.

The first thing I would like to say is, use fresh everything, as good as you can lay your hands on. I no longer have access to Granny’s soup fixin’s and have not put up produce in a long time, so use fresh.

Candie’s Vegetable Soup Market list

3 1/2 pound chuck roast or 3 pounds stew meat (I generally cube up my own from a roast but I understand if you don’t want to)

fresh celery stalks

2 large boxes (32 oz) of beef stock or beef broth

2 32 oz cans of petit chopped tomatoes

3 dried Bay leaves

1 tsp of rubbed sage or 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh sage (sage gives a warmth to the broth that you cannot get any other way)

4 ears of corn in the shucks (how to tell if they are fresh? look at the silks, light green fluffy silks mean its fresh. If the silks are dried and brown, I’d buy some good, name brand, frozen corn)

1 pound of carrots that’s about 6 or 7

4 to 5 potatoes (russet Idaho hold up better in the soup)

8 white onions (tennis ball size)

2 large handfuls of green beans (about 2 cups trimmed)

4 large handfuls of fresh okra (another thing a bit hard to find in winter but try to use fresh if you can, small pods, bright green) you can use frozen

1 pound bag of White Lily cornmeal mix green label

Butter (the salted kind) 1 pound

Whole milk Buttermilk at least a quart

Let me just say this is going to make you house smell so wonderful.

1st thing is cook the meat…

Take the cubed roast after you have cut it into 1″ pieces or the stew meat and dry it off really well with paper towels. Salt and pepper it, for each pound of meat use 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Lightly sprinkle it with flour, rubbing that in good with your hands. Brown off the pieces of meat on med-high heat in olive oil and butter on all sides in a large skillet in about 2 or 3 batches. Get it really brown, the more caramelized it is the richer the taste. (If you crowd the meat it will steam and get really tough.) As you remove the meat from the skillet put it in a LARGE stock pot. Once it is all browned, add the 2 boxes of beef stock to the pot, 4 cups of water with 4 rough chopped onions, 3 bay leaves, 3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut in half, leave the leaves on as they have a lot of flavor, and the sage. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let it cook for 2 to 3 hours until the beef is fork tender, adding water as necessary to keep it well covered.

After about an hour taste the stock and add more salt and pepper if needed, this is the time to add flavor so it gets well into the meat.

When the meat is well cooked, remove the bay leaves and remove the celery stalks as they have served their purpose and given up all of their fresh greenness to the stock. Taste the stock again, adjust the salt as needed.

Now for the VEG!

You can’t really add the veg all at once as it takes different cooking times to get it to it’s peak flavor. But this is the order I add the vegetables and putting them in this way allows for chopping times in between additions.

Add the 2 large cans of tomatoes with their juice and 4 onions chopped 1/4 inch dice bring stock and beef back to  boil and boil it 15 minutes to reduce slightly, then ADD

1 pound carrots trimmed and sliced into 1/4 in pennies, I don’t peel my carrots, I like the dirt taste

2 cups of trimmed green beans (I cut them about 2 inches long)

Cook at a low boil for about 30 to 40 minutes then add

2 to 3 cups of peeled cubed potatoes (Do about a 1 1/2″ cube)

Simmer this for 15 minutes then add the last 2 ingredients, the okra and corn, both of these only need about 10 minutes to cook. The okra should still be bright green and the corn bright yellow, but tender.

After all the vegetables are cooked and delicious, turn off the pot and let it rest while making a big cake of cornbread. I won’t make you hunt my blog for the recipe…its right here.

Candie’s Cornbread

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees (I know it sound’s hot, but this is a quick bread, they need hot and you want a crispy crust)

put 1 stick of salted butter(use real butter) in a 9″square or round pan, like a good heavy cake pan, if you have a 9″cast iron skillet you are gonna have an extra degree of wonderful, put it in that warming up oven to melt the butter. But keep an eye on it.

crack 2 large eggs (need I say fresh) in a medium size ceramic bowl, I use Egglands Best eggs because they are the freshest I can find, as I no longer have a coop of my own, beat them up slightly with a fork.

Keep you eyes  on the melting butter, you want it to brown slightly and sizzle but not burn!

Add 1 2/3 cups of fresh WHOLE buttermilk to the bowl (Purity Butter Milk in the yellow carton is what I use) don’t use the 2% buttermilk its not as good. Beat that in good, I use a long tine fork.

Add 1 3/4 cup of White Lily Self Rising Buttermilk Cornbread Mix (flour is included in the mix so its lighter) it has GREEN writing on the front (they sell White Lily everywhere now so you should be able to find it, go ahead and get the 5 lb bag you’re gonna want to do this again) Mix that well until its smooth and thick about like pancake batter, if its too thick add more buttermilk. If it’s too thin add more cornmeal.

Check the butter, it should be browning and sizzling, if it burns throw it out and clean the pan and start again, burnt is gonna ruin the whole pan of cornbread. (yes I have burned the butter!) Once it has melted and browned carefully take it out of the oven, swirl it around the pan to coat the sides good and pour in into the bowl of batter, this is why you use a ceramic bowl, and it WILL sizzle when it hits, stir the butter into the batter good and pour the whole thing back in your pan.

Stick it back in that hot oven and it will rise and turn golden brown on top. As for how long you cook it, well… until it’s done. Generally about 15 to 20 minutes, but stoves vary so keep an eye out. Some folks (me) like to turn it out onto a plate so the crust stays crisp, but let it cool a few minutes before you do that, this is really moist cornbread and you don’t want it to fall apart on you

Cut you a big old hunk, slap some butter on it, get a tall glass of cold sweet milk, a large bowl of Candie’s Vegetable soup and enjoy a little piece of the happy life.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, it really isn’t and you actually end up having food for 3 days. It also freezes well but use in within 3 months.

It’s starting to snow a bit here in Tennessee so I’d best get to the grocery store for some soup fixings.

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?????? What IS on my plate…

Have you ever been to a dinner or a family gathering or a pot luck dinner where you just had a hard time eating the food, or if you did eat it, you regretted it soon after, like with stomach cramps and massive grumbling in the lower regions of your digestive track? What is up with that? And if food and feeding mean love and caring, does that mean they just hate you? And where are their taste buds in all of this?

I was fully “growed” before I experienced any of these un-digestible situations. I grew up on really good, often, really simple food. Everyone I knew could cook. I was related to most of them so I did not have a varied experience. But they did a lot of cooking, they had to. Of course, I am so old there weren’t many restaurants in my small cotton mill town in Carolina, and the ones that were there were reserved for special occasions, and they were usually a mom and pop affair and had excellent food. Bad restaurant food is bad restaurant food, it is self adjusting. It gets better or the restaurant closes and something way better takes its place. But when it involves family or friends, what are you supposed to do? Tell them? Buy them cookbooks? Buy them cooking lessons? Suggest to them lets not go to any trouble… how about we order out and I will pay the bill? Because when a family member or a friend cooks badly that situation is not self adjusting, its self perpetuating. One of my past solutions is eat before you go and then you can just push the food around on your plate, or say well I’m doing this cleanse on the advice of my doctor, no meat, no poultry, no fish, no sugar, gluten free, dairy free, egg free diet. Then all you have to eat are the carrot sticks (which hopefully they washed) and the olives. The bad cooking does sort of make what could be a great occasion into a problematic situation, where you are begging your spouse as he is dragging you out the door, “please don’t make me go, PLEEZE don’t make me go.”

OR, here’s a solution, always have it at your house where you get to control the outcome.

OR, here’s a better solution… PEOPLE learn to cook a few things really well, even if it’s breakfast, breakfast for dinner is a great solution. Shop at the edges of the grocery store, where all the fresh food is. Learn to taste your food as you are cooking it, learn to figure out what spices or flavors go with meats, don’t be putting the Oreo’s into the meatloaf, learn what makes vegetables taste delicious, use real food, real butter, real olive oil, fresh vegetables.  Aren’t there like 50 million cooking shows on television? Watch a few. Pay attention to your guests, if the fattest person at the table isn’t eating, maybe there’s something you need to know about what your are putting in front of them.

Look, I get it. Not everyone cares all that much about good food, I don’t know anyone like that, but I assume it’s so. How about this, we all just go play putt-putt golf and eat at the burger joint with the pool tables, they are still in business for a reason, right?

Here’s another solution, look on the internet for easy quick recipes. Or read my blog, these things will change your life, on my blog you will learn all about the best pimento cheese in the world, how to fry green tomatoes AND make a wonderful gravy to go on them, and the cornbread is divine. My mother-in law, Linda Wilson and her sister, Judy Watson, both excellent cooks who make banging potato salad (that I personally have adopted as my own) and other wonderful preserved and delicious foodstuffs read this blog all the time (probably because they are related to me). Are they better cooks than they used to be? Maybe not, they were pretty damn good before. But Linda was here for Christmas and stopped at the Krogers on the way out of town and picked up a couple of quarts of Duke’s Mayonnaise (the best mayo in the world) to take back home to Indy, cause they don’t sell it up there, and once she had tasted it, she agreed, in the South it’s all about the food.

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The gift of love, bread and pie.

Nutella pie with hazelnut Biscoff crust, sitting on a kitchen towel that my wonderful Mother-in-law made me for Christmas, the pale blue bowls were her gift also.

Nutella pie with hazelnut Biscoff crust, sitting on a kitchen towel that my wonderful Mother-in-law, Linda made me for Christmas, the pale blue bowls were her gift also.

When I was growing up in the foothills of Carolina, Christmas just wasn’t Christmas without something homemade given to you by someone that loved you dearly. It could be a crocheted scarf or a special dress or a pretty apron made of gingham and cross-stitched with bright thread and trimmed in rickrack. I am sure this tradition sprang from the history that my ancestors, Carolina farmers, had to endure during the depression. And the time they spent to make you special something was the love they gave to you.

But being farmers, we always had good food. And good food was often the gift, a cake, a pie, homemade bread, a smoked ham, or beautifully canned pickles. My Granny’s favorite thing to give to us kids was homemade popcorn balls wrapped in stiff red and green cellophane twisted at the ends and tied with curly ribbon to keep them fresh. When was the last time you even saw a popcorn ball? Or sometimes homemade doughnuts, the cake variety that she’d cook in a rolling vat of oil and sprinkled with granulated sugar and cinnamon. I always got the doughnut holes because I was such a good helper, because I always got the doughnut holes. To this day they are my favorite kind of doughnut. We always got plump juicy oranges in our Christmas stockings, because they were very special when Granny was growing up, something she didn’t get very often.  Each distinct holiday, we had special food. If we had nothing else we had excellent food.

This year, I was reminded of that tradition when my best friend (besides my beagle)  in the whole world, Shelly left homemade goodness on my front porch still warm from the oven, on Christmas Eve Night. She made Pumpkin bread, her specialty and my favorite, and this amazing orange cranberry bread that looked just like Christmas because the fresh cranberries had floated to the top of the loaf and made a bright red crown of berries on each slice. As an accompaniment to this amazing loaf was a jar of orange glaze that she had made to pour over the top once it had cooled. We however just spread it on each slice of bread as we ate it. Me, I actually just ate it right off the spoon, pretty much made my Christmas. Y’all are thinking I am going to give you that recipe right? Well I am in the form of a link to the page it appears on,

Two Peas and Their Pod

So there, now you can made me some and bring it on by the house.

The other thing I am going to talk about today is a pie that I have come up with to feed my Nutella and Biscoff crazy craves. I remember the first time my son’s high school girlfriend introduced me to Nutella on toast. I didn’t much care for it. But then years later I bought another jar, and ate it off a spoon and thought to myself this has possibilities. It just needs a crunchy cookie to go under it.  Enter the crunchy cinnamon cookie, Biscoff. First of all I am a nut for crunchy sandy cookies, the addition of cinnamon just makes it even better, it reminds me of the crunchy edges on my Granny’s doughnuts. You will need a whole package Biscoff cookies, but you are allowed to eat 3 of them while making this pie, more than that you won’t have enough for the crust. If you don’t want to make the pie you can spread Nutella on this cookie and be very happy. But if you are looking for something a little more fancy, here you go. the end result has an almost cheese cake texture. And the creaminess combined with the crunchy crust is divine.

Nutella Pie with hazelnut Biscoff crust.

1 Package of Biscoff (8.8 oz size) cookies minus 3, chopped in a food processor until they are fine crumbs

1 cup of hazelnuts, chopped in a food processor until they are ground up good (by the way this makes a fine noise, like if you want your husband to wake up and get off the couch)

2 heaping tablespoons of granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of cocoa (I used Hershey’s dark chocolate cocoa)

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

6 tablespoons of melted butter (the regular salted kind, don’t you just hate it when a recipe calls for unsalted butter, like who buys that on a regular basis?)

Mix the 1st 5 ingredients together in a bowl really well, pour the melted butter over the top and mix again, press into a buttered deep dish pie pan, glass or metal. Put into refrigerator to chill and harden up some.

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Now the creamy part…

1 13 oz. jar of Nutella (you will need all this for the pie so if you want to nibble some on a cookie get a larger jar and measure out 1 cup)

1 8 oz. brick of creme cheese softened, room temp is good I let mine sit out for about 4 hours (get the good stuff and for heavens sake not the low fat, this is dessert people)

1 cup of heavy whipping creme

4 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar, separated

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Get out the big mixer for this…

Whip the heavy whipping creme until soft peaks form, add in 2 tablespoons of the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Transfer to another bowl. In the same mixing bowl that you whipped the creme in, dump in the creme cheese and whip it up some, then add the Nutella , blend them together, add the 2 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar and mix well. Add the whipped creme back in and on LOW speed blend mixture together finishing the mixing process with a spatula.  Pour all of the mixture into the pie crust you already made and stick it in the freezer for 1 hour. Grate dark chocolate on top as a garnish. And serve. Keep leftovers (if any) in refrigerator, the freezer part is just so it will get a little more solid before serving.

Now see wasn’t that easy, you didn’t even have to turn on the oven.

Posted in Christmas in the south, dessert, love and family, small farm, SOUTHERN FOOD, Southern Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Thai me up and feed me Indian food and Sushi…

It’s amazing the number of people I personally know that have never expanded their food horizons… like at all. I have had occasion within the past year to introduce two separate friends (Kristi and Kory)  to Thai food. Thai food! And these are not youngsters, they are middle aged and above. Crazy, huh. They certainly had opportunity, as we are now a  town that has many different kinds of high quality restaurants. As for me, I love food and am always looking to expand the pleasure of my taste buds. And this is a good thing. It also expands your cooking horizons. Even one of the most famous southern soul food cookin’ meat and three restaurants in Nashville uses wasabi powder, a Japanese powdered horseradish, in their greens and people love it. Certainly not a typical Southern ingredient, but it makes Arnold’s greens… cornbread sopping good. I currently am finding myself on a mission to expand my personal field of ingredients to improve and generally inform new iterations of the old standard southern fare. Maybe I am bored, but also I have recently developed a new aversion to garlic, in any form, fresh, cooked, powdered. Doesn’t matter, it makes me quiet ill. So, as I like lots of flavor, I am looking for new flavor-filled substitutions. Peppers have always been in my lexicon but I am expanding into the sweet and slightly hot category. And they are super good for you. Hungarian wax peppers are one of my choices these days, subtle back heat in your throat. I’ve used jalapenos for years in my pimento cheese. But I kinda need a little spicy something to kick my food up a notch. I’ve landed on Korean Chili paste. It has a sweet and hot spicy-ness that has to be experienced. I mix it with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, grated fresh ginger and a little bit of honey and scallions for a marinade for chicken. I marinade it for at least 3 hours and then I grill that over coals or bake it in the oven. Wonderful with stir fried zucchini, snow peas, red bell peppers and onions and steamed rice. I think I might try it on fish or shrimp next.

I think the thing that is most important is to think fresh, buy fresh and local and stay out of the center of the grocery store. All the fresh stuff is around the edges. All the processed, stuff is in the middle. I know it is hard sometimes to cook from scratch every night of the week, but it is so important for your own health as well as that of your family. And once you  go fresh, all that other stuff starts tasting really bad.

Try this marinade its really good and as you are mixing take into account what your taste buds enjoy. This is enough for about 4 chicken breast or 4 to 5 pork chops or 4 to 5 firm fish fillets or 2 to 3 dozen shrimp peeled and cleaned.

1/2 cup soy sauce ( you can use low salt )

2 tablespoons Korean Chili Paste ( more if you like it hot )

3″ grated fresh ginger ( more if you like ginger)

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

4 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (it helps to tenderize the meat, it also helps to emulsify the oil into the marinade)

1/4 cup chopped scallions

Wisk all that together and pour into a large zip lock bag with your meat of choice and marinate for at least 3 hours. I have done this in the morning and come in from working and then cooked it. It works great!

Try something new, a new food, a new hat, a new way of thinking.

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Country Living and Modern Farmhouse

We did the Country Living Fair (sponsored by Country Living Magazine) at the end of April to launch our furniture business, Thelma and Nate. It turned out better than we ever could have dreamed. The week before the show I was worried we wouldn’t sell anything. By 2:00 p.m. on the first day, Friday I was frantic we didn’t have enough product. I came home that night to a wonderful pot of corn chowder on my front porch and a fresh loaf of french bread and a half pound of butter (just the right amount for a loaf of bread) left for us by my very best girlfriend/sister in the world, Shelly Baughman. I ate a huge bowl, possibly the best soup I have ever had and fell face first into the bed. At 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning I got up and started pulling furniture out of the house (the things Keith and I had made over the years for ourselves) to load up and take to the fair. Ate a bowl of corn chowder for breakfast and took off to go back to the fair. We were running low on pieces and I was worried we would run out, dear Lord! It was a good show and I was stunned at the amount of business we did. I heard again and again from the people that bought our furniture that the quality and design and integrity of our work was like nothing they had ever seen. That was so gratifying. I’ve been an artist for a long time, with sculpture and jewelry as my main areas. Our furniture to me is like sculpture that is useful, with a degree of artistic integrity that simply is NOT found in mass produced pieces. My mother, Barbara Eaker White Eller was so supportive of my artistic self all my life. She understood that the singular work I did sprang from a creative place she had never known and she honored that. Her talent was music and she sang in a clear soprano that could bring tears to your eyes, my son Nate gets his musical ability from her. I made Momma’s wedding bands when she married my stepdad when I was 19, she was so proud to wear something I had made. I know if Mama were here today she would be wanting to buy everything we make, and she would try but I would just end up giving it to her. It was wonderful to have her support.

The wonderful man I married, Keith Miller has the same artistic soul I have. We have so many original ideas we have portfolios of drawings we may never get to. It weird how we work so well together, his strengths are my weakness, and my strengths are his weakness. Make no mistake, I do most of the designing and he does most of the building, and then I do most of the finishing. We do one of a kind furniture from 100 year old wood that has a soul. And we are not for everyone. If you think its ok to purchase a mass produced particle board headboard made in China (so many issues with that kind of product), then we are not for you. Integrity is our bottom line, I want this furniture to last another 100 years and get more beautiful with age. Quality is my end result. Like the food I cook and feed my family every day. I want the best produce, the best dairy, the best meat I can lay hands on to feed my family. I don’t do canned soup, I don’t do prepackaged. I don’t do fast food. The wonderful meals that my Granny cooked on a daily basis are my touchstone. Is it harder to shuck 12 ears of corn instead of getting it in the freezer case, yes, but soooo worth it. It is fun to wait for the real tomatoes of summer, no, but again, so worth it.

By the way you’ll need to shuck some corn for this next recipe and pare some carrots while you are at the sink.

So lets get back to the wonderful corn chowder I had mentioned earlier. As you know I have a corn chowder recipe on this blog. And I also mentioned, I have a friend that told me about her corn chowder recipe 23 years ago but she had never given me her recipe. So I just made one up, and it is quite good. Yes, that friend was my best girlfriend Shelly, who teased me all those long years ago, and then never gave me the recipe, although she says she did. Nah. Cause let me tell you, that corn chowder is the one Shelly left on my front porch the 1st night of the show. All I can say it, we ate it all weekend long (it was a cauldron of corn chowder). Had I known that it was that good, I would have gone to her house and stolen it out of her recipe file. SOOO different from mine and so very good. Eat it with a good loaf of french bread and a half pound of butter, yum! I know it’s summer and most people don’t like soup in summer, I like soup all the time, besides the corn is at it’s peak right now.

Shelly’s Corn Chowder

4 cups cubed potatoes (I used red skinned as did Shelly)                                                               2 cups peeled and sliced carrots about 1/4 inch slice                                                                       1 cup diced celery                                                                                                                                     1/2 cup diced onion                                                                                                                                  1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper ( I used white pepper)

Put the above in a large pot with 4 cups of water, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile cut 4 cups of fresh corn from the cob and set aside.

In a saucepan add 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick) and 1/2 cup of a.p. flour, heat over medium heat to make a very light tan roux, Add 4 cups of milk while stirring it in slowly, let it simmer while you stir until it coats the back of a spoon. Add in 1 and 1/2 cups shredded cheese, I used American because that is what she used for my pot of chowder, but you can use cheddar, or Parmesan or whatever you like that melts really good.

Once the pot of vegetables are done (fork tender) add in corn, let it simmer for about 2 minutes, corn cooks very quickly. Then add the cheese and milk sauce to the veg pot. Stir it in well. At the last, stir in 1 bag of frozen green peas (unless you have fresh peas the about 1 to 2 cups of fresh). Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Your chowder is done. Serve with a nice crusty french bread and a half pound of butter. This will make about a gallon of soup, but it keeps and re-heats just fine (better the next day). We ate it ALL weekend long. It was manna from heaven.

P.S. I really think you could drain the water from the veg after they are cooked and then add the cheese sauce and peas and have a fine filling for a vegetable pot pie, or a chicken pot pie by adding some cooked chicken and a crust on top, then bake it off.

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Spring is well past sprung…

Well folks, it has been a REALLY busy last 3 months, here at home. I’ve cooked of course but merely to keep body and soul together. Nothing special has come out of my kitchen except for some beautiful plate racks and painted furniture. Yes… one whole side of my kitchen is dedicated to paint, sandpaper storage and the various implements that are needed to finish furniture. My partner for life, Keith Miller and I are launching our little furniture business with the help of my computer wiz son, Nate. This business, Thelma and Nate has been tooting along pretty slowly up until this point. It is now taking off like a rocket. We are going to be in the Country Living Fair in Nashville April 24, 25, 26. Big deal, big show. You should come on out and see us. We started thinking of this idea 5 or 7 years ago, making things for our own home and saying, once it was done, while we patted ourselves on the back, “man we should start a business”. It formed solid in my mind when I started this blog. My Granny, Thelma Godfrey Eaker was such an enormous influence in my early life that I think I have been trying to get back to what she treasured about living for years. She lived simply, grew and cooked good nourishing food, her entertainment was the simple pleasures of conversation and home made music. Her home had simple functional furniture, most of which was old and beautifully worn, built well and made solid. I still have her walnut library table that was a wedding gift and sat in her living room in front of her picture window for all my growing up years. It looked out to a front porch with a garden so full of beautiful flowers and blooming trees it took your breath away in spring and summer.

But today is Easter Sunday. And at the very least before I get back to sanding and staining something, I will make a dinner, on the food side of the kitchen. Baked Ham and deviled eggs and an asparagus tart with gruyere cheese and potato salad and pickled beets, with iced tea to drink. For dessert, coffee and a lemon cake, filled with a mixture of blackberry jam and fresh blackberries. A spring feast for the hard working souls that believe in a dream. So here I am at 4:00 a.m. planning and putting eggs and potatoes on to boil. and the ham in the oven, cooking low and slow at 275 for a few hours until the bone starts to wiggle and I know its done. Long before then the wafting smell of baking ham will make me want to reach in with my bare hands and pull off a hunk and eat it burning hot.

My Granny’s day started at 4:00 a.m. everyday of the world. When I was little I would sometimes wake up that early with her. Maybe its why I wake up so often around that time now. I loved that time of day with her, it was so quiet and my PawPaw would be getting ready for work, while she was cooking his breakfast of eggs and meat with butter biscuits and apple cinnamon jelly. He’d come in the kitchen with dark dress pants, hard shiney leather wingtips and a freshly starched white shirt that smelled of the lavender water Granny used when she ironed. Sometimes he would sit me up on his lap while he read our little hometown paper, he would talk to me seriously about what was going on in town and how the new mayor looked to be a man you could trust. I became one of them and they treated me, not like the baby girl I was, but as if I were a grown up like them.lace 004 (3)

Where I come from, a little extra hard work gives you a little extra. A lot of extra hard work gets you where you are going. This is something that was shown to me at an early age, by Thelma and Sam Eaker, my Grandparents, my saving grace, my touchstones in life. On this Easter Sunday, this spring celebration of renewal and new beginnings, I am so very gratitude filled that I had them in my beginning. They showed me a tiny pathway to a life that lets me begin again… if I need to. So this is our new beginning, hand made furniture from re-purposed materials, and elements that would end up somewhere in land fills. Use it up or wear it out, or make something new and useful out of it. That’s our motto.

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So back to food. This is going to be a cheater day for me today, I bought rolls…wait what?

And I am using a box cake, I can’t believe I actually wrote that. But you know a”from scratch”cake is not in the timeline for today. However let me say that if you enhance the flavor of a box cake it is soooo…. much better.

Cheater Lemon Cake

1 box of Duncan Hines Lemon Cake. Mix it up like it says on the package, then STIR IN at the end, 1/2 Teaspoon lemon extract 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons finely grated  lemon zest. Bake two round layers and when it is done turn it out and let it cool (cake MUST be cool). Slice the 2 layers in half horizontally and fill between each layer with this mixture. 1 cup mashed blackberries stirred together with one jar of Dickensons blackberry jam, divided evenly and spread almost to the edges but not to the edge of the layers (it mashes out, believe me). Once that is done Glaze with lemon glaze, 2 cups confectioners sugar with 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, mixture should be thick just spread it on top and let it drizzle down the sides. You can also use Raspberry jam and fresh raspberries and it makes a pretty yellow and pink cake..

Set it up on a pretty cake stand and it is impressive. Me, I’m gonna set mine up on the beautiful new, Lace and Blue marble table we just made. Just don’t tell your Granny about the box cake.


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