Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 28, 2011

A recent survey in America has stated that PUMPKIN PIE is now the favorite pie of choice. I was quit shocked to hear this from the so-called news authorities.(This poll was also conducted about 2 months ago, right around "The Thanksgiving Holiday".) Now, don't get me wrong, I also love a good quality pumpkin pie. To my recollection however, I've always valued the true American pie as an APPLE PIE. In my opinion, APPLE PIE is the top dog. You could argue the point for days!(I'm sure if you conducted this same pie poll around the 4th of July, things would have worked out a little differently). And what makes a good APPLE PIE? The cinnamon? The crust? The gooey filling? Yes, it's true, all of these components do complement the qualities of a good APPLE PIE. However, the greatest APPLE PIES have survived because of the apple itself. Apples have always been a part of Americana since my earliest childhood days. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." "American as APPLE PIE and Chevrolet." Remember when you could bring an apple to your teacher and never give it a second thought. Bobbing for apples on the coldest nights with your buddies in Oregon state. Waking up to the smell of fresh baked APPLE PIES on Saturday morning. There is nothing like a great APPLE PIE! Many people prefer a traditional double crusted pie. I, on the other hand, have always liked a single pie crust. Don't ask me why! I can't tell you. Less carbs and more filling is my final answer. That was simple! A true chef doesn't beat around the bush! Looking at all that beautiful filling! And today, I've gone with a SOUR CREAM APPLE PIE. It's rich! It's decadent! It's heavenly! It's pretty darn good! I have a great friend: We'll call him Chris. He dog sat for me while I was on vacation years ago. I still remember "The Day".  I told him he was more than welcome to eat anything in the house. The pantry, refrigerator and freezer were well stocked. My wife and I were going be gone awhile, and there was plenty for him to choose from. I also baked an APPLE PIE prior to leaving, and I told him he was more than welcome to have at it.  My Oh My! When I got back, all I heard about was that APPLE PIE. He actually talked about it for weeks at work. Even at his wedding, he went out of his way to claim me as the guy who baked "The Greatest Apple Pie Ever Made." I was completely floored! He's supposed to be talking about his new life with his newly married bride and he's talking about my APPLE PIE! I will never forget that day! It was so fun! So Chris, I give you this offer: Would you like to taste my APPLE PIE again and let me know how you really feel? THIS IS NOT A JOKE! I need immediate and quality feedback: I know that you are "THE ONLY MAN FOR THE JOB"! Remember my friends: TRUST IS AS SIMPLE AS APPLE PIE!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 23, 2011

I bought some lovely red peppers at the market last week. Shiny and big! They had a speck of green on them as well. All the more colorful. There are so many things you can do with red peppers. A risotto was calling my name. So it would be: my Mom's Birthday dinner. A dish respective of her. She is still living. Close in fact. Things are better between us now. She is now realizing the fact that life is a bowl of cherries for her son. The bowl has spilled over many times in my life. Too many! So now, I honor her with this dish. Putting a large saute pan over low heat with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, I cooked 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin, and a regular size can of petite cut diced tomatoes for 5 minutes. I then added 2 bay leaves and 2 large red bell peppers that had been charred and blistered over broil temperature in the oven, about 25 minutes total time, then put in a plastic storage bag to cool. After they have been cooled(about another 30 minutes), remove the outer charred skin and inner seeds and core. Slice them into small pieces. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes. I then added 2 1/2 cups of arborio rice to the cooked mixture, stirring in completely. Over low heat on the back burner, there should be 6 cups of chicken broth simmering over low heat. In ladle fulls at a time, add the broth to the rice mixture, cooking over medium heat. Do not add more broth until the ladle before has been incorporated into the rice mixture.(This whole process will take about 18-20 minutes, stirring constantly. If you stop stirring, the rice will burn.) When the rice is done cooking, it should be creamy, yet texturally refined. Not Mushy. Season liberally with salt and fresh cracked pepper. I then added a pat of Parmesan butter and stirred it in. After plating the dish, I then sprinkled fresh grated Parmesan cheese over the top and completed it with fresh basil. Thanks Mom!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 22, 2011

Florida is typically known as "The Sunshine State". The cold weather is usually not calculated into this problematic equation. Though Florida has many days of sun appearing high in the sky, the cold can make its way into our lives. January is no exception to the rule. As soon as there is an 80 degree day, the sun will be as bright as a dinner bell, and it will be 29 degrees within 2 days. I, on the other hand, think of citrus growing on trees. That's easy for me to say, since I live a stones throw from the fields of dreams. The smell of orange blossoms in the air is oh so overwhelming this time of year. The trees are not as abundant as they used to be. We live in a world now that is overworked and under payed. And at the same time, we are sending billions and billions a day overseas to the "new rich". As time goes by, this "Earth World" is getting smaller and smaller. The seas are rising because of the global warming effect, the economies are strategically becoming displaced overnight in once third world nations and the rise of depression and starvation has reached new heights all over the world. So, what in the world does this have to do with Florida, cold weather and sunshine: CITRUS! In the routine blah, blah, blah of our lives, we still have the power to produce the best citrus in the country! Citrus of all kinds. There are so many out there to choose from. One particular kind of citrus we tend to forget about are Key Limes. They are not like other citrus fruits. They are special in many ways. Location, location and location is what they say about buying a house. Well, the same can be said about "The Key Lime". They were named after "The Florida Keys": the linking of many small islands travelling south past the state of Florida. Key West is known as the southern most tip of the continental United States. It thrives on relaxation, tourism and more relaxation. Here's the deal: RELAXATION=KEY LIME PIE! If you ask any true Floridian their favorite type of pie, they will say Key Lime Pie. This pie is so unique in so many different ways. It's tangy! It's light! It's rich! It's full of history! It's no-bake! It's over-the-top taste is so simplistic and defining: ALL IN ONE BITE! Key Limes are not confusing with other limes at all. They are very small: miniature limes. But, so much punch in one little lime?! A small price to pay for the true taste of Florida. The next time it's cold and the sun is shining, think of KEY LIME PIE. Tensions mounting overseas! Think Pie! Economics falling apart! Think Pie! RELAXATION: THINK KEY LIME PIE!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 21, 2011

What a gorgeous day! The rain fell on its back like a broken record. There was no driving the car. There was no climbing the stairs. There was no checking the mail. This was called "Inside Day". And inside my domain, a glorious piece of meat was ready to be slow-cooked and then eaten: BOSTON BUTT. You can say anything you want about it's name, but Boston Butt is one thing I learned about while living in South Georgia. It's a big piece of pork that's slow-cooked all day. Some people use an oven, but I prefer a crock pot. The juices are retained better this way. I've always found that slow cooking a big piece of meat on a rainy day is comfort food on a slow ride. Imagine your favorite roller coaster that you've been on. And now do this: IMAGINE THE WHOLE RIDE IN SLOW MOTION! That's what it feels like when you cook a Boston Butt all day! The air has now turned to a misty residue of spice and vinegar the minute you walk in the door.(You Ain't Goin' Nowhere! So, just sit down and enjoy the ride!) The natural barbecue liquid of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce evaporating slowly makes this ride a free fall onto your kitchen floor.(You now can't touch the brake pedal. Your whole outer body experience is now an inner body one and someone has to pick your remains off the floor just so you can sit for grace.(Amen!) The bite is now one of instant gratification. There are no traffic jams: Your ride is now complete. The aroma is enough to knock your neighbors right off their balconies! The taste is incredible. The rich and the poor all in one bite. The melting pot of THE DEEP SOUTH as we know it. There are no subdivisions: ONLY OPEN FIELDS. There are no apartment rows: ONLY RANCH-STYLE HOUSES. There are no parking lot malls: ONLY COTTON BLOOMING UNTIL DAWN. This piece of goodness was served with all the drippings of onion and garlic. Plain white rice, corn on the cob and sweet cornbread filled in the gaps for this dinner in the rain. No one got wet: We had all the drippings of a BOSTON BUTT for that! The next time a wet rainy day is in the forecast: REMEMBER BOSTON BUTT! It's not a pretty name, but you will be won over! PORK, MAN, WOMAN and RAIN. CURTAINS. SWEET DREAMS!

Friday, January 21, 2011

January 17, 2011

A very rainy day! The kind of rain that chills you to the bone. It's been very dry here as of lately, so the rain was a welcome relief for mid-January. Happy MLK Day by the way! It seemed so long ago the famous speech, "I Have A Dream". We all have a dream in life. What's yours? In these days of America, a dream is worth the wait. Waiting, they say, is the hardest part. A good soup is always worth the wait. And this is what happened tonight: HOMEMADE FRENCH ONION SOUP with TOASTED BAGUETTES and PARMESAN CHEESE. Soup is not the same as it used to be, as many things in life. Today, it's Chunky this and Meaty that. We still have the grand old staple of the red and white cans, but those kids have all grown up now. A real soup demands attention and detail. It needs a great palate. It is often overlooked. The key to soup is PATIENCE. Like many things in life, homemade soup is not a rolling boil. It is not a walk in the park. It is not a Sunday drive. It is a liquid of gold and silver melted into one bowl to give nutrition and stability back to our bodies. It is "Liquid Refreshment" for the soul. A good soup warms you both inside and out. It gives peace to your mind. It calls out for a hug in the night. I guess I never knew soup so well. And on this day of celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., after our soup had warmed our bones and nourished our minds, we watched the movie, "The Blind Side". What a fitting title! There was a lot of homemade soup in that movie. There was waiting. There was warmth. There was refreshment. There was patience. There was careful attention and detail. Soup is good food. Homemade soup is even better!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 16, 2011

Soul Food for Breakfast! Who would have thought. And yes, it was not all soul food! There was grits and smoked sausage. There was fruit and scrambled eggs. There was corned beef hash, straight out of the can, and there were many types of vegetables. Most of this was not Soul Food as I know Soul Food. Most of the Soul Food I was raised on was straight from South Georgia. Both of my parents were born and raised in the heart of the south, when meant crossing the tracks meant that you were on the wrong side of the tracks. Being brought up by this mentality was hard for me to understand as a small boy raised in the west. You see, I was born in southern California. After six years in Cali., we moved north to Oregon. Things out west weren't the same as they were in the deep south in the 60's and early 70's. I never really understood my Dad's philosophy on treating some people so different. It was a real shame. It wasn't always a personality conflict, but it most definitely was a racial issue. With my dad being in both WW2 and The Korean War, he saw things a lot differently through his eyes. I disagreed with him constantly. I could have tuned out so differently in life. It's too bad that some people still think in these terms today. I want my little girl to look in the mirror and know that all men and women are created equal. I watched the movie "Soul Food" last night. It was one for the memories. I was skeptical about it at first. Don't know why. I don't really watch a lot of movies, and I really didn't think it was for me. I WAS SO WRONG! There are a lot of good things in that movie to remember. The best was the ending. I'm not going to give it away. Here's the point. Soul Food is every body's food, because it comes from your soul. The lasting impression of people eating your food is a trickle down effect from your soul to theirs. Soul Food is not always food, but in reality, it is. We've all had troubles and dreams in our life. We've all had misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. IT HAS HAPPENED TO ALL OF US! Be wise today. Be thoughtful today. Be strong today. Be soulful today. Live from your heart and give from your soul!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 15, 2011

When I talk about chocolate, a lot of things come to mind. The taste. The smell. The texture. The bite. The way it flows through you body and into your way of life. We take chocolate for granted so much. We didn't even start putting sugar in it until a few hundred years ago. Sugar was very expensive back then. Only for the very wealthy. But things have changed a lot for chocolate in the past 100 years. Electricity and mass production along with farming sugar cane fields with modern agricultural machines has made chocolate inviting for everyone to eat. When I talk chocolate, two things pop right into my head: Pies and cookies. I made both of these yesterday. The cookies were Double Chocolate Chews with Pecans. They are a two part cookie well worth the wait. This cookie has a mild bite on the outside followed by a chewy chocolate center that is oh so delicious. I usually don't put pecans in them, but, they were just sitting in front of me, so I figured: Why not?! Thoughtful words led to a new residence and before I knew it, new friendship was delivered to the clubhouse. The next encounter for the day was the PIE. I say this as a total means to an end. This pie was on the experimental side. I kind of put 2 + 2 equals something else together, and a massive Upside-Down Brownie Pie evolved. I then topped it with non-dairy whipped topping and fresh-cut strawberries. It will be delivered later to a social event at my church: A Soul Food Breakfast eaten in the middle of the early service. Chocolate?! Soul Food?! Let me just say this: When the pastor of your church loves chocolate, bring the Soul Food in his form of Soul Food! Amen!

Monday, January 17, 2011

January 14, 2011

If you ask a chef what his or her "Last Supper" would be, I bet many would say Baked Chicken and Potatoes. Well, it wasn't my last meal last night, but Baked Chicken and Potatoes was what I made. Baking a chicken is common ground for all to eat. It's not only the meal that is remembered, but the smell of the bird cooking in the oven. When you scatter potatoes around it and let it fly: nothing can be more satisfying at times. It's not like it's complicated. It's not. That's the point. Complication can add to many issues to any fine dish. Any chef knows that. So, on this open-windowed evening, I started the process of baking my bird. I named her Ruth( I don't know why this actually happened. I did have a Great Aunt Ruth many years ago. She was known for eating the best part of the chicken. In her case, that would be the neck and gizzards. I'm more of a thigh man myself.) After the bird was washed and patted dry, I stuck two peeled garlic cloves in the cavity along with half a tangerine and salt, pepper and fresh thyme.( My porch is taking on new herbs all the time.) After being placed in a large baking dish, I scattered 7 Gold Potatoes around the bird. Season the bird with kosher salt and ground black pepper, as well as, the potatoes.( Don't be shy about the seasoning: a proud bird needs it.) I then squeezed 1 1/2 tangerines over the chicken and potatoes, making sure the juices went in. No seeds aloud. Then I drizzled extra virgin olive oil over the top of the bird. Before placing in the oven at 400 F, I placed 1 1/2 cups of hot water over all the potatoes in the pan. When I put my bird in, I always have it go in breast side down. Let it go for about 30  minutes. I then turn down the oven to 375 F and flip the bird over. Season well again and drizzle with a little more olive oil. From now it'll need about another hour. My friend was a little over 4 pounds, so it needed another 10 minutes or so.(Remember, the key temperature is 165 F Internal for the chicken. I pulled it out at 161 F and put it on a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes. Internally, it's still cooking at this point. So, don't worry. It will be just fine.) The chick and his friends came out quit lovely. I served it with some creamed corn. The windows were now closed and the smell of dinner remained within, the rest of the night. For dessert, I baked a beautiful Butternut Squash and Maple Syrup Pie. The flavors are so perfect for this time of year.It's not the fact that it's overly sweet. It's just so natural tasting. You know. Right from the earth. My intuition in cooking and eating has grown so much in the last seven years. Especially, in the last three. I will sleep well tonight. Goodnight.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 13, 2011

The start of the new year meant several changes in my life. For on thing: NO JOB! I have been out of work from my last job about 2 months now. There have been hard times in my life. I have never given in to assemble line cooking; franchise restaurants that make the same thing over and over again to taste the same every where you go. I've always been at the fore front all my life. That's why I went back to school at the age of 41. Can you believe that! Wow! Doing what I've always wanted to do: Cook. A second career, I was off and running. At least, I thought I was. It has not been easy these last 7 years. But, I wake up every morning and look to that higher level of being. Going to the markets has always been a way of seeing what's new in life to cook with. All the new products that come out on the horizon, all seem to disappear. What I always go back to is the basics. The labor intensive art of cooking food from scratch. You might not like the sound of that, but in all honesty, it's a better way of life. Yesterday, I made these amazing pies. They were Pumpkin-Praline Pies. These pies have 19 ingredients in them. You might say to yourself, "Why don't you just buy one of those frozen things they have at the market?" Because. It's not the same thing! When you bake and cook from scratch, a whole new world opens up to your mind. It's like having the best of both worlds. The actual making and baking of pies is a wonderful thing. You get to create. You get to play. You start to believe in yourself like there is no tomorrow. There is only today: And you let your hair down and go straight into the wind. You make your own little world a world of re-creation in the kitchen. You put away all doubt you've had about yourself in the past, and hit the "GO" button. You start your engines and go full throttle. The pies turned out great. For a dear friend at church who had a last minute party that came together in less than 48 hours. It happens. When the pies were brought over to her house, amazement set in. They were unveiled like some new arrival in a big museum. The look on their faces. The smiles that were behind all those eyes. The real truth will be the taste. You always hope that 1 + 1 = 100! Especially in baking! If 1+ 1 only comes out to 2, it's time to start over again. Longevity. Smiles. Creativity. Pursuit. Happiness. The art of making and baking pies.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 12, 2011

Another year of passion for cooking! Gone are the days of wine and roses. I often sit back and ponder about all the food I've cooked in my life. I now feel even younger than I have in years past. It's not so much the love of cooking, but the love in your heart for those you cook for. Many nights, I look upon the horizon and still dream of things to come. When you know that cooking is your life, you constantly think of new ways to take the same ingredients and highlight them and present them in different ways. It's not that food can't be messed with. We've all spent countless hours trying to figure out the newest craze or the finest definition of wonderful cuisine. Sometimes we just need to sit back and remember the days of wine and roses. A glass of the brightest red wine. The petals from the stems that blow through your doorway and into your sanctuary of rest. Don't be fooled by the simple act of drinking good wine with the ones you care about and hold close to your heart. A chunk of cheese or a broken piece of chocolate to stir emotions is what the body craves. Remember: Giving is always better than receiving.

Friday, January 14, 2011

January 11, 2011

Affordable Living. What does that really mean these days? When push comes to shove, we all want out of life, what we put into it. Things can get kind of complicated. The more time slips away from us, the more you start to realize the actual time with YOUR LIFE. Remember the hot dogs at the ball park. The times when nothing else mattered. The long walks in the corn field with your best friend. The advice that was given to you from that lost uncle. Sitting by the train tracks waiting for the whistle to blow. The lazy days of winter. Eating cotton candy at the county fair. Falling in love all over again. It seemed so long ago. Affordable living seems now a thing of the past. We talk of plans to go to the highest mountain, the biggest theme parks and the largest malls. Do we really understand affordable living any more? They call me The Pie Guy. And why you ask? You haven't even been talking about pies since you've been writing this blog! I'll tell you: AFFORDABILITY. I can make a pie out of nothing. And I can make it taste great! We all say that pie is the way to a mans soul. Give me a cup of coffee and my favorite slice of heaven, and we think of things that might have been and things that will be at the same time. How does this happen? Affordability! When you go in your kitchen tonight, look around and see what you have in your pantry and refrigerator. Enough tonight to make a pie? Do you realize all the different pies there are on this planet? I'm not going to name them all, but you get my point. Pies can be sweet. Pies can be savory. Pies can be nutty. Pies can be meaty. Pies can be filled with just about anything your heart desires. My heart spoke to me yesterday: A Rum Cream Pie with Chopped Pistachios and Bittersweet Chocolate Chips in a Homemade Graham Cracker Crust(I found the recipe in a book I read not too long ago). It spoke to me because of affordability. I had everything already there. It was in my pantry. It was in my refrigerator. I DID NOT HAVE TO BUY ONE THING! The result: A work of art! It tasted great!(My daughter thought it looked like a dirt and grass pie since the top was covered in chocolate shavings and chopped pistachios. In all honesty: It Did!). But, it was the best DIRT AND GRASS PIE I EVER MADE! When you pair the bittersweet chocolate and pistachios with a splash of dark rum in a creamy and luscious pie filling, the result is simple. Affordability!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 10, 2011

I salute you Mr. Pig. I salute you Mr. Biscuit. I declare thee "Pigs In A Blanket". What a crazy name! What in the world were they thinking? Well, it must of worked, because after 4 decades of eating them, I still have great childhood memories of them now. And watching my child bite into them, the tables are now at different angles. We often find closure in food, at the end of the day, with arguments or tensions that have resulted in misunderstandings and forgiveness. We go back to our roots. We back, way back: because, backing up in life makes us realize why we are here today. Everything that has happened before, was for a reason. We learn from it. We move on. We make mistakes. We learn from it. We move on. There are almost no mistakes you can make from PIGS IN A BLANKET! The sweet smell of hot dogs wrapped in flaky biscuit dough will live on for years!(I see it possibly changing names in the future: "Swine In The Divine"). Make no doubt about childhood memories. They are worth living over and over again. Snowy days. Sleeping in the barn overnight with friends. Silence.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 9, 2011

"Chicken Pot Pie, and I don't care; Chicken Pot Pie, and I don't care." Sometimes, this tune just pops into my head! Chicken Pot Pie. But this time: I DO CARE! When you can find a recipe that's as simple as vegetables, meat and a crust; it's good to let things like CPP take you away. (We're going to refer to this as CPP from now on. Chicken Pot Pie is really hard for me to keep writing over and over again. I have no idea why!) Creature comforts, such as CPP have been around awhile. It was a way to use leftovers, vegetables and meat, and then top it off with a simplified pie crust. Over the years, CPP really hasn't changed that much. It's components of chicken, celery, potatoes, carrots, peas in a warm chicken broth of luscious flour, salt, pepper and onion; enclosed in a homemade crust or sweetened pie dough, has brought friends and neighbors together for years. Last night's dinner was no exception. Friends of teachers are most rewarding. Whether they are a male or female teacher is besides the point! I can't really explain all of this, but just trust me on this one: It's a TEACHER THING! CPP is the perfect get together dish for many reasons. The textures of all the different veges are just one of the components. The potatoes are chunks. The carrots are sliced. The celery is diced. The peas are round. The chicken is usually chopped or picked apart by hand(I did double duty last night), and the sauce is creamy and gooey at the same time. Then, all of this goodness is topped with the simplicity of a basic pie crust. I again topped mine with cracked black pepper and kosher salt. After baked in the oven for only about 25 minutes, the dish is now complete and ready to be destroyed. HINT: let it rest about 5 minutes after you take it out of the oven. Trust me on this one! Have you ever had pizza lip? You know what I mean by this!? The same thing with CPP! Only with CPP , your whole mouth is encapsulated with a milky fireball attacking all aspects of your mouth. Think about it. It's true! Don't sit there and tell me this has never happened to you. You buy one of those cheap microwavable CPP'S and you take it out of the wrapper. You then follow directions to the T , and then you take it out of the microwave. Wait... Bot here's the bad part! YOU DON'T WAIT! You are so hungry from that instant coffee and pre-sliced bagel from breakfast 5 hours ago, that you now toss that micro CPP right in your mouth. Without any hesitation whatsoever! CPP MOUTH!!! Enjoy some good neighbors and teachers with your homemade CPP sometime. You'll remember the friends and the CPP for many years!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 8, 2011

I've always found that breakfast for dinner is one of the most relaxing moments of a grown mans life. This is no exaggeration! Think about it. When you come home from a hard days work, do you really want to slave in the kitchen for hours, especially late in the week? Whatever your circumstances, try this on for size on a Thursday or Friday night. When you get home from work, take a nap! Trust me on this. Kick your shoes off, lay down on the couch, set your phone alarm for 30 minutes and take a nap! After a quick 30, go take a shower or hot bath and relax! Start your favorite brew of coffee going and close as much of your curtains or blinds, so no light is coming in. You're probably going to be a little groggy from your nap, so put on some light jazz music: something old, like "The Duke" or Ella. Just start drinking that Joe. Now think BREAKFAST! Breakfast, in general, is probably one of the most easiest meals you can make. Don't fight the issue! What do YOU want for breakfast? Last night was great for this occasion! The weather turned a little cooler: so I'm thinking pancakes. Not just any pancakes! BUTTERMILK CORNMEAL PANCAKES with a BLUEBERRY MAPLE GLAZE! WOW! They were so good! And RELAXING! Even though those pancakes took a while to cook, about 5 minutes per cake, cooked over a 60-year-old cast-iron skillet; by the time you were ready to eat, the walls were caving in and the slow burning smell of pancake batter residue along with the slow back burner of the maple syrup and fresh blueberries was completely making the making of a real pancake house. The coffee was just the beginning to a wonderful meal. Pancakes: the wonder of homemade batter and real maple syrup with fresh blueberries. This is serious stuff! Breakfast for dinner! Try it sometime. It will bring a world of happiness to your body and to your soul.

Monday, January 10, 2011

January 7, 2011

Nuts! When was the last time you ate that nut that came directly from the field? And you knew the grower. And you knew the picker. And you knew the sheller. And you knew the cracker. And you knew the nut that cracked the nut. Is this getting too complicated? Not if you want the real thing. A non-processed nut is simply a work-of-art from beginning to the ending. The ending of when you put it in your mouth and realize the chain of events and people that made that whole process happen. There is just something special about nuts! Is it the earthiness of it all? Is it the crunch? Is it the texture? I personally know the trees my pecans come from! How many people can honestly say that?! And pecans, in general;, are a totally different nut in some states than in other states. I don't really like to brag about pecans, but only one state will do when it comes to this issue: GEORGIA! I should know. Both my parents were raised in Georgia, and the pecans that were sent to me for Christmas were raised in trees that my grandfather planted over 50 years ago! Now that's a pecan! When you spiritually and physically know the whole chain of command from the planter to the eater of the nut, it takes it to a whole new level. And then you can take it to another new level by showing the world everything you can do with the pecan! For one thing: Sharing! Life is simple! Remember that! What you wear, what you put in your body and who you look up to is simple! SIMPLE! Remember the guy who planted the pecan seed! Simple! My grandfather was the most simplistic man on the face of the earth! He worked hard. He ate like a king. He wore hand-sewn jeans. He looked up higher than anyone I ever knew. Simple! There was no grand celebration in the reality shows of our lives today. There was no Perrier drinking of a green bottle from some spring from upstate who knows where. There was no super-wide refrigerator with climate controlled settings with ready to drink filtered water and ice in either crushed or cube form. There was no facsimile of modern times as we know it. It was true! It was bred into your soul. The little church on the hill. The cattle in the field where the pecans came from. And you wonder why Georgia pecans taste so good? Don't get me started on church picnics! Georgia wins that category too! This is what I know. When you find that nut. The one who is twisted and true. Don't let go! Don't ever let go of that dream either. Because they are all twisted and they are all true. Just like me! Just like you!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 6, 2011

Another cold night calls for soup: Pasta and Bean Soup, Italian Style! Leftover Cornbread to fill in the blanks and Ice Cream to end the meal. Now, the soup was homemade! Soaking the beans was the hardest part of the recipe. After the beans boiled for about an hour, in went the carrots, onions, canned diced tomatoes(always on hand) and plenty of herbs and spices. Cook for another 30 minutes or so and it came out beautiful: Rich and Hearty. The Cornbread was then eaten on the side. Some of us even crumbled it in our soup. This was the meal. Very peasant like. Yes! That was the point! Food does not always have to be so complicated to be good. We use what we have to better our bodies, our minds and our souls. The Ice Cream was half French Vanilla and half Mint Brownie Chip, topped with Non-dairy whipped topping and Chocolate Chips on top. The meal was simple, yet elegant. It was thoughtful! And it was complete! What more is needed in life!? You tell me. Exactly.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 5, 2011

When was the last time you had Meatloaf? Not had it, but actually made it? Last week? Last month? Last year? Meatloaf today is a dying cause. A glimmer of art form between now and 1951. Don't ask me for a recipe for it either. I really don't think I have one! Does anybody really have a recipe for meatloaf? Here's mine: About a pound of ground beef and WHATEVER YOU HAVE IN YOUR PANTRY AND REFRIGERATOR THAT YOU WANT TO GET RID OF, OR IS ABOUT TO GO BAD! I say this in honestly and jest at the same time. Don't believe me! Try it! No matter what you use or have: MEATLOAF won't taste any different than the last time you made it. Think about it. In fact, I bet you're thinking about it right now! My meatloaf last night came out awesome! The key: smother it in BBQ sauce. the kind doesn't really matter either: your favorite! Just remember, a little knowledge goes a long way! 1 pound of ground meat, your choice of seasonings, spices, 1 egg, a little milk and your choice of leftovers. 350 F for 1 hour! Your Welcome.

Friday, January 7, 2011

January 4, 2010

Brownies! That's the only word it takes to say. Do you know all that one word signifies? Number #1: Chocolate. Duh! Number Two: What kind of chocolate? Do you realize all the different types of Chocolate there are on the market these days? Go into your typical grocery store. Look down the candy aisle. Now. Stop! Drive down the road and go to that speciality grocery store(usually 5-6 miles from your last stop). Go to their candy aisle. Stop! Now, drive to the organic grocery store, usually another 5-6 miles from the previous store, and go to their candy aisle. What do you see in all these stores? More chocolate than the eye can see. I haven't even touched the malls yet. I can honestly remember when the only Chocolate bar that mattered was Hershey's. I'm not saying this is a bad thing! Chocolate! No almonds! No raisins! No Dark!(Eating chocolate in the dark is great though. Tonight, turn off all the lights in your dwelling. Make sure that it's completely dark. Go in a closet if you have to. Just do it. Close your eyes. Now, take that candy and gently take that bite. Like it was your first bite ever. I told you!)Anyway. Number #3: All the things you can put in chocolate. The experimentation's have now reached new levels! Just be careful out there. Oh yes. Brownies! Think of all the brownies you have eaten!?... I bet you don't even know what was in half of them. I bet you are one of those people that when a co-worker at your workplace brings in brownies for an occasion(examples: birthdays, employees last day at work, hopefully they know this, or your boss is getting let go), you take one off the plate when no one is looking or not around. GOTCHA! What the...? Next thing you know: that feeling in your stomach is heading south toward Antarctica and some giant ice shelf just gave way. And then, the slow melting process begins. This could take hours. So Anyway... The next time you see that brownie with a capital B, I want you to think about all those other things that start with a b that is now a capital B. Just remember: One bite is GOOD for the SOUL! Two bites are going to make a bowl. Three?...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

January 3, 2011

Happy New Year or should I say happy January 3rd! The Recipe Contest for The Chocolate Cupcakes has now ended and the winning recipe will be decided in a few weeks. What happens now, is completely out of my hands and put in the hands of the judges. Not only is this contest put in their hands, it is put in their mouths, ears, nose, eyes and hearts. Many issues play into the making of a "Serious Recipe Contest". Not only does the cupcake, in this instance, have to use certain criteria, it has to taste delicious. It has to smell great! It has to look like a photograph of perfection. It has to even sound great:"The Title". And in your hands and heart, it has to feel good. Many recipes are a work of art unto themselves. You have to know when to stop the thinking process, as well as, the cooking, or in this case, the baking process. Like a great piece of music or art, you need to realize the moment of truth. Cooking is an art form in itself. Many calculations play into the making of a perfect dish, or in this case,"The Perfect Cupcake". The secret ingredient: Butternut Squash Puree! Why? Because it was there! Good luck to all of the contestants and may the best cupcake win!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

December 31,2010

Happy New Year! Almost! Wait for it! Receiving phone calls from friends, new and old is always fitting going into the new year. They make you realize who your true friends really are, even the ones you haven't heard from in forever. It's not that we are getting any older or anything? Whatever! It's like that long lost love note from an ex, or a photograph taken from a dear old from years ago. We all stop and ponder the ifs, the what to dos and the if I only knew now, what I didn't know thens. We've all done it! And please don't even take us there with all those 1 -night stands! Do we really even care? Sometimes! I like to call them "The Vixens and The Mixins". You can call them whatever you want! I've learned to call them life lessons. Without all these things we call maybes, has-beens and wanna -bes, comes the things we realize the most: New & Old Friends! Oh yes! The Menu: Toasted French Bread w/ Brie, Pear Preserves and Cinnamon Baked Apples, BBQ Boston Butt Quesadillas w/ grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Guacamole w/ Blue Cheese Crumbles and Crisp Bacon w/ Tortilla Chips,Black-Eyed Peas w/ Garlic, Salsa, Chopped Ham, Hot Sauce and Heavy Black Pepper, Sweet Alabama Cornbread, Double Chocolate Chip Pistachio "In The Raw" Cookies and French Style Vanilla Yogurt Cake w/ Double Lemon Frosting! Some friends will be gone. Some friends will be old and some friends will be new. We will always have friends: Because that's what they are 4.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

December 30, 2010

When you woke this morning, what did you think about from last year that you liked and did not like? It didn't take me very long to figure that one out! 2010 was a very full-filling year with many dips and falls at the same time. Anxiety issues ran high and stress levels reached new levels. But the one thing that went down this year was my WORRYING. Worry is the one thing in life that I don't have to do anymore. At the age of 48, I finally figured it out about worry. You can worry way too much about anything! No more! When things started happening to my body in late August of this past year, I Knew that worry did my life no good, no more! What happened is that fate and hope now filled that new space. We can all learn a little bit about about ourselves when we let go of our lives and let true wisdom take over. This is not the easiest thing to do! When all is said and done, you will now reach a higher plain. You will throw water to the wind! And it will fall! Just like Forever.

Monday, January 3, 2011

December 29, 2010

Let me just say this! Thank God for freedom! You can say anything about it that you want to. But, if it wasn't about freedom: There would be no us as we know us today. There would be a sky and there would be land. There would be air and there would be space. There would be water and there would be ice. There would be waste and there would be matter. There would be food and there would be debris. There would be hot and there would be cold. There would be plastic and there would be flesh. There would be wealth and there would be poverty. There would be glass and there would be wood. There would be caffeine and there would be salt. There would be cotton and there would be gins. There would be power and there would be electricity. There would be greed and there would be poor. There would be revolution and there would be death. There would be life and there would be unborn. There would be wise and there would be smart. But, without us: There would be NO FREEDOM!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

December 27, 2010

Have you ever made something so good, you really can't describe it? I'll give you a hint. Chocolate! Test Batch # 4 Chocolate Cupcake Recipe was as my daughter would say: "The Beast!" Don't ask me what in the world that means, but let me just say, "Surf's Up Dude!" How amazing can you make a Cupcake taste! I don't even like to make cupcakes! Can you say "For Sure." I bet you can! What was I actually thinking about when I created this monster of an idea? A giant pickle? I don't think so! Here's the good part: there is NO Oil or Butter in this recipe! Can you believe that? I'm not going to tell you the secret ingredient until sometime later this year. It can wait! I'm not even going to tell you the kind of Cupcake I've made until next week. Secrets are a mans best friend! Let me just say this: When you put two and two together, and you reach instant gratification in one bite, you know you have a winner. Thanks to all my test subjects. Yes, they are all still alive. Couldn't have done it without you! And thank God for CHOCOLATE! A mans best friend!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Day, 2010

The Menu? Traditional? Non-traditional? Ethnic? Thai? Italian? German? Asian? Soul Food? A White Christmas? A Marble Cake with Pink Frosting? I think not! We are going traditional this year! Not because of obvious reasons, but because it's due! Just like the mortgage or rent payment every month, it's Due! I actually hate paying bills! But, you know what they say in New Hampshire: Live Free or Die! I'm pretty free right now! In more ways than you will ever know! Living The Dream! That's what my old boss used to say. Now, I'm living my dream! Non-theatrical and close to home! It's never been about how much money I've made in my life. It's about helping others and others helping me. Do we need money to survive? Yes, but not as much as you think. I'm now 48 years old. Life is simple. Complicated at times, but Simple. Oh! Yes! The Menu!? Well, it wasn't much to speak of. In fact, few words were exchanged at the table this year. Why? It was so good, no words had to be spoken. In other words: Traditional! How was your Menu? I thought so.