Tag Archives: south

We might starve

weather map

The Peoples of the South are, of course, petrified. As you can see from this weather map of tomorrow’s weather, there are “minus” signs. The Peoples of the South do not understand. What is a minus? And there are dangerous arrows around Memphis pointing directly in my direction. What are those arrows? I do not know, yet I am very afraid.

So I went to stock up at my beloved Publix and I could see that other Peoples of the South had seen the same map. We understand these life and death situations better than most. A few weeks ago we had flurries. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Storm 1As you can see, there are exactly three buggies at the Publix where there are usually about 180. Yes, that means others sense the impending disaster. And they’re all inside. I think I hear screaming.

Storm 2It’s just as I feared. The Peoples of the South are most fearful of running out of milk and bread during a disaster. The woman next to me fainted when she realized there was no 2 percent left. Fortunately, the paramedics revived her and assured her she could get by on skim until the thaw.Storm 5

Eggs. The symbol of life. And death. Death by starvation. I take the last carton, even though I already have two in my refrigerator. Perhaps I will attempt to whip up a frittata as my frigid hands grasp the cold handle of a cast iron skillet never to be warmed again because the power is now off and my life is ebbing away. Oh, the iron. Or irony.

Storm 4But I must live on for King Daddy, for he would surely starve without me. So I load my buggy with staples such as cornbread mix, chili fixin’s, bacon, lingonberry preserves, Smokehouse Almonds and the latest issue of People magazine. As I said, the Peoples of the South have our priorities straight. As I huddle under a blanket with my dying flashlight, I will at least dimly perceive the brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s make-up tips.



Filed under appetizers, beef, breads, breakfast, casseroles, cheese, chicken, dips, eggs, lamb, pasta, pizza, pork, salads, sauces, seafood, sides, snacks, sweets, tea sandwiches, turkey, veggies

Sloppy Joe’s and Tater Tots

How does comfort food become comfort food? I don’t know. But comfort food falls into that category of things you eat over and over even though they may be humble. Processed, even. Sometimes found in your grocer’s freezer section. Or in a can.

For as long as we’ve been married, Sloppy Joe’s and Tater Tots have been the go-to meal when time is short, nerves are frayed, feet are sore and bones are tired. The Sloppy Joe’s must be made with Manwich sauce. People may tell you they have an award-winning homemade recipe for Sloppy Joe’s, but it will never stand up to the glory that is Manwich. Original, of course. The meat must be 80-20 ground chuck. Never ground turkey. The chuck must be browned in its fat until the fat disappears. Never drain chuck. The meat gets crispy browned bits because of it. Embrace the bits.

The buns must be one of two types: French or Hawaiian rolls.  Buttered and broiled until brown. If you use French rolls you get one Sloppy Joe. If you use Hawaiian rolls you get three. We often use Hawaiian rolls.

The Tater Tots must be Ore-Ida. Either mini or regular-sized. They must be dusted with Cajun seasoning before entering the oven. Ketchup is the preferred sauce for dunking. Any kind of ketchup will do.

I know some of you are mocking me now. I can hear you. But try it. Just try the magic combination of Manwich on buttered broiled buns and Tater Tots. You will become a believer, I promise. Oh, to add insult to injury, Mark likes his with processed American cheese slices. No substitutes.


1 Comment

Filed under beef, Uncategorized

Warriors with whisks


Kathy Berry glazing more than 300 scones

The English Tea presented by the Women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church  is the closest thing I know of to a full-scale military assault. Relentless in expectation and precise to a fault. There is no room for cry babies at the English Tea. No room for whiners or laggards. No room for failure. There is a core group of tea sandwich makers and sweets producers who understand this. They are the lieutenants on the battlefield of chicken salad, pimento cheese and mint chocolate mousse cups.

Leslie Fraser - 15 batches mixed by hand

But nothing brings us closer to the precipice of disaster than the scones. They are the first thing our guests are offered. It is an English Tea, for God’s sake. The scones better be good. Truthfully, we’ve been hit and miss over the years and I am ashamed to say that as food chairman. Last year, we figured we’d hit the jackpot when a local baker who makes scones to die for baked them for us. And then disaster struck. She went out of business. Boo hoo. BOO HOO.

So after having several major anxiety attacks and a slight case of hives, I turned to my girls. The generals of the army. The women who run into battle, wooden spoons uplifted and whisks at the ready. One of them knew the baker. She got the recipe. We met at Wanda’s house, the tea chair, and just knocked them out. And they were good. They were more than good. They were great.

Wanda grated orange zest - how does the chair of the tea get the worst job?

We caught up on what is politely referred to as “news” in our church family, which would otherwise be categorized as gossip. Discretion prevents me from revealing the exact topics of “news” discussed, of course. And we debated the merits of various ways to clean a cast-iron skillet. We did not agree, but we are always kinder than we need to be so nobody’s feelings were hurt. And we fed Wanda and Leslie’s carpenter, who stopped by to deliver the bad news to Wanda that her new windows will send her over the fiscal cliff. He asked if he could have one of the “cookies” we were baking. We gave him one. And blessed his heart.

Disaster averted. Good time had by all. Scones now safely in the freezer until a week from Saturday. Oh, I suppose you now think I’m going to give you the recipe for the scones. No, I am not. Perhaps, with the baker’s permission, we will put it in a St. Paul’s Tea Cookbook at some point, relieve you of $25 and buy new kneelers for the sanctuary. Warriors for God. With whisks.






1 Comment

Filed under breads, breakfast, Uncategorized

Bacon-covered goat cheese bites

We are headed down the road to damnation at the Community Resource Center. Bacon Wednesdays. They have become so dangerous.

This all started out innocently. My colleague, Betsy, suggested we initiate Bacon Wednesdays because whose day is not improved markedly by the consumption of bacon? Only there was one thing Betsy was not counting on. Or maybe she was. My competitive nature. So far, I am the sole provider of bacon comestibles on Bacon Wednesday and every week I now believe I have to outdo myself.

We started simply with bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. We then progressed to a tasting of Benton’s Bacon, the finest bacon in the world. Trust me. It is. Then we had bacon-wrapped crackers. Let me pause to say the bacon-wrapped cracker week was a disaster for me. I had to go to a meeting and “we” were saving the bacon-wrapped crackers for cocktail hour. When I got back, there was exactly one cracker left. And I made them! I spent all that effort wrapping bacon around club crackers and those girls ate all of them but one. If there is not something in the employee manual about this, there will be soon. Under insubordination, I believe.

This week was a triumph, if only in my own mind since I’m the only one contributing to Bacon Wednesday right now. Bacon-covered goat cheese bites. Green olives, covered in goat cheese, covered in bacon. Oh, yes. I was shocked that Betsy has a problem with green olives (yippee!). More for Kim and me. Next week, we’ll go back to something more basic. Bacon-wrapped cocktail weenies? Yes, I think that will work. Pork on pork. Always a good idea.

Bacon-covered goat cheese bites

10 strips bacon

4 ounces herbed goat cheese

2 ounces cream cheese

Small green olives

Bake the bacon in the oven on a foil-lined, rimmed cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Drain on paper towels and chop into fine pieces.

Beat goat cheese and cream cheese together until creamy. Refrigerate about 30 minutes to let it harden a bit.

Pat the olives dry and cover in the goat cheese mixture. Roll in bacon. Chill for 30 minutes.


Filed under pork, snacks

Grilled meatloaf with garbage can mashed potatoes

Oh, you want this. You so want this. Smoky meatloaf and mashed potatoes studded with all the good stuff. You want it so badly, you need to hop on over to the Char-Broil site and take a look-see. I promise you will not be disappointed.

For those of you new to this blog, I am also a Char-Broil All Star Blogger and the good folks at Char-Broil prefer that my blogs for them are exclusive to their site. So get on over there. And leave a comment! Makes me look good to the guys or gals in the front office. Hey, I want a front office. What is that exactly, anyway?

1 Comment

Filed under beef, pork, sides

Please read me

I’m sneaking one in on you. You looked at the title and you clicked because you were curious.

Ha! Kale!

No, no, don’t go away. This is one you’re going to like. I promise! This is a snack. A healthy snack. You will never know you’re eating kale. Kind of. In a way.

The end of kale season is near and I know all you kale haters are happy about that. You can now confidently go to the farmer’s market and not worry about making eye contact with the poor farmer trying to peddle his kale.

But let’s all face it. We’re heading into swimsuit season and you’re going to need a little help. Maybe a lot of help. So Kale Chips. Couldn’t be simpler. And they almost have negative calories. Just coat kale leaves in a little olive oil and bake them until they’re crispy. After they come out of the oven, sprinkle a little freshly ground salt over them. I made a complete cookie sheet of them the other day and I ate every single chip. They’re also delicious as a garnish for soup or as a crunchy element in a salad.

This is the last you’ll hear about kale this year. Please don’t hate me.

Kale chips

1 bunch kale or one 16-ounce bag fresh kale greens

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground salt or kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Pull off the ribs from the kale, either bagged or fresh. If you’re using bagged, just distribute the kale over a foil-lined cookie sheet. If you’re using fresh, cut it in bite-sized pieces. Bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt to taste and toss.

N0te: Be careful with the salt in this recipe. It can easily overpower the kale. A light hand is called for.




Filed under snacks, veggies

A college student cooks…well

Noah checks out

Teachable moments. When a child is five, it seems there are a thousand of them. By the time they’re twelve, the stack starts to dwindle. And, at almost 20, I am now down to five or six. Or so it seems.

Noah wants an apartment next year and, with that, will come cooking his own meals. He will have a budget of $100 a week (what, in a year, his meal plan would cost) and I am superior in my assumption that he has no idea how to make that money stretch for a week. So we test the theory. We go to the grocery store with a calculator.

We hit the perimeter of the store first. That’s where you want to shop. The produce, meat and dairy sections. Only go to the dark side for staples like pasta, oil and spices. Hamburger Helper? NO! Chips Ahoy? DANGER! Velveeta? Okay, you’ve got me there. I love me some Velveeta.

So, to make a long story short, he did great. Dammit. He bought (I bought) a package of chicken breasts, thin-cut pork chops and two pounds of bulk sausage. Low rent ham for sandwiches. Lower rent bread. Frozen vegetables, rice, pasta, apples, coffee, canned soup and store brand cheese. He bypassed the relatively expensive convenience foods. He was unsuitably smug in his victory and totally discounted the fact that I had guided him away from the frozen pizza.

Having a basket full of groceries and knowing what to do with them are two different things, however.

Pork chops, mashed potatoes and green beans

Hah! I’ll get him here. “So, son?” I say coyly. “Why don’t you cook us supper with your new groceries? Just whip something up. Anything, really.”

And I leave. I go down to the garage to smoke and play World of Warcraft, confident in the fact that when I ascend again there will be mass chaos, a smoke-filled kitchen and burnt shards of something inedible on the plate.

“Mom?” he says. “Supper’s ready.”

I ascend. I gasp. How did friggin’ Emeril Lagasse find my kitchen? Noah has made coffee rub/breadcrumb coated pork chops, cooked perfectly until just rosy in the middle. He has made buttery mashed potatoes with garlic. He has made hericot verts with garlic. Alright, too much garlic but I am not going to quibble. It was all delicious.

So, tonight we go again. Chicken breasts, chopped green and yellow pepper, red onion, mushrooms.

Chicken, peppers, mushrooms and pasta. Noah style.

He chops the chicken and seasons it with Montreal Chicken Seasoning. Sautes in oil, removes the chicken and then adds the vegetables.  When they’re nice and brown he adds a bit of Madeira (not something he’ll have on campus – I can’t see you)  and then adds a can of cream of mushroom soup. This is going to suck, I think. He thins the soup with milk, adds back the chicken, and then puts the entire mixture over pasta.

Dang it! It’s good. If I hadn’t watched him add the soup, I would never have known. I had seconds. And I wasn’t being polite.

I am proud of my boy. I would like to think that my miniscule attempt at one of the last few teachable moments had the seeds of germination in the hours he’s spent watching me cook over the last 19 years. But as I told him tonight there is no way to teach someone to cook. You either have the intuition or you don’t. You’re a recipe follower or you’re a creator. You can pick up tips and tricks, but you have to just have the knowledge of what goes with what and how much in your gut.

And he has it. No brag, just fact.


Filed under chicken, pork, sides, Uncategorized

The world’s smallest kitchen

People who know me, even those who slightly know me, know I cook. It is more than a hobby. It is an obsession. And, so, they often ask me about what they assume to be the fabulous and spacious kitchen I create in.

Yes, the world’s smallest kitchen is mine. Although our house is comparatively large at more than 3,000 square feet, the kitchen is the size of a walk-in closet, the byproduct of  the German playboy who built the house for entertaining and not cooking.

I’ll give you a quick tour. First, meet Max, my constant cooking buddy. He sits at the counter but never begs. Cats are too proud to beg. Past the bag of cat food that was yet to be put away are my notepad and camera. About 99 percent of all the photos on this blog are taken under Max’s watchful eye at the kitchen counter. Diet Coke in Styrofoam cup is always by my side. TV is tuned to Food Network, unless it’s Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee. What is it with those two? So annoying. Lately, Guy Fieri’s beginning to bug me, too.

But I digress. Past the sink, which overlooks the Coxes’ house, is a bowl with my staples – onion (red and Spanish), garlic, lemons. The gas cook top is the smallest ever. Practically microscopic. Above that is the mighty Advantium, which is both a microwave and a conventional oven. It also has this “speed cook” feature, which is why we bought it in the first place. A guy in a home store roasted a chicken on “speed cook” and gave out samples. I’m a sucker for a good roasted chicken. The regular oven is next to the cook top and against the third wall is the refrigerator. That’s it.

Having the smallest kitchen in the world is actually an advantage. No pesky extraneous kitchen gadgets to collect. No waffle maker, ice cream machine, hot dog cooker or George Foreman grill. I have a KitchenAid stand mixer, a food processor, a blender and a hand mixer – all stored out of sight. I can’t stand clutter and if you open the mail in my kitchen you have clutter.

We have a “three square feet” rule at our house, a rule I don’t necessarily want to obey. The rule is in a fairly large house the three of us, when Noah’s home, will always be within three square feet of each other, getting in the way. This is never more true than in the kitchen. If even two of us are in there, we’ve taken up all the room. When anyone offers to help me cook, I always kindly agree but tell them they have to stand in the living room. I’ll throw a cutting board their way. Clear off the coffee table and get busy.

I will say the kitchen is a model of efficiency when it comes to the triangle rule, which is that every good kitchen should have the refrigerator, stove and sink at the points of a triangle. The theory breaks down, sadly, when you realize you need not take even a step to reach all three.

It’s okay. I can live with a small kitchen. I just pretend I live in France. Everyone in France has a small kitchen. I can smell the croissants out the kitchen window. C’est la vie.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bacon pancakes

No, this is not a pancake with itty bitty pieces of bacon in it. This is a an entire strip of bacon surrounded by pancake batter.

Wednesdays are Bacon Days at the Community Resource Center. We will probably not live to regret this as we will die of coronary artery disease before regret has time to set in. However, bacon pancakes are worth the cost of dying young. Which,  of course, won’t happen to me, but could well happen to Betsy and Kim. You’ve been warned, girls.

So bacon pancakes are constructed thusly: Bake some bacon (400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes). Get some Bisquick pancake mix in the plastic jug. Add water. Shake. Pour over the bacon. Flip when bubbles appear. Serve with butter and real maple syrup. If I had known about this recipe when Noah was a boy he would be a Nobel Laureate by now.

What kind of bacon, you ask? You are asking that, correct? Well, I have recently learned that a lot of commercial bacon contains chemicals that give it that bacon taste. Bad. I hate learning about what actually goes in our food. Makes me have to ponder and worry. Hate pondering and worrying. So I am now buying organic bacon, dammit. Thick cut is better.

Try this. With really good bacon. It won’t change your life, but it will improve your disposition. If you don’t smile while you eat this, you’re brain dead.

1 Comment

Filed under breakfast, pork

Fire in the hall (and breakfast casserole)

Everything was going according to plan at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Fat Tuesday pancake supper. Until the fire department came.

Youth Minister Derek Larson fist pumps a pancake flipper

The Youth started off strong. They were pumping out pancakes like a Ford assembly line. I was proud of them. From pancake know-nothings to masters of the flip. They had it going on. Casseroles were flying out of the kitchen. Syrup was being refilled. The kitchen staff was in full battle mode. We were a well-oiled machine, an Army of the Lord. Until we smelled something burning. I checked one of the ovens. The tiniest bit of a breakfast casserole had dripped on the oven floor. Microscopic, actually. It will burn off, I think, as I shut the oven door.

A few minutes later, I open the door again. A cloud of smoke bellows into the kitchen. Oh, dear. What to do? I don’t know. I close the door again. I can’t see you. I wait several minutes and open it again. Smoke roars out of the oven. I close the door. I can’t see you. And then the fire alarm goes off.

The music minister, Dona Stokes-Rogers, calls the fire department to say that, no, the church is not burning down and they need not pay us a visit. Apparently, they could not hear her over the screech of the alarm. I am told later that Donna is conversant with calling the fire department because the last time this happened the choir was cooking in the kitchen. I feel slightly better.

The next thing I hear are sirens in the distance. Please, please let those be for someone else (not wishing anyone harm, of course). The sirens get louder. Really loud. In fact, they are right outside Otey Hall. Along with the ambulance, that is surely here to carry me away because I am having a freaking heart attack.

Finally, the alarm goes off. The crowd cheers. I slink back to the kitchen. If I chair the pancake supper next year all the food will be cold. There will be no turning on of ovens, there will be no spillage of casseroles. There will be no visit from the fire department.

By the way, we added a breakfast casserole to the menu this year. It was a big hit. If you are a Southern cook, you know this recipe. Everyone has it. If you’re not, here you go. Please take care not to spill any of it in the oven. Apparently, it’s highly flammable.

  St. Paul’s Breakfast Casserole

8 white bread slices, cut into cubes

1 pound bulk pork sausage, crumbled and cooked

1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

10 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt


Grease 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Place bread in prepared dish. Top with sausage and cheese. Beat together eggs and next three ingredients. Season with pepper. Pour over sausage mixture. Chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake casserole until puffed and center is set, about 50 minutes. Cut into squares.


Filed under breakfast, casseroles, cheese, eggs