Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Waiting for Snow

This has really been a relatively mild winter here in upstate New York, but it appears as though we're finally getting a snowstorm--the dreaded Noreaster. They're forecasting up to 2 feet--or more--of the white stuff for tonight through tomorrow night. So far this winter, I think we've only had about a foot of snow total.

The snow and the wind and blizzard-like conditions being forecast make me want soup. I love soup, and I can eat it for every meal. This is chili weather, and last week I made some of the best chili ever. I've mentioned Better than Boullion before on this blog, in reference to their chicken base. But, they have a chili base to die for. I dumped everything in the Crockpot and let'er rip. Ooh, it was good that night, the next, the next, and I'm sure that when I thaw what's in the freezer, it'll taste wonderful, too.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Disappointment Abounds

Earlier this week I had a craving for pinto beans and cornbread. Cold weather finally hit New York, and hearty bean soup had long been one of my cures for the brrs. I waited patiently as my crockpot cooked my delectable little brown beans. Then, it was finally time. I filled my bowl with beans and prepared to take a bite. One word describes the feelings my tastebuds experienced as the beans slid over my tongue and down my throat--YUCK. I don't know what happened, but they tasted awful. They almost had a soapy taste to them, as though they had been cooked in dishwater. Sadly (and a bit angrily as I hate to waste food), I threw the beans out. Apparently the tale of the beans will be left a great mystery.

Then tonight, I wanted hamburger gravy. Someone on one of my e-mail lists had started a thread about hamburger gravy. Oh what childhood memories it evokes. Buttered bread topped with a generous ladle of creamy white hamburger gravy and a big glug of catsup. I didn't say it was healthy or particularly attractive. So, I bought a package of hamburger and a carton of milk in eager anticipation of childhood memory reborn.

Just like the beans, my hamburger gravy was not to be. After browning the hamburger, I tasted it for seasoning. Unfortunately, the hamburger didn't taste quite right, and no amount of seasoning was going to help it. Into the trash went my hamburger and my chance to recapture my childhood--well, at least a part of it. . . .

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Sure Signs of Christmas

Everyone who celebrates Christmas--and probably even those who don't--know the signs that Christmas is coming. They are so familiar to us that they've become traditions. Store shelves are stocked with decorations and cards (and it seems as though this happens earlier every year), Christmas tree lots open with their offerings of wonderfully smelling trees, Christmas music takes over the radio playlists, and those familiar and treasured Christmas films such as It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and White Christmas come on television, along with my personal favorites National Lampoon Christmas Vacation and Elf. And then we have the ultimate sign that Christmas is around the corner--Peter comes home for coffee and the Salad Shooter.


In a coffee commercial--and I can't recall which brand--Peter came home from college apparently. His adorable little sister meets him as he comes in. Then his parents come downstairs, "Peter, you're home," his mother sacchrinely greets him. For many of my Christmases, that particular commercial seemed to signal the coming of Christmas. Oh, they'd wait until Thanksgiving passed, but it seemed that a minute after midnight of the following day that commercial began playing. And, it played for years and years. Fortunately, they stopped showing it right after Christmas.

Oh, the beloved Salad Shooter. OK, I admit to never owning one of these, but I know people who do, and they wouldn't live without it. When it first came out, commercials for it were all over television. Actually, now that I think about it, I do remember asking for one, but it never made it to Santa's list. You put the veggies in and it "shoots" them out--all perfectly uniformly cut. What more could you want? As time went by (and I'm guessing that people saw more value in a food processor or even a good chef's knife), commercials for the Salad Shooter were relegated to Christmas time--what to get that cook who has everything.

These were my indicators that Christmas and Hanukkah were on the way. But then, something happened: Peter stopped coming home, and the Salad Shooter vanished. At first I'd occasionally see these commercials on The Food Network. Then--nothing. Oh all right, Peter is probably middle aged and waiting for his own kid to come home from college now. And really, how practical is a Salad Shooter anyway? Still, there's something sad about losing traditions--even these.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Well, Thanksgiving is a week away, and in just seven days, many of us will find ourselves cooking and baking our little hearts out. I know to some it feels like work--and it is (or can be) a lot of work. Me? I prefer to think of it as creating memories.

We spent almost every Thanksgiving of my childhood at my grandparents house, in the country in the middle of nowhere--and without a TV! I'm not sure how this particular tradition started, but my mother was always in charge of making the turkey and stuffing. Mind you--we lived the greatest distance from my grandparents' home. I had an aunt and uncle who lived much closer, but each year my mother got up while it was still dark and got the turkey roasting. She'd also make the oyster dressing and perhaps a pie, leaving only more pies and a side dish or two for my grandmother to make. Funny, but I don't recall my aunt and uncle providing anything for the meal.

I guess I believed that no matter what size turkey you fix, you absolutely have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to roast it. I know that's what I did. Imagine my surprise when the turkey was done by mid-morning! I think I have missed making turkey one Thanksgiving since leaving college. It didn't matter if I was going to be alone or with friends, I needed (and that is not too strong of a word) to remember that tradition--though I am much better at timing things now.

This Thanksgiving will be a bit strained for me, as tomorrow is my last day at my full-time job. I may not qualify for unemployment because I have my own business; they don't seem to care that it doesn't make any money. At first, I thought about skipping Thanksgiving. But, there are some things you just can't do, and skipping Thanksgiving is one of them. Yes, the bird will be smaller, and there probably won't be as large an assortment of side dishes, but I do have the ability to put together a meal, unlike many in our country. If you have something to be thankful for this year, I ask you to please consider those who are having a difficult time finding any reason to give thanks. At the bottom of this blog page is a link for America's Second Harvest. Please consider clicking on it and making a donation--perhaps the cost of one meal. That small act will do big things--it may help someone find the strength to have hope, and for that, we will all be thankful.

Turkey Day Blessings,

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Keep your eyes open for the first offering from Stockpot Books, Soup and Sop: A Cookbook for Lovers of Soup, Stew, and Sopping.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm Back!

Well, hi there. It's been a a long time. It's odd, but during this past summer I seemed more interested in knitting than cooking. OUCH!! Anyway, I'm back--and with a project in hand.

I live more than a thousand miles away from my family. With each passing year I have a harder time trying to figure out what to give my family. Well, this year that problem seemed to answer itself. My mother and brother often ask me for recipes. So, this year I'm writing a cookbook for them. And, after the first of the year, it will be available as an e-book on the website http://www.sweet-tea-and-magnolias.com. It will be the first offering from Stockpot Books, an imprint of Charing Cross Publishers, my publishing company!!!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Giving Back

I love Chef Catalog--perhaps too much! I love looking at the new kitchen gadgets and, in some cases, buying them. I pay special attention to the items that carry the SOS icon, indicating that when they are purchased, a portion of the sale goes to charity. Giving back is important, whether it is by purchasing kitchen equipment, donating to hunger outreach programs, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Sometimes I think the need to give back--to do good--is almost as basic as the need to eat and fulfill our other biological needs.

I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know about another way you can give back. All of us remember the heartbreaking images we watched on television or saw in magazines and newspapers of the destruction caused in Southeast Asia by the tsunami of 2004. We barely had time to catch our breaths when Mother Nature sent us a message that we in the United States were not immune from her fury. The aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita have changed much of that region--and of ourselves--forever.

It is my honor to work for a publisher who feels the need to give back, to do good works, with what she does. From her vision, Village Earth Press was born. Books published under this imprint will benefit organizations doing good around the world. Profits from the books will be shared with these organizations, and directed toward the next project that will make a difference.

I am happy to announce the publication of the first book under the Village Earth Press imprint. In 2005, our publisher and director of photography traveled to Thailand to document tsunami recovery efforts. Later that year, they visited the U.S. Gulf Coast, witnessing efforts there to bring life to a new sense of normalcy. The Gift of Hope in the Wake of the 2004 Tsunami and 2005 Hurricanes is the result. Eloquent prose combines with evocative photographs to tell the story of regions and cultures rebuilding. Most important, it tells of the triumph of the human spirit.

When you purchase a copy of The Gift of Hope, one-third of the purchase price will be donated to Habitat for Humanity and Give2Asia, two organizations working with residents to rebuild lives. The book can be preordered at the Village Earth Press web site: http://www.villageearthpress.com.