Getting Ready for the Holidays in the Kitchen…

Getting ready for the holidays is often overwhelming, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get it all done- much less enjoy it! Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. It’s not about the perfect gifts. It’s really about being thankful for more things than one single day can contain. And let’s face it, getting ready for the holidays means good food and lots of it. So! I’ve put together a few things you can do quickly and easily while you’re getting celebration food ready for the holidays…

As far as you can- plan your holiday calendar for food and menus. Buy ahead, a bit each week instead of one huge purchase. Start with items that can be stored, chilled or frozen ahead of time. Note: Check out your seasonings and spices now- chances are they need to be replaced.

I also buy bulk pecans, almonds and cashews ahead of time. Pecans, cashews and almonds are stored in the freezer waiting to be toasted in the oven with butter and salt or even candied. Since nuts are often expensive- go ahead and buy them in advance. No southern cook worth her salt would be without at least pecans! Here’s how we’ve made Toasted Pecans

I make cheese balls ahead and freeze them- there’s always an event I’ve forgotten and believe me, they may not be the most exciting thing- yet somehow a cheese ball is always welcome! Speaking of cheese, I buy sharp cheddar in bulk also… Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese has never been turned down!

If you go ahead and chop celery and onion for making poultry stock or adding to dressing (we don’t actually say stuffing or cornbread dressing, yet for those who don’t know.. it’s made with cornbread!) anyway- put the whole batch in a large freezer bag. Take out what you need when you’re ready to use. I also make cornbread ahead of time, cool and freeze. These are such a time savers for me

If you serve a green salad with your meals, go ahead a week or so early and mix up homemade salad dressing and keep chilled, it will stay fresh about a week and that’s one less thing you have to worry about! And let’s face it, homemade salad dressing is always better!

Butter Balls aren’t named for turkeys… no butter balls will make your gravy silky and beautiful. They’re so easy to make, I keep them in the freezer almost all year round! And speaking of butter, the holidays require lots of butter! I buy it on sale if possible and freeze the excess.

Plan fun and easy treats- this is one of my favorites- Purchase donut holes, warm the donut holes, spear with long sticks. Then dip donut holes i your favorite fudge or caramel sauce, which may purchased as well. A platter of varied fruits, pound cake chunks and the donut holes makes a festive fun treat for children of any age!

 

I wish I was a wonderful yeast bread baker- I’m not. Still. In my area, there are wonderful rolls such as Millie Ray’s, Sister Schubert’s and even little Marshal’s biscuits! I buy ahead, freeze and bake fresh rolls for holiday meals and leftovers too! I’ve even been known to buy several pans of rolls, cinnamon rolls and orange rolls- stack them up, tie with a bow and it’s a wonderful gift or hostess gift!

Speaking of biscuits, Biscuit Mix is one of the 3 ingredients in Sausage Balls, which make an annual appearance! With one pound of sausage, one pound of shredded cheddar and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of biscuit mix formed into balls..baked at 350 until they’re done.. easy appetizer and! You can make up a double batch, freeze uncooked in a single layer on a sheet pan; stored in freezer bags- you’re almost ready for anything!

If you have one or two favorite casseroles or sides- double or triple the recipe and freeze or as in the case of Mimi’s Apricot Casserole– I double or triple the topping, seal in a freezer bag- set aside the other ingredients and foil baking pans so it’s ready to assemble and bake.

Green Bean Bundles seem to be a favorite side wherever they go. It’s just as easy to assemble them ahead of time, thaw slightly and bake until the bacon is browned and beautiful. There’s even a shortcut to get all of the flavor without even making one bundle! Place the green beans in a baking dish, cut bacon in pieces and scatter over the green beans, then add seasonings and bake as usual.

Simple Sugar Syrup is a must have for Southern Sweet Tea lovers. In a saucepan, using a 1/1 ratio of water and sugar, gently heat until the sugar is melted. That’s one cup of water simmered gently with one cup of sugar- in more plain English, darlin’ Cool and store in a tightly capped jar until you’re ready to use. Simple Sugar Syrup is also welcome for other sweetened drinks.

We all want our homes to have the scents of the holiday. There may be nothing that draws us in quite like cinnamon, cloves and warm scents… we’ve got that covered too as we get ready for the holidays. And no, it’s not a candle- it’s the easiest, most delicious Warm Punch you’ll ever make and your house will smell like a holiday home. Combine one large container of cranberry juice with one large container of pineapple juice- toss in a few cinnamon sticks and 4-5 whole cloves. * Feel free to float thin orange slices or wide strips of citrus zest, for a variation. Cover and on low heat, bring to a slow simmer. Your home will smell like it’s ready for the holidays!

The best advice of all for those wonderful holiday meals you’ll be making- is my grandmother’s creed- ‘Have a lot of a few things. Just make sure each thing is delicious.’ We will see you again soon- in the meantime… on your mark, get set, go! Getting ready for the holidays the kitchen!

Love y’all, Camellia * All photographs are obviously mine- with one glorious exception! Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese was memorialized by the very talented Becky Hadeed. Find her on Instagram @thestoriedrecipe .

Special Edition… Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon!

It is nearly impossible to make enough of Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon! That’s eating high on the hog! And… the reason for this Special Edition is because our candied bacon has been featured on the podcast and blog of the beautiful, talented Becky Hadeed @thestoriedrecipe! Her photography is ‘cookbook quality’ beautiful! I sent Becky a general recipe of how to make Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon, yet we wanted the recipe tweaked a bit- so, here’s the specific version with a few tips for making –

Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon

Mix together:

  • 1 1/3 cups Light Brown Sugar
  • 1- 1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Black Pepper OR
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper ( Black and Cayenne Pepper are to taste, I like it spicy! And often add both!)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

*Keep this mixture in an airtight container …it makes enough for at least a pound of bacon.

Method:

  • Prepare baking pan by lining with heavy duty foil, then lining with heavy duty parchment paper. Don’t skip this step! It is almost impossible to get the drippings off the pan!
  • After each batch remove and replace parchment paper. On top of parchment paper foil lined pan, set a baking or metal cooling rack.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • For each batch- cut 4 slices of thick bacon in half and arrange the 8 pieces on the baking rack leaving space between the slices. *Thick bacon is commercially sliced and is about 1/8 inch thick.
  • On each half slice of bacon, sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar mixture. (don’t overload bacon with topping, it will melt and run off onto the baking sheet and burn.
  • Press sugar topping lightly. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, check the bacon …it will always need more time- Bake for 10-15 minutes more checking every few minutes.

  • Remove Bacon and leave on rack to cool.
  • If properly cooked, the bacon will continue to crisp up slightly as it cools. Depending on the thickness of the bacon, it takes up to a total of 30 minutes for each batch.
  • Store Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon in single layers with wax paper or parchment between layers in an airtight container.
  • * Variation- add finely chopped walnuts if preferred or omit nuts entirely, though I must say- the pecans make it southern a delicious!

Serve: Alone as an appetizer (small parties…these go lightening fast!), Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon is wonderful crumbled over fruit or green salads. And! For a very special treat, crumble on top of a good vanilla ice cream, if you really want to dress it up– pour a teaspoon of bourbon over ice cream to enhance the vanilla flavor (if you dare! Adults only please) Then, top with a good caramel sauce then sprinkled chopped or crumbled bacon on top!

This Special Edition is an exciting time! It’s our first podcast!  The podcast with Becky of @thestoriedrecipe was a first for me! I mean, really…it’s a scary thing, wondering what your voice will sound like- if the recipes will work and okay, I didn’t want to sound like a redneck! Still. Becky did a great job making the recipes, including Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese look great! And… her editing skills on the video are amazing too. The episode includes two other wonderful guests and me! Here’s a link to Becky’s blog- The Storied Recipe and the podcast located at the beginning of her post.

I am honored to be Becky’s friend and to have appeared in her podcast, which is available as The Storied Recipe, Episode 4 and also through your podcast app. Follow Becky on Instagram @thestoriedrecipe as she continues to interview guests and discover recipes and the stories that go along with them! The table is where we find common ground. It’s the making of the food for our friends and families, sharing the stories and creating even more memories, especially during the holidays!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs belong to Becky Hadeed and are used with permission – except- the ‘candied bacon on the baking rack’ which is obviously mine!

Fried Pies… it’s a Southern Thing

img_2718Fried Pies might be the ultimate comfort food for southerners. Especially of… folks of a certain age; though their appeal knows no age, economic barriers or social status. Given the chance to eat a fried pie, the answer is always ‘yes!’

There are variations of fried pies. In other regions they might be called:

  • hand pies,
  • turnovers
  • even empanadas.

img_2721The comfort food we know as fried pies are generally filled with a thick filling of dried apples or peaches, though I’ve also seen other types- strawberry, lemon, chocolate and another southern type called Nachitoches Meat Pies from a small town in Louisiana. These variations aren’t what I’m talking about here. Fried pies always conjure up the type our mother’s made from dried fruit-plumped up with water and sugar, then boiled down until as thick as jam.

img_2724A tablespoon or so is put inside a small circle of dough, the edges are folded over to make a half moon shape; then they are fried. Not deep fried either… which I personally think would ruin a fried pie! Still, they are fried in about a half inch of oil or shortening even lard. They do especially well fried in a hot iron skillet. * You know, I really should tell you sometime all the reasons we love our iron skillets and fried pies is just one reason!img_2720

In my grandmother’s double first cousins’ cookbook- there is an old ‘anonymous’ recipe for fried pies… still the best one I’ve ever come up with so- Here’s how you make real southern Fried Pies!

  • 2 cups sifted Plain Flour (All purpose)
  • 3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/3 cup Shortening (plus extra for frying)
  • 2/3 cup Milk
  • Dried Apples or Peaches

Prepare dried fruit for filling. Set aside. Mix first 4 ingredients until like cornmeal, using a pastry cutter. Add milk and mix well. Divide dough into 8-12 parts and shape into balls. Roll or pat on floured surface to make a circle. Fill each circle with a tablespoon or so with dried apples or peaches. Fold dough over filling, seal edges by crimping with a fork. Chill. Fry pies in a heavy iron skillet in hot shortening until golden brown on both sides. Serve warm if possible.img_2718

* A word about rehydrating dried peaches or apples- feel free to soak the fruit in water overnight… a few hours will be fine also. Add granular sugar at a ratio of 1/2 cup to 1 cup of fruit, I’ll admit I often add a full cup of sugar to 1 cup of soaked fruit. These fruits are tart when dried. I have added a bit of cinnamon even nutmeg to the fruit, though this isn’t necessary. Simmer the fruit until the mixture is as thick as jam, watching carefully. I often bring the fruit to a bubbling state, cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, more if needed. When the fruit has stewed, with a potato masher, press fruit until it is the texture of a thick jam; any excess juice can be drained away, you don’t want to ‘wet’ the dough when filling. Set aside the stewed fruit until the dough is ready. The stewed fruit will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Above are what dried peaches look like. And.. Below are what rehydrated and sugared dried apples look like before mashing. img_2719

* A word about the dough- the rule is to never overwork a pastry dough, fried pie dough may be an exception. My grandmother thought milk ‘toughened’ a pie crust dough, yet Milk works very well for fried pies since it will need to hold its shape while frying. And in my grandmother’s day, chilling wasn’t always feasible, yet I find after I fill and crimp the fried pies, chilling helps- therefore that instruction was included in the recipe.

** If you aren’t frying the pies right away, it is best to freeze the uncooked pies on a baking sheet in a single layer, then place carefully in freezer bags until you’re ready to make them. I love to make a double batch, freeze them and then take out however many I plan to fry. They do not need to be thawed before frying! (I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you, that many southern ladies who are expert at making fried pies, use a time saver they use canned biscuits and roll out the individual biscuits into a flat disc, fill with stewed apples or peaches just as in this recipe, and I must say- those are awfully good too!)img_2721

Fried Pies … it’s a Southern thing y’all! I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love them! They are warm, filling and delicious! With this nip in the November air, I know I’ll be making up several batches to enjoy as the ultimate comfort food! I hope you’ll try this southern favorite soon!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine!

Camellia goes to California…

92F087D9-4772-45B5-A170-9F5E254C5AF1Fall is a wonderful time to go to California! We’ve been at various times of year and I have to say when the weather is still hot as blue blazes here- California’s September weather is almost perfect. San Diego is perfect year round, yet San Francisco has generally felt  much cooler than I’ve expected whenever we go! This time, we did a multi-region trip. We flew into San Francisco and drove down the beautiful stunning Pacific Coast Highway to Monterrey, back up to beautiful San Francisco, then up to Napa and Sonoma Wine country where it was harvest time!

We went to Monterey for a family event, our daughter was getting a degree from Naval Post Graduate School, and while she’s a civilian I have to say the service was thrilling and you’ve got to know any southern lady of any age loves to see men in uniform! And the uniformed ladies were good looking too! Of course our daughter was the one in the pink dress I ‘had eyes for’ during the commencement service.

The Navy Band played everything from big band tunes to ‘chill bump’ military and national anthems. So impressive!

The school is in beautiful Monterey which is nestled on the Pacific coast, so of course we visited Cannery Row and Old Town Monterrey. The afternoon before, several in our family had gone on what looks and sounds like an amazing Whale Watching Tour!11117419-7D66-47F1-889F-4884C5536F38
The original drive down the Pacific Coast Highway entailed a stop at Half Moon Bay where we stopped and ate- what else? Fish and Chips! The flowers were brilliant!

On the way back up, I was again amazed by the farms, especially the pumpkins!  We drove into San Francisco, where … Location, location is the first thing!

We stayed at the historic and beautiful Fairmont San Francisco! It’s an amazing place! Not to mention, gorgeous too! That evening we were all interested in riding the historic and fun San Francisco Cable Cars! We went to Fisherman’s Wharf, ate at Boudin’s Bakery…famous for their sour dough bread, and Guiradelli Square, where …let’s just say- we indulged in chocolate!51DDBEEF-F659-4A77-986D-C6C6F7700B24
We had booked a full day Wine Country Tour with Gray Line, were picked up at our hotel; the ride over Golden Gate is always breathtaking and the scenery was simply amazing! This tour gave us stops at 3 wineries of different sizes, the smaller one started in the vineyards.

I’m not a wine connoisseur yet these small batch wines were delicious. The next winery tour started in the barrel room and ended in the tasting room. Our next stop was a short visit and lunch in Napa. From there up through the ever beautiful Sonoma, yet extra pretty due to harvest season. The last winery will be a name familiar to all… Sutter Home, where folks can stay…as all through this area, there are wonderful places to stay and fabulous art and restaurants, the French Laundry comes to mind…

After a full day, we just wanted something quick and delicious to eat! On previous trips we’ve made- there’s a hole in the wall pizza place called Uncle Vito’s ! So don’t worry about the calories- you’ll walk, climb, trudge back up the hills of SF to the hotel- some would call it ‘invigorating‘.

CCD24E1F-5272-4A55-8F1E-4F8DD01789C3On Sunday, of course we wanted to visit the sea lions! And the whole Pier 39 area… so fun, at the Ferry Building to graze thru the vendors and purveyors of California made or grown food! Amazing gift shops and beautiful sites to sit outside and eat or visit.

We were up for something quirky to do so we went to the Museum of Ice Cream. The pink hot chocolate was amazing! For the kid in me- it was truly fun! On up to China Town, we found an alleyway where fortune cookies are still made by hand- the aroma of fresh fortune cookies was a lure, the samples of warm crisp pastry was wonderful and the sight of watching Asian ladies make fortune cookies was unforgettable.B9548E1A-7849-4015-9288-1CFC58533CBD

Of course, we had to eat Chinese food in SF China Town too! Back at the amazing Fairmont, there was a wine and cheese tasting, we also peered through the glass to see the rooftop chef’s garden and beehives! There is also a beautiful terrace with beautiful plantings of amazing hydrangeas, palm trees and bedding plants- sofas and chairs for reading and relaxing too. 807C49C5-F5AC-4860-A638-65591F9A4550

Since we were tired and full- we had one more stop at the Fairmont to make- the Tonga Room, which is a complete surprise in such a formal setting- for all the world, visitors feel as they’re on a shipwrecked island! Even thunder and rainfall add to the dance music- no we didn’t dance, though we did have a few good laughs and made it an early night before flying home the next morning. In five days and four nights, we’d seen quite a lot of California and as we left, okay I’ll admit- I waved goodbye to the statue of Tony Bennett standing in front of the Fairmont Hotel where he regularly sang- ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’ I suppose everyone leaves a bit of their heart there- and thinking of things you wish you’d done- then looking forward to returning again to this beautiful City by the Bay

Love y’all, Camellia

For more information on the San Francisco Fairmont- go to www.fairmont.com

Check out half day or full day Wine Country Tours through www.graylinetours.com

6A50ABD1-189F-4781-98E8-5A41195ACCCCAlcatraz Island is the number one tourist sight in this area- we did not go on this trip however- I was able to capture it for you! And, you do need to book this tour in advance of your trip since it sells out quickly- visit www.alcataz.com for more information.

*All photographs are obviously mine, except the whale tour photo which was taken by- Mike O’Neill who generously shared it with us!

Camellia’s Chicken Pie…

C96AE592-45AA-43DD-BAAE-D8D2A44C10E7Chicken Pie may be one of the most universally loved savory pies in our part of the country- southerners simply eat a lot of chicken and since we do, there tends to be a bit of leftovers whenever we roast or bake a chicken. A southern chicken pie seems to be the favorite way to use leftovers or even start from scratch with the intent of making comfort food, especially when Fall begins to cool the air!

I guess some folks call it Chicken Pot Pie, though I never have. Why? When I think of pot pies- they were those little frozen pies my sister and I ate when our momma wasn’t cooking that night. My grandmother made her chicken pies very plain with a thick, rich creamy broth, chunks of chicken and a chopped boiled egg- no peas and carrots – just topped with a buttery flaky crust. The vegetables she served were side dishes. Sometimes chicken pie was served with mixed greens or a fruit salad.  I do tend to add peas and even very small diced carrots- though those additions are more for color than robust flavor. The best chicken pies have a subtle blend of flavors. In the Fall, I do add a small amount of celery, sometimes a pinch of thyme and always fresh cracked pepper- even a pinch of sage tends to bring out the fall flavors we tend to prefer around the holidays.

D0686462-2D4E-45E9-87EC-E8826D962C96Here’s how to make Camellia’s Chicken Pie

You will need: Your favorite pie crust for a single crust. And-

  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken breast- chopped in medium to large chunks.
  • Up to 1/2 stick of butter.
  • 3-4 Tbs. of all purpose flour (see note at the end of recipe)
  •   1/2 cup of small diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup of early peas (use frozen and do not add until filling is done!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/8 cup of finely diced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
  • Pinch of ground sage (if desired for fall flavor)
  •   2 cups of chicken stock (homemade if possible)

Butter a 9×9 glass baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter, add onion, carrots and celery stirring to coat and soften a bit (not too much though, we don’t want mushy vegetables here!) Add thyme and sage if desired. (I don’t add sage in the spring and if the chicken is well flavored!) Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour over vegetables and butter coating all. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and simmer until filling thickens. Not too much though as filling will thicken as it bakes! Add salt and pepper to taste. Off heat, add chunks of chicken and frozen peas, stir gently to combine.

9C1CAA3F-F21D-456A-96F3-DE14439D3FCA Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Cut the pastry round into a square piece that will fit baking dish. Cut dough scraps into small pieces and push into the chicken pie filling. This will also thicken the filling as it bakes. Top with square pastry, butter the dough lightly and cut slits as desired. If desired, sprinkle with cracked pepper.

3B5E79FE-02A5-4FCB-80B2-054E814FDFA6Bake for 50-55 or until crust is browned and filling is bubbly. This chicken pie is 4-6 servings. *Tip: I’ve mentioned this cooking tip before- when making a roux or a brown gravy- I bake the raw flour in a shallow pan at 350 degrees until it turns golden brown; cool and store browned flour in an airtight container. This is such a time saver and gives that rich flavor only a roux can! *You can see the color difference in the broth from this one I made in Spring when I didn’t want the darker color filling and the one made this week!

Well, if you live in the south, I know you’re enjoying this cooler weather! Whew, it’s been so hot for so long, it’s nice isn’t it? And! I’ll admit in the heat, I didn’t even want to turn the oven on! Chicken Pie was what I wanted to bake as soon as we dipped below 75 degrees! At least in the mornings! Oh me… hope you bake some comfort food like a chicken pie and! That you’re having a wonderful Fall!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

Some Things Never Go Out Of Style…

20877054-9485-4571-9E48-88F0E310F2ABSome things never go out of style. Pearls. A handwritten thank you note. A good white blouse. A bereavement casserole or a pound cake. A kind word.

57DDD8B5-4814-47B7-8581-B0AD79AA7981A well cut suit and a decent raincoat. A genuine compliment. Well made shoes kept in good condition. Giving someone your full attention. Looking decent when you leave the house. Table manners.

CE7D9B55-9CC0-4A59-9F6A-7FC389CEF403Good language skills, even if spoken with a slight accent might make the difference in social situations or could call into question your upbringing. My grandmother sure drove this point home! Extending common courtesies. These things never go out of style.

I saw a disturbing headline recently that questioned whether the southern tradition of good manners is alive and well. Occasionally, I have to wonder whether that headline is true.

AD7FC119-65A2-408F-A6D4-5D3D7FE00A6ARecently, a sweet southern lady remarked, in her best southern accent, ‘Folks just seem so impolite, why just yesterday someone in a nice car behind me, actually honked their horn! Impatient and aggressive if you ask me.’  She was rattled to say the least. Okay, the two of us are… of a certain age. Still. She had a point and a nostalgic conversation ensued about good manners and other things that never go out of style.

CD92A979-5A2B-42CA-AC06-BE9ACA3558E3It’s important to understand that life is always better when we have at least a few genuine lifelong friends who stand by us ’til the end! So…no matter how many beauty contests you won or how high you rise on the corporate ladder- remember that you will always need friends and you will never be queen of everything! Since this is true- be the one who is willing to shine up and straighten your friends’ reputations and crowns without letting on that her tiara had slipped in the first place!

66AB7C8C-2897-4EFA-97A2-54BDCA467411Hospitality is important to friends, family and even strangers who might stop by…always be ready to offer refreshment of some sort. Be as generous as possible- the best hosts offer abundance… it sets the guests at ease so they won’t have to worry if there will be enough. And! Be the one who offers to add to the abundance by bringing a dish or drink if you are a guest!

18F26ABE-5E14-4D94-913E-357DF6ED18ADLearn and follow the basic rules of polite social engagements. Find out ahead of time what the occasion entails and the dress code. Always take a hostess gift, offer to help with set-up or clean up, leave at a reasonable time and don’t be the guest who wears out your welcome, then- for heaven’s sake – remember to write some sort of complimentary thank you note!

 

 

Come down off your high horse. While you value your opinions- others have their own perspectives which may differ. Show respect. Avoid discussions that could get heated. Is whatever you think, worth expressing, if it means losing important friends and relationships?53D8E6A0-6B0B-4AAA-AA65-7B34C0525218

And while I’m at it- limit gossip, I’m not sure it can ever be eradicated…just know when talk has gone over the edge from idle gossip to just plain meanness. No amount of saying, ‘Bless his heart.’ ‘We need to pray for her.’ Or passing unfair judgement ever made anyone look better! If you look back on your life…you might find that we are all just one bad decision away from being in the same dilemma- we’ve taken so much pleasure in passing along!706E302B-54B3-446B-ADDF-513ACF10DC2B

Thank you for letting me preach a little here…This judgement of others would include religious beliefs that folks hold dear. My own faith is important to me- yet that doesn’t mean I have all the answers to life’s dilemmas.450D5F7F-CA36-4871-A080-8B886E1F8C85

I recently read that a certain eastern religion believes in Smile Energy- I don’t know all of the particulars…yet I do know this- life just feels better and lighter when I smile than when I frown! Speaking of making a face… please don’t! Would you rather be known for your smile or your sour attitude? F1591DBC-BE6B-4B88-9BF6-3EC2C4B96B4E

If you belong to an organization, participate! Be the one who offers encouragement but is also willing to gather the kindling, bring the marshmallows and light the campfire! Let the leader lead, be teachable, become part of the sisterhood or brotherhood.

 

 

I speak from experience on this- find a group you can support wholeheartedly and the quality of your life will improve in direct proportion to your enthusiasm.  And, while I’ve been talking about things that never go out of style… offering support to others might be the one thing that never goes out of style! Support is best expressed by one of my favorite authors…

‘Support is a hand held when you’ve failed, a smile in the morning when you leave to face the world, a laugh shared till your sides ache and tears flow down your cheeks.’ By Mary Alice Monroe from ‘Second Star to the Right’

A ‘hand held’ when the day hasn’t gone so well or you need support…or even as a sign of affection- costs nothing but could mean everything!

82D70BF6-F81E-4077-B124-50C3673CC7EFThough darlin’- our southern mothers would add- ‘Limit those public shows of affection to hand holdin’ or a peck on the cheek, unless folks get the wrong idea about you, then, question your upbringing!’ Our southern mothers’ advice is another thing that never goes out of style! Oh me, how I do run on!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are from my private collection with the exception of the ‘friends’, the hospitality queens with the turkeys and the ‘ugly face’ which were found via Pinterest so long ago I haven’t been able to run down the source- if they belong to you please let me know so I can credit you properly! Thank you. * The photos I chose for this post were chosen for subject matter only. They are fine beautifully mannered folks!

 

3 Natural Fall Wreaths…

49A3F03F-BE30-4796-8C1E-933AEF3BB261Here at the Cottage, I don’t change out front door wreaths for every season or holiday; however: in the fall when the ferns are shriveled up from the heat, the chrysanthemums sit and sulk and refuse to bloom and… let’s face it, it’s still hot and flowering pants in the border are beginning to wane… so! a wreath seems to be a good way to freshen up the front door as we transition from summer to fall. And let’s face it- when the garden starts to look tired, and it’s hot and dusty; shining up the front door for a bit of curb appeal, even perking up the screen porch makes things feel like fall even if it’s still hot as the hinges on devil’s back door!

5FF5A447-644E-4BFB-8196-1109CCDF5427Then, there’s this- I think it’s fun to forage for blooms, vines and quirky things. I wind them up into a pretty wreath (see those pretty things above!).  Now…. Fresh and dried materials won’t hold up forever, so… It’s better to enjoy the wreaths for a season, then put all except the base material in the compost pile.

Here’s another thing to think about, sometimes a fresh wreath is for a special event or party and isn’t expected to be everlasting, in fact it’s beauty is for the occasion like a flower arrangement.  *Please note I didn’t mention a wedding wreath because let’s face it, in the South- football season and hurricane season aren’t considered optimal times for a wedding, which is a shame since there’s such a bevy of beautiful blooms! If a couple does decide to tie the knot in fall- they check the football schedule or offer a room where the game can be watched, they ask the officiant which his favorite team is and! The couple should have alternate evacuation routes  in place if a tornado or hurricane interferes with the festivities! And don’t get me started on booking a honeymoon during storm season! Well…I’ve gotten off on a tangent… Here’s two wreaths we’ve made this Fall and one I’ve kept from year to year. They are 3 of my favorite natural fall wreaths!

All three are done on a form. I generally on a wire frame, a straw form or a grapevine wreath. D26F917D-763D-4884-A430-0EFC92310ABA

One was a purchased form and the other two are on a ‘native’ grapevine called muscadines- which grow wild here and we also have cultivated muscadines which we grow… both vine types make excellent wreaths on their own with lots of tendrils and even little clusters of dried muscadines; these and nothing more make a wonderful free form wreath. Just start winding it up and leave on the curlyques!  Please don’t worry about perfection, the charm of a natural wreath is the imperfections!

7EACE68D-90C1-4233-AAA1-004D5D4E49B1One wreath is made simply of Annabelle hydrangeas which usually dry to a pale green, then tinged with pink or if picked early will dry to a delicate pale cream.  Here’s a close up of how mine dried this year- though sometimes they turn a light tan sort of like a paper bag!

DDF96A28-B85F-49AB-99E1-43D5D5D35AFBThe mixed hydrangea wreath at the top and below is a foraged wreath with vines, wild flowers, fading roses and ferns. The first round of foraged flowers were too droopy by the time I made this wreath- so I just went out and snipped a few more things! Use your imagination and what you can find!

E2E3230B-60BC-4310-8D43-99981B673E23This foraged wreath is one of my favorites- yet I don’t expect it to be an everlasting one. I would mention, the fresh additions like the ferns generally don’t dry well- yet they could be refreshed and replaced. Feel free to remove anything past it’s prime and replace with some new things! And now for the natural fall wreath I’ve kept- drumroll please…

7D109C83-00DD-4892-8580-29C7B38D7318The other wreath is made of Alabama grown Cotton- this is the one I’ve kept from season to season- it’s very special to me. The cotton was grown at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in the George Washington Carver garden, planted to honor this famous Alabamian whose work to enrich the soil with primarily peanuts, in depleted cotton fields through crop rotation. His research and work is legendary. This particular cotton was being pulled up at the botanical garden in the fall, so I asked the head gardener, who was about to discard the cotton stems and bolls-

‘Could I have some of that Cotton?

He graciously gave all of it to me! I wouldn’t take anything for this special wreath! Cotton is still a cash crop here and is occasionally grown for the floral trade and I hope this practice will continue! Even with it’s sad history, there may be nothing prettier than a field of cotton pushing up out of the red clay soil of Alabama is a sight to see!EB9CB100-2FA2-4A50-A4F7-6E6DA4D7F779

Please don’t let perfectionism get in your way! Just get started…with a walk in the woods, around your neighborhood and even your own garden! Pick way more than you think you’ll need! I keep stuffing material in as tight as I can around the wreath form, then occasionally secure with cotton butcher’s twine or fine floral wire! The main thing to remember, is that the more wreaths you make the easier it gets! Here’s to a great Autumn made fun and beautiful with Natural Fall Wreaths!

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine!

Camellia’s Favorite Cheese Ball Recipe…

49653C9F-73D3-498D-8708-B1D4F2827009This Cheese Ball recipe is a real time saver. I love it because it keeps well chilled, is able to take on different shapes, even freezes like a dream! And ! A Cheese Ball  seems welcome at any occasion! After school goes back in session, football season begins, then tailgating and fall gatherings and holidays seem to come one right after the other! We all know we’re going to need ‘something to take’ or serve! And let’s face it- hardly anybody passes up Cheese and Crackers! This recipe lends itself to as many variations as you can think of! Change up the variety of cheeses, add walnuts instead of pecans, even add dried cranberries- it’s all up to you! now, you have to admit, these cheese balls shaped like big apples would be fun in the Fall! And while you’re at it- make up several types of cheese balls, logs or rings and save a few in the freezer!7C3C2ED8-11B4-4882-A204-2F35408015F5

Here’s how you make Camellia’s Favorite Cheese Ball-

  • One Pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese- grated
  • 8 ounce package Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1 small onion- finely grated with juice
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In  food processor, mix cheeses. Add in Worcestershire, salt and pepper- blend well. By hand, add in pecans until well blended. Shape cheese mixture into 2 large balls and chill. May also shape into logs or into a ring. Chill.

  • Mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons mild paprika and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. With a fine mesh strainer, sift over cheese balls or logs- even small appetizer size balls served with toothpicks! Serve with assorted crackers. If shaped into a ring, fill with strawberry, cherry or fig preserves. * Strawberry is my favorite!

*For variation, roll cheese balls in finely chopped pecans. Or as another variation- use 12 ounces of Sharp Cheddar and 4 ounces of Cheddar Jack and proceed as above. **These cheese balls freeze well, however- wait to sprinkle with paprika mixture before serving for a prettier presentation.0B3B06E0-84E5-4D1A-BCA1-8A2D2D828C32

One of my favorite ways to serve these cheese balls, is to roll them into apple shapes and cut small branches with a leaf or two attached- just make sure the branch is safe and pesticide free. Cheese balls are wonderful all year round on charcuterie boards,  though especially good for fall gatherings, tail gating, a Halloween buffets and all the way through the holiday season!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine!

 

 

Maybelle Turner’s Blonde Brownies…

0CEBA9D8-A454-4781-B693-1EB9B355C514I never knew Maybelle Turner. She might have been a friend of my grandmother’s double first cousins, since this recipe was tucked in their cookbook and on the same page as Nellie’s Wicked Brownies…which I’ve never had the nerve to bake. I don’t know whether Maybelle was short or tall, young or old. Whether she had blonde hair, was a redhead or had salt and pepper hair wadded up in a bun, it really doesn’t matter- Maybelle Turner must have been a generous soul; must have loved doubled recipes (because this one certainly could be halved!) and she had to be a creative cook since she gave a variation. Or… maybe one day she was making these Blonde Brownies and ran short of chocolate chips! Whatever… I do know this is an old recipe- why? Because it was in one of my oldest family cookbooks and nobody says- ‘Blonde Brownies’ anymore!

E8157407-54E2-47DE-B2E5-351B9CF537FBHere’s how you make- Maybelle Turner’s Blonde Brownies 

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs – beaten
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi sweet chocolate chips (variation- 8 oz. chocolate chips plus 4 oz. butterscotch chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8×8 glass baking dishes- lightly butter, line with buttered parchment paper. Set aside. Melt butter, combine with brown sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla and salt. Stir in flour and baking powder- do not overmix! Fold in pecans and chocolate chips. Divide dough in half and spread lightly in the 2 prepared baking dishes. Bake for 25 minutes. Do not overbake! Allow to cool in baking dish. Cut into small squares and serve. These are very rich.B943EB76-94F4-4382-A911-28CF222CE0D3

I’ve hung onto the recipe for Maybelle’s Blonde Brownies a while now… why? I don’t bake bar cookies or brownies very often! These are moist and very rich. I used her variation of adding butterscotch chips, though I’m sure they would be good either way! And, please don’t overbake- who wants a dried out blonde brownie? Also, they are truly rich- I cut mine in small bars and truthfully if you’re as generous as Maybelle, a bar is rich enough to share! So… I’d like to say- ‘Maybelle, wherever you are- your Blonde Brownies are delicious, darling!’ Who knows maybe closer to Halloween, I’ll get up the nerve to bake Nellie’s Wicked Brownies!

C2AACC1C-5F49-4BDD-8698-B7F8294BDFCBSchool’s back in session, the garden is headed into ‘curl up and die’ time and I’m beginning to see fall fruits in the grocery store…these Blonde Brownies tasted awfully good with apples, and they sure would make a wonderful addition to a lunch bag or as an after school snack!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine!

Summer Tomato Cobbler…

28BCE555-D761-4B22-93D9-A97676BAA990Summer Tomato Cobbler is a new take on an already fabulous Tomato Pie! Last year, I shared with you how to make my sister’s tomato pie which has been declared by me and many others as the very best recipe for this unique delicious savory pie which is probably specific to Alabama! So why make a Summer Tomato Cobbler? Well…a classic tomato pie is juicy, oozing with cheese and the sour cream filling is amazing; so I wanted to see if making the same recipe into Cobbler form would make it easier to cut, hold it’s shape and also be served to a crowd. The result was the same flavors, yet with a taste all its own and I’ll admit- I want y’all to try both of these delicious pies! The Summer Tomato Cobbler is a bit easier to assemble and rustic- my sister’s Tomato Pie is a more refined and luscious one crust pie, yet both are sure to please especially when summer tomatoes are available! Actually, I’d never make either pie without vine ripe tomatoes!

87C53B8B-A4F9-4E6F-B41B-9A045CA737B5Here’s how you make Summer Tomato Cobbler- You will need:

  • 3 Summer Tomatoes- I used a mix of one ripe Chandler Mountain* Tomato, one under ripe tomato (even a green tomato would work) and one Roma Tomato. Cut these into at least 1/2” slices.
  • One single crust pie crust dough (I used prepared dough for test purposes which was flat and round to fit a regular 9” pie.)
  • 8 ounces of sour cream
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of a good mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup of green onion tops
  • 8-10 fresh Basil leaves
  • 2 cups of finely shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup of finely shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Fresh cracked pepper and sea salt

To prepare Summer Tomato Cobbler-

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • You will need a 9×9 square glass baking pan.
  • Combine sour cream, mayonnaise and green onion tops, for the filling.  Set aside.
  • Blend together the finely shredded cheeses. Set aside.
  • On a lightly floured surface or marble surface- roll out prepared pie crust very thin- approximately 1/4 inch- into a flat round approximately 12” in diameter.  Cut center of dough into an 8×8 inch square. Save scrap dough to layer the Cobbler.
  • In the bottom of the baking dish, place half of the tomato slices to cover the bottom. * In a bottom crust tomato pie, the difference is that the tomatoes are peeled and drained- there’s no need to do this with the Cobbler.
  • Evenly place half of the Basil leaves over the tomatoes, lightly sprinkle tomatoes with cracked black pepper ( do not salt the tomatoes, the cheeses and filling add enough seasoning)
  • Dollop tomatoes evenly with half of the sour cream filling and 1/2 of the blended cheeses.
  • Top this layer with all of the scraps of pie dough.
  • Next, repeat second layer of tomatoes, following the same order as the first layer- yet topping with the 8 inch square crust carefully placing the dough right on top of the cheeses.
  • Press this square dough topper slightly to make contact with the cheese. *This is an important step! The cheese and dough bake together to make a wonderful top crust!
  • Lightly spread top crust with butter. Cut slits in the top of crust, then lightly sprinkle the dough with sea salt.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until top crust is a beautiful golden brown and cheese is bubbly. May take up to one hour.
  • Allow Summer Tomato Cobbler to cool slightly before serving in squares. * Makes 9 generous squares.

1E2D4303-3A40-4451-858D-DFE1AAAC6149Take a look at that upper crust! It’s flaky yet dense with cheese flavor! And the tomatoes took on a roasted flavor! I’ll admit, I couldn’t stop at just one serving!

So, what did I serve with this Summer Tomato Cobbler? Fresh field peas, slices of mild sweet onions and jalapeño cheddar corn muffins! It was a take on the south’s famous vegetable plates! If you must have meat- this Summer Tomato Cobbler would go well with grilled fish, baked pork chops, stuffed peppers, meatloaf or a cool slice of ham! Other sides which would be a wonderful wilted spinach salad, a mixed green salad lightly dressed, even stuffed eggs would be delicious too!

28BCE555-D761-4B22-93D9-A97676BAA990Summer Tomato Cobbler would be at home for Sunday dinner, a ladies luncheon or on a summer buffet table! It’s also wonderful at room temperature! If you want to have a variation- Feel free to add crumbled bacon or finely chopped ham to your tomato cobbler! The main thing is to enjoy summer’s best bounty- the fresh tomato! And never forget- the closer you live to a Tomato Vine the better your Life will be!

Love y’all, Camellia

* I used prepared dough for testing purposes and because not everyone has the time or inclination to make pie crust from scratch- can I make my own pie dough? You bet I can! And I do feel it would be wonderful! I also think this cobbler might be absolutely fabulous made with green tomatoes too! * Chandler Mountain Tomatoes are highly prized- grown specifically in a mountainous region of northeast Alabama- right here in our own county!8B47A286-B10D-44F4-A499-9D1A73B5FD39