Friday, November 30, 2012

Rusty Gold

Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Clove. All of the flavors that remind me of the Christmas season bottled with a hint of fizz. Some friends introduced us to Windy Hill's Rusty Gold hard apple cider. Its spicy, not-too-sweet taste is a perfect compliment savory dishes.

Not only is Rusty Gold delicious but Windy Hill grows their own apples and ferments their cider in nearby York, SC. The Windy Hill cider collection also features ginger, strawberry and peach-infused ciders. Sip one on its own or check out their cider mixology suggestions for a unique holiday drink. Cheers!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weekend at Lake Rabun

I grew up going to the mountains in northeast Georgia. My grandfather built a cabin on Lake Burton when my dad and his brothers were young and the family has spent summer holidays there ever since. So the mountains seemed like a fitting place for everyone to get together for my parent's 40th wedding anniversary.

Since our place isn't winterized, we stayed on near-by Lake Rabun at the Lake Rabun Hotel for the weekend. The leaves were changing and the weather was simply perfect.

Rustic and homey, the hotel's cottage, where most of the family stayed, came complete with dried okra decorations and delicious peanut butter cookies in the afternoon.
The Hotel's award-winning chef, Jamie Allred, cooks up a mean breakfast each morning for guests using local ingredients. I'm still drooling over the creamy, stone-ground grits and the awesomely thick bacon.

Some of the featured farms Allred works with to create his delicious dishes include:
Chattooga Belle Farms
Flat Creek Farm & Dairy
Gibson Farms
Leah Lake Farms
Ladybug Farms
LoganBerry Heritage Farm
Osage Farms
Springer Mountain Farms

You can also find local mountain produce at the Simply Homegrown Market in Clayton during the warmer months. If you're ever near North Georgia, I highly recommend stopping by the Lake Rabun Hotel for a bite!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

Southerners love butter. It's just a fact. We pretend to be healthy but every southern cook knows, if you want something to taste good, you have to use the real thing. Some people swear they can't taste the difference between butter and so-called substitutes. Then again, some people can't tell Coke from Pepsi ;)

Shortbread requires real butter. And lots of it! It's my go-to cookie because it's so versatile. You can add just about any flavor or topping to this buttery, no-too-sweet dessert.

My go-to basic shortbread recipe is similar to Ina Garten's.  

What You'll Need:
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
Pinch of salt
Dash of almond extract (Vanilla works too)

What to Do:
Use a stand mixer to form the dough, creaming the butter and sugar before adding the extract and flour. You can roll the dough out and cut it into fun shapes or you can spread it in a 8x8 pan. If you're cutting out shapes, you'll want to chill the dough first. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

The best part, though, is the topping. I melted dark chocolate and spread it over my cooled shortbread. I dusted the chocolate-coating with cinnamon and espresso powder and cut the shortbread into rectangles for easy snacking. You could also top them with chopped, toasted pecans or hazelnuts.

Be warned. These are highly addictive. You might need to double the recipe.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ho Cakes Re-imagined

Fried cornmeal and buttermilk. What's not to love? In the south, we fry corn every way you can imagine. Well, almost. In an attempt to be a bit more sustainable, the boy and I have turned Meatless Monday into meatless Tuesday and Thursday. I'm constantly scouring my recipe books for new dishes that don't incorporate meat. I'm a huge fan of black beans, so I thought I'd combine them into a classic southern dish.


The result? Black bean and corn ho cakes. Here's the recipe:

What You'll Need:
2 cans black beans, drained
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 small (8.75 oz) can sweet corn, drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon grease
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin, to taste
Oil for frying

What to Do:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Batter should roll slowly off your spoon. Add buttermilk if too thick. For each cake, drop 2 heaping tablespoons of batter into hot oil. Cook cakes over medium-high heat about 4 minutes per side or until brown and crispy. 

Try serving them over a bed of greens or rice and a dollop of sour cream. Eat up!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Garden & Gun's Made in the South Awards

If you don't subscribe to Garden and Gun magazine, I highly recommend it. It's thoughtful, eye-catching pages appreciate southern culture in a whole new way. Every year they honor southern artisans with their Made in the South Awards. As you might guess, I'm especially excited to see their food picks.


You can check out the food category winner, Nature's Harmony Farm, here. The runner's up are also pretty awesome. Honeysuckle gelato anyone?



(Photos from Garden and Gun)

Holiday Baking: Quick and Easy

This is totally cheating. I'm talking semi-homemade, from a box, didn't have to think about the recipe kind of cheating.  It's almost embarrassing to put this on a food blog. But these little babies are so good I had to share. 


Here's the secret: Trader Joe's Deep, Dark Gingerbread Cake and Baking Mix. Make according to the box directions and add mini dark chocolate chips. Bake in a mini muffin tin and you have 24 adorable holiday treats in less than 30 minutes. 

Of course, you could always use your favorite gingerbread cake recipe but if you need a quick gingerbread fix, I highly recommend cheating. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Sour. Tangy. Lip-puckering good. I have loved lemons and all things sour since I was a little kid. I used to suck on the lemons from my parent’s sweet tea (although my dentist now tells me this probably wasn’t good for my teeth!). 

Given my life-long lemon obsession, I’ve been dying to make my own Limoncello. For those of you not familiar, Limoncello is a traditional Italian spirit made by infusing grain alcohol with lemon zest and mixing it with simple syrup. I’m not italian, but ever since I tried Limoncello in Italy while in college, I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. 

Fortunately, Limoncello is pretty easy to make, although it does take a while. Zest 10 lemons. Funnel zest into a clean bottle. Pour in 750 ml of vodka or Everclear. Steep at least a month at room temperature, shaking gently every day. Add simple syrup to taste (about 4 cups). Steep for at least two more weeks. Chill well before serving.

A few tips. Avoid zesting the pith (the white part). It's bitter and will make your Limoncello tatse funky. Speaking of zesting, pick firm lemons and use a good zester. Trust me. I now have hand cramps from my old dull one. Finally, use a spirit with high alcohol content. The higher the proof, the less alcohol and more lemon you'll taste.

Assuming this batch turns out well, I'm planning on decanting my Limoncello into smaller bottles for Christmas gifts. Check back in December to see how it tuns out!

Thanksgiving Inspiration

I'm in full Thanksgiving mode. I dream about pumpkin cheesecake. I wake up smelling turkey. I've been agonizing over table decor since September. Ever since we moved into our new house, we've been hosting this fabulous holiday. And I do love it. Especially the part where we don't have to get up off the couch to drive home after gorging. 

I've been scouring the web for some good Turkey Day inspiration and thought I'd share. 

(Clockwise from top left: Tablescape, Cranberries, Rolls, Sweet Potatoes, Chalkboard, Roasting Glaze, Oysters)

Monday, November 12, 2012

In Season: Butternut Squash

Our heater died about  3 weeks ago. And we’ve been too cheap to replace it . What’s a little cold right? Wrong. Now that it’s getting down in the 30’s and 40’s at night we’re cold. Like sweatshirts in bed cold. Ask the dog. It’s so cold even she sleeps in the bed with us now.

We finally broke down and called someone but it will be at least a week before we have a new system. So I’ve been using every excuse to cook since our gas stove heats up the kitchen. 

My favorite hot meal to make in the fall is stuffed butternut squash. Earthy, nutty and, of course, hot!.

What You'll Need:1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
3/4 lb hot sausage
1 small bell pepper
1 small Vidalia onion
2 cups stuffing, prepared
1/4 cup pecans, toasted
Salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, nutmeg

What to Do:
Place squash halves cut side down on an oiled baking sheet. Roast squash at 350 degrees for about an hour or until tender.  While squash is cooking, brown sausage. Reserve fat and use it to saute the peppers and onions until the onions are clear. Combine sausage, vegetables, stuffing and nuts in a large bowl. Season to taste. Spoon into squash halves.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fall Foraging

I love Fall. The golden leaves. The argyle sweaters. The smell of bonfires. And especially the earthy harvest flavors. The seminary down the street from us has pecan trees, which, if you can beat the squirrels to them, drop loads of delicious nuts this time of year.

The Bear and I spent a good while cracking and shelling a bag of pecans I collected the other week. The sweet, buttery insides are perfect right out the shell and smell wonderful when toasted. 

These are going in a stuffing for butternut squash. I'll post the recipe soon :)