Sandi is blogging from the WhistleStop Cafe kitchen. It's all about good home cooking; food, family and fun. Thousands of posts . . .

~In the south and around the world.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Home Projects

Why is it that a small project that can be done on HGTV in a 30 minute program, will turn into a 4 day obsession for me. I manage to get wrapped up into these little projects ... and everything else has to go on hold. Dishes, cooking, cleaning, even WhistleStop Cafe blogging... Bill and Fancy have learned to stay out of the way.

My little redecorating project was simply to cover up the outdated wallpaper in the kitchen~ a quick HGTV segment that I have seen before. Now, I have taken down my share of wallpaper in the past, and I will just say that I don't have enough fingernails or patience to ever do that again.

My friend 'Tim the toolman' told me that the quick and easy way would be to mix the paint with sheet-rock mud and slap it on over the paper. Two misleading words here would be 'quick' and 'easy'....but I was ready to get 'r done.

Really y'all, it wasn't complicated; just time consuming, back breaking, and exhausting. The paper didn't need to come down, but the walls did need to be scrubbed. I mixed the mud to the perfect color and consistency, taped off everything I didn't want covered in yellow~ and 'we' were ready to go.

There is an art to slapping on mud, with a casual perfection. I think I finally got it as I rounded the last cabinet! I never did develop the quick or the easy style. I managed to cover everything...the floor, the trim, and myself.
I will admit... it looks fabulous! It gives our whole kitchen a Tuscan style. It is much lighter, brighter, and fresh looking.
I am now more convinced than ever that behind the cameras at buy-it-here-and-do-it-yourself-TV there are extra helpers. So much for reality TV. Next you will try to convince me that the Bachelor isn't really in love.

What do y'all think?

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I couldn’t post yesterday. I was still suffering from too much food. All day I could feel the blood slugging through my veins like cornbread dressing and the gallon of sweet tea in my ankles. This morning a trip for my ‘curve’s’ and I am feeling whole again.
Now I can start to think about those leftovers!
I am going to use some of the leftover turkey to make a yummy pot of Turkey Gumbo. I use the same basic recipe that I have posted before, but will cook down the bones and good stuff for broth, add turkey, and some oysters in the end. The kids are home for a quick visit~ so gumbo and a movie sound just perfect.
I saw a fun recipe on the Food Network for a Cranberry Bruschetta that will make for great snacking while everyone is standing in the kitchen watching me cook…Not that I am complaining~ I wouldn’t have it any other way! (unless someone wants to grab the dish soap and a drying cloth!)
Cranberry Bruschetta
Loaf of French bread
2 gloves garlic
½ cup leftover cranberry sauce
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
Pre heat the oven to 350°
Slice the bread on the diagonal in ¼ inch slices. Rub each slice with a piece of cut garlic, for the garlic flavor. Place on a cookie sheet and lightly toast on one side. On the untoasted side, generously smear cranberries, top with a sprinkling of crumbled blue cheese. Pop in the oven until the cheese is bubbly.
I wonder if I can get any help with the christmas decorations?
Y’all enjoy!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

As you gather round the Thanksgiving table this year,
count you blessings as precious, even Aunt Sister- 'My dear'.
May your turkey be tastey, if it's fried, grilled, or roasted;
your buns be light- not burned just toasted.
May your souffle be covered with marshmallow plump,
your gravy be perfect without any lumps.
May the dessert table be covered with cakes and pies,
don't even worry as the calories rise.
After you've eaten, loosen your belt and snore,
Tomorrow starts first at the store!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pecan Pie

How do You say the word P-E-C-A-N? Is it Pee-can or pee-Cahn? Someone told me once that it all depends on how much time you’ve spent picking ‘em off the ground or picking 'em out of the shell. When your back is aching from bending over they are definitely Pee-cans! If you look it up, I believe they are both correct.
Pecan pie is our favorite, with a scoop if ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
Pecan Pie
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/3 cup butter melted
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1 9” pie crust
Pre-heat oven to 350

Combine syrup, sugar, salt, and butter. Beat the eggs, then add into the sugar mixture. Beat all of the ingredients until fluffy. Place the pecan pieces in the bottom of the un-cooked pie crust. Pour syrup mixture over the nuts, these nuts will rise to the top. Take a handful of pretty pecan halves and arrange them gently on the top of the pie. Use a pie shield or foil to prevent the crust from burning. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Y'all enjoy!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cheatin' is just fine!

I have often told my children that that lyin' and cheatin' are two ways to get yourself into a real mess of trouble. This is really not a matter of telling a big lie~ just a little fibbin'. Really, not even that... if anyone asks I will tell the truth.

I use premade piecrusts.
I have learned to do it the real way, by watching my Mon and Grandmother, and could if I needed to. If you have ever used them though, these new refrigerated pie crusts that are pre-made are so easy. They are ready to put into your own pie plate and bake. They taste almost as good as the ones I have spent time rolling out. In my humble opinion, I don't think the frozen crusts in the tin plates are a substitution under any circumstances.
There... the truth is out. I may be banned from all food blogs, and my cooking advice may be poo-poo'd away. Saving time is just to important these days, for me and I think for a lot of other busy mom's.
As we come to Thanksgiving ~this is one thing we have to be thankful for...Pre-made pie crust!
Y'all forgive me!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bundles of Beans

Every one loves green beans. This is a quick and easy recipe that would be a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving. It actually is green beans tied into bundles; in individual servings. Not only is it easy, but something that the kids could help with. It can be done while everyone is gathered in the kitchen, or prepared earlier and cooked at the last minute. We suggested turkey bacon, because it is lower in fat, but with the same great flavor.
Bundles of Beans
4-6 slices of turkey bacon
1 pound fresh green beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs butter,melted

Slice bacon strips lengthwise. Wrap 6-8 green beans in a bundle and secure with a strip of bacon. Place in a baking dish. Mix minced garlic, brown sugar and butter into a measuring cup. Drizzle over the bundles of beans. Bake, uncovered, @ 325 for 20-30 minutes. The bacon will be brown and crispy, beans will still be green and tender.

This dish is another of the fresh and exciting recipes in our newest cookbook 'Starting Fresh'. We wrote this cookbook with our kids in mind~ as they were leaving home and starting their own lives. College, jobs, and new apartments. Now we can look forward to them coming home for the holidays ...a little older, and a maybe little wiser.
Well y'all, I can dream anyway!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

THE green bean casserole

I think everyone has had this green bean casserole. It is a tradition at our Thanksgiving meal. It is quick and easy and can be done ahead of time and popped in the oven for the last few minutes. I prefer fresh green beans, they seem to hold up and are not as mushy as canned. I will also sometimes add toasted almond slivers, for a little crunch.

Green Bean Casserole
1 10oz cream of mushroom soup
½ cup milk
1 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp pepper
4 cups green beans (drain if canned)
1 2oz can French-fried onions

Mix soup and milk in a bowl until well blended. Add soy sauce and pepper. Stir in beans and half of onions, mix well. Pour into a casserole dish. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly; top with remaining onions. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until onions are golden brown.
Whenever I have a houseful for dinner, whether it is for Thanksgiving or another occasion, I like to get most of the messy cooking out of the way. The dirty dishes can all be washed up and put away, then leave the casseroles warming in the oven. This casserole is a perfect example of a pop-it-in at the last minute dish. It makes life so much easier ~ and I can actually have time to visit friends and family.
Y’all enjoy!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Iron Bowl

Today is the day… 364 days a year Bill and I are in agreement. Well, maybe not total agreement; more like yen and yang, salt and pepper, cheese and grits. We compliment each other well.

This is the day that Auburn and Alabama play in the Iron Bowl. This is the biggest thing in Alabama since we were attacked in the War of Northern Aggression. Everyone, even babies and pets, choose sides.

I moved to Alabama in my teens, without a clue about all of this War Eagle and Roll Tide excitement. My Dad, ‘The Colonel’ , moved us to Auburn to run the Air Force ROTCi the 70's. My freckles soon turned orange and blue- and have been ever since.
Bill is proud to say that he played ball with the great Johnny Musso, he can quote ‘The Bear’ on many subjects, and would not be caught wearing orange for any reason. The whole McMichael clan bleeds red and white.

One year we were even written up in the local paper as a ‘house divided’. Yet year after year we look forward to ( or dread ) this day.
So… today the Tide meets the Tigers. It is about 364 days of bragging rights. It is always a nail biter day, our fate will depend on the wind, and the rain… May the best team win!

War Eagle Y’all!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cranberry Salad

This is another cranberry salad that is made into individual molds or can be served right out of the bowl. We use it during the holidays, but it is a great compliment to chicken, or pork. It is easily made ahead and put in the fridge to set. It is full of berries and pineapple, a tastey treat anytime. This is from our ‘Starting Fresh’ cookbook…
Cranberry Salad
1 can whole berry cranberries
1 sm can crushed pineapple
1 can ‘Ocean Spray’ orange relish
1 cup chopped pecans
1 4oz pkg raspberry jello
½ pkg gelatin
1 ½ cups boiling water
Pour boiling water over raspberry jello and gelatin, Stir until dissolved. Stir in other ingredients. Pour into individual molds or into a shallow baking dish. Refrigerate until firm.
To remove from the molds; set in a shallow pan of warm water for just a minute…hold your mouth just like this…and it will slide out easily when turned upside down.
Y’all have fun!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cranberry Chutney

If cranberry juice, citrus, and a twist of lime can make a Cosmopolitan, than this cranberry relish must be a 'cosmopolitan chutney'. It takes the traditional cranberry sauce and raises it up a notch.

Cranberry Chutney
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 pkg fresh cranberries

1 green apple, diced
1 orange, peeled&divided
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup cider vinegar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice
pinch of cloves

In a medium saucepan combine sugar, water, and cranberries. Bring to a boil to make the cranberries
‘pop’. Add remaining ingredients and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes to reduce some of the liquid.
Pour into individual martini glasses or a serving dish. Cover with plastic, placing the plastic directly on top of the fruit. Store in the refrigerator until firm, serve at room temp.

The martini glasses are pretty on the table at each place setting. This can be a part of your decorations. How easy is that?
Y’all enjoy!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sweet Potato Souffle

Sweet potato soufflé is another traditional dish at our Thanksgiving table. We always have it. Now, technically, it is a vegetable, but it's sweet enough to be a dessert. No wonder there are never any leftovers! This recipe is from Mom’s cookbook ‘The Original WhistleStop Cookbook’. She has the traditional ‘from a sweet potato’ recipe – as opposed to my original ‘from a can’ of sweet potatoes. No doubt, Mom’s is always better!
Sweet Potato Soufflé
3 pounds sweet potatoes
½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Large marshmallows
Place sweet potatoes in a saucepan of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook 40 minutes until very soft. When done, drain and rinse potatoes until cool enough to handle. (Potatoes can also be baked in the oven until soft.) Peel and place in a mixing bowl. Add butter, then mash potatoes. Add brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg; blend with a mixer until smooth. Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover the top with marshmallows. Return to the oven and bake long enough to brown the top.
I will also sprinkle a few pecans on top to add a little crunch. You have to try making sweet potatoes and topping them with our WhistleStop cobbler mix for a crispy crust…talk about some good eatin’!
Y'all Enjoy~

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cornbread Dressing

Let’s talk turkey… It is time to start getting the menu set, do some grocery shopping, maybe even get other people to agree to bring things to your Thanksgiving feast. What a better way than to say ‘Go to the WhistleStop Cafe Cooking blog and make the Cornbread dressing’ ~Even Aunt Sister can’t mess that up!
Dressing is different from stuffing. Stuffing is what goes in the turkey. Dressing is the southern style casserole that goes along with your turkey. We traditionally make a cornbread dressing; made with crumbled cornbread, eggs, and fresh sage. It is best if it is made a day ahead, even a few days ahead and put it in the freezer.
Try changing it to suit your family’s taste- add oysters if you are from the coast, andouille sausage if you’re feeling Cajun, a few pecans if you come from Georgia. It will make a big enough pan to feed a mess of people. This recipe is from our 'Starting Fresh' cookbook...
Southern Cornbread Dressing
1 large pan cornbread
3 cups soft breadcrumbs
½ cup butter
2 onions diced
3 cups celery, diced
½ cup chopped fresh sage (1Tbs dried)
4 eggs
60 oz chicken broth, undiluted
1 Tbs fresh pepper
Crumble cornbread, and mix with breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Saute onions and celery in butter until tender, add sage, and stir one minute more. In the breadcrumb bowl, combine chicken broth, eggs, pepper, and cooled vegetables. (This will be soupy!) Pour into a buttered 13x9 in baking dish. Place in the fridge overnight (may sit for less if needed) Bake @ 375°, uncovered for 30-45 minutes.

To freeze this ahead of time; prepare and bake for 30 minutes. Wrap tightly in foil and freeze. When you are ready to use it, allow to thaw completely. Poke several holes in the top. Combine 1 Tbs melted butter and 1/4 cup water; drizzle over the top to keep the dressing moist. Bake until heated through and browned on top.
Sometimes we will make 2 smaller pans, it helps with the juggling act just before dinner… heat the rolls, the dressing, and casseroles, stir the gravy, slice the turkey, sweet tea in the glasses –the rolls are burning!
Y’all just be Thankful!

Friday, November 10, 2006

All day eating event

Thanksgiving menu…southern tradition
The best holiday for eating is without a doubt…Thanksgiving! They even plan football games so that we have time to digest food between trips to the kitchen. It is an all day eating event.
The McMichael’s really know how to put out a spread. Mom and Dad still think they are cooking for all of Irondale. Their home is always open to friends and family. There will be more than plenty for everyone!
For years the WhistleStop cafe was busy in the rush before the holidays making pans of turkey and dressing, sweet potato souffle, greens and all the fixin’s for a homemade dinner. Pecan and pumpkin pies for dessert. In fact just the other day Bill got a call from someone wanting to order dressing for their Thanksgiving dinner… found us in the phone book and called us at home. Now, let me remind you that our family sold the cafe 6 years ago, people are still looking for some of that cornbread dressing. I will be making it this year, but not for 100's of people!
Over the next few weeks I will post some of our best recipes for our traditional southern Thanksgiving feast. This is good southern cooking; If you are on a low carb diet you might go hungry!
Bye Y'all~

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thanks & Giving

Thanks and giving
"It’s not just what you have, but what you give away "
It's November and we are heading into the busiest season… shopping, planning, cooking, cleaning. It is easy to forget what all this is about. This time of year is about tradition, family, friends and sharing all of those things.
The holidays are not always easy for everyone; I know how hard it is to be a part of the festivities when your heart is breaking. An empty place at the family table can leave a huge hole.
That is why the words of that song mean so very much. We all have something to give. It may just be a smile, share some time, or a meal. Let’s remember as we are thankful for what we have~ and that we can also be generous with what we give.
Bye Y'all!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Finally Fall~Y'all

It is finally fall in Alabama. I know that New England is known for its beautiful colors in the fall, tourist time their visits to take advantage of the change of seasons. I'm here to tell you that Alabama is everybit as breathtaking.
Today was a perfect 76'; warm with glorious sunshine. The trees are the brightest crimson, purples, yellows, and orange. We have a few rolling hills around this area, and plenty of country back roads. I had to take a ride in the buglau~ through the falling leaves with the top down, with the smell of burning leaves out in the fields. It doesn't get any better than that!
If you ever get a chance, travel through the state of Alabama. From the foot of the smokies to the sugar white beaches, we have a little of everything. Years ago we had friends that rode their bikes from north of Birmingham to the gulf coast; down hwy 31. That is quite a hike!
I think I would prefer the trip in a convertible!
Y'all Enjoy the Sunshine!

Monday, November 06, 2006


Tomorrow is election day- I remember this because Bob Riley and Lucy Baxley have both interrupted my dinner tonight to remind me to vote for them. Nothing like a personally recorded recording to encourage me to action!
I was raised a military brat, to be proud of my country, support our troops, and do what I can to make a difference.
Politics aside...I will be glad to exercise my American right and cast my vote. I hope that everyone cares enough to at least mark the ballot.
If for no other reason than to stop the commercials!!
Y'all get out and Vote!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Good Glory, It's Gumbo Time!

When we make a pot of gumbo, it is party time. This is one of the meals we serve when we have 2 or 12 over for dinner. Gumbo is even better the second day (when the company is gone). The secret is using the freshest ingredients. Shrimp from Jo Patty’s may be best- but now there are so many fresh seafood markets you can get good seafood anywhere. We usually use whatever we have on hand... shrimp, oysters, scallops. Andouille sausage is a Cajun style sausage that has a little spice. More or less- just like you like it. Cook the chicken and sausage the longest. Oysters go in last- careful not to stir the oysters to much and smish ‘em.
Seafood Gumbo
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup all purpose flour
1# chicken pieces
1# large shrimp, bay scallops, oysters
1# Andouille sausage
32 oz chicken broth
2 bell peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt & pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper (more or less)
bunch of green onions chopped

Start the gumbo by making your roux, see the earlier post for hints on that. In the bottom of a large boiling pot, saute onions and peppers in butter. You will want to start adding some broth to the skillet to thin your roux, then pour the it into the pot. Stir like hell. Add chicken broth, stir some more until there are no clumps. Add chicken, sausage, and spices. Stir until well blended. Cover and simmer until the chicken is done. If you use whole chicken pieces take them out to pull the meat off the bone. Add cleaned shrimp and scallops, cooking on medium heat till shrimp are pink (10 minutes) Add the delicate oysters last. Remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. If the gumbo is not as thick as you like it , you can add some file. Serve in a large bowl on top of a scoop of rice, with a garnish of green onions.

Any leftovers? Save the gumbo seperate from the rice- it will keep it from getting all thick and gooey.
A lesson learned...The last time I made gumbo I had to make an emergency phone call; the andouille sausage was Too Hot and my pot would'a set you on fire…I mean inedible! I took the master's advice and added a potato cut into quarters. Boiled it for 15 minutes then threw the potato out. It worked!! The potato had soaked up some of the spice and saved my Gumbo.

Y’all enjoy!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Roux- not rough!

Gumbo is a great southern meal. Perfect on a chilly Saturday afternoon watching the big football games. We usually make a big pot while at the beach, where the sea food is freshest.
Gumbo is not without controversy though! Some people like their gumbo with okra and tomatoes; just as many like their's minus the slime. (Ok, So I am partial) One time we actually had a family gumbo cook off to see who made the best pot. My brother-in-law grew up working on shrimping boats out of the gulf coast and likes the okra and tomato style. I learned Gumboism from a family of Creole Louisiana cooks, I will admit my gumbo is not as good as Master Fredd's...But I'm still trying!
The first step in making a good pot of gumbo is a thick roux base-, which is just browned flour and oil. It is about a 1:1 ratio, "a pinch mo o' dis a pinch mo o' dat." The browning gives the roux its flavor.
The secret to a good roux is using a heavy iron skillet that has been seasoned. Using a small amount of oil, brown the flour. Add oil until the consistency is like cake batter, and the color is coffee brown. A medium dark roux will take about 15 minutes of continuous stirring...and I do mean no stopping...just let the phone ring if your roux is at risk! A good roux has a smokey, nutty flavor and is used as a base in most Cajun cooking.
Try it…it may take more than one try to get it right. If you see black specks it has burned, start again. All you have is oil and flour. But don’t try tasting it…remember-it’s only flour and oil!
If you can’t quite master the roux…there are ‘cheaters’ available. Look in the Southern Foods section. There are powder bases made from several companies, a file powder that can be added in the very end to thicken a watery soup, and there is also a roux in a jar that is really great (if you can find it!).
Y’all enjoy!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Recipe...nothing more than a guideline!

For me, a recipe is a guide line- a list of suggestions to cook with. I know there are always flavors that blend well together, so I am quick to add a little spice or an herb. My favorites are basil and rosemary, usually not at the same time! Many times I will use whatever I have on hand- a little more or a little less. I try to use low fat, low carb substitutions whenever they will work.
Having said that, let me be clear...not all things lend well to substitutions. Baking, like cakes, breads, or delicate soufflés are usually recipes that need to be followed carefully. Kind of like knitting- a sweater better be followed closely, but a scarf can include a little experimentation! I know this to be true, because I have knitted many a short armed sweater.
Feel free to take our recipe suggestions and make them yours. Let me know when you are able to make them better! I love hearing your comments.
Bye Y’all!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Snickers, Junior Mints, Butterfingers too

How much left over Halloween candy do you have? The kids would always dump out the bags and sort through the 'good stuff'. I am going to go ahead and guess that no one needs to eat all of that candy- especially in one night. Tummy's are hurting this morning!
This is an easy recipe for a frozen pie that can be made with left-over candy bars. I have used butterfinger candy bars, but you could easily use just about any kind. Snickers, Reeses, Milky Ways... I think Junior Mints would really be yummy.
Butterfinger Pie
5 butterfinger candy bars
8oz cream cheese
8oz tub chocolate whipped cream
graham cracker shell
Freeze candy bars until stiff. Chop into small pieces with a large knife. Mix together cream cheese, and chocolate whipped cream until smooth. When well blended add chopped candy bars- reserve some for topping. Pour into a pre-made pie crust. Sprinkle the top with diced candy pieces. Freeze 1 hour before serving.
Y'all Enjoy!
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