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.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

For Money...

We have eaten greens for new years day for years... I am beginning to question the fact that they will bring money. My understanding is that it has been proven by Southerners all over the world. The black-eyed peas are for luck and the greens are for money. Turnip greens, collard greens, or cabbage will do. We prefer turnip greens!
Fresh greens are without a doubt the hardest thing to clean, bits of sand and dirt will cling to the leaves and add a little surprise crunch when they are eaten. One old nurse I worked with said she would wash her greens in the dishwasher- now, I've never tried it, and I'm not sure I would recommend that you do either. Frozen turnips and collards are available, but I love the flavor of fresh turnips.
Southern Turnip Greens
2 pounds fresh leafy greens
1 turnip cut into small chunks
2 oz salt pork (a chunk of ham works too)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Clean the greens well, by dunking into a sink of water... drain, rinse, and do it again until the grit is gone. Break of the thick stem end, chop the leaves in half. Using a large boiler, bring water, pork, salt & sugar to a boil. Pack the greens in and cover. Reduce heat and simmer 1-2 hours until tender. If using fresh turnip root, add the last hour of cooking.

Most people will eat their greens with a little hot sauce, or pepper vinegar for an extra kick. Cornbread is a must...the final in a New Year's trilogy!
Now you have all the necessities for a healthy and prosperous new year! We hope that you spend the day watching some good football, eating a mess of greens and peas, enjoying friends and family, and putting some thought into those new year resolutions.
Happy New Year Y'all!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

For Luck...

2006 is coming to a close. This is the time of year when we are all looking to the new year for changes. It is a chance to change the future, our direction, and our fortune.
This is the very reason that any good southerner wouldn't think of having a new years day without black eyed peas, greens, and cornbread. The black eyed peas are for luck, the greens are for money, and the cornbread is for soppin it all up.
Some people refer to a big pot of black eyed peas as Hoppin' John. JJ gives a pretty good explanation for the term Hoppin' John, and a couple of good recipes for black-eyed peas. We prefer our peas and rice separate. This recipe is one that we have used for years. It will make a mess of peas, plenty to share with family and friends- pass the good luck around.
Black -Eyed Peas
2 cups dried peas
6 cups boiling water
4-5 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
salt to taste
Place dried peas in a bowl, discard any pebbles or broken beans. Cover with boiling water, let stand for two hours. In a large kettle, saute onion in bacon fat. Pour in 5 cups boiling water. Drain peas and add to the pot, add salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Cook 1-2 hours, keeping covered with water. Cook peas until tender.
This recipe is similar to the one in Fannie Flagg's Cookbook. Even Fannie says "I have never missed having black-eyed peas on that day and I have had the best of luck every year."
We may not be rich, or especially lucky... but imagine where we would be if we hadn't been eating our black-eyed peas!
Y'all enjoy!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Winding Down

Now that the gift giving is over, the chaos of the holiday season can begin to wind down. I love it. There is no hustle and bustle, or panic to beat the christmas clock. Now there is time to sit in front of the fire and reflect....or outside in the warm sunshine of Alabama.
This is the time of year when everyone makes resolutions for the New Year. I am not, by nature, a list maker... Not that I don't have lists of things to do whirling in my head! Bill, on the other hand, is a very structured list maker. He writes everything on yellow legal pads, and has stacks of them. I love that Britt-Arnhild uses her grandmother's ink and pen to make her annual resolutions on special paper. That would make your New Year's resolutions more of a promise to live by.
Writing down your resolutions will make them more sincere. A promise to yourself is the biggest promise of all.
I guess I'll give it some thought...
Bye y'all

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas Y'all

Merry Christmas Y'all!
I hope everyone was able to celebrate the joy of the season with family or friends. I hope that you could hear the jingle bells of Santa's reindeer, and that your stockings were stuffed with goodies. Mostly, I hope that you took the time to remember the true reason for our celebrations and paused for a 'silent night, holy night'.
We took a break from tradition this year and had a Christmas brunch with Quiche and Bellini's. Perfect after a late evening and a wild morning of opening gifts!
This is my favorite quiche recipe, use ham or crab, broccoli or mushrooms, fresh herbs and whatever kind of cheese you like. It is quick and easy!
Quick Quiche
1 cup diced ham
1/4 cup broccoli pieces
1/2 cup shredded cheese
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
9-inch pie crust
pre-heat oven to 425°
Press crust into a pie plate. Cover the bottom of the crust with quiche fillings that have been diced into small chunks. Wisk together eggs and cream, gently pour around the crust. Salt and pepper to taste. When putting into the oven, cover the crust with a pie shield.
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350° for 20-30 minutes. Will be lightly browned and firm when done.
Now, how many of you are back to the stores tomorrow, for returns or big bargins? You may need an extra piece of quiche just for energy!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Southern Fried Turkey

I know that the joke is that in the south we will fry just about anything. Not just green tomatoes, okra, chicken, and dill pickles... how 'bout frying a turkey this year?

The quick cooking in 350° peanut oil keeps the turkey moist, the skin is perfectly browned, and the meat is not the least bit greasy. We have a turkey frying day~ friends and neighbors gather round the fryer, and each take turns with their own bird. It is a fun way to get out of the kitchen and get the turkey done at the same time.

SoulFood shows you in a step by step tutorial how to fry a perfect turkey. Pay attention to the safety precautions! Heavy duty gloves are important, and keep the small kids in the kitchen making gingerbread cookies.

This video can show how exciting this gets~ But remember, the video is done in the Epicurious kitchen... not in our backyard. Our turkey frying day can be much more exciting.
A holiday wouldn't be the same without some southern fried turkey and cornbread dressing.
Y'all enjoy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reunions...southern style

I had the chance to be a part of a traditional family reunion last weekend. The kind that takes 365 days of planning, formal invitations, with reservations for rooms and meals. Not your average Alabama family get together at MeeMaw's.
I am not directly related; an out-law rather than an in-law... but that was close enough to get an invite. In fact I was kind of the special guest.
I wish I'd had my camera to take pictures of the table of treats. Everyone had brought a 'little something' that they had been baking for weeks. Divinity, fudge, peanut brittle, spiced pecans, gingerbread men, pecan tarts, pound cake, coconut cake, and of course a little fruit cake. Real southern cooking!
For table decorations we collected pinecones, magnolia leaves, pine boughs, and a few vines for flocking. The little ones made huge snowflakes. Several days later now I can surely say that those vines were in fact poison something... but the tables looked great.
The kids all had a great time running around the lodge area, riding scooters, throwing footballs, and even some skeet shooting. The adults gathered around the fire in a sugar lull, telling stories... and maybe a few lies. Christmas carols and s'mores around the bon fire late at night.
The highlight of the evening was a visit from Mrs. Claus. She had gifts for all of the children. Old Santa had even collected some coins for the older kids... they will have to travel farther than the Alabama state line to spend them. (Santa travels a lot you know)
This tradition of families getting together year after year is what the holidays are all about. The kids grow older, the faces change, and some are missing... but the fruit cake will always be there!
Y'all enjoy the holidays!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gingerbread Men

Peabody says she will not be a home wrecker and she prefers to eat molasses cookies. I am partial to Gingerbread Men. I like mine soft on the inside and a little crusty on the outside. Everyone eats gingerbread cookies in a different way; do you bite off the head first, one leg at a time, or by dunking them in a cup of cold milk... What's your preference?
This is an easy recipe for a gingerbread~ use yours to make a ginger family, or squares for building a gingerbread house.
Holiday Gingerbread
1 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup dark karo syrup
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 heaping Tbs cinnamon
1 heaping Tbs ginger
Using very soft butter, combine with sugars until smooth. Add vanilla and beaten egg, stir well. Sift together dry ingredients, and add slowly. Blend until a smooth dough. Cover with plastic and place in the fridge at least an hour (may sit overnight) On a floured surface roll out dough until 1/4 inch thick, cut with cookie cutters. Bake in a pre-heated oven @375 for 10-15 minutes. Cool before decorating with icing and sprinkles.
Many southern gingerbread recipes use shortening instead of butter, but I really like the butter recipe better. It makes me feel less guilty...eating little gingerbread men is bad enough.
Y'all enjoy!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas cookies

These are the imfamous Christmas Cookies. Really, it is a basic recipe for a butter cookie. It makes a great dough that can be rolled out and cut with cookie cutters. We have used it for just about any holiday...Valentines Day, St Patricks Day, Graduations and special events have been marked with this recipe.
The recipe comes from our 'Starting Fresh Cookbook'. We called it Gekie's Butter Cookies, but you can just call them Yummy.

Gekie's Butter Cookies

1 cup real butter– that’s 2 sticks
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups cake flour
pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder
4 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 400°
Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add beaten eggs and vanilla, and mix till smooth. Sift dry ingredients together then add to butter mixture, stir until smooth.
Roll dough out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters. Bake for 8-12 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Watch them, they burn quickly, they are best when only lightly browned.
Let cool and decorate with store bought icing for the holidays (any holiday!).
Makes about 3 dozen cookies. Store covered, may be frozen for several weeks.

Some of my best memories are of baking these cookies first with my mom, then watching her teach my kids to make them. The kids would spend all day icing cookies, licking fingers, and eating red hots, their little fingers would be stained green for days. The next morning the cookies would look beautiful. Some where along the way I learned her best kept secret. She would hold back enough cookies to re-ice them. (one day I will have to pass this secret on to my daughter!)

I hope you can find the fun in Christmas and take time to bake cookies with someone.
Y'all enjoy!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Traditions

Do you have holiday traditions that you look forward to and dread at the same time?

Our family has always had the tradition of taking a family photo for the Christmas cards. We can't just go to Olan Mills or use the photo that is in the annual church directory. This picture has to be creative, everyone must be smiling and happy, it helps to have a holiday theme... and most importantly it has to be good of Mom! We have done everything from pulling a sled down the beach while dressed in matching Christmas sweatshirts, to setting the self-timer on the camera and running to pose in front of the tree. As the kids get older and have lives of their own, it gets a little more difficult. We have broadened our time frame and now a 'family photo' that is taken any time within the year when we are all together will work.
The annual Christmas letter is another tradition that has been cut way back. I no longer go into details about trips, surgeries, job changes, or weight changes. I don't send them to a list of hundreds. Friends can now check out the blog for day-to-day updates. And...basically I have realized that our lives are just not that exciting.
Decorating for Christmas is another task I face with a crazed love/hate passion. I do love sitting by the fireplace enjoying the lights of the tree. Bill will agree that there is a period of mania that comes when the boxes first come out of the attic...and again in January~ but I refuse to think about that now.
The real Christmas tradition is the making of Christmas cookies. I don't mean the pretty sprinkled sugar cookies, the fun marshmallow fudge, or even the chunky fruit cookies. These are the cookies that are the obsession of a perfectionist desperate housewife.
And this is the weekend!
Y'all stay tuned!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sunken Chocolate Cake

This is a dessert that a friend has made for us when we get together for dinner & dominos. I finally talked her out of the recipe, so I could share it with you. It is a light 'bitter' chocolate cake that is served with a scoop of coffee icecream. You really have to try it, it is wonderful. Read through the directions before you get'll be suprised that is doesn't have any flour in it.
Sunken Chocolate Cake
with coffee ice cream

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 large egg yolks
2 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly butter 4 jumbo muffin tins or souffle cups, coat with sugar and set aside. Cut the butter and chocolate for easier melting, place into a double boiler or a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir chocolate and butter over the heat until melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks with 2 Tbs sugar and wisk until thick. Stir in the chocolate mixture slowly.
Wisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add 2 Tbs sugar and wisk until stiff and shining, but not until dry. Fold into the chocolate mixture. Place 4 cups on a cookie sheet, and divide mixture evenly.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool in cups for 15 minutes. The cake will sink down in the center (don't panic). Remove from cups to a dessert place. Serve warm with a scoop of really good coffee ice cream in the center.

I am going to try it during the holidays with some pepermint ice cream...I am betting that will be yummy too!

Y'all enjoy!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Gift ideas

Like many of you I have been racking my brain for Christmas gift ideas. I have been surfing the internet looking for something thoughtful, unique, and personal. I have some personal favorites. Not that I have had much luck on my own shopping list...but maybe I can help with yours.

Have you seen Fannie Flagg's book "A Redbird Christmas"? It is a wonderful story about the magic of christmas, of faith and hope, set in a small southern town. A new copy of the novel 'Fried Green Tomatoes at the WhistleStop Cafe' or the DVD would be fun. Fannie is a wonderful southern storyteller, and a dear friend of our family. The perfect christmas gift.

Our newest cookbook 'Starting Fresh' is a great gift for new cooks, or old cooks looking for some fresh new ideas. I'm partial, of course, but we have tried every recipe in our own kitchen. I happen to know how to get you an autographed copy! If you'd like the more traditional recipe book Mom's 'Original WhistleStop Cookbook' is full of old recipes from the cafe and cooking tips. Fannie's 'WhistleStop Cookbook' has recipes and some great southern stories.

We have some new fun aprons that should be out any day now. We may have to sweet talk the production crew with some homemade brownies. They will have cute southern sayings; 'gimme some sugar', 'the secret's in the sauce'...I'll post a picture as soon as I can.
Check out our website at the WhistleStop link under our favorite links, where most of this is available. Daily Candy is another link with some fun ideas about new products and shopping ideas.
Of course all of this is not any help for me. What do I get for someone who doesn't need a thing, and has his own private stockpile of Z-14 colonge?
Y'all help!

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!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pumpkin Time

We are ready for our little goblins to visit tonight. This will be the perfect night for a pot of warm soup. A friend sent her favorite pumpkin soup recipe, I will share it with you. It uses canned pumpkin and is quick and easy...which is good. This witch has better things to do tonight than stand over a hot stove, stirring a temperamental soup!

Pumpkin Soup
1 Tbs chopped green onions
2 Tbs butter
1 16oz can Pure Pumpkin
1 cup water
1 Tbs brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
2 chicken bullion cubes
2 cups cream (whole milk will make a lighter soup)
Salt &Pepper to taste
Sauté onion until tender. Stir in pumpkin, add water, spices, and bullion. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add cream and heat through... do not boil. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of mint.

Y'all enjoy!

Monday, October 30, 2006


Halloween is one of those holidays that carries wonderful memories. As the kids have grown and moved away, this day has lost a lot of it's fantasy. I still look forward to seeing all the little goblins come to the door for treats, the older kids lurking in the background planning tricks. We are the house on the block that has good candy- hershey's chocolates, super bubble bubble gum, and those sour things that turn your mouth inside out.

'Back in the day' we used to look forward to caramel apples and popcorn balls. I will hold the tradition of dressing like a witch, and having the kids reach in to my pot of goodies..."He-He-He my dearies!"
Y'all have a gooly time!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Up & Running!

We started this bloggin' thing a month ago....I have learned a lot! I have gone from a total computer imbecile to a web surfer- OK, still surfing with swimmies on. Getting my feet wet was the biggest step, I have Robert Linthout our web designer to thank for that little push.

I have learned the most from friends at Slow Travel- a web site that is not only travel related, but a bit of everything, from food to fashion. A site like this shows what a small world we live in, Alabama to Australia, we are all the same. When you get down to the heart of things, we care about family, food, trying new things, and finding comfort in the familiar. We now have a new international counter that can track visitors. It will be fun to watch the flags pop up with friends around the world!

I have also learned some other things in dealing with the Internet...don't search with words like couple or sausage, images will pop up that can make you spew coffee. We really don't want to see our kid's 'My Space'. The html's and url's are really not as intimidating as they seem. (If this entire site disappears tomorrow you will know I goofed!) Words can always be edited, and God invented spell check to make us all feel smarter. I am still wowed by the things I have managed to do...Not uncommon in this quiet house to hear a 'woopie' when something actually works.

I have also learned that there is more to how to keep pictures from being fuzzy, how to be found by the search thingy's, and how to get Bill to start posting!
Bye Y'all,

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Daylight Saving Time

This is the biggest misnomer of all time. In the fall this change of the clocks is 'Daylight Wasting Time'. The evenings are getting shorter as it is, and tonight we loose another hour.
We can look forward to driving home from work with headlights on. Kids will be getting off the school buses at dusk. We will be feeling the need to start dinner at 4 in the afternoon. No more hide and seek, or kick the can in the streets- it will be dark so much earlier. How can just one hour make such a difference?
If it would only work the other way, we would be more invigorated to get up at 5 am, with the roosters. I tend to be an early riser anyway; but I'd bet most people won't be getting up an hour earlier to see the sun rise.

Time to turn those clocks back!

By Y'all!


Friday, October 27, 2006

Baked Potato Soup

It is a rainy and nasty day in Alabama! Perfect weather for a big bowl of hearty soup.
This potato soup is great for a Saturday watching football...especially if Friday night you bake potatoes for dinner. Bake 2 extra potatoes and put them in the fridge for the next day.
Baked Potato Soup
2 large baked potatoes
2 Tbs butter
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, diced
1 can chicken broth
1 1/2 cup milk
salt & ground pepper to taste
4 slices bacon- cooked and crumbled
cheddar cheese, grated
sour cream
Saute onion, celery, and garlic in butter. Add chicken broth and simmer. Chop baked potatoes into chunks, add to pot. (the potatoes will smish down while cooking) Over low heat, add milk. Simmer 10-15 minutes, careful not to boil and burn the milk.
When serving, top with bacon, cheese, or sour cream~ or a little of each!

When I am baking potatoes I usually rub the outsides with olive oil, and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. We like our soup with the potato skins on. If you would rather you could easily skin them.
Enjoy a pot of steamy soup, and Stay Dry!
Bye Y'all

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How 'bout some chowder?

On a cold and rainy day soup is the perfect meal. We love to make a big pot and then have plenty for leftovers. This is a chowder that is quick and easy- and delicious as well! This is a southern chowder that is made with shrimp instead of the traditional New England clams. The best shrimp to use are the small frozen popcorn type shrimp. Keep them on hand in the freezer for another rainy day.

Shrimp Chowder
4 chicken bullion cubes
1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cans creamed style corn
2 cans whole kernel corn
2 12oz cans evaporated milk
1 12oz pkg frozen shrimp (peeled)

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup water and bullion in a large pot, bring to a boil. Simmer onion, garlic, and peppers until tender. Add 1 cup water, undrained cans of corn, and milk; bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer over low heat 15 minutes or until well heated. Stir in shrimp. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil and cracked black pepper when serving.

Serve with a hot pan of cornbread for a complete meal. How easy is that?
Y’all enjoy,

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New England in the Fall...

The fall colors have been beautiful this year. I understand that it has to do with the amount of moisture in the leaves, the heat of the sun, the temperatures at night, the amount of wind; basically the glory of God!
I have spent a week in New England, from Providence, Rhode Island to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I ate my way across country~ clam chowder in Providence, wellfleet oysters and lobster in Boston, butternut squash soup, pumpkin soup, and more chowder in New Hampshire.
I think this proves that good home cookin’ is not just a southern thing! There is good eatin’ all over this country.
We took a boat ride in the small boston whaler up (down?) the north river- which is on the south shore of Boston. Go Figure! It was beautiful. It is hard to believe that in another month it will all be covered with a layer of snow. To cold for me!!
I would love a recipe for some good pumpkin soup- anyone have one?
Y’all let me hear!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Off to Boston!

I am off to Boston!. My sister and her family live in a small town on the south shore. She is a southern girl who is learning to bloom in the cold New England weather.
Good home cooking is the same no matter where you are. I love a great pot of chowder-- in fact one of our first stops will have to be Legal Seafood.
There are so many things she is not able to find in the stores. I think it is a hoot that 'southern food' is in the foreign foods section! Grits can be found next to the soy sauce. Mexican, Asian, Southern.
I plan to pack a suitcase with treats from Alabama. The security check point will wonder what-the-heck? I don't dare carry anything on- unlike years ago when I had a small backpack cooler full of cream corn and krispy kreme donuts.
I better start looking for my long-johns! Then I am off to the store for pecans, buffalo rock gingerale, Zatarans shrimp boil, and of course some WhistleStop marinade
Bye Y'all,

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thought for the day

Thought for the day:
If diet food tasted like bacon and biscuits,
We'd all be thinner!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fall is here!

It is beginning to feel like fall. The dogwoods are just beginning to turn red. We have had 80 & 90 degree days up until now. We are ready for some cool temperatures!
Who wants to sit at an Auburn or Alabama football game when it is hot enough to fry an egg?
Bye Y'all !

Monday, October 09, 2006


In an earlier blog I mentioned that our family sold the WhistleStop Cafe and Mom & Dad retired from the resturant business. I found these pictures and thought...who wouldn't rather wash babies?

They had spent years working day after day serving a 'meat and three' menu to hundreds every lunch, and some breakfasts and dinners as well. At home we can all still count on good southern cooking. They stay involved in the business and have been helpful with new cookbooks, and are always with trying out new products. But they now have the time to really appreciate Mary Joan- the newest McMichael.

Life is to short to not enjoy the special moments! It isn't always about the money you make or the success you achieve... Sometimes it is just about living in the moment!

So, If you have a choice between washing dishes or washing babies... babies are so much sweeter!

Bye Y'all!
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