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!
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