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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Photo Hunt ~Books

The photo hunt for this week is 'books'You could guess which are my favorites.
Happy hunting y'all!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Southern cookin, Tuscan style

I have been so lucky to have this oportunity... to share my southern style of cookin in a Tuscan kitchen. My friend Gail of Gail's Great Escapes has invited me to spend 2 weeks cooking in this fabulous kitchen.
It is a little challenging, no microwave, a tempermental gas stovetop that I am not used to... it is hard to figure out the temperature. Other than that I am in hog heaven.

The garden right out the door is full of basil, rosemary, sage (or salvia), and a full vegetable garden with squash, tomatoes, lettuce and artichokes. Just walking through with my coffee in the morning is a rush of pleasure. It is lovingly tended by Evo, who has promised to come to our party this Thursday.

I have brought several recipes from home. I am cooking for the next 2 groups coming to the villa. I will have to post photos when I am home again, or when I use my laptop. I brought some WhistleStop marinade along with me for the Lemon-caper chicken, and the Rosemary pork tenderloin.

No one will leave hungry!
Ciao y'all!

Monday, May 25, 2009


This is my second time to come to Montisi to stay in the Villa Maddalena (seriously click on that link) with Gail's Great Escape. Coming to Montisi this time feels like home.
This is a midevil Tuscan villiage with the original walls and beautiful alleyways (they call these roads) and fabulous homes. Montisi is a unique hillside town with a little of everything... very little. There is a coffee shop and an outdoor trattoria that suposedly has WiFi (I haven't been able to find out how to get onto it!) I have found my way to an internet bar in Montepulciano so I can atleast check in... no new photos until I can get my laptop up and going.

We have had the chance to eat at Roberto's Taverna in Montisi. I will post more on that later, but I can say it was a fun evening under the stars. The food was fabulous and the company even better.

This will be my home for the next couple of weeks. I will post as often as possible. Y'all can travel with me!

Ciao yall

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Photo Hunt ~Plastic

The photo hunt for this week is 'plastic'.
When I first saw these outside the flower shop in Cortona I was amazed...until I got a little closer.
Happy hunting y'all!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When in Rome...

Our trip to Rome started as a small groups of friends and has turned into a wedding and a big family reunion. We have ended up with 3 apartments and several different hotels spread across the city.

We are staying at the Residenza Canali near the Piazza Navona. This is a charming hotel that I would recommend to anyone. It is small but everything is first class. We even have an internet hook-up in the lobby.
What a location! We are mearly steps away from the most amazing Piazza in Rome. The street is full of antique shops and leads straight to the Vatican.
I was hoping to post more photos, and will as soon as I can use my laptop with wireless. Y'all can share a glass of wine on the terrace!

Ciao Bella~

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bella Roma!

I have made it to Rome... what a fabulous city! There is not another word to use, unless it would be ...
I have internet at our hotel... I will be checking in.
Ciao y'all,

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sunday Salad~ Thai

This week's Sunday Salad Sampler is from Jerry. He and Paul are always doing fun cooking classes, and this is a variation of a salad from one of their Thai classes. I love the flavors of Thai food, spicy and savory at the same time.

This makes a great salad... but it is more like a meal. The chicken is marinated, the dressing mixed, and then it is all layered on a base of greens. Jerry gives great advice about adjusting flavors in Thai food... I'll have to remember that!

Thai Chicken Salad

For the chicken:

4 roasted chicken breasts
½ tsp chopped galangal (can substitute with ginger)
Juice of two limes
1 ½ tsp minced bird’s eye chilies (or 1 tsp chili paste such as sambel oelek)
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 kaffir lime laves – centre rib removed, cut in a chiffonade
¾ tsp fish sauce
Shred the chicken breast.
Mix all of the dressing ingredients.
Toss the shredded chicken with the dressing. Adjust the seasonings – there should be a balance of hot, sour, and salt. To adjust seasonings in Thai food follow these rough guidelines . . . if it is too sweet add more fish sauce . . . too salty add more sugar . . . not tangy enough - add more lime juice . . . not hot enough - add more chili or some sambel oelek

For the salad base:
2 T fish sauce
2 T palm sugar – (can substitute with regular or brown sugar)
¼ cup lime juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 bird’s eye chilies, minced
1 bunch watercress, trimmed
8 Napa cabbage leaves cut in a chiffonade
16 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cup blanched green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
½ bunch cilantro, leaves trimmed and coarsely chopped
½ bunch mint, leaves trimmed and cut in a chiffonade
½ cup roasted peanuts (non-salted) or cashews, chopped

Mix the fish sauce through to chilies in a jar. Stir/shake well to dissolve sugar. Taste for seasonings). Store it in the refrigerator overnight so the flavours come together.
Mix together the watercress through mint in a large bowl.
Toss with dressing.

To serve:
Divide the vegetable mixture amongst 4 plates.
Add the chicken on top of the vegetable mixture.
Sprinkle with chopped, roasted nuts. You can also add some cilantro to garnish.

This is what we call a 'supper salad' in the South. One heaping plate of chicken and veggies. Perfect for a hot summer day.

Y'all enjoy!


Photo Hunt ~Painted

The photo hunt for this week is 'painted'.
What better than the painting I did last year in my art lessons with Liz. More art lessons next week in Italy!
Happy hunting y'all!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Road Trip!

This time next week I will be in Italy!
I am trying now to figure out what I need for the next few weeks and what I can leave at home. I am going with my Great Escapes! friend Gail... I went last year as a tourist, this year I am going back as the hired help. I will be cooking for her guests and helping around the villa. I think that makes me an Italian 'casalinga'. I am really looking forward to this because 2 of her guests this year are my friends who are getting married in Rome. After an exciting wedding with family, we will head on to the beautiful Tuscan village of Montisi.

So far in my suitcase, I have packed wedding clothes and my aprons. Now packing for this trip is going to be a challenge!
What do y'all think I need to throw into my suitcase?
Ciao y'all~

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I've been to The Vault!

There is a cute 'new' restaurant in Jacksonville. We were able to eat there when we visited last weekend.
If you are familiar with Jacksonville at all, it is a small college town about an hour from Birmingham. This is your typical southern town on the square.
They have taken the old bank on the square and turned it into a great place 'to be'. It is called 'The Vault', you can even have a seat inside the old bank vault... the drive up window doesn't work anymore.
The food is great.
The beer on tap.
The company is the best!
Y'all enjoy~

Monday, May 11, 2009

Belated Happy Day for Mothers

I am late in wishing a happy day to all the mothers in my life. Not because you weren't in my mind... but because my own day was so full.

Y'all know as a mom there are days where you just think to yourself... 'maybe I've done a good job'
*when the baby sleeps through the night
*when she goes pee-pee in the potty
*the time he says 'I'll do it myself'
*when he remembers the words to the boy scout pledge
*seeing her do her jazz dance on stage and you are the one counting out loud
*when you say be home at 11... and they are
*when she says she is moving out on her own
*when his boss says he is the best employee we have
But most of all...
*when they understand how important it is to surprise mom every once in a while.
Bill and the kids pulled a good one over on me. I had no idea that that they were driving all the way from Charlotte. I was sooo caught off guard that I didn't even have my camera with me. Thank goodness for cell phone cameras!

I hope each of you got to be Queen for the day!

Happy Mother's Day y'all~

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Asparagus and Arugula

A special sunday, and a special salad from Amy at DestinationAnywhere. Amy is a preschool teacher~ so it is appropriate that she does the post for Mother's Day. Teachers... especially preschool teachers, spend their days 'mothering'.

Here is Amy's choice~
Raw Asparagus, Pea, and Arugula Salad
For the dressing--put these ingredients in the food processor, and whirl to combine. Taste and adjust to your liking.
* 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar, rice-wine vinegar, or other delicate vinegar
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1 shallot, minced
* 1/4 cup hazelnut, toasted walnut, or pistachio oil (or just increase the olive oil--but a nut oil adds a lot of flavor)
* 1/4 cup light-tasting olive oil
* Salt--a pinch
* Pepper--a few grinds
For the salad
1 lb fat asparagus
2 cups garden peas or shelled fava; or frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 lb arugula (about 6 cups)
1 cup toasted walnuts, pine nuts, pistchios, or other nut
a chunk of good parmesean cheese Snap off just the really woody bottom end of the asparagus. Since you'll be peeling the stems, you can use more than usual. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the stems all the way up, stopping just at the tips. Cut off the tips, and blanch the tips for 2 minutes. Slice the stems on the diagonal in one-inch diagonal slices. Put the arugula in a plate or shallow bowl, and toss with just enough dressing to lightly coat. In another bowl, combine the asparagus tips, cut-up stems, and the peas or fava. Toss this mixture with dressing as well. Top arugula with the vegetables. Shave large slices of the cheese with a vegetable peeler, and add to the salad. Sprinkle on nuts, and serve.
My asparagus was not as 'fat' as it should have been, so it was hard to peel the stems. I still loved the salad. It is fresh and nutty.
Perfect for a special lunch for all the Mom's in our family.
Happy Mother's Day y'all!


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Photo hunt ~In Memory

The photo hunt this week is 'In Memory'.
This is a tough word choice this close to Mother's Day, because of course it brings to my mind my own Mom.
It is impossible to narrow it down to one photo.
So I picked one that represents so many things. These irises have moved with me to at least 5 different homes. They are from Mom's garden in Auburn. I smile every spring when they show their delicate blooms.They remind me of purple butterflies!
Happy hunting y'all!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Signs, Signs~

Signs, Signs~ everywhere are signs...

You can't help but sing that song.
Mitzi Studio M Designs is having a sign party. I had just the thing from Burris' Market in Loxley.
Wouldn't life be wonderful if this was true?

Happy Friday y'all!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thrifty Thursday

It is time for Thrifty Thursday with Leigh at Bloggeritaville .
Rhoda and I went to the flea market last week (Leigh was still trying to recover from her vacation with the girls)
This is the highlight... I don't know if it will come across right. Let me just say the picture of an 'antique' radio blasting out rap music just about sums up the Bessemer flea market.

We did do a little crazy over the bead guy. I made some beautiful pieces!
Now that's Thrifty for a Thursday!
Y'all enjoy!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Just in thyme for Mother's Day!

Are y'all in a rush to find something for Mother's Day?
Don't forget our collection of WhistleStop cookbooks!

My cookbook is perfect for the new mom, or an older mom who needs some simple updated recipes. We have also included tips on life from friends all over the country.($15)
Some of my favorite words of advice include~
*Remember your mom's phone number... and use it.
*Sunscreen now will save on wrinkle cream later.
*Remember who you are.

Mom's cookbook is a collection of traditional recipes from the Original WhistleStop Cafe~ yes... the one that inspired Fannie Flagg's novel 'Fried Green Tomatoes at the WhistleStop Cafe'. This cookbook has been a favorite for years with good down home recipes and cooking tips.($14)

We also have Fannie Flagg's Cookbook~ The Original WhistleStop Cafe Cookbook. This has great recipes as well as a fun read, with many anecdotes from Fannie.($17)

To order and get them in time for Mother's Day call 1-888-944-7867 or email (tell him Sandi sent you!)

Y'all enjoy!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Black Bean Salad

Here we are on our second week of the Salad Samplers, a group who promises to travel the world with salad recipes.
This is a favorite of 'Tour Mamma', just in time for Cinco de Mayo. Y'all know that this is a big holiday for us~ only because we have friends who own The Margarita Grill in Pelham! That is as good a reason as any to celebrate.
Black Bean Salad
4 cans black beans, rinse and drain
1 1/2- 2 cups cooked rice
Dice some combination of the following:-- try to dice all vegetables uniformly to a size similar to the size of the black beans for the best appearance
red onion
garlic (up to 12 cloves more or less)
bell peppers
jalapeno- 2 or 3 depending on the heat you like, minced
roasted corn (canned, frozen or fresh)
Toss all ingredients together and season with salt & pepper
Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
zest and juice from 1 lime
salt and pepper
1 tsp mustard
garlic minced (6 cloves)
cumin or chili powder (1-2 tsp to taste)
stir in fresh chopped cilantro
I used whole wheat orzo instead of rice, and only mixed in half of the black bean mixture. This makes a BIG bowl. I ate my salad on top of an avocado.

The other half of the black beans I served the next night with grilled chicken as a 'salsa'. Either way this is a great recipe... don't skip the vinaigrette, it makes the recipe.
See y'all at the grill~

Y'all enjoy!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Photo Hunt ~Walking

The photo hunt for this week is 'walking'.
Which is perfect... because just last weekend (when all y'all were photo-hunting) we spent the morning walking for the March of Dimes!
First we had to fuel up.
We weren't the only one's walking!
This girl had to take a lot of steps to match ours
In the end it was worth it... a good cause!Happy hunting y'all!
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