Absurdly Simple Chocolate Sauce

When I crave chocolate, I MUST have it.  One chocolate item that really satisfies my cravings is chocolate sauce.  I’ve even been known to eat it straight.  I am not ashamed.  Dark chocolate is good for you. Now, I am … Continue reading

One Lovely Blog Award: Take II

To Amber at http://wordsbecomesuperfluous.com/, thank you for sharing the love and nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award!

In accepting this award, it is my pleasure to complete the following:

  1. Write a post linking back to the person that nominated me.
  2. Tell seven things about myself.
  3. Pass on this award to some wonderful blogs by linking their sites to this post and notifying them of their nominations.

Seven things about me:

  1. When I am interested in something new, I become obsessed and want to know everything about that something and/or be good at that something immediately.
  2. I can make a horrific mess in the kitchen.  My dad says I must be a good cook if I can make such a big mess.
  3. I learn best by observation.
  4. I have an overactive imagination.  This is very helpful in my profession as I need to be creative and able to visualize spaces.   This is very unhelpful if I am home alone, have just read a murder mystery, and my house is making settling noises.
  5. I love fall.
  6. For the past 10 years, I have vacillated between wanting short hair and long hair.  Every couple of years, after growing my hair out, I chop off a solid 10 inches or so.  I’ve done this 3 or 4 times now. When I was younger, I did the same thing with bangs.  Every year or 2, I would grow out my bangs (not a good look) and then, when they had finally grown to the length of my hair, I would chop them off.  And then I would cry about it.  I’m sure my mother was not pleased with this pattern.
  7. Siri freaks me out a little bit.

To my lovely nominees: thank you for sharing your passions, talents, wisdom, and adventures.

  1. http://threelittlewildflowers.com/
  2. http://simplyomblog.wordpress.com/
  3. http://photophilian.wordpress.com/
  4. http://nebraskawheatie.com/
  5. http://futurefarmerslivehere.wordpress.com/

Y’all hurry back!

Sugarlump

Very Inspiring Blog Award

A great big thank you to Marcy at For Your Good Health (http://marcellarousseau.wordpress.com/) for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!  I am so flattered.  I really enjoy your photos and the great variety of topics you write about.   Very inspiring!

In accepting this award, it is my pleasure to complete the following:

  1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Post the blog award image on your page.
  3. Tell 7 facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other blogs and let the nominees know they been chosen.

7 Things about Me:

  1. My ideal time to wake up is 7:00 AM.  Any earlier and I feel robbed.  Any later and I feel that I have wasted part of the day.
  2. I love playing Scrabble.  Especially with my family.
  3. I don’t really care much about ice cream.  Unless it’s homemade peach ice cream, in which case I can’t get enough of it.  For the most part, I would take a big piece of chocolate cake over ice cream any day.
  4. I could look at floor plans all day long.  I just love figuring out space.
  5. I love to try new recipes when I can take my time.
  6. I make a lot of To-Do lists.
  7. I rarely finish a To-Do list before I make a new one.

And, now, my list of nominees who inspire me with their words and photos:

  1. http://viewsofmyworld.wordpress.com/
  2. http://fortheloveofclouds.wordpress.com/
  3. http://1107photography.wordpress.com/
  4. http://porterpondfarm.com/
  5. http://bunnypawfarm.com/
  6. http://threecatyard.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/carpet-cleaning-chaos/
  7. http://speeddemon2.com/2012/07/22/kentucky-morning/
  8. http://nicileighyukari.wordpress.com/
  9. http://thewilyhound.com/
  10. http://whatiseerightnow.wordpress.com/
  11. http://crunchiemummy.wordpress.com/
  12. http://jasminalice.wordpress.com/
  13. http://hunt4heritage.wordpress.com/
  14. http://fromamontanafrontporch.wordpress.com/
  15. http://tjsgarden.com/

Y’all come back and visit!

Sugarlump

Family Visit: Scene I

I haven’t posted much this past week as I have been a tad busy with out-of-town guests (my immediate family), visiting my grandparents in Kentucky, picking beans out of the garden, making potato and chicken salad (clarification: potato salad and chicken salad, not salad with chicken and potatoes.  That would be weird.), cleaning up my house, drinking enough water to match the rate at which I am sweating it out due to the triple digit heat wave, breaking up and shelling beans to put up, wrangling my cats, watching the clouds, working at my day job, watering my scorched container garden, sending thank you notes, catching up on recorded reruns of Pioneer Woman, tracking severe weather across the U.S., and remembering my name.

It has been quite a week, but a good one.

I had Mexican food for dinner Friday, Sunday and Monday nights.

I repeat: It was a good week.

It was also nice to see my family.  We tend to have some good laughs when we’re together.

The fun began when my sister drove down from Lexington and we picked up my parents at the airport the Friday before last.

Getting down to business, we drove straight to Mexican Restaurant #1 for dinner.

My Dad ordered a large Margarita, which was served in what seemed to be a punch bowl with a stem.

I had taken a few minutes to decide what kind of drink I wanted and I was telling the waitress that I would like a strawberry daiquiri as my Dad’s water basin of a drink arrived.

The waitress then asked me what size drink I would like.  Seeing my eyes bulge out of my head as they placed my Dad’s drink on the table, she cracked a smile and devilishly asked:

“You want big?”

I was a little hesitant to order a drink as large as my head, but I kind of wanted one.   The waitress was a very perceptive lady and concluded:

“You want big.”

A few minutes later, this is what arrived.

Yes, Eugene, that is my drink.

As you can see, we were off to a great start with the family visit.

We enjoyed a tasty dinner and caught up on what had gone on in the past week.  I was telling my parents about taking my cats, Gus and Scarlett, to the vet for the first time since moving to Nashville.  I had to take them in for a distemper shot and I was going on about how Scarlett had behaved quite badly, per usual. I believe at this point in the conversation Eugene was sort of half-listening as she tried to make a dent in the 4 plates of food she had been served because she looked up confused and asked:

“Wait, she had to get a shot for his temper?”

We all died laughing. Another great “Julia-ism.”

Oh, you crack me up, Eugene.

More to come on the rest of the family weekend.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Cantankerous

This is all I can muster today.

I ‘ve been working for the past 12 hours and can’t breathe through my snout.

That description of my nose is about as lovely as I feel.

I can hardly taste my black bean soup to tell if I seasoned it properly.

Man, am I cantankerous!

I feel better now that I got to use one of my favorite words.

Thank you for that.

Hopefully I will get up on the right side of the bed tomorrow.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Country Weekend

This past weekend, my sister came down for CMA fest.   We missed my cousins who weren’t able to come, but there’s always next year!  Eugene and I pinky-promised that we would make attending CMA fest a tradition. Here we are in … Continue reading

Fried Chicken

I would venture to say that every Southern cook knows how to fry chicken.  Not all recipes and preparations are the same; in fact, almost no two are exactly alike.  I have read dozens of recipes about frying chicken and they all offer different tips and approaches that they claim are the key to the best fried chicken.   I have yet to try any of them because I don’t know where to start.

I decided to go directly to the source of fried chicken in my life: Grandmother.

While visiting my grandparents in Kentucky last week, I requested fried chicken from my Grandmother, per usual, but I put in a special request for her to allow me to document the process so I could learn how to fry chicken once and for all.   She obliged and thought it was cute that I wanted to take pictures of everything.

So we started out with 2 chicken breasts that had been cut into 2 pieces each, for a total of 4 pieces of chicken.  Grandmother likes the pieces to be a little bit smaller so they cook evenly and all the way through without burning the crust.

(And by we, I mean Grandmother.  She was handling all of the chicken because she knows what she’s doing and I didn’t want any chicken gunk on my camera.  That would not be sanitary.)

It was just me and Grandmother, which is why we were cooking only 4 pieces, but when the whole family is together, she fries 2 or 3 times that amount (in several batches) and sometimes fries dark meat as well.

The first step is to brine the chicken (salt and water) to help the chicken stay moist and seasoned.  While you can let the chicken brine overnight, Grandmother says a few hours is fine.

The next step is somewhat controversial: selecting the frying agent.   This can be peanut oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, lard, vegetable shortening, etc.  Part of the selection usually depends on if you are frying or deep frying.  Grandmother fries her chicken with Crisco and uses enough of the vegetable shortening to cover the chicken about half-way, but not enough to deep fry it.

Grandmother added a couple of HEAPING cooking spoonfuls to the pot. Translation: a lot of Crisco.

I thought this was probably adequate.  Grandmother said not quite.  She then added another big spoonful of Crisco.

Surely this was enough.

Nope.

One more spoonful.  I would say this was about 2 cups of Crisco in all.  Grandmother concurred, but like any good Southern cook, she doesn’t measure.  She just goes by look and feel.

The phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind.  But even knowing about the quantity of grease involved, I’m going to eat the chicken anyway.

Then turn the stove top to 5 and heat the Crisco.

That’s what Grandmother told me and just laughed because of course she knows that 5 is not a universal stovetop temperature.  We decided 5 was equivalent to about medium heat.

Meanwhile, coat the chicken liberally in self-rising flour.   Grandmother uses self-rising because it creates a crispier, more airy crust.

Let the chicken hang out in the flour bowl until the Crisco is heated.  Grandmother says it is ready when you sprinkle in a bit of flour and it sizzles.  Be careful not to get it too hot that it crackles and pops and “carries on.”

When the Crisco is ready, place the chicken, meat side down, in the pot and cover.  Covering the chicken helps to keep the meat moist, but you must let some of the steam escape so your crust doesn’t become soggy, says Grandmother.

To fry the chicken, Grandmother uses a Club Aluminum Dutch oven that has been in the family for approximately 75 years.   She thinks it’s important to cover the chicken so she prefers a Dutch oven to an open cast iron skillet, but she says to be careful with some of the newer, enameled cast iron because they seem to hold in too much steam.  She recommends cooking with the lid slightly askew to allow some of the steam to escape.

Check on the chicken after about 10 or 15 minutes.  If the crust on the bottom is nice and golden brown, it’s time to flip the pieces! Then let cook another 15 minutes or so, covered.

And please wear an apron, velvet house shoes, and your best Wilma Flintstone necklace while fryin’ chicken.  (Picture courtesy of Grandmother)

Then, as the chicken is finishing to its golden brown on the second side, allow it to cook uncovered for about 5-10 minutes to crisp up the crust.

When chicken is crispy and golden brown (after about 30-35 minutes of frying total), remove chicken from pot and allow to drain on a paper towel for a few moments before transferring to a serving dish.

Then, stand back and admire this beautiful work of art.  (Don’t take too long or it will get cold.)

And then, most importantly, please eat it blissfully as you forget about the amount of Crisco used in its preparation.

Thanks for teaching me how to fry chicken, Grandmother!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump

Sausage Gravy

One of my favorite breakfast items is biscuits and sausage gravy.  And sausage, of course.   My granny makes a mean sausage gravy and I look forward to it when I visit.  Although I tried to make this breakfast for myself once (unsuccessfully because I couldn’t find the right sausage in the Northeast), I think I am going to limit myself to eating this only when I visit my grandparents for the sake of my hips and arteries.

It’s very important that you make this an irregular part of your life.  Yes, that’s right.  IR-regular.   I say this out of concern for your health.  But, nonetheless, it should be a part of your life even if it’s once every month/week/day or two.

It is CRITICAL that you begin with good ol’ country sausage.  By this I mean loosely packed and with a good amount of fat.  I would recommend Tennessee Pride, Ole South or Old Folks brands.   I would not recommend Jimmy Dean because it is too dense and lean and thus will not render enough fat for the gravy.

So, once you have proper country sausage (hot or mild, but hot if you are really serious about this), cut it into ½” patties and set ‘er in the skillet.  If you are intending to have 8 sausage patties to serve, cook 9.  I will explain this later.

My cousin Lauren was frying up the sausage this particular morning.

Cook them over medium-high heat until the meat is cooked through and the patties are nice and browned.

Meanwhile, have some homemade biscuits baking in the oven.

I was not present for the making of these biscuits, but I understand that there was lard involved.  That’s all I care to comment on the matter.

When the sausage is done, place the patties on a plate lined with several paper towels to absorb the excess grease.

If there is too much grease left in the skillet, drain it off.  I can’t give you an exact amount because I don’t know how much sausage you are cooking, but I would say for 8 sausage patties, you don’t want more than ¼ cup of grease to make your gravy.

Now, this is a VERY IMPORTANT step.  Break up the extra sausage patty into small crumbled pieces to add texture to the gravy.  You did make an extra didn’t you?

Next, with the desired amount of grease and the extra crumbled patty in your skillet, grab some milk and some flour (pronounced “flair” if you have a Southern accent).

Sprinkle in approximately the same amount of flour as there is grease in your pan and stir.  Let’s say ¼ cup since we are working with a ¼ cup of grease.

You may want to use a whisk so it doesn’t “lump up on you,” as my granny says.

Let this cook for a few minutes until the mixture is a nice golden brown.

Then add the milk.

How much?

Until it looks right.

That’s what my mammie (and it seems all Southern cooks) say because they don’t really go by measurements, they go by look and feel.

If you haven’t achieved that level of culinary expertise to know when it “looks right,” add about ½ cup of milk or enough until the mixture is fairly loose, but still has some body to it.  I’m not even sure what that description really means and I’m sure you don’t either, so here is a photo:

Then let it cook for about 5 minutes or until it has thickened, all the while stirring and scraping the skillet so it doesn’t burn.  You will know it has reached this stage when you can see the bottom of the skillet in the wake of your spoon/spatula.

The gravy should have a nice brown color to it.

Season it with a little salt as needed.  And pepper if for some strange reason you did not go for hot sausage.

Stunning.  Look at all of those brown bits. MMMMMMMMM.

Now the best part!

Fix yourself a sausage n’ biscuit (or 2) and a big ol’ glass of cold me-yulk:

Oh heavens.

My cousin Kristen had clearly lost her marbles and opted for blackberry jam with her sausage n’ biscuit instead of sausage gravy.

(why????????)

I’m all for sweet and savory but I just don’t know if I can get on board with this one.

Sausage and sausage gravy had such a good thing going…

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump

Butter Beans

Whenever I visit my grandparents in Kentucky, there is always a lot of food involved.  Delicious.  Country.  Food.

My favorite kind of food that my grandmothers prepare is homegrown beans.  I love love love them, especially topped with fresh diced onion and jalapeno pepper, which also come from my papa’s garden.   If there are beans and cornbread on the table, there’s really no point in preparing anything else for me because all I’m interested in are those two items.

This past weekend, my granny made me some butter beans, which are speckled lima beans.  And as my whole family knows, I love me some butter beans.

Last Christmas, we were all working our way around the kitchen to fill up our plates with food and when I got to the butter beans, I said “I love me some butter beans.”  I didn’t realize that my whole family had heard me trying on my country accent for size, but they all started to crack up, especially my Aunt Vickie.  We still laugh about it now every time we have beans.

My love for butter beans runs so deep that I even tried to grow them in Boston last summer.

This is what they look like dried (as seed):

And this is what they look like as they begin to grow as shown in a picture of my garden last summer:

Now, as I mentioned, these I tried to grow in Boston, in a yard that had about 10 square feet of full day sun, imported soil, and a growing season about a month too short.  They are pretty pitiful.  In Kentucky, however, my papa’s bean plants grow to be about 8 feet tall and are so dense that they form a canopy between rows.

My yield was about 47 beans last summer.

My papa’s yield was probably 2047 beans last summer.

My solution to my gardening challenges?

Move South.

I have since moved to Nashville, TN and am driving up to Kentucky every few weeks to help my papa with his garden.   No joke.  I’m very serious about butter beans.

I have high hopes for the butter bean crop this year.

I love me some butter beans.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump