Monday, December 29, 2008

Cranberry Apple Casserole

Back in the day when I was working as an Extension Home Economist, several of my colleagues from surrounding counties put together a travelling road show every year of holiday favorites. Our focus was not on just producing good recipes, but including important nutrition, menu planning and food safety tips in the presentation. It was during this time that Baldwin Morris shared her recipe for Cranberry Apple Casserole. For more than 25 years, this has been a family favorite and is always on our holiday table. This year I added a pint of frozen blueberries from our garden. The blueberries tamed some of the tartness of the cranberries and extended the recipe to feed more. Try this recipe and I promise it will become one of your family's favorites!

Cranberry Apple Casserole

I package fresh cranberries
3 Granny Smith apples, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine fruit and sugar in a greased 11 3/4" by 7 1/2" Pyrex dish. Mix together remaining ingredients and spread over the fruit. Bake for 1 hour or until brown and bubbly. Serves 10.

Breakfast Casserole

A breakfast favorite at Quail Hollow is the easy, delicious Breakfast Casserole that is prepared the night before and refrigerated overnight. That is just what I did for this year's Christmas brunch and there was none left!

Breakfast Casserole

1 pound bulk sausage
6 slices of bread, cubed
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
6 eggs
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage in a large skillet. Drain. In a greased 11 3/4" by 7 1/2" Pyrex dish, layer the bread cubes, sausage and cheese. Beat eggs and add milk, salt and pepper. Pour over layers, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes to an hour and the center is set and the top is golden brown. 8 - 10 servings.

Granny's Cookbook

Several years ago, Kenny's mom and I started work on a scrapbooked cookbook of her favorite recipes. Granny gathered the recipes while I hung out at the local scrapbook shops looking for just the right paper and scrapbook for the project. Work began on the computer, typing the recipes using cute fonts. This was the easy part, well kind of easy considering the number of fonts I purchased. Next came the task of finding suitable pictures. A search of the pictures I had collected over the years and a look into Granny's stash resulted in some great photos. Copies of the pictures were made at Target, lots of copies since I planned to create multiple cookbooks, one for every family member.

With the recipes, photos, and a variety of papers - all color coordinated - I set out to create the pages. The progress was slow and even with weekly scrapbooking nights at Dale's, I couldn't seem to get the past the many decisions - which paper to use, the layout of the page and selecting just the right picture for each page. I would frequently pull out the project and sit and look at the 3 pages finished.

With Granny's 87th birthday in July, I knew that it was time to finish the cookbook. My goal was to have the cookbook completed in time for Christmas. The format changed from a scrapbook to a digital book, thanks to Blurb. I finally realized that I am not a scrapbooker but I do love working on the computer. I had previously tried some of the online sites for booking making, but Blurb was unique because the BookSmart software is installed on your own computer and you don't have to upload your pictures to a website and be online to work on your book.

After many hours of work, the cookbook was completed just in time for the deadline for Christmas delivery. When the books arrived, I was thrilled with the quality and proud of what will be my first of many books from Blurb. This was a labor of love and honor for Granny, a wonderful mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who feed her family well with delicious Southern foods.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Cioppino is a wonderful seafood stew native to the docks of San Francisco. As the story goes, Italian immigrant fisherman coming home from a day of fishing would all "chip in" a small portion of their catch for a seafood stew made on the docks. The broken English of the Italians soon became "chip in o" and thus the name of this stew. If you search the Internet, you will find lots of recipes for Cioppino.

Or you can stop by Williams-Sonoma and buy a jar of the Cioppino Soup Base. Just add your seafood and you will have a meal in minutes. My rendition included a pound of shrimp, a pound of mussels and a couple of tilapia filets. Serve with crusty garlic bread and you have a delicious, quick meal.

Christmas 2008

Today the was the end of our wonderful Christmas celebration. There are no presents under the tree, the house is a wreck and the frig is full of leftovers. This is often a sad day, but for me, my heart is full of memories of spending time with family and friends. Too often we can become caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and fail to take the time to enjoy the little things. Things like watching Reeves open his Christmas present from us and begin planning his trip to Monster Jam. And Cash's excitement with the Lightning McQueen motorized car as he learned to use the remote to speed across the floor. And playing games with Maggie. These are times that are special and will be remembered for years to come.

This year's family celebration started on Christmas Eve with dinner at Quail Hollow. After dinner, we enjoyed the Christmas Communion Service at Newnan Presbyterian Church. On Christmas morning, Terri and Payton served a delicious brunch with Breakfast Burritos as we watched Reeves enjoyed his presents from Santa. After brunch we went to Peggy's to visit with Granny.

But this was just the beginning of our Christmas celebration. On Friday, Kacy, Judi, Jason, Sherri, Maggie, Reeves, Doug and Melody joined us. Saturday began with brunch and was followed by a shopping trip to Ashley Park. I loved taking Maggie and Cash to the new candy store and we all selected a bag of our favorite candies. One observation, Kenny and I filled our bag with chocolate treats while Maggie and Cash selected the taffies, gummies and other sugar treats.

After shopping, it was time to get ready for dinner in the barn. Judi and Kacy provided the appetizers of Redneck Caviar and Cheesy Sausage Dip. Payton cooked the turkey and Crawfish Dressing while Kenny and I made the Dressing with Giblet Gravy, Cranberry Casserole, and Pannetone Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce. Peggy and her family brought Baked Ham, Hash Brown Potato Casserole, and Green Beans. Lisa's treat was a Sausage Roll. For dessert, Judi made her almost famous Apple Pie and Terri baked one of the family's favorites, Bourbon Pound Cake. As you can tell from the pictures below, a good time was had by all!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Beef Tenderloin for Christmas Eve

It has become a tradition to have Christmas Eve Dinner at Quail Hollow. This year Mama, Daddy, Payton, Terri, and Reeves joined Kenny and I for dinner. The menu included Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce, Garlic Smashed Potatoes, Sauteed Mushrooms and Pearl Onions, Roasted Beets and Oranges Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette, and Hot Bread. This is a very simple meal to prepare and absolutely delicious. The potatoes were simply boiled in their skins, smashed and mixed with one head of roasted garlic, butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. The mushrooms were sliced, sauteed in butter with on pack of frozen pearl onions, and seasoned with red wine and Worchestershire sauce. The horseradish sauce is equal parts of sour cream and mayonnaise, a dash of Worchestershire sauce and enough horseradish to give it a kick.

Beef Tenderloin

1 whole beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons dried thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sear the tenderloin on all sides in 2 tablespoons olive oil until brown. Mix together the mustard, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and thyme. Place the tenderloin on a rack in a roasting pan. Brush the mustard mixture evenly on all sides of the tenderloin. Bake in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes until the internal temperature of the tenderloin reaches 125 degrees. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice and serve. 8 servings.

Roasted Beets and Oranges Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

There are many foods I have never cooked before and beets are in my list. For our Christmas Eve dinner, I decided to try a different salad and with fresh beets in the frig, this was the perfect opportunity to incorporate them into our dinner. After an Internet search, this was the result, a beautiful tasty salad with seasonal fruits and vegetables and the perfect compliment to beef tenderloin.

Roasted Beets and Oranges Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

6 beets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 2 lemons
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
Salad greens
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup roasted pecans, chopped

Wash the beets and cut off the tops. Place the beets in a roasting pan, drizzle with the olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees F. for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender. Remove from the oven, cool, remove skins and and cut into wedges. Combine the balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add beets and onions and toss to coat. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the citrus juices, honey, olive oil, thyme and salt. Toss the salad greens with just enough vinaigrette to coat the lettuce (you will have some left over). Plate the greens and top with the roasted beets and onions, orange slices, blue cheese and pecans. Serves 8.

For those of you who want to make this salad in a hurry, pick up a jar of pickled beets and some orange sections. I think you will like the results.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Alessandra's Meatballs

During our trip to Italy, we had the pleasure of cooking in Alessandra's kitchen. One of our favorite dishes was Polpettine di Olive, or as I call it Alessadra's Meatballs. This was the first of the many recipes Alessandra shared with us and it has been a hit with our family and friends. The preparation is simple and the tasty treats can be frozen before breading and used as needed. Tonight we made them for our neighborhood dinner. As you can see, Kenny was the fry cook! Thanks, Alessandra for sharing your kitchen and love for cooking.

Alessandra's Meatballs

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup carrots, chopped
3/4 cups celery, chopped
1/2 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound bulk sausage
1 1/4 pound ground beef
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup olives, chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
Panko bread crumbs
Saute the vegetables in the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the meats and cook until done, stirring to break the meat into small pieces. Drain, if needed. Return to the skillet and add the wine. Cook until the wine is absorbed. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the parmesan, 1egg, and the seasonings. Mix well and chill. Once chilled, form into 1-inch balls. At this point the meatballs can be chilled or frozen. Roll the meatballs in flour, egg and bread crumbs and fry in olive oil until brown. Serve with mayonaise seasoned with Worchesteshire sauce, basil and oregano. Makes 40 meatballs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dressing Bites with Cranberry and Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce

This year we had a lot of leftover dressing. For a real treat, use your leftover dressing for these delicious treat. Callie has requested for this to become a tradition at Quail Hollow! Serve with a Hot Pepper Jelly Cranberry Sauce for dipping. Unfortunately, there is no picture of the Dressing Bites, we ate them before I got a chance to take the picture!

Dressing Bites with Hot Pepper Jelly Cranberry Sauce

Dressing Bites
Leftover dressing
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
Panko bread crumbs

Form the dressing into 1-inch balls. Dip in flour, egg, and panko bread crumbs. Fry until golden brown.

Hot Pepper Jelly Cranberry Sauce
1 can cranberry sauce
1/4 cup hot pepper jelly

In a small saucepan, heat cranberry sauce and hot pepper jelly to combine. Serve warm with the Dressing Bites.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is a staple for Thanksgiving. Making the sauce is a breeze.

Cranberry Sauce
1 package fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. Mash with a potato masher and chill.

Thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The day is one for remembering the many things we can be thankful for and enjoying a great meal with family and friends -- what a great combination! This year we had two Thanksgivings. Our first was at Quail Hollow with family members that would be traveling during the holidays. Our special guests were Mary and Larry Nelson from California and Shelia and Herman Peterson from Maryland. Mary Evelyn is a childhood friend of Peggy and Kenny and it was wonderful having them join us this year. The meal was delicious, thanks to every one's contributions. The main star was the turkey accompanied by dressing and giblet gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, cranberry casserole, cranberry sauce, cole slaw, rutabagas, pecan pie and pumpkin pie.
This year we all had a lot for which to be thankful. For me, I am thankful for my wonderful husband, family and friends.
Our second Thanksgiving was with Terri's family at their home. I can't even begin to name all the dishes, but the carrot cake and Italian wedding cake were outstanding. Thanks for including us in this wonderful family celebration.
Now, what are we going to do with all those leftovers!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sweet Potato Bread

I found a great sale on sweet potatoes so I decided to buy some and try out a couple of recipes for Sweet Potato Bread. I tried two recipes and my stitching friends selected this one as the best. Thanks to Closet Cooking Kevin for the inspiration!

Sweet Potato Bread
1 3/4 cups self rising flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cups sweet potato, cooked and mashed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the honey, eggs, buttermilk and sweet potato into the butter and sugar. Stir the sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture. Stir in the pecans. Pour the batter into a 9x5 inch greased loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until a tooth pick pushed into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Pour the praline sauce on and and let cool.

Praline ToppingIngredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
1 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water

Cook the butter and brown sugar in a small skillet until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pecans. Pour the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper and let cool. When the praline mixture is cook, break with a rolling pin. Mix the powdered sugar into the water. Mix the praline and sugar water together.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cake Decorating

I have enrolled in Cake Decorating 101. After watching Ace of Cakes, I decided it was time to try my hand at cake decorating. After 4 classes, I have decided this is not my calling. My biggest challenge was getting the right consistency for the icing. Thank you Deena for your patience and guidance in the process!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Vatican

This morning we toured the Vatican with Roman professor, Enrico Bruschini. On our first trip to Rome, Enrico led us through the Forum, the Coliseum and the Vatican. When we began planning this trip, we immediately contacted Enrico to see if he was available for a second tour of the Vatican. Enrico is an expert on the history of the Vatican and its contents. He worked on the cleaning of the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. The museums in the Vatican are incredible. You will see sculptures, frescoes, paintings, tapestries, and relics of the past. You can rent one of the audio tours, but it is nothing like having Enrico making the contents come to life.

One of our first stops was to see the replica of the Pieta. This original is house in the Basilica of St. Peter. In the museum, you get a chance to look at the replica up close and see the details.

For me and my love of textiles, the tapestries are truly amazing. Their size and detail are unbelievable. No pictures can do the tapestries justice. It is one of those times when you have to see it to believe it.
As you look at the many treasures in the museums, nothing is like seeing the Sistine Chapel in person. Enrico brings the frescoes to life. His knowledge is incredible.

After the museums, we head for the Basilica of St. Peter. There you will find the tomb of St. Peter and the Pieta by Michelangelo. Once again, we are astounded by the enormity of the Basilica.

After leaving the Vatican we stop for a pizza before boarding the "Hop On, Hop Off" bus for a tour of the city. This is a great way to see the city. But next time we will do a little research to determine the best bus line for the tour. Unfortunately some of the route was closed and we were unable to do a loop of the city.

Our evening ends with a delicious dinner at La Buca di Ripetta, a delightful trattoria close to our hotel. The food was not only tasty, but beautifully presented.

What a great day in Rome!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


We left Cortona early this morning for Chuisi to catch the train. Keith gave us excellent directions and the trip took less than an hour. The car rental office is within walking distance to the train station. For anyone taking the train to Rome, do not exit at the first Rome station, wait until you reach Termini.

The train station is extremely hectic. With luggage in tow, we headed for the front entrance and the taxi line. Beware! There are many men there to quickly offer you a ride to your destination, but work your way past them to the taxi line!

Once we hit the streets, it didn't take long to find our way to Hotel Forte. Hotel Forte is located on Via Margutta, a quaint street just off the busy thoroughfare between Piazza del Spagna and Piazza del Popolo. After checking in, Kenny and I take off to find lunch. We stop at the Osteria Margutta. The Osteria Margutta was featured in an issue of one of the foodie magazines as a great place to eat. The atmosphere was wonderful, but the food was not. We both had pasta and it reminded me of that terrible stuff you get in the mall - pasta that is overcooked with tomato sauce. And the wine was the same, tasting like someone had watered it down.

But the caffe continues to be excellent. I know I have said it before, but I do wish we could get coffee at home that is as good as it is here. Or maybe not! Kenny tried caffe and chocolate gelato at a cafe at the Piazza del Popolo and the two together were delicious.

For those of you who have read Angels and Demons, the Piazza del Popolo is where the adventure begins. There are 3 churches in the piazza - the Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the Santa Maria and the Santa Maria del Popolo. I love the churches. The architecture and the frescos are amazing. It is hard to leave a church in Rome and not feel the hand of God. The Santa Maria del Popolo is home to works of Bernini and Caravaggio and is spectacular. Today there was a film crew filming the Caravaggio masterpieces. This was a rare opportunity to see the details of the paintings brightly lit.
For dinner tonight we try the Trattoria dal Pollarolo. It is a "mom and pop" type of restaurant with tables set closely together for intimate dining. I had Spaghetti Carbonara and it was extremely tasty. For dessert we try the panna cotta and tiramisu, both great endings to a wonderful meal.
Another "must see" in Rome is the Trevi Fountain. It is a nice walk from the Hotel Forte and a very big tourist attraction. You know you are close to the fountain when you can hear the water. The fountain is massive, the largest of the Baroque fountains in Rome. The legend is that is you throw a coin into the fountain you will return to Rome. I know for a fact that it works. Two years ago we tossed the coin and here we are, back in Rome at the Trevi Fountain. Hopefully we will return again!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cooking in Tuscany

Nan and I spent the day with Alessandra, shopping and cooking. Alessandra owns a beautiful shop in Cortona, il Girasole , and she conducts cooking classes in her home. We started the morning in Cortona with a cappuccino and Alessandra sharing her love and knowledge about Italian cooking. As she talks, I can't help but see so many similarities with our southern cooking. Alessandra described Italian cooking as a simple cuisine of the poor people who made do with whatever was available. Farm workers were given a place to live and a spot of land to grow their own food, much like the sharecroppers in the South. Alessandra's style of cooking was passed down from her grandmothers and her mother who grew up in the Cortona area.Shopping in Cortona is a real treat. Our first visit was to the fruit and vegetable stand. This is not a self-service market. Signs request that you not touch the food for sanitation purposes. What a great idea! Alessandra tells the shop owner what we want and the owner picks out the freshest for our approval.
Our next stop is the wine store before going to the small super mercati. Check out the picture above. Yes, that is a UGA sign. Cortona is the location for UGA's Study Abroad program. Here we purchase the staples for the meal.

The butcher is our last stop. I love butcher shops in Italy. The smell is earthy and the selection incredible. The chickens are sold with their heads and feet so you can see the freshness. We buy a beef roast, fresh sausage and a chicken breast.

Alessandra lives in a charming house built in the 1500's. Her kitchen is the center of her home. We put on our aprons, a gift from Alessandra, and start to work. This is not a "sit back and watch" type of cooking school, but a chance to create classic Italian dishes under the watchful eye of an accomplished cook. During the day we cook, clean, eat and drink while enjoying the conversation. Kenny, Edwin and Keith join us for a wonderful dinner. The menu included:


Polpettine Ascolane
a delicious meatball with beef, pork, chicken and olives

Fiori e foglie fritte
fried squash blossoms and sage leaves

Pecorino fresco con pere e confettura
pecorino cheese drizzle with honey and red pepper flakes

Bruschetta con olio nuovo
bread with freshly pressed olive oil
Primi Piatta

Ravioli al radicchio di Treviso e zaffferano
ravioli with radicchio and leeks

Risotto ai porcini e zafferano
risotto with porcini mushrooms, sausage and saffron

Secondo Piatto
Involtini alla salvia
beef roast and sauce

Carciofi saltati
artichokes with pancetta

Sorry I don't have a picture, I was too busy eating!

Limoncello and Grappa


Rossi e Bianchi di Cortona

When we were planning our trip, the one thing I really wanted to do was cook. Thank you Alessanda for the perfect day. I now have a friend in Italy! Ciao!


Today we leave Florence and drive to Casa bel Posto, an apartment just outside Cortona. The drive through the countryside is filled with farmland and abandoned buildings. The buildings are beautiful, mostly made of stone, and look like they are begging for renovation. It is hard not to dream about how life would be in one of these old buildings, farming the land and enjoying the Tuscan life.
Our hosts, Keith and Tania, have done just that. They decided to leave their home in California several years ago and move to Italy. They lived in an apartment in Cortona before buying Caso bel Posto, a rustic farmhouse surrounded by fields of sunflowers. The young couple has created a cozy retreat for travelers and their hospitality is as warm as the apartment.

At Caso bel Posto we are greeted by our host, Keith. Keith is the perfect host. During our stay he provided us with directions, suggestions for dinner and "must see" places as well as wine and Scotch. He was even there to help Kenny and Edwin buy freshly pressed olive oil from the local mill.

After unloading our car, we take to the hills for Cortona. This landscape is hilly and heavily planted with olive trees ready for harvesting. We park close to the escalator and begin our trek upward to the city. Our timing is lousy once again. Most of the businesses are closing for lunch so we quickly grab a table overlooking the piazza at the Ristorante La Loggetta. The food here is very innovative. We share a Mixed Plate full of delicious antipasti. My favorite is a pesto cheese thingy, served warm. The Zuppa di Pomodoro was delicious. I can't believe I didn't take a picture of it! The soup was served piping hot in a white bowl garnished with fresh pesto. It looked as good as it tasted. After lunch we stop for a cappuccino before heading back to the apartment to crash.

For dinner we take Keith's suggestion and go to Bastian Contrario. Leo, the owner, greets us at the door with a big smile. He quickly realizes we don't speak Italian and he doesn't speak English, so he gives us a warm handshake and shows us to a table. From here on out, Leo is in charge of our delicious meal. The antipasto platter included fried onion rings, fried cauliflower, fried artichokes, chicken liver pate (or whatever the Italian version is), ragu on crostini, mozzarella, proscuitto, melon slices, and more. This should have been enough for our dinner, but Leo wanted us to try more.For the second course, we followed Leo's recommendation for pizza and it was delicious - thin, crispy crust, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and toppings of artichokes, olives, ham, and mushrooms.
Leo was soon back offering dessert, but we said no. Leo left the table only to return with a plate of panna cotta topped with strawberries that was light and tasty.
Just when we think we can't eat another thing, Leo returns with what Kenny thinks is a bottle of Chivas Regal scotch. Leo pours us all a glass and Kenny is the first to take a drink. The look on his face tells me this isn't scotch. Leo smiles and tells us it is vinsanto, a sweet Tuscan dessert wine, the perfect ending to a perfect evening. Thanks to all our new Italian friends for giving us a night we will always remember. Buona sera!