Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vegetable Beef Soup

We recently changed churches. It was about  us needing to get back to our "comfort zone".  We belonged to Methodist churches in the North GA conference for  25 years and since we could travel an additional 5 minutes to get back to one, we made the move. The preacher (although he is also new) assured me that this was a busy church but not pushy. He and I need to talk again! These ladies invited, gently prodded, recruited and finally insisted that I join the Food (duh!) and Hospitality Committee. One of the first events of the committee was a Soup and Salad Luncheon after church this past Sunday.

There are about 15 ladies on the committee with a very strong, delightful leader who gives "marching orders" that no one would dare question. She is SUPER organized and keeps everyone on the right path. It's a good thing because these ladies are a HOOT! We spent a 1/2  day cleaning the kitchen and re-organizing a walk-in storage closet and you would have thought we were going to visit the Queen Mother! They can make a party out of any situation! Talk about doing the Lord's work with a smile! I laughed at/with this group until I was exhausted!
What a blessing to be with them!

I busied myself looking for a "special" soup recipe that might prove me worthy of belonging to this group. Not going to happen. We were instructed to make either Vegetable Beef or Ham and Bean Soup. And THE recipe was distributed. Now, who, in their right mind would argue with that? Especially a newbie! So, here is THE recipe from a lovely new friend, Mary Strain. She says she never actually uses a recipe but just puts things together. She took the time to think through and write this one down. It is delicious! I made a huge pot with a few minor changes/additions (which I noted in italics). Now, that does not surprise you, does it?

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the new church and the ladies on the committee. I could not have asked for a more wonderful church home and church family. Thank you for the warm welcome !

Now, go forth and make a pot of this soup and freeze some for later!

Mary Strain's Vegetable Beef Soup
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound minced beef (stew meat, roast, London Broil or whatever beef is on sale!) ( used an entire sirloin tip roast - about 2 lbs +)
1 (16 oz) pkg frozen soup mix vegetables
1 (16 oz) pkg frozen gumbo mix (used 2 bags of gumbo mix and one of mixed vegetables)
 1 cup frozen baby limas (used an entire bag)
4 potatoes, peeled and diced (my addition)
2 (28 oz) cans petite chopped tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp tabasco sauce (omitted this and used 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning)
1/2 cup pearl barley ( omitted this)
2 cans beef bouillion (  used 3 boxes )

Saute beef and onion until browned. Combine all ingredients in a LARGE stockpot or crockpot.
Cook it all together for a couple of hours or toss it all in a crock pot for 4 or so hours.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Baked Eggs in a Bread Bowl

Years ago, when I worked at Oxmoor House (Southern Living Books) we tested a similiar recipe. I was (and still am) so impressed with how pretty these are. The ones we tested/tasted had fresh spinach leaves lining the roll before the egg was added. I like them either way. This would be good on a nite when you want breakfast for dinner. And they're easy, too!

Baked Egg in a Bread Bowl

8 large, crusty dinner rolls
8 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, chives and tarragon
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan

 Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Slice off top of each dinner roll and gently remove some bread until there is a hole large enough to accommodate an egg. Arrange rolls on a rimmed baking sheet. Reserve tops.

Crack an egg into each roll, then top with some herbs and a bit of cream. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan.  

Bake until eggs are set and bread is toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. After eggs have cooked for 20 minutes, place bread tops on baking sheet and bake until golden brown. Let sit 5 minutes. Place tops on rolls and serve warm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

BBQ Rubbed Pork Chops

The warm weather this winter (at least down South) has put me in the mood for something grilled. Pork is quick and easy. I love this rub for boneless chops or ribs. Even if you're cooking inside, you can still use the rub. I like to double the recipe (or triple it) and store in an airtight jar. It keeps for several months and is nice to have on hand.

For a different meal combination, serve the BBQ Rubbed Pork Chops with Cheese Grits and something green.. perhaps my Sauteed Greens from Jan 9.....???

I have daffodils ready to burst into bloom in my yard... how about you? Even our flame (wild) azalea buds are swelling. You KNOW I'm not a fan of big snow, but it hardly feels like we've had winter this year... I fear I will have to eat those words in March!!!

BBQ Rub for Pork
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (if you don't have garlic powder, use 1 teaspoon garlic salt and omit salt)
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked is really good, regular is fine)
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon red pepper, if desired

Mix all together and store in airtight container. Rub over both sides of pork chops before grilling or cooking indoors.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Coca Cola Cake

Mama made this cake for every funeral, covered dish dinner, welcome meal, goodbye meal and all in between for years and years. Some things just can't be improved on. If you like a good moist chocolate cake that is also QUICK and EASY, have I got the recipe for you! You'll love this one!  Bake, frost and serve this cake in the same pan, so if you're taking it visiting, get out a pretty dish to bake it in. In the REAL South, you wouldn't dream of using anything but Coca Cola for this recipe. If you dare (you Yankee friends) make it with the cola of your choice. But, it just won't be quite the same.

Coca Cola Cake
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coca cola
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if you're using a glass baking dish)
Combine all ingredients except cola and marshmallows in large mixer bowl.  Blend at low speed. Beat at medium speed for 1 minute.  Add cola and blend well, fold in marshmallows. Bake in greased 9x13-inch baking dish for 40 to 45 minutes.

Cool for 30 minutes (in the pan) then spread on the following frosting.

Chocolate Cola Frosting
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/3 cup coca cola
1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Cream butter, cocoa and powdered sugar. Beat in coca cola to thin to spreading consistency. Spread on warm cake and sprinkle with toasted pecans.

 Thank Mama ( Miz Martha ) when the compliments flood you over this scrumptious cake!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cheese Grits

Catherine, this recipe is for you! And if you need me to ship you some real grits, just e-mail me!
One of my internet friends from Michigan asked how I make my cheese grits. I had to really think about it because it's one of those Southern things that I just do - without a recipe. They are BEST made with stone ground grits, but grocery store ones will do. The trick is to cook them long enough to be done but not overdone.... much like cooking pasta. If you like them really rich, use 1/2 & 1/2 or even cream. I prefer really good (Craker Barrel) sharp or even extra sharp Cheddar cheese, but you can use whatever you like. These are wonderful served for breakfast or brunch or topped with blackened or sauteed shrimp.

Cheese Grits

2 1/2 cups water
1 cup milk or 1/2 & 1/2
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup quick-cooking grits (NOT instant)
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt.  Bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the grits in a slow stream, whisking. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the grits are very thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in cheese.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Spicy Chicken Soup

Cold rainy winter days call for something that soothes the soul. This chicken soup is just the thing!
I like this one because it has an unusual combination of spices. The flavor is great! I've made it on a number of occasions and everyone always says "This is really good and the flavor is different - in a good way!". Try it - I think you'll add it to your favorites, too.

Spicy Chicken Soup

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 cups sliced carrots
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup sliced celery
1 bay leaf
5 cups water
2 (14.5-ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
½ cup chopped green or red pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
2 (15-ounce) cans chicken broth
2 cups hot cooked rice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

 Combine chicken, carrot, onion. celery, bay leaf and water in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from broth and cut into bite-size pieces.

Add chicken, tomatoes, green pepper, spices and broth. Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in hot cooked rice just before serving. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Yield: 3 quarts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mustard Herb Roasted Potatoes

Doesn't this sound cozy for a cold winter supper??

This mustard herb roasted potatoes recipe is an easy, year-round dish made with readily available, affordable ingredients. Serve them hot and fresh out of the oven, or chill them in the refrigerator for a day and serve them cold as a healthy potato salad. 

Mustard Herb Roasted Potatoes
2 lbs fingerling potatoes ( or small red potates), scrubbed but not peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons mustard
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 glove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and toss with remaining ingredients. Arrange on a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 35 to 40 minutes until they are golden brown and tender. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

A BIG birthday surprise and Meatball Soup

Well! This has been an eventful start to the New Year. My birthday was Tues, Jan 10. Last year was THE big one ending in -O and it was a total non-event. (Partly because we were snowed in and couldn't get out for days!) So, I certainly expected this one to just sail by quietly. Not a chance! I've been wined, dined, received cards, e-cards, FB notes, phone calls and e-mails. Last weekend our dear friends/part-time neighbors took us out to lunch. This weekend, my daughter and her husband and daughter (16 month old Emmie) came to the mtns to "celebrate" further.

 Bill gave me a nice card with a gift wrapped box on my birthday. Inside the box was a card with essentially an IOU for a present that he said he couldn't find at Wal Mart and had ordered in hopes it would be here for the weekend celebration. I swallowed hook, link and sinker! I totally expected a crock pot (never mind that I already have 2 - he has talked about nothing else for weeks!).

Kelley and family arrived late Fri afternoon following several frantic calls Fri morning announcing that Emmie had pink eye. My first response was, "Don't come!" By the time I got home from a project at the church, they were definitely coming! Even Bill (who is usually the LAST one to want to be around kids with germs) was insistent that they come. Still, I had not a clue as to what was happening!

If you're on Facebook, you've seen the picture of my surprised face when I opened what was NOT a crock pot but an Ipad! Bill ordered it sent to the Apple store near Kelley, she went over and set it up, bought me a (red!) cover and itunes gift card for aps, and brought it all up for the "celebration"! This was the biggest surprise I've had in many years - maybe ever. What a sweet, thoughtful, kind, generous family. I am sooo blessed - beyond belief!

Now you know what I've been up to for the past week!

I did NOT bake myself a birthday cake. Kelley offered, but what I really wanted  was a Peach Cobbler. Last summer, I put South Carolina peaches in the freezer and Sat. nite we had the best peach cobbler with (Mayfield) vanilla ice cream. Bill also took me out to eat at my favorite local restaurant, The Chocolate Cafe in Hiawassee, GA. It was a rainy night, 4 other tables there and quiet music. They can always be counted on for delicious food and out of sight desserts!

Time to get back to "real life" and cold weather cooking! This soup is one of my favorites because it is loaded with veggies, has a nice light broth and filled with tiny meatballs. Make a pan of cornbread to go with it and enjoy! Take it from an "OLD" person!

Meatball Soup
3/4 cup oatmeal, uncooked
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup grated onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth
1 Bay leaf
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 medium potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
5 medium carrots, cut into 1 1/2 -inch slices
20-oz. frozen green beans
2 cups sliced mushrooms

Combine oats, milk, onion, salt, pepper, basil and meat. Mix well, but do not overmix. Shape into 24 meatballs. Brown in hot butter and oil in a large Dutch oven. Remove meatballs to platter and drain fat from pan. Combine flour and broth in Dutch oven. Whisk to remove lumps. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Add remaining ingredients including meatballs. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 30 minutes).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sauteed Garden Greens

Along with the good buy on bananas, I got an 8oz. plastic container of  "Garden Greens" in the produce section marked half price. I didn't have a clue what I was going to do with them, but I brought them home anyway. The greens are "a specialty blend of colorful organic greens such as: chard, kale, mustard, turnip greens, collard, beet and other seasonal greens". They were triple washed and cut. I found a recipe that sounded good and made a few changes. Here's what we had for supper tonite. It was delicious! ( The rest of the meal? Pork Chops with Spiced Rub and Cheese Grits...a great combination!)

Sauteed Garden Greens
2 tablespoons extra virign olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 (8-oz) container Cut-n- Clean Garden Greens (or Swiss chard, kale, etc.)
1/2 cup raisins (regular or golden)
1 cup chicken broth
Balsamic vinegar

Saute garlic in olive oil in large skillet (that has a lid). Sprinkle with paprika. Add greens, stirring until wilted. Add raisins and broth. Cover and cook over medium heat until greens are tender, approximately 8 minutes. Season with salt. Serve and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar to taste.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Oven Rotisserie Chicken

Sometimes I get a taste for rotisserie chicken from Publix Super Markets. Of course, the closest Publix to me is 2 hrs away, so that is not happening on the spur of the moment. I found this recipe that was supposed to go in a slow cooker but I made it in the oven instead. OK,  I forgot to put it in the slow cooker this morning! At 4pm when I remembered it - eeeekkkk!- I threw this together and put it in the oven, uncovered at 400 degrees. By supper time (6-ish for us old folks) it was smelling wonderful, nicely browned and tender. Success! Now, if you want to try it in the slow cooker, I'll add those directions, too. But, I was very satisfied with my ' fake Publix rotisserie chicken".

We've lived in the mountains for 7 years. The first Christmas we were here I stood in the middle of the grocery aisle in Wal Mart and cried. I missed Publix that much. Then I found Ingles, a NC based "Publix look alike". I've learned to "like" them. But, there are still days when I long for my friends at Publix!!! Those guys have the best customer service of any grocery store I've ever been in. They could teach the rest of the retail world a lot!

The first year we were here I ordered 250 postcards from Vista Print. The were pre-printed with a message to Publix that basically said how wonderful it is to live in this beautiful area, BUT how much we all missed Publix. I gave them out to everyone! They hit the desk of the Atlanta VP who I met while working for United Way in Atlanta. He sent me a very nice personal letter that said in essence that they were not coming in this direction! I was crushed and ready to move back to Atlanta!

You already know the end of that story. We are still here. Publix is still 2 hrs away. Ingles is OK. I finally got the meat guys to talk to me and they all 3 actually waved at me this week. I guess that is some progress, although very slow in coming!

Fake Rotisserie Chicken
1 chicken (3 1/2 -4 lbs)
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder (or 3 cloves garlic, minced)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix all the spices in a small bowl. Stir in oil to form a paste.
Coat the chicken inside and out with the paste.
Place in a slow cooker, cover and cook at LOW for 6 to 7 hours (or HIGH for 3 1/2 to 4 hours)

OR place chicken in roasting pan and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hr 15 min.

Banana Nut Bread

Another sale on bananas! I just couldn't resist an overflowing bag of bananas for $1.49! Never mind that I have several freezer bags full tucked away. After we ate all we could on cereal, I decided to bring out my old favorite Banana Bread recipe. This one is tried and true for almost 25 years!! I won't say "never fail" because if I do that is exactly what will happen! I don't want to jinx you. This bread freezes well so you can make ahead or bake extra to have on hand. My DH (dear husband) loves it covered in whipped cream or slathered in butter. I think it's perfect plain. Add the nuts or not. It's your choice.

Banana Nut Bread
1 stick margarine or butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 bananas, mashed
3/4 cups chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

Preheat oven to 325 degres.
Cream butter and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, beating after each addition. Combine flour and baking powder. Stir into batter. Stir in bananas and nuts. Mix well. Pour into a greased loaf pan (9x5-inch). Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Loosen edges when bread is done. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to cool or serve warm.

Helen's Notes: I squish the bananas with my hands! Of course, I like to play in my food!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Homemade English Muffins

For those readers who don't know me personally, I am easily bored, enjoy a challenge and sometimes have to try something "just to see IF I can do it". This is one of those days/weeks that fits all three. I can't seem to settle down to my usual routine of painting (water color) all morning, breaking for lunch then painting most of the afternoon until my fav Food Network shows come on (Giada, Ina Garten) before cooking supper.  So, this morning I decided to try a recipe I pinned on Pinterest (if you're not on it, you NEED to check it out!). This is one of those "just to see IF I can do it" recipes. I KNOW you can buy perfectly good English muffins in any grocery store, BUT how much better could they be??? Ahhhhhh.. that is always the question!! And, I'm sure you, by now, have guessed the answer - MUCH better than store bought! After all, isn't everything? So, for you adventuresome souls, equally bored friends or bread bakers, here is the recipe.

A few observations before you start: I don't have an electric griddle (surprised?) and baked mine on a cast iron grill that fits over 2 burners of my gas cooktop. I used canning jar rings for the shapers. Cookie cutters would have worked. Spray everything with Pam. The kicker for me was figuring out a lid. I used a cookie sheet (should have sprayed it with Pam, too) and lifted it (in panic) before the suggested time. You can imagine that 1/4 of the dough was stuck to it and some of the muffins lifted off the griddle. What a mess! Learn from my mistakes! Don't lift the cookie sheet/lid! No peeking!
Next time (and there WILL be a next time for this one) I will use wide mouth jar rings. The English muffins were dainty and petite. Of course, that only meant we ate more!! Aren't you so glad I have these "adventures" so that you can have a better experience or live vicariously through me???

Homemade English Muffins
1/2 cup non-fat dry powdered milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening (or melted butter)
1 cup hot water
1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Corn meal, for sprinkling
Non-stick spray
Canning lids or 3” metal rings* ( 12 regular size)

*Tip: For an extra special touch, try cookie cutters!
Combine the powdered milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, shortening and hot water in a bowl and stir by hand.
In another bowl, combine the yeast, a pinch of sugar and warm water until the yeast is dissolved, then add the mixture to the dry milk ingredients.
Thoroughly stir in (by hand) the flour until everything is combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set it in a warm spot for an hour.
Preheat an electric griddle to 300°F.*
Place the metal rings in the skillet and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Stir the last 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the dough. Spoon the batter into each ring with a 1/4 cup measuring scoop and sprinkle a little corn meal on each of the tops.
Cover the skillet or griddle with a lid or cookie sheet and cook for 6-7 minutes.
Carefully remove the lid or sheet and flip the muffins over with tongs. Replace the lid or sheet, then cook for another 6-7 minutes or until browned.
Remove rings and cool on a cooling rack.
Split the muffins with a fork, around the edges, to keep the crannies intact, then lightly toast them.

Tip: Don’t have an electric griddle? Try cooking in batches on a preheated cast iron skillet or a non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Potato Soup with Caramelized Vegetables

Montreal is on my "bucket list". I found this recipe in a Bon Appetit article about Montreal many years ago. Immediately, I liked the city and the soup! I might even consider going to Montreal in the winter. Is that completely crazy? Anyway, try the soup. The roasted veggies give it a wonderful flavor. The restaurant to whom this recipe is credited (in case anyone is going anytime soon) is La Gargote.

Potato Soup with Caramelized Vegetables
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups chopped onion ( or 2 cups onion and 2 cups leeks)
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 cups water
1 can chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

Heat oil in large heavy pot over high heat. Add onions, celery and carrots; saute until most veggies are a deep brown (not burned!). This should take about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add potato, water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Place about 1/2 of the soup in a blender or food processor (or use a stick blender) and puree. Add puree back to the pot, salt to taste and add chicken broth until desired consistency.

Helen's Notes: I added the chicken broth to the original recipe because the first time I made this it was thick enough to eat with a fork! Use your judgement and add the broth or not.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Honestly, I don't remember where I found this recipe, but doesn't it sound scrumptious and simple? This comes together quickly. A harder goat cheese is recommended but is sometimes difficult to find, so a softer Montrachet-type chèvre will also work. If you are not a goat cheese fan, use Monterey Jack or even Swiss. After heavy holiday meals, this will be a welcome lighter dish. Serve with Israli couscous, orzo or plain old white rice.

Since someone asked what brand of goat cheese I use, I have to admit that I make goat cheese at home. Thanks to my friend, Jennifer, I discovered how much better it is than what you can buy in the supermarket. Goat milk is available in the milk case of most grocery stores. If you're intereseted, here are the simple instructions (with pics). http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/02/how-to-make-goat-cheese-recipe.html. Alton Brown says it is as easy as making tea. I agree!
 Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
4 oz. goat cheese (a semi-hard goat cheese may be hard to find, but soft goat cheese works, too)
Fresh sprigs of thyme (or use dried thyme)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 basket cherry tomatoes
1/2 to 1/3 cup white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

 Pour the olive oil into a baking dish and tip or rub to coat the bottom of the dish.
 Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and scatter on the bottom of the baking pan.
 Cut the goat cheese into 4 disks. Gently loosen the skin on the chicken breasts and put the goat cheese and some thyme leaves underneath the skin.
 Lightly rub the top of the chicken breasts with more olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
 Place the chicken on top of the tomatoes. Scatter thyme sprigs on top. Pour the wine into the pan.
 Place in the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Can you believe it's really 2012? WOW! It seems like just yesterday that we were anxiously watching  2000 roll over. Did we really stock up on canned goods and toilet paper in expectation of..what?? At the risk of sounding "old"... times seems to fly! So, what are you planning for 2012? Something fun and exciting? YES for me! We are planning a trip to Provence!!

For those of you who travel with me via my e-mail daily journals, "we" will be traveling to the South of France (going through Paris for a few days, if I get my way!) and having some wonderful culinary experiences! I can hardly wait! Planning and anticipation are almost (ALMOST) as much fun as the trip. On the cold winter days to come, I will be pouring over books, websites and maps in preparation for another wonderful journey! We are thinking about Sept when the weather will be nice (not too hot, hopefully), less tourists (you KNOW I don't like to mingle with tourists in white tennis shoes ) and still lots of good produce (Provencal food uses lots of tomatoes, herbs and veggies). Then, next Christmas we are planning (that's still a year off!) to go to Germany, Austria and Hungary to experience the Christmas Markets via a river cruise (Yes, I did say I would NEVER do that again!).

You guys who check in with me for recipes are probably thinking "Why is she telling us all of this?"
Just a warning! You will see recipes that are influenced by these trips to come (and later from the influence of what we experienced!). I promise quick and easy.

Here's to a new year, new friends, new experiences and lots of good recipes!