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corn and celery summer salad

At 8:30 am this Sunday, while I wiped the sleep from my eyes and noticed that my only snuggle partner was my fourteen year old dog (lifted lovingly onto the bed each morning by her papa), I heard a familiar muffled clamor coming from the kitchen.  My husband was making fresh sausage for us to have for breakfast.

fresh sausage

He is a man of simple pleasures.  He doesn’t ask for much in life.  Conversely, he’s quite the giver, making coffee at the crack of dawn each day, emptying the dishwasher and garbage can so I can start my cooking for clients with a clean slate, and just generally setting me up for success.  He’s my anchor- that sounds so cliche…but it’s true.  When I get a crazy idea in my head that’s larger than life and I get all emotional about it (which may happen kind of often), spinning thoughts like a wild woman, my husband gently pulls me back down to where my feet can firmly root back into the earth, somehow without ever dismissing me or popping my bubble of excitement.  And then, he helps me to give that idea life, shape, and structure- taking all of the necessary steps with me to reach my goals with gusto.

Adam Price is the baker in our family.  A master biscuit-baker to the maxx.

biscuits

He is also the cocktail-maker.  I mean the Mixologist (said in snarky  hipster voice).

He’s the smoother of edges and the most fun partner in crime.  He has a gigantic, warm heart, the patience of Job, and he giggles before he even starts to tell a story that tickles him.  He is the cheese to my cracker, the jelly to my crunchy peanut butter, the other pea in my pod.  Almost a decade into our relationship, he lights me up all day everyday.  And I am so thankful that I truly won the Husband Lottery. There are a few things in the Universe that get Adam super excited.

1.  Going on a trip.  Before we go on any kind of adventure, that boy does not sleep.  He’s up at four in the morning, like a kid on Christmas, gearing up for the journey.

2.  The Sea.  Like me, Adam Price would do just about anything to find his way to a beach.  One day, we will live there for good.  But, until then, we treasure every moment on the water, knowing that Mother Ocean heals all and brings us the most peace.

3.  Sandwiches.  I swear, Adam would eat sammiches three meals a day if it were good for his body and his wife wouldn’t nag him about it.  This entire meal was born out the craving for one super-over-the-top bbq sandwich.

crazy pulled pork sandwich

4.  Live music.  A shared love of both of ours.  And thank g-d.  If Adam didn’t enjoy grooving to the sounds of a wide spectrum of music and soaking up the energy of a peaceful crowd gathered to take in the tunes, I would have surely been destined to grow into an old spinster all by myself.

5.  Grilling.  This is a true passion of Adam’s, and since we’ve got a charcoal grill with a smoker attachment on our back porch, this is the pleasure that gets indulged the most in our life currently.  Planning to smoke a pork butt for eight hours brings Adam serious giddiness.  It’s fun to watch his eyes get big and his eagerness build.  He will wake up early on a Sunday to concoct a spice mixture and get the Butt rubbed and ready,

rubbed pork butt

and he delights in staying home all day to babysit- making sure the temperature remains constant and the fire stays just strong enough to cook her low and slow.

pork butt 2 hours
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calzone with sauce

Hello, and happy summer to all of you!  It’s a delightfully sunny Monday morning, and the cool breeze feels like an unexpected gift, reaching me even as I write you from my screened porch.  I’m celebrating today!  Why?  Well, because today marks the fifth year of me being a free agent.  Early this morning, all of my former teaching colleagues (many still dear friends of mine) headed back to the land of school.  It’s Teacher Work Week already, although it’s still JULY, and the kids will be back with shiny shoes, pointy pencils, and big expectations on August 4th.

For five years in a row now, I’ve gotten to skip that Opening Day 6am wake-up call and all the anxiety-provoking hoopla that comes with it, to spend the day working for yours truly.  I say this not at all in a “Nanny nanny boo boo” kind of way.  Lawd knows we need talented, passionate teachers who can rise up against the red tape and stressful workload to inspire and guide our children, as I could not continue to do.  But, more honestly, I say it in a way that honors my personal triumph to stay afloat as a local small business owner, a personal chef, and a female entrepreneur in a touch-and-go economy.  I am extraordinarily thankful that, with the help of my incredibly supportive husband, I’ve been able to carve out a different path for myself; one in which I can be creative with my mind and my hands, flexible with my time, and deliberately helpful to those who may be super busy and need assistance to make a healthy dinner appear on the table, or those experiencing loss, or those grappling with something larger than themselves.  My goal in life has certainly always been to help others, but somehow, over the last couple of years, the way in which I’ve been able to bring comfort or happiness to other people through food has been moving for me- and beyond rewarding.

So, I’m elated to be here to share my thoughts with you on this celebratory day, during this most wonderful time of the year.

sea of tomatoes

carrots

tomatoes garlic

onions
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quinoa salad with butternut squash

Well, it’s already February, and I haven’t even wished you a Happy New Year.  What a slacker!!!  Happy New Year, my friends!  I hope your holidays were spectacular and that you’ve welcomed this brand new year with gusto.  I wonder if you’re sticking to your resolutions…

I’ve been happily busy cooking for clients these last few months, especially focusing on meeting the needs of those with allergies to gluten, dairy, chicken and eggs, soy, mustard, malt- you name it!  Essentially, I’m embracing the challenge of creating scrumptious meals that omit these allergens without omitting flavor, texture, color, or comfort.  It is a puzzle that I welcome with open arms on a daily basis, and the feedback from my clients has been overwhelmingly positive.  Yay!

I’ve had little time to sit down and write, but I’ve been chipping away at this post for over a month.  And I can’t move forward without sharing all of December’s goodies with you!  Seriously, I tried to tell myself to just skip over all the holiday stuff, because it was sooooo 2013.  But, I couldn’t.  I think it’s kind of like trying to leave my house for vacation without cleaning it, which I cannot physically do.  Oy vey.

So, here are the many splendid culinary-related highlights from our holiday time, which was a veritable boatload of fun, friends, family, and food.  I’ll provide lots of recipes and tips that can be used all year long, so settle in, and enjoy!  ;-)  And then I will be able to move on with my life and my plan (ironic as it may be) to offer shorter, more user-friendly blog posts in the months to come.  Heh, heh.  I see what y’all are pinning on Pinterest.

First on the docket of Share-a-rama: a special partay!  Adam and I catered a small Christmas soiree for some legit rock stars in a fabulous home in Atlanta.  Not kidding.  The band shall remain nameless, since they deliberately and gently requested a “leave your phone at the door” policy, so as not to broadcast any celebratory shenanigans to the free world.  The theme of the bash was “Southern Gentleman” with a focus on excellent bourbon and sweet hospitality.  And I’d say the whole thing was a smash hit.

Adam made his pimento cheese- you know, the one that people are always trying to marry him over?

pimento cheese

Adam’s Pimento Cheese:

8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 oz medium cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 Cup roasted red peppers/ pimentos, diced

1 Cup mayonnaise

Good pinch of granulated garlic and salt

Lots of freshly cracked black pepper

2 T of the brine from the pepper jar

Simply combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir/ smash until they become one.  Taste.  Your pimento cheese  mixture should have a little tang to it, and the texture should be spreadable.  Tweak seasoning to your liking.  Before serving, allow the cheese to come to room temperature, or close to it, so that it’s easy to scoop and shmear.

Also in the appetizer department, we made deviled eggs.
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celery radish apple salad aerial

It’s a confusing 73 degrees outside in December, but I know it’s holiday time, because I just demolished the last of my Aunt Fran’s Chex Mix for breakfast.  Every year, her kitchen transforms into a Chex Mix construction site for hours on end, until she’s filled about a billion canisters, bags, and pretty boxes full of the crunchy, buttery stuff to give away to friends and family.  I have never had any kind of self-restraint when it comes to my share of this holiday snack.  And true to form, the bag that my mom hand-delivered to me on Thanksgiving Eve was devoured in just three sittings.

A whole lot of devouring has been going down around here lately.  In the five days my mom was here, I think I said, “I’m so full and happy!” at least ten times.  Of course, that’s an appropriate theme for Thanksgiving/ Hanukkah week!  While we had fewer folks around our Turkey Day table this year, we did not have fewer dishes to sample.  My plate was full to the brim,

full thanksgiving plate

as was my gratitude-ometer.

happy chanukkah

For more than a decade, I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with my Faircloth family in Atlanta.  The crowd is always a mixture of friends and extended family, and the atmosphere is one of openness, acceptance, and humor.  The tables are decorated lovingly,

table shot 2013

centerpiece

gourds and leaves

and the first festive pop of champagne gets the celebration started around 2:30.  Deviled eggs and bacon roll-ups are staples of the pre-dinner munchfest.
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sweet potato soup

The holidays are coming!  The holidays are coming!

Yeeha!  I am excited for all of the upcoming festivities.  And for me it starts with a friend’s wedding this weekend, and I’m speaking in it!  No pressure there or anything.  ;-)  I’ve got my speech written, I’ve practiced reading it aloud, and I’ve gotten my mama’s approval.  All set and ready to go.

But before I immerse myself in lovey-dovey-ness for the next three days, I wanted to share two easy recipes with you that can seriously heighten your Thanksgiving meal.

I recently had the pleasure of volunteering at Grady’s Medical Center as a part of their Wellness Program to do a demonstration about eating fresh, seasonal foods on a budget.  It was my third time presenting to this crew, and I always have a blast doing it.  The conversation is lively, the questions are wise, and the feedback is consistently awesome.

I laid out all of the Georgia grown veggies currently available at our farmer’s market,

fall georgia veggies

lured the participants in with a bowl of sweet potato soup,

sweet potato soup in a bowl

and talked menu creation and how to incorporate the fresh goodies into real, healthy meals.  I used their ideas and their fridge or pantry items as a springboard for our planning.

white board

Then, we made stone ground grits with kale stirred in, and a butternut squash salad that was a giant hit!

butternut squash salad
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farro risotto close up

Life has a way of sweeping me off my feet sometimes and carrying me for a few weeks before setting me back down, cheeks all sore from smiling and completely wiped out.  Since late September, I’ve been in a swirl of birthday celebrations, welcoming sweet new babies into the world,

meet fletcher

spectacular wedding festivities,

wedding sign

dave and dot

our third anniversary (on which evening we threw a backyard bachelor party with about 30 folks, a cheesesteak slider bar and loads of food, fire, and games), precious moments with family,

bear
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chopped green tomatoes

I wore white pants today.  Sure, it’s after Labor Day, but I figured there’s still a few more days left of summer, so I might as well rock them one last time.  Some people say the “white pants rules” are a thing of the past anyway, but I’m no fashion expert.  What I can speak about with a modicum of authority though is food.  And I have some sad news to report via our local farmers…

duane from the funny farm

Duane from The Funny Farm and Bobby from Bessmaid Garden Essentials predict that the tomato supply of 2013 is dwindling.

tomatoes dwindling

Noooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!  I wish they’d say it isn’t so.
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tomato, pepper, pear soup with johnny cakes

Being a cook, and a lover of food who can whip up a meal from just about anything, gives friends, clients, and neighbors the green light to hand off all manner of food-related items that they can’t use.  This is a total blessing for me, as there’s always room in my fridge for more.  The items passed along, preceded by the question, “Can you use this?”, are generally quite reasonable: a jar of coconut oil that’s never been touched, a chicken carcass that I can use to make broth, homegrown ginger and herbs, a couple handfuls of dried chilies to lighten the load, an entire pint of Zatar seasoning from a ginormous bag, etc.  Adam and I are typically operating on a shoestring budget, so gifts of food/ ingredients are much appreciated, and it’s fun for us to find a way to utilize the loot at hand.

Last week, I got a call from my friend, Matt, who said he had some stuff from his mama’s garden that he’d like to pass along to me before heading out of town.  I know Matt’s mama, Gustave, and her produce is consistently amazing.  So, I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on her fruits and veggies.  When I arrived at Matt and Star’s house, this is what I found.

bags and bags of gustaves goodies

Holy toledo!  Three giant bags of okra, two huge bags of mixed peppers and a small bag of jalapenos, and a slew of pears picked from a tree that Matt planted twenty years ago.  Exciting bounty, but omg, that’s a lot of food!  You know I love to eat, but not even I could stomach all of this before it went bad.  So, I sent out a message to all of my neighborhood peeps, and a few came to the rescue.  My girlfriend even instituted a Hops for Crops program- making an excellent and most delicious trade of hoppy beer for bags and bags of produce.  Another friend, a self-proclaimed non-cook, acted as the neighborhood Pepper Fairy, delivering the goods to a couple men with a passion for pickling.  And then she went home and surprised the heck out of herself by quickly transforming a bunch of the firey peppers into a vat of hot sauce,

SAMSUNG

and just a few hours later, she baked up a batch of jalapeno poppers.  This lovely lady was inspired by the beautiful goodness at hand, and that brought a huge smile to my face.
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turkey burger with summer salad

Holy cow!  It’s Labor Day weekend!  Donnnnnnnnnn’t go, summer!!!!!!!!!!!  Man.  What’s next?  Halloween?  Thanksgiving??  2014???  I am not ready, y’all.  I wish we could slow it all down and relish each moment a little bit longer.  But, I supposed life isn’t gonna slow down for me or you any time soon.  Here’s what I’ve been chewing on lately….

I have spent the past eight days reconnecting with many of my closest friends.  Yeeehaaa!!!  As an extrovert, I very literally recharge my batteries and gain energy by interacting with people.  When I was a school teacher, I was surrounded by women and children constantly, and I soaked up that powerful force of humanity like a giant sponge.  These days, however, I work by myself almost every day planning, shopping, and cooking for my clients.  My trip to the DeKalb Farmer’s Market tends to be the shiniest moment of my work day (until I deliver edible happiness to my people), since I’m able to chat with folks I know, trade a hug or two, and exchange lots of smiles.  I truly enjoy the cooking part as well of course, but the being lonely part is tough for a girl like me.

Life is busy for all of us and it proves to be more and more tricky to keep up with friends and family the older we get.  You know the laundry list of reasons that makes it complicated to get together with even your favorite folks very often in this land of adulthood.  But, as an extrovert, I start to feel low, sad, yucky- estranged even- from my friends when I don’t talk to them for more than a couple weeks.  It’s a seriously visceral feeling.  I don’t ever want to be viewed as “needy”, and I try to always give my pals the space they need to sift though life, knowing in my heart of hearts that whenever we meet again, it will be like no time has passed.

me and emily

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fried okra

Hey, Y’all.  I’m not going to talk about the rain today.  Not the bajillion days of rain we’ve had this summer or the number or inches of rainfall we’ve experienced beyond our average.  I’m also not going to talk about the terrifying elementary school shooting that took place a few miles from our little town.  Nope.  I’m going to talk about something awesome to bring myself and the rest of you a smidgen of cheer.  FRIED OKRA.

The markets have been teeming with green and red pods of okra over the past several weeks.

okra at market

eggplant and okra

okra at EAV famers market

And I’ve been on a bit of a fried okra kick.  I get that it’s not the healthiest thing in America to eat, but when the okra starts flowing, we must eat it.  If you’re like me, and you didn’t grown up in the South, then you probably don’t have an affinity for that unique okra slime.  I abhor it.  It freaks me out, and I want no parts of it, unless it’s helping to thicken up a pot of legit gumbo.  Even I can understand that the slime has a job to do in that regard.

But, let’s be honest here.  The best way to consume okra is in its fried state.  What I discovered this summer though, is that okra doesn’t have to be battered to be fried.

fried okra with breakfast

While completely delicious, even as an accompaniment to the fattest breakfast sandwich ever, the batter just wants to fall off the okra.  Perhaps the pods feel constricted or weighed down.  We all feel that way sometimes.

Good news!  Okra can be fried naked and skinny in a shallow pool of oil in your very own cast iron skillet.
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