I’m embarking on a new year of writing that celebrate others like me, who LIVE TO EAT! Just such a person is 28-year-old Alex Rold.
Rold takes eye popping, UNREAL, mouthwatering Instagram photos of all his foodie adventures in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s not the marketing analyst’s day job but perhaps it should be. I know his mother…yet I found my foodcentric cohort on his IG page, @roldinginthe_eats through drool of mouth. Sufficed to say, I was hardly the first one to notice Alex’s keen eye for superlative places to eat.
He was featured on Atlanta Eats a little over a year ago, when he said his nosh hobby really took hold and sent him on a photographic tour of the famed Buford Highway – a 7 mile path of restaurants, food halls and markets, that really are a dream come true for anyone with taste buds.
Buford Highway has its own China Town and massive food courts, with stalls that are like a United Nations in food: Korean, Mexican, Vietnamese, Dominican, African, you name it!
“If you’re not used to Buford, it can be overwhelming. The diversity you’ll find there, sometimes language barriers – it’s the best Asian food, best true Szechuan food, I’ve had in my life. I’m there almost every night of the week,” said Rold.
He recommended we all try the numbing peppers at Good Luck Gourmet and Masterpiece. Nam Phuong is definitely a favorite haunt for Vietnamese food.
Rold said his near daily trek down the four-lane highway, stretching from just north of Atlanta (Brookhaven) to Duluth, GA in Gwinnett County, has been the path toward more than just amazing food.
Being food oriented has also been the path toward the best friendships of his life.
“I recognize friends from Instagram on Buford Highway all the time – people I never would have met were it not for our shared love of eating,” he said.
Clicking through the IG pages of his fellow Atlanta food advocates, one can find recommendations for the best fried Korean chicken wings, dumplings, tandoori chicken, Pho, tacos, burgers and ice cream.
I, @jorjmorgancooking have followed them all and urge my own food blog subscribers to do the same. The photo below is one of Alex’a Instagrams. It reads:
The Shed Burger – @creekstone_farms grass fed angus beef on brioche topped with homemade bacon jam and smoked Gouda. Served with fries.
If you are looking for similar pics of gorgeous grub, check out his friends on these Instagram pages:
In the meantime, here’s a list of best international Buford Highway restaurants according to the Travel Channel, and my solemn vow that I will persuade Alex in the near future to join my Super Supper Book Club – because I know he likes to cook almost as much as he loves to go out. Don’t worry, Rold. I won’t breathe a word of what happened when you invented your own ice cream flavor with limited edition Captain Crunch.
Speaking of gourmet, here’s Alex’s own effort at making Japanese soufflé pancakes, which he said his New York Times Cooking subscription taught him how to make.
I may feature my own version of these fairy tale cakes sometime in February, and bring a short stack to my next Super Supper Book Club, should we decide to feed and read on a novel like Crazy Rich Asians next.
Since I was seventeen, I spent my Christmases in Florida… most of them in Fort Lauderdale. While the palm trees swayed from ocean breezes outside, we watched old movies and drank hot cocoa inside. It was a fun way to pretend we were having a White Christmas!
While the Season included baking and tree trimming, shopping and wrapping were not far behind. I remember all the personalized gifts purchased from Paper Mpressions and all the beautiful tablescapes on display at Special Additions. I remember buying the boys matching holiday outfits from Flora Ottimer and finding crafty creations at Cross Stitch Cupboard.
Small businesses have always been a part of our community, like patchwork squares in a storied, family quilt. Our friends are their owners, our families are their customers and together we keep each other wrapped in friendship.
While some of these stores have disappeared, some are still going strong. Cactus Flower, owned by Candy Johnson has been in business for over 30 years. Her customers are not only her friends, they are each other’s friends. In the spirit of friendship (which is celebrated in Canvas and Cuisine), I hope my Fort Lauderdale pals will drop by to say hi, sip some bubbly and support Candy Johnson’s store this Thursday. I look forward to seeing you!
3020 N Federal Hwy
While you’re there, take a look around. Cactus Flower’s vendors are both old and new, and the combination leads to whimsical tables perfect for entertaining.
Meanwhile, please accept this simple, yet elegant holiday party dinner plan as my gift to you. It allows you to prepare everything in advance, so that you can enjoy your party as much as your guests do. And, if you are looking for the perfect serving platter for the salmon, or cake stand for the jam cake… then I’ll see you at Candy’s on the 12th! Merry, merry!
Simple Holiday Dinner Party Menu
Pan Roasted Veggies
Cumin Crusted Salmon with Tarragon Caper Sauce
Cranberry Jam Cake
Pan Roasted Veggies
serves a crowd
45 minute cuisine
16 to 20 Brussels Sprouts
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ lemon, about 2 tablespoons, plus more for the other veggies
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the other veggies
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for the other veggies
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper, plus more for the other veggies
16 to 20 Baby New Potatoes
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
16 to 20 Whole Baby Carrots
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground curry
16 to 20 Asparagus Spears
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Large Yellow Onions
Preheat the oven to 425°.
Cut each Brussels sprout in half and steam (or blanch) until they begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Cut each potato in half and steam (or blanch) for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with mustard, Parmesan cheese, garlic, thyme, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Steam (or blanch) the carrots for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with brown sugar, curry, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Cut the onion into wedges leaving the root intact. This will help to keep the onion together. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
You can prepare the vegetable up to this point several hours in advance. When you are ready to serve, roast the veggies until they begin to crisp and brown, about 20 minutes. You can serve them warm or at room temperature.
Cumin Crusted Salmon
with Tarragon Caper Sauce
serves a crowd
20 minute cuisine
1 (2 ½ pound) center-cut whole salmon fillet with skin
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup cream
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the whole fillet, skin side down, on a rimmed baking sheet, coated with vegetable oil spray. Drizzle the lemon juice on top.
Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Rub this mixture all over the salmon, coating well. Drizzle the top with olive oil.
Place the salmon into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast until the salmon is rare in the center, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness, or about 15 to 30 minutes for the whole fillet.
For the sauce, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, cream, capers, tarragon vinegar and fresh tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve the salmon with the sauce on the side. Garnish with fresh lemon or orange slices and fresh tarragon sprigs.
Cranberry Jam Cake
serves a crowd
60 minute cuisine plus baking
1 (12-ounce) jar cherry preserves
¾ cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries, (about 3 to 3 ½ cups)
8 large egg whites
3 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, room temperature
Zest of 2 large oranges, about 2 tablespoons
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 cup milk
1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 (32-ounce) package powdered sugar
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 to 2 tablespoons half and half (optional)
Place the filling ingredients into a deep pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries soften and begin to pop, about 20 minutes. Use a potato masher to mush up the cranberries. Remove the pot from the heat and cool. Spread the filling into a shallow pan. (A cake pan or pie plate works well for this.) Place the pan into the freezer to cool thoroughly while you make and bake the cake.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 2 (9-inch) square cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a square of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and spray again. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the whipped egg whites to a large bowl. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Use the mixer to combine 1 cup butter and granulated sugar. Stir in the orange zest. Add ⅓ of the flour followed by ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all the flour and milk have been added. The batter will be quite thick.
Fold the egg whites into the batter using about ⅓ of the whites at a time. This will lighten the batter. Use a spatula to scrape and smooth the batter into the two pans. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a rack, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. Now is a good time to remove the cranberry filling from the freezer. You want it to be chilled – not frozen!
Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt. Mix in the sugar a little bit at a time. Alternate the sugar and the remaining orange juice. If the frosting is too thick, you can thin it with a bit of half and half.
Now, here’s the fun part. You can turn this into a four layer cake, by horizontally slicing each of the square cakes in half. Or, you can just use one layer of jam frosting in the middle of the two cakes. It’s up to you how much cranberry to put in the center. Either way you will have cranberry jam left over which is the whole idea. The jam is perfect as an accompaniment to your favorite pork or poultry dish or spread onto your morning Christmas toast! Spread the frosting around the sides and the top of the cake.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! I just can’t get enough of Fall Festival time in the mountains. There is a festival weekend for October Fest (with sausages and kraut), one for Wooley Worms (these furry insects race UP a tight rope!), one for pumpkin patches and corn mazes, one whole month dedicated to the Wizard of Oz and my personal favorite, a festival dedicated to apples!
The Valle Country Fair in Banner Elk is such a place. I visited on a cool, crisp autumn day where my breath blew out steam, and my hands were shoved into my pockets. I didn’t shiver long.
As soon as my gal pals and I walked into the fair, we beelined for the home made apple cider station and helped ourselves to a heaping cup of warm cider. It’s produced the old-fashioned way using a wooden press and aluminum wash bowls to collect the juice.
After that we wandered through the rows of craft booths spying everything from hand carved wooden bowls and cutting boards, to personalized nursery rhyme music CD’s, to gourds turned into Santa faces, to ceramic treasures like those of Triple C Pottery where I bought a set of the cutest bowls…
But, the absolute best, longest wait in line, and most expensive item at the fair is a fresh, warm jar of apple butter, lovingly prepared by the members of the church in huge, steaming pots over wood fires.
The cinnamon-gingery aroma lures you to the booth, where you queue up to spend $8 a jar. Along the way, you make new friends, exchange recipes and meet a guy with a chicken hat on his head (the legs move up and down!) You are only allowed several jars of the golden apple butter, and I usually max out the limit.
Apple butter is terrific on a warm biscuit, sensational on banana bread, exceptional as a condiment alongside roasted pork and delicioso in my apple butter cake that I dedicate to the hard-working church members and schoolteachers of Holy Cross Episcopal Church.
1 to 2 tablespoons milk (as needed to thin frosting)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat two 9 x 9-inch (you can certainly change the size of the pan if you choose) cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a layer of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and coat the paper.
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with both sugars until fluffy. Mix in the eggs. Pour in ⅓ of the flour mixture followed by ½ cup of the apple butter. Mix well and continue alternating ingredients until all the flour and apple butter are mixed into the batter. Spread the batter into the two pans. Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cakes onto a rack. Remove the parchment paper and cool the cakes completely.
Use an electric mixer to combine confectioners’ sugar with the cream cheese, ½ cup butter and the vanilla until smooth and creamy. You can mix in a teaspoon or two of milk to get the consistency that you prefer for frosting. Place one cake onto your serving platter. Slather the cake with frosting. Top with the remaining cake. Cover the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top of the cake with chopped walnuts.
Occasionally, you stumble across a treasure your busy life would have you overlook. This happened to me last week when hubby forced me into the doctor’s office to get my flu shot. Whaaat… a treasure in a doctor’s office? Yup. As I was waited to get jabbed, I glanced toward the counter and saw a display of books – something to distract from the fact of my being here.
Here’s the backstory. The only reason I had time to get that flu shot was I was supposed to take grandson, Sammy for his birthday shopping trip. But, he got the flu … kinda karma isn’t it? So there I was, sleeve rolled up and nothing to do but page through the literature in an antiseptic lobby.
I spied this book. Its animated cover drew me in, as did its title, Puppydog Blues. I picked it up, flipped through the pages, and discovered the cutest collection of childhood poems
I have read in a very long time. Nostalgia and irreverent joy overcame me. The story was so very similar to books I’d read to Sammy when he was a baby, and felt blessed to still be reading my newest grandchild, baby Josh.
Take a gander at this sweet, impertinent and intelligently clever writing from Puppydog Blues, and read it to your little ones if you still have them. This stanza is a particularly fun one for you foodies to nosh on. It inspired the butternut squash risotto I went home and made after my doc appointment.
Eat Your Vegetables
Is stalking me.
It’s nothing I can prove.
I’m sure those
Aren’t “sweet” potatoes
That eye my every move.
Is a savage.
I think it wants my head.
Vowed to get us
When I’m sleeping in my bed.
The corn has ears,
It snoops and hears
It’s gone starch-raving mad.
Is talking trash-
It’s mixed up really bad.,
Is off its gourd!
So what’s a kid to do?
The message here
Is loud and clear
Eat your veggies or, I fear,
They’ll end up eating you!
The book is written by Marshall Silverman. For more information contact info@BookBaby.com. There are both a paperback and hardback edition of the book. I bought them both!
Now, for a weekly recipe. Keeping up with the theme of eating your veggies, here is my recipe for a tummy-filling risotto sweetened with chunks of butternut squash. Enjoy!
Risotto with Butternut Squash
serves 2 as a main and 6 as a side dish
20 minute cuisine
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ half red onion, peeled and diced, about ½ cup
½ medium butternut squash, peeled and diced into small chunks, about 2 cups
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the butternut squash. Sprinkle with Tuscan seasoning, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the rice and cook for 1 more minute to toast. Pour in the sherry and cook until the liquid disappears, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Pour in about 1 cup of the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid disappears, about 5 minutes. Add 1 more cup chicken broth. Continue until all the stock had been absorbed into the rice. The rice should be creamy with just a bit of a bite. You don’t want it to be mushy! Stir in the cream, butter and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with parsley.
* I am a big fan of The Spice and Tea Exchange stores. I seriously could spend a whole afternoon sniffing and smiling in their Blowing Rock store. The great news is that you can find some of the blends on-line. If you don’t have the time to find Tuscan spice, substitute with a bit of paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and cumin. Or…. choose any of your other favorite blends. It all works!
This year, New Orleans is striking up the Mardi Gras band on March 5th, and you know what that means: Lent is starting and Easter is just 40 days away. I love the colors, flavor, parades and pageantry surrounding this time of year – but I can’t get to Louisiana for Fat Tuesday this go around. That’s why I’m devoting this week’s post and next Monday’s to the signature dish on Mardi Gras Day: KING CAKE!!!!
Instead of that classic cake, I took its yummy ingredients and turned it into something perfect for sharing with family and friends. Today it’s bread and next Monday, get ready for some King Cake Cookies, Jorj style!
The Fancy Sprinkles Company was my muse.
A while back I ordered some Fancy Sprinkles made just for Mardi Gras. I put on my thinking cap on what to do with them, and came up with my own Mardi Gras Bread recipe. It’s a sweet treat you can serve at breakfast with cinnamon honey butter, for lunch with peanut butter and jam, or after dinner for a late night snack. Anytime is the perfect time for this bread.
This recipe makes two loaves – one for you and one to wrap up and give to a lucky friend. Give them a big hug and wish them a happy Mardi Gras! Spring is on the way!
Mardis Gras Bread
Yield 2 loaves
2 ½ hour cuisine
2 envelopes active dry yeast (about 4 ½ teaspoons)
5 ½ cups bread flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon dried grated lemon peel
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Yellow, purple and green sprinkles
Stir the yeast in a bowl with ½ cup warm water. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Place the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir to combine. With the motor running on slow, add the yeast and 1 ½ cups more warm water. Once the flour is moistened, increase the speed and mix until the dough forms around the hook, about 5 to 8 minutes. Increase the speed again and continue to mix adding in the butter just a bit at a time. Mix until the dough is tight and shiny, about another 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead for about 2 to 3 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a bowl sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Cover with plastic and set in a warm, dry place to rise.
Place the cream cheese, ½ cup granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, egg and lemon peel into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix to combine.
Spray two 9x5x5” loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Check the dough after 45 minutes. The dough should spring back slowly when you poke your finger into it. Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Take one ball of dough and use your hands to spread into a 10×6” rectangle. Spread half of the filling onto the dough. Roll the dough (jelly-roll style) over the filling. Place the rolled dough into the loaf pan. Repeat with the second ball of dough. Again, cover the loaf pans with plastic wrap and set aside to rise.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Check the dough after 30 to 45 minutes. The dough should rise to about ½-inch from the top of the loaf pan. Place the pans into the oven and bake until the tops are deeply golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer from the pan to a wire rack. Cool completely.
Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and buttermilk. Stir in vanilla extract. The glaze should be thick yet pourable. Drizzle the glaze over the loaves. Shake sprinkles over the glaze.
Meet Blaire Wilson, the red-headed farmer. She’s the newest addition to the American Girl Doll line. Blaire has a family-run restaurant right on the farm. The table is set with plates, food and flowers in empty bottles for the centerpiece. There’s a menu, of course, pictured below.
Blaire lives with her family on a sustainable farm with her pet pigs, goat and chickens. She bakes for her community and overcomes her shyness about her food allergy.
On New Year’s Day (American Girl Doll REVEAL day), I found myself tugging my granddaughter into the store that was brimming with Nanas and Mimis and Gigis all ogling the doll, the kitchen in the farmhouse, the garden and all the accessories. Not only is this an exquisite toy; the doll beautiful, the details intriguing (multi-colored eggs sitting next to a farm sink), the message is totally in-line with my passion.
Back when my granddaughter was enthralled with everything American Girl, I often wondered about the genius behind their marketing team. They design dolls with narratives that appeal to multi-generations while problem-solving contemporary story-lines. They don’t dumb it down. Each doll has books that take you into their make-believe lives. They deal with real issues and ask you to believe in their truths – almost like having a doll mentor.
Yes, the whole thing is expensive… that’s why there is a community of grandparents in the check-out line. But, it’s also inclusive, creating dolls from different cultures and even genders! One of the displays in the story has a boy-doll on a float in a swimming pool!! Check out this menu from the doll café!
You are probably asking what the heck this has to do with my food blog, and I’m here to tell you it has everything to do with food and family. Teaching impressionable children the importance of family (whatever that family looks like) is my passion. Blending this while instilling the value of farming, knowing where our food comes from and caring about the environment that creates this food, is a life lesson for future generations. What a way to begin 2019!
And now for the recipe! One of the farm doll’s offerings was a Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. I haven’t created her recipe…. yet. But I can offer you my recipe for Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks from Sunday Best Dishes. I think your American Girl Doll will approve!
Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
3 cups half and half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Heat the half and half and vanilla in a sauce pan over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat.
To make the caramel, heat the sugar and ¼ cup water in another pan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase the heat and bring the sugar to a boil until it turns a golden amber color, about 8 minutes. Swirl the pan around to insure even coloring.
Slowly pour the warm half and half into the caramel. Be careful, it will bubble vigorously and expand up the sides of the pan.
Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. Pour about ½ cup of the caramel into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Immediately pour back into the pan. This prevents the eggs from scrambling. Stir over medium heat until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Pour the custard into the bowl of your ice cream maker and process according to directions. Stir in the salt and chopped chocolate during the last two minutes of chilling. Serve immediately, or transfer to a container and freeze for up to 3 days. Let the ice cream sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.