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.
We purchase our holiday turkey from New Town Farms in Waxhaw, North Carolina every year. This year, I was surprised to learn that Sammy, New Town’s Father Farmer also raises a small heard of Ossabaw Island Hogs. These are descendants of the famous Spanish Iberico hogs that are renowned for the most prize cured hams in the world – Jamón Ibérico. You may remember me writing about those hams after our trip to Spain a while back. The butchers in the fresh markets have contests to see who can cut the finest slices from the cured meat. It’s an art!
I also learned that these hogs have an interesting history. They were brought from Spain to a small island off the coast of Georgia in the 1500’s. They remained there for years, developing new characteristics for survival which make the meat delicious and extremely high in Omega 3’s. Sammy is one of a handful of farmers who raise these hogs, and he butchers just a few every year. Luckily, we will be the beneficiaries of this long history when we taste the pork that I purchased from Sammy on New Year’s Day.
And, if this is not delicious enough, my trip to the Mathews farmer’s market, where I picked up the pork, landed me right in front of the happiest farmer I ever met, Jim Mundorf of Nuthill Farms (pictured above). These are some of his yummy offerings!
He got me to taste his Henpecked mustard greens, which were delicate and tender and had an after-blast of mustard that ups the flavor profile in any salad…and especially on that left-over ham sammie.
He also sold me some Tokyo Cross turnips that you can slice raw into salads, but he suggested that I cook the tops with some vinegar and then roast the turnips to go with. Yes, Jim, I will! Click here to see New Town’s store!
Pork is a New Year’s tradition in our house. This was my Dad’s favorite thing to eat! My favorite way to enjoy the dish is to slow cook the meat (any cut works: chops, ribs, butt and shoulder) in the slow cooker with sauerkraut.
Here’s how ya do it!
Place the sauerkraut into the bottom of your slow cooker. I add sliced onions and slices of cabbage to the kraut. Season the meat and place it on top of the sauerkraut. Pour in about a cup of chicken broth. Cook the pork on low heat for a long time. I serve the dish with mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. This year, we’ll add some mustard greens to the mix!
Wishing You’re the Happiest and Healthiest of New Years!!
My dear friend, Sue Fazio and I decided to collaborate on what we call our “kitchen table book”, and, after two years of feverish painting, painstaking recipe testing, and a deliberate and dedicated publishing process, it’s finally here!
Canvas and Cuisine: the art of the fresh market is part coffee table book and part travelogue. It is a visually delicious, delectably readable cookbook that pays tribute to what may be the world’s most important treasure: fresh, locally grown food.
This book is SO MUCH FUN!! Here’s a picture from its pages:
Cobblestone streets, winding down the Italian seaside town of Positano where merchants run their farmer’s markets. The burst of color, and depth of texture shows a certain zest for life.
You can take your finds at these open air markets and make mouth-watering food. Canvas and Cuisine ensnares the senses of both the cook and the artist. You don’t have to be one or the other to appreciate fresh ingredients at the heart of every recipe; this is but the preface of a great culinary tale.
I tell that tale in anecdotes of our travels, and Sue tells it with her paintbrushes. I’d give you a few hints of the crazy stuff in this book, but I’ll leave it at this: Sue and I make Lucy and Ethel look tame!
But, here’s the most important thing of all to say about this book. It would not have been possible without our great influencer, Marti Huizenga.
If you’re very lucky, once in your lifetime, you’ll meet a person that molds you into the somebody you want to become, simply by example. That person will have such a positive impact on you, that you will be forever changed.
Sue and I are lucky to have known and grown through our friendship with Marti. Together with her husband, Wayne, she hugged us into their circle, bringing us along on their adventures. (And, man, were there a ton of adventures!) All the way, they were demonstrating their generosity. Their legendary monetary generosity is well documented. But not everyone was privy to Marti’s generosity of spirit, her compassion for critters big and small and most important, her generosity of friendship.
It is because of Marti that Sue and I met so many years ago, and it is because of Marti’s inspiration and influence, that Sue and I proudly donate the proceeds from Canvas & Cuisine: the art of the fresh market to our charities, the Boys and Girls Club of Hendersonville, North Carolina and Hospitality House of Avery County, North Carolina.
Marti and Wayne are no longer with us. They are basking in the love and light that keeps them together eternally. We have dedicated Canvas and Cuisine to Marti, with love and wonderful memories of a life well-lived. Her voice is forever in our hearts.
We are truly hopeful that you will enjoy the book as much as we have enjoyed creating it.
It’s November and I have a lot to be thankful for – on my gratitude list is Jorj Morgan. Not only is she the best boss a girl could ask for, but she single handedly (yes, Jorj – YOU!) turned me onto to the idea of an in-store cooking class. Sur La Table offers a wide range of classes, for all ages. They partnered with Bon Appetite magazine, and teach you how to cook the simple, yet elegant things from its pages.
Off I went for the Thanksgiving themed class; parked my car in the Mizner Plaza parking garage and followed my nose. Chef Deb had already prepared a turkey, and was getting ready to do it again, along with Hassleback Butternut Squashwith Bay Leaves, Lemony Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Breadcrumbs and, for dessert, Braised and Bruleed Apples with Ice cream.
At first I looked at the proposed menu and thought, “I’d order that…but can I make it?”
Sur La Table makes you think you can! Here’s photos of everything I made with some notes to get Jorj’s readers interested in checking out cooking class locations.
Chef Deb taught me how to “spatchcock” the bird. This technique involves splitting, then flattening the turkey, yielding a perfect roasted bird in half an hour – a full 15 minutes faster than a whole roasted bird.
But none of us (4 total students) were all that concerned with time because they make you so comfortable in the Sur La Table kitchen. You get to drink fresh brewed coffee and snack on muffins Chef D made just before you got there….heaven!
We put together a brine, chopping fresh rosemary and anise on our cutting boards. We were shown the ideal way to zest an orange, and add other spices; we made the turkey as according to the Bon appetite recipe for it, put it in the oven and forgot about it until we got to eat some at the end of class. My biggest take away for this dish was learning how to do a mirepoix – a flavor base made from diced vegetables. We roasted the turkey on “a rack” of carrots, onions and celery.
Hasselback Butternut Squash
In this case, a picture’s worth 1,000 words. Jorj’s cookbooks usually contain the scrumptious possibility of a hassleback potato. I used to think hassleback was a type of potato, but all it really means is thinly, but not completely slicing something. Look what we did to this butternut squash – delicious! Get this easy Bon Appetite recipe here.
Revved up Brussels Sprouts – my favorite thing we made that day
When the class discussed food trends with Chef Deb, she said it’s all about the Brussels sprouts these days. OMG, are they good with bacon and breadcrumbs! When we got to enjoy the full spread of what we’d made, I saw a few people go back for seconds on Bon Appetite’s Brussels sprouts.
Pro-tip – just cut the bacon with your best knife. Chef Deb said she never uses her food processor for this one.
The Perfect Sized Dessert
If you’re tired of pie, these braised and bruleed apples on ice cream are a tasty reprieve – it’s also a nice size. Is it weird that I sometimes wish the big, showy desserts I order in restaurants weren’t so huge? Even when you share them, as I believe you’re meant to, you end up getting way too full. This aromatic heaven of a sweet treat is like the essence of Fall…in a bowl. It’s as wonderful to eat as it is to look at, and the steps are easy.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!
That’s all….there’s a break while things cook, and cooking students get to shop with a special discount. Thanks Jorj, for not only inspiring me to go, but to let me hold court on a perfect day! I’m going to take more Sur La Table cooking classes, I’m sure of it! Giving a class as a gift works too!
Is he naughty or nice? Can you find Chipper in this Xmas chaos?
Just in time to get the holidays off to a magical beginning, Mom, Kimber Morgan has created a stress-free way for your family to enjoy merriment for each day of the season. Your Chipper box comes complete with everything you need to create unique scenes that will have your family scrambling to discover the FUN each morning. Your kit comes with 12 days of turn-key scenes and materials. For the remaining 12 days, ideas are provided with detailed instructions and pictures of what to do with your friend, using simple items around your home.
You can use the box for the holiday friend that you have whether an elf, angel, fairy or other creature. But, if your family doesn’t already have a friend, you might consider adopting Chipper Fox with your box!
And good, goody, Chipper Boxes will be shipped the last week of November!!
Most importantly, included with your Chipper Box are plans for a Merry Making Movement ™ Celebration to inspire and teach kids about giving back to the community during the holiday season. This movement is a challenge which will empower your family to connect with others and help your community with 2 hours of gracious giving before a small, social celebration. In order to make the celebration as stress-less as possible, a complete party plan including recipes and grocery shopping list is included in your Chipper Box.
But we are offering a little sneak sip into Chipper’s cozy, Christmasy world, with his signature cocoa recipe!
10 minutes ‘til fun time!
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Crushed candy cane
Whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar and salt with about ½ cup of the milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Pour in the remaining milk and half-and-half. Continue whisking until the milk is hot, just before it begins to form small bubbles on the sides of the pan, about 5 minutes more. Stir in the vanilla and ladle the cocoa into mugs. Top with mini marshmallows and crushed candy cane.
Tomorrow, I’ll share advice on a death by chocolate adult party plan — BUT THIS BLOG goes out to the parents who stay home on Halloween night to dole out the candy. Having been that parent many moons ago, I remember what made the night special and delicious. Buckle up, these recipes come with a story!
For twenty-five years, we lived in a small neighborhood across from the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was filled with families and over-run with children. I dare say that the biggest community event held each year was the Halloween party. We gathered together in costumes, dispatching pizza and Gatorade into tiny mouths so that candy would be absorbed before bedtime.
We trudged through the neighborhood, hauling kids in wagons and greeting neighbors. It didn’t take me too long to figure out why I chose to be the designated stay-at-home parent on October 31. Well, someone has to hand out the candy! But no judgment, I refined my Halloween style in those years, and came up with these two tasty standbys – the ultimate in Halloween treats!
I filled a large tub with ice and submerged bottles of water to hand out to tired parents. Trick-or-treating is hard work! Then I started adding warm soup to the mix.
I kept the soup warm in my slow cooker, placed on a table by the front door. I ladled the soup into disposable coffee cups, and my fellow parents sipped and smiled. But it’s these sweet treats that really got the kiddos smiling!
Pumpkin brownies with cream cheese frosting are the bomb! The recipe is in my first book At Home in the Kitchen. You can still find a copy or two on-line or you can just email me for the recipe! This year I elevated those brownies to a whole new level by using Hocus Pocus sugar by Fancy Sprinkles. If you love to bake, check out these fancier than fancy sprinkles for your next holiday treat.
The combination of warm soup and sweet (and fancy) brownies lives on! Now I prepare them for my grandchildren and their parents (not yet for the whole neighborhood!). Here is my recipe for a tummy-warming, simple soup that will put a smile on your family faces – if you can see them from underneath their masks!
Butternut Squash Bisque
serves 6 to 8
40 minute cuisine
¼ cup olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, ½ stick
1 leek, tender part sliced
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 (2 pound) butternut squash, peeled and chopped, about 5 to 6 cups
1 tablespoon Autumn Harvest spice blend (substitute with pumpkin pie spice)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
⅓ cup sherry
1 quart homemade chicken stock, or prepared low sodium broth
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the leek, onion and garlic to the pan and cook until the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the butternut squash. Season with spice blend, chili powder, some of the salt and pepper. Pour in the sherry and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed into the veggies. Pour in the stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until all of the veggies are very soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot form the heat. Use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to emulsify the soup. If you are using a blender or food processor, allow the soup to cool before pulsing… just to be safe! Return the pureed soup to the pot over low heat. Stir in the cream. Taste and season salt and pepper if needed.