Monday, December 30, 2013

Revisiting Black-eyed Pea Soup for Good Luck for the New Year

People around the world eat certain foods on New Years that they think will bring them good luck. In the South we eat black-eyed peas. This black-eyed pea soup, link here, is fantastic served with southern-style cornbread (meaning not sweet cornbread) or crusty bread, which I've shown here.

I wish you the best of luck, good health, and much happiness in the new year.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.   
Happy New Year everyone.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Fruitcake and Friendship – two gifts that last a lifetime

Fruitcake and Friendship - two gifts that last a lifetime

I couldn’t resist sharing this funny Unicef card with you. It brought a big smile to my face. On the inside cover was a small notation – “the largest fruitcake was baked in India in 2011 and weighed over 8,000 pounds.” Can you imagine?

Thank you for your friendship and continuing support of My Carolina Kitchen.

I will be taking a little time off because my back has been giving me worse fits than normal for the past month and I have orders to take it easy for a while. I’ll see you after the first of the new year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Best Wishes for the New Year 


Sam & Meakin 

My Carolina Kitchen

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book ideas for Christmas or the New Year

I have a few last minute book suggestions for gift giving or actually for gifting to yourself for Christmas or the new year. I’ve broken it down into categories – Fashion / Style, Food, and Decorating - my three main interests. Obviously I love food because of this blog. With regard to the fashion business, my first career centered around it, plus I’ve always been interested in learning more about how to look good and take better care of myself and I follow many fashion blogs. Remodeling and redecorating houses has been a big part of our lives. During our marriage, we’ve redone and redecorating more than a dozen homes. Here are my current favorite books in Fashion / Style, Food, and Decorating.

Forever Chic – A Frenchwoman’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance by Tish Jett

My friend Tish Jett has written a fabulous, must-have book – Forever Chic – A Frenchwoman’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance. I’ve been a long time reader of her blog A femme d’un Certain Age, which is dedicated to women 40ish to whateverish and supplies us with every detail about how to live a beautiful life with style, elegance, discipline, simplicity and generosity – but of course with a French twist.

Now with Tish’s book Forever Chic you will learn the secrets that Frenchwomen have known for so long, passed down from their mothers and grandmothers, about how to build their foundation and polish their image. Their beauty regimes are simple and you’ll learn them all. They spend serious money on their hair, which they consider an essential investment, thus no bad hair days and one fewer concern. Perhaps the fountain of youth is really a great haircut and the perfect little black dress. You’ll find that not only their physical aspects, their hair, their makeup, clothes, and posture keep them young, but also the intellectual endeavors they pursue. They are voracious readers, museum-goers, international film buffs and conversational masters.

As much as you might think that Frenchwomen are slaves to fashion, they are not. But they are not oblivious to it either. They like an invigorating shot of the new and the now, but never overdose on it. They’ve built their wardrobe on a foundation of neutrals and add spice with a few magical, highly personal finds. Color is usually in accessories and scarves and they collect them like a curator would fine objects.

Chapter by chapter, you’ll see exactly how the Frenchwomen do what they do so well. Instead of dreading birthdays, they celebrate a life well lead. From face to feet, detail by detail, secret by secret, everything is revealed about how Frenchwomen approach the care and maintenance of their skin, and once again, how they take pleasure in the process. You’’ learn how to start your wardrobe from scratch, how to get your house in order, and how to always look your best.

Forever Chic has been runaway success and is temporarily out of stock at Amazon. However they will ship it to you the moment it arrives or it is available in a Kindle edition for your pads or readers, which you can receive instantly. The good news is that Barnes & Noble currently has Forever Chic in stock and they also have a Nook version. You can keep up with Forever Chic on Facebook and also be sure to subscribe to Tish’s blog - A Femme d’un Certain Age.

Forever Chic is a must-have for all women 40 to whateverish. For those of you who haven’t reached those numbers and weren’t lucky enough to have a French mother or grandmother to pass down their secrets to you, but want to learn them for yourself so you can pass down to your own girls, you’ll definitely want a copy for yourself too.

My Beverly Hills Kitchen by Alex Hitz

When I buy a cookbook, I look for more than recipes. I want a good story to go with the recipes and you will definitely find them in Alex Hitz’s My Beverly Hills Kitchen. Alex Hitz was brought up in Atlanta into a genteel world of entertaining. His mother Caroline had been educated in Europe and grew up in a house where none of the women knew how to cook, or wanted to. She taught herself and in turn, became an exquisite teacher. “Miss Tastebuds,” as Alex says she was often called, “caused” lots of good things to happen in their kitchen. Caroline loved all things French and purchased an old eighteenth-century manor house in the Dordogue region of France. Family vacations were spent traveling in Europe. She gave their family cook Dorothy the benefit of her high standards and unerring taste, making the food in Alex’s home some of the very best in the South.

Alex’s idea of southern food is Charleston and New Orleans food, a new punched up version of plantation cuisine, overlaid with sophisticated sensibilities absorbed from Paris and his time in Europe. Alex enrolled in Le Cordon Blue in Paris after college and later was a partner in a successful Atlanta restaurant, which introduced him to the daily life in the food business. When he moved to California from New York, he introduced his world of sophisticated French inspired southern food to his Beverly Hills neighbors. An heir to a Coca-Cola fortune, Alex felt comfortable around the famous and many of their recipes are in his cookbook -  including designer Bill Blass’s Sour Cream Soufflé and socialite Nan Kempner’s Bacon Sticks.

But don’t think for a minute this cookbook is all about celebrity recipes. Not in the least. There’s Alex’s recipe for Chicken Chausser, a very decidedly French dish which I love, a Red Pepper Tart, which is a gorgeous quiche that is cut into pieces and served as an easy hors d’oeuvre, and a classic Cordon Bleu style recipe for Pork Fillets with Prunes. Plus Alex shares his secrets to entertaining in style, and I do mean style, with gorgeous place settings for scads of bone china and his family’s elaborate silver service, all while guiding you through the recipes with his charming stories and easy to follow instructions.

For more about Alex, visit his website My Beverly Hills Cookbook, his column in House Beautiful, and Alex Hitz on Facebook. At Amazon there is an extensive “look inside” his cookbook. You’ll come away drawn to his style and personality and immediately want to throw your own big dinner party.

500 Kitchen Ideas - Style, Function & Charm from Country Living

This little book is my go-to for decorating kitchens. 500 Kitchen Ideas is where I get a great deal of inspiration by flipping through its more than 700 pages packed into this little book with 500 new and exciting ways to transform the heart of your home – the kitchen. It’s packed with tons of fabulous photos of warm and inviting rooms that give you great ideas that deal with color, pattern, floors, walls, storage, appliances, sinks and work surfaces, plus windows and lighting and charming accessories for your kitchen. While it doesn’t cover kitchen remodels, it will certainly guide you in the right direction on the various kitchen styles, their functions, and of course how to make them charming. Highly recommended.

 Cote de Texas – French Design on the Texas Coast

The last is not a book, but a blog. As much as I love to decorate, I have yet to find a book that covers everything I’m looking for. Then I stumbled upon decorator Joni Webb’s amazing blog Cote de Texas and it’s as close as I’ve ever gotten to a perfect decorating book and all it takes it a subscription to find the answers to all of your decorating needs.

Here’s an example of Joni’s style in a post where she remodeled a friend’s house in the West University section of Houston on Albans near her own home, link here. It’s all about slipcovers and sea grass rugs, a look I personally adore and have incorporated into our own home. Of course you might guess that her post on Kitchens 101 - Elements to Copy, would be one of my favorites too, link here.

I’m crazy about her series “Ask Miss Cote de Texas” where readers have an opportunity to pose questions to Joni. One of my favorites is a question I’ve asked myself many times through the years - “How do you find the perfect house?” link here. In another of the same series, Joni guided one of her readers through a kitchen remodel inspired by the reader’s visit to a chic French hotel, link here.

Joni Webb’s Cote de Texas is where I draw inspiration and get my very best ideas. Cote de Texas beats any decorating book I've ever found. Subscribe or follow here.

Disclosure: The opinions here are my own and I did not receive any of these books, nor was I solicited to give an endorsement in any form or fashion.

* * *

Meakin and I are avid readers and have been enjoying fiction novels lately. We’ve read almost all of David Baldacci’s books. Meakin is currently reading Vince Flynn’s books and I am devouring all of the Stone Barrington / Holly Barker series written by Stuart Woods. Do you enjoy reading and who are some of your favorite authors?

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remembering Foleys and Their Fabulous Cheese Spreads

Cheese spreads are one of my favorite appetizers. These are two old favorites that have been in my repertoire all of my married life. They were inspired by the deli, located in the downtown store at Foleys’ department store in Houston. One has a sharp cheddar base with a bit of heat and the other a blue cheese flavored with port wine.

Foleys, one of the grand department stores in downtown Houston on Main that occupied the entire city block plus the parking garage across the street, was an institution, where generations of Houstonians shopped. The downtown store was like a city with its nine floors, plus a full basement that housed the budget departments. Foleys was one of the first buildings in downtown to have a tunnel that allowed people to get to the parking garage without having to wait to cross the street. You could buy everything your heart desired there. The escalators were state of the art and they whisked you up from the basement through the entire store all the way up to the ninth floor and were by far the fastest escalators I’ve ever been on in my entire life. At Foleys you could find fashion attire for the entire family, select bridal china and silver, purchase your baby’s first shoes, furnish your entire home from linens to a dining room table, or outfit your house with major appliances and televisions. During your visit you could have lunch in one of several restaurants, or browse for the latest best seller in their well stocked bookstore, while waiting for your prescription to be filled in the pharmacy.

Going to Paris? Foley's travel agency could book your flight while you shopped for luggage and got a trendy hairstyle in the beauty salon. Perhaps you are only in town for a short time with a very long shopping list and very little time – a personal shopper will be dispatched to your rescue. Men could leave their car in the auto department of the parking garage to be fitted with new tires while they shopped for all of the latest in sporting goods & golf clubs or checked out the newest advances in cameras. On the way down to get his car, perhaps stop at the Men’s Grill for lunch with the guys. Many generations of Houston children sat on Santa Claus’ lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas after making their selections in Foleys extensive toy department. And of course you could purchase their fabulous cheese spreads which I loved so much in the deli.

I began my career at Foleys in the downtown store, recruited off campus in the late sixties from the University of Arkansas where I was working on my masters, to join their executive management training program in fashion merchandising. At that time women weren’t in management positions in business, especially in the South. I envisioned a world where women had the same opportunities in the business world as men. Unfortunately there weren’t any Sheryl Sandburgs telling us how to “lean in” or role models such as Marissa Mayers, currently the CEO at Yahoo, showing young female college graduates how to climb the corporate ladder. A career in fashion merchandising was one of the only places that I found that welcomed women into the fold of the business world, and men for that matter, without prejudice based on race or sexual preferences. Foleys & Federated department stores were what I call “the major leagues” in the business and there were plenty of women role models to be found in management there. I consider my experience at Foleys as a way of finishing graduate school and the lessons I learned there were invaluable throughout my career.

Their blue logo 

In my early career, my whole life revolved around Foleys downtown. I found my husband at Foleys, or as he tells it, he found me. As a trainee on a break, I sat about six stools down at the same lunch counter from Mohammad Ali, generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the sports history, as he and his manager and a friend were sipping sodas, acting like normal, everyday shoppers.  The omelet king Rudy Standish, who earned that title by making omelets for JFK’s inaugural breakfast and later flipping his famous omelets for Princess Diana, demonstrated his famous pan in the fifth floor Azalea Terrace dining room.  As a young cook I was so impressed that I rushed to the house wares department and bought his pan in harvest gold (remember harvest gold?) and made my very first omelet. When the astronauts returned to Houston after their walk on the moon and were honored as local heroes with a huge parade in downtown Houston on Main Street, I stood with my friends and waved and threw confetti from the rooftop of Foleys.

When I joined Foleys it was a part of Federated Department stores. They prided themselves in customer service. In the downtown store, lunch hour for office workers from the surrounding buildings was from twelve to one o’clock and the store would be packed with shoppers. Twelve to one at Foleys was called “Holy Hour.” Every executive from the CEO on down was on the sales floor assisting customers during twelve to one o’clock and there were no exceptions or excuses for ever missing Holy Hour. The customer came first and was always guaranteed satisfaction. As the story goes, a young boy once told his mother, “I wish I had gotten the measles at Foleys. Then I could have taken them back.” After I left, Foleys changed ownership and continued to build more branches throughout Houston, then on to other cities in Texas and the southwest. Towards the end once again they became part of the Federated group. Soon all of the Federated stores, with the exception of Bloomingdales, became Macy’s stores.

I am still in shock that this past September the downtown store was imploded (link here to pictures) and a downtown Houston landmark went up in smoke. As one Houstonian said, “They blew up Foleys. What’s next, the Astrodome?” The Astrodome, once dubbed the 8th wonder of the world, was the world’s first multi-purpose domed sports stadium and had just been completed when I moved to Houston, fresh out of college. As I write, the fate of the aging Astrodome is unknown and may just become a part of history too, just like downtown Foleys.   .

Of course Foleys deli in the downtown Houston store and their fabulous cheese spreads that I adored are a fading memory and a part of their demise. Foleys had several versions of cheese spreads and I’ve tried for ages to get the original recipes with no luck, even when I worked there. Over and over again I experimented with them, tasting the originals alongside my own, and finally created these as close as I possibly could to the originals. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. These are spreadable cheeses and you don’t want the consistency to be too thick or dense, hence the use of cottage cheese.

Foleys Cheddar Cheese Spread
My rendition from My Carolina Kitchen

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, or a combination of cheddar and Edam, cut into ½” cubes & chopped in a food processor for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (yellow cheddar is recommended for color)
8 tablespoons small curd cottage cheese, or more if necessary
4 tablespoons mild to medium Mexican picante or taco sauce (not the chunky kind)
6 tablespoons chopped jalapeno peppers, seeded and ribs removed
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian frying pepper, plus more for garnish

Pulse cheddar cheese cubes in a food processor, then add the cottage cheese and picante sauce. Process once again with all of the peppers. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more cottage cheese. Taste for seasonings. Should be mildly hot but not overly hot. Can add a dash or two of Shirachi if you wish, which was unknown to me at the time or leave some of the seeds in the jalapenos for a spicier spread. Will keep several days, covered, in the refrigerator. Best served with thin, crispy Finn Crisp, 100% rye crackers, which I always bought in the deli to go with their cheese spread.

Foleys Blue Cheese Port Wine Spread
My rendition from My Carolina Kitchen

8 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, cut into ½” chunks
2 oz cream cheese, cut into ½” chunks, we used low fat
2 oz blue cheese, crumbled into chunks
4 tablespoons small curd cottage cheese, we used low-fat
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon port wine
Chopped green onion tops, 4 – 6 tablespoons

Pulse cheddar cubes in a food processor for about 30 seconds until it begins to crumble. Add cream cheese, blue cheese, cottage cheese, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce, and port wine. Continue to process until the mixture resembles a spread. Add the green onion tops and process until smooth. Will keep several days, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve with crackers or crudités.

I want to add a PS to this. The Foleys I describe is the downtown store in Houston. Many of the things I remember about the downtown store were sadly not in the branches.

If you would like to read more about the history of Foleys, Lasker Meyer, the son of one of Foleys original owners who became President and later CEO, has written a very comprehensive history in his book, Foley’s, a part of the Images of America series. The Department Store Museum has some great photos of various department stores, link here. You also might enjoy The World of Department Stores by Jan Whitaker, link here.

Do you have a favorite department store that brings back memories for you?

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pomegranate Glazed Chicken

This dish just sings of Christmas. The pomegranate arils sprinkled on the glazed chicken look like dark red berries and the parsley garnish resemble holly leaves. Subtly sweet, slightly tart pomegranate juice with just a touch of fruitiness compliment the smoky garnet-colored glaze on the chicken and the arils add a nice touch of crunchiness.

Speaking of pomegranate arils (seeds) – I think of them as pesky little things that are very difficult to remove from pomegranates and are messy to boot. If you know me well, you know that I do not like messy. To solve the problem, I’ve been buying the arils in a little jar at the supermarket. But now my friend Chris at The Café Sucre Farine has come up with an amazing super easy, step-by-step method of removing pomegranate seeds in less than a minute, no fuss, and no water that you must try, link here.  Problem with pomegranate seeds solved.

Believe it or not, the chicken was grilled indoors on a stove-top grill. Just imagine the smoky flavor and grill marks you would get if you did it outdoors on a charcoal or gas grill. We do what I call “faux-grill” on the stovetop on a grill pan from All Clad, commonly known in our house as “Giada’s grill pan,” because it’s similar to the one she uses on her cooking show. It does a very nice job if you don’t have an outdoor grill.

If you plan to grill this recipe outside on a charcoal or gas grill, I recommend that you use a whole chicken, cut into parts, in place of the breasts. The original recipe called for a whole cut-up chicken and I’ve included the instructions in the recipe below. If you are as big a sauce lover as we are, I would probably double it if I was preparing a whole cut-up chicken instead of four breasts. If there’s too much sauce, you don’t have to use it all. More often than not we say, “I wish we had more sauce.”

This is a beautiful dish and is perfect for holiday entertaining.

Pomegranate Glazed Chicken
Adapted from Rick Rodger’s New Flavors for Chicken for Williams Sonoma, serves 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, peeled & minced
¾ cup bottled pomegranate juice
¾ cup hearty red wine
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 ½ pounds (instructions for whole cut-up chicken below)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for grilling
1/3 cup fresh pomegranate arils (seeds)
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish

In a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until they are softened, taking care not to burn the garlic, for about 2 minutes. Stir in the pomegranate juice, wine, and sugar, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to half, about 10 minutes. When the pomegranate sauce has reduced, in a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and cold water. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the pomegranate sauce and cook just until thickened, about 10 seconds. Transfer the sauce to a small bowl and let cool.

Trim away any excess fat from the chicken breasts, then brush them with the olive oil. In a small bowl stir together the oregano, cumin, 2 teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Season the chicken with the oregano mixture and let stand at room temperature while the grill heats.

If you are using a stovetop grill, heat to medium high. If you are cooking the chicken on a charcoal or gas grill, follow the instructions below for grilling. Grill the chicken, turning occasionally. Just before the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees, baste both sides of the chicken and continue to turn until the internal temperature is 165 degrees and the chicken is nicely glazed. Transfer to a warmed platter, drizzle with any remaining sauce, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the chicken, garnish with the parsley, and serve right away.

Instructions for grilling a whole, cutup chicken:

Prepare the sauce as instructed above and let it cool. Cut the chicken into pieces, and brush with the olive oil and seasonings as instructed above. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect-heat cooking over high heat. Replace the grill grate and brush it with canola oil. Place the chicken skin-side down, on the cool side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook the chicken for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook, covered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast meat registers 165 degrees F, about 15 minutes longer. Brush the skin side of the chicken with half of the pomegranate mixture and move, skin side down, to the hot side of the grill. Grill uncovered, turning occasionally and basting the other side with the remaining pomegranate mixture, until the chicken is glazed, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a warmed platter, drizzle with some sauce, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the chicken, garnish with the parsley, and serve right away.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.

Have a great weekend everyone.