Friday, October 31, 2014

Spicy Oyster Crackers

I've always made the Hidden Valley Ranch oyster crackers, and I do love those, but tonight I wanted to play with something a bit different.

This recipe is full of spices, and it does pack a punch, but wow, the taste is awesome. These would be perfect for a party or tailgating, or simply as a snack anytime. (original recipe from Guy Fieri).

1/4 cup canola oil
4 tbls. unsalted butter, melted
1 tbls. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. curse-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. parsley leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1 (16-ounce) package oyster crackers

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine spices together with oil and melted butter. Toss in oyster crackers and mix to coat.

Place crackers on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, spreading crackers out into a single layer.

Bake for 25 minutes, moving crackers around gently with a spatula halfway through.

Remove crackers with a spatula. Let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, store in an airtight container such as a mason jar.

Keeps several weeks in an airtight container.


Spicy Brown Mustard

For whatever reason, I've been on kick to make homemade mustard.  I really like the "spicy brown" mustard you can buy in the store, so when I saw this recipe on Serious Eats, I just knew I had to make some.

Like most homemade mustard, after you've made it, you need to let it sit for awhile on your pantry shelf for the flavors to mellow and blend. Sometimes this is only a few days, other times it's a month or more.

1 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup brown or yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Water, as needed (up to one cup)

Place mustard seeds and vinegar in a small bowl or container, cover, and let soak at room temperature for 24 hours.

Transfer mustard seeds and remaining liquid to a food processor. Add in turmeric, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Process until smooth. Transfer to a blender, and add water, 2 tbsp at a time (up to one cup) to thin consistency as needed. Blend well on high. Mustard should be somewhat thick and smooth with just a little graininess.

Store in an airtight container and let rest in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days before using.

Canning Directions:
fill jars leaving 1/4 -inch head-space. Use a plastic knife to go around inside of jar moving knife up and down to remove any air bubbles and tamp down jar well. Cover with lids and rings and process in boiling water bath or steam canner 10 minutes.

Remove jars and let sit on a kitchen towel on your counter-top 24 hours; store processed jars on your pantry shelf. Let mustard sit about 4 weeks for flavors to develop and mellow before using. Shelf life is one year.

Yield: 2 - 8 oz. jars or 4 - 4 oz jars.

Variation: Add 8 oz. sweet pickle relish with juice and blend well to make Sweet Pickle Mustard. Add water to thin consistency as needed, 2 tbsp at a time. Delicious with hot dogs, brats, burgers, ham, and pork.



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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Grilled Rump Roast

One of the best decisions we ever made was to go in on a side of 100% Grass-Fed Angus Beef from Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville.  We split the side of beef with our friends, each of us receiving approximately 116 lbs. of beef. That's a whole lot of beef, and easily took up 2 entire shelves in my large freezer, the meat bin, and then some ... I didn't think I'd EVER find room for it all.

While some of it is in ground beef, quite a lot of it was in roasts, briskets, steaks, beef ribs, soup bones, beef liver and more, and we've enjoyed every single bite of all of it.

If you ever have the chance to buy a side of beef, do it! The taste is far superior to any store-bought meat you will ever have, and many times grades out as USDA Prime! There is less fat, a bit more marbling, and the meat is so juicy, tender and delicious, including some of the more tougher cuts.

1 - 3 lb. rump roast
Salt and pepper, to coat roast
Olive oil, to rub on roast
Minced garlic, to rub on roast

Turn grill to direct high. Rub roast with oil all over and liberally coat with salt, pepper and garlic on all sides. Sear roast 10 minutes per side.

Reduce heat to medium-off-medium and roast an additional 25 minutes or until beef registers 135-140 with an internal meat thermometer, checking beef after 15 minutes, and every 5 minutes afterward.

Remove from grill, cover with foil and let rest 20 minutes. Slice thinly and serve while hot.

To Roast: Cook the roast initially at 375 for half an hour, to brown it; lower the heat to 225. Cook the roast and additional 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until beef registers 135-140 with an internal meat thermometer. Let rest 20 minutes tented with foil after removing from the oven and before carving.

Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy, or your choice of side dishes.

Use leftover beef for French Dip Sandwiches.

See here for the Benefits of Buying a Side of Beef.


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Grilled Chicken Breast with Pineapple-Jalapeno Jelly Glaze

Oh my word! Some of the best chicken I've ever tasted. The pasture raised whole bone-in chicken breast from Thames Farm, paired with my Pineapple-Jalapeno Jelly was simply fantastic.

Grilled to perfection, crispy skin, moist, juicy, and tender meat, with the sweet and tangy bite of the jelly. Oh yes, this is one we'll do over and over again ... it ... was ... that ... good!

1 - 2 lb. whole chicken breast (I used a pasture raised bone-in chicken breast from Thames Farm)
1/2 cup Pineapple-Jalapeno Jelly (slightly heated)
Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper whole chicken breast, rubbing in with fingers to stick to the breast.

Heat grill to medium-high indirect heat and grill breast side down 20 minutes.  Turn chicken breast side down and continue to grill an additional 20 minutes.

Turn chicken breast side up and liberally baste/brush on pineapple-jalapeno jelly. Continue to grill 15 more minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Remove from grill to a carving board and slice as desired.

Serve immediately with additional pineapple-jalapeno jelly, steamed rice and vegetable of your choice.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oktoberfest Beer Mustard

Once I saw this recipe from Ball Fresh Preserving I just knew I had to make it! We love a good, spicy, grainy mustard, reminiscent of our time spent in Berlin, Germany when my husband and our family was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force.

This mustard reminds us so much of bratwurst, knockwurst, or hard salami, cheeses and rye breads served in many Gasthaus's (guest houses with rooms for rent, a bar and restaurant/breakfast room) throughout Germany.

It was not unusual to go down to breakfast and see a platter of sliced deli meats, cheeses, soft-boiled eggs, grainy mustard and German brotchen (hard rolls) ready to eat.

1-1/2 cups beer (I used Sam Adams beer)
1 cup brown mustard seeds
1 cup water
1/2 cup malt vinegar (I used cider vinegar which is a substitute for malt vinegar)
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar (I used slightly more)
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 tbls. onion powder

COMBINE beer and brown mustard seeds in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let stand at room temperature until seeds have absorbed most of the moisture, about 2 hours.

PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.

PLACE mustard seeds and remaining liquid in a food processor or blender. Process until chopped and slightly grainy.

TRANSFER mixture to a large saucepan. Whisk in water, vinegar, brown sugar, dry mustard and onion powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by a third, about 15 minutes (this took about 20 minutes for me). 

LADLE hot mustard into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head-space. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

PROCESS in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Yield: I got 3 - 8 oz. and 1 - 4 oz. jar

Notes:  Flavors mellow and get milder as it sits, so let this sit a month or 2 before eating.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hand Pies

Updated October 2019

I just love making these little hand pies, not only because they are easy, but also very tasty! The size is just perfect for a light dessert, or snacking on any time.  Use whatever pie filling you like and make them your own.

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbls. ice cold water
Apple Pie Filling
Caramel Apple Jam
Blueberry Pie Filling
Cherry Pie Filling
Strawberry Pie Filling
Any pie filling will do, but making your own is so much tastier.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

For the Crust:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour and salt together. Add shortening and cut in with fork or pasty blender until it resembles course crumbs. Add ice-cold water and stir until well combined, being careful not to over-work dough.

Place the dough on a lightly flour a board and using a rolling pin dusted with flour, roll it out in to a large circle. You want the pie crust to be thin.

Using a 5-inch round cutter, cut out circles, re-rolling dough once to get 8 total circles.

For the Filling:
Put 1 tbls. of pie filling a little off-center in each round. Using a small pasty brush, spread a little bit of water all around the edges of the pie crust. Fold top over to meet bottom, so you have a half-circle shape.

Using the tines of a fork, dusted in flour, crimp the edges together well all the way around where the top and bottom of the dough meet.

Cut slits in the top with a sharp knife, and place on a large baking sheet. Repeat with each circle.

Bake 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and continue baking 5 more minutes.

Remove baking sheet from oven, remove hand pies from baking sheet and let cool on a cooling rack. Dust tops of hand pies with sugar if desired.

Yield:  8 Hand Pies


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Homemade Kaiser Rolls

Because it is nearly impossible to buy a good Kaiser Roll, aka hard roll, here in the south, and my husband saw a great recipe for one posted on a Fairfield, Connecticut page (his home town), he saved it and emailed it to me with the question "well, what do you think?"

Hmmmm they looked good, pretty easy to do with just a bit of planning, so I figured I'd give it a go. I've since made these several times and they are now my "go to" when we want a nice Kaiser Roll for Deli Sandwiches, French Dips, Burgers and more. The perfect hard roll! (Adapted from

10 ounces all-purpose or bread flour (1 heaping cup)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. instant yeast (I use SAF Red Instant Yeast, or any active-dry yeast)
3/4 cup room temperature water
Ferment this for 90 minutes at room temperature, then overnight  in the refrigerator.

Kaiser Dough:
The above batch of Starter or as it's properly known, Pâte Fermentée
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbls. Sorghum syrup
2 tsp. yeast
2 large eggs
3 tbls. vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
Poppy Seeds or sesame seeds for topping (optional)
Cornmeal for dusting

Making the Kaiser dough

Bring the cold starter up to room temperature. To make this a bit easier (and to make the mixing easier) just chop it up into a bunch of smaller pieces in a large bowl. You can use kitchen sheers, a dough cutter, or even a serrated knife for this. Let this sit out at room temperature for about an hour to warm up.

Next, add all your dry ingredients for the dough (flour, salt, yeast) to a large bowl. Mix your wet ingredients separately (sorghum syrup, eggs, oil, water). Then add your chopped up starter to your dry ingredients along with your wet ingredients.

Using a stand mixer, mix it on low speed with the paddle until it starts to come together.  If dough is too wet just kept adding flour until the dough forms a ball which was about another 1/2 cup.

Mix on medium with the dough hook (6-8 minutes) until dough has formed a ball and is no longer sticky, turn out onto floured board a knead a few times until dough is smooth; shape into a ball.

Once your dough is ready, oil a large bowl and roll the dough ball in the oil to coat. Then cover it and let it ferment at room temperature until it doubles in size which should take about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Shaping the rolls
To make really even rolls, it’s almost essential to have a kitchen scale so you can weigh each roll before shaping it. You can of course eyeball it, but your rolls are probably going to be a bit uneven.

I went with a 3.5 ounce roll, and don't go larger than 4 ounces.

Once you have your dough weighed, shaping them isn't too hard. They aren’t going to be all perfect, so don't stress that part too much. This is how I shaped mine.

I rolled my dough out into a long strand about 18 inches long. Try to keep it as even as possible. It should roll really evenly. Just use your hands.
Photo from

Then take the left end and put it over the right end forming a loop (top left). Next, loop the right end through the center (top right). Do the same thing with the left end but in the reverse direction (bottom left). Then roll both ends through another time and they should basically meet in the center, filling the hole (bottom right).

Once you finish one, add it upside down to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprinkled with some cornmeal.

Second Rising
Once you get them all shaped, let them rise for 30 minutes, then flip them so the top of the roll is up and let them rise for another 30 minutes.

Topping the rolls
Before baking the rolls, it’s important to spritz them all with water. This gives them that crunchy texture after they get done baking. Sprinkle on some delicious toppings now if desired (sesame or poppy seeds).

Baking the Rolls
To bake these right, preheat the oven to 425. When you put the rolls in the oven, spritz the sides of the oven with water also to create some steam in the oven. Bake them for 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and bake them for another 20-25 minutes, depending on how large you make them.

They should be golden brown and sound kind of hollow if you thump them.

As with most baked things, these need to cool for a while before you eat them. Cool them for at least 30 minutes. It gives the crust a chance to form and also lets the center of the rolls set up a bit. It’s really important to cool these on a rack if at all possible.

If you are not using them immediately, wrap each roll individually in plastic wrap, and place in a zip-top bag to freeze. When you want one, simply remove it from the freezer and thaw. Kaiser Rolls freeze very well and will keep several months stored this way.

Yield:  18 Kaiser Rolls


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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Steamed Shrimp

Steamed Shrimp is probably one of the easiest things you'll ever cook. When buying fresh shrimp look for sustainable wild-caught shrimp, which is my preference.

I like to buy large or extra large shrimp, and purchase South Carolina Beaufort Shrimp from Off the Hook Seafood Market when I can get them. 

I like large or extra large because that size suits me best for steaming, sauteing, and grilling, but as you can see by the chart, shrimp come in all sizes, from Extra Small to Extra Colossal!

1 lb. large shrimp
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbls. Old Bay seasoning

Bring water, vinegar, salt, and Old Bay to a boil. Add shrimp, stir gently, cover and cook 3-5 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and cooked through.

Remove from heat, drain and serve immediately.

*Note - add corn-on-the-cob, red potatoes, and sliced Andouille sausage (or smoked sausage) and you have a "Low Country Boil" aka "Beaufort Stew" or "Frogmore Stew!"

Also seen on Meal Plan Monday


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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ground Beef and Green Beans with Rice

After I received some Organic Green Beans from Backyard Produce I knew I wanted to do something different, and family-friendly with them, besides just cooking them to eat as a side dish.

We made some Onion and Ale Soup using the Beef Bone Broth I had, and a bit was leftover, so my wheels started turning.  What if I used onion and beef bone broth to cook the green beans in?  What if I then added some cooked ground beef from Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville, and ancient grain Rice from Anson Mills?  Hmmmmmm ... could be a winner and it was!

1 lb. ground beef (I used 100% grass-fed Angus Beef)
1/2 lb. fresh green beans (I used green beans from Backyard Produce)
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cups beef bone broth
1-2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. course-ground black pepper
1/3 cup flour
1 cup uncooked rice (I used rice from Anson Mills)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim and cut green beans into pieces; place in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add onion and beef bone broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until green beans are partially cooked.

In a fry pan, brown ground beef until no longer pink.  Sprinkle with flour, garlic powder and black pepper and stir to combine. Add green beans with liquid, uncooked rice, and stir to mix well.

Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and add green beans, rice and beef mixture.

Bake covered in 350 oven 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook 10-15 more minutes, or until rice is tender and casserole is bubbly.

Serve while hot.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Best Roast Turkey

A couple of years ago I watched an episode of America's Test Kitchen, and they shared this great way of roasting turkey. Their "technique," which is to roast the turkey breast side down for part of the roasting time, is intended to keep the turkey breast moist and juicy, which as most of us know, is difficult at times to do.

Well, that Thanksgiving we followed their technique, and I'm happy to say it worked like a champ. Our turkey was moist, juicy and delicious.

The year I made the turkey using their technique, my turkey was featured on their page, which was so exciting!

1 turkey (14-18 lbs)
1 cup salt
2 gallons cold water

One day prior to roasting, dissolve salt in 2 gallons cold water in large container. Submerge turkey in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours.

Remove turkey from brine and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roast turkey breast side DOWN for 1 hour. Reduce oven to 325, turn turkey breast side up and continue roasting for 2 hours or until thickest part of the breast and or thigh registers 165 degrees.

Remove turkey from oven, transfer to a cutting board and let rest, covered for 30 minutes.

Carve turkey and serve immediately with your choice of side dishes.

Safe Cooking Temperatures


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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pineapple-Jalapeno Jelly

Fresh pineapple and a crisp jalapeno pepper combine to make this awesome jelly. Serve it over cream cheese on crackers, or baste it on pork or chicken when grilling or roasting ... amazing flavor and taste! This the perfect gift for friends and family at the holidays, or it makes a great party appetizer.

1 fresh pineapple, trimmed and cut into cubes
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tbls. lemon juice
2 tsp. butter (to reduce foaming)
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 package Sure-Jel (fruit pectin)
5 cups sugar

Organic Pineapple from Backyard Produce

Place cubed pineapple in a food processor and using the "pulse" button, pulse until finely chopped (but not pureed).

Place pineapple in a large stock pot (you should have approx. 4 cups). Add seeded and minced jalapeno pepper, lemon juice, butter, crushed red pepper flakes and 1 package Sure-Jel (fruit pectin).

Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Add sugar all at once, stir and return to a rolling boil (one that doesn't stop while stirring). Boil hard for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and ladle jelly into prepared mason jars. Cover with rings and lids and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes.

Remove jars from boiling water bath and let sit on your kitchen counter-top 24 hours. Jars are sealed when button in the middle of the lid is fully depressed.

Once jars are sealed, and as jelly cools, slightly shake jars from time to time to evenly distribute pineapple and pepper pieces throughout the jelly.

Store jars on pantry shelf up to one year. Refrigerate any opened jars.

Yield: 7 - 8 oz. jelly jars


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Swedish Meatballs

I have tried many variations of this popular dish over the years, but I finally made them "just right" last night!  Tender, delicate, bursting with flavor meatballs, in a creamy sauce were absolutely delicious, and they're oh so easy to make because they are baked and not fried.

1 lbs. ground beef (I used beef from Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville)
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 large egg
2-3 tbls. milk
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. course-ground black pepper
1/3 cup flour
1 cup beef broth (I used homemade)
1/2 - 3/4 cup heavy cream (I used cream from Middle Sparrow Ranch)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, add all ingredients for the meatballs and mix well using your hands to really get it well incorporated. Shape into small 1-inch meatballs (you should get approx. 18-20).

Spray a 9-inch casserole dish with cooking spray and place the meatballs inside. Cover casserole dish and bake meatballs 15-20 minutes or until mostly cooked through.  Remove casserole dish from oven.

Sprinkle flour over meatballs and stir to incorporate into the grease in the dish. Stir in beef broth until smooth and well combined with the flour. Add cream and stir to combine, spooning sauce over meatballs.

Return covered casserole dish to the oven and cook 10-15 more minutes or until sauce is bubbly and slightly thickened.

Serve meatballs immediately over hot cooked egg noddles.

Yield:  4 servings


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Blackberry Buckle

I had the very last of this season's blackberries tucked away in the freezer, so I decided to make this Blackberry Buckle today.  It's a nice little dessert and a great way to use up those berries. 

Did you know? Buckles are similar to cobblers, but called a buckle because the berries are sprinkled on top and the cake "buckles" under the weight. This recipe has been in my family for many years, with the original recipe coming from my mother's 1950's Betty Crocker Cookbook. It's definitely an "oldie but a goodie."

What you'll need to make Blackberry Buckle:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Flour
  • Baking powder
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Rubber spatula
  • Mixing spoon
  • 9-inch pie pan/baking dish or 6 nine oz ramekins

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a microwave safe dish.

Whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

With a large wooden spoon, mix in the milk and melted butter, stirring until just incorporated.

Spray a 9-inch pie pan or 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray and pour in the batter. Sprinkle the blackberries over the top evenly.

Sprinkle the top with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and place in the oven for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and continue baking 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Cooks note - the ramekins take just as long to bake due to their depth. You may easily substitute blueberries or raspberries for the blackberries.

Yield: 1 - 9-inch pie pan/baking dish, or 6 - 9-oz. individual ramekins

As also seen on Meal Plan Monday


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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

German Potato Knodel (Dumplings)

I've never made these German Potato Knodel's or Dumplings before. I guess I was a bit intimidated by the whole process, but my fears were quickly put to rest after I searched through several Bavarian cookbooks I have. Knowing I wanted to make them "pure," I finally found a recipe I wanted to try using just potato, flour and egg and not the added bread slices some recipes call for.

The dough is a bit sticky and tricky, but once you have the right amount of flour added, they come together very quickly.

These are awesome served with a German Sauerbraten Roast, with a bit of the sauce or gravy ladled over top. Yummm!

2-3 lbs. potatoes
1 egg, whisked
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
dash garlic powder
dash nutmeg
1/2-3/4 cup flour (or slightly more)
Parsley flakes to dust over top
Water and 1 tsp. salt (for cooking dumplings)

Boil potatoes whole and unpeeled until a fork goes into them easily. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove skins and process potatoes through a ricer, or cut with a knife and fork until fluffy (do not mash).

Fill a large saucepan with water and 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, sprinkle spices over top of potatoes. Add whisked egg and flour and stir together, blending in all ingredients, until it forms a soft dough. Turn out onto floured board.  Flour hands well and shape into large balls.

Place dumplings, a few at at time, into boiling salted water and cook until the dumplings begin to float to the top. Using a slotted spoon, remove dumplings to a cookie sheet until all dumplings are cooked.

Dust top of Knodels with parsley flakes if desired. Serve hot with sauce or gravy.

Yield: 9-10 large dumplings


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Farm Fresh Potato Soup

I received a delivery from Backyard Produce and in the box were some Yukon Gold Potatoes and a gigantic yellow Onion. Well I knew then and there I was going to make this potato soup and it was so good. My husband didn't even talk while he was eating it other than saying the occasional mmmmm, dang, yummmm!

5-6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced small
1 onion, diced small
4 tbls. butter
32 oz. chicken stock (I use homemade)
1/3 cup flour
1-2 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 tsp. course-ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup heavy cream (I used cream from Middle Sparrow Ranch)
3-4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

In a large saucepan, melt butter and saute' onions until translucent. Sprinkle with flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper and stir well; add chicken stock and whisk well to incorporate.

Add potatoes and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat stirring often.  Reduce heat and cook 25 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Stir in 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1 cup heavy cream, stirring well to blend and allow cheese to melt. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve immediately topping each serving with remaining shredded sharp cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon.

Yield:  4-6 servings


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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Middle Sparrow Ranch Open House & Tubb's Shrimp & Fish

Welcome sign
It had been about 18 months since we'd first traveled to Middle Sparrow Ranch, and about 3 years since I started following them, and watching their progress on Facebook, so when I received a personal invitation to attend their Open House on October 11, 2014, you can bet it was on my calendar and plans were made to go! I was excited to see how they'd grown, and sample some of the new cheese offerings.

Miss Fig, Middle Sparrow Ranch Mascot

I remember when I first started following Earle and Alice Boller of Middle Sparrow Ranch, being fascinated by what they were going to do on the farm, which is raising Jersey Cows on open pastures not sprayed with insecticides. The cows also receive no antibiotics or added growth hormones, but rather are raised completely on pasture, free to enjoy the bounty the farm offers.

Alice Boller, artisan cheesemaker

Earle and Alice milk the cows, bottle the milk and keep some back to make butter and cheeses. They are licensed, certified, inspected and approved to sell whole, unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk, and as such, Middle Sparrow Ranch is the only dairy and cheese-making farm in South Carolina. Their milk is so rich in butter-fat it is not unusual to see cream on the top 1/4 to 1/3 of a gallon of milk. When's the last time you've seen that when you've bought milk?
Cheese Store

Additionally, many cheese makers purchase their milk from outside sources, but not Middle Sparrow Ranch. The amazing flavors of their artisan cheeses result from the high quality of milk and the grasses their cows graze on through the seasons. As a result, the cheese may vary in color, or have subtle taste differences throughout the year. 

So here we were, anxious to see and taste all the new cheeses, and explore what was new at Middle Sparrow Ranch. 
The early crowd in the cheese store

We arrived shortly after the opening time of 10 a.m. and they were already packed with people! Some were off to see Miss Fig, the farm's mascot, or check out the other animals. Children were having their faces painted, others were off on a farm tour via horse-drawn wagon rides, and still others were in the cheese room sampling cheeses which was our first stop! Cheese, cheese and more cheese! Oh and milk, butter and cream oh my!

My haul of goodies
Just as we walked in, I spied Alice off to the left behind the cheese sampling table, and I waved. She saw me, put her arms up and came over to give me a big hug! We then talked about all her new cheese creations and proceeded to sample them. 

There was a "Swamp Brew" which is a beer infused cheese with a craft beer from Southern Hops Brewing Company.  Then there was "Goldenrod" which is a Gruyere-type cheese, suitable for melting on French onion soup or using in Reuben sandwiches. They also had Cheese Curds, a 14-month Aged Sharp Cheddar, Garden Vegetable Fromage, Havarti and many, many others. So many it was hard to choose because I liked them all, but we chose our cheeses, bought milk and cream, and said our good-byes, telling Alice we'd see her again soon. 

We loaded up the cooler we brought, made sure everything was surrounded by the ice packs in the cooler, and headed out. As we were leaving more and more cars were coming down the road and turning in to park and check it all out for themselves. I know they had a busy, exhausting day, but one that was great for this wonderful farm.

Many thanks to Earle and Alice for hosting such a wonderful event and introducing so many others to the greatness that is Middle Sparrow Ranch! 

Middle Sparrow Ranch is located at 400 Ralph Lane Road in Timmonsville, South Carolina. You can also find the farm on Facebook or call 843-992-1468.

So now we were off to lunch at Tubb's Shrimp and Fish Co. located at 1500 2nd Loop Road in Florence, South Carolina. Only open for business one year, they were already voted the BEST seafood place in Florence and there's no wonder why. Soulful ... Southern ... Seafood. 

As their mission statement says "Tubb’s Shrimp & Fish Co. will create a sense of community amongst its patrons through the delivery of the freshest local fare. We will introduce Florence to the culinary gifts that our local lands and waters offer.  Whether it is prepared in our kitchen or sourced from our fresh market, our customers will be able to take as much pride in our product as we do."

Fried Shrimp, Oysters, Hush Puppies, Waffle Fries
Since we were in no hurry, and were waiting on my son and his family to join us, we took our time reviewing the menu and checking out all the great options. One deal we really liked was the Seafood Platter. You have a choice of 1, 2, 3 or 4 entree selections, plus 2 side dishes which seemed like a great option to us. Entree choices included Shrimp, Scallops, Oysters, Flounder, Crab Cake or Chicken Tenders prepared grilled, broiled, blackened or fried. We chose fried Shrimp and Oysters served with crispy waffle fries, hush puppies and nice crunchy cole slaw.  

Fried Oyster
Now first of all, take a look at the size of this oyster! This is the whole oyster, not oyster pieces some places will serve you. Wowee ... we were amazed and the taste ... oh my goodness so darn good.  Now look at this platter!  It was loaded with food and well worth the $14 it cost us. Yes, you read that right, only $14. 

Kyle Hardee & Chad Patterson

She Crab Soup
Next, after my son and his family arrived, we were delighted to meet Kyle Hardee, one of the co-owners of Tubb's Shrimp and Fish Company, shown here on the left. 

He immediately shook our hands, welcomed us to the restaurant and asked if we had tried the She Crab Soup, a recipe from his family. No we hadn't! Next thing we knew, we had 2 small bowls of the soup delivered to our table and it was absolutely delicious. Some of the best I have ever tasted, smooth, creamy, with just the right amount of crab. 

Pork Belly Waffle Fries

Kyle convinced my son and his family to try the Pork Belly Waffle Fries, which they devoured, then they all ordered a variety of combinations of the Seafood Platter.

The Tartar Sauce, Cocktail Sauce and Comeback Sauce (Remoulade) are all made in-house. We tried all 3 and they were all fantastic. 

The full menu is as varied and diverse as there is seafood.  There are Seafood Buckets, Shrimp or Oyster Po Boy's, Grouper, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches, Grilled Pimento Cheese, Burgers, Club sandwiches, Shrimp and Grits, and so much more.  View their complete menu herelike them on Facebook or call 843-799-5579.

After filling up on all this delicious seafood, it was time to say our good-byes and head home.

What a great day this had been supporting a local farm and a "sourcing from local" restaurant. I am constantly amazed and grateful for the small, local, family farms and restaurants who are doing it right for you and me. The taste and quality is far superior to anything commercially sold, and well worth the time and money spent in their establishments.

Simply put, get out and support local! I think you'll be glad you did!

Until our next adventure ...