I was born just south of the original Mason-Dixon line. Or at least, that’s what the historical marker along I-71 on the way to Columbus, Ohio says. Maybe that ‘s why I’m drawn to a style of cooking that I’ve tasted since I was very young based on fresh, local ingredients. Cooks from Southwestern Ohio, Southeastern Indiana, and Northern Kentucky had many of the same influences. It was, like all of the regions of our country, a melting pot. I’m proud to reflect those influences in what I cook.
My Aunt Mary was from Southeastern Indiana, but she taught me a style of cooking that you might think was more suited to the South. Lots of fresh veggies from her garden, paired with meat that she and Uncle Jack bought directly from the farmer and stored in their large chest freezers. All fresh, all local. Were they way ahead of their time, or just keeping with their roots?
Most of the time she slow simmered her veggies with smoked meat, for a deeply flavored dish that flash cooking can’t produce. The vegetables were not crisp, but didn’t need to be. They were laced with smoky, rich flavor. Or, she’d mix a fresh vegetable with dairy and slow bake till it reached a golden goodness. I’m thinking about her corn pudding. Straight from the garden to the oven with a run through the dairy barn.
She didn’t raise corn, but she’d instruct Uncle Jack to stop at the local farm stand where she would inspect every ear and pick 13 of the best for a “baker’s dozen.” I always smiled that the farmers were “bakers” as well. When I was young this fact was very confusing. I can still find farmers at my market that sell a “dozen” the same way today.
So, even though you might think that corn pudding is a Southern dish, it felt right at home in Aunt Mary’s kitchen. Which brings me to the Beaumont Inn.
The Beaumont Inn is located in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. It is one of my favorite places on Earth. Not because it’s set among the lush, rolling hills of Kentucky bluegrass, dotted with horse farms, antebellum mansions and famous bourbon distilleries. No, those are the perks that come with the trip. Why I really love it is because it takes me back to Aunt Mary’s table. Savory meat, vegetables fresh from the garden, topped off with the most decadent of desserts.
The Beaumont Inn got its start as Greenville Springs Spa in 1806. It became Beaumont College in 1895 and since 1917, five generations of the Dedman family have been gracious hosts to visitors. Beaumont Inn reaches out and shakes your hand and invites you in with Southern hospitality. It has been my retreat for a very long time. I walk through the heavy, tall door and feel the weight of Victorian opulence. The warm and inviting parlors, the “Cleopatra” clock, pictures of Civil War generals and pretty girls in period dresses.
I travel back in time when I’m there and as I walk into the dining room, I step right into my Aunt Mary’s kitchen. Although, even Aunt Mary didn’t make fried chicken this good! I’ve eaten a lot of fried chicken in my day, and theirs is the best, bar none. The crispy, golden skin is not heart healthy and it doesn’t make apologies for that. Since I only indulge about once a year, I don’t feel the least bit of guilt…well, maybe I feel a tiny bit guilty when I dive into in their Robert E. Lee cake with ice cream for dessert.
They are also famous for their corn pudding. Which reminded me of this heirloom recipe from my family. My version starts with lots of freshly creamed corn, not corn kernels, I’ve actually never had any corn pudding quite like this one. This is not custard with a few corn kernels poking through. It’s lush with fresh, sweet corn and therefore it really can only be made with fresh, not frozen corn. This recipe was handed down through my family and now on to you to share with you family and friends for your next Sunday Supper.
Besides the fresh corn, the “secret” to this recipe is using a hand grater like this to grate the kernels from the cob. Then take a knife and scrap all of the milky goodness into the bowl. This grater is the same one that my aunt used and has been passed down to me. If you don’t have this type of grater, a box grater could be used. but it won’t be as easy.
This recipe uses 10 ears of corn, that’s another of the secrets. You can’t get this type of rich corn flavor with a couple of ears of corn.
Here it is hot from the oven!
Fresh, Sweet Corn Pudding Recipe
Yield: 6 - 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
Freshly picked corn from the garden to the oven with a run through the dairy barn. Golden and delicious!
10 ears fresh corn (either Silver Queen or Bi-Color), grated - This will render 2 cups grated corn
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish.
In a medium bowl, grate the corn. Be sure to scrape down the husks with a knife to release all liquid from husks.
In a large bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together then whisk in flour salt and sugar. Finally whisk in melted butter.
Stir the creamed corn into the milk/egg mixture until well blended.
Pour into buttered baking dish.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or till pudding is firm and golden brown on top (see picture).
Kale. The overcooked, overlooked vegetable of my youth has been in the limelight for the last few years. My mother was a fan of simmering it for a long, long time in stock produced from the “country ham” that she prepared often. It gave the kale a nice ham-y flavor. She served it up along side her buttery mashed potatoes for many a Sunday Supper.
Her kale came in a plastic bag from the supermarket. I don’t know what variety it was…it was just kale. Now, we have many varieties to chose from. My favorite used to be lacinato, but recently our farmer’s market and Whole Foods have been presenting us with a new way to enjoy this feisty green: tender, sweet, BABY kale. Have to say, I’m a big fan.
At the same time, I discovered an accessory for the grill that I’m loving this summer. It’s called a stainless steel grill grid. I’ve put these two together for what is our new go-to vegetable…grilled baby kale, sprinkled with Parmesan and a dash of red chili peppers. A drizzle of fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar is optional.
I’ve been working on grilling kale for awhile. At first, I thought that my lacinato would be perfect because it was large enough to stand up to grilling. I removed the long, tough center stem, drizzled on a bit of olive oil and popped it on the grill. It was just OK. Parts got a bit too much char, it was too oily and since it is a long leaf it did not make a good presentation.
I then found my new grilling accessory, used baby kale and tossed it with a lighter douse of olive oil. It takes just minutes on the grill and you have a rich, smoky dish that has a bit of an Italian accent. We love it and I think that your friends and family will as well for your next Sunday Supper.
Spicy Grilled Kale with Parmesan Recipe
Yield: 2 - 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Spicy and savory kale topped with freshly grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes.
1 - 5 oz. container of baby kale
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt (to taste) (optional)
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice (optional)
Light your grill. When it is hot, place grill grid on the grill surface so that it can reach the temperature of the grill.
Place baby kale in a large bowl and toss with olive oil. It looks like a lot, but kale REALLY cooks down.
Place baby kale on grill grid as shown. Use tongs to move it around on the surface of grid...keep it moving and don't leave the grill. In a few minutes it will be ready.
Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
We are trying to cut down on salt, so I personally don't add salt, I let the Parmesan lend a dash of salty flavor. Also, you can add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice before serving if you'd like.
Score: Desserts in Jars – 10 GPS-0
I love jars, I love desserts, I love gardens! Sounds like a recipe for a perfect Saturday afternoon, right? I was really looking forward to a day in the country visiting the Mariani Estate and Gardens with the Woodlands Garden Club to see recipes demonstrated from Shaina Olmanson’s new cookbook, Desserts in Jars followed by a garden walk…especially after I heard our forecast for a quintessential summer Saturday…sunny, 80 degrees, no humidity.
But the GPS was wrong, has that ever happened to you? After a couple of tries (and some kind human intervention) we finally pulled up to the right spot, although we didn’t pull up in style like these folks did!
So…instead of arriving early and settling into a lovely demonstration by Chefs Corey and Sara Grupe….we arrived to hear the applause as their presentation was ending. A little frazzled and disappointed we were soon under the tent enjoying delicious Frozen Mudslide Pies, homey Lemon Blueberry Bread Pudding and ice cold non-alcoholic Peach Granita Bellinis.
The Mariani Gardens were in full bloom and the perfect backdrop for a garden party.
Chefs Corey and Sara shared that they believe that desserts that are prepared in jars are perfect for folks who want to make things ahead. You can determine the perfect proportion size and jars are easy to store and transport.
The desserts were served to us in “tasting size” 4 ounce jars. I thought that it would be a great idea for Sunday Supper with your family and friends to serve more than one dessert and serve them in these smaller containers so that there would be no guilt when you had two.
What’s not to love about canning jars? They symbolize preservation of food traditions, are easily portable and are well…delightful! All good things can come in jars and Shaina proves it. Her creativity inspires with tasty recipes using traditional canning jars in delightful, innovative ways for you to cook, serve, drink and give as gifts.
After emptying the jars of all their goodness, visitors were off on a self-guided tour of the grounds.
The kitchen garden was my favorite with terracotta urns bursting with blooms, raised beds filled with an outstanding variety of herbs, vegetables and flowers featuring towering handmade trellises.
A long line was forming and folks were walking away with their arms loaded with books. Many said that the book had inspired them to cook in jars and others were excited to give them as gifts. It’s not often that you can do your holiday shopping under a canopy of leaves surrounded by flowers.
I got permission to let you have a taste of one of the recipes that we enjoyed. The Frozen Mudslide Pies are rich, creamy and of course frosty, perfect for a warm summer afternoon and just like the other recipes in this book…portable, charming and delicious.
Frozen Mudslide Pies Recipe
Yield: 8 - 8 oz. jars or 16 - 4 oz.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 1/2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
What can be better than chocolate cookies buried under smooth chocolate and espresso ganache topped with a swirl of whipped cream?
For the Crust
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Espresso Ganache
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Filling
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
For the Whipped Cream
1/2 heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
Espresso powder, for garnish
1. Make the crust: Mix the cookie crumbs and butter until the crumbs are evenly coated. Press 2 tablespoons of the crumbs into the bottom of each of eight 8-ounce jars and set aside.
2. Make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the heavy cream over medium heat just until it boils. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate pieces. Allow to stand for 1 minute and then whisk in the espresso powder and vanilla until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour evenly into the jars over the chocolate crust. Refrigerate the jars until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. Make the chocolate filling: Beat together the heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and cocoa in a medium-size bowl until stiff peaks form. Using a pastry bag and tip, preferably, or a zip-top bag with a corner cut off, pipe the filling over the espresso ganache layer. Cover loosely and freeze for at least 2 hours, until ready to serve.
4. Make the whipped cream: Beat together the heavy cream and confectioners' sugar. Pipe a small dollop onto the top of each pie and sprinkle with espresso powder. Serve immediately.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this is not a sponsored post. I was given a “goody bag” which included a copy of the book as well as various brochures for businesses in the area.
How do you make a good first impression? Smile? Shake hands? Or, stumble into a thorny twig and end up bleeding mess? I, of course, chose the later. By not putting on my sensible shoes that were in the car (so I wouldn’t smudge my new pedicure), I managed to make a grand entrance into One-derings Lavender Farm. Two of the owners of the farm, Kim and Amy, rushed to my aid and after a dash of alcohol (on the foot; not in the mouth) a swipe of aloe and a big bandage, I was good to go. I know, I know…idiot!
Let’s begin again, OK?
While visiting my hometown, I had the opportunity to go down to historic Findlay Market where I met Kim of One-derings. Kim’s knowledge of English culinary lavender peaked my interest and I asked if I could come out and have a tour and find out more about this aromatic herb.
So, on a beautiful summer evening I drove through the verdant hills and lush, green fields to an area very close to where I spent the summers of my younger years. Around every turn I found farmers reaping their golden harvest, grazing horses with shiny summer coats and young lambs crowding next to fences to say “hello.” Thanks to Kim’s accurate directions (way better than any GPS) I found my way to the grove of tall pine trees and the fragrant lavender fields beyond.
I entered the cottage that houses their retail store and where bouquets and sachets are assembled. I was awash in a wave of gentle, aromatic lavender. I’ve never been anywhere that I felt so enveloped by scent. Soothing, soft and inviting…oh my! I had to start taking pics of everything I saw…then I went outside (and you know what happens next, don’t you?).
Onward and upward. Kim and I go out to the fields so I can get a lesson in lavender while Amy goes back to gleaning the bursting purple buds. Gleaning is harvesting the lavender that is mature enough to be cut, leaving the rest to be harvested later. How do they know when the lavender is ready to be gleaned? The bumble bees arrive…that’s when Amy knows it’s time to begin her task. She works in silent concentration and soon she has filled another bin to be processed into bundles and buds.
They started with around 600 bundles of lavender their first year and they now harvest between 3,000 and 5,000. They have many varieties which gives them a staggered harvest and each provides a special beauty inherent to that particular species. Two of my favorites were Bueno Vista and Hidcote.
Kim informs me that it’s extremely hard to grow lavender in the dense clay soil of Ohio. One-derings is blessed because their lavender field is situated over a natural gravel pit that provides the good drainage that lavender requires. Kim believes that English lavender is better for cooking because it has 1% camphor content, whereas the French lavender has 3%. Therefore, the French has a more intense camphor smell and flavor, the English is more delicate.
Amid the fields of lavender are pockets of chamomile that compliment the growing cycle of the lavender. Close to the cottage are other herbs such as sage, calendula and rosemary, just to name a few. Many of these are used with the lavender to produce their beauty products.
After my tour, I was invited back into the cottage to look at the many products that have evolved naturally through requests from their extended family and the fact that the sisters come from a family of engineers….engineers that have years of expertise formulating beauty products because they used to work at the largest consumer products company in the world. Some of their products include: body lotion, shea butter and linen spray. I was really impressed. So impressed, that I purchased several items and I can truly say that I love them all! Have to say here: this is NOT a sponsored post. I have not been paid or given anything to influence my opinion. I just found some great local folks that are doing a wonderful job bringing you lovely fresh lavender bouquets, sachets and beauty products and wanted to share this with you. If you are interested, everything but fresh lavender can by purchased from their website here.
As the sun was setting, I was offered a special treat: fresh lavender lemonade and delicious rich, buttery lavender shortbread cookies. I asked Amy if she could share her recipe with you and was delighted when she said “yes.”
When I got home, I started working with the 2 large bundles of lavender that I had purchased. First, I put the lavender in the refrigerator overnight so that it would be easier to handle, then I started to make small bundles to be dried and gathered buds for sachet, potpourri and of course, cooking.
Two weeks later, the lavender was dry enough to process. I remembered that Kim had told me that you could process it either by pushing the buds through a sieve or processing them in a food processor. My food processor was broken (I know, right) so I did it the old fashioned way with a sieve, and I’m glad that I did because I really liked the consistency of the lavender powder in the cookies.
When Amy makes these cookies, she rolls them and presses the sugar sprinkles in before baking. I did a little twist on this and used a cookie cutter to give them a flower shape. Then gently pressed some the sugar crystals in before baking. I did this in 2 batches. After I finished cutting out about 22 cookies, I popped those in the oven, rolled the dough into a ball again and then rolled that out to 1/4 inch and popped it back into the fridge. Then did that process 1 more time till all of the dough was used. If you want to cut it into little rectangles like Amy does, it would be more simple, but you know me…I opted for pretty.
So here it is for you to enjoy and share with family and friends for your next Sunday Supper. Since this recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies you have an opportunity to send some home with them.
One-derings' Lavender Shortbread Cookie Recipe
Yield: 4 dozen plus
Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 20- 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
Rich and buttery with a touch of lavender.
1 1/2 cups salted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons processed lavender buds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Lavender sugar sprinkles (I used Wilton)
Either use a food processor or a sieve to process the lavender buds.
In a large bowl, cream together (I used a blender) the butter, granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar till light and fluffy. Mix in the lavender and lemon juice.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt till well combined. Mix this into the butter mixture in the large bowl until combined.
Cover a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Place dough on cookie sheet and top with another sheet of parchment or wax paper that is the same size. Roll the dough until it covers the cookie sheet and is about a 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove the top sheet of paper, sprinkle with purple sugar crystals, replace top sheet and gently roll sugar into dough. Remove top sheet again and cut into small rectangles of desired size and transfer to another cookie sheet (use parchment paper on the cookie sheet for easy removal).*
The cookies expand a bit, so you may want to leave an inch of space between the cookies.
Cook for about 15 - 20 minutes until edges are slightly golden brown (mine took about 30 to reach this stage). Remove from oven and allow to cook for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
* My process differed because I removed the chilled dough from the refrigerator and used a cookie cutter to cut out the shape, then sprinkled the sugar crystals on and gently pressed them in the dough with my fingers. I took the leftover dough, rolled it out again on the cookie sheet and repeated the chill, cut out process.
I truly believe that many Americans are consuming way too much salt, do you?
One of my dearest friends Fran, recently asked me why someone would suggest adding additional salt to a watermelon salad that contains feta cheese (given the fact the most feta cheese is fairly salty.) My answer was that I didn’t think you’d need to. I hope that you all have noticed that I try not to use very much salt in my recipes. Now, some recipes require salt for the proper chemical reaction to occur…but most of the time, heavy use of salt is not necessary.
Fran and her hubs are trying to reduce the amount of salt that they are consuming and I really applaud them for this. They are now looking at food labels closely and noticing just how much salt creeps into their diet. Fran is diligent about finding products that fit their new regime and many manufacturers are realizing that more and more of us are looking for these low sodium alternatives. She’s also scouting out resources for “no salt” items such as nuts, chips and ketchup. By doing her homework, she has found many foods that are really helping to reduce their daily salt consumption. I have to say that we do have to remember even natural foods such as carrots and milk contain a slight amount of naturally occurring sodium, so you should take that into account as well.
So, how much salt do you really need per day in your diet? Dietary guidelines recommend 2,300 mg a day for those folks under 51, and only 1,500 mg for those above that age or if you are diabetic, have high blood pressure or kidney disease. We need salt to every day to control and correctly balance the fluids in our bodies, but too much salt can lead to fluid retention which can increase your blood pressure. If you develop chronic high blood pressure it can lead to a variety of problems…heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease. Some folks are more salt sensitive than others, for them it’s even more important to watch the amount of salt they consume. Just one teaspoon of table salt contains 2,358 mg of sodium.
So what are some easy ways to get started lowering your sodium intake?
5 Easy Ways to Lower Your Sodium Intake
1. Look at labels – become aware of how much sodium is listed for the products that you purchase. I believe that if you realize how much sodium items contain, you may make better choices or at least balance those items with ones containing less sodium.
2. Look for items that are “low sodium” or “no sodium”. You might just be surprised at just how many of your favorite products offer this alternative. You don’t always have to make the soup from “scratch”, you just need to reach for a different can. Soy sauce is a great example: 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce contains around 1,100 mg of sodium, while the low sodium alternative has only about 550 mg. That’s a savings of 50% of the sodium content!
3. Use less. If a recipe calls for salt, try using less than the amount listed. Also, salt the food right before it is served, instead of while you are cooking it. You can use less and it will still taste salted.
4. Taste your food before you salt it. We’ve all seen this. A person liberally sprinkles salt on untasted food out of habit, not necessity.
5. When you eat out, ask if the kitchen can use less salt. Most restaurants use liberal amounts of salt because it’s the world’s least expensive flavor enhancer, but I’ve found that if you ask them to use less, they do.
Our taste buds have become accustomed to salt and it will take a bit of time to get used to using less, but once you do, you’ll actually taste the natural goodness of the food more and it’s better for your health. Try it!