Whispers That are Hard to Ignore

The Best Staff Ever!

The Best Catering Team

I knew that 2014 was going to be a great and exciting year, but I had no idea it was going to be this good so early on.  We had a wonderful wedding that we catered on the 4th.  I love catering weddings.  I love it down to the smallest things.  They can be so intimate and it is, by far, one of the most important times in someone’s life.  It is such an honor to be asked and trusted  to help someone make their special day so wonderful.  Everyone enjoyed the food immensely and came back for seconds and thirds at the buffet.  One gentleman said he hadn’t had food at an event this good in a long time.  I was on cloud nine.  The very night the wedding was over, I received another email from a bride wanting to meet about catering her wedding.

It finally feels like I am back on track.  When I lived in Charleston I had a whisper in my ear to go to culinary school at Johnson and Whales.  I was not only accepted but asked to join an advanced program.  I was thrilled and scared.  The fear overruled the thrilled.  I ended up giving it up and moving to Athens, GA.  I was young and didn’t know my strength or courage, yet.   I didn’t fight for it.  I easily gave it up because if I had tried, I might have failed.  My young ego didn’t want to be seen as a failure.  Failure doesn’t scare me anymore and neither does what people think of me.  Lord knows, I have failed at many things up to this point.  However, I have learned failure is not trying.  You never fail from trying because you gain knowledge.   Maybe the knowledge is “I don’t want to do that again”.  Sometimes God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it, has had to push me.  I look back on experiences and think, that hurt, but it was the best thing that could have happened.  We all have that whisper in our ear that urges us to go forward in our lives.  It takes courage, strength and being patient.  I don’t think patient was in my vocabulary until this journey began.  Now, I say it with almost most every breath.

I have dreamed of going to cooking school for many, many years.  I have had my eye set on one particular place in France for over three years.  Patricia Wells has cooking classes that she offers in Paris and Provence.  I wrote the name of the school on a sticky note three years ago.  I wanted to see it when I thought about spending money on something else, like shoes.  I stuck it right next to my computer.  I turned down many vacations with girlfriends because I knew that I wanted to put that money towards this trip that I truly desired.  Now it is coming into fruition.

I am more than elated to write, I am going on that trip to France to take a week long cooking class.  I am not going with anyone- just me, my passion and love for food.  Yes, it scares me.  What if my pipes burst again from some cold snap and I need to spend money on that?  What if someone gets sick?   What if, everyone that loves me and knows me supports me to go?   What if everything works out beautifully?  I’ll never know unless I go.  I am excited for the challenge of learning another language, of being in another country and finally doing it.  I am following my dream and nothing feels better than that.  It is never to late to follow anything your passionate about.  Well, unless your dead and then it is probably too late.  It wasn’t the right time for me to go to school in Charleston.  I had a toddler and a 6 week old baby.  At the time, I was living that dream and wouldn’t trade that for any cooking school in France.  Timing is everything and there are whispers for that too.  We know when the time is right because everything feels right and we can no longer sit still doing nothing about it.

Today, I want to share my Lentil Soup Recipe.  Every time I make it, there seems to be a whisper of France.  While we are making it, let’s turn on Edith Piaf and we will feel like we are already in lovely Paris.

Ingredients

1 cup french green lentils

Whole onion diced

3 cloves garlic minced

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stems, chopped

baby portabella mushrooms chopped (1 cup)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 16oz can of diced tomatoes

6 cups water or broth

1 rind of parmesan cheese

Directions

Sauté your onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil until slightly soft- about 5 minutes.  Add your lentils, tomatoes, broth or water, and parmesan cheese rind.  Simmer this for around 30 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  The parmesan gives a meaty flavor so if you don’t have broth, you really don’t need it.  The flavors are excellent and the soup is very rustic, delicious, healthy and simple.  Double the recipe and have some during the week.  It only gets better as it sits.

I hope that after you chop your vegetables, you can simmer your soup, and smell all that goodness fill your home.  Then, curl up with a good book or magazine and start to dream.  Winter is for being still and dreaming, and letting go of any past pains.  Spring will be here soon enough, and those new buds will be coming up.  Sitting still is sometimes uncomfortable for me because I like to go and I love the warm sun.  Winter can be depressing and cold!  However, keeping still for a few moments can give us the opportunity to dream.  Then we can plan out those dreams.  And then, we can live them.  Here’s to living every one of our dreams in due time!  Bon Voyage!

me

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Runny Little Noses

My Gabby Goose is home sick today from school.   I have canceled all appointments and we are staying warm at home in our pajamas today.  I had quite a bit of computer work that I have been procrastinating doing.  My mind starts to hurt when I work on Quickbooks, taxes, invoicing…  I will find anything to do, other than it.  But, I got her done.  Now, we can chit chat about Chicken and Rice Soup.

Our Nana made a similar soup when one of the older girls were sick.  We were at the Ford Plantation, right outside of Savannah when she whipped this up many years ago.  I loved it then and love thinking of the wonderful memories of being with her in the kitchen.  She is the best, savviest, cook and entertainer I have ever met.  I am a lucky gal to have gotten to work with her in the kitchen.    

There are proven studies that show chicken broth has healing agents.  When you add the other ingredients and some rest, I believe, recovery is just around the corner.  We don’t always wait until we are sick to enjoy it.  It is good just because it is winter and cold outside!

Chicken and Rice Soup

Ingredients

6 cups Homemade Chicken Stock

2 Tablespoons grated ginger (freeze your ginger~ this makes grating it and storing it easier)

2 cloves minced garlic

3 scallions chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt to taste

2 cups cooked brown or white basmati rice

Directions

If you don’t have homemade chicken broth, then use the store bought.  In your dutch oven or large sauce pan,  sauté your garlic, ginger, and scallions for a minute.  Add your broth and season with salt.  When your broth is hot, pour it over the cooked rice and serve.  However, you don’t have to serve it over rice.  It’s great alone.  Sometimes, I’ll a bit in a tea cup or mug that we can sip on.

It doesn’t get much easier than this and the benefits are many- including warming frigid fingers while holding your cup.  Goose is already feeling better.  Cheer’s to feeling healthy and warm during the winter months!

Road Trip to Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, AL

I have found myself in Birmingham, AL with my friend, Margaret. Her mom is also a good friend and a long time running partner of mine.  I have catered Margaret’s graduation and her grandmother’s 90th birthday party.  They do feel like my family away from LaGrange.   Margaret helped cater a wedding last weekend and has babysat for my girls for many years.  We all worked really hard on the wedding, and I am feeling really restless, so we went to do a bit of research on other eateries, and let them do some of the cooking.

Marg and I in Birmingham

So, here we are in Birmingham being “foodies”.  I have been wanting to visit a couple of restaurants here for quite some time now.  One of the restaurants is Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill.  His cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, has beautiful photos and recipes but mostly I like his writing throughout that tells of his personal experience.  His cookbook is  a story of his journey throughout his culinary life which brought him back to the South.  I love that my life is continuously changing but this wonderful journey has this constant—my love for food and people.

His restaurant has been in the James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Finalist for the last 5 years.  That is pretty impressive and I  don’t think any other restaurant has accomplished it.  It is beautifully decorated and the staff is very professional.  They had two suited maitre d’s. Our table wasn’t ready (we had forgotten the time changed as we entered Alabama to central time zone) so we headed into the crowded, but very classy bar area. The seats at the bar were all occupied by beautifully dressed young couples and posh old money Southerns. Small, two person high tables situated around the perimeter of the bar allowed for overflow patrons to still enjoy the relaxed bar setting. One table remained totally empty, embellished with  a simple brass plate that said “Mr. Hunter”. We timidly hovered around the table before finally asking a near by staff member about our seemingly important mystery man. “Mr. Hunter” was one of Highland Bar and Grill’s first costumers who had passed recently. It was like Mr. Hunter had been saving us a seat, oddly welcoming us to Birmingham amongst the business of the bar. We each drank a Manhattan and began our night. A fast moving waiter lightheartedly poked fun at us to stay at the bar as he whipped delicious smelling seafood under our noses. But when the proper middle aged host offered us a table, we agreed.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely, despite the stuffy presence of our waiter, who could have been an actor on Downton Abbey as a butler. with glasses that perched on the tip of his nose. We chose to have a bunch of small plates to try rather than one large entrée.  We chose a Manchester Farm Quail, Paradise Farm Dandelion Greens Salad, Smoked Sunburst Trout, Oyster Pan Roast, and Stone Ground Baked Grits.  My favorite was the Paradise Farm Dandelion Greens Salad.  It had a creamy dressing with chunks of salty house cured ham.  It was the perfect balance of flavors with the bitter dandelion.  I loved it.  The trout mousse came in a close second.  It really was mouth watering.  We finished with the Creme Brûlée. Every time I have it, I think of my Grandfather who ordered it every single time we went out to eat.  He would have loved it with the real vanilla beans on the bottom.  Delicious…

My conclusion to this jaunt- Yes, I would eat here again but in the more relaxed bar area.   Most people who dine out whether it is fine dining or fast food are searching for a type of service.  If you do it well, people will travel really far for it.  That is the goal!  Next stop: Hot and Hot Fish Club.