Friday, October 21, 2011

My Carolina Kitchen Celebrates its 3rd Blog Anniversary

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who has stayed with me and read my blog along this incredible journey for the past three years. I had no idea when I started blogging what a wonderful experience it would be. I’ve met so many wonderful people and your friendship means the world to me. I also could not have done this without the help of my fabulous husband Meakin, who is my photographer and my best friend in the world.

For those of you who have blogs of your own, you know how scary it can be to push the “publish” button for the first. Fortunately I wasn’t alone when I took the plunge. It was late in October of 2008 when a group of members of the North Carolina Writers Network in western North Carolina attended a workshop on “How to Start a Blog” in the computer room of a local library. The workshop was conducted by Glenda Beall, at the time the Netwest Coordinator for our area. Glenda has two popular blogs of her own, Writing Life Stories and Writers Circle Around the Table. I felt a little out of place surroundedy by poets such as Nancy Simpson and Brenda Kaye Ledford, both who had previously published poetry books. But with group support, we all jumped into the world of blogging together. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I primarily post two kinds of stories – food and travel. Here are a few of the most popular posts during the past three years. Please click on the link to see the original post.

Most Popular Food Posts

Most Popular Travel Posts

Again, thank you and merci beaucoup to each and every one of you for your wonderful support and generous comments. I could not have done without you. I will be taking a short intermission and plan to return in early November.

Cheers! See you soon. I will be linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cheerwine, BBQ and NASCAR - It's a Carolina Thing

I wrote this story a couple of years ago for the North Carolina Writer’s Association as one of my contributions to an anthology about North Carolina. Cheerwine, as you’ll read below, is a burgundy color cherry cola drink similar to Dr. Pepper or RC Cola, Coke, or Pepsi. The distribution of Cheerwine has widened through the years and you can often find it where NEHI soft drinks are sold. I’ve read that most Fresh Markets now sell Cheerwine. You can also click the Cheerwine link to see if it available in your area. Feel free to substitute the cola of your choice if you can’t find Cheerwine. This is a versatile BBQ sauce that is good on chicken or pork.

Nothing says Carolina like Cheerwine, BBQ and NASCAR

Cheerwine, first bottled in 1917, is still a popular soft drink in North Carolina. Although this burgundy colored cherry soda with lots of bubbles is the red color of grapes, it doesn’t contain any wine or alcohol. During that era it wasn’t unusual to give it such a name. Other soft drinks of the time, such as ginger ale and root beer, combined a flavor description with the name of an alcoholic beverage. Cheerwine is as much a part of North Carolina culture as BBQ and NASCAR.

BBQ is serious business in North Carolina and there can be heated discussions on which sauce is the best, eastern or western style. Along the coast, easterners insist that their vinegar based sauce is the original American BBQ sauce and, when being served a pulled pork sandwich, it’s not unusual to be asked if you would like slaw on it. On the other hand, high in the western mountains, aficionados prefer a thicker tomato based sauce.

NASCAR and racing have deep southern roots in North Carolina. Well known NASCAR race car driver Junior Johnson, born in rural western North Carolina in 1931, was behind the wheel of his daddy’s pickup truck at eight. When he reached fourteen, he became part of the family business and delivered moonshine throughout the backwoods. Johnson was an aggressive driver and often found himself in the winner’s circle when his fellow moon shiners held informal races in their souped-up delivery vehicles. With a number of unofficial wins under his belt, Junior entered professional stock racing and went on to win forty seven poles and fifty NASCAR Winston Cup series races. In 2000 he was inducted into the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

The heart of NASCAR country is in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1949 NASCAR held its first strictly Stockcar Race at the Charlotte Speedway. Lowe’s Charlotte Motor Speedway, the one and a half mile super speedway, is where most drivers now call home. 

Tailgating before the races is part of a rich tradition for NASCAR spectators. Sometimes tailgating parties can last for days as fans gather around for simple, hearty meals cooked and served outdoors and prepared on either elaborate grills towed behind their trucks or the more simple Weber types. Southern-style BBQ meats play a starring role in the camaraderie of this ritual. Meals can range from being served on fancy linen tablecloths with silverware to simple help yourself foods piled high on paper plates. So if you’re headed to a NASCAR tailgating party, whip up a batch of this tasty western style Carolina BBQ sauce using Cheerwine instead of moon shine. Take it along to baste your grilled pork or chicken.

Combine three cups of Cheerwine, one and a half cups of ketchup, one quarter cup of apple cider vinegar with a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and one teaspoon each of chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano and paprika. Add one quarter teaspoon ground allspice, a couple of healthy dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about forty-five minutes or until thickened. Allow to cool. To perk up the flavor, add a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice, hot sauce to taste, and check for salt and pepper. Makes two to three cups. Use to baste pork or chicken during the last fifteen to twenty minutes of grilling. Feel free to add your own special touches. That’s the fun of BBQ - making it your own.

Cheerwine, BBQ and NASCAR. It’s a Carolina thing. 

I will be linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bruschetta with Sautéed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola

If you’ve been looking for a bruschetta that’s different from the normal tomato topping, look no further. The Barefoot Contessa has come to the rescue with this recipe for sautéed sweet peppers and creamy gorgonzola.

The peppers can be prepared in advance and the bruschetta assembled at the last minute, making it perfect for entertaining. It’s excellent not only as an appetizer, but also for lunch with soup or a salad.

I highly recommend slicing the peppers thinly so they fit on the toasted bruschetta and aren’t inclined to fall off. The creamy gorgonzola can be replaced with a soft, creamy goat cheese if you prefer. The combination of flavors is awesome and not too filling.

Another Barefoot Contessa winning recipe that’s not only beautiful to look at, but delicious as well. Thanks Ina.

Bruschetta with Sautéed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
½ teaspoon sugar
Splash of good balsamic vinegar, optional, my addition, not Ina's
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty French baguette
3 ounces creamy gorgonzola cheese, or creamy goat cheese if you prefer, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and cook until soft, about 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan, then stir for a moment and add the capers, basil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and give it a final stir. Can be made a couple of hours ahead at this point. Reheat gently when ready to make the bruschetta.

Slice the baguette crosswise into 18 thin round slices. Brush the bread rounds lightly with the olive oil on one side. Arrange them in rows, oil side up, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Top each toast round with a teaspoon of the pepper mixture. Place 2 small pieces of cheese on top. Return the toast to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes and warm through. Serve right away. Makes 18 appetizers.

I am linking this recipe to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.