Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Grillades and Grits

Sorry, no picture of this, I devoured the last batch I made before it could be photographed!

Grillades and Grits is sort of Southern, and what I mean by that, is that it's originally from Louisiana. It's very much a dish that combines southern food and french food. If anyone out there has had Beef Bourguinon, this is sort of like a spicy version of that, and served over those heavenly grits. It's great comfort food. Some people like mushrooms in with their grillades, but I think it takes away from the beef. Add 'em if you want 'em.

Grillades and Grits

1 pound of beef stew meat or chuck roast, trimmed and cubed
2/3 cup flour (for dredging)
1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
Cayenne pepper to taste (I like to use McCormick's Chipotle Chile powder, about 1/2 tsp)

1/4 cup of olive oil plus 1 tbsp.
1 large onion chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 cup of shredded carrots
1 tsp. salt
2 garlic cloves minced

For your roux:
4 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour

For the sauce/stew
2 cups of beef stock (you can buy this in the grocery store)
1 cup of red wine (Merlot, burgundy, syrah are all good)
2 cans diced tomatoes with chiles (or if you've got a weak stomach, without)
6 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tbsp. dried)
3 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. of brown sugar

1 batch of Basic Grits (from the last post)

Mix flour and seasonings together in a shallow bowl, or a pie plate. While you dredge the meat in the flour, heat the oil in a heavy pot, or a dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown the floured meat in batches, and remove to a bowl. Add in the onion, bell pepper and carrots, sprinkle with salt and saute until soft. Remove from the pot and add it to the bowl with the beef. Lower the heat to medium.

Now for the roux: melt the butter in the same pot, and whisk in the flour until you have a soft paste. Keep stirring until it turns a light brown and begins to loosen a bit. Toss in your garlic, and mix it in. Slowly pour in the beef stock while stirring so you don't get nasty lumps. Add in your wine, and tomatoes (juice and all), and then add back in the beef and veggie mixture. Add in your seasoning, but save a few sprigs of thyme and the sugar for a bit later. Now, lower the heat and simmer all of this yummy goodness together, stirring every now and then to prevent it from sticking to the pot. I try to let this simmer for about 40 minutes, because it gets the meat nice and tender. An hour is even better. Stir in the sugar with about 20 minutes left in the cooking time.

Once it's simmered, taste for seasoning. You may need to add a bit of salt or pepper to taste. To serve, put about half a cup of buttered grits on a plate or in a bowl, and then ladle the grillades over. I garnish with a bit of fresh thyme. Enjoy it with some warm, crusty French bread, and a glass of red wine.

As always, experiment with the seasonings until you find what you like.

Next post, a twist on a coastal southern favourite: Shrimp and Grits.

Bon appetit, y'all!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kiss My.....

Grits. Nothing could possibly be more polarizing. They're a love it or hate it kind of thing, and with apologies to my family, northerners just don't get it. Most of you compare it to cream o' wheat. Not even close. I know some of you are saying, "What the hell does this canuck know about this grand southern staple?" Well, plenty, brother, plenty.

Grits are more than just a hot breakfast cereal. They're versatile, they're easy, and gosh darn it, they are yummy. Don't believe me? Read on, and see if you don't change your mind.

The Secret to Good Grits is this:


There's no reason to, period. They're crappy and have the same taste and texture of wallpaper paste (don't ask how I know what that tastes like). Quick cooking grits only take little bit longer, and they really do taste so much better. The other secret: use a combination of milk and water when you cook them. They'll come out creamy and fluffy rather than grainy.

Here's my basic recipe for grits:

1 cup of quick cooking grits (I use Quaker)

2 cups of water

1 1/2 cups of milk

Salt to taste ( I like a LOT of taste)

Boil liquid, whisk in grits, then cover and cook over medium-low for about five minutes, or until they are thick enough for you. Stir occasionally with that whisk to prevent any sticking. I top mine with a healthy dose of butter.
That's it. It's really that easy. For my lactose intolerant friends, instead of a milk water combo, use chicken or beef stock. If you're vegan, use vegetable stock. The grits won't be as creamy, but I can't do anything about that.
Now that you've got your basic grits, you can do all kinds of things with them, but you'll just have to wait for the next post for more recipes. Soon to come: Grillades and Grits, Grilled Shrimp and Grits, and my favourite side dish, Cheese Grits.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The sun was slowly sinking o'er the hilltops far away...

Memorial Day, 2007.

National World War II Memorial website (click it and add your loved ones who served in the war)

Lyrics courtesy of The Carter Family....

(and another website for you to check out:

The Dying Soldier

The sun was slowly sinking o'er the hilltops far away
The land was endless beauty where the dying soldier lay
Tears were streaming down his face as he slowly raised his head
And these were the dying words he said

Oh carry me back to old Tennessee
Let this be my last repose
Lay my feet beneath while I lie
Lay my head beneath the rose

Take this message to my mother for I know she's old and gray
At home I know she's waiting for her boy's return some day
Oh my mother I've come through for my country and for you
And I'm dying for the red white and blue

O'er the hills of Tennessee where the wild wind wanders free
There's a little girl waiting there for me
Tell her that the rose she gave me will be placed upon my grave
In memory of her soldier brave

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Going Down to Allen's for a 25 Cent Beer....

Title courtesy of the B-52's, and their song "The Deadbeat Club".

I like beer, and I'm not ashamed of it. Yeah, sometimes I drink wine, occasionally I like a good martini (made with gin please!), or even a gin and tonic. But generally, I like beer. There's nothing more sublime than the hubby and I sitting on our tiny concrete front porch at the end of a long day, and cracking open a nicely chilled Heineken (or Sam Adams, or Corona, or Weistephaner, or Turbo Dog, or insert "Your-beer-choice-is-better-than-my-beer-choice here). We sit, listen to the quiet, and look at the stars. It's wonderful.

But I can't do it on a Sunday, unless I remember to run to Wal-mart by 10 p.m. the previous night.

And that's because of Georgia's laws preventing the sale of alcohol at off-premise locations on Sundays. And to make things even trickier, in Rincon (the largest town closest to me) there are no sales of alcohol on a Sunday, period. Which may explain why there aren't too many chain restaurants in town, at least, any that might want to sell you a beer. On top of that, you can't buy hard liquor ANYWHERE in Effingham County. That's right, if I want gin for my martini, I have to drive over the county line.

I can't really think of a good reason for this. Religious groups in the state have voiced their opposition to Sunday alcohol sales before, and I suppose that's one reason why the law still stands. Unless you ask our governor. The issue came up in the state legislature earlier this year (article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution here )but I don't think the bill ever made it to a vote, because our esteemed Governor, Sonny Perdue, said he'd veto it. His reasoning for this was that people needed to learn "time management skills". Yep, he said that. So, really, my failure to purchase my alcoholic beverage of choice by 10 p.m. Saturday means I need to buy a Day Planner or a PDA.

I can understand if people don't want their clergy member to be falling down drunk on a Sunday morning (there's nothing worse than your pastor accidentally drowning himself in the baptismal font). I can also understand if people don't want congregants showing up to church falling down drunk, either. However, me NOT drinking is not going to encourage me to go to church more. It's just going to make me grouchy, and wonder if I should become a secular humanist. This is really just another law telling me how to live my life in the privacy of my own damn home. Sunday blue laws don't prevent people from drinking. And they won't stop me from driving into Savannah, and having a drink with my dinner, so why do we have them at all?

So, now if y'all will excuse me, I'm going to run to the store and avoid buying the only Canadian beer that gets stocked in this here town: Moosehead.

An e-mail addy, and some thoughts on what's to come

Hi kids, and a big "hi" to some of the folks who've apparently stumbled on this site from as far away as Argentina. I've added an e-mail address to my profile: so if you feel shy about leaving a comment (which you shouldn't!), e-mail me.

I've also been giving some thought to topics I want to cover in this blog, and I've come up with this list:

The Confederate Flag
Beer and why I can't buy one on a Sunday
Southern food vs. Canadian Food

If you have some topics you think I should cover, let me know.

Stay tuned.....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Take Me Home, Country Roads...

I live out in the middle of nowhere, I'm sure I've mentioned this before. I am surrounded by a lot of two-lane country roads, and I have to drive those roads in order to get to the interstates that will get me to work. And let me tell you something, it's been a bit of an adventure.

For starters, the good folks that live out here seem to think speed limits are pretty much optional. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no angel when it comes to driving, and I've been known to have a lead foot, especially on a straight-away. But most days when I'm out driving, it's almost like every NASCAR fan is on the road trying to live out his dream, but doing it in a pick-up truck. Case in point, this morning, on my way to work about 8:30 or so, some dude in a humongous pick-up comes racing up on my tail end. I was doing 60 mph in a 55 zone. He then proceeds to pass me, and I realize that not only is he driving a diesel truck, he's also hauling a trailer carrying an ATV. He flipped me off as he zoomed past. So much for legendary southern hospitality.

Now, I can hear all you die-hard southerners out there, yelling at me to "go back home if I don't damn well like it", but this was just one example of the weirdness that was my commute today. On my way home, I'm sitting at a stop sign, waiting to turn on to Highway 80, which will take me through Bloomingdale, and so on home. Just as I was about to pull out, Miss Piggy on a giant Harley decides she wants to turn left across my path. And she really did look like Miss Piggy. She had long blond hair, a turned up nose, and she was so sunburned, she was pink. A hog on a hog, if you will. Once I passed the Muppet Show on Wheels, I turned down Ga. Hwy 17. Just a few miles down the road, and driving past the elementary school, two guys on horses came trotting down the lane, perilously close to the pavement. To be fair, there wasn't much of a shoulder on this stretch of road, but it is a main highway, and I'm just not used to sharing the road with livestock. At least one of them was nice enough to tip his hat.

The final little straw, though, was once I turned onto the road that my house is off of, I got stuck behind a parade of classic cars, all headed to a show at our local rural winery. And they were all going about 35. Did I mention that I live in the middle of nowhere? I live in rural Effingham County, and I still managed to get behind a convoy.
Yeah, I know, first I'm complaining that everybody drives too fast, and now I'm moaning about only doing 35 mph. But that's okay, it just means I'm trying hard to fit in.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Duke's Mayonnaise

History of Mayonnaise ('cause I'm a geek)

Mayonnaise was invented in 1756 by the French chef of the Duc de Richelieu. After the Duc beat the British at Port Mahon, his chef created a victory feast that was to include a sauce made of cream and eggs. Realizing that there was no cream in the kitchen, the chef substituted olive oil for the cream and a new culinary creation was born. The chef named the new sauce "Mahonnaise" in honor of the Duc's victory. (courtesy of Howstuffworks )

I love this stuff. For those of you reading along, who live up north, there is no finer condiment on the face of the planet. I am convinced of this. I used to know a guy who would complain all the time that mayo was flavourless, and not much use to anyone except for "sandwich lube". At the time, I was inclined to agree. And then I found this stuff: Duke's Mayonnaise.

According to their parent company's FAQ, it is a southern original. It was created by a woman named Eugenia Duke . She lived in Greenville, SC, and used to make sandwiches for the soldiers stationed at Fort Sevier. Everyone loved the sandwiches, apparently because of her homemade mayonnaise. She started selling the stuff, and her company was bought out by C.F. Sauer in 1929.

I'll admit, I don't like their light mayo as much as the full-fat version, and that's partly because it has high fructose corn syrup in it. The original stuff has no sugar whatsoever, and tastes fantastic. My favorite thing to do with it, is make a tomato sandwich. Y'know, the drippy kind where you stand over the kitchen sink to eat it.

My recipe:

1 medium tomato and please get a good one, from the farmer's market, or better yet, from someone's home garden)

2 slices of wheat bread : there's some controversy here, some Southerners say you can only make this with white, but I think the wheat tastes better and holds more juices, so anyone who disagrees can kiss my...well, grits will be another entry.

A really good slathering of Duke's Mayo on both pieces of bread and yes, slathering is a technical term.

A sprinkle of Old Bay or Tony Chachere's seasoning : again, some controversy here, as the purists say you should either leave the sandwich alone, or only put a bit of salt on there. As both of these products have salt, I think it satisfies the requirements. And I like the slightly spicy kick, so ...nyah.

Slice the tomato (that's kind of important) and make your sandwich.

Then just stand over the sink and enjoy, remembering to lick the dribbles off your wrists. I do have one use for Duke's Light Mayo, and that's in this great coleslaw recipe that I can't really lay claim to. I've seen variations on this theme, and this is mine:

1 12 oz. bag of Broccoli or Rainbow Slaw : this stuff is available in the produce section of your local grocery store, with the prepackaged salads. Broccoli or Rainbow Slaw is made with shredded broccoli, carrots and cabbage (sometime both red and green). It's high in fiber and vitamins, and if you've got people in your house who hate broccoli (Raymond!) then this is a good way to sneak it into them.

1/2 to 3/4 cup of Duke's Light Mayo
2 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. yellow curry powder or 1/4 tsp. of Thai green curry paste

1 small can ( the 8 oz.) chunked pineapple, in juice
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
Salt and pepper to taste

Now, mix the dressing up, the mayo, and the apple cider vinegar, and a bit of juice from the pineapple. I don't like a thick consistency on this, but it's up to you. I use less mayo, and more vinegar and juice. Experiment to see what you like best. Then add the curry. Thai curry paste is pretty strong and hot. Go easy on it, but it tastes lovely. As for the yellow curry powder use more or less, depending on how much you like curry. I find if you're not used to eating curry, add a bit less and work your way up.

Then, empty the slaw into a bowl, and toss it with your dressing, and then fold in the pineapple, walnuts and raisins. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste, and then chill it for at least an hour to let the flavours mix.

Anyway, that's my ode to a true Southern creation, Duke's Mayonnaise. And if you live up north and can't find it in a store up there, you can actually order this stuff from the company. See the link to the website under my links, or at the top of this entry. So slaughter a tomato today and get back to enjoying food! Vive la MAYONNAISE!


When I moved to Georgia, I never thought I'd see armadillos. I always associate them with desert-y kind of places, like west Texas or Arizona. But they seem to be all over the place around here, at least as road kill. Tons of 'em. I see them every day. So, as a public service, here is some information about our good friend formerly from the order Xenarthra, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Armadillos are small placental mammals, known for having a bony armor shell. The Dasypodidae are the only surviving family in the order Cingulata. Until as recently as 1995, the family was placed in the order Xenartha, along with the anteaters and sloths.

Armadillo is Spanish for "little armored one", referring to their outer skin that looks like armor. During the Great Depression, this species was known as "Hoover Hog" by down-on-their luck Americans who had to eat them instead of the "chicken in every pot" Herbert Hoover had promised as President. Earlier, German settlers in Texas would often refer to the armadillo as Panzerschwein ("armored pig").

Armadillos make common roadkill due to their habit of jumping to about fender height when startled (such as by an oncoming car).

Apparently the little buggers have been spreading throughout the southeast for quite some time now, but no one is entirely sure how they got here. Some speculate that they came from a group of animals that escaped from a Florida circus back in the 1800's, and some people think they may have been brought back east from Texas as a food source (!). Either way, they don't have a lot of natural predators here, aside from pick-up trucks, so they seem to be doing pretty well. They now range all the way up to Missouri and Kansas.

And that, children, is your science lesson for today.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Something to say, even with nothing to say...

It's been a quiet week here in South Effingham County.

There was a junior tractor pull, on mini-tractors, for the little-uns.

We finally got some rain, courtesy of Sub-tropical Storm Andrea.

And Miss Georgia, Amanda Kozak, visited Effingham County Middle School to discourage kids from smoking.

Those are all wonderful things, but best of all, my friend Jill came for a visit.

Jill and I have known each other since we were fourteen years old, and yes, that was a very long time ago. We met during my first year of high school, and my last year living in Canada. We instantly clicked. And even though we lost touch for a while during my college years, and a couple thereafter, when we reconnected, it was like nothing had ever changed. Things do change, of course, and we certainly have, but we always have fun when we get together, which is about once or twice a year.

So, this week, we've painted my daughter's bedroom:

And we went to downtown Savannah and did some touristy things (these pictures courtesy of Jill):

But most of all, we've had fun. Jill is like a sister, and we spent a bunch of time reminiscing about music we listened to when we were kids, stupid things we did, and stupid things we're currently doing.

So, you see, even when I don't think I have anything to say, I always seem to come up with something, anyway.

It's been great to have you here, Jill, even though I know you're a little homesick.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Another reason to love Savannah

We went to the Fine Arts Festival on River Street yesterday, and it was wonderful. I managed to get some pretty decent pics, so I thought I'd share them with y'all.

These folks are from the Kokomo Dance Collective, and they were awesome. I can't even begin to imagine dancing in the kind of humidity we had yesterday, and in black pants, too.

This is the Savannah River Queen, one of three ferries that bring people to and from Hutchison Island on the river. Some other river traffic I saw yesterday:

This the Cap Melville, out of Monrovia, carrying some kind of cargo.

And a tug boat pushing a barge downriver.

All in all it was a beautiful day; the music and dancing were great, I saw some fabulous artists (although I couldn't afford to buy!), and my daughter, Katie had an awesome time.

As you can see.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Green Acres is the place to be....

If anyone is looking for Sarah, the telephone operator from Green Acres, I think she's working for the local telephone co-op in Effingham County.

My husband called last week to try and get a land line set up at the new homestead. We have our cell phones, but I tend to get antsy around things that need recharging, or require power to an electrical outlet in order to work. It's just me, I'm sure. Anyway, we here in Effingham County do not have service through Bell South, like much of the region. Some might say this is a good thing, and I really don't mind using the co-op, except that the conversation went something like this: (names have been changed to protect the nice old lady working at the co-op)

First conversation, Tuesday afternoon....

"Sarah": Hi, this is ----Co-Op, this is "Sarah", how can I help yeeeeew?

Husband: Hi, I need to get a land line for -----Drive.

"Sarah": Why sure, honey, we'll have someone out either today or tomorrow.


Except it didn't end there.

I waited, and waited and waited. Nobodyshowed, and no dial tone on the phone. So, my husband calls back Thursday, and the same sweet old woman answered the phone, with the same sweet southern accent. And it went like this:

Second conversation, Thursday morning:

"Sarah" : Hi, this is ----Co-op, this is "Sarah", may I help yeeeeeew?

Husband: Hey, yeah, this is Ray----- from -----Drive. You told me someone would have my phone on by yesterday, what happened?

"Sarah" : Well, honey, we're just so gosh darned busy right now! I tell you, you never saw sucha thing. And I am SOOOOO sorry, and I know I should have called you, but how about Mundee afternoon at 2 o'clock? I think that'd work out just great for everyone, don't yeeeew?

At this point, my husband just nodded and said yes, because "Sarah" apparently sounded a lot like his grandmother.

Did I mention how much I love it here?

Oh, and if you're friends of mine, (which you must be if you're reading this thing), just make sure you call me on my cell phone. I'm not exactly sure when I'll have a land line.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Indeed it is.

Oooo, first post.

It's not exactly a snowball's chance in hell. After all, Savannah isn't even close to hell, it's one of the most lovely places on Earth, but it is extremely hot, especially if you're born a northerner like me. I've lived in various parts of the south for ten years now, and this is the farthest south I've ever hung my hat. It's also the most rural experience I've ever had.

I just finished a move to South Effingham County, Georgia. For those who have no idea where this is, it's just north and west of Savannah, GA, home to Paula Deen, and where the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" takes place.

Right now we have wildfires burning to our south-west, in Ware County. We're not in danger from the fires up here, but the wind shifted, and our little slice of heaven is now covered with smoke. Every time I went outside, I kept coming in smelling like barbecue.

The house is nice, the people are nice, and I'm working on my southern accent. It's surprisingly easy to fall into it, especially since my new subdivision is in such a rural area. So rural in fact, that on Monday, I had a buzzard land in my front yard, and on Tuesday evening, a couple of folks were riding horses through the less developed parts of our subdivision.

But I do love this area. I love watching shrimp boats come back in the evenings, I love the breeze stir palmetto trees, and I love the food. She Crab Soup rocks, and if you've never had it, you don't know what you're missing. the other great thing about Savannah is SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design. There are so many talented young people here in this town, it just makes my heart sing. There is always something going on here.

We're going to the Arts Festival down on River Street this weekend. The temptation to buy things will be great. I may have to just settle for some post cards. And some She Crab soup.