The Christmas holidays are a special time for giving, but the best gifts don’t always come from a department store. Give the gift of food! Today, I’ve rounded up three gift ideas from my kitchen that can be prettily packaged + a spectacular book recommendation authored by my friend, meditation and wellness teacher, Cassandra Bodzack. These thoughtful presents are Some Kinda Good, and are sure to be well received. Continue reading “Last Minute Gift Ideas for the Foodie in Your Life”
I’m very excited to share with you our new episode of Statesboro Cooks, highlighting my Holiday Inspired Menu Featuring Pastured Pork Tenderloin. In the 30-minute program, I host and serve as an executive producer with my friend, Tyson Davis. If you’re in the Statesboro area, you can catch the show on local cable, Channel 99, at 7:30 p.m. 7-days-a-week throughout the holidays. If not, check it out on YouTube at the link below! I hope you’ll make these recipes, and thank you for watching.
Statesboro Cooks is a Georgia Southern University multimedia communications team production. To see the previous episode I hosted, watch here.
It’s one of those appetizers that’s always present at family gatherings in the South, especially around the holidays. I’ve seen savory cheese balls and sweet cheese balls. There’s a variety of different recipes out there, but this one comes from Mama with a few of my own touches. I contributed this cheese ball to my office Christmas party and it was a hit! It has pops of red and green color for the holidays, and it’s versatile. You can add or take away whatever flavors you like. Spreadable and creamy, this cheese ball has crunch and sweet heat. It’s cold and satisfying.
The cheese ball comes together quickly and is edible right away, but has a more firm texture when chilled. I recommend making it a day ahead and letting it set up in the fridge overnight. If you’re short on time, 30 minutes to an hour will do.
- 1 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup of pepper jack cheese, shredded
- A few jarred jalapeno peppers, chopped
- A tablespoon of jarred jalapeno pepper juice
- A handful of maraschino cherries, stems removed and chopped
- 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup of chopped onion (I used purple for the color, but a sweet Vidalia onion would be great too)
- Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tablespoon of Braswell’s Green Pepper Jelly
- 1/4 cup of pepitas (Pumpkin seeds)
- Seasoned salt
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup Georgia pecans, toasted and chopped
Dry roast pecans in a saute pan over medium heat, flipping occasionally until fragrant and golden (5-10 minutes). Set aside. Using a hand mixer, blend the cheeses together until incorporated. Add in remaining ingredients, reserving the pecans for the outside, and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Blend on low-speed until everything is incorporated. Turn the mixture out onto plastic wrap and form it into a ball. Remove the plastic wrap and roll the ball in the chopped pecans until covered. Let chill. Serve with buttery crackers, like Ritz, toasted bread or even Scoops tortilla chips.
Note: If you’re using a food processor to chop your onion and bell pepper, be sure to drain any natural water from the vegetables before adding them to the mixture. Additional water will make your cheese ball runny, and you wouldn’t want that.
Serve the cheese ball on a round dish if you have one! It enhances the natural shape of the appetizer and is fun to surround with crackers. Presentation is everything! I served the cheese ball with snowflake-shaped crackers for a little Christmas cheer, but this recipe is wonderful year around with whatever kind of crackers you like. Enjoy!
At the end of a long dirt driveway lined by 26-year-old pine trees in Middle Georgia, sits The Old Home Place, where my family has celebrated “The Cookin’” each Christmas for more than 30 years.
Since the mid 1950s, the Faulks have gathered in Twiggs County during Christmas week to eat, drink and be merry–and to slow roast hog meat in an outdoor, handmade fire pit. The Cookin’ began as a prerequisite to Christmas Day, when the pork would be the main event at the Faulk Family Christmas Party.
For as long as I can remember, The Cookin’ has been a part of my holiday experience. I can’t imagine a Christmas without it. Growing up, The Old Home Place was my granddaddy’s house, a large white wood framed home with a wraparound porch, where my dad and his four siblings–two brothers and two sisters– were raised. My granddad, Joe W. Faulk, Jr., or as he was nicknamed, Baby Joe, carried on his father’s tradition and passed it on to his children, who keep the practice alive still today.
About two days before Christmas each year, my dad and uncles rise before dawn to pick up the hams and pork shoulders, slab side ribs and tenderloins from the local meat-packing house and return them to the pit, a 4 x 4 foot construction made of stacked cinder blocks fitted with a large grill grate and covered with a sheet of plywood. The meat starts cooking in the early morning for upwards of eight hours. Smoked sausage is grilled alongside the hams to keep hunger at bay throughout the day.
In the backyard near the pit, an age-old makeshift fire barrel stands tall and serves two purposes: creating oak and hickory wood chips for the pit, and putting off heat to tame the chill in the December air. Two 55-gallon metal drum barrels, ends removed, have been welded together, and a hole cut in the bottom just big enough to fit a flat shovel. Each time a log is added to the top, embers float into the air, dancing against the sky.
The day is filled with casual chatter about fishing, memories of relatives gone on and laughter between the five siblings who are all grown now with children of their own. Sounds of good music like, “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” and Hank Williams’ “Family Tradition” set the tone as aunts, uncles, cousins and kinfolk gather around, sit on tailgates and walk about. Pets wander in the yard, and children play games on the property. As the hours pass, neighbors and friends come and go as they please, bringing snacks and desserts to share.
Around 4 p.m. when the meat is hot off the grates, it’s time to get down to business. My uncles transfer the pork to a side table and pull it apart by hand. My granddaddy’s special recipe of barbecue sauce is added, and the meat is wrapped up and put away to be eaten on Christmas Day, while other hams are divvied up for individuals to take home.
The Cookin’ was once just a common part of my family’s holiday routine, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the rich tradition it is today. Food ties us to our traditions. It’s the thing that makes us feel good and connected. Even though my Papa passed away when I was just 13, one taste of that fine Georgia barbecue and it’s as if he’s right there by my side. I can see Baby Joe now scooping those wood chips from the bottom of that barrel and shoveling them into the pit.
When it comes my time to carry on the family tradition, I’ll continue it with great honor, together with my brother and our cousins. On this Christmas, I’m so grateful my ancestors began The Cookin’ so many years ago. It will be an event that creates lasting memories for years to come at The Old Home Place.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.
This article first appeared in the Lifestyles section of the Statesboro Herald on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013.
A well dressed table is like a well put together outfit. It makes the kitchen feel complete and invites conversation. Y’all know how I feel about Table Talk and Family Ties, and no holiday would suffice without a properly outfitted place to dine. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen some really over-the-top centerpieces, and just like Ina Garten says, “When people start talking about tablescapes, that makes me crazy.” My style is mindful of the budget and inspired by nature, with a few items from around the house. In this post, I’ll provide you with a few tips for creating a sophisticated and simple ambiance this holiday season, using my kitchen table as an example.
My table is square, so I used a long table runner right down the center of it. I gathered a few jars of varying heights from my cabinets, like jam and Mason jars, then staggered votive candles on either side of them down the length of the runner. Instead of purchasing flowers, which can be costly and require upkeep, I opted to trim a few stems from my holly berry plant in the yard. I divided the berries and some greenery among the jars. The berries cost me nothing, and they coordinate with my Christmas china and the table runner perfectly!
I layered some of my tree trimmings in between the candles and jars, then tucked in little red and gold ornaments to give the table that extra special touch. Pine cones or acorns would also be fun to include.
These are the most important things to remember about table decor:
1) Always use unscented candles. You don’t want artificial scents competing with the food.
2) Centerpieces should be conversation friendly. Use either low centerpieces like my jars or tall, slender and clear vases that don’t obstruct conversation. There’s nothing like sitting down to a meal and not being able to see the person across from you. Awkward.
3) Leave your guests with room to breathe. If you’re dining family style, be sure to leave room for casserole and side dishes, and the main course. An overcrowded table feels cramped and stressful.
How is your table decorated? What tips would you add to my list?
It’s officially holiday season. Let the menu and party planning begin! I’ve put together a holiday inspired meal including a classic combination of flavors, along with some of my family’s traditional recipes that are impressive on the table but simple to execute. These dishes are special enough for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but delicious year ’round. Here’s what’s cookin’: Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Sautéed Cinnamon Apples, Mama’s Sweet Potato Casserole, Farm-Raised Green Beans and Grandma’s Made-from-Scratch Buttermilk Biscuits. We couldn’t celebrate the holidays without incorporating pumpkin, so for dessert, the Pumpkin Spice Trifle will make its debut appearance.
The star of this show is the Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin. This time of year, I think folks get ham and turkey’d out. So, now is a great time to allow pork to step into the limelight. To accomplish that gorgeous golden brown exterior and moist meat, I use a combination of dried and fresh herbs and Georgia olive oil. Season the meat liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Drizzle it with olive oil, then massage in a healthy amount of fresh basil, fresh rosemary and about a two teaspoons of dried oregano. Here’s a tip: Cook the tenderloin in a 9 x 13 dish, and just before putting it in the oven, add about an inch of water to the pan. Roast the meat at 425 degrees for 25 minutes per pound. Another reason this tenderloin tastes amazing, is because it’s pasture-raised. This little piggie wasn’t given any antibiotics or steroids, and was free to roam and eat Georgia grass. The result is a much more nutritious animal that’s healthier to eat and healthier for our environment. Thanks to my friends at Hunter Cattle Company for raising it.
Nothing compliments pork like a side of delicious cinnamon apples sautéed in butter. This is as simple as it gets. Slice 5 to 6 medium apples about a 1/4 inch thick and saute in four tablespoons of unsalted butter. Allow them to cook down, then season with cinnamon and keep them warm. You don’t even have to peel them!
Green beans may be a popular side item, but served this way you can’t go wrong. My Farm-raised Green Beans also feature Hunter Cattle’s smoked bacon and sweet Vidalia onions and homegrown tomatoes from the Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers’ Market. Cook the bacon and set aside to drain on paper towels. Saute diced onion and tomato in the remaining bacon fat, season with salt & pepper and add to cooked green beans with a pat or two of butter. Top with crumbled bacon. On the left above, Mama’s Sweet Potato Casserole is a regular at every family function. It adds a wonderful pop of color to the plate. The topping, made of chopped pecans, brown sugar, flour and butter–is like candy.
After a mouth-watering meal, a 14-layer cake or heavy pie is overwhelming. My Pumpkin Spice Trifle hits the spot. Complimented by soft spice cake and crunchy gingersnap cookies, it’s like a pillow-y cloud of light fresh whipped cream and vanilla pudding bursting with fall flavors. Plus, it makes a stunning presentation.
For the complete recipes to these dishes and to watch me cook them in action, tune in to my next episode of Statesboro Cooks, premiering in mid-November on local cable Channel 99. Be sure to watch the show to discover my secret to the best buttermilk biscuits you ever tasted! For those outside of the area, I’ll be sure to post the episode right here on Some Kinda Good, so you can watch too. Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday season. Eat well!