One Saturday afternoon recently while cleaning out the shed, my husband and I came across several Terra Cotta clay pots left behind by the previous dwellers of our new Savannah home. I’ve never been one to plant or garden, but I knew if I used them for anything, I would want to plant something I could cook with, something that would enhance the flavor of food. Continue reading “Three Practical Ways to Cook with Fresh Herbs”
The countdown is on! In less than two weeks, my first semester of culinary school will be behind me. I haven’t written about school since Week 2, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share a little of what I’ve been up to, along with a few pictures from the kitchen and our garden. I’m having so much fun and learning more every day. Continue reading “Sharpening My Mind and My Knives: Culinary School 101”
The return of the Farmers’ Market for me each season is just about as exciting as Christmas Day. With fresh herbs and local produce on my mind, I love getting up on Saturday morning, throwing on my yoga pants, a tank top, a pair of favorite flip flops and my over-sized sunglasses and heading out the door. Sometimes, I even pack up my 11-pound Shih Tzu, Ewok, and we ride with the radio up and the windows down on the way. Continue reading “5 Farmers’ Market Recipes to Make Right Now”
Few things bring me greater joy than entertaining family and friends around my kitchen table. Easter Sunday was such an occasion. I hosted dinner for my parents and sweet in-laws, plus my husband’s beloved Aunt Polly. From Ina Garten’s Coconut Cake to deviled eggs and brown sugar-mustard glazed ham, our celebratory feast was Some Kinda Good, and as Southern and traditional as it gets. Continue reading “Easter Entertaining: Recipes and Recollections”
Okay, y’all. I’m really curious to know your thoughts about something. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last couple of months, you’ve noticed the TV commercials and advertisements promoting the “dawn of e-commerce food,” essentially the creation of perishable food manufacturing businesses. Dozens of companies like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and Plated, are springing up around the country with this notion of revolutionizing the way we shop for groceries and stock our refrigerators. We’re talking about changing the way people think about food or as one employee at Plated puts it, “Changing the world by making our food system fundamentally better.” When it comes to our foodways, is quality and convenience upstaging tradition?
I find the concept absolutely fascinating! I mean, if I had told my great grandmother Elnora, that one day, she could visit a website, click a button or make a phone call, and within a few days have meals delivered straight to her door, she would have looked at me as if I had three heads! The strides we’ve made in technology are seriously amazing.
Each company basically boasts the same message: Fresh food delivered to your door, at a better value than you can get at your local grocery store. And not just fresh food, but perfectly proportioned, farm fresh ingredients sourced locally and seasonally, including step-by-step chef-concocted recipes. Foolproof! Genius! Why haven’t we thought of this before? But when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Or is it? Take a look at these ads:
My first thought about these services was they must be for folks who either can’t cook or aren’t able to drive themselves to get their own groceries. As I’ve considered it more closely however, I see the appeal for everyone! Not only does the service save you time and the laborious weekly trip to the supermarket, but it exposes you to new ingredients and takes the guesswork out of weeknight dinner planning (all the while supporting local farmers). I’m having a very hard time seeing the downside. We’ve discussed a few positives, so let’s consider some potential negatives:
- Proportions don’t allow room for seconds. What if I’m still hungry?
- Relying on delivery could become problematic. What if I live in a rural area and they aren’t able to find my location?
- Cost. Is the quality really “at a better value than my local grocery store?”
Also, I can’t help but think about how these companies will affect grocery store chains and local supermarkets. But, maybe that’s the point. If more and more people begin using them, will grocery stores take a major hit? What will that mean for the economy? On the upside, the greatest motivating factor? Ingredients are sourced locally. I can definitely get behind organizations partnering with established farmers’ markets and local artisans.
I haven’t personally tried ordering from any of these companies, but even as someone who enjoys cooking, I’m very tempted! I’m super interested to know what you think. Have you ordered from one of them? What has your experience been? Were you able to follow the provided instructions without a hitch? Most importantly, did the food taste Some Kinda Good? Make me a believer!
As a final thought, Forbes released a great video of an Executive Chef comparing Blue Apron and Plated. See for yourself and let me know your take.
With the biggest food holiday of the year just days away, I’ve got three side dishes to enliven your family feast. Each recipe offers something unique: 1) a family tradition, 2) a restaurant-inspired side dish and 3) an original. From sweet to savory, I’ve got you covered! Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving at home or traveling, cook up one of these Southern sides, and you’ll have everyone chowing down with gratitude. Continue reading “Three Thanksgiving Side Dishes For Your Family Table”
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.
As many of you know, I had the opportunity to headline a food and style event recently in Centre, Alabama with my good friend, Chad. It’s been one week ago today, and as promised, I’m sharing the recipes served during the event right here on Some Kinda Good. Whether you attended the event or just happened across my food blog, these refreshing grilled desserts, appetizers and warm weather-friendly beverages are tailored for summer entertaining and don’t even require heating up an oven. They’re simple, yet elevated and certainly Some Kinda Good!
Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomato Sliders
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
- 1 12-Pack of Dinner Rolls, such as King’s Hawaiian
- 1 Package of Spring Mix Lettuce
- 6-8 Slices of Hardwood Smoked Bacon, Cooked Crispy
Spicy Pimento Cheese
- 2 Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and diced
- 1/2 Large Sweet Onion, such as Vidalia, diced
- 2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, minced
- 2 4-oz. Jars of Diced Pimento Peppers, drained
- 1/2 of an 8-oz block of Pepper Jack Cheese, grated
- 1/2 of an 8 oz block of Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
- 1/2 of an 8 oz block of Cream Cheese, softened
- 3 – 4 tablespoons of Dukes Mayonnaise
- Salt, Pepper and Old Bay Seasoning to taste
In a medium bowl, blend all ingredients together with a hand mixer. To assemble a slider, spread pimento cheese onto dinner roll. Top with spring mix lettuce, one fried green tomato and crispy bacon.
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 3 Large Green Tomatoes
- ½ cup Cornmeal
- ½ cup Self-Rising Flour
- 2 Teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
- Vegetable Oil + Bacon Grease for frying
Slice tomatoes about ¼ of an inch thick. Place them on a flat surface and season with salt. Transfer the tomatoes to a colander and allow them to drain in the sink for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a cast iron skillet or 10-inch frying pan with vegetable oil halfway full and set over medium heat. The oil will be ready for frying when sizzling occurs after gently sprinkled with water. In a small dish, use a fork to combine the cornmeal, flour, Old Bay, salt and pepper. Dredge the tomatoes in the flour mixture on each side. Roll the sides of the tomato in the flour mixture too, to ensure an even coating. Shake off any excess before dropping the tomato slices into the hot oil. Fry the tomato slices until golden brown, turning once during cooking. Remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- 1 whole Pineapple, Cored, Peeled and Diced
- 1 whole Mango, Diced
- 1/2 of a Medium Red Onion, Finely Diced
- 1 whole Jalapeno, Seeded and Diced
- Fresh Cilantro, Chopped
- 1 whole Lime, Juiced
- Dash Kosher Salt
Combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Serve with tortilla chips. This salsa is also refreshing alongside or atop grilled meats such as chicken or fish.
Grilled Pound Cake Served with Macerated Berries
- Store-Bought or Homemade Pound Cake
- 1-2 Pints of Strawberries or a combination of Mixed Berries
- 1/4 cup of Sugar or more to taste
Remove stems from strawberries. Slice lengthwise. Pour sugar over berries and mix until coated. Set aside and let stand at least 30 minutes. Slice pound cake. Lay on an oiled grill grate just until heated through and grill marks appear. Serve macerated berries over cake. For major indulgence, dollop with fresh, sweetened whipped cream. Any combination of fresh berries can be substituted. Blackberries or blueberries would work marvelously! Always use what’s in season and available.
- 2 large bell peppers (any color), quartered
- 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
- 1 Medium Onion, cut in half
- 1 cucumber, sliced into half-moon pieces
- 3 medium tomatoes, halved
- 1 loaf of ciabatta or Italian bread, halved lengthwise
- 1/2 cup torn fresh basil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Lemon Juice
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Brush grill with olive oil, season vegetables with kosher salt and black pepper. Grill bell peppers, zucchini and onion for about 4-5 minutes, turning once until grill marks are visible. Chop the grilled vegetables into bite size pieces and place them in a large mixing bowl. Meanwhile, drizzle the bread with olive oil and grill over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and cucumber into the same bowl. Remove bread from grill, cut into cubes and toss together with the vegetables. Drizzle the mixture with equal parts of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, just enough to dress the salad lightly, and season with more salt and pepper. Squeeze about 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice over the mixture. Toss in fresh basil. Devour!
- 4 cups of sliced seedless watermelon, rind removed
- 1 16-oz carton of Lemon Sorbet
- The Zest of 1 Lemon
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- Watermelon wedges and mint, for garnish
In a blender, combine the first four ingredients until smooth. Pour over ice and serve immediately or refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with fresh mint and a wedge of watermelon. If you’d like to make this recipe a cocktail, vodka is a great addition. Recipe inspired by Paula Deen.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
- Seedless Watermelon
- Feta Cheese
- Fresh Basil
- Balsamic Vinegar
Using a small melon baller, scoop out 25 balls of fresh watermelon. Cut feta cheese into medium size cubes (You don’t want them too small because they will crumble when skewered). Pick 25 small basil leaves from a basil plant. Skewer ingredients on wooden skewers in this order: watermelon, feta, basil. Pour about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small bowl. With a grill brush, dip the brush into the balsamic vinegar and gingerly brush the skewers with it. If the feta cheese gets too damp, it will crumble and fall off the skewer. Serve in a tall flower or frog vase for an interesting display!
A special thanks to all who attended “Nibble & Nosh and Everything Posh!” If you make these dishes at home, please let me know how they turn out. To see photos from the event, visit Some Kinda Good on Facebook. Now you’re set on the menu for your summer party, but don’t forget to check out The Stylish Steed for tips on what to wear and how to decorate!
Cheers…to good food and good company.
Six days. Five airports. 4,830 miles round trip. 35 people nationwide.
Over the summer of 2013, I auditioned for Season 2 of ABC’s The Taste, a cooking competition reality show. After a two-month process of interviews, loads of paperwork and intense anticipation and waiting, I was selected out of thousands to be among the Top 35 contestants in the nation to compete on the Audition episode which premiered on Jan. 2, 2014 at 8 p.m. They flew me to Los Angeles, California and put me up in a 24-story hotel in the Hollywood Hills where I had a view of the pool, the palm trees and seven lanes of interstate.
This is my story.
Filled with big dreams, confidence and high hopes, I left rural Georgia with my California-titled iPod playlist including Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway, Eminem’s Lose Yourself and Jay-Z and Alisha Key’s Empire State of Mind. From the airport, I posted LeAnn Rimes’ One Way Ticket music video on Facebook and sang the “West bound train” lyrics in my head.
Fast forward through Day 1: I traveled through four time zones, experienced plane delays, checked in at the hotel and got somewhat acquainted. Day 2: I shopped for ingredients. Day 3: On scene at Universal Studios, I felt like a movie star in a hair & make-up trailer and had my outfit approved by two British people in the wardrobe trailer. On-camera interviews were completed. Day 4: Showtime.
The first 15 minutes of the season on set were mine. I was the first contestant to face the mentors. I’ll never forget the moment I entered the set through the “pantry,” and rounded the corner to step on stage. There were big lights, lots of extras and over 15 cameras–from every angle–ALL pointed at me. That made some contestants nervous, but I reveled in it. “This is it,” I thought. It was my moment to shine. Everything I’d waited for. I gave it to them. I smiled. I played my Southern character with pride, relishing in the fact that I was the only contestant there from Georgia. I lived every moment. As I walked on set, I heard one producer shout to a camera man, “We got a good one!”
Aside from the challenges I faced, like my first time cooking on a gas stove, using pots and pans I’d never used before, along with shopping in a region where ingredients are titled “Southern Style Grits,” I kept a level head and remained cognizant of the time. I was given an hour to cook and plate my signature dish: Shrimp and Grits with a Creamy White Wine Sauce. While chopping vegetables and talking with producers, I burned my first pan of bacon. I also almost mistook lemon grass for my garnish because I couldn’t find green onions in the refrigerator. Nevertheless, I kept going.
I finished the challenge with five minutes remaining, having successfully plated my dish and all six tasting portions–two for beauty shots, four for tasting. I put forth the best creamy white wine sauce I’d ever made. Some memories fade and some feelings are fleeting–but one that will remain with me forever is stepping off the set and feeling that rush of fulfillment wash over me. I had done what I came to do, and I had done it well.
Then I exited the stage and was escorted to the friends and family room where I would see my boyfriend, Kurt, and two of my very best friends, Chad and Charity. They were flown out for a three-day period during my stay. Following a brief touch-up with the make-up artist, I opened the door to the family room and saw the people I love sitting on the edge of their seats with expressions of expectation so vivid. We had been separated since the previous day, and the emotion and excitement I expressed was nothing short of real.
After that high, I faced my fate. I would wait for the producer’s cue, then walk forward and stand on the spoon-shaped “x marks the spot.” There, right in front of my face, just steps away, sat Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Marcus Samuelsson and Ludo Lefebvre–in the flesh. It was one of those moments where you’re present, but beside yourself. I saw their lips moving and heard them speaking, but had it not been recorded, I would question if it ever really happened. There I was, a food blogger from small town Blythe, Georgia and Twiggs County farm country, in Hollywood on a set at Universal Studios, in front of these well accomplished, renowned culinary experts. They had just tasted my food.
British home cook, food writer and bestselling cookbook author Nigella Lawson was the first to tell me what she thought. Nigella’s team is the one I had hoped to join. Nigella and I were wearing the same color–both royal blue dresses, so right off the bat, it was meant to be.
She asked me to introduce myself and tell her a little bit about my dish. She was interested in “the powdered seasoning” I’d used and the spice in the dish. Unfortunately, she’d decided that my shrimp were “slightly overcooked,” and the Old Bay seasoning I’d used was too much. “As you know we made our decisions before we met you,” she said and with what seemed regretful, she pushed her red “No” button.
I was crushed, and I knew my chances of joining the others’ teams were dim. Sure enough, with every comment followed the dreaded red button.
After everything I’d heard about Anthony Bourdain, I must say, I thought he’d be the toughest judge. As it turns out, he was one of the kindest to me. We agreed that food was such a personal thing. “Unfortunately for you, I didn’t have an emotional connection to your shrimp and grits,” he said. He had been surprised that I wasn’t professionally trained though, noting that the Old Bay gave my dish a restaurant quality. That was HUGE coming from a man who’s traveled the world. I’ll take it.
Marcus Samuelsson said my passion was evident, and that he liked how my dish represented the region of the country from which I came. With a quick and succinct comment, Ludo Lefebvre said “It wasn’t my thing. I didn’t like it. It’s a no.”
Everyone has their taste buds, and America would be a boring place if we all liked the same things.
So, as show business would have it, all four of the judges rejected me. It was time to pack it up and head on back to the Peach State, but not before I drank a Shirley Temple on Hollywood Blvd., got my picture taken in front of the notorious HOLLYWOOD sign and took pictures of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I exited the hotel with my 50-pound suitcase in tow, containing clothes with the tags still on them, as Adele’s Chasing Pavement played over the elevator like the well-timed beat of a drum.
I won’t forget the talented people I got to compete with and the connections I made. I will carry this experience to the grave.
My appreciation for the South has never been greater than when I travel outside the South. I came home with new eyes. At the grocery store in my hometown, as I pushed my buggy through the produce department where I’m known by name, where hardly anything is gluten-free, organic or vegan, and where Johnny Cash plays on the radio, I was home. Home in my Southern, two-lane, suburban, football-loving town. If ever I needed a reminder of exactly who I am, traveling serves it purpose.
One word of advice: No matter the outcome, go after it. Always go after the things that make your heart beat.
“Find something your passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” –Julia Child