We recently went through the ordeal of a house fire. Bill and I had just returned home to Macon, having spent a few fabulous days with my in-laws who reside in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, (across the bridge from Charleston).
We arrived home just a minute or so after the fire started on our back deck. It very quickly consumed the entire back deck (including my new Big Green Egg!), storage areas below the deck and basement, as well as my commercial kitchen and much of the catering business areas of our home. Our personal residence was mostly spared, thank you God -- and I do mean that!
Our sincere thanks and appreciation goes to the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department and its super-quick response time. They arrived on scene in less than two minutes and were actively at work putting out the fire in less than five minutes from the time my neighbors placed the 911 call. What an amazing job the firefighters did. They’ll be my heros forever.
Our family, friends, neighbors and church members from Highland Hills Baptist Church have offered us endless support, love and prayers in the aftermath of the fire, as we were without homeowner’s insurance. That’s right -- no homeowner’s insurance, due to a series of unfortunate events and severe stupidity on my part. Learn from me! Don’t let this happen to you!
I’m telling you all this with my assurance that I do have life in perspective. What we have lost is just stuff -- nice stuff that we have worked years for -- but just stuff, nonetheless.
It will take time and lots of hard work (our heartfelt thanks to dozens of volunteers who have aided us in countless ways) to rebuild what we lost, but what we have gained from this experience is magnitudes greater than what we lost in that horrible fire.
Bill and I are safe. Belle Teche (our precious little one-year old miniature dachshund rescue puppy) is safe, and one day we will be back in our own home together. Thanks to our neighbors and close friends, we have homes to stay in until we’re able to return.
Home -- what a marvelous word that means so many different things. Home really is where the heart is. My heart is with Bill and Belle Teche. Wherever we are is a blessing, and we are sincerely blessed to have each other, a caring family, so many great friends, a mission-minded hard-working church family, and a great community in Historic Intown Macon.
Thanks for letting me share my heart with y’all. Today it is my pleasure to share with you recipes from one of my recent cooking classes at Robinson Home (aka “the greatest kitchen shop on earth”) located in beautiful downtown Macon. Working at Robinson Home has been a Godsend in so many ways to me.
My favorite thing about working there is getting to teach cooking classes again. Writing my own recipes and getting to share them with so many others is such a kick for me -- I just love it!
I think my love for what I do is contagious and that my cooking class students have a great time in cooking classes, learn a few tips and tricks along the way, enjoy really good food in the company of like-minded folks, and are inspired to go home to share their new recipes and love of cooking with family and friends of their own.
For information about upcoming events and cooking classes, visit us at www.robinsonhome.com.
JAMAICAN COCONUT RUM PUNCH
8 cups (refrigerated) passion fruit juice cocktail
4 cups coconut rum
1 (12-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 (2-liter) bottle Jamaican ginger beer, chilled
Optional garnishes: Pineapple spears, orange wedges, sliced fresh gingerroot, sugar cane
Makes about 5 1/2 quarts.
Combine first four ingredients and blend well, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week. Just before serving, stir in the ginger beer. Garnish if desired.
JAMAICAN CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD TARTS
2 packages frozen mini phyllo tart shells (15 in each), thawed
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons Jamaican Jerk (paste) seasoning
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried tropical fruit blend
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted and salted macadamia nuts
Makes 30 tarts.
Chicken: Rub the jerk paste over both sides of the chicken breasts. Cover with plastic food wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least eight hours or up to 24 hours ahead of cooking.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot (but not smoking) add oil and swirl the skillet to coat the bottom. Sear the chicken in the hot skillet until nicely browned on both sides. Lower heat to medium and cook through on both sides, turning halfway through the cooking. Do not overcook. Transfer the chicken to a plate and place in the refrigerator to cool.
Dressing: Whisk together the dressing ingredients place in the refrigerator, covered until ready to use.
Salad: Cut cooled chicken into small dice and combine with the remaining salad ingredients. Add the dressing to the salad. Stir to blend well. Refrigerate at least two hours or up to four days ahead.
Assembly: When ready to serve, spoon chicken salad into the phyllo tart shells. (Can be filled up to 2 hours ahead.)
WHITE WINE SUMMER SANGRIA
1 1/2 cups amaretto
1/2 cup honey
4 nectarines, pitted and thinly sliced
1 pound strawberries, caps removed, cut in half
1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled, core removed, cut into chunks
2 (750-mililiter) bottles pinot grigio
4 (12-ounce) cans lemon-lime soda, chilled
Serves a small crowd.
Whisk together the amaretto and the honey. Place prepared fruit in a large mixing bowl and top with the honey amaretto mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least eight hours or up to 24 hours ahead of serving.
Pour chilled wine into a punch bowl. Add the amaretto/honey/fruit mixture to the punch bowl. Top with the soda. Ladle into glasses with some ice.
1/2-inch thick slices bakery French bread
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup prepared mayonnaise
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil
2 cloves finely minced garlic
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups baby arugula, coarsely chopped
1 cup diced (seeded) vine-ripe tomato
1/2 cup cooked crumbled bacon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Makes about 24 pieces.
Crostini: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush bread slices with melted butter. Arrange bread slices in a single layer, side-by side closely together. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, prepare the aioli and salad.
Aioli: Combine all ingredients and blend thoroughly. Transfer mixture to a plastic food storage bag and seal securely.
Salad: Combine first three ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Assembly: Spoon a bit of B.L.T. salad on each piece of slightly warm toast. Snip a small hole in one corner of the plastic bag containing the aioli. Drizzle over B.L.T. salad.
MAGNOLIA BLOSSOM COCKTAIL
1 jigger vanilla vodka
1 jigger half-and-half
2 tablespoons vanilla infused simple syrup
1/4 teaspoon orange flower water
4-6 ounces chilled lemon-lime soda
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
Makes one cocktail.
Place vodka, half-and-half, vanilla simple syrup and orange flower water into an ice filled cocktail shaker. Place lid securely on top of cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Strain into a tall glass half-filled with ice. Add a bit of lemon-lime soda to the glass and garnish the top with a the freshly grated lemon zest.
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Makes seven cups.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place melted butter in roasting pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and egg whites. Beat on high until foamy. Stir in the seasonings. Add the pecan halves and stir to evenly coat the pecans.
Transfer coated pecans to the roasting pan. Spread evenly in the pan. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir well. Evenly redistribute the pecans in the pan. Return to the oven and repeat roasting and stirring process for a total cooking time of 1 hour.
During the last 10 minutes of roasting, spritz the nuts with water and stir to distribute; this makes for crisp, glazed nuts. Cool on a cooling rack, stirring several times while cooling.
When thoroughly cooled, store airtight at room temperature for up to three weeks or in the freezer for up to three months.
SUGAR & SPICE ROASTED PECANS
8 ounces (2 cups) grated sharp Cheddar cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
11/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon poppy seeds, sesame seeds or coarsely crushed black pepper
Makes about 80.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine Cheddar and butter in mixing bowl and blend together. Sift together the flour, salt and cayenne. Add to the cheese mixture and blend briefly, but thoroughly.
Fill the empty barrel of a cookie press with the dough and fit with the 5-petal blossom shaped disk. Press out “blossoms” onto ungreased cookie sheet, allowing a bit of space between. Using a fingertip, press a wee bit of sesame seeds into the center of the blossoms.
Bake one tray at a time in the center of oven for 16-20 minutes, until desired degree of doneness. Store airtight at room temperature for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up four months.