My Favorite Things About Fall

This Sunday, September 23, is the first day of Fall! While I’d love to spend more days by the pool (and I will when it’s sunny and warm), I love Fall for lots of reasons. I know what you’re thinking, and no…pumpkin spice latte did not make the list. Some of my favorites are obvious, but maybe some…not so obvious:

  • Football season. No surprise. I love high school football. I love college football, especially SEC, and I love professional football. Football is my family’s bonding experience. In fact, Dish TV made a commercial based on my life. You can see it here. OK, so it’s not really based on my life, but it could be…and frankly, I should be the star of that commercial. They totally missed an opportunity. I could totally pull it off…southern accent and all! Feel free to contact DirecTV here and tell them to offer me a spot in their football package commercial, which could compete with the Dish one.IMG_6142
  • Fall wardrobe. Oh, I love boots, sweaters, jackets, camouflage (yes, camo), and everything else in a fall wardrobe. In the south, September is a little warm for the full-on Fall wardrobe, but we can wear pieces here and there. I can hardly wait till it’s cold enough for my favorite pieces. Fall clothes hide a multitude of sins. Am I still wearing my white jeans right now? Yes…totally disobeying all the rules…living on the edge. Being over 50 presents some fashion challenges, but one place to get some fall wardrobe ideas is Hello Fashion blog…see it here.
  • Fewer pedicures. I know most people love pedicures. I don’t. I don’t love to sit around with someone touching my feet. Nope. Not for me. I do it out of necessity. I simply can’t have the ugliest feet in town. Come October, though, it becomes more infrequent once it’s too cold for sandals. I know…the shame! I have spring/summer feet, and then I have fall/winter feet. For early fall, though, when I’m definitely still wearing open-toed shoes, I pick a nail polish color that works with my football team…Essie’s Forever Yummy is my favorite.
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    Forever Yummy

     

 

  • Bourbon. Football season means it’s Bourbon season. As soon as football season starts, I think of Bourbon. When I was in college, I would sneak Bourbon into football games to drink from those giant stadium souvenir cups. Back then, all the girls wore dresses and pantyhose to the games, so sometimes, to sneak Bourbon into the game, I could tape the bottle or flask to my inner thigh (inside the pantyhose) where no gate person would see it or find it. My mother would not have been proud. It stayed till I got into the game and went to the bathroom to move it to my handbag. (It’s possible I sounded a little like the little old lady church organist from Sixteen Candles when I walked…you remember…you could hear her liquor sloshing in her handbag when she walked out of the wedding. Listen at 1:33 in the clip here.) No, I don’t ever plan to run for public office. That being said…I don’t like to mess up a good Bourbon with a mixer either…give it to me on the rocks. For those of you who like cocktail recipes, Maker’s Mark has some good ones on their website…Snow Cap, Bourbon Butter Pecan Milkshake, Kentucky Mulled Cider, and a whole array of Highball cocktails. You can see them here Knob Creek Bourbon has great cocktails on their site too…click here.

Yes, there are lots more reasons to be happy about Fall, and these are just a few of my favorites. My very favorite thing about fall is celebrating our daughter’s birthday. This year she will be 15! It’s hard to believe. Her birthday in October is, indeed, a celebration. First, I was happy to get her out of my body. I was induced on a Friday, and she didn’t arrive till 10pm Sunday…it seemed like forever. (And then I sent my husband to the hospital cafeteria to get me some fried chicken and mac & cheese.) Her arrival into the world changed our lives. We discovered true joy! Don’t get me wrong…that first year was hard. I wasn’t sure I would survive it. I had the baby who wasn’t a sleeper (still isn’t), and once she could move around at all, she never sat still. She was a bundle of energy…still is. I love that she’s energetic and strong-willed. I love that she’s social and athletic. I love re-living all the fun of youth with her…and sharing life with her.

Happy Fall!

**Coming soon: my favorite skincare/healthcare products to help me get through Fall.**

 

 

 

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My Favorite Simple Summer Sandwiches

Sometimes I just want a sandwich…makes an easy snack or even a meal…no standing over a hot stove in summertime.

A personal favorite is the tomato sandwich…only good in summer…and only good with homegrown tomatoes ripened on the vine. Grocery store tomatoes may be beautiful on the outside, but rarely on the inside…hard and yellow…no thanks. The perfect tomato sandwich is made with white bread and has slices of vine-ripened, red tomatoes with Duke’s Mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper.

My daddy loved tomato sandwiches, but he also loved banana sandwiches and pineapple sandwiches. I’m not a fan of either. Actually I’ve never eaten either, but white bread + mayo + pineapples/bananas…just doesn’t sound good to me. I have cousins who love them, though.

Daddy loved peanut butter, but he liked Peter Pan brand. I prefer Jif. Remember “Choosy Mothers Choose Jif”? I could likely live on PB and bread. There are some other spreads that work well with PB, though…jelly is one. But I love Marshmallow Fluff brand marshmallow creme on peanut butter sandwiches. It’s called a Fluffernutter. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be. You can see a Fluffernutter commercial here. My friend, Lisa, who lives in Luxembourg, claims I caused her to gain ten pounds after introducing her to Fluffernutters. Using white bread…put peanut butter on a slice of bread, and put Fluff on the other, mash together, and voila! The Fluffernutter! While peanut butter has nutritional value, Fluff has absolutely none.

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For years, airlines have handed out packets of Biscoff Cookies, and I’ve always loved their crunchy, caramelized flavor, so when I heard they made Cookie Butter, I was all over that! My college friend, Beth, introduced me to it. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. Add that smooth caramelized cookie butter to a peanut butter sandwich, and it takes on a whole new flavor. It’s a flavor that will keep you coming back for more. They make a creamy version and a crunch version. You can purchase it in Target or order online here.lb150816_1.png

There is one more flavor I love with peanut butter: maple. It’s not just for winter anymore. You can purchase maple butter/cream and add that to a peanut butter sandwich. I love pure maple flavor. I used to order maple candies/cookies them all the time but had to stop, because well, sugar. I couldn’t eat them in moderation. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of ordering separate maple butter or cream, Jif makes a Maple Flavored Peanut Butter that is really good too. I used to purchase it in the grocery store, but I haven’t been able to find it for a while, so I ordered it through Amazon. I had to order it in an 8-pack, but I know we (I) will eat it. You can purchase it here.

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It’s not just sweet flavors I like. I also love pimiento cheese spread. There are different spellings…some spell it “pimento”…but oh, how I love it. My mother used to make it  when I was a little girl, and I would help her, but back then, I didn’t want to eat it. As an adult, I love pimiento cheese spread. In the south, we pronounce it “pimenna cheese,” and I’ve even seen it on a menu spelled that way at Smashburger in Atlanta. I have a good recipe, but it’s labor intensive. There are so many good brands of pimiento cheese sold in stores now, so I just buy it. My personal favorite is Palmetto Cheese from Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, and I really love their jalapeño flavor. My friend, Linda, loves the Harris Teeter brand, and I have another friend who loves Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese. Yet another friend tells me Augusta’s is her brand of choice…apparently, they make the famous pimento cheese sandwich for the Master’s in Augusta, Georgia. You can make a sandwich with just bread and pimiento cheese spread or add it to white bread with homegrown tomato slices and cook it like a grilled cheese sandwich…it’s what dreams are made of. All those brands, except the Harris Teeter brand, can be purchased at Reid’s Fine Foods in Myers Park in Charlotte or at their South Park location.

 

***A friend reminded me of the delicious pimento cheese spread at Zoe’s Kitchen restaurants. I love it, especially on their grilled sandwich.*** See their website here.

And then there’s my favorite chicken salad that can be “spread” onto a sandwich. I make my own, and it’s super easy and healthy. I simply stir together some canned chicken (yes, canned…drain off the water) with a little Duke’s Mayo, some mustard, and some dill relish, adding some salt, pepper, and a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. It turns out delicious every time. It makes great sandwiches or cracker toppers, or you can eat a scoop of it over a bed of lettuce. MmmmMmmm good.

***If you don’t want to make your own, the chicken salad at Chicken Salad Chick is fabulous!***

In fact, I could put all these different spreads on a scheduled rotation and enjoy a different sandwich every day.

Maybe I will! Fluffernutter, anyone?

It’s National Mac & Cheese Day

Today, July 14, is National Mac & Cheese Day! I have loved Mac & Cheese since I was a little girl. Back then, I loved Kraft Mac & Cheese, and while it will do in a pinch even now if I add some real cheese, I have my very own beloved Mac & Cheese recipe that I prefer when I have time. I used to call it Protestant Mac & Cheese, because it’s perfect for a covered dish lunch at a church gathering in the South.

I love to cook but don’t do it every day. When I do, I love to make Mac & Cheese, so today, I’m sharing my very favorite personal recipe in honor of National Mac & Cheese Day! Enjoy!

Serves 6.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 TBSPNs butter or margarine, divided (I always use salted butter)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 TSP salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 pound Velvet Pasteurized Cheese Product, cut up
  • 8 ounces Colby Cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked, drained
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed into crumbs

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Melt 3 tblspns of the butter in large saucepan on low heat.
  3. Blend in flour and salt, cooking and stirring for one minute.
  4. Gradually add milk; cook stirring constantly, until thickened.
  5. Add prepared cheese product plus the Colby cheese and 4 ounces of Sharp Cheddar, stirring until melted.
  6. Stir in macaroni.
  7. Pour mixture into lightly greased 1-1/2 quart casserole. Sprinkle with Ritz Cracker crumbs and remaining Sharp Cheddar
  8. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Happy National Mac & Cheese Day!

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Quick and Easy Brunch

Anyone who knows me will quickly tell you I am no Martha Stewart. I like to cook, but I’m no chef. I don’t have the attention span for recipes with too many ingredients, and I tend to be a “squirrel chaser,” i.e. I’m easily distracted.

Every now and then, though, I like to invite some friends over for a brunch. Sure, I could get it catered, but it’s a great opportunity for me to try my hand at some recipes.

As always, the key for me is the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. When I start trying to get too extravagant, I lose control of the situation. I learned a long time ago that it’s best for me not to make it too elaborate.

I plan to host a brunch in my home later this month…a lovely, spring brunch. In the past, I’ve used plain glass or even clear plastic plates, but this year, I’m doing something different.

In the early 1940s, my maternal grandmother got her first set of Franciscan Desert Rose dinnerware. If you’re not familiar with it, the first Desert Rose dinnerware was produced in California in 1941, and it became the largest selling and longest running dinnerware pattern ever. Jacqueline Kennedy purchased some for use in the White House. In 1979, the company was sold to Wedgewood in England, and all production was moved to England in 1984. According to cedarhillfarmhouse.com, production was moved to other countries in 2000, but the entire pattern was discontinued in 2013.

It’s not a “fancy” pattern, and it was never expensive, but it’s pretty.

Over the years, my grandmother grew her collection and eventually gave it to my mother. I added to my mother’s collection over the years. When my mother died in December, I brought the Desert Rose to my house. My husband took one look at the boxes and wondered aloud what I was going to do with them. I still haven’t figured out where to keep them, but I plan to use them this spring for a brunch.

There are lots of things to consider when planning a brunch at home, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here is what I make notes on:

*Dinnerware (Desert Rose), where to place food, what to serve, when to prepare food, what beverages to serve, music, seating arrangements, flower arrangements, and party favors.*

The brunch I will be hosting is for a school committee, and the date and time have already been decided, so that decision is off my plate.

The dinnerware/flatware/linens question is the first one you should decide, simply because you can build around that. I have some light green cloth napkins I plan to use, because they will coordinate nicely with the Desert Rose dinnerware. I plan to have all the food served buffet-style from my dining room table, so I’ve selected a table pad and a tablecloth that will work with the dinnerware.

As for flatware, I have collected several sets of stainless flatware from eBay for great prices, so I have place settings for 40 and serving pieces too. eBay is a great resource for collecting.

Music is easy too…we have DirecTV, which offers a myriad of music channels. Usually, for brunch functions, I find a jazz station to provide a light musical background.

For me, deciding on a menu for a brunch is far easier than picking a menu for lunch or dinner. I love the Hungry Girl cookbooks, because she offers low-calorie, healthy recipes for just about anything, and she has some awesome breakfast/brunch options.

For this particular spring brunch, I plan to have this menu:

FRESH FRUIT BOWL: (cut up strawberries and stir in blueberries the night before)

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HUNGRY GIRL CRAMMED WITH CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS from page 38 of Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed (baked the night before and warmed before the brunch)

HUNGRY GIRL BANANA BREAD BONANZA MUFFINS from page 41 of Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed (baked the night before and warmed before the brunch)

HUNGRY GIRL VEGGIE-LICIOUS BREAKFAST BAKE (recipe can be found here), assembled ahead of time and bake the day of the brunch

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Veggie-licious Breakfast Bake photo from http://www.hungry-girl.com

MY PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER’S SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE I could give you the recipe, but I’d have to kill you. That will have to remain within the family.

For beverages, I will serve coffee, water, and orange juice…easy enough. If it weren’t for a school committee, I’d also offer Prosecco.

It’s an easy-to-assemble menu. I will display the muffins on a Desert Rose platter. The Breakfast Bake will be in a Pyrex dish, and the fruit will be in a large bowl. All those foods will be on the dining room table, and I will arrange beverages on the kitchen island. I will grab coffee the morning of the brunch at Panera, and they will provide all the cream and sugar/sweetener. I will have water and juice in two pitchers.

If possible, I always recommend fresh flowers. I love having fresh flowers in the house all the time, but I get an extra arrangement when entertaining…one for the dining room table with the food, and one for the kitchen counter.

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As for seating, the group will be small enough for me to have everyone in the kitchen and keeping room off the kitchen. There is a loveseat and a chair-and-a-half, so that is seating for four people. There are four chairs at my kitchen table, and two taller chairs at the kitchen island bar, for a total of  ten. We have eight dining room chairs we can bring in as needed.

The kitchen/keeping room combo is a perfect place for everyone to congregate, visit with each other, and discuss any committee business.

When the fun is over, it’s always nice to send something home with your guests…a small token that shows you were happy to have them in your home…a party favor. In a previous post, I sang the praises of Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies. For this particular event, I plan to have 2-oz jars of Fire Island Peach Jam and/or Apple Pecan Pie Preserves with blue ribbons around the top, because the school colors are blue and white. Everyone will love these! To see what Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies has to offer, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies Facebook page

So, if you are planning a small brunch at home that you don’t plan to have catered, this is the easy way to do it…keep it simple!

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Happy Hosting!

Kelly

***All Hungry Girl photos courtesy of hungry-girl.com or her books.***