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Finding My Voice

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in Community, Featured, Uncategorized, Updates | 0 comments

Finding My Voice

“What do you DO, Camille?” How on Earth do you explain what you do? It’s a terribly intimate question, one I have too many answers for. It’s almost like asking who I am, in a sense. I cook. I travel. I explore. I drive a semi truck. I am a co-owner of a trucking business. I am dabbler in television. Though no one has yet bought the show we’ve been selling, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Oh yeah, and I write. Until about eight months ago.  Make that almost a year. I have several drafts in my folder, great ideas one and all, but I couldn’t find the endings. They just weren’t there. Until now. I’m not sure if my circuits overloaded. I’m not sure if my “genius” has taken a long overdue hiatus. Maybe I have juggled my careers and life so precariously that all the balls fell to the floor at once, and I wasn’t quite sure how to go about picking them up again. A good friend sent me a TED talk, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I urge you to follow the link and watch it for yourselves. It explains a lot about what artists of every genre go through. I am simply showing up to DO MY part. www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius The one thing I’m sure of, is that without putting words on paper, or a screen, I’ve lost a part of myself I can’t afford to lose. How many times have I sat here and wondered where to start? Should I write about the transition I’ve gone through? How about some of the adventures I’ve had? How to balance the two without losing my readers’ interest? Oh wait, do I have ANY readers left? Well for better or for worse, here’s a few of the things I neglected to mention. Starting in March, I signed on with Tricon Films, left Swift once and for all, paid my truck off, and I made the first move to repair the most important relationship I’ll ever have. Deep breath 2-3-4…. Even writing the words makes me short of breath. Transition is a pretty word for change. As humans, we resist change.  I was, simply put, in shock.  All of these things I’ve struggled and bled to achieve. I had little faith in surviving at times. I didn’t believe in myself. I should have. I met with Tricon in late February, after months of corresponding. I was a nervous wreck. I mean, here I am, a virtual nobody, sitting down for lunch with people that have flown a couple thousand miles to talk about the possibility of making a television show. With me. One of my closest friends orchestrated a fancy lunch at the restaurant he runs. I made my quail dance on my plate like Benny & Joon. Nervous much? As it turns out, they’re a great group of people. I had no reason to be nervous. As we discussed the possibilities, I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in a long time. Hope. I kept thinking, “Do I really have a shot at doing what I love?” I DO have a shot at it. Maybe in a different way than I had initially suspected, but I digress. We made plans to shoot a “sizzle...

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Gypsy G’s Summer Canning Series I

Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in & Pickling, Farmers Market, Featured, Food | 0 comments

Gypsy G’s Summer Canning Series I

I have decided to write a spring and summer series on canning, preserving, and pickling. I figure as I absorb all of this wonderfully useful information from sources ranging from family, friends, reference guides, the Internet, and experience, the least I can do is pass along the condensed version for all of my faithful readers. For many of us, there are treasured memories of preserving and canning. When time grows short in our everyday lives not everyone has the time to grow a garden, tend to herbs, and “put up” the bounty of the seasons harvests. I feel it’s high time my generation and those interested, learn a bit about a dying art that can bring a wholesome beauty back to our tables. My grandmother started my canning and preserving education at an early age, but over the years I had forgotten much of what I’d learned. I also wasn’t as careful about writing down family recipes as I am today.  Some of my fondest memories revolve around the beautiful jars of jams and preserves in my grandmother’s pantry, the smell of cooking berries, or the bright warm flavor of her pepper jelly. Last year, I made what I thought was both bell pepper, hot pepper jelly and Muscadine, hot pepper jelly. I was down for five weeks with repairs to the truck I was driving, and I get antsy without much to do. I have always wanted to have the time to learn how to can and preserve. Though I didn’t have a ton of disposable income at the time, I set forth on my journey to learn all that I could. Now, after some research and some lovely reference guides, I’ve learned that what I made was jam, not jelly. Jam is chopped, crushed, and whole bits of fruits (and in this case vegetables) cooked with sugar, and sometimes added pectin. Jelly is jelled fruit or vegetable juice with added sugar and pectin if needed. With basic fruit spreads and jellies, the key is the balance of the basic ingredients. Without writing a book, I’ll share the five key elements I have learned along my journey. The first key element in any kind of canning is the freshness of your product. Your jam, jelly, preserves, etc. are only going to be as amazing as your produce, so hunting for the best seasonal produce available is vitally important. The best source is obviously your garden or trees, but a good second is your local farmers’ market, or organic market. Here you’ll be able to taste before you buy and ask the growers or helpful sales staff when different varieties will be available. Some will even sell off-grade fruits (small fruits or misshapen) for a reduced price. I’ve found that underripe fruit has more acid and pectin, essential for making fruit spreads, but that they don’t impart much flavor. Overripe fruit should be avoided because as the fruit ages it loses pectin content. The best preserves come from a good mix of both ripe and underripe fruits to get that delicate balance of flavor, pectin, and acid necessary to success. The second element is pectin. Pectin is a natural carbohydrate that’s concentrated in the skin and seeds of fruit. Pectin levels vary tremendously in different types of fruit, and...

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A Damn Yankee’s Attempt at Southern Biscuits

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Featured, Food | 0 comments

A Damn Yankee’s Attempt at Southern Biscuits

Eureka! I’ve discovered the perfect biscuit recipe. Gone are the sad little biscuits resembling hockey pucks. Gone are the days of this Damn Yankee’s embarrassing excuse for breakfast. This talent for beautiful biscuit making seems to be bred into the genetic makeup of every Southern woman I have met, along with a few very talented Southern gentlemen. I tried time after time to duplicate the fluffy, buttery goodness that I’ve encountered down here in the South, to no avail. I thanked my family and friends numerous times for good naturedly eating those mistakes without complaint (though piled high with jam, butter, or apple butter). I then had to resort to the Queen of Southern cooking. My absolute favorite Southern chef. Ms. Paula Deen. Her Southern Cooking Bible has saved my sorry Yankee butt more times than I’d like to admit, this time being no exception. My only question to myself being, “Why on Earth did I not resort to this book sooner?” I thought all biscuits were “quick breads”, and that the leavening process was covered between the baking powder, baking soda, butter, and buttermilk. Not always so. This recipe encompasses not only vegetable shortening, but dry instant yeast as well. I’ve also been told not to over mix biscuit dough. Newsflash people, you do have to mix the dough to a certain point or it falls apart. The “do not over mix” rule is not a myth, however there is a fine line between the two. For clarification purposes, mix the dough until it comes together and is not sticky. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and forget the rolling pin, just pat the dough out to about an inch thick before cutting with your favorite water glass, biscuit cutter, or clean, empty soup can. Another big tip is do not twist your cutting object. You want only straight up and down cuts to prevent the sides from sealing. The biscuit dough needs to breathe on the sides for the steam rising process created by the vegetable shortening or butter in the dough. The angels that these biscuits were named for broke out in song as they came out of the oven. No joke. I’m completely serious here, as biscuits are not a laughing matter in the South. They rose to new heights, topping out at 2 ½ inches tall. These beauties were moist, tender, and delicious. I sincerely hope you give them a shot, because my family almost demanded a second batch the same day I made the first. Once again, a big, huge thank you to Ms. Paula Deen for her great recipe. Until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, be free, and be you.   Paula’s Angel Biscuits 1 envelope fast acting instant dry yeast ½ cup warm water (95-105 degrees F) to bloom yeast 2 Tablespoons sugar 5 cups all-purpose flour plus some for dusting 1 Tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt ¾ cup vegetable shortening 2 cups buttermilk Instructions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water while preparing the dry ingredients. Set aside. Combine all dry ingredients and cut in chilled vegetable shortening with two knives or a pastry cutter until pea sized chunks are achieved. Set dry ingredients with...

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Recipes, Recipes, and More Recipes

Posted by on Mar 9, 2013 in Farmers Market, Food | 0 comments

Recipes, Recipes, and More Recipes

Trying to find the time and resources to get back to the basics is never easy in any of our worlds. The average American is busier today than in any other decade. With the challenges the economy has given us in the last six years, many chefs and home cooks alike are going back to hand-made versus prepackaged to save their budgets. I am no different. I have tried to curb my spending in every way. I have found over time that while convenient, prepackaged goods have more salt, sugar, and  preservatives than I’d like to serve unless there is no alternative. While we’re on that subject, I’ll also point out that you’ll generally fork out less cash out of pocket if you’re careful.   Nobody wants to hear that you can save money with coupons. Nobody wants to sit over the Sunday paper and clip coupons versus read the funnies. Okay, I don’t want to. Maybe you do, and I’m happy for you if you have the patience. My biggest savings is from watching the weekly sale papers. Seriously, if there are four grocery stores in town, you’ll get four sale papers every week in the mail. Compare prices. For example, you have eight guests coming over for a Saturday night. You plan on making Chicken Cordon Bleu( breaded, baked chicken breasts, stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese). Now we all know you’re not going to invite folks over if you can’t afford to, but let’s have a good example of how much money you can save if you watch the sale papers. Kroger has boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $2.49/lb. Ingles has them for $2.99/lb. Food Depot has them on sale for $1.99/lb. On average, a family pack of these chicken breasts have approximately eight breasts and weigh around four pounds. If you look at the numbers, you’ll save $4.00 right off the ripper, and that’s just the meat. If you watch closely and pay attention, the savings will add up faster than you think.           Enough with the lessons though. Let’s get on to some of the recipes I’ve meant to put on the website but haven’t. So much for good intentions, right? I’ve realized that many of you aren’t subscribed to The Grip, my local independent paper in my hometown of Griffin, Georgia. The paper has taken up a lot of my free time that I was previously using for writing this blog. So I thought it might be fun to feature some of the recipes I’ve included in The Grip, that you, my loyal readers can apply your savings lessons to. Remember, try to stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables. You’ll not only enjoy better tasting products, but will also save money.   Muscadine Pepper Jelly   Yield: Approximately 6-8 pints 8 cups minced bell peppers (green is a must, but I like red as well for color contrast, food processor works well on pulse) 6 jalapenos stems removed, but seeds and ribs included pulsed with a food processor or minced fine 3 cups Muscadine juice (For tips on extracting the juice, please visit my website http://renegadegypsygourmet.com/) 3 cups apple cider vinegar 4-5 cups sugar (I used four, you may like it sweeter) 2 boxes Sure Jell pectin, pink box Instructions...

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Normalcy in GG World?? Surely Not…

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 in Featured, Highlighted Travel, Updates | 0 comments

Normalcy in GG World?? Surely Not…

By now y’all are more than ready for another update to my crazy life. It’s never a boring, sedate place to be. Your Gypsy Gourmet has not stopped traveling the countryside in search of the perfect bite. The wheels keep rolling, both in business and life, and there’s been some major changes, AGAIN. Remember that driver I’d hired? Gone. There is no longer a mystery man, or a second truck. I’m now mentoring a student on the Freightliner, and getting a little closer to paying off Buella. About the time I thought life was easing up a bit, I had to recover my beloved truck, Buella, in Phoenix, AZ. She was filthy, and not in great shape. Somewhere along the way something had gone wrong with the communication in my world, both with my business, and in my personal life. Everything happens for a reason, of course, but it seemed to me when it started raining it began to pour. I ended both partnerships. Well, really one was ended for me, and the other was for his own good. Those of you who have followed this blog from the beginning, know where my heart has always been. It will remain where it has always, and I do promise my faithful readers when the time is right, I’ll let you guys celebrate with me. Just for today, however, I’m keeping my lips zipped and waiting for the outcome just like you. When I got to Phoenix, I cleaned my girl within an inch of her life. I set up the inside just the way I like, and proceeded to go through the engine maintenance like a good owner should. While the shop had a hold on her, I decided to do something I’ve grappled with doing for the last few years. Become a certified mentor for Swift. I took my certification classes and was approached and requested to be a mentor by a very nice young man named, Brad. I am sure I got very lucky, as we get along well, and he’s an all around great person. We come from very similar backgrounds, he’s terribly intelligent, and it feels a lot less like work, and more like I’m teaching my buddy Brad how to navigate the Swift system and highways. As soon as we were almost ready to being our first journey, I got some news from the shop that Buella was in need of a whole new clutch assembly. Crimeny Sakes! Eight payments to go and an expensive repair. My helpful and excellent mechanics at the Swift corporate shop in Phoenix, assured me it would be done post haste. Jeff Feagins, the service operations manager for the shop, carefully oversaw the project to make sure it went off without a hitch. Many folks have a lot of terrible things to say about my company, but you won’t EVER hear a bad word out of my mouth. My support staff has been the reason I’m still out here on the road. Whether it’s been the follow up from people like Brian, Becky, Richard, Mark, Eddie, and Joran in Rapid Response, Cindy in dispatch, or Jeff  and Chris in the shop, the people here have always given me the best support anyone could ask for. So, when folks talk trash,...

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Holy Smokes! Pork Loin Technique Revealed!

Posted by on Sep 17, 2012 in Community, Food, Smoked Meats | 0 comments

Holy Smokes! Pork Loin Technique Revealed!

As promised in this week’s article in The Grip, smoked pork loin! I’m giving y’all a guideline for how I did it, what you do with it is your choice. You all know that I am a “Damn Yankee”, that much is sometimes glaringly obvious. So, I warn you I am just beginning this journey of smoking meats. It all started with Paul getting an LP/Charcoal smoker for his birthday at the beginning of August. We bought numerous books, we’ve read articles, and we’ve talked to die hard smokers of every kind; from the expert to the back yard griller. The only resource I haven’t had the opportunity to tap, is Mr. Tommy Love, of Love’s BBQ in Chillecothe, TX. He’s such a hard working guy, I haven’t wanted to bother him with my back deck experiments. However, I’m missing my “Little Spot of Heaven” and need to reach out to an expert in the field. Our smoker is pretty cool. It’s a Master Forge and can run straight LP gas or charcoal. It’s got a sturdy construction, and a certain heaviness to the pieces we assembled, that says “quality”. We added an after-market gasket around the door for a better seal, ( Ace Hardware down the street) but otherwise it’s a stock model. The pork loin came bone-in from Mr Barry Cook’s Meats and Grocery and man was it tender, moist, and an excellent piece of meat. I love, love, love shopping down at his place on Hwy 16 in Griffin. He’s a really nice man and carries superb product. I digress. The simplicity of this method really astounded me. We’ve made it a little simpler with a digital thermometer that has two probes and a remote device you can clip to your belt or set on a table in the kitchen. It’s a heck of a lot more accurate than the temperature gauge on the door of the smoker, and keeps track of the ambient temperature inside the smoker, as well as the internal temp of the meat. The most important parts of smoking that we’ve found so far have been the temperature you smoke at, the internal temperature of the meat, and the type of wood chips/hunks you use. Overnight, we soaked a mixture of cherry and apple wood for this project; in a two quart bowl three quarters full. We liberally seasoned the outside of the meat with a mixture of Barry Cook’s secret seasoning blend, and some brown sugar. This too was done well in advance, and sat in the fridge, covered all night. When I say “liberally” I mean coated so that you can no longer see the meat. The piece we purchased was between 4-5 pounds. As my Grandma would say, “That’s a lot of meat to season, be generous!”. The wood chips are placed in a special pan that we line with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Approximate cook times will vary, according to the size of the loin, the amount of wood chips you use, and temperature of the smoker. We found that keeping the smoker at between 195-212 degrees Fahrenheit was optimal for this cut. We smoked the pork loin for approximately six hours. At the four and a half hour mark, we removed the loin, and wrapped it...

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Update in the World of GG

Posted by on Aug 26, 2012 in Featured, Updates | 0 comments

Update in the World of GG

I can almost hear my faithful readers hiss each time they pull up my blog and see the same post. I am sorry, dear readers. (Grimace) I’ve been in a whirlwind of activity with so much going on in a short time frame, that alas, the blog and y’all have been sorely neglected. So this time instead of taking you on one single adventure with one recipe, I’m going to take you on several adventures and catch you up to date on my crazy life. You guessed it, the blanks will be filled, and the secrecy around my quasi (and I DO mean quasi) celebrity status will be laid at your feet. This tale should be a movie, yet is only the catch up on a few months and weeks out of my life. Nuts? Yep. Craziness? Some of that too. So hold on to your seats my loyal readers, the ride only gets better from here!     The Magazine A few weeks ago I was approached to be a columnist for the online magazine, The Long Haul. Luisa Nims, the CEO of The Long Haul and I had been corresponding for almost a year. During that time I was helping her with a few side projects she had cooked up. I was blown away by the offer, fledgling magazine or not, because what a great opportunity to reach more people! Luisa has created a magazine for the transportation industry and those who drive it. Her vision is to fill the existing void with something akin to what Vanity Fair is to fashion. High end, exquisite pictures, serious information on technology, products we actually use, trends in the industry, and even fashion. I’m terribly excited for the debut at the end of August, and will be updating the progress as we go. The Long Haul will be available on Apple newsstands soon, and more information can be found on the website http://www.longhaulmagazine.com/. As soon as I accepted the strangest thing occurred. Several loads fell into place in an almost divine succession that landed us in Portland, OR, where Luisa and her family reside. Luisa and her husband Mike graciously extended the offer to stay with them for the weekend. Luisa and I were able to put together a few missing elements for the debut magazine. We were also able to cook, laugh, and relax. They have the most adorable twin daughters, Abby & Zoey, who made the trip bright and sunny with their sweet selves. It was an awesome experience. I seem to be blessed with the ability to meet the most extraordinary people, and Luisa and her family are no exception. They are incredible people extending not only their warmth and hospitality, but providing an amazing opportunity to a budding writer. I am ever so grateful to work with them and to call them friends. Dutch-oven roasted chicken w/herbs               The Grip Just as I was gearing up for one deadline, hot damn I rounded the bend with two. I had dropped a line with local editor/owner, Jessica Gregory of The Grip, in what is now my hometown of Griffin, Ga. I had asked her if she needed any contributors for our independent newspaper. I thought it would be a great way to...

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The Dekalb Farmer’s Market, A Chef’s Utopia with Summer Berry Trifle

Posted by on Jun 23, 2012 in Farmers Market, Featured, Food | 2 comments

The Dekalb Farmer’s Market, A Chef’s Utopia with Summer Berry Trifle

A few crazy scenarios in my life conquered, a few precious moments off, and here we are with another adventure! When I come home to Georgia I have several favorite places I like to haunt while I’m here and get to without fail. Safehouse Coffee and Tea in downtown Griffin is an absolute must. Thanks to my good friend Amanda Slade from Safehouse, The DeKalb Farmer’s Market aka DeKalb World Market, is one of my favorite places on Earth. I am a brave soul to come here on a Saturday when it’s at it’s busiest. The feel of this place is as close to the frenzied chaos that surrounds me on a regular basis, so naturally I feel right at home! I love the bustle of busy people shopping, the variety of goods (17 different kinds of fresh chilies to swimming catfish), and the shear enormity of this place. It’s been said that if you can’t find it at the DeKalb Market, it probably doesn’t exist. I’m happy to report there is truth to this statement, as the last time I was here I found the mysterious, extremely stinky Durian fruit. Putting pen to paper (yes I’m archaic) I’m wondering just how to describe the cacophony of sounds and smells. The first smell to hit my nostrils was rich, strong black coffee. Whoa there darlin’! Necessary fuel to brave the largest farmer’s market/specialty foods store I’ve ever been to. I thought Pike’s Place market in Seattle was huge, but this takes the cake. Picture the largest Costco/Sam’s Club you’ve ever been in and at least double it. I recently heard they are expanding said Market to make it even bigger. Hark! Are the angels singing again?! The scent of freshly brewed coffee brings me back to the task at hand and out of my delicious daydream of a bigger playground. I am a kid in a candy store after all. Coffee in hand, I am fortified with new focus(adult A.D.D. is a challenge) Without coffee I’m pretty sure I’d be distracted every few minutes by something “shiny” and all thoughts of a budget or list would be forgotten. I AM a “hot scattered mess”, but I’ve been told it’s part of my appeal. I’m betting I have a few peeps out there who “feel” me on this issue. While this is not my first visit to the DeKalb Market it’s always a memorable journey. My pictures don’t do this market justice by far, but will give you a pretty good idea of the euphoria I feel every time I walk into the joint. The brilliant red of the Roma tomatoes smacks my senses as I’m pulled away from piles of fragrant herbs to choose a few for salsa. The Earthy aroma is intoxicating. For me it brings up sweet memories of my Grandfather’s tomato plants, and the none too sweet memories of the years in AZ that it was difficult to get my hands on a tomato that tasted like a tomato. There are rows and rows of fresh produce. Everything you could possibly imagine from seasonal berries to oddball Asian melons I’ve never seen before.With collard greens, every potato known to mankind, mushrooms of every size and flavor, it’s seriously every chef’s dream. I have some good friends that will travel the 45 min every week, one way, to shop exclusively...

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Southern Staple or Gift from Heaven?

Posted by on Jun 12, 2012 in Featured, Food | 1 comment

Southern Staple or Gift from Heaven?

Hiya folks, GG back to give you a quickie! I’m working on a longer blog with lots of cool stuff involved but wanted to drop in with my newest discovery. You may ask, “How has she lived in the South this long and NOT experienced shrimp & grits?” The answer to your question is,” **Shrug** I dunno! Shame on me!” I’m enamored with this Southern staple. It was again like my experience with the tamales. I had a good idea of the method, but no real working knowledge of the spices or a recipe to follow. Picture being at the house after a few weeks on the road, a long day of trying to cram everything I’ve missed into one day, handling a claim for a broken windshield, trying to coordinate my roommate moving out, my co driver and bro working like crazy all day in the rain to get the truck ship shape, and after a quick trip to the local conglomerate all-in-one store for a new set of locks, it’s now ten o’clock at night and I have a hungry crew. I know I write about chaos a lot, but seriously? This is the soundtrack of my life. I never stop. So I picked up some large shrimp, quick but not instant grits, and green onions. I figured a quick experiment would satisfy my crew and my curiosity all at the same time. Fortunately for me I had the luck of the South on my side and it was stupendous! Now, Niki being from California had not ever had grits. The night before Ashley, Jared, Niki, and I had ventured over to the Waffle House in Jonesboro, and while the service was a nightmare, she still did get to try cheesy grits, and loved them. This was the motivation I needed to try something new myself. I just was pretty much beat with no motivation. Not even enough motivation to research a recipe. This is what my mom would call “Kitchen Surprise”. I grew up in a family of foodies and the long standing joke between us when we had no idea what to make, was this phrase. (Also, when it was time to order out mom would tell us, “I’m making green Jell-O.”) So back from the store, my meager supplies put away, I started my mise en place(Everything in it’s place.) to begin. This recipe fed three hungry adults. It could feed four non-starving peeps. Shrimp & Grits Gypsy Gourmet Style 2 lbs large shrimp 21-36 ct per lb peeled, de-veined, tails on 1/4 stick butter (real!) 2-3 tsp minced garlic, jarred or fresh 1 T heaping Cajun seasoning without salt (Mine came from DeKalb Market. Trader Joe’s, Local Co-Op, or Sprouts bulk will work. Or make your own.) 3-4 stalks of green onion , greens chopped and white part discarded 1 c Quick grits, follow package directions 1/2 c finely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese 1/4 c finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese 3/4  stick butter (real butter, no plastic tub crap please!) 1/4 to 1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste Instructions: To begin with gather your supplies and cut the green onions and set aside. Fix quick grits according to package instructions adding butter, cheese, and salt, stirring well and set aside covered. Get a...

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My Southern Menagerie a Damn Yankee’s Attempt at Collard Greens

Posted by on Jun 8, 2012 in Food, Updates | 0 comments

My Southern Menagerie a Damn Yankee’s Attempt at Collard Greens

Hey folks! Gypsy Gourmet is back on the scene halfway across the country missing my “adopted” siblings (Jared & Ashley) like mad. I received a random text basically letting me know that there was fun in store for the weekend and am I coming home? Unfortunately scheduled maintenance and necessary repairs are keeping this team on the road. The final nail in the “homesick coffin” was, “P.S. Your Bubba misses you and is HUNGRY.” Ms Carol Ashley & Jared Now I’m thinking of Georgia and everything I have come to hold so dear. Ms Carol is my downstairs neighbor and my “east coast mama”, her husband Mr Charles is a quiet man, loves to eat, and is our fix it guy. Ashley is Ms Carol’s daughter, sister of my heart, and is carrying my new nephew Dustin James who is due this September. Ashley’s eleven year old son CJ is my favorite Butts County Braves baseball player and a sweet young man. Last, but by no means least is Jared, Ashley’s husband. He has been my soul brother, my protector, and an excellent friend. He’s that guy who’s always there to lend a hand, share a meal, or be a good listener. People say you can’t choose your family and while that’s partly true, I think I’ve chosen my extended family well. Or maybe they chose me. Either way they bring a whole lot of joy to my world. I love each and every one of these people like they’ve always been mine. The sweetest moments of this last year in Georgia have included these amazing people. They keep me motivated to work harder, so I can stay home longer. CJ up to bat @ season open ’12 Jared and his temperamental tractor   Our southern feast The characters in this play I call life don’t end here. I have an incredible menagerie of friends and loved ones both in Georgia and all across the country, but we’ve got to save something for future blogs! Just know y’all, you will most probably will get a call asking if I can include you, and y’all have NOT been forgotten. That being said let’s get on to the food!   My daisies from Niki While home I prepared another feast for the eyes and the senses, with plenty of help from Niki. We had baked chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, several fresh locally sourced fruits, jalapeno cheddar cornbread muffins, collard greens, and a summer berry trifle that I’m including in my next blog. We went with a few healthier choices to keep the guilt at bay, but didn’t sacrifice too much on our traditional southern fare. While I’m on the subject, my education on southern food just began a little over a year ago. I am originally from Minnesota. I have lived all across the country and just settled in Georgia last year. I have been told that for the first year I’m a “transplant” and after that I am referred to as a “Damn Yankee”. While some look at it as a slur, I’m proud of my “Damn Yankee” status, and have tried like hell to make the South proud by fixing traditional dishes on my own with as little deviation as possible. However, I am who I am, and do add a bit here and there to suit my tastes. We all know that most folks ain’t seen nothin’ like...

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