Casseroles and cakes

mushrooms

When there is a death in the family of a friend, Southerners head to the kitchen. We don an apron and heat up the oven. We get out the cast iron skillet, casserole dishes and cake pans. We need to feel useful and we know that there will be people who need to be fed. Maybe it’s the same in the Midwest or North, but I have only lived in the South. I remember once when a Bell relative died and my cousin from Raleigh came for the funeral. Maybe my Uncle Buck? We were maybe in the fifth grade? Anyway, she and I ate a whole loaf of white bread, toasted, with butter and jam. Grandma Christine was a jelly/jam lover of the first order so we had many choices. We sat at the kitchen table, where the toaster was always plugged in. I have no idea why we chose toast because I am sure that there were a lot of “real” things to eat in that kitchen.

This past week, the BFF’s mother-in-law passed away. Sweet T’s mama. We’ve been friends for 26 years so I met Eleanor early on in the friendship. I remember driving over one summer day to pick up their Son #1 to come to play with our Son #1. Those two became fast friends on their first day of Pre-K. Anyway, the BFF had forgotten to tell Eleanor that I would be coming and she wouldn’t let me have her grandson. There was no use arguing. She was not going to let him leave without written permission. So, I loaded up a tearful 5 year old and his 10 month old brother into the mini-van and went home. The BFF and I had a good laugh over it at the end of the day. Just the thought of me actually kidnapping another boy to add to my collection was hilarious and not at all believable in the least.

Sweet T is a creative, talented man. He wrote his mama’s obituary. It is my all-time favorite. I’ve promised him that if he will write mine that I will cook for him until we are both called to great beauty parlor in the sky. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You were the world’s best son, Sweet T. I hope that my boys take care of me the way you did Eleanor.

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Eleanor Daniels King

May 21, 1926 – November 26, 2017

Eleanor would like to inform everyone that King’s Beauty Shop is now officially CLOSED… stating, “It has truly been an honor and a pleasure to have helped make the world a prettier place by washing, cutting, setting, styling, and coloring the hair of so many wonderful women (and even a few men from time to time) in and around my second home, Durham NC.” 

So now, after 73 glorious years as a self-employed Beautician in the Bull City, she recently received a call — sort of an offer she couldn’t refuse — to travel to a wondrous place where she can “catch up on all the latest” with all of her Customers, Family and Friends who have gone before her… and there have been many. As she would say, “It’s impossible to do somebody’s hair for 40 years and not become a friend — even the ones that aggravate you.”

Eleanor Grey Daniels King was born in Orange County in 1926, when the average life expectancy for women in the US was 58 years old. She was the second child, but the first girl, for Rainey Samuel Daniels and Lola Harris Daniels. Raised on a farm, she quickly learned that “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” And while she was a good ol’ country girl at heart, the big city lights were also calling her.

Right after High School graduation, Eleanor moved to Durham to attend Beauty College in 1944. And by the end of the year, she graduated as one of the top hairdressers of her class… and the rest is history.

Sure, she’s had her ups and downs, but to borrow a line from the movie, Steel Magnolias (one of her all-time favorites); “…my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.” And that’s the way she rolled. She didn’t have time to stop and feel sorry for herself. She had her Customers, and they were depending on her, regardless of how she felt or what she was going through personally.

She’s also seen Customers come and go, but she was most proud of her “Regulars” — the ones that came to get beautiful again every week or so, year after year. But as her “Regulars” would one-by-one leave this earth, she would simply pack up her “Beauty Bag” and head off to the Funeral Home for one last “touch-up” (I still don’t know how she did that). 

And yet, with all that dedication to her Customers, she still found time to be the best Mom in the whole world.

But, now it’s time for her to put away her appointment book and finally close up shop here on earth. Eleanor, you done good, girl. 

Eleanor was preceded in death by her father, her mother, her older brother Wayne Daniels, her brother-in-law Cecil Isley, and her niece, Sheila. She is survived by her only son, Tracy King and his wife Martha, of Durham, NC, and 3 Grandsons who were her pride and joy – David King (and Lexi) of Wilmington, NC, James King of Greensboro, NC and Andrew King of Raleigh, NC. Eleanor is also survived by her younger brother Richard Daniels and his wife Bonnie, of Mebane NC, her younger sister Raynelle Isley, of Elon NC, and 10 nieces and nephews, Linda, Larry, Sam, Mike, Kay, Dianne, Kenneth, Deborah, Randy, and Rick.

There will be a graveside service for all of Eleanor’s Customers, Family and Friends on Wednesday, November 29th at 2:00pm at the Lebanon United Methodist Church cemetery, located down the road behind the church at 6101 Lebanon Road in Mebane, NC. Eleanor is returning home, to be buried on land that her father donated to the church many, many moons ago.

I decided to make one of my favorite casseroles. And a pound cake. We are in the South, after all.

pound cake

Chicken (or Turkey) Tetrazzini

adapted from Culinary Hill

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 4 slices high-quality sandwich bread torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted

For the filling:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pound spaghetti broken into thirds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 16 ounces sliced white mushrooms
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups cooked chicken or turkey cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used a supermarket rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas

Instructions

 To make the topping:
In a food processor, process the bread and butter until coarsely ground, about 6 pulses. Set aside. (You can also just tear it into small pieces and mix in the melted butter.)

To make the casserole:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well, keeping in colander, and toss with olive oil.

  3. Return same pot to medium-high heat and melt butter until foaming. Add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid, about 7 to 10 minutes.

  4. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  5. Stir in flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth and half and half.

  6. Bring to a simmer and continue to whisk until sauce thickens, about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and whisk in Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  7. To the pot with sauce, add pasta, turkey/chicken and frozen peas, stirring to combine. Pour into a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.

  8. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping has browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from The Cook’s Country Cookbook.

tetrazinni

Bon appétit to all, especially to Sweet T, the BFF and their boys. Thinking of you and am always ready to tie on the apron to keep you fed. Much love. Rest in peace, Eleanor. I hope you meet my Grandma Christine. I think that the two of you would get on quite well. I don’t know if you were a Jim Nabors fan like she was, but I can picture the three of you having lunch. With a big slice of pie or pound cake and a cup of coffee for dessert. And maybe a song.

Give thanks

give thanks

I am thankful for so many people and things. I have a good life.  As I was stirring up biscuits for breakfast this morning, I started a list in my head.

A: animals, Arles, apples, art, Aaron, Amelia, Andy, Appalachian Mountains, Abby, airplanes, Alex, adjectives, adventures

B: Bertie, butter, bacon, baguettes, buttermilk biscuits, bluegrass music performed by Balsam Range, books, Barb, blogging, bracelets, Betty, baking, BFF

C: children, choices, colors, Candice, Caleb, Côtes du Rhône, Cindy, champagne, colleagues, Christiane Buchanan, cousins, Carmague, cheese, chocolate, cookies, coffee, café au lait, cats, cafés

D: dancing, David, Durham, Duke basketball, dreams, Daddy, Durham Academy

E: Elizabeth, elephants, electricity, Érick

F: family, friends, Fanny, French, France, fall, foie gras, figs, flamingos, fresh flowers, french fries, Facebook, freedom

G: Grant, grandchildren, great-nephews, grandparents, Ghislaine, Google, Grandma, gum, garlic, goats, goat cheese, Granny, girlfriends

H: home, health, heat, herbes de Provence, hand-me-downs, Hailey, hamburgers, hearts, history

I: ice cream, internet, Impressionism

J: Jake, Jared, Judy, jokes, jeans, Joel/Joey, jam, Jean Valjean

K: Kennedy, kittens, Kim, Karen, kindness, Katie

L: love, lavender, lemons, lambs, laughter, lipstick, letters, Logan, llamas, Lily

M: Mama Mildred, Marsha, Martha, muffins, macarons, moon, music, Makayla, Monette, mascara, movies

N: Nelson, North Carolina, Natalie

O: oysters, Olivier

P: Paris, Provence, pasta, pesto, pizza, pink, photos, passport, perfume, pens, postcards, poetry, parents, Papa

Q: quirkiness, questions

R: Rick, rain, reading, resilience, Rob Hershey

S: Steve, sons, students, Sean of the South, soldiers, sleep, smiles, steak-frites, Sundays, spring, shrimp, sea salt, sisters, Seth, sunshine, Snoopy, Sandra Boynton

T: turkey, travel, teeth, teenagers, tears, teachers

U: underwear, uncles

V: Vincent Van Gogh, vacation

W: weather, walking, winter, writing

X: Xmas, xylophones

Y: Yolanda

Z: zebras, zoos

Perhaps this will be the last pumpkin muffin recipe of the year? Who knows? I had some leftover pumpkin from making pumpkin cheesecake and it simply couldn’t go to waste. This recipe comes from The Kitchen Paper, adapted from Smitten Kitchen.  I didn’t mess with it. No variations. Seemed pretty perfect. We will find out in about 20 minutes. I will say that my kitchen smells pretty darned good right now. Wish you were here to have a cup of coffee while we wait. Stay tuned.

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Muffins

12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin-pie spice**
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

**If you want to make your own pumpkin pie spice, use this recipe (from My Baking Addiction.)

  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line or grease muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin and butter, then whisk the eggs in one at a time.
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar, pumpkin-pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the flour, then divide among muffin tins.
  5. Mix the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar with the 2 tsp cinnamon, and sprinkle over the tops of the unbaked muffins.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes. (I set the timer and started checking them after 20 minutes. Mine took exactly 30 minutes.) You know your oven. Test with a wooden toothpick.)

muff

Bon appétit! Make your own thankful list. You may shed a few tears while doing it, but those are good tears. Eat something good today. Savor every crumb or bite. You deserve it. 

What’s your favorite recipe?

Thanksgiving card

(Carlton Cards)

I found this card to send to my turkeys in SP since I will not be with them for Thanksgiving. Too funny. I miss those turkeys. I will visit them soon. I promise.

Today’s question of the day… “What’s your favorite recipe, madame?” Asked by one of my 6th graders after she told me that she had read some of my blog entries over the weekend. She is new to my school and a sweetheart. My favorite food/recipe/dish depends totally on the day/hour/minute that I am asked. If I had to decide on my last meal on earth at this very second, it would change by tomorrow morning. However, I did my best to answer LZ. Since it is (almost) Thanksgiving, I would have to vote for Dorie Greenspan’s Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. I plan to make it for my small crew in just a couple of days. Of course, I might change my mind…

stuffed pumpkincheese thyme nutmeg

It really is delicious.

It was fun to reread the post with the recipe. From November 2010. Can it really be seven years since that post? And funny thing is… I am waiting for the BFF to stop by tonight, too. Her mother-in-law is in hospice and I wanted to make something for her husband to eat whenever he gets to come home from being with his mama. Nothing fancy. Just chicken-pasta-vegetable soup. I hope it helps his aching heart. We are never ready to lose a loved one.

The best part of making soup? You can add whatever you want, as much or as little as you want, throw it all in a pot and voilà. Dinner is served. With lots of leftovers.

The Sabbatical Chef’s Chicken Soup

Olive oil – about 2 Tbsp.

1 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

8 cups chicken broth

8 oz. pasta (elbows or whatever you want) or you could add rice instead

1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off the bone, chopped/shredded

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

Torn baby spinach leaves, optional

Seasonings- salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, etc.

Parmesan cheese, for garnish, if desired

In a large pot/Dutch oven, sauté the onion, celery and garlic (if using) in olive oil until soft. Add the chicken broth and water, if needed, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes less than the cooking time on the package. Add the chicken and frozen vegetables. Season to taste. Bring to a second boil. Reduce heat. Add more water or chicken broth, if needed. Add spinach leaves. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste and add more seasonings, if needed/desired. Serve with grated Parmesan, if desired. (Spinach and Parmesan added at the suggestion of my lifelong across-the-creek neighbor Ms. Mary!)

soup

Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving Week. Hold your loved ones near. Tell them how much you love them. Feed them good food. One of the highest forms of love, in my opinion. Keep asking questions, LZ!

 

 

Random thoughts on a chilly November night

helmet

It’s Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day in France. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I have visited the site of the signing of the Armistice, the replica of the train car tucked away into the forest near Compiègne in northern France. The original one was burned by Hitler. Merci, Ghislaine. Thank you to all who have and continue to put their lives on the line so that I can be free to do whatever I please whenever I please with whomever I please.

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It’s hard to believe that is almost Thanksgiving. It seems that once we survive Halloween in the middle school that the year is almost over.

I am a lucky Gramma! Miss K came to visit me in my classroom one day.

K in my class

I have a sparkly Eiffel Tower that fascinates her.

The Ex-Ex and I have had the opportunity to babysit a few times recently. So much fun!

k with bow

The intensity of the love that I feel for her surprises me every time I see her.

School is keeping me busier than I ever imagined it would at this stage of my career. If Son #1 and Son #2 were still at home I am not sure they would ever get fed. Luckily, the Ex-Ex can fend for himself. Curriculum mapping brought a two-day workshop in Atlanta, though. With an amazing meal at Miller Union. Our waiter was amazing. The oysters were amazing. The field peas were amazing. And the colleagues I shared the meal with were amazing.

“Steven Satterfield’s menu shows off the best of the South’s okra, field peas, turnips and tomatoes in a style that would make Alice Waters weak in the knees. Perfect for a date night or lunch at the counter, where one can explore an innovative wine list with pours by the glass.”     – The New York Times, 2016

The farm egg baked in celery cream was amazing. After the amazing pork roast with polenta, there was no room for dessert. I know. Kind of shocking.

Last week, Arles Lucy and I had a date for Pompieri Pizza‘s Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner. I tend to choose wine over beer, but the pairings between the food prepared by Chef Joe and the beer were perfect. I enjoyed every sip. I took lots of photos and a few notes.

Beer cheese bites, scallops, duck, duck, duck, ribs with a ginger soy glaze, dark chocolate parfait… Pale Ale, Nooner, Torpedo, Porter, Narwhal.

yo and me

To quote Arles Lucy when the chocolate parfait was placed before her:

“I don’t know whether to pray over this or not.”  Eat, pray or love?

The BFF asked Tom to do her nails in Sierra Nevada’s colors for the occasion.

nails

This one is for you, too, Best Sister-in-Law, since you told me the Porter is your favorite. Next time we come to visit, we need to take a field trip to visit Sierra Nevada’s Mills River facility. Ok?

Since it seems that all I do is eat, I might as well include the recent France 2017 reunion dinner. Each year, I offer a Sabbatical Chef dinner as part of our school auction and for the past two years the same family has bought it and we’ve had a France trip reunion. Two daughters down and two to go! Here’s part of the crew–

2017

It was a great trip. I miss these kiddos. They are all off being freshman now. We laughed a lot looking at photos of the trip.

looking at photos

KR was still doing her trip duty and photographing our every move! Merci beaucoup!

We made cheese fondue and had Fanny’s Mousse au chocolat with locally made macarons for dessert. And to any Frenchies reading this… I apologize. Yes, the kiddos were actually dipping those cheese puffs into the delicious melted Gruyère and Emmental fondue. Teenagers.

a and k

My co-chaperones love their dessert. And the guy in the back, licking the mousse bowl? Master of the House caught on camera.

The Ex-Ex and I attended the Celebration of Life for a former student. Chris Rosati passed away after living for several years with ALS. And the service was indeed a celebration. He planned it himself. I’ve been listening to his playlist for the past week and reflecting on kindness and how to keep his motto alive– Be kind and worry less.  Thank you, Chris, for the lessons you taught us. And for the Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.

cr

Life continues to be good. I am blessed with a wonderful family, many friends, a job I love and beautiful fall weather here in North Carolina. As Thanksgiving comes galloping towards me, I realize just how lucky I am.

Cheese Fondue

  • 1/2 pound Emmentaler, grated
  • 1/2 pound Le Gruyère, grated
  • 1 package of Emmi Fondue Original (optional, I used it on the advice of the very helpful guy at Whole Foods, Durham- he also helped me choose the wine)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine such as a Chenin Blanc (I used The Holy Snail, a French Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 loaves bread with thick crust, cut into 1-inch cubes
Combine cheeses with flour in a medium bowl and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic. Heat wine in fondue pot over medium heat until warm. Add lemon juice. Add cheese mixture gradually, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until melted and cheese-wine mixture has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Open package of Emmi Fondue and add, stirring well to mix. Add pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boil. Adjust flame of burner so fondue continues bubbling lightly. Serve with bread cubes.
**Granny Smith apples are really good as well. Pears, maybe? Boiled potatoes for a raclette-type taste. Cheese puffs?
**Can be served with slices of ham and small pickles, if you wish.
sunflowers
Bon appétit, family and friends far and wide. Happy November. Live like you were dying. And to shamelessly steal, once again, from Sean Dietrich— Life is a gift. And people are beautiful. 
playlist

 

 

Therapy

runners

The BFF and I call our morning walks therapy sessions. And believe me, they are. We talk about just about anything and everything. This summer, we walked 3 miles every day that we could, usually beginning around 6:00 am. It gets hot and humid here in the North Carolina Piedmont and schvitzing (Yiddish for sweating- it sounds better to me) is not our favorite thing. The BFF is genetically predisposed to schvitz a lot. Now that the school year is well underway, unfortunately our sessions are limited to Saturday and Sunday mornings and the occasional day off. I go to school early, usually around 7:30 am, and she works late, usually until after 7:30 pm or later. I wish that I could say that I walk in the evenings every day by myself, but I do not. I cannot tell a lie. I walk around campus as much as I can during breaks and lunch usually to chase after a kiddo or track down a colleague, but once I get home, I get lazy and find a lot of other things I’d rather (or have to) do.

Today, I woke up to a cool, foggy, beautiful fall morning. My favorite. We walked on the American Tobacco Trail. According to Wikipedia–

The American Tobacco Trail (ATT) is a 22.6-mile (36.4 km) long Rails-to-Trails project located in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, running along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s. The route crosses through the City of DurhamDurham CountyChatham County, and Wake County. The ATT is part of the East Coast Greenway and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians (in non-urban sections) and other non-motorized users.

bridge

We walk on a section that crosses over I-40 and this bridge takes us from one side to the other.  Pretty cool, huh?

Following in the tradition of the Parisian Locks of Love, a few folks have attached one here.

Probably not a great tradition to start. But there are only 4-5 of them now.

Squirrels are the most common critter we see on this trail. (Copperheads prevail on the Duke Trail…) Today there was a cardinal, our state bird, waiting for us. I have loved cardinals for as long as I can remember. I am not sure why, but that doesn’t even matter. I just know that it makes me very happy to see one.

cardinal

According to the BFF, seeing a cardinal means that someone who has passed on has come to bring you a message. I had never heard that before so I paid a visit to my friend Google for some info about bird superstitions.

From The Cardinal Experience:

small Red Birds – When you see a red bird in winter, you will prosper in spring. When you hear a Cardinal sing, your sadness will soon be lifted. When a red bird shows up, help is on the way.

According to California Psychics

Messages from Spirit can come in many forms, but the red cardinal has long been held as the most notable spiritual messenger. The male cardinals are certainly hard to ignore with their striking red feathers and melodic yet almost “pay-attention-to-me” chirps. And when they come to you almost insistently trying to gain your attention, it’s likely you’re receiving a message from Spirit.

When deceased loved ones want you to know that they’re around, one way they might do that is to send messengers from the animal kingdom: small, brightly-colored bugs, birds and butterflies are not an uncommon choice. Things with wings tend to get our attention, and if you allow yourself to get tuned in, you might even feel who has sent them to you in hopes you’ll receive their message—even if that message is a simple acknowledgement that your loved ones are always around. And if you’re pondering something and asking the Universe for guidance, seeing a cardinal or the like is telling you that you’re being heard and guidance is being offered.

I am not a particularly superstitious person. Spiritual, yes. I think that the Native Americans were way more in tune with nature than we are these days and times. I am fascinated by their beliefs. I really like the thought that this beautiful bird might be someone from my past who has come to visit me.

I’ve seen some photographs of cardinals in the snow that take my breath away. I found this one on Fan Pop, but couldn’t find out who took it.

Cardinals-image-cardinals-36122736-900-675

Or how about this pair from Dreams Time?

cardinals-snow-20034195

Maybe this winter I will even find some of my own to photograph. Who knows?

Thank you for the therapy sessions, BFF. You are indeed the best.

I am still on a pumpkin spice kick. While driving back from the grocery store yesterday, I thought “What about pumpkin spice sugar cookies?” I googled, settled on a recipe, took the butter out of the refrigerator to soften, the egg to get to room temperature and pulled Mildred the Mixer out of her hiding place.

pumpkin

unbaked

stack

cookies2

I got help from Wine and Glue. I read her heartfelt post about the loss of her son. Maybe Elliot will come back to visit her in the form of a cardinal?

I decided to name mine Snickerdoodles after a friend said they reminded him of his mom’s cookies.

Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles

makes 4 dozen (I used a small scoop to measure them out)

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (plus more for rolling- about 1/2 tsp)

1/2 tsp cinnamon (plus another 1/2 tsp for rolling)

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar (plus about 1/2 cup more for rolling)

14 Tbsp softened unsalted butter

 

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

3/4 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg yolk, then the vanilla, and finally the pumpkin until well combined.
  4. In two batches, add in the flour mixture. Mix on low speed, just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle/beaters.
  5. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  7. Roll the dough into one-inch sized balls (or whatever size you want your cookies to be). Roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and press down slightly with the bottom of a glass. If the dough gets sticky, dip the bottom of the glass in the sugar mixture. Space the cookies about two inches apart.
  8. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.
  9. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack. (Sample a warm one!)

Bon appétit! Happy Delicious Fall! Bake something yummy for those you love. Get outside for some nature therapy, with or without your BFF.

A really good day

spider donut

My morning started this way a couple of days ago. A spider donut left on my desk by an advisee.  Thank you, Girlie and Dunkin Donuts. One of my French friends commented–“Not Halloween yet.” The whole month of October is Halloween here in the good old U.S. of A, mon amie. C’est normal.

Then The Most Adorable Baby in the World got to make her Durham Academy debut and pay a visit to my classroom. Her mom needed to take a catering order to Duke, just down the road, and I volunteered to watch our little Nugget for an hour.

K and Gramma

She was a huge hit with my students, needless to say. A few colleagues stopped in to say hi as well. She is almost 8 months old. Wow. Le temps passe vite.

In my 6th grade class, one of the boys, M. New York, was caught with bulging pockets. Actually, I caught him after one of the items slipped from his pocket onto the floor. I asked him to empty those pockets and here is his stash.

williams pockets

We had adorable Kindergarteners here during our morning break, selling backed goods and treats to raise money for hurricane relief funds. I don’t know if he bought all this at the sale or if he came to school that way. The staples were a real curiosity. We all had a good laugh and he is a great kid- and he even laughed at himself. That is one of the most important personality traits to have as you navigate the often treacherous waters of middle school.

I supervise our after school study hall and during study hall the 3-D printer was whirring. I am always curious about that machine so I often watch the progress of what it is creating. Lo and behold, this is what I found behind the glass door.

3D ET

Oui, Mme La Tour Eiffel. I actually watched it from the bottom up. I had no idea who was printing it, but I was hoping it was one of my students and that I would be able to add it to my collection. (It was and I have!)

la tour 2

As I was walking to my car, I noticed this beautiful tree and had to stop long enough to take a photo. Fall is my favorite season. How can you not love this view?

fall leaves

Later, as I was finishing up with my date with Tom, the best manicurist in the entire world, at Posh Nails, his new salon, we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sky was an interesting color. It was pink!

sky1sky2

Then the Ex-Ex and I met at The Boot, our favorite watering hole, and shared this.

mozz

Made me think of Son #2. That boy loves mozzarella sticks. These were magnifico. (Grazie, Google) I tried making them a few times when he was growing up, but I never quite mastered it.

So, instead I will leave you with a tried and true recipe for mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mozzarella Grilled Cheese
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence of The Food Network

Serves: 2 sandwiches
Ingredients:
4 slices thick-cut sourdough bread
1 ball (1 pound) fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 plum tomatoes, cut into thick slices
1 cup fresh basil pesto, recipe follows
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Basil pesto:
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

To make pesto:
Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Combine pesto ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined but still rough-textured.

To make sandwiches:
If you have a panini press, turn it on to warm up; otherwise, set a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Assemble sandwich by smearing insides of bread slices with pesto. Arrange a layer of sliced tomato and season with a few turns of fresh pepper. Layer the mozzarella slices over the top and then place another piece of bread on top to make the sandwich. Drizzle olive oil over skillet’s surface and place sandwiches on the hot skillet or panini press. If using a skillet, place another heavy skillet over the top to form a “press”. Turn after 2 to 3 minutes and replace weight. The sandwich is ready when golden brown and mozzarella has melted around the edges.

Copyright 2009 Television Food Network G.P., All Rights Reserved

Buon appetito!  Have a lovely weekend! Eat something delicious. Hug your loved ones. I sincerely hope you have a good day filled with simple pleasures.

 

 

Fall is calling

leaf2

My favorite season? Fall. No question about it. I look forward to cooler weather (I am a jeans and sweater kind of girl), nights with a nip in the air, college football games, and changing leaves. I have already spotted evidence around school that fall is on the way in. Knocking softly at the door. Not shoving summer out of the way yet, just patiently waiting her turn. (In French, the word season- saison– is feminine, so I am going with her as my pronoun of choice.)

According to my friend Google:

Autumn 2017 in Northern Hemisphere will begin on

Friday, September 22

and ends on Thursday, December 21

(All dates are in Eastern Time)

So, she is just around the corner.  Yippee!

leaf1

We have our fair share of squirrels around campus. They are bold little critters. We do not have a cafeteria. Everyone brings lunch to school. Our squirrels are fat and happy. But I hope they are gathering nuts anyway so they won’t go hungry over the weekends. Here’s a photo for my French friends who are always fascinated by our écureuils. (A very difficult word to pronounce in French, but squirrel isn’t easy for the Frenchies so we are even!) Can you find him?

squirrel

I searched for poems and found two that I really like.

Autumn Leaves

© Edel T. Copeland

Published: November 1, 2016

Golden, crisp leaves falling softly from almost bare trees,
Lifting and falling in a hushed gentle breeze,
Slowly dropping to the soft cushioned ground,
Whispering and rustling a soothing sound.

Coppers, golds, and rusted tones,
Mother Nature’s way of letting go.
They fall and gather one by one,
Autumn is here, summer has gone.

Crunching as I walk through their warm fiery glow,
Nature’s carpet rich and pure that again shall grow,
To protect and shield its majestic tree,
Standing tall and strong for the world to see.

They rise and fall in the cool, crisp air.
It’s a time of change in this world we share,
Nature’s importance reflecting our own lives,
Letting go of our fears and again, too, we shall thrive.

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/autumn-leaves-5

Sing To Me, Autumn

© Patricia L. Cisco

Published: September 27, 2016

Sing to me, Autumn, with the rustle of your leaves.
Breathe on me your spicy scents that flow within your breeze.

Dance with me, Autumn, your waltz that bends the boughs of trees.
Now tell me all the secrets you’ve whispered to the seas.

Sleep with me, Autumn, beneath your starlit skies.
Let your yellow harvest moon shimmer in our eyes.

Kiss me, Autumn, with your enchanting spellbound ways
That changes all you touch into crimson golden days.

Love me, Autumn, and behold this love so true
That I’ll be waiting faithfully each year to be with you.

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/sing-to-me-autumn

Last year, I drove up the mountains in October and around Linville, in Avery County, found some leaves left on the trees.

red trees

red tree

one red leaf

Magnifique, n’est-ce pas?

Today’s recipe comes from Jamie Dietrich, wife of Sean of the South Dietrich, and chef extraordinaire. A reader asked me to ask Jamie for this recipe and she kindly sent it to me. My original email caught her away from her cookbooks, caring for her mom. She has now taken on the role of manager and chauffeur to her red-haired guitar-picking story-writing husband. Bon courage, Jamie. Keep that man safe so he can continue to make me laugh and cry first thing every morning. Thank you for sharing your recipes with me. I look forward to meeting you someday. Point that truck towards North Carolina. Please?

Thank you, Dear Reader, for requesting this recipe. I made it last night. The Ex-Ex had two servings (as did I) and we will warm it up again tonight. In Jamie’s words:

This is not “gourmet” but is delicious and great to make ahead and serve for Sunday lunch or a special occasion… it’s from The Best Little Cookbook in Alabama with a couple of modifications from me.

I couldn’t wait to try it out. For Monday dinner. No special occasion. I made a few modifications of my own but nothing significant. The Ex-Ex just texted that he is hungry. He is on the athletic fields watching his teams play games and should be home in an hour or so. I texted back that there are some really good leftovers waiting for him here…

chick cass

Lemon Chicken Casserole
4 c. chopped chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken- removed meat and shredded/chopped it)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 c. celery chopped
1 c.  chopped fresh mushrooms (you could use canned sliced ones)
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
1 can cream of mushroom (with garlic) soup
1.5 c. chicken broth
1–6 oz. package Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, cooked (I will add more tonight when we have it as leftovers- we love rice)
8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts
1 pint sour cream
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
Topping:
1 stick butter
Zest of 3 medium-sized lemons
Panko bread crumbs (probably about 1-1/2 cups but you could add more or less) or regular bread crumbs, if you prefer
Saute onion, celery and mushrooms in butter until soft and translucent (If you are using canned ones, add when you add the soup).  Stir in flour. Cook for one minute to remove the flour-y taste. Add mushroom soup and broth; cook until thickened.  Add rice, sour cream, water chestnuts, parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.  Place in buttered 9″x13″ (3 quart) casserole dish.
To make the topping, melt butter and add lemon zest.  Top casserole with bread crumbs and then drizzle melted butter-lemon mixture on top.   Bake in 350˚ oven for one hour. (Since I was using the already cooked chicken, I baked mine for about 40 minutes.)
Bon appétit to all. Take a moment, at least one, to enjoy the beauty around you. Read a beautiful poem. Listen to a song that makes you cry. Take a long walk with a friend. Follow the advice of the late Jim Valvano–
“If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Going back in time: A life resumed

I wrote the following post in February 2009, two months after returning from my six month sabbatical in Arles, France. I was feeling a bit nostalgic this morning and started looking back through old posts. I didn’t have many readers then and the blog (and my writing) was just a baby. At that point, I wasn’t even sure that I would keep it going. New readers, I hope you enjoy this little step back in time.


The Sabbatical Chef has returned to “real life.” As of today, February 15, I have been home for two months. I have resumed teaching at Durham Academy and have finally learned the names of my students. I have worked with Dorette at C’est si bon! (I continue to stress the fact that I am an assistant, not a chef!) I have taken over as president of the North Carolina Association of Teachers of French and survived my first board meeting. I moved in with my sixteen year old son and my ex-husband. (Steve got his passport, came to Paris, finally, and proposed at the top of the Eiffel Tower. What can I say? That story deserves its own entry and I will try to get it all in words soon. The headmaster at DA is taking full credit for our reconciliation since he gave Steve the time off to come visit me.) I have unpacked almost all the boxes and found most of my belongings, thank goodness. Grant’s two cats seem to like me and Rusty has stopped hiding from me. I went to Spruce Pine to visit my family in the mountains. They are very happy to have me home safe and sound but still do not understand what I was doing over there in the first place. I have a meeting tomorrow with the features editor at the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper to talk about the possibility of a new column. Life goes on, almost as if it was never interrupted. Life has a way of doing that, I have discovered. My six months in France seem dream-like now. I bring up iPhoto on my MacBook daily to look at a few photos, however, to remind myself that it really happened.
Life in Arles goes on without me, too, of course. Wally has returned to Lisbon. Didier and Monique have closed their brocanterie on Rue de 4 Septembre. Business had not been good, unfortunately, for a while. They hope to open a tea room, if they can find a suitable space. Or Didier said he can always go back to work as a stock trader in Paris. (I was shocked to find out he had done this at one time- I told him he seemed much too nice for that line of work!) Business at Gilles’ bookshop has been slow, too. Although Christian Lacroix told the newspapers and magazines that he thought his exhibit at the Musée Réattu would be good for the local businesses, it didn’t really help much. The exhibit was a grand success, however, and was extended until December. The B&B is up for sale. No offers have been made, though, so Chef Érick continues to rent out rooms. He plans to continue offering his cooking classes and visits around Provence but is looking for someone who is computer savvy to help him set up a website and blog, as well as an English-speaking assistant for the spring and summer. Provence experienced its largest snowstorm in 21 years. I begged Érick to go out in it with his camera so that he could send me some photos of Arles covered in snow. The posted photo is of the front door to the B&B.
At one point in the summer, probably mid-July or early August, I thought seriously about making Arles my home. I wasn’t sure how to do that and didn’t even have a long-stay visa for the six months I was there (another story involving red-tape and passports). A guest joked that I could find a French man to marry. The pace of life suited me perfectly. I loved the guests and meeting new people every day. I could walk wherever I needed to go. I could feel my French improving daily. I ate like a queen- all the shrimp and mussels I wanted. Nice chilled rosé and Picpoul de Pinet. Lovely reds from Pic St. Loup. Moussu T e lei Jovents music. Drinks at dusk in the Place du Forum, gazing at the Van Gogh café (now painted to match his famous painting of Le Café la Nuit- but do not eat there. Lousy food and questionable owners.) But waves of homesickness would hit me like a ton of bricks every time I thought about my two sons. And I finally realized that I missed my life, my real life. When I put Martha and Monette on the plane in Marseille in mid-September and drove myself back to Arles on that early Sunday morning, I knew that I would be ready to fly home myself in three months. At that point in time, I still had no idea that I would come back to Durham and resume, in many ways, my life of four years earlier, before Arles ever happened to me in 2005. Only the new and improved version. Older and wiser but still young enough to appreciate and enjoy the changes that can happen if you are open and can let go of the past.
I am asked repeatedly if I miss France. The answer is a most definite oui. How could I not miss speaking the beautiful language, enjoying long lunches and amazing conversation in that language, staring history in the face every time I walked down a street past a monument built over 2,000 years ago, walking through the market and smelling roasting chickens, herbs and spices sitting in open baskets, fragrant goat cheese, freshly cut lavender and lavender scented soaps. The scenery is a work of art and most of it has indeed been painted and photographed many times over the years, from the abbeys and churches to the fields of sunflowers and lavender to the Roman arenas and aqueducts. Provence is a feast for the senses.
I have indeed brought some of it home with me. I have made lamb and tarte Tatin for friends (I couldn’t have made the tarte without Martha’s help and pan!). I have turned Grant on to the joy of freshly grated parmesan cheese on his pasta instead of the stuff in the green can. I have made French toast for him from my orange brioche. I sprinkle my chicken recipes liberally with herbes de provence as they cook in olive oil. I have shown a video clip of Moussu T et lei Jovents to my students and taught them the song “Forever Polida,” as well as “Le Tube de Toilette” by Boby Lapointe, a song that goes along with the vocabulary we are learning. I made a presentation to our middle school students on truffle hunting and showed a short video that I took with my camera. Martha and I are going to cook with the boys from the Durham Nativity School in March and teach them to make tarte Tatin. I am reading Death in the Truffle Wood by Pierre Magnan, a murder mystery that takes place in Provence. I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do) by Mark Greenside, The Widow Clicquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo, A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan and Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow are on the nightstand waiting for me. I consult Bistro Chicken by Mary Ellen Evans and French Woman Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano for new recipes once in a while. I check out Kristin Espinasse’s French Word-A-Day website two or three times a week for photos of Provence. In less than three weeks I head to Paris, Normandy and Senlis with 21 8th graders for our spring break trip. I continue to be a very lucky woman.

My (Nearly) Perfect Orange Brioche Recipe
(found on the back of a package of yeast in France and slightly modified…)

1/4 lb (one stick) of softened butter
1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs (at room temperature)
1/4 c. warm water
one package active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm milk
orange flavoring
2-3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
apricot or strawberry preserves
sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Mix the butter, eggs, sugar, warm milk and orange flavoring. I have sweet orange essential oil that I bought at Florame (www.florame.com) and I use 4-5 drops of it. I know that you can find orange flavoring at the supermarket.
Add the yeast mixture and mix.
Add the combined flour and salt. Add enough flour to have a dough that you can knead (not too sticky).
Turn onto a flour covered surface and knead for about 5 minutes or so.
Place in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm place to rise. My microwave is above the stove and is a great place. Allow to rise for 2 hours.
Turn onto a flour covered surface again and knead for another 5 minutes. Shape however you wish– into rolls, two small loaves or one large one. Place in pans.
Cover again and allow to rise for 2 more hours.
After the second rising, you can bake or you can put it in the refrigerator overnight and bake the next morning (allow the dough to come to room temperature before baking).
Brush with the egg yolk and bake at 400F for about 20-30 minutes. Baking time will depend upon the shape of your brioche. Rolls take a shorter time. Adjust the oven, if necessary, lowering the temperature a bit if it seems to be baking too fast or if your oven tends to be on the hot side.
After baking, while still warm, brush with preserves (you can warm them in the microwave so that they brush easily- I have also used orange juice at this point, when I didn’t have any preserves) and then sprinkle lightly with sugar. I have mixed orange essence in with the sugar before sprinkling to give it more orange flavor. As you can see, I have played around with this recipe. It is wonderful hot from the oven. It makes really good French toast when it is a couple of days old and a bit stale. It is also good sliced and toasted. It is not very sweet. French pastries and desserts are not as sweet as American ones.
Enjoy! And please let me know if you make it and something just doesn’t work or you make a modification that helps! It isn’t perfect yet! A work in progress!

Érick’s Rice and Tuna Salad
(with my modifications!)

2 cups rice, cooked and drained (I use whole grain)
2 cans of tuna (I use tuna packed in olive oil- big difference in taste!)
1 can chick peas
1 jar (about a cup) of artichoke hearts, if desired
1 Tbsp capers (or more to taste)
Chopped green or red bell pepper, if desired
Juice of 1/2-1 lemon
Olive oil- enough to moisten the salad or to taste
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp tarragon

Mix everything together. If desired, however, you can mix the “dressing” ingredients separately- lemon juice, olive oil and mustard- and pour over the salad. This is good warm or cold. I like it at room temperature so that the olive oil warms up. I sprinkle on the sea salt just before eating.

Sometimes I use leftover pasta instead of the rice. I leave out the chick peas when I use pasta.

**Here’s the link to the original blog- I still maintain it, but for some reason, I am running it on two platforms.  Je ne sais pas pourquoi.  

http://thesabbaticalchef.blogspot.com/

Bon appétit, mes amis! 

Bleu Part Deux

As I was driving home from the mountains today, I realized that I left off some bleu/blue things that I love. (I could blame it on Moo and Mama Mildred for distracting me, I guess.)

Do you ever have the blues? In France, the saying is avoir le cafard– to have the cockroach. Where on earth does that come from, I wonder? It is depressing, even more so than having the blues. Google to the rescue.  According to Laura Lawless, writer of one of my go-to websites for French grammar help, Lawless French, poet Charles Baudelaire introduced the expression into the language through his work Les Fleurs du Mal.

avoir-le-cafard

Bluegrass music. My favorite is Balsam Range. Childhood Friend came over from Asheville for the Mitchel High School Homecoming football game Friday night. He brought me a Balsam Range CD that I didn’t have, Marching Home. When I opened up the CD case, I discovered that it is autographed by Marc Pruitt, the band’s banjo player. I am not sure that I deserve that… Merci, mon ami.

Sister Moo showed me a video of  Balsam Range’s Buddy Melton and his friend, songwriter Milan Miller. I want to make sure that Son #1 sees this one now that he is a daddy to an adorable little girl, just as Buddy is. I love listening to Buddy talk- the Appalachian mountain accent is very special to me.

The Blues. B.B. King and Taj Mahal. I saw B.B. King perform back in the day in Blowing Rock in a bar called PB Scott’s.  What an experience. Almost a religious one. My introduction to the blues.

Can you stand another video? B.B. King and Eric Clapton. This song makes me happy. What’s not to love about two handsome men riding in a Cadillac convertible singing? The song obviously makes them happy, too, since they are smiling and laughing quite a bit in the video.

And Taj Mahal. I’ve seen him once and I will be in the audience again October 4. TajMo’- The Taj Mahal and Keb’Mo’ Band. Click on the link if you are interested in listening to a PBS interview from July 2017. Taj has played in Paris. I saw a poster in the métro and I am pretty sure I shrieked.

thetajmahal2016_120x150

His sister, Carole Fredericks, lived in Paris and was quite famous for her beautiful voice. Her home bears this plaque.

carole plaque

His sister, Connie, is a friend and she too can sing. I’ve been lucky enough to hear her on a perfect summer evening chez O.

Connie singing

How about a Blue Ridge sunrise?

sunrise

sunrise 2

Pretty pretty, isn’t it?

Blueberries. I will borrow a recipe from an earlier blog post. Mama Mildred found a photo of a blueberry lemon pound cake and it made me think of one I’ve made in the past. But with lime. Served on one of my blue Fiestaware plates.

bleuberry cake

Blueberry Lime Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Yield: 1 Loaf Cake
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature (do not use whipped or low-fat)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lime zest
1 cup fresh blueberries
Cream cheese frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature (once again, not whipped or low-fat)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper as well. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, throughly mixing each time. Add vanilla extract and lime zest, mixing until combined.
Pour flour mixture over the batter mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour until it’s completely mixed in and there are no pockets of dry flour. Lastly, gently fold in the blueberries.
Transfer batter to prepared baking loaf pan. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let sit until cool, at least 30 minutes and then remove from pan.
In a stand mixer or large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high until frosting is smooth. Beat in vanilla extract.
Carefully frost on top of the cooled poundcake and store in fridge until ready to serve.
Bon appétit! Take the time to look at sunrises and to listen to good music. It’s good for your soul. So is delicious pound cake. “Life’s too short to say no to cake.” I have no idea who said it, but I agree.

If God’s not a Tar Heel fan…

sky

then why is the sky Carolina Blue?

That’s a question I’ve heard most of my life. Actually, I am pretty sure that God has a lot on his plate right about now… hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorists, people who feel so alone that they don’t know what to do or who to turn to. Who wins a Saturday afternoon college football game isn’t high on his list of worries, in my humble opinion. Probably not there at all. He might be keeping an eye on those young men off the field, trying to give them some guidance about keeping out of trouble, though.

But, back to Carolina Blue. Son #2, GF and I went to see UNC play Louisville yesterday.

game1

An absolutely perfect day. I now know who Lamar Jackson is- the defending Heisman trophy winner and the quarterback for the Cardinals. He had a record day yesterday, if you care about those things. I love college football. Particularly, the Tennessee Vols and the Duke Blue Devils. You can add the Appalachian State University Mountaineers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the list as well. A colleague gave us the tickets and a parking pass. The Ex-Ex couldn’t go because he was working. (He watched the second half on TV.) So, sorry for not really caring who won. I cried when the marching band played The Star-Spangled Banner. I am a sap that way.

SSB

Halftime was exciting.  Mo came to see me, trekking across the stadium from her seat to  mine.

mo

She’s a die hard Tar Heel fan (along with the BFF, my Favorite Niece, Andy P, who also came to find me, and the colleague who gave us the tickets). Check out the necklace!

The big deal at halftime was the presentation of the 2017 NCAA Championship Rings to the UNC Men’s basketball team. James Worthy, of the 1981-82 championship team, presented head coach Roy Williams with his ring.

roy and james

basketball team

I am a James Worthy fan as well as a fan of Roy Williams. That 1982 championship was legendary coach Dean Smith‘s first and Roy was an assistant coach then. Roy is one of my hometown boys. He lived in Spruce Pine for a while as a little boy. He is a few years older than me, so we didn’t live there at the same time, but that’s okay. It still counts.

It was a fun afternoon. Carolina didn’t end up winning. But what a day to be alive and outside. Eating hot dogs, people-watching, cheering for great plays made by both teams. A real slice of American life. And a few hours respite from worrying about Hurricane Irma and her path of destruction. That’s why Son #2 and GF (along with the way too cute and lovable Couper and his sidekick Charlie) were here.

couper and charlie

They left Charleston, not knowing if Irma was headed that way or not. GF hails from Texas so she knows football. She was a cheerleader for UT-San Antonio. I hope she was impressed with the Carolina cheerleaders. She has already heard of the Louisville squad.

Yesterday was also JC’s birthday! Duke won just for her, I am pretty sure. We went over to her house for a cook-out. I was in charge of dessert. She loves chocolate so I decided that little chocolate cakes would be a good way to go. I just happened to have three bars of European dark chocolate in the pantry.  A gift from Pretend Daughter #2. I made them in a muffin tin and wasn’t happy that they didn’t come out easily. So much for presentation. But they tasted good, with a little whipped cream on the side. Pas mal du tout.

choc cakes

Natalie’s Melting Chocolate Cakes

makes 12

200 g (7oz/ scant 3/4 c.) butter, cubed

200 g (7 oz/ 1 1/3 c. dark (bittersweet) chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

200 g (7 oz/scant 3/4 c) castor sugar (superfine sugar)

4 eggs

1 tsp plain all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350 F˚/gas mark 4).

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl with the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and leave to cool a little while.

Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour and mix well.

Pour the cake batter into 12 mini-loaf pans (or buttered muffin tins) and bake for 12-15 minutes until the centers are set but still a little wobbly.  Turn the oven off but leave the cakes inside for another 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can store these covered, in the fridge, for up to 2-3 days.  Take out 30 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit et bisous! I hope that Hurricane Irma loses steam and there is minimum damage and no loss of life in Florida. Be safe. Stay dry. Hug your loved ones.