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Saturday, August 25, 2012

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, the mystery man revealed, and the secrecy around my quasi (and I DO mean quasi) celebrity status will be laid at your feet in a tale that 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!

Paul
That "Oh crap."Moment when he realizes he's a part of the blog.
At the end of April, after an arduous journey of heartache, change, and renewal, entered Paul, stage left. We met a year ago August, in Denver, CO through work, and kept in touch over the following months. At the beginning of March, after that horrible break-up, we started talking everyday. Sometimes we'd talk through half a shift (that's like five-six hours, guys). When my life turned upside-down he listened. When I didn't know what else to do, he helped me think outside of the box for a better solution. When I said I wasn't ready for a relationship because I was broken, he said, "I'll wait." He has been a better friend to me than at times I deserved, been the calm to my storm, and the yin to my yang. I have been blessed with a true partner who walks with me through the good and the bad, showing me instead of telling me. Harley got a sweet little girlfriend out of the deal too; Maggie May. They're so stinkin' cute together it's seriously filling my hard drive with pictures of the two of them.  We chose to make it exclusive at the end of April. Both of us a bit hesitant, but faith in God, and faith in us won the day as we merged our businesses and lives mid June. Seems quick, but in our industry things can change at an alarming rate, and two heads are better than one. We are currently partnering on his 2012 Kenworth with retro-fitted kitchen, and our two dogs.We hired an excellent driver for the Freightliner; I just can't give up on good ol' Buella. I've worked too hard to keep her to fail now. Her pay off date is November 16, and God willing, we'll get there one step at a time. So now you understand who I'm referring to when I say, "We.". Mystery man revealed. Ta Da!

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 share some of my experiences on the road with my community while getting a little more writing in. Of course, I had sent this to her a couple weeks before the magazine opportunity came up. So in comes Jessica with a resounding yes! Omg, omg, omg. Turns out the very same day my deadline for The Long Haul was due, so was my first article for The Grip. I say to both, "Sure thing, no sweat, piece of cake!" Ha, the least of what I've forgotten is that I still drive the swing shift for Swift, 70 hours, seven days a week. Oh, as well as maintaining the Freightliner, and the paperwork associated with both trucks. All kidding aside, I love the opportunity to speak to my community and am rocking and rolling with the punches. I have been a crazy writing fool. Someone had said to me the other day something about when you have some free time, or get bored, check this blankety blank site out. To which I replied, "I don't get bored and free time is when I sleep!"
If you want to check out the type of articles I write, you're welcome to follow this link, http://the-grip.net/2012/07/30/on-the-road-in-the-kitchen-with-gypsy-gourmet/ . There is a lot of great content and I think you'll enjoy some of the other articles as well. You can always get your own subscription at http://www.the-grip.net/ .

Drum roll please...........

Quasi Celebrity Status
I have alluded from time to time about my "producers". Whether on Facebook, Twitter, or here, I have possibly mentioned meetings in New York, exciting prospects, and later updates. Well, I haven't mentioned much for a reason. It's not because I didn't want to, but more because I've had a small taste of what kind of delayed process any kind of publicity can be. When I was interviewed for CNN's Eatocracy back in October of last year, http://www.eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/10/14/a-big-rig-kitchen-on-wheels/, they changed the concept and rescheduled a few times. So when I let the cat out of the bag the first time, I had to amend the release and the outlet. I wanted to talk about Rachael Ray contacting me soon after the article aired. Things seemed to move right along with them and they sent a film crew out to my location in Georgia. We filmed for an entire day. From the "B roll" footage to an interview, to an on-site filming at one of my favorite butcher shops locally, T&T Meats in Mc Donough, GA. All that was left was the in-studio taping and presto, a spot on nationally syndicated television. However, as season six of Rachael Ray progressed, my life turned upside-down with regular, normal, well, life. I went through a horrible break-up as you all well know, and gave them an update as things progressed. I'm not sure if that was it, if they honestly lost interest, got too busy, had folks a heck of a lot more interesting than me, or just deemed it worthy for the "project shelf". Last thing I heard was, "We don't have any more room in season six for you, maybe it'll be a good story for season seven. We do understand if you have to take other offers." This being said by a staffer I had NEVER spoken to before, and an email sent by me with an update was met by no response at all. Long story short, I love, love, love Rachael Ray, but am NOT holding my breath.

Superfine Films & WME
I had been contacted by several producers after the CNN article came out about doing television. I say doing television because some said "reality tv", some said "recipe based show", and nobody could really figure out which avenue or category I fit into. The moment some saw amateur video footage, they said in that "fancy" talk of theirs, "Nope." I went round and round with this, and through it all was one consistent, funny, warm fella that just wouldn't give up. His name is David Levitt, and he is with Superfine Films. He scared me off for a few months by talking about something called a holding agreement. I was unsure of how that worked, how fast things were going, and in general was completely out of my element. Rather than pressure me to make a commitment, he patiently opted to wait me out. David checked in with me from time to time during the following months, but never made me feel like I had to run screaming from him. This was the clincher. It turns out that not only would I get a great bunch of producers, but would also be represented by the oldest talent agency in the country, William Morris Endeavors or WME. William Morris has been around since vaudeville, and were the first to represent the cooking industry with people like Alton Brown, Paula Deen, and my fave, Guy Fieri. So in March of this year I signed with them. It's taken a ton of painstaking research on the part of Superfine, and a bunch of scheduling conflicts later, to get to what I call "The Shoot".

The Shoot
Right to left, David, Stephen, Me, And Alex.
Two weeks after we were in Portland, OR finishing up with the finishing touches to "The Long Haul Magazine", the long awaited "Shoot" was scheduled in Brewster, NY. Superfine had finally found my niche market, and we were ready to put me in front of the camera to work my magic.The guys were more wound up than I was, and I had just gotten done running a few thousand miles, and was my usual sleep deprived self! We met at a place called The Red Rooster Drive-In, which is an iconic burger joint that has been serving up smiles for 30 years.

The Red Rooster


Andy & crew at The Red Rooster
 Andy, the owner, was a great sport and graciously invited us to film at his restaurant. His crew were amazing, the food delicious, and the whole day went off without a hitch. David and Stephen have been vague these last months as to which networks are interested to keep me from being nervous and I am going to remain tight lipped only because I just don't want to jinx it. Anything that happens at this point is a huge bonus anyway. I do what I do because I love it, not because someone wants to put me on television. I look at it like this; I'm always going to blog about my adventures whether 36 people read about it or 360,000, I'm getting to write for the first premier trucking magazine this industry has ever seen, I get to write for my local independent paper and reach my community, and I'm still writing three books, whether anyone buys or reads them. I've always marched to my own drummer and I always will. I'd really like the opportunity to share this with a greater number of people, but hey, I will eventually no matter what happens.


Voila! Mysteries revealed and you're almost caught up to date. Paul and I have been home for almost two weeks now, down for warranty repairs for the Kenworth. Something like this is bound to happen a few times a year whether you want it to or not. So I've been busy changing my website to a sleek, professional look, cooking, writing for The Grip, working with Luisa on The Long Haul's debut issue, (did I mention cooking?) getting some professional pictures taken for the first time ever (no offense Mike, but Stacy went to school for it), going to church, baking yummy breads, and trying to be active in my little community. You would think I'd take long naps, laze around in my pj's, and go to the beach, but a writer's work is never done, there IS always time for a nap somewhere, and some of my best work is done in my jammies. so until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, be free, & be YOU! It seems to be working alright for me.

PS I'll post another blog much sooner and include the recipe for the amazing banana bread I made tonight.

With Much Love,

gypsy gourmet

Saturday, June 23, 2012

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 Wolrd 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 doesnt 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 here. I thought they were crazy until I experienced it firsthand. Now I'm terribly disappointed if I go home and miss coming to the market.

The produce gives way to isles of natural sodas from Stewarts to Hot Ginger Beer, but I'm on a mission. I skip through the sodas like a kid, ending up in the wall to wall tea section. Quickly making my choice (I love Yogi Stress Relief Kava tea), I skip back out of the specialty isles, dang proud that I didn't veer too far off my list. This is a serious accomplishment! Quit laughing! I'm headed down towards the meats and cheese sections on the other side of the store and got distracted by the daisies. I think by now we all know I'm a sucker for daisies. Thankfully I'm not far from the prize, stumbling across fresh summer berries. I'm heavily inspired by them to create a Summer Berry Trifle. It seems like everyone has a recipe for for trifle and I'm no different. Except mine's really good and terribly simple. So many folks want to mess it up with heavy pastry creams, and or (eeek) boxed pudding products. I take a simple and fresh approach to this by keeping it organic whenever possible. I'll be sure to tantalize your tastebuds with the pictures of the gorgeous meat cases, cheese displays, and seafood on a part two of Dekalb Farmer's Market. I'd really like to devote an adequate representation of what this place has to offer, so I'm sticking to the basics this go-around.  Please remeber to use fresh seasonal berries, organic when possible, and buy locally when you can. Wash your berries thoroughly, and allow to air dry completely on paper towels before you begin.



Gypsy Gourmet's Summer Berry Trifle
1 Qt Fresh Strawberries sliced 1/4 in thick
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries
1 pint blackberries
Zest of 3 key limes
3-4 T locally sourced honey
16 oz prepared angel food cake cut into 1"cubes
1 Qt heavy whipping cream
1/3-1/2 c confectioners sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean

Instructions:
Prepare the heavy cream in a mixer or with hand held beaters by adding the cream, vanilla, and vanilla bean, alternately adding the confectioners sugar a little at a time until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat, you'll have butter! Set whipped cream aside. I preach "mise en place" or "everything in it's place" for a reason folks. This is a simple dessert and can be made quickly during the regular preparation of a family meal as long as all of the ingredients are prepped. The best taste and flavors happen when you prepare it before you start dinner and let it sit for 2-4 hours. It's also great the next morning for breakfast with dry cereal or granola, if there's any left. Find a pretty bowl, clear is best, that holds at least 6 quarts. Figure three layers and garnish for the top, so if it helps you, please seperate beforehand. Start the layering with cake cubes, next zest of one key lime, and drizzle honey over the cake and zest. Layer the berries next, with strawberries on the outside for presentations sake. Refer to picture for help. Next comes the whipped cream. Repeat the layering until you reach the top of the bowl. Garnish with remaining cake and berries and do a final drizzle with honey on the top. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Voila! Yummy refeshing dessert that you can hardly feel bad about. This is a great addition to any summer dinner, tea with the girls, coffee clatch, or Sunday brunch.

I hope any or all of you have the chance to see some of the places I've mentioned here in the blog. While I know that's an unreasonable wish, I know at anytime you can live vicariously through me. I believe with all my heart that if you do have the chance to visit the Atlanta area, this is a must see for any kind of foodie. It will not disappoint. Make it a daytripper, ending in the ecclectic Little Five Points area. Have fun with it! I do almost every time I'm home. Be on the lookout for more exciting adventures coming soon, and until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, be free, and be you.


gypsy gourmet




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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 shimp & 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 tamles. 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 curiousity 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 Suprise". 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, devained, 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 large skillet hot on med-high melt butter, adding shrimp, seasoning, and garlic. Cook until done, meaning they're pink and not grey at all. This will go fast, so don't walk away or you will over cook the shrimp. At the last minute add green onions and stir, removing from heat. Voila! Shrimp and grits. Serve grits in a bowl and spoon the shrimp over the top. Easy & delicious.

This dish was a comfoting melody of flavors and substance after a crazy day. It only took about 15-20 min to prepare from start to finish, and Niki declared that it was the "New avocado." her favorite weakness. She asked me if it would be hard to prepare on the truck, and warned me that she'd ask for it on a semi regular basis. Remember folks, this is our little health nut, and she adored this recipe. I'm happy to repot that while it may or may not be exactly traditional, neither am I, and it was superb. I have taken all the time I can allow away from my crazy schedule, complicated blog, and general chaos that surrounds me. So until next time, eat well, laugh often, be you, and be free!

gypsy gourmet

Friday, June 8, 2012

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 recieved a random text basically letting me know that there was fun in store for the weekend and am I coming home? Unfortunately scheduled maintenence 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 tempramental 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 me yet, so hopefully I'm forgiven for being an original. This particular feast included traditional collard greens, which I am in LOVE with. They're a super food packed with good vitamins and are yummy enough I could eat a bowl and forget the rest. I thought I'd give y'all the recipe I came up with, as it was worth the small effort and so incredibly delicious.


 On a side note, Niki surprised me with flowers as a hostess gift(The girl's got manners too!). She bought me a lovely bouquet of daisies and they were so pretty I had to add them. I couldn't resist, I'm a sucker for daisies.


Damn Yankee's Attempt @ Collard Greens
2 pkgs prepared collards fresh (See even I cheat a little guys, I had a LOT to prepare. This took the guesswork out)
1 smoked ham hock
4-5 small russet potatoes peeled & 1/2 in cubes
1 lg sweet onion (Vidalia if in season, we're from GA!) julienned into 1/2 in strips
1/4 c minced garlic fresh or jarred
1 T Better Than Boullion Vegetable base
1 qt chicken stock
1-2 T Tony Chacherie's Cajun seasoning, I used the extra hot.

Instructions
Use a heavy bottom large stock pot, I'm guessing 12 quart or better. I simply added the potatoes, onion, garlic, chicken stock, boullion, ham hock, and seasoning together, warming it up enough to dissolve the boullion. Then I added the two bags of collards, set the heat to med-low/simmer, covered it, and crossed my fingers. I had no idea how long to simmer, just used common sense and cooked until fork tender, checking occasionally to stir. When the collards and potatoes are tender, that's it. Voila! Collard greens so yummy there were hardly leftovers. Next up, turnip greens.

Every time I'm home it gets harder to leave. I love my little world. The safety, the feeling of "home", the sanctity of family, the holidays spent, the laughter, and the great joy surrounds us like champagne bubbles in your nose. It's a happy place that keeps me sane in this world of hustle and bustle, fast paced craziness, and just in time freight. Every day my life gets a little busier, with more demands on my time, more work to put out, bigger goals to attain, and larger dreams to chase. I'm no different than any of you, no matter where you come from or what you do for a living. Just remember folks, as busy as we all are, some things should never be taken for granted. Take the time to heal your spirit with adequate time with the people you love. Tell them just how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate them. Dorothy had it right, there's no place like home.

So until next time folks, while you're out there "just a-gettin' it" remember to eat well, laugh often, be you, and be free.

I love you ALL.

gypsy gourmet













































































Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Jersey to Washington, Tilapia Made Easy

aWelcome to another adventure! We have a badass addition to the Gypsy Gourmet franchise, Ms. Niki Stewart (Rouund of applause please!) She's a southern Californian(San Diego) with an amazing work ethic, a great personality, and did I mention she's a hottie? This girl definitely knows her stuff and has taught this ol' bird a few new tricks as well. Nice not to be solo anymore (Sorry Harley we know you'd drive if you could) and it's certainly a good thing to be a smokin' hot team again. We're back on the just in time (JIT) freight, hazardous materials endorsed, specialized division where we belong. Our first week out was a lesson in learning the ropes, but our second week out seriously kicked tail. 7010 miles accomplished in one week, safely and legally! However, on weeks like this we are lacking in the gourmet food porn department. It's tough to remember that it can only take a few minutes of preparation to produce food that's good for the body and the soul. Try living off of protein granola bars, non fat Greek yogurt, and fruit for days on end and see if your generally sunny disposition takes a turn for the worse.

The trick to running hard (on the road and in regular life) lies somewhere in that grey area that equals balance. I know that some of my readers don't drive professionally. It may be hard understanding what it's like to schedule your life around bathroom breaks and fuel stops, but I do know that you're all busy in your daily lives and this level of understanding chaos is universal. You can be a mom, a dad, a writer, a carpenter, a chef, or any number of occupations that are demanding. The bottom line is that finding time to be good to your body and spirit is a daily challenge. This next dish is a simple reminder that a tiny bit of effort can produce that balance that we all crave. Being good to yourself sets you up for success amid the chaos, and better prepares you for the challenges ahead.

Tilapia is a versatile fish that can easily be cooked from a frozen or fresh state. It is readily available at the best fish markets or in your local grocery store or food co-op. This dish is a one skillet wonder and you can keep it simple with your favorite all in one seasoning blend. I used a blend that has become one of my favorites (Thanks Jay for the introduction!). It's called Tex Joy and can be purchased all over Texas or online at http://www.texjoy.com. If either way is inconvienient for you, Tony Chacherie's Cajun seasoning is an excellent substitute and can be found in the spice isle at your local supermarket. Round off your meal with fresh fruit and a sauteed veggie and you've only taken about fifteen minutes out of your day to create a hot, home cooked meal that you don't have to feel guilty about.

One Skillet Tilapia for Two

2 tilapia fillets (4 if they're very small)
2 T. olive oil
1 T. REAL butter
Tex Joy or Tony Chacherie's seasoning to taste
4 c. fresh broccoli florets
1/2 sweet onion julienned into 1/4 in strips
small amount of water to steam (less than 1/4 c)
small additional amount of olive oil (less than a tablespoon)
Instructions:

Easy enough in a non stick electric skillet, but whatever your favorite is use it! Make sure you have a cover for it, for the slight steam process at the end. Get skillet good and hot (med-high for some or between 300-325 for others). While skillet is getting hot season both sides of the fish and set aside. Add oil and butter to skillet and allow butter to melt and sizzle before adding fish presentation side down. Generally the flat side is the bottom of the fish. Give the fish about 2 minutes to achieve a nice crispy brown, and remember this will cook fairly quickly and will try to fall apart if it's overcooked or flipped more than once. So curb your instincts and flip your fish only one time. After 2 min or your golden crispy texture has been achieved, flip the fish. Add the broccoli florets and onion around the fillets and sprinkle with a small amount of olive oil and seasoning. Emeril says his veggies don't come seasoned and baby neither do mine! Also this seasoning is to YOUR taste and needs not mine. So be creative and have fun with it. Check the fish for doneness by touching the center of the fillet. If its firm to the touch and springs back it's done. Place each fillet on a plate and stir your veggies well adding a little water and the cover for approximately one minute more. Uncover and plate veggies with the fish, add fresh fruit and enjoy!

On a side note, your Gypsy Gourmet is feeling great. I have been taking better care of myself than EVER, and have lost a few more pounds around my middle. I do love to eat and have not forgotten about the rich foods I enjoy; I'm just much more concious of portion size. The idea is to balance the good and the not so good with moderation. I have many more great ideas in the bull pen, my determination and drive are at an all time high(I think it helps to be happy and healthy). You can expect to see a lot more frequent posts on varied subjects. Please feel free to comment on ideas you'd like to see featured. Your feedback means a lot to me and I'm always willing to take a look, give advice, or generally know how I'm doing. Until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, be you, and be free!

gypsy gourmet

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A little spot of heaven.....







You may ask yourselves, "Just where the heck is Chillicothe, TX?" Well let me tell you, it's on the US 287 in Texas en route to I 40 and Amarillo. Tiny little sleepy town nestled amidst what looks to be miles and miles of wheat fields. I never expected to stumble across a gem in the middle of nowhere, but folks, gypsy luck is on my side today! I have been eating like a bird for the last five days. The mother of all summer head colds has brought me low and I've had to hustle across the country anyway. Such is life and this is the real world not television. Yet. So I find myself starving, exhausted, and feeling like I've been run over by the truck I've been driving. I see a few scattered signs pointing toward a small town restaurant that mentions truck parking and at this point, I'm sold. I haven't been grocerey shopping in more than a week and eggs and bacon have lost all of their appeal. I'm more than happy to let someone else do the cooking and dishes. Here comes the hard part. The ferverent prayer that wherever I stop will have decent food. So I cross my fingers and walk up.

 Welcome to Love's BBQ & Steakhouse.  I was greeted immediately by Mr. Tommy Love, owner of said BBQ joint. With a friendly smile and a slight apology about the construction( they're expanding some), he assures me I'm in the right place if I'm hungry. For a girl who hasn't been able to smell or taste anything for almost a week, the scent of mesquite smoked meats wafting toward me immediately made my mouth water. Uh oh, getting excited.. Tone it down Gypsy, we haven't seen the menu yet. There's a hand printed specials board that immediately gets my attention. I see a lot of ribeye and something called chicken fried bacon, YES! Chicken fried bacon. As I'm trying to wrap my coconut around this anomaly I'm informed by my lovely server, Traci, that Mr. Tommy ages, smokes, and cuts every piece of meat in the joint. I'm now so terribly excited I can't hardly put a sentance together! AHHH I AM HOME! I put enough brain cells to work to order the ribeye special with two sides. The pictures will speak the volumes I cannot. I've stuttered over the sheer amazement of flavor and tenderness. I've eaten ribeye all over the country and can honestly say this was the best I've EVER had in my mouth. EVER. Yes, anywhere in the country. Yup, better than them. It's a tough distinction having mulled it over this is the conclusion I've come to. This place is absolutely 100% legit. I want to scream to every foodie in the country to try this steak, and I'm loathe to even share with my best buddy, Harley, waiting patiently in the truck(he's spoiled rotten and did get his share, although grudingly).


 The tiny salad bar across the dining room bespoke fresh, crisp vegetables prepared with care. The dressings are mostly homemade, like the French, ranch, and the thousand island. I tried a mixture of ranch and French. Again amazing flavor. The creamy garlic of the ranch paired with the spicy tomato punch of the French was music in my mouth. I had the homemade beans and coleslaw to accompany my steak, the beans were superb, with just the right amount of sweet, spicy, and savory. Not to mention the pulled beef brisket pieces popping up when you least expect it. The coleslaw was crisp and creamy without a harsh vinegar finish. So far, so good. As I'm in my own little seventh heaven, Traci(bless her heart) starts spinning a tale of homemade cobbler, made by Ms Sue, Mr Tommy's wife. I'm thinking to myself,"How am I going to walk out of here, much less drive a few more hours down the road?" The answer is stay, eat well, have a walk with the pup, and sleep. Did I forget to mention there's four different kinds of cobbler?! Or that there's homemade vanilla ice cream to go with that cobbler?! Traci is the sweetest server, but she blew my calorie counting right out the window! I'm going to have to be VERY good for a really long time to make up for the feast I've had at Love's.
Mr Tommy was kind enough to show me his custom built smoker. I literally had goosebumps when I gazed upon this work of art. The temperature is so consistant that it only varies by two degrees. Either direction. He demonstrated this with the simple dial and damper system. He not only cuts his own meats, but ages them too. He makes his own bacon for gosh sakes! Without any of the chemical preservatives you would expect in bacon. Mr Tommy cures solely with salt, sugar, and smoke.The way God Himself would want the pig treated. I have not found such pride in ones' art in a terribly long time and have had immesurable pleasure whiling away a few hours here. These folks are the salt of the Earth, they've been farmers, truckers, and now restaurant proprietors. The Love they have for the food and their community shine through with every dish, every smile, every handshake, and every hug. This is a must stop for anyone travelling the 287 through Texas in between Dallas and Amarillo. Not just truckers like me, but anyone. There's plenty of truck parking at the Allsup's a quarter of a mile down the road, next to Allsup's at the old mill, and even behind Love's. I will be back and hopefully soon, because Mr Tommy's ribs are next! Until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, and drive America's highways safely!

gypsy gourmet

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Misissippi to Texas

Welcome to Breaux Bridge, Lousiana!










Man have I MISSED y'all! Your Gypsy Gourmet has been travelling solo. Yes, my friends, I have the same kinds of relationship ups and downs as everyone else. Instead of bemoaning my fate, or getting terribly involved in my sad story, I just simply got back to work doing what I love. I have been all over the place lately, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, just to name a few. On this trip just a couple of days ago I started out in Mobile, AL and was headed to Lancaster, TX. To my delight, I found another gem nestled in the midst of obscurity in Breaux Bridge, LA. I've probably butchered the name of both their fair city and the lovely family run market I stumbled across, Foti's. How about a paradise for the eyes! The moment I hit the door I was engulfed in wonerful smells. Fresh bananas, ripe plums, the briney scent of shrimp, and wiggling crawfish. It was a sight to behold.

Floyd Foti reminds me of one of my uncles. Tireless, constantly moving, and all about this small business that he's run strong for almost twenty-five years. I was met with a little skepticism, as to whether or not I'd have a film crew traipsing all over his market, but once we cleared it up that'd it'd just be me, he opened up about the business that he so obviously loves. He get a sparkle in his eyes as he talks about his family, and the new expansion he's in the midst of. Mr. Floyd seems confident about the small restaurant expansion now that his kids aren't little anymore and can help with the extra business it'll create.

I was greeted soon after by Floyd's niece, Melissa, who was patient and sweet as I marvelled over all the goods in front of me. It was seriously like the clouds parted and angels sang, with all the variety and abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from. Sweet potatoes, sweet onions, lemons, vine ripe tomatoes, fresh garlic cloves, ginger root, and locally grown Satsumsa oranges distract me as people flow in and out in a constant steady stream. Folks buying everything from locally harvested Gulf shrimp, sacks of crawfish still wiggling, and myriad vegetables and spices to boil their dinners. I got a tour of the back room from Mr. Mike, as he showed me the process of sorting, boiling, and refrigerating the crawfish that they sell by the pound already cooked.





After I had my tour of the back room I was shown the restaurant expansion that's well underway. Mr. Floyd explained that they had been making boiled seafood to go for many years, but while his childern were little it was impossible to tackle a sit down atmosphere, as you can only spread yourself so far. This statement hit awfully close to home as I remembered the many 12-15 hour days at my family's restaurant and resort. Now that everyone's grown and able to help with the extra business it creates he's expanding to fried and boiled seafood that's served in a comfortable functional dine in nook.
Floyd seems confident they can handle it now, and I have no doubt they"ll be "The" spot to bring family and friends for dinner. I wish him and his family the best of luck in their new endeavor, and know I'll certainly be back!


These are the shrimp I purchased...You've all seen my shrimp stir frys and this one was no different, few friends, few laughs, and a stunning reminder of local flavor wherever you are. So remember folks, until we meet again, eat well, laugh often, and travel America's highways safely. Support your local growers, farmers markets, co-ops, and small businesses! They're a dying breed and we need to keep them alive for generations to come.

gypsy gourmet

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The ties that bind....

Hey Folks!
Everybody sticking to their New Years resolutions? No? It's alright, there's always next year! My New Year's resolution was to blog at least twice a month, and y'all see how well that's worked out.

Our lives are more chaotic than ever. Seems like we run harder, for longer in this truck, just to pay bills that keep multiplying like rabbits. Sounds like everyday America, right? Sometimes you have to take the time to STOP what you're doing and remember just how fortunate we all are. We have homes to go to, a positive balance in the checking account(even if its small) food in the fridge, clothes on our backs, and most of all, love. Now you may be thinking, "Love, February, makes sense." I'm talking about a little different kind of love. Not just the romantic kind, but the kind that leaves no place in the heart untouched. Yep, you got it now, friends, family, neighbors, and community. The ties that bind each and every one of us to the places we call home. I have discovered that my ties are binding. This is something that most people take for granted and are absolutely sure of. This was not the case for me in the beginning, as I floated along in my new neighborhood. Of course, that may have had something to do with not getting home enough, but I digress.

The lovely Ms Katy @ Safehouse
I found myself more often than not wanting to explore my surroundings on foot. My loop was getting a little larger everytime I ventured out, but the place I always seemed to end up was Safehouse Coffee & Tea. On the outside, it's a regular independant coffee house. Beautiful artwork, hand crafted by local artists lining the walls, plenty of comfy spots to hunker down in, good books aplenty, and our in house coffee purists. Only here, you find out that the bulk of their labor force donates their time. The lovely thirty-something couple sitting outside, that always lend an ear, or a hug? They're the "guardians" of said coffee utopia. "Guardians?" you say? Yep, guardians. They work to protect the interests of the Christian ministry(ICM- City of Hope) that own Safehouse. The very same ministry that is helping families in our area deal with all sorts of issues like addiction, povery, and faith to name a few. To be perfectly honest, I didn't know Hunt and Amanda ran the joint. They're just the salt of the Earth everyday folks. I'm not the expert here, so the very fine details are still coming together for me, but I've also been informed of the extensive youth ministry they have. The normal bunch of teens you'll see in any ol' coffee house; they're here too. However, instead of the usual random epithets, and whatever else, I've overheard lively debates over absinenance vs. safer sex, and truthful confessions of supremely hard decisions made throughout their week. "Why?"you ask? This place is more than just a building. It is a "safe" environment. In this forum these young people are encouraged to be who they are, while making better choices for themselves. I personally would like to see more adults treat our next generation of leaders this way, as I was always taught that it takes a village to raise a child. As all of this is germinating in your coconuts, know too that while helping their local community their outreach has even spread as far as Honduras, where Hunt Slade and Jacob Orr recently traveled to help rebuild hurricane-ravaged coffee farms for the village of Linares. Director of Coffee, Jacob Orr, said about the trip, "Truly good coffee builds strong communities, not just here in a small town like Griffin, but in family villages like Linares. We just wanted to help in any way we could." You can read more about the Safehouse Honduras trip at www.safehousehonduras.wordpress.com

All in all, I continue my patronage here not just because of my innate coffee snobbery, but because I love this place and all the people within. These folks, the first people I met on my own in a strange new place, made me feel welcome and included me in something I'd been desperately missing; community. This is what has prompted me to share their story with you. On January 30th, 2012, our friends at Safehouse, along with many in our little community, watched as the building went up in flames. By the grace of God, no one died or was injured. So here comes the hard part boys and girls; pitching in. Not only to show our support when times are tough, but to keep a very unique and vitally necessary part of our community alive. You can read more about Safehouse, and what they're about at www.safehousebev.com/

Efforts are being pulled together and the community as a whole is rallying around plans to rebuild Safehouse. A friend in the coffee industry has started an EverRibbon campaign online to raise funds for the rebuild at  http://www.everribbon.com/ribbon/view/5123

We need to come together to keep small business alive!

If you would like to donate to Safehouse, there has also been a fund set up through United Bank. United Bank is our hometown bank and has locations all through out the Spalding and Pike County area. You can donate at any branch, just specify that it is for Safehouse. All donations are tax deductible. If you need a direct contact to talk about your donation, you can reach Michael Thurston at helping@safehousebev.com or give him a call at 770-584-4442. Thank you in advance for the kindness and love you have shown and continue to show the Safehouse family! In helping them, you allow them to continue helping others.
Until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, and drive America's highways safely.

gypsy gourmet

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!


Another round of holidays has given way to the enivatable, back to work, hectic schedules, and general chaos. Round one 2012 here we come. We have all danced this choreographed juggling act of planning meals, shopping, wrapping gifts, cocktailing with friends, and heaped that upon our regularly scheduled programming. I think it's about time to wind down a little, spend a few quality moments in the kitchen, and reflect on some of the more interesting things that have occurred this past year.
Our festive little tree


Christmas Eve Dinner
 I was recently home right after some birthday fun in Cocoa Beach, FL.(Birthday's ten days before Christmas, so I love December) It was an incredible celebration with lots of food, friends, and general merriment. While I'm not able to post about it now, the birthday blog WILL be epic, and will coincide with the air date of a nationally syndicated television show we'll be appearing on. Sorry about the hush, hush, but I promise it'll be worth the wait. I bring it up because we did boil lobsters and had one soldier left out of the bunch, which I used in this version of GG's Kitchen Sink Skillet Potatoes.

So after the general chaos dies down, phone's not ringing, house is quiet, coffee's brewing in the kitchen, (Safehouse Honduran) the stillness suits me in a way I don't get to indulge in very often. I know when this house wakes up I'll have a couple appetites ready, and am loathe to leave the peaceful confines of my kitchen for anything, much less a store run. So I tackle the task of hunt and gather in the pantry and fridge. This step will change every time you make this, as the kitchen sink is the only thing this dish is lacking. It's a simple tool to use what's on hand and available. Sometimes it's ordinary,while other times it's simply exraordinary. Due to the leftovers in my fridge, let me assure you exraordinary is not only possible, but almost required.

Assembled ingredients
While at the food co-op in Cocoa Beach, I had picked up a bag of gourmet baby potatoes, the Yukon gold, red, and purple had such a pretty contrast I just couldn't resist. We had such a busy schedule the previous few days, that I had thought ahead and par boiled these adorable little spuds with the general idea that I'd roast or fry them later. I like shortcuts like these. Being prepared with clean, cut vegetables or partially cooked veggies saves me a lot of aggravation both at home and on the road. Also on hand are baby bell peppers in orange, yellow, and red. Sweet onion is in abundance along with shittake and baby portabella mushrooms, thick sliced bacon from our friends at T&T Meats in Mc Donough, GA, and fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary from Ms Faye's garden, marjoram, and sage). Already looking like something delicious in my head, I remember with a start that I have an entire Maine lobster left over from my birthday. Yay! We have now graduated to extaordinary! I'm not gonna lie, the prospect of cracking that girl outta her shell doesn't make me warm and fuzzy inside, but it was infinitely worth it in the end. I'm gonna get right on to the recipe, so you can enjoy it too!


GG's Kitchen Sink Skillet Potatoes








GG's Kitchen Sink Skillet Potatoes
2 lbs baby potatoes, par boiled and cut in half or quartered depending on size
1 med sweet onion, julienned
3 baby bell peppers, rough chopped
1 sprig each fresh chopped herbs (use what you like, I used thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and sage)
1 lb bacon, cooked and rough chopped
1/2 package each shittake and baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 lb female lobster, cooked & shucked of meat
3-4 cloves of garlic minced
1 T Hungarian paprika
1-2 t Tony Chacherie's extra hot seasoning blend
cracked black pepper to taste
bacon drippings/olive oil/butter to sautee ingredients
Instructions:
There's a few things you can do ahead of time to be prepared. I strongly recommend par cooking and cutting the potatoes to save time, as well as all the veggie and herb chopping, and bacon cooking. When this is completed assemble your ingredients, and get your skillet hot. Medium to medium high will do. Add 1-2 T olive oil to the pan along with a tablespoon butter, and a tablespoon bacon grease. I know this seems like a lot, but the potatoes will absorb quite a bit and you'll need it to achieve golden brown crispiness on your potatoes. Next add the mushrooms, garlic, onion, and bell pepper, sauteeing for 3-4 minutes before adding the potatoes. Once you add the potatoes, season with the dry seasonings, tasting to adjust if necessary. You won't want to stir too much at this point. The whole idea is to get those spuds golden brown and you can't do that if you're moving it around too much to allow the browning to occur. About the time the potatoes are looking close to done is when I added the bacon bits, herbs, and lobster. The lobster and bacon are already cooked, so you really just want to warm these through. Also, the golden rule with herbs is to add fresh close to the end, dry in the beginning for optimal flavor. All that being said you can fry a couple of eggs like we did, or simply plate when you're ready. This recipe is not set in stone. You do not have to follow it to the letter. The point is to use what you have. Prime rib, leftover steak, chicken, or pork, partial veggies, that scattered bulb of garlic, whatever. It's all up to interpretation and creativity. That's why it's called Kitchen Sink. The amounts can be adjusted to feed a crew of people in a shortish amount of time and is delicious. You can add cheeses if you like, I omitted it this round in favor of showcasing the lobster flavor.


This year has been a whirlwind of transition, change, excitement, drama, golden opportuntities, and above all, love. I have journeyed through the corners of US, and the corners of my soul. I've lost friends, made stunning new ones, welcomed new lives, ended long suffering heartbreak, said some sad good byes, and began a whole new adventure. I am grateful for all of it. Without it, I just wouldn't be who I am. This year is all about living your dreams, reaching for the impossible, and never forgetting where you come from. So this year, instead of focusing on all the things that went wrong last year, I'm commited to making this year the best it can be by embracing the positive things and reaching for the stars.
Keep an eye on your Gypsy Gourmet, this year is already off to a stellar beginning, and there are many exciting, life changing irons in the fire. I will keep y'all updated as soon as I'm able, and post air dates and such as soon as it's written in stone.
Until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, drive America's highways safely.

gypsy gourmet