With dinner fast approaching, one hot summer day spent in the dairy farm garden, I needed to think fast to have an evening meal ready for my family. I could sensibly do what most other busy mom do, throw something in a slow cooker in the morning so dinner will be ready at the end of a busy day, which I understand that those who work outside of their homes must do to get their families fed, but I have liked very little that I’ve ever tasted that has come out of a slow cooker that has been sitting for hours “cooking”. This is also why you won’t find a microwave in my kitchen these days. I’d rather rush around trying to get something tasty and fresh made for my family than to just let everything melt together in a Crock Pot or kill it in a microwave.
I found Andouille sausage in the freezer, which I thought should lead to a big pot of something cajun or “low country”, so I was relieved to see, after an inspection of the rest of my freezer and refrigerator, that it was possible that I could actually make that happen, which was shocking since I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done a “real” grocery shopping trip, with frequent trips between the farms that we occupy. I pulled out everything I would need to throw a low carb pot of gumbo/rice-less jambalaya together, which included leftover roast pork and grilled chicken from other meals I’d cooked earlier in the week, and onions and shallots from the garden.
We were sitting down to spicy bowls of steaming gumbo within the hour and no one even suspected that our dinner, which certainly didn’t taste like it, had been rushed and literally thrown together at the last minute. But thank goodness for those leftover meats and cooked up ahead chicken broth or I’d never have been able to pull it off! Shh….don’t tell anyone…like my sweet husband doesn’t faithfully read every single recipe I post and won’t find out what a slacker I am as soon as I click “publish”. 😉
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. shallots, minced
3/4 c. onions with green tops, small dice
1 whole red bell pepper (about a cup), medium dice
1/2 c. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
3 T almond flour
3 c. chicken broth
4 links (12 oz. total) cooked andouille sausage, sliced into thick rounds
4 oz. cooked pork loin roast, cubed
3 grilled chicken breasts
1 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oil in a large small stock pot. Add the garlic and sweat.
Toss in the shallots and onions, peppers and parsley. Sauté.
Sprinkle in the almond flour and cook, stirring, for one minute, to make a low carb variation of a roux.
Gradually add in the chicken broth, while stirring, and bring to a simmer to thicken.
Add the spices, tomato halves, sausage, chicken, and pork.
Simmer for for 45 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For a more authentic gumbo than my low carb version, use all-purpose flour in place of the almond flour and add in fresh okra and rice at the same time the meat and tomatoes and spices are added to the liquid. You can also throw in fresh shrimp about five minutes before the pot of gumbo is finished simmering.
Yield: 8 servings
The last Lisa Jewell book I read, The House We Grew Up In, had me squirming in my seat as I turned the pages, so I wasn’t surprised when The Girls in the Garden did, also, right from the start. It’s dark and uncomfortable to read, even while warm and comforting scenes of family life and the most sincere mothering are woven throughout the intense plot that centers around summer in a community park in the midst of a circle of homes and apartments in the U.K.
I was able to relate to the character Adele because I am a homeschool mom and have always fed my children home-cooked, natural and organic meals, as she did. But I had a hard time imagining myself in the shoes of either Clare, the mother of the preteen daughters the book revolves around, or Adele, with a rabble of mostly teen daughters between them. I’m sure I would have been an even bigger basket case worrying over girls than I was worrying over raising two boys to adulthood, safely and with a certain degree of morals. The Girls in the Garden certainly made me feel even more angst at the idea of bringing up females in the wild world we live in and had me thanking my lucky stars that I will never have to experience that for myself.
When I was trying to decide what recipe to create to go along with this book, I was inspired by the contents of the shopping cart that belonged to Clare when she ran into the husband of the seemingly perfect Adele, homeschool mom extraordinaire. His cart, Clare was embarrassed to see, was filled with only healthful contents, things Adele would use to make nutritious meals for her family, while Clare’s only contained convenience foods and a package of sugary orange Kit Kat bars. I had never heard of an orange Kit Kat, had never seen a package of them in an American grocery store. Intrigued, I did a little research and learned that there are at least three kinds of orange Kit Kat bars, one made with a blood orange flavor and dark chocolate, another made with an orange coating and chocolate filling, and one made the usual way, with milk chocolate, but with orange flavor added.
I decided to make a copycat version of the dark chocolate orange Kit Kat using high quality chocolates and the homemade orange extract that I bottled last fall.
I happened to have Lindt and Taza chocolate in my pantry, but I’m sure dark chocolate baking morsels would have worked just fine.
Crispy rice cereal was the obvious ingredient to give my “brittle” its crunch. The only problem is, since I’ve never had an orange Kit Kat, and am not able to run to the corner store to buy one to sample, I have no idea if my sweet treat tasted anything like the original. I did, however, think the flavor and texture were reminiscent of a regular milk chocolate Kit Kat, but with a dark chocolate orange twist, so I can imagine that I came pretty close. Make a batch of them to nibble while you read The Girls in the Garden and see if you agree.
3 c. crispy rice cereal
6 squares of Lindt 90% cacao dark chocolate
1.3 ounces Dark Vanilla Taza chocolate
1.3 ounces 70% Dark Taza Chocolate
Pinch pink Himalayan salt
1 T. turbinado sugar
1 tsp. orange extract
Cover a 9X9 inch baking pan in foil or waxed paper.
Spread the cereal over the lined pan.
Melt the chocolate.
QUICK CHOCOLATE MELTING TIP: For small recipes, place chocolate squares or morsels in a small baking ramekin. Turn on your coffee maker to allow the warming pad to heat up. Place the ramekin of chocolate on the burner and let it gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally for larger batches. It only takes a few minutes, and I’ve yet to scorch a batch of chocolate this way. And I DO NOT miss heating up a double boiler and stirring and stirring to melt my chocolate any time I need melted chocolate.
Stir together the sugar, salt, and orange extract until the sugar dissolves.
When the chocolate is melted, stir in the sugar mixture.
Drizzle over the cereal.
Using a non-stick rubber or silicone spatula, combine and spread the mixture into the bottom of the pan, working quickly before the chocolate hardens.
Break apart like you would cooled peanut brittle.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
The Don Knotts Statue Unveiling Ceremony in Morgantown, WV with Brunch at Morgan’s High Street Diner
I think Barney Fife may be my all-time favorite television character, so it was pretty amazing to be in the area of his home of Morgantown when that West Virginia college town’s citizens accomplished their goal of having a statue erected in Don Knotts’ honor.
My husband and I, probably like just about every other kids growing up in America in the ’70s and ’80s, grew up watching Don Knotts play Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and the funny man paired with the insanely hilarious Tim Conway in several movies. One of my earliest movie memories was Disney’s The Apple Dumpling Gang. Prize Fighter, Private Eyes, Gus, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken were also favorites of mine. In fact, I can’t use Bon Ami without thinking of the cute little lady on The Ghost and Mr. Chicken who keeps reminding everyone that they couldn’t get the blood stains off the haunted organ’s keys, “…and they even used Bon Ami!” Product placement at its finest. And any time I am mucking chicken or rabbit bedding, or eating a fine lunch in Biltmore’s Stable Cafe in one the very horse stalls that were featured in the movie Private Eyes, I think of “‘neers…horse ‘neers” and the tongueless hunchback who was trying to tell the two detectives, Don Knotts and Tim Conway, that they were standing in horse manure. My husband and I probably quote the tongueless hunchback stable boy a little too often. I’m sure our kids are sick of hearing about “‘neers” after all these years.
The statue unveiling, which kicked off the first annual Don Knotts Days, was just the sweetest thing. It was precious to learn more about the man behind the goofy smile and clumsy antics from a local friend of his and from his daughter, who both spoke at the ceremony. I really liked hearing that that he grew up in his mother’s Morgantown boarding house, which was much like the ones his movie and television characters lived in. It’s good to know that the man we saw on screen was a small town boy at heart who never let celebrity change him.
The sculptor, Jamie Lester of Vandalia Bronze, was also present. I noticed by following the Facebook event page for the unveiling ahead of the big day that he was very involved in getting the word out about the ceremony, even seeming to run the event page himself. I was surprised that no one from the city of Morgantown appeared to take charge of the event. The mayor did attend and speak, but it was the sculptor who was walking around, wearing a suit in 90+ degree weather, greeting visitors and handing out fliers, as well as answering questions. He definitely deserves a pat on the back for such dedication.
Don Knotts’ daughter, Karen, not only attended and spoke at the unveiling before actually giving a hand in pulling the veil from the statue at the big moment, but gave a fabulous, free lecture at the city’s restored Metropolitan Theater following the unveiling. See my video of the unveiling here.
It was very moving to see how much it seemed to mean to her to have a statue dedicated to her father’s memory by his own townsfolk.
And, like her father, Karen is super funny! We had so much fun watching her slide show and learning the history behind each picture.
My favorite story was the one she told of how her parents met. Both her mother and her father were students at West Virginia University in Morgantown. Her mother had a broken floor lamp that she couldn’t figure out how to get working again, so she told a group of male students, Don among them, that she would go out with the first one who was able to fix the lamp. They all fiddled with it and couldn’t get it to work. When it was Don Knotts’ turn, he put the lampshade on his head and told her to “turn me on”. And that was the end of that.
Karen Knotts is a comedian who travels doing one of several comedy acts. Check her website calendar to see if she will be in your area so you can catch one of her performances. I know I’m looking forward to seeing her again at Mayberry Days in Mt. Airy, NC. She is fun…ny!
After the unveiling, since we didn’t have time to have breakfast before it started, we walked up High Street to a little eatery called Morgan’s High Street Diner.
It’s a typical 1950s style diner with black and white checkers, stainless steel, chrome, and red vinyl, but has a decidedly “Morgantown” vibe, with lots of old pictures of the city and even one of its homegrown hero, Don Knotts.
I particularly liked the “couch burning” section of the lower level photo wall because I find it hilarious that riots break out in the streets of Morgantown after football games, when people get so riled up that they throw their couches into the melee and set fire to them…when the Mountaineers WIN! I wonder what happens when they lose, if they go so nuts over a good thing.
The diner is only open until 3:00 in the afternoon, which is disappointing, but they make up for it, in my opinion, by offering breakfast all day (well, until 3p.m., anyway). The only other problems I have with the place is that I’m pretty sure the hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict is made from a mix, an absolute crime in my mind, and their waffles are SO amazing that I want to eat more and more of them.
AND…the eggs Benedict that comes with the suspect yet tasty, if a little starchy, sauce is served on their SO amazing homemade Belgian waffles, rather than English muffins. It works.
Everything else I’ve sampled, from burgers to biscuits and gravy, is really very good.
And even on a busy day when there had just been an event going on across the street, the coffee just kept coming, and so did the classic ’80s pop tunes over the loudspeakers. The staff is freindly and efficient, and my family, the big Don Knotts fans, loved the fact that they have Mayberry themed foods on the menu, and even had special Don Knotts menu items on the day of the ceremony. That day, one of my sons had the Mayberry Burger and the other had a Don Knotts special banana split.
And on the day of the unveiling, since I’m supposed to be avoiding excess carbs, I had to “Nip…it…in…the bud!”, as Barney Fife was fond of saying, and put my fork down before I ate the whole yummy waffle I couldn’t resist ordering. It was the perfect ending to a most memorable day in downtown Morgantown.