Sandi is blogging from the WhistleStop Cafe kitchen. It's all about good home cooking; food, family and fun. Thousands of posts . . .

~In the south and around the world.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

The tradition of dropping the big ball in New York City is 100 years old this year. Actually the ball is new this year. It is made by Waterford and lit with new energy efficient LED bright lights. Being in NYC with all the crowd waiting for the ball to drop, has never been on my to-do list.

Where ever you are, have fun and be safe. This isn't the ball you'll see in New York City, or the peach that will drop in Atlanta, or some of these other weird things that will drop at midnight...
Any idea where this one is?
Happy New Year Y'all!
One of my Slow Travel friends guessed... this is the Diana Memorial at Kensington Palace.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


If you will remember in January of 2007 I made some Promises for the New Year. They weren't really resolutions, but kind of a 'to do' list. I have managed to mark most of them off my list.
* to paint my toenails pink
* learn to like sushi
* sing amazing grace
* make a snow angel
* use whitening toothpaste
* drive a smart car
* throw away things that are out of date
* drink more red wine and eat dark chocolate

It was an aggressive list... and I did my best. That smart car has been a challenge, and it may have to carry over.

Now I have to think on my list for next year... I have some ideas!

Do y'all have your list ready?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Are you out of date?

When was the last time you checked your spices? If you are at all like me... during the holidays I do more baking than I do any other time of the year.

I hope you didn't find the things that I did...

Baking powder that expired in April 1993

McCormick spices says that any spices, other than black pepper, in the rectangular tin are out of date. Like these?
I am not sure, but Durkee mustard for 41 cents is probably older than my frying pan.
When you're in the food product business there are a lot of these bags tucked away... Mystery spice blend!

Maybe it's time to start fresh?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Y'all

I hope Santa had you on the nice list!

Merry Christmas Y'all!
Sandi & Bill

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas in the Kitchen

Around the world Paula Dean is probably the best known southern cook, thanks to the Food Network and little good timing. Well, I am here to tell you that in every small town there is a woman who is known for her great cooking- maybe not a famous as Paula Dean- but every bit as talented. I don't think I would even get much of an argument from the lady from Savannah.

We had quite a treat over the weekend. We had a cooking lesson from our very own Mrs. Margaret Brown. Over the years she has perfected the art of making peanut brittle. Lucky friends in Auburn cherish their gift of thin, crispy peanut brittle year after year.

I have her permission to reveal her secrets to my closest friends...

Start with raw spanish nuts, with the skins on. Use fresh baking soda, not the one that has been in the fridge absorbing odors. A good candy thermometer is a must! She uses a heavy duty cookie sheet, set on a moistened dish towel.

Follow the instructions, and it will be perfect every time.

Peanut Brittle
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 cups spanish peanuts
2 tsp baking soda
Spread butter and pam spray on a heavy duty cookie sheet. Set the cookie sheet on a wet towel to keep it from slipping. In a heavy pot, add sugar, syrup and water. Stir until it begins to bubble, scrapping the sugar toward the middle of the pan. When it is bubbly add peanuts. Continue to stir using a heat resistant spatula. Cook until it reaches 290° with a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes. Turn the heat down. Continue to stir away from the sides. Add baking soda. The mixture will foam up. Continue to stir until the color is light brown. Pour down the center of the pan.
Using rounded cake knives begin to spread from edges. Pull the candy until it is very thin. This makes the perfect thin crunchy peanut brittle.
Let cool,then box it up to share.
If you need to make more than one batch, and you probably will, take the time to do each batch separately. Don't try to double this recipe.
Y'all thank Ms Margaret for this one!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ready for Christmas?

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...
The packages are wrapped and waiting for Christmas morning.
We have just spent a few days in Auburn with family. We just spread Christmas out for the whole week! I am so glad that everyone was able to get 'home' for the holidays~ even for a day or two.
We had cooking lessons from Miss Margaret~ our own Paula Dean. I'll post that tomorrow... Peanut Brittle! It was too much fun, and now I know all the secrets.

Our house is ready for the drummer boy and sugar plum fairy to come for a visit. They should be home on Christmas eve. I'd better make another batch of peanut brittle, cookies are in the freezer. There will be plenty of treats to go around.
Don't you just LOVE the holidays?
Merry Christmas y'all!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Novel Event

I found the perfect novel for this winter's edition of Novel Event. The idea with this event is to be challenged to 'culinary inspiration' by a literary work. Lisa at Champaign Taste first introduced me to this last fall when I posted with inspiration from Fried Green Tomatoes At The WhistleStop Cafe.
Since it is Christmas, I decided to find some inspiration in another Fannie Flagg novel. 'A Redbird Christmas' This is a sweet and inspiring story of faith and hope. As with many of Fannie's novels it is set in a small town in Alabama, along the lazy winding river, where mail is delivered by boat and Christmas is magical. Dottie Niven is the postmistress and a member of the mystic order of the polka dots. This is a group of southern women who do good deeds within their community. In addition to spotting a good man for marrying, they spend their days helping wandering children and a special redbird.

No Christmas party in the south would be complete without a pecan pie. Fannie Flagg knows this well and uses it in spinning her story. Dottie is known for her highballs, and her bourbon pie.

Dottie Niven's Kentucky Bourbon Pie
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans
1 unbaked pie shell
Pre-heat oven to 325°
Combine first three ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool slightly. Beat eggs, bourbon, vanilla and salt in a large bowl; gradually add sugar mixture. Beating well with a wire whisk. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans; pour into pastry shell. Bake for 50-55 minutes until set. Serve warm or chilled.

Christmas is a time of magic, wishes coming true, goodness of a neighbor or a stranger. The small southern town in 'A Redbird Christmas' is like most small towns. All around us there are holiday get togethers with a pecan pie and some eggnog- leaded and unleaded.

Merry Christmas y'all

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wrap It Up

I have always enjoyed wrapping gifts at Christmas time. My first job many, many years ago was working in the gift wrap department at JC Penney. That was the best... endless supplies right at your fingertips.

Now I am a little more creative. I cut strips of netting for my bows. They make great big fluffy ties. Then instead of using tags, I write names right on the package. For the little one's this year I painted some big letters in black. MaryJoan can use her letters later in her room.
Brooke will find something to do with her big letter 'B' as well.
Not only is it easy, but they look pretty under the tree!

Bill is more of a gift bag kind of guy. I haven't seen any under the tree with my name on them yet... ~=D
Everyone wraps in a different way. So y'all show me how you wrap your gifts~ I bet there are some creative ideas out there.
Check out PalmaBella's Christmas cans. There is nothing she can't do!
Merry Christmas y'all!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Centerpiece of the Month- December

I am posting my centerpiece of the month for December.

This guy has been in the family for years. He just makes me smile!

Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

I have received several entries for December. I will post them at the end of the month. You still have some time to email yours.

I need to get busy wrapping gifts!
How 'bout y'all?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ginger and Brad

This is the story of Ginger&Brad from Alabama.

Brad thinks Ginger is the sweetest cookie in town.
He gave her a big diamond ring for Christmas
and promised to love her forever.

Ginger grew up in the country in a very nice doublewide. Her parents had good taste.

Brad wanted more for his batter half. He decided to build her a mansion.

He was not rolling in dough, but scraped up enough by working day and night at the cafe.
It wasn't long before he cooked up a plan for a sweet little place in the mountains,
far far away from the hungry customers.

They lived happily ever after in their Ginger-Brad house.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

We recently stayed in Roswell, Ga with some dear friends. Gail and John host Gail's Great Escapes in Tuscany every year.
I'll spill more on that after the holidays...
We all shared a pinch of a cookie from the Fickle Pickle. They have a gingerbread cookie that had me dying for more. Since we are a long way from Roswell, I got out my apron and started adding a pinch of dis and a pinch of dat.

It may not be the real thing~ but I'll bet my Georgia lotto ticket you will love these

Double Chocolate Ginger Cookies

1 box gingerbread mix
1 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup diced ginger
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
1 Tbs flour

Pre-heat oven to 375°

Combine mix with melted butter and water. Add cocoa powder and stir until well combined. Add diced ginger. Combine flour and chocolate chunks and stir until blended. Using a small ice cream scoop place rounded scoops of cookie dough about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-9 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Y'all enjoy!


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Paying Up

I need to do a bit of a round up~ to tie up loose ends.
First we have the winner of our Centerpiece of the Month. I promised a little sumpin' sumpin', and y'all voted for Kim at scrap-to-my-lu. Don't you just love that blog name? (why didn't I think of it first?) She had a timely centerpiece with pumpkins and berries for Thanksgiving.

I also need to pay it forward. I'm am putting a little something in the mail for Holley at Windy Corner and Kristen is dishing at Dine and Dish. They will in turn 'pay it forward' to their friends. I heard on the news today about a pay it forward at Starbucks, where each car was paying for the latte in the car behind them. That is the Christmas spirit! Just imagine what a difference we could make in this world if everyone would pay it forward.

So to everyone I am sending a pack of note cards. They are a collection of photos from our travels... I guess you could call it a whistlestop tour! They make fun cards for thank-you's or invites. Be thinking about your centerpiece for December. What's on your table today?
Y'all send it in!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Cookies

I have posted our traditional Butter Cookie recipe before, the one we use every year for our iced cookies. This year I decided to try something different. I added a little cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg to turn them into holiday cookies. Just the littlest bit of spice does add something special.

Holiday Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
2 2/3 cup all purpose baking flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pre-heat oven to 350°
Cream butter and sugar, add beaten egg and vanilla, mix until smooth. Combine dry ingredients and add slowly to butter mixture. Mix with a spoon until well blended, chill dough until ready to use. Roll dough out into a floured surface till about 1/4 inch thick and cut with an assortment of cookie cutters. Bake for 8-11 minutes, careful not to over bake. Cool before icing.

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp milk
2 tsp karo syrup
Combine all ingredients, mixing until smooth. Add more sugar or more milk in small amouts to get the right consistency. Add drops of food coloring. This icing dries stiff and shiny.

Top each cooled cookie with a dollop of icing, spread to all the edges. Decorate with sprinkles.

This is a holiday tradition every year. I don't think there is anything more important than making cookies with your kids ~ fun too! Here our kids are grown, but they will be home in a week or two looking for some yummy cookies.Y'all think there will be any left?


The measure of a life~

If the measure of a pet's life is how much happiness they brought.
This was one mighty big dog!
This is Lily... Bill's 'step-dog'. He was her daddy while Connie was in Germany, after that they shared joint custody.

Lily~ you will be missed.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pay it Forward

Recently, GiGi announced that she was going to be a part of 'Pay it Forward'. Here, a blogger sends a homemade gift to 3 bloggers who want to join in. I knew that being a part of GiGi's homemade gift exchange would be a fun idea. Look what I was lucky enough to find on my door step. A homemade coffee cake~ GiGi style! Cardamon Spiced Crumb Cake. She had it packed tighter than a drum, and it made it all the way from California. I am just glad the Fed Ex man didn't know what he was delivering...
Or he may have eaten it along the way.

Cardomon-Spiced Crumb Cake
Crumb Topping
2 cups pecans
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cardamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 & 2/3 cups flour
3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 sticks butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350°
To make the crumb topping, spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes until browned. Cool, then chop the nuts. In a medium bowl, combine butter with sugars, cardamon, and salt. Add the flour and stir until clumpy, stir in pecans.
To make the cake, whisk the flour with sugar, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, butter and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients an stir until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing the surface. scatter the crumbs in large clumps over the cake. The crumb layer will be quite deep.
Bake for about 55 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and firm and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. If the crumbs brown before the cake is done, cover loosely with foil.
To eat sprinkle with a dusting of powdered sugar.

I am saving it for breakfast with the friends this weekend~ it will be perfect with a cup of coffee. Thank you GiGi!
Now it is my turn to 'Pay it Forward'.
“I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this Paying It Forward exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, which is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

Anyone who wants to be a part and pass on some Holiday cheer~ let's 'Pay it Forward'. After all isn't giving what this season is all about?

Merry Christmas y'all,

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tis the season~

Tis the season~
We are all in the gift giving mode and I wanted to let you know about this special Christmas Art Event. Wyanne is a wonderful multimedia artist and is having a special Blogging event on December 7th. Pop over and see what she has!

I will also mention that we have some great cookbooks and aprons~ shameless self promotion! We can get them off in time for the holidays. They make a perfect christmas gift. Visit our country store A Pinch of Dis and A Pinch of Dat for some gift ideas for that hard to find gift.
I'll even autograph my cookbook for blogging friends. Our kitchen is always full of friends and good food. The kitchen tree is decorated with candy canes and cookie cutters. It makes baking easier when everything is right at your fingertips.

While I had a great time shopping with my Blogging Babes, I am struggling with gift ideas again this year. I am thinking Bill and I should just swap credit cards for a day.
What do y'all think?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Centerpiece of the Month~ November

The round-up for centerpieces this month seems to have a theme going. Since Janelle started the Centerpiece of the Month, a year ago, we have seen quite a collection. For some reason this November, most of the centerpieces have something in common.

My entry was a simple bunch of gerber daisies in a vase of asparagus.
Joan sent in a picture of this centerpiece. The vase has golf balls in the bottom, can you see? She said that she has also seen it with eggs in the bottom~ which would have fit in with our theme.

Kim at Scrap-To-My-Lu sent in one of my favorites. She was decorated up for 'the food slinging'~ check out her site for lots of fun ideas! Her centerpiece was full of pumpkins and berries.
Jade at My Apples & Oranges always has the most wonderful photos. Her blog is a delight to look at. Here she has sent in a fabulous centerpiece of berries, offset with a pretty pumpkin. Perfect for a Thanksgiving table.
Meeta at What's For Lunch Honey has the ultimate post on centerpieces. She always takes the time to include detailed directions~ for those of us who are centerpiece challenged. This is a bouquet of apples.
Can you see the theme here? Everyone included something that is not your traditional flower centerpiece. They have included fruits and veggies that can make a beautiful longer lasting arrangement.
These pictures were so great that this month I've decided to add a prize to the winner of the month. Y'all leave a comment on who you think is most deserving and I will send off a little sumpin-sumpin.

Don't forget to send me a link for December~ what's on your table? I know there are some great holiday centerpieces out there.
All y'all vote for a winner!
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