September 26, 2013

Fall Fun: Simple Ways to Enjoy Apples

Apples are one of my favorite things about fall. They really are nature's perfect fruit. I'm stopping by for a visit with Knoxville's Mornings with Fox43 today for a segment about apples.

Not only are they bountiful at stores, farm stands and farmers market right now, but today is also the anniversary of the birth of Johnny Appleseed.

Who else grew up listening to the classic Disney recording? This was a highlight of any visit to my grandparents' house during childhood.

We've all heard the old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" and today I want to share some easy ways to enjoy the yummy apples that are available this fall.

Hillbilly Apple Dumplings

The first thing I want to share is a recipe I like to call Hillbilly Apple Dumplings. It's about as delicious as it is simple. I've seen several variations of the recipe, but I simplified it down where you can use 1:1 ratios for all ingredients. 

You'll need: 
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple
  • 1 can of refrigerated crescent rolls (8 oz)
  • 1 stick of butter (or less)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 can of Mountain Dew 
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
Wash, core and slice apple into 8 pieces. Wrap one triangle of crescent roll dough around each slice. Arrange these in a 9x13 baking dish. Melt butter in a saucepan and add sugar and vanilla. Stir until lumpy (sugar does not need to dissolve). Pour the mixture over the crescent-wrapped apples in the pan. Pour Mountain Dew over the crescent-wrapped apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

Simple Caramel Apple Cider 

This recipe can hardly be called a recipe at all since it's just mixing store-bought ingredients. But come this time of year, I'm so tempted to pull through Starbucks for a Caramel Apple Spice drink. While it's fun to do that from time to time, it can get expensive so I'm sharing this idea to remind myself how easy it is to make this delicious drink at home. 

Begin with organic apple juice. Well, actually you should begin with store-bought caramel sauce. Spoon a little of it into a glass mug. Then, heat the apple juice on the stove top with a sprinkling of cinnamon. When it's warm, pour it over the caramel into the glass. Stir and enjoy. Now wasn't that easy and so much cheaper than a fancy purchased drink? 

Apple Tips and Products 

One of the best tips I've received for keeping apples from turning brown is to soak them in some type of soda water with citric acid. You can use lemon or lime juice, but sometimes if the apples are tart to begin with this only makes them more so. 

Any type of clear carbonated drink (think Sprite or Ginger Ale) would work, but you can go with a sugar-free seltzer water if you like. 
I also ran across this interesting sparkling drink that is flavored like Apple Cinnamon. It has citric acid so I guess it would work too. 

For cutting apples (especially if you cut large quantities), I recommend this tool. I got mine from Pampered Chef, but you can find these just about anywhere kitchen utensils are sold. It might seem sort of gimmicky, but it sure does allow you to save time. 

Another apple product I really enjoy is Sarabeth's Chunky Apple spread. It's the perfect level of sweetness and goes great on biscuits or toast.

Do you have an apple product or recipe you swear by? I hope you'll share it! And if you make my Hillbilly Dumplings, I dare you to eat just one. Happy Fall y'all! 

September 18, 2013

Spend the Night at Daylight

Of all the spots I love in Knoxville, I think the Daylight Building is near the top of the list. When I worked downtown, I got to pass by it every day. I'd stop in at Just Ripe for a vegan breakfast burrito. I'd wave to the folks at John Black Photography. On my lunch break (back to Just Ripe), I might pop into Reruns Boutique for a quick fashion fix or some gab time with my dear friend Bri. On the way home, I'd often drop into Union Avenue Books for some browsing.

The Daylight Building houses a wonderful collection of locally-owned Knoxville shops and I truly miss being in the area now that I work from home.

However, tomorrow I get to visit all my friends for a new event in a series called Daylight Nights. The Daylight Merchants are shutting down the street (Union Ave.) to celebrate the block and you're invited too!

I hope you'll join me and lots of friends on Union Avenue from 5-8 p.m. for shopping, food and fun. Food trucks such as Hoof Knoxville, Tootsie Truck, Good Golly Tamale, and Bull's BBQ will be in attendance. Learn more here, and become a fan of the Daylight Building on Facebook! The Daylight Building has been a Knoxville landmark for many years and I hope this event is just the first in what will hopefully be a longstanding tradition of Daylight Nights to come!

September 16, 2013

Greatness is:

my grandma, age 15 (?)

"Some day you'll learn that greatness is only the seizing of opportunity - clutching with your bare hands 'til the knuckles show white." 

-- National Velvet 

September 12, 2013

Must-Have Items for a Southern Kitchen

A southern kitchen is a special place, mainly because of the culinary magic that happens there. I recently asked Southern Belle Simple readers to share (via Facebook) what they consider to be the number one must-have for a southern kitchen. Can we just say I was blown away by the response?

So many of you commented with a variety of creative answers that it inspired me to feature this topic in my regular segment with Knoxville's Mornings with Fox43 Powered by 10 News.

I combed through the reader responses and pulled out the most popular. Then I added a couple of my own for today's segment.

Without further ado, here are the top 5 must-have items that belong in a southern kitchen...

1. Well-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware

This was probably the most popular response on Facebook and I have to agree with all of you. Cast iron cookware is a must have for any southern kitchen and any southern cook. My favorite piece of cast iron cookware is my grill pan because it's perfect for giving veggies those perfect grill marks right on the stove top or in the oven...all without firing up the grill. Don't commit the cardinal sin of cast iron...NO washing with soap!

2. Deviled Egg Plate

Anyone who has ever tried to take deviled eggs to a party or picnic without a deviled egg plate knows the importance of this kitchen item. Every southern cook knows that deviled eggs are an important addition to certain meals and you can't have deviled eggs without a proper plate.

3. Biscuit Cutter (and a Trusted Biscuit Recipe)

Every southern kitchen needs a biscuit cutter as well as a go-to biscuit recipe. I grew up watching my granny cut biscuits with a hollowed-out tomato paste can, but these modern fancy biscuit cutters work great too! Just don't ever twist your cutter as you lift it out of the dough...unless you want flat biscuits.

4. Iced Tea Pitcher

Iced tea is the house wine of the south. I can't remember a time when there wasn't a pitcher of in my grandmother's refrigerator. And when it got to running low, there was always a pot of boiling water on the stove starting another fresh brewed batch.

Just knowing I have iced tea in the house does wonders for my mood! It's the simple things that make a big difference.

5. A Stash of Community Cookbooks 

Community cookbooks should be in every southern cook's arsenal. I collect vintage Junior League Cookbooks, but old church cookbooks are great too. I love buying them second hand, especially when they come with the previous owner's margin notes. It's like holding a little piece of history knowing that another cook used a book before passing it on to you. 

This list is nowhere near complete...some of the other answers I got on Facebook included things like a KitchenAid mixer, food choppers, cutting boards, sharp knives and a slow cooker. A few of you even got cute with your answers by adding things like "a man who can cook." 

What other items do you think belong in a well-stocked southern kitchen? I'd love to hear what might be missing from our list! 

September 3, 2013

Please Wait.

The other day I was logging into my online banking when two little words flashed across the screen. Please wait... They were actually followed by an ellipsis (a.k.a. the over-used dot-dot-dot). As I stared at those words "Please wait..." I felt myself getting more and more frustrated as the page took longer and longer to load.

My frustration in this situation was not a high point for me, nor am I proud of it. However, I do think it served as an important reminder to me that patience is not a virtue I have in abundance.

I could say that this is a character flaw of mine. Or I could blame a society that tells me faster is better. Or I could blame my spotty Internet connection or the fact that my bank is known to have online issues.

Instead of laying blame (since it's probably a combination of all those things), I got to thinking about why waiting seems so hard. I believe waiting is a challenge because we think something better is on the other side of it, thus making our current situation seem less than in some way. In fact, the dictionary actually says that use of the three dot ellipses is meant to show an incomplete statement, specifically when used online it means "there is more to come."

We're so conditioned to think the 'more' that is coming will be better than what's in front of us now. Or maybe it's just me. Thus, we (I) have trouble finding true contentment in the waiting because it doesn't seem good enough.

I've blogged in the past about how I have trouble living in the moment...I'm constantly finding myself looking ahead, pining for the what's next instead of savoring the right now.

I had a great exercise in patience this past weekend when the contractors coming to install my new carpet were more than 6 hours late. I'm not proud to say I got frustrated. Looking back, I realize my frustration didn't help the situation. In the end, everything got worked out and the delay didn't have any lasting negative effects. In the meantime, I actually got to spend some quality time with my parents and southern beau, a highlight of which included my dad's iPhone trying to decipher my mom's southern dialect. Isn't that usually the case? The little gems we would have normally missed present themselves when we can stop pushing so hard to go forward and just be in the present.

I don't have as much patience as I'd like, but I'm getting there.

Are you what others might call a patient person? I'd love to know your secret!