Much like how my family and friends expect belated birthday cards, I’m expressing my Thanksgiving wishes five days late.
Throughout November the internet was inundated with Thanksgiving count downs, hoards of traditional recipe posts and countless new side dishes to add to the table. Articles about gravy, turkeys, pies, and an All-Pie Thanksgiving Fantasy overflowed my RSS reader like water in a clogged-up sink.
So, I took a ten day blogging break during, quite possibly, the biggest foodie holiday of the year.
I went home to Kansas City for a whole week and ate copious amounts of sweets. For our Thanksgiving meal I was responsible for making a banana cream pie and squash casserole, both disappeared faster than $1.88 towels at Wal*Mart on Black Friday. (I used Paula Dean’s easy squash casserole recipe.)
One night I wrote a post on Flip Burger, but my mom’s computer battery died taking the post and my motivation down with it.
Thoughts of writing a Thanksgiving list crossed my mind, but I couldn’t think of a fresh angle besides posting what I’m thankful for, last minute holiday tips or people who we don’t thank enough. Frankly, I read so many of those lists that I didn’t want to add to the pool.
Nevertheless, I hope everyone was well fed and had a wonderful Thanksgiving, even that TSA agent who confiscated my Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter who probably just wanted it for himself.
The way I see it, everyone should get exactly what they want on their birthday.
Well, within reason of course. No tie-dyed ponies or 16-year-olds getting a 2012 Range Rover, that would just be ludicrous.
My excitement for birthdays is no secret. This past year I managed to rack up a list of ten posts dedicated to my thirtieth birthday. For nearly two years I’ve had a work tradition of bringing my friends baked goods. Past items have included the likes of Chocolate Layer Cake with Devil’s Food Icing and Strawberry Cake..
Another birthday popped up this week, and this particular friend has an extreme love for sausage. He turned down my initial proposition of oatmeal raisin cookies but I knew what he really wanted, a Southern staple called – the sausage ball.
I feel the same way about sausage balls as I do George Clooney…lukewarm, take ‘em or leave ‘em. Most traditional sausage ball recipes include Bisquick, are dangerously dry and I could easily pass them up.
Rising to a self-imposed challenge, I set out to create a savory breakfast treat superior to the average sausage ball. And although I’m still not convinced these are better than say, a chocolate chip cookie, the birthday boy was happy.
Savory Sausage Cheese Muffins
Note: This recipe made 22 muffins. I would advise simply using a non-stick spray on the muffin tin because they tended to stick to the paper wrapper.
1 lb. sausage (I used Jimmy Dean Original)
3 c. all-purpose white flour
3 t. granulated sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. garlic salt
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (1/2 c. reserved for the tops)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. milk (I used 2%)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and coat a muffin tin with non-stick spray.
In a large non-stick skillet, brown the sausage and break up the meat into small pieces. Set the sausage aside and let cool to room temperature.
In a mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and garlic salt. In a separate smaller bowl beat the eggs until combined with the milk and oil. Slowly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and gently add one cup of the cheddar cheese.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and sprinkle tops with remaining 1/2 c. of cheddar cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes. They are done baking when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool and then transfer to a wire rack.
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As mentioned, I took a trip to Birmingham a couple of weekends ago.
A fellow foodie friend (who I met through this blog) and I took a couple days to explore the city and of course, hit a few restaurants. Coincidentally, in addition to our mutual passion for all things culinary, we also love the outdoors. To balance the best of both worlds, we visited Vulcan Park and Oak Mountain State Park between meals.
Vulcan Park is home to the largest cast iron statue in the world. Vulcan has a long and sordid history which includes ancient gods, Greek mythology and the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. I learned this when I got home from the park website because we passed on paying to enter the museum.
When I was there, the most noticeable characteristic was his buns of steel. There wasn’t much of a trail, only a small loop, so we moved on to Oak Mountain.
Autumn in Birmingham is beautiful and Oak Mountain State Park displayed it’s glory. The leaves were an array of warm, glowing colors, there aren’t many mosquitoes and the landscape actually varies in elevation. We hiked to the Peavine Falls and then did a white/blue trail loop, about two to three miles total.
Although we do like the Homochitto National Forest, I’m looking for a free weekend to go back with my husband as soon as possible. There are over 50 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, a long list of available activities and primitive camp sites.
Forget the Vulcan, we can work on our own buns of steel.
Time to pull out my handy dandy checklist because no camping trip is complete without smores!
How I feel about Shipp’s Harbour Grill is similar to The Time Traveler’s Wife movie, both had great potential but fell flat in execution. Let me explain.
Way back when in October we took a brief trip to Orange Beach, AL and had the chance to eat at Shipp’s Harbour Grill.
Having never heard of Shipp’s Harbour Grill, I turned to Urbanspoon for more information and grew uneasy from a couple reviews. A disgruntled bride and the owner have each posted counter claims, airing their grievances in regards to an event at the restaurant. It’s a modern day internet spar. Taking such instances with a grain of salt, we headed off to dinner on a Friday night.
For our large party we had a small room reserved off of the main dining areas, where tables had been pushed together to form a gigantic square. I felt like we were at a medieval council because there was enough room in the middle to place a roasted pig. Fittingly, the menus were as cumbersome in size as our seating arrangement, big enough for a giant.
We placed our drinks orders and waited. I believe only one waiter was assigned for our group of nine and he also had other tables. Needless to say, we enjoyed a lengthy meal.
To start we split a handful of appetizers and my husband and I selected the Jumbo Crab Cake. The crab cake was nicely seasoned and had a ample portion of crab meat. The peach chutney on the side was a bit too sweet and went mostly untouched.
Eventually we received bread, cinnamon honey butter and our salads. The warm bread did wonders for our impatience and the house tomato feta salad dressing was a welcome change from comeback or a plain vinaigrette, it was light and flavorful. Then our entrees began to trickle in, one or two at a time.
I chose the Gulf Coast Grouper which came accompanied by smoked Gouda mashed potatoes and haricot verts, lovingly garnished with a small, bright orchid. A massive piece of grouper was breaded, sauteed and blanketed with crab meat. I don’t say this too often but the fish could have benefitted from more Tasso Burre Blanc sauce. The dish was lukewarm, needed salt and the mashed potatoes lacked any flavor, never mind the smoked Gouda. Our entrees were delivered sporadically and some must have been sitting for awhile, evident by the soggy fish crust.
Reluctant to order dessert, we caved and split a Drunk Brownie between the table. Again, you really can’t go wrong with a homemade brownie topped with pecans, caramel, chocolate sauce and ice cream, unless it was drenched with Kaluha in one concentrated area. The alcohol was so strong I couldn’t eat it, but imagine the possibilities if the brownies were baked with Kaluha (like these) or the Kaluha had been incorporate into the chocolate sauce.
Similar to Shipp’s Harbour Grill, The Time Traveler’s Wife had the basics for a solid win. Eric Bana, Amy Adams, an unconventional love story surpassing an unique obstacle, and did I mention Eric Bana? It’s really too bad because after a few adjustments a mediocre meal could have been great, much like The Time Traveler’s Wife movie.
To no fault of his own, our waiter was running around doing the best he could but we sat for a very long time between each course. The entrees probably would have been fantastic if served hot and properly seasoned. Maybe it was an off night, or they were slammed, or hoard of their staff called in sick, but this was my experience.
Otherwise the seafood was fresh, the generous portions were fairly priced and they will cook your own catch if you bring it in. I’d advise trying to dine there on a slower week day. Oh, and read The Time Traveler’s Wife but skip the movie.
Shipp’s Harbour Grill
27842 Canal Road
Orange Beach, AL
The food is finer than football in Oxford.
During the first year I moved down to the South, my husband and I traveled to Oxford once to compete in the Rebel Man sprint triathlon. We managed to cross the finish line and eat out at a couple places, but time was limited and our focus wasn’t on food.
Since then, the University of Mississippi mascot has changed from Colonel Reb to a black bear and the football program has grown rockier than Lindsay Lohan’s career.
We virtually have no reason to wander that direction, but I found myself back up there this past September for a mixed doubles state tennis tournament. Although my primary purpose was tennis, I managed to squeeze in a few good meals.
Between two days, I ate an undocumented but nice dinner at Boure and lunch at Ajax Diner twice. Sadly I missed the team brunch at Big Bad Breakfast and left before hitting City Grocery, Snackbar, Taylor Grocery or Ravine. Five reasons to go back.
For our initial team meal before the matches started, we met up at Ajax Diner on the square. Once you walk into Ajax, it’s every man for themselves because they have open seating. We scrambled to piece together tables for our party of thirteen in a jam packed dining room.
Ajax features salads, sandwiches and po’boys, but I’d say their main specialty is plate lunches. They feature soul food and Southern staples such as red beans and rice with andouille sausage, pot roast, fried catfish and meatloaf. And throughout these two years in the South I’ve never been tempted to order a vegetable plate, until I saw their menu. They have twenty items under the Veggie category, even if that does include cheese grits.
I decided on the Chicken and Dumplings plate lunch, selecting turnip greens and upgrading to macaroni and cheese for the two side items. I wished there were more discernible pieces of chicken, but like most versions the meat was integrated into the gravy. The macaroni and cheese was creamy and the greens had a smokey touch. The portions are generous and a large square of jalapeno cornbread came perched on the plate, well worth the $11.
On the second day, we played hard and finished our final matches at a strange time, leaving us hungry and tired mid-afternoon. I tried to go to City Grocery (closed, and too sweaty for the dining room) and Bottletree Bakery (rented out for a private party) but ran out of luck. Then I found myself back at Ajax.
They were still doing a brisk business at off hours which only speaks well of their food. Feeling dejected from our losses I went with the Chicken Fried Steak plate lunch, ultimate comfort food worth the extra calories.
Next to a large chicken fried steak I got mashed potatoes, cucumber and tomato salad, more turnip greens and a homemade lemonade. I was extra worn out but everything on the second go around tasted extra delicious. The tangy cucumber salad and fresh, sweet lemonade cut the richness of the brown gravy drowned potatoes and meat. In fact, I tried not to eat the entire piece but couldn’t stop myself from cleaning my plate. This meal almost made up for our disappointing loss on the tennis courts.
If comfort food isn’t your dish, then there are plenty of other options to choose from. I would really have loved to try the Hot Tamale Pie at dinner.
Oxford is a small college town home to Ole Miss football, William Faulkner and some great Southern eats.
118 Courthouse Square
Oxford, MS 38655