Monday, March 20, 2017

19 March 2017

Spring arrives tomorrow, and not a minute too soon. I am really over this ping pong weather, and I am hoping for a mild Summer with lots of rain for the local farmers. Many of them have been teasing us on Facebook with photos of their seedlings and sprouts, and it will be nice to indulge in the fruits of their labor when the Canton Farmers Market opens next month.

In the interim, the mild weather returned just in time for the weekend, and it was spectacular. Our weekend began with the Annual Historic Preservation Awards Banquet on Friday night at the Northside Cherokee Conference Center. Presented by the Cherokee County Historical Society, the event honors individuals or companies for their outstanding work in preservation. Their efforts are critical in maintaining a unique sense of place in suburban Atlanta. We were honored with an award for One Britt Street several years ago, and many of our neighbors and friends are also past recipients. This year, two of our neighbors were given an award for the restoration of their homes: Mike and Jamie Morgan for their meticulous renovation of the Jones estate on E. Main Street and Joe and Kelli Sellers for their beautiful remodel of the ranch style home on Jeanette Street that formerly belonged to my dear, late friend, Mary Sparks. Both couples deserved this recognition, and we are fortunate to have them as friends
and neighbors.

Saturday was kind of easy going with a variety of small errands and projects around the house. Jeff was busy preparing some seedlings for our small raised garden and sewing some wildflowers for our local bee pollination efforts. On Saturday night, we watched the 2017 Oscar winning film, Moonlight. It was really poignant and beautifully acted. It is now available for download, and I highly recommend it.

Chores continued on Sunday, both at home and at work. Jeff ventured up to Jasper for a while to check out the exterior painting of Mountain City Auto Parts as they continue with their very successful conversion to NAPA. I spent a little time at the office as well, catching up on emails, writing some copy and preparing for the week ahead. With the schizophrenic weather, it was hard to determine what season should inspire tonight's Sunday Supper. It felt too late and warm for a heavy Winter meal, but, at the same time, there isn't really a lot of seasonal produce to utilize. So, I decided to split the difference with a Vietnamese Pho, an Asian version of noodle soup. I used chicken tonight, making it "Pho Ga." You can also use beef or vegetables as well. Typically, pho requires a long process of making bone broth infused with herbs and spices. The end result is a slightly sweet yet aromatic stock as the base of the soup. Jeff's parents bought me an Insta Pot for my birthday back in January, so I used it to really speed up the process. It is basically a turbo crock pot and pressure cooker in one, and it works very well. I was able to make the pho base in under forty five minutes, and it was delicious. For starters, I prepared some pork stuffed fried wontons with homemade Chinese hot mustard. I can't stand the prepared Chinese mustard in packets or jars, and the real deal is so easy to make. I use three tablespoons of Coleman's mustard powder mixed with three tablespoons of water and a slight splash of white vinegar to stabilize the mixture. Just mix it all together, and it will become potent in around fifteen minutes. In addition to Chinese food, the fresh mustard is also good on sandwiches.

For dessert, I found a few recipes for Vietnamese almond cookies, and I did my own version. They were out of this world, and I can't wait to make them again. I will use the same recipe to make homemade Pecan Sandies next time because the texture and flavors are very similar. The cookies are a cross between shortbread and sugar cookies, and the secret ingredient, believe it or not, is LARD! That's right, I did not use any butter, but the cookies had a very buttery and rich flavor. I have rendered my own lard in the past, but I simply used the store bought version for these. They are really very easy to make and well worth
the effort.

So, here's to Spring, fresh starts and global culinary adventures. The world is much smaller than we make it be at times, and food often bridges the cultural gaps when nothing else works.

The Menu:

- Pho Ga – Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

- Pork Stuffed Fried Wontons with Chinese Mustard

- Almond Sandies

The Recipe – Almond Sandies


2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup lard (butter or margarine may be substituted)
1 egg, beaten with extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Raw unsalted almonds


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together into a bowl, then cut in the lard with a pastry cutter or two forks until mixture resembles rough cornmeal. Beat egg and mix in almond extract. Add egg to dry ingredients and mix well. Use your hands to mix until it forms a consistent dough.

Roll dough into one inch balls, and place them two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Place an almond on top of each cookie and press down to slightly flatten.

Bake cookies until the edges are golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Do not over bake, or cookies will be too hard.

Slightly cool cookies on a wire rack, and eat warm or at room temperature.
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