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Archive for the category “Cooking”

Tiny House – February Update + 30-in-30 Part 2

Here is where we are at the start of the eighth month.porch beams 02-2018

The front porch posts and beams have been installed.  We used Western Red Cedar and stained it a natural color.  The triangle above the porch, (gable end), will be finished out with handmade cedar shakes that we are waiting on from the Amish shake-maker to tie it all together.  We wanted something special for the metal t-brackets that connect the posts to the beams, so I trusted my best friend Google to help me find just the thing.  t-bar 2018

We decided it would be nice to try to tie in the location to the design theme.  Our property is located on what is called Chestnut Ridge, so I sketched a couple of chestnut leaves and sent it to Cutting Edge Metals.  They forged these pretty awesome t-brackets (and square head screws) to “beautify” our structure support system for the front porch.  And like everything else we seem to lift into the air, they are hefty – about 20 pounds each… and that 20 foot beam going across the top is also one solid piece of lumber, weighing in at around 100+ pounds.


porch roof joists 02-2018

The weather is still refusing to cooperate more days than not right now, so we have been working inside the workshop on painting chores – like the roof joists for the porch – 2 coats of primer – 2 coats of paint – 6 edges – it keeps a girl busy for a few days.  Hubby routed out a special trim edge on the bottom sides to make the painting more interesting (time-consuming) for me.

raised beds 02-2018Hub doesn’t seem to mind the weather as much as I do, so he has been keeping busy building some new raised planting beds for the spring.  They are conveniently located right between the house and the workshop.  I cannot wait to get some watermelons, peppers, herbs and more started in these beauties!

Standing guard over the fruits of our labor will be a bluebird family we hope finds its way to their new home that hub crafted and installed.  Note that no bluebird house is complete without a little engraving…


Another cold and rainy day project he completed with our oldest grand-daughter.

As for me, I joined the second 30 paintings in 30 days online challenge sponsored by artist Leslie Saeta.   The last one in September, I chose to paint rural Tennessee churches.  This time around, the subject matter is barns.  Here are a few of the completions so far.



You can see all of the churches and follow along on the barns on my Instagram page.


Pig Candy… aka Bacon Peanut Brittle

Pig Candy

Pig Candy

Being a personal chef and a member of the United States Personal Chef Association comes with its priviledges.  One of them is the access to many, many wonderful (and sometimes quite unique) recipes.  I stumbled across this recipe last week and just couldn’t resist making it for my husband – a HUGE bacon and brittle fan – who knew he could have both together???

Not being known for my great success at baking, except for cheesecakes, I was a little hesitant to try something as delicate as peanut brittle, but it really came together quite easy.  The main trick is having all of your ingredients measured out and ready to go because once the syrup/sugar mixture starts to boil, things go down in a flash!

Pig Candy aka Bacon Peanut Brittle

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon pure ground ancho chili*, or to taste
Pinch of ground Cayenne pepper
1 cup whole salted, roasted peanuts
2 cups cooked, crumbled Applewood bacon, fully rendered and drained well
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda

Butter a baking sheet with about ½ tablespoon of the butter and set aside.

Place sugar and corn syrup in a large, heavy 4 or 5 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stir the sugar and corn syrup until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbly and is pale golden brown. Add the ground chile and cayenne and cook for 2-3 minutes longer or until the sugar mixture has reached the hard-crack stage, about 300ºF if you are using a candy thermometer.

Take off the heat and working very quickly, stir in the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of butter and then beat in the baking soda. Add the peanuts and bacon and mix well. Immediately pour onto the prepared baking sheet—it should even itself out, but if it doesn’t, smooth with a spatula and let cool.

Break the brittle into pieces by giving the entire tray a sharp slap on the kitchen counter. If it is made right, that’s all it will take! Store Brittle in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Makes about 1 lb

Recipe Tip*:
The ground ancho chile peppers make a big difference in this recipe so don’t leave them out. If you can’t find them ground in your local store, buy whole dried ancho chiles; they are available every where—I’ve even seen them at convenience stores! I actually prefer grinding them myself and never buy the chile already ground.

Here’s what you do: tear the chile in half and discard the seeds and stem and anything that is hard. The chiles should have a leathery texture, not a brittle one. Put the pieces of chile in a spice grinder, a.k.a. coffee grinder, and process until you have a tablespoon of “ground” ancho chile. Make sure you taste before you put in the brittle. The heat factor varies from chile to chile. Ancho chiles should taste a little fruity with a light heat. Store any extra in a jar with a tight fitting lid for up to 3 months.

Recipe Courtesy of Elizabeth Karmel

Cooking from a CSA

We joined a local CSA (community supported agriculture) group this summer for fresh produce every other week from late May to late August.  Last week was our first delivery and we had a basket full of kale, sweet potatoes, green onions, strawberries and broccoli.  What a treat – it was all so healthy looking and completely free of preservatives, pestisides and the other gunk that you find at the grocery store.   We are receiving food from Delvin Farms.

So the goal was to use this fresh produce AND to cook healthy (remember the 10 pound merry-go-round).  Since there was an abundance of kale, I needed to deal with it promptly, so I found two quick recipes that would be short on ingredients, big on flavors, low in calories and quick to the table.  These are from, one of my favorite recipe websites.  Both are around 100 calories per serving and I already had everything in my pantry/frig.

Kale and Ginger Stir Fry

2 servings, serve warm or cold

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 1/2 pound kale, coarsely chopped (may also use bok choy or spinach)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  1. In a medium skillet, cook the ginger roon in oil, over medium heat, stirring often for 1 minute
  2. Add the kale and raise heat to medium high
  3. Add the soy sauce and water, and stir-fry until the kale is wilted but still slightly crunchy, about 3 minutes
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds


Feta Cheese, Kale & Red Onions

serves 4

  • 1 pound kale, washed and stems discarded
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  2. Put in the kale and cook 2 minutes, drain immediately and rinse under cold water
  3. Coarsely chop the kale
  4. In the same pan, heat the oil over medium heat and cook teh garlic and onions for about 4 minutes, stirring often
  5. Add coarsely chopped kale, salt, pepper, half of the feta and the broth
  6. Stir and heat thru
  7. Crumble remaining feta on top just before serving

Give one or both a try – they are quick easy and very, very healthy!

As for the 10 pound merry-go-round… I managed to workout 5 of the last 7 days for 1 hour each day, split between resistence training and cardio on the treadmill (did you know they have tv’s built right into the treadmills now???).  I watched what I ate, but could do better on that front.  It’s hard when I have a cookday and have to sample all of those yummy dishes that my personal chef service, Barber’s Home Bistro, is preparing for my client.  Increasing my water intake will be the focus this week.

The first of the 4 C’s

Shrimp Ceviche
Shrimp Ceviche

Cooking – As I mentioned in my “about me,” I am a personal chef in Nashville, so obviously cooking is one of my passions, and I am lucky enough to be able to pursue that passion as a career (oops – I’ll cover the career “c” in a future post.  I became passionate about cooking 18-or so years ago when I was a Jazzercise instructor (hint, another one of my careers), and was lucky enough to be a part of a monthly “supper club” where several instructors would get together with a theme dinner and each one bring their own contribution to the dinner.  It was AWESOME FOOD!  I had no idea how easy it was to create great food – nor did I know food could be so great!  P.S.  It’s also where I discovered a “c”ocktail passion, martini’s… (note to any local Nashville folks – if you want to check out one of the best Jazzercise instructors in the US, go to her website and attend a class – schedule and info here…  Ahhh, an ice cold martini is the perfect start to a wonderful evening at home with great food to follow.

On another note, I’ve recently been helping a fellow USPCA chef, Mark Tafoya of ReMARKable Palate in New York test recipes for his first cookbook being created by his Culinary Media Network company entitled, The Gilded Fork: Entertaining at Home, A Year of Dinner Parties.  From what I’ve seen, it will be an awesome addition to any cook’s kitchen.  The shrimp ceviche photo above is one of the recipes I tested for Chef Mark.  There are more photos on my website, or you can follow Mark’s cookbook journey at his website,

There is so much about food to explore and keep a chef of any caliber busy.  Aside from my journey to the Personal Chef career over many years, I’ve spent the last two years experimenting with recipes for the crockpot – it has transitioned over to a side service for my clients known as Crockpot Wednesday!  April’s recipes run the gammet from Baked Beans to Mixed Berry Cobbler, ( I figure you can never go wrong by starting dinner with dessert).   

Over the last few weeks, in addition to recipe testing, I’ve been able to attend lectures on two different special diets.  At our February USPCA Chapter meeting we had two members from the local Celiac support group ( who gave our chefs tips and tricks for cooking for people with Celiac disease who require a gluten-free diet.  Last weekend I was in a class at the Ki of Life Learning center in Franklin (  and learned about the guidelines for following a Macrobiotic diet.  

On the whole, there are lots of topics I plan to explore here in my “C”ooking venue – come back for recipes, photos, cookbook and restaurant reviews, and more!

Next time… “C”abins…

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