Well, the last couple of weeks have been filled with travel for me. My oldest friend, Connie, celebrated her 50th birthday recently in Rehoboth Beach, Maryland with a group of girlfriends. I flew up on March 4 to Washington so I could put together my gift to Connie- preparing a Southern dinner for Connie and her girlfriends. On the special occasions of my loved one’s life, I always cook because for me on those occasions I want to gift from my heart and cooking for me is all about sharing one’s heart.
So on Friday morning, I headed to the local Whole Foods. I had some food ideas in mind but always leave the recipe box open to what might be available. I had planned a menu with Goat Cheese stuffed chicken breasts with Red Pepper Jelly. I had called ahead on this one to make sure Connie had a jar of jelly from Serenbe. The red pepper jelly we sell at the Inn is my favorite one to use for this recipe (my #1 requested chicken dish at the Farmhouse.) Knowing White Lily flour wasn’t sold that far north, I had taken a ziploc bag of flour with me along with a bag of JennyJack grits (the ones we use at the Inn and Farmhouse) as I wanted her northern friends to have some of the taste of the south.
I had hoped for collards but none were to be found so I bought kale to be sauteed with caramelized onions. And parsnips with mint – I had read a recipe the day before from the new Lee brother’s cook book, Simple Fresh Southern, and wanted to give that a try. Then big surprise, there were Spring Vidalia onions! One of my very favorite southern spring veggies. I love to just simply roast them with olive oil and salt and pepper. The spring Vidalias are in markets now and look like large scallions. They are the early shoot off the the vidalia onion bulb that sells later in the year. Absolutely delicious.
So with all our bags and groceries, the ladies packed up the various cars and we made the 3 hour drive to Rehoboth from Bethesda.One of Connie’s friends had been gracious to lend her beach house for the weekend. As we unpacked, you’d have thought we were staying for a week with all the food that kept coming in the kitchen – 2 coffee cakes (Connie’s favorite), more cakes, fruit, wine, snacks, etc.
Friday night we ate out at a local favorite for fish and chips and then karaoke, which I had never been to before. That was an experience!! Saturday was a time for walks and coffee in town. The afternoon activity was a spa day- always a ladies favorite. Then back to the kitchen.
I started the onions caramelizing for the kale. I always get those going as I have written about before as they take at least an hour if not longer. And, I had brought one of Connie’s cast iron skillets from her house- the best way to cook them. Everyone joined in to help prep- peeling parsnips, tearing off kale, searing and stuffing chicken breasts, making Farmhouse biscuits, stirring the grits.
Several of the ladies had never had kale. I always love to introduce a new vegetable to people especially one that is so delicious and nutritious- one of the most nutritious you can eat. And combined with caramelized onions, it is one of my all time favorite vegetables. All the cooking was finished and we gathered round the stove to fill our plates with some new dishes for everyone to perhaps prepare at home.
It was great fun to spend time in the kitchen with all the ladies and bring a bit of the south to Connie’s birthday celebration.