Why I Love Food – Cooking in a World of the Forgotten Table.

Life of Pix

Life of Pix

Most of my blog posts consist of recipes, tips, or restaurant reviews, but every once in a while I like to share a little bit more of my heart.

I love cooking and I love food so much that I spend my days thinking about food. I’m sure many of you are thinking that one day all that enjoyment of food is going to catch up with me. Here’s the thing… Food means so much more to me than it does to some.

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The reason I love food so much might be because of all of the happy memories I have around what I like to call the table. The table to me is a place where you join together as a family, group of friends, or a group of strangers and share life and a meal together. This can be at a restaurant, a home, a park, or on a food tour. The important part of the table is that it’s a sacred place where you’re not rushed, and the goal is to build community and relationship while providing others with one of life’s necessities… food.

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you will understand that most of my recipes give a nod to my parents, a sibling, or my grandmother. My grandmother on my dad’s side is one of the best cooks I know. My mom filled my heart, stomach, and soul with her food. My dad and I connected in so many way as a kid, but some of my greatest memories he and I share are of him making us pancakes on a saturday morning, grilling out on a summer day, or teaching me how to make a lattice apple tart. My family, my world, revolves around the table.

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So many of my biggest accomplishments, and failures were celebrated at the table. If I got all A’s in high school my parents and I would celebrate with a night out at my favorite restaurant. When I didn’t make the cheerleading team in college my mom, dad, and I went out to dinner to celebrate because not making a team only means that there is something better out there that God has planned for me. As kids we celebrated almost every birthday, and holiday around my parent’s table eating our favorite foods, cakes, and snacks because a happy stomach makes for a happy person.

I think the concept of the table is slowly being forgotten, in a literal sense and a physical sense. We eat dinner in our living rooms in front of the TV instead of the kitchen with our families. We are in such a rush to get the kids to soccer, football, and baseball that we skip the table and drive through the fast food line. We are so focused on clean eating, gluten-free, vegan, and no fat diets that we alienate ourselves from our friends out of the desire to have a perfectly sculpted body. We have cut out dinner date nights and replaced them with Netflix nights  that are spent silently with out eyes glued to the TV. The concept of the table is so important for our bodies, but also for our souls.

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Life of Pix

I share my recipes with you because my desire for you is to live a life where you take time out to think about what you’re cooking for yourself, your friends, and your family. That’s why I don’t focus my recipes on calories, fat, or diets because every once in a while… those things shouldn’t matter. Cooking doesn’t come naturally for everyone, I understand that, but what I do understand is that no matter a person’s background, religion, struggles, passions, or schedules, they will take some time out of their day to eat. I share my recipes with you because I want you to share them with others. I want you to take time out to build community with those like you, and invite those who aren’t like you into conversation. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had were over a cup of coffee, sharing a slice of cake, or sitting at my parents table. It’s never really about the food… it’s about opening your heart and yourself to someone else.

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Food impacts every part of my life. I’m a strong believer that I’m so close with my family because of the time we shared with each other around the table. I can probably count on two hands how many times we didn’t have dinner as family when I was a kid. Even though my husband and I have very different work schedules and don’t even see each other every day, my table time with him is extremely important – we make a point to have dinner together, at the table, for every meal we are able to share together. When I get together with friends I’m always sure to have at least coffee and cake around because if the person doesn’t like cake, they most likely will enjoy coffee. I’m convinced that the reason I’m so close with my family, am able to work through things with my husband, and have close relationships with my friends is because the table is what brings us together.

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Take some time out this week to share your table with someone you don’t normally share it with. That could mean inviting your sister over for dessert, meeting a friend for coffee, or sitting down as a family and eating a full meal together (no cell phones, and no distractions). I promise it might be one of the highlights of your week.

I love food… everything about it. But what I love most about food is that it’s served at the table, and the table brings people together. Imagine how different our world would be if we all shared our table just a little bit more.

Southern Style Fried Chicken… Without a Recipe.

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My mom recently celebrated a birthday and us kids wanted to do something special for her. We decided we would cook her a meal… anything she desired… and she requested “soul food.”

If you’ve ever eaten my food, my brothers food, or my sister’s food you would understand what I mean when I say, “we don’t cook soul food.” I can cook a mean batch of Mac and Cheese and my sister can cook a delicious asian inspired dish… but we just don’t do soul food.

My sister and I paired up and really had to think through what our menu was going to be. We knew that if we were going to do this, we were going to go soul food all the way. We decided on a menu that consisted of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, pork chops, sweet potato souffle, and sweet tea. My brother was in charge of the sweet tea, my sister was in charge of the mac’ and cheese and pork chops, and it was my job to provide the greens, sweet potatoes and of course, the fried chicken.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a HUGE southern style fried chicken fan. I love chicken strips, and Chick-fil-A, but bone in deep fried chicken isn’t my all time favorite thing to eat. I also don’t cook fried food very often either — we stick to grilled, sautéed, and baked for most of our meats.

My husband loves fried chicken, and when I say love, I mean LOVE. His mom makes some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had so I’ve shied away from cooking it at our home because I like to leave the chicken frying up to the experts. I knew, that I needed to get over my fear of fried chicken and jump right in.

I’ve made only fried chicken once before in our home and it was for our first meal of the year as a married couple. I took what I learned from that go round and applied it to the fried chicken for my mom’s birthday.

Not to toot my own horn… but my fried chicken turned out pretty darn good If I do say so myself. It’s possible to make good fried chicken, and it’s possible to make it without a recipe.

I cannot stress enough about the caloric repercussions of eating this chicken. It is not healthy at all.  It’s soaked in buttermilk and deep fried in shortening… but it tastes great and it’s a nice treat for the family to have once in a blue moon.

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There are essential ingredients to any southern style fried chicken. They are: Bone in chicken pieces (I prefer thighs and legs), buttermilk, salt, pepper, hot sauce, and flour. I think frying in shortening gives the chicken the crispiest crust, but peanut oil or vegetable oil works as well. DO NOT fry in olive oil.

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In addition to the staple ingredients I like to have the following spices on hand: Cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and Old Bay cajun seasoning.

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Step One: Season your raw chicken. I use salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and Old Bay seasoning. At the least, use salt and pepper.

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Step Two: Create your buttermilk brine. Add hot sauce to the buttermilk (less for less spicy, more for more spicy). In addition to the hot sauce, add a generous amount of the same seasonings you used on the raw chicken being sure to use enough salt… but not too much salt.

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Step Three: Pour your buttermilk over the raw chicken and let sit for AT LEAST one hour or up to six hours.

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Step Four: Create your breading. At the very least create a breading mix of flour, salt, and pepper. I like to add in cornstarch (just for a little extra crispiness) and the same seasonings I used on my raw chicken.

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Step Five: Bread your chicken. The buttermilk will work as a binding agent to bond the breading to the chicken. Let the excess buttermilk drip off the chicken and then dredge the chicken in the flour. Place each piece of breaded chicken on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet. Let the chicken sit for a least 10 minutes before frying so that the breading has a good bond with the chicken. If you run out of breading or it begins to get doughy… just make more breading.

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Step Six: Heat your oil. I used shortening but you can use any high heat oil. Heat your oil to about 375 degrees (medium high heat should be the best setting).  I suggest using a deep dutch oven, fryer, or cast iron skillet. Your frying pan should be deep enough to hold about 2.5 – 3 inches of oil. Keep in mind that you will add chicken to the pan so you don’t want your oil to spill over.

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Step Seven: Fry. Fry your chicken in batches. My fryer holds about 5 pieces of chicken… but to be safe, don’t over fill your pan. Fry your bone-in dark meat for 20 minutes (10 minutes on each side). Fry your bone-in white meat for 15 minutes (7.5 minutes per side). Fry your boneless white meat tenders for 13 minutes (6 – 7 minutes per side).

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Step Eight: Salt, Salt, Salt. Be sure to salt your chicken as soon as it comes out of the fryer.

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Serve warm with mac and cheese and a green vegetable.

ENJOY!

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Restaurant Review: Savory Seafood at Tin Can Fish House & Oyster Bar

Restaurant: Tin Can Fish House & Oyster Bar

Location: 230 Hammond Dr NE, Sandy Springs, GA 30328

Overall Rating: 8.5

Price Range: $$ ($11 – $30)

Website: http://tincanfishhouse.com/

Click HERE to view the Menu


William and I have a standing tradition of having a dining out date night at least once a week. Most weeks that date night is our “Taco Tuesday” which takes place on any night of the week but always at a Mexican restaurant. Every once in a while we switch up our dining out date night and try a new restaurant. Recently we decided to try something new and ended up at Tin Can Fish House & Oyster Bar.

Photo via Urban Spoon

Tin Can Fish House & Oyster bar is located in Sandy Springs, Georgia just outside of the 285 Perimeter (Roswell Road area). We visited on a Thursday night and arrived around 6:00 PM. Upon arrival (to a relatively empty restaurant) we were enthusiastically greeted and quickly seated. Our server arrived just after were were seated and immediately took our beverage order.

After our drinks arrived we ordered raw oysters that arrived within 5 minutes of the order being placed. While we were eating our oysters we put in our entree orders and they arrived just after we finished the appetizer.

It was amazing how quickly the restaurant began to fill up with guests. We noticed that almost everyone who was eating at the restaurant ordered the raw oysters as well. By time we left, the restaurant was very full and it was nice to see the range in demographics of the people eating there.

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The Oysters

My husband and I have been craving oysters on the half shell so we were excited to see them on the menu here. They were delicious, and nicely shucked. They were served with a house cocktail sauce and saltine crackers. A dozen cost $15.00. There are other seasoned options for oysters on the menu if raw isn’t your thing. The oyster sizes were not consistent. It would have been nice if a few of them were a little bigger… but all together, they were just what we were craving.

The Entrees

Fried Oyster Basket: The oysters were fried to perfection and seasoned just right. They were not oily and the batter is so different than anything I’ve had before. Just thinking about these oysters is making me hungry. The basket came with two sides and cost $11.00.

Fried Crawfish Tail Po’ Boy: One word… Amazing. I’ve had crawfish tail po’ boys before but they have never tasted like this one. The crawfish was cooked perfectly (there’s nothing worse than over fried crawfish tails). The bread for the sandwich was fresh and soft. There was a great sauce on the sandwich that was a spicy but not overly spicy. The po’ boy came with two sides and costs $11.00.

The Sides

Jalapeño Slaw: I’m not a slaw person, but this slaw was rather tasty. The jalapeños were not overpowering but gave the side a nice flavor.

Hush Puppies: I love hush puppies and these did not disappoint. 6 were served with the entree.

Fried Okra: If you’re a southerner you know all about fried okra. The okra was great. It cooked perfectly — nice and crunchy!

Cheese Grits: Nothing special but tasted good.

The Sauces

House Tartar Sauce: I’ll be honest with you. I don’t like tartar sauce. The standard mayonnaise and pickle combination usually isn’t my thing. Tin Can Fish House & Oyster Bar has changed my mind on tartar sauce. Their house made sauce was great and I would encourage anyone (even the non tartar sauce people) to give it a try.

House Cocktail Sauce: The house cocktail sauce was served with our oysters. It was good. Nothing particularly special about it.

RATINGS

ATMOSPHERE: 7.5  – The atmosphere for the restaurant was inviting. There were quite a few TVs (playing sports) and the music was was inviting and at a good sound level for holding a conversation.  Because the restaurant is located in a strip mall so the view is of a large parking lot. It’s not super “hip” but it is inviting.atmosphere

Taste: 9 – The food was really delicious and the portions were perfect. Our food was served quickly and at the right temperature. service

Service: 9 – Great service. Our server was knowledgeable about the menu, offered suggestions when needed, and had a great personality. service

Overall: 8.5. We really enjoyed the restaurant and are excited to have found another affordable and tasty restaurant in the metro Atlanta area. We can’t wait to go back and try some other items on the menu.taste