So, I’ve really dived deep into the KonMari effect. I’ve changed the way I fold. I’ve thrown away more shoe boxes than is reasonable to have found in my closet. I’ve donated 5 large bags worth of clothing, and I haven’t even touched what is hanging in my closet. I’m working through the kitchen now and finding so much space. It’s amazing what gets pushed back in the pantry. Plus, those baskets are key to organizing that mess. I’ve found that keeping things together in families helps me see what I’m looking for rather than hunting for it.

I mentioned last week that I was working on my T-shirts. I was able to purge down all of my dresser drawers to where I have 3 empty at the moment. THREE! I can’t wait to keep going and see what I’ll get rid of. My house already feels like its lost 30 pounds of nonsense.

 

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What do I remember most about Christmas morning at Nannie and PawPaw’s? (Other than the flocked, white tree?) I remember my grandfather, TJ Guido, carefully making up a punch bowl filled with homemade Egg Nog. He spent time whipping the cream by hand and making sure to get the recipe just right. Of course, it was the adult version of egg nog, so I never indulged. Now, I’m still not a fan, but Paul Guido sure is. Here is the recipe they went by year after year.

Egg Nog

1 carton whipping cream

12 eggs, separated

2 cups sugar

1 pint whiskey (or rum)

1/2 gallon sweet milk

Nutmeg

Beat cream. Blend yolks and sugar. Add to cream. Add the milk. Fold in egg whites. Add whiskey. Sprinkle nutmeg on each cup to taste. Can put in punch bowl and will not separate.

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There aren’t many dishes that Dad talks about from growing up, but one that stands out are the stuffed artichokes his grandmother, Bena Guido, would make for an appetizer at Christmas Eve. A few years ago, I tried a recipe I found on pinterest. It was an all day affair to make these things; and while they were good, they weren’t Bena’s. However, I started digging through Nannie’s recipe box and (Voila!) I found a recipe for Stuffed Artichokes. I’m hoping that this is Bena’s famous recipe because I’ll be whipping it up at some point to test it out. (Fingers crossed.)

Stuffed Artichokes

4 medium artichokes

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

1/2 cup parsley, shopped

2 ounces ham or pepperoni

1 medium clove garlic

2 teaspoons fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Trim artichoke leaves and take fuzzy choke from bottom. Brush ends of the leaves with lemon juice. In processor, blend cheese with bread crumbs, parsley, meat, garlic, and oregano until the meat is finely minced. Stir in olive oil. Sprinkle artichokes with salt, open the leaves slightly, and stuff with 2 tablespoons of the mixture in each leaf. Sprinkle with remaining mixture. Put in shallow dish so they fit snuggly. Cover bottom of dish with water. Cover with foil leaving opening for vent. Cook on high 12 to 16 minutes turning every 4 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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This recipe is one that my Nannie, Doris Guido, made for every Thanksgiving and Christmas I can remember. When she realized just how much I liked it, it would show up throughout the year, too. I loved it. It was the crunch of the water chestnuts and Ritz crackers, the creaminess of that cheese, and all those veggies that I absolutely adore! Now, Doris loved onion. It was present in everything, but it’s perfect here. Add this to your Turkey Day spread. Trust me.

Zucchini and Squash Casserole

2 cups zucchini and squash, cooked and drained

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Medium onion, chopped

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

10 Ritz crackers, crushed

1 can sliced water chestnuts

Cook and drain the squash and zucchini, pressing out all the water. Saute onion in it. Mix together veggies with mayo, eggs, salt, and pepper. Add water chestnuts. Pour in greased 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Top with cheesed crushed crackers. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

It’s no secret that I like Christmas. As soon as Hallmark starts running that marathon countdown and XM changes over to the jolliest of tunes, I’m instantly in the holiday spirit. Don’t misunderstand, though. I love all of fall. I love pumpkin spice like every other basic out there. I love seeing the leaves change and crisp fall days make their way into our lives. I love Halloween and dressing my Beagles into costumes that they absolutely hate. I even make room for Thanksgiving because, really, what’s better than a day solely devoted to eating, watching a Christmas parade, and then napping all afternoon? Plus, both my sister and I celebrate our birthdays in November, so we have an appreciation for the fall.

But what’s wrong with decking the halls early? What’s wrong with spreading a little Christmas cheer? I’ve already planned, ordered, and started addressing my Christmas cards. I’ve got 4 of my 6 trees up and decorated. Is there a Christmas wreath on my door? No. Do I have pumpkins on my porch? Yes. Have I already pulled out my Christmas PJs? Hell, yes. It’s cold outside. So, do us all a favor. Don’t judge those that decorate during the month of November and sing Fa-la-la-la-la under their breath at a moment’s notice. We’re just jolly, ok? It could be worse.

Remember that Supper Club event I talked about a couple of weeks ago? I thought I’d share a couple shots from that amazing night on the bluff.

Anyone need plans for Sunday afternoon? Country Roads is hosting our 35th Anniversary shindig at The Myrtles in St. Francisville, and the tickets are flying. What better way to bring in the upcoming holiday season than with a little cheer, merriment, and an adventure close to home?

This weekend is the be-all and end-all for weekends to come to Natchez, be out and about in Natchez, and strongly consider becoming a Natchezian in your spare time. With the hot air balloons already floating around to excite the locals, we’ve got our fingers crossed for a weekend of calm and cool weather. So, come see us.

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But, we would also like to see you stay for dinner on Sunday night. Country Roads will play host after a long weekend for us locals and set out of spread that showcases the best views, tours, and dining in town in the second event of the Fall Supper Club Series. How do you become a member of the club? All you need is your golden ticket that can be purchase right here. Want to know what’s on the menu? Read a scrumptious overview here.

There are only a few tickets left, so hurry and grab yours now.

 

It’s an exciting foodie-themed weekend here in Natchez — Natchez Food & Wine Festival kicks off tonight with “Tastings Along the River”. I’m excited to get the Country Roads team in town this afternoon and start the festivities of a scrumptious weekend of taste testing and dinners.

In the meantime, I’m also planning a special party for Sunday night. My Jackie O turns 6 on Sunday, and we will be celebrating with a pancake feast! A couple of weeks ago, I used Joanna Gaines’ recipe for pancakes from her cookbook, Magnolia Table, for waffles. Let me tell you, it’s the best recipe I’ve used yet. Sometimes other recipes come out of my waffle iron flat and sometimes chewy. These were tall and fluffy. You almost didn’t need syrup — almost, though. Scatter some blueberries over the batter before closing the iron, and Voila! you have blueberry waffles to die for.

The Best-Ever Fluffy Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup (plus 2 tablespoons) vegetable oil

2 large eggs

Butter and syrup, for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and eggs. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir together until well combined. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. The batter will begin to get fluffy. (This is an important step.) Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat until hot. Generously oil the skillet. Carefully pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake into the pan, far enough apart that they won’t touch. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom and the top is bubbly, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until lightly browned on the other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with the rest of the batter, adding oil to the skillet as needed. Serve hot.

(I would double this because the batter is thick and you’re going to want to stuff yourself with these.)

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So, I’ve got a new fascination — stove top popped corn. I know. This is how it was done before that thing called the microwave was invented; but for us “millennials”, microwave-style popcorn is about the only way to go unless you go to the movie theater, hardware store, or bank regularly for a bag of the real stuff.

It’s pretty fantastic since you get to control your butter and salt topping (or any topping for that matter). You are able to control the serving size to a degree. I still am working on what serving size works for me. Last time, I made too much; however, it does hold up well in a Ziplock in the pantry.

The kind I ordered is Mississippi grown and made, too. When I was visiting in the Delta, my friend Allie had a bag of “Crop to Pop” on the counter; and I was intrigued but didn’t think about it again. Then, my sister comes home from Mississippi Wholesale Market with the card for this “Crop to Pop” business. She said it was good, so I gave it an order. Give it a try if you like crunchy, sweet popcorn that you can feel good about popping on the stove. The directions are easy, but be sure to constantly shake the Dutch oven with the lid ON. Otherwise, you’ll be finding popcorn all over the kitchen for days. Those things fly everywhere!

Yes. You read that correctly. I’m going through a bit of a ghost phase right now. As you know, I’ve taken to the podcast world full steam ahead and have been looking for some type of paranormal (slash) creepy ghosts (slash) true haunting story. However, the only ones I was finding were kind of cheesy; and after a few minutes, I would find myself changing the “channel.”

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However, a few weeks ago, I found one that was pretty amazing. It’s called Family Ghosts, and it tells a different story each week about a story that haunts a particular family, including two stories that haunt the host. I was hooked and quickly devoured it. Thankfully, Season 2 will be out this fall.

While ghosts are in the title, it’s not really filled with ghost stories. It’s more of things that plague you or gnaw at you from your past. Give it a listen if you like deep dark secrets with a side of gossip.

Another key point in my ghost phase took place last weekend here in Natchez. With the help of the Mississippi Paranormal Society, we at the Natchez Garden Club were able to host a paranormal tour and ghost hunting evening at Magnolia Hall. If you are familiar with Magnolia Hall’s history, you know that the home’s builder, Thomas Henderson, died in his bedroom on the first floor and still haunts it today. What I didn’t know is that more than just Mr. Henderson haunt this mansion’s halls. We met several children figures Friday night who seems to be in rather playful moods. They were playing with the light devices we had in the rooms, coming through the speakers we were using, and telling us about themselves in little broken phrases and words. I will say that I was thoroughly creeped out in the beginning; and by the time I left, I was ready to plan my next ghost adventure.

 

If you missed out on our first hunting experience, we’ve got a plan to have the team down again in the next few months. So, follow Natchez Garden Club on Facebook to keep an eye out for that event.