southern living food awards: pork and candy

bacon's heir pork clouds are a new, lighter way to enjoy a pork rind snack | www.gritsandchopsticks.com

Note: I was provided with free samples of Bacon’s Heir Pork Clouds and Shotwell’s Sea Salt Caramels in order to write this post, but I was not otherwise paid or compensated.

Last month, Southern Living announced their first-ever food awards, and I was lucky enough to get to sample two of this year’s winners: Bacon’s Heir Pork Clouds and Shotwell Candy Co.’s original salted caramels. Pork Clouds won the distinction of being one of the “Best Snacks,” while Shotwell’s took top honors in the “Best Sweets” category.

Of course, in a perfect world, I would’ve tried all 24 winners and 22 runners-up that were recognized by Southern Living. In a perfect world, I would have spent a healthy amount of time with my eyes half-closed, dreamily working through slow, methodical bites of each and every one of these delectable artisanal creations handmade throughout the Southeast. In a perfect world, I would be a professional snack taster, brought only the finest bite-sized pieces every day to eat to my heart’s content. But alas,  this is not a perfect world, so I got to try two of the winners. I’m not complaining, of course. If the other winning foods are anything nearly as unique and tasty as Pork Clouds and Shotwell’s original salted caramels, then there are 46 fine Southern foods out there that you kind of need to get your hands on immediately.

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easy refrigerator pickles

EASY-REFRIGERATOR-PICKLES

One of my favorite books as a kid was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I am a total geek about books, and I loved learning about the heroine, Francie, and her life in the greater context of living in impoverished Brooklyn during the early 1900s. One of my favorite passages has to do with how her mother creatively made do with the very limited food they could afford. At one point, Francie talks about how when she just couldn’t stomach the stale bread concoctions her mother cooked up, she’d save up her money and buy a giant sour pickle. Somehow, eating that pickle made food taste good again for her.

I kind of have the opposite problem. All food tastes good to me pretty much all the time, and I’m not malnourished on stale bread casserole. Nevertheless, I still need a good sour pickle every now and again to set me right. There’s something about the pucker and the crunch a good, solid pickle that makes for an intensely satisfying snack when nothing else seems right. I’ve also searched off and on for a few years to try to find the perfect pickle recipe. I haven’t been terribly successful, but I have to admit that I haven’t been exactly systematic about my search, either. I usually Google a few choice words and then settle on one of the first hits I get. Sigh. Pickle searching can be so exhausting.

Today I’m happy to announce that, for now at least, I’ve found a solid contender for great refrigerator pickles. This recipe by Ted Allen (host of “Chopped,” and formerly of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” fame)  produces tart, crunchy pickles, brimming with gently spicy flavor. They’re seriously addictive.

 

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recipe: grilled kofta with mint aioli

grilled-kofta

Kofta can be a little intimidating if you’ve never had it. In its simplest form, kofta is just a meatball, yet it seems like a frequently forgotten meat dish, pushed aside for more glamorous Mediterranean proteins such as kebabs or gyros. Today I’m going to show you how these little balls of meaty delight are very easy to make, especially on the grill. Grilled koftas have chin-dribbling juiciness and high impact flavor, since you can add all sorts of spices to punch up the meat.

I made grilled kofta out of lamb and beef a couple of weeks ago and quickly discovered that they can serve as a foundation of an easy weeknight meal with pita, salad, and lots of fresh garnishes. Although we’re no longer in food-avoidance/hate-eating mode in our house (due to Whole30; for a full list of the recipes that I made and our experiences, see here), the hubby and I have decided to adopt a cleaner, leaner way feeding our family at home. We still eat like kings when we’re out with friends or entertaining at home, though. “Bring me all the meats and cheeses in the land!” I’ll shout at anyone and everyone.

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certified angus beef: meat meet

angus certified beef

I am officially a Certified Angus Beef fangirl.

Posting has been light for the past week because we were in Charleston, and then the wonderful folks at Certified Angus Beef hosted me in Wooster and Cleveland, Ohio so that I could learn more about their high standards for beef, chefs, and their great steak. I met some amazing people and ate a lot of tender, melt-in-your-mouth steaks. I still haven’t fully recovered from the incredible hospitality they showed me.

I also discovered that I really, really enjoy cutting into a side of beef. It’s weirdly relaxing, therapeutic and exhilarating all at the same time. After the jump, I’m sharing some of my favorite images from the trip. I’m still working on a more detailed story, but I was too excited about everything I saw to keep these to myself.

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