My Home Quarantine Reading List

During the Covid-19 Stuck at Home order, I have spent a lot of time cooking, baking, and gardening. (Thank God for spring).We haven’t been able to see our children or grandchildren for a month. 😒 Although I am a sports fan, I’m not into watching reruns of sporting events I have already seen. I also love to listen to music and ride my bike. While I have always read, I’ve recently had to time to increase my reading, too!

First of all, I’m going to share a list of my favorite authors:

  • Pat Conroy – the late Pat Conroy was a true poet with words. Author of such classics as The Water is Wide, Prince of Tides and The Great Santini among others.
  • Michael Connelly – a crime fiction novelist and creator of characters such as Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller. Check out his Bosch tv series on Amazon Prime. The new season starts Friday.
  • Greg Iles – a great southern author out of Mississippi, his descriptions of the South and its culture is spot on. I wish he would publish new books more often.
  • Stuart Woods – he published a classic novel, Chiefs back in 1983. He lately has become a kind of a book producing factory similar to James Patterson, and like Patterson’s, in my opinion, the quality of their later novels have deteriorated. I do, however, still enjoy his Stone Barrington novels as some fun escapism.
  • Harlen Coben – a mystery novelist, he is a master with plot twists. I am currently reading his latest, The Boy from the Woods.
  • James Patterson – see my above comments about him. The only series I still read by him is his Alex Cross series because I have been reading them so long I feel as I know all the characters.
  • John Grisham – Another good Southern author, although I think the quality of his newer novels are not in the same class as some of his earlier titles such as The Firm, A Time to Kill, and The Pelican Brief.
  • Linda Castillo – I have always been fascinated by Amish life and I enjoy her series featuring Kate Burkholder, who left the Amish life, but returned to her Amish village as the chief of police.
Current Reads….

Since my blog is mainly a food blog, I will start with a few food related books.

Do you like love stories? Check out Jim Gaffigan’s book, Food – A Love Story. This hilarious humorist and acclaimed lover of food talks about his love of delicacies such as bacon, gravy, BBQ, steak, donuts, pizza, French fries, and and greasy burgers and hot dogs and about his distaste for terrible foods such as salads, vegetables and fruits.

Cookbook

I love this bread cookbook by Peter Reinhardt. He is a baking instructor and faculty member at Johnson Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina his cookbook Crust and Crumb was the 2002 James Beard cookbook of the year, and his recipe for San Francisco Sourdough bread, while quite complicated, is my go to sourdough recipe. I made a few loaves last week.

Sourdough Bread I made using Peter Reinhart’s San Francisco Sourdough Bread recipe.

Fiction:

Cemetery Road by Greg Iles. A fantastic southern crime story. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I wish he would publish more books. I hate waiting, but the quality of the writing is worth the wait! Here is a description of the book from the publisher…. The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Natchez Burning trilogy returns with an electrifying tale of friendship, betrayal, and shattering secrets that threaten to destroy a small Mississippi town.

And a quick review from The Washington Post“An ambitious stand-alone thriller that is both an absorbing crime story and an in-depth exploration of grief, betrayal and corruption… Iles’s latest calls to mind the late, great Southern novelist Pat Conroy. Like Conroy, Iles writes with passion, intensity and absolute commitment.”Washington Post

Dear Edward by Ann Neapolitan – a story of a twelve year old boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed all the other passengers including the rest of his whole family. Angie Kim of The New York Times called it “a haunting novel that’s a masterful study in suspense, grief and survival” and Stephanie Larratt of The Today Show wrote “its a book about shared humanity, new beginnings and finding hope through even the most trying experience” personally, I thought it was a little depressing but had some good insights into the mind of the twelve year old protagonist.

The Boy from the Woods – Harlen Coben. My current read, I am about halfway through and I am enjoying it. Here is the publisher’s description.

A man with a mysterious past must find a missing teenage girl in this shocking thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Run Away.

Thirty years ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. Now an adult, he still doesn’t know where he comes from, and another child has gone missing.

No one seems to take Naomi Pine’s disappearance seriously, not even her father-with one exception. Hester Crimstein, a television criminal attorney, knows through her grandson that Naomi was relentlessly bullied at school. Hester asks Wilde-with whom she shares a tragic connection-to use his unique skills to help find Naomi.

Wilde can’t ignore an outcast in trouble, but in order to find Naomi he must venture back into the community where he has never fit in, a place where the powerful are protected even when they harbor secrets that could destroy the lives of millions . . . secrets that Wilde must uncover before it’s too late.

Next on my reading list….

Camino Winds by John Grisham. Due out on April 28th, 2020. Here is a brief description from the publisher’s website…

When Hurricane Leo threatens Florida’s Camino Island, the Governor is quick to issue an evacuation order. Most residents flee but a small group of diehards decide to ride it out. Amongst them is Bruce Cable, proprietor of Bay Books in downtown Santa Rosa. 

The hurricane is devastating: homes and condos are levelled, hotels and storefronts ruined, streets flooded, and a dozen people are killed. One of the victims is Nelson Kerr, a friend of Bruce’s who wrote timely political thrillers. But evidence suggests that the storm wasn’t the cause of Nelson’s death – he had received several mysterious blows to the head.

Who would want Nelson dead? The local police are overwhelmed with the aftermath of the storm and in no condition to handle the case. Bruce begins to wonder if the shady characters in Nelson’s novels were more fact than fiction. And somewhere on Nelson’s computer is the manuscript of his new novel – could the key to the case be right there, in black and white? Bruce starts to look into it and what he finds between the lines is more shocking than any of Nelson’s plot twists – and far more dangerous.

Hit List by Stuart Woods. The 53rd book in the Stone Barrington series, (I read the other 52). He is a former cop turned P.I. turned lawyer turned millionaire.I like the escapism and the familiar characters in this series. Stone’s favorite things are beautiful women, Knob Creek bourbon, airplanes, fine wine, yachts, and vodka gimlets (in that order). I must say that the earlier books in the series were better. I’m hoping for the best with this newest one.

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly. Due out on May 26, 2020. Connelly is a former police reporter for The Los Angeles Times and a fantastic crime novelist. This will be his third book in his Jack McEvoy series, following The Poet and The Scarecrow. I’m looking forward to this one.

Outsider by Linda Castillo. Due out on July 7th, 2020. The 12th book in the Kate Burkholder series. This one is supposed to be an electrifying thriller about a woman on the run hiding among the Amish.

Happy Reading and stay safe!

Looking for something to listen to while doing some quarantine reading? In honor of Al Green’s 74th birthday yesterday, enjoy his 1975 greatest hits album featuring all of his classics songs.
Also, a quarantine song suggestion by my sister Cathy, how about The Bee Gees 1977 disco classic “Stayin Alive”

Also, Happy Birthday today to another sister, Debbi!

Television Review: The Food That Built America

This three part series currently airing on The History Channel is must see TV for all foodies!

The current food industry is a five billion dollar a day enterprise, accounting for one fifth of the United States economy, and supplies one out of four American jobs.

This is a tale of several early visionary’s and pioneers of the food industry and their fascinating stories. 150 years ago, none of these products even existed. Without giving too much away, here are some examples:

  • Milton Hershey – Hershey’s now sells over 250 million bars per year, but he built his factory and town to house his workers before he even perfected his recipe for his chocolate bar. After perfecting his recipe for a chocolate bar, he became very successful, and one of his biggest customers was a man named…
  • Frank Mars – the founder of Mars Company. He, along with his son, Forrest Mars, invented the Milky Way bar and bought the chocolate for the coating from the Hershey Company. Hershey’s did not realize at the time that they were suppling chocolate to what would eventually become one of its biggest competitors. His son,
  • Forrest Mars – had a bitter split with his father and he started his own food business, Food Products Manufacturing. In partnership with a former assistant to Milton Hershey, they invented the Mars bar and M & M’s, the latter which became a phenomenal success. After the death of his father, he merged his company with his fathers, Mars. Inc.
  • Henry Heinz – There are 650 million bottles of his ketchup sold per year, but he went bankrupt before he tried again and perfected his product.
  • John Pemberton – He was an opium addict that was trying to perfect a tonic made from coca leaves and cola nuts that might wean him off of opium. That tonic would eventually become Coca Cola, which currently accounts for 1.9 billion servings per day. Due to his ongoing illness, he sold his formula for next to nothing to…
  • Asa Chandler – He took the product to the next level with mass distribution and is considered the founder of Coke.
  • Dick and Mac McDonald – The brothers that founded the first McDonalds restaurant and came up with the assembly line model of fast food service used by many fast foods restaurants today. They eventually sold the franchise for next to nothing to a milkshake mixer salesman named…
  • Ray Kroc – He was so impressed with the McDonalds brothers operation, that he envisioned the restaurants being world wide. He eventually raised enough money to buy them out, and he is credited with taking them to the next level.
  • John H. Kellogg – a brilliant physician, he over saw a health club / sanitarium in Battle Creek Michigan and was looking for a way to serve a healthier breakfast to his patients. He came up with and idea to make a dough from wheat, oats and corn and bake it, dry it and smash it into pieces. This became a very early version of breakfast cereal.
  • Will K. Kellogg – John Kellogg’s younger brother that was not as educated as his brother and considered somewhat dim-witted by many, quit his job as a broom salesman and joined his brother at the sanitarium as a helper and accountant. One day while making the dough, someone left the cereal dough out overnight but not wanting to waste it, the brothers rolled it out and the result was corn flakes. Will wanted to mass produce the cereals, but his brother John did not, and was willing to show all patients the process. One such patient,
  • C.W. Post – saw the process and left the sanitarium as a patient and copied the process to start his own company, Post Cereals, which later became General Foods. He sold a cereal that was very successful, Grape – Nuts. This infuriated Will Kellogg, and he split with his brother to start the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which later became the Kellogg Company, and the rest is history. Meanwhile, after becoming very successful, years later, despondent over his ongoing stomach illness, he took his own life with a gunshot wound and left his fortune to his young, enterprising 27 year old daughter that grew up in the business. The name of this young lady was….
  • Marjorie Merriweather Post – she took the reigns of the company and ran with it. She was ahead of her time for that era, becoming the head of a company as a young woman, but she was very successful and became a very wealthy socialite. She built a mansion in Palm Beach Florida and named it Mar-a-lago. This is currently home to our now President Donald Trump. She had heard about a young man that was working on frozen food processes and was interested to learn more about it. The young man’s name was ….
  • Clarence Birdseye – while working in Canada for the U.S. Agricultural Department, he learned from an intuit how to ice fish under very thick ice in minus 40 degree temperatures and discovered that when it was thawed a few days later, it tasted fresh and he became fascinated with creating a fast frozen process. He began fast freezing fish and started his own company. Not having the financial means to continue experimenting, he sold his company to the Post Company and signed on as president.
  • Harland Sanders – as a filling station operator, he was selling fried chicken to travelers along the highway and became frustrated at how long it took to fry his chicken because the travelers were not willing to wait along time. He came up with a process using a modified pressure cooker, and came up with a seasoned flour with secret herbs and spices. Having some success, he eventually opened his own restaurant in Corbin, Ky. Business started of well, but at that time, the interstate highway system was building interstates, which killed a lot of businesses, including his, when the main highways started seeing a lot less traffic. He then had to close what would be the only restaurant he ever owned. He went on the road and started selling his process and formula and franchising to other restaurants and gas stations. He sold his company in 1964 at 72 years old, and signed on to remain on as the company spokesman.

While I have provided a lot of information here, I have not really even scratched the surface of the information that this series provides. The characters are played by actors and the scenes are very well done. In this day and age of “fluff” T.V. Such as “The Bacherlorette” it is very refreshing to see that there is still some quality, informative programming on the air! This gets a definite “Two thumbs up” from me!

Product Review : Copper Chef Grill and Bake Mats

I love grilling on my Lodge cast iron Hibachi Grill, but I have to constantly clean the grates so when I saw these on television I thought that these grill mats would be worth a try….

I am a big fan of our Copper Chef fry pans and I love “striping” steaks, chops , chicken and burgers on my cast iron grill like these pork chops below….

The striping gives them an eye appealing look and taste so when I saw on TV that these Copper Chef grill mats stripe right through the mat, I thought it was a no brainer to try.

Cost – $9.99 for two mats – a 15.75″ x 13″ and a 13.25″ x 9.25″

The box comes with two mats and you can trim them with scissors to make smaller mats if needed.

After seeing the beautiful striped filet mignon picture on the box, I thought I would try to duplicate that look with a filet mignon of my own…

I started off by seasoning the steak with a seasoning blend that I make for steaks and pork chops.

  • 1 part sea salt
  • 1/2 part coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/4 part granulated garlic
  • 1/4 part granulated onion

I seasoned the steak and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling.

When the charcoal coals got white and ready, I set the mat on the grill to heat up. Then I put the steak on it, grilling the sides first….

It had a nice sizzle to it. I let it set for about 5 minutes to get those nice stripes on it…

However, when I turned it over, it looked like this…

It looked and smelled great, but no stripes, so I pulled it off of the mat to stripe it on the grate anyway…

I cooked it to 140 degrees and pulled it of and let it rest for 10 minutes.

The steak was delicious but the mat did not provide the stripes like I had seen on TV.

Am I glad I bought the mats? Yes. Although the mat didn’t stripe the steak (and I was doubtful that it would), the mat worked great. It will also be great for veggies and skewers because nothing will fall through. It is also a better alternative than a cast iron skillet in the kitchen due to the smoke and splatter it causes.

Overall, I thought it was a good investment because they do reduce flare ups, they cook evenly, and food cannot fall through. They are non stick, dishwasher safe and reusable and you don’t have to clean the grill grates!

*** This not a paid endorsement***

You can get these grill mats even cheaper from Amazon by clicking the link below….

Suggested music for your listening pleasure while grilling the steak….

Since Stevie Wonder turned 69 yesterday, how about his classic album “Songs in the Key of Life’ released in September 1976.

Review – Hill Family Farm White House, Tn.

Do you know where your food comes from?

Sumner County’s own Hill Family Farm


This is from the Hill Family Farm website, http://thehillfamilyfarm.com and it poses a good question. Do you know where your food comes from? Well, I know where a good portion of what we eat comes from because this little local jewel of a place is within walking distance of our residence – about one mile. And we usually stop by on Saturdays before going to the grocery store for some other staples. They have a large selection of pasture raised meats, along with fresh eggs and during the season, a large variety of fresh produce. Below is a list of the pasture raised meats available. (Not all the items are always available because they tend to sell out sometimes while waiting on more of their meat to get processed.) There meats are all natural, with no hormones and they use non-GMO feed. Our favorites are the pork chops, whole chickens, eggs and bacon.

I made these Cast Iron Fried Pork Chops with Balsamic Cherry Glaze using Hill family Farm Pork Chops.

  • Whole Chickens
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Chicken wings
  • Ground Chicken
  • Bacon
  • Jowl Bacon
  • Jalapeno Cheddar Brats
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Pork Chops
  • Tenderloin Pork Chops
  • Boston Butts
  • Breakfast Links
  • Ribs
  • Breakfast sausage (mild & hot)
  • Chorizo
  • Bratwurst
  • Irish Bangers
  • Andouille sausage
  • Sweet Italian Sausage
  • Bacon Ends
  • Livers
  • Soup Bones
  • Pork fat
  • Ground Beef
  • Tenderloin Medallions
  • Top Sirloin Steaks
  • Sirloin Tio Steak
  • Skirt /Flank Steak
  • Leg Quarters
  • Chicken Feet
  • Chicken Livers
  • Chicken Hearts
  • Bone Broth

Chris and Sherri Hill operate the farm. During produce season, they visit several local farmer’s markets with their products. They have their own Farmer’s Market at their farm every Saturday between 10:00 am-Noon and they also sell breads from Laurel Mountain Farm http://laurelmountainfarm.comand Elderberry syrup from Harbin Hollow.http://harbinhollow.com

Image courtesy of Hill Family Farm website

The Hill’s are always very courteous, helpful and friendly. Their Saturday Farmer’s Market may be held inside or outside depending on the weather. Visiting their farm is a treat for children or grandchildren because they may get to see the pigs and chickens roaming the grounds.

If you are lucky, on some Saturdays you may see a truck from ABSeafood out of Elizabethtown, Ky. on the grounds selling fresh oysters and other fresh seafood. I highly recommend the large Royal Red(frozen) Shrimp!


Their Pasture Raised Meats, Produce and Eggs are amazing! If you get a chance to get over there, you won’t regret it!

Product Review – True Lemon/Lime/Orange and Grapefruit

*Note – this IS NOT a paid endorsement
These products are awesome to use for cooking. They are just crystallized citrus with simple and clean ingredients, natural flavors and no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. They are also gluten free and Non-GMO.

These are great for using in drinks and cocktails, sprinkling on food as a salt substitute or using in recipes such as this Rosemary Citrus Chicken I made recently. Use in dessert recipes, sprinkle on fish, pork or chicken. They give any dish a real citrus burst! (I will share the recipe on a future post) Out of fresh lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit but have a recipe that calls for juice, use these products instead. Got a recipe using lemon pepper seasoning? Kick it up a little by adding a little true lemon in it…

The True Lime and True Lemon are available in shaker form but they are hard to come by in the grocery stores. I can only find the True Lemon packets locally. The grapefruit flavor must be new and I haven’t that flavor yet, but I am looking forward to it.

You can visit their website at true lemon.com , where they have a lot of information and recipe ideas or follow them on twitter @truelemon. To order a sample kit from Amazon, click on the link below.

Air Fried Chicken Cordon Bleu with Ranch Potatoes

This is an easy recipe to prepare and it is much healthier than a deep fried version. The chicken and potatoes can be cooked together in the air fryer…

2 servings

Cook/Prep time – about an hour

Ingredients…

For the chicken –

  • 2 – 5 oz chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 1 1/2 oz thin sliced smoked uncured deli ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp mayo
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil pan spray

For the potatoes –

  • 1 pound baby yellow potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Ranch dressing powder

Halve the yellow potatoes and soak in cold water. Wash, rinse and dry the chicken breasts. Place them on a cutting board and pound to flatten. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the ham on top of the chicken breasts. Add the Swiss cheese on top of the ham. Roll the chicken breasts up jelly roll style. Mix the panko, Italian seasoning and parmesan cheese together and place on a plate. Blend the mayo and mustard together. Brush the mayo/mustard onto the tops of the chicken breasts. Roll the tops of the rolled chicken into the panko mixture . Spray them lightly with the pan spray and place them on the air fryer tray. Put in refrigerator while preparing the potatoes. Rinse and drain the potatoes. Place them in a bowl and add the olive oil and ranch powder and blend well. Add the potatoes to the air fry tray with the chicken breasts. Set air fryer to 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Place the tray in the fryer with the chicken breasts facing the back. After 12 minutes, flip the tray around and continue to cook. Cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

*Note – for a lighter version of this dish, substitute light mayo, Ian’s brand gluten free panko, and low fat mozzarella cheese.
Suggested music for your listening pleasure while preparing this dish….

“Blue” The classic album released in June 1971 by Joni Mitchell featuring the tracks “Blue”, “River” and “California”

“Blue Ain’t Your Color” by Keith Urban from his album “Ripcord” Released in August 2016.

“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” By willie Nelson from the album “Red Headed Stranger” released in July of 1975.

“Blue Bayou” Written by Roy Orbison from the album “In Dreams” released in August 1963. The Linda Ronstadt version is also outstanding.

“Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton from his “Blue on Blue” album released in august 1963.

To view or purchase the air fryer toaster oven that I use, click on the link below.

Restaurant Review – Bishop’s Meat & Three

Bishop’s Meat &Three is open Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 8pm and 10:30 – 2:30pm on Sundays

If you are a Baby Boomer or even older, cafeterias may have been a big part of your life back in the day, especially on Sundays after church. I managed Morrison’s Cafeterias for 17 years, and we would have lines of people waiting outside to get in line every Sunday to get their carved Roast Beef, Fried Chicken, Chicken and Dumplings, Roast Turkey and Dressing along with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and a huge selection of homemade desserts that were strategically placed at the front of the line. I can attest to the fact that everything on that line was cooked from scratch daily from the pie crusts to the cloverleaf rolls.

Unfortunately, those days have become part of a bygone era now due to the changing demographics of the clientele and the intensive labor required to operate them. In fact, Luby’s Cafeterias, the largest cafeteria chain still in business plan to close or sell 14 locations this year. Now for the good news!….

Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes and macaroni & cheese. You can also select from several other entrees and sides Menus vary daily.

Bishop’s Meat & Three in Franklin, Tennessee was founded in 2007 by the same Bishop family that were heavily invested in Morrison’s Cafeterias back in the day. Nick Bishop Sr. was with Morrison’s Cafeteria for several years, and his father Eugene was the president of Morrison’s Cafeterias during the majority of the time I spent there. Now the good news is that you can get those same cafeteria goodies that you used to get at your favorite cafeteria back in the day!

My wife Susan and I were in Franklin for business last week so we decided to stop by, and we are glad we did! I could tell that all the items are made from scratch and taste just like those yummy dishes from yesteryear from the hot, tasty well seasoned fried chicken and the creamy macaroni & cheese and mashed potatoes to the soft pillowy cloverleaf roll. Folks, I promise you that those rolls aren’t the prebaked frozen chewy pucks you get at so many restaurants these days.

Synopsis

Overall, a very good experience. The food was excellent. It was a little crowded but we got seated fast. We paid around 20 bucks for the two meals, which was reasonable although be warned that the meals are served on disposable plates. Would definitely go back the next time we are in the area!

Side note: The same Bishop family that founded Bishop’s Meat and Three also started the now world famous Hattie B’s! http://www.bishopsmeat3.com. (615)771-9432. 3065 Mallory Lane in Franklin, Tn.