Food Network Star Damaris Phillips Hits the Right Notes in Our Empty Nest

Got My Reservations 25 Days of Christmas 2013 Medium Button15 days until Christmas, and we’re making progress. How are you doing?

Over the last two weeks I have made two recipes from Damaris Phillips’s new show on the Food Network, entitled Southern At Heart. And they were both fabulous.

I’m going to be perfectly frank here; I was not convinced about Damaris when she won Food Network Star this year. Although I liked loved her unfiltered personality, I wasn’t sure that she had what it takes to join Alton, Giada, Ree, or even Guy (not my favorite) on her own show.

She has proven me wrong.


I like everything about the show. I like how she starts by visiting a local Louisville purveyor to get her special ingredient. I like the guys who have signed on to be taught to cook a special meal for their sweethearts. I like her sass and I like her recipes.

Recipes are where it’s at in the rundown to Christmas.

What is usable and what is not? If you are going to try something new that’s out of your traditional rut, where do you want to go?

Click into photo for recipe.

Beer Mac and Cheese. Click into photo for recipe.

We made the Beer Cheese and Mac and her Curry Cauliflower and Rice casserole in the last two weeks, and they were both winners in the empty nest. I highly recommend that you consider these recipes for your Christmas entertaining. Both have unexpected ingredients that take a familiar recipe to the next level, and that’s why I recommend them.

On the Christmas countdown tally sheet, we’ve ticked off some items. We set up the three new pillow top mattress sets in anticipation of the Christmas Gathering of the Clan, bought a paper towel holder (isn’t it always the mundane things that drive you crazy when people are working in your kitchen?), and talked to the visiting English chef/daughter’s boyfriend about the menu. He says he can make naan bread from scratch. Really??? I’m pretty sure I would buy it from my local Indian market — we live in Chicagoland and we are fortunate that there are actually Indian markets that are likely to be open on Christmas day, but I’m willing to let him do whatever he wants. That’s what I promised, a no-drama mama Christmas. 🙂

How are you doing on your preparations? Do you have your gifts purchased? I’m almost done with that as well; thank goodness for online shopping! Thanks for stopping by to see how Music Man and I are getting ready for Christmas in our empty nest.

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

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Cooked: A Manifesto for Summer Reading

As tech week for Godspell continues to have its way with me, I’ve actually started to think about life beyond Sunday. And that life includes being careful about what I eat.

It’s not that I haven’t been eating and cooking more carefully. We don’t eat takeout food for supper nearly as much as we did when I was teaching. We know which organic fruits and veggies are musts, and which don’t have to be organic. I’m learning how to make my own salad dressing to control salt, fat, additives and sugar. I’m limiting my morning trips to McDonalds for breakfast. I’m MUCH better than I was a year ago.

But I’m still eager to do more. Yesterday I sent out the call on Facebook for midweek farmers’ markets and found options for Tuesday and Wednesday. With my hometown Saturday market and the Sunday market that is on the way home from church, I can buy most of what we eat this summer from our nearby Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois farmers.

But it’s not just eating close to the soil. It’s actually being proactive about reading labels and knowing what’s in my food.

I’ve been watching Food Network Star on Sundays, and one of the chefs is staking his big chance to have a network food show on what he calls the “culinary sins” including sugar, fat, bacon and liquor.  I’m interested in watching how this plays out, because in his real life back in San Francisco, Russell Jackson “takes local, fresh ingredients and gives them a whimsical twist.” His website for his underground restaurant company is as shrouded in campy mystery as his point-of-view is on Food Network Star, but I think I’m going to like what he cooks. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little wine to one’s skillet.

You’re probably asking how my avowed plan to “eat healthy” connects with the seven culinary sins.

I also saw on Facebook — and don’t lecture me about how Facebook has become my major source of news — that Michael Pollan has written a new book. The reviewed Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, and I am eager to hear what else Pollan has to say. I’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, but I think I’ll start again with a revisit to Pollan’s writings before I read Cooked. After a year of purposeful eating, I think I’m in a better mindset to read and internalize Pollan’s manifesto, but I can’t actually remember how far he wants me to go in avoiding those “culinary sins.”

So watch for reviews of Michael Pollan’s books this summer, and maybe some recipes. I’ve got my reservations with some reading!

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