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Varmint

eG Foodblog: Varmint - A Southern Stay at Home Vacation

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Let me cut to the chase: God is not perfect, as he made me a Yankee. Although my birthstate is New York and I spent the first 17 years raised in Pennsylvania, I have lived all of my adult life in the South. I am a Southerner, and if anyone wants to fight me over that, bring it on.

This week, I have decided to take that most adventurous of vacations: I am staying at home with my wife, the lovely, talented, and extremely brilliant Mrs. Dr. Varmint and the four L'il Varmints. I can't promise you that I'll introduce you to any new herb species or a great new pastry technique, but I'll show you what my family is all about, primarily through what we eat. Much of what I'll be cooking will involve my 4 children in the preparation. Hell, I am on vacation, so I might as well avail myself of the free labor.

Today was not the greatest day to start a foodblog, as my 9 year old daughter is playing in a soccer tournament. We also had a birthday party today, but as I look back, I'm pleasantly surprised over the amount of food-related information I can convey.

Details to follow.

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A foodblog by Varmint, how exciting!

I'll bet there'll be some barbecue this week, right? :biggrin::wink:

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Heh heh. Spending long days, in the South, in the middle of summer, in the kitchen. No reward but the sheer pleasure of cooking.

You're obsessed. Congratulations on your vacation-of-my-dreams! :biggrin:

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Let me cut to the chase: God is not perfect, as he made me a Yankee.  Although my birthstate is New York and I spent the first 17 years raised in Pennsylvania, I have lived all of my adult life in the South.  I am a Southerner, and if anyone wants to fight me over that, bring it on.

Details to follow.

I, as a Southerner by birth, will stand with Dean anytime anyone wants to challenge him on this point. While he will never be a redneck, he is nothing if not Southern . Besides, just the fact that he started out a foodblog looking for a fight proves that he has learned a thing or two.

I am looking forward to seeing Dean put his new cabinets through their paces. I am sure that the "magic corner" holds some suprises for us all.

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On the weekends, and when I'm on vacation, I make coffee at home. Our barrista friend in Seattle just sent us some lovely organic coffee:

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Fire up the ol' tea kettle:

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And pour it into the French press:

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I take cream; Mrs. Varmint takes it black.

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For some reason, my kids requested a breakfast that I've never made for them before: a breakfast burrito. To make this a bit more Southern, I've made some cheese grits. To my burrito, I've added even more cheese in the form of fresh mozzarella balls. I think biscuits and bacon will be on tomorrow's menu, thank you very much:

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I dragged the two youngest L'ill Varmints (Benjamin and Clara, ages 6 and 4) to the Carrboro Farmers Market. Carrboro is a wonderful town that is right next to Chapel Hill and is very progressive (it is one of the few towns in the country to elect an openly gay mayor). As you might expect, it has lots of organic produce and meats available.

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After the Farmers Market, we headed over to the nationally famous A Southern Season in Chapel Hill.

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This is one of the biggest gourmet food stores in the country, let alone the Southeast. Strangely, though, after I snapped a picture of their coffee and tea departments, which are right inside the entrance, I was informed that photography is not permitted inside. Very strange.

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I loaded up with some excellent artisinal dried past for my interactive Italian dinner party that's in a couple of weeks, and I headed back to Raleigh and a couple of soccer games.

The first game wasn't until 12:30, so the young natives were restless for lunch. It was simple today: grilled cheese for the kids and a quasi-panini for Dad:

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I'm very lucky in that my kids do not care for American Cheese Spread Food Like Product. They like aged cheddar and other tasty cheeses.

After the first soccer game (my 9 year old's team lost 2-1), I took the two boys to the NC State Farmer's Market, which is only 10 minutes away. This place does not have the organic selection of the Carrboro Market, but its prices are better and it has all the basics.

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For dinner, I wanted to make some peach based dessert. However, most of the peaches for sale weren't quite ripe enough. I ended up making a deal with a farmer to get this huge basket of overripe peaches for $4. Otherwise, I would have paid about 20 bucks.

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We were originally supposed to have a family meal together, but we learned last night that dear friends of ours from Maine were planning to show up at our house around 7:00 tonight. Thus, we decide to feed the kids first, and the adults would eat later.

The kids' meal consisted of sirloin steak, green beans and pasta with my own pesto.

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The L'il Varmints didn't complain about this.

I decided to make a peach pie with some of the uber-ripe peaches. I usually make my crust with half butter and half shortening, but I was all out of Crisco. Thus, this was an all butter crust.

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The rest of the meal consisted of fried catfish, succotash (fresh corn and brown-speckled butter beans), fried patty pan squash, roasted red potatoes, and a salad of grape tomatoes, cucumber, and local feta. All of the produce came from the farmers markets, as did the exquisite feta. Yeah, the plate was pretty brown, but I was more concerned with flavor than color. And the brown sauce was a simple remoulade of mayo, capers, and aged balsamic.

Of course, no Southern dinner would be complete without dessert (we should have let the pie sit for another hour, but we didn't have that luxury of time):

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Tomorrow will be equally hectic with 2 more soccer games.

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Sigh. A man who can make pie crust. How unfortunate you're already taken. :biggrin: It looks lovely Dean, and I'm looking forward to this week.

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Sigh.  A  man who can make pie crust.  How unfortunate you're already taken. :biggrin:   It looks lovely Dean, and I'm looking forward to this week.

The all-butter pie crust was good, but it was almost too tender. The shortening adds a bit of flakiness to it all, and I missed that.

What do y'all do for pie crusts? I've never really had a problem with them. But then, I've never had problems with any baking that requires a butt load of fat! :wink:

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Oh, lovely pictures! What nice markets you have. I always do an all butter crust, and it's not too tender. It's Nick Malgieri's recipe, from How to Bake.

You're off to a great start.

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Let me cut to the chase: God is not perfect, as he made me a Yankee.  Although my birthstate is New York and I spent the first 17 years raised in Pennsylvania, I have lived all of my adult life in the South.  I am a Southerner, and if anyone wants to fight me over that, bring it on.

Dean, God is perfect. He made you a Yankee just to show His sense of humor. :laugh:

Cheese grits? Whoa, you passed by that too fast! What kind of cheese do you add in dem grits?

Since you took a picture of those collard greens, are you going to cook some? How about some fried okra, not stewed please? What I miss most are the hush puppies ... :wub:

I don't remember seeing A Southern Season. Mind you, I haven't been in Chapel Hill/Carrboro area in a while (late 1980's).

Nice start on your foodblog, Dean. Can you throw in a little Carolina blue, my fellow Tarheel?

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Nice view, dude! You are looking mighty fine...

Anyway.

Piecrust. I use a shortening/butter mix, and there is more butter than shortening (I use Julia's version). My late, great grandmother swore by crisco, and I know that her wrath would wreak havoc on me if I ever made a pie crust without it, so I acquiese.

Does. Mrs. Dr. Varmint have some sort of doctoring job that allows her evenings and weekends at home?

How is the kitchen? You can be honest with us. Have you found anything you wished you'd done different? Anything that has struck you as the bestest and greatest thing you could have done?

Happy soccering!

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Cheese grits? Whoa, you passed by that too fast! What kind of cheese do you add in dem grits?

Since you took a picture of those collard greens, are you going to cook some? How about some fried okra, not stewed please? What I miss most are the hush puppies ...  :wub:

I don't remember seeing A Southern Season. Mind you, I haven't been in Chapel Hill/Carrboro area in a while (late 1980's).

Nice start on your foodblog, Dean. Can you throw in a little Carolina blue, my fellow Tarheel?

The cheese grits were just some stone ground grits made with a sharp New Zealand cheddar. My kids love to try different cheeses.

I did not buy any of the collards, and okra isn't yet in season. My family is grateful for that, but they're just not educated. Give 'em time.

A Southern Season has been around for at least 25 years, but now it's huge. It'l located in University Mall.

And don't worry, I'll get a touch of that Carolina Blue. As we say down here, "If God is not a Tar Heel, why did he make the sky Carolina Blue?"

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Nice view, dude! You are looking mighty fine...

Anyway.

Piecrust. I use a shortening/butter mix, and there is more butter than shortening (I use Julia's version). My late, great grandmother swore by crisco, and I know that her wrath would wreak havoc on me if I ever made a pie crust without it, so I acquiese.

Does. Mrs. Dr. Varmint have some sort of doctoring job that allows her evenings and weekends at home?

How is the kitchen? You can be honest with us. Have you found anything you wished you'd done different? Anything that has struck you as the bestest and greatest thing you could have done?

Happy soccering!

That gentleman in the picture is not me, I can assure you. I have no clue who it is, actually.

My lovely wife is also taking off the week. We had planned to spend much of the post-soccer time on building a tree house, but that may not happen. We don't have much money left after the kitchen! :raz:

And don't worry, I'll spend some time this week talking about the kitchen. Because I spent so much time thinking this through, there's actually not a single thing I'd change, but I'll get more into that later on.

I was up late last night and had to get up early for that first soccer game. With our house guests and their additional need for coffee, I'm using my drip coffee maker. One french press just won't cut it for 4 coffee drinkers.

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Beautiful Farmer's Markets! Waiting to hear more about your life in the South.

Edited for typos.


Edited by BarbaraY (log)

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My daughter's first game was at 8:45, but since she had to be there an hour early, I just stayed home with the other 3 L'il Varmints and our house guests. My drip coffee pot is a "free" Gevalia cheapo maker. I say free because Gevalia always has these deals where you join their coffee of the month club and you get something free. Well, I joined, got this maker, paid about 10 bucks for a pound of coffee, then immediately cancelled my membership. Thus, I got a free coffee maker. I do this about every 2 or 3 years when I'm ready for a new machine.

It does an OK job, and it looks decent, except for that big ol' GEVALIA logo staring at me.

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Breakfast today is bacon and eggs.

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The eggs are local:

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Of course, we had to have biscuits. I always make buttermilk biscuits, but I just used up the last of my buttermilk the other day. I didn't want to go to the store, so I just used heavy cream (this is not going to be a week of so-called "healthful" eating).

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The kids wanted some jelly on their biscuits, and they really like muscadine jelly.

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Muscadine grapes are native to North Carolina and the Southeast. The coast of North Carolina ran rampant with muscadines. There are several varieties of muscadine grapes with the most famous being the scuppernong. There's actually some decent muscadine and scuppernong wine made in North Carolina. The kids just like the jelly!

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What do y'all do for pie crusts?  I've never really had a problem with them.  But then, I've never had problems with any baking that requires a butt load of fat!  :wink:

i've only made a few pie crusts in my time, from various recipes, and have never had a problem with them. but the one i like best is my mom's, and it's all crisco--she says she got the recipe off a crisco can back in the day. 2 c flour, 1 t salt, and you take out 1/4 c of that and make a paste with 1/3 c water. then you take 7/8 c crisco, and mix it well with the flour till it's almost like clay. then gently mix the flour/water paste into that, so you can still see veins of the paste throughout the clay.

i've never seen this technique anywhere else, but it makes for an awesome incredibly flaky not-sweet crust that is the best ever.

well anyway, you asked...

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You know that if you continue to whet our members' appetites with these Southern breakfasts, Dean, we can expect an influx of Northerners sucking up our muscadines and scuppernongs and moving southward ... :hmmm: What the hell! Let 'em come! :laugh:

Your blog is a testament to why so many of us are in love with the South and the biscuits to be found here ... thank you for sharing your blog with us!

We are quite impressed and it's only quite early on! I personally expect to gain several pounds as you cook and photograph your offerings for us!

Suppernongs and muscadines are to be found plentifully at Callaway Gardens here in Georgia ...a terrific website for North Carolina with muscadine recipes :biggrin:

just another reason that Varmint has chosen North Carolina as home ... :wink:

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Great stuff, Varmint. Though I think we probably need to see a picture of a split biscuit sometime this week.

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love your blog varmint!

we also spend our sat mornings at the carrboro farmers market;

kids like the play area, esp 3 yo ds.

my 8 yo dd dutifully tastes and votes in the tomato variety

contest each year.

how does the carrboro farmers mkt compare with

raleigh's? how come y'awl make the drive all the way

here?

we too love this part of the country.

milagai

(a chapel hill neighbor)

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Breakfast today is bacon and eggs.

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Purty, purty biscuits...and bacon...and eggs. Lucky houseguests.

Thanks Varmint for doing this blog. I'm sooo looking forward to checking in all week.

I haven't done it yet, but I have a friend that has done what you did to get the coffee pot.

He put a decorative piece of black electrical tape over the Gevalia logo on his pot. :laugh: If you don't look too closely, it just looks like a stripe on the pot that is supposed to be there.

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mmmm, mmmm, good stuff, Varmint. I know only a smidge about southern cookin so I'm looking forward to seeing what you and your family eat this week. I gotta say, that pie of yours looked perfect. Very impressive. The filling of mine always leaks out somewhere making it look more "rustic". Can't wait for more pictures!

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Wow, very nice so far.

I had never really considered the carolinas to be part of the true south (hopefully them aren't fightin' words, because I am in no condition to go another round after last night) but you sure can cook up a real breakfast of the type my father used to.

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We may not be considered the "Deep" South, but there's absolutely no doubt that North Carolina is well below the Mason Dixon line, geographically and culturally.

One thing I failed to mention about the scrambled eggs: I cooked them up in bacon grease, as Mrs. Varmint (who eats no swine or beef) was already gone for the first soccer game.

I had a cheeseburger for lunch at the soccer fields. I promise that we'll have something that somewhat resembles southern food for dinner.

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how does the carrboro farmers mkt compare with

raleigh's?  how come y'awl make the drive all the way

here? 

They're really quite different. If you want organic, go to Carrboro. If you want something a bit out of the ordinary, go to Carrboro.

If you want fresh corn, green beans, tomatoes, collards, beets, etc., then the Raleigh Farmers Market is better in price and selection. I rarely go over to Carrboro, but if I lived there, I'd spend way too much money!!! Not that spending too much money on great food is a bad thing. The NC State Farmers Market is also just so darned close to home that I enjoy going over there at least once or twice a week. Oh, and the State FM is open every day, whereas Carrboro is open on Saturdays and Wednesday afternoons.

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Re local farmer's markets: I've been going to the City Market (in downtown Raleigh) for many years....first dragged there as a kiddo by my mom and then as a buyer. There are only two vendors there; the one I buy from is from Clayton. Before arriving downtown, he stops by the state farmers' market to buy/trade extra produce, preservers, etc. to supplement his own stuff. He and the other vendor are at City Market Thurs-Fri-Sat. But after reading all the posts on the state farmers' market, I'm tempted to start going there more often....I do go from time to time if I'm in search of something that my regular guy doesn't have.

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