Category Archives: Kitchen

Articles about kitchen practices and cooking.

Getting Into Hot Water

The rain here in northwest Georgia this year has been tremendous. The crops in my garden have not. A few tomatoes and a few bell peppers and some okra. Cucumbers? Pfft. Too much rain can definitely be a bad thing. (However, I am not complaining.  I love the rain.)  What do I have the most of? Hot peppers. They are thriving. The irony is, my family, nor I, don’t really eat a lot of hot peppers. Such is life. So, what to do? Give some away and can the rest.

About a week ago, I picked 50+ peppers- jalapeños and cow horns.  The jabaneros aren’t ready just yet. I knew this was going to be quite a task, as peppers are tricky to work with. 


The beginning of the crop.

The difficulty begins in the cutting. You must wear gloves for this and remember not to touch your face or skin! The capsaicin will get you for sure.  Peppers are much like onions, giving off vapors that can affect one’s eyes and breathing. I, of course, was no exception.  After about fifteen minutes, I had to crack the windows and back door to let some fresh air in. The coughing had commenced. Once the cutting was finished, I had to wipe down every surface I had come in contact with in the gloves.  The juice and seeds had managed to spread…

The jars were ready, the peppers went in, and the water bath began.  (10-15 min)


Jars filled, ready for the hot liquid.


Into the canner!

After 5 or 6 minutes, I could really smell the peppers in the air, which I thought was odd. Then I really started to sneeze and cough a great deal.  I glanced at the pot and saw a couple of seeds floating in the water, which was not good, but, curious. I stared to remove them, and saw a jar bobbing in the water! Thinking to myself, surely I didn’t not leave that much air space in the jar that it would float.  In all my years of canning, I have never experienced the problem shown below.  Two of my jars had broken on the bottom! The peppers were continuing to cook and the vapors were filling the air. Not sure why this happened.  I had the jars sitting on a rack, so that they were not touching the bottom of the pot. Funny thing is, I rarely use a rack on the bottom and have never had a problem.  One of life’s mysteries, I suppose.



So, I cleaned the jars off under hot running water and quickly brought a fresh batch of water to a boil. Plan B was to use a vegetable steamer in the bottom.  It worked like a charm and held the weight of the jars beautifully.


Plan B!


Finished product. Beauties!

In the end, the result was beautiful.  My eyes eventually stopped watering and my coughing and sneezing subsided. The peppers were so pretty and now I have lots of gifts to give.

Have you had a disaster in your kitchen this summer? Tell me about it!

Cheers, Olivia

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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Food, Garden, Kitchen


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Grease Burns in the Kitchen

Ah, the trials and tribulations of preparation in the kitchen. From the rookies to the seasoned chefs, everyone ends up with injuries at some point during their culinary adventures. As for me, I fall somewhere in the middle and am no exception to this rule. My latest food frown comes in the form of 2nd degree grease burns to my left hand and foot. Yes, I said foot, too. Long story short, I left a small pan of oil on a live burner and it went up in smoke. During the course of removal, it sloshed on my hand mostly, then went on my foot when I dropped it on the floor. Not a pretty sight, I can assure you. I’ve been joking that my fingers appear as if they are in rigor. A bit lighter in color, swollen, and stiff. Not to mention the oozing. Enough said.

Here I am a couple of days later, trying to heal and keep the wounds dry. As I’ve read through all the recommended methods of treatment for burns, I decided first, that mine is probably not bad enough to seek medical attention besides questioning the pharmacist.He recommended all sorts of non stick gauze, aloe sprays, tapes, ointments and the like. As I was making my decision, I noticed that tea tree oil was on the shelf with all the other remedies. Bingo. I thought to myself that I had some at home and decided to go with it rather than spending eight bucks on a bottle of burn spray. Once back home, I realized that no amount of tape or gauze was going to work out due to the burns being on fingers, toes, their joints, and in between.

So, I went with the tea tree oil to start with. Let me tell you, the pain relief was instant. I rubbed just enough to cover it and it soaked in within 4-5 minutes.

The days have gone by now; its been 6. I have put the tea tree oil on multiple times a day in addition to taking some otc pain reliever and using some antibiotic ointment on occasion. The blisters formed, filled, and burst. Now the new skin is appearing, the healing itch is in full force, and I’m over the hump. The pain is still here for sure. Elevation, t.t. oil and ibuprofen have gotten me through.

I will say this: the tea tree oil has magnificent drying power in addition to the pain relief. The moral of this story is to try the oil next time you get burned. My experience with it has been better than anything I’ve ever used.

Below is a photo of the products I used. The Aquaphor is an antibiotic burn salve, but regular antibiotic ointment with pain reliever works just as well.


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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Kitchen, Plants


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52 Uses for Coconut Oil

I wanted to put up a 3 Ways post today. After some time, and a mental block, I was perusing the net and then remembered this that I came across a couple of weeks ago. I am taking absolutely no credit for this one. Just passing along a very thorough and useful list of things to do with Coconut Oil!

Currently, I do not use this for anything and never have. Looks like I need to! I will get some and try it. What are you doing with it?


Posted by on May 15, 2012 in 3 Ways, Food, Kitchen, Pets


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As the gardens are producing their final batches of fruits and vegetables, everyone is enjoying the benefits of their love and hard work that has been put in all summer. I am certainly no exception to this rule. However, I am celebrating the fruit of others’ labor this year. Not having a garden of my own here in the city, I’m lucky enough to get some good veggies elsewhere. I worked at the Brookhaven Farmers Market a couple of weekends ago. Andrew, from Noring Farms in Covington, had some beautiful heirloom peppers. The colors were so gorgeous- a light lime green, deep purple, and a soft, light yellow. I bought three pounds.

A few days later, I went home to Summerville to see my parents and spend some time at the property. After visiting with my neighbor, Mr. Evans, I came home with an abundance of peppers- bells, jabaneros, and cayennes. So, at that point, I had a huge amount of peppers and had to figure out what to do with them.

I started with a batch of pepper jelly. The color was a glassy light green and so pretty. Bad news- it didn’t set. Re-cooked it and still no luck. 0 for 1 and batch thrown out. The next decision was to make a pepper and onion relish. Vidalias are peaking right now and I figured I couldn’t go wrong. After chopping veggies for 2 solid hours, I was on a roll.


Veggies in! Off I go!

Through this process, I decided it was time to buy another canning pot. This amount of peppers was almost too much for my standard pot to handle.


This was the first time that I had made a pepper-onion relish. It turned out nicely. I would have liked a little more heat, but wanted to stick to the original recipe to start with. The colors are good, the texture still has a bit of a crunch and the flavor is mild. I can’t wait to try it over a dog with some fresh buns from Bakeshop.

Noring Farms 200 Glass Springs Rd Covington, GA 30014


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Dinner Party Pointers

Karen T. from Alabama emailed me recently with a couple of questions. I answered the first one regarding RSVP etiquette. Now, on to the second half. She wanted advice on throwing a dinner party. There are a lot of deciding factors that go into throwing one of these dinners. Use these and you will be able to figure out what works best for you.

1. How much space do you have? How many people does your table seat? My table seats up to ten people comfortably, so I usually stay between 6 and 8 for this.

2. How big is your kitchen? Do you have enough space to get all of this food together? My kitchen at the moment is a resemblance of a NYC apartment. Very little cabinet and countertop space, tight quarters, and doors that all bang into each other and don’t allow for opening more than one thing at a time. Frustrating, but I make it work. The more space you have, obviously, the easier it will be.

3. How much do you feel comfortable cooking? Do you feel that you can cook for 10 or would it be better to start with a smaller number? Do you have the cookware to accomplish this meal? Whatever you feel you can take on, go for it.

4.  How much time will you have? Will you cook everything at the last minute or make some things that require some early prep? I recommend spacing out the time. If you start early, then you will have time to spend with your guests when they arrive and won’t be a slave to your stove. That’s why they call it entertaining. Also, something to think about is having extra help. Guests always ask what they can do to help. By all means, let them! Or maybe you have someone that could come by your house and give you a hand in cooking. A sibling, a parent, your child, perhaps a neighborhood child is looking to earn a little extra money or maybe you have a weekly house cleaner or helper that might be willing to help. (Asking a friend to help would be left to your own judgement. Make sure that person is not involved with the group at hand as to not hurt someone’s feelings for not being a part of the party).

5. Do you have enough place settings and serving pieces? Just make sure you have enough dishes to serve all of your guests the same thing. I.E. plates, bowls, glasses, stems, flatware, etc. If you don’t have enough serving pieces or enough room on the table, serve the plates from the kitchen and deliver them to your guests. A little pre-presentation effort is always a crowd pleaser.

6. Decor is something to think about, too. If you want a full table setting with cloth, flowers, candles, etc. By all means, do it. If you want to go simple and just use placemats, that is just fine also. Just make your table look put together and nice. Guests feel special with a warm touch to a table.

7. Meal plan. This is as broad as the Chattahooche River. (This should be a post on its own). Lots of factors to consider here besides the aforementioned. Budget, tastes, allergies, vegan/vegetarian, occasion, etc. What’s the occasion- just a Sunday dinner or holiday? How much can you spend on this meal? Are you on a chicken, rice, and salad budget this week or are you shooting for swordfish, pearl cous cous, and lots of vegetables? What about drinks? Alcohol or not? Who’s coming to dinner? Know your guests special needs. If you would like some menus, I can provide some.

8. What can someone else bring? Unless you’re doing potluck, it’s probably best to refrain from asking your guests to provide anything too complicated. Have them bring a bottle of wine or an appetizer or a loaf of bread to accompany the meal. However, there’s always an exception- if someone insists on preparing a dish, you are at total liberty to accept. It will save you time and money.

9. One last point to consider is level of difficulty. I recommend keeping some dishes easy. Having all the components at a high level of difficulty will make for a strained host and hostess. Let some dishes take center stage and have others as a support to the meal.

Let me know how your dinner parties are coming! What worked and what didn’t? Cheers. Olivia

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Posted by on June 26, 2011 in Food, House, Kitchen


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Eating Organically on a Budget

Look around in a market these days, there is such an abundance of products.  Everything we need is at our fingertips.  The days of searching or waiting for something are almost a thing of the past.  Look at the quality of products available- fresher, bigger, and longer lasting than ever before.  What makes these products so much more than before? Chemicals, fertilizers, hormones, genetic altering, hybridization, technology, and more efficient farming give us what we see today. While it is surprising and interesting to see the bell pepper that’s bigger than a grapefruit or a scallop that rivals the size of a golf ball, we have to wonder if what made them so big will affect us when we eat them.  So, what to do if you don’t feel comfortable eating these products that have been grown with these new techniques? Eat organically.  Organic? Isn’t that expensive? How can I afford to eat organically on a budget? 

Here are some ideas to help with that. 

First of all, check your options.  If you live in a place with multiple grocery stores, see what each one carries.  They will carry different brands and also produce from different areas.  Prices will vary from store to store.  If you are in a smaller town, your options will be more limited, but you are still likely to find some organic products.  If you don’t see what you want, just ask the manager to order what you like. 

Secondly, buy on sale.  Organic products go on sale just like regular products.  I have a few grocery stores near my house here in Atlanta, but the Kroger grocery always has one brand of organic milk on sale. Out of the three brands, it’s the one I buy.  Check the sale paper when you walk in the store.  Everything on sale is listed there. 

If something is on sale, buy it in bulk or buy multiples.  Are you going to making chili tonight for dinner? Those canned tomatoes are on sale, thank goodness.  So double up on your purchase and money will be saved for next time you use them.  The more you buy, typically the lower the price.   

So, you found some produce on sale and you bought a lot of it.  What will you do with the extra before it spoils? Lots- Preserve it.  Freeze it, can it, dry it.  Just save it so it doesn’t go to waste.  Freeze extra blueberries and toss a few into some waffles later on.  Too many onions in the bag? Make a batch of onion marmalade and spread it on burgers down the line.  If you didn’t finish that bag of apples, you can make a pie or dry some rings for a great snack.  (Put the scraps out for the birds- they love fruit!) This is a gateway to a whole different article.  I will revisit preserving later on.

Do you have a farmers market nearby? That will definitely save you some money.  Look for local product sales that occur once a week.  There is a trade ground where I grew up that opens up twice a week.  There is always an abundance of locals selling their produce and wares.  The prices are much less there than in a grocery and the products are grown locally. Also, in the early fall when all the crops are coming in, there is a group that sets up right in the middle of town to sell their produce.  Here in Atlanta, I sometimes go to the Morningside farmers market. They have produce, flowers, homemade items and goods.  It is small, but really has a lot of variety.   Cut out the middle man=less cost to consumer. You save money and support locals.  It’s a win-win.

Do you have friends or neighbors that want to eat organically and save money just as you do? Why not share the wealth with each other? If there is a large quantity of something-meat maybe? Why not split or share it? What about a special ingredient that is pricey? Maybe they can use some, too.  Split the cost, trade, share- it feels good and you help each other out.  You can’t go wrong.

Finally, one of the best ways to know what you are eating and not spend a great deal is to grow it yourself.  Having lived in the country and in the city, I realize that not everyone has the space to do this.  However, you can grow plenty of things in small spaces-herbs, tomatoes in pots, the list goes on.  Just know there are options.  If you are growing your own food, you know exactly what is in it and what is making it grow.  The cost is minimal and the rewards are great. 

Eating organically on a budget takes a little more work, but can be done.  Shop around, share what you have, and preserve.  This will help stretch your dollar and ultimately be healthier.

The following is a link to a wonderful farm in northeast Alabama. These are very good friends of my family and their farm produces excellent quality meat. In addition, it is a beautiful place to see.

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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Food, Kitchen


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Heat and Sweet

Pepper Jelly editorial article

Graphic design: Joel Flournoy 

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Posted by on February 18, 2011 in Food, Kitchen


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