Tuesday, December 2, 2014

TODAY show y'all!

How much fun was the TODAY Show!!! It was such a treat for this Farmer to talk to Kathie Lee and Hoda about a Southern-style holiday table! From mixing and matching dinnerware, linens, flatware and stemware to the décor of the tablescape itself, each and every part was memorable.
JTF, HK, and KLG chummin' it up at Studio 1A

With help from my friends at Southern Living and their great collection of tabletop items from Dillards, I was able to create a tablescape with true Southern flair. First off, a trio of cake stands served as the main centerpieces that dotted down the center of the rustic wood farm table. For the center stand, I chose the classic Southern Living white cake that is proudly featured on the December cover each and every year. For a nod to Fall, I used ribbons of orange peels, pecans, walnuts and pumpkin seeds that all paired nicely with the red fondant ribbon on the cake.

Serving as sentries on either side of the cake were stacks of clove studded oranges – which just may be one of my favorite scents! The pomanders look great in the Fall and on through the holidays and even into wintertime. With citrus coming in this time of year from Georgia’s southerly neighbor, Florida, citrus has always found its way onto Southern tables and into our recipes too. Apples, oranges and handfuls of pecans were scattered in between the cake stands – all anchored with a burlap runner – so Southern chic if y’all will!
Full array of Flower, Fruit, and Foliage -- 3 F's for strait A tabletop

Mason jars are a stemware staple and glassware must in the South. If we are not using them to drink our sweet tea from, then they might as well be holding some flowers! Orange roses in varying hues and sizes and white hydrangeas were casually arranged and placed amidst the cake stand trio – giving a floral note to the table. Flowers don’t always have to be the centerpiece proper, but they sure do make a table ever so lovely!

Magnolia leaves arranged as chargers brought the garden to the table – literally! If y’all have never traveled with magnolia leaves from Perry to NYC, then rest assured that they travel beautifully in Ziplock bags with some dampened paper towels. Ha! I love white dinnerware for its neutral aptitude throughout the seasons. Here, a stack of white dinner plates and salad plates are layered with the napkins – another classic white shade but monogrammed appropriately for a Southern table and in a seasonal shade. As I told Hoda and Kathie Lee, “If it sits still in the South, we monogram it!” I love the “fishtail” style monogram for myself, for it is fancy enough to be a monogram but not too frilly for a gentleman Farmer.

And, y’all, the table isn’t the only part that got all gussied up for this appearance – yours truly knew just where to shop for this segment! Being a tall drink of water, I sometimes have a hard time finding shirts that don’t “Gus Gus” on me – you know, roll up over my tummy when I raise my arms like Gus the mouse on Disney’s “Cinderella.” Thankfully, Mr. Doyle Johnson at A.D. Mathis in Gainesville, Georgia, has tailored and custom made shirts for me for so long. The larger scaled gingham shirt is plenty long to prevent and “Gus Gus” type of wardrobe malfunction and, of course, sports my monogram on the cuffs.

My friends at Onward Reserve in Atlanta suited me up the handsome Barbour vest and Bird Dog Bay tie, jeans and Luchesse boots too! I love a one-stop shop like Onward Reserve – they know how to dress the gent for any occasion! Hoda even complemented my boots, so I know she has good taste too! Ha!

After wrapping the segment, I scooted off to lunch with my fellow Southern Living Editor-at-Large Jenna Bush Hager to grab a bite at Todd English’s “Food Hall” at The Plaza. We gabbed and laughed and simply caught up with one another, ate a delicious lunch and even made sweet tea – add simple syrup from the bar to your iced tea and voila! From lunch, I had to zip on to the airport and catch a plane to Dallas. A fun trip – a quick trip – but still so much fun nonetheless. I could not have done this segment or anything I do without Team Farmer keeping me in the saddle and on track. Stacey Byrd – I had to twist her arm – my PR gal flew up ahead of me and prepped and gathered everything just in time for our rehearsal at Studio 1A. I cannot thank her and my team enough for all they do!
JTF and JBH teachin' folks at The Plaza how to make sweet tea
Team Farmer #orangeroomselfie

So, y’all enjoy some of these snapshots from the day and know that it is such an honor for Southern Living to have me on board and a privilege to share some Southern style with our friends in NYC. Happy Holidays y’all!

Just in case y'all missed it!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanks and Giving: A Video with Southern Living

Gearing up for Thanksgiving y'all -- take a gander at this Farmer setting the table with my friends at Southern Living!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Autumn Veggie Soup

Roast em and stew em - that's all there is too em!

I don't know about y'all, but I roast just about everything I can. Veggies, fruit and meats all get nice and toasty and caramelized from high heat and a little salt to draw out the moisture. Roasting veggies has become my MO for getting picky eaters (y'all know who you are) to eat all kinds of veggies. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, okra, zucchini, squashes of all sorts and onions too all find their way into the oven and onto plates. Roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary and onion... Oh my my!

I love, love, love vegetable soup. But I have a few stipulations to this stew of sorts. I don't care for potatoes in my veggie soup - can't say why exactly but I don't. Potato soup though is perfectly fine!

I also want my vegetable soup to be seasonally apropos. Modern grocers and canning allows us to eat summer produce in winter but there's something about keeping a seasonal nod to the soup that's quite enjoyable. For me it's the squashes and Brussels sprouts that make this soup fallish!

Another veggie soup stipulation - I don't love frozen veggies to make my soup. I love that this soups freezes but that's a whole other lesson in chemistry in frozen fresh and frozen cooked food. Canned, fresh or "put up" from summer are just fine. In a pinch, the frozen kind will work.

A big ol Dutch oven or big soup pot and a couple roasting pans is all you'll need for cooking - love a one pot, one pan meal!

For my Autumn Veggie Soup, I use a mélange of roasted veggies and a base of onion browned with pancetta or country ham. "Brown the onion first." Mimi and Mama taught me that. Can't go wrong with browned onions as a start to any supper!

As for the stock, a mix of chicken stock and tomato juice is the key. A third to two thirds respectively is good. More or less depending on how "soupy" you want your soup.

Slice and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper and then roast some broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, autumnal squashes of your liking and even a pepper or two until browned and nearly crisp. They'll reconstitute in the soup!

To the browned onion and ham, throw in some celery too, for I truly believe that celery is unmerited for its cooked flavor. Add canned, crushed, stewed and/or freshly chopped tomatoes to cook down with the browned onions and allow their acidity to deglaze the pan.

Season liberally as you add ingredients, simmer and serve! My family loves Pepper Jack cheese on just about anything and this soup is no exception.

I think that pancetta and Brussels sprouts were made for one another - they're romance of finding one another in the soup pot is truly and story for the ages.

Plus, y'all, this soup can feed pharaoh's army and "freezes beautifully" (Steel Magnolias... Need I say more?). Whip up a batch of cornbread or make quesadillas or grilled cheese (same thing almost right?) or simply serve on its own. This soup gets better as is sits, so enjoy again the next night.

Take some flavors of the season and a traditional soup too and you've a feast! I hope y'all are enjoying fall - it's flavors, temperatures and scenery!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rosemary and Red Onion Apple Pork

Yeah... The name say it all. Those flavors all melded together in one pot no less is divine. Give me flavor complements like sweet and salty or sweet and tart or sweet and savory and I'm in love! This dish bodes well for such culinary complements!

Braising is probably next to roasting as my favorite cooking method for many things. Taking a meat and braising - not boiling it - is a delicate method to delicious cuts of meat! Gently infusing a gorgeous pork chop with apple cider is nothing short of divine. And this dish is easy and relativity quick! Wilt some kale in it and you've a one dish wonder!

I start with a Dutch oven and begin browning the pork chops on either side to form a slight crust. Salt and peppering the pork and high heat allows this. Searing them may be technically more apropos in culinary diction but y'all get me! Once the chops or even tenderloin are seared and crusted, I remove them from the pan onto a plate to rest.

Next, in the onion or two go to brown in the Dutch oven...No shock there folks! I use Mimi's adage, "butter for flavor, oil for temperature!" I really like to use red onions for this dish because they're color is so lovely - plus they caramelize fantastically! Brown the onions in some butter and oil and salt  and pepper handsomely. This is the base of your meal y'all and adding salt at the end to me doesn't do salt and pepper their true justice of bringing out their companions' natural flavor.

Once the onion begins to brown, I add chopped apples - a mix of sweet and tart such as Granny Smith and Fuji. I also like to throw in some whole garlic cloves to brown, sweeten and soften - they're delicious all mushed together with the apples and onions. 

Once this mixture has melded together and smells utterly heavenly, I throw in some rosemary... Who knew that the smell of those ingredients could make the Angels sing? Once the rosemary softens a tad and is quite aromatic, add the pork back to the Dutch oven and pour in a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and  then some apple cider. A cup of cider per pound or chop will do the trick!

A nice little time in a 375 oven - say 25-30 minutes or until pork is medium well to well done - will make your kitchen smell even more heavenly. If you'd like a green element to the dish, add some kale! It'll wilt down almost instantly upon removing the dish from the oven.

Pork is naturally sweet and thus fairs so well with apples and onions. This little piggy adores this dish all fall and even into wintertime. I hope y'all do too!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Falling for Fall… I do this Every Year!

There is no doubt – fall is my favorite season. As Editor at Large with Southern Living, I have the privilege of contributing fun stories and ideas to the magazine as a whole, but my fall stories seem to always make the newsstands! I’ve said it over and over and this mantra of mine is worth repeating: “Fall is a Southerner’s reward for surviving summer.” I’ve even seen this printed on a cocktail napkin – thanks y’all for the advertising!

So as y’all peruse the pages of the October Southern Living, I’d love to walk y’all through some of the fun from behind the scenes that didn’t make the cut – as if me and my uber stylish outfit weren’t cute enough for the pages of SL… ha! From the cracker-jack team of my BFF Jess “Frou Frou” Margeson, Stacey and Laura Lyn from JFI to the senior stylist Mrs. Buffy Hargett Miller herself to editor Jen Kopf and photographer extraordinaire Helen Norman (who has photographed A Time to Cook and Porch Living), we managed to somehow not only set, style and shoot and amazing venue, but have an absolute blast doing so! Time certainly flies when you’re having fun, and I’m here to tell y’all it was a blast from start to finish!

Jen Kopf, Helen Norman, yours truly, Buffy Hargett Miller

The setting was a dear, sweet friend’s home in Cashiers. I was at her house one lovely summer day for cocktails before sunset and jokingly said I wanted to transform her immaculate, stunning, antique-filled, absolutely gorgeous home into an autumnal oasis to celebrate the season… and pitch the idea to my editors at Southern Living. This, y’all is never an easy task to ask, but thankfully, my adorable friend (and her family) obliged. I cannot thank my precious friend enough!

With unparallel views of Whiteside Mountain just beyond the tree line, the crisp autumn air glowed with the hues only fall can afford to lend the sky. My friend, an antiques dealer out of Atlanta, has treasure troves of l’objets d’art from her forays through Parisian flea markets, Portobello Road in London and scouring the French and English countryside for just the right barley-twist candlesticks. If ever there was a “set” to photograph a celebration of the season, this home was it. From the mountainsides and gardens and farmers markets, I gleaned the season’s best. Tables were set, flowers were arranged and mantels bedecked with the flair of fall. Give me a pumpkin, some leaves and bittersweet, and I’ll give you a mantel!

Dried hydrangeas, rose hips, beauty berry, dahlias, Free Spirit roses, bittersweet, magnolia, cabbage, apples, pumpkins, oak leaves, acorns, pecans and plumes upon plumes of grasses were all woven together to create a tableau as rich as the season could present.  I could go on and on and on about this shoot. From the feel, the textures, the scents, the sights, the hues, tones, arrays and luscious combinations my favorite season gives us, I am rejuvenated and invigorated for this time of year.

I hope y’all are inspired to kick off the holiday season with a fanfare for fall. I know I am! Enjoy these behind the scenes pics and be sure to check out the October issue on newsstands now!

Jess and I have just as much fun taking selfies as we do making outrageous pumpkin arrangements. Her work is phenomenal! Like her hair, her pumpkin creations are a work of art!!

I love antique crocks and pottery. Here, these fantastic old jars with a deep tobacco glaze. These jars are filled to the brim with nandina berries, sweet gum, dried hydrangea, celosia and viburnum for some fall fabulousness. 

A garland of oak leaves, maple leaves, magnolia and dried hydrangea cloaks one side of the massive stone mantel. I love symmetry but I love balance more. Though this mantel scene is not symmetrical per se, it is balanced. Of course I had to throw some pumpkins and ornamental cabbage for good measure. 

Give Ol' Jimmy a jug of sweet tea and I can decorate for hours. You can take the boy out of Perry, but... y'all know how it goes!

 I love to use dough bowls as centerpieces. They are long and set a table oh so well. Here, I mounded bunches of dried hydrangea, fall foliage, artichokes and even a few turtle shells for texture. The nandina berries just pop against the autumnal palette. I love too how this is so fall but not filled with orange pumpkins. The green 'Cinderella' ones make for a stylish departure for this set up. Plus, this arrangement will last all through the fall with the hydrangeas and leaves and berries drying and the pumpkins lasting for months if they're not carved. 

Don't forget your windowboxes! As for a fall display, I kept the ivy that was spilling out but planted ornamental cabbages that will last all through the winter in the the Deep South. Magnolia, a few pumpkins nestled in here and there, bittersweet winding its way throughout the scene and even an artichoke or two can be found alongside the cabbage. I added a few stems of millet for texture too - because it is fall and I can!

Is there anything better than working with a hydrangea as big as your head? As big as Jess' hair even? No. the answer is "no." Nothing better y'all! Ha!

As wonderful and fabulous as all this created fun is, nothing beats The Almighty's handiwork on an autumn day in Cashiers!

Happy fall, y’all!
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