Archive for Special Event

Vanished Into Thin Air …. Happy 4th!

big-fireworksIt might seem like I’ve vanished into thin air, but I’m still around with a really hectic and crazy schedule at the moment.

First, I’d like to be sure to wish everyone (who is celebrating) a safe and wonderful Fourth of July holiday. Be sure to stop by and visit my friend, the lovely Wendi, at Loaves and Dishes for her Easy Delicious Holiday Recipes Picks for the 4th. She was kind of enough to include my own Sloppy Joe Sliders in the mix.

Now where was I … while my day job continues to be busy as ever, I’ve been making steps to venture out onto a path I’ve wanted to take for some time. I’m in the process of opening my own business. Since I enjoy food so much, I’ve purchased a food concession trailer and hope to have it in operation before too long. I’ve also gotten two huge smokers on a trailer and am trying my hand at smoking Boston Butts, along with a vast array of other foods.

Where I live I have to take a Manager’s Food Safety Certification class before I can get a state health permit. Trying to find a class to take has proven a bit of a challenge. It seems they only give the test when a certain number of applicants have applied. If there isn’t enough taking the course, it’s cancelled and re-scheduled (again and again) until there is a class load. I was finally able to take the class this week and now have to wait until after the holidays to get the results and start more paperwork.

There’s a lot of paperwork/permits/regulations that goes with opening a food truck business. I may try to cover that in a post a little later on.

In addition, I’m trying to get a logo designed, a website set up for the new business and all the necessary supplies on hand to operate the food trailer. I’m also working to get the concession trailer approved as a vendor at a huge, major sporting event in our state in early fall. If that works out as I hope, there will definitely be a post about that.

I haven’t vanished completely, just a tad busy. Hopefully things will settle down some soon and I’ll be back to posting some delicious recipes a couple times a week. I’m thinking homemade chili, breakfast smoothies, and pulled pork recipes (of course) just to name a few. So I hope to see you back here before too long and I’ll try to get by your place to visit real soon. How are things in your neck of the woods? Is life being hectic for you too?

Cucina Felice!

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Kitchen Utensils

Cluttered Kitchen Drawer - The Surprised Gourmet

Everyone seems to have at least one cluttered kitchen drawer filled with utensils

Having the right ingredients is always essential when preparing that perfect dish. But without certain kitchen utensils, making that dish would be difficult.

While, for the most part, we all have at least one kitchen drawer that is jammed packed with utensils, there are always one or more tools we keep in a special place and dare anyone to move them (or touch them). These are those kitchen utensils we use time and time again. They can be ones that have been handed down in your family for generations, items you can’t even remember where they came from or pieces purchased recently by you.

Among my go-to items are a heavy-duty chef’s knife, a small paring knife and a nonstick skillet. It seems no matter what I prepare, I use at least one – if not all – of these items.

I am careful what I use to stir, flip or remove food from my skillet. I adore cast iron skillets, but seem to use the nonstick more except if I’m preparing cornbread. The nonstick skillet is light-weight and easy to clean which makes it much handier.


A Zwilling knife

I take extra special care of these two knives, as well as all my other knives. These two, however, are never placed in a drawer and are kept extremely sharp. I’ve found that it’s easier to cut yourself with a dull knife than it is a sharp one. While you can find good knives at reasonable prices (like I did), if I were to splurge on knives I’d have a complete set of Zwilling J.A. Henckels Knives. They are quite pricey, but I believe would be well worth the money. Made in Germany, the knives are hand sharpened and polished with a full tang. Zwilling Knives are durable and long-lasting. They’re on my Christmas wish list.


60″ RNB Series Range with 24″ French Top

In addition, if I were building my dream kitchen, one of the first things I would make sure to include is a freestanding, restaurant quality gas range like one of these 60-inch BlueStar RNB Series with a 24-inch French top. To me a gas range would make cooking so much easier. You have instant heat with gas and more even cooking. Having a range that is both efficient and fun to use is a perfect combination. There are so many sizes and styles to select from to fit every cook’s needs. BlueStar also has a variety of hoods to go with that perfect oven. In addition, they have a Built-In Refrigeration line that would complete any kitchen.

Thanks for stopping by today. If you were building (or have built) your dream kitchen, what would be your first ‘must have’ item? Do you have any favorite kitchen utensils you use time and time again? Were they handed down through generations or a special find you discovered yourself?

Cucina Felice!

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Merry Christmas to All

Hope everyone is having a wonderful and safe holiday. Just dropping in to say MERRY CHRISTMAS to all!

Sorry that I’ve been away but things get quite busy this time of year as I’m sure y’all all know and are experiencing. I’ll be back online soon with some new recipes to share and stopping by to see what tasty dishes y’all have to try.

For now, wishing each of you a safe and joyous time whether you’re celebrating the holiday or not. May this time bring you and your family much happiness, good health, prosperity and a little time to relax.


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Absent, but Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving

Sorry that I’ve been absent for awhile, but wanted to wish those celebrating the upcoming holiday a safe and HAPPY THANKSGIVING and those not celebrating a joyous time just the same.

Work has been extremely busy these last few weeks and I haven’t had a chance to post or visit with you as I’d like. I hope to be back online before long. In the meantime, I’m hoping that everyone will find new and delicious recipes to try, as well as share with us during this holiday.

Enjoy your family and friends during this wonderful time.

Cucina Felice!

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Brunswick Stew Hits the Spot

A dish of Brunswick stew always hits the spot

A dish of Brunswick stew always hits the spot

Living in the South when the weather has a touch of Autumn in it, you can’t help but think of good old Brunswick stew. It always hits the spot.

Of course you can buy Brunswick stew by the gallon container, but the real fun comes when you make your own. Some people  cook the stew outdoors in cast iron pots. Some recipes are handed down from generation to generation and guarded as prized family secrets.

For those of us who have busy work schedules and little time to spend  watching stew cook, I use a slow cooker.

I adapted my Brunswick stew recipe from a 100-year-old recipe given to my mother by the pastor’s wife of her church a number of years ago. I left a few ingredients out and added several new ones.

I started by skinning and cooking 7 leg quarters in a slow cooker. Be sure to save the broth for stock. You can freeze the broth in ice trays and use the cubes when needed. Each cube holds about 1 and a half tablespoons of broth.

Brunswick stew is delicious as temperatures cool

Brunswick stew is delicious as temperatures cool

When the chicken was done and deboned, it made approximately 5 cups. I placed that in another slow cooker and added the following ingredients: 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) cream style corn; 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) tomato, okra, corn mixture; 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) cut okra (this I drained); 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) petite diced tomatoes; 1 1/2 cups of ketchup; 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce;  1 tablespoon of sugar; 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar; 1 teaspoon of Lawry’s Garlic Salt; and 3 (3 1/2 ounces) jars of cocktail onions. You could use 1/2 cup of chopped onions instead, but I had the cocktail onions and wanted to see how they would do. They turned out great, but look like peeled white grapes in the stew.

Once all the ingredients were in the slow cooker, I gave them a good stir and added 2 cups of the chicken broth I had saved. Once everything was combined well, I set the slow cooker on low and let it cook for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, the stew was ready to eat. However, I continued to let it cook on low for several more hours just to allow all the ingredients to blend together well. Besides, everyone knows the longer you cook Brunswick stew – the better it gets.

Thanks for stopping by today. Do you have a favorite Brunswick stew recipe or a traditional way of preparing it? If you give this a try, be sure to drop back by and let me know how it turns out or tag it with #thesurprisedgourmet. I’d love to know how it went.

Cucina Felice!

Brunswick Stew Hits the Spot


Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8 servings

Brunswick stew is a Southern tradition that hits the spot when temperatures begin to cool.
  • 5 Cups of cooked chicken
  • 1 Can (14½ ounces) cream style corn
  • 1 Can (14½ ounces) tomato, okra, corn mixture
  • 1 Can (14½ ounces) cut okra (drained)
  • 1 Can (14½ ounces) petite diced tomatoes
  • 1½ Cups of ketchup
  • ¼ Cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Lawry's Garlic Salt
  • 3 (3½ ounces) Jars of cocktail onions (or ¼ cup of chopped onions)
  • 2 Cups Chicken stock
  1. Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Stir well and cook on low for 2 hours. It can be cooked longer, if desired.


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Celebrating Labor Day

Cooking on the grill is a Labor Day tradition

Cooking on the grill is a Labor Day tradition

Millions of people throughout the U.S. are celebrating Labor Day today with cookouts and special activities.

When it comes to cookouts, the grill becomes the focal point of the meal. That’s not to say all the other dishes aren’t important because they are. It’s just that the grill prepares the meat and sometimes even some of the vegetables.

When it comes to grilling, every chef is the master of his own domain. Some will use only charcoal, while other swear by gas (propane). There are even others that have built their own grills and use specific type wood like cedar or mesquite.

We were invited to a friend’s home Saturday for an early Labor Day cookout. Despite a quick rain shower early and a return drizzle later in the afternoon, the event went smoothly.

A vast array of dishes had been prepared by those attending. I fixed my guacamole dip and chicken salad for appetizers.

My friend Rodney was the grill master and did an excellent job preparing hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecued chicken. He put together a special barbecue sauce using a variety of items from his refrigerator until he got just the right blend of spices he wanted.

He and his wife Beth first put the chicken in the oven and baked it on low for an hour and a half with just salt, black pepper and a touch of the barbecue sauce on it. Before placing it on the grill, they coated the chicken in the barbecue sauce. When the chicken was heated thoroughly on the grill, it literally fell off the bone at the touch. It was a bit tricky taking it off the grill, but he managed.

Family and friends enjoy games during cookout

Family and friends enjoy games during cookout

Family and friends gathered around the tables and enjoyed a delicious meal. Afterwards, as the sun came back out it was time for fellowship, fun and games in the back yard. There’s nothing like the sound of laughter (both from adults and kids) to make an outing memorable.

Hope you and your family are having a wonderful and safe Labor Day. If you’re not celebrating Labor Day where you live, I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing day just the same.

Cucina Felice!

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