Monday, January 20, 2014

A Jamaican Food Journey

A Jamaican Food Journey
Kentucky Food Christmas in a suitcase
Of course, part of any trip is sampling the local cuisine.  This definitely was my plan for a trip to Jamaica at Christmas to visit my daughter Elizabeth.   She had been telling us about all the different and a bit unusual foods she had learned to eat and it was certainly my goal to try as many as possible.  But this journey turned out to be a dual food journey - not just for me to also bring Elizabeth as many of her favorite, traditional and sentimental foods as possible.  You see, Elizabeth is serving, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brownstown, St Ann’s Parish, Jamaica and this is her first Christmas away from home.   Elizabeth will tell you that Christmas and the Kentucky State Fair are her two favorite times of the year.  An interesting combination. 
We had been planning to go to Jamaica for Christmas ever since Elizabeth was stationed there, beginning in March of 2013.  By we, I mean Catherine and myself and possibly my sister and her husband.   As it turned out after numerous adjustments, the group was Catherine, Auntie Gail and myself.
I didn’t realize how much Elizabeth was missing home, until I sent her a photo of a wreath that I had hung on the second story of our log house, stone chimney.  I had purchased wreaths for both chimneys when Hobby Lobby had an 80% off sale on their Christmas decorations last winter.  Elizabeth had been living with me in the winter of 2013, after she completed her Master's degree at Virginia Tech and as she was waiting to leave for the Peace Corps and Jamaica.   Though she was supportive, I think inwardly she wondered if I would get this done.  I have been known to get things like this started and not get them finished.  So I sent her the picture to show her that, yes, I did get it done.
The conversation via Skype went like this:
“Did you get the photo of the wreath?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Oh it just makes me miss Christmas at home.”
OK, Momma mode revs up.  What could I do to bring Christmas to Elizabeth?  Why food of course!  While I had been planning to bring some things for Christmas, I was now in full food mode.   I was going to pack a Kentucky Food Christmas in a suitcase.
What would the menu include?   I had already planned to take the ingredients for Cheese Grits.  While not Elizabeth’s favorite, it is a family tradition.   We have had cheese grits for every Riley family Christmas gathering that I can remember.  And if you aren’t ahead of Catherine and her cousin Robert in the dinner line you might not get a serving.   I had also planned to take some cheese.  There are no dairies on the island of Jamaica.  So fresh milk, cheese and butter have to be imported and are pricy.
So what else did I need?  Country ham, a must, Grandmama’s chocolate chip cookies, of course, rice krispy treats, white chocolate cranberry cookies, and Texas Millionaires candy another tradition which is worthy as an entire post on its own.  Just to tantalize you, I will tell you that this can is homemade and rich, decadent caramel squares with an over abundance of pecans, dipped in chocolate.  Could I manage boiled custard?  As many of my homemade jams and preserves as I could get into my suitcase. Elizabeth had requested nuts, like almonds and cashews and chocolate chips, which were not reasonably available on the island.
Would I make it?   Next blog will tell.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Life on the Farm is Kinda laid back

More than once this week, I have disagreed with John Denver, when he said “life on the Farm is kinda laid back”.    It just seemed that nothing was easy, nothing went the way it should have and there was nothing laid back.  With the impending cold snap, there was a plethora of things to check on and make sure they were in working order.   
There is a decided “pecking” order in the feeding areas and some goats had to be moved so that they could get their fair share.  We have some poll does, which means they have no horns, so their defense mechanisms for pushing and getting to the feeder are very limited.   I had to rig up a feeder they could get into and the horned does couldn’t.   “Mean girls” had to be moved where they were more limited in their meanness.   Goats that needed a little TLC were moved in the barn.  A group of does that were being readied for special breeding were grouped for their upcoming procedure.  
But no one seemed to appreciate the effort that I was making to make sure they had a warm place to be protected from the weather and plenty of feed.    Everyone wanted to be somewhere else and I moved, chased, and was banged by sheep and goats that just wouldn’t stay were I put them.  I tried using the one of the dogs to help me with the sheep and that ended with me chasing sheep down the Bradshaw Road. Needless to say, my frustration level on Monday was pretty well off the scale and Catherine, bless her heart had to take the brunt of it.
But as Scarlett says “Tomorrow is another day”.  Well it wasn’t Tuesday, but it was today (November 13).    As I was listening to the Nashville Channel 5 reporter talk about the temperatures, no one would have braved the elements.  To hear her description we lived in the Arctic, rather than the upper South.   But it didn’t matter there were animals that needed tending.   I usually get out between 6 and 6:30.  With the time change it’s getting daylight a little after 6 and this morning was spectacular.   Yes, it was cold, but with no wind, it was really pleasant.   
Now the laid back part.   Two little does that had been in the barn were out in the yard and on Monday this would have been another level of frustration, but today it made me smile.   Both were show does and pretty spoiled, thank you Tobee Hagerman and Casey Siimpson, but that does have its pluses because they will come to you.  One doe came right up and I caught her and put her on a halter.
The other doe, a little paint (lots of red color), named Amethyst was just enjoying the day and I had to just stop and watch.  She ran up and down the drive way, jumped pranced and decided she wanted to be in charge of leaf control.  Now mind you, she has extremely good feed and hay in the barn, but the leaves were what she wanted.    Watching her became a Kodak, or in my case Iphone moment and I had to get some shots of her in the leaves.
momentary stationary cat
Amethyst wasn’t the only animal enjoying this gorgeous morning.  The garage and barn cats were romping around the house.  The barn cat, named BC, for yes not much imagination, Barn Cat, will be featured in an upcoming blog,, comes to the house to play with the garage cats.  I couldn’t get any really good shots of them, since they were in so much action and having so much fun.         
  It was nice to just stop and enjoy the day and watch what was going on right around me.   All to often in the hustle and bustle of the world, we don’t take time to just stop and look and watch and listen.  Leaves were falling, goats were eating, cats were playing and it was just  - well it was just nice to stop and watch it all.   Life on the Farm WAS kinda laid back.  At least this morning, as Scarlett says "Tomorrow is Another Day" 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Going to Kansas City

Many Facebook friends have encouraged me to start a food blog.  I will admit, after looking at the food blogs that are on the internet, I felt a bit ordinary or simple or not up to the caliber of the other blogs that are available.  However, it is time.  So here we go.  This first blog isn’t about something I prepared, but a recent road trip.

Going to Kansas City
Anytime I take a road trip and I love a road trip, finding the local food that represents the area is important.   Now, you have to understand that my road trips exclusively involve goats, buying, selling or going to a show.  These are usually a quick out and back or a couple of days at a fairground.  There is rarely time for sight seeing that is outside the travel route.  There is the always an exception and the next Blog will highlight that.  So food is what I use to make the trip special.  I pack a cooler for at least one daily meal and then look for that local food that best exemptlies the local culture.  There is NEVER a reason to eat at a fast food restaurant and on my road trip.
This fall I have had the chance to take two road trips, one to Virginia for the Virginia State Fair in Richmond, Virginia and one to the American Royal in Kansas City. 
Both were to goat shows and both were quick, but each was different in food and flavor. 
Going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come.   Again, you really have to understand how we operate on these trips.  They are mini vacations, some friends go to the beach, but I go to goat shows.  They are working vacations.  We have to squeeze them in between other obligations.   This trip started by meeting Catherine at 1:30AM in Evansville, because she had to work until 6PM the day before, and then driving all night and arriving at the American Royal (Kemper Arena) at about 8:30AM.   Casey Simpson, who was showing the goats, woke about the time we got to Kansas City.  We meet the other exhibitor Cheyenne Whaley and her Mom at the Royal.  The goats were weighed, washed, trimmed and ready for the next day by 1PM. 
Now the question came up,  “Where do we eat?”   I have to digress just a little and explain that some shows and fairgrounds have a “specialty” food that is part of the trip experience.  The Royal doesn’t have that, except possibly a gigantic baked potato that has at least a half cup of sour cream and butter, as well as green onions, cheese and bacon, probably weighs two pounds and costs $6.00.
There are two foods that come to mind in Kansas City – steak and BBQ. 
This time we chose BBQ.   Kansas City has a plethora of BBQ places.   We were looking for the great hole in the wall “Joint” that has loads of atmosphere and great BBQ.   The Whaley’s did some fact finding and after a web search did what is always the best research “asked a local”. 
The emphatic answer Florella's Jack Stack,,   It was a close drive from the fair grounds and downtown and in the Warehouse district of Kansas City.  Ok sounds good.   As we got out of the car we got the first whiff of that pungent wood smoke of BBQ.  Ahhh. The building was an old warehouse so we still had “joint” in our mind.  Well take that image out of your mind.  This was the most upscale BBQ place I have ever been too and I have been to several.  The warehouse was renovated (which gets points from me), but when the hostess – (hostess at a “BBQ place? ) took a look at us – I don’t think we fit the restaurant's image.  We were still in the same clothes we started the day er I mean night in.  The girls had washed and trimmed their goats and I had a huge coffee stain on my Go’in Showin’ hoodie.   We were seated at a large booth with the silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin.  Silverware in a cloth napkin?  Again, not, what I was used to in a BBQ restaurant.   The restaurant – notice  - I am no longing using the word joint, was warm and inviting with a huge fireplace and 20 foot ceilings consistent with a warehouse and the walls were exposed brick decorated with vintage prints of farm animals.   Upscale.
When we were seated the waitress asked us if she could start us off with some onion rings and we hadn’t had time to think what we wanted.  We were still a little shell-shocked by the restaurant (notice I didn’t say joint) and didn’t know what was special about the onion rings.  We found out when we saw an order go by.  There were probably 6, inch thick onion rings served in a stack with a dowel rod in a base holding them up.  Looked excellent.
Now the menu, beef, pork, lamb, ribs, slices and burnt ends.   Before I go on, I have to explain that the girls and I are BBQ snobs.  We refuse to eat pork BBQ outside of Christian County or at least Western Kentucky, because the couple of times we have succumbed we have been disappointed and have decided there is no where that can meet our expectations except our local places.  So my choice was beef. I tried the lunch combo, which was two choices of meat, and I chose beef ribs and burnt ends and French fries, for $12.99.   Now what is a burnt end? Outstanding is what they are – just like they sound, they are the ends of the roast that are too crusty to slice.  They are served as 2 inch chunks, thick with wood smoke crust and taste on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.  Excellent.   The two ribs that came with the order were thick, tender and delicious. 
Each of us tried something different.   Catherine had the lunch special, soup, which was burnt end stew and a sandwich, which for her was brisket.   Again, excellent  reviews.  Catherine did everything but lick the bowl.   The other choices around the table, included; baby back ribs, sliced brisket, pulled pork (she was from Indiana), and more burnt ends.  We all declared everything was excellent!  We were full when we left and enjoyed the atmosphere and service.  Price maybe just a little out of range, but then we’re on vacation.
Now, fast forward to the next day.  Show is over, we have done well, our friends from Indiana are heading back and a new group of friends is looking for something to eat.  Our new eating group begins with Dr. Scott Greiner, Elizabeth’s Master’s advisor from Virginia Tech, judge for the lamb show the next day and father of Leah Greiner who showed our goat at the Virginia State Fair (the reason I went to Virginia) to Reserve Champion.  Dr. Greiner’s brother Curt and his children were new acquaintances.  When Dr. Greiner and I realized we were both at the Royal at the same time I had hinted we might like to go to the Hereford House restaurant renown for its Kansas City (not New York) Strip steak. Catherine and I had eaten there three years ago when just Catherine and I came to the Royal and that meal is near the top of our favorites.  
However, when we checked in to our hotel in the Westport area we noticed the Westport Flea Market Bar and Grill right next door.  Our hotel had listed it as an excellent close-by restaurant and the sign our front said, “ as featured on Food Network”.  Its hamburgers had been reviewed on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”.  So that establishment was rising high on our list for after show eating, since it would eliminate the 30 minute drive and probably have a considerably lower bill than the Hereford House.
When I suggested it, our new friends were slightly hesitant until they looked it up on the Urban Spoon, Scott laughed and said what I was describing might not make the Urban Spoon.  After a couple of searches the deal was sealed when a picture of their famous hamburger popped up.
Now, how, to describe the Westport Flea Market Bar and Grille.  As much as I had been looking for a BBQ joint I now found a hamburger joint and I guess in this case, dive.  The exterior indicated that at one time this facility really was a flea market, gray low roofed, a bit neglected and a bit grungy.  As we went in the door there was a sign that said "no one under 21 was admitted with out a parent or legal guardian".  I thought, “oh my what I have done’.   Inside it was dark and it took a few minutes for our eyes to adjust and see what there was.  There was no hostess and we just looked around to see what was what.  There were several different levels and rooms, reminiscent of the flea market days.   There was a pool table, foosh ball and video games and a gift shop.   There were several TVs so it was a sports bar as well.  There were menus on the table and you ordered up at the front and picked up at a different window.  And here’s the real surprise – Cash only – but of course there was an ATM.
Since the Greiner crew would probably be a few minutes and we hadn’t eaten much since breakfast we started with potato skins and that hit the spot.  When the Greiner’s arrived we studied the menu.  There were lots of sandwich choices, but the marquee sandwich was the 10-ounce burger that caught the men’s eye.  There was a 5-½ ounce mini.  You could get cole slaw or cottage cheese, fries or onion rings.  You could add different cheeses and bacon for an additional cost.  Catherine and I decided to split the big burger, add cojack cheese and bacon, cole slaw and onion rings and then a side of French Fries.  We were not disappointed in any way.   Excellent, excellent.   Burger; juicy, tender: onion rings; narrow, crisp with not too much batter: cole slaw; vinegar based, tangy with big pieces of red and green cabbage.
Everyone else at the table had variations of the big burger or the mini and everyone agreed it was good.   Now comes the fun part.  We weren’t rushed out to get our table turned over. The adults tried some of the local liquid refreshment, Boulevard Seasonal and we all sat and talked for at least an hour and a half.  The kids didn’t seem too bored and there was a Cardinals game on the TV that kept the youngest member, Preston Greiner entertained.  This was just a comfortable place to eat and talk and unwind from a long day of showing.  About 9 o’clock they announced a trivia game and that would have been fun to try if the next day didn’t have to begin early and we have a long drive back to KY.
A little history about the Westport Area of Kansas City is important.  Both Scott and his brother Curt had gone to Iowa State and had been to Kansas City many times as college students a few years ago.  Westport had been a big party area after the Big 8 now Big 12 basketball tournament that was held at Kemper Arena.  Westport had gone down hill and become pretty rundown and probably why Curt had been slightly reluctant to go there for dinner.  However, it is seeing a big renewal and the area was definitely on the up swing with renovated warehouses and new shopping and eating establishments in what was probably a real “old west” part of Kansas City.
So with a quick, basically three day trip to Kansas City, Kansas I was able to try two different kinds of local fare and eat in two completely different restaurants and enjoy both.  We’ll go back to the Westport Flea market Bar and Grill, but with so many kinds of BBQ places we’ll keep looking for the joint.
I have to make a small apology for this blog.  Usually we take photos when we are eating something special and send them to each other.  However, Catherine and I could not bring ourselves to take photos and send them to Elizabeth who is on a very restricted diet while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer and it would have been pretty mean to send her photos.  Writing this blog piece came to me after I returned.  That mistake will not happen again.
However, here are some shots of our two exhibitors, Casey Simpson and Cheyenne Whaley.  Both girls did a great job showing at the American Royal Market Goat Show.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza Crust - It Works!!

Over the winter, I discovered much to my dismay that wheat and sweets were the cause of my inability to lose weight.  The two things I love most.  I love bread more than dessert.   No bread not even whole wheat. So with courage and discipline in hand, I set out to see what would happen if I cut out wheat and sweets and it made a huge difference.  I also want to add that I have cut out all processed foods.  No protein bars, no low calorie frozen meals as much fresh vegetables and fruit as possible.  I have lost 30 pounds and have done it with not a great deal of difficulty.  There have been set backs, but over all not as hard as other diets have been. 
As summer comes a main worry was how much I love fresh veggie pizza and especially pizza margarita.  What was I going to do for crust?  Could I just make them thin, and go for it or was there an alternative.  Thanks to pintrest and my friend Mary Averbeck I found a pizza crust made from cauliflower AND it works. 
From a blog called Eat, Drink and Smile from Beth from Nashville I found the following recipe.
Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Serves 2; Adapted from Your Lighter Side.
1 cup cooked, riced cauliflower
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese ( I used fresh)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp dried oregano  ( i used fresh)
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1/2 tsp garlic salt
olive oil (optional)
pizza sauce, shredded cheese and your choice of toppings*
To "Rice" the Cauliflower:
Take 1 large head of fresh cauliflower, remove stems and leaves, and chop the florets into chunks. Add to food processor and pulse until it looks like grain. Do not over-do pulse or you will puree it. (If you don't have a food processor, you can grate the whole head with a cheese grater). Place the riced cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 8 minutes (some microwaves are more powerful than others, so you may need to reduce this cooking time). There is no need to add water, as the natural moisture in the cauliflower is enough to cook itself.
One large head should produce approximately 3 cups of riced cauliflower. The remainder can be used to make additional pizza crusts immediately, or can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
To Make the Pizza Crust:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup cauliflower, egg and mozzarella. Add oregano, crushed garlic and garlic, salt, stir. Transfer to the cookie sheet, and using your hands, pat out into a 9" round. Optional: Brush olive oil over top of mixture to help with browning.
Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven. To the crust, add sauce, toppings and cheese. Place under a broiler at high heat just until cheese is melted (approximately 3-4 minutes).
*Note that toppings need to be precooked since you are only broiling for a few minutes.

I made my topping from cherry tomatoes that I cooked in olive oil and garlic until the tomatoes were soft and popped and made their own sauce.  I used fresh mozzarella in the “crust” and on top.  I topped the cooked pizza with fresh basil. The following photos show how well things worked out.  It was great and I could pick it up like a slice of pizza.  

Ready for toppings
 I used a pizza stone and really liked how it cooked
 Using the pizza stone did cause a little crustiness - but it make the crust crispy

Cauliflower pizza crust it works.  Was able to pick it up like real crust.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Baking Day

I love to bake – but don’t knead to eat it. So today was sour dough day. I fed the starter on Friday night and made the dough on Saturday and put it in the pans last night, so it was ready to bake this morning. I baked the four loaves and took them to church and our church nurse will deliver them on Tuesday. I have been feeding this starter for I think 3 years. I got the starter from Carol Ann Tingle and have been making it ever since. I usually stocked Catherine up every couple of weeks, but don’t think I can mail loaves to Ireland. So will try to make it every week and give it away.

With Mardi Gras this week. I had seen some recipes for a King Cake. Again, I wanted to bake – but didn’t knead to eat it. I made one to share with my Sunday School Class and any one else that came by for snack.

You might ask what a King Cake is:

Epiphany, celebrated in European countries, marks the coming of the wise men who brought gifts to the Christ Child. Epiphany is also called Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night, and is celebrated twelve nights after Christmas. People from all of the world celebrate Epiphany by exchanging gifts and feasting. A very popular custom that is still celebrated is the making of the "King's Cake" which represents the three kings who brought gifts. A plastic baby is baked inside the King Cake, and the tradition is whoever receives the baby in their piece of cake must buy the next King Cake or throw the next party. King Cakes are made of a cinnamon filled dough in the shape of a hollow circle. The cake is topped with a delicious glazed topping and then sprinkled with colored sugar. The three colors of the sugar are Purple (representing Justice), Green (representing Faith) and Gold (representing Power). Today the King Cakes are baked with a wide assortment of fillings inside the cake. King Cake is the preferred dessert and snack in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in New Orleans during the Carnival season. Many are shipped throughout the U.S. for those displaced New Orleanians longing for a taste of Mardi Gras. In fact, a Mardi Gras party wouldn't be a Mardi Gras party without a King Cake.

There are many different recipes for King Cake on the internet. Basically, a King Cake uses a sweet dough with a filling. After looking at several, I decided that the sweet dough I have made since Mother taught me how to knead dough as a child would work with a little tweaing. This recipe was our roll recipe for hot rolls or cinnamon rolls.


Sweet dough

5-6 Cups Bread Flour ( I use King Arthur) I used 1 ½ cups white whole wheat

2 pkgs active dry yeast

½ cup sugar

½ cup softened butter

1 ½ tsp salt

1 cup milk

2/3 cups water

3 eggs

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp freshly grated cinnamon or 1 tsp canned.

Combine 2 cups flour, undissolved yeast, sugar and salt in bowl, blend well

Heat water and milk until warm to touch – not scalding – about 110 degrees

Add warm liquids to bowl, with mixer, beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add eggs and butter and 1 more cup of flour, spices and beat 1 more minute

(at this point I use the dough hook) stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

If using the dough hook, beat until dough leaves sides of the bowl.

If kneading by hand, turn out on a floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes

Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

Roll into a 22X12 inch rectangle – spread with filling, add a small plastic baby and roll up jelly roll style and shape into a ring.

Allow to rise until double or put in the refrigerator 2 -24 hours. If refrigerating, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before baking

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or golden brown.

Allow to cool and add icing


1 package cream cheese, 1 egg, ½ cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, beat all ingredents1


½ cup butter

2 cups powered sugar,

1 TBS milk.

Purple, green and yellow food coloring. Sprinkles if desired

Beat all ingredients. Divide in thirds color and pipe icing or ice

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Welcome to Riley’s Bellaire Farm blog. Riley’s Bellaire Farm or RBF is a very small farm in Western Kentucky just outside the city of Hopkinsville. We have three family members, Toni, retired Christian County 4-H Agent, Elizabeth, a graduate student in animal science at Virginia Tech University – Go Hokies, and Catherine, a senior at the University of Kentucky majoring in Equine Business management and currently a student at Maynooth University in Ireland. Follow her blog at Elizabeth did the same thing in the spring of 2009 and went to Preston England and traveled all over England and many places on the continent. Her blog is still up at Our husband and Dad, David died in 2005, when he lost his battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. We miss him very much.

This blog will offer the happenings on the farm, which may seem mundane to some, but is our way of life. Elizabeth and Catherine have been very active in raising and showing lambs and goats in first 4-H and then FFA, since they were four years old.

Both of the girls have aged out of junior shows. 2011 was the last for Catherine, but she went out with a bang. She showed the grand champion market goat at the Kentucky State Fair and it sold in the Sale of Champions for $20,000. We owe this record breaking amount, to the work of State Senator Joey Pendleton and the generosity of many local businesses and individuals. She received 60% of the sale price.

Catherine was also fortunate enough to have the 2011 Grand Champion Market Goat at the North American Livestock Exposition and the 2010 Kentucky State Fair, Reserve Champion Market Goat.

We are now concentrating on helping other 4-H and FFA members have success with their goat project. We have worked hard to develop a very good herd of wether does and have been fortunate to have the help of Alvin Tingle of Show Barn Genetics. His bucks have brought a tremendous genetic strength to our herd. We would never have had the level of success without his generosity, advice and counsel.

Right now, we are into kidding season and have some really nice early kids on the ground. So the next weeks will be devoted to the birth of new kids that hopefully will provide market does and wethers for youth organization members to have a great 2012 project year. We believe in a total program that the family is involved in and the kids do the work with adult guidance. Showmanship is as important as on foot placing and skillathon and judging only extend the opportunities for young people to learn about animal husbandry.