Sunday, October 28, 2012


Toasted pecans from CARTI's Festivities, Too cookbook
On many a November day, along tree lined roadsides and across orchard-clothed flatlands, you may see people of all ages engaging in a particular rite of autumn. Each man, each woman, each grandparent or child gazes at the grounds, bends over and picks up a handful of brown ovoid nuts and places them in whatever they manage to utilize to carry such a bounty. It is time for the pecan harvest.

Last year an estimated 2.6 million pecans were harvested from orchards
E's Bistro's Lemon Pecan Pie.
around the Natural State. With prices running around $3 a pound, pecans are big business.

Pecans are native to Arkansas. They were highly valued by Native Americans, who traded and consumed them. Spanish explorers thought they were another sort of walnut and called them nueces, or “fruit of the walnut.” They’re a great source of protein, and somewhat easier to crack than walnuts.

Blue Mountain Bakery's Sticky Rolls.
When I was a little girl, the weekend before Thanksgiving was a common time to pick pecans. You don’t pick them off the trees; instead, you get yourself some sort of container or sack and go walking out where the trees are and pick up all you can before your back gives out. My cousins and I would pick up all we could, shoving the nuts into potato sacks or
Praline pecans from Ozark Candy & Nuts.
grocery sacks, until we’d either give out or it got dark. The evenings we’d spend with a set of nutcrackers, carefully popping open each shell and extracting the soft part inside. That’d go to whoever was making pies – because there was ALWAYS pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, usually a Karo-nut pie. We’d also eat our share. You learned quickly to examine the nuts before you ate them, because those little woody bits in the center that held the shell together
"Pecan Row" by Grav Weldon, taken near Scott.
are bitter.

Pecan trees are common across the state, and you’ll see them here and there. I even have one in my backyard, though the squirrels seem to reap the bounty the tree offers before the nuts hit the ground. There is a stretch of highway near Scott where pecan trees line either side of the road, offering a shady tunnel during the summer and a stark
Pecan pie at Chip's Barbecue.
reminder of winter’s arrival each December. To get to this pretty place, take 161 south from where it splits off from Highway 167 by the Plantation Agriculture Museum.

Nana Deane's Coconut Pecan Pie, recipe in Arkansas Pie
As I mentioned, pecan pies are a big tradition in my family. We have our own pecan pie recipe, as many families do. While criss-crossing the state, I have discovered many other pie varieties that focus on the pecan. Of note: the PCP (Pineapple, Coconut and Pecan) pie at Ed and Kay’s Restaurant in Benton; Nana Deane’s Coconut Pecan Pie at Ray’s Dairy Maid in Barton and the Bourbon Chocolate Chunk Pecan pie at Greenhouse Grille in Fayetteville. The Backyard Bar-B-Que Company in Magnolia and the Red Rooster Bistro in Alma both make a marvelous rendition of pecan cream cheese pie,
Pecan fried pie at Grandpa's BBQ.
and Ms. Rhoda Adams still makes the traditional version in miniature pie pans down at Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales in Lake Village.

Some places, like Skinny J’s in Jonesboro and Grandpa’s Catfish in Cabot even serve up fried pecan pies.

Pecans can be found in sweet potato casseroles, mixed into the cranberry relish and even included in a good cornmeal dressing. What better food to celebrate during November?

Now, as many of you know, I've been developing a rather ridiculous intolerance to corn grain.  I apparently can eat corn off the cob; it's the corn that's used as grain that's been
giving me issue -- and that's the corn used in corn syrup.  I've been avoiding the heck out of corn syrup since February.  My few encounters have lead to some swelling... which is not what I want, believe me.

Most pecan pies are made with Karo syrup.  How am I getting around that?  Simple.  I'm thinking for Thanksgiving, a brown sugar pecan pie will grace my table.

Brown Sugar Pecan Pie

2 eggs, beaten
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar (the white stuff)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 blind baked flour pastry pie shell (store-bought is acceptable, too)
Caramel Pecan Pie at Sweet Treats.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the heck out of the eggs.  Pour in the melted butter, both sugars and the vanilla and incorporate thoroughly.  Shake chopped pecans with all-purpose flour and add to the mix.

Pour into pie shell.  Top with pecan halves.  Bake for 45 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The 2012 Arkansas State Fair Food Preview.

As I always do, I've checked out the food you'll find at the Arkansas State Fair. Rather than rehash everything you already know at the fair, I'll direct you thusly to last year's compendium of absolutely just about everything you could find -- and introduce some new stuff right here, too.
The weird new food at the fair this year:  BACON LEMONADE.  I kid you not. 
Because it has actual bacon rendering in it, I cannot try it myself, but I am
told it doesn’t taste too far off from regular lemonade.  Coastal Concessions,
which is offering it this year, also has Peach and Raspberry versions, which
aren’t nearly as offensive and are actually quite good.

The tastiest of the new fair foods:  DO-RE-OHs.  These are
deep fried cookie dough wrapped Oreo cookies, and if you
get them when they are just out of the fryer, they are
phenomenal – 10 times better than a Chocolate Lava Cake. 
However, once they cool they’re kinda mushy and the charm
is lost.  The Fried What! Folks are selling these.
The folks that brought you Cheeseburger on a Stick are
branching out this year with Alligator on a Stick.  Yes, it’s been
offered at other fairs, but now it’s at the Arkansas State Fair. 
Tastes like chicken.
The Red River Catering Company is offering a tasty twist on
a classic:  Barbecue Nachos.  This is a pile of tortilla chips
topped with cheese, covered in your choice of shredded beef
or pork and drizzled with barbecue sauce.

Beef brisket sandwiches have been here before, but they're always yummy.

And yes, there is still Chocolate Bacon, first introduced at the Arkansas State Fair in 2009.
The Fried What! People are also offering Deep Fried Brownies. 
Served up with a hefty scoop of ice cream and whipped cream,
this is only a sharing dessert – total consumption by a single
individual might result in a sugar-related emergency.

Fried What! is also serving up Deep Fried Green Tomatoes.

Here's another shot of the Do-Re-Ohs, since I know some news folks might want a different image.  As always, yes, you can use my imagery... with attribution, of course.

This should have been a no-brainer... it's a funnel cake on a stick.  Of course.

Red River Catering is offering this meal-on-a-stick, a Chicken and Potato kebab, complete with bun.

Kathy's Kabana brings back a childhood favorite -- chocolate dipped bananas.

Colonial Nut Roll has your sweet tooth in mind with Black Walnut Salt Water Taffy.

Red River Catering will serve up a perfectly normal Fried Catfish plate if you ask nicely (and pay a little).

I personally find this a bit disturbing on a cholesterol level -- gravy covered deep fried steak bites.
Kathy's Kabana is selling steak and chicken quesadillas -- not unusual, but tasty.

You can also buy an oversized nacho plate at the Big Show Diner.

And finally:  The Walking Taco in all its glory, from Kathy's Kabana.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I have strange feet.

When I was born, my feet weren’t quite right. They turned inward. Left uncorrected, I would likely have had problems the rest of my life with them.

But shortly after I was born, there were specialty shoes put on my feet, connected by a brace. This brace would be part of my life for some time, but it was worth it.

My feet, for the most part, straightened out. I grew older, I grew up and I walked like everyone else – well, I walked.

I wore corrective shoes for years. I’d have to go get fitted every once in a while at a special shoe store on University in the old Park Plaza Mall. Sometimes they were white, sometimes brown, ALWAYS clunky. I used to envy other kids I saw running around in sneakers.

Oh, sometimes I didn’t wear them… like to church or for some social functions. It always felt so good to wear “normal” shoes. But then I’d be back in them, and they’d be ouchy for a bit.

I did grow older, and my feet did get better, and I did better too. I eventually got to the point where I didn’t need the corrective shoes any more. Still, I was limited. I never did well as a young’un in heels, and sandals would twist on my feet. I wore flip-flops all summer. And when I was in junior high and high top sneakers came back into style, I was in heaven – because they really supported my weak ankles and kept my feet in line.

I got older. I grew up. I lived in high-tops as long as I could find them – which was about into the mid-Aughts. I lusted after knee high boots – which didn’t come in the fat calf sizes I would like. For the most part.

And then, I could. I put on a pair of fancypants platform boots in the fall of 2007 and wore them everywhere. They were as much a part of my tie dyed persona as the jeans and the colorful shirts and the hats. I towered over the average joe, adding a few inches to my already 5’9” height. I felt so empowered…

And then the dang boots wore out. Seriously. By March 2008 they’d popped stitches and were all but falling apart. I tried another pair. They were done by June. And then I was pregnant and scared to death of wearing any heeled boots at all!

I had Hunter. I started traveling again. I found that outside of the food stories, I was getting out in the backwoods a lot. I was climbing up rocks and traversing fields and whatnot. I was crawling off the side of Scenic Highway Seven looking for a shot. Scooting out onto the edge of Beaver Lake for a better look at Monte Ne. Crawling into a boat and trout fishing and then climbing back on the bank. Fancy boots just weren’t going to cut it.

So when Country Outfitters made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, I took it. I dug through page after page after page of cute boots on their website… and while they were all cute, and they were all functional, nothing really caught my eye. I needed something that was strong and durable, yet a little feminine, too.

That’s when I found these. They’re Twisted X boots… which, considering me, is fitting, right? A tannish green and steel toed, these Twisted X Lite Cowboy work boots with red flowers were the sort of thing I’d been looking for. They were just cute enough I could get away with wearing them to social functions… yet hearty enough I wouldn’t feel bad climbing out of a river in.

I picked mine up at the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged Conference, this year held at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View. There were other cool bloggers there, and when we were given the chance to pick up our new boots, I recognized mine right away. They were different from the rest. While everyone else was fawning over sleek, chic pointy-toed affairs, I was clamboring into these big fellows and feeling like I could take on the world.

Thing is, my feet have come a long way. They’ve also carried me a long way as well, all over and under and around Arkansas and through so many other states as well. I know in these boots I won’t have to worry about having my toes broken if I drop something or my photographer accidentally steps on them. I also know they’re going to last a heck of a long time.

So, where am I going with all of this? You could have some boots of your own, too. Doesn’t have to be something strong and heavy like what I have with the fabulous Twisted X boots, either. There are so many Country Outfitter boots to choose from.
Country Outfitter is giving you a chance to win a $150 gift certificate to go shopping on them! So here’s what I want you to do.

1. Click here & submit your email address to Country Outfitter (you may receive occasional emails from them).

2. Leave a comment here on the blog letting me know you submitted your email to Country Outfitter.

3. While you’re at it, tell me something about your feet. Where have they taken you?

A random winner will be selected in one week (Thursday, October 11, 2012) after 10 p.m. CDT.

Good luck, and keep walking.