Thursday, May 26, 2011


"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13

This verse resonates in me on a daily basis. I can honestly say that I don't always act on it but after this past weekend of helping to prepare meals for the Pleasant Grove's tornado victims and volunteers,
the word hospitality takes on a new meaning to me. 

I was very blessed with the opportunity to go to Pleasant Grove, AL. I saw how a good warm meal comforted the victims and volunteers. One of the tornado relief workers my mom spoke to said that he has worked in other states for disaster relief, but wasn't always able to enjoy home-cooked meals and to sit down and relax and fellowship with others. This is "southern hospitality."
With donations from several people from my town and the local area including Mrs. Debra, The Winborns, Ms. Maggie Smith and family, Mrs. Linda Hawkins and other ladies in the Poplarville Woman's Club, teachers and staff at the Poplarville schools, teachers and staff at Pearl River Central, Grandpa Larry and Nancy, etc. we were able to provide supplies and prepare meals. Some of the dishes included smoked beef and vegetable stew, spaghetti and meatballs, Poplarville blueberry pancakes (Thank you Misty for picking the blueberries), tres leches cake, and peach cobbler.
One of the things that really touched me was that two college guys who live in Pleasant Grove came to help. One of the guys had lost his house in the tornado and he was still willing to serve.

Through this experience, I have learned that special touches go a long way. Home-baked cookies were really appreciated amongst the volunteers and workers.

After this experience, I was encouraged to show hospitality more to others. I found this plate at a dollar store and thought this would be a great way to spread hospitality.
I am issuing a Hospitality challenge to all of you. This is how it works. Do something for others; it can be both big or small. Invite someone to dinner at your house, invite someone to lunch after church, bring someone a baked good, prepare dinner for a friend and bring it to him or her, or do something else in which you can help someone in need. This doesn't just have to mean cooking and food. Cooking is my talent and this is the way I can show hospitality but you can mow someone's lawn, babysit, etc.

I have begun this challenge myself. I filled this plate with my pecan pralines and gave it to a secretary at my dad's work. She has always been really nice to give my family vegetables from her garden. What was neat was that I didn't know that earlier that day she had given my dad a bag of squash from her garden.  I received hospitality from her the same day I showed it to her.

The second plate I filled with my No Name Bars. They are like an ooey gooey bar. I went to my neighbor's house last night and took them to him. He told me he would bring me the plate back. I told him that's ok but to read the plate after he and his family had eaten the treats. After reading the message, hopefully he will fill the plate and forward hospitality to someone.

Share your stories of how you show hospitality on the comment section. Post pictures on my facebook page Whitney Miller-Masterchef. I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vegetables in Training

While looking around Cracker Barrel's gift shop, I found this cute garden stake sign that said "Vegetables in Training." I thought how fitting this sign would be in my garden.  My dad and I have always wanted to have a big garden that overflowed with vegetables.  One year my dad used an antique manual tiller that we had to till up our soon-to-be garden spot. I came behind him and dropped an assortment of vegetable seeds.  My dad and I were exhausted but excited about what tastey vegetables would come from our hard work. Our dreams were soon washed away from a hard rain that washed some of our seeds away and the other seeds didn't produce but a few vegetable plants.
This year we decided to plant small vegetable plants instead of seeds.  My mom and I ventured to the garden store to purchase our garden's plants. I couldn't contain myself and began grabbing various plants including eggplant, red bell pepper, yellow squash, and zucchini. My eyes scanned the various tomato plants. I didn't know there were so many different kinds especially the hybrid tomatoes. I filled my shopping cart with yellow boy, heirloom, big boy, grape and cherry tomato plants.  I am not even a cucumber fan but a lemon cucumber plant peaked my interest. 
Since helping my mom and dad excavate, cover plants with dirt, and water them, I have been watching them grow every day. The progress is exciting!
Finally fruits of our labor!
Speaking of fruit, I also planted some strawberry plants.
Using my strawberries, I created a cupcake recipe. It is called a Balsamic Strawberry "Short" cupcake. In the summer I love making strawberry shortcake and so I created a cupcake version. The addition of a good quality thick balsamic gave a slight acidic, sweet and tart component to the dessert. While in New Orleans shopping on Magazine Street, I found a shop called Vom Fass. They sell a balsamic that is rich, thick, and sweet. It is called Aceto Balsamico di Modena "Maletti."  The great thing about Vom Fass is that you can sample their oak barrel stored olive oils and balsamics before you purchase them.
Without further ado my cupcake recipe:

Balsamic Strawberry “Short” Cupcakes

“Short” Cupcakes
1 stick butter – room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2 large eggs, separated (room temp)
¾ cup whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Balsamic Strawberries
3 cup sliced strawberries
3 Tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar*

Whipped Cream
2 cups whipping cream
½ cup confectioner’s sugar

Balsamic vinegar (garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
In a mixing bowl, whisk butter until creamy consistency. Slowly add in sugar until incorporated.  Beat egg yolks one at a time in a small bowl and whisk into butter and sugar mixture.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
Alternately add dry ingredients and milk into butter mixture, being sure to start and end with the flour mixture. Whisk batter after each addition.  Lastly, add vanilla. Fold in beaten egg whites. Fill 20-25 cupcake liners a little more than half full. Do not over fill. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire baking rack.
In a bowl, toss strawberry slices with balsamic vinegar.
Using a hand mixer, beat whipping cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add confectioner’s sugar and beat until combined.
To assemble cupcakes, arrange strawberry slices onto cupcakes and top with whipped cream. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over whipped cream. Serve immediately.
Yields: 20-25 cupcakes