Comfort Food Made From the Heart

By Janecia Britt

Suzy Phipps never thought she’d have a catering business when she graduated from Florida State University with her degree in literature. Her return to Tallahassee after being whisked off to accompany her husband, a land manager, to Colorado was when Suzy found her passion for cooking. Under the direction of Mark Suber at Karl Mark’s (currently Black Fig), she began as a server. “I didn’t know how to cook, but after I began to work in platter assembly and being in the kitchen watching Mark, I began to pick up simple recipes and a desire to cook all the time,” says Suzy. She then began to do some personal chef work at the request of a family who liked to have prepared meals ready for them after a long day of hunting. That was the catalyst for her catering business, A Rustic Affair. It’s been four years since starting her business, and as a busy mom of two, she is performing the ultimate juggling act between her roles as mother, wife and business owner.

Also very involved in her community, Suzy is dedicated to giving back, whether as a volunteer at her children’s school or using her gift of cooking to help in local organizations, such as Boys Town North Florida and Treehouse’s Fast Cars and Mason Jars. While her catering business has done everything from corporate meals to small dinner parties, what she’s the most excited about is her new meal service. “With the popularity of grocery delivery services, I wanted to put my spin on it for the busy mom who just doesn’t have time to cook. It’s a complete meal with a one-pot dish like a casserole as well as a salad.” In 2017 she hopes to grow her business and her meal pickup service. Her rustic simple dishes are good for the heart and soul and make you feel at home. She shares with us her chocolate bread pudding and rosemary pot roast, and both dishes take only one pan. These are dishes that everyone in your family, big or small, will absolutely love.

For more information, menus and deadlines from A Rustic Affair, sign up for her newsletter on arusticaffaircatering.com or visit on Facebook at A Rustic Affair.

Family Favorite Pot Roast (Serves 6–8)

This is an easy recipe, but you have to give yourself time to make it—a minimum of 3 hours. It’s great for a Sunday family meal because you can prepare it at 2:00, then enjoy your afternoon and dinner will be ready. I tend to use recipes as a guideline, because I know what my kids like and don’t like. If your kids are open to different vegetables, add them! If not, make sure to just add what they like and try to use large chunks of any extra vegetables you may want to add, so they can easily avoid anything off-putting in their view. I love parsnips, so I usually do a mixture of carrots and parsnips for my crew (but really just for me). I keep the chunks big for this type of recipe. Onions add a lot of flavor, but my son dislikes them, so I usually use a large one and keep the quarters or wedges intact.That way, they can easily be avoided when plating the dishes for those fussy eaters.

Ingredients:

Boneless beef chuck roast (usually 3 or 4 pounds)

12 baby red potatoes (halved if they are medium sized)

2 cups of baby carrots or peeled and large chopped whole carrots

Red onion, quartered

1 head of garlic (separated and peeled)

2 cups mushrooms, halved (optional)

1 cup fresh green beans (optional)

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 cups beef stock

Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Season the roast with the salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil (canola, grapeseed, olive, vegetable—any of them will work) in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear both sides for 3 minutes and the edges for a minute each. Add the prepped veggies and garlic cloves around the meat and pour in the stock. Place the rosemary and thyme sprigs on top.    

Cover and cook for no less than 2 ½ to 3 hours. With this cut of meat at this low of a temperature, it’s easier to undercook it than overcook it. Enjoy with a salad and your favorite bread!

Sinfully Good     Chocolate Bread Pudding (Serves 10-15 smaller portions)

As with the pot roast, most of my recipes can be easily adapted to your liking because I’ve usually already adapted them myself from recipes I’ve found. I’m not trying to be like Martha Stewart. I’m a busy mom that needs to be in several places at one time, so I’m happy to take shortcuts where they can be taken, especially if it means I’m having a real dinner at home with my family at our dining table. This is a basic decadent bread pudding recipe which can be made with or without the chocolate, or you could replace chocolate with fresh blueberries or use white chocolate and blueberries together. You can’t go wrong; just use what you like! 

Ingredients:

1 loaf of bakery bread (I like a thick French or Italian loaf)

2 cups of milk

1 cup of half and half

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 cups sugar

½ stick of melted butter

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray. Cube the loaf of bread and toss in the casserole dish. Top with ½ of the pecans and chocolate. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, half and half, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar and melted butter until well combined. 

Pour the mixture over the bread as evenly as you can. Dunk the dry pieces of bread with a wooden spoon to get most of the bread touching the egg mixture. Top with the rest of the chocolate and pecans and bake for 40–50 minutes uncovered. Check it frequently from the 35 minute mark and take it out when it looks golden brown. Cooking times vary depending on the type of bread you use.  Add glaze and enjoy.

Out of the Oven Glaze
(optional—for a special occasion splurge when calories don’t matter)

½ stick of butter

½ cup of sugar

½ cup of whipping cream

Book Nook: Literature With Love

By Maria Elena Margarella

Love takes many forms. Sometimes, it’s a story. From classics to poetry to recent bestsellers, here are some love stories to enamor your heart and mind.

Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks: The bestselling romance novelist is at it again with his twentieth publication. This novel follows Russell Green, a 32-year-old advertising exec who has it all—except it’s all on the surface. When his marriage and job are no longer part of his perfect life, he finds himself a struggling single parent to his six-year-old daughter. Russell is forced to make sense of this puzzling reality and begin a new journey—one that will test him beyond his imagination. If you’re looking for a story of unconditional love, this is it.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed: From the author of the groundbreaking bestseller Wild, this book is that one friend you go to for advice—on anything. It’s a collection of The Rumpus’s Dear Sugar advice columns along with never-before-published articles. No matter what you’re going through in life, it’s got something to offer. With humor to keep you smiling, Strayed reaches out a compassionate, cuttingly honest hand to her devoted readers.

95 Poems by E.E. Cummings: One of the most influential avant-garde poets in literary history,
E.E. Cummings writes about love and life in ways that help readers gain a new understanding of existence. First published in 1958, this collection is the last book of new poems released in the poet’s lifetime. His stark awareness and appreciation of human nature keep his poetry intriguing and timeless. This edition draws from his other volumes as well, so you’re bound to fall in love with E.E. all over again.

Beloved by Toni Morrison: Because a classic is a classic for a reason. This Nobel Prize-winning piece of work marries the depth and beauty of poetry with the enchanting skill of storytelling. Sethe, the protagonist, escapes slavery only to be haunted by the ghost of her unnamed baby—whose gravestone reads merely the single word “Beloved.”  Freedom isn’t free after all, and a mother’s love drives the emotional intensity of the most intimate scenes. A book of this literary merit makes American history readable and endures as a pillar of poetic rhetoric.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Published in 1847, this novel stood out with its independent, strong-willed female protagonist, Jane. She starts low—orphaned and oppressed—but remains unbroken. But it’s more than just a coming-of-age story. It’s a story of endurance, strength and love. The chemistry between Jane and Mr. Rochester is dynamic, and so is the couple’s storyline. This book has stood as a brilliant combo of suspense, mystery and romance for over a century now. It’s a must-read.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Not only have its loyal readers declared this work as The Great American Novel, but it’s also considered by the same group to be the greatest love story ever written. Against the intense backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, it tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who manipulates for survival and success. The passionate, chaotic love between her and Rhett Butler remains one of the most studied relationships in literary history. First published in 1936, this Pulitzer Prize-winning work stands the test of time. If you haven’t read it, read it. 

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