Labor of Love: Hand Crafted Knives

Custom Made Knives by Heartwood Forge

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Great food is a result of many moving parts like quality ingredients, talented cooks and the right equipment, all working together to create an unforgettable meal. I’ve found that people here in Georgia are pretty savvy when it comes to knowing how our food is grown and where it comes from. And thanks to popular cooking shows, they also know how to properly cook and present that food! But I wonder if they’ve ever given much thought to how their pots, pans and their knives are made? Well I did, so I took a journey to Jefferson to find out.

Heartwood Forge chefs knife

photo by Will Manning

Nestled in the woods right off Potters House Road is Heartwood Forge, where designer and knife maker Will Manning creates his practical works of art. Hoping to answer my own question, I spent the day making knives with Will. Which admittedly, from the outside looking in, seemed more like Will making the knives while I just watched. What I learned was this: Will is very skilled and passionate in what he does. He uses repurposed metal from places like Monticello to make his knives; salvaged wood from trees like pecan, box elder and maple or white tailed deer antlers to make the handles; and reclaimed brass for balancing the handle with the blade of the knife. I also learned that his goal is to put his knives in the hands that will use them, and for that measure he has a virtual store front where you can browse and buy your knives. If you’re thinking you want something more a bit more personal, like a custom made knife, then you’re in luck, because as it turns out, Will makes those too!

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Photos by Jennifer Hill Booker

Georgia Tourism Welcomes it’s Newest Explorer: Chef Jennifer Hill Booker!

Let’s Welcome Our Culinary Explorer!

Chef Jennifer Hill Booker

Chef Jennifer Booker heashot




Chef Jennifer Hill Booker is a Georgia Grown Executive Chef, Atlanta based cookbook author, and culinary educator, and believes that “food should taste like food.” Jennifer has spent her 20-year culinary career educating people about food, nutrition, and healthy cooking practices. 

As a working mother, she knows that quick, easy, and delicious is the name of the game when making meals for her family and makes a point of sourcing out the tastiest seasonal produce to cook at home.

As a culinary educator, she is in a prime position to demonstrate the ease, affordability, and importance of cooking and eating seasonally, and has shared this information in the classroom, cooking stage, her original published recipes, and in her first cookbook – Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, (available at

In addition to being a mom and a chef, she also enjoys being a contributing food writer for Georgia Magazine, a guest blogger for Produce Bites, and sharing innovative recipes, cooking trends, and fun kitchen gadgets on her own website:

Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish. Yum!


Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish

Chef Jennifer Booker Cookbook


Summertime in Georgia means lazy days by the pool, picnics at the park, and gardens, gardens, gardens! For all of you avid gardeners, it’s time to reap the rewards of all of the hard work you’ve put into your gardens this year! Not a gardener?  Not to worry, there is enough seasonal bounty to go around! I’m talking about crisp bell peppers, spicy onions, sweet and juicy tomatoes, and everything in between.


Chef Jennifer Booker Cookbook


With tomatoes and bell peppers in season, this canned Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish recipe is the ideal way to capture summer in a jar! It’s delicious now and the perfect way to preserve summer vegetables and enjoy them all year round. I also LOVE the fact that this recipe is extremely versatile. My family enjoys it on hotdogs, over peas and beans (pinto beans are my favorite), and even as a zesty addition to Southern style potato salad.

Chef Jennifer Booker Cookbook


So the next time you harvest veggies from your garden or make a trip to your local farmer’s market, be sure and take a copy of this recipe with you and pick up everything you need to make Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish. And be sure to take a peek at all of the fresh and inviting recipes listed on ProduceBites -You’ll be glad that you did.

Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish

Yields 8-10 pints

Relish Ingredients:

  • 4 cups onions, rough chopped
  • 1 large cabbage, cored and rough chopped into ¼ inch pieces
  • 4 cups green tomatoes, cored and rough chopped
  • 4 cups green and red bell peppers, rough chopped into ¼ pieces
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup Pickling Spice

Pickling Spice Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper corns
  • 1 teaspoon dried mace
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 2 dried bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
  • 6 whole cloves

To Prepare Picking Spice:

  1. Add all ingredients to a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Seal tightly and shake to combine.
  3. This spice mixture will last about 3 months when keep in a cool dark place.

Relish Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the onions, cabbage, green tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and salt.
  2. Cover with a clean cloth and let stand room temperature overnight or at least 12 hours. Transfer vegetables to cheese cloth lined colander or sieve and drain well. This may take up to 2 hours.
  3. Place vegetables in a large stainless steel stock pot and add sugar, vinegar, water and Pickling Spice.
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Pack into hot sterilized pint jars, wiping the rim of the jars clean.
  5. Seal and process in a pot of boiling water, making sure the water covers the jar tops with at least 2 inches of water, slowly bring water to a boil, and process for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove pot from heat and allow jars to cool to room temperature while in processing water.
  7. Remove from water, wipe dry and make sure all jars are tightly sealed. You know that they are sealed when you are able to press the center of the lids without getting any bounce back.
  8. Store unopened jars in a cool dark place for a year or more-so long as the jar remains tightly sealed.
  9. Enjoy on hotdogs and burgers, over beans and greens and even in potato salad!

For other delicious  & seasonal recipes, go to ProduceBites, A Blog For People Who Love Georgia Grown Fruits And Vegetables.

Photo credit to Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

A-MA-ZING Chocolate Pots de Creme!!

I was writing a menu for a cooking class, and looking for a chocolate pots de creme recipe that didn’t require any cook time- and I found it!!

This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s (Ree Drummond), recipe. She had the right idea and I just added my personal touches to it. So get your blender ready and prepare to fall in love with this Rich, Decadent, and Ridiculously Easy chocolate pots de creme recipe!


Chocolate Pots de Crème



Yields 8 servings


6 ounces semisweet chocolate chip

6 ounces dark chocolate chips
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

1 pinch cayenne pepper
8 ounces (1 cup) very hot strong coffee or espresso
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons sugar
Place the chocolate chips, eggs, vanilla, salt and the cayenne pepper into a blender.

Pulse 5 to 7 times or until the chocolate chips are pulverized.
Turn on the blender on low speed and carefully pour the very hot coffee through the top of the blender lid, in a steady stream. The coffee will melt the chocolate turning it into a smooth mixture.

Blend until smooth and creamy.
Pour the mixture into small mason jars, wine glasses or demitasse cups and place in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.
Whip the cream with the sugar together with a wire whip.

Add a spoonful of whipped cream to each pot de crème right before serving.

Black Eyed Pea Hummus . .. .Yes, Please!


~If you’re looking for a fresh new way to serve up tried and true Southern ingredients, then this Black Eyed Pea Hummus recipe is for you!

Chef Jennifer Hill Booker, has reinvented traditional Middle Eastern hummus we’re used to eating by using such Southern ingredients as black eyed peas, pecans, pecan oil, and apple cider vinegar! Can you say, yes please!


Black Eyed Pea Hummus

original recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker

Yields  5 cups


2-14.5 ounce cans black eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1-14.5 ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup pecan oil, I like Oliver Farms Pecan Oil

1/2 cup pecans

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1/4 cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon chopped scallions

Pecan oil


Place all of the ingredients into a food processor with the blade attachment.

Pulse for 2-3 minutes or longer for a smoother hummus.

Adjust taste with salt and pepper and additional vinegar, as needed.

Garnish with chopped pecans, scallions, and a drizzle of pecan oil.

Enjoy with pita chips, crackers, or fresh cut veggies!

Field Peas to Foie Gras . . .Tattoos??!


Field Peas to Foie Gras fan at my Blue Bicycle Books-book signing.

Looks like I’m not the only one who like foie gras-check out his knuckles!!

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Southerners Are Getting Creative With Their Favorite Nut: Pecan

Few dishes showcase Southern tradition more perfectly than a slice of pecan pie, with its dark custard filling and crunchy, nutty topping.

Sweet and buttery, the pecans that figure so prominently in that iconic pie are America’s only major indigenous tree nut. They’re native to the Deep South, where the long, warm growing season provides an optimal climate. And they’re the third-most-popular nut in the U.S. behind peanuts and almonds, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

Pecan flour from Oliver Farm in Georgia.

Courtesy of Oliver Farm

With 10 million pecan trees producing over 200,000 tons of pecans in America today, the nut hardly needs bolstering. But recently, it has become the focus of experiments by Southern farmers, chefs and craft breweries. Inspired in part by the fast-growing farm-to-table movement, which sets a premium on local products, they are giving the pecan new opportunities to shine in the form of cold-pressed oil, gluten-free flour and even beer.

Toasting or roasting brings nut oils to the surface, and pecans are practically overflowing: 75 percent of the nut is pure oil. Compare that with the peanut, which is 50 percent oil, and the almond, which is around 45 percent oil. As with all nuts, roasting not only intensifies the pecan’s flavor but also it adds to its richness.

At Oliver Farm, an award-winning producer of artisan oils in Cordele, Ga., Clay Oliver uses an old-fashioned screw press to produce several thousand bottles of delicate pecan oil a year. He sells to Southern chefs, specialty stores around Georgia andonline. “Pecans have that mysterious extra-something and an unforgettable flavor that renders the oil and flour delicious,” says Oliver.

Native Georgia chef Steven Satterfield, a James Beard Foundation Award finalist in 2013 and 2014, uses Oliver Farm’s oil for everything from frying food to crafting pecan pesto vinaigrette at his Miller Union restaurant in Atlanta. “I love traditional Southern food,” he says, “but I want to experiment just enough to keep it fresh and interesting and new.”

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Oliver Farm’s defatted, gluten-free flour has earned such a big following of Southern bakers that it quickly sells out. Dede Wilson’s Bakepedia, a baking and dessert recipe website, offers a recipe for pecan flour buttermilk pancakes with an added drizzle of pecan oil. Georgia chef Jennifer Booker, author of Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, uses the pecan oil in traditional southern shrimp and grits, and for sautéeing collard greens.

Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Pecan Brown Ale is produced in Kiln, Miss.

Courtesy of Lazy Magnolia

But perhaps the most surprising new venue for the pecan is a craft beer called Southern Pecan Brown Ale, produced by Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln, Miss. Founded by husband-and-wife team Mark and Leslie Henderson, it’s the state’s first brewery since the Prohibition.

“Our pecan ale is our flagship beer and the first one in the world made with whole roasted pecans,” says Leslie Henderson. The beer won a Bronze Medal in the 2006 World Beer Cup and is now available in 17 southern states. “We were initially worried the oils would kill the foam on our beer,” says Henderson. “But the pecans ferment just like a grain and provide nuttiness and flavor unmatched in other beers. There’s still a lot of hops and malt, but the nutty flavor shines through.”

What inspired the beer in the first place? “Comfort foods like pecan pie and pecan pralines give us that old, charming, Deep South romance,” Henderson says. “We wanted to hearken back to that hospitality yet create something new. Our beer is complex but really approachable.”

Pecan pancakes and beer for breakfast, anyone?

Jill Neimark is an Atlanta-based writer whose work has been featured in Discover, Scientific American, Science, Nautilus, Aeon, Psychology Today and The New York Times.

Baby It’s Cold Outside! Winter Pumpkin Soup to Warm the Soul!

Chef Jennifer Booker Cookbook


Winter Pumpkin Soup with Parmesan Croutons & Bacon Chips

Recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker

Serves 4

Any type of winter pumpkin or squash, such as Sugar Pie pumpkin or butternut squash, can be used for this soup. Just remove the seeds, cut it into wedges, drizzle with olive oil, and roast in a 350° F oven. The roasting softens the vegetable and reinforces its natural sweetness. The addition of stock and cream gives the soup a velvety smoothness, and the croutons and bacon chips add a nice crunch.


2 tablespoons olive oil

6 slices of Hickory smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch strips

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1⁄2 medium white onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups roasted pumpkin, mashed, or unsweetened pumpkin puree

2 1⁄2 cups chicken stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

2 cups stale bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1⁄4 teaspoon red chili flakes

Freshly ground black pepper


In a large stockpot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bacon and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, then add the rosemary and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes, or until the bacon is golden and crispy and the rosemary leaves are lightly browned.

Drain the bacon and rosemary on a paper towel. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems and roughly chop the leaves, discarding the stems. Set the rosemary aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon grease from the stockpot. Set the bacon chips aside while you make the pumpkin soup.

Add the butter, onion, and garlic to the bacon grease in the stockpot and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir often to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the mashed pumpkin and the chicken stock, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream just before you serve; do not let the soup boil once the cream has been added.

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

To make the parmesan croutons, toss the bread, olive oil, cheese, chili flakes, and black pepper together in a large bowl. Spread the bread mixture onto a sheet pan and bake 5 to 6 minutes, or until the bread cubes are golden brown.
Serve the soup in warm bowls topped with croutons, bacon chips, and the chopped rosemary.

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 Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent by Jennifer Hill Booker, © 2014

Jennifer Hill Booker, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

Collard Green Salad w/ Apple Cider Vinaigrette. Yum!

~Enjoy this Georgia Grown ‘ Pick Keep Cook’ crop in a Fresh New Way~


Collard Greens Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

recipe by: Chef Jennifer Booker
Serves: 4

1 bunch collard greens, washed
1/2 cup Pecan oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves raw garlic, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. black pepper

De-stem and chop the collard greens into long strips. Place strips in a large bowl. Pour Pecan oil on collard strips and sprinkle on salt. Massage the oil and salt into the strips with your hands until all pieces are well coated. Whisk together apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and ground pepper. Pour apple cider vinegar dressing over the collard green strips. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, but overnight is best. Serve chilled or room temperature.



Forget Viagra! Eat a Beet

Chef Jennifer Booker Cookbook

Now that I have your attention . . . here are 6 Great Health Benefits of Eating Beets!

1. Beets are nature’s Viagra
Seriously. One of the first known uses of beets was by the ancient Romans, who used them medicinally as an aphrodisiac. And that’s not just urban legend – science backs it up. Beets contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.

2. Beets are high in many vitamins and minerals
Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid. These are but a few of the many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can be found in beets and beet greens. Beets are particularly beneficial to women whom are pregnant, as the vitamin B and iron are very beneficial to new growth cells during pregnancy and replenishing iron in the woman’s body.

3. Beets cleanse the body
They are a wonderful tonic for the liver, works as a purifier for the blood, and can prevent various forms of cancer. Nuff said, right? Tastes good and prevents cancer? Sign me up!

4. Beets help your mental health
Beets contain betaine, the same substance that is used in certain treatments of depression. It also contains trytophan, which relaxes the mind and creates a sense of well-being, similar to chocolate. Beets can also lower your blood pressure. So if you’re already steamed about not eating beets, you can get a two-fer by diving into them right away.

5. Beets are used as a stomach acid tester
How in the world does that work? Glad you asked. If you are eating a lot of beets or beet juice, and your pee turns pink, guess what? You have low stomach acid. Pee still clear? Ratchet it up and get juicing (use the greens too)! Nutritionists use beets and beet juice to test stomach acid levels, so stay ahead of the curve by adding beets to your diet now.

6. Beets are a high source of energy
At the same time they are low in calories and high in sugar (although the sugar is released into your system gradually, as opposed to chocolate). Very few foods found in the natural world are as beneficial as beets in this regard.

Beets are a wonderful addition to any dietary need. With their high volume of nutrients, delicious taste, and multitude of uses, anyone can jump right into beets without missing a beat.

Looking for a Delicious Beet Recipe? Pick up a copy of Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, at

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photo credit Deborah Whitlaw Llewllyn

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