oatmeal coconut cookies

This recipe is one my son and I whipped up during one of his "snow days" many years ago. They are kind of a cross between traditional oatmeal cookies and coconut macaroons. They are also delicious crumbled on top of ice cream. Enjoy!

1 egg
1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup rolled quick oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup coconut

Beat egg in medium sized bowl. Add butter, brown and white sugar. Cream well. Add flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, and coconut. Mix. Drop by heaping teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 deg. F. for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

baked fish

Before my mom passed away in 1989 she put together recipe boxes for my sister and me. The boxes contained a handful of recipes that we were both fond of, and that mom had prepared many, many times throughout our lives. One of my favorites was this baked fish recipe. I'm not sure where she got it from originally, but it quickly became a family favorite. Although mom always used fresh Flounder, I have tried it with fish as strong tasting as Bluefish, and it was still tasty. Like many of mom's recipes, the ingredient amounts were based on personal taste and preference, vs. absolute measurements.

2-3 pounds of fish fillets, preferably fresh
1 stick of butter
lemon juice
white wine
parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400-500 degrees and (meanwhile) melt the butter in the same baking dish you plan on baking the fish in. Salt and pepper the fillets, to taste. Place the fish fillets in the dish (skin side up) on top of the melted butter, and bake until almost done. 15-20 minutes is a rough guess, depending on your oven and the type and thickness of the fish. Take the dish out of the oven, flip the fillets over, sprinkle with a liberal amount of white wine, a little lemon juice, and then the parmesan cheese and paprika. Pop the dish back into the oven and bake (usually 5 minutes or so) until the fish is done and flakes easily with a fork.

cilantro soup

This recipe is courtesy of Hank Goodman. Hank is not only a phenomenal potter but an excellent chef as well.

1 lb. zucchini (diced)
1/2 onion
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 stick butter (optional)
1 cup tightly packed cilantro
2 Tbs. cornstarch

Cook the zucchini, and onion in 6 cups chicken broth until the squash gets mushy. Throw in the butter too if you like. Cool off. Puree the zucchini, chicken broth mixture in a blender, along with 1 cup of tightly packed cilantro and the cornstarch. This may take several blender batches. Reheat, and salt to taste. Can be served with green chiles and queso panela chunks as garnish.

pineapple upside down cake

My potter friend Meredith Heywood (Whynot Pottery) posted this on her blog several years ago, kicking off a conversation about hand-me-down recipes. Turns out we both had grandparents and parents who baked this same recipe in a cast iron skillet. This cake accompanied the spaghetti with meat sauce for my birthday's and was almost always served at Gray family reunions. It's very easy, reminiscent of simpler times, and a great dessert to take to covered dish suppers. I mix up the cake batter in a bowl with a spoon or whisk, or use the stand mixer.

Here we go ----- step by step

Preheat oven to 375F.

While preheating, toss a stick of butter in a cast iron skillet (No. 8, 10 5/8” diameter) and place in the oven until the butter melts.

Once melted, add 1 cup of brown sugar (I prefer dark) to the melted butter and mix together with a wooden spoon.


While waiting for the butter to melt and the oven to preheat, mix together 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 3 eggs, 1 tsp. of baking powder, 1 tsp. of pineapple juice and 1 tsp. of vanilla.

Place the rings from 1 (20 oz.) can of pineapple rings on top of the melted butter and brown sugar mixture in the cast iron skillet. Break up some of the rings to fill in the holes. Pour the cake mixture on top of all that and bake for approximately half an hour. Check with a toothpick and when it comes out clean it's done. Place a large plate on top of the skillet and flip it over so the cake is transferred to the plate. Be careful! That skillet is hot! Use pot holders or oven gloves!

We bake this here at home very often, especially when friends are coming over or when we have birthday's to celebrate, or for no reason at all other than we just want to. Baking in the cast iron skillet does make a difference. I'm not sure why, maybe it's because of all the bacon that has been cooked in there over the years :-)

beer bread, quick and easy

This recipe comes from my good friend at Great White Oak Gallery, Benjamin Burns. It works in any type of bowl, like my small mixing bowl, that will contain the following ingredients.

3 cups of self rising flour

1/4 cup of sugar

1 bottle of room temperature beer

Mix the 3 ingredients above and pour into a greased bowl or bread baker. Place in a COLD oven set for 375 for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check for doneness and browning. Bread is done when the internal temperature is 190F to 200F.

pear and walnut baked brie

This one is simple, delicious and my favorite.

1 wheel of brie cheese

1 ripe pear, sliced thinly

1 cup of chopped walnuts

drizzle of honey

baguettes or hard crackers

Place brie in a lightly buttered Tom Gray Pottery brie baker. Distribute the sliced pear and walnuts over the brie. Drizzle the honey over the top. Place in a COLD oven and set temperature to 350F. Bake for 15 minutes or until the brie is soft and warm. Serve with baguettes and/or crackers. Enjoy!


drunken beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes (or diced canned tomatoes)
2 large green onions, chopped (or half a small white onion)
2 16-ounce cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup beer (some recipes call for a couple of shots of tequila instead)
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 or 2 minced chipotles in adobo sauce, or minced jalepeño, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat; sauté the green onions and tomatoes until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Simmer the mixture covered over a low heat for about 30 minutes. If too much liquid remains, uncover and cook until the mixture thickens as desired. Oh yeah, a little crumbled cheese on top really adds something to it. Although I love Monterey Jack and cheddar, feta is pretty tasty too, and probably healthier.

chili con carne

I remember the first time I ever cooked a pot of chili. I came home from school one day to find a note on the kitchen counter from my mom, "Tommy, there's a pound of hamburger in the fridge, a bag of chilo-o mix on the counter.......etc" Other than cooking steaks, hot dogs and hamburgers on camping trips, that was the first real meal I ever prepared. My chili recipe has gone way beyond hamburger, onion, tomatoes, beans, and a bag of commercial chili seasoning since then. I hope you enjoy this recipe. It's been fine tuned for over 50 years now :-)

This recipe is large enough to feed 8-12 folks, depending on how cold it is outside and their appetites, and depending on whatever else you're grazing on, so adjust the recipe accordingly.

2 lbs. of stew beef (diced up chicken breast works well too)
6-8 (15 oz.) cans of beans (rinsed and drained), black or kidney, or both
4 (28 oz.) cans of tomatoes, peeled and whole or diced
1-2 onions, diced (medium white)
2 oz. Baker's unsweetened chocolate
4-5 garlic cloves, diced
1-2 Tbs. of olive oil
chili peppers to taste (jalapeños, chipotles, etc.)
cilantro, one or 2 good handfuls, chopped fine
ketchup, a real good squirt or 2 (if you prefer, the same result comes from a little sugar)
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Cook the onions and garlic for several minutes (until onions are translucent), then remove to a large stew pot. Brown the stew beef in the skillet, using the remnants of the oil, then throw that in the stew pot. Add the tomatoes, beans, cilantro, chocolate, ketchup, salt, and chiles to the stew pot and simmer for several hours. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking to the pot's bottom, or cook it in a crock-pot and just leave it alone for several hours. Serve in individual bowls, and top off with any of the following - cilantro, sour cream, green onions, cheese. Serve with tortilla chips and pico de gallo and/or guacamole.


Building and baking your own pizza at home, from scratch, is a lot of fun, especially when everyone gets involved. The recipes here were gleaned from American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza by Peter Reinhart. Enjoy!

The Dough
5 cups unbleached bread flour
1 1/4 tsp. of active dry yeast or 1 tsp. of instant yeast
2 tbs. olive oil
1 3/4 cups water (room temperature)
1 tbs. honey
2 tsp. salt
Makes 4 - 10 oz. balls

This dough recipe makes a thin, crispy crust with small air pockets. First dissolve the yeast with a little of the room temperature water, then add all the other ingredients, mixing them well for about 4-5 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then come back and mix for 3-4 more minutes. If it's too sticky, add more flour, too dry, add more water. The "wetter" the mix, the crispier the crust. Divide the dough into 4 separate pieces, shape them into balls (cloaking), rub with olive oil, and place them in individual ziplock bags. After letting them "rest" for 15 minutes inside the bags, refrigerate until the next day, or place any balls you do not plan on using immediately into the freezer. If you're going to use them the same day, turn that 15 minutes rest into one hour, then take them out of the bag, punch it down, reshape into a ball, put it back in the bag, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Take whatever you intend to use out of the fridge 2 hours before use, and allow to reach room temperature. Shape and stretch into roughly a thin 9"-10" circle, or whatever shape you can manage. I have found it easier to build the pizza on top of a 12" x 12" piece of parchment paper, on top of a pizza peel, once the dough has been shaped and stretched. I keep an old 1" thick kiln shelf in my oven, on the middle shelf, and preheat the oven at it's highest heat setting for about an hour before sliding the pizza (on the paper) directly on top of it. Baking time in our oven is approximately 7-8 minutes. When the cheese is bubbly, and the bottom of the crust has browned somewhat, it's done!

(addendum) When I first posted this recipe on another web site I owned, I used the parchment paper method, which made it much easier to flip the dough onto a preheated grill, which deserves another post all to itself. More often than not, I take the dough ball from the bag, flip it over a couple of times in my tub of bread flour, dust my hands with flour, spread a little flour on the pizza peel, shape the dough and slide it off the peel into the oven. After it bakes for a couple of minutes I slide the peel under the pie, remove it from the oven top it, then return it and bake until done. It sounds more complicated than it really is, but twice-baked crust rocks.

The sauce
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder or 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pressed
About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, or a combination, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Makes 4 cups

Mix together all the ingredients and let stand several hours to let flavors blend. No cooking is necessary. I measure out the (dried) herbs and grind them all together in a mortar and pestle prior to adding them to the sauce. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze for several months.

The Best Barbecue Chicken

All good recipes, especially those that have been passed down (or laterally) among family members, have a story. Here's one that came to me by way of my mom and dad, to them by way of my uncle Sam, and before him.....well, here's the story.

Back in the 50's, my uncle Sam was a NC state trooper. One Saturday night a month, he would get together with other Halifax County law enforcement officials at a cabin out in the country, and they would all dine on bbq chicken. Today, we would call that "networking", but back then it was probably just an opportunity for peers to get together, tell stories, knock back a few cold ones, and eat the best barbecue chicken you can imagine. The cabin, and the large tract of land it rested on, was owned by the Eastman family, you know, the ones affiliated with Kodak. There was an African-American gentleman from Hollister who cooked the chickens for these gatherings, and, as far as I know, the recipe began with him. Of course, he shared it with my uncle Sam, who shared it with my mom and dad, and they with me. So, here it is, the best barbecued chicken I've ever tasted. Keep in mind, this is more of a jumping off point than it is an absolute recipe.

The original recipe calls for whole chickens, cut in half, and cooked on the grill, preferably charcoal, and broth made from cooking the livers, necks, gizzards, etc. in water. I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cook them on a gas grill, and use canned chicken broth.

Chicken broth, enough to cover and simmer your grilled chicken in.
1/2 stick of butter per chicken.
The juice of one lemon per chicken.
2 tablespoons of vinegar per chicken.
2 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce per chicken.
Texas Pete, Tabasco, etc. to taste.
Red pepper flakes to taste.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Grill chicken halves, or breasts, until done. While chickens are grilling, put all the ingredients above into a sauce pot. When the chickens are done, toss them in a sauce pan or stock pot with enough sauce to cover the chickens, then, simmer in the sauce for about half an hour. After plating the chicken, be sure and drizzle some extra sauce on top.

Applesauce Cake

This has been one of my family's favorites for many years now, especially around Christmas time. My dad shared the recipe with me, and his sister Mildred shared it with him. Before Aunt Mildred, I'm not sure of it's origins. My dad used to split the recipe in half between 2 (1/2 sized) bundt cake pans and made 2 cakes to give as gifts. The spicy aroma that permeates our home while this is baking spells C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S to me!

1 15 oz. pkg. raisins
1 stick margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups apple sauce
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. allspice

Put all ingredients above in sauce pan, and heat slowly until sugar melts and ingredients become homogenized. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then add 1 tsp. of baking soda, 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 cups pecans. Mix together thoroughly. Pour into your preferred baking pans and bake at 300 degrees for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hrs. The type of pan you bake this in, and your oven, has a major impact on cooking times. Check it from time to time using the "toothpick test". I split this recipe between 2, 9 X 5 loaf pans, and bake for about an hour. My dad splits and bakes his for 1 1/2 hours in 2 old stoneware 1/2 pound cake pans I made years ago. Another option I use is to toss in about a handful of dried cranberries, a splash or 2 of orange juice, and the zest of one orange. After you cool the cakes, store in plastic bags or cookie tins until you serve. Give the cakes a day or so for the flavors to merge. I soak a tea towel in red wine and wrap around the cake for a few days, or add some apple and/or orange slices to the bag or tin for added moisture.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe came to me by way of Jean Wilder, a customer who popped into my shop one day while searching for some kind of container for this same dressing recipe. She left with a nice ergonomic cruet. I made a few bucks, and have since adopted her recipe. Win-win.

1 1/3 cups olive oil
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. dried oregano or Italian seasoning
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce