heart of north carolina

Recipes inspired by A Visit to the Heart of North Carolina

My day trip last week to visit Asheboro and Seagrove North Carolina, both in the Heart of North Carolina, has resulted in two things this week.

The first, a televised travel segment on WRAL in Raleigh with my friend anchor Ken Smith on the 9 O’Clock Hour Morning Show on Friday Aug 21. I’ll be sharing tips for a fun one day getaway to the Asheboro area.

The segment is geared toward a Raleigh audience but truth is, Randolph County is about halfway between Charlotte and Raleigh, so all the same travel tips apply. The segment will air live at 9:40 and you can watch or livestream here. Why don’t you plan to come along for the ride? In case you miss it, after the segment I hope to be able to post a video here, so check back to these pages and stay tuned.

The second thing that happened as a result of my visit was a bit of inspiration. No surprise that it was food-driven by all the good eats I found in the area. The result is this post of recipes – all inspired by stops I made along the way in my Heart of North Carolina travels.

Heart of North Carolina Inspired

Last year, I enjoyed my first of several visits to the Asheboro area. That trip included a dinner at Magnolia 23 Restaurant and a taste of their signature chicken and dumplings.

heart of North Carolina

At Magnolia 23 Restaurant in Asheboro you will find much loved Southern home-cooking from scratch. Located at 23 S Fayetteville Street, it is here you will find fried chicken, catfish, Memphis-style ribs and some of the finest chicken and dumplings in the region, served with fresh baked corn bread, of course. And, in season, don’t you dare miss the homemade persimmon pudding! The dinner menu changes daily, but often Magnolia’s famous chicken and dumplings is one of the featured entrees. Currently offering curbside pick up and outdoor dining as well. Catering available. Parking in the rear behind Wachovia Bank.

Magnolia 23 Restaurant Inspired Chicken and Dumplings

2 Tbsp. each butter & your favorite extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 whole local chicken, cut Into pieces

Salt And Pepper

1/2 cup each finely diced carrots and celery

1 whole medium-sized onion, finely diced

3-4 sprigs fresh  thyme

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

6 cups chicken or veggie broth

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup heavy cream


1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1/2 cup local yellow cornmeal

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

Pinch or two of Salt

1-1/2 cup Half-and-half

2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley

Here’s what to do

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge both sides in flour. 

Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat. In two batches, brown chicken on both sides and remove to a clean plate. 

In the same pot, add diced onion, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Season with ground thyme and turmeric, then pour in chicken broth and apple cider. Stir to combine, then add browned chicken. Cover pot and simmer for 20 minutes. 

While chicken is simmering, make the dough for the dumplings: sift together all dry ingredients, then add half-and-half, stirring gently to combine. Set aside. 

Remove chicken from pot and set aside on a plate. Use two forks to remove chicken from the bone. Shred, then add chicken to the pot. Pour heavy cream into the pot and stir to combine. 

Drop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Add minced parsley if using. Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Check seasonings; add salt if needed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. 

Heart of North Carolina Inspired Breakfast Coffee Cake

One of the breakfast items on the menu at Table Farmhouse Restaurant is coffee cake. The bakers at Table switch up the fillings to make a different flavor of coffee cake every day. Its delicious and always a gluten-free offering.

Having the Table’s coffee cake with one of their signature lattes brought bake memories of a recipe my mom used to make. It’s easy and like the coffee cake at Table, a crowd pleaser for sure. If you’d like, you, too, can make this recipe gluten free by using a cup for cup flour substitute. My mom used to make this with whole milk sour cream, now, because I like to keep things local, I either opt for Carolina Culture Yogurt, available in the Raleigh area; or Uno Alla Volta’s Yogurt Cheese available from cheese maker Zack Gadberry in Charlotte.

Vanilla Yogurt Coffee Cake

1/4 lb butter

1 cup organic sugar

2 organic or local eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup Local Plain or Vanilla Yogurt ( if you can’t find a local product you may substitute organic whole milk Greek Yogurt)

2 cups self rising flour

for the topping:

1/2 cup organic sugar

2 Tbsp. cinnamon ( I like the Saigon cinnamon from the Savory Spice Shop)

1/ cup of your favorite chopped nuts, optional

Cream together butter and sugar with a hand or stand mixer/ add the eggs and vanilla. Blend well. In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients and add alternately to the butter and sugar mixture with the yogurt. Spoon half of the batter into a buttered angel food cake pan and sprinkle with half of the topping mix. Add the rest of the batter and sprinkle with the rest of the topping mix . Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. cool, unmold. Slice and serve.

Heidi’s Heart of North Carolina Mug Cake

If you have kids at home during this virtual school season, this one-to-two serving recipe is a great way for kids to learn to conceptualize flavor combos – they can add what sounds good or can come up with a combo of their own!

The following recipes is written for a large 2 cup mug. If you are baking in a smaller mug or cup, divide the recipe in half. If you want to bake in tea cups or perhaps demi tasse cups, make the whole original recipe and then divide it into fourths to put ¼ of the batter in each cup. You’ll still need to bake then individually in the microwave for best results.

Heart of North Carolina
Seagrove Potter Eck McCanless carving the finishing touches on one of his signature mugs.

First, the inspiration…

The mug I used for my cake is from second generation Seagrove potter, Eck McCanless. its a two cup mug, so it will hold this entire recipe.

I recently visited Seagrove and the Asheboro area for a quick one day getaway to see what five Seagrove potters had in store for their annual Tea with Seagrove Potters. McCanless was among the five and I filmed a short video of him working at the potters wheel. Today, I thought you’d enjoy a video of the next step in making a mug like the one I baked in for this post.

Watch Eck McCanless demonstrate his signature technique of carving into the clay to create the fascinating design you’ll see in all of his pottery.

Now, the Heart of North Carolina Mug Cake Recipe…

5 Tbsp. All Purpose flour (use regular or your favorite Gluten Free AP Blend)

4 1/2 Tbsp. organic sugar

2 tsp. cocoa

1/4 tsp baking powder

Dash of salt

2 local egg

1/2 tsp white vinegar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp. vegetable, canola or flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 1/2 Tbsp water 

You can bake these individual serving cakes in the microwave or in the oven. In the microwave on high it takes about 1minute, 30-45 seconds to bake; in the oven at 350 degrees it takes about 15-20 minutes to bake.

Either way start with a large microwave safe or oven safe mug, spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray.

Next, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl. You could mix it all up in the mug, but truth is, it’s hard to get all the flour at the bottom incorporated. you’ll have better results if you mix it in a separate bowl and then pour the batter into the mug.

Add all of the liquid ingredients and then use a fork to stir the liquid and dry ingredients up to blend. Pour the batter into the prepared mug.  Bake as directed. Top each finished cake with powdered sugar, chocolate or rainbow sprinkles, marshmallow cream, or ice cream!!  Enjoy hot or cold! 

Mug Cake Tips & Hints from Heidi

Each microwave cooks differently,  so adjust time accordingly!  If you know your microwave cooks hot, then shave off 3-4 seconds of the cooking time; if it doesn’t cook so hot, then you might want to add on 4-5 seconds.

Flavor combos – just some suggestions – it’s really much more fun to let your kids come up with their own….

  • Leave out the cocoa for a vanilla based cake and then add in large chucks of Maple sugar or brown sugar instead of the regular sugar called for in the recipe
  • Substitute your favorite local honey for half of the sugar called for in the recipe
  • Add 1 Tbsp. of Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • For a touch of a creamy chocolate, add1-2 Tbsp. of chocolate chips to the chocolate batter for a super rich chocolate cake or to the vanilla batter for a chocolate chip cake
  • Add 1-2 Tbsps of shredded coconut or shredded local or organic carrots or shredded local or organic zucchini
  • Substitute any flavored sugar ( the Savory Spice Shop in Southend always has a great selection) for the regular sugar
  • Make the batter sweet and fruity with one half of a firm but ripe organic bananas – mash them first and then blend into the batter
  • Add in 1 Tbsp. of your favorite chopped nuts

Let’s Talk About Fermenting and Homemade Pickles

Again, inspired by a visit to a Seagrove potter, the conversation took a turn towards homemade pickles. It all started when I spotted these fabulous jugs at From the Ground Up Pottery.

heart of North Carolina
Fermenting Jugs from From the Ground Up Pottery in Robbins, NC, just outside of Seagrove NC

Turns out they are classic fermenting jugs, perfect for making homemade sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles!

Of course, when you make homemade pickles, you can’t just talk about it, you’ve got to show off the goods. And so it was at From The Ground Up. We were at the kiln and Potter Michael Mahan, headed up to house to bring down his batch of 3 day old pickles.

We started talking about tea and tea pots and then, here’s what happened… take a look at the video. The promised recipe follows.

Michael Mahan’s Heart of North Carolina Fermented Cucumbers

6-8 pickling cucumbers, the quantity here really depends on the size of your jar, adjust everything else in the recipe accordingly.

4 Tbsp Kosher or sea salt

About two tablespoons of each: whole peppercorns, coriander seeds, dill seeds,

Several whole peeled garlic cloves and some fresh dill

filtered water

Cut the cucumbers into spears or halves, or you may leave them whole. Be aware, that whole cukes will take longer to ferment. Toss the cucumbers in the salt to cover. Then, place the seasoned cukes into a From the Ground Up Pottery fermenting jar. Add the spices, garlic and dill.

Fill the jar with filtered water, so that the cukes are completely covered. Cover the jar with it’s lid. These jars are specially crafted so that the fermentation process easily takes place. Fill the rim around the lid with cold water to seal.

Place the jar in your refrigerator or another a cool dark place. Should take 3-5 days to ferment enough to enjoy, but there is not harm in checking them along the way. The longer they ferment, the stronger they will become. Enjoy!


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