Monday, September 10, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Yesterday I had a craving for soup. The weather had a crisp fall feel to it here in Tennessee, which is somewhat rare this early. I love soup and could eat it everyday, especially when fall and winter rolls around. I have never made this kind of soup before, and I sort of had to wing it, since I didn't plan on making it. I looked at a few recipes online and went from there. I didn't follow any one recipe. I did what I usually do; used bits and pieces of a few for a good base idea and just go with the flow. Sometimes you get a winner, other times, it's lesson learned, follow the recipe next time! Anyway, I was quite pleased with my results and will most definitely make this again. I can't wait to have some leftover for lunch, well brunch, since I don't think I can wait till lunch!

You need about 2 to 3 cups of cooked chicken. I used two frozen boneless chicken breasts boiled in 41/2 cups of salted water until done. After it started to boil I reduced the heat and covered the pot and simmered till done. Remove chicken and reserve broth. I suppose you could use another method for your chicken and used store bought broth. I didn't want to go to the store and this was one of those spur of the moment ideas.

2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
4 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
1 small can chopped green chili peppers
1 small can enchilada sauce
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin (Or less if you want it milder.You can add more later if you aren't sure)
1 teaspoon chili powder
Dash of red pepper flakes
Dash of pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon of cornmeal mixed with a little bit of hot water(optional)
Monterrey Jack cheese, green onions, sour cream, avocado, what ever you have.
Most people cut up corn tortillas to add to the soup when serving. I didn't have any so I used tortilla chips.

Heat oil in soup pot, add onion and garlic.
Cook until tender, add tomatoes, chili peppers, and spices.
Continue to cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Add chicken, black beans, enchilada sauce, corn and broth.
Stir well and cook at a high simmer for about an hour.
About 40 minutes in, add the cornmeal mixture if desired.
Not exactly sure how long I cooked it. You will know when it is done, the smell will overcome you and you will be intoxicated by the aroma!

Allow to sit for about 15 minutes before serving.
I topped mine with a bit of Mexican blend shredded cheese and a few tortilla chips.
It is satisfying and absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

This is what it looked like before I sunk the chips and cheese and scarfed it down!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vegan Lentil Stew

I have discovered another winner from Alicia Silverstone's book, "The Kind Diet." Although I am not vegan, or even vegetarian, this stew (more of a soup, really) is so good. It is healthy and hearty, simple to prepare and cheap to boot! A definite win in my book! You don't often find me singing praises for vegan food, and I have never really eaten lentils very much, and this is the very first time in my life that I have ever cooked with them! I know, right? What the heck is wrong with me? A foodie who (is no spring chicken, by the way) has never cooked lentils? Well, they just weren't that common in my house growing up and I always associated them with green peas for some reason. I just figured I wouldn't like them so I never bothered to cook them. I have found a new curiosity for them and can't wait to compliment some other soup and stew recipes with them. I tried to find a copy of this recipe online straight from her book, but didn't succeed, so I will copy it straight from my copy. I did make a couple of substitutions which I will note.

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large onions, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, diced
1 carrot, sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup shoyu ( I used Bragg's Liquid Amino, which is a vegan substitute for soy sauce)
5 cups (I used 4) vegetable broth
3 tomatoes, cored and diced
1 1/2 cups brown lentils
5  (I used 4) cups water

Combine the first six ingredients together in a small bowl.
Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Make sure it is big enough for all the liquid.
Add garlic, onions, celery, carrot and potato to pot along with half the seasoning mixture and the shoyu.
Cook, stirring frequently for about 7 minutes, until the onions are tender.

Add water, broth, tomatoes and lentils.
Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat and simmer with the lid askew for 30 minutes.
Add the remaining seasoning mixture and cook for another 20 minutes or so until the lentils are soft.

My photography (or whatever you want to call it) does not do this dish justice. You must try this. It is so good I had it for breakfast this morning! I think I even dreamed about it.

Kristin Chenoweth's "Chenolicious White Trash Cookies"

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of Kristin Chenoweth. She is that adorable and funny actress, Tony Award winning Broadway star, TV star, author of  "A Little Bit Wicked" and the person responsible for me singing the praises of her oh so simple, yet awesome cookies. I love the name she chose for these indulgent little treats. I appreciate the fact that she is celebrating the fact that we all (or most I should say) have a little white trash in us, so why not claim it and wear it as a badge of honor? Plus, life is too short for stressing over the labels we are given, so I applaud her for throwing this one out there, and these damn cookies!
I haven't read her book yet, but I plan too. I did not even realize we had it in the house. Although, I should have expected as much, since both of my kids absolutely love her, and  "Wicked."
My daughter came home from a long day at work in a big retail chain on the last day of "Tax Free Weekend" with a big ole roll of chocolate chip cookie dough and a can of vanilla frosting and immediately turned on the oven, before changing into her comfy clothes. I asked her what she was planning on doing with those items. Her reply was "Make me some Chenolicious White Trash Cookies and eat about half of them. After the day I have had, I deserve it." No complaints here. I mean, you really can't go wrong with chocolate chip cookies and frosting. My daughter is great at finding easy sinfully good desserts from celebrities on the internet and in books, so I just sat back and enjoyed the smell of cookies baking and waited in anticipation. Anything with Chenoweth's name on it is fabulous, so we just got all white trash with her cookies and I believe they are share worthy, so here you go. I am copying this exactly as she wrote it in her book.

A blonde moment Kristin herself would be proud of:
When I mentioned to my daughter, Skye, that I had posted this recipe, she asked me "What does it mean by 'bake on wrapper?' I replied "What are you talking about? You can't bake them on the wrapper." She showed me the sentence ' Bake as directed on wrapper.' I cracked up! We looked at each other and Skye said "Wow, that really was a blonde moment." Need I explain? (Bless Your Heart) :)


"Take a cudgel of that frozen chocolate chip cookie dough you buy at the grocery store and resist the  temptation to eat most of it raw.
Bake as directed on wrapper.
Lick plastic wrapper. Crack open a can of Betty Crocker ready-to-spread vanilla frosting and slather that on the bottom of each cookie with a butter knife-liberally if you are a Democrat, prudently if you're Republican.
Lick butter knife. Clap two cookies together forming one big, fat good-time sandwich. Done!"

Guess you can tell from the amount of frosting and the manner in which it was applied what political affiliation my daughter is! My suggestion, everybody needs to do it the liberal way in this case!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Oreo Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

Talk about all your favorite things! Here you get three of them all in one sinfully delicious bite. I must warn you, these things are addicting! You need to have people on hand to share them with unless you have some willpower of steel!
The beauty of this recipe is that it is so easy. I have personally never made them, but my daughter found this recipe somewhere and has made them a couple of times. Each time they haven't lasted very long, and no fesses up to how many they have actually eaten. It is still a mystery where a good third of the batch went. I guess the cat must have grown thumbs and took some to the neighbor that is always giving her treats as a neighborly gesture. Who knows? I know one thing for sure, I love them, but I'm glad they are almost gone because they will definitely tempt you.
Go ahead, try some. They are simple, affordable and something you will crave again. They travel well and the clean up is easy. What have you got to lose? If you eat too many, it sure won't be pounds, but you only live once, so have three of your favorites all in one bite every now and then.

All you need is a box of brownie mix 
A package of Oreos
Some peanut butter, we use creamy
A cupcake pan
Some cupcake paper liners
One 9x13 box of mix will make 24

Place an Oreo in the bottom of lined cupcake tin
Scoop a teaspoon of peanut butter on top of it.
Place prepared brownie batter on top.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 18 to 20 minutes.
That is all! Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rainbows Everywhere!

The past couple of weeks I have been making cakes to be used as props for a production of  "The Boys In The Band" that ran at Out Front On Main Theater in Murfreesboro. The play is based in 1968 and is a story of a group of gay guys getting together to celebrate a birthday, hence the cake prop. They have to actually cut and eat it on set. The play is quite popular, and still relevant today in some regards. If you ever get a chance to see it, you should. It brings a new perspective to what it must have been like to be gay in 1968.

 Well, I didn't really go over the top with any of the cakes, but I provided them with some tasty ones. I actually came up with a couple of delicious creations quite by accident. I will share those later. I didn't bother taking photos of most of them, so when I recreate the Coconut Cake using coconut water in the cake mix instead of water, I will post that too. I also did a vanilla cake with a white chocolate ganache that I hear was fabulous. If  I can remember exactly what I did, I will share that too. I really regret not taking pics of most of these. I didn't decorate them, that's not really my thing, taste is most important. If a cake tastes good for an informal affair, such as this, that is beautiful enough all it's own.

The exception to this is the rainbow cake I created for the boys for Saturday's show. It was Pride Fest Day in Nashville that day, and the Out Front team, along with some of the cast, were there to promote the theater.  It is blazing hot in Nashville this time of year, and I knew they would be wiped out after spending the day in the heat, then doing a show that night, to what turned out to be a huge crowd.The cast did not know what kind of cake was lurking under that white cream cheese frosting. It was pretty tall and kinda cute and festive, was all they knew. When Bernard cut into the birthday cake during the play, the rainbow was released! It was quite a sight to see the guys stay in character while doing double takes at the cake. It was a nice touch, and my little tribute to them in honor of Pride and a successful run.
I didn't really do anything special to make the cake. I just used two boxes of white cake mix and made three 9 inch layers out of each box. I separated the batter into three bowls and added food coloring to each one to obtain the desired color. Be careful not to over cook the layers. It takes less time since the layers are thinner.

I used almost three batches of cream cheese frosting made with an 8 oz pack of cream cheese, a stick of butter, and about three cups of confectioners sugar in each! It was a very heavy cake! All in all, it was a success, and a complete joy to make. I will probably do another one someday, just not real soon. There aren't many occasions when a six layer cake is called for that I run  across in my day to day life, but Pride Day is most definitely one of them. Everything is over the top, and rainbow filled, so it blended in just perfectly!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Strawberry Cake

Springtime is strawberry time in Tennessee. We have quite  a few cities and towns that celebrate strawberries. Naturally, being from the western part of the state, the first one  that comes to mind is in Humboldt TN. They have an annual Strawberry Festival. They grow some prize winning delicious berries and love to celebrate them. We always looked forward to enjoying Humboldt strawberries growing up.
Now that I live in middle TN, Portland strawberries are the most prominent. There are many farms where you can go and pick your own if you desire. I love fresh local strawberries and this cake is a great way to use some of your berries. Frozen berries can also be used.
Staying with my theme this month, there was usually a Strawberry Cake of some sort at Rose Hill. This cake is not only beautiful, it is simple and delicious. It was made by my sister for my birthday this year, which is also in early May. I am not sure how she colored her frosting, but I suppose you could use food coloring or pureed strawberries. She placed a simple little decoration on top using whole strawberries and a couple of mint leaves. A nice no fuss, yet stunning touch.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 box white cake mix

3/4 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen

1 4 oz package strawberry jello

Mix all ingredients well with a mixer.

Pour into generously greased and floured pans.

Bake until toothpick comes out clean, or sides start to pull away from pan. About 25 to 30 minutes, depending on oven. 
Allow to cool completely.


2 cups (possibly more) confectioner's sugar

8 oz cream cheese softened to room temp

1/4 cup butter or margarine softened

Pureed berries or food coloring for pink color.

Mix butter and cream cheese well with mixer until fluffy.

Add confectioner's sugar and berries, if using, gradually, mixing well after each addition until you have desired consistency.

Frost cake and garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves for a natural and beautiful touch.

Aunt Peggy's Decoration Day Baked Ham

My Aunt Peggy makes the best ham. Her method is very simple and foolproof. It always turns out perfectly. It has been one of her staples at Rose Hill for many years. She is my only surviving relative in my father's immediate family. Some say I look more like her than her own daughter, and I cannot deny the fact that we are a lot alike. Both of us are very colorful and out spoken people who share an interest in preserving the past traditions. Aunt Peggy has been an advocate of keeping up the family traditions for many years. She is a pleasant lady who always appreciates the sparse visits, we do not live close to one another, regardless of how short they may be. I can't do enough to honor her and the impact she has had on my life, but I can share with you her method of cooking the most tender and juicy ham I have ever tasted. She is not a fussy person in the kitchen. Her philosophy has always been keep it simple be thankful for it. She is the kind of lady that will not hesitate to speak her mind, (pot, meet kettle!) but she has mastered the art of doing it with some grace. The mark of a true Southern Lady, which she most definitely is! So why not give her ham a try? I think you will enjoy it. I prefer to eat it without added glaze or decoration, but she fancies hers up a little after it is baked.
Following the recipe I have included pictures of a couple of the old graves at Rose Hill. I am not related to these people, but have always found them to be interesting.

straight from the oven

no time for frills, time to eat!

You need a good size ham, either butt or shank portion. Aunt Peggy prefers shank, I prefer butt, either is fine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove all wrapping and wash ham, pat dry.

Double wrap the ham in heavy duty aluminum foil.

Place in large roasting pan.

Cook at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Turn down heat to 200 degrees.

Cook overnight or at least six hours, depending on size of ham.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes or so.

Unwrap and if desired, score the skin with a knife and brush with a glaze made of  brown sugar and orange juice.

At this point you can place pineapple rings on it and put a cherry in the center of each.

Place back in the oven and brown the glaze, I would suggest the temperature be around 325 degrees for this. Don't leave it in too long, you want it to remain juicy.
Or, you can just slice it up as it is straight from the oven and eat it, which is my preferred method. 

This memorial was added many years later, replacing an engraved slab of rock. It marks the grave of "Old Black Mammy." She was a freed  slave of the Walker family. She stayed on with the family and became regarded as family. The Walkers placed this stone on her grave so future generations and descendants of  Aunt Phoebe and the Walkers would never forget. This grave was always the first of many that I placed my own little flower on as a child at Rosehill on Decoration Day. I am not a Walker descendant, but the lady resting here has always stirred emotion for me.
I don't know anything about this particular headstone except what you see. Interesting though, at least to me,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pimento Cheese Spread (Down Home Style)

Here in the South many of us love our Pimento Cheese Sandwiches! Everybody has their favorite recipe, which can vary greatly, and their choice of vessel in which to devour the creamy concoction. Some prefer crackers, others wheat bread, or perhaps topping a bed of lettuce garnished with pickles. My favorite way is generously spread on a couple of slices of very fresh store bought white bread. You know, the kind most of us were raised on, Wonder, Colonial, that kind. One of the many good things about this stuff is, it lasts a long time in the refrigerator, so you can make up a bunch and snack on it for quite some time. I admit, it isn't very healthy, but it is one of the staples at Rose Hill Cemetery Decoration Day Events from days gone by, and currently. There were always many different varieties of this, some smooth, some chunky, with nuts, pineapple, pickles and a wide array of  types of cheese. Some made it with Velveeta, other cheddar, or a mixture of both. Always mayo or Miracle Whip, sometimes Cheez Whiz. Like I said there is no wrong way to make it.
Considering the many varieties of food offered at these functions, one may wonder why sandwiches? When you have all this other stuff? There were many who had a 'grab a bite and mingle' approach to the day, wanting to catch up with seldom seen relatives and friends. Decoration Day is a very social affair, as well as a time honored tribute to our loved ones resting there.
I am going to share with you my sister, Gale's, version of Pimento Cheese Spread. It is simple, delicious and as southern as it gets!

1 lb. Velveeta (at room temperature)

8 oz grated sharp cheddar

1 large jar pimiento

2 Tbsp bread and butter pickle juice

2 Tbsp chopped bread and butter pickles

3/4 cup salad dressing, I like to use Miracle Whip

Mash room temperature Velveeta with a potato masher and mix with other ingredients. Serve as a sandwich 

or with crackers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Decoration Day

I would like to share a little hometown history with you today. I grew up in rural Tennessee and Decoration Day was, and still is, a pretty big deal in Bethel Springs TN, let me tell you. That was the day we all went to the cemetery with flowers to adorn the graves and pay our respects.

The above video by The Drive By Truckers, is related to a cemetery in Alabama, but the pictures of the families in it are very much like the ones in my hometown, and most likely any other southern town that celebrates Decoration Day.

Everyone brings plenty of food and we all have a great big feast right out there under a huge shade tree by the church. There is a very long table that was built years ago, that is always overflowing with food every year. Each lady brings her signature dish and we all get to enjoy the best recipes each one has to offer at one time! Only the best for Decoration Day at Rose Hill Cemetery, which is always held on the first Sunday in May. When I mention this to a lot of people now, they have no idea what I am talking about. I now live in the Nashville area, and most people have never heard of such, taking food to cemetery and having a picnic?

Other churches in the area also had Decoration Day. Liberty Cemetery always has theirs on the second Sunday in May. We have some relatives buried there too, as do a lot of folks in Selmer , Purdy and other parts of McNairy County TN. The dates are set that way so you can go to both. I don't have as many memories from Liberty as I do from Rose Hill, however I do remember how beautiful that old church is. 

Both cemeteries have some historically old graves dating back into the 1800's. Some are unmarked, others with a rock slab as a headstone. Some very articulate beautiful monuments dating back into the early 1900's. Both of these cemeteries are beautiful tranquil places. Untouched by modern times, except for the occasional new grave. When you walk the grounds you span many decades and generations of  families and unknown individuals who rest there. It is almost therapeutic, and always stirs emotion. 

Over the next few weeks I am going to be featuring some of the best food memories I have had from Decoration Day over the years. Some will be authentic recipes, others will be my version, or a family members version, of  some of the time honored, blue ribbon quality dishes lovingly prepared by some of the finest cooks in town. There were always the mainstays, like my Mama's Potato Salad, Aunt Peggy's Baked  Ham, and many others that I can almost taste, just can't quite remember who prepared them. This is going to have to be a joint effort among me and my sisters, Aunt Peggy, and some cousins because there are a lot of details I can't remember and I want to get it right. I can't feature such an important fading tradition without making absolute sure it is accurate. There was something for everyone. Several different kinds of one item, like deviled eggs, pimento cheese sandwiches, chocolate pies, coconut cakes, banana pudding. The list goes on and on.

This is not a tradition that is only in Tennessee. Other southern states do this as well. Over the years the details have changed for many churches and cemeteries, but the intent is still the same, to honor our loved ones and pay our respects. This, along with most everything else in the south, is made even more special when you add delicious food! That is something that is in ample supply, along with beautiful flowers, some fresh picked just for the occasion and many prepared by florists, and some just simple little sprays or individual ones stuck in the dirt. By the end of the day, it is a beautiful site. There are always some graves that don't get new flowers, so the kids sometimes place flowers on as many of them as possible, especially the really old ones that aren't traceable to anyone there.

 I know this may sound strange to a lot of you, but it really is a wonderful event. To see the pride in the elderly folks faces, along with a hint of sadness, because each year the crowd gets smaller, and the food table gets a little more sparse. There are buckets of store bought chicken, tubs of deli potato salad and store bought barbecue (although it is the best place to get BBQ in the state) it isn't quite as grand as it used to be. That is due in large part to people being scattered around, generations dying out, or relocating,  moving for jobs and everybody is so busy these days they can't make the event. Our society has, and continues to change. Unfortunately, so do these time honored traditions.

In honor of my family, those still living, and mostly those who are no longer here on earth, I wish to pay tribute to them with my little piece of history here on my blog. I hope you enjoy it. There will be recipes, of course, and pictures of the beautiful history. I hope you enjoy this. It is part of my history and present.I know that one day, Decoration Day will  probably no longer be in existence, but until then, this is what is all about...history, brought to you in a fashion that we in the modern world take for granted, through the internet. Here for generations in the future to see if they so choose. Enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Everybody Loves Jesse...Here Is Some More

I noticed while looking at my blog stats, a lot of you love the Jesse Willis Lewis recipes I shared last month. They are some of my top pages viewed. Well, I figured that there is no reason to forget Jesse just because Black History Month is over. People from all over the world are loving the Crawfish  and Squirrel Recipes! So, I am giving you what I think you want, more Jesse. Following are a few more. I do believe that Edith and John Watts were on to something back in 1954 when they published this book. I think it had a second release sometime in the 80's. It is a somewhat rare book, from what I can tell. There aren't many copies available online, and some are quite pricey. For those of you who do not care for these recipes, I will get back to posting some more of my favorite soon, I just find this interesting, and obviously people in Singapore, Thailand, Pakistan, Poland, the UK, Argentina as well as many other places are digging it! So here's some more Jesse Willis Lewis for y'all!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pineapple Cheese Casserole

Sometimes I like to add a little sweetness to my side dishes. This one is really good with ham. I figured since Easter is coming up, and a lot of people prepare a big impressive ham for Easter Dinner, this would be a good time to share this. It is simple and beautiful. Sorry I don't have a picture, I don't make this often. It has been quite a few years since I have made it, actually. I found it in my over stuffed recipe collection and thought it deserves a mention. If I remember correctly, you can also used crushed pineapple, or a combination of both. I bet fresh pineapple would be awesome in this as well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 - 20oz  cans pineapple chunks
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons sugar
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup Ritz crackers (crushed)

Drain pineapple, reserving 6 tablespoons juice
Combine sugar and flour, stir in juice
Add cheese and pineapple
Place in a greased medium size casserole dish
Melt the butter and add crackers.
Top the casserole with the buttery crackers
Bake uncovered for about 35 minutes
If desired, you can broil it for a couple of minutes to crisp the top.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beef Burgundy Pot Roast (Crock Pot)

I recently purchased a gallon jug of Burgundy wine. One might ask why would I do such a thing, since I don't even drink the stuff. Well, I purchased it mainly for the jug. I am making this wonderful elixir, cordial type concoction with vanilla, vodka and some other stuff and it needs has to be made in a gallon jug. In case you haven't noticed, not much stuff comes in gallon glass jugs these days. I needed an extra one, because I want to get two batches going, and I didn't see the point of ordering an empty jug for the same price as one filled with wine. My husband will drink some of it and I am coming up with some pretty delicious ways to get rid of it! This easy roast is one of them. I encourage you to give it a try. You don't have to buy a whole gallon, a cup or so will work just fine! If you find yourself in my neighborhood, why not drop by for a glass or two of wine? I got plenty! Come on over, I got you covered!

Start with a lean beef roast around 3 pounds.
1 cup burgundy wine
1 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 cup celery, chopped very fine
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 pkg fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 bay leaf
1 can golden mushroom soup
2 tablespoons oil (for browning roast)
salt and pepper to taste
a few dashes of worcestershire sauce, to taste
Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning

Place chopped onion, mushrooms, garlic and celery in bottom of crock pot.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.
Rub salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash on both sides of roast.
Brown both sides in skillet.
Place on top of veggies in crock pot.
Mix water, soup, worcestershire sauce and wine together and pour over roast.
Add bay leaf and cook on low for about 6 to 7 hours or until falling apart.
If desired, you can remove roast when finished, and thicken the flavorful drippings with a combination of  corn starch and water added to the crock pot and cooked for an additional half hour or so. I usually do this step on top of the stove in a saucepan on medium heat, whisking frequently until thickened.
serve with hot noodles, if desired.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Potato Leek Soup

I have discovered a creamy delicious soup that is not as unhealthy as you might think. Usually when we think of cream soups, heavy cream or half in half come to mind, if not milk. I had some leeks on hand and needed a soup that was dairy free. This soup is very satisfying and a perfect balance between hearty and healthy. I didn't miss the milk at all in this tasty soup, perfect for lunch or dinner.
If you aren't familiar with leeks, it is very important that you clean them well. They are very dirty and gritty throughout. I suggest soaking whole, then slicing vertically into quarters and rinsing multiple times before chopping, then rinsing again in a colander. I know it sounds extreme, but it is necessary. The first time I cooked with leeks I thought I had cleaned them well only to discover grit in my finished product. Never again. I encourage you to give this flavorful simple soup a try.

 2 large leeks, cut lengthwise, separated and cleaned. Discard the darker green tops and chop leeks.
2 to 3 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, or regular butter
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 to 4 potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 2 tablespoons, if using fresh
Dash of Tabasco sauce, if desired
Salt and pepper

Melt butter over low heat in a 4 to 5 quart saucepan
Add leeks some salt and pepper, cover and gently cook for about 15 to 20 minutes on low, taking care not to burn the leeks. They do not need to be browned.
Add water, broth and potatoes. Bring to a low boil and cook, loosely covered for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
Add thyme, a little more salt and pepper, if desired and half of the parsley.
Stir and remove about half of the soup mixture, placing it into a blender.
Puree and return to pot.
Add remaining parsley and a dash or two of Tabasco, if desired.
Stir and serve.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jesse's Pie Crust Recipes

I am sending Jesse off with a trio of basic pie crusts for any dish. I have enjoyed sharing some of Jesse's famous dishes with you this month and I hope I didn't bore you too much. I realize some of these recipes are dated, and not really practical in today's times, but we have to pay homage to our history. Jesse is a part of that. Many people still use their old family recipes, just the way they were, a lot of us change them to suit our needs by making them simpler and healthier. Well, one thing that will always be appropriate is a good pie crust! My mom used to make her own most of the time, as did Jesse. But even he used a mix from time to time. In the book he talks about using a pie crust mix on occasion. I'm not sure if what he was talking about is still available, he never makes reference to the pre made ones that we are so familiar with today. According to Edith Watts, the author, Jesse made them effortlessly, with little handling, and they were always perfect. I may just have to try one of these next time I make a pie. I, like most people, usually buy the frozen crusts, or the refrigerated ones, but these sound pretty simple.
There are many wonderful recipes in this book. It is hard to decide which to share. I know not many people want to know how to make a terrapin soup, so I went with this. If any of you want the terrapin soup, or chitterlings recipe, or any other gamey or creole recipe of yesteryear, let me know by email or a comment. I will be happy to share Jesse's finest with you.
So, please join me as I say farewell to Jesse Willis Lewis, with his three basic pie crusts. Now I just have to master my Mom's Apple Pie, she never really followed a recipe, and envelop it in one of these noteworthy crusts and I can't go wrong! Two classics from different generations, all in one heavenly pie, in yet another generation. That's how food history is made people!
 Enjoy, and take a moment to appreciate our culinary history.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Jesse's Oysters Rockefeller

I've got another good one from Jesse Willis Lewis. It sounds absolutely amazing. The fanciest oyster recipe  I've ever noticed. Not a big fan of  raw oysters, never been curious enough to order them prepared any other way, but I would so try this! I wonder if Jesse knew any of the chefs over at Antoine's? The legendary restaurant in New Orleans famed for inventing this delectable dish. It is said that the recipe was created by Jules Alciatore of Antoine's and left to his children, and has apparently never left the family's hands, competing restaurants have had to formulate their own recipes. It was a guarded secret recipe. It is named after John D. Rockefeller, who was the richest man in America at the time, because of its rich sauce.
It has a bunch of my favorites, spinach, bacon, parmesan cheese, lemon, parsley just to name a few.
A fine recipe like this is timeless.Who knows, maybe Jesse had the inside scoop. He wasn't really competition for the restaurant, and I'm sure the good cooks in the area ran into each other at the fish market and talked food, so one never knows. I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing Antoine's, so I really can't compare, but I'm sure Jesse's version can stand on it own, regardless.
 This would surely be an impressive addition to any gathering. Perfect idea for a Mardi Gras celebration! I bet Jesse made a lot of this for many famous and notable people when he was the "chief cook and bottle washer" as he puts it.
 I present to you another classic from Edith and John Ballard's recollection of Creole and Deep South Recipes by Jesse Willis Lewis for Black History Month.   Enjoy!

Mushroom Barley Soup

I love soup. It is one of those foods that you can get creative with, without having to spend a lot of money. That is just one of the many virtues of  soup. If chosen correctly, it can be an excellent way to eat well and watch calories. It is always better the next day. You end up with a lot, so you can share. If you still have some left, it usually freezes well. I don't usually make home made mushroom soup, but I have been experimenting and came up with a really good hearty soup that happens to be Vegan as well! As I was preparing to make this, I realized I was out of chicken stock, so I used some of my son's vegan bouillon, called, "Not Chick'n".
It was awesome! I didn't miss the chicken, this stuff is so good. It is a simple recipe. It does need some simmering time to cook the barley, but it is so worth it!

 2  tablespoons vegetable oil
1   medium onion
2 - 8 ounce packages fresh mushrooms, sliced, I used one pack of white and 1 pack of portobello 
2  tablespoons flour
1/4 cup celery, chopped fine
1  bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth, or 2 cubes Not Chick'n mixed with 4 cups steaming water
1/2 cup barley
salt and pepper to taste
chopped green onions for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large pot.
Add onions, celery and mushrooms 
Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Reduce heat to low and stir in flour.
Add broth in a constant stream, while stirring, to mix with flour.
Add the barley, bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer on low for about 45 minutes or until barley is done.
Remove bay leaf, serve topped with green onion as a garnish.

Random Beauty...Everywhere

A couple of days  ago while browsing Facebook, a friend posted this on their Wall. It is very eye opening. Please take a minute to read this if you haven't already. It puts us in perspective in 45 minutes flat. I know I am guilty of not taking a moment, however brief, to appreciate the many beautiful things that I encounter on a daily basis. 
Sure, I notice the big showy things, and the completely infuriating incidences that I seem to experience all too often, but rarely do I give notice to the little beautiful things and people I encounter. It could be that lady you struck up a  brief conversation with over the tomato display at the grocery store, or the neighbor's cat that greets you when you come home. It could be something as simple as a smile from a stranger you make eye contact with, or a kind gesture, given or received, spontaneously.  
We all have moments each day that are beautiful, they may be disguised as work, chores, tasks, deadlines, parenting or any of the countless things you do everyday. Sadly, we don't give those occurrences enough of our brain space. We clutter it with the negative and the hurried, stressful stuff. 
I know this post is a little random, but sometimes so am I.
As I was looking at my blog stats this morning, I noticed that I am getting views from everywhere! This makes me happy and is one of those beautiful things I was talking about! When I started this blog I had never really even read any one's blog regularly, knew absolutely nothing about blogging, still don't really! Except that it is a good way to share stuff that I like and think someone else may enjoy as well. I may not have a huge following, but I have sure got diversity! And that my friend is a beautiful thing that deserves a moment and a smile!  So Thank You...
United States
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
Or anyone else that I may have missed. These are just the recent ones. I appreciate you all! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Okay, I must start with a confession. I not only stole this recipe, I made it "unvegan". It is originally a vegan recipe from the book, A Kind Diet, which is written by Alicia Silverstone. My son, Zach, has been making some good stuff from it. Who knew vegan could be so delicious? Anyway, Zach made the original recipe and I knew  instantly that I was going to have to make this my way. Not disrespecting Alicia, or her fabulous recipe. I must admit the dairy free chocolate chips in her version are sinfully good, I just wanted to make a larger batch, and do it more cost effectively. I increased the quantities on all items, as well as made mine into bars. Her version is cups. If you love Reese's, you must make these! They are awesome, easy too! Trust me, you are gonna love this one. I will provide both recipes. you can't go wrong either way! Thanks, Ms Silverstone, and I hope you don't mind that I butchered your recipe.

Alicia's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups:


1⁄2 cup Earth Balance butter
3⁄4 cup crunchy peanut butter
(preferably unsweetened and unsalted)
3⁄4 cup graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares
1⁄4 cup maple sugar or other granulated sweetener
1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips
1⁄4 cup soy, rice, or nut milk
1⁄4 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. (If You Care makes unbleached liners made from recycled paper.)
Set aside.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and maple sugar and mix well. Remove the mixture from the heat.
Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup, among the muffin cups.
Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan.
Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.
Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture.
Top with chopped nuts.
Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving. 

Here is my version. Maybe not quite as healthy, but it is chocolate and peanut butter we're talking about here!

3/4 cup butter
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
15 graham crackers, crushed fine
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips, I used semi sweet, but anxious to try milk chocolate next time.
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup crushed almonds, because that's what I had.

Slightly grease a medium size pan with butter.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat.
Add peanut butter, graham crackers, and sugar. Mix well.
Remove from heat and pour into pan.

Combine the milk and chocolate chips in a saucepan. 
Stir over medium heat until chocolate is melted and smooth.
Pour over peanut butter mixture in pan. 
Top with chopped almonds and refrigerate for 2 hours or more.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jesse's Creole Gumbo

What better time to share an authentic gumbo recipe? Mardi Gras is right around the corner. Jesse had a mighty fine technique with this New Orleans classic. Comfort food at it's best here. Cooking up a big ole batch of this will surely make you feel like you are right there in the French Quarter.
On that note, another oldie but goodie from Jesse Willis Lewis, in honor of Black History Month.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crock Pot Picante Chicken

If you are looking for a new way to prepare chicken that is uncomplicated and delicious, look no further. It could not get any easier than this! Just three ingredients. A great thing about this recipe is that it is versatile. I prefer to serve it with white rice, but you can make enchiladas with the finished product, or eat it on a sandwich. I have added Velveeta after it has cooked and used it as a dip. It can be used in a casserole, I just keep thinking of ways to use the leftovers.
This one comes to my from one of my husbands co workers, Patrick. He gave it to me several years ago. I had forgotten about it until a few days ago I was standing in front of an open pantry door, waiting for some inspiration, with little motivation. One of those days when you just don't want to deal with cooking, but you gotta eat. We all have them. I saw a jar of picante sauce that had been in there so long it sort of became completely unnoticed. (hope that makes sense) Then it hit me... Patrick! That chicken! Cool. Exactly what I needed, something easy and delicious. So I grabbed a can of cream of chicken soup along with it and had dinner started in no time at all.
So, in honor of Patrick, here an easy dinner idea.

4 or 5 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 16 ounce jar picante sauce
1 can cream of chicken soup

I cut the breasts in half so they will cook more evenly.
Salt and pepper chicken and  place in crock pot.
Mix the picante sauce and soup together and pour over chicken. Stir it and cook until done.
4 to 5 hours on high is what I do.
It is even tastier the next day, if it lasts that long.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Chip Brownies

This is one of my favorite brownie recipes. It is so simple and always turns out perfect every time. This is the time of year when I am thinking all things chocolate, not really much different than any other time of the year, but since it is close to Valentine's Day we get a free pass, right? You need to stir up a batch of these. You probably already have everything you need, so go right ahead and give them a try. You will be glad you did. Enjoy!

2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter (cut into cubes)
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups flour (I use self rising, if using plain you need to add 1/4 tsp. baking soda)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips in a saucepan with the butter over low heat.
Stir until smooth and remove from heat.
Stir in eggs, then stir in flour, sugar and vanilla.
Add remaining cup of chocolate chips and nuts. Stir until mixed.
Spread into prepared pan and bake 18 to 22 minutes.
That's it! Now, if you can, wait until they cool and enjoy!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

While I'm At It...The Rest Of The Page

I did notice on the rest of the page the recipe was on that it must have been close to the holidays when this was featured. It had to have been a long time ago, because a bottle (glass, by the way) of Jergens Lotion was only 15 cents and 'gay' still meant festive!  Just had to share this!

And on the other side of the page...

Retro Recipe "Can't Fail 5 Minute Fudge"

I was looking through one of my old cookbooks today, and I ran across this stuck between the pages. I have many recipes stuffed in the pages of  most of my cookbooks. I always plan on making a couple of handwritten personalized cookbooks for my kids to have, but I never seem to get around to it. There are many reasons why I haven't done it yet, mostly procrastination, and there is always a growing list of favorites, so that could be time consuming. Probably the biggest reason is, how do you decide what to do with the little gems like this? I got this from a wonderful elderly lady I used to work for. One day she was cleaning out a drawer and ran across this. She asked me if I wanted it. Of course I said yes! She said " I don't remember if I ever tried this or not, but I kept it all these years for some reason. Guess I know why now, here you go." Well, I came home and stuck it in one of my cookbooks and forgot all about it. Timing is perfect for sharing this one, Valentine's Day and since I've been kicking it old school all month, I'm staying with my theme on this one. It came from a Farm Journal Magazine. I have no idea what year. I remember that magazine being very popular for quite a few years. It was always around in my house when I was a child. I love to run across stuff like this, so I'm betting that you do to. why not have a retro touch to your Valentine's Day?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fried Chicken , Jesse Style

My mother, and probably thousands of other mothers in the south prepared their chicken this way. It is very simple in ingredients, but second to none if prepared correctly. I have tried to re create this version as well as my mom did it, but I haven't mastered it enough to depend on  my chicken turning out perfect every time. I guess part of the reason is, I don't use 'fat' like they did in the old days. I don't even know if vegetable shortening was around back then, but most of us use vegetable oil these days for frying. My mom cut her chicken up into smaller pieces, probably because she was cooking for eight and had to make sure we all got a piece. She did her best to keep us from fighting over which piece we wanted, but it was pretty much, Dad aside, he always had his piece set aside, first come, first pick. No whining if somebody beat you to the piece you wanted. Her old iron skillet had something to do with the mmmm factor, I'm sure. Very important; always use bone in, skin on chicken for authentic Southern Fried Chicken. Even though Jesse doesn't specify, I'm sure he would agree. Why not fry up some chicken Jesse style? It has worked for thousands of southern cooks for centuries. I say if ain't broke, leave it alone!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Louisiana Crawfish

If you've never tried these, it is quite the experience. I have had them  (meaning one) once. Considering I don't usually eat anything with the eyes still attached, that is quite an accomplishment. A friend of ours from Louisiana brought these to a party once. I must say it is quite a presentation watching a group of people gathered around a huge table full of these things just digging right in. They were just grabbing, peeling, and smacking like crazy and seemed to be in complete bliss. I remember them being called "crawdads" from my neck of the woods in TN as a child. From the way Edith Watts describes it in her book, I guess the proper way to eat these just comes natural if you partake. Presenting in honor of Black History Month, another true classic from Jesse Willis Lewis. Enjoy.