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.

Jesse's Bouillabaisse

This is a classic Creole Dish that is favored among many in Louisiana and around the country. It was one of Jesse's most famous dishes. It takes some time and many ingredients, but that is partly what makes it so special. After all, it is quoted as being "one of the noblest of the Deep South's Creole fish confections." So with that in mind, I suppose a little time and love has to go into it. With Mardi Gras just around the corner, this would be a good way to celebrate with authenticity. I wonder if today's bouillabaisse is prepared the same way in the Creole cooking community? It would be a great tribute to Jesse and many other chef's just like him to make this authentically. I haven't been able to find much on Jesse, except what is in this book. Keeping our history alive is important. He was a key figure in the food community during his long stay with the Ballard Family and known throughout for his fine dishes. So if you make this dish, or even if you don't, give Jesse his due props for helping shape our regions classic culinary masterpieces.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How About Some Squirrel?

No, I haven't lost my mind, or moved to the hills and started shooting my dinner. I just got to share another Jesse Lewis favorite. He says if you don't have a squirrel, a muskrat will do. That's good to know! I just love versatile recipes! My mom would have made this one. Heck, for all I know she may have. I lived on ketchup sandwiches and vanilla wafers when I was a kid. My pallette has matured somewhat in my adulthood, but I don't think I could ever eat anything with a muskrat in it. I will not say never, I add new things to my realm of possibilities everyday. Just today I ate some barley casserole, prepared by my son, Zach, who is dabbling in vegan dishes. It was delicious! I will share that one eventually. For now, I'm gonna give Jesse his due props. Even if you don't cook it, it's amusing reading it, don't you think? I say, if you can make squirrels and muskrats delicious enough to be published in a cookbook, you deserve to be honored 58 years later.

Possum Anyone?

As promised, my first Jesse Lewis entry. I figured I would start out with something a little different. Now I'm not expecting any of you to make this dish, I know I'm not, but it must have been grand it it's time and place to have made it into this cookbook in 1954 in New Orleans. Notice how Jesse says a raccoon will work too? So if you don't happen to have a possum, you can always use that raccoon you have. Joking aside, many of us here in the South can remember having these dishes served up from time to time. I'm sure there are still many folks who still eat this way. With the economy the way it is, people that have access to these animals and the know how and means to obtain them are probably adding this sort of dish to their menus in today's times. In a lot of states it is legal to eat your roadkill. Well, for the adventuresome who have the misfortune of running over a possum, or a raccoon, this one's for you.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kicking It Old School with Jesse

I have recently came across an old cookbook published in 1954 about a very fascinating man who was an important part of the deep south and Creole cooking history. A good friend of mine found this book at a thrift store. It is packed with lots of recipes that were, and still are famous favorites in our Southern Food culture. Now I'm not saying that all of us eat everything in this book, but it is like reading a history lesson in Creole and Southern cooking.  This man is Jesse Willis Lewis. I had never heard of him. He was born in 1895 and became a prominent cook in the New Orleans area back in his day. He worked for the Ballard Family and stayed with them for 40 years. 
I can't think of a better way to celebrate Black History Month than to highlight this very talented man. I cannot find much info about him. The only facts I know are the ones stated in this interesting and delightful book. Considering the year this book was published, before the civil rights movement, I would assume that Jesse made his mark on many people in the New Orleans area and had a culinary gift like no other to stir enough attention for this book to be possible. This book was written by a Ballard daughter and her husband.
It is more of a description of how Jesse does things, written while observing and Jesse's tips are clearly quoted.  He was the favorite of many elite people visiting New Orleans back in his day, actors, musicians, arch bishops, governors and the like. 
Some of the recipes are very similar to what my mother used to cook. His fried chicken technique is one example. Others are things I have never heard of, or will ever have the nerve to try, although, I was exposed to some of these dishes as a child, I never had the nerve to actually taste turtle soup, my mom prepared it once. My dad and brothers liked to hunt so she worked her magic in her kitchen, just like Jesse did in his, less elaborate of course. That is what makes a great cook, versatility.

I will be featuring some of Jesse’s famous and creative recipes and techniques this month in honor of Black History Month.  Even if you don’t try these techniques, it makes for fascinating reading, and an appreciation for some more modern conveniences. I hope you enjoy Jesse’s offerings as much as I have. Join me in revisiting Jesse Willis Lewis and his famous and delectable dishes. One cannot forget those who kept the inspiration going and shared his talents with us, even if it is almost 60 years since his book was written and he was born 117 years ago.