Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Long and Whining Road: Real-Life Food to Table


Even when you know the recipe won't look like this at your house in the end, it usually starts with a picture. On the Internet or in a magazine. One that makes you stop flipping.

This one caught my eye (and my ear). I go to the za'atar part and "put it aside for another day." Whole Foods is on the opposite side of town from where I live, and there is no chance in hell any grocery store but Whole Foods with have za'atar in this town, I'm sure.

So it's Saturday. I've decided to serve my za'atar-roasted carrots with Grilled Salmon Kebabs and Spicy Lime Melon Salad. Because, Saturday. (When else during the week do you have time to cook like this?)

My husband hears about the salmon and says it's been a long time since we've had baby bok choy. (Please, please.) It's been a long time because there's only one place that sells it - a Chinese market in Ridgeland where you can get a whole bunch for only a $1. Insanely good deal.

Obviously. Because when I get there, it's closed. Closed is really an understatement. It is not even there. No trace left of it. It's a Salon and Spa now. I don't fully trust my eyes, and I have to go inquire at the business next door if that's really what used to be the Chinese market. (I mean I was just there last month!) It was.

This begins a flurry of text messages. I had promised baby bok choy in place of za'atar-roasted carrots but there is no baby bok choy, so this slush-pile recipe is back on. The flurry ends with my husband proclaiming that maybe we should just open a Chinese market on our side of the Reservoir to ensure that we can have baby bok choy in the future. (I let this one go unanswered as I allow it as just a step in the grief process.)

Off to Whole Foods. For this particular recipe, I think, gas mileage should also be factored in to the per-person cost. And that was before I found the za'atar.

I think it's the Z. My maiden name was Zehnder and I'm drawn to Z's. It feels like "Jumanji" on my tongue. Even though that's a J. And much softer. Out loud za'atar sounds almost military-like but inside my head it's much softer.

I break out the reading glasses. All of the spices are alphabetized so I'm thinking I just go to the last spot on the last row and grab it. Wrong. I can't find it. Anywhere. (If you would like to try my same experiment, go to your local Whole Foods and ask someone in the produce section near the spices where the za'atar is. There is no happy ending.)

I have that moment. When you've gone to Whole Foods for one ingredient and you can't find that one ingredient and it hits you that you're going to have to go to another grocery store anyways. Do you put what you've bought back and just leave? No, I decide. It's my Saturday and I'm not spending it grocery shopping (as I'm obviously going to spend it cooking).

I do what any rational person would. I start googling "za'atar replacement" on my smartphone. No replacement suggestions. Only recipes. I find a recipe. So I start searching for sumac next (which I don't have at home). Then I start googling sumac because I've never heard of it. No sumac. Back to Square One. (Special thanks to whoever took the time to comment on the Serious Eats site that if you can't find za'atar, you ain't going to be able to find sumac either.)

I see there are many spice blends at the top of the Spicely rack - taco seasoning, Mediterranean blends and such. I am now on the hunt for a "Middle Eastern Spice Blend" or similar. No such luck, but in reading every damn box, I find it. It's like that moment. In the movie. With the gold halo and the special music. ZA'ATAR, damnit! 

We were going to have za'atar-roasted carrots. (This would somehow make up for the fact that the liquor store next to Whole Foods did not have limoncello, so we would not be having Raspberry Limoncello Prosecco! In the end, we do not have grilled salmon kebabs either because it's pouring down rain. We have pan-fried salmon.) 

Za'atar-roasted carrots are damn good. But so are just plain roasted carrots with spices of your choosing - and it doesn't cost $3 for 3 tablespoons of those spices. 

I only used one tablespoon for this recipe. Online cooks have suggested I can sprinkle it on pita bread or hummus, but for now, I have it sitting on my spice shelf - right next to the gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why is National Oyster Day in August?


Yesterday was National Oyster Day - and we went to Drago's in Jackson to recognize the observance (of course). The waiter was not aware it was National Oyster Day - and my husband asked, "Are you sure? Why would they make National Oyster Day in August? It doesn't have an R." The gentleman at the table next to us took my husband's side - and I had to pull out my phone to prove I had not made it up as an excuse to make my husband take me out for oysters on a rainy Friday night.

Growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as a child, you are subjected to watching your parents eat disgusting, slimy little critters - raw oysters - slurping them down gleefully like Jello with bizarre additions like stinky horseradish and spicy cocktail sauce. You are also subjected, it seems, to their oyster myths - like only eat oysters in months that contain an R. 

Later, inevitably, you "inherit" the oyster gene and slurp them down yourself every chance you get. Often, just as your parents did before. Literally. (I only found this out when my husband found it strange I had to eat my raw oysters on a Saltine cracker. I thought this was a requirement. So did my father. But not his, it seems.)

As long as your are buying oysters from retailers or restaurants (and not harvesting them yourself), you can enjoy oysters at any time of the year. Vibrio, a bacteria which has gotten much more attention in Mississippi as of late, is more common in the hotter summer months, for sure, which can make people sick when harbored in an oyster. (The USDA does monitor for their presence, but those with compromised immune systems should still be careful.)

After all, life's too short to only eat oysters in months with an R in them!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Marinated Red Onions

I'm cooking my way through How to Cook Like a Southerner and Live to Tell the Tale! Next up: Marinated Red Onions.

Marinated Red Onions

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon or 1 tsp dried
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup red onions
1/2 lb red onions, peeled and sliced

Mix the first four ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil and pour over the sliced onions. Refrigerate overnight.

Courtney says she keeps these in the fridge to garnish salads or cooked peas or beans. I think it would be great on sandwiches and hamburgers too...or right out of the jar.



I used it in this Asiago Bruschetta Roasted Asparagus tonight and it was yummy! (I did not use the basil because there is so much tarragon in with the onions - and I also just used a bit of the oil and vinegar from the marinated red onions in the bruschetta blend.)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blackberry Vinegar


In my Re-Collected Recipes blog, I share handwritten and clipped recipes I find in the old community cookbooks I love to collect, but the latest cookbook I'm reading, How to Eat Like a Southerner and Live to Tell the Tale, is only from the early 90s, so I'm not sure it qualifies as re-collected quite yet.


This book was purchased by someone named Barbara at Everyday Gourmet on April 14, 1993, at 9:03 p.m. (I know this because she left the receipt in the book.) It looks like it was a late-night book signing.

I can't find much about what happened to Courtney Parker after this book. She worked for Lee Bailey shops in Saks Fifth Avenue stores creating food gift items. She had a catering business in Natchez called Party Animals, where she was also a cooking instructor and a freelance writer.

Craig Claiborne has a story in The New York Times in 1987 about her making "an oyster-and-rice dressing and a rich, melt-in-your-mouth pecan tart" for Thanksgiving at Lee Bailey's mama's house. She also researched and created recipes for his Lee Bailey's Southern Food and Plantation Houses. (And Lee wrote the foreword for her cookbook.)

I will be sharing several recipes from the cookbook, but the first one that intrigued me was her blackberry vinegar.


Blackberry Vinegar

Fill a one-quart bottle with about 1 pound of whole fresh blackberries. Pour in distilled white vinegar to cover and seal. Store in a dark place for 2 to 3 weeks before using. When you run out of vinegar, refill the bottle with vinegar and let it sit again. The same berries can be used up to three times.

Mine is sitting right now, and she has this recipe to use when it's done...

Cauliflower in Basil Berry Marinade

1/3 cup blackberry vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tbsp fresh chopped basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
l large head cauliflower, separated into florets

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients and pour over the cauliflower. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Everything's coming up blackberries


My husband loves blackberries. So for Father's Day (and for his father on Father's Day), I spent some time finding some new blackberry recipes to try. And I so hit the jackpot!

This Blackberry Lemon Custard Ice Cream is from the June issue of Family Circle. What I love about it is that it creates that ice cream custard texture without standing over a hot stove in the summertime and stirring eggs! (But you do have to plan ahead as I would definitely recommend cooling overnight. The texture was much thicker by the morning.) My grocery store did not have lemon curd this time, so I just used the lemon pie filling available in the readymade piecrust section.

Blackberry Lemon Custard Ice Cream

2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup jarred lemon curd
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 oz fresh blackberries

Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a container. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Coarsely chop blackberries and fold into ice cream to create a swirl effect.

Place ice cream in a container. Cover and freeze at least 3 hours or up to 1 week.

Nutrition Information
Servings Per Recipe: 8 PER SERVING: 440 cal., 24 g total fat 54 g carb. (53 g sugars), 5 g pro.

We have been experimenting a lot with brie lately, as my son is fascinated with all things France. We have tried all kinds of toppings, but this one from Lemon Tree Dwelling is definitely my favorite so far.

Baked Brie with Wine-Soaked Blackberries

1 (8 oz.) round brie in wooden box
6 oz. fresh blackberries
½ c. Pinot Noir
2 tsp. sugar
1 baguette, sliced

Dissolve sugar in Pinot Noir. Add fresh blackberries and allow to sit at least 30 minutes (the more time, the better!)

Cut top rind off of brie and return the cheese to its box. Bake on a flat baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Spoon blackberries onto baked brie. Drizzle wine as desired.

Serve with baguette slices.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Squash Salad

This squash salad is adapted from a recipe in Festive Fare, which was a cookbook published in 1995 with proceeds benefiting St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis. (I'm trying to slowly cook through all of the community cookbooks I've collected so I can get some off of my bookshelves - to make room for more, of course!)

This cookbook is definitely in the middle of the fat-free 90s period, where every recipe is made "lite" by adding fat-free something or other in place of something else. But this squash salad recipe made me pause for a minute as I've never had squash or zucchini without cooking it. I was a bit skeptical - but it was yummy (and very picnic-friendly too!).

Squash Salad

1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced purple onion
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp tarragon
2/3 cup white vinegar
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Combine squash, zucchini, and onion. Sprinkle with seasoning. Toss mixture with vinegar.

8 1/2 cup servings. 18 calories per serving. 3 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g carbohydrates

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese... Changes Recipe, Keeps Pixie Dust


In the New York Times, Martha C. White writes about Kraft revealing their new recipe - after selling 50 million boxes basically unnoticed of said new recipe. I credit the pixie dust.

That's what HAS to be in there to explain. Explain how when moms everywhere see how much their kids love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, they decide they will love homemade macaroni and cheese even better.

Explain how said mom(s) will grate the cheese by hand, make a roux for extra heft and creaminess, mix up their own breadcrumbs for assured yumminess and generally be met with a response, at first bite, similar to "Blech!"

Said mom may just have tears in her eyes - don't ask me how I know - as she reaches afterwards for that familiar blue box in the pantry and holds her breath from the pungent smell of that powdery mystery substance that molds quickly upon stirring into the cheesy concoction that helps her child hold on.

There's pixie dust in that powder. There HAS to be.

It's changed. But it hasn't.

"We'd invite you to try it but you already have."

Friday, March 25, 2016

Flaky Crab Cakes (Low Carb & Kid Friendly)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
large egg, lightly beaten
8 ounces lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil

Place first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Add crab; toss gently to combine. Chill crab mixture in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Divide crab mixture into 4 equal portions. With moist hands, gently shape each portion into a 1-inch-thick patty.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add butter; swirl until butter melts. Add oil; swirl to coat. Carefully add patties to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until crab cakes are golden brown and done.
Serve with comeback sauce or tartar sauce.
(Adapted from a recipe by Cooking Light)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops for Two

1 egg
1/2 cup seasoned almond flour/meal
3/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 thin pork chops
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil

Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the almond flour in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate.

Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the egg, then coat completely with the almond meal, patting to adhere.

 Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops and cook until golden brown, 4-6 minutes per side (depending on thickness of chops).

This recipe is adapted from Giada on Food Network. And thanks to Mmmm Paleo for the Italian Seasoned "Bread" Crumbs recipe. I used it on this one and now have a substitute for the future. And the addition made this a low-carb, kid friendly recipe!

Pizza Meatloaf Muffins (low-carb)

  • 1½ pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons pizza sauce, any kind, plus more for brushing on muffin tops
  • 2 tablespoon diced red onion
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoons ground pepper
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together, except for the cheddar cheese, and form into large ball
  3. Fill the muffin tin with the meat mixture
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, and remove extra juice if desired
  5. Brush tops of muffins with pizza sauce, and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the sauce
  6. Return to the oven, and bake until cheese melts (about 5 minutes).

I adapted this recipe from Meatloaf and Melodrama. It's a great kid-friendly low-carb recipe! Thank you!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Improbable Rise of Mississippi Roast


Many years ago, a woman named Robin Chapman from Ripley, Miss., made a pot roast in her slow cooker. Now known as Mississippi Roast, it would eventually become one of the most popular recipes on the web, especially Pinterest where it has been pinned more than a million times. It was a variation of  a recipe given to her from her aunt.

I had someone recount this recipe to me from Pinterest in a grocery store and thought they must be mistaken. A STICK OF BUTTER? IN A CROCKPOT ROAST?! (I mean anyone who has made a crockpot roast before knows how much fat is generated by the roast alone - without a stick of butter.)

So I left out the stick of butter and added a bit more juice from the pepperoncini. (And I have seen many variations of this recipe - one even calling for putting the whole jar in, juice and all.) I also seared the roast all over in oil before putting it in the crockpot, because I've never met a crockpot roast recipe that didn't do that.

I used my own Ranch dressing mix concoction to cut back on the chemical flavor from all of the instant packets. (I've never investigated how to make my own au jus packet, but I'm guessing it's mostly thickeners.)

Even without butter, it's pretty good!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

King Cake Calzone

Vegas.com invited me to participate in a creative challenge in honor of the Annual International Pizza Expo hosted each year in Las Vegas. They asked for pizza creations inspired by Las Vegas hotels - and I chose the Mardi Gras Hotel & Casino.

In honor of the Carnival season, I created this King Cake Calzone (which would be perfect for your Super Bowl party too!).



1 can (13.8 oz each) Pillsbury™ refrigerated classic pizza crust
3/4 cup ricotta
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 lb. andouille sausage, browned
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1-2 cups mozzarella cheese
Chopped yellow pepper, green pepper and red onion for top of calzone

Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Unroll can of dough, placing in greased pan. Press out dough to long rectangle.

In a bowl, stir together ricotta, Parmesan, basil, pepper, and sausage.Spread ricotta mixture on center of dough, leaving a half-inch border all around. Fold over and pinch the edges to seal. Shape into an oval like a king cake.

Spoon tomato sauce over the calzone and sprinkle with mozzarella. Add diced pepper and onion alternately in thirds similarly to the pattern of a king cake.




















Bake until crust is firm and cheese is golden - about 30 to 35 minutes.

Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Oriental Chicken & Rice Soup

I had lots of leftover rice and lots of chicken stock that I needed to find a way to use up. I ran across this recipe and decided to use it for a start and mix it up a bit (as I don't really like miso and ginger that much). It was yummy! (And if your rice is cooked already, it can be ready in 30 minutes...which is my target for weeknight meals.)

Oriental Chicken & Rice Soup

1 tbsp sesame oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 container white mushrooms, sliced
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
3 cups chopped bok choy
1-2 cups wild rice, cooked
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp rice vinegar


Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms; sauté 6 minutes. Add stock, chicken, and bok choy; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes. While soup simmers, stir rice, soy sauce, salt, and pepper into soup. Cook 4 minutes or until bok choy is tender.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Krazy Korn


In addition to pumpkin bread, The Jackson Cookbook has a handwritten recipe for Krazy Korn:

6-8 quarts popped corn
2 sticks butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup light karo 
1 tsp salt

Mix last four ingredients. Stir over low heat until butter melts. Bring to boil, stop stirring and boil 5 mins. Remove from heat and add 2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Pour over corn and bak one our at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 min. Pour out on newspaper covered with wax paper. Cool. Put in air-tight container.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pumpkin Bread




















I bought a huge box of community cookbooks a while back and I'm just now getting a chance to go through them. I've started on The Jackson Cookbook, which was a cookbook by the Symphony League of Jackson. My favorite part of these cookbooks is often not the recipes inside but the little snippets, notes, and clippings I find tucked away.

In this cookbook, I found a typed recipe for Pumpkin Bread inserted in the pages.


2/3 cup shortening
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1-lb can pumpkin or two cups (Also 1 lb. of butter nut or banana squash can be substituted for the pumpkin. If squash is used, cook it in a little water and mash it up.)
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
2/3 cup raisin or dates, chopped fine
2/3 cup nut meats, broken

Cream shortening and sugar thoroughly; add eggs, pumpkin and water. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices; add to pumpkin mixture. Stir in nuts and raisins or dates. Pour into two 2-quart loaf pans. An orange may be ground up, peeling and all, and added to the mixture for variety and extra moistness. For best flavor, bake the day before serving.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Participate in the Mississippi Community Cookbook Project!

Help out with USM's Mississippi Community Cookbook Project.  They are looking for cookbooks published by Mississippi churches, youth groups, teacher-parent associations, and other community groups from 1900 to 1970. They are digitizing them and offering them online. To share your recollections about cooking from or contributing to a Mississippi community cookbook, to volunteer to be interviewed, or to donate a cookbook to the collection, please contact the project coordinator Andrew Haley at mscommunitycookbook@gmail.com. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

IBM Chef Watson

The brain that beat Ken Jennings on Jeopardy! can now help you make dinner too. The Watson Web app, formerly in beta, is now available to anyone.

Create unique dishes with Watson and share them with your friends (and me)!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Oprah's Favorite Things: A Little Heat with Your Sweet


Congratulations to D'Evereaux Foods in Natchez. Their all-natural jalapeno jams made Oprah's Favorite Things list. If you want to see if they would make your list, you can buy some online or see what stores in your area offers it online or by calling 601.301.5522. (The company also offers hot sauces.)

Ashleigh Aldridge, 25, runs the company - and it's quite the family affair. So congrats to all of the Aldridges!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My first - and perhaps last - Shrimp Risotto


Spent hours making shrimp stock. Then spent hours stirring in said stock slowly into the arborio rice for Shrimp Risotto (adapted from this recipe).

Son said it reminded him of Spaghetti-O's.

Behold my first - and perhaps last - risotto!

Boiled Peanuts in a Crockpot


It does defy logic. When I posted on Facebook that I was going to try the infamous "boiled peanuts in a crockpot" technique, I had a friend immediately post, "It's not gonna work. You need a rolling boil. Crockpots are great for keeping them warm but not for cooking them."

But guess what? It works! 

It turns out a crockpot on high is about equivalent to a simmering boil, and that's obviously all you need. (This also fixes the tendency of some to literally boil the hell out of the peanuts until they lose all peanut-like consistency...unless that's your thang, of course.)

I modified this recipe because I only had 2 lbs. of peanuts. I recommend only two pounds too. I have the huge crockpot and, with water, two pounds was close to the limit.

The great thing about this discovery? Thursday night football! Wash your peanuts and put them in the crockpot. Put 3/8 cup of salt on top of the peanuts (or more or less, depending on how you like them). Fill the crockpot with water as far up as you feel safe leaving it on high. Put it on high when you go to work and switch it to keep warm when you get home! (This time, I cooked mine on high for seven hours and switched to keep warm overnight because I was too lazy to fool with them before bed.)

Lagniappe: An elderly lady at the grocery story was picking through the peanuts very carefully. Of course, I had to ask - and I'm glad I did. Seems that the ones that I've always thought looked almost dried are the ones that you need to find. The wetter, darker ones (that I always thought were the ones I wanted) are the ones that cook to mush in the end. Honestly, I didn't quite believe her but she seemed like she knew more than me, for sure, so I tried it. She was right! Pick out the ones that look almost dried and use those. I have 2 lbs. now of boiled peanuts and not one pound of peanuts and the other of boiled mush in shells!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

How Sweet Potato Biscuits Lose Their Sweetness: A Primer


Do you know how some things require a bit of time and space - and healing, really - to write about them? That's pretty much how I felt about these sweet potato biscuits I made for supper last night.
First off, Chow lists the difficulty level of these biscuits as "Medium." The rate-setter was obviously not comparing the difficulty levels to my usual way of grabbing the bag of Mary B's frozen biscuits and plopping however many I need on to the pan. I understand that. But this recipe I would not even rate medium as to my regular ol' homemade biscuits even.
Sometimes, when you're in the middle of a first attempt at a recipe, you hear voices from your past. Sister Rose in third grade sighing, "You're a smart girl, Shawn, but you need to LOOK before you leap." My fifth grade teacher saying, "If you read the instructions carefully more often, it will make your life easier."
Recipes teach you that knowing the ingredients is not the same as knowing the directions of what you will have to do with those ingredients to actually make it until the end product. It's a mistake I make time and time again - in life and cooking.
Like many plans in my life, halfway through this recipe, I can't even remember why I thought sweet potato biscuits was a good idea. Such a good idea that I planned an entire dinner menu around them. (What's WRONG with regular ol' biscuits, Shawn? You have to bake a sweet potato for an hour here before even getting started.)
I get to the part about flouring and kneading and just can't take it any more. I cry out for help. My poor husband just sees mashed sweet potatoes and bowls of flour and the remnants of my just-before Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream. "Find me a cup with a three-inch diameter! I had no idea I was going to have to knead and roll these damn biscuits!"
"Did you not read the instructions first?" "We're not gonna talk about that right now. Find me a cup. Pronto."
So I rolled and kneaded these damn sweet potato biscuits and I cut them out and I said to my husband, "These better be the best damn biscuits we have ever put in our mouths. We better be talking about these biscuits a year from now and raving - because we are never, ever having them again."
I then left him to fry the ham and watch the collard greens so I could go for a walk. With a glass of wine. (Gini Dietrich gave me permission and all.)
Twenty minutes later, I came back a bit calmer and we ate supper. They were very good. They were not the best biscuits I ever had.
And I still don't understand why the recipe calls for brushing the tops with whipping cream - cinnamon butter would have been much better. (The frozen butter is genius, though - you should definitely try that with your biscuits. My Grandma Annie always said the secret to a biscuit is the butter melting in the oven - not in your hands or in the kitchen on the pan.)
If you are one who truly believes that life lies at the end of your comfort zone, then these biscuits are for you. If you just want fantastic biscuits without too much work (like me), then I recommend these Pimento Cheese Biscuits instead.
Learn, dear readers. Learn from my mistakes...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Grilled Corn with Basil Butter


We got this recipe from Wine Awesomeness (who got it from www.Food52.com). We made the butter for the original recipe, but have since used it on tilapia, cornbread muffins and risotto. In other words, it's not just for grilled corn (even though it does make the best grilled corn I have ever had!).

Grilled Corn with Basil Butter

8 ears of corn, shucked
Olive oil
Salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup basil, loosely packed
1 tbsp sea salt

Preheat the grill to medium hot.

Roll corn in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. When grill is hot, add corn and close lid. Rotate the corn a few times, until some of the kernels are blistered and the rest are bright and shiny yellow. This shouldn't take longer than 8 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, or the corn will be dry.

Meanwhile, add the butter, basil, and salt to a food processor and let it rip. You many need to scrape down the sides once or twice. When the basil is finely chopped and the butter has a light green tint, it's done.

When the corn comes off the grill, slather it with the basil butter. Sprinkle with a little more salt if desired. Eat immediately.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Jesse Houston's Hot Quail with Black Pepper Ranch


Jesse Houston, formerly of Parlor Market and now at his own Saltine in Fondren, offered a recipe in the February/March Garden & Gun magazine inspired by Prince's Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville (and as a lover of spicy foods I have a sudden hankering for a Nashville road trip)!

"It was a religious experience," he said of the "hurts-so-good spicy fried chicken." His own recipe works just as well with chicken or cornish hens, but he pays tribute to local Mississippi hunters with the quail. 

The buttermilk and pickle juice bath is most intriguing to me. The buttermilk tenderizes the meat and the pickle juice adds tang. The dressing helps take the edge off the heat. He recommends serving it with "cheap white bread at the base and supermarket pickles on the top."

He adds, "There's a flavor profile you can only get from cheap-ass pickles."

p.s. If you do go to Saltine, you must order the Caramel Cake. It will look and taste nothing like you expect, but you will thank me!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Louisiana Dog


For some reason - I know not why - my husband decided to start making every variation of hot dog in this Wikipedia entry. (OK, OK. We've only gotten through the Chicago Dog and the Kansas City Dog, so far.) Coney Island Dogs tonight, but last night, we created our own Louisiana Dog (because Louisiana and Mississippi don't have a variation listed).

Personally, I consider the Lucky Dog very much the traditional hot dog of Louisiana (or of New Orleans, at the least). I was surprised it wasn't mentioned in the entry. With all deference to that staple, we gave a Louisiana Dog our best shot.

Andouille sausage for the dog. Dark red kidney beans. (Use one can - all of the juice and 1/2 the beans - and mash with potato masher until soupy. Add the remainder of the beans. Add a dash of tarragon vinegar, a pat of butter, and salt to taste, and let simmer until heated through.) Top with grated Cheddar cheese, diced green onion, roasted garlic, and pickled purple cabbage. Bake in oven at 400 for 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Put Tabasco sauce on top before serving.

It was fabulous!

Next up: A Mississippi Dog. Deer Sausage. Mississippi State Cheese. Pickled Okra relish. Comeback Sauce. 

Who knew hot dogs could be so much fun?! ;)



Saturday, February 7, 2015

Short Rib Chili Cheese Grits with Turnip Greens


It all started with Melissa Clark's recipe for Short Rib Chili Nachos right before the Super Bowl.  I found out the hard way to never start reading to your husband about mountains of soft, spicy, chile-braised short ribs, rivers of molten cheese, soft mounds of salsa, hillocks of guacamole, and creamy pools of sour cream unless you're willing to spend three hours making nachos... And they were yummy, but I thought the fantastic sauce was a bit wasted on nachos. (I mean, you had me at cheese and chips.)

Said hubby had the thought of adding them over my cheese grits, which I thought was brilliant. We made it tonight (halving the recipe this time) and served it with turnip greens on the side.

Next up, I'm trying her sauce from this recipe over a beef roast in the crockpot. I'll report back afterwards!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Cajun Bloody Mary


Today is National Bloody Mary Day. And since many of you may be seeking the hair of the dog, I found for you (many, many years ago) the PERFECT Cajun Bloody Mary recipe, courtesy of Coastal Living magazine. It makes a pitcher (so you can share with your friends too or save the rest for Sunday brunch).

Cajun Bloody Mary

1 (46-ounce) bottle tomato juice 
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 
1/4 cup liquid from jar of pickled okra or jalapenos
3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning blend
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish 
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 1/2 cups vodka
Garnish: Lemon wedges and pickled okra

Stir together ingredients in a large pitcher, and chill. Pour into tall glasses. Garnish, if desired.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Cherry Cheesecakes

For our company Christmas e-card this year, we collected holiday recipes and traditions from staff members to share. As much as my son loves cheesecake, I knew I would try these Merry Cherry Cheesecakes first! (See all of our fabulous recipes here.)

4 8-oz blocks cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Nilla Wafers
Aluminum-foil-lined cups
Cherries

Beat cream cheese through vanilla extract together until smooth. Place foil cups in cupcake pan and place Nilla Wafer in bottom. Fill cups 2/3 full with cheesecake mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Put one cherry on top and let cool. Refrigerate. Makes about 32 cupcakes.

I used the basic cheesecake recipe but alternated Double Stuff Oreos (halved) with Nilla Wafers. I also drizzled caramel and Heath toffee bits on top of some and cherry pie filling on top of others. I left some plain too. If you use the basic recipe, you can finish them off anyway you like!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chicken & Waffles

In the October issue of Food Network magazine, they suggested readers celebrate Columbus Day with a fun brunch of Chicken & Waffles. I have no idea what Columbus Day has to do with Chicken & Waffles, I will admit, but they suggested using corn muffin mix for the waffles...and a light bulb went off in my head. (Plus I was looking for something to do with leftover fried chicken from the Piggly Wiggly after the in-laws sent us home with the extra after a Saturday lunchtime visit.)

In the South, Chicken & Waffles can be found often on the brunch menu, but most serve them with regular breakfast waffles. I have never understood the appeal of putting a piece of fried chicken on top of a regular waffle. But when the light bulb in my head turned on, it reminded me of all of the times my son has requested cornbread or corn muffins with syrup. Now fried chicken with cornbread is a good idea any day.


I didn't have any corn muffin mix, so I just made my favorite corn bread recipe (from the back of Aunt Jemima cornmeal). 


I warmed up the leftover fried chicken in the oven at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes.


I cooked the waffles just I would normally. I did have to add a little extra milk to make the cornbread batter a bit more like the consistency of waffle batter.


Voila! Chicken & Waffles. (So good my son even ate the fourth waffle with no syrup at all!) NOW will never have to think about what I'll be doing with leftover chicken in the future again!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Poke Salad Update: Two Hot Tamales

I will use this (sometimes) daily update to collect all of the interesting things I found throughout the day (for work and play). It's my own recipe, but, as always, I hope you find it tasty too! (Eat your greens. They're good for you!)



Betty Lynn Cameron, Main Street Greenville Executive Director and Delta Hot Tamale Festival Coordinator, swears you can't say the words "hot tamale" without smiling. She convinced me of it this weekend.

In 2012, Greenville held its inaugural hot tamale festival. In 2013, it was officially declared the Hot Tamale Capital of the World. But my husband and I took a birthday trip in December of 2010 to try Scott's Hot Tamales - not knowing the infamy to come for our food trek. I had read an article in Southern Living about Scott's Hot Tamales and wanted a road trip for our birthday weekend, so we took off.



In addition to hot tamales, we were in search of every thrift store, flea market and secondhand store we could find on the way. Once we got to Greenville and started hitting the thrift stores, folks would as where we were from and why we were visiting. I'd tell them the Scott's Hot Tamales story. And every time, someone would point me to some other tamale place that REALLY had the best hot tamales but that would never make Southern Living. Some regular stop-in stores and some along the lines of "Go to the house at the end of the street. Turn left and go down a dirt road. Knock on the door three times and ask for Ralph." Before this trip, I had no idea tamales were such a big deal in the Delta. I had had my share of tamales with knock-you-naked margaritas on the patio at Fat Mama's (and did right before this trip too).



I came back from the trip and immediately started googling hot tamales and the Delta. At the time, I found a Delta Hot Tamale Trail was in the works and learned a little about the history of the tamale in the Delta.



The Southern Foodways Alliance says Greenville has more hot tamale restaurants and/or food stations than any other city in Mississippi! So, of course, I had to add visiting the Delta Hot Tamale Festival to my must-do list.



Because I heart hot tamales, the Mississippi Delta and Greenville!

(OK, OK. AND a knock-you-naked margarita with a hot tamale on Fat Mama's patio!)

Regardless of where you get your tamales, remember they freeze very well. Buy extra and stash them away!

I have added making my own hot tamales from scratch to my culinary to-do list this year. I'll have to report back on my experiments! Subscribe to my Poke Salad (Sometimes) Daily Updates and read past updates here.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Teddy's Ice Box Pie Ice Cream


As a follow up to my Hummingbird Cake Ice Cream, I decided to try and duplicate another family favorite, Lemon Icebox Pie, in ice cream form. And I had a bit of a Eureka moment when I passed the lemon curd in the grocery store. (Eureka!) In my grocery story, lemon curd is found by the pie fillings.

Of all of the ice creams I have made so far, THIS is my favorite. The lemon curd makes the ice cream smooth and creamy and very lemony. The Teddy Grahams are perfect in the ice cream (and cute too!).

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 jar lemon curd
1/2 box of Teddy Grahams (or more or less, to taste)

Mix together the whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk and lemon curd in mixer on very low speed (just enough to blend). Add to ice cream maker. Add Teddy Grahams about 5 minutes before ice cream is through.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pimento Cheese Biscuits


I will admit that Belinda Ellis is a culinary genius, but I think even she will give me that it's pretty hard to go wrong by combining biscuits and pimento cheese!

This recipe was in Garden and Gun magazine - and I knew I had to make it as soon as I saw it.

I think the biscuits taste just like cheese straws. My son said he thought they tasted like hushpuppies (and even dipped them in ketchup...I would complain but he gets that from his grandfather so it makes me smile). My husband said just make more.

Luckily, there are many more biscuits to try from Belinda's mad genius in her Biscuits: A Savor the South cookbook.

And Belinda KNOWS biscuits. She has worked 20-plus years as test kitchen and marketing manager for White Lily flour. (And, yes, Ms. Ellis, my Grandma Annie taught me how to make biscuits. The trick, she insisted, was touching the biscuits with your fingers as little as possible. She cut cold butter in with a knife and a fork. She insisted that you wanted the cold butter to melt in the oven, not on your fingers. Biscuits were one of the first things I learned to cook. I never knew they were considered "hard" to make by some until I got older!)

When I made the pimento cheese biscuits, I shaped some like more traditional biscuits lightly with my fingers. Some I just dropped with the spoon. (Those would be great on top of soup like a gigantic crouton. You could drop them by teaspoon if you wanted them to be closer to normal size.) But these would make great breakfast sandwiches too, and I would want the ones shaped more like a biscuit for those!

Here's a few more of Belinda's biscuits recipes. (Trust me. After tasting these, you'll want ALL of them!)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Coast Seafood Trail ending in August


The Mississippi Gulf Seafood Trail is a campaign encouraging Coast restaurants to promote fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. It started in June and ends on August 14.

 Established by the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, the trail kicked off the "Summer of Seafood 2014" with over 40 restaurants.

After too many years away from the Gulf Coast, when I think of a seafood trail I think of all the miles I drive down there and back to Jackson to get my stash of oysters, Gulf shrimp, and, amazingly, cocktail crab claws. (I say amazingly only because I can't believe with a Fresh Market AND a Whole Foods in the Jackson metro area, I cannot get the cocktail crab claws that are sitting at Rouse's or Winn Dixie on the Coast. I also have to drive to get Barq's in a bottle, but that's another story.)

These cocktail crab claws are the best summer appetizer. They taste even better on the back of a boat. They are super simple and they will make everyone think you are a gourmet chef without even trying.

Get one Ziploc bag. Get one container of cocktail crab claws. (I've only seen them in one size.) Get one bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing. Pour the claws and the dressing into the Ziploc bag. Marinate overnight. Pour the claws into a colander the next day, allowing the excess dressing to drip off. Put back in bag.

Voila! Folks will be beating a seafood trail to your door for another bite! Promise!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned...


...but it was sooooo worth it!

Somehow, we ended up having Sonic night at our house tonight. It started with the chili cheese dogs. Then we couldn't think of anything remotely healthy to go with chili cheese dogs. So then we decided to just go all in...and THIS is where it ended.

My son was very confused. "Where are the vegetables? Or the salad?" "Nothing green. It's Sonic Night!" (This didn't work well as all my son ever wants from Sonic is the cheese sticks, no matter how many times I tell him I could make the same greasy sticks at home and it would be warm even.)

I halved the recipe for Cheesy Bacon Ranch Tater Tots and it was still more than enough to feed four. (Though I'm sure the Spinning class I took right before eating this won't even cover one-fourth of the calories of the tots alone. *sigh*)


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hummingbird Cake Ice Cream




As promised, Hummingbird Cake Ice Cream! Ta da!

I make Hummingbird Cake every Thanksgiving and for my mother's birthday every year. (And my father always says the exact same thing, "How'd you get those little wings off?") 

The infamous recipe first ran in Southern Living in February 1978 but has been repeated many times since because it's so popular. It was elected favorite recipe ever in 1990 and has won blue ribbons at several county fairs across the South.  

Let's hope my ice cream recipe wins half as much notoriety. Or anyone ever else makes it, at least. (Or just reads this blog entry. I'd settle for that. Sheesh!) ;)

Hummingbird Cake Ice Cream

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups whipping cream
2 bananas, mashed
1 small can crushed pineapple
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup pecan pieces
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Mix 1 tbsp cinnamon into the sweetened condensed milk and then whisk together milk, cream, and vanilla. Add mashed bananas and pineapple. Add mixture to a 2 qt ice cream maker. 

Over medium heat, melt butter, then add in pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir constantly until caramelized, 5 to 10 minutes. Spread on wax paper and cool, then mix in to ice cream when the ice cream is almost set.