Friday, December 30, 2011

Iron Horse grill to re-open

A downtown Jackson dining staple that has been closed for years could reopen as soon as late next year.
The Simpson Group intends to spend $6 million rehabilitating and expanding the Iron Horse Grill restaurant, which will reopen at its longtime home near Pearl Street.

Read more from Jeff Ayres in The Clarion-Ledger here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Lucky New Year's Day Menu

Black-eyed peas have symbolized good fortune since ancient Egyptian times, so it's not strictly a Southern thing. In the South, you eat the black-eyed peas for luck and the greens for money. (You can always cheat and just serve a baby spinach salad for the greens if you don't like collard greens or turnip greens enough to spend that much time cooking them.) I always serve both with cornbread - whether it brings luck and fortune or not, it can't be a bad thing to start the first day of the year with such a delicious meal! ;)

Hoppin' John is the traditional black-eyed dish, but I prefer this Stewed Black-Eyed Peas recipe. The recipes are similar but the stewed black-eyed peas are a bit more soupy (and have andouille sausage instead of ham).

Stewed Black-Eyed Peas
1 lb andouille
1 c. yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
3 tsp dried parsley
8 c. chicken stock (or 4 cans chicken broth, like I use)
1 lb dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
1 tbsp minced garlic

Cut sausage in half lengthwise and into 1/4-inch slices. Brown over medium heat. Add onions, salt, cayenne, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and parsley, stirring, until the onions are wilted, about 5 min. Add the stock, peas and garlic. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, till the peas are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and serve warm with rice.

I tried this new recipe last year and liked it too, if you want more of an appetizer (or you like your greens with lots of cream and cheese!).

Hot Turnip Dip (via Sherry Lucas of The Clarion Ledger)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped turnip greens, cooked according to package directions and well-drained
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco

Saute the onion and celery in the butter until soft. Stir in mushrooms, saute until they are browned. Add the flour, stir until smooth, then add the heavy cream. Cook till slightly thickened. Add the turnip greens to the mixture. Add the cheese, stir until melted. Season with Worcestershire and Tabasco. Serve warm.

And, of course, any day is lucky that includes Mexican Cornbread, which always has to go with the black-eyed peas and greens at my house!

Happy New Year from my house to yours!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Collard Greens

We just spent the weekend in New Orleans, and I enjoyed the turnip greens at Mother's so much, I had to dust off my collards recipe...besides you'll need it for New Year's anyways!

10 to 12 slices bacon, diced
1 cup chopped onion
16 ounces frozen collard (or turnip or mustard) greens
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
dash red pepper
dash black pepper
2 tablespoons butter

Cook bacon just until almost crisp; add onion and sauté until onion is tender and bacon is crisp.

Put chopped mustard greens in a medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. Add bacon and onion, along with ham, if using.

Toss with seasonings and butter to taste.
Serves 4 to 6.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saltine Toffee Bark

This recipe is from the December/January 2012 edition of Taste of Home magazine and is VERY yummy! It would make a great homemade gift for Christmastime! (I don't think my guys will ever let this see the door, but perhaps you'll have better luck!)

Saltine Toffee Bark

40 Saltines
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1 8-oz. pkg Heath bits

Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Arrange Saltines in a singler layer on foil; set aside.

In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in sugar. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 min. or until sugar is dissolved. Pour evenly over crackers.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 min. or until bubbly. Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Allow chips to soften for a few minutes, then spread over top. Sprinkle with toffee bits. Cool.
Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until set. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

A Tale of Two Gumbos

We can make this hard or we can make this easy. 
Southern Living (Dec. 2004) has a quick-and-easy Chicken & Sausage Gumbo recipe that is delicious. It is much lighter than traditional gumbo and perfect for those of us watching our calories. The second Chicken & Sausage Gumbo recipe is Emeril's. It's not quick and easy (or light), but it is delicious. (I've been making it for about four years now - so I can vouch for the recipe.) It's always made for Christmas dinner at my house.

Quick & Easy Chicken-Sausage Gumbo

1/2 lb smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 to 3 tbsp vegetable oil
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 to 2 tsp Creole seasoning
4 cups chopped cooked chicken
Hot cooked rice

Cook sausage over high heat in Dutch oven 5 min., stirring often. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

Add enough oil to drippings in Dutch oven to equal 3 tbsp, and whisk in flour; cook over med-hi heat, whisking constantly, 5 min. Add onion and next three ingredients; cook 5 min., stirring often. Stir in broth and next two ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 min. Add sausage and chicken; simmer, covered, 5 min. Serve over rice. (Contributed by Clairiece Gilbert Humphrey of Charlottesville, VA).

Emeril's Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo

1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. flour
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped green bell peppers
1 lb smoked sausage, cut up
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 bay leaves
8 c. water
1 lb chicken, cut up
1 tsp creole seasoning
2 tbsp parsley, fresh
1/2 c. green onions
1 tbsp file powder (optional - I never include's thick enough on it's own and I like my gumbo a little soupy)
1 bag frozen sliced okra (my addition...not in Emeril's original recipe)

Combine the oil and flour over med. heat. Stir slowly 20 to 25 minutes. (This is the critical stage in any gumbo. You have to stand right over it and watch the color. When the roux is the color of a Hershey's chocolate bar (pictured above), it's about right. But one minute of not watching can be the difference between a perfect roux and a burnt mess. I also find it helpful to stir the roux with a whisk rather than a spoon - but I have no idea why this is better...can't explain the science, it just works for me.) Add onions, celery and bell pepper and stir 5 min.

Add sausage, salt, cayenne and bay leaves. Stir 4 min. Add water and stir till combined. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to med-lo. Cook, uncovered, stirring occassionally, for one hour.

Season chicken with Creole seasoning and add to pot. Simmer for two hours. Add okra and cook for as long as directions on the bag suggest. Remove from heat and add parsley, green onions and file powder (if desired). Remove bay leaves.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gifts That Give Back

Kohl's is offering Good Housekeeping's A Very Merry Christmas Cookbook for sale and 100% of the proceeds go to kids' initiatives. Kohl's Cares' Good Housekeeping cookbook sells for $5 and goes to benefit kids' health and education initiatives nationwide.

Mississippi to stop certifying organic farms

Jim Ewing reported in The Clarion-Ledger that the Mississippi Department of Agriculture is no longer going to certify Mississippi organic farms, due to budget cuts. Now, Mississippi farms would have to pay to have a certifier come from out of state.

Dr. Bill Evans, Mississippi State University Truck Crops Experiment Station expert, told the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association that as of Dec. 31 the state Department of Agriculture would no longer be a certifying agent for Mississippi growers during a recent conference in Vicksburg.

There are only about 25 certified organic farms in the state. That number is likely to decline now.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Free Thanksgiving cookbook from Martha Stewart and celebrity chefs

Get a free downloadable Martha Stewart Thanksgiving cookbook packed with tips and recipes to make your holiday feasts delicious and memorable.

The 77-page 2011 Thanksgiving Hotline Cookbook is filled with more than 40 recipes by Martha Stewart and other acclaimed chefs like Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse, Sunny Anderson and Sara Moulton, among others. The chefs will also answer questions on Stewart's Sirius radio show Monday-Wednesday (Nov. 21-23) from 7 a.m. til 5 p.m. Isaac Mizrahi also offers tips on entertaining and there's a helpful planner, too. If you want to tune in, you can get a free 30-day trial at

Click here to download the cookbook. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Take time to stop and smell the cranberries

A survey in the November 2011 issue of Food Network magazine reports that 54% of folks PREFERRED canned cranberry sauce (even the foodie geeks like myself who read that magazine). I only wish I had this piece of information before spending one Thanksgiving (many, many years ago) making HOMEMADE cranberry sauce to impress a boyfriend who had professed his love for cranberry sauce. When I proudly brought my homemade cranberry sauce and gingerly set it down on the table, he asked where the canned cranberry sauce was. With the wedges. Shaped like a can and all.

Let's face it... it just wasn't meant to be. ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Winn-Dixie Asks Mississippians to "Give a Meal" This Holiday Season

Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. recently announced it has joined forces with Feeding America to launch the Give a Meal program, which gives Mississippians (including Winn Dixie employees) the opportunity to help provide food to nearly 37 million Americans facing hunger this holiday season. Give a Meal runs through Jan. 4 and is available in all of Winn-Dixie's stores in Mississippi. Every $1 donated during the campaign helps provide eight meals to people in need.

There are three simple ways for Winn-Dixie guests and team members to support the Give a Meal effort:

1. Donate at the register - this allows guests or employees to make a $1 or greater donation when purchasing groceries;
2. Donate online at by charging a donation to a credit card;
3. Purchase Winn-Dixie brand products -- a portion of the purchase will be donated to Feeding America.

In addition, some stores will offer prepackaged nonperishables in $5 and $10 increments that can be donated to the regional food bank immediately after purchase at marked collection barrels near the store exit.

Small is the new big (but it's still hard to find)

Charlie Mitchell, in a recent Clarion-Ledger article, talks of a new movement to bring local back to food production (and purchasing). I was riding home from a meeting in Laurel down Hwy. 15 yesterday and passed many "farms" - and as Mr. Mitchell points out many of them appeared to be merely acreage. But there were quite a few signs of "buy honey here," "fresh eggs on Tuesday," and my personal favorite, "Please don't pick pecans from this tree."

The problem is finding these places as a consumer. Even in Mitchell's article, he doesn't give one example of local Mississippi farm that would fit in the new locavore movement. After much searching last year, I found a farm near Madison that would let me purchase grass-fed long as I bought half the cow.

Even in the example that Mitchell gave, Polyface Farms, the food-sales emphasis is more on selling to restaurants than to locals. In order to effect a change from Big Food, as it is often described, we have to find a better way to market and educate folks about Little Food (starting with making it much easier to find and purchase)!

p.s. If you are in the state of Mississippi and you sell local food goods or produce, please leave your contact information here. I will start a master list!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seven Mississippi Cookbooks That Make Great Holiday Gifts

Have a picky foodie on your holiday shopping list? Check out these seven Mississippi cookbooks that make great holiday gifts (and also let  you share your love of Mississippi at the holidays too).
  • Come On In – Contains 385 triple-tested recipes from the Junior League of Jackson and includes a fish guide in the back.
  • The Mississippi Cookbook – Features over 1,200 recipes from all over the state (pared down by the state Cooperative Extension Service after collecting over 7,000 recipes). A special section includes the favorite recipes of the wives of former governors.
  • Fine Dining Mississippi Style: Signature Recipes from Mississippi’s Restaurants and Bed & Breakfast Inns by John M. Bailey. Features more than 350 recipes and also serves as a fine dining guide for the state.
  • Vintage Vicksburg -  In its ninth printing, this cookbook by the Junior League of Vicksburg offers over 900 recipes, beautiful color photographs and local historic scenes.
  • New South Grilling by Robert St. John – St.  John shows why grilling is not just for the main course and even shares what non-Southerners should know about Southern food. (And this is a great gift for the grillmaster on your shopping list!)
  • Square Table Cookbook – A collection of recipes from Oxford, with artists and authors who hold Oxford dear  thrown in for lagniappe.
  • Best of the Best from Mississippi – Fifty-three  of Mississippi’s favorite cookbooks contributed their most popular 400 recipes to this Quail Ridge Press compilation.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quiche Lorraine

Before the oven

8 slices bacon, crumbled
1 large onion
3 eggs
1 large can evaporated milk
8 oz. grated Swiss cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 tbsp butter
1 large unbaked pie shell

Brown bacon; remove and crumble. Saute onion in bacon grease. Beat together eggs, milk and seasonings. Put bacon in bottom of pie shell. Put onions on top of bacon and then the cheese. Pour milk mixture over all and dot with butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 min. Let stand 15-20 min.

After the oven

Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers

We made these during the 4th of July festivities. They are easy and delicious!

Jalapeno Peppers
Cream Cheese

Cut large jalapeno peppers in half and get seeds out. Fill with cream cheese and wrap with a piece of bacon. (We put it on the grill with other stuff but you can also bake at 350 degrees until the bacon is done.)

Fine Print: Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bags & Cans

Tomato-Basil Dip

1 8 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp Italian dressing
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped basil
Spread cream cheese onto bottom of 9-inch pie plate.

Mix tomatoes with dressing; spoon over cream cheese. Sprinkle with the cheese and basil.

Serve with crackers or fresh vegetables. Makes 1 3/4 cups or 14 servings of 2 tbsp each.

[ via Philadelphia cream cheese package ]

Mississippian's sauce is fit to eat

Mississippian Eric Miller and his father grilled pork loins and sold them during the holidays in his hometown of Anguilla. They couldn't get a good bottled barbecue sauce to baste the meat with after it cooked - so they just decided to make their own.

Soon after, the "secret sauce" the Millers used on their pork loins were as sought after as the meat itself. Eventually, they started selling the sauce separately it was so requested. Thus Fit to Eat Sauce was begun.

Reed's Food Technology in Pearl took the secret recipe and created a large batch of the sauce. Professionally bottled versions of the sauce (the original was distributed in mason jars) debuted in June.It's currently sold in 41 from Corinth to the Gulf Coast (including Persnickety in Madison, Interior Markets in Fondren, The Cupboard in Clinton, and Everyday Gourmet in Jackson).

For a complete list of locations, visit (The site also has some recipes for you to try too.)

Fine Print: Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bags & Cans

Philly BBQ Ranch Chicken Dip

1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
6 oz. grilled chicken breast strips, chopped
2 tbsp Ranch dressing
1/4 cup chopped red peppers
2 green onions, sliced
Spread cream cheese onto bottom of microwaveable 9-inch pie plate; top with barbecue sauce and chicken. Microwave on high 2 min. or until heated through; top with remaining ingredients. Serve with crackers and cut-up fresh vegetables.

[ via Philadelphia cream cheese package ]

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

One of my son's favorite things is mashed potatoes and gravy. One of the stories that he always asks me to tell is The Mashed Potatoes and Gravy Fiasco. He had a toothache and I had been buying him mashed potatoes and gravy from Popeye's a few days, when I realized the toothache was not a passing thing. I also realized that paying Popeye's $3 every day for a container of mashed potatoes with gravy was not a financially savvy move - so I did the unthinkable...I bought instant mashed potatoes and gravy mix from a packet (which I had never done in my life).

I made the instant potatoes and the gravy mix and plopped it in front of him and said, "Dig in." He took one bite, said it was awful and refused to eat more. I went on a five-minute mom rant about how I had not browned meat to make real gravy and this would have to do. This or nothing. Eat it or else. He kept complaining. Peeved and to prove my point, I grabbed the spoon, took a huge bite...and then said, "Oh my God, that's awful. I am so sorry. Don't eat another bite!"

This happened when he was five. He's almost eight and he will come ask me to tell the Mashed Potato story again. It cracks him up every time. (Ah, childhood memories!)

Serious Eats has found the perfect mashed potato recipe for me. Now if I can only figure out how to make the perfect gravy for accompaniment without browning any meat. (My mother swore that he would not be able to tell the difference in the gravy from the jar if I doctored it up enough. She was wrong.

There's a lesson here - NEVER make your child homemade gravy unless you want to continue making it the rest of your life!) ;)

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
4 pounds yukon gold (or other yellow fleshed potatoes), cut into 3 inch pieces
8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups milk or half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes, garlic, and salt and simmer, partially covered, over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and garlic are fork-tender.

Drain the potatoes and garlic and return to the pot over high heat. Cook, tossing the potatoes, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until all the moisture is evaporated. Transfer to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, oil, and milk over medium heat until the butter has melted. Add to the potatoes and whip with a wooden spoon or whisk to a smooth but not soupy consistency. Mash any pieces of garlic until totally pureed. When the liquid is absorbed, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately. To prepare in advance, make up to 4 hours ahead, cover, and keep at room temperature. Reheat gently in the top of a double boiler over medium heat, adding extra milk as needed and adjusting the seasonings.

My Mom's Chicken Spaghetti (and mine too)

Boil chicken, remove from broth and remove skin. (She didn't give instructions on how much or what kind - I've always just bought one of those packs with a whole chicken cut up and boiled it.) Bone chicken. Cook spaghetti in chicken broth. Drain spaghetti - but reserve broth.
(My way: Buy rotisserie chicken - tear chicken off. Boil spaghetti in four cans of chicken broth. Much shorter)

Chop 5 sticks celery and one onion and saute in 1/2 stick of butter.

In a big pot, combine chicken, spaghetti, sauteed vegetables, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 small package Velveeta cheese (cut into small pieces), 1 can cream of chicken soup and enough of the reserved broth to make it all juicy. Sprinkle paprika on top of spaghetti. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or till the cheese melts.

Watch me make my mother's chicken spaghetti recipe on YouTube (kind of).

Three-Cheese Lasagna with Italian Sausage

I tried a new lasagna recipe recently, adapted from this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine. Raves all around! Everyone loved it.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 18 oz spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
9 lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces)
2 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry
2 large eggs
6 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until softened, about 12 minutes. Add sausages to pan; sauté until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until flavors blend and sauce measures about 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; cover with cold water.

Combine ricotta and 1 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.

Drain pasta and pat dry. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of 13x9-inch glass baking dish. Place 3 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit. Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture. Spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick). Repeat layering with 3 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups sauce. Arrange remaining 3 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake lasagna 40 minutes; uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.

Easy Orange Rolls

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat 1/2 of an 8-oz. pkg softened cream cheese, 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar and 1 1/2 tsp orange zest at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Unroll 1 11-oz. can refrigerated French bread dough (like Pillsbury Crusty French Loaf) onto a lightly floured surface. Spread cream cheese mixture over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp granulated sugar. Gently roll up dough, starting at 1 long side. Cut into 11 (1 1/4-inch) slices. Place slices in a lightly greased 8-inch round cake pan. Brush top of dough with 1 tbsp melted butter. Bake 25-30 min. until golden. Stir together 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tbsp orange juice in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over hot rolls. Serve immediately. Makes 11 rolls.

Fine Print: Recipes from Boxes, Bags & Cans

Potato Onion Au Gratin

3 tbsp butter
1 large onion, sliced
2 lb. white potatoes, peeled & thinly sliced
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan. Melt butter in med. skillet over med. heat. Saute onion until very soft.

Alternate layers of potato, onion, and cheese in the buttered dish and season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour the broth over all layers and cover the casserole with aluminum foil. Bake covered for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. Uncover and continue baking until the top is lightly browned, 15-20 min. more. Serve hot.

[ via a can of Kroger brand chicken broth ]

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 pkg dry Ranch dressing
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
Grated cheese
Round Tostitos

Brown ground beef and drain. Add taco seasoning and Ranch dressing; mix well. Add corn, beans, and tomatoes. Slowly add beef broth and simmer for 1 hour (can be put in crockpot). Put Tostitos in bottom of bowl and cover with soup. Top with cheese.

[ via Rachel V. Tadlock, The Rankin Ledger ]

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Dip

AND Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Hamburger Cookies

1 8-oz. pkg cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. pecans, finely chopped
Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add sugars and vanilla.
Blend well. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Cover and chill for several hours. Serve with graham cracker sticks or mini vanilla wafers.

[ via The Rankin Ledger ]

I had TONS of this dip left over from a work function. So I made these mini-hamburgers for my son and his friends. Use two mini wafers, put the dip in the middle, and, voila, candy hamburgers! ;)

Fine Print: Recipes from the Back of Boxes and Bags

Pesto-Chicken Italiano (from the back of Kraft's Five-Cheese Italian Blend)

1 tbsp oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large red pepper, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup pesto
1 lemon, cut in half, divided
1 cup Italian five-cheese blend
2 cups hot cooked angel hair pasta

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook and stir 4 to 5 min. or until chicken is evenly browned. Stir in peppers; cook 3 to 4 min. or until chicken is done, stirring frequently.

Stir in pesto and juice from 1 lemon half; top with cheese. Cover; cook on low heat 2 to 3 min. or until cheese is melted. Spoon over pasta.

Serve with remaining lemon half, cut into wedges.

Best  Spaghetti and Meatballs (from Kroger spaghetti bag)
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 28-oz. can tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 12-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
Brown onion in hot oil. Stir in tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Add other ingredients. Cover and simmer gently for 30 min.

Meatballs1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup snipped parsley
Mix together all ingredients except oil. Form mixture into balls. Heat oil and brown meatballs in oil. Place meatballs into sauce and simmer uncovered for 20 min.

Prepare 1 12-oz. pkg of spaghetti to package directions; drain. Serve with meatballs and sauce. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Football Food

I don't know which I like best - watching football or making (and eating) football-watching food. Luckily, I don't have to choose. I get to do both! (We even rigged up a projection screen and watched the Saints beat the 49ers big time in a big fashion.)

Here are two new recipes I tried that were both keepers. The Crawfish Dip was the hands-down favorite though!

Crawfish Dip

2 lbs. crawfish tails, drained
3 8 oz. blocks cream cheese, softened
1 bunch green onions
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Tony Chachere's to taste (about 1 1/2 tsp.)
Tabasco to taste

Saute green onions in butter over medium heat. Once the onions are soft (about 4 min.) add the cream cheese. After cream cheese is melted, add crawfish and spices. Serve with Frito's Scoops.

Warm Feta Spread

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add one diced red bell pepper and two sliced garlic cloves. Cook until soft, 2 to 3 min. Break 1 lb feta into a serving bowl. Top with the warm pepper mixture. Serve with sliced cucumbers and pita chips.
(I am using what was left of this spread and toasting it on a baguette to eat with supper tonight.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shrimp and Gouda Grits

Gouda is my favorite cheese - so as soon as I saw this recipe for Smoked Gouda Grits in Southern Living magazine (May 2010), I knew I would have to try them. I decided to add my own flair to it and made it Shrimp and Gouda Grits. (I did not used smoked gouda.)

Gouda Grits
  • 4  cups  water

  • 4  cups  milk

  • 1  teaspoon  salt

  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground white pepper

  • 2  cups  uncooked quick-cooking grits

  • 1 2/3  cups  (6 1/2 oz.) shredded Gouda cheese

  • 3  tablespoons  butter

  • Bring water, milk, salt, and ground white pepper to a boil in a large saucepan; gradually whisk in uncooked grits. Cook, whisking often, 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Whisk in cheese and butter, whisking until blended.

    For the shrimp:
    3 tbsp butter
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp pepper
    1 tsp crushed red pepper
    1 lb shrimp, peeled

    Melt butter in pan. Add seasonings and then shrimp. Cook till done, about 5 min.

    To serve, put grits in bowl and spoon shrimp (and butter sauce from the pan) over.

    Mississippi Mud Pie

    1 (9-inch) store-bought piecrust
    1 stick(s) unsalted butter
    1 3/4 cup(s) sugar
    4 tablespoon(s) cocoa
    1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
    4 large eggs, beaten
    1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
    3 cup(s) vanilla or mocha ice cream, slightly softened
    3 tablespoon(s) fudge sauce

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line crust with parchment paper and weight with dried beans or pie weights; bake until dough is lightly golden and set, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pie and cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

    For filling: In a bowl, stir together butter, sugar, and cocoa until well combined. Add flour, eggs, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared crust and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
    Remove pie from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Gently mound ice cream over pie and freeze until ice cream sets. Drizzle with fudge sauce before serving.

    [ via Country Living magazine (May 2010) - Recipe from the Crown Restaurant in Indianola, MS ]

    Baked Potato Soup

    I like the idea of baked potato soup but find the pudding-like soups served in restaurants a bit too rich for my taste. This recipe is perfect - not too heavy but heavy enough that it makes a perfect winter weather soup!

    Baked Potato Soup
    • 3 bacon strips, diced
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 3 cups chicken broth
    • 2 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
    • 1 cup half-and-half cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
    • Shredded Cheddar cheese
    • Minced fresh parsley
    In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Set bacon aside. Saute onion and garlic in the drippings until tender. Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix well. Gradually add broth. Bring to boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, cream and hot pepper sauce; heat through but do not boil. Garnish with bacon, cheese and parsley.

    ~Recipe from Tina Dale of Van Buren, printed in Times Record Online

    Baked Eggs

    I have been sifting through my thrift-store cookbooks for items to feature on my blog, Recollected Recipes. But typing all of those recipe cards (and reading them) made me hungry, so I tried a new recipe from Cane River Cuisine this morning.

    6 tsp butter
    6 eggs
    6 tsp grated Cheddar cheese
    6 tsp crumbled bacon
    6 tbsp minced parsley
    Salt and Pepper
    Tabasco or Sriracha

    Using a six-cup muffin tin, place 1 tsp butter in each cup. Gently break egg into each cup and sprinkle with 1 tsp cheese, 1 tsp cooked bacon, and 1 tsp parsley. Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire, paprika and hot sauce to taste. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 min. or until eggs are done until desired consistency. Serves 4 to 6.

    Note: I cooked for 15 min. and the yolk was about the consistency of a hard-boiled egg, so if you want it runnier you may want to try 10 min. Also, I would spray the muffin tins with non-stick spray next time. I served it over a whole wheat English muffin. Yum!

    Zucchini Frittata

    The roasted veggies are so good, you'll (almost) wonder why you didn't just eat them like this instead of putting them in a frittata!

    4 cups Roasted Zucchini, Onion, and Peppers1 teaspoon olive oil
    10 large eggs
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Drain any liquid from leftover roasted zucchini, onion, and peppers; place in pie plate.
    In a large bowl, beat eggs with grated Parmesan cheese, coarse salt, and ground pepper; pour over vegetables.

    Bake until top is golden and center is set, 35 to 40 minutes; cool 5 minutes before serving.


    [ via Martha Stewart ]

    Food & Wine's "The Help" Menu

    Food and Wine magazine has created a menu based on the food in the book and the movie, The Help. Don't miss Minnie's Chocolate Pie! ;)

    Garlic & Dill Cheddar Cheese

    They had samples of Henning's Garlic & Dill Cheddar Cheese at Kroger today. I thought it would be wonderful on a roast beef panini. By lunchtime, I found out I was right! Yum!

    Fresh Snap Beans with New Potatoes

    The last of the bounty from my grandfather's garden...
    1 c. chopped onions
    3 tbsp butter
    1 lb fresh snap beans
    2 cups water
    l lb chopped ham
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    10 new potatoes, peeled
    In a heavy pot, add butter, onion and seasonings. Saute for 5 min. Add water, beans, and ham. Bring to a rapid boil reducing heat to simmer. Cook covered for 45 min. Add new potatoes. Cook 30 min. Serves 6.
    (Adapted from John D. Folse's The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine)

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Taco Seasoning

    Something about a Friday makes me want tacos. But, as I've gotten older, I just can't tolerate those package seasoning mixes anymore. They are all waaaay too salty. So I created my own (by morphing a few together I found online)...

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Glazed Pork Chops with Cucucmber & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

    Budget Bytes was kind enough to share this yummy pork chop recipe (and, amazingly, it's even done in 15 min.!). You might want to adjust the temp and time for pan frying though - 5 minutes was a bit too long for mine. But I did fry them in a cast-iron skillet which captures heat pretty quickly. I did still bake them for 4 min. in the oven too.

    I've been looking for new veggie side dishes as we're all getting tired of spinach salads. This Cucumber & Black-Eyed Pea Salad was yummy (and even had black-eyed peas too). Definitely on the keeper list. (I doubled the feta though.)

    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    Brown Rice Trick

    I read a tip by Michelle Arndt on Cooking Light's Facebook page. I've been meaning to try it for a while and finally did tonight.

    She had a tip for baking brown rice in the oven. Combine 1 cup brown rice with 1 can chicken broth, 1 tbsp olive oil and the seasonings you like (I added rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper). Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

    The reason this caught my attention is that pork chops are generally cooked at 350 degrees, so you can kill two dinner items with one temp! And it worked. I made the chops and the rice in the oven...

    and The Family Kitchen's Weeknight Zucchini Parmesan recipe on the stove. Ready to eat in an hour!

    Happy Baby!

    I spent most of my Saturday making this cake for a friend's baby shower tomorrow. I always get asked to bring the cake...

    Everyone who tastes my cakes asks for the secret to my success. I just evade the question and say they would be surprised on my secret ingredient. The truth is I tried different homemade white cake recipes for years. I have never found one that can beat my secret ingredient: boxed white cake mix. But instead of water, substitute buttermilk - and add a little vanilla extract too. Always use the egg whites - even if the box says you can use whole eggs, and bake the cake at 325 degrees no matter what the box says.

    For the frosting: Cream together in a mixing bowl, 1 cup shortening, 1/2 cup water, 2 tsp clear vanilla flavoring, 2 tsp clear almond flavoring. Slowly add 2 1b of confectioner's sugar (no need to sift). Mix for about 10 min. (This can ruin a lightweight hand mixer, I can tell you from experience - it's better suited for KitchenAid-type stand mixers.)

    If you are not going to star the cake, do a crumb coat first. Just spread a thin layer of your frosting on the cake and let it sit for a couple of hours to solidify some. If you are going to star the cake, there's no need for a crumb coat.

    Tips on decorating: If you don't want to "draw" on the cake, use props from party stores. If you do want to "draw" something on a cake, search for coloring pages with the character or the theme you want. Coloring pages are often very simple designs and they are generally the size of a 13x9 cake. Cut out your design and trace it with a toothpick. If you mess up, just "erase" your mistake and start over again.
    If you are not comfortable piping the decorative edge of the birthday cake, just use "props" as borders: peanut M&Ms, Skittles, Red Hots, Twizzlers, etc. etc.

    Finishing touches: Crushed vanilla wafers make good "beach" areas on a cake. Crushed Oreos make good "dirt" areas. You can dye coconut different colors for designs too. 

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Oyster Stew

    Happy National Oyster Day!

    To celebrate, I bribed my mother into sharing her oyster stew recipe (which, of course, really wasn't a recipe at all, but I've translated for us).

    My mom's un-recipe:
    I don't have a recipe.  I start with cooking (quantity depends on how many you're feeding) cubed potatoes ( like for salad or soup), you know, boiling them in water until they are just almost tender.  Then drain all the water off and cover them with part milk and part half & half.  while you have been cooking the potatoes, you will have been cooking some chopped sweet onion in butter (real sweet butter, & a lot of it, about 1/2 a stick). Again, amount of onion depends on how many feeding!  I usually chop at least 1/2 of a large one.  Anyway, it should only be just translucent, not cooked to death.  Dump the butter/onion mixture in the potato/milk & add fresh ground pepper & salt.  Either drain or not drain the oysters (I never rinse them) and just cook until warmed.  Simple, fast, tasty!
    I was especially impressed that my health-nut mother used more butter in her un-recipe than Paula Deen did in hers! ;)

    As far as my mom's estimates, I used three baking potatoes and half of a 1/2 gallon of milk and half-and-half. I used one onion and a whole stick of butter (because she gave me permission and all!).

    Enjoy! (And it's International Beer Day too, so if you're looking for a pairing, I'll go with Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy.) But, honestly, I stuck to my pinot grigio.

    Because it's Friday night, we have dessert too. And we loved these Peach Enchiladas (with a dollop of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla on the side!).

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

    We had a cookout on recently and had steak left over, so I was searching for something different besides steak and eggs or steak quesadillas to make with the yummy leftovers. So, here it is...

    This recipe + this recipe =

    (Shawn's) Philly Cheesesteak Pizza
    2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
    Ranch dressing
    12 slices of provolone cheese
    Leftover steak (about 2 cups, sliced thinly)
    1 onion, thinly sliced
    1 green pepper, thinly sliced
    10 oz. baby bellas, sliced
    4 c. mozzarella cheese
    Steak seasoning (I used McCormick's Montreal Brand seasoning)

    Heat oven to 375 degrees.

    Unroll crescent rolls into rectangles. Place in ungreased 11 1/2 inch x 16 1/2 inch jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Press dough over the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides to form crust.  Bake at 375 oven for 11 to 13 minutes or just until golden brown.

    While the crust is baking, lightly saute the onion, mushrooms, and green pepper with a small amount of butter or margarine and garlic. (Do not over cook.) Drain and set aside.

    Drizzle Ranch dressing on top of crust and spread out with knife. Layer the provolone cheese on top. Spread the steak around and then the veggies on top. Put the mozzarella cheese on top of that and sprinkle with steak seasoning.

    Return to oven for 3-6 more minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve immediately.  Makes 12 main dish servings or 48 appetizers.

    Family Fiesta Night

    We had this for dinner and dessert tonight. It was all delicious. And a fun Family Fiesta Night.

    This recipe is courtesy of Real Mom Kitchen blog. The basic recipe could be easily changed up, and I've even created a Philly cheesesteak version. (I think cream cheese would be a great base for a garden pizza too.) But this Mexican rendition...I KNOW it works. It was delicious.

    Dessert was Sopapilla Cheesecake (another Real Mom recipe). And my son, who loves cheesecake in any and every form, says that this one is his favorite yet. Quentin says this tastes a lot like king cake - so at Mardi Gras we're gonna try it with green, yellow, and purple sprinkles instead of cinnamon sugar!

    I found both of these recipes on Pinterest. Want to see more recipes? Browse through my Yummo and Let Them Eat Cake pins (where these recipes wait permanently now).

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Spinach Tortellini Soup

    This is one of my husband's favorite soups. And it's one of my favorites too because it fits my weekday cooking criteria perfectly. (Start dinner at 7 p.m. Eat at 8 p.m. This gives me time to get home, take the dog for a walk, and still have 45 minutes to run, walk and/or bike.)

    Spinach Tortellini Soup

    1 pkg whole wheat cheese tortellini
    1 can chicken broth
    1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
    1 can Navy beans, washed and drained
    Salt, pepper, and parsley to taste
    1/4 cup fresh basil
    1 pkg baby spinach
    Parmesan cheese

    Follow the directions for making the tortellini but use the chicken broth to boil it in. Add the can of tomatoes and beans. Add seasonings to taste and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the soup from heat and add the baby spinach and fresh basil. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top before serving.

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    How To Be a Retronaut offers up the full Savoy Cocktail Book from 1933. Tasty and beautiful!

    Mississippi Craft Beer Week

    Mississippi - the state with the least amount of breweries per capita and the only state that limits alcohol by weight (ABW) for beer to 5% - still managed to celebrate Mississippi Craft Beer Week last week. (Mississippi residents also remain legally unable to take part in the hobby of brewing beer at home, leaving Mississippi and Alabama as the only two states that have not legalized homebrewing.)

    The week ended with the Raise Your Pints Beer Festival.

    Lazy Magnolia offered up a recipe, Chocolate Stout Cupcakes, in celebration.

    If you're interested in more info about beer in Mississippi, follow:

    Heat, sweets make big impression

    Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-selling novel The Help, and Tate Taylor, who wrote and directed the novel's film adaptation, arrive at the Malco Grandview theater in Madison. / Joe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger

    The premiere of The Help was this Saturday in Madison. And, par for the course, most of what the stars remember from their time in Mississippi...the heat (and the food, too, of course!). Those of you who have read the book will know that one certain pie in the book becomes (almost) a character on its own, so it's very fitting!

    In a story for The Clarion-Ledger, Leigh Cummins catalogs the food most fondly recalled:

    • Sweet tea
    • Fried chicken
    • Banana pudding
    • Caramel cake
    Not bad memories at all!

    Saturday, July 30, 2011

    Biloxi-Style Shrimp and Grits

    Maybe it was just Biloxi, but the Shrimp and Grits I had growing up were not the soupy kind served in most restaurants today. Since it seems that restaurants lately only want to serve the soupy kind, I had to figure out the recipe for the kind I grew up on. So here goes...

    For the shrimp, you will need 1 lb. of shrimp and half a stick of butter. Let the butter melt and then add the shrimp. Sprinkle liberally with lemon pepper, salt, and pepper.

    For the grits: Bring 6 cups of water and a stick of butter to boil on high heat. Add 1 1/2 cups of quick grits (and follow package directions). After the grits are prepared, add a small block of Velveeta cheese (cut in small pieces) and add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. (Remember that grits don't have much taste on their own so it generally takes a lot of seasoning.) Beat three eggs. Add some of the hot grits to the eggs and stir in, then add the egg mixture to the grits. Pour into a 13x9 pan and bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees.

    To serve, put grits in a bowl and spoon shrimp mixture on top (being sure to give each serving some of the butter sauce too).

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Roasted Asparagus and Caramelized Mushroom with Goat Cheese Quesadilla

    I tried Closet Cooking's Roasted Asparagus and Caramelized Mushroom with Goat Cheese Quesadilla tonight. It was delicious - and very filling for a vegetarian supper! (I'm trying to sneak in more meatless meals unnoticed. So far, so good!)

    I cut the asparagus up in to smaller pieces than his picture shows. I didn't want to bite into one long stalk and have my whole quesadilla fall apart.

    I haven't tried it yet, but I think the basic quesadilla filling would also be good tossed with some whole wheat penne and the cheese rather than serving it on the quesadillas. (But how do I love quesadillas...let me count the ways!)

    I'm collecting future vegetarian recipes to try on my Very Vegetarian board on Pinterest. If you have any recommendations, leave a link in the comments!

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Greek Yogurt with Warm Black and Blueberry Sauce

    I tried this recipe tonight. It was yummy!

    Only I just used blueberries. Because I'm too cheap to buy two kinds of berries. (I didn't even use all of the blueberries after all.)

    Also, I did not buy the 2% Greek yogurt. (I grabbed the full-fat by mistake. And after seeing how many calories and fat grams it had compared to ice cream - I decided on Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. Of course!)

    This topping would be good on any thing: angel food cake, French toast, dessert cake cups. It's easy to make and quick - so you can make it and keep some in your fridge. (Pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm up...and enjoy!)

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Muffuletta Dip

    1  cup  Italian olive salad, drained
    1  cup  diced salami (about 4 oz.)
    1/4  cup  grated Parmesan cheese
    1/4  cup  chopped pepperoncini salad peppers
    1  (2 1/4-oz.) can sliced black olives, drained
    4  ounces  provolone cheese, diced
    1  celery rib, finely chopped
    1/2  red bell pepper, chopped
    1  tablespoon  olive oil
    1/4  cup  chopped fresh parsley

    Serve with: French bread crostini

    PreparationStir together first 9 ingredients. Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours before serving. Stir in parsley just before serving. Serve with French bread crostini. Store leftovers in refrigerator up to 5 days.

    I served with crostini but actually liked better with Wheat Thins and pita chips. I also used the leftovers as a salad topping and on quesadillas and it was just as delicious!

    Recipe inspired by Kelli Tuttle, Drummond, Wisconsin, Southern Living, JANUARY 2011