Saturday, February 12, 2022

Perfect Roast Chicken for a Perfect Valentine's Day

I was a bit confused by the sheer number of roast chicken recipes that Ina gets credited for. In the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, her first, there is a Perfect Roast Chicken recipe that makes a gravy at the end. That's the one I made. 

But then I happened on a video from Food Network that was Perfect Roast Chicken with fennel and other vegetables - no gravy. Ina says her Engagement Roast Chicken recipe was inspired by a recipe from Glamour, Engagement Chicken. She has a skillet-roasted lemon chicken too. It doesn't seem to matter which recipe you make - you're gonna get married regardless if you keep playing around. Proceed with caution.

This engagement chicken phenomenon has always flummoxed me as roast chicken would almost be the last thing I made while fishing for a proposal. It doesn't even have bacon in the recipe. But maybe it's because I'm from the Gulf Coast where blackened surf and turf with a rich sauce for topping is the height of romanticism, followed closely by any Italian dish with lots of cheese. And anything with bacon.  

I, however, was already married when I tried the recipe. And trying to do too many things at once. And burnt the hell out of the vegetables in the pan. (It was not really my fault. The timer did not go off for some reason. Let's just say there was NO gravy that could be made from the charred onions.) Even after cooking the chicken 15 minutes longer than instructed, the chicken was fabulous. The vegetables not so much. I'm honestly not sure the veggies would not have been burnt regardless, though, as 425 for 1 1/2 hours is a lot of roasting for carrots and potatoes. 

For my fellow former English majors, I did check the title. I would have sworn it should be roasted chicken, but Google swears that roasting is a verb and "roast chicken" is the noun that is later served.

In her Engagement Roast Chicken recipe, she counsels to roast the chicken in a small pan or the onions will burn. (This advice was not given in the cookbook.) She also uses olive oil in this recipe after insisting in the video above that butter was the preferred fat for roast chicken. Her stock is made with wine instead of chicken stock - maybe that's where the proposal begins. I mean, the bottle is already open...

Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. Meghan and Prince Harry. Ina and Jeffrey. Your chances are good. If you are looking for a proposal this Valentine's Day, whip out the roasting pan. And even if you're not, as Emily points out, "Who doesn't love a roast chicken?"

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Super Bowl Snap Peas!


Did the exclamation point help?! ;)

I know Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame does not, at first glance, sound like the perfect Super Bowl food, but how many cheesy dips can your stomach take? And Ina's recipe is like popcorn or edamame - you won't be able to have just one! And how much simpler could this recipe be? 

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook is unabashedly a party food cookbook, but I'm still surprised by the serving sizes. That has stopped me from making quite a few recipes. (Baked Virginia Ham for 35, anyone?) So I was thankful for a recipe that was very easy to half!

While experimenting, I did half with a dash of mirin in addition to the sesame oil. They were equally good - just different. You will definitely need sea salt to taste too!

This one is Super Bowl-worthy. I promise.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Cheddar Corn Chowder


Ina says that soup is perfect for Sunday lunch. Just make a big salad too and you're done. Maybe fruit and cheese for dessert. And everyone's ready to deal with the dragons of the coming week. 

And I did love this recipe. My husband loved this recipe. My son loved this recipe. But when Ina says that if feeds 9-10, it must be nine to ten REALLY BIG folks. We ate this twice for dinner. I gave some to my mother-in-law. I ate it three times for lunch. I still froze a big container. 


And since Ina encouraged me to make all of her recipes my own, I added shrimp too. Because shrimp, like soup, makes everything better...

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Cocktail Party

 Before Ina owned the Barefoot Contessa, she would spend hours making hors d'oeuvres for a cocktail party. After, she found it more important to have fun and spend time with her friends. She now has several guidelines:

- All the fixings for drinks are on a table in the room where cocktails are served. Pick one or two drinks. Don't overcomplicate it.

- Don't leave the room. Choose appetizers that can be served at room temperature. Put everything out on the table for serving before the first guest arrives.

- A cocktail party is not about the food. It's about the guests. Focus on the guest list. Be intentional but leave room for "surprises" too. 

- Serve five to six different kinds of appetizers and three of each kind per person. Plan the menu like a meal: seafood, veggies, meat, with a dessert platter at the end.

I tried her Roasted Eggplant Spread from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and liked it. She touts it as a recipe that is not only good but good for you (so you can save your calories for dessert!). My husband is not a fan of eggplant. I thought, surely, roasting and blending and chopping he would not even taste the eggplant, but...he's still not a fan of eggplant. :)

Ina suggested serving this recipe alongside other Mediterranean specialties like hummus, pita bread, olives, feta cheese, and stuffed grape leaves. In her cooking show, Ina also recommends reimagining your leftovers - so I took my lucky black eyed peas left over from New Year's and made Black Eyed Pea Hummus. (This was my husband's favorite!) 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

The Art of Not Cooking or the Locavore's Dilemma

So how can you be a student of not cooking? Look around you! Base your cooking on ingredients that come from local sources. The Locavore's Dilemma? You gotta KNOW the local sources. If you can't find any sources nearby, turn to the options available by mail from producers all over the country - but keep your eyes and ears open. LOOK for the local and use that when possible.

The menu at Barefoot Contessa was based on "simple, fresh, seasonal food." The key to simple food, though, is to use only the best ingredients. Buy them in season and buy them from the source. And experiment. Taste the strawberries. Try three different kinds of olive oil and see which one you like best.

I am from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I moved just three hours north to Jackson and I can't find local shrimp on a regular basis (besides the guy who brings up a cooler and sits at the gas station from time to time). I have to buy it in bulk when I visit and freeze it. I did not realize how many of my recipes depended on fresh shrimp until I no longer had it. 

One of my projects for this month is to actively look for what I do have available fresh around me and focus on that, rather than what I don't have! This summer, I discovered the fresh peaches available at Bank Farm in Brandon (and their peach jam and peach preserves).  I need to find other similar farms near me.

What farms do you have near you? Give them a shout out in the comments!

Monday, January 3, 2022

Mastering the Art of Not Cooking


In the introduction to her first cookbook, Ina Garten explains that when she bought the Barefoot Contessa in the 70s, American cooks (including Ina!) were "studying Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking like it was the Bible and we had just found religion." But each recipe contained at least three mini-recipes - dinner for six (Ina's standard) could take six days to prepare. Ina focused on simple and inexpensive because that's what she needed in her life as a new business owner, and it turns out many others did too.

And she had some great teachers. Devon Fredericks and then Anna Pump from Loaves and Fishes. Eli Zabar from E.A.T. Martha Stewart herself. Ina emphasizes, though, that a cookbook is just a starting place for any recipe. The magic happens when you take the recipes, write notes in the margins, experiment and substitute away, and make it your own.

Food is nurturing, both physical and emotional. Make some great dishes for your friends, but let them treat you too! Ina focuses on food as a vehicle not for impressing people but for making them feel comfortable. And you can feel that comfort-able thread throughout her recipes.

Ina points out that the most useful thing she learned while cooking professionally is that there are many things you can do in advance to make cooking less stressful. Also, don't do it all yourself. Find the specialty food stores in your area and experiment away! Mix homemade items with store-bought items. (It's not one way or the other!) And when you find a recipe or combination that works, use it over and over again.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Martha and Ina


Martha Stewart wrote the foreword for Ina's very first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. In the foreword, she extols Ina's joi-de-vivre, intense curiosity, intelligence, and sense of humor. Martha met her at the Barefoot Contessa store as a customer and the two became fast friends. They had shared interests in cooking, gardening, entertaining, designing, and building (particularly renovating old homes in East Hampton). Martha even introduced Ina to an editor when she had her book proposal ready, which helped get her cookbook empire rolling.

Their friendship surprises many, as Ina is often seen as almost an anti-Martha. In the foreword, though, Martha compliments the simplicity and "lack of finickiness" in Ina's recipes. (And, obviously, Martha was often following Ina's own advice and buying rather than making what she could from local specialty stores. Ina also catered many benefits at Martha's house.) 

Martha applauds Ina's "practical approach" on entertaining which focuses more on coddling people than lemon curd - which offers an interesting contrast to Martha's entertaining style of fancy recipes with elaborate presentations. Martha acknowledges, in a way, that there is room for both styles. Before Food Network gave Ina her own TV show, she even did a spec show for Martha's media empire, but it never got the green light.

Despite Ina's down-home style, when a Bacardi survey asked for a preferred drinking buddy - Martha or Ina - the majority chose Martha (78%!). But if I were Ina, I would demand a recount. I have a feeling after her famous pandemic Cosmo pitcher, the vote of many may have changed!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Thank You


In her first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, published in 1999, Ina thanks a host of characters:

  • Frank Newbold - High-end real estate broker and business partner to Ina. He encouraged her to start writing. She wrote a column in both House Beautiful and Martha Stewart Living during his long-term partner's (Stephen Drucker) tenure as editor-in-chief at the publications. (Martha Stewart was a mentor to Ina too and wrote the foreword in her first cookbook. She is thanked also.)
  • Diana Stratta - She purchased the Barefoot Contessa food specialty store in the Hamptons from her after seeing an ad in the New York Times in 1978. It was already named (and open!). Ina moved from Washington DC to the Hamptons to run the store. She had never visited the locale. She had never run a business. She had never worked in the food industry.
  • Parker Hodges, who was the chef and a business partner (now a restaurant owner) at the Barefoot Contessa (and has quite a few of her recipes named after him) and Amy Baiata (now Amy Baiata Forst), who was a business partner (now a real estate agent). In 1999, Ina sold the Barefoot Contessa store to Parker. Five years later, she would buy the business back from Hodges.
  • Harry Goodale
  • Suzanna Guiliano, a friend (and her accountant)
  • Paul Hodges (Parker's brother, who also worked in the kitchen at Barefoot Contessa and is now co-owner with his brother of The Canal Cafe.)
  • Shawn Miller
  • Alex Lazen
  • Peter Ranft
  • Larry Hayden, a pastry chef who supplied her books with several recipes
  • Melanie Acevedo, who was the photographer for the cookbook
  • Rori Spinelli, the food stylist for the cookbook
  • Denise Canter, the stylist
  • Cecily Stranahan, a now retired psychotherapist and an interfaith minister
  • Pam Bernstein, Ina's agent
  • Roy Finamore, Ina's editor
Several of these folks are still working with her on her latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food.

She also thanks those who contributed recipes to the cookbook:
  • Devon Fredericks and Susan Costner, owners of Loaves & Fishes specialty store in Sagaponack, NY (Ina singles out their cookbooks as one of her favorites in a Splendid Table podcast interview and here too.)
  • Eli Zabar of the Amagansett Farmer’s Market 
  • Sarah Chase of The Open House Cookbook (another of Ina's favorites). She founded the Massachusetts specialty food shop and catering business Que Sera Sarah.
  • Brent Newsom from Brent Newsom Catering
In addition, she thanks a whole host of people who let her use their homes as makeshift photography studios and others, including Crate & Barrel, who loaned her their kitchenware to photograph too.

With the publication of this book, Ina ends a 20-year career as the purveyor of a specialty food store and begins a now over-20-year career as a cookbook author and TV and social media personality.

Friday, December 31, 2021

The Year of Ina


It all started when I wandered into my local Barnes & Noble when a friend was delayed for lunch and I needed to kill time. They were advertising 50% off all hardback books for that day only - and there in the cookbook section were six of Ina Garten's cookbooks right in a row. I had been wanting to cook my way through all of someone's cookbooks - and there Ina was. (Just like she was there for me during much of quarantine with great, simple recipes and huge Cosmos!)  

I ordered the remainder of the cookbooks not stocked in the store on Amazon. All are here and I'm ready for my new year's culinary adventure!

It's not going to be perfect. She doesn't like cilantro, for one thing. That's not going to work for me. She's also, it must be excused, a Yankee. New Year's Day in the South, for example, demands black-eyed peas and collard greens - and her cookbook index returns no recipes for either. February demands king cake concoctions of all sorts, and Ida isn't helping us there. Though I have not cooked many of her recipes, friends swear her cookbooks are no-fail standards that can always be counted on, so I'm excited to begin, even if we need to stray and improvise now and then.

(By the way, if you are an Ina fan too, you can buy signed copies of her cookbooks on her website for the list price. Sweet!)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Instant Pot Steak Fajita Chili

I already have a go-to quick-and-easy taco soup, so this Steak Fajita Chili from Cooking Light magazine seemed perfect to round out my options (excepting the 1 1/2 hours of cooking time). Enter my Instant save the day (or the night, usually).

First, with the Instant Pot on saute, add the olive oil, beef, and garlic. Next, add the seasonings, chili powder through cumin. Then add the black beans, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Cook on Manual in the Instant Pot for 20 minutes.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck-eye steak, cut into 1-inch pieces8 garlic cloves, minced2 tablespoons chili powder1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 (15 oz.) can Bush's seasoned black beans, drained
1 (28-oz.) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper

Once you have the Instant pot set, start chopping the fajita vegetables - one red onion, fajita style, and three bell peppers of your choice, fajita style. (I used a three-pack of different colors.) Put a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the pan and saute on medium-high until the vegetables are how you like them. (I like mine almost blackened, but you may prefer yours crunchier.)

The fajita vegetables will be done around the same time that the Instant Pot is through. Do a quick release and add the veggies to the Instant Pot.

Serve with guacamole (or sliced avocados, if you prefer), sour cream, diced red onion, and Fritos.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Instant Pot Shrimp Sauce Piquante

Have you ever made an Instant Pot recipe out of desperation? We did tonight. We have been working through our stash of community cookbooks and decided to try this recipe for supper - but read the "simmer for an hour" at 6:30 p.m. That was not going to happen. Completely winged this recipe but it came out wonderful!

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz mushrooms
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped bell pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 oz. tomato paste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup white wine
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup hot water

Saute the mushrooms, onions, celery, and bell pepper in oil. Add tomato paste, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper once the veggies are soft. Once mixed together, add wine. Cook on high pressure/manual for 10 minutes. While the Instant Pot is cooking, saute the shrimp in 1 tbsb of butter and 1 tsp garlic powder. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and whisk vigorously. Quick release after the pressure cooker is through and then add the cornstarch/water mixture to thicken the sauce. Let simmer for about two minutes. Add sauteed shrimp and simmer for two more minutes. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

The original recipe is from the Firehouse Kitch'N, a cookbook of the Jackson Mississippi Firefighters from the 1990s.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Low Carb Shrimp-stuffed Bell Peppers

I have been buying too many old(er) cookbooks at estate sales lately. It's interesting to me how little directions some of the recipes give, but then I realized that I was experimenting much more with the recipes - and that was most likely the point.

This month's experiments have come from Bayou Cuisine, published by St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Indianola, MS. in 1970. The original recipe that mine was inspired by came from Dr. J. Malcolm Leveque of Lake Charles, LA.

Here's the original inspiration:

Shrimp-Stuffed Bell Peppers
6 medium bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. bread cubes
1 lb chopped or ground shrimp
1 small can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
Salt, pepper, red pepper

Fry onions, celery, shrimp, and garlic in butter until wilted. Add bread cubes blending together, adding a little water. Season well - stir lightly and cook until dressing is ready to put in peppers. Keep 1 tbsp dressing aside to use in sauce. Clean and remove seeds from peppers, stuff with dressing. Bake 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. While the peppers are baking, make highly seasoned sauce with can of tomato sauce, bay leaf, onions, and remaining tbsp of dressing. Let simmer a few minutes - remove peppers from oven, drain water, and add sauce. Bake 10 minutes longer. Serves 6.

Here's my new recipe:

Low-Carb Shrimp Stuffed Bell Peppers

Low-Carb Shrimp-Stuffed Bell Peppers
3 medium red bell peppers
1/3 cup purple onion, diced
1/2 cup Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 pkg. cauliflower pearls
3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and diced
1 can crushed tomatoes
Salt, pepper, smoked paprika
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup French's crispy fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in fry pan or cast iron skillet. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Drain as much water from cauliflower pearls as possible, then add to pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes and then season to taste with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

Cut only the tops from the peppers, then clean and remove seeds. Put peppers in a microwave-safe glass baking dish with an inch of water in the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes. Once finished, take off the wrap and drain all water.  Put peppers to the side.

Add shrimp to fry pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste again. Add just enough of the crushed tomatoes to meld the mixture together (1/4 to 1/3 cup). Put the remaining crushed tomatoes at the bottom of the glass baking dish, then add bell peppers back. Stuff peppers with cauliflower mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Savory Fruit Salad

I found the perfect recipe for the last of my #upinfarms cucumbers... (or I found the bones here anyways). It was yummy! (Now I'm ready for my next box tomorrow - and looking forward to another week of fresh veggies.)

Savory Fruit Salad

1 cantaloupe, cubed
1 cucumber, peeled & sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp sesame seeds (or more to taste)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Whisk oil, vinegar, coriander, salt, red pepper and pepper in a large bowl. Add cantaloupe and cucumber and toss to coat in dressing. Let sit, uncovered, 15 minutes.

To serve, add sesame seeds and cilantro to salad and toss gently to combine. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hearty Artichokes with Garlic and Olive Oil

I've tried artichokes stuffed, roasted, steamed, boiled and the list goes on, but the best crockpot recipe I've discovered in quite some time came from a somewhat unlikely source... Muscle & Fitness Magazine. You have to try this one! (Even recipes that taste just as good in the end will NEVER be this easy!)

Hearty Artichokes with Garlic and Olive Oil

3 large artichokes
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and cut the tops of the artichokes. Place them stem-side down in 2 cups of water in the crockpot. Drizzle tops with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low for 7 hours.

Serve with melted butter in individual small dishes for dipping with a dash of lemon juice and Parmesan cheese on top.

I love recipes like this that make you re-think the idea of the crockpot as the go-to tool for those who too oft used cream of something cans as crutches. Sweet potatoes in the crockpot started me on this quest. (Where else can you just put potatoes in - no washing, no foil, no prepping - just put it in and put it on low and when you come home from work eight hours later, it's perfect?!)

What is your favorite crockpot recipe?

Low-Carb Bagels

I had ordered a three-pack of Bob's Red Mill Low-Carb Bread Mix on Amazon, so I had some extra for experimentation. (I didn't have much luck making the bread mix in my bread machine. It was like a brick.)

I decided to try bagels instead because of the consistency of the bread. I used Elana's Paleo Bagels as a starting point.

2 cups Bob's Red Mill Low-Carb Bread Mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Grease a donut mold. In a medium bowl, mix together bread mix, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, beat five eggs and add to dry mix. Add vinegar.

Place batter in a resealable plastic bag, snip off one corner, and pipe batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle bagels with poppy seeds.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

(These were pretty good. I was excited to have a use for all of my leftover bread mix - and to have a go-to recipe for a low-carb bagel. This recipe is a good starting point for future experimentation!)

The Poet's Occasional Alternative

The Poet's Occasional Alternative
by Grace Paley
From Begin Again

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead      it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft      a poem would have had some
distance to go      days and weeks and
much crumpled paper
the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor
everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it      many friends
will say      why in the world did you
make only one
this does not happen with poems
because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership      I do not
want to wait a week      a year      a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

Friday, December 2, 2016

Puttin' on the Ritz

Eva Davis had a radio show in Vicksburg about cooking - and published this cookbook collection, Mississippi Mixin's, of her recipes and the best from a weekly contest she held on her radio show. Some strange winners boiled eggs in beet juice.

I tried this recipe tonight, with Ritz crackers. I dubbed it Puttin' on the Ritz. And it really could work with anything. Use sauteed spinach underneath. Shrimp. Or broccoli. But the oysters were good too. 

You could also use this basic recipe for a topping for oysters on the half shell. Just top the individual oysters with crushed Ritz crackers, melted butter and paprika.

It looks like the biscuits recipe was beloved.

And the Virginia Tea Cakes.

The sugar cookies, though...not so much.

The cocoa icing seems like it was well loved.

And the chocolate fudge was OK.

A handwritten ice cream recipe... You know that's gonna be good.

And here's my very own Puttin' on the Ritz Oysters.

1 quart select oysters
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup green onions
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups of crushed Ritz crackers (Three of the half sleeves)
3/4 stick butter
Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper & Paprika
3/4 cup of Half and Half

Butter a square casserole dish and put oysters on the bottom. Top with parsley, onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Crush crackers and place on top. Slice butter thin and dot on top. Sprinkle with paprika. Just before baking, pour half and half over and let soak in.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Slow Cooker Hearty Italian Soup

1 lb ground bison
1 lb ground Italian sausage (mild or hot)
1 small purple onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
16 oz. bag baby carrots, sliced (or 4 cups)
6 stalks celery, sliced
5 cups water
1 16-oz can diced tomatoes
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 head of green cabbage, roughly chopped, about 4 cups

In a saucepan over medium high heat, cook and crumble the meat along with the garlic and onion. While the meat is browning, add all remaining ingredients to crockpot. Once meat is browned add meat mixture to the crockpot. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Adapted from a recipe by Barefeet in the Kitchen

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ratatouille Pie

Pastry for 9-inch deep-dish pie
1/2 lb Jimmy Dean hot sausage
2 cups peeled diced eggplant
1 can diced tomatoes, rinsed and drained
1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 cup Cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp Tony Chachere's seasoning
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk

Brown sausage and drain. Combine sausage and the next eight ingredients; spoon into pie shell.

Combine eggs and milk, stirring well. Pour into pastry shell. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

(Adapted from a recipe by Mrs. James A. Tuthill of Virginia Beach, VA, from 1988 Southern Living Annual Recipes)

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!