Sunday, December 28, 2014

Quinoa Pilaf with Shiitake Mushrooms, Carrots, and Pecans

WOW!  I just had the easiest Christmas ever.  A company Jim works with sent us a delicious Smithfield ham (thank you Mackson!), I made our favorite Scalloped Potatoes with Three Cheeses (see 12-16-11 post), Brussels sprouts, Benson's Special Salad (12-17-14, which I prepped the asparagus, green beans, and dressing the day before), the wonderful Rosemary and Salt rolls from Fresh Market, and that incredibly easy and delicious Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (12-1-14).  And thanks to Markson, I've still got plenty of ham (which is yummy all by itself).  I know I'll be make my favorite Brown Sugar Ham and Bean Crock Pot Soup (1-11-12), but I'd like to find some new recipes to share.

But to today's post.  I baked some salmon last night for dinner and had not had quinoa in quite a while.  I found this recipe on-line and opted to try it.  Oh YES!  Absolutely delish!  Now it calls for Shiitake mushrooms, but I had some button mushrooms which needed to find a home, so I substituted them with a perfect outcome.  I'm anxious to make it again with the Shiitakes.  This one's a keeper.

QUINOA PILAF with SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS, CARROTS, and PECANS (4 servings as a side dish, 2 as a main course)

1 cup quinoa, pre-rinsed or rinsed
1 2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 Tbsp EVOO, divided
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
3/4 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted if desired
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Combine quinoa and chicken broth in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low, cover and simmer until quinoa is cooked, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, 2-3 minutes.  Add the carrots and thyme and cook until the carrots are just tender, 5-7 minutes.  Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, along with mushrooms and garlic.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mushrooms are cooked through, a few minutes.  Season vegetables with S&P to taste.

Add cooked quinoa to vegetables and stir in pecans and chopped parsley.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve hot or warm.

Recipe Source:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Honey Fruit and Nut Chicken Salad

Again, not much cooking going on here lately.   I have my Christmas breakfast and dinner menu set and ready to go.  I'm hoping it's going to be as easy as was Thanksgiving.  So until Jim gets home, I'm subsisting on baked sweet potatoes and rotisserie chicken!

Speaking of chicken, they were demo-ing this at Publix  the other day.  It's a pretty traditional chicken salad, but this one has walnuts and almonds, along with dried apricots and dried cranberries (I suspect they must have snuck some golden raisins in there even though it wasn't on the ingredient list).

The amounts below are what I used when I made my salad.  I can guarantee you they used doubled the mayo, if not more.  Also, I probably doubled all the crunchies: celery and nuts. So adjust the amounts to what suits your tastes.


1 cup (4 oz) shredded or chopped rotisserie chicken
2 Tbsp mayo (I use 1 Tbsp regular and 1 Tbsp reduced-fat mayo)
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp honey
1 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp finely-diced celery
2-3 Tbsp finely-diced sun-dried apricots (about 4 round apricot discs)
2-3 Tbsp dried cranberries
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp chopped almonds
golden raisins, optional

Mix mayo, onion & garlic powders, honey, and lemon juice until well-combined.   Set aside.

Mix chicken, celery, fruit and nuts.  Dress with dressing.  Let chill for several hours.   Serve as a salad on a bed of lettuce, a sandwich, or a lettuce wrap.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Taylor Farms World Famous Salad

Regional  grocery store deli-salads have generally, no....make that never, appealed to me (whole food stores are absolutely different...theirs are innovative, fresh, and you can pronounce all of the ingredients).  But I few weeks ago I was at my local Bi-Lo and the cole slaw caught my eye so I picked it up.  I have never, ever, ever had a good cole slaw from a grocery store deli.   So I was surprised that next time I was in, I took a look in their deli case and turns out they had several new salads.

I saw this broccoli-based salad and decided to pick up a small container of it.   Couldn't believe it!  Two in a row (and there are several more to try).  I've made broccoli with bacon, but salami had never entered my mind.  Their salad dressing looked to be mayo-based, but it wasn't.  I let my sample sit for a day to allow the flavors to meld, but it never did develop that creamy look to it so I ended up adding a Tbsp of mayo just for color.

Since this was my sample batch, I forgot to measure just how much this made, but I'm going to guess at about 4 side salads.

TAYLOR FARMS WORLD FAMOUS SALAD (makes 4 side salads?)

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp distilled vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed or very finely minced

8 oz broccoli florets (1 medium head of broccoli crowns)
1 each mini peppers: red, orange, and yellow, sliced into rings 
1/4 cup red or green cabbage, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, cut matchstick-style (about 3 baby carrots)
3-4 oz thin-sliced salami (hard or genoa), about 5 thin slices
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp mayo, optional

Whisk dressing ingredients until emulsified.

Mix salad ingredient and then toss with with dressing.  Let sit at least several hours.  Add mayo at the end if you like.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Benson's Special Salad

I discovered this recipe years ago in a "Gourmet" magazine.  The first time I made it, we both immediately knew it was a keeper.  The recipe originated at Ben Benson's Steak House in New York City (now closed).  Years after I first started making it, I was in NYC and purposely made a point to stop and try it there to make sure I had been preparing it as intended.  This recipe is right on the button.

In the years since I have been making this salad, it eventually evolved into a Christmas dinner tradition.  Not only is it absolutely delicious, the vibrant green and red helps make a festive table.  I will tell you, while the anchovies are optional, to us (and to Benson's) they are essential.  I know some people's toes will curl at even hearing the word, but it's one touch that makes this salad.  Don't get me wrong, the vegetables by themselves are delicious.  One thing I did discover about the anchovies.  They are delicious the first time around, but on the second day they are definitely different.  Therefore, I put the anchovies on the side and them mix them in each time I make a serving for a fresh salad.

BENSON'S SPECIAL SALAD (makes approximately 8 side salads)

3 pickling cucumbers, or one English cucumber, partially peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced or diced
about 3/4# asparagus, cut into 1" lengths
about 3/4# fresh green beans, cut into 1" lengths
grape tomatoes, cut in half, I add enough to make a pretty color (Benson's uses a mixture of red and orange grape tomatoes)
8 oz can hearts of palm, coarsely diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (essential, don't leave this out and don't use dried dill) 
small tin of anchovies, finely chopped, optional

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
3 Tbsp sugar

Have a bowl of iced-water next to stove.  Bring a pan of water to a boil.  Add the green beans and cook for about 5  minutes.  Strain the green beans and put them in the iced-water to stop the cooking.  In the still boiling water, add the asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes, strain, and add these to the iced-water.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together.

Combine all of the vegetables, toss, and add the dressing.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Spinach-Mushroom Scrambled Eggs

Good Holiday Season, friends!

Once again, please forgive my absence.  My circadian rhythm has gone all wonky and am I very slowly trying to adapt to my new low-gear speed of life.  I have always loved staying up late at night and getting up early in the morning, with a power-nap in the afternoon.  I would  generally get 4-5 hours of sleep, 6 was sleeping in.   Over the last several months, I've started sleeping 8-10 hours and when I do get up, it takes me at least an hour to get moving.

This couldn't have come at the worse time of the year.  Thank goodness it will be just Jim and I and The Girls over Christmas.  I'm getting things done, just at a much slower pace! that I am slowly adapting to my new speed, I'm back in the kitchen (it doesn't help that I made so much soup over the last week or two, it's all I've been eating).  I have a couple of salads I'm looking forward to experimenting with.

But first, here's a great and easy idea for a Christmas breakfast.   You can easily  change and/or add ingredients.  I'll post it the way I found it, but chop up some tomatoes and you've got a red and green Christmas scramble.  Change the cheese (I used Swiss), but a smoked provolone, cheddar, Mozz, Italian or Mexican blend would work beautifully.  Or put a Greek twist on it by adding feta.


2 eggs
2 egg whites (or one small container of Egg Beaters)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (4-6 button mushrooms, depending on size)
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh baby spinach, chopped (or 1/3 cup frozen, thawed, squeezed dry)
shredded provolone cheese

In a small bowl, whisk eggs, egg whites, S&P until blended.  In a small nonstick skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until tender.  Add spinach; cook and stir until spinach is wilted.  Reduce heat to medium.

Add egg mixture; cook and stir just until eggs are thickened to your liking.  Stir in cheese.

Recipe Source: Taste of Home, December 2014, p. 36

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wild Rice Soup

Still sitting on a load of turkey and turkey stock, I used more to make (another) favorite soup: Wild Rice.  Living in Minnesota for about 6 years, I learned to love this soup....a staple in almost every restaurant.

I've made many versions, but this one is a bit's more of a broth soup vs. a cream soup.  Although it does have a flour/stock slurry, it really doesn't thicken it up.  So if you like a lighter version, this may be for you (versus Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, see 11-23-13 post).

A few notes: this recipe calls for 8 cups of stock.  Personally, I would have started with 6 and added more if I needed more broth.  Also, I had just sauteed a couple pounds of mushrooms and saved the stems and made a bunch of broth.  So I used 6 cups of turkey stock and 2 cups of mushroom stock.  Also, this recipe calls for a Wild Rice BLEND.  I think I've found the Lundberg brand in just about every state I've lived in.

CHICKEN and WILD RICE SOUP (6-8 servings)

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 small onion or 1 large shallot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
S&P to taste
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
8 cups chicken/turkey stock
2 chicken breasts, cut in halved (or cooked shredded or cubed cooked turkey/chicken, amount to your liking)
3/4 cup wild brown rice blend
1 cup milk
1/4 cup milk

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, and carrots, season with S&P (or do this at the end), then saute until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and thyme then saute for 1 more minute.

Add chicken/turkey broth then increase heat to high and bring to a boil.  Add chicken breast halves and cook until no longer in the center, about 10 minutes, then remove to a plate and set aside (if using uncooked chicken/turkey).  Shred when cool enough to handle.  Add wild brown rice blend to the pot then place a lid on top, turn heat down to medium-low and simmer 40-50 minutes or until rice is tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup milk with flour until smooth then add remaining milk.  Slowly drizzle into soup while stirring.  Add cooked chicken/turkey then simmer soup for 10 minutes uncovered and serve.

Recipe Source:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Creamy French Salad Dressing

I've never been a big French salad dressing fan.  But when I worked at a now-defunct restaurant in Red Wing, MN, the owner had a fabulous French salad dressing recipe.  And as if it couldn't get any better, he took it one step further and made a separate French dressing with bleu cheese crumbles included.  Being  an aficionado of bleu cheese, this really tugged at my heart.

This was a wildly popular dressing at Old-Fashioned Foods (you can find a couple of his recipes at  I wish he would have continued his blog.  He had so many good recipes (the best sausage gravy you'd ever try and he made the sausage from scratch) and he was known for his soups (the best chicken & dumpling soup which I could never replicate in a non-commercial amount).

This is the best dressing you could imagine for a classic wedge salad of iceberg lettuce, crumbled bacon, tomatoes, and bleu cheese (or the dressing with crumbled bleu cheese) or really for any garden-type salad.  So if you're a fan of French dressing or simply a tolerator, give this a try.  You won't be disappointed.


1 cup Hellman's mayo (I use half regular and half lo-fat)
1/4 cup tomato juice or V8
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried chopped onions
1/4 tsp finely minced fresh garlic
1 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp sugar
crumbled bleu cheese, optional

Combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Let chill at least a few hours to allow the flavors to meld.  Keep refrigerated.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

White Chicken Chili

Well, I ended up cooking two turkeys for Thanksgiving and therefore have a bit of leftover turkey.  I finally got a cool, rainy day and have been on a soup-bender today.  I needed to use some of the turkey.

The first one I made is with a new recipe I ran across.  And it came out great!  She notes that she halved the cannellini beans and processed one-half to help thicken the soup.  You could certainly omit this step and just add the whole beans, but I really like the thickened result.  If you don't have or don't want to pull out a full-sized food processor, you could either smash the beans by hand or spend the best $10 you'll ever spend on a kitchen item and buy a Black & Decker mini-processor at Wal-Mart.'

Also, she calls for using paprika, but I substituted smoked paprika because, well, if it has smoked paprika (and/or cumin), I'm going to love it.  Even though it's a relatively small amount, it adds a great smoky flavor. 

Additionally, since I have a bit of extra cooked turkey on hand, I shredded some turkey breast in lieu of uncooked chicken.  I halved the recipe and then ended up adding 1 cup of shredded turkey (3/4 cup would have been plenty).  If you go with the cooked chicken/turkey route, simply add it before serving to simply warm through.  I also made a boatload of turkey stock so I used that in lieu of the chicken broth.

WHITE CHICKEN CHILI (6-8 servings)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 tsp finely minced garlic
2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
1 (4 oz) can diced, undrained green chiles
1 1/2 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp paprika (regular or smoked)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste, optional
S&P, to taste
1 (8 oz) Neufchatel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese), cut into 12 slices
1 1/4 fresh corn or frozen corn, thawed
2 (15 oz) cans cennellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
shredded cheese (your choice: Jack, Italian, cheddar....whatever you like), optional
tortilla chips, for serving, optional

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Once oil is hot, add chicken (if using uncooked poultry) and diced onion and saute until chicken is no longer pink.  Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer.  Add chicken broth, green chilies, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, cayenne pepper (if using) and season with S&P.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Add cream cheese and stir until nearly melted (it will bread down into little bits and will appear to look like separated cheese, but it will eventually melt).  Stir in corn, and 1/2 of the beans, then process the other 1/2 of the beans along with 1/4 cup broth from the soup in a food processor until pureed, add bean mixture to soup (you can skip the pureeing step and just add the beans directly to the soup, the soup just won't be quite as creamy.)  Simmer about 15 minutes longer.  Mix in fresh lime juice and serve with cheese of choice, chopped cilantro, and torilla chips for dipping, if desired.

Recipe Source:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Almond Roca

This is a repeat post.  But with winter and holidays on the horizon (yea!), I felt it needed repeating.

The reason I'm reposting is because if there is anyone who has tried making toffee for the holidays (or anytime) and has failed, I may have the answer.  I used to make English toffee and it came out perfectly for a few years.  And then the next two years: separation.  And then I tried this Almond Roca recipe.  It worked great.  Once.  And then again: separation.  What was going on?

I mentioned my dilemma to a friend and former neighbor (hi Pat!) and she asked if I was using salted or unsalted butter.  I always use unsalted butter (store brand).  She suggested using a name brand (Land o' Lakes) salted butter.  Since then, perfection everytime.  Funny, the recipes I used never specified salted butter.  So I don't know if it was the salt or the brand name, but my roca/toffee has worked every time since using this simple rule.

So, lesson learned.  I love to cook, I will bake, but candy-making has been my bane.  I'm still not a big fan of candy-making, but at least now I'm not as afraid of it as I was in the past.  Using good cookware (I used a non-stick lightweight cast iron Dutch oven) this was quick, easy (and easy clean-up), and came out as you would expect: crunchy, creamy, and delicious.

ALMOND ROCA (makes one 16"x12" jelly-pan roll, about 2 pounds)

1 cups salted, name-brand butter
1 cup sugar
6 oz slivered almonds
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk chocolate chips
3 oz sliced almonds
Kosher or sea salt, for sprinkling

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Spray with cooking spray.

Place the slivered almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 300F for 5-6 minutes, checking often, until the almonds are golden brown and toasted.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and sugar and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula (I used a wooden spatula) until the butter is completely melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Don't rush this step!  It may take up to 10 minutes for the sugar to dissolve but you don't want the heat too high during this part of the process.

Once the sugar is dissolved and butter is melted, turn the heat up to medium and stir gently as the mixture comes to a boil.  Again, this will take a few minutes.  Once it comes to a boil, clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue stirring gently as it cooks.  The mixture will gradually turn to darker shades of brown until it reaches the hard crack stage and should register 300F on your candy thermometer.  As you stir during this process, don't scrape the sides of the pan, just gently stir in a figure-eight motion.

Immediately take the roca off of the stove once it hits 300F and stir in the toasted, slivered almonds.  Pour the candy onto the prepared baking sheet, taking care not to scrape the bottom of the pot as your pour it out.  Using an offset spatula (sprayed with cooking spray), quickly spread the toffee into an even layer on the baking sheet.  It will cool quickly making it hard to spread.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot toffee and tent with foil.  Let the chocolate melt for 2-3 minutes, remove the tented foil and spread the chocolate chips into an even layer.  Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top of the roca, sprinkle with salt and set the candy aside to let set and cool completely (place in your fridge for quicker cooling/setting).

Once cool and the chocolate is set, break into pieces.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Parsnip and Spinach Soup Dijon


OK, getting back to soups.  I ended up frying two turkeys and make the stock yesterday.  Needless to say, I've got a boatload of stock and I need to get into soup-gear.

I've said before that everytime I post a soup, I always say this is one of my favorites, so I decided to start dividing them into categories (chicken noodle, split pea, etc.)  So I would have to put this into my "Elegant Dinner Soup" category.  And it would be #1.

I don't know when or where I found this recipe.  It was certainly in my early cooking days as the recipe is typed on a lined index card (remember typewriters?)  I'm still surprised I even tried it as, at the time, I had never heard of a parsnip.  But I was in the mode of stepping outside of my 60's Oklahoma menus and venturing into new culinary challenges.  I couldn't believe how delicious they were, especially in this soup.

For me, this is a meal in itself.  Simply serve with a lovely, crusty baquette or Ciabatta bread, or a favorite artisan bread.  You'll feel like you've dined at San Simeon or the Biltmore in Asheville.

PARSNIP and SPINACH SOUP DIJON (makes 2 quarts)

1 lb peeled and sliced parsnips
1 large sliced onions
1 large sliced celery stick
1 peeled and cubed russet potato
4 cups chicken/turkey/vegetable stock
2 cups fresh spinach
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup cream
S&P to taste
parsley leaves for garnish, optional
lemon wedges for garnish, optional

Cook parsnips, onion, celery, and potato in stock for 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add spinach.

Puree mixture in blender.

Return to stock pot.  Stir in mustard.  Mix in cream.  Add S&P to taste.  Serve hot or chilled.

Garnish with parsley and/or lemon wedges, if desired.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Here's hoping all of your Thanksgivings were as easy as mine.  This was the easiest Thanksgiving I've ever had.   I made the dressing the day before, deep-fried the turkey, and made the absolutely easiest, quickest, most delicious pumpkin pie I've ever made.

I was so surprised at just how fast and easy this was.  Bought a ready-made graham cracker crust, and the rest was simply mixed in my KitchenAid.  No baking.  Just chill for a few hours. 

The recipe calls to mix the cream cheese bottom and then mix the rest in another bowl.  Not me.  I mixed both parts in the KitchenAid without cleaning it out in between.  Easy-peasy. And Oh-So-Good.

PUMPKIN CHIFFON PIE  (6-8 servings)

3 oz cream cheese, softened (reduced-fat works great)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups whipping topping (reduced-fat also works great)
1 graham cracker crust (8-9")
1 cup cold milk (reduced-fat works great)
2 packages (3.4 oz each) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
chopped nuts and/or additional whipped topping, optional

In a bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add whipped topping and mix well.  Spread into crust.

In another bowl, beat milk and pudding mixes on low speed  until combined; beat on high for 2 minutes.  Let stand for 3 minutes.  Stir in pumpkin and spices; mix well.  Spread over cream cheese layer.  Chill.  Garnish with nuts and/or whipping topping if desired.

Recipe Source:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Spring Rolls

Hi Friends.  Is everyone ready for Thanksgiving?  I'm hoping for a relatively easy but filling day.

But for tonight, I needed a light dinner.  When Jim drives in, he's generally pretty tired and has eaten something on the road.  It's been years since I've made spring rolls and I don't know why because I love them and they're quick, easy, and healthy.  Since it's been a while since I've made them, my rolling skills could use some work.  Since the spring roll wrappers are so extremely thin, I always double them up making them a bit easier to roll (purists must cringe at the thought).

I love this dish, at home or dining out.  I love the flavor, the texture, and the guilt-free eating.  I make it buffet-style so we can each add what and how much we want to our individual rolls.  I have my favorite dipping sauce, but I also keep sweet chili sauce    out  for an additional choice.  Amounts will vary on what you like and how many you plan to serve.   The ingredient list is simply a starting point.


spring roll wrappers
rice vermicelli noodles

green leaf or romaine lettuce leaves
fresh mint leaves
dilantro leaves
bean sprouts
carrots, cut into matchsticks
cucumber, cut into matchsticks
chopped peanuts
sliced green onions

raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
black pepper

Dipping Sauce:

Boil 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar until sugar dissolves.  Let cool.  Add:

1 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp freshly minced garlic

For the Spring Rolls:

If shrimp is frozen, thaw.  Dress uncooked shrimp with olive oil and black pepper.  Put under a broiler for 4-8 minutes, depending on size of shrimp (I used 51-60s for this, taking 3-4 minutes, stirring midway).  Let cool.  Refrigerate until time to use.

Prepare your vegetables.  Bring one pot of water to a boil.  Add the rice will only take a minute or two.  Drain.

For the wrappers, have a very hot (but not boiling) skillet or large shallow bowl of water.  You simply dip the wrappers through the hot water (careful not to burn yourself) and lay on a flat surface, such as a plate.  Fill with whatever and how much of the ingredients you like.  Roll burrito-style (fold ends up and the wrap the roll....the rice in the wrappers act as a natural "glue.")

Dip into dipping sauce or sweet chili sauce.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Marbled Bread Stuffing

Please forgive my absence.  Actually, I've not done much cooking in these last few weeks and with Thanksgiving just a few days away, I'm relying on some traditional dishes: deep-fried turkey, cornbread dressing  {see  11-18-14 post}, Three Cheese Scalloped Potatoes {12-26-11 post}, Brussels Sprouts (trimmed and cut an "X" at the stem, boiled in salted water 8-14 minutes, depending on size of sprout), Broccoli Salad {10-10-12}, cranberry sauce, and  Chiffon Pumpkin Pie (recipe to follow when I have a pic!)

But, in the meantime, I tasted the most fabulous dressing, thanks to Publix.  They were demo-ing this incredible side dish the other day.  If Jim and I weren't dyed-in-the-wool cornbread and sage dressing folks, I would definitely be making this.  And I will make this, just not for Thanksgiving (photo is on top left). 

But if you're looking for something different for your Thanksgiving table (or any other dinner evening), you must try this.    It is designed for serving with a main  course such as baked ham, roasted turkey, or beef roast.  It is absolutely the best!


1/2 loaf marbled rye bread
1 Tbsp canola oil
8 oz trinity mix (diced onions, bell pepper, celery)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
8 oz mild Italian sausage (or breakfast sausage), casing removed
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 (17.6 oz) carton seasoned chicken stock (or broth)
1 tsp poultry seasoning
5 oz shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut bread into 1" cubes (6 cups) and place in single layer or baking sheet; bake 8-10 minutes or until toasted.

Preheat large saute pan on medium-high 2-3 minutes.  Place oil in pan, then add trinity mix, S&P, cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until tender.

Add sausage, brown 6-7 minutes, stirring to crumble meat, or until no pink remains.

Stir in vinegar, stock, and poultry seasoning, bring to a simmer.  Remove pan from heat and let stand 2 minutes to cool.

Combine bread, cheese, and sausage mixture until evenly coated; transfer to a 13x9" baking dish.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until center is set.  Serve.

Recipe Source:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Southern Corn Bread

Cold weather hit us yesterday and today and I am lovin' it (I even saw a few flurries this morning!)  With Thanksgiving looming, I knew I had to have some corn bread on hand for my dressing and with a cold, gray day, there's nothing like beans and corn bread (unless you're in grade school).  I remember walking home from school (yes, we walked) on a rainy day, opening the door, and smelling beans.  Yuck!  However, when we sat down to dinner, they really were good.  Mom served the beans straight up, but I now serve them over rice.

I've tried different recipes through the years until I found this one in "The Joy of Cooking."  It so reminded me of the cornbread my Mom's mom use to make.  This isn't a sweet version thanks in part to the additional of bacon fat.  Boy, does this take me back to Apache, OK and sitting around that great big dining table with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

As far as the beans, I ran across an herb combination which I love: bay leaf, dill weed, celery seed, and S&P.  I use pinto beans and cook as usual (cover with water {amount depends on how soupy you like your beans}, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer.  Cook about an hour and a half or two hours and when beans are about 30 minutes from being done, add seasonings).  We always use pepper sauce on our beans.  And cole slaw or Brussels sprouts really rounds out this dinner.

SOUTHERN CORN BREAD (makes one 8" square baking dish, 12 muffins, or a 9" or 10" cast iron skillet)

1 Tbsp bacon fat
1 3/4 cups cornmeal, preferably stone ground white
(1 Tbsp sugar if using yellow)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450F. 

Whisk together in a bowl the cornmeal, sugar (if using), baking powder and soda, and salt.

Whisk together until foamy in another bowl the eggs.  Whisk in the buttermilk.

Add to the dry ingredients and whisk until just blended.  Place the skillet or pan in the preheated oven and heat until the fat smokes (about 5 minutes).  Pour in the batter all at

Bake until the top is brown and the center feels firm when pressed, 20-25 minutes.  Served immediately from the pan, cut into wedges or squares.

Leftovers can be wrapped in aluminum foil and rewarmed in a low oven or cut in half and toasted in a toaster.

Recipe Source:  "The Joy of Cooking," 2006, p. 632
Put bacon fat in skillet, baking dish or muffin tins and place in preheated oven until the fat smokes, about 5 minutes.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Split Pea Soup with Barley/Wheatberries/Farro

This is my favorite split pea soup recipe for one reason: added grains.  I use to make traditional split pea soup and then one day the lightbulb went on over my head!  Add some chewy grains to it!  Not only does that add texture, but really ramps up the nutrition.  This is full of fiber and is also low-fat and low-calorie.

I also learned that cumin takes split pea soup over the top.  Years ago when in DC, a group of us were eating at (I believe the name was) The American Cafe in the Union Station train terminal.  I would never order split pea soup in a restaurant because it's something I can make so easily at home.  Thank goodness one of my friends did!  She made us all taste it and everyone loved it.  I've never made it without cumin since.

This is a great soup to have in the fridge when you need a snack but don't want to go the chip route.  However, it just so happens to make a wonderful dip for tortilla chips.


8 oz split peas
ham hock, pork jowl, or ham bone, optional
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
3 tsp garlic
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium red or russet potato, peeled (optional) and cubed
1/4 cup uncook pearl barley (if you choose wheatberries or farro, cook those separately and then add at the end)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Cajun seasoning (I use Joe's Hot Stuff or Nunu's)
1 tsp Montreal seasoning
S&P to taste
parmesan cheese, for garnish, optional

Put split peas, ham (if using), celery, onion, and garlic.  Fill with water (NOTE TO SELF: originally said to add about 1" above the split peas. NO....just enough to cover, then add more as needed).  Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer, cover (with lid partially open) and cook about 30 minutes.  Add carrot, potato, and uncooked barley.  Add a bit more water.   Cook at a simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

Add seasoning to taste.  If using cooked wheatberries or farro, add at this point.  Serve garnished with grated or shaved Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Asian Quinoa Salad

This is another wonderful salad I found in my Earthfare deli.  Don't you go into good markets and just drool over some of their salads in their deli cases? 

I took the ingredients off of the deli label (bless them for listing everything in their salads) and went to work.  The very first attempt was a hit!  This salad is delicious, nutritious and gorgeous (aren't we suppose to eat the colors of the rainbow?......this covers all the bases).  Now it is a bit more labor intensive as there's some chopping involved and a dressing to mix, but it is so worth the effort.

A couple of notes on how I deal with the ginger and cucumber.  I've seen cooking shows where they suggest keeping leftover gingerroot in the freezer.  But years ago, I took a cooking class at Central Market in San Antonio (if you're a foodie and are ever in Texas, you must visit a Central's a foodie's heaven!) and was told to keep fresh, peeled gingerroot in either white wine or vodka.  Great idea.  It will keep forever, plus you can use the wine or vodka in stir fries, etc.  In fact, I used it in place of the water in the dressing mix.

As far as cucumbers, I will always prefer pickling cucumbers over regular cucumbers, if available (a second choice is an English cucumber).  I find the pickling cucumbers to be sweeter and crunchier.  And since they're growing regular cucumbers on steroids these days, they tend to be soggier, seedier, and more bitter.  However, every once in a while you can find a smaller, thinner regular cuke which will work.  Generally, when I dice a cucumber, I'll peel four strips of peel so (lengthwise) it will be green, white, green, white, and so on.  Then I cut the cucumber lengthwise into four sections then dice.  Each dice will have a bit of the green peel and part of the inner white.

One other thing, instructions for cooking quinoa always tell you to rinse the quinoa until the water runs clear.  I never do this.  Ever.  But this time I did something I don't usually do:  I toasted the uncooked quinoa in 1/2 Tbsp of butter for about 5 minutes on medium heat.  It certainly gives it a deeper, nuttier flavor.  But this step is optional.  You can simply cook the quinoa in the water (or vegetable or chicken stock).

Serving amounts are subjective.  I keep this in the fridge for a snack.  But if you were serving this with a meal, I'm guessing 4-6 servings.

ASIAN QUINOA SALAD (4-6 servings)

1/2 Tbsp butter, optional
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup chopped red cabbage
1/2 small red pepper, chopped
1 pickling cucumber or 1/2 small-sized regular cucumber, or half of an English cucumber, diced
1 large or 2 small green onions, sliced, green and white parts
1-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
salt to taste, optional

2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp water (or ginger liquid)
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp minced fresh gingerroot

If toasting quinoa, melt butter in a skillet.  Add quinoa and stir for about 5 minutes over medium heat until you smell a nuttiness coming out of the quinoa.

Bring water to a boil.  Add quinoa (toasted or not), turn down to a simmer, and cook 15-17 minutes or until water has evaporated.

In the meantime, mix the ingredients for the dressing until emulsified.

In a medium mixing bowl, add quinoa, edamame, cabbage, red pepper, cucumber, cilantro, and green onion.  Start with about half of the dressing and dress salad.  Let chill for a few hours.  At serving time, add more dressing if desired.  Add salt to taste.

Recipe Source:  salad label for "Asian Quinoa Salad" from Earthfare Market on Gunbarrel Road in Chattanooga, TN.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Asian Glazed Chicken Wings

Forgive me for my absence of late.  I've been in a bit of a culinary funk.  But with cooling weather (the newsmaking Arctic blast will be hitting SE Tennessee tomorrow!), I'm hoping to get back into the kitchen.  I know I need to make some Almond Roca for my friend's husband so I can get their Christmas package in the mail (can you believe it's almost that time of year?!!!!)

Anywho.....I did get a new kitchen toy and let me tell's fantastic!   After warmer weather set in this summer, I was looking for any reason not to use my oven (especially since we found out our HVAC system was shot).  This little baby lets you cook in the microwave like never before.  You can make a grilled cheese with grill marks and the bread doesn't get tough.  Who'd a thunk it?  (you can see a demo at ).

So, one of the first things I tried in it were these wings and I gotta tell you, they're some of the best wings I've had.  The wings gets crispy but the sauce.....oh the sauce! incredible.   The recipe makes A LOT of sauce, next time I'll cut the sauce recipe in half.  However, this time I just saved it, got some more wings and made a second batch.

You could absolutely make this without the RangeMate.  Either grill or bake your wings as usual and then simply heat the sauce until the honey has thinned and then simply pour it over your cooked wings.  Just in time for the heart of football season.


8-10 raw chicken wing sections (flats and drummettes)
1 tsp seasoning salt
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp minced garlic
sesame seeds, optional for garnish
green onions, green parts only sliced, optional for garnish

Season wings with salt and place in RangeMate base.  Cover and cook on full power for 5-6 minutes.  Remove unit and carefully turn wings over.  Cover and cook for an additional 2 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl.

Remove chicken to a plate and discard fat.  Wipe RangeMate base out with towel.  Place chicken back in base, pour sauce over, cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Serve with optional garnishes of sesame seeds and green onion slices.

Recipe Source:

Friday, November 7, 2014

French Onion Soup

You can put French Onion Soup in my top favorite soups (okay, along with a bunch of others!)  I've made so many different recipes from easy-peasy to spend-the-day-in-the-kitchen varieties (roasting beef bones, making stock from scratch).  But if you're looking for a quick but still delicious FOS, this is for you.

I keep crostini in my freezer for dips and spreads (cut a quality baguette into about 1/4" slices, brush with EVOO and bake until toasts have begun to brown, about 15-20 minutes in a 325F oven) and this is what I used for the toast.  Swiss or Gruyere is the traditional cheese used in FOS, but I had sliced smoked provolone in the fridge, so that's what I used.   Good anytime of the day.

FRENCH ONION SOUP (about 4 servings)

2 Tbsp butter
2 medium onions, sliced (I use sweet onions like Vidalia, Texas 1015s, WallaWalla, Peru Sweet)
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar if using regular white or yellow onions (no need if using sweets)
1 quart (32 oz) beef broth
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne, optional
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 pound Swiss, Gruyere, (smoked) Provolone
Croutons or toast

Brown onions in butter and sugar (if using), about 10-15 minutes.  Add broth, herbs, and wine and simmer 15 minutes.  Spoon into individual bowls and top each with croutons or toast and grated or sliced cheese.  Bake until cheese melts or place under broiler until bubbly and light brown.

Recipe Source: The Oar d'oeuvre Cookbook, p. 127 (available from

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Israeli Couscous with Smoked Paprika and Feta

Sorry I haven't been around for a few days.  It's not that I haven't been cooking, it's just that I haven't been cooking anything good.  I tried a few new soups which didn't work out well enough to post, although one loaded baked potato soup was tasty with the addition of a bit of dried dill (it was just kinda gummy).

I picked up a couple of salads at Earthfare a few weeks ago that were really good.  I made a note of all of the ingredients and finally got around to trying one of them today.  And it came out wonderfully!   Of course, if something has smoked paprika in it, odds are I'm going to want more.

I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack.  Something great to have in the fridge for a quick bite.  The amounts are guestimates....adjust them to suit your tastes.  And if you're not sold on smoked paprika, try this.  It will win you over.


1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous
3 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
6 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 -1/3 cup chopped roasted red pepper (1/2 or full red pepper, seeded, and broiled until skin is blistered.....put in plastic baggie for 5-10 minutes, peel burnt skin off and chop)
1/2 cup torn spinach
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
1 1/2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Bring 1 1/4 cup of water to a boil.  Add couscous.  Lower heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook 8-10 minutes until al dente.

Mix together the dressing: EVOO, vinegar, garlic, paprika, S&P.   Whisk until emulsified.  Set aside.

Drain couscous if necessary.  Put into a mixing bowl, stir to cool.  Add cheese, tomatoes, roasted pepper, spinch, and almonds.  Mix together. Chill.  Dress with dressing at serving time (or dressing will absorb into the pasta).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Swiss Steak

Not being a big beef-lover, I don't understand why but, about once a year, I have a craving for Swiss steak.  I found this recipe several years ago and thought I had always cooked it in a crock pot (it is mentioned at the end of the recipe but doesn't list cooking times), but this time I did it on the stovetop.

It's another easy recipe with limited ingredients.  I like mine with mashed potatoes to sop up the delicious juices.

SWISS STEAK (4 servings)

1-1 1/2 pounds cubed steak
1 tsp garlic powder
AP flour for dusting
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 (14 1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, cut into strips
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into strips

Cut steak into serving-sized pieces.  Season to taste with garlic powder and S&P.  Dust meat with flour.  In heavy skillet, brown both sides of meat in vegetable oil.

Transfer to a Dutch oven.  Combine garlic, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and 1 tomato can-measure of water.  Pour over steak and simmer over low heat until meat is tender, about one to 1 1/2 hours adding water if necessary to keep meat partially covered. Season, to taste, with additional S&P.

NOTE:  Cook this in a slow-cooker, according to manufacturers instructions, on low for a most fabulous dinner.  Low heat on a slow cooker is about 200 degrees F and high heat on a slow cooker is about 300 degrees F.

Recipe Source:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Miss Hudson's Warm Banana Pudding

I'm not a huge fan of banana pudding, but if I'm going to eat/make it, this is the recipe I would make again.  It was an airing of this cookbook which talked me into it.  It's in a cookbook on dive diners in the south.  Honestly, given my preference, I'd eat at an authentic American dive restaurant versus a 5-star affair.  It's the ambience and the personality of these Southern Dives that defines our country for me (don't get me wrong: a 5-star restaurant has never disappointed me), I simply prefer the folks in American South diners.

Anywho....This recipe was the selling point for my buying this cookbook.  It's a charming story of a diner in Birmingham, Alabama and an elderly woman who has been making this pudding for years.  In fact, she didn't even have a recipe.  The author of the cookbook had to say "Hey, slow down....I need measurements!!!!"  It took a bit of doing, but he was finally able to nail her down and get the info he needed.  Good thing. 

I will say, you need to make and serve this in one setting.  It doesn't keep well (my dogs would disagree).  I cut the recipe in half for the two of us and next time, I'll cut that amount in half.  The bananas turn brown and, quite frankly, it's just better served warm.  The recipe comes courtesy of Ms. Hudson at Niki's West Restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama.  If you're ever there, I'd suggest stopping in for a good meal and a loving tribute to Miss Hudson.  P. S. I understand the waitresses will all always call you "Sugar."


1 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup AP flour
2 3/4 cups milk (I used 1% milk which require cooking an additional 5-10 minutes slow cooking)
4 egg yolks
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 (11 oz) box Nilla Waferss
3 ripe bananas, cut into 1/4" thick slices (3 cups)
4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 400F.  Whisk together sugar and flour in a medium-size heavy saucepan.  Gradually whisk in the milk until blended.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened (will take longer is using lower-fat milk).

Whisk egg yolks until thick and pale.  Gradually whisk about 1/4 of hot milk mixture into yolks, add yolk mixture to remaining hot  milk mixture, whisking constantly.  Pour into a clean saucepan.  Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, 5 minutes (or more) until thickened.  Remove from heat, stir in 2 Tbsp vanilla.  Toss together vanilla wafer and banana slices in an 11x7" baking dish.  Top with warm pudding.

Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer unti foamy.  Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (aboug 2-4 minutes).  Beat in 1/4 tsp vanilla with the last Tablespoon of sugar.  Spread meringue over warm pudding, sealing to edges of the dish.  Bake at 400F for 8 minutes or until golden brown (I had to turn on the broiler for the last minute or two.....but be careful, keep oven open and an eye on it or it will burn).  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Serve warm.

Recipe Source:  "Off the Eaten Path: Second Helpings," by Morgan Murphy, 2014, p. 109