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