Home Cooking

March 13, 2013
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Creamy Polenta with butter, chicken broth and cheddar jack cheese.

Creamy Polenta with butter, chicken broth and cheddar jack cheese.

Tonight, I was being treated to smoked ribs by my awesome barbecuing son. All I had to do was make the sides. So I went to the refrigerator and pantry and came up with a flavor combination that took me back to my roots. Collard greens were a big part of my upbringing. My father grew them in the winter garden and my mother cooked them. In the South, in the past at least, every mother knew how to cook collards. They appeared at every family reunion and church homecoming, every pot luck and certainly every Thanksgiving table. They freeze easily after cooking and they’re cheap, somewhere around 88 cents a bunch. Not only that but they are full of vitamins A, C, K, Folate, calcium, B complex and many other vitamins and minerals. A cup of collards has 21% of the daily required fiber, 8% of protein and 7.5% of omega-3 fat. The taste is so deep and satisfying, it’s no wonder it was a staple in Southern households all these years.

To prepare, clean them very well under cold water. Cut or strip the stems out and then roll them up like a cigar and slice into half-inch strips with a sharp knife. Heat two or three tablespoons of olive oil in an iron skillet over medium high and stir  the collards in so that they get coated with the oil. Stir constantly so they don’t burn.  Once they are a little shiny with the oil, add some chicken broth or water to the pan, add a half teaspoon of salt, cover and cook on low for about an hour, checking occasionally to add more liquid if needed. Before serving, cut into bite size pieces if you prefer. Serve hot with apple cider vinegar in a cruet for seasoning to each individual taste.

The polenta is cooked in chicken broth and milk, about 70/30. Follow the package directions. I add a couple of tablespoons of butter and some cheese toward the end for a smooth and unctuous finish. Also on the plate are some canned field peas I just heated in a small pot. Tomatoes were left over from our hamburger lunch so they added a nice bit of color. The ribs were delicious and so were the sides.

Home Cooking

Polenta, Collards and Field Peas with Sliced Tomatoes

Smoked rib with sides

Smoked rib with sides


Tossed Salad with Chicken and Cremini

December 23, 2012
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Spring Mix, Cremini, Camembert, cherry tomatoes, bacon.

Spring Mix, Cremini, Camembert, cherry tomatoes, bacon.

I got a new camera today, Nikon Coolpix L610, so I’m experimenting with photographing food with it.  It has a food setting with different shades of filters from blue to pink. My phone has been woefully inadequate when photographing food in restaurants in low light and there is always the problem with salads looking so disheveled. I took this one on my coffee table with a few tea candles on the side.

This is a very filling salad and so easy to make. I have a restaurant-style salad bowl for tossing the greens with the dressing which helps to dress the leaves without a heavy hand as so often happens when you pour salad dressing over top of greens. I start with the dressing in the bottom of the bowl. Usually, one tablespoon will do. After that, drop the greens and all the other ingredients over the dressing before tossing with two spoons or salad tongs. It just takes keeping a few vegetables cold in the refrigerator. I could eat this everyday.

Tossed Salad with Chicken and Cremini Mushrooms

Dressing of Choice, I used Blue Cheese

Spring Mix, approx. 2 cups

Rotisserie Chicken from HEB

Cremini Mushroom

Cherry tomatoes

White onion



Sesame Seeds

Chia Seeds

Tossed Salad with Chicken and Cremini

Tossed Salad with Chicken and Cremini





Packin’ A Punch Broccoli Slaw

December 9, 2012
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I always wonder what people do with those bags of shredded broccoli I see in the produce department. My neighbor, Lisa, made a delicious salad with it one year to go with our black eye peas for New Year’s Day which we have traditionally shared over the years. Hers used Ramen noodles to make an Asian inspired salad.

This one is from Food Network’s Aaron McCargo, Jr. and would be great with fish or barbecue. It has a little jalapeno pepper in it so use as much or as little as you like.

Packin’ a Punch Broccoli Slaw

1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups shredded broccoli slaw
1 red jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


In a large serving bowl, combine the carrots, broccoli slaw, jalapeno and red onion. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, add the vinegar, lime zest, lime juice, salt, sugar, red pepper flakes and the black pepper. Bring to a light boil over low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Add the olive oil to the vinegar mixture, pour over the vegetables and toss together to combine. Refrigerate until serving.

Texas Caviar

December 8, 2012
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Blackeye peas are very big in East Texas. I think it’s because they grow well there. East Texas, as all Austinites know, refers to the upper east of Texas, not the lower east near the coast. It’s more like east of Dallas. East Texas is a lot more like Louisiana and other parts of the South than other parts of Texas. For instance, the East Texas people know about grits with their eggs. In other parts of Texas, you are more likely to see hash brown potatoes with their breakfast.

Texas Caviar can be used as a dip with tortilla chips at a party or as a side salad or as a vegetable with brisket or barbecued chicken. The little bit of jalapeno gives it a nice bit of zing. This is the recipe I used, minus the Essence. I have a cabinet full of seasonings and Emeril’s Essence is not in there.  I am throwing in a Threadgill’s recipe at the end to give credit to an actual Austin establishment. Ironically, the Threadgill’s recipe has no jalapeno pepper in it. In addition, just because I thought it would taste good, I added Green Giants white shoepeg corn to mine (drained, of course). That’s a throw-back to my North Carolina roots.

Texas Caviar

  • 3 cups cooked, cooled, and drained black-eyed peas
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced or very thinly sliced
  • jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Emeril’s Southwest Essence (or use 1/2 tsp. each of cumin, garlic powder and paprika)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Homemade tortilla chips, for serving, or store bought tortilla or corn chips

In a bowl or jar with a tight-fitting lid (such as a canning jar), combine the black-eyed peas, olive oil, red wine vinegar, onion, jalapenos, and Southwest Essence and seal tightly. Turn jar over several times to combine ingredients, then refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 3 days, turning the jar several times a day to redistribute ingredients.

When ready to serve, let black-eyed pea mixture come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes, then add the cilantro and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with the Homemade Tortilla Chips.

Threadgill’s Restaurant’s Texas Caviar

4 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained and cooled
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced red onion
1 green or red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper


Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir again before serving.

* Professional Recipe

This recipe was provided by a chef, restaurant or culinary professional and makes a large quantity. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe in the proportions indicated and therefore cannot make any representation as to the results.

Texas Caviar with Shoepeg Corn

Texas Caviar with Shoepeg Corn

Broccoli Salad-A Southern Tradition

December 8, 2012
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My sister-in-law, Anne, made this for the Thanksgiving table last year. It was my favorite side dish of the day. Since then, I have seen it in other cookbooks and websites. This recipe comes from Food Network and it’s Paula Dean’s version. I cut the mayonnaise in half with some plain yogurt and I don’t think you can tell the difference. I use White Mountain Bulgarian yogurt which is made in Austin, Texas, not Bulgaria, but it is made in the old Bulgarian tradition and has about three times as much live yogurt cultures as Greek yogurt. You can find it at HEB. It may seem a little runny if you are not used to it because it has no starches or thickeners in it. That’s why I like it.

Red tomatoes would look more like Christmas, this being December.  These yellow ones worked fine, though.

Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad

2-3 Large heads of Broccoli
6 to 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup raisins, optional
8 ounces sharp Cheddar, cut into very small chunks
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim off the large leaves from the broccoli stem. Remove the tough stalk at the end and wash broccoli head thoroughly. Cut the head into florets and the stem into bite-size pieces. (Scrape the tough outer part of the stem with a paring knife or vegetable peeler and the inner part of the stem is very tender.) Blanch in boiling water. (Drop into boiling water for about 5 minutes; not enough to cook it but enough to take away that harsh raw taste. Drain well and spin in salad spinner or press with a few paper towels to dry thoroughly if in a hurry.) Place in a large bowl. Add the crumbled bacon, onion, raisins if using, and cheese. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Add to broccoli mixture and toss gently. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Best Laid Plans

November 27, 2012
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After doing a little Christmas shopping this cool Tuesday morning after Thanksgiving, I headed out with the boys to eat lunch at PF Changs. I had looked on-line and saw that they had 5 or 6 salads on their lunch menu and wanted to try one. On the way there, I suddenly remembered I had a dentist appointment I had to go to instead. Later, when the boys picked me up and brought me home, I was the only one who hadn’t eaten yet. So within a few minutes, I had a delicious salad on the table ready to eat.

All I had to prepare was the bacon: three strips of crispy thin bacon in the frying pan. Thick bacon has its place but for salads, I like thin and crispy. It takes the place of croutons for me since I don’t eat bread. Bacon crunch is reminiscent of Fritos or tortilla chips in my taco salad. There was a little left-over taco meat and black beans from Saturday night to microwave for the protein. Top that off with a little picante sauce and sour cream and voila!  Tex-Mex Salad.  I like to throw a few Chia seeds on top because they are awesome for anyone who wants to live longer. Look them up.

Use proportions to suit your appetite and your own likes and dislikes. This is salad, not cake! It doesn’t have to be precise. Just add a little of this and a little of that, taste it and see what you think.

Tex-Mex Salad

Baby Spinach 1-2 Cups

Bell Pepper, any color

Onion, chopped or sliced

Taco meat (ground beef crumbled and browned, seasoned with cumin powder and garlic salt)

Black beans, rinsed


Cheddar Cheese, grated

Picante Sauce

Sour Cream

Ranch Dressing or dressing of choice

Chia Seeds

Crumbled bacon

Posted in Homemade salads

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