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


Christmas Chicken

December 23, 2012
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Crispy Chicken

Crispy Chicken

We had our Christmas meal today since I have to work all day Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Every other day of the year, I insist on my sons eating the way I eat unless we go out and they choose what they want from a menu. In other words, I make what pleases me and they are welcome to share with me or they are on their own. The only vegetable we had for this Christmas meal was roasted broccoli, which was delicious by the way. Fresh broccoli, trimmed of it’s fibrous outer coating, tossed with olive oil and salt and placed on a pan on the bottom rack while the chicken was cooking. It was crispy and salty, still maintaining its crunchy texture.

This chicken was made with my sons in mind. I sent them some ideas for today’s meal and this is the one they gave their thumbs up. The boneless chicken is first dipped in milk, then coated with a layer of cheddar cheese, then pressed into Ritz cracker crumbs and baked in a pan for 35 minutes. To top it off, canned cream of chicken soup was warmed in a sauce pan with two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of sour cream. This recipe came from a Pinterest board I have because it looks so good in the picture, right? Only problem with eating this way is that it stimulates my appetite instead of satisfying it. Green foods and salads satisfy my appetite without making me want seconds. Breads, crackers and rice dishes make me eat in an out-of-control way. In my mind I’m thinking, “That’s so good I have to have more.” When I eat salad, I think, “That’s good but when it’s gone, I will not desire more.”

Now that I’ve made this “Crispy Chicken” and eaten it once, I will never make it again, at least not according to the recipe on Pinterest. First of all, it doesn’t need the cheese. That cheese was totally unnecessary. The buttery taste in the cracker crumbs was delicious without the cheese on the few pieces that I pan-fried because they wouldn’t all fit in the baking dish. Also, pan-frying cut the time and made them crispier than the ones in the oven. I don’t see any health benefit to baking when you wrap each piece in cheese then drizzle cream of chicken soup with butter and sour cream over the top. I’m going back to my crispy baked chicken with no coating. I’ll post that one soon. Simple, cheap and unbelievably good. Oh, heck, I’ll just go ahead and post the recipe without the picture.

Crispy Baked Chicken

1 pkg. chicken parts, dark meat preferred but will work with breasts

Salt and Pepper

Garlic Powder

Wash and dry chicken thoroughly. Season liberally with salt and pepper and garlic powder. Place on rack in roasting pan or on foil lined pan in 425 degree oven for 1 hour or until skin is crispy and fat is rendered. (45 minutes for breasts, which are less fatty).

Posted in Recipes

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.

Stuffed Peppers

December 3, 2012
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This is going to be quick but did you know that a green bell pepper has more vitamin C than an orange? It’s true. Yesterday I made stuffed peppers so I would have something to take to work this week. I browned ground beef with onion and garlic, salt and pepper, drained off the grease and added spaghetti sauce. Buy it already made or make it yourself. I parboiled the peppers and stuffed them with the meat mixture. For my sons, I added rice. I left the rice out of half of them so I could avoid the starch because “I ain’t agonna be no diabetic”. That sounds a little like a southern Italian instead of the southern girl that I am. Oh well, I’ll be in Sicily soon and then I’ll fit right in there. I have to say, that pepper was mighty tasty at lunch today. It seems pretty presumptuous of me to put my made-up recipe here because there are plenty of people with family recipes that are much better. Anyway, here’s what I did:

Stuffed Peppers

Ground Beef, 1 pound

White onion, 1

Garlic, 2 cloves

Green Bell Peppers with flat bottoms, 6

Rice, 1 cup white

Spaghetti Sauce (See recipe that follows)

Cheddar Cheese

Put a large pot of water on high heat, add 1 Tbsp of salt and bring it to boil. Stir to mix salt and water.  Wash peppers; cut thin slice off tops and clean out seeds and ribs. Save tops in baggie in freezer for another use. Drop peppers into water for about 5 minutes to soften.  Remove peppers and set aside. Drain all but two cups of the water. Add 1 cup of rice to boiling water. No need to add more salt. Cook without lid on medium heat for 20 minutes. Watch carefully and add more water if it becomes too dry. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic until brown. When all meat is brown, add the rice and the spaghetti sauce. Spoon a small amount of sauce into bottom of 9X11inch baking dish or other dish appropriate for size of peppers. Place the peppers in the dish and spoon ground beef mixture into peppers. Spoon any remaining sauce over all the peppers until covered well. Grate some cheese over tops and place in oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Spaghetti Sauce

Olive oil



Tomato Sauce, 2 15 ounce cans

Fresh or dried basil

Heat oil in pan and add onion (medium low heat). Do not brown onions. Go for a transparent look. Then add crushed garlic, 2-3 cloves to your taste. Cook another two minutes, stirring. Season the onion and garlic with salt and pepper to taste. Add both cans of tomato sauce. If using dried basil, add now about 1 tsp. If using fresh, add 4-5 leaves shredded with fingers at the end of cooking time.

Neat little Christmas package. Complete meal in a bowl.

Neat little Christmas package. Complete meal in a bowl.


Stuffed Peppers

Cabbage: My Old Stand-By

December 2, 2012

I’m getting a little low on vegetables so I have to go to the grocery store. Being that it’s football day, I have to go into my Heisman stance on my way to the broccoli, because I have to walk by the grocery store ladies giving away cake and ice cream right when you walk into the store. I turn my head toward the deli and look away from the cake. I managed to get home with some broccoli and cabbage, onions, garlic, cilantro and sweet golden snacking tomatoes.

It’s a slow, lazy Fall Saturday and the leaves are falling like crazy. Somehow, the trees seem to know that Thanksgiving is over and December is here, because now the Fall that I wanted in October is happening now when I’d really like it to be more like winter. It hits 80 degrees today and this is December! But that’s Texas for you; long summers, short winters. To take advantage of the weather, I decide to try out this smoker that is in the backyard which my son said is not usable. He had an incident with a fire in it one day when I was at work and said it was toasted. I don’t see anything horrible about it so I light the charcoal in the chimney and prepare the chicken thighs. Other than having to replenish the coals once, this is a relatively easy way to cook meat. After a few hours, I have some smoky chicken goodness.

Since I’m eating alone today, I go to one of my old favorites for a side vegetable: braised cabbage. I make it the way my mother did and people who have tasted it really seem to like it. If you have only ever had it cooked down in a lot of water, try this and see if you don’t like it better. One of my former co-workers who took my recipe and made it her own said that at her house, they call this Becky’s cabbage. That’s pretty sweet.

Braised Cabbage

Olive Oil, 2-3 Tbsp.

Half an onion, sliced

Half a cabbage, tough outer leaves discarded (but keep some of the dark green leaves for color), cored

Salt and Pepper

Pepper Vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

Heat frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. While waiting for pan to heat, use a very sharp knife to shred the cabbage into thin strips or shred in food processor. Add the oil to the pan, swirl to cover bottom, then add the shredded cabbage. Stir quickly to coat the cabbage with the oil for a few minutes, then add about a fourth of a cup of water, place a tight fitting lid over the pan and turn heat down to low. Braise this way for 10 minutes then take lid off and let remaining water cook off, about 5 minutes more. Don’t overcook. Sometimes I turn the heat off after I cover it and just let the residual heat cook the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper and  a little pepper vinegar to help with the bitterness of the greens. Serves two people. For more, double the recipe.

Leaves around my door

Leaves around my door

Organic Produce

Organic Produce

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A topnotch site

A topnotch site

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