Slow Cooker Greens and Beans Soup

October is a glorious month on the Gulf Coast.  The oppressive humidity of summer is gone along with the threat of any big hurricanes.  The weather is still warm during the day and cools off nicely in the evening.  For me this is enough reason to start breaking out the soup recipes.  This is one of my husband’s favorite soups and he affectionately refers to it as “Lawnmower Soup”.

This recipe was given to me by my hairstylist, Beth.  A couple of years ago I was getting my hair cut and bemoaning the fact that I had no idea what to cook for dinner that night.  She suggested this soup using canned, seasoned greens and cooked on the stove-top.  I have made it that way numerous times, however, I really prefer to use the frozen collard greens.  This gives me the ability to season the soup the way I like it and to better control the salt content.  In addition, the texture of the cooked, frozen collard greens is much more to my liking.  This is a super easy meal to put together and is made healthier with turkey kielbasa, but if you prefer the pork kielbasa feel free to use it.  You could also substitute a small ham hock for the bacon.  Serve with cornbread for a complete meal.

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Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie

My mother-in-law makes the best sweet potato pie in the world, hands down!  I always request it for Thanksgiving or any other family get together.  She only uses a bare minimum of sugar and spices and that really allows the true flavor of the sweet potatoes to shine through.  She also doesn’t use a recipe so I have never been able to duplicate her pie.  It is really hard to measure “a dollop of this and a sprinkle of that”.  As a result, I have been on the look out for a recipe that replicates the flavor of her pie.  This recipe comes from one of my favorite dessert cookbooks, Southern Pies.  It is about as close as I can get to my mother-in-law’s pie.  Enjoy! Continue reading

Julia Child’s Chicken Bonne Femme

It is hard to imagine how dull home cooking must have been before Julia Child came along in 1961 with her ground breaking cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She was able to use her extensive knowledge of a foreign cuisine and make it accessible to people who believed that anything exotic was beyond their capabilities.  The profound affect she had on home cooking will continue to resonate for generations to come.

August 15, 2012 would have been Julia’s 100th birthday and in honor of her, I chose to cook this classic one-pot meal from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1.  Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme is the fancy name for this dish which is just a pot-roasted whole chicken with potatoes, onions and bacon.  I made this using a large (7-quart) Le Creuset dutch oven which allowed for an easy transition from stove top to oven.  If you don’t have an oven safe pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, you can do all the browning in a skillet and transfer the chicken to a large baking dish (either Corningware with a glass lid or a 9-x13-inch baking dish covered tightly with foil).  The recipe states that you should brown the chicken for a rather lengthy time, 12-15 minutes per side.  Please don’t skimp on this since the chicken will not brown at all in the oven.  Chicken Bonne Femme is French cooking at it’s simplest and quite possibly it’s tastiest.  Finally, I’ll leave you with a classic quote from Julia…..

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.”

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Blueberry Cobbler

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate summer than to go to a friend’s house for a shrimp boil and feed everyone blueberry cobbler for dessert.  This cobbler features loads of blueberries with just a hint of lemon in the filling and it is covered with a lightly sweet drop biscuit.  The optional coarse sparkling sugar adds a bit of bling to the top and a nice little crunch.

Blueberries are one the great treasures of summer and they grow abundantly here.  A few miles down the road from our house is a you-pick farm with loads of blueberry bushes.  Unfortunately the season is over and I was out of town during most of the prime picking time.  Luckily, frozen blueberries are the next best thing to fresh and you don’t even have to thaw them out which is a great time saver.

I know that some people are going to think that I have lost my mind by using canned pie filling which is so gooey sweet.  However, when you add fresh or frozen berries to it along with a little lemon, you wind up with a quick and easy filling that has just the right amount of sweetness.  This filling is also a little loose and spreads quite a bit when dished up so I highly recommend serving this in bowls. If you would like a filling that is a little firmer, feel free to add the optional cornstarch.  This recipe can easily be cut in half to accommodate a smaller gathering.  The cooking time will be the same and you will need a 9-inch square baking dish or a 10-inch deep dish pie plate. Continue reading

Chicken with Cuban-Style Picadillo

Ah, Miami…where everyone either drives like a bat out of hell or is way past retirement age and drives 45 mph in the fast lane on the interstate.  The best thing about south Florida (other than the Everglades) is the abundance of seafood and Cuban food.  The best flan I’ve ever had was at La Carreta on Southwest 8th Street and their vaca frita was mighty tasty too.  My husband and I really enjoyed our meal even though we only know a few words of Spanish and the waitress only knew few words in English.  When all else fails, smile and point.  Our trip to Miami really opened up a new culinary world for me and in the last couple of years I have occasionally tried out a few Cuban recipes on my willing guinea pig of a husband. Yay for being married to someone who is not a picky eater!

This Cuban-style picadillo recipe came out of a Fine Cooking magazine.  Therefore,  I cannot vouch for any sort of authenticity in the ingredients nor do I know if chicken would ever truly be served with picadillo.  What I do know is that this is one terrific recipe.  The combination of spices melding together with the tomatoes, the salty olives and capers makes flavorful sauce reminiscent not only of the Caribbean but also of Spain.  Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off, everything should be a pantry staple, which makes this an ideal recipe for throwing together any night of the week.  Continue reading

Slow Cooker Beef and Bean Chili with Beer

Chili.  The word alone makes my mouth water.  We love it in all forms, with or without beans, with chunks of beef or ground beef, white chicken chili, meatless, stove cooked, slow cooker style, etc.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  This will undoubtedly be the first of many chili recipes I will post.  Although I indicated in the title that this chili is for the slow cooker, you can easily make it on the stove in a 5-6 quart pot, just let it simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours.  Beer is not something I use often in chili and I was really pleased with the results.  It turned out that the beer was not overpowering in this recipe and gave the chili a bit of a malty background flavor.  Since the recipe only calls for 1 cup there is a nice big swig (or two) left over for the chef.  The heat level of this chili is easily controlled with spices and if you don’t like much heat at all you can substitute with mild Ro-Tel or canned diced tomatoes.  I used Penzeys regular chili powder which made my batch flavorful but not too spicy.   If you want more heat, feel free to add anywhere from 1/4 – 1 teaspoon of cayenne or ground chipotle pepper or load up on the sliced, pickled jalapeños.  You are the boss of your chili so make it as spicy as you like it.  Enjoy! Continue reading

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers with Tahini Sauce

Last weekend my husband really wanted hummus with dinner.  OK, so that was the easy part but what to serve with it?  I had a package of ground turkey but somehow the thought of meatloaf with hummus just did nothing for my appetite.  I got to thinking that something Mediterranean inspired would be perfect.  The first thing that came to mind was falafel, the tasty, fried chickpea (or fava bean) fritters.  I started thinking wouldn’t turkey burgers flavored like falafel be just as good.  So out came the cookbooks and with only a little modification to a falafel recipe these burgers were concocted.  Most of the recipes I found in my cookbooks called for lots of parsley or a parsley and cilantro combination.  Since I did not have any cilantro in the fridge, I decided to use some fresh mint instead and it was delicious.  Feel free to use any combination of these herbs in your burgers.  If you want to use cilantro instead of mint use the same amount as the parsley.  Tahini sauce is traditionally served with falafel and provides a nice garlicky kick to the sandwiches.

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