Monthly Archives: August 2012

Killer Cornbread

Funny how a simple side dish can turn the most humble meal into a masterpiece.  I’m not a southern girl, but I can appreciate the beauty and bliss that is really good cornbread.  Take a pot of beans and ham hocks, a bowl of chili, a pan-fried fish or a simple green salad, add a chunk of steaming, buttery cornbread and you have something very special indeed.

I was watching a cooking show once where the chef was making “spoon bread”.  It was more of a cornbread casserole, as opposed to your solid chunks of cornbread.  This recipe is somewhere in between.  It will set up and can be cut into squares and picked up with fingers – if you wait and let it cool down a bit.  Hot out of the oven, it is softer than regular cornbread, and although you can cut it into squares to serve it, you may want to eat it with a fork until it cools.  Mine never seems to make it that long.  It is soooo good!

This recipe uses a prepackaged cornbread mix, to which you’d normally just add milk and egg.  I don’t use a lot of packaged foods, but I’ve made my own cornbread before and it’s never as good.  Therefore, when I see these on sale, I buy a pile of them and fill up the back corner of my cabinet so they are around when I need a quickie side dish.

Killer Cornbread

Killer Cornbread

4 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pkg. Jiffy cornbread mix
1 cup cream-style corn
1/2 cup milk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat and sauté onions.  Let cool a few minutes.  In a small bowl combine onions, sour cream, 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl, combine cornbread mix, corn, milk and egg.  Pour into a greased or sprayed casserole dish (either an 8×8 square pan, or an 11×7 pan, or something equivalent).


Making cornbread. Most people just stop here and cook it. But where’s the fun in that?

Gently spoon onion mixture over the top of the corn mixture.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top.


As you can see, the placement of the sour cream mixture is not an exact science. Try to get blobs all over the surface.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.  Let cool and slice into squares.  Try not to eat the whole pan at once.

Hot out of the oven. I like mine a bit gooey so I usually stop at 30 minutes. If you want a more solid square to pick up, go closer to 40.

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Blackened Rock Cod & Black-Eyed Slaw

Oh look, a new Food Network magazine on the rack.  Can I resist?  Um…no.  I’m weak.  A cooking magazine addiction is a terrible (but tasty) thing.  This one was chock full of recipes to use up summer produce and eat light.  And not so light.  But for now we’ll avoid the Banana-Coconut Marshmallow Meringue Pie (oh yeah, that’s happening) and start with something healthy-ish.  I especially like the weeknight cooking section with recipes that are quick to make.

Growing up in Oregon, I didn’t ever eat black-eyed peas as a kid.  In fact the first time I ate them, somewhere in the wilds of Arkansas, I was shocked to find that they weren’t gross at all, as I had always suspected, but actually pretty darn tasty!  In fact, there are places where people eat them all the time!  Some people even eat them for luck every year on New Year’s Eve.  I have no idea if that works but there are certainly worse traditions out there.

I think you could use any kind of white fish fillet to make the blackened fish dish.  I happened to have rock cod, so that’s what I used, although the original recipe called for tilapia.  I also played a bit with the slaw recipe.  I guess I’m just not that great at following directions, but the results were terrific!  I made some incredible corn bread to go with it.  If you’re interested in that, tune in tomorrow.

Blackened Rock Cod with Black-Eyed Slaw & Cornbread

Blackened Rock Cod
(Adapted from Food Network Magazine)

1 tbsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Salt & pepper
4 rock cod or tilapia fillets

In a small bowl combine paprika, cumin and salt and pepper.  Rub most of the rub on one side of the fillets, using any leftover for the other side.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add fish, spicy side down.  Cook 3-4 minutes.  Flip carefully and continue to cook another 2 minutes or so until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Black-Eyed Slaw

Black-Eyed Slaw
(Adapted from Food Network Magazine)

1/3 cup prepared salsa verde (I like the Herdez brand)
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sour cream
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups shredded cole slaw mix (one 14 oz. bag)
1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

In a large bowl whisk together salsa verde, vinegar, sour cream and olive oil.  Add cole slaw mix and black-eyed peas and gently toss until all ingredients are combined.  Taste for seasonings, and add salt & pepper if needed.

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I think people are reluctant to cook food they can’t pronounce.  It makes it seem foreign, weird, intimidating maybe.  But this one isn’t too bad.  One word.  Three syllables.  PA-AY-YA.  Now you can cook it!

Paella is a Spanish rice dish, and one of my favorite one-pot meals.  I’ve had paella with seafood, with chicken, with sausage, with vegetables, or with a combo of all of the above.  There are many different versions.  I like recipes like this where you can put your own little spin on it.  Many years ago I found a recipe for paella on the back of a Minute Rice box.  It was so easy even I, who couldn’t cook much back then, pulled it off without a hitch.  This recipe has evolved quite a bit over the years from the back of that box, but I would still consider it a very simple, somewhat Americanized version of this classic dish.  I love how easy it is:  a quick saute, dump stuff in the pot, and let it cook.  And it smells so amazing!  If you haven’t ever cooked with saffron, here’s your chance.



2 tbsp. butter
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups chicken broth
1 can stewed tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup chopped pepperoni
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1 1/2 cup long grain rice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. saffron threads

Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Sauté shrimp and garlic in butter 1-2 minutes until mostly cooked.  Toss with cornstarch.  Add chicken broth, tomatoes with juice, pepperoni, peas, onions and cayenne to the pan.  Bring to a boil.  Add rice and saffron.  Turn down the heat to medium low and cover.  Cook around 25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.  Do not stir!  Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn but don’t mess with it.  You want to cook it until it starts to brown on the bottom, forming just a bit of a crunchy crust. Makes 4 servings.

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Onion-Crusted Rock Cod

I had every intention of making oven-baked fish & chips for this meal, but with temperatures nearing 100 degrees, there was no way I was turning on my oven.  So we’ll save that for another day.  Instead I opted for a quick pan-fried fish and cool cucumber and tomato salad.

Rock cod is not only nice and mild tasting, but its firm texture holds up well for pan-frying, keeping its shape and not falling apart.  The onions mixed with the breadcrumbs caramelize as they cook, adding a nice bump of flavor and a subtle sweetness.

Onion-Crusted Rock Cod

Onion-Crusted Rock Cod

Rock cod filets
3/4 cup panko
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
Salt & pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup greek yogurt

In a shallow dish combine panko, onion, olive oil and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Bread crumb mixture. Love the extra flavor from the onions in the mixture!

Rub cod filets all over with yogurt and then press into bread crumb mixture until well coated on both sides.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Flick a few drops of water into the pan.  If they sizzle, it’s ready to go.  Add filets to pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown on both sides.

Pan-frying rock cod filets

Serve with your favorite tartar sauce or wedges of lemon.  Or mix up your own fishy sauce with a bit of mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon and squirt of sriracha.

Creamy cucumber salad is the perfect complement for this fish dish.  Since I had a couple of garden tomatoes I added them to the recipe as well.  Add a little fresh fruit on the side and you have a perfect summer meal.

Rock cod with creamy cucumber salad and fruit.

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Did Someone Say “Wrapped In Bacon”?

With the start of football season, my mind automatically turns to Super Bowl food.  Which, as it turns out, is good for just about any football game, not just the Super Bowl.  And before you ask, the answer is YES.  I like football, but I like football food even more!  Whether you enjoy the sport or not, any gathering with nice people and great food is going to be fun.  I don’t really care who wins, I just want to cheer and laugh and eat!

When I was married, I had the best mother-in-law a girl could ask for.  Known by my kids as “Mimi,” she has many fine qualities but cooking is not really something for which she is famous.  However, the one thing she did cook, she did brilliantly.  These hot dogs might very well be one of the most delicious, decadent things you’ve ever eaten on a bun.  But be warned, you will probably be ruined for regular hot dogs after this.

I realize this is a bit of a departure from my usual “leaning toward healthy” fare, but every once in a while you just have to indulge, and these are one of my guilty pleasure foods. I make them slightly healthier by using turkey dogs, but I’m all about the real bacon.  To save on calories, just skip the bun!

Mimi Dogs. Stuffed with pickles and cheese. Wrapped in bacon. Grilled to a crispy finish. My mouth is watering!

Mimi Dogs
(recipe from Mary Arnold)

Turkey hot dogs (plan on two per person)
Cheddar cheese, sliced in matchsticks
Dill pickles, sliced in matchsticks (I prefer the crunchy baby dills)
Bacon (you’ll need one slice per dog)

Slice each hot dog down the center (don’t slice all the way through) and stuff with cheese and pickles.

Stuff with pickles and cheese.

Wrap one slice of bacon completely around the hot dog, sealing in the cheese and pickles.  Secure with a couple of toothpicks.

All wrapped up and ready for the grill.

Cook on the grill (or indoors on a grill pan) over medium heat.  Turn frequently to cook all sides.  Cook until bacon is completely cooked on all sides.

Yummy, crispy, gooey, and ready to eat!

Remove toothpicks before eating!  You can eat them just like this, or on a bun with your favorite condiments.  I like a little ketchup on mine.

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Twisted Tomato Corkscrews

Tomato season is upon us!  If you are a more successful gardener than I am, you very well may be covered up in tomatoes coming off the vines about now.  Unfortunately my measly handful of tomatoes will not suffice for this recipe but my friendly neighborhood farmer’s market helped me out this time.  I am also available to take any and all unwanted excess produce that my gardening friends don’t know what to do with.

You could probably use canned tomatoes to make this, but honestly, I’ve never tried it.  Why would you? This is one recipe that I hold in reserve for summertime only.  And it is worth every minute of the wait.  The taste of fresh garden tomatoes simply can’t be matched.  Prepping the tomatoes is a little bit of work, but it’s not difficult and well worth the effort, I promise!

Mouthwatering Tomato Corkscrews

Twisted Tomato Corkscrews

2-3 pounds Roma tomatoes (or other small, firm tomato, like Early Girl)
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste
2-3 tsp. chili powder
12 oz. rotini or fusilli pasta
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Set aside a large bowl of ice water.  Slice a shallow “x” in the bottom of each tomato.

Cut a shallow “x” in the bottom of each tomato. This will make the peeling part really easy!

Drop tomatoes into boiling water in two or three batches.  Let them cook about one minute, until skin starts to peel.  Remove with tongs and put directly into the bowl of ice water to cool.  The peels should then slide right off easily.  Peel, cut in half and squeeze out the seeds.  Coarsely chop tomatoes.  Stir in salt and set aside.

Oh now isn’t that lovely.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet or sauce pan.  Add onion, jalapeno and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, until fragrant.  Pour over tomatoes.  Add cilantro, lime juice, tomato paste and chili powder and mix well to combine.

Where’s my spoon?

Add pasta to boiling water (I use the same water I used to blanch the tomatoes) and cook 8-10 minutes until tender.  Rinse with cool water and let drain.  Add to tomato mixture.  Add cheese and toss well to combine.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

Time to dive in! Yum!

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3 Pepper Sauté

When I was young I didn’t like any peppers at all.  Strange that now I can’t seem to get enough of them, especially this time of year.  My favorites are the sweet red, yellow and orange ones, but I’ll eat any of them that come my way.  The poblanos in this add a little kick and more complex flavor, but if you don’t want that, just use regular green peppers as a substitute.

This is a simple recipe that I usually make as a side dish for tacos, or chicken or well…whatever.  It also works great in a bowl by itself, as a burrito filling, or folded into an omelet for breakfast the next day.

3 Pepper Sauté


3 Pepper Sauté

1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup sliced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Poblano peppers, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Salt & pepper

Sauté onions, garlic and peppers in olive oil until the veggies are tender.  Add corn, beans, lime juice and seasonings and mix well.  Stir and cook a couple of minutes until it’s all heated through.  Serve hot or cold.




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Jambalaya Night

A friend asked me recently if I knew how to make jambalaya and I honestly couldn’t even remember.  I’ve EATEN jambalaya.  Does that count?  I seem to recall making it many years ago, but if it’s been that long, obviously it was high time to make it again.

Searching for recipes for this little project, I realized something:  there are about a million variations of jambalaya.  I chose one that was fairly basic for the test drive.  This particular variation has a lot of tomato, which I personally liked.  The Creole spices (which appear to be a mixture mostly of pepper and garlic) give the dish a real kick and the combination of ingredients lead to a wonderful smelling house!

Luckily this recipe also serves 6-8 people, so invite a few friends and have a jambalaya night!

Jambalaya with a side of fresh green beans.


2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 celery ribs, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes, with juice
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 green onions, chopped

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove sausage with a slotted spoon; set aside.  Add onion, pepper, celery, garlic and seasonings.  Saute 5 minutes or so until veggies are tender.

Veggies and seasonings. Smells so good, but don’t breathe too deep right over the pan, those peppers will get you!

Stir in reserved sausage, tomatoes, broth and rice.

This is what it looks like before the rice sucks up all the liquid. Looks pretty good to me! Is there a jambalaya soup experiment in my future? I think so!

Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.  Stir in shrimp, cover and cook 5 minutes or until done.  Sprinkle each serving with green onions.

**If you are making this for a group that includes vegetarians (which I was), you can saute the meat first and set it aside to serve on top of the rice dish, rather than cooking it with it.  I sauteed the sausage and then added the shrimp for a few minutes at the end and sprinkled it all with a bit of Creole seasoning for some extra flavor.  Vegetable broth can also be substituted for the chicken broth.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine

I always think it’s neat when I see people who have a little “Friends”-like gang of people they’ve known forever, and who know them.  A group that no matter what happens in their lives are there for each other.  I was never really a part of a group like that, unless you count my motley group of very cool cousins.

I’ve noticed in cooking there are groups of ingredients that are like groups of old friends.  Always there for each other, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  In my book, if you take fettuccine, shrimp, cream, basil and lemon, you have the Fab Five of tastiness.  Any of them on their own is pretty good, but together…absolutely fabulous.

Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine

Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine

8 oz. fettuccine
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 cup whipping cream
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook fettuccine 8-10 minutes, until just tender.  Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook and stir a minute or so.  Add shrimp and saute until no longer translucent, but don’t overcook.  Turn down heat to medium low and add cream, lemon juice and basil.  Simmer until noodles are done.

Drain pasta and add to pan with shrimp and cream.  Add parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste.  Toss well to combine.  Serve with lemon wedges and if you’re feeling healthy, a little salad on the side.

Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine. You need to eat this.

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