Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Southern Food Recipes

I just found a new site called Mommy's Kitchen that has killer soul food recipes. Her hot water cornbread recipe is delicious--light, airy and crunchy (I made, erm, a test batch, so I'll have to make another and take pictures). Check out the site, it's definitely worth your time!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Curry, curry everywhere...

I decided tonight to make curry, but all the recipes I'd seen were pretty complicated. I managed to stumble across yet another one in Allrecipes.com that was surprisingly simple. I had to change a few things--the original recipe had tomato sauce, not tomato paste, as well as crushed tomatoes (which I had none of). Nevertheless, the household loves it. Hmm, I guess curry really isn't that hard to make after all...


2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 (8 ounce) can tomato paste
8 ounces water
3 tablespoons sugar


Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
Heat oil and curry powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat for two minutes. Stir in onions and garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add chicken, tossing lightly to coat with curry oil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear. Mix the tomato paste with water and blend till smooth.

Pour coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato paste mix, and sugar into the pan, and stir to combine. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

Challah if ya hear me!

So I discovered "Shalom Sesame", which is an adorable little kids's show created by the nice folks who did "Sesame Street". The show is designed to teach American Jewish kids about Israel and Judaism in general. Just like the original, they have a multiethnic cast (I didn't really realize that there were Ethiopian Jews). And also like the original, they have celebrities of all types doing cameos. One was by Cedric the Entertainer. (Yeah, it's a link. I can't do video.)

At any rate, after I laughed till I cried, I ended up making two loaves of challah bread. And it was actually pretty good. My Jewish coworker did point out to me, however, that it really should have been evaluated by Semitic palates. He's right--guess I'll just have to go get more yeast. :) Happy Passover/Easter!

Recipe taken from Allrecipes.com.

Decadent Challah Bread

1/3 cup honey
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup olive oil
2 eggs
5 cups unbleached flour, plus more if needed

1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg white
1 tablespoon white sugar


Dissolve the honey in the water in a large mixing bowl, and stir in the yeast. Set the mixture aside until the yeast forms a creamy layer on top, about 15 minutes. Stir in the salt, 2/3 cup of olive oil, and beaten eggs. Add the flour 1 cup at a time until the dough is slightly tacky, but not sticky wet.
Turn it out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in the bowl, turn the dough over a few times to oil the surface, then let rise until doubled in a warm, draft-free place, about 90 minutes.
To make the loaves, punch down the dough, and cut it into 2 equal-sized pieces. Cut the first piece into 4 equal parts. Set the second piece aside under a cloth to prevent drying out while you braid the first loaf.
To braid the first 4-strand loaf, roll the 4 pieces of dough into thin ropes about the width of your thumb, and about 14 inches long. Make the tops and bottoms of each rope thinner than the middle area. Pinch the tops of the 4 ropes together, and fan the 4 ropes out so they don't touch.
To make an "under-2, over-1 braid," take the left-most rope, and move it to the right to cross underneath the next 2 ropes, then move it left to cross back over the strand immediately to its left. Take the far right strand, and move it to the left and cross it under the two strands to its left (they are already crossed from the previous braid); then move it right to cross back over the strand immediately to its right. Repeat until the 4 strands are braided together all the way to the end, and pinch the ends tightly together. Repeat the steps to braid the second loaf, and let the braided loaves rise for 1 hour.
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Make a glaze by whisking together the milk, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the egg white, and the sugar in a bowl. Brush the braided loaves with the glaze, to make a shiny crust, and bake the loaves on the prepared baking sheets in the preheated oven until they are light golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Meat and Veggie Soup

When I got home today, I realized that I was going to have to get creative since it's almost the end of the month, and the household is starting to run a little low on food. Ransacking the kitchen, I found a bunch of random items and bits of leftover meat in the freezer and refrigerator, so I threw everything into a pot with some water and spices. (My roommate found the bacon and insisted that it be included.) And you know what? It was really, REALLY good.

I'm not sure if these are the exact amounts, but feel free to taste as you go to make sure this works for you. Your ingredients will probably vary anyway. Also, bear in mind that the water level will drop as it cooks. So keep an eye on it--the last thing you want is for this to burn.

Bacon, Turkey, Steak and Veggie Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups baby carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 slices bacon, diced
1 thin steak, diced
4 turkey breakfast sausages, diced
1 small chunk corned beef, diced
2 cups pinto beans
Water to cover
Seasoned salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Saute carrots, onion, garlic, steak and breakfast sausages in olive oil in the bottom of a large pot until meat is browned and vegetables are soft. Add 2 cups pinto beans and cover with water. Add bacon and cook for 1 1/2-2 hours, until beans are done. Add seasoned salt and pepper to taste. Serve as is or over rice.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Erin Go Bragh! St. Patrick's Day

Here's a fun fact: my first name is actually Gaelic. And so is my middle name. I often joke that I should have married a nice Irish boy and been done with it (I didn't, but my married name is Welsh, of all things). Because of this, St. Patrick's Day is my second favorite holiday, right next to Christmas. I decided to make corned beef and cabbage, as I do every year, but this time, I was going to make soda bread as well.

St. Patrick was originally born in England as a pagan, but converted to Christianity courtesy of an Irish marauder, who captured him and brought him to Ireland. He eventually escaped and made his way back to England, where he became a bishop. At that point, he returned to Ireland, and converted many of the people there to Christianity as well. He built schools, churches and monasteries, many of which still bear his name.

Originally, St. Patrick's Day was, and still is, a Catholic feast day. (In certain dioceses, if the day falls during a Friday in Lent, a special dispensation is given so the celebrants can eat a traditional meal.) Now, of course, it's celebrated by everyone, regardless of religious background or lack thereof.

Here's two other fun facts: St. Patrick never chased snakes out of Ireland. In fact, he couldn't have even if he wanted to, because snakes never existed in Ireland. Also, the reason corned beef got its name is because the brisket it was made from was cured with corn shaped kernels of salt.

Making corned beef and cabbage is as easy as following the instructions on the bag of corned beef. I put the beef in my slow cooker, added water, cabbage and carrots, and turned it on low before I went to bed that night. Everything was ready by the time I got home from school the next day. To make my meat last a little longer, I cut it in half and will make barbecued beef sandwiches with the rest. (That recipe may come later.)

The tricky part was making soda bread. I'd only made it once before, but it was so long ago I couldn't remember how I'd done it. Instead, I looked up a recipe in Gourmet magazine and used that instead. Hey, if actor Andrew McCarthy thinks it's great, then it has to be tasty. I didn't realize, however, that I was going to have to knead it as much as I did to make it look decent. With a workout like that, I won't need free weights.

The corned beef and cabbage turned out well. My husband and I ate nearly all of it at once; I do feel a bit guilty that we left our roommate a piece of corned beef the size of half a deck of cards. The soda bread was much denser than I'd anticipated--I didn't really like it, but it was wasn't bad hot and with butter. My search for Guinness or a Finnegan's to drink was in vain, so we finished our dinner off with Twisted Thistle, a good Scottish beer.

Don't be afraid of good old fashioned corned beef, cabbage and soda bread. Save your money next year and make your own Irish dinner on St. Patrick's Day. The leftovers (if you have any) will taste even better the next day.

Crockpot Corned Beef and Cabbage

2-3 pounds corned beef
1 small cabbage, shredded
4 carrots, chopped
Pickling spices (often, these come in the package)
Water to cover

Put everything in a crockpot and cook on lowest setting for 12-14 hours, or turn it up higher and cook for 2-3 hours minimum. Corned beef may fall apart when done.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's Lent again! Cheater's Gumbo

So my dad, as I may have mentioned before, is from the South. He knows how to make things like hog's head cheese and a few other specialties. One thing he also makes is gumbo. Now, his gumbo isn't a traditional one--he uses canned soup, which is absolute heresy to gumbo enthusiasts--but it's still really, really good.

Tuesday was Mardi Gras, so I decided to make a batch for myself and the household. I had to keep everyone's tastes and issues in mind--the roomie can't handle a lot of spice, and my husband is allergic to crab. With a pot of rice, this filled us up for a couple of days. Don't get turned off by the chicken gizzards, by the way. They add to the flavor and they taste like (what else?) chicken. :)

Cheater's Gumbo

3 cans cream of chicken soup
4-8 Louisiana hot links, sliced into rounds
1 whole chicken, cut up into parts
1-2 crabs, washed and cut up into quarters, legs removed and set aside
1 package chicken gizzards (no hearts)
Water to cover
1 pot of cooked rice

Put all ingredients except rice into a large stockpot. Cook slowly for four to five hours until gizzards are tender, and chicken is falling off the bone. Serve with a pot of rice.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy birthday Deka, or the Fried Pickle Extravaganza

A dear friend of mine celebrated her birthday last weekend. She's from Texas, and one of her culinary addictions is fried pickles. Sure, you can get them from your local Hooters, but as good as they are, they're just not the same unless they're homemade.

I brought the pickles to her birthday party, and they were a big hit. I think all the guests tried at least one, and with the ranch dressing, they were awesome. Even the cup of pickles I didn't fry disappeared. They say everything's big in Texas, and I guess fried pickles are no exception.

This recipe was originally found on Foodily. I took out the cayenne, but feel free to add as much (or as little) as you like. Enjoy!

Fried Pickles

2 cups dill pickle chips
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups finely crushed saltines
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

In a large plastic food-storage bag, mix together the flour, salt and black pepper. Place the pickle chips in the bag and shake until they are well coated.

Mix together the eggs with the buttermilk. Place the crushed saltines on a plate and mix in the cayenne and dill weed. In batches, dip the flour-coated pickles into the eggs and then lightly dredge in the saltines. Place cracker-coated pickles on a large plate or sheet. Repeat until all the pickles are coated.

In a large, heavy skillet heat 1/2 inch of oil on medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees. Cook the pickles for one minute or until golden brown, turning once. Depending on the size of your skillet will probably have to do in several batches. Drain on paper towels.

Serve immediately with your favorite ranch dressing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Putting the Soul in Soul Food

My parents are both Southern--Mom's from North Carolina, and Dad's from Arkansas. I go to a Southern Baptist church, which is filled with women who look like my mom and hail from Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. Many of them, including my aunt, are amazing cooks when it comes to food from the South. Even my pastor is good at it--his collard greens put the ladies' versions to shame.

I, on the other hand, suck at cooking that stuff. My fried chicken is either burned or underdone, and the first two times I tried to make collards, I nearly killed my then roommate with salt overload (I'd forgotten that flavors get more concentrated as water boils off). So I decided to fix it.

After a chat with my mom and my aunt, I decided to attempt chicken and dumplings, candied yams, collard greens (my nemesis!), red beans and rice, and banana pudding. Everything turned out really, really well, except for maybe the red beans and rice (too much water, not enough time).

My mom was very proud of me when I told her how dinner came out. She was glad I'd finally learned how to cook this stuff for myself. So I guess, in general, I've managed to get over my fear of soul food.

Except for fried chicken. I'm coming for you, ya clucker...

Collard Greens

2 bunches collards
1 chicken boullion cube
2 tablespoons pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon tumeric
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

2 slices bacon

Wash leaves and place them on top of each other in a stack. Fold the leaves in half, and slice into 1 inch strips. Fill pot halfway with water and add strips. Add all spices. Cook leaves on medium heat until tender and water has evaporated, roughly 1-2 hours or longer.

Brown bacon in small pan. Just before serving, add bacon and bacon fat to collards. Toss until covered and serve. Serves four.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine's Day: Romance on the Rails

Ok, so I'm gonna break with tradition here, and post about something I DIDN'T cook myself. But it was a heckuva lot of fun.

Valentine's Day weekend, I was chosen to ride the Niles Canyon Romance on the Rails train trip. The trip gave patrons a chance to ride an old school 1940's lounge car, sample local wines from Livermore and nibble on some hors d'oeuvres. As a reporter, I schmoozed--uh, made friends with--the crew and the snack ladies, and got in on the food and drinks.

The trip was awesome, the food was amazing, and the company was incredible. Wonder if I can talk my way back there next year?

Iron Chef: Lunar New Year

So my new editor, the one from Union City Patch, called me to ask if I had any photos for my latest article on Lunar New Year.

"Uh...no..." I admitted, then hastily added, "But I can get some for you. I, uh, was planning to make an Asian style dinner tonight." (I'd actually planned to make burgers, but an impromptu LNY dinner was much more intriguing-- and a heck of a challenge.

After the conversation, I quickly Googled a bunch of recipes on my Blackberry. One shopping trip to my local Ranch 99 and some advice from one of the ladies that worked there ("You want the red bean cakes, not the moon cakes. That's another festival."), I had all the ingredients. Two hours after that, dinner was ready.

We ate Steamed Red Snapper (a recipe I tweaked),Longevity Noodles, and gyoza (store bought). In an attempt to recognize the Vietnamese side of things, I tried to find banh chung, but no luck--I ended up with the regular kind. But I have to admit, that and the brown sugar cake was pretty darn tasty. The pictures looked pretty good too--my editor was very pleased.

The whole experience taught me a lot about Lunar New Year and how it's celebrated. Who knows? Next year, maybe I'll celebrate it with some friends. :)

Note: The original recipe comes from Everyday Chinese Cooking: Quick and Delicious Recipes from the Leann Chin Restaurants.

Steamed Red Snapper


* 1 1/2 pounds whole walleye or red snapper, well cleaned
* 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
* 2 green onions, with tops

1. Slash the fish crosswise 3 times on each side. In a small bowl, mix the ginger, vegetable oil, garlic, salt, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil; rub the cavity and outside of the fish with the mixture. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or longer.
2. Cut the green onions into 2-inch pieces; shred lengthwise into fine strips. Place in a bowl with ice water to cover; let stand 10 minutes, or until the strips curl. Place the fish in a steamer, if you have one and cook for 10 minutes. If not, place on a cooling rack (See note below). Place the rack over a pot of boiling water and cover with a lid until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes. (Add boiling water if necessary). Garnish with the green onions.

Note: If you want to cook this fish in the microwave, cover the fish with plastic wrap on a microwave dish and cook for 3 minutes on high. Let stand for 2 minutes and rotate the dish. Cook an additional 2 minutes on high.