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Southern Cooking At Its Best

Southern cooking is in its own right a type of art. This is comfort food in the extreme, and to make it the chef will need the right tools and a love of spending some time in the kitchen. The best cookware for this type of family style food demands going with nonstick surfaces for skillets and pans. The chef will also need a saucepan for the gravy. Whatever is chosen for the sides the skillet will need to be deep, and capable of holding up to at least 6 pieces of chicken at a time. Southerners have traditional used a large cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven for this task, but it’s easy to find newer, and easier to use skillets large enough to accommodate an entire chicken after it’s cut up to parts.

The Challenge

Starting out by only making the chicken is a good plan since trying to dive into the complete meal can send a cook quickly back to the fast food lane for a bucket of anything resembling chicken. The fact of the matter is fried chicken takes some prep, and care in order for every piece to be thoroughly cooked, but not scorched or burned.

The Right Choices

In looking at chicken the cook can either opt for a whole chicken to cut up into pieces, or buy selected pieces ready for frying. It’s also possible to opt for only breast meat pieces as well. Looking online it’s possible to find instructional videos on how to cut and prep chicken for frying if this is something new. In looking at preparing a whole chicken it’s necessary to keep in mind not all pieces will cook through at the same time. Darker pieces of the chicken will take longer, and the thicker the piece the longer it will need to remain frying in order to cook all the way through.

Prepping the Chicken

Some southern cooks swear by using a variety of “soaks” or marinates hours before frying, but while this is worth a try if following a specific recipe that calls for it, using the chicken just as it is fresh cut with a “rub” of milk, butter, salt and pepper is often all that’s needed.

The Recipe

In going through the recipe of notes of many Southern cooks the new cook might find some frustration with the words “a bit”, “a pinch” or the truly frustration lack of notation next to an ingredient. What is needed without question is 6 large eggs, salt, 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, and freshly ground black pepper. A half-pound of cut chicken rounds off the recipe. Some cooks will have a few small differences here and there including adding at least a half-cup of cornstarch. Southern cooks of long ago did not use vegetable oil, for the skillet, Dutch oven, or fryer, but to satisfy modern palates it’s recommended.

Following the Recipe

Having the best cookware possible will come in handy in not making a mess while working on this recipe. Taking a large the eggs are beaten with a “pinch” of salt, and in another bowl the flour should be whisked with the cornstarch, crushed red pepper, and the ground black pepper. Drench or dip the chicken pieces in milk and then coat the piece of chicken in the flour mixture. In the skillet selected for the frying heat ¾ inch of oil to 360 degrees. Place the thicker and dark pieces in first and give them several minutes to cook before putting in smaller white meat pieces. Cook until golden brown.

Proper Shoes for Running a Marathon and Healthy Pre-Run Recipe

Spring is approaching and with that comes marathon season. Many of us are deep into our training by now and are preparing our bodies for what we are about to endure. Now is the time to eat the proper foods that will help you maintain your stamina and purchase the shoes that you intend to run the marathon in. I will briefly cover some important factors to consider when purchasing new running shoes and have included a tasty recipe to boost your running stamina.

There are a few essential things to consider when purchasing your new running shoes to ensure that you will have the absolute best fitting and most comfortable shoes on marathon day. A few things to remember before you go to make your purchase: try on and buy shoes at the end of the day and bring the socks that you intend to wear with the shoes.

  • Make certain that you’re purchasing running shoes that are designed for your foot and gait. There are many different kinds of shoes out there for runners, namely motion control running shoes, stability shoes and cushioning shoes. Each has a specific design that will benefit a runner in comfort and fit.
  • Have your feet measured to ensure that you are getting the right size shoe and the width. It is also a good idea to purchase a shoe that is a half size to a whole size larger than your normal size. This allows for swelling on marathon day. You don’t want to have a running shoe that is too tight and may become painful.
  • Bring your old running shoes with you to compare and contrast with the new ones you are about to purchase. Consider the pro and cons of the old shoes and try to buy accordingly
  • Buy based upon quality and fit, not style and price. Everyone wants a nice looking pair of shoes, but the cute ones may not be the most comfortable or best for your feet. It is also easy to look for cheaper shoes but again look for shoes that meet your running needs and consider price secondary.

We’ve covered shoes, so now let’s talk about food! Runners need the best to fuel our bodies daily and especially on marathon day. The recipe below is loaded with energy boosting protein and other healthy nutrients that you will need to keep pushing the day of your run. Feel free to add more veggies or even substitute tofu for the prosciutto.

Bean Bourguignon Recipe:

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1 package (10 ounces) baby portabella mushrooms, quartered

Sea and freshly ground black pepper

1 large onion, chopped

6 ounces of prosciutto or vegetarian bacon, minced

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (you can use dried if you don’t have fresh)

2 bay leaves

¼ cup coconut flour

1 cup dry red wine (I prefer merlot or cabernet sauvignon)

2 cups vegetable broth

3 (15 ounce) cans of white beans, drained

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions:

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms. Cook for about 6-8 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to turn brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and set aside. Add remaining tablespoon of oil and onion to the pot, cooking onion and stirring frequently for about 3 minutes or until translucent. Add prosciutto (vegetarian bacon), garlic, thyme and bay leaves and cook for about two minutes. Sprinkle in the coconut flour a little at a time and stir, then whisk in wine and vegetable broth. Stir in beans and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Take Time to Cook!

I feel like I am always busy and on the go. I am constantly looking down at my watch to see what time it is or to see if I am supposed to be somewhere else. Taking the time out to prepare a meal that is healthy for my family really feels near impossible some days, so we usually end up just eating something that I can easily throw together. The hiccup here is that when I am trying to get dinner made I am limited on time since we usually still have homework to do, laundry to wash/fold, baths to be had and there is this little thing called cleaning that takes up a ton of time. I often find myself reaching into my cabinet to grab a box or package of something that requires little effort on my behalf. These boxed and packaged dinners are full or preservatives and empty calories with little to no nutritional value when all is said and done. I don’t want to feed my family these things even if I am limited on time any longer.

My conundrum got me thinking that there has to be an easier way to get a healthy and satisfying dinner made without taking too much time and without using premade things. Well I was right and the answer was right in front of me the entire time. My cute little crock pot was staring me right in the face and it was going to be the tool to get me out of my cooking rut for sure. I made a meal plan and decided I would shop for the week on one day the week or weekend and cook for the entire week on another. On cooking day I was immediately overwhelmed by the sight of all the ingredients for a week’s worth of meals laid out before me, but once I got into my cooking groove I felt in my element and proud that I was providing my family with the proper nutrition and great tasting food they deserve. I didn’t once feel the need to check my watch for the time or feel the panic of needing to do something else. The meal that was the biggest hit in my house was a butternut squash and chickpea coconut curry. It was delicious, filling and super healthy…did I forget to mention easy as well! Toss all the ingredients into a crock pot and go about your day.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Coconut Curry in a crock pot

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups diced butternut squash

1 ½ cups dried organic chick peas

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 13.5 ounce can organic coconut milk

1 bunch of freshly shelled peas (you may use frozen as well)

1 bunch of fresh spinach, roughly chopped (you may also use frozen here, but I really prefer fresh)

1 large tomato, diced

3 cups of vegetable broth or water

3 tbs curry powder

1 tsp sea salt

½ fresh cilantro, freshly chopped

Directions:

Rinse and sort through the dry chickpeas. Cut the skin off the squash, remove the seeds and cut into 1 inch square cubes. Add all of the ingredients to a crock pot besides the peas and spinach. Cook on high for 6 hours. About 20-30 minutes before serving, add the fresh peas and spinach while gently stirring. If your sauce seems to be a bit too thin or watery when it is done cooking, you can add a little mix of cornstarch and hot water. Pour a tablespoon or two of the mixture into the crock pot, allow it to simmer a bit longer. The cornstarch mixture with thicken the sauce up nicely.

I like to serve the curry over jasmine or basmati rice topped with some fresh cilantro or basil. You may also add toasted coconut as a nice bit of extra texture.

Brats and Beer Chedder Chowder!

The first time meeting my boyfriend’s brothers, I was a huge ball of nerves. They were coming over to hang out and watch the hockey game and eat dinner. I knew I didn’t want to just order pizza and call it a night. I wanted to impress them without looking like I was trying too hard. So I started the complicated search for the perfect recipe.

That’s when I came across the Brats and Beer Cheddar Chowder. That sounded like something dudes would eat, right? It has beer in it! Instantly my attention was peaked and found out it was super easy to make. Being the worrier I am, I made a pot of the soup before as a test run just to make sure, and it was really tasty and cheesy!

Before even tasting the soup, his brothers all insisted that I didn’t have to cook and pizza would be fine. Then they ended up really liking the meal, and finished the whole pot! I told them that I would give them the recipe, but they swore they would mess it up and would only have me make it for them. I take that as a good sign. J

Ingredients:

2  tablespoons butter or margarine

1  medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

1  medium carrot, coarsely shredded (1/2 cup)

3  large shallots, chopped

1 14  ounce can vegetable broth or 1-3/4 cups vegetable stock

1/3  cup all-purpose flour

1  cup whole milk, half-and-half or light cream

1  teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed

1/4  teaspoon ground black pepper

10  ounces Wisconsin Aged Cheddar cheese or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

4 cooked smoked bratwurst, knockwurst or Polish sausage (about 12 ounces total), halved lengthwise and sliced

1 12  ounce can beer or 12-ounce bottle ale

In a large sauce pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and shallots; reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring frequently, about 10 to 15 minutes or until the onion is very soft and golden.

Directions:

In a large screw-top jar, combine broth and flour. Cover and shake until combined and smooth. Stir into the onion mixture. Add the milk, caraway seeds and black pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Gradually stir in the cheese; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until cheese melts, but do not boil. Stir in the bratwurst and beer. Cook, stirring frequently, until heated through. If you like, serve with rye bread. Makes 4 to 6 main-dish servings (7 cups)

My Grandma’s Cream Corn Mac ‘n’ Cheese Recipe

Recently I moved into my own apartment, and I’m sure it’s no secret that moving out of your parents’ house can be pretty amazing. I knew that my lifestyle was going to be different living on my own and being even more independent of my mom. Now I wouldn’t be offending anyone in my house by not getting out of my pajamas all day or watching shows by the season, not episode.

Get all the stuff you’ve ever wanted to do at your parents’ house but couldn’t out of your system early because sooner or later we all have to grow up (or at least act like it). It’s all fun and games until you open your refrigerator and empty shelves are greeting you. Then it becomes the real Hunger Games.

While you could easily run out to McDonalds or some other cheap fast food place, there’s an easier solution in the long run. Stock up your fridge with basic necessities: bread, milk, butter, etc. Now print out recipes and make it a fun tradition to make a meal every Friday or free day to make a home cooked meal with loved ones.

I came across this recipe while watching Food Network, and instantly was drawn to it. I love mac ‘n’ cheese as much as the next college student, but when I heard cream corn was an added ingredient, I was sold. When eating this delicious warm meal, the cream corn brought me right back to all my Thanksgivings and my mom rubbing my fat, bloated belly, and I tackled adulthood a little bit more that day.

Enjoy! J

Ingredients:

8-ounce can creamed corn

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Pinch ground nutmeg

Salt and ground black pepper

3 dashes hot sauce, optional

2 cups elbow macaroni

8 ounces grated mild yellow Cheddar

12 ounces grated mozzarella

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup croutons

1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a saucepan, simmer the corn with the milk for 5 minutes.

Combine the cornstarch with about 2 tablespoons water and stir well.

Add the cornstarch to the corn mixture and whisk over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Season the corn cream with a little nutmeg, salt, pepper and hot sauce if using.

Remove from the heat, cover and keep warm.

Boil the elbow macaroni in boiling water for 4 to 6 minutes.

Drain the macaroni well and add to the corn cream.

Add the Cheddar, half of the mozzarella and the egg.

Stir well.

Pour into a 4-cup casserole dish or 12-inch cast-iron skillet and top with the remaining mozzarella.

In a zip-top plastic bag, lightly crush the croutons using a small mallet or rolling pin.

Stir together the oil and crushed croutons and spread over the top of the macaroni and corn mixture.

Cook on the top rack until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with hot sauce.

A story about one of my favs: Cracker Barrel!

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve gotten carsick. I’d have to bring snacks with me everywhere we went just to keep my stomach at ease. My family got used to me always bringing food in the car, and when I said pull over now, I meant now.

However, my dad was another story. He loved his truck like it was his fourth child. So naturally there was absolutely no eating in the car, and there was no way around it.

We were going on a 7+ hour trip to Upper Peninsula, Michigan and for long trips, my go to was motion sickness pills even though they made me sleepy.  About an hour into the trip, I started to feel queasy and asked my mom for the medicine. She looked all around her bags, and couldn’t find it. My worst nightmare had come true: I was stuck in a car for 7+ hours without any food or motion sickness pills.

Naturally my dad didn’t see what the big deal was, and refused to pull over at the nearest rest stop. It wasn’t until much begging and pleading that my dad decided to get off the highway at the next restaurant that appeared on a passing billboard. I had just started my happy jumping in my seat when I saw which restaurant he headed towards: Cracker Barrel.

I had never been there, and my little mind couldn’t get over the fact that something different didn’t mean something bad. I thought it was “too country” for me, and immediately wrote it off.

Walking in, I knew that this meal was going to be different because all on the walls were artifacts of old country style. They even sold rocking chairs on the front porch.

I’m a huge fan of iced tea, and Cracker Barrel has a wide selection of different flavored teas, all giving you the feeling of being refreshed on a hot summer day. For my main dish, I ended up ordering the grilled chicken tenderloins with mac ‘n’ cheese and mash potatoes. Honestly, my mouth is watering right now thinking about it. This was one of the rare occasions that I didn’t need a togo bag.

On the tables there are games like tic-tac-toe to play and testing your I.Q. level with the wooden pegs. I had won with only two pegs left. My dad tried so hard to beat my score but only came close with three pegs left. I swore I didn’t cheat, and I was a pretty sneaky little girl when it came to games. I had long forgotten that I was mad at the restaurant choice, and actually bonded with my family that day.

The best part was all the old school candies that filled the shelves at their store in the front of the restaurant.

We ended up buying some motion sickness pills at the nearest gas station, but I ended up not needing them on the way there because I was full on such an amazing meal.

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