Southern Cookin' Makes You Good Lookin'

Random Rantings about Food and Such

Pizza Irene

Takes more than a hurricane to keep people from going to the annual Tomato and Garlic TasteFest at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, VA.  Last year, Michael and i “happened” upon the museum because of their colorful sign advertising the T/G Fest and afterwards became members of the museum.  (It has a wonderful garden!)   The TasteFest is quite interesting.  Tomatoes you’ve never seen or heard of in all shapes, colors and sizes–and you get to taste test them!  Same with the garlic.  Pungent, pungent and more pungent.  I do the mateys and Michael does the garlic.  Let’s just say that vampire visits are not a problem for a couple days.  Anyway, we enjoyed it again and came away with packets of seeds for three of my favorite tomatoes and a bulb for one of his favorite garlics so hopefully next summer we’ll be enjoying our own.



Persian Star

This led me to think about tomatoes, garlic and a recipe which as usual leads down multiple paths until….

Pizza.  I adore pizza.  One of the best foods every invented, wouldn’t you say?  Tomatoes and garlic are a very necessary part of pizza, so grande!  Pizza it is.  After wandering here and wandering there and then following the White Rabbit down the Rabbit Hole, the pizza idea has developed.  But what to name it?  After, again, numerous considerations, a thought forms: why not name it for the hurricane?  Thus, Pizza Irene was born.

Hope it will be a direct hit with you and you’ll feel a surge of longing when the thought of pizza strikes your mind.  Just one piece could lift you out of your depression  and, without warning, waves of happiness could wash over you.

Next blog post: what to do with an overabundance of corn.

Pizza Irene

Favorite pizza dough (homemade or package mix, prepared)

Cloves of garlic, roasted

Basil, fresh or dried

Parmesan cheese

Roast beef, shredded

Cream cheese, softened

Mozzarella, sliced or shredded

Swiss cheese, sliced or shredded

Prepare pizza dough as directed.

Slice tomatoes into thin slices (if using Roma tomatoes, cut in half and remove core and seeds.)  Prepare garlic.  Place tomatoes and garlic on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Roast in a 325 degree oven for one to three hours, depending on tomato type and thickness.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Grease pizza pan.  After rolling out dough, sprinkle Parmesan cheese across top.  Bake at 450-500 degrees for five to ten minutes.

Crush cloves of garlic. Use amount of garlic that suits your taste.  Add crushed garlic and chopped/dried basil to softened cream cheese, mixing thoroughly.  Spread cream cheese mixture across pizza dough.  Top with tomato slices, shredded beef, swiss and mozzarella cheeses.

Bake until cheese is bubbly.

Pizza Irene

Dunne, Irene

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Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies

Quick!  Before your electricity goes out due to Hurricane Irene!  Make some cookies for your Hurricane Party!

This is going to sound absurd, but having grown up along the Gulf Coast and experienced a few ‘canes, I kinda miss ’em.  Not the clean up and certainly not the lack of power and everything else, but the sitting up all night with relatives who’d come to stay at our home during the storm.  I’ll admit it–it has a little bit to do with food.  Cause you know we have to eat.  So, for those of us in Irene’s wake (yeah, like she’s going to hit WV, but at least we’ll get some rain), here’s  a fabulous cookie recipe to enjoy for your Hurricane Irene Party.  And, FYI, they freeze well too, just in case she fizzles out quickly and you have leftover compost.  Which is an oxymoron, isn’t it?

I’ve been to New York a few times but have never been to Momofuku Milk Bar (won’t tell you how many times i’ve been to Junior’s  for cheesecake.  Sinful.)  But if the rest of their menu is like their Compost Cookies, it has to be a cool place!  I personally used dark chocolate chips, dried cranberries, pretzels and pecans in the cookies and think they were outrageously scrumptious.  This would be a great recipe to use for a sleepover, girls’ night in, youth group outing or any kind of get-together where you could provide the dough and a gazillion different ingredients and let people compose their own compost.

If you’re reading this immediately after posting, pleasant dreams and have a wonderful weekend!  And Goodnight Irene.

Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, unsalted and at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups some combination mini chocolate chips,  peanut butter chips, chocolate-covered raisins,  Rolo chocolates, cocoa, krispies, corn flakes ( or any favorite sweet baking ingredients)
  • 1 1/2 cups some combination potato chips, pretzels,  goldfish crackers, Ritz crackers, Fritos corn chips ( or any favorite salty snack food)
Cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.
On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate. Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.
On a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix 45-60 seconds,  just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not  over mix the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.
Add in your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30-45 sec until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last,  until they are just incorporated.
Chill cookie dough for an hour (or up to a week.)  You can scoop it onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, cover with plastic wrap and chill “ready to go.”  Do not bake cookies with the dough at room temperature–must be chilled.
Heat oven to 400°F (350°F in a convection oven). Arrange chilled cookie dough balls on a parchment or silpat-lined sheetpan a minimum of 4″ apart in any direction. Bake 9-11 minutes. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.  At 9 min, cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional 2 min if the cookies still seem pale and doughy.
Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temp, cookies will keep fresh 5 days and in the freezer, 1 month.
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Isn’t this just one of life’s little ironies?  I’m in a house filled with expressiveness right now.  Ashley and her friends are playing Imaginiff (which if you’ve never played it is one of the best board games around), so of course there’s a lot of laughter and talk.  

The kittens are “feeling their oats”, as Mama says, which is good because tomorrow (shhh, don’t tell them) they’ll be getting the old “snip, snip”–tomorrow night they probably won’t be using the house as their personal race track.  Anyway, all this “expressiveness” for lack of a better word and that’s exactly the problem.  I don’t know a better word to describe the lasagna.  Hate that!  Amazing was lame.  Awesome even worse.  Stupendous didn’t fit the bill.  So, for now, it will just be Lasagna.  Some things really don’t need an adjective, do they?  They do the talking by themselves.  I know a few people like that.  Not that i mean i  know people who do a lot of talking–which i do and that’s okay–but i mean people who are just such an exclamation point by themselves they don’t need a word to precede them.  They do the job quite well by themselves.

This is an amazing recipe.  Not calorie or fat-free by any stretch of the imagination.  Probably would be Paula Deen approved.  Speaking of which, did you see what that idiot Anthony Bourdain said about her?  Dude, you just WISH you had a following like Paula has AND that much talent to boot.  Get over your pompous self.  But i digress.  Lasagna.  Wish i could say more but if you try it, you’ll be thinking the same thing.  “_____________” Lasagna.  Some things need no help.


  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage *
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 8 ounce cream cheese
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preheat oven to 375. Spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture and half of the cream cheese, in small pats (like margarine.)  Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

* I like to use the link-style Italian sausage, so i just cut it into bite size pieces.

Happy 13th Birthday to my beautiful niece, Karrigan!  Love you, Kare Bear!!!

Our little Psych nut

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Cranberry Mousse

Yes, i can see you shaking your head.  Cranberries?  In the summertime?  Cranberries are a fall food, you protest.  They make you think of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  True.  But what if you took cranberries and made them light and fluffy and…summery?  Hmm?

Now if we were to ask Justin and Henry, the guys in the middle of the cranberry bog in the Ocean Spray commercials, if cranberries were just for fall, they’d have something witty and sarcastic to say, i’m sure.  So open your mind and then open your mouth to this wonderfully creamy flavor explosion.

My family would look at me cross-eyed if i served plain cranberry sauce.  We’ve been using this recipe since the girls were pups.  Somewhere i probably have a photo of little faces covered in cranberry mousse.  It is awesome!  So easy to make and goes with more than just turkey!  If there’s any left over after a meal, you’ll find someone eating it for breakfast. :0)  If i’m lucky, it’s me.  (Lucky is NOT my middle name.)

So, make room, chocolate!  There’s a new mousse in town.  

Cranberry Mousse

1 cup Ocean Spray® Cranberry Juice Cocktail

1 (3 ounce) package raspberry-flavored gelatin

1 (14 ounce) can Ocean Spray® Jellied Cranberry Sauce

2 cups frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed (or be really adventurous and make your own)

Heat cranberry juice cocktail to boiling in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in raspberry gelatin until dissolved; transfer to a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat cranberry sauce in a small bowl for 1 minute. Stir into gelatin mixture. Chill until mixture begins to thicken, but isn’t set.

Just before serving, add whipped topping and blend thoroughly.

Happy Birthday shout-out to my 10-year-old nephew, Cameron!

 Happy Birthday, SuperCam! 

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Sour Cream Enchiladas

First, my tummy had a hungry.  Missed breakfast before church today.  Totally my fault, of course, but it caused George to “sing hymns” during church service and Sunday School.  George?  My stomach or the alien that lives in my stomach.  It’s a long story.  George also knew that in the oven was a dish of one of his all-time favorites, so that didn’t help matters any.  This recipe goes WAY back.  I honestly don’t remember when Mama didn’t make Sour Cream Enchiladas.  She made them before i was a fan of onions but they’re so good, even non-onion lovers will eat them.  Shame on me, but i spoiled my girls and used to make a half-onion, half-not pan.  No wonder they’re rotten.

In my earlier days of cooking, i would always make these the traditional way but my Aunt Aggie put me on to the “less time-consuming” way of making enchiladas and, i’ll have to admit, that’s how i usually do them.  Instead of rolling them up all pretty, you can just take your tortillas and cut or tear them into pieces and layer your ingredients.  Around here, they get consumed so fast, no one notices anyway.  Save the rolling for company and tear up your family…i mean, give your family the “less time-consuming” version.  

Now that George has a happy, maybe it’s time for a Sunday afternoon siesta.  Enjoy the enchiladas!  They’re wonderful!  Happy cooking and happy tummies!

Sour Cream Enchiladas

1 pint sour cream

2 cans undiluted cream of chicken soup

1 can green chilis, chopped fine

Combine and stir.  This is the filling.

Finely chop 2 bunches of green onions.  You can use less and it will still taste wonderful.

Combine 1 pound of  grated Monterey Jack cheese and 1 pound of grated Longhorn cheese.

Heat 18–24 corn tortillas in hot oil until pliable (only a few seconds); drain on paper towels.

Place filling down a strip on one half of a tortilla, adding cheese and onion on top.  Roll each tortilla and place in an oblong pan.  When all tortillas are rolled, spread remaining filling over them.  Alternate remaining cheese and onions.

Bake, uncovered, at 250 degrees for about 20 minutes or until heated through.

Special shout-out to my sister-in-love, Sharlyn, and my niece Courtney–HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!   


Sharlyn and daughter Madi


Grilled Caprese Sandwich

“You are what you eat.”  Strange.  I don’t remember eating any sexy beasts today. ;0)

But…i did eat one very sexy sandwich!  Oh, baby!  Yes ma’am, that was oh, so fine!  What was it?  (insert evil snicker)  Let’s see.  How long should i string you along?  Okay, i give.  I wouldn’t hold back on you, honestly, i wouldn’t.  Because you need to try this.  You really, really need to try this.  And i’m not saying that lightly.  It was…ahhhh!

Of course i know you’ve already figured it out.  You read the title, for crying out loud.  Dear Miss Ashley asked if she could fix me a sandwich for lunch because she was going to make one for herself.  Well, i’ve been intending to try a Grilled Caprese ever since the tomatoes have gotten ripe but for some reason just haven’t done so.  Pretty soon, the mateys will be a distant memory (the fresh ones, that is) and the basil will probably start to wither as well, so no time like the present.  Now, my girl can make a mean sandwich!  Truly, she can.  This one was no exception.

All you  need is bread, tomato, basil, mozzarella, olive oil and something to grill on.  That’s it.

Ashley brushed the olive oil on honey wheat bread, then “kicked it up a notch” by sprinkling some dried basil, Italian seasoning and sea salt on the oil.  Smart girl!  She began toasting the bread, oil side down, with sliced mozzarella and basil on top.  Once the mozz was melty, she added the tomato, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, and put the sandwich together, toasting it just a little longer.  Wish i’d thought to take pics but was too busy eating.  Trust me, there will be a next time, so we’ll snap some then.

I highly recommend you try this.  You’ll be one sexy beast.

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Creamy White Chili

Some people are just timeless.  Have you ever wondered if J.M. Barrie modeled Peter Pan after someone he knew?  I know a few Pans myself (but will refrain from naming names…unless given proper motivation.  I’ll set up that Paypal account as soon as i’m finished.)  However, i will list one timeless person for free.  My buddy Lisa.  The gal is a kid at heart.  She is a child’s best pal.  She will take them places that would cause most adults to start perspiring just thinking about; do crazy stuff with them no matter how messy or silly; and will love them no matter how badly they need their rear ends swatted.  That’s Lisa Pan.

She also loves to cook and is rather adventurous too, so i’ve been bugging her to do a guest post on here.  This isn’t exactly her taking over for an entire post but she did send us a recipe and some personal observation!  So, thank you, Lisa Pan, for the chili!  And the fun times.  The world is a happier and crazier place because of you.

Creamy White Chili

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut up in cubes (I used tenders)
1 medium onion, chopped
1-1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp oil
2 cans (15-1/2 oz ea) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 oz) chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz ea) chopped green chilies
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Mexican Chipotle Pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream

Saute chicken in oil in large pot til chicken is no longer pink.
Add onion.  Saute til onion is transluscent.
Add next 7 ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and heat for 30 minutes.
Turn off heat and add sour cream and heavy cream.

I am trying to watch our calories so I doubled the amount of chicken broth and used whole milk instead of the heavy cream and I added a bag of frozen white corn at the very end of the simmer.  It was still very rich and I like the sweet crunch of the corn.  Just had some for lunch and it was better today than yesterday.  I also buy the prefrozen chicken tenders.  I just tossed them in to the pot whole and broke them apart as it all simmered.  It was a “very last minute throw together quick Johnny’s on his way home what’s for dinner” meal.


Plum Crazy Salsa

Remember the old Pace Picante Sauce commercials?  “This stuff was made in New York City!  NEW YORK CITY?!  Get the rope.”  Love that!  Well, at my house, the best salsa comes from…West Virginia.  Eek!  I know, i know.  My Texan ancestors are turning over in their graves.  Have to put a caveat on the previous statement.  The folks in this house who say that it’s the best salsa are also very prejudiced.  Very.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that i’m getting to where i can different batches of salsa so that everyone gets what they want.  For Michael and Stef, it’s not super hot and more pureed than chunky.  For Ash, i make what i call “Bam!”  Habanero hot.  She likes the glaze to melt off the dishes when the salsa touches them.  So, anyway, back to salsa.  We were in dire need.  The last jar had been gone through and i’ve been waiting for the maters to get to the point where there were enough to start salsa production for the year.  One of the things about living in WV versus down South–it takes a lot longer to get tomatoes each year.  (Insert heavy sigh.)  BUT…batch number one made its debut today!

I have a standard salsa recipe that i use because it just works.  Now, as i said, i tweak it to match the tastes of my family but it’s the same basic recipe.  Today, we did something a little different.  What a shock, huh?  Yeah, yeah.  I may not be the most stimulating conversationalist but you can’t accuse me of being a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to the kitchen.  Back to business.  Today’s cast of characters totally changed the look of the salsa we usually have around here and a comment from the cashier at Orr’s Farm started my evil recipe-tweaking brain to thinking.

Here’s what we had.  Yellow tomatoes.  Yup, those are tomatoes, not peaches.

Purple bell peppers.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

Jalapenos–sorry, they were the standard green color–and what i think were Blushing Beauty bell peppers.

 And here’s where we took our walk on the wild side–plums, basil and Greek oregano.  Yep.  Seriously.  Oh, and i used part apple cider vinegar with the white vinegar and applesauce instead of tomato paste.  :0)  Guess what?  It turned out good!  A slightly fruitier sweetness to it than the traditional.  And an interesting color too.  Not what you expect from salsa.  I’m going to include the standard salsa recipe and today’s Plum Crazy Salsa before i forget how i did it.  Because i will.  Forget, that is.  Salsa is a little time consuming, but, children, it is worth your time.  Forget that stuff from New York City.  Unless you live in New York City and then you’ll have to come up with your own thingy.  Maybe you could say, “West Virginia?!  Get the rope.”

Traditional Salsa

36 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped

4 green bell peppers, diced

3 large onions, diced

2 cans (12 ozs) tomato paste

1 3/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 medium sweet red pepper, diced

15 garlic cloves, minced

4–5 jalapenos, diced (the fewer seeds you leave, the less heat)

1/4 cup canning salt

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot sauce

Cook tomatoes over medium heat, uncovered, for twenty minutes.  Drain, reserving 2 cups liquid*.  Return tomatoes and reserved juice to kettle.

Stir in all other ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for one hour, stirring frequently.

Ladle into sterilized, hot jars, leaving 1/4″ space at top.  Process in water bath for 20 minutes.

Yield: 10 pints

*I use my “leftover” tomato stock to use in place of water to cook a Mexican-style rice or when cooking beans.

Plum Crazy Salsa

28 medium yellow tomatoes, skinned and chopped

8 medium plums, skinned and chopped

4 purple (or green) bell peppers, diced

2 tsp. onion powder

6 ozs. applesauce

1 cup apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup white vinegar

3/4 cup cane sugar (Sugar in the Raw) or white or brown sugar

3 Blushing Beauty or other small sweet peppers

1 1/2 Tbs. minced garlic

2 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped or 1 Tbs. dried basil

2 Tbs. fresh Greek oregano or 1 Tbs. dried oregano

4–5 jalapenos, diced (the fewer seeds you leave, the less heat)

1/4 cup canning salt

Same drill.  Cook the mateys and plums together before draining and adding the other goop.  Stir and cook, stir and cook, stir and cook.  Process.  Done!

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Nacho Potato Soup and Tortilla Soup

After last week’s guest post by her “Uncle Steve”, Persi the kitten was inspired and decided to take over today.  Unfortunately two insurmountable problems arose.  One, I can’t decipher Cattran or HTKT or whatever cat computer language she was using (if you can, this was the first thing she typed:  434r34r434).  Two, I’m just not sure the viewership is ready for Catnip Surprise.  So off she went to do whatever it is she does.  We’ll just stick to the chunky chick giving you a recipe or two surrounded by nonsense.  That being said, and Catnip Surprise aside, Persi’s musings (mewsings) might have been much more intelligible.

First, I must put out a disclaimer or two or three.  These are the recipes as they were originally published.  Yes, they use products that you could make/concoct yourself which would save you calories/fat/sodium/whatever.  Yes, you could save money by not using packaged products.  Whatever other objections you might have, okay.  Got it.  All good.  I probably agree.  Now that we have that out of the way….

These are recipes for two super soups.   You know what popped in my head when I first thought of super soups?

“Where is my Super Suit? Where-Is—My-Super-Suit? “  Great movie.  You have to appreciate super heroes who aren’t perfect.  The world has only known one true, flawless Superman.  Gives hope to the rest of us that we can be heroes albeit imperfect ones, doesn’t it?  But I digress.  Here are my heroes of the day: Super Soups.

Nacho Potato Soup and Tortilla Soup are the quintessential “fast food”s.  Quick to put together.  You can fix them right before you need to eat at the end of a long and/or busy day or you can fix them ahead and let them par-tay in the crock pot all day until you’re ready to consume them.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Or in this case easy cheesy it’s-a-breezy?

Nacho Potato Soup

1 pkg (5 1/4 ozs) au gratin potatoes

1 can (11 ozs) whole kernel corn, drained

1 can (10 ozs) diced tomatoes and green chlies (aka Rotel), undrained

2 cups water

2 cups milk

2 cups cubed process American cheese (or Velveeta)

In a saucepan, combine the contents of the potato package, corn, tomatoes and water; mix well.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15–18 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Add milk, cheese and hot pepper sauce, if desired.  Cook and stir until cheese  is melted.  Yield: 6–8 servings (2 quarts).

Tortilla Soup

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

1 large can tomatoes

1 can whole kernel corn or hominy, drained

1 can kidney beans

1 can pinto beans

1 can chopped green chilies

1 can chicken broth

1 can Rotel tomatoes

1 package Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning

1/2 package taco seasoning

Cook all together until heated through.  Serve over tortilla chips.

Not Persi


Good to know!

Advice.  Everybody has it.  Whether given or received, we all have had our share of advice.  That can be a good thing.   A very good thing.  A wonderful lady named Sandra Ray (no, not related to Rachael but she can cook!) hooked me up with one of my very favoritest things to have on stock in the kitchen.  She had cooked  a pork roast that had the most wonderful flavor and nosy me had to know what she did to it.  Her secret weapon?  Mojo!  Actually, it’s called Mojo Criollo and you can buy it all nicely bottled up by Goya (look in the Hispanic section of your grocery.)  Basically it is a Cuban marinade consisting of oil, garlic, orange juice, lime juice and other wonderful things.  IT IS THE BOMB!  I cannot stress how highly i rate this stuff.  Your meat will never taste better.  Marinate your steaks in it the night before/several hours before you grill them.  Add Mojo and Montreal Steak Seasoning to your hamburger meat before forming it into patties and bada bing, bada boom!  A couple days ago i pulled out a large package of chicken breasts which i’d gotten at a good sale but had frozen as a whole package  because i was in a hurry.  So all 7 or 8 chicken breasts got mostly defrosted and put into the crockpot in a bath of Mojo.  The smell all day was divine and the taste even better.  In the end it was shredded and sauced up with the recently canned Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce but it would have been fine just like it was.  So, honey, get your Mojo working!    As the Cubans would say, “Para luego es tarde” (translated “For later, it’s late”; in other words, “Don’t wait! Do it now!”

Mojo Criollo

Ever have a recipe that calls for buttermilk but you’re just plumb out?  You can fake it.  Add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to your regular ol’ moo juice aka cow’s milk and voila!  Poor man’s buttermilk.  I love tips like that so i was very excited to find this link to Food Network’s Top 100 Tips from their cooking show hosts and other renowned chefs.  I’ll give you a few that i found interesting but you should read them for yourselves.  Good stuff!

If you have favorite tips and cooking secrets you’d be willing to share with the gang, let us know!  They will happily find themselves in another post.  On that note, here’s my last tip for the day, so happy cooking and happy eating!

April’s Tip of the Day:  Southern Cookin’ Makes You Good Lookin’!

Tips from Food Network:

If you’re cooking for someone important — whether it’s your boss or a date — never try a new recipe and a new ingredient at the same time.
Marcus Samuelsson

Cook pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with sauce.
Mario Batali

After working with garlic, rub your hands vigorously on your stainless steel sink for 30 seconds before washing them. It will remove the odor.
Gerard Craft 

When you deep-fry, hold each piece of food with long tongs as you add it to the oil. Hold it just below the oil’s surface for five seconds before releasing it. This will seal the exterior and stop it from sticking to the pot or the other food.
Michael Psilakis

Anytime you are using raw onions in a salsa and you are not going to eat that salsa in the next 20 minutes or so, be sure to rinse the diced onions under cold running water first, then blot dry. This will rid them of sulfurous gas that can ruin fresh salsa. It’s really important in guacamole, too.
Mark Miller

When making mashed potatoes, after you drain the potatoes, return them to the hot pan, cover tightly and let steam for 5 minutes. This allows the potatoes to dry out so they’ll mash to a beautiful texture and soak up the butter and cream more easily.
Wolfgang Puck

When baking cookies, be sure your dough is thoroughly chilled when it goes on your baking pan. This will allow the leavening ingredients to work before the butter flattens out and your cookies lose their textural distinctions.
Norman Van Aken

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