Vanilla Chia Pudding

February 16, 2021

I’m so late to the charms of chia! And not for lack of my daughter Em’s trying–she’s been raving about the nutrition-packed little seeds forever: 1 Tbsp has 6 grams of fiber + 3 grams each of protein and Omega-3s.  With all of that packed into the teeny seeds, it’s no wonder the word “chia” came from the Aztec word for “strength.” Aztecs are credited with usage of the ancient grain all the way back to  3500B.C. It was actually one of the main foods in their diet. Honestly? I waited  to try chia because I was squeamish, thinking the seeds looked so alien. But avoiding carbs and sugar, and constantly on deadline (which makes quick food prep helpful) I decided to try making this super easy chia pudding. Put it in a jar, shake it up, stick it in the fridge and in two hours, the seeds plump up into a creamy pudding. No cooking needed. Lots of comfort and nutrition provided. I should have listened to Em sooner. Note: This recipe has no sugar added. You can choose to top with fruit or, use a different healthy sweetener instead of the monkfruit sweetener, if you like.

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Hot & Spicy

Cajun Crawfish Boil

February 11, 2021

Mardi Gras parades for 2021 may have been canceled, but the feasting goes on. With crawfish season on, fill a pot with bright red “mudbugs” and do this spicy boil! With plenty of andouille sausage, corn cobettes, and red potatoes, it’s a joyful mess to eat. For a more elegant preparation? Try our Crawfish Monica, featuring the crawfish tail meat in a creamy linguini preparation. Note: Save all of the shells (heads, claws & all) and when you have time, simmer them in a pot to make a nice stock you can use for a crawfish bisque or seafood stew. Continue Reading…

Cajun Creole

Crawfish Monica

February 11, 2021

Crawfish season is in full-swing, and there’s no better way to prepare those bright red “mudbugs” than in a hot boil of spices. Our recipe for the traditional crawfish boil including sausage, potatoes and corn in the mix is a joyful mess to eat. But for a more elegant preparation, you can also boil the crawfish without the corn/potatoes/sausage add-ins, picking the tail meat to make this creamy linguini dish that shares part of my name:  Crawfish Monica.  Because crawfish are little (only 2 ½ to 4-inches long) it takes between six and seven pounds of whole crawfish to yield one pound of crawfish tail meat. Note: Save all of the shells (heads, claws & all) and simmer them in a pot to make a nice stock you can use for a crawfish bisque or seafood stew. Continue Reading…

Candy Box

Chocolate-Covered Cherries

February 10, 2021

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are a forever pairing. For me, the choco-heart tradition is dipped in memories of my Aunt Ruth. She had the loudest laugh, the thickest auburn hair, and the worst record of timeliness. But when she got to the party, her laugh came too, along with jokes she’d tell (forgetting the punchline,) and armloads of gifts. On Valentine’s Day, that would mean heart-shaped paper boxes stamped in gold, with satin bows, lace trim and little frilled paper cups full of chocolate-covered cherries. If Ruth were still around, I think she’d like these very-cherry home-made chocolates as much as I loved those frilly boxes. I’m sure you’ll like them too! Continue Reading…

Warming Wonderful

North Carolina Cassoulet (Navy Beans & Meats in Ham Hock Stock)

January 31, 2021

This satisfying Southern dish full of richly flavored stock, smoky pork, vegetables, and creamy white navy beans, came to me by way of a North Carolina chef who had ready access to both locally grown-vegetables and humanely-raised meats. My home-cook version is a warming supper for chilly, stay-at-home days. I start the stock first thing in the morning in order to have the navy beans in the oven for their bake by midday, filling the house with rich, smoky, mouth-watering aromas. By suppertime, no one needs to be called to the table—they’re all ready and waiting. Add a nice side dish of cooked greens to go along with if you like, and some crusty fresh bread for dunking. Continue Reading…

American Classics

Banana Pudding with Homemade Vanilla Wafers

January 24, 2021

This is comfort, pure and simple. Smooth and creamy vanilla pudding, fresh sliced bananas, crisp little vanilla wafers, and a dollop of whipped cream. Perfection. When I was little, we used to put store-bought vanilla wafers into the warm pudding, letting them soften as the pudding chilled. But making the cute little cookies from scratch is easy, and I like the crunch they add served whole as a garnish, or, crushed into crumbs to sprinkle on top. This recipe makes four individual servings of the banana pudding–but 80 or more of the quarter-sized vanilla wafers. Note: The wafers bake up quite hard, which helps them hold up well in the pudding, but they are much harder than the boxed ‘nilla wafers. They do work well crushed as a crust for a cheesecake, or,  for dunking in coffee or tea. Continue Reading…

Holiday Punch

Mexican Holiday Punch (Ponche Navideño)

January 5, 2021

The tiny little tejocotes were so cute, I bought a handful just to look at them! When the guy at the checkout asked me if I knew what they were, I said “No,” and he happily filled me in. Tejocotes, he told me, are one of the main ingredients used in Ponche Navideño, a traditional Mexican hot fruit punch that is served during the winter Holidays. Known as hawthorn apples here, tejacotes are fragrant and loaded with pectin. My interest prompted him to walk me back to the aisles of produce, where I filled my cart with guava, tamarind, apple, sugar cane stalks, pinoncillo (unrefined Mexican brown sugar that comes in cone shapes) and other dried fruit. Even nicer? He gave me his family recipe for the punch. We are still in the 12 days of Christmas, so try making this lovely warming drink to round out the Holidays!

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Baked Treats

Fresh Cranberry Bars

December 20, 2020

From the Oleson-family-owned O&H Danish Bakery, just north of Chicago in Racine, WI, these bars are easy-good. Third-generation baker Eric Oleson was happy to share the recipe which he says has been passed down in his family for close to 100 years. The slices put two good things together: the Danish penchant for butter, with Wisconsin’s bounty of fresh cranberries. The bars only appear at O&H during the Holiday season. “It’s kind of a traditional thing,” says Oleson, who likes to serve these very-moist bars chilled with a dollop of whipped cream. Sometimes, I add some orange zest to the batter and bake these in two nine-inch cake pans lined with parchment.  Baked that way (as you see in the photo) the wedges are so pretty. Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Brussels Sprouts (Petals with Bacon & Onion)

December 17, 2020

Today it was an impulse buy. But seeing those beautiful, almost prehistoric looking stalks of Brussels sprouts, I couldn’t resist. I love them! For a while, I had relegated the little green globes, which the French endearingly call “petit choux” (little cabbage) to the bottom of my vegetable list. The “why” was simple: During my childhood, my mom overcooked them, thinking the result would be milder and more palatable. But overcooking Brussels sprouts leaches out their sulfurous-smelling, cancer-preventative compounds, making them soggy and less nutritious. Writing for WebMD magazine about better ways to prepare them, I perfected this simple, delicious recipe: A delicious quick saute of  brussels sprouts petals, with diced onion, bacon and the tiniest drizzle of maple syrup. To make it, the only fiddly part is removing the tiny cabbage cores. You just poke the tip of a sharp knife in the base of each one, twist and cut that little piece out. Then, you can easily pluck the petals apart, wash them well, and saute. As a side dish, this is fantastic with poultry. Please enjoy! Continue Reading…

Holiday Baked Treats

Mincemeat Tarts

December 11, 2020

Among traditional Holiday foods, mincemeat goes waaaaaaay back.  Dating from the 11th century, mincemeat pie originally packed (along with the meat, fruit, sugar and spice) a lot of religious symbolism: The trio of spices –cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, represented the gifts of the Magi. The crust (or casing) represented a cradle (i.e. manger), and in early renditions, pies were topped with an itty-bitty baby Jesus. As decades rolled by, the practice of preserving meats with sugar and spice prevailed, but the pies eventually shrank in size. And, for two sad decades in mid-17th century Massachusetts, the Puritan’s ban on all things Christmas just about eradicated the pie altogether.

But, mincemeat endured! If you have had only the store-bought version, you are in for a treat: homemade is most-definitely better. Here is a lovely rendition from my dear friend and talented chef, Tory O’Haire. Continue Reading…