Sunday, March 11, 2012


I've made meatloaf a lot but I've never tried to make collard greens. Today was a first and they didn't come out bad - not bad at all! Have you made meatloaf before? What do you put in yours? I put in:

Diced onion, red and green bell peppers, one egg, ketchup and/or barbeque sauce, salt, garlic power, pepper and seasoning salt. Oh, and I grate one slice of bread into it, usually the heel or end slice.

In a medium sized bowl, drop in your ground beef. I only use a pound because its just me so it makes a small meat loaf, enough for dinner and a couple of sandwiches as left-overs. Chop your onion and bell peppers. I usually use just a few slices of onion (from a large onion), and about one third each of the red and green bell peppers. Break and drop in your egg. Grate one slide of bread or you can use bread crumbs. Sprinkle in some ground pepper, garlic powder and salt. Add some ketchup or barbeque sauce or a combination of both - maybe about 1/4 cup BUT don't add all because I'm not sure if that's too much. I add my sight. You just want to add enough to get it some of the taste in the meat but you don't want to saturate it with ketchup. Oh, a little soy sauce, worcestershire sauce or A-1 Steak Sauce can be added - about 4-5 shakes of the bottle. If you use these decrease your salt.

Now here's the fun part. Mix this with your hands. You can use a fork or spoon to blend it all together but you're going to have to get your hands into it anyway when you mush it all together and form your meatloaf in the baking pan. Bake at 350 for maybe an hour. I check mine periodically. You want it to cook until the juice runs clear. Depending on the fat content of the meat you buy you may have to drain the grease a couple of times while its cooking. You don't want it to swim in the oil while its cooking.

Now, as for the greens. This was a first for me and I already made it my own. I bought the bag of collard greens at the market (only one since its just me) and a small package of sliced salt pork.

After checking out a couple of recipes and talking to my sister I washed the greens and started them to boil in a large pot. In another pot I started to boil some water and put it in about half an onion and half a cube of butter.

When the greens begin to cook, like cabbage, they shrink and end up cooking in all this water. I drain some water as it cooks so that all of my seasoning doesn't go down the drain. When the water level matches the shrunk greens and the amount of water I want with my greens, I added in the butter and onion mix from the other pan. Season with garlic power, pepper, hot sauce if you want. My sister-in-law uses vinegar. I added a little to mine too, just enough to give in an interesting zing but not enough so that I think "Oh, there's vinegar in there." Do this by only adding a little at a time.

Occasionally stir your green, check the flavor and tenderness. One recipe said over 2 hrs. It will depend on how tender you like your greens. I was done with mine after about 1-1/2 hrs.

I hope I didn't leave anything out. Will also welcome any tips or suggestions on new ways to try either portion of this recipe.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


The good thing about making Gumbo is that you can make it with whatever YOU like. I don't know how anyone else makes it so I'm sure there may be some who would say its not authentic, or that's not the way you do it BUT it has never disappointed and I've had Louisiana natives tell me it reminded them of home. So, on that note lets get started.

INGREDIENTS (for mine):

Chicken (boneless thighs)
Sausage or Hot Links (I've used Farmer John links, or Andouille Sausage or Hot Links)
Crab Legs
Garlic Power
Gumbo File

Others Have Used:

Green Pepper

(You can start with about half of this for a much smaller, first time try - like one pack of chicken, one pack of sausage, etc.)

I've never been one to keep track of what I've used for a recipe. Basically you're making a soup. You make your base and then add ingredients to it and as my mom once told me, you start with whatever takes the longest to cook.

Start with a pot large enough to hold your ingredients combined once cooked. I usually make a huge pot and use a family pack of boneless thighs, 1-1/2 to 2 lbs of large shrimp (pre-cook and already shelled), 2 packs of whatever sausage I use, one of those small pre-cooked hams that cost about $5-7 or two hams steaks.

In the pot I add about two inches of water. Boil. While its heating to boil I cut up my sausage and ham into bite site pieces. When the water boils I start a type of gravy base. To do this add flour. Start with about 1/4 cup. Its okay if its weak or too thick. You'll adjust as you add ingredients to the consistency you want. I like gravy flour because it is fine and doesn't clump like regular flour. Add some seasoning.

When the flour has mixed with the water add in your sausage and ham. This will generate oil and flavor. Feel free to add in some of the File. This is the start of your seasoning and flavor. Knowing that you'll be adding in chicken, you'll want to increase your base. I take a glass, put hot water in it and flour and mix. I add it to the base as needed. You may have to do this a couple of times. As you add and increase your base level, remember to add in your seasoning and taste.

I dice up onion, just a couple of slices but feel free to add more or less or none at all. Remember this is to YOUR liking. If you're going to add green peppers or tomatoes this would be a good time since it is the base. I've never used okra cause I don't like it so you'll have to judge for yourself when the best time is to add it based on how long it takes to cook.

When the base is seasoned as you like (garlic power, pepper, salt, onion, ham and sausage and any other seasoning you like), its time to add the chicken. It is okay and probably even better, if it is seasoned heavily at this point because you'll be adding in all that chicken and shrimp. While the base was cooking I would have rinsed the chicken and removed any excess fat I didn't want.

Add in your chicken to the pot. Cover and let it cook. Please check your cooking time for chicken. Stir the pot occasionally because depending on your pot sometimes things stick or burn on the bottom of the pot.

Because shrimp and crab legs don't take long to cook you will add those when the chicken is done. I will suggest that before adding the shrimp you taste your base again for seasoning. Add File according to your taste. The File gives it most of the color and your flour should absorb most of the oil from the sausage or links. This is the last time to check the thickness of your base and seasoning before the pot just gets too full.

Stir in your shrimp and place the crab legs on top. They usually just steam but when they get into the pot and soak up the base that's when they're really good!

Serve over rice.

Remember what I'll always say. Some cooking is trial and error. If you season to your taste even if you mess up it will still taste good. I don't think you can mess up gumbo. It's just soup and you put it what you like so how can you go wrong?

Also, as easy thing to do is buy a pack of pre-made gumbo mix and follow the directions. I never used it until my brother told me about it. Now, sometimes I will add some of it to my base so I don't have to worry about seasoning so much. The gumbo in these photos did not include it. I did it from scratch.

Happy cooking and good luck!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Not sure what to give someone for the holidays? Do you have a lot of small gifts you want to give but not sure what to do? I make candy.

Have you ever tried to make your own candy? Its a lot easier than you might think, and its fun, and it makes great Christmas gifts. I started out with the molds but I didn't care much for them. They're fun and maybe you will like them. I suggest you at least try it to decide for yourself. I prefer making turtles and they are usually met with high praise and looked forward to each Christmas.

You can buy chocolate to melt at Michaels and I've seen some at Walmart. I get mine from a cake decorating store. I'm not sure if they all sell candy making supplies but I'll bet they do. They have white, milk and dark chocolate, caramel and all other kind of crunchy bits in different flavors you can add into your candy - as well as cute little boxes and candy molds.

For turtles I use pecans, chocolate and caramel. From the photos you can see that I arrange three pecans and cover them with a bit of caramel, arranging them on a piece of waxed paper. I've also used peanuts, walnuts or other nuts you might want to use. My gifts usually contain a mix of nuts and white and milk chocolate.

The trick is melting the chocolate. You can use a double broiler which I used to use at first but I've since learned the microwave works a little better. The trick in melting the chocolate is that you don't let it get too hot or when it sets it loses its shine. You also want to avoid getting any water in it. Both with make the chocolate look old. You should be able to get chocolate melting instructions wherever you buy the chocolate or it will be on the bag if you get it at Michaels. Here is a link I found:

The great thing about melting chocolate is that there are so many things you can do with it. Make baskets or tins with a variety of your chocolates. Make turtles, brittle, dip cookies, just cover nuts, or make chocolate suckers or molds. If you're feeling really clever, just get on your computer and make your own little "From the Candy Kitchen of" cards or labels to go on your gifts.

And here is something extra special. THEY MAKE CHOCOLATES AND CARAMEL IN SUGAR FREE!!! I make them for people I know who are diabetic so they can still have their sweets around the holidays.

One more really easy candy to make - Brittle.

This is not one of my photos. I borrowed it and hope its okay. The link below the photo will lead you to better instructions on how to make this candy cane brittle or bark along with some other nifty ideas.

You simply take candy canes, break them up into small pieces, mix them in with the melted chocolate and pour it onto a sheet of waxed paper. Let it set, then refrigerate. When hard, you simply break it up into small pieces and you can place them in small plastic bags and tie with a bow!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Another one of my easy favorites is Chicken Fajitas which I actually turn into burritos. It's really easy because I also cheat and buy pre-cooked chicken at the market or used leftovers. You can buy one of those baked chickens or if you're lucky enough to have a WinCo near you, mine sells cooked chicken strips. All you need is:

Red and Green Bell Peppers
Tortillas (flour/burrito size for burritos)
Re-fried beans (for burritos or accompanying dish)
Cheese (for burritos)
Taco Sauce or salsa

If you have a whole chicken, slice and/or pull off the chicken in bite size pieces. How much you use depends on how many you're feeding. Heat your skillet and add a little oil, enough to saute the veggies. Chop up your onion and bell peppers. I cut them into rather large pieces. Dump them in the skillet and saute until the onion are just slightly golden around the edges. NOTE: I tend to like my veggies a little crunchy but maybe you like yours fully cooked. The fun thing about cooking your own is you make it the way YOU like it.

Add in your chicken. Because it is pre-cooked you're basically just heating and mixing it all together at this point. Season to taste. I use my basics - pepper, salt and garlic powder. Season to taste means season a little and taste it. If you feel it needs more, add more. It's easier to add a little than to start with too much you can't take back.

EXTRAS - Experiment with what you like. The 99 Cent Store has these jars of crushed peppers or sweet peppers that I like. You'll see a jar in one of the photos. I'll add some to the chicken and veggies while its cooking. Fajitas, of course are usually served with tortillas. Add what YOU like. Maybe you'd even like to use shrimp or beef instead of the chicken. Are you a Tofu person? Go for it!

If you're interested in making burritos you'll need to add to your list a can of re-fried beans, maybe some taco sauce or salsa and cheese. Oh, and your flour tortillas should be large enough to wrap and roll into a burrito.

Half of a baked chicken with the onion and bell peppers makes a dish about the size you see in the photo. I can usually get about 4-5 burritos out of it when combined with the beans and cheese. While you're cooking you can judge whether or not you need to add more meat and/or veggies. The good thing is, it only takes a short while to cook or add a little to the skillet.

Happy cooking!


Have you ever made your own hash browns? I'm a potato fiend. LOL! I love potatoes and hash browns are just one of the ways I cook them.

If you haven't I hope this adds just one more option to your breakfast menus. It only takes a minute to grate the potato. Mine tend to be a little more "colored" because I tend to cook my bacon or sausage first and then use a little of the remaining oil to fry the hash browns.

Heat your skillet while you're grating the potato. Some people grate in a little onion for more flavor. If you can think of anything else you'd like to grate in, give it a try! Add a little butter or oil to the skillet, just enough so the skillet doesn't burn, not so much it saturates your potatoes. When your skillet is hot, using your fingers position your shreds of potato into the shapes you want for your potato pancakes. You can easily you a spatula to push the edges into a shape before it starts to brown.

Flip your hash browns until they're as brown and cooked as you like. Season to taste. My usual is salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. Feel free to add a little more oil or butter if it is looking a little dry for your taste but remember it's better to add a little, then a little more then to add too much and not be able to take it back.

Garnishing - My family likes to put cheese on top. When its just about done add the cheese on top so that it is melted when you remove it from the skillet. Try a little salsa, grilled onion and/or mushrooms, Tabasco. Its your meal. Do it your way!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Baked Spaghetti is one of the dishes that was cooked often when I lived at home. I really don't like eating it the traditional way maybe because I tend to find pasta bland. This way the seasoning is cooked into the pasta. So if you're not a big spaghetti fan maybe you'll like it this way. If you're a big pasta fan maybe you'll like it this way too.

My recipe includes:

1 lb. pound of ground beef (I know people who prefer to use Italian Sausage).
Onion, bell pepper (red and green)
One package of Spaghetti seasoning mix
Three small cans of tomato sauce
One can of stewed tomatoes

Start your water to boil for the spaghetti. I usually add a little salt and garlic powder to the water. I've always thought it helped the water boil faster (smile), but even if it doesn't it smells good.

Fry your meat in a large skillet. Chop up your onion and bell peppers and add to the meat while it is cooking. Add in salt, pepper and garlic powder. Season to your taste preferences. Try to cook your meat so that you have nice sized chunks, like tiny meatballs. Add in the package of Spaghetti Sauce Mix.

When the meat is done add in the can of stewed tomatoes and two of the cans of tomato sauce. Don't throw the cans away! Fill each can with water and add it to the meat/sauce mix. Pour the meat/sauce mix into your baking pan.

Now for the spaghetti. When the water starts to boil add it your spaghetti and let it boil. I never use a whole package of spaghetti but it is trial and error knowing how much to use. I use about 3/4 pack of spaghetti. A trick is to stir the spaghetti as it cooks, especially right after you put the spaghetti in so that it doesn't stick together. Boil the spaghetti until when you lift it with a fork it is completely limp. I heard a trick once that if you take one and throw it at the ceiling, if it sticks it is done. I did that once. LOL! It works but I wouldn't recommend it because you have to get it down.

When it is done, drain it in a strainer and rinse. With a fork, lift out the spaghetti and mix it in through the meat/sauce mix. It should look like the photo below. Taste it and season to your preferences. Bake in the oven and 350.

The third can of tomato sauce comes in to personal preferences. Sometimes when you bake the pasta soaks up the sauce. Or, you've put in too much spaghetti and its looking not too saucy. Use the third can of tomato sauce to adjust. Add some tomato sauce and some water. Mix it in and put it back in the over to cook a little longer.

One adjustment would be what I call spaghetti surprise. I take cheese, cut it in chunks and stick it into the spaghetti in different places, covered by the spaghetti so that when you spoon it out to serve you have this nice melted cheese. Or, you can sprinkle cheese over it when it is served (below.)

This can be served with salad and garlic bread. Remember, always season to taste. The best cooking you can do it by learning from experience. Sometimes recipes don't make sense until you do it the first time to understand what someone is trying to tell you to do (smile.)

Happy eating and God bless!

Monday, February 21, 2011


I cook smothered chicken often. For me it's quick and easy. I hope you find it that way too.

First, I rinse my chicken, blot it dry and lay it on waxed paper. I season the chicken on one side, cover it with flour and pat the flour on the chicken to help it stick. Flip the chicken and repeat the seasoning and flouring. Use the flour that has accumulated on the waxed paper to cover the sides of the chicken. If you have alternatives to how you'd like the chicken, perhaps using a favorite fried chicken coating, feel free.

Next, fry the chicken just enough to brown it and you don't need a lot of oil for this, just enough to brown it. Experiment with different oils. Consider using peanut oil and olive oil.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and place in a baking dish. Next, make your gravy. I drain most of the oil from the skillet leaving just enough to moisten the bottom of the skillet. I use gravy flour and sprinkle it over the bottom of the skillet. Gravy flour is fine and doesn't clump. Let the flour turn the color brown you would like for your gravy. Add seasoning now or later when it boils. While the flour is browning I turn on the hot water and let it run then fill a glass with the hot water. When the flour has turned the color brown you want slowly add in the hot water, stirring it with a spatula.

It's better to start out with half a glass of water and add water as needed for the consistency you want. As it boils the flour will thicken. Add water OR more flour as needed for the consistency you want. My sister uses chicken broth. I've heard some people use milk.

For this recipe I used sliced onion, bell peppers and some sweet peppers in a jar I found at the 99 Cent Store. It added a spicy kick to the chicken. Cook the gravy for a while and season to taste. I use seasoning salt, pepper and garlic powder.

When the gravy is nice and gravy look (smile), pour it over the chicken in the baking dish. Cover and bake.

I'll admit I never know how long to cook chicken and usually tend to over-cook it but it the gravy it doesn't matter and is still nice and moist.

You can serve the smothered chicken with whatever sides you like. In this instance I made a fresh salad and some Rice A Roni.