Category Archives: Cooking

Serving up a different kind of Red Beans

On this Meatless Monday, I am serving up another kind of dish from the usual edible one. It was just last week on Lundi Gras in New Orleans (as part of Mardi Gras celebrations) that the creative members of the Red Beans parade krewe showed their stuff.

I don’t know how long it has been ‘tradition’ to serve Red Beans on Monday. It makes sense, though, that the Red Beans krewe parades on Monday, Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).

I hope you enjoy the photos. So many creative and artistic ways shown here to use dried beans, peas and lentils. Of course, you can figure out for yourself that New Orlean’s own Camellia Brand is a sponsor.

Maybe next year come visit around this time and see the parade for yourself. It is even better in person!

(almost) Meatless Monday: Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts

Although this week’s Meatless Monday recipe is one to which I usually add a bit of meat flavoring, I do give substitution for totally meatless. So I hope you will enjoy it either way.

Brussels Sprouts have always reminded me of little cabbages. One of the dishes my Grandma Erickson made that I loved so much was sweet and sour cabbage. I’ve never felt like I approached how well she made that dish (but then, I guess things always taste better when someone else cooks, lol). I even asked her many times if there was a secret, but she said no and just sloughed it off that I was making mine just as well. I do miss her (and that delicious sweet and sour cabbage she would make).

Anyway, my local Sam’s had gotten in some fantastic-looking fresh Brussels Sprouts recently. My taste buds turned to concocting a sweet and sour rendition using them. And thinking about the healthy benefits of Brussels sprouts, I am feeling good that something so tasty is good for us, too.

Healthy Brussels Sprouts: High in Antioxidant
Healthy Brussels Sprouts: High in Antioxidant

Here’s what I did for an (almost) Meatless Monday dish (but you could substitute some vegetable oil and a bit of smoke flavor in place of the prosciutto ham or bacon for totally meatless)  …

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, washed and sliced in half

I like to cut the Brussels Sprouts in half so they take on all the delicious sweet and sour flavors
I like to cut the Brussels Sprouts in half so they take on all the delicious sweet and sour flavors later on during the cooking

3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons rendered out rind from prosciutto ham, bacon or similar

salt to taste

black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon dried onion

lemon juice + apple cider vinegar to make 1/3 cup

rounded tablespoon of sugar

rounded tablespoon of whole caraway seeds

Instructions

Use large saucepan/top-of-stove Dutch-oven style pot with tight-fighting lid.

Add water and salt to pot and bring water to boil.

Starting to cook the Brussels sprouts
Starting to cook the Brussels sprouts

Add Brussels sprouts, black pepper and dried onions. Stir then cover.

Cook about 10 minutes over medium heat or until just barely to degree of desired doneness. (do not overcook into a mush!)

In a bowl, mix together the lemon juice/apple cider vinegar, sugar and caraway seeds until sugar is dissolved. Pour into the pot.

Cover pot and let simmer about 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Eat up!

sweet and sour brussels sprouts

Well, not the whole pot all at one time. This recipe does make a lot, so you are likely to have more than enough for a single meal. That is fine. Re-heat left-overs in microwave to enjoy another day. This dish holds up very well to that.

Cranberry and Apricot Couscous Spinach Salad

In keeping with Meatless Monday, here is a light, flavorful salad I concocted. Undoubtedly there are similar recipes out there, but I didn’t look and just went with what seemed right for a healthy salad with a fruity, balanced taste.

Cranberry and Apricot Couscous Spinach Salad
Cranberry and Apricot Couscous Spinach Salad

Cranberry and Apricot Couscous Spinach Salad
6 – 8 servings

1 –  10 oz / 284 g package Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat couscous, or other regular brand of your choosing
1 – 14.5 oz / 41 g can Swanson vegetable broth (or 2 cups of your own homemade vegetable stock)
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ cup chopped fresh onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 dried apricots, chopped
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
salt and pepper to taste
fresh spinach leaves

Empty the package of couscous into a bowl for which you have a cover or can be covered with a plate.

Measure the vegetable broth and add water to bring it to the 2 cup level. In a sauce pan, bring this to just boiling. Add dried cranberries, turn off heat and cover for about 2 minutes to steep and plump the cranberries.

Add the broth/cranberries to couscous and cover the bowl.

Meantime, put the oil in a small frying pan. Add onions and lightly sauté until the onions just start to become translucent.

Uncover the couscous, add onions and apricots. Fluff lightly with fork. Let cool slightly. Add cilantro, salt and pepper. Mix lightly with fork.

Serve over fresh spinach leaves.

Variation/substitutions:

  • Use parsley instead of cilantro
  • Use either light or dark raisins instead of dried cranberries
  • Substitute another favorite dried fruit for the apricots, or even coarsely chopped nuts
  • Substitute romaine, iceberg, or other variety of lettuce for the spinach

Enjoy!

Grilled Chicken Hot Wings

Although I have done several blog posts in the last year around the theme of “Meatless Doesn’t Have to be Tasteless”, I don’t want you to leave you with the impression that I have anything against meat — I don’t. I just wanted share with you some of my findings for ways that one can have tasty dishes without meat.

I still do enjoy occasional meat dishes, though. And for tailgating, whether it is for upcoming play-off football games or Mardi Gras parades, chicken Hot Wings are a tasty and welcome treat for everyone.

Tail gating for a Mardi Gras parade with hot wings
Tail gating for a Mardi Gras parade - my man-friend John (left) and son Tommy (right)

You can refer to a recipe I tried here at the Weber Grill site while I take you on a photo tour of the cooking steps.

The spices and minced chipotle peppers in adobe sauce to mix to make the paste:

The ingredients for the marinade paste
The ingredients for the marinade paste

Waste not – Want not. These are the wing joint tips that I cut off and have started to cook for a chicken broth I will use as soup base later in the week.

Don't throw away the wing tips! Cook them to make broth for another time.
Don't throw away the tips of the chicken wings! Cook them to make broth for another time.

The paste is smeared onto the remaining wing joints and left to marinate in the frig for a while.

Marinating the wing joints
Marinating the wing joints

The wing pieces are set onto the grill to be cooked. (lighting is obviously different between indoors and later at night outdoors under the patio lighting). I realized after putting these onto the grill that I had overlooked the part in the recipe about wiping off the extra paste before putting onto the grill. Oh well … and I even scraped out the extra remnants of paste from the bowl and had spread it on the piece parts because I thought all that good paste should not be wasted. ha! ha! So, extra hot can’t be bad, right?

Starting to grill the Hot Wings
Starting to grill the Hot Wings

Here are the wings after cooking ’til nearly done, then tossed into the hot sauce, then put on grill again. One thing to remember … after tossing the nearly cooked wings in the bowl with the hot sauce, DO NOT just dump the bowl to save time in getting the chicken quickly onto the grill again. The oil in the hot sauce mixture flared up and I thought I was going to have burned hair on my head!! Fortunately, I guess my reflexes were good enough, or maybe just some good angel was watching over me. No singed hair and all is well.

Hot Wings are nearing completion
Hot Wings are nearing completion. Don't they look good?!

Finished and ready to eat (lighting is under the kitchen fluorescents again). The recipe included a blue cheese dressing which of course I enjoyed some with the 4 wing joints I taste-tasted (yah, I know I could have just eaten one, but I had to be sure, lol). Obviously I have plenty more left (20 if I am counting correctly) for sharing.

Do you have a favorite Hot Wings recipe?

Forgotten Kisses Remembered

Memories of holidays past embrace the delicate confections of meringue that my Mommy would make for each Christmas. We simply called them “Kisses” although I’ve since learned that most people refer to them as Forgotten Kisses. Here is my attempt from yesterday to make the minty pink and green Forgotten Kisses with mini-chocolate chip as I remembered them. It didn’t turn out exactly as I planned, but I might also have discovered something even better.

In keeping with my usual fearlessness in making substitutions if necessary to accomplish a cooking objective, I couldn’t find the mint flavoring and mini-chocolate chips I thought I already had on hand. Oh well. I figured a quick trip to the grocery store would fix that. Unfortunately, my local No-Winn Dixie had neither. I bought some clear Creme de Menthe liqueur (a huge bottle just to get a couple of teaspoons worth!) and a bag of Ghirardelli bittersweet dark chocolate chips (there was only one bag left at the store, so at least I was not tempted to get more, lol).

The ingredients are simple and drop cookies are about the easiest type of cookie you can make. Here is an outline of the ingredients and assembly steps from yesterday’s cooking adventure. Enjoy!

Minty Pink and Green Forgotten Kisses with Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips

Ingredients
whites from 4 eggs
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons Creme de Menthe liqueur
1 – 11.5 oz bag Ghiardelli cups bittersweet chocolate chips
few drops of red food coloring
few drops of green food coloring

assembling the ingredients for meringue kisses
assembling the ingredients for meringue kisses

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 3 large cookie sheets with waxed paper cut to size.

Separate whites from yolks. Set aside yolks for use in something else. Put whites into mixer bowl and let come to near room temperature.
With electric mixer and wire wisk attachment, beat egg whites until frothy.
Add cream of tartar to egg whites and beat the mixture until stiff.
Add sugar slowly, about 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat in thoroughly after each addition.
Continue to beat until mixture is glossy. Stir in Creme de Menthe.
With rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chips.
Put about half of mixture in a different bowl. Tint mixture in one of the bowls with red food coloring. Tint the other with green food coloring.
For each cookie, drop a heaping teasponful of the mixture onto a cookie sheet. Leave a bit of space between cookies for expansion and airflow.

spooning out the mixture for drop cookies
spooning out the mixture for the first tray of drop cookies

Put a tray in the oven and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until just barely starting to brown and become dry and crunchy. Repeat with each of the other trays.
Meantime, let each tray cool somewhat and then remove cookies to a wire rack.

the meringue cookies baking
the second tray of cookies baking

After completely cooled and dried, store in a tightly sealed container or zipper bag. On the other hand, they probably won’t last long enough to store.

Makes about 90 festive meringue cookies. The red and green colors suggested in this recipe are for the Christmas holidays. Feel free to vary the colors for other holidays and special events such as Halloween, school colors for homecoming, etc.

TIP: If possible, make Kisses on a dry day. If it is humid, the meringue is more likely to “wilt”, and the cookies might tend to flatten out and lose their crispness.

~~~~~~~

The Creme de Menthe liqueur did not make the cookies as minty-flavored as I would have liked. But that might have been because the taste was overpowered by the fantastic aroma and taste of chocolate (i.e. 60% cacao Ghirardelli rather than the normal Nestles semi-sweet chocolate chip variety). No one can turn down good chocolate though. So even though these are not quite the traditional ones as I remember, they won’t last long.

Kisses

p.s. Some people also just turn the oven heat off immediately and “forget” the cookies for several hours. But this is not practical if doing a larger batch like this that takes more than two large trays and you have only one oven.

p.p.s. Now what do you suggest I use those egg yolks for? I am thinking egg custard or bread pudding? Other ideas?