Nov 02

Steak and Pinto Chili

I took the classic home chili recipe of 1 lb. hamburg + 1 can of tomatoes +1 can of kidney beans and kicked it up several notches to take this simple dish to a whole new level.

1 1/2 lbs sirloin steaks
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 (28 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes, drained
2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, undrained
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup chili powder (I use Ancho chili powder)
1 tablespoon cumin powder
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

  • Cut steak into roughly 1/2″ dice. (This is easier to do if you put your thawed steak into the freezer for about 30 minutes first.).
  • In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat; add steak, stirring until lightly brown all over. Add onion and garlic, stirring to prevent garlic from browning. Heat until onion is translucent.
  • Stir in chili powder and cumin. Add drained tomatoes and undrained pintos, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until heated through and flavors develop. Stir in sherry and cilantro.
  • Serve over hot rice, and garnish as desired with sour cream, shredded cheese and thinly sliced scallions.

Aug 11

Sausage and Kale Soup

 Kale and Sausage Soup

I’m trying to eat more greens especially while they’re at their peak during the summer, but I wanted more than just greens.  I decided soup was the answer, put together some of my favorite foods and flavors, and the results were exactly what I was craving. I like spicy food – if you prefer milder dishes, substitute regular diced tomatoes, mild sausage and omit the chili pepper.

  • 1 lb spicy/hot bulk sausage
  • 1 lb kale, cleaned and ready to use
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Thai red chili pepper, minced
  • 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 baking potato, diced
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans canellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes & chilies
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron (adds great flavor) (optional)
  • Crumble sausage in a large soup pot or dutch oven, cast iron if you have it, and cook over medium heat until no longer pink. Stir in onion, garlic and chili pepper and cook until translucent taking care not to let them brown. Depending on your sausage, you may need to add a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Add the kale and chicken stock – it will cook down rapidly so don’t panic if it overwhelms your pot at first. Just give it a few minutes.
  • When the kale has cooked down a bit, add the tomatoes, potato, beans, bay leaves, thyme and saffron. Let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potato is tender and the kale is cooked to the consistency you like.
  • Ladle into soup bowls and enjoy with crusty bread.

Jul 08

Barbara’s Fruit Salsa w/Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

My friend Barbara sent me this great summer recipe just full of fresh fruit flavors, with just the right amount of jalapeno kick to make it an instant make-again favorite.  Try washing it down with White Sangria from the Columbia restaurant!

Fruit Salsa:

2 T. apple jelly
2 T. light brown sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 jalapeno, seeded & minced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped fine
1 pint strawberries, hulled & chopped fine
3 kiwis, peeled and chopped fine

Cinnamon Chips:

2 T. granulated sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
12   6 inch flour tortillas

For fruit salsa:  Whisk jelly, sugar, orange juice, and jalapeno in large bowl.  Add apples, strawberries, and kiwis and toss to coat.

For chips: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat to 350 degrees.  Combine sugar and cinnamon in bowl.  Lightly coat tortillas on both sides with cooking spray and cut each into 6 wedges.  Arrange tortillas in single layer on two baking sheets and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top.  Bake until golden & crisp, 10 to 15 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking time.  Serve with salsa. 

Once cool, the chips can be stored at room temp in an airtight container for 4 days.  Salsa is best served immediately.

Jun 21

Greek Pepper Salad

This sounds way too simple to have such an amazingly complex flavor – served it the other night as part of a casual assortment of appetizers while entertaining friends and this was a huge hit. Perfect summer side to keep on hand in the fridge.

6 sweet peppers – I used 2 each of red, green and yellow
1/2 C chopped onion, preferably vidalia, if available
3 T white vinegar (I used white balsamic for the sweetness)
1/4 C EVOO
chopped fresh parsley to taste

  • Preheat oven to 450. Roast peppers approximately 20 minutes or until browned and charred. Put in a paper bag for about 20 to let the steam help loosen the skins.
  • Remove skins and seeds from peppers. Cut into strips and put in a bowl.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the peppers, toss to coat, and let sit for at least 1 hour prior to serving to allow flavors to develop. Serve cold or at room temperature.

May 03

Greek Shrimp with Tomatoes & Feta

This is my adaptation of a recipe I found on a Greek foods site, which I have cooked several times now; it’s a wonderful way to savor fresh Gulf shrimp and tomatoes. I’m also enjoying finding recipes where I can use the fresh herbs from my garden I planted several weeks ago and which are still thriving.  Amazing! Me – the original black thumb. Go figure.

1 1/2 lbs. medium large fresh shrimp, shelled & deveined
juice of 1 fresh lemon
1/3 C EVOO
1 bunch scallions, trimmed & thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled &  minced
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded, de-ribbed & diced fine
5 or 6 fresh Roma tomatoes, seeded & diced
1/2 C water
1 tsp dried or 2 T fresh oregano
1 C feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 C dry white wine
salt & pepper to taste
2-3 T fresh parsley, chopped

  • Sprinkle the cleaned shrimp with the lemon juice and let them stand until the sauce is ready.
  • Prepare the sauce: Heat the EVOO in a large skillet and saute the scallions, garlic and hot pepper until wilted. Add the tomatoes and water, lightly crushing them in the skillet with a fork. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Drain the shrimp and add them to the skillet. Add the oregano, salt & pepper, feta, and wine and cook the shrimp for about 5 mintues more over medium heat, or until pink and al dente. Remove, season to taste with additional salt & pepper, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve hot. Great over angel hair pasta or orzo.

Apr 21

Collard Greens Soup

 Fresh Collard Greens

I saw some beautifully fresh, ready to cook collard greens at the Salt Air Farmers Market on Saturday and they are perfect for this soup, my version of another classic recipe from one of my favorite restaurants, the Columbia Restaurant. I hope the farmers market survives as Port St. Joe has desperately needed some place to buy fresh, locally grown produce.  This was only the second time they’ve had it, and while it’s getting launched it’s scheduled for every other Saturday from 10 til 2. It’s on the corner of Reid Avenue by City Hall so if you get a chance please, by all means, support it.

3 15-oz. cans northern beans, drained & rinsed
½ lb. smoked ham, cut in small pieces 
1 smoked ham hock (or 1 packet Goya ham seasoning if you prefer)
2 potatoes, peeled & cut into eighths
1 bunch collard greens, washed, tough stems removed, cut into ½ inch strips
½ lb. pancetta, cut into medium dice
1 onion, chopped
4 minced garlic cloves
2 chorizos, thinly sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 quart water or chicken stock
Salt to taste

  • In a large pot, simmer ham and ham hock in 1 quart water or chicken stock for one hour.  Add drained & rinsed beans and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • When beans are partially cooked, add greens.  Cook until beans and greens are tender, adding water if necessary.
  • In frying pan, heat olive oil. Add pancetta. When fat is rendered, add onion and garlic. Saute until limp. Add to cooked beans along with potatoes and chorizo.  Season with salt if needed. This soup is better after it sits for 2 or 3 hours. Reheat and serve hot.
    Serves 6

Apr 19

Ultimate Pasta Salad

Throw away all of your other pasta salad recipes; this one can’t be beat.
Found it on recipezaar and it’s fantastic.

2 (6-ounce) cans tuna, drained
10 oz. small shell macaroni
1 C frozen peas
½ C chopped sweet onions
¾ C chopped celery
3 T sweet pickle relish
3 medium dill pickles, chopped (optional)
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 C Hellman’s mayo
2 T tarragon vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

• Cook pasta according to package directions.
• Add the frozen peas to the pasta just before you take it off the stove to drain in the colander.
• In a large bowl, mix vinegar and mayo. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well.
• Refrigerate for about an hour to chill before serving.
Serves 8

Feb 24

Barbara’s Kicked-Up Hot Artichoke Dip

Jill had us over for a Girl’s Night In on Friday and Barbara brought her version of classic artichoke dip, which she kicks up several notches by adding jalapenos, pimentos and sharp cheddar cheese. Yum! 

1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 jar pimentos, 4 oz. drained
6-12 jalapeño slices, chopped,  (adjust to your palate!)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

  • Mix everthing together and put in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
  • Bake 30 minutes at 325 degrees.  Serve with Doritos or Frito Scoops.  (I prefer Fritos: had them at the party)

Feb 12

Dark Chocolate Mint Brownies w/White Chocolate Glaze

Dark Chocolate Mint Brownies with White Chocolate Glaze

I needed a dessert to take to this month’s Ladies’ Luncheon and wanted to do something different. Not having much of a sweet tooth, I decided to make something combining my two favorite “sweet” flavors: dark chocolate and mint. (I used to count the days until the Girl Scout Cookie drive rolled around again so I could get my annual fix of the their chocolate mint cookies).  These are what I came up with, and they satisfy that flavor craving.


4 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp mint extracxt
1 1/3 cups flour
2/3 cups Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 12 oz. pkg. Hershey’s mint chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 350. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the narrow width of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan, and make it long enough for there to be several inches hanging over each of the long ends. You’ll use these as a handle to remove the finished brownies from the pan.
  • Beat eggs until foamy. Slowly add sugar. Blend in melted butter. Add vanilla and mint extracts. Beat for several minutes until smooth and frothy.
  • Stir together dry ingredients. Sift into the egg mixture. Mix on medium for two minutes until shiny and smooth. You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl while doing this.
  • Stir in mint choclate chips.
  • Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes or until edges of the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  • When completely cool, lift carefully from the pan using the parchment “handles” and place onto a cutting surface. Using a sharp roller style pizza cutter (best) or really sharp knife (2nd choice) cut lengthwise into 4 sections, and then crosswise into 8 sections.


2/3 cups white chocolate chips
1 tsp Crisco shortening

  • Put the chips and Crisco in a microwave safe measuring cup and nuke on high for 30 seconds.  Stir. Repeat for additional 15 second intervals stirring after each, until chips are melted and the glaze is smooth.
  • Pour into a sandwich size zip lock bag, twist the bag until the glaze is forced into one corner of the bag and, using scissors, make a really tiny snip in that corner.
  • Slowly drizzle glaze back and forth over the brownies first one direction, and then the other, to make a criss cross pattern. Put the brownies in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to completely set the glaze.

Feb 05

Julia and Barbara’s Lebanese Salad

Julia and her mom, Barbara, are two of my favorite cooks and they both send me terrific recipes. Julia’s made this salad for me several times and it’s wonderful; fresh and light with just a hint of mint. BONUS: Grab some extra fresh mint while you’re picking up the ingredients and treat yourself to a mojito while you’re making dinner! We always do. Barbara recommends making the dressing a little bit ahead of time to let the flavors get to know each other.

1 head lettuce
3 large tomatoes, cut in bite-size chunks
1 Tbsp. dried mint (or 1/2 C fresh, chopped)
1 small onion, sliced in thin crescent shapes
1 green pepper, cut in strips
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 C EVOO
1/3 C fresh squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste)

  • Wash lettuce, drain well. Tear up well-drained lettuce in a large bowl; add onion, mint, tomatoes and green pepper strips. Sprinkle with black pepper and garlic powder. Toss and set aside or in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • At serving time, add salt, lemon juice, and oil, mixed together, and toss lightly.
  • ALTERNATIVE METHOD: Mix the pepper, garlic powder, salt, lemon juice, and EVOO in a screw-top jar and refrigerate until ready to serve. Shake well before pouring over the salad.

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