Friday, December 24, 2021

Bone in Holiday Ribeye/ Sweet and Sour Green Beans for the Win, Whose Cider You On!


If you've tired of the traditional fare that comes with the holidays, grab a Ribeye and get the party started right!  I have a Blackstone griddle and grill/griddle combination pans, so bringing this recipe to life is a cinch.  A nice cast iron skillet with the ribbed bottom can get this lovely protein to center stage also, which is what I used for the featured photo.
All you have to do is whip up a quick marinade using soy sauce, apple cider or unsweetened apple juice, smashed garlic, onion powder and some black garlic paste with tomato puree and dash of liquid smoke, Hickory or Mesquite.  After marinating for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer, pat the Ribeye dry, SPST ( Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)  and introduce it to a screaming hot grill pan or griddle.  Let the protein go unbothered for about 4 minutes.  After the 4 minutes, using two pairs of tongs, pick up the steak and turn it 1/4 turn of the pan.  This will give you the signature grill type marks some associate with a restaurant quality steak, also referred to as crosshatches. 
A Crosshatch pattern presents as tiny squares, particularly in a grill pan with a grid looking arrangement, like the longer, combination griddle.  At this point 4 more minutes will have passed and you are ready to flip.  I like to put a lid or tinted foil on the pan to encourage all around cooking and reduce splatter, but of course, do what's best for your cooking style.  Once the steak has gone for several more minutes, depending on doneness desired, you are free to use your tongs to sear off the sides of your steak. 
Generally, I prefer my steaks medium rare, but for Ribeyes, I like to take them to medium.  Finish your  Ribeye off with a pat of cultured butter.  Allow your steak to rest for a full 5 minutes under tented foil to allow for redistribution of the delicious juices.  
While the pan is still hot, toss in your green beans and saute them for about 3 minutes.  Add a splash of seasoned rice vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil.  SPST.
Your mega meal in a flash is ready to go.  Smashed or mashed potatoes and a beautiful green salad will complete your masterpiece!  This featured steak will serve two, but that is a  decision you make, Enjoy

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Three Mushroom Sachets#Perfect Day


During the month of December, I was fortunate enough to participate in an exclusive trial of a revolutionary new product to the food world, Animal Free Cream Cheese.  I know it sounds bizarre, but the creators at Perfect Day did just that, creating a smooth, creamy, flavorful and versatile product, suitable for replacing a traditional animal based cream cheese in virtually any recipe.  Using a process of fermentation, scientists were able to isolate the milk protein and extract it, serving as the building blocks for the creation of this imaginative and quite genius spread.  

Through the resourcefulness of Chef's Roll, an industry leading hub for Chefs, both at home and professional, restaurant employees, restaurateurs, foodies, small businesses, Culinarians and the like, plus a bevy of sponsors with amazing products.  I was selected as one of only 100 chefs to participate in the opportunity to develop recipes in two categories for this soon to be trending food item.  Many thanks to both for a key ingredient and inspiration for this featured recipe, Vegan Three Mushroom Sachets.  

I wanted to showcase this wonderful animal free cream cheese with a recipe that would not hide its delicious taste and texture.  After a bit of research, I found inspiration in the Middle Eastern Borek, which is a pastry filled with either meats, cheeses or a sweet filling.  Phyllo dough is used, which is naturally Vegan and that was certainly an attribute to the dish as a whole.  I chose to create these almost hand pie- like pouches, filled with Perfect Day Animal Free Cream Cheese and meaty, earthy mushrooms, three types actually; Baby Bella, Button (8 oz. each) and the piece de resistance of the three, Black Morels, (5 small or about 2 oz.) which I personally foraged, dehydrated and stored from an anomaly of a season past.  I foraged almost 200 in one area!! This was especially satisfying, since I'd only collected 3 from the wild, before this moist and cool, late March mid morning.  Procurement of the Morels is a story for another day, so I must dial back my ADHD to the experience at hand haha, you can read about it here anytime though, just search Morels and Foraging on my page for stories and the recipes they inspired! 

I started this featured recipe by gently cooking about 2 tbsp. minced yellow onion and pressed, minced garlic, 2 cloves, until soft and translucent., about 6 minutes.    I used a plant butter for this part.  After sauteing the thinly sliced mushrooms in a bit of roasted Walnut oil with a tad of extra virgin olive oil, I de-glazed with a small portion of the mushroom water from re-hydrating the Morels, about 1/4 c. and cooked out the excess moisture.  I combined them with the chiffonade of fresh sage and mint, about 1 tsp. sage and 1/2 tsp. mint.  I added 1/4 c. nutritional yeast for body and flavor reminiscent to that of Aged Parmesan.  I then folded the veggie blends into the AF cream cheese. SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste).  I used Himalayan Pink Salt, fine grain, for lots of beneficial trace minerals and harmonious balance with the mushrooms.

Additionally, you can elevate the filling even more by using a counter top smoker and smoking the cheese blend before placing the filling in the pastry.  I used double sheets of the Phyllo dough to make the sachets, placing 2 tbsp. portions in the center and folding over to the ends, and then folding the outer sleeves under the filled portions.  I brushed them with plant butter, during and after.  Bake the sachets on parchment paper lined baking sheet for about 25 minutes in a 375* convection oven until golden.


Vegan Three 'Shroom Sachets with Perfect Day

Delicious warm or at room temperature.  Makes 10 sachets or you can reduce the portions to about 1 tsp. each and make appetizer servings.  

This dish is just perfect as is or as a vegan main course alongside a nice gourmet greens salad with cranberries and roasted pecans.  Additionally, the appetizer portions will go well at ANY social, dinner or occasion where food and wine is involved, even the strict carnivores can appreciate this dish.   My tasters approved unanimously, myself included.

Flaky, Delicious, Hearty and Vegan with Perfect Day AF Cream Cheese

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Holiday Pull Apart Brunch Casserole

 Casseroles are a delicious and affordable way to get meals on the table in a timely fashion.  They are awesome because they can be made ahead and modified easily to fit any palate.  Generally speaking, breakfast casseroles are popular and filling, especially for brunch or even dinners, by adding a simple green or fruit salad for accompaniment.  It's always nice when we can present our meals with a little flair to peak the interest of our sometimes unimpressed brood, often familiar with dishes that can be correlated to the day of the week.  I once dated a guy whose mom was on one such schedule.  If ever I was unsure of the day of the week, I simply noted what she was serving for dinner, i.e. Fast Food Friday or Hotdogs, baked beans and mac/cheese Wednesday, you get the drift.  She was a mother of two, wife and full time at a busy office, so understandably devised a routine, passe to her household, but admirable to me.  

They were well versed in the almost robotic menu, so they never seemed excited for dinner.  The following recipe is to help divert one such outcome, using tater tots as the border, sides and crust.  They have been partially thawed and some are crumbled into the bottom, while others are stacked to create crust.  The finished border may be plucked off and dipped in your favorite sauce or ketchup, while the rest serves as the vessel to hold the delicious and savory ingredients, married through staples like sharp cheddar, green onion and local, fresh eggs.  I used a 2 lb. bag of tater tots, partially thawed,  for this recipe.  
Serves Plenty.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Quilted Mac and Cheese

With the holidays fast approaching,  our menus will be brainstormed, assessed and executed with surgical precision and garnished with stress.  Whether you choose a traditional or modern ensemble, there are always little tweaks and adjustments we can make to what we are already comfortable with, to elevate a dish or recipe in no time. 
 The featured photo is what I call "quilted", because of the block style appearance of the melted cheese on top and throughout.  I cubed some of the cheese portions larger than others, as to not completely melt into the dish and retain some of its shape and offer more texture.  I prepped two contrasting color portions of the cheese used for this recipe and scattered the blocks randomly atop, to create a look similar to that of your Grandma's hand sewn quilt, passed down to your mother and one day, becoming your own.  
Now, having an heirloom quilt is not a requirement and is certainly not going to affect the wonderful outcome of this little tip, but hopefully it will create the same warming, cozy and familiar feeling you just had thinking about it. Additionally, if you love the idea of quilting as a hobby, it's never too late to begin one and create some living history and a chance to get your kids engaged in adding some of the swatches that represent themselves or things that are important in their lives. Participation begets Appreciation!  Enjoy!

Quilted Mac and Cheese effect created using two types of cheese, cubed 


Friday, September 17, 2021

Spaghetti Pie and a Beautiful Sky

 A fantastic spin on a familiar comfort food and leftovers is a delicious Spaghetti Pie!  I found the original recipe in a cookbook from the early 80's and adapted it in my own style to become one of my own.  This recipe is particularly great for elevating the leftovers from your last night's spaghetti dinner, with the implementation of just a few more ingredients.  By no means does the dish have to begin with dinner past, you may create the components as you go, but this way is ideal for time and efficiency's sake. 
 The noodles of the Spaghetti Pie are tossed with beaten eggs, mixed with some Parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic powder and pressed into the shape of a 'pie' crust in your desired vessel.  This time I used a casserole, but you may use pie pans, if you have them available.  the already cooked noodles are then covered with a blend of sour cream, Parmesan cheese and other fresh aromatics of your choice like parsley, basil and oregano.  Be sure to leave a border, as one would with a pie as well.  
The meat sauce is then spread over the sour cream blend , then covered and baked through for about 30 minutes, give or take depending on the oven.  This allows time for the egg to set up and form a pasta crust with the meat sauce suspended in the middle.  Once the dish has baked and set, you may sprinkle with Cheddar cheese or a cheese blend to your liking ,then popped back into the oven until melted.  Add the finishing touches by garnishing with olive oil, parsley and Parmesan cheese for a dinner makeover that's elevated and phenomenally different, plus even more delicious because everyone knows spaghetti is better the next day!! 
Spaghetti Pie before covering and baking for 30 minutes .

A gorgeous sunrise in North Myrtle Beach with the colors of Summer's End.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Thank You

 This photo is dedicated to all my viewers and supporters. I want to thank you for helping me attain almost 7 Million views on my photography as a Google Local Guide and a new milestone of views for my recipes, reflections and photography here on my website. Thanks so much and I look forward to sharing  much more. You are Loved and Appreciated. See you soon and as beautiful as this photo is, (taken while on vacation in Clarksville) Don't Let the Sun Set on Your Dreams, Keep It Pushing! #TEAMKIP

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Badeaux's Seafood and Grill: Down in the Bayou by Way of South Boston

Fried Alligator App at Badeaux's

One of the highlights this year during our visits to Clarksville is stopping by South Boston to dine at Badeaux's Seafood and Grill. They have an array of delectables, with Cajun flair, as well as burgers, BBQ, Steaks, Wings and Cajun style seafood options. I was particularly interested in giving the Gator menu items a go. We had the Alligator Basket and Bacon Cheese Fries Appetizers and they were DELISH! The morsels of fried golden goodness were tender and supple, with a hearty crunch and optional Cajun heat. The Gator sauce is a unique and yummy, even on fries! We ordered with Prompt and Friendly service. Our server was excellent and personable, courteous and attentive, without being overly so. We had lunch before heading back up north on our destination. Our food was hot and fresh, Blues played while we enjoyed our burgers, I recommend the "Slap Ya Mamma" Burger, though I wouldn't advise it :), the Collard Greens are BOSS! My girls enjoyed the Mac and Cheese side, which is an option with any burger combo at no extra charge. Next time, we'll be having dinner and checking out the rest of the expansive menu. Smiles all the way around the table and the restaurant was clean. We'll be taking a drive back, sooner than later, it's worth the hour plus. Next time you happen to be in the South Boston, Va area, be sure to look them up, I 'Guarantee' the taste will bring you back!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Smoking Greens

 Rainbow Chard from my garden, along with fresh thyme, sage and rosemary.

 A quick and easy way to incorporate some smoky , flavorful goodness into your freshly picked garden greens is to use a counter-top smoker.  Normally, you would achieve the smoke factor by adding a piece of good ole' side meat or jowl, which has smoke already imparted into the protein, transferring through some long simmering and juices infusing the water therein.  
A helping heaping of hickory smoke can be added with some hickory chips, or chips of your choice, like cherry or apple, and you can add a drizzle of olive oil, to create a healthier, heart healthful bunch of greens without feeling guilty.  Of course, the good ole way is wonderful too, plus you can always use smoked turkey parts, but this way is a vegan way to enjoy your greens, Southern style with no regrets.  
You can add as much or little smoke as you like, just be mindful that too much of it can cause a bitterness you may not enjoy as much.  Fresh lemon juice adds brightness and freshness, as well as fresh cracked pepper.  Put some smoke in the air and some good in your greens with a cold smoker, yet another way to add some Soul and Southern American to your plate!  

Thursday, July 22, 2021

New Adventures in Planting

 This is the flower of a Japanese Eggplant.  A first for me, I am interested in all of its growing phases and properties.  I just wanted to share this photo of my first bloom.  I thought it was really interesting that the center parts or anthers look like a bunch of bananas.  I find it fascinating that they are grouped as such.  I have them individually planted in growing vessels and they aren't going as fast as the ones I gifted my sister, as she has hers planted in her ground growing garden.  

The result should be a long cucumber shaped fruit that is deep purple, like the color of its stem.  I am excited about this new cooking endeavor.  I can see them stuffed and baked with all sorts of delicious fillings, both plant and meat based.  I plan to keep them all, because I need as much experience with cooking them as possible.  I like adding new and different ingredients to my cooking wheelhouse.   I'd love to know what you're adding to yours.  Feel free to share what you're curious about or working into your may leave your answers in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cherry Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese with Cherries

Spice up your summer grilled cheese sandwich with some fresh cherries!  Aside from being rich in antioxidants and beneficial polyphenols and excellent for treatment of the gout or excess buildup of uric acid in the body, these deep red dollops of delicious, are a perfect way to elevate your old fashioned grilled cheese.   
The cheeses I used are Gouda, Sharp Cheddar and American.  They complement the cherries excellently and together they make a cohesive and bright addition to any hot summer's day menu.  While they are in season now, you can find the most flavorful and sweet fruits to make lots of fantastic dishes or add ins at a most reasonable price.  The cherries provide a great texture to match the crispy,buttery outer bread and the ooey gooey center of molten cheese.  Simply slice the cherries in half and remove the  pit.  Add the cherries just as the cheeses start to melt, so they are just warmed slightly and won't give up their juiciness on the bread.  
The larger pieces of cherry make for an awesome mouthful of juicy goodness.  I like to use mayonnaise on the bread for our grilled cheese because it provides impeccable crunchtacity (my word) and a gorgeous golden hue. I also like to use Honey Wheat.  Breads, cheeses and fruit go hand in hand, have some all in one! Grilled Cheese with Cherries, Yes, Please! 



Monday, July 19, 2021

Royal Chicken


I used a whole pineapple as the base and baster for a Cornish hen recipe and it turned out AAHmazing. 

The revised plan involves a pineapple after you have used a pineapple cutting device that cuts out the meat and makes slices in a couple of easy steps.  The marinated hen is then slid down on the core that remains inside the pineapple and open roasted or grilled until done.  The finished product is then removed from the stub and the stub can then be discarded.  The pineapple in the featured photo shows a bird that sits on a pineapple throne, with part of the pineapple flanking the back side.  This promotes the self basting aspect and leaves roasted pineapple to be sliced and served alongside as a side dish.  

I open roasted the Cornish hen in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  I then moved it to my smoker and added an elevated, smoky element to the already flavorful protein.  The end result is a tender, moist and absolutely delicious meal for one or light dinner for two.  I used a Kickin' Chicken' rub with a little heat to marinate the chicken, also a bit of liquid aminos, smashed garlic, freshly cracked pepper and a nice glug of olive oil.  I also painted on some of the residual juices with some fresh sage from my herb garden and let those flavors hang out and kiss the bird subtly as it rested.  

I love this dish for several reasons, but most appealing is finding another use for my pineapples when I remove the viable fruit.  The vessel that remains is still full of flavor and juices that can be a perfect cooking add on.  The small tasty bird sits on a throne of golden awesomeness and is fit for a king...or queen, Royal Chicken for the 'commonfolk', Long Live the Queen.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

5n@i1 5p@gh3tt1: Spaghetti a la Escargot

Escargot (Snails)
I have wanted to try Escargot for the longest time.  I had so many questions and I finally got the opportunity for some hands on lab. First off, man are they off putting, to say the least, I won't even tell you the words that came to my mind to describe them, nor will I tell you what my family members thought they resembled.  There were four of us willing to give them a try, my sister Bonnie. her husband Jackie, Bronwyn and myself.  I was relieved that they are not slimy in the can.  I can't say I enjoyed the smell at first though.  These were the giant variety and they were about the size of an average sized meatball.  They are quite firm and have good texture, with an almost rubbery undertone.  I made sure that I cooked them gently, afraid of the potentially irreversible consequences of a tough protein such as this.  
Traditionally, Escargot is prepared with a garlic, butter and parsley compound and broiled lightly to melt the delicious aromatics down into the shell, which are to be purchased separately.  I failed to get my order for the shells in before our vacation departure and I figured I would scarcely find them for purchase in any of the supermarkets or shoppes near the lake, so I took them in a different direction.  I wanted to come from this experience with something different and I think I achieved as much with this recipe.  
To counter the almost scary appearance of the Escargot, I halved them, then sliced them into manageable pieces, hoping to capture the appetites of the naysayers.  Next time, I will keep them whole and follow a more traditional route, preparing them in their I guess you would say intended form, for a more genuine experience.  
This recipe is a good introduction to the world of Escargot, a once exclusive dish for the wealthy, now transgressed into a dish to be served on any given weeknight, full of delicious nuances and mystery.

Snails are not just your average exotic food, they also bring with them many nutritional benefits.
They are rich in protein,  substantially so, providing about 18 grams per serving.  The fat in Escargot, albeit small, is mostly polyunsaturated.  Snails boasts essential fatty acids of the good variety, linolenic and linoleic acids, respectively, they lend brain and heart health benefits. There is a wealth of iron, magnesium and calcium, plus copper and phosphorus.   Snails are a good alternative meat as well as a healthy one.  They have vitamins A, B12 and K, where K is mostly found in the veggie department, particularly greens with leaves.  Vitamin B6 and folate also have presence.  If that weren't enough, Escargot has two amino acids that are also present in eggs, lysine and  arginine, both in higher amounts than it's more familar round buddy!  They are sustainable and have a much smaller impact on the environment than other animal proteins.  Just a thought.

Spaghetti a la Escargot


1 7.7 oz. can giant snails, halved and sliced thinly
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked according to instructions in salted water, al dente
1 large ripe tomato, chopped with seeds removed
1 bunch fresh herbs, about 1/2 c. lemon thyme, parsley and sage, rough chopped
6 tbsp. salted Amish Butter 
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
1/2 c. chopped yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Olive oil and fresh herbs for garnish
Shredded or Shaved Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Place butter, olive oil, onion and garlic in a large saucepan over low heat and let sweat for about 20 minutes, until soft and fragrant.  
Add Escargots and gently warm through, while pasta cooks.
Once pasta is cooked, drain and transfer to saucepan with butter mixture and turn  up to medium, add tomato and herbs, SPST, tossing until everything is coated and well incorporated.  
Garnish with additional herbs and Parmesan cheese as desired.  
Makes 6 to 10 servings. 


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Calypso Cranberry and Pecan Shrimp Boats

Calypso Spice Rub Makes these Colossal Shrimp Pop!
Nice cooling salads are right at home this time of year.  With the heat hitting record highs week after week, we are all looking for a quicker and cooler way to get breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table, and at least try to follow the RDA.  I came up with this nutritious and delicious plus versatile salad while on vacation last week in the beautiful Occoneechee State Park.  I knew I wanted a nice bright salad along with our special steak dinner, commemorating our last night of another spectacular getaway, the other 5 nights went by so fast.  
We decided on a nice set of Ribeyes, on sale at the time for a great price via Food Lion, some fresh Romaine, cherry tomatoes and Italian Herbs, as I was in the process of making my first homemade, handmade pasta, after watching a couple of tutorials.  It had been on my mind for some time now and I made a promise to myself that I would execute while on vacation.  I can't wait to share that experience with you too. 
Back to the salads, I had some fantastic Colossal White Shrimp on board, as well as some salad topping with cranberries and candied pecans.  I also picked up some shredded Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapenos.  I had a Calypso spice rub to try out and therein, the recipe was born.  
The Romaine was large, crisp and fresh with leaves as large as a small long plate, so I decided to build the salad right on it.  With the shrimp marinating since earlier in the day and my Blackstone grill, I was able to make light work of a nice Grilled Shrimp Salad to accompany the steaks, baked potatoes and pasta.  
The meal was a lovely affair, with a couple of simple candles and a bottle of Red, the kiddoes imbibed on some Zero Sugar fruit beverage blend, which was thirst quenching and refreshing.  We celebrated some of my personal achievements that had been forgone because of other obligations. Now, we could toast to those milestones and bright moments and be Thankful and Grateful for our each other and the many everyday blessings, often overlooked.   I could take a moment to be proud, with my loved ones and a good meal, every aspect, prepared by me, a dinner that would have easily cost around $200 including tip for 4 people.  The atmosphere was ambient and every aspect was spot on, like it was meant to be.  
This salad can easily serve as a nice lunch or dinner meal by increasing the amount of shredded Romaine, adding more tomatoes, cucumber and a couple more shrimp.  The added bonus is less dishes to clean afterwards, since you can literally eat the salad 'bowl'!  Don't have large shrimp? No problem, just use what you have on hand and be careful not to overcook them.  

1 large head Romaine lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 medium cucumber
4 oz. shredded Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapenos
1 pkg. salad topper with Cranberries and Candied Pecans
Colossal Shrimp, shell on, but de-veined, mine came cleaned
Calypso dry rub, 1 tbsp. per pound
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 tbsp. per pound
SPST ( Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Olive Oil for drizzling
Dressings of your choice, I used Buttermilk Ranch and Tangy French
In a large resealable bag, combine shrimp, spice rub and olive oil.
Marry the flavors and place in fridge until ready to grill. This may be done up to a day ahead for Colossal shrimp.
Tear the larger, best and sturdiest leaves off and trim or break to make the boats for the salads, trimming from the root side, for however many salads you'll need.
Julienne the remaining lettuce, light and dark parts, enough to fill each bowl with about 1/2 to 3/4 c. lettuce per boat.
Trim and peel the off most of the cucumber skin lengthwise, alternating in strips, such that it creates a striped design. Cut the cucumber in 1 to 1 1/2 inch portions and core out seeds using a butter knife or small paring knife. 
Place on paper towels to remove excess moisture, until ready to use. 
Grill the marinated shrimp, flipping once, until done, careful not to overcook, time depends on the 
size of the shrimp, mine took around 4 minutes total on a high griddle. Let rest before peeling. 
To assemble:
Place shredded lettuce on each boat, then nestle a piece of cucumber among the lettuce and top with a cherry tomato, several if you like.
Peel shrimp down to segment before tail, for aesthetic and position on top of lettuce or as desired.
Sprinkle with cranberries and candied pecans.
Sprinkle with scant amount of cheese.
Drizzle with Olive Oil and SPST, as desired.
Serve Dressings on the side.


Three Course Meal Celebration Dinner, with Handmade Pasta and Sauce, Casual Plating

Backyard Bounty; Black Raspberries

 Thanks to some resourceful and well traveled little birdies, I have these beautiful little gems in the backyard.  I'd walked past and wondered about them for quite some time, curious, enough to do a bit of research, with fruitful results.  The vines are relatively new to the landscape, and I was walking past them on my way to my small growing station, where some of my Rainbow Chard, Spinach and Brassica microgreens are taking advantage of the morning sun. 
I noted that the berries were very characteristic of what I know to be blackberries, our yard has two types, tasty and fresh, though not enough to 'stick in your eye', as the elders would say, only fit for a nice little bite of sunshine, while stirring around with yard chores, not even a bowlful.  Even still, we do have more blackberry vines on the outskirts of the thicket in our field.  I also have a neighborhood friend that once brought me a gallon bucket full! This was 2 summers ago.  He tells me that it's looking good for another good harvest and is keeping me in mind, fingers crossed.  I'm  already making plans for a delicious Blackberry Cobbler, scones and jam.  

The Black Raspberry looks very much like a blackberry at first glance, but if you pay attention to some of its characteristics, you will see the differences.  Leaf cluster and berry arrangement are two of them.  I found a spectacular article on a site while doing positive identification research that breaks these properties down in a way that really opened my eyes and was very comprehensive as well as informative, just scan this QR code for the full article!  

If you can't scan the code, simply follow this link to discover whether your 'blackberry' vines are actually black raspberries! .  The author does a fantastic job of helping you identify the treasures that could be hiding in plain sight, in your own backyard or even a walking trail, meadow or nearby field.  Organic Raspberries fetch a pretty penny in the supermarket, around $6 a pint, so why not do a little foraging and save on your fresh fruit budget.

Black Raspberries, also known as thimble-berries and black caps, not to be confused with the Death Caps, which are a species of poisonous mushroom, are a powerhouse of wonderment.  Not only to they provide essential Vitamins C,E and K (which is usually more prominent in leafy greens) but also cancer thwarting antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber and anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins are responsible for the red color in fruits and veggies, the deeper the color, the more it has.  Black Raspberries are even better for you than the red variety, boasting hyper positive digestive and heart health properties.  Additionally, the black ones are are anti-inflammatory and just plain delicious!  

National Fried Chicken Day Recap

As many of you all know, yesterday was the day of the golden fried and delicious pieces of Southern crispity happiness and we paid homage in the cooling evening air, with friends, family and good music and conversation.  It was a very informal affair and rather unannounced, but somehow, we kind of always end up together.  I made my custom breading for a crust that's hard to beat and a flavor profile bursting with levels, personality and the implement of heat using some Korean Red Pepper Flakes, thanks Mukbangers for turning me on to that gem!  My family adores my fried fare, though I don't make it so often as to worry about it being so bad for us.  
I feel that I've perfected my method over the years and all my tasters so far approve, Winning!  My youngest teen prefers boneless chicken and I credit that to sheer laziness haha, but she is a bit leary about food with bones in general, for fear of shards and bits of bone posing a choking hazard.  I respect that, though sometimes it does seem a tad trivial, but hey "Safety First".  I must admit though, she seems to always end up with that food item with something "chokey" in it.  With this in mind, I fried some boneless chicken breast cutlets, careful to examine the chicken before breading.    I also made some crinkle cut French Fries, along with some Waffle Fries, my girls' favorite of the two.  I served the chicken legs and breasts with all the dipper favorites including Buttermilk Ranch, Barbecue Sauce, Thai Chili Sauce, Sriracha, Texas Pete, Mayonnaise, Ketchup and lots of honey wheat and white bread!

I cooked outside on the patio using a propane burner in my go-to chicken frying pot.   I have a "deep frying" pot, but I just love my Emeril, it is a beast for everything.  I've been using it for years now, even and consistent, it's just awesome.  I've been using my primary fry pot since I was in college, well, just out of college. It was a part of my first set of cookware I purchased as an adult and has a wealth of history and 'meal memory'. Admittedly, it's not pretty anymore, but it sure is special, efficient and a true workhorse in the kitchen.  One of the 'rites of passage' in our family is being able to fry a good bird, one I take great pride in, gravy and 'hoe cakes' are in the same category, and with 7 sisters, I must represent. Though I make them infrequently, I like to keep my skills sharp.  The aforementioned foods are a part of the foundation of Southern, African American cooking.  

We also got together for the Fourth of July and I fried some rounds of fish, Whiting Fillets, (the standard for any summer gathering with many people of color) which is another crowd pleaser.   We had all the other customary foods, like burgers, hotdogs, various cold salads, Italian sausages and so on.  We even had a family member bring some crab legs and these gorgeous whole Dungeness Crabs, I used my steamer pot for those and they were spectacular, a wonderful variant to the rest of the menu.  

Dungeness Crabs ready for a steam bath.

We were very chill on National Fried Chicken Day, much like a regular dinner outside.  We didn't engage in the same activities as we did on the 4th, but I'll delve into that day in an upcoming post.  This is one phenomenal and fun 'holiday'! Until next time, keep your crust crunchy and the interior moist and don't forget the hot sauce!


Golden and Floating equals ready to eat!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Plantpalooza and Pieces of Me

A tiny spider guest adorns this flowering plant, Guess what plant it is!
Gardens and Goodness are abound this time of year!  Everywhere you look, there's plants growing and showing their summer spirit.  Bright greens, medium and dark, vines, brambles, stalks, bushes are all around.  Green is the color of the moment.  Splashes of reds, yellows, oranges, greens, plus speckles, even purples, shine, even on the overcast days.    I've been cultivating, pruning and nurturing my crops and projects, hoping for the best outcome possible.  
Plants big and small, short and tall have gone into beast mode, spilling out of rows, pots, raised beds and hanging vessels, proud 'produce parents' are sharing garden stories already, picking from the readily available deliciousness; a tomato here, some zucchini there, yellow squashes and green beans galore are being bartered and traded, some have made it to the farmer's markets.  I am ecstatic to see my 'veglings' ( (yep, I made that word up)  prosper, it incites a certain fulfilling magic that helps me tap into my inherent roots, though this is not my first rodeo.  
Year after year, I've expanded my repertoire with more diverse and interesting crops.  My Rainbow Chard is doing awesome this time around.  The Japanese Eggplant is growing well.  I planted some heirloom Black Eyed Peas, so far, so good.  The strawberries are doing better than they were before, I had to thin the Moss Baskets, which I show in an older post, their growth was stifled, and the moss, though still a bright gorgeous green, was hogging all the much needed water from the not sprawling vines, good idea, wrong approach.  I even planted some okra this year.  I have never liked okra.  I plan to harvest at it smallest viable size and hope I can see through my own taste buds, why it is so popular.  I did, however, find a good use for the okra pearls, or couscous, once they'd passed the desirable size.  I created a recipe that lowers okra waste since they are so fibrous after they reach more than 3 or 4 inches long, I removed the shell.    I blanched the pearls, then shocked them in cold water, drained and sauteed them in olive oil with a tad of bacon fat, then folded them with  green peas and roasted red peppers, with fresh sage from the garden.  The pearls actually taste like corn, so that part is pretty cool. By now, you may have guessed (unless you already knew) the photo above is baby cucumber, it's so frickin' cute.  Let's hope it stays that way, cute that is...
 Before I go, I wanted to show you what I did with an empty 50 lb. dog food bag.  I turned it inside out and filled it with some good and nutritious soil and planted my potato eyes in it, for ease of harvest when the time comes.  I am somewhat far removed from digging in the hills and rifling through hardened earth, to find the spoils of this multi faceted and wonderful tuber. My hip, back and foot pain inhibits my ability to perform certain tasks optimally at present, but soon  the hip will be replaced and for that I am grateful.  I fractured and dislocated it in  a motor vehicle accident, now it has to be replaced.  I also broke my arm in half just above the elbow, broke 17 of the 23 bones in my foot opposite my left hip, damaged my lower back from being partially ejected from the window before hitting the ground and the impact collapsed a lung.   I've since had reconstructive surgery with a hamstring graft on my right knee and Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery on my right hand, I've got pins, plates and screws on the inside.  All of this, just 19 days after we laid my big brother to rest, at the untimely age of 43 years, in the truck his wife gave to my Dad...Alas, I digress...Oh, I was 9 weeks pregnant at the time of the accident. On my way into emergency surgery, the doctors told me I would probably miscarry in the upcoming days, because of the trauma to my body.  Bronwyn will be 14 years old this August.  She's my baby girl. I believe in Guardian Angels, Prayers and Blessings from above. We are all very much like flowers in a garden, picked at the time to be determined, flowers indeed.
I am proud of this featured method below, because I am able to up cycle an otherwise discard-able item and  utilize it to the fullest.  This method is also great for gardens with limited space, recyclers, homesteaders,  senior gardeners or for those who just want to take an easier route. I have quite a few more ideas for using these bags to share with you in the near future, but this is one of the simplest.  Once the potatoes are ready, I can make an incision or flap in the lower part of the bag  and remove the potatoes with no problem and best of all, no digging!!  I will be posting a picture of the process, later on, down the road.
If you have some spuds that decided they wanted to see ( have 'eyes' on them haha) givem' a dirt nap and save some money on a popular produce item, you can thank me later!
My 'Potato Poncho', made from an empty 50 lb. dog food bag!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Bussin' Bussin' Banana Bread


Ready for a banana bread recipe that is out of this world delicious, then look no more!   This is loaded with some fantastic and good for you ingredients that fill you with all the right stuff and just in time for picnicking, backpacking, camping, cooking out, tailgating, entertaining, relaxing, visiting, gifting, snacking, easy breakfasts or just because!  

I used Cocavo Oil w/ Turmeric and Lemon Zest, full of antioxidants, with the addition of essential vitamins,minerals and healthy fats, along with some roasted Walnut oil to complement the walnut pieces scattered throughout, bringing in some antioxidant richness, fiber, plant sourced Omega 3's, blood pressure and blood sugar lowering properties, plus cancer and heart disease defense, anti-inflammatory properties, enhancing gut health and so much more. 

  Organic Oat flour is also used in my recipe.  Oat flour is filled with fiber, both soluble and insoluble and helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular episodes and coronary heart disease.  There's lots more substantial and relevant ingredients, but I won't bore you with the details, let's get to it, you will be replacing your old go-to Banana Bread recipe in no time, with a bread of this new age of delicious and inspired ingredients, because this one is BUSSIN' BUSSIN'! 


1 1/2 c. unbleached AP flour, spooned into measuring cup
1 c. Organic Oat flour
2 tbsp. Organic Coconut Spice Granola, Red Mill
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. double acting baking powder
1 1/2 c. very ripe bananas, frozen, then thawed and mashed
1 cup Walnut halves, roughly broken into smaller pieces
2 c. pure cane and brown sugar blend
2 tsp. Pumpkin Spice blend
1 tsp. Kosher salt or to taste
1 c. evaporated milk 
2 tbsp. heavy cream 
2/3 c. Cocavo Oil w/ Turmeric and Lemon Zest
2 tbsp. Roasted Walnut Oil
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp. Caramel flavoring
Preheat oven to 350*F.  Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Combine wet ingredients in a larger bowl.
Gradually add dry mix into wet ingredients, stirring just until each round is moist. 
After mixing, let batter rest for 15 minutes.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, making sure it's well incorporated.
Divide evenly among nonstick sprayed pans, filling about 1/2 inch from the top.
Bake until golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 35 minutes for individual sized loaf pans, closer to 1 hour for regular sized loaf pans, depending on oven.

For an even more wholesome Bussin' Banana Bread, substitute Oat Milk for the evaporated milk, use an egg substitute and 3/4 c. maple syrup in place of the sugar blend.

Bussin' Bussin' Banana Bread; great any time of day, travels well and is great for gifting!

Happy Juneteenth Everyone!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Harlem Shrimp

All I can say is that this spice blend is as rich in culture and flavor, as the neighborhood it's named after.  Harlem Garlic Pepper seasoning by BADIA, is one of  my new favorite spice blends.  The flavors of garlic and pepper and prominent, while dehydrated veggies and other spices play a perfect part.  The kiss of sweetness, balances out the salt even more.  
I love this blend because salt is not the first, second, third or fourth ingredient.  As a matter of fact, each serving contains only 60 mg of sodium, that's 60% than a serving of Kosher salt!  You can get the beauty of the spices; garlic, onion, pepper and  bell peppers, without blowing your sodium intake for the day!  
I sprinkled some on popcorn for an awesome snack and also some salt and vinegar chips to test it out.  Lots of flavor and possibilities led me to the creation of this recipe.
I sprinkled some de-shelled, de-veined and prepped Wild Caught Red Argentine Shrimp 21/25 ct. with the Harlem blend and allowed it to hang out while I made the wet batter.  
I used 1 part seasoned flour and one half part buttermilk pancake mix, along with some evaporated milk and a little water, to achieve the consistency I needed.  I didn't want them to be batter heavy and greasy tasting, so I thinned the batter just so it could drain off and set up in the hot oil. 
 Once the shrimp had been fried and drained well on paper towels,
 I plated them and added a bit more Harlem Garlic Pepper to seal the deal.  
I made a dipping sauce from 4 parts ketchup and 2 parts horseradish, with a hit of Blazin' Hot Ranch, mixing well.  It was phenomenal.  The "Father of Harlem" Philip Payton Jr. would be proud. 



Thursday, June 10, 2021

Creek Gourmet: Sauteed Garlic- Lemon-Thyme Butter Crayfish

It's that time of year again and I can't wait.  My sister Bonnie and her husband J.R, who are both avid 'outdoorsmen' gift me with small bounties of local Virginia crayfish, caught fresh from the creek near their hunting cabin, deep down in a hollow, the same place we found our first Morels.  They have been a bit scarce over the past two years, hauls so small, they leave them, in hopes of a larger haul in the near future.  On a gorgeous day maybe two weeks ago, before the rains finally made it to our region, we got together and helped her with some watering of the expansive garden plot down at the cabin,  full of rich, red soil.  After toting fresh water from the creek in 5 gallon buckets, I went back to enjoy the natural beauty of the landscape and the man made pond, where we helped to feed the newly restored and restocked fish, juxtaposed to the cabin site.   

As I walked along the winding creek, I paid close attention to the deeper sections and noticed movement from small fishes and ultimately langoustine looking critters, scuttling amongst the mud and pebble laden bottom, plus around and under mossy rocks.  I even observed a crayfish noshing on another crayfish, apparently that is not uncommon with these guys, creek cannibals indeed!  They bait the traps with protein, usually a good sturdy chicken leg, raw preferably, because it has staying power and isn't easily conquered by the hungry brood, and they seem to like it very much!    The traps remain submerged until a decent haul is amassed.  Sometimes, they may eat the bait and scurry away, given enough time between trap checks.   The crayfish remain alive all the way up until the time to cook them arrives, being transported in a bucket with fresh creek water.

With the hardest part being done, the fun and most delicious part is just around the corner.  I give these "mud bugs" or "crawfish", as they are known by in the lower lying states, namely Louisiana, a good time in a sink pool, for around 2 to 2 1/2 hours, refreshing the water many times over.  I swish and slosh them a bit with a rubber spatula.  I plan to use a scrubby brush on their little hands and bodies for the next time around, as I have observed on every Mukbang video featuring seafood, for good measure.  Next, I transfer them to a large strainer or colander, shaking it constantly and running more cool water over them for the final rinse. 

The crayfish are ever moving and you will have to shake them down relentlessly.   I then chop copious amounts of fresh garlic, parsley and sprigs of thyme from my herb garden.  Then, I melt some  salted butter and a couple turns of the pan of good Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large saute pan and infuse it with garlic and thyme flavor, at a just warm temperature.  After about 5 minutes.  I turn the heat up to medium high and add the crayfish.  I shake and toss until all the crayfish are a brilliant bright red, about 5 minutes, dressing with the parsley, fresh lemon and cracked pepper, then transfer to a large platter, pouring the pan juices over.  

We eat them with our good, clean hands and lots of paper towels.  We lick our fingers too.   Man, I can't wait.

Beautiful and Tranquil Virginia Landscape

There were small, medium and large alike.  I noticed one of the traps nearby, but it had yet to be baited. 

Virginia Crayfish, looking for food.

My sister Bonnie, watering their garden.

Virginia Crayfish hanging out in the sink

Sauteed Virginia Crayfish in Garlic Lemon Thyme Butter

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Strawberry's Conspicuous Doppelganger : "Snake Berries"

Potentilla indica or "Snake Berries", a colloquial term from my childhood
When I was a kid, we would spend hours upon hours during the summer months and after school when permissible; playing, running, bike riding , climbing trees and exploring the world around us.  We always had plenty to eat without even going inside, thanks to the many fruit trees, bushes, vines and gardens, that were a part of all of our family's properties. 
 We always knew where to find the best peaches, apples, grapes, cherries, blackberries, currants, wild cherries, huckleberries, wild blueberries, pears, figs, persimmons and also strawberries, even the delicious honey suckles, that provided its tiny portion of goodness, coating the little stem that we pulled from the  middle.   Admittedly, I never liked the persimmon as a kid, it gave me 'lock jaw', as we called it, probably because I didn't try it in its proper ripened stage.  We knew our way around the gardens, so that gave us access to the juicy and plentiful tomatoes and cucumbers, we would eat straight from the vine, but of course, someone had to run inside and get some salt.   We even knew where to find fresh water in the springs down behind and around our houses, in the vast, wooded lands.  

The strawberries we ate usually came from farms and patches nearby, but not in our community.  We did however, have a surplus of the strawberry looking berries above.  Our parents and older siblings told us not to eat these because they were  "snake berries".  Whether they were for snakes or not is up for debate I guess, but they did always seem to have these little spit or foam like matter on them, which for us, was a good enough reason to leave them be.  

Only as of late, as in last week, did I actually take the time to do some self educating and see what I could find out about these strawberry impostors.  Our back yard has a plethora of them growing near its edges and along the ground in places throughout.  The berries look beautiful and unique, with the seeds literally on the outside of each 'berry', like a tiny red porcupine, its tiny quills, sticking out.  The berries aren't tasty to the palate either.  They are bitter and dry, as per accounts in my readings.  Unlike a 'true' strawberry, which has white flowers and sometimes pinkish, 'snake berry' flowers are yellow.  They also have seeds that protrude outward of its fruit, as opposed to being embedded into the fruit, as with a Fragaria virginiana or genuine strawberry.  

Its scientific name is Duchesnea indica from the Genus Potentilla indica, from the Rosaceae Family.   They were originally introduced to this country as a decorative or ornamental vine for walls and trellises, by way of India.  The vine quickly became a nuisance because of its rampant nature and soon after, became classified as a weed.