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Friday, December 30, 2011

Peas Please for New Year's Ease

Texas Caviar

I've never been a superstitious person.  I love black cats and I'm not afraid to walk under ladders.  The only reason I don't open umbrellas indoors is because, seriously, if I need an umbrella indoors I obviously already have bad luck!  In the South, most people eat black eyed peas to bring good luck in the new year.  If one waits until after Christmas to purchase a couple of cans, she may find the grocery shelves empty.  I'll proffer that for me, eating black eyed peas is a tradition, rather than a way to stave off difficulties in the new year.   But how could I not feel fortunate?  I'm from Texas and have a New Year's ritual of consuming a spicy relish featuring the legume that brings good luck!

Peas, Pimientos, Jalapeno, Green Onions, Dressing
Texas Caviar Recipe

2- 15 oz can black eyed peas
4 ribs celery, diced
1 bunch green onions, diced
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced*
1 small jar pimientos
1 small bottle Italian dressing

Drain and rinse peas in water.  Place in bowl and add the diced celery, green onion and jalapenos.  (Be sure to wear protective gear for hands and eyes when seeding jalapenos; the seeds will burn your skin!)  Add the pimientos to the peas.  Pour just enough dressing over the peas to coat relish; toss all ingredients.  (To reduce the fat content and calorie count without affecting taste, pour oil off the top of the Italian dressing.)  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  If you don't live in Texas, where fresh jalapeno is available year-round, use fresh green bell pepper and add 1/2 t of cayenne pepper.

If you're still not convinced, I'll put it plain talk for those of you not blessed to hail from Texas:  Pardner, we don't need none of them fancy fish eggs around these parts.   Just give us some peas, green onions and celery with fresh jalapeno for kick!  Now that's what Texans call good eatin', good luck caviar!

Good Luck for the New Year and Delicious, to Boot!

Serve with Tortilla Chips Texas Style!

Monday, December 19, 2011

French Chicken Fantastique!

Poulet Provencal

If you, like many hostesses during the holidays, are pressed for time, yet require a delicious meal lovely enough  for guests, preparing Poulet Provencal will be providential!  Coating the chicken with olive oil and herbs, crisps the skin and leaves the meat succulent.  The tomatoes, onions, garlic and olives baking alongside create a savory stew which serves as a side dish. The aroma of this roasting chicken will scent your home with herbes de Provence, transporting your guests to a colorful table in the South of France.  C'est magnifique!

Poulet Provencal Recipe
3-4 medium tomatoes cut into wedges
1 large onion, cut into wedges, leaving root ends intact
1/2 cup brine-cured pitted black olives
4 large garlic cloves sliced, plus 1 t minced

3 T olive oil, divided
2 t herbes de Provence*, divided
1/2 t fennel seeds
1 whole chicken 3 1/2 to 4 pounds

Kitchen string

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss together tomatoes, onion, olives, sliced garlic, 2 T oil, 1 t herbes de Provence, fennel seeds, dash of salt, dash of pepper in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.  Push vegetables to sides of dish to make room for chicken.

Stir together minced garlic, 1 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, remaining teaspoon herbes de Provence, and remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Remove excess fat from chicken and pat dry, then rub inside and out with seasoning mixture.

Tie legs together with string and place chicken in baking dish.  Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 170 degrees, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.  Let chicken stand 10 minutes before carving.  

*herbes de Provence can be found at most gourmet groceries and kitchen shops or follow this guide to mixing:
2 T dried savory,  2 T dried oregano
2 T dried rosemary,  2 T dried basil
2 T dried thyme,  2 T dried marjoram
             2 T dried fennel seed
Mix all together and store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ginger Gives Truffles Snap

Gingersnap Truffles

I have to confess, I'm a certified choc-o-holic!  I do not have a yen for just any old chocolate; it must be the darkest of chocolates.  Forget that sugared up, weak, chalky, barely-there milk chocolate.   And white chocolate?  That's an insult to name!  Until I tested this combination, I believed there was no way to improve on a dark truffle besides simply providing a dusting of cocoa.  This recipe piqued my interest because it substituted ginger snaps, a childhood favorite, as a coating, adding a taste of Christmas to a classic chocolate candy.  It compares to nibbling a few ginger snaps while downing a cup of cocoa, which gives this chocolate lover cozy comfort while satisfying my cravings!

Gingersnap Truffles
(recipe adapted from

1 1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate pieces
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup chopped ginger snap cookies (about 10)
1/3 cup finely crushed ginger snaps (about 7)

In medium bowl combine combine chocolate, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and chopped gingersnaps.  In small microwave-safe bowl, heat cream on 100% about 70 seconds, or until boiling.   

Pour cream over chocolate mixture and allow to stand 5 minutes.  Whisk cream/chocolate mixture until smooth.  Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until firm, but soft enough to form into balls.

Scoop a scant tablespoon of chocolate with spoon and form into a ball.  Roll in crushed gingersnaps.  Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.  Store in airtight container in refrigerator.  Makes 25 truffles.  

Truffle Treats with Gingersnap Goodness!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rosemary Rave

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

In the past, when cooking with the pungent herb rosemary, I've used it for savory dishes such as poulet provençale, grilled kabobs, marinades and such.  But with Christmas around the corner, and miniature rosemary trees available through my job at Ellis Home and Garden, I couldn't resist branching out to more intriguing and unusual uses for rosemary.  The rosemary in this recipe adds a delicate and unexpected flavor to an ordinary butter cookie.  Wow your Christmas guests with the piney scent of rosemary in your home, a tiny trimmed tree on your table and these delectable cookie for treats.  You'll receive rave reviews!

 Rosemary Shortbread Recipe

1 1/2 cups softened unsalted butter
2/3 cup white sugar
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 t white sugar or sprinkles for decoration

In a medium bowl cream together butter and 2/3 cup of sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in the flour, salt and rosemary until well blended.  The dough will be slightly soft.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line cookie sheeets with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into rectangles. 2x2 inches in size.  Place cookies 1 inch apart on lined cookie sheets.  Sprinkle the remaining sugar or sprinkles over the tops.  Bake for 8 minutes or until slightly browned.  Cool on wire racks and store in airtight container.

Cut in Squares

Festive and Delicious!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Flipped Out Pumpkin Cherry Cake

Pumpkin Cherry Upside Down Cake

When it comes to desserts, for me, there are many choices that do not tantalize.  I can walk away from ANYTHING vanilla, pecan pie, and most ice cream without a backward glance.  But there are four flavors that I cannot resist listed here in order of temptation:  dark chocolate, cherry, cinnamon and pumpkin.  This concoction hits three of the big four combining cherries, cinnamon and pumpkin in a beautiful upside down cake.  I flipped when I found this recipe, which is like having your pumpkin cake and eating cherry pie, too!  

Pumpkin Cherry Upside Down Cake

adapted from a recipe on
2 10 oz. jars cherry preserves
1 cup Craisins
1/3 cup butter
1/2 t cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup butter softened
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 t vanilla
1 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13 baking pan with foil.  Grease foil; set aside.  In a saucepan, combine cherry preserves, Craisins, cinnamon and butter.  Heat and stir until boiling; remove from heat.  Pour 3/4 of the cherry mixture into prepared baking pan and spread evenly.  Set aside.

In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and spice.  In a mixer, combine butter and shortening.  Add sugar; cream.  Add eggs and vanilla until mixed.  Beat in pumpkin.  Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to the pumpkin mixture.  Beat after each addition until just mixed.  Carefully spoon pumpkin batter and smooth atop cherry preserves in baking pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack fro 5 minutes.  Turn onto a large patter.  Serve warm!  Use reserved topping if needed to cover entire cake.

Fall Colors and Seasonal Tastes for Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sage Advice: Try Pumpkin Grits!

Cinnamon Roasted Chicken with Pumpkin Sage Grits
Grits.  They are the ultimate comfort food for Southerners.  Their mild flavor is perfect for add-ins such as cheese, peppers, shrimp and most any savory flavor.  I found an intriguing recipe online that features cinnamon roasted chicken and pumpkin (you knew it) grits and decided it must be next up for a try out in CindysCozyKitchen!  The pumpkin flavor is mild, but delectable, and serves as a delicious backdrop to the cinnamon-coated chicken.

Cinnamon Coated Chicken Ready to Roast
 Cinnamon Roasted Chicken with Pumpkin Sage Grits
adapted from a recipe on

6-8 skinless, boneless chicken breast tenderloins
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 t salt divided
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cups instant grits
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
24 leaves fresh sage
1 t butter
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (can be omitted to reduce calorie count)

Stir and Crisp in Butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange chicken in baking dish. Drizzle chicken with oil and sprinkle with 1 t of the salt, cinnamon and black pepper on both sides.  Roast in oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Heat butter in small frying pan until melted, add 16-18 leaves of sage.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until sage becomes crisp and browns.  Crumble.

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Stir in grits until combined.  Stir in pumpkin, a tablespoon of the crumbled sage and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, stir in cheese.

To serve, spoon grits onto dinner plates.  Crumble additional crisped sage over chicken.  Garnish grits with fresh sage leaves.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tricked Out Ogre Treats

Li'l Ogre Cupcakes

Still on the pumpkin kick, I found that I had bits and pieces to make something for Halloween.  Since tomorrow is the day when the spooks come out to haunt, there was no time to waste!  I started with a pumpkin cupcake, naturally, added a nice buttercream frosting, but the real fun began with multi-colored sprinkles, some pumpkin pie flavored candy corn, edible googly eyes and bones!  The result was an ogre cupcake that is as much fun to ogle as it is to eat!

Pumpkin Cupcake Recipe
2 1/4 cups flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup milk
Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, pumpkin pie spice in a bowl.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs; add pumpkin, mix.  Alternate adding dry ingredients with milk and blend until smooth after each addition.  Spoon batter into well greased and floured or paper lined muffin tins.  Bake at 375 about 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in middle of cupcake comes out clean.  *This recipe makes some slight changes to the pumpkin cupcake recipe posted previously, with a little less sugar and using pumpkin pie spice.  

 Buttercream Frosting Recipe
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 t salt
1 t almond extract
4 T milk or heavy cream

Cream butter in mixer.  Sift powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl.  Mix all together on low speed until the sugar and cocoa are incorporated.  Increase speed to medium and add almond extract and milk or cream.  Beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth.  Add more milk/cream if frosting is too thick.  This frosting works well to spread or use in a pastry bag to pipe.   

All Treats, No Tricks!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dark Delight for Halloween Night

Dark Delight!

Even though my nest is empty, I continue to enjoy the child-like pleasures associated with Halloween.  When my boys were young we carved a pumpkin each year.  They weren't too crazy about the stringy pumpkin "guts," but toasted pumpkin seeds were a tasty treat!  Thinking it was time for a version that was better suited to adult palates, I decided to give this recipe a test.  The coating of dark cocoa, a little salt and a bit of sugar turns the ho-hum-kin seed into a yum-kin seed! 

Dark Side Pumpkin Seeds

Fresh pumpkin seeds (1-2 cups) from one 3 lb. pie pumpkin cleaned of strings but NOT rinsed
3 T granulated sugar
2 T brown sugar
1 T cocoa powder (I prefer Hershey's Special Dark)
2 t kosher or sea salt

Combine sugars, cocoa powder and salt in mixing bowl.

Add seeds and toss until coated.  The "sticky" on the unrinsed seeds will allow the coating to cling.  Spray a rimmed baking sheet lightly with Pam.  Bake in 350 degree oven about 20 minutes or until you hear the seeds begin to pop.  Remove from oven and loosen pumpkin seeds with spatula.  Allow to cool on baking sheet, as this will crisp the seeds.  

 Relax and enjoy your dark delight on Halloween night!  

Cats Rule! Jack-O-Lantern and Dark Side Treats