Welcome to my Food Journey

Curious Southern Cook on a journey to learn...and to create exceptional dining experiences. I love entertaining and preparing food for loved ones & friends and sharing those experiences with others. My wish is that you will be fed too. Bon Appetite!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Red Beans and Rice (Slow Cooker)

There has been a longstanding - some say New Orleans… some say Louisiana… some say Southern tradition of making Red Beans and Rice.  In years gone by when Monday was “Wash Day”, Red Beans were slow cooked on the stove using the ham bone left from Sunday's dinner while washing clothes.  It seems like every day is “Wash Day” at my house.  We all work can to can’t and then some… so the only way I’m going to get my Red Beans and Rice is to plan ahead and use a little help from modern technology.  I do believe you still need to soak your beans overnight and to certainly not skimp on any of the other flavorful ingredients. 

One more thing before I share the recipe with you - the “Holy Trinity” in Louisiana refers to a trio in equal parts of diced aromatics: bell pepper, onion and celery.  They are gently sautéed together to create a flavor base for the other ingredients to build upon.  There are variations of this trio in other cuisines:

French “Mirepoix”: carrot, onion and celery (Classic)
Italian “Soffritto”: onions, celery, and carrots in a 2:1:1 ratio
Indian:  onion, ginger, and garlic

If you have a family recipe that you only get to enjoy when Monday falls on a holiday or one of the kiddos is home sick… try modifying it to use it in the slow cooker, it will become a new tradition in your household.


Red Beans and Rice (Makes 8 servings)

1 lb dried red beans (I use “Camellia” brand)
6 cups water

8 slices thick cut bacon (about ½ a pound), cut into ½ inch slices
1 ½ lb smoked sausage, cut into ¾ to 1 inch pieces (I use locally produced “Down Home” brand)

Holy Trinity – 2 cups onion, 2 cups green bell pepper, 2 cups celery (all cut to small dice)
2 t salt

2 t dried thyme

1 t ground black pepper
¼ t cayenne

1 T garlic, finely chopped
5 cups vegetable stock (low sodium)

8-10 prepared servings of long grain rice
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (for garnish)

Green onions, finely sliced (for garnish)

Sort beans, rinse and place them into a container, adding about 6 cups water.
Let soak overnight.  Drain rinse and set aside.

Pre-cook the sausage, lightly brown and render out the fat.
In a large skillet lightly cook the bacon just until it starts to brown but still limp.
Add the trinity ingredients, stir and sauté the vegetables until they are soft.  Add salt, thyme, pepper, cayenne and garlic…continue sautéing just until the vegetables start to brown.
Place beans, vegetables, vegetable stock and sausage in a slow cooker.  Set on low for 10 hours.
Adjust seasoning.  If they need to be thickened more, remove about a cup of the beans, mash with a fork and return them to the pot.  Serve with rice and garnish with the parsley and green onions.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hot Chocolate for Lovers

We had reservations tonight for the first seating (at 2Johns, one of our favorite restaurants) for our Valentine’s Day dinner.  Afterwards it was still early enough to enjoy the evening, so I wanted to make something special and naturally...chocolate for my Valentine.  Both my husband and I had generous portions at dinner, so a cup of “Hot Chocolate for Lovers” was just the ticket for a sweet little finish.  It was just the dreamiest hot chocolate (with a kick) that I had ever tasted. 

Other than the chocolate liqueur (which I bought as a Valentine’s Day present for my sweetie), most everything else you probably already have in your pantry and fridge.  So if you “love birds” are still up… go for it.  You can find the recipe at the end of this post.


I gave my husband the chocolate liqueur and this poem as his present. 
I wrote it just for him, today…this day that is dedicated to Lovers and loved ones. 
He is both!

"I Love You Now…and Always
I’ll Love You more and more
I give you my Heart freely
Of our Blessings we are sure
Gracious is God’s pairing
Like Wine and Souls entwined
You are my Love Forever
Neil, Happy Valentines!"

Hot Chocolate for Lovers

Makes 4 to 6 petite servings

2 c whole milk
5 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 T honey
1/4 t cayenne pepper
Dash of salt
1/2 c chocolate liqueur (optional)
Whipped cream (optional for topping)

·       Heat milk and stir continuously in a saucepan just until scalded, do not boil
·       Turn down heat, add chocolate, honey, cayenne and salt, stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth
·       Add chocolate liqueur, stir
·       Pour into cups and top with whipped cream, if desired



Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cheddar Thyme Biscuits

We love our leisurely Saturday morning coffeetime... reading the newspaper, catching up on emails and watching (my) recorded cooking shows.  It's no effort to mix up a batch of biscuits, either plain or with the cheddar and fresh thyme that is in this recipe.  Eating them buttered and just out of the oven is the best...and even better with homemade Strawberry Fig Jam.

If you have an iron skillet
I would recommend using it instead of other bakeware,
as the resulting bottom crust
that develops is divine.


          This skillet is one handed down from my Grandmother. 
I treasure it, not only for the memories of family meals with loved ones, but because it is well seasoned and creates a consistent product every time.

                        2 cups self rising flour
                        1/2 t baking powder
                        1 t fresh thyme
                        1 c grated cheddar cheese
                        1 1/4 c buttermilk
                        4 T salted butter (melted)
                        Kosher salt

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees 
  • Sift flour and baking powder together in a bowl
  • Add thyme and cheese, mix thoroughly 
  • Add buttermilk, mix until all incorporated
  • Put melted butter in skillet/baking dish
  • Spoon biscuit mix into skillet/baking dish (should yield about 12 biscuits)
  • Turn each biscuit over in butter, sprinkle with Kosher salt
  • Bake on top oven rack for 25 minutes  

    ~ CGJ


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mardi Gras Veggie Medley

This past weekend we enjoyed having my husband Neil's sister and family come join us for some Mardi Gras revelry.  Margo, Lea and Anne arrived Friday and since it was a work day I had decided to put a roast in the slow cooker (10 hours) for the evening meal.  (Larry arrived on Saturday but sadly... missed this meal.)  Also present to enjoy were daughter Sara and beau Michael.  To accompany the roast I needed something 1) colorful, 2) easy and quick and 3) seasonal.   

Addressing the colorful, requirement... this recipe celebrates Mardi Gras colors: Purple - Representing Justice, Green - Representing Faith, and
Gold - Representing Power as chosen by the Krewe of Rex (which selected the official Mardi Gras colors in 1872).  Interesting to note that Mardi Gras colors influenced the choice of school colors for archrivals Louisiana State University and Tulane University.  When LSU was deciding on its colors, the shops in New Orleans had stocked up on purple, green, and gold material for the Mardi Gras season. LSU decided upon purple and gold, and bought much of it. Tulane bought much of the only remaining color--green! (Their colors are blue and green.)  http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/mgcolors.html

Considering the easy and quick condition... so I could spend more time with family/guests and not be harried in the kitchen trying to outdo myself (confession), this recipe just fits.  You just chop, season, put on a pan, cover with foil, in the oven for 20 minutes, uncover and continue for 10, then it's ready. 

The seasonal constraint was met with "what's at the market".  I chose purple potatoes, yellow and green peppers, brussel spouts and parsnips. 

Simple, simple, simple!  I served this Mardi Gras Veggie Medley with the slow cooked roast, a green salad and garlic bread.  For dessert we had King Cake... of course.

1 lb purple potatoes, halved 
1 lb parsnips, peeled, cut in 2 inch pieces and quartered
1 lb brussel sprouts, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in strips
1 green bell pepper, cut in 1 inch pieces
Nonstick cooking spray
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
15 sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash vegetables and prepare as above.  Spray sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Place prepared vegetables on sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle thyme leaves evenly and mix with clean hands.
Cover with foil, place in oven for 20 minutes, uncover and roast for another 10.

Everyone enjoyed this version of roasted vegetables, not only because was it was delicious, but because it was festive and relevant to the occasion.

Fat Tuesday isn't until next week so try your hand at customizing your veggies into a fun and tasty dish.   

Happy Mardi Gras