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!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sweet Potato Hash

It's Good Friday morning, out of bed at 6 (yes I know)... and after being up for awhile checking email and news, I wanted something substantial, but healthy for breakfast.  Except for grocery shopping late last week for a dinner party... it had been a bit since I had shopped, so ingredient options were limited.  Luckily it all came together. 
By starting the sweet potatoes in the microwave, the time from idea... to on the plate was just about 20 minutes and my sweetie loved it too. 
Sweet Potato Hash – Yield 4 servings


  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes 
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 large onion, chopped medium
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce (I use Tabasco)
  • 4 raw eggs (Optional)


Start sweet potatoes in the microwave in a covered dish with the water for 5 minutes on high.
Meanwhile, heat pan on medium, add olive oil and onions.  Sauté while stirring for 3 minutes. 
Add garlic and continue sautéing for 2 minutes or until onions begin to caramelize. 
Add sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and hot sauce… continuing to cook and stir for 5 minutes.
Check for seasoning and add additional salt, pepper, paprika or hot sauce if desired.

Optional: If desired make 4 wells into the hash add a raw egg into each, cover and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until desired doneness.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Margarita Mixer Base

Necessity IS the "Mother of Invention".  I needed not to have bought so many limes for what was required in a recipe... but they were only available in none or beaucoup, so what to do? 

Also, it's getting to be the time of year when we yearn to be outside grilling, gardening or having sand between our toes.  Nothing goes better with the latter, during the first and after the middle than... a Margarita.  You can make the base mixer and keep it in the refrigerator until time to celebrate.  I recommend using it within a week, so invite a few friends over and Enjoy!

Make sure to wash the limes before squeezing.

Each lime should yield about 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice.

Margarita Mixer Base
Yield: Makes 5 cups

2 cups water
1 cup sugar*
Dash of salt
2 cups fresh lime juice (about 8 limes)
Zest from 1 lime

To make the simple syrup - combine water, sugar and salt in a large saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.  Cool syrup.
Mix simple syrup, lime juice and zest.  Store in refrigerator covered, chill until cold. 
*May substitute Splenda…if making this substitution, no boiling required.

For 1 drink mix 3 shots margarita mix, 1 1/2 shots tequila, 1/2 shot orange liqueur.  Serve over crushed ice, with or without a salted rim and garnish with a lime wedge.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cream of Basil Pea Soup

This morning I walked out of the house in a hurry on the way to work...
without a jacket, sweater or anything...arms exposed and chilly.  I thought it was supposed to warm up, so I wasn't that concerned.  It did not!  I was cold all day and wanting something warm and comforting for dinner.  Soup came to mind and in particular a soup that I had made for our Downton Abbey finale dinner recently (with sweet friends Lori and Bailey Baynham) from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines.  I was shy many a main ingredient, so I determined the primary substitutions to be peas and basil.  The proportions are quite different too, but it works.  Neil (my husband) said it was dangerously good and to indeed serve it again.  I will be keeping a bag of frozen peas standing by at the ready... for when I start craving delicious, heartening soup again.
Cream of Basil Pea Soup
1 pound bag frozen green peas - defrosted
½ cup unsalted butter
3 shallots – finely minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons tamari sauce
15 to 20 leaves fresh basil, pile leaves, roll then thinly slice – chiffonade (reserve 2 teaspoons for garnish)
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup sour cream, plus additional for garnish
·       Melt butter in pan
·       Add shallots and sauté until soft (6 to 8 minutes), stirring frequently
·       Add peas and salt; continue stirring until heated through (2 minutes)
·       Add flour; continue stirring until incorporated
·       Add stock, pepper, tamari sauce and basil and continue stirring until thickened
·       Add cream, turn off heat
·       Puree mixture with an immersion blender or in small batches in a blender and return to pan
·       Remove one cup of mixture and stir in sour cream
·       Add back to soup, stir gently and heat through, pour into serving dishes, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and reserved basil

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Irish Cream

Who knew you could make Irish Cream?  It's a cream liqueur that we all have added to our coffee or sipped in front of a crackling fire.  I have forever been a fan and when I started running across recipes that seemed relatively simple...
it was on. 
I found several interesting ones and after getting home this evening began searching out the ingredients.  Not in one recipe...did I have every item.  You have done this and I have many times before: substituted this and that, so if you are shy of something... get creative and the result will be delicious!
Irish Cream
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 c strong coffee
3/4 c high proof whiskey (I used 128.5 proof, the guide recipes called for 2 cups Irish Whiskey)
1 c half and half (I used fat free)
1 c heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
Pour all ingredients into a bowl and mix with a hand mixer until fully combined.  Chill.  Serve and enjoy.  Keep in an enclosed container in the refrigerator.
Here I sit sipping the richest most elegant of concoctions.
Happy St. Patricks Day

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Southern Colcannon

Colcannon is a tradition Irish dish made from mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage, cream, salt, pepper, butter and often ham or bacon.  In a mood to repurpose leftover "Greens", I thought I would make Colcannon and "Dixie it up a bit".  I had previously cooked a pot of combined turnip and collard greens...spiked with smoked ham.  If you do not have access to fresh greens, I would recommmend a canned option such as any made by "Glory Foods".  

This week everyone that isn't Irish is for one day and everyone that is... celebrates even harder.  My heritage inspired me to reinterpret this Irish classic and in using greens... brings it home even more. 
Oh, my Gleason (Gleeson) roots lead me back to Tipperary, in "Southern" Ireland. 
Happy Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

Southern Colcannon
(4 Main Servings or 6 to 8 Side Servings)

2 pounds washed, cubed potatoes (I used Yukon Gold, unpeeled)
1/4 c salted butter
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups drained cooked greens with ham or (1) 27 oz. can drained, *finely chopped
1 1/2 t Kosher salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 c fat free half and half
More butter

Place cubed potatoes in a microwave safe dish with a splash of water and cook covered on high for 10 minutes.

In the meanwhile, place 1/4 c of butter in a pan, heat until melted.

Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes, until soft.

Add greens, salt and pepper, continue to saute stirring until fully heated through.

Add cooked potatoes plus half and half.  With heat on low use a hand held mixer or stick blender to combine all and until potatoes are smooth.  Serve with additional butter.

*Tip - I use a pizza cutter to finely cut the greens and ham



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cowgirl Dip

I love our neighborhood... and this afternoon, several of us gathered in our home to continue preparations for our next block party coming up in May.   Historically there have been decades of such gatherings and generations of Glen Iris South Highlanders that have participated.  Many of us that now live in this neighborhood grew up in other areas and went to rival schools.  As always I wanted to make my neighbors feel welcome and to share a new recipe.  Unbeknownst to them... I was celebrating my high school girls basketball team winning the state championship the night before.  I named the dip (forefront) in their honor.  In the midst of Eagles, Rams, Yellow Jackets and Gators... I, the Southwood (Lady) Cowboy was celebrating.  Go Pokes...so proud!


Cowgirl Dip (Lady Cowboys Victory Dip) 

  • 1/2 c Olive Oil
  • 20 cloves Garlic, sliced thinly (Yes really.... 20 cloves)
  • 2 15 oz. cans Ranch style Beans, drained
  • ½ t Table Salt
  • ¼ t ground White Pepper
  • ¼ t Smoked Paprika
  • 1 c grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pan sauté Garlic in Olive Oil on low heat stirring continuously until golden brown…about 15 minutes, remove Garlic and 1T Olive Oil…reserve rest of oil for another use.  (Pan sauteing the garlic in this manor, creates a sweet, mild garlic flavor)

Add Garlic and 1T Olive Oil to food processor with all other ingredients except cheese and process until smooth.

Pour processed Bean mixture into an oven safe dish, cover with cheese and bake about 25 minutes until heated through and the Cheese is melted.

Serve with Pita Chips and enjoy! 


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pear Brandy

We Southerners LOVE our liqueurs and if you can make it yourself, even better. 
Growing up, my parents made wine, my across-the-street neighbor made beer, I have dabbled in making other spirits...but this recipe is truly a cinch.

4 Pears
2 cups Brandy (Generic)
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Water

Wash and chop 2 pears, discarding seeds and core.  Place in a sealable glass jar, cover with 2 cups of brandy and let steep undisturbed in a cool dark place for a week. 

Strain liquid through a coffee filter into another larger sealable glass jar. 

Chop 2 more pears as above, add to a pan along with sugar and water, stir, bring to a boil, let cool and pour into the jar.  Again, let it steep in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.... 6 months.  Yes, I admit, I forgot about it.

Again, strain through a coffee filter into the final serving container. 
I can't speak for the taste and quality of a secondary 2 week steep, but at 6 months it is smooth, sweet and has a distinct pear flavor.