Bacony Salt And Vinegar Kale Chips

I didn’t think it was possible to improve on kale chips until I made a salt and vinegar version. Then I achieved kale chip nirvana when I swapped out one of the two tablespoons of olive oil in the recipe for bacon grease. You may lose a few health points for the substitution, but the calories are the same and it bumps the flavor up to snack food heaven: smoky, bacony and salty with a mild bite from the vinegar.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic about salt and vinegar lately, dreaming about the vinegar-doused fries and pungent salt and vinegar chips of my childhood. Jason and I leave soon for a week-long trip to London that will include a brief excursion to Tonbridge, where I spent nearly the first four years of my life. My fantastic parents took me along on their travels, most of which I remember only through these photos.

Here I am in England’s beautiful Lake District.

With my mother and a family friend on the outskirts of Liverpool.

Pan-Fried Egg With Black Beans, Sriracha And Lime

Forgive me Louisiana, but right now my culinary holy trinity is black beans, eggs and Sriracha. If there’s such a thing as a holy quartet, then add a lime to the group.

My breakfast for the past two weeks has consisted of a pan-fried egg, black beans, and a squirt (or 10, because I enjoy losing all feeling in my mouth) of Sriracha, with a splash of lime.  Spicy, zingy, comforting, it’s a wholly satisfying marriage of eggs and beans.

Roast Chicken Legs and Thighs

If there’s a meal my kids will reminisce about someday when Jason and I are racing wheelchairs in the nursing home, it will be this roast chicken. With its crackly skin and tender, juicy meat, it has appeared on the dinner table many times, too many to count, to the rave reviews of six year olds and out-of-town guests alike. This chicken is, hands-down, the easiest, most inexpensive meal in my dinner arsenal.

For those of you who strive to eat hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat but cringe at the cost, you should seek out chicken legs, thighs or drumsticks, which are significantly lighter on the wallet than their much sought-after counterpart, the chicken breast, and are arguably more delicious. 

Corn and Red Pepper Soup

I’m not sure which is more tragic: purchasing a summer vegetable in the dead of winter or letting large quantities of it rot in the fridge… in the dead of winter.

We strive to eat locally and in-season – that’s my politically-food-correct disclaimer – but in early January my husband, who never cooks, declared he was going to make maque choux for a company potluck. I tracked down a dozen ears of corn along with the other required ingredients in anticipation of watching him fumble his way around the kitchen, roasting and wrangling corn on the cob. Big laughs all around.

Right.

He never made the maque choux, and the corn loitered in the crisper drawer for days, which turned into weeks, me cringing every time I opened the fridge and laid eyes on the 12 blasted ears of corn.

After a month, I decided the corn would appear on the dinner table, somewhere, somehow. Soup seemed like the best option, as it tends to be forgiving of lazy cooks and imperfect produce. But as I would soon discover, a less-than-fresh vegetable is one thing; one that has grown hair and teeth is another. When I finally pulled the corn out of the fridge, I recoiled at the sight of an ominous, black mold – clearly, the mark of death – growing on the bottoms of the ears.

I promptly dumped them.

Whether I should be proud or embarrassed of what happened next, I’m still debating, but a few moments later I circled back to the garbage can and retrieved the corn. I cut the moldy bottoms off the cobs and proceeded with my soup plans, hoping a recipe from an inspiring, new cookbook might save the day.

Vanilla Marshmallows And Honey Graham Crackers

I’m not sure which was swooned over more in the homemade s’mores lineup: the cinnamon-sugar-flecked graham crackers made with local honey or the bouncy, vanilla-spiked marshmallows. I served these nostalgic treats, cooked over an open fire in our backyard, at Jason’s birthday party earlier this month.

You’d never know it from the pictures, but when I first pulled the graham crackers out of the oven, they looked dark, too dark, and I feared they were overdone. I panicked at the thought of having to serve adorable yet slightly charred graham crackers.

Crawfish Beignets With Spicy Remoulade

File these crawfish beignets under not part of the diet. I feel semi-guilty for writing about them in January when everyone’s trying to be good, myself included, but I think you’ll forgive me for weakening your resolve when you bite into one of these crispy, Cajun morsels stuffed with crawfish, scallions and red pepper. 

We rarely prepare fried food at home or order it when dining out, so you won’t see many recipes that require frying on this blog. These savory beignets are an exception. I first spotted them in Southwest Airlines’ Spirit Magazine on a trip with my dad to meet my twin nieces. During takeoff, we were drooling over the beignets when our plane began shaking rather violently, violently enough for my dad to lean over and say, “You know, this is the most dangerous part of flying. If we get through this, we should be ok.”

I felt MUCH better after that. A few other things I learned from my dad on this trip:

  1. If you discuss twins running in the family, he will share (for what I swear is the first time ever) that he has twin cousins named Joyce and Royce.
  2. If you attempt to explain why artificial sweetener is unhealthy, expect him to interrupt you mid-sentence with, “YOU’RE WRONG!”
  3. If you hang out in the food court with him during a long layover, you might lose track of time and have to sprint to catch your connecting flight. Sprint, not run. You might also end up being the last passengers to board.

Thank goodness we made our flight. We had the best time visiting the newest members of our family, we did.

Dad and I managed to see eye to eye on most matters, except where we should park at the hospital, why few radio stations play John Denver anymore, and whether a dinner host should apologize for serving a subpar meal – the latter of which is a discussion for another time.  One thing we did agree on was that I should make these savory beignets ASAP when I returned to Birmingham.

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Red Pepper

Like many of you, I’m currently doing ye ol’ January detox, paying penance for all of the rich food I ate over the holidays. When in the throes of this detox, I have been known to frantically rifle through a kitchen drawer or two in search of long-forgotten chocolate. The diet is not a detox as much as it is a healthy way of living that I strive to maintain most of the time, except when I’m celebrating birthdays or anniversaries or when something doughy and buttery like savory monkey bread calls my name. Minus the weak moments, though, I feel physically better and am in an overall better mood when I’m eating meals that are low in carbohydrates, high in protein and plentiful in vegetables. This diet lends itself to a wide range of delicious food, like my current lunch staple: spicy, garlicky roasted broccoli.

I fire up my oven for a midday meal as often as possible because I work from home and because  we don’t own a microwave; so, if I’m sitting down to eat lunch 20 minutes after I’ve started preparing it, I call that a win. This broccoli dish wins in many ways: it’s simple, fast, inexpensive, healthy and full of flavor.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

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After discovering Italian meringue buttercream, the real stuff made with sugar, eggs and what-should-be-illegal amounts of butter, I rarely whip up a frosting that calls for powdered sugar anymore. I don’t entirely eschew powdered sugar – I enjoy a fluffy, powdered-sugar-sweetened cream cheese frosting every now and then, but most of my cakes are adorned with smooth layers, thick fillings and flirty swirls of silky, melt-in-your-mouth buttercream.

Italian meringue buttercream is deceptively light-tasting with a smooth texture that allows it to glide easily onto cake. It sets quickly in the refrigerator or freezer when you’re assembling cake layers and applying frosting coats, and piped decorations of buttercream hold their shapes at room temperature better and longer than the average frosting. These qualities make it a dream for decorating.

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Pommes Maxim

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To celebrate our wedding anniversary, I decided — housework and other responsibilities be damned — I was going to prepare an elaborate dinner, the kind that requires multiple appliances whizzing away on the counter; an afternoon spent chopping, whisking and sautéing; and cookbooks and recipe printouts scattered around the kitchen in such a way that I never find the one I’m looking for on the first try.

My husband, Jason, and I have been married eight years, and our first date was approximately 10 years ago, a night I fondly remember despite its unusual start. I had just stepped outside my apartment when I saw Jason’s car turn onto my street. At the moment he should have started slowing down to park, he instead sped up and began waving enthusiastically to someone on the other side of the road. I stood there, confused, watching his car pass me by and continue down the road until it was out of sight. And then I realized there was no one on the other side of the road.

Typical.

He is, after all, one of a kind.

Green Bean Casserole

Forgive the hiatus. I’ve been busy with October birthdays, a November wedding anniversary, one long-distance trip with small children, and some increased responsibilities on the work front. Zero complaining here, though. I’ve certainly been partaking in some holiday fun, including attending an intimate Christmas party that featured a four-course meal with delectable wine pairings and performances by belly dancers, an accordion player and a stand-up comedian. Yes, all of this awesomeness happened at ONE party for 20 attendees. I jest not.


Photo by Liesa Cole, party host extraordinaire

Despite my blog absence and aforementioned holiday merriment, I’ve been buzzing around the kitchen most nights of the week and am excited to share this version of a holiday standard. It is, as Alton Brown calls it, “Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole.” My husband thinks I should give it a new name, but I’m not clever enough at the moment to come up with something fitting, so you’ll have to trust me that it’s a far cry from the green bean casseroles found on most tables this time of year. Nary a can of cream of anything is used in the recipe and it is wicked good.

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