Pumpkin & Bean Soup

Pumpkin & Bean Soup

Thanksgiving is over, fall is coming to a swift end, and I am so tired of only seeing sweet pumpkin recipes. So many holiday flavors are only used in sweet applications. I too am guilty of making more sweets than savory items.

I decided to challenge myself…and I also had some leftover gourds from my thanksgiving decorations. Why not try to take a commonly used sweet ingredient and make it savory. Who needs another pumpkin pie variation. Making a different recipe requires holding back on the addition of sugar and jamming in savory ingredients. The result is a super hearty and warming pumpkin soup with beans and chicken sausage.

My recipe is extremely simple and extremely flavorful. Perfect for the few chili nights we get here in Savannah. It is also a bendable recipe. You can use any type of bean you prefer. You can use canned or make your own. I used chicken sausage as the protein, but feel free to add in ham, bacon, or anything else.

Also, I added topped the finished soup with some toasted pumpkin seeds for good measure.

 

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Prosciutto + Pistachio Salad

Prosciutto + Pistachio Salad

Last week I gave you a simple recipe that used seasonal local ingredients. My Onion, Fig, & Feta tarts used cheese from a local goat farm and seasonal fresh figs. And although the tarts are extremely delectable on their own, I created them with the intent to include the pastries as part of a larger meal that is just as simple to prepare as the first portion.

Fig pastry recipe is here: Onion, Feta, & Fig Tarts

If you have thumbed around my blog, for even a second, you will notice that it is filled with hearty southern food and decadent baked goods. I am not a one trick pony, I do (quite often) make healthy(ish) food. I swear you can find a salad recipe some fifty posts ago.

Like my fig tarts, and this recipe uses fresh local ingredients; plus, you can whip it up in a dash. My homemade salad dressing, which sets any salad apart, is made with local Savannah honey and white balsamic for a punch.

I crisp of some salty prosciutto and sprinkle over pistachios. Served on the side, which add sweet and savory notes, are the fig tarts posted last week.

This one is a dinner party show stopper (along with well cooked protien) or a satisfying weeknight meal that is better than that frozen pizza we always go to.

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Onion, Feta, & Fig Tarts

Onion, Feta, & Fig Tarts

I cannot say that this recipe is a traditional southern one, like most of my posts are. But maybe you will find it so delicious that it will be incorporated into your traditions or celebrations.

The idea behind this recipe is simple: using farm fresh, seasonal, sustainable, and local ingredients.  A tenant which can be said to be southern. Edna Lewis and so many other inspriational southern cooks just like here based their kitchens around this idea.

Truly, there is no better food that what is local to your area and what is in season.

It is finally fig season. It lasts a very short time, but if you are lucky enough (like I was) to source fresh figs you buy them all up. Unlike my husband, I was not lucky enough to grow up with a giant fig tree close by which produced an abundant amount of the unique fruit. My mom preferred her peach tree.

As for the feta, it is locally sourced from Bootleg Farm. Savannah’s beloved goat farm which produces fresh goat cheese. Read more about them Here.

A quick carmalization on some onions and I had a winning recipe. Buttery puff pastry sits at the base for these ultra savory and slightly sweet seasonal tarts.

You can eat these savory puff pastry tarts on their own or pair them with dinner. I will post later detailing what I did with these little beauties.

An overhead photo of the warm tarts

My Mama’s Meatloaf

My Mama’s Meatloaf

Every southerner has certain foods that are quintessential nostalgia. Growing up most southern mothers had a select few recipes that were rotated around their weekly dinners. My mom’s favorites were meatloaf, salmon patties, vegetable soup, roast in the crock pot–my favorite was her meatloaf.

Without hesitation she passed down the recipe. Recanting, a dash here and a pour there…without many measurements. I wrote down her recipe, which was scant on direction, and treasured it. She gave it to my at least five years ago, and it has taken just that long to get the recipe close to how she makes it. I still have yet to perfect that special something that comes only when a family member makes your food.

So yes this is my mother’s recipe but with a few liberties (or at least some tips I found useful along the way).

Meatloaf is a budget friendly meal. One pound of ground beef is relatively cheap at the grocery store and can be stretched by adding a few ingredients to make a hearty family supper. My mom always served hers with mashed potatoes and those little sweet green peas. I like to eat it leftover between two slices of toasted bread and a slathering of mayonnaise.

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Cajun Meat Bread

Cajun Meat Bread

Most southern food is bone sticking and hearty. A style that can be contributed to the economics of survival.

This recipe is not different. A full loaf of bread is stuffed with meats, cheeses, and vegetables before being baked off. The result is a spicy gooey filled bread that acts as the perfect appetizer for any party.

This is a dish that I have eaten since I was a little girl, even considering it is difficult to find many versions of it in cookbooks or online.

Everyone in my family loves it. It originates from my Aunt’s mother, Mary Joyce, who is Cajun through and through. It is one of those items that is always present at family gatherings – especially large ones. A fact that is evident by the size of the portions used in the original recipe that was given to me:

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Personally, I do not cook for 80-100 people. I have a small family. So, the challenge with recreating this recipe was doing so in a way that would feed a smaller group. Lets say 10-12 people.

During my first test run of the condensed version of this recipe, I realized that the original recipe was missing some important instructions. A lack of instruction can easily be attributed to the fact that May Joyce has made this time and time again, so writing down all of the finite details was not something she needed to do. She has them all memorized.

To fill in the gaps, I did a little digging.  I found a recipe for creole meat bread by Emeril Lagasse, click here.

There is a large difference in creole and cajun food. Creole food is the result of many nationalities who settled in New Orleans. In many creole recipes you will find inspiration from West African, Spanish, Haitian, French, and many other cultures.

Cajun food comes from the Acadian people and has a French influence. You will find Cajun food primarily outside of the city…where my family lives.

Comparing the two, although one cajun and one creole,  helped fill in some of the gaps.

I present my version of meat bread. Of course it will never be good as the original I ate growing up. It is not easy to include the love that is thrown into every family recipe that is made for you, instead of by you.

For another Louisiana inspired recipe, click here.

Apricot Roasted Chicken

Apricot Roasted Chicken

There are often extremely difficult moments in life—days during which you feel as though you will not be okay. In the end, time will heal almost everything, but waiting seems impossible.

In those moments, food plays an important role for many. Personally, I gravitate towards homecooked meals that warm and ease my soul.

Two weeks ago I made the difficult decision to let go of my dog and best friend of 13 years. Although I know it was the correct decision to ease her suffering, it was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. My friends and family really stepped up to be there for my husband and I. The showering of food (and booze if I am being honest) kept my home full while my heart was empty.

I cannot think of a more soul warming meal than roasted meat and a couple of sides. A meat and two or three (or four) is a staple southern meal. Growing up, dinner most nights included meatloaf, country fried steak, pot roast, salmon patties, or pork chops.

So when you go through something difficult you often lean towards bits of nostalgia—the good moments. A full plate of love-filled food is a plate full of nostalgia for me. A lot of my childhood consisted of sitting in the kitchen with my mother as she cooked me dishes from the heart.

Although she never roasted chicken like this, I think this recipe is easily one that you can add to your repertoire of food to cook and share with others. The preparation calls for an arrangement of vegetables at the bottom of your roast pan and a slathering of sweet sticky apricot preserves. The result is a juicy home roasted chicken with a slight Asian flare.

I am going to leave this recipe here because it is my hope that you share a homecooked, heart-filling meal with friends or family. Even if you are not going through your own battle, and just want a good meal, this dish will serve you well. Now get in the kitchen and make memories.

The Ultimate BLT

The Ultimate BLT

A bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is one of those dishes that instantly triggers nostalgia for me. A good BLT is one of my mom’s favorite foods, which means so often growing up she would throw together a BLT for our supper.

Her recipe did not require special ingredients or fancy techniques, just a bit more care. She would quickly pan fry some bacon, which she usually had on hand in the fridge, slice some tomatoes from the garden, and slather toasted white bread with mayo. After watching her prepare countless sandwiches I realized what made her homemade version my favorite version. Aside from the addition of love, my mom seasoned every layer of her sandwich with salt and pepper.

First the mayo is lacquered on the bread then hit with a sprinkling of seasoning, the next layer is added and seasoned, and so on. As you can imagine, building a sandwich with tomato that has a sprinkling of salt and pepper far exceeds a sandwich with plain tomato.

And although I feel that you can never go wrong with classic BLT, I wanted to push the limits on what a BLT can be. With that in mind, I did not want to change the backbones of the sandwich by adding or using a bunch of random things. In the south people love to throw a fried green tomato onto a BLT in an attempt to heighten the recipe–I was not about to do that.

My approach is to amplify the already existing ingredients of a BLT. Add some garlic to the mayo, use better tomatoes, etcetera.

I use this Balsamic Onion Jam recipe to make the jam I use on the sandwich.

A few notes:

  1. Garlic confit can make you very sick if you do not cook it and store it properly. I recommend using it immediately and if you want to save it, freeze it.
  2. I purchased a loaf of homemade bread from a local baker. I recommend opting for a better bread than normal sliced bread from the grocery store.
  3. The true secret to making any BLT so much better is to salt and pepper every layer, even your smear of mayo.
  4. Finally, bake your bacon. This is a trick I learned during my short time as a line cook. Most restaurants place bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake it instead of pan frying it. It keeps the kitchen cleaner (bacon grease does not spatter everywhere) and you are able to tend to other things in the kitchen while the bacon bakes.

 

 

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Colder weather means throwing something in the crockpot before work, letting it cook all day, and coming home to a bubbly, home cooked meal. The preceding is especially true when your book club decides to host their monthly meeting at your house.

I can think of no better way to feed a bunch of hungry ladies than to prepare something that is quick and easy.

If you are like me, crockpot cooking can be difficult because there are so few dishes or variations of dishes that you can make in a crockpot—soup, roast, or chili seem to be the go tos.

I tested out this recipe a few weeks ago on my husband, so when my book club meeting was scheduled for my house I thought the recipe would be perfect. The most work this recipe requires is steaming some jasmine rice for the side.

A beautiful bowl of lentil and butternut squash curry

There is no added fat or meat, which results in a relatively healthy dinner. The base is made entirely of vegetables and a little bit of low sodium chicken stock. Low calorie cooking means more room for wine.

As the seasons change you can trade out the butternut squash for something more seasonal like mango or sweet potato. You literally throw everything into the crockpot the morning before your meal is planned, and let the lentils cook down with the vegetables until a thick creamy curry is created.

Just like you can switch out the vegetables that fill this curry, you can pick any of you favorite toppings to sprinkle over each finished bowl. I opted for cilantro and pickled onion, but the leftover seeds from the butter squash would have also been delicious roasted then peppered over the top.

Chopsticks sit besides this rice filled bowl of curry

Balsamic Onion Jam

Balsamic Onion Jam

For us in the low country, summer’s end is marked by the beginning of hurricane season. It is a period of months that I absolutely dread, especially considering I did not grow up here. Where I am from, our only worry was the occasional lighting storm or tornado.

With summer marking its end, last week I dug up my summer garden to replant my winter one. Now I am not so certain my tiny little plants are going to make it through the impending storms of hurricane Florence that everyone on the east coast is tracking so closely. Even if Savannah does not get hit directly this week, I can assure you that a gust of torrential rain and wind will likely wipe out my tiny plants.

Part of summer ending and fall/winter replanting means using up the last bit of fruit from the garden. For most southerners this results in canning and saving for the winter. When canning comes around, I tend to lean towards jams and pickles.

Making a jam doesn’t only have to be reserved for fruit or sweet items. I often make onion, bacon, or tomato jam to keep and pair with a hefty cheese plate or put out for a gathering.

The basics of jam are easy, unlike jelly which often requires the addition of pectin or gelatin. To make a jam I employ a few standard techniques, cooking down the star ingredient with a liquid and sugar until it becomes sticky and reduced.

For this jam recipe I use two types of onion, Vidalia and red, to achieve a well rounded flavor. The addition of balsamic vinegar cuts through the sweetness and adds a deep savory flavor.

You can save the recipe by canning the finished jam or store it in the fridge for up to a week.

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Jerusalem Bagels with Burnt Honey Cream Cheese

Jerusalem Bagels with Burnt Honey Cream Cheese

Savory, nutty homemade Jerusalem bagels and a side of decadent, condensed burnt honey creamed cheese–it’s a baking recipe that I know everyone will love.

I am super ecstatic about this post and sharing a recipe that I will be adding to my list of rotating go-tos. As someone who constantly cooks, I can state with confidence, on behalf of all of the home cooks out there, it is rare that you find a recipe that is both easy and a show stopper.

The recipe makes Jerusalem bagels, which are different from a normal bagel due to the lack of boiling. Even though the bagels are not boiled, the flavor is still amazing. They taste reminiscent of a bagel/pretzel hybrid. By forgoing the step of boiling, you are saving on time and work, hence making the process a lot easier.

I recommend you eat these warm out of the oven or warm them up if you are eating them at a later time. They go with just about anything, hummus, cream cheese, cheese, etc.

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I wanted something sweet yet unique, so spruced up some cream cheese by making burnt honey. The process of “burning” honey is simply caramelizing it a bit, to give it a deeper more condensed flavor. A quick warning–once you eat honey like this you will never go back.

As for the topping, I glazed them with honey to add a bit of sweetness and keep with the honey theme and a sprinkling of sesame seeds to add nuttiness. The recipe is extremely versatile, serving as a great base for any topping or mix-in. In the future, I will be posting many more versions of Jerusalem Bagels.

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