Thursday, January 27, 2005

Recipe: Candied Sweet Potatoes

1 can (32 ounces) sweet potatoes
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 small can pineapple tidbits sweetened in their own juice
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, cut in pieces

Drain half the liquid from the potatoes and pineapple. Place all the ingredients in a 2-3 quart casserole. Bake at whatever temperature you are cooking the rest of the meal until the liquid is bubbly and syrupy.

Shane Bryan: How to Safely Ship Your Cookies

Visit Chef Shane’s Cooking Blog, which is about “all things cooking—recipes, articles, tips, trivia and more!” at There you’ll find some interesting reading.

Here is an article shared by Shane:

How To Safely Ship Your Cookies
By Shane Bryan

Shipping delicious homemade cookies to faraway loved ones during the holidays is a favorite gift giving idea shared by millions. Fresh baked cookies make wonderful gifts. For those on a budget, homemade cookies are a loving and thoughtful way to remember everyone on your list. And don’t forget our troops stationed overseas. They always appreciate a little taste of home and it makes them feel appreciated and supported. Some types of cookies ship much better than others. This is what we will cover in this article along with tips on packaging.

Some of your best cookie choices for shipping are ones that don’t break easily like unfrosted bars, chewy or fudge like brownies, drop cookies and firm cut-out cookies. Poor choices for shipping include cake-like brownies or bars, soft cookies, frosted cookies or bars and anything with ingredients that might spoil or melt in warm weather.

You don’t want to pick cookies with sharp points as the travel will probably break the points. Use smaller designs with your cut-out cookies as they will be less likely to break during shipping.

While it is not generally recommended, I have had good luck shipping frosted cookies. Just make sure you use something harder like a glaze or royal icing. If carefully packed in layers, this should work just fine.

Always make sure your cookies are cooled completely before packing or you may have problems with sogginess.

You will want to pack differently flavored cookies in separate containers. The flavors will mingle during shipping. You will also want to keep crisp and soft cookies packed separately. Packing together will soften your crisp cookies.

Use sturdy foil-lined containers or tins. Airtight containers work best. Use a layer of crumpled wax paper on bottom for cushioning. Wrap round cookies back to back in pairs. Wax paper or cellophane work excellent for this. Place a small piece between your cookie pairs to keep them from sticking together. These may be stacked flat or on end. Pack snugly with the heavier cookies on the bottom. Use crushed wax paper in any holes to prevent jiggling. Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper. Use wax paper to cushion container at the top and keep everything snug.

Carefully pack your container or containers in your shipping box. Use lots of crumpled newspaper, packing peanuts or other packing material to carefully cushion everything. If you are looking for a light and environmentally friendly packing material, try air-popped popcorn with no oil.

Seal the box with shipping tape and cover the address label with clear tape for protection. Always clearly label your box “PERISHABLE” to encourage careful and speedy handling. Labeling the box “FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE” couldn’t hurt either.

If you follow these steps, your cookies should always arrive fresh and undamaged, no matter what the post office does to them. I’ve shipped lots of cookies over the years with no problems.

This article was taken from my new book “Fabulous Old-Time Cookies.” To Learn more go to

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Top

1 can (29 ounces) sweet potatoes
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup fat free Half and Half®
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Drain potatoes and mash with butter. Add sugar, eggs, Half and Half®, and vanilla extract. Transfer the mixture to a 9” square baking dish.

Crunchy Top
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup self-rising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup flaked coconut

Combine ingredients. Spread over sweet potato mix. Bake at 350° until the mixture bubbles and the topping browns slightly, approximately 40 minutes.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Sweet Potatoes or Yams?

Although people use the terms sweet potato and yam interchangeably, true yams are quite different from the sweet potatoes that we call yams. A yam (Dioscorea Species of the yam, or Dioscoreaceae, family) is a white-fleshed, beta-carotene-lacking tuber originating in West Africa and Asia. It has a long cylindrical shape, sometimes with toes and a rough, scaly appearance. It feels dry in the mouth and tastes starchy. This tropical food is imported from the Caribbean.

A sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas of the morning glory, or Convolvulaceae family) is an orange-colored, beta-carotene rich root originating in Peru and Ecuador. It has a short, blocky, shape with a smooth appearance and a thin skin. In the mouth a sweet potato is an explosion of sweet, moist taste. This tropical food is grown here in the United States.

(Reference source: Jonathan R. Schultheis and L. George Wilson. “What is the Difference Between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?” Department of Horticultural Science, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University. Pp. 1-2.)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes go great with collards.

A Dozen Sweet Potato Facts

1. The Center for Science in the Public Interest rated the sweet potato as number one in nutritional value of common vegetables.
2. The Nutrition Action Health Letter rated 58 vegetables by adding the percentages of US
Recommended Daily Allowances for Vitamins A and C, folate, iron, copper, calcium, and fiber. The sweet potato won.
3. A sweet potato is a great source of vitamin E, although it is fat free. Other great sources of vitamin E, such as oils, nuts, and avocadoes, are loaded with fat.
4. A sweet potato is a source of Vitamin B6, potassium, and iron.
5. Sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal.
6. A medium sweet potato has only 118 calories.
7. The deeper colored sweet potatoes have the most nutritional value and usually the best taste.
8. Storing sweet potatoes in the refrigerator will produce a hard core in the centers. Store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated container at approximately 55°.
9. A cook should use sweet potatoes within two weeks of purchase.
10. One should handle sweet potatoes carefully to prevent bruising.
11. The peeling is a better source of nutrients than the inside.
12. Cooked sweet potatoes freeze well.

(Reference source for sweet potato facts: Susan M. Morgan. “How Sweet It Is”: Sweet Potatoes—A Fall Favorite” North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University. Pp 1-3.)

Recipe: Terry's Jambalaya

First prepare the meat. Place in a big pot:
1 whole chicken or 4 chicken breasts
Cover it with water and add as much of the following as you wish:
Black pepper
Red pepper
Mrs. Dash
Cajun seasoning
Boil until the chicken is tender. Debone it and save the broth.
2 pounds shrimp in seasoning and peel them.
Chop or crumble:
2 pounds sausage (your choice of type)
Next sauté. Begin with a little olive oil. Cover the bottom of the skillet with oil. Brown:
2 small or 1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 whole onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic (from a jar)
1 rib celery, sliced
Add and brown in the mix:
Pour into a gumbo pot:
1 big (#3) can diced tomatoes
1-2 cans Ro-Tel®
Deboned chicken
2 cups broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
About 2 teaspoons Louisiana Red Hot® sauce
Powdered garlic
2 bay leaves
Simmer until it’s mingled really well.
1-2 cups Minute Rice®
Adjust liquid.
Put a lid on. Let it cook on medium low. Keep it stirred.
Serve with:
A dollop of sour cream

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Recipes and Story: Chenille's Blackened Fish

Blackened Fish
(It’s a well-kept secret that blackening fish is easy. Chenille’s blackening spice mix is superb.)

Fish filets (such as ocean perch, red fish, snapper, or catfish)
Olive oil (high quality)
Chenille’s blackening spice mix (See recipe below.)

  1. Coat the fish with olive oil on both sides and pat with the blackening spice mix.
  2. Coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet with olive and heat.
  3. When the oil is hot, add the fish, skin side down. Cook on high heat until brown. Be prepared for smoke and careful to avoid fire. Vent the kitchen.
  4. Turn the fish once and cook on the other side until brown. The color will continue to darken after the fish finishes cooking.
  5. Serve immediately.

Chenille’s Blackening Spice

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon salt substitute (or salt), 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, 1 teaspoon dried thyme.

Empty enough fresh black peppercorns into a blender to make approximate l tablespoon of ground pepper. Grind them in the blender (It’s quicker than using a manual grinder.) and measure 1 tablespoon of the freshly ground black pepper. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix them thoroughly in the blender.

Store the mix in a sealed dry container.

Taffy Chenille

Slim and Della Ware Hathorn moved from Mize, Mississippi, to Memphis when Taffy was thirteen. Slim became disgusted with farming after some of his sharecroppers tried to exterminate wasps in the cotton house by sticking a torch to a wasp nest the size of a dinner plate. Although the workers succeeded in annihilating the wasps, the nest fell into the cotton. Fire spread through enough freshly picked cotton to make a bale. Also, the cotton house, which was worth nothing, burned. After the harvest, Slim and Della packed their belongings and moved to the city with their only daughter.

Slim had named his daughter Taffy because they were pulling it the night they fell in love, but Della added the name Chenille. By the time Taffy was thirteen she was already 5'11" and thin as a willow. She wore her fire engine red hair in braids, and her freckles adorned her peach-colored face.

Before Taffy moved to Memphis, she and Mary Lou spent weeks together every summer. They rode Daisy, a painted mare, and Don, her gelding son. Mary Lou’s pa had no saddles for the gentle horses–there was only the saddle that belonged to the family’s favorite horse Fanny. The girls didn’t care except for a bothersome problem: Don’s backbone was so sharp his rider had to dangle a thigh over the gelding’s back to prevent injury to her delicate body parts.

After Taffy moved away, she wrote Mary Lou rarely. Along with her parents, she underwent a metamorphosis. Slim, who took an impressive but secret job with the federal government, started spelling their name Hawthorne instead of Hathorn, Della dropped the Ware, and Taffy became Chenille.

A couple of years ago Mary Lou was eating in an exclusive New Orleans restaurant with Frankie, Mike, and Christie when the proprietors–a handsome couple–approached their table. The woman was Chenille! She said, “Mary Lou, I would have known you anywhere.” The dinner was on the house.

The cousins renewed their friendship. When they have time, they chat. Chenille is busy helping manage the restaurant. When her husband needs her special help, she puts on an eye-popping dress and goes to the bank for him. Three times a week she goes to aerobics class, twice a week she gets a manicure on her own nails, sometimes she keeps her grandchildren, and once a week she goes for electrolysis. She oversees the maintenance of their cars, and she interviews the waiters before they are employed. Her hobby is shopping for rebates. They often dine at home by candlelight.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Recipe: Red Bean Gumbo--A Unique South Louisiana Delight

Hazel Keller's Red Bean Gumbo
Boil dry red beans until they are so well boiled that the shucks are loosened from the pulp. Mash and strain out the shucks.
Put about a pound of Andouille sausage cut up small in it. Don’t cook the sausage ahead. Let it cook in that gumbo.
(Note from Hazel: I used to make a roux, but I don’t any more.)
Leave that boil until tender 30-60 minutes.
Just before you serve it crack some eggs in it. (about 6 eggs if 6 people are eating it) Maybe you ought to crack them in a bowl first in case they are rotten. Don’t fool with the eggs too much. Let them poach in there.

Taste for seasoning. You might have to add salt. The andouille is usually well seasoned. It won’t be necessary to add other seasonings. Throw in some parsley and shallot greens.

Serve cooked rice on the side or add some cooked rice.

The old folks used to make it without the andouille because they couldn’t afford to put sausage in their gumbo.

Notes from Mary Lou:
I tried this recipe. It did not remind me of any gumbo I had ever eaten, but it was some of the most delicious food I've ever put into my mouth.

Always looking for the easy way to do things, I quickly decided it was too much trouble to push those beans through a strainer. Instead, I put them in the blender.

The mouths I feed delight in burning a little with pepper. I had to add some heat to this great dish.

Thank you, Hazel, for sharing this recipe.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Recipe: North Louisiana Collard Gumbo, Story of Gumbo

Gumbo, as defined in Merriam-Webster dictionaries, is a soup thickened with okra pods or filé and containing meat or seafood and usually vegetables. According to The Joy of Cooking, the word gumbo is derived from quingombo, an African Congo word for okra. Louisiana gumbo is a soup thickened either with okra or file, which is a powder made from ground sassafras root.

Roux, the basis of gumbo, is made by browning flour and oil until it is very dark.
When you make gumbo, you are allowed to substitute ingredients liberally. Gumbo is something delicious that Louisiana people cook with whatever meats they have available. The best gumbo has more than one type of meat.

People in the Mississippi and Louisiana hill country often add vegetables that the south Louisianans with French heritage find shocking. It’s all good!

North Louisiana Collard Gumbo, a quick and easy version of a Louisiana staple, is a blending of Southern flavors. (I started to call it a marriage: but since it has a hint of New Orleans, a strong component of African tradition, a kick of Tex-Mex, the tenderness of Georgia, and the practicality of north Louisiana, I realized it would be polygamy.)

Don’t judge the difficulty of a recipe by the length of the ingredient list. Frequently all that is required is tossing ingredients into a pot and allowing the ingredients to simmer until they smell irresistible. Judge the work and skill required by the directions, not the number of items required.

Paul, the Spicemouth, my good friend and official taster, likes curry in his gumbo. (?!!!) When I cook for him, we compromise. I place a box of madras curry powder by his plate. Also he likes huge amounts of crushed red pepper. He keeps his “crushed red” handy. “Once it’s in my bowl,” he insists, “It’s my business.”

For three more well-researched and tried gumbo recipes prepared by my friends and family, visit Click on GUMBO.

North Louisiana Collard Gumbo
½ cup finely chopped bacon (preferably ends and pieces—select lean pieces)
⅓ cup minced garlic
1 package (12 ounces) frozen seasoning blend (onions, celery, green and red peppers, parsley flakes)
1 pound finely chopped fresh collards (tender Georgia collards if you can find them)
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 package (4.5 ounces Zatarain’s New Orleans Style® Gumbo Base
8 cups water
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Splenda®
1 tablespoon liquid from pickled jalapenos
shake of crushed red pepper (according to your taste—you can always add more, but you can’t take it out)
salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
1 package (14 ounces) cocktail smokies (sliced)
1 cup sliced okra

Brown the chopped bacon. Add the garlic, seasoning blend, and collards. Stir and sauté about 5 minutes. Add everything else except the smokies (which toughen when overcooked) and the okra (which gets mushy when overcooked). Simmer until it smells good, the collards are tender, and you’ve had time to cook some rice and set the table.
Serve with gumbo filé and rice.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Recipe: Aunt Edna Carter's Teacakes

Terry has fond memories of her Aunt Edna. She was thinking about the perfect teacakes her aunt used to make. She told me, “This was my grandmother Webb’s original recipe too, but Aunt Edna made them more!”

Aunt Edna Carter’s Teacakes

2 sticks oleo or butter
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla

Cream oleo and sugar together.
Add other ingredients and mix well.
Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheet.
Bake at 375°.
Check after 5 minutes and every 5 till brown.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Recipe: Baked Coon and Sweet Potatoes

Early this morning the birds called me out of my bed. The crows reminded me to go check my e-mail. The important letter about the important business I’d been spending my important time worry about, dreaming about, and anticipating was not there as it was supposed to be.

I made a cup of peach tea, threw a jacket over my pajamas, and walked, cup of tea in hand, down to the collard patch. It’s cool this morning—56 degrees—cool and pleasant. Looking through the sweet gum trees with raindrops glistening on their branches, I can focus on what is truly important in life. "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalms 118: 24)

My collards are not quite ready to eat, but I found some at the grocery store. They were pre-harvested, pre-washed, pre-chopped, and pre-bagged in Georgia. Those Georgia collards were so tender that I didn’t need to add a pinch of baking soda; actually they were so tender that I used them for salad after pouring just a little fresh hot bacon grease over them to wilt them.

Terry Chrisman shared her mother’s recipe for baked raccoon. Since I can’t find any raccoons, I have not tried this recipe. Although it is my policy to try recipes whenever possible—my freezer door is propped closed because of all the food I’ve cooked and stored—I will make an exception in this case. Terry is a distinguished cook, and I trust her. She called her mother to verify the recipe. Because you may find a raccoon you need to cook, I’ll share the recipe with you.

Baked Coon by Ann Webb

Dress the coon.
Remove all the glands, especially from under the arms.
Quarter it.
Cover it with pepper sauce.
Lay thick slices of peeled sweet potatoes around the edges.
Pour a little bit of water in the pan.
Sprinkle a cup of dark brown sugar over the sweet potatoes and coon.
Cover the pan.
Bake at 350° until tender.

Terry told me that her mother cooks coon two or three times a year only in cold weather. Her father kills them when he goes squirrel hunting. She said, “He’s supposed to be squirrel hunting, but if he sees a coon, he kills it.”

Baked coon would be a gourmet meal with collards and cornbread on the side.