Saturday, December 31, 2011

Terry’s Spicy Collard Soup

Terry Chrisman, a great north Louisiana cook, made a powerful pot of collard soup today. She said it had a spicy Italian-flavored kick. It was so good she didn’t have a leftover. She said she just made it up as she went along. She has a well-stocked spice rack. When she cooks, she says she “makes a pass by the spices.” Today she told us exactly what she added. With some cornbread, this soup would make an excellent New Year’s Day meal.

Terry’s Spicy Collard Soup

1 can collard greens (spicy ones)
1can pinto beans
1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 chopped onion
1 heaping teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
a shake or two of parsley, Cajun seasoning, paprika, salt and pepper,
dash of Tabasco
1 cup seashell macaroni

Sauté onions and garlic. Add all other ingredients except macaroni. Add enough water or chicken stock (Terry uses water) to make it soupy, cook for ten to fifteen minutes, add macaroni. cook till al dent. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. (Terry adds parmesan last and stirs it in whole soup. She also adds one teaspoon of dry ranch style dressing mix.).Serve with dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Character Interview with Caroline from Secret Promise

Secret Promise is a historical inspirational romance to be released in early 2012.

Mary Lou: Hello, Caroline. Thank you for taking some of your time to talk with us today. I know you are busy.
Caroline: Yes, I’m very busy this summer. I have to make dresses for my stepsisters to wear in a revue. The styles they have selected are elaborate. As a result, I have to spend more time on these dresses than necessary. You see, the fashions they selected are out of style.
Mary Lou: Why didn’t you tell them?
Caroline: They went shopping without me. They never ask my opinion. They just go buy fabric and bring it home for me to sew.
Mary Lou: Too bad. What is the special occasion that requires them to wear new dresses?
Caroline: In our little town of Taylorsburg, we’re having a revue. The young ladies are going to be presented. I think they are trying to let the eligible bachelors see them look their best. The new man in town, Jacob MacGregor, is the master of ceremonies for the event. My sisters have their eyes on him.
Mary Lou: What are you wearing to the revue?
Caroline: I don’t have time to make myself a dress. Besides, my stepmother would have a fit if I participated.
Mary Lou: Why do you allow your family to mistreat you?
Caroline: It involves a secret promise I’ve made. I must make sure my family looks good in the community.
Mary Lou: So you make sacrifices because of your promise? I noticed your eyes sparkled when you mentioned Jacob MacGregor.
Caroline: All the young women in town are looking at him. He’s the new owner of the Mercantile. He may be interested in my sister Lydia. At least, she thinks so.
Mary Lou: Your situation seems hopeless. How do you handle it?
Caroline: I have to trust in the Lord. I look to our cook Rachel and Aunt Haley as my mother substitutes. I try to deal with my resentment. Lydia is mean like her mother, my stepmother. Millicent, the baby sister, may turn out all right, but she has no discipline.
Mary Lou: Thanks again for the time. I know you need to get back to your sewing.
Caroline: Oops, my last sewing needle broke. I need to head down to MacGregor’s Mercantile to buy a replacement. Maybe I’ll see Jake.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When Cinderella Meets a Man like Job

Cinderella – the ever-popular old folktale of unjust cruelty – remains a favorite. For centuries Cinderella has been a favorite character. Imagine a real, true-to-life, beautiful young woman who is mistreated by a stepmother who abuses alcohol.

Now place this situation in 1907 in a south Mississippi timber-and-railroad town. What is the result? Caroline Clemons, who has made a secret promise she will keep no matter the cost. Her life’ struggles seem as impossible as those of the Cinderella we know and love.

To make matters worse, Prince Charming has endured a life similar to that of Job; but, unlike Job, he voices anger at the Lord. How can he overcome his perceived misfortunes and return to the love for God he knew before disaster struck?

Tonight I moved one step closer to giving you this inspirational romance with a historical setting. I edited the cover and the galley proofs. I am excited about sharing this book with my friends.

Monday, December 19, 2011

She lives alone with her dogs. They don’t hit her or yell at her.

A dear sweet friend of mine – let’s call her Sherrie – told me she found abusive men attractive. Her husband yelled at her, pushed her around, and eventually slapped her. She doesn’t divorce him, because she hopes and prays God will change his heart.

She has decided she should remain alone because she is not worthy of someone who would treat her well. Through a process of soul searching, she has come to realize why she feels unworthy of a decent man. When she was a teenager at home, her stepmother abused her. As she matured, she concluded she was unworthy of being treated kindly.
She lives alone with her dogs. They don’t hit her or yell at her. Her life has sadness in it that is painful to watch. Sherrie is beautiful, vivacious, intelligent, and accommodating. Her sense of humor and playful spirit brighten the lives of all the people with whom she interacts at work. Her Christian spirit radiates from within her.

When I was eight years old, I owned a little paperback novel telling the story of Cinderella. It was my favorite story. As soon as I finished it, I started over at the beginning and reread it. I never failed to emote with tears, laughter, or anxiety when I read certain passages. I knew Cinderella would marry Prince Charming, but in my heart I had trouble believing her story would end in such a happy fashion. At various points in the story, I used to stop and invent different conclusions.

In my romantic historical novel, Secret Promise, Caroline suffers from her stepmother’s abuse. Despite all her wonderful qualities, she sees herself as too flawed to expect a happy life. I hope you enjoy reading about Caroline, the brutal struggles of her life, her joys, and her sorrows. I hope you love Caroline as much as I have loved writing about her.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Walk down the Street One Week before Christmas

My neighborhood in north Louisiana doesn’t know we have only a couple days of autumn remaining. The leaves continue to glow with the beauty of fall colors. Some years the trees and shrubs are lovelier than others; this year the leaves have been exceptionally brilliant with subtle nuances.

I took Foxy, my standard poodle, for a walk down the street to admire the leaves this afternoon, but she had eyes only for the cat that teased her. She’s more interested in the winter wonderland we have after dark than in the leaves. Tonight the twinkling lights with plastic snowmen catch her eye.

After Christmas my neighbors and I will settle into a gray world punctuated by evergreens. We’ll be saying it’s raining too much or not enough. We’ll rejoice if we see any snowflakes. As always, springtime will come early. Then summer, our dominant season, will take over.

Do you ever wish you could stop time and hold onto one lovely moment? We keep walking down the street and doing all our other business until the time comes when time is no more.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Secret Promise

Sharing with you the opening of my first romantic novel, Secret Promise. It is due to be released soon.

Chapter One
The Clemons Household

Spring 1907

The thought occurred to Caroline that no one would believe what went on inside the Clemons household. She slipped out of Millicent’s bedroom. Glancing over her shoulder, she rushed through the dining room back to the warm kitchen, leaned by an open window, and drew the breeze into her lungs.

“Land’s sakes . . . you done got too hot.” Rachel brushed the thick soft back of her brown hand against Caroline’s cheek. “Sit a minute. I’ll fetch you some cool water.”

Caroline swigged it down and set the empty glass on the worktable. “Thank you, Madear. Got to go.”

“You can’t let Miss Horsey catch you back here when you supposed to be at the front door.”

In the parlor Caroline plumped the needlepoint-covered pillows on the sofa. A burst of wind blew a filmy curtain into her moist face. Reaching to straighten it, she looked through the window in time to see two Tennessee Walking Horses pull an elaborate surrey with fringe trim into the circle drive.

A dark-haired man perhaps in his early twenties stopped the team next to a hitching post. He jumped out to tie the horses and bounded up the steps to the high front porch.

A Sneak Peak at the Back Cover of Secret Promise

Secret Promise, my first historical romantic novel, is scheduled to be released in early2012. I'm excited to share with you what is to appear on the back cover:

Caroline is in hiding. She knows that lying in her bed seems too dangerous. If the wind blows, the curtains will fly open. Anyone passing in the yard will see her. She pulls the bed sheets and quilt onto the floor to make a pallet. Then she snuffs out the candle and finds her way to her makeshift resting place.

Caroline prays for God's protection as she lies, holding her pistol. Soon the morning will come, but the sky is still dark. Clump-clump. Clump-clump. It isn't the milkman; the horses and the wagon sound different.

The wagon pulls into the back driveway, and a man's thudding steps came closer, closer, and closer. He pushes against her door. Stuck—this door is stuck. He crashes into it, but the door does not budge. How will Caroline escape?

She watches the front room through the crack by the kitchen door. She feels an inexplicably strong attraction to the handsome young man.

Years ago she made a promise, which she will honor at any cost.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Blogger: Paul Elliott, The Collard Patch, The Story of the Collard Greens Cookbook

If you think you don’t like collards, you haven’t tasted our collards.

The Collard Patchstory cookbook began life in Sister Ruth’s Laurel, Mississippi, collard patch. She invited us to pick a mess of collards, and did we pick a mess! We even made a mess. After the first big black plastic bag full, Mary said, “Paul, what are we going to do with all these collards?”

With a cavalier toss of his head, Paul said, “We’re going to fix them and eat 'em.” Of course, Paul wasn’t even sure he liked collards, didn’t know what they tasted like. Four big plastic bags of collards later, the cleaning and chopping process saw dawn’s early light. What a J-O-B!

Now reduced to many freezer bags of chopped collards and much needed sleep, the challenge of what to do with them remained. Fifteen thousand messes of collard greens with salt pork somehow overwhelmed our interest in healthy eating.

When an online search for a cookbook devoted to collard greens was fruitless, searches for individual recipes showed very little diversity or imagination. Mary went to work thinking of unusual ways to cook with collards. Paul signed up as a certified eater.

It was quickly obvious that the files were the beginning of a fine cookbook devoted solely to collard greens and cornbread. Research revealed the amazing nutritional value of collard greens – better than spinach, turnip greens, and mustard greens. (For more details look in The Collard Patch.)

Mary’s creativity soon yielded delicious recipes from appetizers to desserts. Yes, desserts! Collard greens make chocolate taste better. Did you ever realize you can eat your chocolate and get your greens? Other than eating Mary’s creations, Paul created stories of growing up in collard country – tales of his misspent youth.

It seems that a second edition may be on the horizon and we have some inventory to clear. Grab your copies for gifts at an unbelievably low price. Stock up for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, and wedding gifts.

At $23.97 it was a cookbook bestseller on This offer we’re making now on Amazon is good only while the supplies last. Maybe the price is too low. Go here to learn more.

Guest Blogger: Paula Taylor. Family Gardening Legacy, Traveling Bulbs

Paula Taylor lives in Amarillo. She is in the process of writing her first novel, which reveals her sensitivity as she delves deeply into her characters' motivations. She has a unique talent for turning a phrase.

Because I enjoyed her comments about bulbs, I want to share this article with you. Thanks, Paula.

My dad's mother was an avid gardener. She could grow dad can too! Anyway, my grandmother followed the habits of most women from her era and moved plants and bulbs with her whenever she moved. I can only imagine the arguments that caused with their spouses!

She came from Iowa to Missouri. Then to Oklahoma, next Texas, back to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Oklahoma, then Arkansas again before finally staying In Oklahoma in her later years. She moved plants everywhere she went as the story goes.

I always loved helping her in her garden. One of my favorite plants was a pink lily she called a “Surprise Lily” or a “Naked Lady Lily”. It was unique because it sent up foliage in the spring, died back to nothing, and then in late summer sent up a single stalk where a cluster of gorgeous pink lilies bloomed.

My dad has many of Gram’s bulbs and has shared this particular one with me. Being the “Greedy Gus” that I am, I wanted more. I found that these bulbs are almost antique and very difficult to find. Ultimately I located a company called “OLD HOUSE GARDENS” which salvages old bulbs from places and then cultivates them for stock to sell.

If you like flowers, a copy of their catalogue is a must. The pictures and descriptions are fabulous. I now have more bulbs planted in my yard and am dreaming of ways to use more of these beautiful old plants in the future.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Christmas Special, Flavored with Love at a Ridiculously Low Price

Something nice for Christmas for Less than Five Dollars

Many readers and cooks have delighted in Flavored with Love, my story cookbook. My sister in Laurel, Mississippi, sold almost 2,000 of the first and second editions. When Paul Elliott and I wrote The Collard Patch, I revised Flavored with Love a third time. It has sold constantly on Amazon for $22.97. Not long ago I reduced the price of Flavored with Love to $15.00. Just in time for Christmas I have reduced it to $4.95, a price so low I'm losing money; but I want you to have this book to enjoy. It would make an excellent Christmas gift. Right now there are only three available on Amazon, but more will be on the way soon. When I wrote this, I used the pen name Jane Riley, my imaginary cousin. She tells about the cooks in my family -- the way they act, what they cook for holiday meals and for every day good eating.

You'll be surprised that it is a big cookbook in big print.

Product Description:
Flavored with Love, Mary Lou's Family and Friends Can Cook, Third Edition, is a wonderful story cookbook. Experience the recipes for some of the most delicious food you'll ever put in your mouth. Delight in the intimate glimpses into the lives of some precious, colorful people! Take a culinary trip through the South from Texas to the Carolinas, while you plan to spend most of your time in south Louisiana and Mississippi. Imagine the delightful aromas wafting through your house as you enjoy the heart warming stories. Flavored with Love introduces you to a beautiful blending of flavors in a cookbook packed with more than 300 favorite nostalgic recipes in big print. Enjoy the personalities related to the recipes. Learn secrets from the kitchens of some of Louisiana's favorite restaurants. Collect some hard to find south Louisiana recipes. Learn about the simple recipes that have won cooking contests. Have fun with food and cooking facts. You don't have to be a cook to enjoy Flavored with Love.

What Friends Say about Flavored with Love:
I have been browsing through Mary Cheatham's cookbook Flavored With Love for some time now, and have found it growing on me the more I dip into it. I started out skimming through it just reading the fascinating recipes. But after a while I noticed that the little stories around the recipes were not just filler, but fascinating in their own right. These stories are wonderful little snippets of Southern life starring Mary's family and friends from times gone by, evocations of an era when the pleasures of life were simpler and available to all, rich or poor. Buy it! Read it cover to cover. I particularly liked the story where little 4 year old Mary Lou caught the biggest Bream that had ever been caught and what happened to the Bream the next day. This story was, of course, followed by a recipe for Fried Bream. I live in Western Australia, on the opposite side of the world to Mary, and we don't get much in the way of Southern food out here (apart from Col. Sanders)... But Mary's recipes are so interesting, dripping as they do with the flavours of the South, and I certainly intend to introduce some of them to my family. I highly recommend Mary's cookbook, not just for her incredible recipes, but also for her personal introduction to her family and other interesting people via her warm and memorable stories. --Lex Edmonds, Perth, Western Australia

I own several cookbooks, and this is the only one I would suggest reading cover to cover. In real life I am an auto mechanic, and I have to use exact measures and specifications. I love to cook and not worry if everything is the same as last time. Mary's recipes can all be added to or changed just enough to make them your own, but her humorous way of preparing to cook a pan fish by first catching the fish, or the warning at the end of one recipe about beating your brains out with your tongue, these will only be found in a cookbook written by someone who cares about real people. Some of the best cooking I have done was at the expense of a healthy dish. I love cholesterol, fat, and salt. I am a Louisiana state certified food handler and probably the only mechanic to hold that license. The other day Mary came into my shop and told me that her radio, steering, and electric windows all quit working when she put her car in reverse. Most people would have doubted her, but knowing Mary, and some of the things she has done I started working on her car. I owe my job to a killer pecan pie, and hope to get a raise with this new book. May the Lord bless you and keep you, Mary. --Walker Gay, Choudrant, Louisiana

Mary Lou, thanks for a great cookbook. You share so many downhome real family recipes that it's often hard to decide what to fix next. The little stories you add all bring a smile to my face. You sure can cook. --Willie Crawford, Renowned Internet Marketer, Navarre, FL,

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cornbread Salad

We Southerners love our cornbread. For the Simsboro First Baptist Church Thanksgiving meal, I made Cornbread Salad, an unusual dish that has become popular on the salad bars of all-you-can-eat seafood and catfish restaurants. If you like the tastes of raw vegetables, bacon, mayonnaise, pickles and cornbread, you will be unable to stop with one bowl of this unique salad.

Cornbread salad is featured in Flavored with Love by Jane Riley (my penname). My sister Ruth Ishee contributed it to the cookbook. She said I should take a big bowl of cornbread salad to the party. She was right. Several people wanted the recipe.

She suggested I dress it up by adding something. I made four batches and added one pound of frozen whole kernel corn (uncooked). Instead of four green bell peppers, I used two green bell peppers and two orange bell peppers.

Cornbread Salad

1 box (8½ ounces) corn muffin mix
1 egg
⅓ cup milk
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium green bell pepper chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup sweet pickles, chopped
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup light mayonnaise
¼ cup sweet pickle juice

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a 6-cup muffin tin. Blend the first 3 ingredients. Let the batter rest 4 minutes. Pour the batter into the muffin cups and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow it to cool, and crumble it.

Combine tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, pickles, and bacon. Toss gently. Combine mayonnaise and pickle juice. Mix the mayonnaise mixture with the vegetables. Arrange the vegetable mixture and cornbread mixture in layers in a large glass bowl. Cover and chill 2 hours. Toss lightly before serving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mom’s Dressing, Our Family's Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe

Mom’s Dressing

My mother-in-law, Mary Cheatham, cooked this traditional family recipe. (Because her name was Mary and for a few more reasons, I have reverted to the name Mary Lou Cheatham to avoid confusion, although most of my friends except the ones in Taylorsville and on Facebook, call me Mary.)

Fanny, a precious friend in Peru, is a missionary and the wife of a missionary from Louisiana. She is planning to cook a USA Thanksgiving dinner and needs help. I am posting this recipe for her and for you if you’d like to try some of the best traditional cornbread dressing I’ve ever eaten.

2 batches cornbread prepared according to the instructions on the mix (Mom uses Martha White buttermilk mix; we use Jiffy®.)
½ - ⅔ large loaf white sandwich bread
6 large onions
1 bunch of celery less 2 stalks
½ bunch parsley
1½ teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon sage
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
Salt to taste
5 large eggs
Hot water or chicken broth (depending on the use of the dressing.)
Cooking oil

In a huge pan crumble the cornbread; tear the white bread into small pieces.

Sauté the celery and onions in oil but do not allow them to brown. Cut the long stems off the parsley and tear the parsley into small pieces. Stir the vegetables and the seasonings into the breadcrumbs. With vigorous stirring, add the eggs. Continuing to stir, add enough hot water to make a moist dressing. (Alternate directions: if the dressing is to be served as a side dish instead of stuffing, moisten it with chicken broth.)

Cook the dressing in a scant amount of oil in a large electric skillet until it is warm. Adjust the seasonings according to your mood.

Store the dressing in the refrigerator until it is time to stuff the turkey. (If the dressing is to be served as a side dish at a later time, bake it until it is light golden brown on top. Store it in the freezer.)
Having lived in Louisiana for more than half my life, I’ve become addicted to cayenne pepper. This dressing is better if you shake a little cayenne into it. Stir well so one of your guests won’t get a mouth full.
Just a reminder: Stuffing is cooked inside a bird, and dressing is cooked outside of it. My mother-in-law used this recipe to stuff a turkey, and she always had two cake pans of it left over no matter how big her bird was.
One more note: My daughter and I have stopped cooking the dressing in a small amount of oil. (See the last step of the recipe.) Mom did that to avoid food poisoning from stored raw eggs. Instead of frying it again, we mix it just before we bake it. Then there is no danger. I never stuff a bird. Instead I cook it in a separate pan. It’s lighter and lower in calories. Also there’s no danger this way. The problem of food poisoning arises when a bird is stuffed.

This recipe is featured in Flavored with Love, available on

Friday, June 17, 2011

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 6 (Final Section)

Ed: And finally, may we please use one of the recipes from your book -your choice -in our book, or do you have another (newer?) one you'd let us include?

Mary: As soon as we published The Collard Patch we realized we didn’t put enough recipes of our favorite way to eat collards when they are tender: wraps. We published a little bonus e-book called Collards Notebook, which I will gladly send to anyone who asks for it. I cannot make it into a Kindle book because it has colored pictures illustrating the following recipe.
Wraps with Collard Greens

Collard greens
Flour tortillas (12" is preferred)
Tuna spread (Use any spread you like, or use meat and cheese. In Flavored with Love, I have included a unique tuna salad recipe.)

Preparing the Wraps
Begin with thoroughly washed collard leaves.
Two methods to wilt the leaves:
Dip them into a shallow pan of boiling water for approximately 15 seconds and drain them on paper towels
Wrap them in damp paper towels and microwave them 15 seconds or longer if they need it.
Second step: Fold the wilted leaves and cut the stem out. Try not to let the leaf fall into two pieces.
Tortillas are sometimes sticky. Warm the tortillas in the microwave 15 – 30 seconds, depending on the size of the package. Warming makes them more pliable – easier to separate and roll. Carefully separate the tortillas. (Tactic for separating the tortillas: work a sheet of waxed paper between them.)
Cover the tortilla with a collard leaf. The 12" size is the right size to go under a leaf.
Spoon a generous amount of the spread in a row on one end of the collard leaf and tortilla.
Too much spread will squoosh out the bottom.
You have two choices:
Make the wrap neat and skinny. You may need to eat two of them!
Make the wrap big and eat one.
A layer of Swiss, cheddar, or Romano cheese could be placed along the top of the spread.
Or if you are a spicemouth, you may want to add some jalapeño slices.
Wrap it tightly and carefully. Start at the side that has the filling on it. To reduce squooshing, you may want to fold in one side as you wrap it.
Toothpicks are useful to hold the wrap together.
Slice at angles or eat a whole one by yourself.

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 5

Ed: We have found that mustard greens are more popular than collards in many parts of Louisiana.

Mary: What I learned from interviewing people that some prefer one green over another. Many people like to cook two or three varieties of greens in the same pot. Such recipes are included in The Collard Patch.

Do you have any idea why collards are more popular in the Hill Country?

Mary: They look pretty in flower beds. Those big broad blue leaves look like expensive plants.

And here's another odd question, related to something written by a Louisiana writer: Have YOU ever heard anyone use the phrase "a bate of collards" (meaning a mess)?

Mary: No, and I couldn’t find ”bate of collards” on google.

Ed: I know from your writings that your faith is at the center of your life: so can you see any connection there with cooking collards? (I figure that is a tough one, so you can ignore it if you wish!)

Mary: This question is an easy one, Edward. We all know that the body is the temple of the soul and the Holy Spirit lives within the heart of every Christian. Add to this knowledge the fact (as documented by food analysis) that collard greens are one of the most nutritious vegetables available. What better way is there to take care of our bodies – and honor God – than to dig into a plate of collards?

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 4

Ed: Which unusual recipe has really made a surprising splash?

Mary:Dr. Paul Elliott, the co-author of The Collard Patch , helped develop the following recipe. We prepared if for food demonstrations. Tasters kept coming back to our table and asking for another little cup of it. It’s a mixture of south Louisiana gumbo, red beans and rice, and a mess of collards all in one pot.

When we appeared on Chef John Folse’s radio program, he raved over this gumbo. We call it Texianne cooking because it is what happened when a Texas cook and a Louisiana cook poured ingredients into one pot.

Red River Gumbo

1 cup small red beans
⅓ cup all purpose flour
⅓ cup olive oil
1 chopped onion (approximately 1 cup)
1 chopped green bell pepper (approximately 1 cup)
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups finely chopped fresh collards
6 ounces Richard’s tasso, finely chopped
1 can Ro*Tel® diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 cups cooked, diced pork or other meat of choice
2 tablespoons chili powder
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound crawfish tails
2 cups frozen mixture of okra, tomatoes, and onions
Salt to taste
Ground pepper to taste

•Soak the beans overnight, empty the water cover again with fresh water, and cook until they are tender:
•Make a roux in the Dutch oven by browning the flour in the oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, collards, and tasso. Stir and continue to heat. Add enough warm water to cover the mixture as it continues to cook.
•Add the Ro*Tel®, pork, chili powder, lemon juice, and red beans; keep the pot simmering. Add water as needed.
•Sauté the crawfish tails in butter until they are warmed throughout.
•After the gumbo has cooked until the vegetables are slightly tender, add the tomato-okra mixture and crawfish.
•Adjust the seasonings by adding salt and red pepper as desired. Simmer until all the ingredients are warm throughout and the flavors are starting to smell so good you have to eat it.

Sprinkle on some gumbo filé. Serve it over rice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 3

Ed: Which recipe from your book (it has so many! My wife and I like several) has gotten the most compliments from readers?
(Answer continued)

Mary: Many cooks don’t want to take the time to prepare fresh collards. Here’s a popular frozen collard recipe, which many health-conscious readers prefer:

Simply Delicious Collards

1½ cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups (1 pound) frozen chopped collards
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon basil leaves
2 tablespoons Splenda®
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
Salt substitute to taste
Ground red pepper to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

•In a large heavy pan or Dutch oven, heat ½ cup water with the oil until it is very hot.
•Add the greens and garlic. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
•Add the remaining ingredients and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
Having said all this, I need to add that the first recipe in The Collard Patch is the world’s most famous. For years it was number one on google under the heading “collard greens.” Willie Crawford, famous Soul Food cook and internet marketer allowed me to feature this recipe – Awesome Collard Greens.

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 2

Ed: Which recipe from your book (it has so many! My wife and I like several) has gotten the most compliments from readers?

Mary: The key word in that question is readers. Here’s the one tasters rave over most. It has a few collards and plenty of other yummy ingredients. This recipe is not traditional.

Crawfish Tortellini Salad
½ cup thinly sliced green onions with tops
1 small jar artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup small fresh mushrooms
1 cup large pitted ripe olives
1 cup fresh red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
12 ounces frozen crawfish tails
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt-free Cajun seasoning
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
1 teaspoon Splenda®
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt substitute to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 cup seedless golden raisins
1 package (14 ounces) cheese tortellini
4 ounces (1/4 cup) feta cheese
4 cups tender baby collard leaves, chopped
4 cups Romaine lettuce, torn into small pieces


•Place the first 6 ingredients in a big bowl
•Place ¾ cup olive oil in the blender. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and all the remaining powdered seasonings. Blend until it is well mixed. Stir in the parsley and basil.
•Pour the blended dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and marinate them covered at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
•Sauté the crawfish in ¼ cup olive oil and Cajun seasoning about 5-7 minutes. Even though there will be other seasoning mixed with the tortellini, each individual crawfish needs its own spiciness. You don’t want those crawfish to get lonesome. After you sauté them long enough to catch the seasoning, set them aside to cool,
•Cook the tortellini according to the package directions. Cook it al dente. Drain it in the colander and allow it to cool.
•Toss the crawfish, tortellini, and raisins with the vegetable mixture.
•When you serve the salad, place it over the greens. Garnish it with feta cheese.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Edward H. Davis Interviews Mary Lou Cheatham, Part 1

Edward, before you start asking me questions, I’d like to ask you a few.

Mary:Why did you write a book about collards?
Ed: My colleague John Morgan and I have been curious about several things: the decline of home gardening since WW2, and the unique history, botany and geography of collards as a leafy vegetable - none of the other vegetables have such an interesting background! No geographer has done a food study at this scale, since the South is such a large cultural region, so it made for a fascinating challenge.

Mary: What is the name of your book?
Ed: Collards and the American South

Mary: How did you go about writing the book?
Ed: This is academia so we were just doing research for small publications - journals you would never hear about, but then we learned more and more and a few years ago someone suggested we could have enough of a story for a book. We began in 2000 by interviewing farmers and gardeners, then as the project grew we ended up surveying agricultural extension agents, seed savers, grocery store produce managers, restaurant owners, seed store retailers, and even 11,000 college students! That last piece is part of a larger project about food in the South - not all of that goes in the collards book.

Mary: Did your wife help you?
Ed: Sandy is a big help in my life, even though she works also as a community college teacher. She did not work on the book, but I ws lucky to have her all along. For example, she allowed me to disappear on long expeditions for weeks at a time!

Mary: What is your book like? Please describe it.
Ed: You got a glimpse in the answer to the third question. It is going to be like a journey through ten Southern states, from Arkansas to Virginia, but with lots of history and agriculture and geography and economics and even literature thrown in, since collards show up not just at covered dish suppers but in novels, poems, songs, festivals, fashion shows, interior decorations, celebrity scandals, and even prison farms!

Mary: What is one of the recipes in The Collard Patch you and your wife like?
Ed: One of the casseroles - I don't have the book with me to remember the exact name of it - but it was a big hit at my family reunion!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Books by Mary Lou Cheatham

I'm Choking . . . But Life Moves On Along the Path of Grief (Insights about Grieving:
"The process of grieving is like walking through a murky swamp. In this e-book I want to talk with you about the way it feels. There's no way I can know exactly what you are going through, not even if we could sit and talk and you could tell me. I will tell you though that I have experienced grief and known many other dear ones who have." Mary Lou Cheatham

The Collard Patch:
"I highly recommend The Collard Patch to anyone who loves cooking good, healthy, down-home food." Willie Crawford, The World's Leading Soul Food Expert

Do You Know How God Loves You?:
"If the question were actually asked of us 'Do You Know How God Loves You?' I'm afraid most of us would have to say 'I haven't got a clue!' It's easy to go through our normal daily routine without giving a thought to God's love. This book can help change that. Mary Cheatham has written a lovely devotional book that takes the reader deep into the heart of Scripture where, day by day, she examines the many facets of God's love for his people. I can't imagine anyone reading this without being informed, enriched and encouraged. I know I was!" Ann Tatlock, author one of the Top Ten Historical Novels of the year according to Booklist Magazine

Do You Know How God Loves You? [Kindle Edition]:
"I requested through Amazon that your publisher make your book available in an Kindle edition, so Kindle readers can find it and enjoy it 'on the go'. God bless you for such a wonderful book that reminds us of God's presence and love for each one of us." RBS Prods, one of the top 500 reviewers on Amazon

A Prayer of Nehemiah, The Birth of Leadership [Kindle Edition]:
Assuming a role of leadership can be challenging. We face all kinds of problems when we step out to lead. The struggles a leader faces are human problems that have not changed over the centuries of history. "Nehemiah, a cupbearer for a Persian king more than 400 years before Christ was born, led a company of his people from Babylon to Jerusalem, where he restored the walls and civil authority. Where his nation once existed, he found ruins. His challenge was for him a great one." Mary Lou Cheatham

Solomon's Porch:
"In this warm, personal story of a devoted marriage, a tragic illness, and incredible perseverance, Jane Riley presents us with the full spectrum of good and evil. But it is not done through high drama, or in complicated philosophic terms. Rather, with a constrained writing style she shows us how it appears in our ordinary, everyday, lives: good friends and devious friends; doctors guilty of deplorable malpractice and callousness, and doctors moved by unswerving concern for their patients; churchgoers who run the gamut from cruelty, hypocrisy and selfishness, to those kindhearted souls that harken back to the early Christians who met at Solomon's Temple and shared compassion and love for one another. All of this is dealt with, fought with, and savoured, in this story of a loving wife-mother-and-caregiver's story, which is gently and beautifully written (with a wonderful knack for dialogue), and -- as several reviewers have already noted - very hard to put down." Andrew Cort, author of "The Purpose of Religion: Enlightenment, Meaning and Love in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Symbology"

Flavored with Love: Mary Lou's Family and Friends Can Cook:
"Jane Riley is a pen name for Mary Lou Cheatham. 'Jane' has garnered recipes from her lifetime of cooking, mostly from family members and friends, to compile this omnibus cookbook. 'Flavored with Love' is additionally punctuated with a nostalgic overview of the Louisiana and Mississippi regions, and its people, in particular." Patrick Crabtree, one of the top 500 reviewers on Amazon.

All quotations are from reviews and product pages on

Sunday, May 08, 2011

E-Book about Grief: I'm Choking . . . But Life Moves On Along the Path of Grief (Insights about Grieving)

Months pass; nothing changes. We sleep in our beds, awake to the buzzing of our alarm clocks, go about our daily routines, enjoy our health, feed the dogs, and interact with our families. We start thinking that our lives will always be the same.

No matter what we think, life moves on. Someone close – a family member or a cherished friend – dies.

It's okay to cry. It's okay to grieve just as it's okay to eat. Problems arise from negative effects when we become stuck and continue to gratify our yearnings and uneasiness by luxuriating in abnormal amounts of normal behavior.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Have Yourself a Happy Little Mother's Day

What makes holidays sad?

It's Mother's Day and we're supposed to be happy, but it doesn't always work that way.

This realization became evident to me when I was a young girl. In our yard we had several varieties of roses in all colors. We always pinned them on our dresses for church. Those whose mothers were living were supposed to wear red ones. Those whose mothers were deceased wore white ones.

The year after my grandmother died, I remember going out and selecting the roses. Our red ones were small, but the white rose blooms we had were huge and impressive. The one we found for Mother that year was the most beautiful I had ever seen. I still remember the bittersweet expression on her face.

On holidays the memories of the times when we were all together can overwhelm us. The personnel at our gatherings changes. Some of us have no one. We tend to romanticize the past times -- to see them through rose-tinted lenses. Our minds tell us the good old days were better than they could have possibly been.

As much as possible, it's best to look for ways to make each holiday special within the context of the joys we have today. It's time to make some new happy memories.

I have published a new Kindle book entitled "I'm Choking But Life Moves On Along the Path of Grief." It is under review and is scheduled to appear in Kindle today. The purpose of this book is to help us deal with grief.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Light Chocolate Cake

Lightening Up Chocolate Cake

It is possible to have what you want, eat what you love, and lose weight. Small choices made daily will bring big results By thinking ahead about food, I’ve managed to lose weight slowly.

Last night I wanted chocolate cake. By making a few adjustments I was able to enjoy a great cake without going on an eating binge. In the recipe I substituted soy milk, which has only 70 calories per cup. Instead of making a layer cake with rich frosting or cooking a chocolate pound cake with an abundance of butter, I made a simple chocolate cake in a bundt pan. By the way, this cake was easy to prepare.

I took the cake while it was still warm to a meeting and enjoyed a slice with whipped topping. The others attending seemed to enjoy the rich chocolate taste as much as I did. When I left the meeting, I left the cake with my hostess.

I always use Hershey’s Cocoa. It happens to be the cocoa I like.

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1¾ cups self-rising flour
¾ cups Hershey’s cocoa
2 eggs
1 cup soy milk
½ cup plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee (decaffeinated or regular)
Canned light whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bundt pan with cooking spray and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil to make sure the cake doesn’t stick.
Combine the dry ingredients. Mix in the eggs, soy milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes. Add the hot coffee.
Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. This should be about 45 minutes.
Turn onto a pan.
Slice while it is still warm and serve it with whipped cream. The cake has a rich chocolate taste.

I'd love to read your suggestions about ways to lighten up favorite foods. You can send me a message on Facebook.