Bloody Mary Tomato Salad with Pickled Shrimp

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The heirloom tomatoes are coming in at Pepper Place and I’m a huge fan. We buy them every chance we can get. Personally, I can eat them like an apple, but this recipe is the perfect marriage of those tomatoes with some fresh Gulf shrimp!

  • 3# assorted tomatoes, sliced (heirlooms are best, such as Cherokee Purple, Beefsteak, Brandywine, etc but any good southern ripe tomato will do)
  • 1/3 cup celery sliced thin on the bias (diagonal)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed celery leaves (celery leaves are great for seasoning dishes and for garnishes, so don’t automatically toss them like many people do

Using a chilled serving platter, arrange the sliced tomatoes and celery. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste. Drizzle with the Bloody Mary Vinaigrette (recipe below) and spoon the pickled shrimp over the top (also below). Top with the celery leaves and garnish with pickled okra or pickled green beans. You can even add some crumbled Feta if you’d like!

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup spicy Bloody Mary mix (like Zing Zang)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 3/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine ingredients in a bottle with a lid, shake and chill.

To make pickled shrimp:

In a zip top freezer bag (gallon size), add 1 pound of medium-sized peeled fresh shrimp. To the bag, add the following ingredients, then place the bag in your refrigerator for at least 2 hours but the longer you leave it in, the better. After 6 hours the shrimp will get rubbery, so 2-6 hours is the processing time.

  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp each chopped fresh dill and flat leaf parsley
  • 1 1/4 tsp Creole seasoning (I use Old Bay)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
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Strawberry Pudding Trifle

Strawberry Trifle

 

After a long weekend camping with our “girls”, I ran in Walmart for some groceries and saw strawberries on sale for $1.49 a pound. They weren’t on my list but I couldn’t pass them up. I then came home and made this decadent dessert (that we don’t need to eat but will). It’s so simple to make something like this that I thought I’d share my recipe. Give it a shot! Add some bananas if you’d like or some blueberries. You can put any fruit in place of the strawberries.

  • 1 store-bought pound cake
  • 1/2 cup strawberry preserves, jam, jelly, whatever you’ve got or want to buy
  • 1 box JELL-O cook and serve Vanilla pudding
  • 2 cans evaporated milk (like PET milk or Carnation) (12oz cans)
  • 1 pound of strawberries cut up and sprinkled with sugar
  • 1 large container “light” Cool Whip or similar topping

In a glass 4 cup measuring cup or something similar and microwavable (I use a Fire King Jadite batter bowl), combine the pudding and the evaporated milk (3 cups), stir and microwave on high for 5 minutes, stopping in one minute intervals to stir. In the end the pudding should be thickening up. Once the cooking process is over, press plastic wrap onto the top (so it won’t form a “skin”) and refrigerate for an hour.

While the pudding is cooking/cooling, slice the pound cake lengthwise into 3 layers. Spread the strawberry jam evenly between the layers like filling in a cake. Reassemble the pound cake and cut into slices about 3/4″ thick.

In a large bowl or trifle bowl, arrange the cake layers on the bottom to cover as best possible. Top the cake layers with 3/4 of the sugared strawberries. Pour the cooled pudding over the strawberries, then top with the Cool Whip. Arrange the remaining strawberries on top for decoration and refrigerate the whole bowl for 2-24 hours before serving.

Chicken & Dumplings Casserole

chicken-dumpling-casseroleChicken and dumplings is a southern staple, and always a great seller at work. Lately I’ve had a problem though with some customers complaining that they didn’t get enough dumplings (no one ever complains about getting too many). It’s hard to satisfy everyone’s love for the dumplings with spreading them around so everyone gets some, so I started looking for an alternative. That’s when I ran across this recipe on the internet and thought I’d give it a try. Everyone loved it! Now they want the recipe.

This has the be one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever tried and it worked flawlessly. It was delicious! The trick to this recipe is not to stir any of the layers together.

  • 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (you could use the chicken from a store-bought rotisserie roasted chicken and skip the step of cooking chicken for a shortcut)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 cups baking mix (like Bisquik… I used the Pioneer version in the one at work)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or water

In a 13″x9″ glass baking dish, pour the melted butter. Top with the chicken, then the seasonings.

Combine the milk and baking mix and pour over the chicken. DO NOT STIR!

Combine the soup and broth/water, pour over the baking mix and again, DO NOT STIR!

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, until bubbly and browned. Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes before serving (this will ensure it’s not runny).

 

Creole Coleslaw

creolecoleslaw

I was never a fan of coleslaw growing up, mainly because my grandmother didn’t make it and my Dad thought Captain D’s had good slaw. Sugar and mayonnaise mixed with murdered cabbage never appealed to me. It wasn’t until later in life when I had to cook for others that I grew to appreciate coleslaw, then and after I created my own version.

I have a lot of Louisiana influences in my cooking because part of my family is from New Orleans. Those flavors have always appealed to me and I use them quite often in a lot of dishes I prepare. At work we serve fish on Fridays and most people expect coleslaw with their fish, so I developed this recipe many years ago and it has become a “most requested” from my customers. Now they are begging for the recipe, so here it is.

If you’ve only eaten everyday coleslaw, give this recipe a try. It’s tart, not sweet, with just a hint of spice making it a perfect side dish for fish or BBQ.

  • 1 head of cabbage rough chopped (I prefer it chunky, not shredded like store-bought coleslaw)
  • 1 bell pepper, minced
  • 2 tbsp dill relish
  • 1 large tomato chopped
  • 2 tbsp Creole mustard
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I use Kraft, if you’re used to eating mine at work)
  • 2 dashes Tabasco or Texas Pete’s hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, sugar, celery seed and cajun seasoning. To the wet ingredients, add the cabbage, bell pepper, tomato and dill relish. Toss well to combine. Refrigerate until ready to enjoy.

Frozen Strawberry Margarita Shots

strawberrymargarita

Happy Easter everyone! Ok, so maybe this isn’t a proper Easter recipe, but for some families it may be just the right thing. While my family is great, many friends dread family encounters. I know it’s alcohol and it’s Easter, but that combination isn’t so strange in my family. See one side of my family was a strong Catholic family from New Orleans, and every family gathering (regardless the reason we gathered) involved a half-gallon of bourbon and some 3 liter Cokes. So for me, having a highball was common place. It didn’t matter what day of the week it was or what day of the year it was. I’d walk into my grandparent’s house and the first thing they would tell me was to make myself a drink. I miss my grandparents 😦

Today we spent the morning repairing the seawall at the lake, which got me thinking about pier parties and this recipe will be a must for the next one we have, so get ready ladies, because I’ll be the one passing out the Patron strawberries!

  • 1# box of strawberries
  • 1 cup plus 1/2 cup (divided) of your favorite Margarita mix
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 2 tsp triple sec or orange juice
  • 1 box strawberry JELL-O
  • Limes and sugar for garnish

Wash the strawberries and cut a flat spot on the bottom of each so they will sit flat. Remove the stem and hollow out the core (best done with a melon baller).

In a sauce pan, bring 1 cup of Margarita lime mix to a boil. Add the strawberry JELL-O and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat, then add the tequila and triple sec/orange juice. If you add it to the boiling liquid, all your alcohol will boil off.

Spoon the mixture into your strawberry cups and place cups on a platter or tray. Freeze until set/solid.

Before enjoying, let them thaw slightly. Dip each strawberry top in Margarita mix and then dredge in sugar. Garnish with a lime.

Roasted Acorn Squash

classic_baked_acorn_squash

I grew up eating delicious roasted fall squash, especially acorn and butternut. Because I love them, I often cook them at work for my customers. I also cook them to educate my customers, because there are a ton of people that grew up in the South that have never tasted a hard cooked squash. I’ve given out a lot of samples to get people to try them, people that now want to know how to cook them.

Cooking fall squash is really quite simple. You simply cut them, scoop out the seeds (fall squash have seeds like pumpkin which is in this same family), butter them and roast them. A good hour in a 400F oven will do the trick, but I’ve got a shortcut that I’ll share in this recipe. This recipe works for butternut or acorn squash. Either can be cooked by simply splitting in half, or you can cut them lengthwise as I do at work. Not only does this decrease the amount of time needed to cook them, it allows you more servings out of the squash, so it’s entirely up to you how you break down the squash depending on what you’re shooting for. You can simply half it and fill it up with butter and give everyone a half, or slice it up and give everyone a few slices. By slicing it, you simply cut down the cooking time.

slicedsquash

 

For two servings you will need:

  • 1 acorn or butternut squash, halved and scooped of seeds
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

In a glass baking dish, arrange the squash halves and add 2 tbsp per half of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HI for 6 minutes. This will soften up the squash and speed up your cooking time. If you’re slicing the squash instead of halving them, microwave for 4 minutes.

Drain the water from the dish and flip the squash over, cut side up. Drizzle the butter over the squash and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in a 400F oven for 20 minutes, until the squash are caramelized and golden brown.

Zero Points Cabbage Soup

cabbagesoup

 

Lately I’ve been watching my “middle age spread” get further and further out of control, so when a few customers at work asked that I prepare a light selection each day I decided to dust off some of the recipes I’ve cooked in the past. When I was the chef at The Birmingham News, I would offer a regular entree each day and a Weight Watchers entree because so many of the staff were following the plan. That’s where I first tried this delicious soup. I’ll admit the name doesn’t conjure up images in my head of a tasty dish, but this soup is pure delicious. Now my current customers are asking for the recipe so here’s my version of the famous Cabbage Soup (from the Cabbage Soup diet). This is also the same recipe for the ZERO POINTS soup promoted in Weight Watchers. Yes, you can eat all of this soup you want for any meal and have no points added to your daily total.

  • 3 cups non-fat beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 2 cups cooked cabbage
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded or diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the easiest part. Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer on the stove 15 minutes.

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

lava cake

 

Here’s an easy dessert you can serve at your next dinner party and really impress your guests! This recipe is adapted from Paula Dean’s recipe.

  • 6 1oz squares bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 2 1oz squares semisweet baking chocolate
  • 1 1/4 sticks sweet cream unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 whole large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp strong brewed coffee or espresso

Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly grease 6 custard cups or ramekins.

In a Pyrex bowl (or any other microwave safe bowl), melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, until melted and well blended. Add the flour and powdered sugar, then stir in the eggs and egg yolks and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the coffee.

Divide the batter evenly between the custard cups. Arrange custard cups on a baking sheet and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center still slightly jiggly.

Run a knife around the edges of the custard cups and invert the cakes onto dessert plates. Let sit for 3-4 minutes, then dust with powdered sugar and garnish. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Pina Colada Ice Box Pie

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While reading the latest issue of Southern Living, I ran across this recipe for a Pina Colada Ice Box Pie and decided I’d give it a try. I’m a big lover of ice box pies; I’ve loved them all my life. My great aunt always made a lemon ice box pie for me for my birthday. I use a basic recipe to make mine (1 can Eagle Brand, 1 cup lemon or lime juice depending on what I’m making and 3 egg yolks in a graham cracker crust with the egg whites on top for a meringue), but this recipe was a little more intriguing. No “off the shelf” pre-made crust here! A delicious taste of warm weather to come, even if it doesn’t have any rum in it 😦

  • 2 cups crushed pecan shortbread cookies (about 16 pecan sandies)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (half a stick)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 8oz can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup cream of coconut milk (Coco Lopez)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • fresh pineapple, toasted coconut or thin lime slices for garnish

Combine the crushed cookies, coconut and butter in a bowl and mix well. Pat crumb mixture into a 8″-9″ pie pan, pressing up the sides so it’s even all over. Bake the crust in a 350F oven for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

While the crust is baking, in a heavy bottom saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and pineapple. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pineapple jam. Pour from pan into a bowl and let cool completely along with the crust, at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add 1 cup of coconut milk (the rest can be kept covered in your fridge for  later use), then add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until combined.

On the cooled crust, spread the pineapple mixture in a single layer, then top with spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture and spread even. Bake at 350F for approximately 40 minutes, until pie is completely set. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then cover and chill for 4 hours.

Just before serving, beat the chilled whipped cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until stiff peaks form. Swirl in remaining coconut milk. Top the pie with the whipped cream and garnish with toasted coconut, pineapple, etc.

To toast coconut, arrange on a baking sheet in a thin layer and bake at 350F for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned.

Cranberry Glazed Chicken Thighs

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Here’s an easy way to dress up chicken for your next dinner party or everyday meal. This glaze can be used on any type of poultry (chicken, duck, turkey) and it makes more glaze than you will need, so just keep the extra in a sealed container in your fridge for a later use. I have been buying skinless, boneless chicken thighs which cook relatively quick in the oven and have a lot of flavor without all the fat, but you can use any cut of chicken. Just adjust your cooking time accordingly.

  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can cranberry sauce, the jellied kind
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (from box or can)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

In a sealable container, put the chicken thighs seasoned with the Cajun seasoning and garlic powder. Add the olive oil. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour but overnight for best flavors.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put the thighs on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes and check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. They are done at 165F.

While the thighs are baking, in a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens into a nice glaze.

Once the thighs are done, brush the glaze over the thighs and put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to caramelize the glaze and brown the tops of the thighs.