Red Bean Chili with Grilled Polenta Croutons, Birdeye

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh CoCo....doing homework and all that...:)
Yes, that retainer needs some denture cleanser

The finished chili with croutons...Jackie kept
making comments about liking his salty
saltine cracker...whatever...these crisp up nice

What it looks like before the chili is added...yum!

Since I didn't wanna open what I had on hand, I slow cooked
red beans all day and realized that I totally tripled the recipe
because it calls for 6 cups cooked beans..well that is 1 lb. cooked,
yes, I learned a lesson today but a delicious one!
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's been a busy, busy day today...I've been knocking out my arts council phone calls for the Bill Thomas Memorial Golf Tournament and lemme say what a wonderful community we live in.  I don't ever want to take it for granted!  How wonderfully supportive everyone was today in sponsoring the arts council's fabulous I say, fabulous!  So mid-afternoon, where do I turn?  To Lean Star Cuisine by Terry Conlan from Lake Austin Spa.  Here's a wonderful chili with fabulous homemade croutons!

So, here's how it goes.....

Red Bean Chili with Grilled Polenta Croutons

"This hearty vegetarian chili is for all those leather bustin', trail ridin'. dogie ropin' buckaroos in your family.  When they ask you what those things on the top are, don't tell them they are "polenta croutons", tell 'em that they're cow chips.  They'll love you for it.  Pardner"  I love these comments in his cookbooks! :)

The Croutons
1-1/2 C. yellow cornmeal (I used my Martha White cornbread mix that I use for cornbread)
1 C. cold water
1 C. boiling water
1/4 t. salt
1/4 C. Parmesan

Mix cornmeal with cold water in a bowl.  Add to boiling water in a small saucepan.  Cook, stirring over low heat until thickened about 5 minutes.  Add salt and cheese.

Spread onto a sheet pan and refrigerate overnight (I just put in my subzero freezer for an hour then moved it into the refrigerator).  Cut into 2 inch squares and grill or saute in a nonstick skillet with vegetable spray until crispy on the outside and then cut into smaller squares and use to top chili.

The Chili:
1 T. olive oil
1/4 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz tomatoes, diced
2 T. tomato paste
1/4 C. chili powder
1 t. oregano
2 t. cumin
6 C. red beans, cooked (I quick cooked pinto and black beans instead of rinsing canned red beans)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 oz. grated low fat cheddar cheese

Saute onions and garlic in oil.  Add the seasonings and beans and simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve in a large bowl topped with croutons and cheese.  Yield 12 servings.

225 calories, 3.2 gr fat per 1-1/4 C serving

Both freeze well...It's delish even if you made too many beans like me today! :)

Black Bean Sopes, Birdeye

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh the of my new favorite recipes from
genius Terry Conlan's first cookbook

This was my first time to pickle onions and Jackie and I both
agreed that they were excellent and milder than chopped
red onions typically served with Mexican food, there's pico and
homemade Picante sauce.  FABULOUS!
A picture of Chloe's BFF Kate Davis who spent the night Friday,
those two, Oh lordy, they had the best time EVER.  It was one
of those sleep overs where they were trying to figure out how
they could spend more time together and go another night.
It's great to have good friends like these.  Reminds me of
Wendy from home and college friends Aricka, Leigh Anne and Dana

The plate...sope on bottom, topped with black beans,
low fat cheddar, lettuce, pico de gallo and pickled
onion rings...DELISH!

Sunday, January 22, 2012's official.  I am a tex-mex freeaakkk!  I just love both of my Terry Conlan cookbooks from Lake Austin Spa.  He's a total genius and I'm so grateful to have these two "bibles" in my kitchen.  I made this last week and it was absolutely fabulous.

This isn't your usual type Mexican meal but since I had all the ingredients, it was a no brainer to try.

Black Bean Sopes, Terry Conlan, Lake Austin Spa

"Sopes are commonly served as an appetizer in Mexico and you may want to make small ones for this purpose.  The larger version makes a delicious and unusual lunch, bursting forth with a wide array of colors, textures and flavors.  You can prepare all of the salad ingredients ahead of time; the masa cakes will taste best if recently made and kept warm.  (Pickle onions by slicing into a glass or stainless steel bowl and pouring a 50/50 mixture of boiling vinegar and water over them.  Steep one hour and drain)

1 T. chili powder
2 t. garlic powder
3 C. corn masa 
3 T. Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sugar
1-1/3 C. water
cooking spray

(Have on hand a red onion, black beans, cheese, lettuce, mock sour cream (which is in this cookbook and I didn't use), Guacomole Surprise (from Spa Specialties, which must be another Conlan masterpiece), pico de gallo, picante sauce and pickled purple onions)

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Kneed for 5 minutes, adding more water if needed to make a stiff but workable dough.  Break off into large meatball size balls and flatten into patty shapes about 3 inches in diameter.  Spray both sides with cooking spray and cook one side in a non-stick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Remove to count, invert and using a teaspoon scoop a shallow depression out of the center, pinch up the sides to make a small border and return the sope to the skillet to continue cooking.  After 2 minutes, invert again so the hollowed side is down and cook one more minute.  (I totally struggled with  this part and I think I may have burned the sopes but....we survived and was delicious with the pico, and homemade Picante I made and the awesome, and I mean awesome, pickled onions)

Top with black beans, cheese, lettuce, mock sour cream, Guacomole Surprise (from Spa Specialities), pico de gallo, picante sauce and pickled purple onions. 

Yield 12 servings: 260 calories, 4.5 grams of fat per serving

Spinach and Chicken Enchiladas, Birdeye

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chloe and BFF Bailey Bigger, who was over last week before school
started.  These two are just precious and pick up right
where they left off...a good sign of a great friendship!

Unfortunately, this blurred photo is of me roasting the
pablano peppers for the dish.  All of my photos are
equally blurred dang it.
Friday, January 6, 2012

On a draggy Thursday night I was craving Mexican food and got out my Wild About Southwest Cooking cookbook that my mom gave me in college.  It's a paper back and plastic spiral bound little wonder that gives wonderful recipes with hints through out.  I had almost all the ingredients in the house so I made these fabulous, low-fat enchiladas.

Here's how it goes and I do wish I had more photos but they didn't turn out dang it!

Spinach Enchiladas Casserole

1-10 oz can cream of chicken soup (I used cream of mushroom instead)
8 oz. sour cream, I used light!
1/2 C. chopped, peeled roasted green chiles (I used 2 large pablanos and I do think you can use a little can of green chilies diced)
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 T. minced onion, I grate mine
2 C. chopped cooked chicken
3/4 C minced onion, again, I grate mine
1 lb. Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded, I used Colby Jack blend
12 corn tortillas
1 C. chicken broth

Combine soup, sour cream, chiles, spinach and 2 T. minced onion in a blender and process until smooth.  Combine chicken, rest of the onion and half the cheese in a bowl and mix well.  Soften tortillas in chicken broth ( I microwave on damp top and bottom paper towels for 30 seconds).  Spoon chicken mixture onto tortillas and roll to enclose.  Arrange into baking dish.  (I make this and freeze half of it when I make it)  Top with spinach mixture and remaining cheese.  Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes uncovered.

This is so easy and delicious!

Lunchbox Eats, Memphis

Lunchbox Eats, Memphis
(with a view of the close neighbor FedEx Forum)

Holy Moly, I cut my Turkey Burger in half here,
look at the delicious thang with all her fresh spinach
and bun that was cornbread, how inventive!

My plate before I cut it open...that bag had Eggplant served
with Chipolte Sauce...I ordered two sides served in mini
cast iron skillets....DELISH, I say, DELISH!

A view from our table..there is a bar down the middle and I
loved having CNN on to refresh me on the
day's news and topics

A view from the street, it's just 1/2 a block south of Beale

Our 4th 8 mile Hill and Dale at Shelby Meeman State Park

I'd guess there was 200 peeps entered.  It was a great morning
for the trail run and I can report that my orthopedic doctor
fixed my ailing knees with my p90x therapy (and 2 advils)
Saturday, January 7, 2012

Oh lord I need to thank Kim Harwood, my Memphis dog show contact, for her recommendation of this restaurant.  The Lunchbox Eats opened in the fall of 2010 and it's taken me a year to get down there and try it and I'm telling you, it did not disappoint.  It was great but empty at 1 pm when we arrived.  But we had a wonderful young lady serving us that was great and attentive.  You order off the menu which is printed on school book paper and turn in a card to the chef in the kitchen.  Martin and I both agreed it had a great concept and the food was awesome.

So for lunch, I ordered the Turkey Burger filled with cheese and it's buns were cornbread disks.  It had a wonderful sauce and topped withspinach.  I ordered 3 sides to split with Martin and Jackie but I failed to ask the portion size because they were each $2.99 and I thought it could feed the table but I was wrong on that.  But the Sweet Hash was my favorite that boasted sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, celery and onions cooked to golden brown.  Stop the was awesome and I couldn't stop eating it out of it's cute little cast iron skillet.  And that skilled couldn't hold more, than I'd say, a 1/2 cup of goodness.   I also ordered golden (Fried) chickpeas and the fried Eggplant with chipolte sauce that the boys said was awesome.

Jackie got two specials, of which you must look at the chalkboard to see them, which were the Scallop Sliders and the Duck and Andouille Gumbo.  He loved them both.  The Sliders were 3 mini sandwiches with one scallop, sauce and arugula.  The gumbo was good and dark, just the way I like it.  Martin ordered one of the best sandwiches I'd ever seen, the Smoking Bird Sandwich.  It is duck, turkey and chicken smoked and pulled on Texas toast and veggie slaw with bbq sauce.  That thang looked so good I was dying to get a bite but I didn't.  The boys shared my 3 sides and overall we loved the lunch.

I must say, it's such a great place downtown that EVERYONE should try it for lunch.  They are open Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner only on Saturdays.  I loved this find and it was perfect as we all needed to replenish our systems after the 8 Mile Hill and Dale trail run at Shelby Meeman Park in Frayser.  We've done that run for about 4 years and this was the first one that I didn't feel like puking after and it was finally above 32 degrees which also made it a nice day for a trail run.  And it was good for all of us as Jackie and I are entered in my 5th Little Rock half marathon and Martin's first full marathon this year.

Oh and for dessert, I ordered a to go Rum Cake for Kara and the Sweet Potato Poundcake for me. Kara loved the Rum Cake and I loved the poundcake, I just love making poundcake and this one was divine and it was packed for to go which is a nice touch.

One thing I should mention about Lunchbox Eats is our ticket was rung up wrong.  I ordered a diet coke and boys ordered teas.  Our waitress mentioned that when I ordered the diet coke that it would be out of the can and cost $1.  We were charged for three teas at $2.39.  Overall our lunch for 3 was $68.43 and I loved, loved the service, quality of food and eclectic restaurant feel.  You must, must try this lunch place, it makes me wanna eat lunch in downtown Memphis Monday thru Friday!

Oh and they don't serve beer but it says on the menu you can BYOB!  Enjoy!

Lunchbox Eats, 288 s. 4th, Memphis, 901-526-0820.  They don't have a website but they are on Urbanspoon and this one shows their menu at

Tamales 2012, Birdeye

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

This is Tyler, Drew, Chloe and Carter playing the game
MeMe gave her for the xbox, Dance 3, it was hilarious!  Parents
are Vanderbilt alumni and attended the Liberty Bowl Dec. 31.
This was on New Year's morning before all the parents got up...

Ok..when you've drained the corn husks you can make
a dozen tamales at a time

For my second time around, I realized that making them exactly
like the website says to, make them on the left side of the
husk and roll them toward you works wonderfully

If you pull the husk back you can see the tamale rolled, notice
the whole cumin seeds in the masa

This is about how many tamales you can get in one large
steamer.  I did buy 2 steamers last year

Because I have my 2 new steamers to add to my colander
that I used last year, I could steam 3 pots at one time.
It takes 2 hours to steam the tamales, because I had so
many this time, I had to steam a total of 4 pots.

Well of course I had to add a photo of one of the reasons I
am such a spay/neuter freak.  This is darling Jimmy.  He's an
absolute keeper of a dog.  I really like this man.  He's totally
leashed trained, vetted and ready for a forever home.
 He's great with kids too.

I had to add a photo of Chloe Christmas morning. Santa
brought her an Ipad custom with her name on it and with
a library of books as well as other apps she likes
Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's official.  I've lost my mind.  I made Terry Conlan's Chicken Tamale Soup the other day and I was in Hay's yesterday and saw the corn husks and the shopping cart drove itself to the pork shoulder isle and then to the paprika and chili powder isle and it was a done deal.  I made the shoulder the night before this time.  It was two years ago that I did my first batch of hot tamales.  It hit me like a Mack truck to make them and I did.  It was smart this time to make the meat the night before so the cooking doesn't take 6 hours.  My shoulder was so big, an 8 pounder, that it made 5-1/2 dozen tamales and I was thankful I had 2 bags of husks and extra seasonings and Masa to make an extra recipe.  That's 66 tamales hand rolled and steamed.  Oh lordy...they are divine and I cut the fat in them by half this year and I think they taste wonderful.  Here's how it sure to check out the step by step website: it has great techniques and comedy!

The Meat:

1 6-8 lb pork roast (this time I used an 8 lb boston butt)
1 large chicken (I don't add chicken but I bet it's divine)
1/2 C. canola oil
6 T. chili powder
3 T. cumin
3 T. garlic powder
2 T. salt
1 T. black pepper

Cut the pork into fist size chunks add the seasonings, cover with water and bring to a boil then simmer, covered for 2 hours.  Remove from pan SAVING THE BROTH.  Let the meat cool then shred with your hands and add the seasonings starting with the oil.  Refrigerate until ready to make tamales.

Corn Husks

Carefully separate the husks out of the bag into a sink of warm water and soak for 2 hours to soften.  Drain on towels and blot with paper towels.

The Masa Dough *I did have to make 1-1/2 recipes of this to accomodate my 8 lb roast, just fyi...

1/2 a 4 lb bag of Masa
3 T. paprika
3 T. salt
1T. cumin seeds
3 T. chili powder
3 T. garlic powder

Mix all of this then add 2 C. Corn Oil ( I did half this because that's a lot of fat grams)
8 Cups warmed broth from the pork shoulder (keeping the rest of it for steaming the tamales)

After adding the oil, add 1 cup at a time the broth stiring on the bottom of the bowl especially.  If it's too dry, just add enough warm water to make it smooth.  Too wet, add more Masa.

Tamale Making

On a corn husk, add about 1/2 cup masa with your fingers and rub smooth on the left side of it.  The big part of the husk away from you put the masa on 1/3 of the husk...see picture.  You don't have to fill up the husk at all just roll it towards you.  I also pull back on the husk when it's almost sealed all the way around so it melds together so to speak.  Then tuck the skinny end underneath and voila!

Cook Tamales

I used a steamer and 2 colanders that I snuggly fit the tamales in so the were a tight fit.  Put them in a big pot with water and the broth at boiling temperature.  Put a lid on and steam over medium low for 2 hours.  Then let cool and I freeze these bad boys for 6 months.  You can pull out however many you need at a time and microwave a tamale 1 minute in the microwave and top with Tabasco.

Oh my, these are so stinking good.  Time consuming: yes, worth it: yes.

Liberty Bowl, Memphis

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ohh the Liberty Bowl Parade on for Chloe, Tyler
Trocchi and Zoe and Gabe Light (Zach's 2 were also down there)

It's so sad that I have to give Mitch the BLACK STAR for taking
such a horrible photo, not only of his wife, Heather, but also
LJ, Amy, me and Aimee McMillan

I'm not bragging but I can take pictures...see Mitch...

Oh and in the first 2 minutes of the First Quarter,
we were all so bored that I took Chloe and Zoe
to see a movie over on Poplar and Mendenhall,
it was great and so fun...we arrived right after the game
 in time for me to clean out my glove box and trash....
Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Oh the Vanderbilt Commodores got to go to it's second bowl of this century...and it was famed coach James Franklin's first bowl in his first year as coach of the Dores.  Well, they lost to Cincinnati in a nail biting game on New Year's Eve.  I didn't realize how good the Bearcats were until the game but I have to confess that I took Chloe and Zoe Light to the movies during the first quarter, we were bored even though the weather was perfection compared to the last Liberty Bowl game we went to when Arkansas played and it was 20 degrees.  Anyhow, it was a great game even though they lost.  Jackie reported via Chloe's Ipad Sunday that the player for Cincinnati that returned a kick for a touchdown was Martin Luther King Jr's grandson.  We all agreed that the Bearcats should have won because of that play.

I can report that Chloe, Tyler Trocchi, Drew and Carter McGraw and I came on home after the game and let Jackie, Bill and Amy go out to eat on NewYear's Eve to the Rendezvous and later they met up with Zach and Amy McMillan at the Peabody for the Vanderbilt after party.  They said it was perfection.  They enjoyed the music, the food, the outfits and staying out until 2 am.  I made it till 11:40 pm and I was very proud of that number.  New Year's Day was laid back for everyone.  Chloe suggested Birdeye Donuts for breakfast (which is nothing more than a canned biscuit fried up and covered in homemade powdered sugar icing) and I made Otis Adams' Hopping John for lunch and had Harmon and Jeanie over and Martin and Kara's crew.  It was a fun and exhausting weekend.  I slept all afternoon!  Happy New Year!