Blackened Catfish

November 30th, 2010 by kelley

Blackened Catfish

I’ll admit it.  Even though I live in the South and have an affinity to all things fried, I prefer my fish to be cooked any other way.  Blackened just might be my favorite, as of late anyway.  Catfish is so mild and succulent, and blackening is so intense and mouth-tingling that I think they make the perfect combination.  On top of being tastier (in my opinion) blackened catfish is much healthier than fried.  Do I always choose the healthier foods?  No.  But I sure love when I happen to prefer the healthier version.

This blackened catfish is delicious and extremely easy to make.    There is no marinating or other advanced preparation needed and it makes a delicious main dish that goes perfectly with cole slaw, white beans, and hush puppies–all easy and quick side dishes.  I love it when that happens.

I used my own concoction for the blackening seasoning, but you could also just use a store-bought substitute if you must.   Aside from that, all you need is catfish and butter.    So go ahead, spice up your evening with a little blackened catfish.

Blackened Catfish Recipe

catfish fillet
blackening seasoning

  1. Place a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and melt enough butter in the pan so that the pan is thoroughly coated.
  2. Sprinkle the blackening seasoning on both sides of the catfish fillet, so that the fillet is evenly covered with seasoning.
  3. Sear the fillet in the hot skillet for about 5 minutes.  Then, flip the fillet and sear the other side until done, about 2 minutes.

Roasted Corn Chowder

October 10th, 2010 by kelley

Roasted Corn Chowder

The gods must have heard my pleas for cooler days.  The weather suddenly snapped without warning from 100 degree mugginess to cool 60 degree mornings.  And I love it.  Just when I thought I couldn’t take another day of blazing torture, I realized I didn’t have to.  The first thing this weather makes me want to do is have soup.  And there is no better time of year for corn chowder.

Roasted Corn Chowder

Why is there no better time for corn chowder?  It is cool enough for soup but corn is still in season, so you can make corn chowder the right way, that is with fresh corn on the cob, not frozen or canned.  Roasting the corn and using the cobs to make a corn broth is definitely the way to go with corn chowder.  Ever had corn chowder that left you wondering what happened to the corn?  Not with this recipe–you can taste the corn through and through.  Sure you could substitute vegetable or chicken broth for the corn broth, but this is so easy, and it makes the chowder taste like it came straight from the corn field, so there really is no other “right” way to do it.  This brings me back to the narrow window of time in a year that you can make great corn chowder, and this is it, so hop to it before it is too late and the fresh crop is gone for the season.

Roasted Corn Chowder Recipe

adapted from Mark Bittman’s Corn Chowder in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

6 cobs of corn, shucked
olive oil
2 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups onion
1/4 cup flour
1 cup whipping cream
3 cups milk
1 large potato, diced very small
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

Roast the corn and make a broth.

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat each of the corn cobs with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast the corn, turning frequently, for about 20 minutes.
  3. Once the corn is cool, remove kernels from cobs.
  4. Put the corn cobs and water in a pan, cover, and put over medium-high heat.
  5. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium.  Cook for 30 minutes. Remove cobs and save broth.

Prepare the soup.

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and stir occasionally until onion becomes translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium and add flour and salt.
  3. After about two minutes, add the whipping cream and milk.  Turn the heat to medium-high, and stir for about 2 minutes
  4. Combine this mixture with the corn broth.
  5. Stir in the corn kernels, the potato, and the cheese.  Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to medium-low.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally until the potato has broken down, at least 20 minutes.
  7. Garnish with sour cream, cheddar cheese, green onions, and/or parsley.

Frozen Mocha Shake

September 27th, 2010 by kelley


Why does it still feel like July in late September?  Living in the South in the summer has become all but unbearable.  If not for the fabulous straight-from-the-garden summer vegetables, I would seriously have no need for the season.  Could we just get to fall already?  Please, do what you can to reverse global warming because I just can’t see myself fleeing the South in search of cooler ground.  And in the meantime, cool off with a frozen mocha shake.


I don’t know how people drink coffee in the summer.  Yeah, I know, they say it makes them sweat, which cools them off.  But seriously, I’m sweating already.  Please nothing hot for me.  Frozen mocha shake?  Yes, thank you.  Breakfast?  Dessert?  Both.  Life is too short to only have dessert after dinner.  I’m usually too full for dessert anyway.  So why not jump-start the day with one of these cool babies.  Chocolate, coffee, ice cream.  Delightful.  It just might make your Southern summer bearable.

Frozen Mocha Shake Recipe

4 scoops chocolate ice cream
2 cups hazelnut flavored coffee
1 tablespoon sugar
dash of vanilla extract
chocolate shavings

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend for 30 seconds.
  • Pour into glass and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings
  • *Mint variation–Use mint chocolate chip ice cream, a dash of mint flavoring, then top with whipped cream, and Andes mint shavings.

    Margarita Cake

    August 31st, 2010 by kelley

    Margarita Cake

    How can you make a cake more festive?  Add booze!  Just in time for your Labor Day weekend, I’m giving you a delicious recipe that is a party in itself.

    I started with Ina Garten’s recipe for a lemon cake and started tinkering, mainly substituting lime for lemon and adding tequila, but I also adjusted the amounts of the other ingredients just a bit and experimented with how to get the cake to absorb the syrup.  If you just pour it over the cake, it will run-off. Instead, you have to dump the warm cake onto a plate, add syrup to the pan, dump the cake back into the pan, pour syrup over the cake, then put the cake back onto the plate.  What? This makes you nervous?  Me too, but I did it, and that worked.

    Margarita Cake

    This cake is very flavorful, and the crumb is light and moist.  I stashed a piece of cake away for me to have later, forgot about it, and it still had great texture a whole week later.  However, you wouldn’t know this without me telling you because this cake will not stick around for a week. You just won’t be able to resist it.

    Margarita Cake

    Margarita Cake Recipe

    1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 cups sugar
    4 large eggs, at room temperature
    1/3 cup grated lime zest (about 8 limes)
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
    1/4 cup tequila
    3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    Margarita Syrup
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/4 cup lime juice
    1/4 cup tequila

    2 cups powdered sugar
    1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
    1/4 cup tequila

    Make the cake:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bundt pan.
    2. In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine sugar and lime zest.
    3. Add the butter and cream with sugar, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
    4. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time.
    5. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
    6. In another bowl, combine lime juice, tequila, buttermilk, and vanilla.
    7. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.
    8. Pour batter into bundt pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.

    Make the margarita syrup:

    1. Combine sugar with lime juice and tequila in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
    2. When the cake is done, allow to cool for 5 minutes and remove from the pan.
    3. Dump half the margarita syrup into the pan, then carefully put cake back into the pan.  Dump the remaining half of the margarita syrup on top of the cake.   The cake will absorb the syrup
    4. Allow the cake to cool for a few more minutes before removing from pan.  Cool cake completely before glazing.

    Make the glaze:

    1. Combine the powdered sugar, lime juice, and tequila in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth.
    2. Pour over the top of the cake and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

    Spanish Rice

    July 18th, 2010 by kelley

    Spanish rice

    After some tinkering, I finally came up with the Spanish Rice recipe.  And yep, I did this several weeks ago, and have enjoyed this lovely side to my burritos a number of times.  I’ve been dying to get the recipe on here, but really, how in the world can you get a fabulous picture of rice?  Or even a great recipe of rice?  Really, or even an appetizing picture of rice.  I have made this rice several times trying to get a great photo.  I’ve cooked it, shot pictures until it was cold and I was starving, and I just can’t figure it out.  But since I did figure out the recipe, I’m finally going to post it and the photos will just have to do.  (If anybody can make this recipe, which is easy, and then take a fabulous photo, which is difficult, then I would love to see it.  I might even replace my photos with yours.)

    So, the trick to Spanish Rice–you have to kind of stir fry it for a while before you cook in water.  And, cook in chicken broth instead of water. Then, use salsa instead of plain tomatoes.  The rest is more obvious–onions and garlic and oregano.  That really is all there is to it.   So stop looking at the picture and just make it already.  I swear it tastes better than it looks.

    Spanish Rice Recipe  Makes 3-4 servings

    1 tablespoon oil
    1/2 cup chopped onion
    1 clove garlic chopped
    3/4 cup basmati rice
    1 1/2 cup chicken stock (Use amount of liquid called for to make rice, as this varies.  Substitute vegetable stock for vegetarian.)
    1 cup chunky salsa
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

    1. Heat oil and onion in a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium heat. Cook until onion becomes tender, about 5 minutes.
    2. Add rice and garlic, stirring often. When rice begins to brown, stir in chicken broth, salsa, and oregano. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes, until liquid has been absorbed.

    Chicken Salad

    June 15th, 2010 by kelley

    Chicken Salad

    Or maybe I should say “grape salad.”    I like to have a lot of grapes in my chicken salad.  They add such great flavor and texture, so I just think there is no such thing as too many grapes.   What is not to love about that exciting burst of sweet juice when biting into a grape?  Really, aren’t grapes lovely?

    Chicken Salad

    So, I think this is hands down the best chicken salad I have ever tasted. There are  a lot of varieties out there, and I just don’t go for those pureed chicken ones that are really wet.  No way.  I want to bite into the chicken and chew it, not suck it down a straw.  Nothing mushy with this recipe, just great taste and texture, which is why this is my favorite summertime lunch, served up with some wheat crackers.  This packs well, so it is perfect for a lovely picnic.  I also usually include it in my arsenal of road trip food.

    Chicken Salad

    Chicken Salad Recipe  makes about 3 servings

    adapted from my mom’s family cookbook Secret Ingredients

    1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
    2 tablespoons Miracle Whip
    20-25 seedless red grapes, cut in half
    1 small sweet apple, peeled and diced (I use honey crisp or pink lady.)
    2 teaspoons poppy seeds
    3-4 tablespoons crumbled pecans, optional
    pinch salt

    1. Boil chicken until it reaches 170 degrees.
    2. Drain and run cold water over it to cool.
    3. Once chicken is cool, cut into small pieces.
    4. Add remaining ingredients to chicken and combine thoroughly.
    5. Chill in refrigerator before serving.

    Mushroom Crêpe Cake

    June 8th, 2010 by kelley

    Mushroom Crêpe Cake

    The flavor of mushroom soup without the liquid.  The decadence of cake without the sugar.  Similar to quiche but without the eggs.  Yes, sounds crazy, but you’ll know what I mean once you try it.

    This one is good any time for any meal, main dish or side dish.  The first time I made it, I served it at a brunch party.  The second time was for dinner.  And it is great for guests.  It cooks up so pretty and fancy looking, but there is nothing hard about it.  The most time-consuming part is slicing a pound of mushrooms, which is really no big deal.

    Mushroom Crêpe Cake

    You may be tempted to be lazy and use store-bought crêpes, but there is really no reason to because these are really easy, and making them from scratch makes the whole dish more rewarding, and others will be more impressed.  I had never even made crêpes before trying this recipe, and I’m glad I didn’t go with my initial thought to skip the step and use pre-made.

    If you like mushrooms, you will love this.  And if you’re like me, it will become your new favorite staple.

    Mushroom Crêpe Cake

    Mushroom Crêpe Cake Recipe  Makes 6 to 8 servings

    adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Alton Brown’s recipe

    1 cup yellow onion, diced
    3 tablespoons butter
    1 pound baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    1 teaspoon flour
    1/2 cup milk
    1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
    1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded

    1. In a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt one tablespoon of butter and begin to cook the onion so that it sweats.
    2. Turn the heat to medium-high, add all of the mushrooms and remaining two tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until mushrooms are soft.
    3. Stir in the flour, then drizzle in the milk while you stir. Reduce the liquid in the pan by half. Add the mozzarella and let it melt. Immediately take filling off the heat.
    4. Layer two crêpes on a buttered sheet pan. Spread a thin layer of the filling onto the crêpe. Top with another crêpe and spread more filling. Repeat this process until you are out of filling.
    5. Top with a final crêpe and sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Put under broiler until cheese melts.

    Savory Crêpes:
    2 large eggs
    3/4 cup milk
    1/2 cup water
    1 cup flour
    3 tablespoons butter, melted
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    Butter, for coating the pan

    1. Mix the flour and salt.
    2. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk, water, and butter.
    3. Slowly whisk egg mixture into dry ingredients.
    4. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for one hour, or up to 48 hours.
    5. Heat a small non-stick pan. Add a tiny amount of butter to barely coat. Pour a couple tablespoons of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds.  (The first one is always a dud, so trash it. Sometimes the second too.)   Lay the crêpe flat on a large cutting board to the cutting board to cool; continue cooking until all of the batter is gone.

    Do ahead: Crêpe batter can be made up to two days in advance, stored in the fridge. Cooked, cooled and well-wrapped, crêpes can be stored for several days in the fridge or up to two months in the freezer. Frozen crêpes can be thawed on a rack; gently peel them as you need. Filling can be made a day in advance; reheat slowly, over a low flame.

    Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing

    June 1st, 2010 by kelley

    Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing

    It runs in my family–we all love bleu cheese dressing.  Ranch? No, thank you!  Thousand Island?  Gross!  We are mean bleu cheese eating machines.  And we are picky.  Nothing is worse than ordering a salad at a restaurant that is a great mixture of greens and fresh vegetables but is topped with a runny, not-so-great bleu cheese dressing.

    Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing

    And it is getting harder and harder to find quality bleu cheese dressing at the grocery store.  Every time I have it on my shopping list, I am a little nervous that I just won’t be able to find one of the very few brands I am willing to eat, so I walk through the refrigerated dressing section squinting one eye and crossing one finger in hopes that I will not be disappointed.

    I had to put an end to this ridiculousness.  I just can’t handle that kind of stress anymore.  What to do than create my own very chunky, very full of bleu cheese, and very thick bleu cheese dressing.  Perfect for salads or dipping.

    Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing

    Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing

    2/3 cup mayonnaise
    1/3 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
    1/4 cup buttermilk
    1 clove garlic minced
    cracked black pepper

    1. Combine all ingredients.

    Note:  This will keep well in the refrigerator for about a week.  After that, it loses it thickness and becomes runny, although still with good flavor.

    Blackening Seasoning

    May 28th, 2010 by kelley

    Blackening Seasoning

    I like to do things myself rather than just buy what I want or need.  It is usually cheaper and better, and a lot of the time easier than you might expect. The more I get into cooking, the more I see things in the kitchen (pizza dough, candied ginger) that I have bought, but I really can just make my own.  And I wonder why I never thought of that before, then change my ways.

    Blackening Seasoning

    I have an issue with buying spice blends that have inconsistent flavor.  I see recipes that call for ingredients like  blackening seasoning, but I have had some bottles of the spice that are a lot less potent than others.  It is just a blend of spices, there is no formula that everybody uses, so you really never know what you’re going to get.  Well, this bugs me.  So I decided to take control, and after a little trial and error, I found a blackening seasoning recipe that I love.   I always know exactly how it tastes and how spicy it is, so I don’t get unexpected results when using it. It is also really easy to make–just combine a few ingredients that are already in the spice cabinet into a jar, and shake it up.  Then, blacken some fish or chicken and enjoy.

    Blackening Seasoning Recipe

    1 tablespoon ground red pepper
    1 tablespoon ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon paprika
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 teaspoon garlic salt
    1 teaspoon onion powder

    1. Add all ingredients to an empty spice bottle, and shake well.

    Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

    May 18th, 2010 by kelley

    Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

    Perhaps you heard that Nashville flooded.  No?  News to you?  Well, that’s because the city didn’t get the media attention it rightly deserved, but it was a real disaster.  We’ve been in a state of emergency, people lost their homes, some people lost their lives, and infrastructure was destroyed, not to mention the devastation to the country music scene in loss of instruments and gear.  Nashvillians don’t have flood insurance, and a lot of people are desperate for help, so please consider contributing what you can.

    That is exactly why I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks.  I’ve been dealing with my own flood damage and cleanup, which I can assure you is something you’d be happy never to have to do.  One of the water treatment plants was flooded, so Nashville has been on restricted water use, which means no fun cooking for me, not that I’ve had time for it.

    Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

    It’s been a long, wet couple of weeks, and I have really wanted to make a nice treat to take our minds off the water.  Something refreshing and spring-y.  This lemon poppy seed bread did the trick.  I started with a recipe from The Joy of Baking and kicked it up a bit, using extra lemon zest for more intense flavor, adding almond extract for more complex flavor, and substituting buttermilk for regular milk for a lighter texture.  I also changed up the lemon syrup a bit, adding some almond there, too, and using powdered sugar instead of granulated.  I was more than happy with the results.  I think you will be, too.

    Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

    Lemon Poppy Seed Bread Recipe  Makes 1 loaf.

    adapted from The Joy of Baking

    3 large eggs
    1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 tablespoon almond extract
    1/4 cup buttermilk
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
    3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    lemon zest of 2 lemons
    3 tablespoons poppy seeds
    13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    2 teaspoons almond extract

    Lemon Syrup
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    1 tablespoon almond extract
    1/3 cup powdered sugar

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Spray the bottom and sides of a loaf pan with nonstick spray.
    2. Whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, and buttermilk.
    3. With a mixer, beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds until combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. (This aerates and develops the cake’s structure.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. (This will strengthen the structure of the batter.)
    4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You may have to cover the bread with foil after about 30 minutes if you find the bread over-browning.

    Meanwhile, make lemon syrup.

    1. Combine sugar, lemon juice, and almond extract.

    Add syrup to warm bread.

    1. When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaf all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaf with about half the hot lemon syrup.
    2. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 10 minutes then invert onto a greased wire rack. Brush the remaining syrup onto the bottom and the sides of the loaf.
    3. Re-invert the bread so it is right side up and then cool the bread completely before wrapping.