Easy Cook: Chili Con Carne with Louisiana Red Beans

Here’s an easy and very tasty recipe for “Chili Con Carne.” This is a great concoction for cold winter weather to warm up the body and soul. Or make a pot of “Chili Con Carne” next weekend and watch the football Super Bowl game — your family can help themselves to the chili and you won’t miss a football play. The recipe includes dried red beans –giving it a Louisiana “touch” — as certainly the dried version of red beans is used in traditional New Orleans cooking. I made this chili several times to tweak the recipe and the result is a pleasing blend of chili peppers and seasonings, tomatoes, kidney beans and beef. The chili has “bite” but no one component overpowers the other. I think I got this recipe “just right.” With the dried beans, this recipe takes several hours to cook — so start early in the day.

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“Oven-Fried Okra Poppers” in the Wintertime

Here is a way to enjoy “Southern Fried Okra” all year long. “Oven-Fried Okra Poppers” is an adaptation of a recipe which I posted in the summer for traditional fried okra. That recipe uses fresh okra which is available in the summer months. We love fried okra and so I adapted the recipe as a way to enjoy home cooked okra in the wintertime, too. Plus, this okra is baked in the oven rather than frying cutting down on the calories and fat.

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Crispy Salted Shrimp

After eating a delicious preparation of “Salt and Pepper Prawns” at a P.F. Chang’s restaurant, I decided to see if I could re-create a similar entrée at home without resorting to unusual or special ingredients. And, I was surprised at how easy it was to make a recipe adaptation. P.F. Chang’s continues to be one of our favorite restaurants with an Asian-inspired theme. The creative flavors — hot, spicy, sweet and sour — and attractive presentation of the food always make a pleasing and memorable meal. We like to visit the restaurant at some time during the holiday season; however, this year we ordered a take-out meal due to the Covid-19 pandemic. My entrée, “Salt and Pepper Prawns with Lime and Chili Dipping Sauce” was just right. I tried adapting their recipe, and mine is pretty good, too!

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Creamy Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Soup

I always know when a recipe is a winner; my husband asks that the leftovers be refrigerated and not tossed out. A bowl of homemade soup is soothing and satisfying, especially in cold winter months. Before you say “yuk” to broccoli soup, try this recipe. The flavors of broccoli, cheese, onions and carrots blend together with a creamy texture to make a mellow and flavorful soup. This soup, which is adapted from a Panera Bread™ restaurant recipe, has become one of my favorite soup recipes. It is a good way to learn to like broccoli.

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Jazzed Up Cauliflower

Here is a good way to begin the New Year. This vegetable dish takes “Roasted Cauliflower” and adds a few additional ingredients to make a “Jazzed Up” version. Yum. I love cauliflower. Add in bacon, jalapeno peppers, whole garlic cloves and onion. Now we’re really cookin’. The result adds a “surprise” element to rather ordinary cauliflower dish and makes a nice recipe for the new year. Cauliflower is a cool seasonal vegetable — now is time to find the best ones in produce markets.

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Holiday Moscow Mule

A “Moscow Mule” is a great tasting cocktail although it has nothing to do with Moscow or with mules. Traditionally, the mixed drink is made with vodka, ginger beer, a squirt of lime juice and it is served in a copper mug. Last summer, a friend introduced us to these cocktails. She even took the extra effort to make her own ginger beer and purchase copper mugs for serving the drink. Of course, I had to look up the history of these drinks and mix up one myself. I learned that there are plenty of ginger beer brands for sale in retail stores so you don’t need to make your own beer “from scratch.” And there are many variations to this cocktail. This year, I’m making a “Holiday Moscow Mule” with ginger beer, cranberry juice, Louisiana vodka and rosemary for garnish.

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Nostalgic Gift from the Heart for “Front-Line Workers” aka “Christmas Wreath Bread”

My mother was a wonderful baker. Every Christmas holiday, the aroma of fresh baked bread filled the air as she made gifts for the “front-line workers” in our lives. When I was young, the “front-line workers” included the rural postal carrier, Mr. Heatwole, who delivered mail in his own car, the school bus driver and various teachers in our schools. As a young child, I always wondered why our mother would want to give a gift to the postal man. However, Mr. Heatwole was an important service employee; he daily drove his Rural Route #1 for 30 years. I was fascinated that he drove while sitting in the middle of his front seat so that he could pass the mail to the boxes on the passenger side of his car. (I always wanted to try that.) Mr. Heatwole smiled which he got the loaf of bread. I guess it is those “Gifts from the Heart” that make things worth it. The “front-line workers” have changed over the years, but the idea of showing appreciation for their unpublicized work is still the same. So, let’s make “Christmas Wreath Bread.”

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Spicy Christmas Chutney with Satsumas, Cranberries & Apples

Here’s a colorful and absolutely delicious chutney for the holiday season. This “Spicy Christmas Chutney” is hard to stop eating once you open a jar of this pungent and hot concoction. The recipe is a sweet and sour chutney which combines Louisiana satsumas, cranberries and apples with a blend of spices for a powerful mix. I ran across the recipe inspiration on a Scottish internet site — didn’t know that the Scottish cooked with satsumas or made chutneys with this much punch — but it is a great recipe for me because it is a way to use my backyard satsumas. And the recipe is mighty spicy, too, including cloves, cinnamon, ginger and cayenne pepper. Yeah, we’re talking Louisiana, now.

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Fabulous Turkey Makeovers: Best Ever Heisey Chipotle Chili

For Thanksgiving we served “Smoked Turkey Breast with Cajun Infused Spices” which we cooked in my brand new tabletop smoker purchased at Buc-ee’s — that Texas mega-road gas station and convenience store highway stop. The turkey was delicious; but what stole the show was the “Chipotle Chili” made with some of the leftover turkey breast. The chili recipe is a creation of my brother and his college-aged daughter. They did some cooking while they were quarantined in their Boston home this past summer during the pandemic. I believe that this dish is a “throw in the pot” stew made with ingredients which they found while sorting through their kitchen cupboard. Well, they got the seasonings just right and the chili has a great “Cajun kick’ proving that Yankees can indeed cook seasoned dishes. And it is a very healthy recipe which includes carrots, black beans, tomatoes and ground turkey rather than beef. I made the chili using leftover turkey. Here’s what I did to make this very, very easy chili recipe. But first, I must tell the Texas Buc-ee’s story and brag about my smoker.

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Persimmon Spice Bread

Here’s an absolutely delicious “spice bread” recipe which is just right for the holiday season. It comes from my across-the-street neighbor, Kathy. The bread blends pungent persimmons with a combination of spices — cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice — to make a moist, dense and perky quick bread. For many years, another favorite Cajun neighbor treated us to a small loaf of pumpkin bread every Christmas. I remember Essie with great fondness during the holiday season for all of her kind deeds. And so I am making Kathy’s “Persimmon Spice Bread” to use as Christmas and Hanukah gifts. As a bonus, this is quite a healthy bread and the recipe includes a “secret ingredient.”

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