Monday, November 30, 2009

MiMi's Medicinal Home Made Chicken Soup... The Cure For Snowy Weather

When the weather turns cold the first thing I do is start making soup. Strangely enough, I always seem to have all the ingredients I need on hand. Actually, I've had the ingredients for a week as they were leftover ingredients I didn't need for Thanksgiving. I shopped at Sam's Wholesale Club so, as usual, I bought too much but, I'd rather have too much than not enough of something. So, I'm trying to finish off the onions, garlic, parsley, celery and carrots. All the perfect ingredients to go in my home made chicken soup. I've had a nice plump little chicken in the freezer just begging to be pulled out.

So, without further adieu, here's my recipe, which I learned from my grandmother (MiMi), who was of German descent. I wish I'd had more time to learn from her before she was gone, because she was one of the most wonderful cooks ever.

MiMi's Medicinal Homemade Chicken Soup:


For The Broth:

3 to 4 stalks of celery (with the leaves), coarsely chopped

1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered

4 to 5 spring (green) onions

8-10 cloves of garlic, halved

1 whole bay leaf

1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns

2 teaspoons of salt

1 whole chicken

8 cups of water


1. In the morning, start your broth by filling the stock pot with water and adding all of the ingredients for the broth.

2. Bring the pot almost to a boil, but not quite. It needs to simmer very slowly all day and not boil. 3 to 4 hours is usually enough time, but I usually let it steep for a while.

3. When the stock is ready, remove all of the ingredients, setting aside the chicken to cool and add the veggies to your compost pile or your trash.

4. At this point I use a couple of layers of cheesecloth inside a colander, to drain the broth. Rinse the stock pot and and return the broth to the pot.

5. Bone the chicken and tear into bite size pieces. Now you're ready to make the actual soup.

Chicken soup:


2 to 3 stalks of celery, diced

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 package of baby carrots, sliced & chopped (or shredded carrots, chopped)

1 package of fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

5 to 6 cloves of garlic, pressed

1 teaspoon of olive oil

2 teaspoons of butter

8 cups of the broth you previously made (or you can use 2 cartons of organic chicken broth)

2 teaspoons of chopped parsley

1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground

1/2 of a package of egg noodles


1. In the olive oil and butter, saute the onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic in that order, until almost transparent.

2. Add the broth and allow the soup to simmer and cook the veggies for at least another 1-1/2 hours.

3. Add the chicken, chopped parsley, salt and pepper and allow to simmer a while longer.

4. Boil the egg noodles in another pan, drain and set aside. I've found that adding them to the soup soaks up all the liquid and then they fall apart.

5. Place noodles in bottom of bowl and pour soup over the top.

6. Serve with healthy crackers or sourdough bread. Enjoy!

7. I have to admit I forgot to add the parsley before taking the picture, so it's not nearly as attractive as it should be.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Twice Baked Potato Casserole... Perhaps My Best Holiday Side

For years I tried like crazy to make twice baked potatoes but they just never seemed to turn out right. Some years they were too wet and other years they were too dry. Then, I discovered this recipe and I'll never stray. When you know you've found something this good you tend to stick with it.

So, I'm going to share it with you and hope that you like it as much as we do.

Twice Baked Potato Casserole:


5 pounds of baking potatoes, peeled and quartered (or skin left on for baking)

1 stick of butter

3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup of Half & Half or milk

1 cup sour cream

1/2 of an 8-ounce block of cream cheese, cut into smaller chunks

2 large eggs

1 cup green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon dried or 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

3/4 cup of crispy bacon, crumbled (2 to 3 slices of slab or 3 to 4 slices of regular bacon)

2-1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of  freshly ground black pepper


1. Bake or boil the potatoes. I prefer just boiling them, covered in water. When a fork can be easily inserted, remove potatoes from flame and drain in a colander. Place potatoes back in pot and mash the potatoes with a potato masher.

2. Add the butter and keep mashing until you have a pretty smooth consistency.

3. Now you can add the cheddar cheese, sour cream, milk, eggs, cream cheese chunks, green onions, chives, parsley, salt, pepper and bacon and stir until well blended. Make sure you reserve a little of the bacon and the shredded cheese for the topping.

4. Pour the mixture (it will be thick) into a large casserole oven dish and smooth out. Sprinkle the reserved shredded cheese and bacon over the top. You can also sprinkle some green onions over the top when done.

5. Bake uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 40 to 45 minutes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Reason I Didn't Have A Garden This Year... Meet Fernando And Felicia Fox

We have lived in the same house now for almost 25 years (never really a good idea) and I'd say I've had a garden almost every year, save for a few. This year I bought my seeds and plants and readied the garden for planting. Then, it happened. I saw Felicia and Fernando out in our garden (which is beyond the backyard behind the cinder block fence). Seeing this pair together is nothing new, as they have lived on our property for many years and foxes are monogamous unless one dies.

However, this year Felicia apparently felt secure enough to dig a den under the old playhouse out in the garden area, which is where she gave birth to four of the cutest pups you've ever seen. In the beginning when I first discovered (like 15 or 20 years ago) them on our property, I tried to get Animal Control to catch them. They cracked up and said good luck with that. It was then that I decided it was time to make peace with the foxes and learn to live in harmony.

They used to do almost as much damage to my tomatoes as the birds do until I figured out it was wiser to just plant a couple of extra plants for them, that weren't in cages. That seemed to work. They no longer worked their snouts through the wire cages to take nibbles out of my tomatoes.

Anyway, the foxes used to keep pretty much of a low profile until Felicia and I began our strange form of bonding, which goes pretty much like this: I sit on the patio in the mornings (during warm weather anyway) and drink my coffee, watching for hummingbirds. I'm looking up, right? Felicia (who thinks she owns our property now) is strolling down the sidewalk toward the patio, looking down. Kind of like foraging. At almost the same instant we realize how close we are to one another and momentarily freak out... both of us. I run into the house and she runs back to the garden.

When the next encounter presents itself, I'm sitting on the patio and happen to notice Felicia lying down on the cinder block fence, nearly hidden by the trumpet vine. She sees me and knows that I see her and we have have a sort of silent bonding, as it were. The next time I saw her she had moved a little closer and was lying on the sidewalk out by the backyard flower beds, quite comfortable with the fact that I was there as well. By the end of the summer it had become old hat to be in the presence of one another. Oh Yeah! We're tight, I'm telling you.

The next encounter was during an evening when we had our best friends over for dinner on the patio. During dinner I related my story of Felicia and Fernando and they suggested we go out to garden and see if we can see them. I agreed and we all walked out to the garden. To my shock and amazement, Felicia is there with four of the most precious pups I have ever seen. Our friends got so excited over seeing them that they were nearly beside themselves and sneaked quietly out to the garden again before they left to go home. I had only seen her pups once before, about 5 or 6 years earlier, so this was such a treat.

Anyway, Felicia got into the habit of letting the pups out of the den every day in the late afternoon and evening, so I'd go out every evening to take pictures (discreetly) over the fence. Once I saw those four little wild hooligans I realized why Felicia looked so emaciated. I'd been there before myself. Kids... gotta love 'em! But, they do wear us out and take a toll on our minds and bodies.

I had already decided to give the garden up this year just for the sheer joy of watching this little family and it gave me a great deal of pleasure all summer long. Now, a lot of people have cautioned me with a lot of their knowledge about foxes, but you must realize that Felicia and I have found a certain peace with one another. This is not a common occurrence but we take care of our critters at this house.... be they wild or domestic. Every time hubby shoots a squirrel with his pellet gun, he heaves it over the fence to the garden then goes out a few hours later to find it gone.

Felicia clearly thought, "OMG! This is manna from Heaven. I love these people!" We love her too. They have something like 10 or 15 dens on our property of which I've only found five. Now, Felicia and Fernando are pretty much hiding out for the fall and winter but gray foxes are all the same. They mate in late January to the middle of March and 90 something days later she has a new litter of pups. The litters usually range from 4 to 6 pups. The family all stays together throughout the spring and summer. The dad teaches the pups to hunt and the mom protects them. However, come fall, the entire family separates, with the mom staying in her local dens while the kids and dad go off on their own. The dad returns in the early part of the year and the cycle repeats itself. It's like taking a sabbatical from marriage every year, which sounds pretty damn good to me.

The funniest aspect to not having a garden is that this was the first summer I can remember in years that I haven't had back pain and had to constantly go to the chiropractor every week. Hello. I think I get the message...

I now know why foxes are so... well, foxy. They know when they are in danger and they know when they aren't. Felicia and Fernando know that they are safe here and they have never bothered my pets either, although I think my cat wants to play with them. Luckily, being an animal, the cat knows better than to attempt such foolishness. She might be crazy but she isn't stupid.

When I first started having a garden every year we didn't have things like farmer's markets or grocery stores that had divine organic offerings. Now we do. So, I think I might be done with gardening, backaches and horrid manicures. I think I'd rather watch the fox family at play, thank you very much!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mama Chance's Kick Ass Hot Sauce... That Would Be Me

 When my daughter was in college at the University of Texas - Austin, she and her friends took to calling me Mama Chance and they all loved my hot sauce. As a result, my salsa evolved into being called Mama Chance's Hot Salsa. It is how I'm still referred to, to this very day. I kind of like it because it sounds just so sassy! You know. Like I could I could kick some bad guy's ass. Hahahaha! Yeah. Right. I'd probably be dead. However, if I threw this in a bad guy's face he'd be in pain for a very long time. ;-)

We love hot salsa in this house. We eat a lot of Mexican food, and I make a lot of Mexican dishes, so having a hot salsa on hand is a must.

Yesterday I made what I consider to be the absolute best hot salsa I've ever made. I mean, haven't you been there before? You just know when you (even accidentally) have nailed a recipe just right. It was just kind of magical that everything fell into place the way it did. It had the right amount of thickness, while not being too thick. It also has the right amount of heat, while not being unbearable to eat. It. Is. Perfect. While my hot suace is always good, there have been years that I haven't quite gotten it to the point that I want to be. Sometimes it's been too hot, sometimes too thick, sometimes too runny and sometimes not hot enough. Somehow, I managed to get it just right this year.

So, I'd like to share my recipe with you because I'm generous like that. Here it is:

Mama Chance's Kick Ass Hot Sauce:


4 quarts of peeled, seeded fresh tomatoes (or you can use canned tomatoes since they are picked at the height of their flavor)

3 large yellow onions

1 large can of tomato juice (you could even substitute with bloody mary mix if that's all you've got)

20 cloves of garlic

2 green bell peppers

1 yellow bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

10 large jalapeno peppers

8 habanero peppers

1 bunch of cilantro

1/4 cup of red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste


1. Using a food processor, pulse all ingredients (in batches) and place in a dutch oven or stock pot. Bring nearly to a boil and reduce to simmer.

2. Simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Stir every 10 minutes or so to make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom.

3. When done, use a ladle to spoon the salsa into canning jars. Place the lids on the jars and add the rings, making sure to not tighten too much, as that can sometimes compromise the seal.

4. Have the jars and lids ready at this point. Turn over and allow to stay that way for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. When turned right side up each jar should pop or already have popped. If one doesn't seal (pop) you either need to put in a hot water bath or just store it in the fridge and consume rather quickly. After opened, the contents last for approximately two weeks.

5. Of course, you are most welcome to adjust the amount of ingredients to your personal taste and I wish you good luck with that. Proceed with caution is perhaps my best advice.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Balsamic Habanero Green Tomato Chow Chow... A Most Versatile Relish

Honestly, at our house, this stuff is treasured mainly for it's versatility and for being a spur of the moment appetizer. We've even been known to blow through an entire sleeve of saltine crackers just as vehicles for delivering this scrumptious relish to our mouths. When Chow-Chow is involved we are a shameless pair.

A few years back I was making this and realized at the last moment that I didn't have any white vinegar. Not wanting to return to the market for the umpteenth time, I found several bottles of Balsamic vinegar and decided to go with it. Now mind you, it isn't nearly as attractive as the Chow-Chow made with white vinegar, but oh the taste! It really seems to bring out flavors that were there before but never noticed. Magical marriage, I tell you. Now, we have friends who ask whether or not I'm making it with the Balsamic again, so I know they like it. Hell, they beg for it!

Actually, I wasn't even going to make it this year because I didn't do a garden. Then last Saturday morning I awoke to find a large plastic bag full of green tomatoes, given to me by my mail lady, Diane. Bless her heart! She had canned to her heart's content and was still left with an abundance of green tomatoes, so she brought them to me. I'm not sure whether I should thank her or not, but I did anyway. I mean, it's a lot of work!

However, I put my big girl panties on and set to the task at hand. Here's the recipe:

Balsamic Vinegar Habanero Green Tomato Chow-Chow:


4 to 5 pounds of green tomatoes
3 large yellow onions
10 cloves of garlic
10 jalapeno peppers, seeded
8 Habanero peppers, seeded
1 green bell pepper, seeded
1 red bell pepper, seeded
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded
1 head of cabbage
1 head of cauliflower
2 cans of medium size artichoke hearts, drained

For the Pickling Liquid:

6 cups of Balsamic vinegar
2 cups of water
5-1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of salt
2 teaspoons of mustard seed
1 Tablespoon of ground turmeric
2 teaspoons of celery seed
2 teaspoons whole allspice
3 cinnamon sticks
3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
kitchen twine


1. In a large non-reactive pan combine the vinegar, sugar and salt, stirring until dissolved.

2. Cut a large piece of cheesecloth and lay it flat. In the middle, place the remaining six ingredients, pull up around the spices to make a small bag and tie it closed with a 6 inch strand of kitchen twine, trim excess with scissors, then add it to the liquid.

3. Bring mixture to a boil and allow to simmer for approximately 30 to 45 minutes, or until reduced by half.

4. During the simmering time, add all ingredients to the food processor with metal blade, in shifts, so as to not get the processor bowl too full. I only use the pulse button for this part. That way, the veggies don't get too pulverized.

5. When liquid has reduced by half, add all the ingredients and heat to just short of boiling, usually around 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Have all canning supplies standing by and ready to go. Fill each jar to just within a 1/8" of the top, with a clean moistened cloth wipe any excess of the rim, but do be careful, as the jars will be very hot. Place sterilized lid on top and secure with metal band. (Don't over tighten as that may cause the lid to bend and thus, not get a good seal.)

7. Turn the jar over to rest upside down for approximately 30 minutes or until all lids are securely sealed.

8. Here's the hardest part of all. Wait for 3 weeks before opening, allowing the mixture to soak up the liquid and pickle itself.

So, there you have it! Once it's ready for consumption, you can use it on just about any meats and for an elegant appetizer, pour the dark mixture over a block of cream cheese and serve with crackers. I've even used it as a marinade, which gives a wonderful flavor to uncooked meat as well.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sliced Pork Tenderloin Served On A Bed Of Organic Okra Gumbo

A few weeks ago I ventured to the outskirts of town to a local organic farm and bought some lovely organic okra, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapenos. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.... make okra gumbo. It's one of our favorite comfort foods although I only tend to make it during summer months into the fall. It's really a meal all in itself, but I loved adding the sliced pork tenderloin as a topping.

Now, I tend to make my okra gumbo quite thick but you're welcome to adjust the recipe to suit your own taste. Each to his own, right? So, here's the recipe:

Organic Okra Gumbo:


20 - 30 fresh okra (about 1 pound), sliced 1/2" thick

2 slices of jalapeno bacon, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped (smallish)

1 red bell pepper, chopped (smallish)

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped(smallish)

4 large cloves of garlic, crushed

2-3 jalapenos, seeded & deveined, finely chopped

3 to 4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)

2-1/2 to 3 cups chicken broth

3 to 5 splashes of Tabasco sauce

3 to 5 splashes of Worcesteshire sauce

1/2 cup red wine

salt and pepper, to taste

parsley, chopped, for garnish


1. Add bacon to preheated deep cast iron skillet. When bacon is about halfway cooked, add the onion, bell peppers, jalapenos, then garlic. Saute for a few minutes or until onions are just turning transparent.

2. Add the chopped okra to the pan and saute for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken broth, Tabasco, Worcesteshire sauce, red wine, and bring mixture to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Serve while steaming hot.

This was extremely tasty with the sliced pork tenderloin served on top, garnished with a little parsley. It's a new winner at our house!