Grilling Artichokes

Of all the vegetables we have tried over the last several months, artichokes were not top on my list.  It’s not that I don’t like them, I really do, but they intimidated me.I mean most people use these as kitchen decorations!

Sucking it up last week, I decided to try preparing artichokes for our supper, after finding some on sale at Whole Foods.  Our menu for the evening was grilled beef shoulder tender, thinly sliced and served over hearty salad greens.  I thought the artichokes would be a perfect accompaniment.

2 fresh artichokes, sliced in half
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
black pepper
1 clove garlic minced

To prepare the artichokes, cut off the stem, then slice in half.  In a large pan on the stove (large enough that the artichokes will not be stacked on each other), bring the water and salt to a steady simmer, and place your cut artichokes in the pan.  Cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium and steam about 15 minutes.

Artichokes are extremely tough so this helps tenderize them before grilling, even if you re only sting the heart (which is my preferred choice)

After steaming, remove from the stovetop (checking to see that they are indeed tender…. if not, put them back on about 5-10 more minutes).

Mix together the cider vinegar, olive oil, black pepper, and garlic, and brush the top and bottom of the artichokes.

Place the artichokes in a grill basket.

Preheat your grill to 400 degrees.  Place you basket on the grill (alongside your protein as well) and let cook about 5 minutes before turning them over.

Baster with the vinegar mixture as the artichokes cook.

I cooked ours about a total of 20 mints on the grill, but cook them until the heart is super tender and is easy to remove from the artichoke itself.

Scoop out the heart of the artichoke and serve atop you salad, or just as a dinner side.  The vinaigrette mixture is a really flavorful touch.

For the beef on my salad, I marinated it in the zesty Dijon marinade that I shared last week.

It is just soo good on top of a salad.

You can use a dressing of your choice, but I do like a good vinaigrette dressing with this.

I’ll be honest with you, preparing artichokes is a challenge and a little time consuming, but the final result (after a failure or possibly two…..) was really yummy!
I think artichokes are just beautiful, and after cooking with them, I now know that they are far more fabulous than just a decoration in the kitchen!

I’m linking up this week with On the Menu Monday, Foodie Friday, and Simply Living & Eating’s Foodie Friday.


Comfort Food {Garlicky Shrimp & Peas}

Sometimes it just amazes me the number of people that think because I have changed my eating habits, that we never have “good” food on our supper table.
Seriously, you don’t have to eat out of a box, or a can, or a bag, or in a restaurant to eat delicious well prepared meals!
{I don’t even have to smother what I do prepare in condiments to add flavor.}
Now there are moments that I miss cooking with bacon, sautéing in butter, making sauces loaded with cream or even deep frying my fries or chicken, but for the most part I am quite content with my choices.
And they are definitely paying off!

I mean who is going to complain about losing 75 pounds?!


I found a recipe in Food and Wine magazine a couple of years back that our family really enjoyed, but was put away when I started changing things around here.
Recently when I was organizing (and rewriting) recipes I came across this wonderful dish and decided to remake it for our supper.
Substituting olive oil for bacon grease and using all fresh ingredients (yes it takes away the convenience, but it is so worth it), I made healthy comfort food just perfect for a rainy winter day or even for celebrating Fat Tuesday on the 12th!



for the peas….
4 scallions
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, strip leaves from stem
1/2 teaspoon of red-pepper flakes
1 pound fresh black-eye peas, cooked ahead of time
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere’s no-salt Creole seasoning (taste after the peas have been added back to the mixture and add more for a more Creole taste)
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (or homemade no sodium chicken broth)
for the shrimp….
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (you can also use unsweetened white grape juice)

Cook scallions, sweet onion, celery, bell pepper, bay leaves, garlic, thyme, red-pepper flakes, & Tony Chachere’s seasoning in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are pale golden, about 8-10 minutes.

Add black-eye peas and broth (I use homemade left from stewing chicken) and simmer five minutes.

Transfer the black-eye pea mixture to a bowl and set aside for a few minutes.

Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the same dutch oven over medium-high heat, until it shimmers. Season shrimp with 1/4 tsp. sea salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Cook shrimp with garlic, stirring occasionally, until just opaque (shrimp will not be fully cooked), about 3 minutes.

 Add wine and bring to a boil, then briskly simmer 2 minutes.






Add black-eye pea mixture and simmer until just heated through (mixture will be juicy). Taste to see if you want more of a Creole taste and add another tablespoon of the Tony Chachere’s if you desire.

  Discard bay leaf before serving.

You can serve this over rice, or just enjoy it alone.


Looks delicious doesn’t it?

I assure you, it is!

Linking up with Foodie Friday, Food on Friday and On the Menu Monday this week.

Cooking With Pumpkins

Nothing represents autumn comfort food to me more than a fresh pumpkin pie.  This is a dish that brings back special memories of my two grandmothers when I was growing up and celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas with them in Alabama.   Those were some pretty special times that ended way too soon.

I absolutely love the smell and adore the taste of this autumn treat!

Ever since Audley & I made a trip looking for pumpkins in September, I have had a certain 13 year old daughter begging me for a pumpkin pie.


While this week isn’t the one to teach her how to make her own pie, I did take a break from preparing for the wedding I am catering this weekend and cook up a couple of pumpkins to use in some of my autumn baking.

At least this way, Madeline knows I haven’t forgotten her request!

I always thought cooking fresh pumpkin was difficult and so it took a while to build up confidence to cook my own instead of buying Libby’s in a can.  Am I ever so glad that I got over that!  Cooking pumpkin to puree is easy-peasy; the most difficult part is getting a knife through the skin to cut it in half!

So how do you cook a pumpkin?

First, make sure your kitchen is clean and ready for working.  Nothing makes cooking more difficult than cluttered cabinets and a sink full of dirty dishes! Keeping a tidy kitchen makes all the difference in the world in keeping your prep space useful while you putter about the kitchen.

Secondly, make sure you are using a pumpkin that cooks up well, as all do not fit this category.  These include the pretty white pumpkins, what I call a Cinderella pumpkin (blue), the squatty orange pumpkins, or the common sugar baby “pie” pumpkin.  Any of these are delicious by themselves, but mixed with other pumpkin is just wonderful!

While you can cook with “Jack-O-Lantern” pumpkins, they are not the best quality & are very tough!

Third, using a sharp knife, cut your pumpkins in half.  Scoop out the insides removing the strings and seeds.  A metal ice cream scoop is perfect for this job.  If you would like, save some of your seeds to roast for a tasty treat, or save some to plant for your own garden next summer.

Finally, place the pumpkin halves facing down on a cookie sheet, so that the skin is up top.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for  45-5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  When you can handle it, the skin should easily peel away from the pumpkin, leaving the delicious pulp for you to puree.

Use your food processor or blender to puree the freshly cooked pumpkin.

That’s it.

See, I told you it was easy!

I measured out my pumpkin into two cup servings and stored it in Ziploc baggies for freezing.

What can I use this pumpkin puree for?

Besides the most flavorful pumpkin pie you will ev-ah taste, you can make pumpkin butter, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, or a scrumptious pumpkin cheese ball to use for any number of holiday gatherings this fall!

Linking up with Foodie Friday @ Rattlebridge Farm & “On the Menu Monday” with StoneGable this week.

Stop back by next week for my scrumptious Pumpkin Butter recipe which can be used later in making pumpkin cheesecake!   I might just share that luscious recipe as well!

Sweet Potato Fries

All my life I have only liked my sweet potatoes one way, and that was my momma’s sweet potato soufflé that she fixed every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Whipped sweet potatoes mixed with Eagle brand milk, brown sugar topped with pecans, even more brown sugar and marshmallows….. 

In an effort to add more variety to our supper table, I decided to give this decidedly autumn vegetable a try as a wonderful accompaniment to some fish I was broiling one night last week.  It took a few minutes to decide how to prepare them and opted for fries to make them more appealing to my kids while still keeping them fairly healthy.

It’s super easy, the only challenge is peeling and slicing the potato as they are a bit more tough than regular potatoes.


2 large sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced into fries
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Let’s Make It!

**Heat 2 Tablespoons if the olive oil over medium heat, saving the other tablespoon if it is needed later in cooking the fires.  Add the sweet potatoes a few at a time to form a single layer for cooking.

**Turn about a minute and half into cooking and continue to cook another minute or two (taste one to make sure it is cooked through).  Sweet potatoes cook much differently than potatoes, so don’t expect them to crisp up the same.
**Carefully remove the fries from the hot oil and drain well on a paper towel.
**Sprinkle with a little Kosher salt and serve.

Super easy and really quite tasty.  Not only were these delicious with fish, they would be fabulous with hamburgers as well.

Linking up with Foodie Friday this week.

Have a wonderful weekend and try something new!