Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Red Beans and friends: More Southern favorites

The next option for the Red Beans and Turkey Tasso (see recipe) is as a side-dish or part of a dinner ensemble as opposed to the one-bowl entrée. Because it's very moist and soupy, this dish makes a lot, but freezes very well. It was thawed gently and paired with other items. 

Tonight, Papa Bear has returned from a road trip and we are adding some more carb options and protein options more fitting a big guy who’s not 5’5” like his princess of a wife (yeah, that’s me; don’t make me come over there!).

Cornbread is often paired with red beans so I made a sweet, buttery cornbread. I put a dab of Steen’s Syrup in the cornbread thinking of my grandmother Cecilia’s tradition of serving us cornbread and milk with cool, thick Steen’s drizzled on top.

Going all the way “Southern,” we finished off the meal with homemade fried chicken. Papa Bear will not go to bed hungry and he knows that he was thoroughly missed last week.

Bonus: There will be cornbread and milk in the morning!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Adventures in Red Beans and Rice

Red Beans and Rice, like many things in life, involves options and alternatives. They may bore or excite you, but as Kecia Maynor Pauley once said "if you feel squirrelly, jump! I choose to jump.

The point of this series (yes, I'm going to drag this out into a bonafide saga) is to look at the cooking methods, ingredients and traditions. This can be a healthy dish or it can be decadent as candied bacon fat with maple crystals (Jennifer, you know who you are). The secondary point of this series is to provide a haven for all those people on social media tired of politics, reality shows and bathroom debates. LET US EMBRACE THE HUMBLE BEAN!!!

Look forward to soaking vs. no soaking, slow-cooking vs. simmering on stove, and the various types of accompaniments like bacon, sausage, tasso, andouille or straight vegetarian. I want to hear from you and I will embrace and give stage to your RB&R traditions and cooking methods.

The recipe will start as a fairly healthy, low-fat alternative paired with turkey tasso and brown rice. If you try this out, please know if won't short you on taste and boldness. It's full of protein, fiber and a good source of complex carbohydrates. It's intended to be diabetes-friendly, but it's a great one-dish meal or a side dish served with Southern favorites like fried chicken, cornbread or catfish.

Red Beans and Turkey Tasso
1 (1-pound) package dried red kidney beans
4 Quarts (16 cups) of water to start
2 Cups of chopped vegetable seasoning mix*
2 – 8 oz Packages of Savoie’s Turkey Tasso
2 Teaspoons each of dried thyme, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder
Optional seasonings, to taste, after cooking: Hot sauce, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper.
4 cups whole grain brown rice, cooked (1/2 to cup serving portion)
*Or individual chopped seasoning items:
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
4 celery stalks, chopped
1-3 cloves garlic, minced

Cooking Directions:
  1. Rinse and sort beans. Soak beans in container full of water and 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar for 2 to 4 hours changing out the water half way through the soaking process if possible. Soaking is optional and different methods maybe preferred. Unsoaked beans will require slightly longer simmering times
  2. Place beans in a large stew pot and cover with about 4 quarts of water or add water so that mixture is a ratio of 1 part beans to 2 parts water. Add dried thyme, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder
  3. Bring the beans to a rolling boil, then lower heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Stir often, (so that beans don't stick to bottom of pot) and add water as needed. 
  4. Dice the turkey tasso or cut into thin strips. Sauté the tasso with the diced vegetables and a dash of olive oil until tender. Add tasso and sautéed vegetables to the beans. Water should still cover all.
  5. Cover and continue to simmer for 1-2 hours until beans reach desired softness adding more water for a soupier consistency.
  6. Serve 1 cup of cooked beans with ½ cup of brown rice.

    Makes 8-10 servings depending on how soupy beans are made

Nutritional Facts Links
This stuff is THE BOMB!

So, whatcha got?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy at White Light Night

"Mercy Mercy Mercy" by Josef Zawinul sets the tone at the Baton Rouge favorite White Light Night 2014. Orlando Henry on keyboards, Richard Bewley on guitar, Katharsus St. Arthur on drums, Miguel Hernandez on guitar performed this favorite on November 21, 2014. Video shot and recorded by Ruth Laney.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

An introduction to croquettes: Spencer style

Cecilia wandered into some area of the ‘Net discussing croquettes and she told me about them and suggested we make them for dinner. I should know better than to take menu-planning advice from a sixth-grader, but I thought it would be an interesting adventure.

First problem was to find a variation she would eat. She eats chicken and potatoes so we went that basic route for her Chicken and Potato Croquettes. See at right from JustAPinch.com.

That takes care of baby, but daddy has a wildly adventurous palette and he likes spicy, savory seafood dishes. For the adults, I decided to go the smoky, seafood route. I had a little smoked salmon in the fridge, but at $12 a pound, I wanted to save it for a bagel breakfast. I decided to use a can of cheap salmon and add liquid smoke to recreate the “taste” of smoked salmon. I discovered the joys of smoked gouda when I brought fancy sandwich fixings as a birthday present for Scott. (DON’T JUDGE – Boar’s head roast beef is roses and lace in dude language.)

Salmon-Smoked Gouda Croquettes

1 cup of mashed potatoes
1 can of salmon (well, chopped with fork)
½ cup of grated smoked Gouda (I chopped it into tiny pieces)
2 eggs
½ diced onions
1 cup of Italian bread crumbs
2 TBS of lime juice
1 TBS of liquid smoke (optional)
1 handful of chopped, fresh Cilantro
Season to taste – salt, pepper, garlic powder
  1. In a medium bowl, beat one egg. Add (COLD) potatoes and combine well. Mix salmon, cheese, onions, lime juice, cilantro, liquid smoke and seasonings well. Fold into cold potato mixture.
  2. Roll the potato-salmon mixture into balls, a little bigger than golf ball size. If you're working with warm mashed potatoes, chill the balls. If you pulled your potatoes out of the refrigerator to make this, carry on.
  3. Get three bowls and place them side by side. In the first bowl, put 4 Tbsp. flour. In the middle bowl, 1 beaten egg. (If this runs out before you're done, beat another egg.) In the third bowl place 1 c. bread crumbs.
  4. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil over medium high heat.
  5. Roll the potato balls in the flour and shake off the excess. Dip into egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Place in the oil to brown. Roll them around so all sides get golden brown and crispy.
  6. (Note: I skipped this step and cooked them completed in the oil.) Once browned on all sides, transfer to an oven-safe dish and place in 300°F oven to keep warm while you finish the rest of the croquettes.
  7. (Note: I skipped this step – I hate gravy!) Once all the croquettes have been browned, stir 1/4 c. flour into the remaining oil. Stir in chicken stock to make a gravy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the gravy with the balls for dipping.
My variation for the adults in the house is above.  It’s a smoky, potato, cheese and fish treasure doubled rolled in flour and bread crumbs. I didn't have time for a side dishes or a dipping gravy. I think a pasta Alfredo or sauteed spinach would be nice next time. Cecilia had hers with Mac and Cheese and her father ate his share off a plate with his fingers – refined like wine that one!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Fishers' 'Net delivers church business tools

Effective communication tools are crucial for organizations seeking to become “fishers of men.” Empowering churches and non-profits with the right tackle box is the mission of the Fishers’ ‘Net, a business plan vying for one of the Mission Main Street Grants.

Spencer Media Solutions and Online Bayou are partnering to develop the Fishers’ ‘Net, a full-service Web portal offering Web hosting, email communications, marketing tools, print services and e-commerce solutions.

We would like to build a Web alliance of churches across the globe to ‘Net-fellowship and share communication best practices and business solutions. Through Online Bayou, organizations can use self-service products like Web hosting, email accounts or blogging. Offline services customized for churches and faith-based groups include bulletins, newsletter services and advertising/media buying.

The most ambitious venture will develop an e-tithe system that will allow organizations to use the ease of e-commerce to collect tithes, fees and donations.

Please click HERE to vote for the Fishers’ ‘Net and then share the link with others from now until Oct. 17 when the voting ends.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

ACA: An Ouch of Birthday Prevention

Protect the Pride!
Today’s my birthday and seeking a health plan is my gift to myself and my family. Just by posting  experiences, we all get vilified or assigned to one side or the other, but as a parent and a provider, I can’t be less than responsible to my family or myself. I didn’t plan to register with an exchange until January, but I decided to give it a try – almost as a joke – while watching the Daily Show and listening to all the Massive Glitch of the Century stories.

So, I started at a little after 10 p.m. and registered in about 18 minutes. I had some questions about small business vs. family coverage so I started an online chat with “Jonathan” while I filled out the application, watched TV and listened to see if my little one was settled in for bed or secretly researching science experiments in her room.

I asked questions for about 20 minutes and decided the best route to pursue. I finished the application, took notes and screen shots and, of course, watched the Colbert Report. I was discussing the process on social media and answered a few questions. A little after 11 p.m., it was over and I had a pdf of my Letter of Eligibility and instructions on next steps which included choosing from my top 12 plans and starting to pay premiums in early 2014. Start to finish, it took an hour. I am sharing my experiences in hopes that it will help or encourage someone else.

I lost my job a year and a half ago and I was terrified about providing for my family and what would happen if we got sick, needed a doctor or had an accident while I was on unemployment benefits. Free-lance and consulting opportunities opened up and I stopped unemployment early and my husband and I started working for ourselves. We had lots of flexibility, good bosses, but no healthcare benefits.

We took a big financial blow, but we are getting back on our feet. Health insurance for us won’t be free and it will be far from cheap. I might even argue with the “affordable,” but I know it will be possible. Despite being self-employed with pre-existing conditions, we can find what we can afford and get it.

I am a firm believer that families like us will make the sacrifices that will save money across the system. By encouraging preventative health, each subscriber’s healthcare costs are reduced over the long haul. Maybe we can prevent a cancer instead of treating a cancer. By keeping blood sugar levels stable with low-cost meds and lifestyle, we might prevent kidney disease or multiple amputations.

Working families that purchase plans will not get hand-outs, but it will be an important step in being responsible and proactive. If my little girl lands in the ER with a life-threatening injury, someone will pay the costs. My premiums will ensure that I can do my share if that ever happens.

I’m going to enter an exchange and budget my finances while trying to keep myself and my family healthy. It’s not a political statement or my support for the first black U.S. president. It’s my job.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Roasted Peppers Simone

Roasted Peppers Simone

  • 4 large Italian Bull Horn Peppers
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoons Smart Balance
  • 3-4 tablespoons of Tuscan goat cheese spread


Preheat oven to 400°F

Cut a cap off the tops of peppers, and scoop out seeds, taking care not to break or tear the pepper.

In frying pan, sauté the spinach and Smart Balance. When the spinach is wilted, add goat cheese and mix over low heat until well-combined.

Using a small spoon, stuff the spinach-cheese mixture into the peppers (pressing down with the handle of the spoon to completely fill) to 1/2 inch from the top.

You can press a small piece of bread into the pepper to keep the cheese filling from melting out during cooking, but I didn’t do this and as you can see, my cheese melted out. We still ate it. J

Place the caps back on each pepper. I had some skewers and Cecilia was helping so we skewered them.

Lay the peppers in a lightly greased or nonstick baking pan and roast for 20 minutes or until they soften.

Added note: Scott took the skins off and Cecilia had no part of the spinach. It’s all good!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Shrimp & Grits: One name several identities

Shrimp & Grits at Drago's in Greater New Orleans.

The Food Network version features lemon-
pepper shrimp.
Whether in a fine New Orleans restaurant, a cool trendy sports bar or my own kitchen, my favorite dish is Shrimp and Grits. Diversity and presence of culture are two hallmarks of Louisiana cuisine. This dish is the diva of diversity because it can be breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, but it also can be a different animal on each plating. When I ordered it in a Baton Rouge surfer bar, it was a dangerous, spicy journey, but in my own kitchen it's a creamy, hearty comfort food highlighting everything but spicy heat.

At home, I often take the opportunity to add vegetables like sautéed spinach.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Baseball great Lou Brock brings dual spiritual, physical health message

Awareness event is faith-based response to diabetes epidemic

When Lou Brock played Major League Baseball, stealing was one of his specialties. Now that the stolen bases record-holder has retired, he helps people restore the health and hope that has been taken from them. Brock, a minister and motivational speaker, will be the featured speaker Wednesday, April 24 at Higher Ground Outreach Church in Baton Rouge.

Brock was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 60. He now works with Novo Nordisk, an international pharmaceutical company, to promote awareness and encourage tight, proactive management of diabetes.

Area family medicine physician, Dr. Rani Whitfield will introduce Brock and provide some background into the diabetes epidemic gripping the country. He will discuss prevention, diagnosis and risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing diabetes.

Both Brock and Whitfield are products of Southern University in Baton Rouge. Brock, a native of El Dorado, Ark., grew up on a share cropping cotton plantation in Collinston, La. He started Southern on an academic scholarship and later tried out and made the baseball team. His star began to rise on the Southern diamond and continued to shine as he stole bases and captured records. His 20-year professional career spanned three years with the Chicago Cubs and 17 years with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Whitfield, a board certified family physician and sports medicine specialist, has become known as "Tha Hip Hop Doc" or "H2D" to many in Baton Rouge and across the country. Whitfield is an impassioned advocate for increasing the awareness of health-related issues, including HIV/AIDS, obesity, cardiovascular disease and substance abuse.

Higher Ground Outreach Church, led by Bishop Rickey and Pastor Lesia Washington, is located at 3730 N. Sherwood Forest in Baton Rouge. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. on April 24.

For more information or media inquiries, contact Spencer Media Solutions, info@spencermedia.biz.