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Posts tagged “Recipes

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Part 1: A circle of thanksgiving

We stand in a circle holding hands, a tradition that evolved in my parents’ home from a combination two traditions, leftovers, if you will: grace before a meal and gratefuls during meals.

Boil these down for gumbo tomorrow.

Every link in our circle has suffered at least one wrench or break from another link in this circle. Yet, here we are. “First, we’ll take turns expressing what we’re grateful for . . . It can be anything,” to ease the younger links into the tradition.

“I’m thankful for this family . . . “

Gratitude has become a bandwagon for those anxious to reap the emotional, spiritual, as well as fiduciary benefits of thankfulness. Rewire your brain! Relieve stress. Improve sleep. Improve relationships. I ride that bandwagon. Gratitude helps me deal with leftovers of relationships, disasters, even meals.

What are we going to do with all of these potatoes?

In gratitude we push away shortcomings to focus on our strengths, we see beyond our losses to be joyful for our blessings, we displace grudges with forgiveness.

“I’m grateful for this time together . . .”

We acknowledge that, like all families, there have been unfortunate turns in our family. Ours comes back to this circle of thanksgiving, woven with the strength of our love for each other, the joy of the blessings we share, and the magic of forgiveness. And food.

Can we freeze the rest of the cranberry relish?

Thankfulness in many ways is magical. When divides —whether political, religious, social, or emotional— feel irreparably deep, gratitude for the leftover goodness mends, a circle of thankfulness bridges gaps between us.

“I’m grateful to be included in this family.”

We all have at least one thing in common, at least one thing we can be grateful for together.

How many pies?

I’m thankful for common ground.

“. . . and for the children, who are present and engaged.”

My dad closes the circle of gratitude with a prayer.

” . . . and for these blessings, we give thanks.”

We squeeze hands and chime in “Amen” before we dig in and begin creating . . . the leftovers.

Part 2: Leftovers

Stacks of dishes, naps on recliners, impossible puzzles, long walks through the fields, disappointing football games, and then the question.

What should I do with this?

For those of you who tuned in for leftover recipes, here are a few ideas.

Turkey Gumbo

In Louisiana, we often pull the okra and sausage out of the freezer and cook up a pot of turkey gumbo on Black Friday. Online recipes for exact ingredients and measurements are plentiful. This is the basic process.

  • Start with a stock.
    • Boil the bones alone or with some herbs (bay leaf, oregano, for example) and vegetable scraps (onion ends and skin, a head of garlic cut down the middle).
  • Make a roux.
    • About 1 cup each of flour and vegetable oil for a big pot of gumbo.
    • Slowly heat the flour in the pot until it becomes golden.
    • Add oil and whisk until it blends smoothly with the flour.
    • Continue to heat slowly until the roux is dark.
  • Add vegetables.
    • Add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery (1-2 cups of each).
    • Once these are soft, follow with minced garlic (4-5 cloves).
  • Add the stock, leftover (and chopped) turkey, Andouille sausage medallions (Italian sausage will do), sliced okra (1-2 cups), and 2-4 tbsp of Worcester sauce (to taste).
  • Season (salt, cayenne, Tabasco, black pepper) to taste.
  • Bring the gumbo to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Serve with rice.

Dressing BallsThanksgiving-2

If you end up with extra dressing or stuffing, make dressing croquettes.

  • Work a beaten egg into a bowl of about 3 cups of dressing.
  • Form balls (slightly bigger than a golf ball).
  • Optional: Fill the balls with cranberry relish or any compatible leftover.
    • Poke a hole.
    • Fill.
    • Reclose.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes:
    • To fry, roll in a little flour then deep fry.
    • To bake, place on cooking sheets and bake at 400º.
    • To air fry, place balls in Airfryer and cook at 330º.

Sweet Potato Chips

Leftover baked sweet potatoes?

  • Slice the cooked sweet potatoes about ¼ inch thin.
  • Season to taste (salt and cayenne or cinnamon and brown sugar).
  • Cook.
    • 300º for 10 minutes in Airfryer.
    • Deep fry for 2-3 minutes.
    • 400º for 10-15 minutes in the oven.

I was the last to leave my parents’, which means my mom filled my car with the leftovers she didn’t want. As I repurposed the turkey, dressing, potatoes, and relish, I reminisced about the week our family spent together. I’m grateful for that leftover lagniappe.


Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

My CSA Adventure: The First Five Weeks

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

I joined one for the first time this year. My excitement was met with:

  • But you already have a garden!
  • Your mom has a garden!
  • You frequent the farmers’ market!
  • Why!?

CSA Week 4That didn’t stop me. I’m finishing up my fifth week of waxed boxes and so far the only vegetable that escaped me was a cucumber. At week five, I have just two regrets: that slimy cucumber and week 3 (out of town and missed my box).

For general information and history about CSAs, visit Local Harvest.

This post is about my CSA experience, the content of my waxed boxes, and how I used it.

My CSA is Luckett Farms. I found out about them through friends who were already participating in the program. When I knocked on the garden gate, the CSA was in mid-season and not taking any new members. While I waited to join the next season, I read about the program and decided which box size best suited our empty nest.

Luckett Farms offers three share sizes: Senior, Average, and Abundant. I chose Average Share.

  • But you already have a garden!
  • Your mom has a garden!
  • You frequent the farmers’ market!
  • Why!?

Disregarding the possibility that I was biting off more than we could chew, I chose Average Share. I’m a little greedy. I wanted at least one of each thing. I had a couple of habits in my favor: I cook almost every day and I can and dehydrate produce at least once a month, sometimes weekly. If push came to shove, I could shove what we couldn’t consume, can, or dehydrate into our upright freezer. (Note: These are important strategies for CSA members).

My first pick-up day finally arrived. My friend, another veggie aficionada, went with me to claim my first box.

“That’s it?” my friend moaned. She rapped on the door of the home (maybe they can explain). No one answered. She peaked into several boxes as I retrieved my notes from the car.

“Yep. That’s it. That’s the right size.” We were both a little disappointed.

When I returned home, I decided to document my CSA venture because I knew the question was coming: “Did we save money by doing this?”

CSA Box 2

Week 2 of the CSA: the box almost doubled in size, and included locally grown rice!

I pulled out my scale and measured. This first box had eight items of fresh produce weighing a total of 6 pounds and 9.11 ounces. Luckett Farms promises at least eight items. They had delivered that, plus honey, a packet of seasonings, and a couple of recipes. I spoke with a friend who had participated in the CSA. She reassured me that the content of the boxes would vary from week to week not only in selection, but in abundance. (Note: The Local Harvest’s tips is an important read for potential CSA members.)

I took heart. I had already concluded that, even though my first “harvest” was less than I had expected, it was worth the $25 dollars. Based on my friend’s experience, I could expect more abundant harvests in future boxes.

I continued to weigh and document my harvests, except week 3 (dang it!), which, according to the newsletter, included mixed greens, scalloped or patty pan squash, and red beans.

What did I find in the boxes I did collect? Here it is in a nutshell box. To my delight, the number of items and total weight increased each week.


Except for one badly bruised tomato in week 4, and stings” on a squash, the produce was beautiful and fresh. We consumed (or stored) all but the one cucumber that turned on me.

This is what we did with our super-fresh vegetables.


We started out with loads of okra. When I have more than I can use, I typically dehydrate it, then grind it to use as a thickener for soups. Because my dehydrator bit the dust on week 1, I discovered grilled okra. This recipe from Southern Living includes a dipping sauce.

We enjoyed zucchini and squash (also plentiful) grilled, smothered, stir-fried, and in soups and salads. Some recipes I applied:

Cowboy candy and syrup

Cowboy candy and cowgirl syrup

Week 5 has been the most impressive box so far. The most celebrated members of this box were the corn and eggplant. We boiled and ate the corn straight. So sweet! The huge eggplant was perfect! I read five or six eggplant lasagna recipes, then made my own version of mostly this recipe, adding ground turkey and substituting mozzarella and Asiago cheese for the typical ricotta/egg mixture.

My friends get a giggle when I tell them there are peppers in my box. My thing is peppers. Pepper jellies, pepper sauces, pepper relishes, dehydrated peppers, roasted peppers, and it goes on. So what did I do with those jalapeños in my box when I already had a few in the fridge, and many still growing in the garden? I rounded up all my jalapeños and made my own version of Cowboy Candy or candied jalapeños. I have a jar full of leftover jalapeño syrup, which will be great for grill glazing or for that interesting oomph in a dish.

I still have a little time to cook up my sweet potatoes (although they will keep quite a while) and scalloped squash before I pick up box 6.

Am I pleased so far with my venture? You betcha! As I collect weeks 6 through 14, I’ll continue to document the harvests, and maybe I’ll follow-up with more recipes. If you’re considering joining a CSA,  I hope this information helps. Keep in mind, CSA models vary, so study up before you sign up.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Boneless, Skinless, and (Yes!) Grilled

The boneless, skinless chicken breast

Boneless skinless chicken breast can be a grill AND moist.I confess that the primary reason the boneless, skinless chicken breast (BSCB) is a staple in my home is because I’m lazy. I don’t want to fuss with bones and skin.

Add to that: the BSCB colors me imaginative and creative because it is one of the most versatile places to start a meal.

And there’s more. The BSCB turns me into a clever, meticulous planner. It is hands down my favorite hack for (not) planning a week’s worth of meals.

So how does a lazy non-planner float gracefully through a week of meals?

  • Monday night: grilled chicken. I grill at least eight to ten chicken breasts even when it’s just two of us. Serve them with some grilled vegetables and rarely have a pot to wash when I’m done. The rest of the week is leftover magic.
  • Chicken quesadillas on Tuesday
  • Barbecue chicken and potatoes on Wednesday
  • Stir fry (just warming really) chicken and vegetables on Thursday
  • Chicken tossed in pasta on Friday

If I´m really clever and meticulous, I have tasty salads with sliced grilled chicken for lunch all week.

Grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast. I usually start there.

But you’re still shaking your head. “Boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the grill?! They’ll be dry as dirt!”

Not at my house.

What’s my secret?

Sour cream.

Not dollops of sour cream on top of dirt-dry grilled chicken. A sour cream marinade.

The sour cream-based marinade not only flavors the chicken, but is less likely to cause flare ups and will help retain the moisture.

I don’t have “a” recipe. Recipes are a bit like meal planning. I resist and rebel. The good news is I have a process, and if you already have sour cream and garlic at home, you can probably try this process without having to make a special trip to the store.

Sour Cream Marinade

Marinade Ingredients
Your marinade can be different every time. Start with sour cream and garlic, then add the herbs, spices, and condiments that suit you and suit the meal.

Your marinade can be different every time. Start with sour cream and garlic, then add the herbs, spices, and condiments that suit you and suit the meal.

  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 2-4 cloves garlic: if you don’t have fresh garlic, substitute 1/2 – 1 tsp powdered garlic or 1-2 tsp garlic flakes (though fresh is always better).
  • sweet: I usually use 1 tbsp honey, but molasses, agave, coconut or brown sugar also work well.
  • herbs & spices: 1-2 tbsp dried (more if fresh) herbs and spices. This will completely depend on my mood and the sides that will compliment the chicken. The herbs I like to use include basil, rosemary, dill, oregano, thyme, parsley, and sage. Other spices that I might reach for are chili powder, paprika, cumin, other pepper powders, cinnamon, and turmeric.
  • tang: Sour cream is tangy on its own, but I often add a little more tang: 1 tbsp mustard, fresh or pickled ginger, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, or lemon or orange zest.
  • Grind all of the ingredients in a mini food-processor or chopper/grinder.
Place sour cream, garlic, and seasonings in a grinder, chopper, or food processor. Grind all of the ingredients in a chopper/grinder. The color of your marinade will depend on the ingredients you include.

Place sour cream, garlic, and seasonings in a grinder, chopper, or food processor and grind. The color of your marinade will depend on the ingredients you include. This one included honey, paprika, parsley, and dill.

  • Pat dry the chicken breasts with paper towels.
  • Season the chicken breasts: I use a homemade combination of dried herbs and vegetables, but a little salt and pepper will do.
  • Tenderize the chicken breasts: I like to tenderize for a couple of reasons: to work in the seasonings and to “thin out” the thicker parts of the breasts so that they will cook more evenly.
After you pat the chicken dry, season and tenderize. Tenderizing works in your seasonings but also "levels the grilling ground." Pound the chicken to achieve an even thickness without  compromising the composition of the meat.

After you pat the chicken dry, season and tenderize. Tenderizing works in your seasonings but also “levels the grilling ground.” Pound the chicken to achieve an even thickness without compromising the composition of the meat.

  • Toss the chicken in the marinade: I often only marinate it for 15-30 minutes (I’m truly planning challenged), but you can marinate it longer, even overnight.
  • Grill! I start high on a hot grill for and sear each side 2-3 minutes, then turn to med-low for and additional 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness.
  • Cover and sweat: when I remove the breasts from the grill, I like to cover and seal them with foil until we´re ready to serve.
While the chicken is marinading and the grill is heating, take out your platter and some foil so that you have them handy when you finish grilling. Have a platter and foil ready to receive the breasts hot off the grill. Seal and allow the meat to sweat for a few minutes.

While the chicken is marinating and the grill is heating, take out a platter and some foil. Have them ready to receive the breasts hot off the grill. Seal and allow the meat to sweat for a few minutes.

  • Eat!


Soon to come, recipes processes for ways to use and/or repurpose the grilled BSCB.


If you came here looking for grilling “rules” or techniques only to find a little side note for a grilling process, here are a few useful sites that range from geeky to practical: The Science Of Grilling13 Best Grilling Tips, 31 Grilling Tips from Grill Master, Steven RaichlenEstimating Grilling Times.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

The Best Smoothie in the World

Is the smoothie you just made.

With a little bit of planning and some getting over that take-out-the-blender dread, there is no reason you can’t have the best smoothie in your kitchen and at your fingertips year round.

Some of you are here just to nab a recipe, so, before the tutorial on how to make your own very best smoothie, here’s a recipe that works for me:

These are my go-to ingredients. What will yours be?

These are my go-to ingredients. What will yours be?

A Smoothie Recipe


  • 1 banana
  • 8-12 oz coconut water (or milk)
  • 1 cup (or a handful) of kale, spinach, or lettuce
  • 6-8 frozen strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed


  • Place the banana, coconut water, and greens in a blender. Blend for a couple of minutes until you have a smooth green base.
  • Add the strawberries, and blend until smooth.
  • Add the flax seed, blend just a bit.
  • Pour it up and drink.
A little water, drop of soap, blend, rinse, and clean!

Hack Note: No one likes to clean the blender. While you’re sipping your smoothie, fill your blender about a third of the way with warm water, add a drop of dish soap, blend, wipe as necessary, empty, and rinse. Done!

Note: Frozen fruit is not a smoothie requirement. It’s what I prefer. But if you’re using fresh fruit instead, add a cupful of ice to your recipe.

After I wrote this tutorial, I discovered Tracy Russel’s site. Check out her site for in-depth nutrition information, focused primarily on green smoothies, and great recipes. This tutorial is to help you plan and have what you need at home to make that smoothie you love.

Now back to the tutorial for…

How to Rock the Best Smoothie


You can start with as few as TWO basic ingredients:

  • liquid base
  • fruit

You can make it green by adding a THIRD:

  • liquid base
  • fruit
  • green (kale, lettuce, spinach, greens, green superfood powder)

 You can supercharge with a FOURTH ingredient:

  • liquid base
  • fruit
  • green (kale, lettuce, spinach, greens, green superfood powder)
  • plug-ins/add-ons (chia, flax, hemp seeds; powdered shake supplements)

So why is the best smoothie in the world the one you just made? Because, you will make it with the ingredients you like. That’s where a little planning comes in handy.

Plan Ahead

The Liquid

I make my smoothies with coconut water, but you can use milk, almond milk, yogurt, or juice. By keeping these on hand, you’re already on your way to on-demand smoothies. If your fruit choices already pack your smoothie with flavor and creaminess, water may do the trick for you.

The Fruit

What fruits do you like best? This is the key to the world’s best smoothie. You might want to use two or three fruits. I almost always start with a banana then add a second fruit. Strawberry is my go-to smoothie fruit, but I keep other fruits on hand.


Hack Note: After you overbuy seasonal fruit at the farmer’s market and prepare it for freezing (rinse berries, top strawberries, peel and slice peaches, pineapple, papaya, etc.), distribute the berries or slices on a tray in a single layer. Freeze them overnight, and bag them for the freezer the next day. This avoids giant clumps of frozen fruit.

You can buy bags of frozen fruit, but I prefer to freeze my own. During strawberry and peach seasons, I load up at the farmer’s market. During dewberry and blueberry seasons, I pick berries. We eat what we can fresh, but I freeze most of it so that I can have out-of-season fruit choices for my smoothies year round.

Here are some of my favorite smoothie fruits. You should make your own list.

  • strawberries (my go-to fruit)
  • blueberries (can be pulpy)
  • pineapple (sweet)
  • watermelon (this is refreshing and surprisingly delightful in a smoothie)
  • cantaloupe
  • honeydew

The Greens

Not everyone wants a green smoothie, but if you do, don’t fret. You don’t have to cross town to a specialty store for green smoothie ingredients. Pick up some kale, spinach, lettuce, or any other greens that you like. Remember. This is your world’s best smoothie, so you should choose accordingly. If you don’t often have fresh greens at home, you can keep a tub powdered green superfood in your pantry. It doesn’t wilt.

Many sites tell you that you won’t taste the greens. I do taste them, but they are subtle and, since I like the greens I use, not a distraction from the fruity ingredients.

The Plug-ins/Add-ons

These are the ingredients you choose to enhance the nutrition or flavor of your smoothie. I often choose flax seeds because, like chia seeds, they have anti-inflammatory properties that might help with my arthritis. I’ve recently started using hemp seeds as well. You can also pick up some superfood powder supplements to supercharge your smoothie. If you’re using a green superfood powder in lieu of greens, you’re covered here.

For information on the benefits of flax, chia, and hemp seeds, see this article by Jodi Geigle: 3 Seeds for Supercharged Smoothies

You might consider adding a flavor enhancer: a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice, a drop of vanilla (or other) extract. Or be brave and add some fresh ginger or basil leaves. This is your super smoothie. What flavor boost do you fancy?

Make it!

  • Follow the same basic directions I provided at the beginning (A Smoothie Recipe).
  • If you’re using greens, it’s good to blend those well before adding any of the frozen fruit.
  • When you’re done, don’t forget to clean that blender!

What is your World’s Best Smoothie?

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Dry Itchy Skin? Try This First.

Can’t focus on what you’re working on because that.itchy.spot! Can’t sleep because you can’t.stop.scratching! Don’t have the patience to deal with people because dry.itchy.skin!

When it hits, it’s exasperating. When it lingers, it becomes excruciating. Even when you take the dry itchy skin to the doctor, the cause is sometimes hard to identify or do anything about. Unfortunately, the go-to medical remedy is typically a steroid cream.

Try this easy DIY alternative before resorting to harsh medications.

Creamy Itch Relief Lotion


The ingredients

You need three basic ingredients: 1) a carrier oil, 2) vitamin E oil, and 3) essential oil.

  1. 1 cup coconut oil: I prefer this for my carrier oil in this recipe because I can whip it into a fluffy cream-like lotion. Other carrier oils you can use include almond, aloe vera, jojoba, olive, and sesame, but they will be a skin oil, not a lotion.
  2. 1-2 tablespoons vitamin E oil: This is optional, but I like to include a little because vitamin E oil heals skin tissue and promotes new skin growth.
  3. ~ 10 drops of essential oil: The essential oils step is where you play. Combining essential oils can be fun but if you only have lavender essential oil, go with that. See below for a list of essential oils for dryness and itchiness.


  • Place the coconut oil in a small mixing bowl, and whip with an electric hand blender or beater, using the whisk attachment. It’s best if the ambient temperature is cool as coconut oil becomes liquid around 76° or 78° F
Quick and creamy dry skin relief

Whipped coconut, vitamin E, and essential oils

  • Add the vitamin E and essential oils as you continue to whip the carrier oil.
  • Store in a clean glass jar with lid. You can keep it at room temperature, but if the room temperature is above 75° F, consider refrigerating so that the coconut oil doesn’t melt.
creamy dry skin relief

One heaping cup of dry itchy skin relief. But just a little dab will do the job.


My recipes are not scientific formulas, but rather processes. I cull the Internet for information and recipes, then create my own concoctions based on my needs and ingredients I have on hand. I play around with amounts and ingredients until I get something that works for me. You should do the same.

These essential oils can help with dry skin:

  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Clary Sage
  • Geranium
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
  • Rosewood
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang ylang

These essential oils can help with itchy skin:

  • Agrimony
  • Basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Calendula
  • Chamomile
  • Chickweed
  • Clove
  • Geranium
  • Jewelweed
  • Lavender
  • Neem
  • Nettle
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

The following are two of the online resources I used to verify the best essential oils to use for dry itchy skin. These sites have a wealth of additional DIY skin remedies.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.