Category Archives: Food

Coconuts don’t have to be complicated

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

I can remember when making a coconut dessert required several people in the kitchen laboring with a hammer and spike to crack the thing while the grater was ready to be put into service.

We’re freed from all that now, because shredded coconut is readily available.

It’s also nice to know

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Keep the carrots coming

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

For some reason I associate carrots with spring. Their bright color adds a cheerful note to a dinner plate. This week’s recipes include a carrot  salad, roasted carrots, a carrot

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Grits — a staple in Southern kitchens

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

Grits are right at the top of the comfort-food list.

We depend on grits to get us through early mornings, dusky

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‘Not from around here’ recipes

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

Sometimes we fall into a rut with meals and tend to serve the same dishes over and over. Well, we don’t have to do that. Every now and then it’s good for everybody to have their taste

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Dutch oven meals — big on flavors, easy on you

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

Dutch oven cooking maximizes meat flavor and minimizes labor.

Once the Dutch oven is filled with the meat of choice, plus other ingredients, it’s simply a matter of throwing it into a slow oven and forgetting about it until the timer goes off, hours later in many cases.

Other than being delicious and easy to prepare, these dishes are a great way to battle the chill evenings of winter.

One of the best things about them is the scent that fills the kitchen while they’re cooking.

I use a cast-iron Dutch oven, but there are several highly rated Dutch ovens on the market made from other materials that produce excellent results.

Caramelized Pork Loin

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and 1-inch diced
  • 1 (5-lb.) center cut, bone-out pork loin, butterflied
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. apple cider

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and diced apples and toss to coat. Sauté three minutes, without stirring to let the apples caramelize on one side. Toss and sauté another three minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Butterfly the tenderloin by cutting the beef lengthwise down the center to within 1/2-inch of the other side. Flatten with a meat mallet.

When the caramel apples have cooled spread the mixture down the center flap of pork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon the apple mixture down the center of the pork roast. Bring the two sides of the tenderloin up around filling to meet. Use butcher string and tie around the roll at one-inch intervals.

Season the stuffed and tied pork loin with salt and pepper. Sear the pork loin in vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, turning to get all the sides. Pour the apple cider over the pork. Roast uncovered for about one hour and 20 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers 155 degrees F.

Remove from the oven and let rest, tented with foil, for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with pan juices.



Beef Burgundy

  • 4 lbs. beef stew meat
  • 4 c. French Burgundy wine
  • 1/3 c. olive oil divided
  • 8 slices lean bacon, chopped
  • 1 c. flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs. white mushrooms, halved
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 ribs celery, sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 c. beef broth
  • 2 boxes frozen pearl onions (10 oz. each)
  • 1/2 c. parsley, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 325°F

Combine the beef and the wine in a resealable plastic bag or in a container with a lid. Marinate the beef for 3-8 hours. Strain wine and reserve. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat with two tablespoons of olive oil Add the bacon and cook until all the fat has rendered out and it is crispy. Remove bacon and let drain on paper towels.

Spread flour onto a plate and season with salt and pepper. Coat the beef by dredging it in the flour. Shake extra flour off beef and drop pieces in, a handful at a time to brown in the oil, adding more olive oil as needed. After the meat is browned remove and set aside.

Add the mushrooms and bay leaves, and cook until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic, and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Deglaze the pan with the reserved wine from marinating the beef, scraping up all the browned bits.

Add the beef stock, bring to a boil and cook for five minutes.

Add the browned beef back to the pan with the pearl onions and bring the pot up to a simmer. Put the Dutch oven into the oven for 1/1/2 to 2 hours.

The beef should be tender enough to pull apart with a fork. To thicken the sauce, cook until it’s the thickness you prefer. Remove the bay leaves, taste and adjust seasoning. Top with chopped bacon bits.



Dutch Oven Pork Roast

  • 6 lb. pork roast
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Peel and slice the garlic cloves.

With a small knife, pierce the top of the roast and force garlic slices into the cuts. Rub the roast with salt and pepper.

Place bay leaves in the bottom of a cast-iron Dutch oven. Set the roast on top of the bay leaves, fat side up.

Mix the vinegar and thyme in a small bowl or measuring cup. Pour over the top of the roast.

Bake the roast for three hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 to 155 degrees F. Baste the roast with the drippings frequently during cooking.

Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before slicing.


Dutch Oven Chicken in White Wine

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 (4 lb.) chicken
  • 1/2 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1 (10.5 oz.) can chicken broth

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken with garlic powder, and brown on both sides. Remove chicken to paper towels.

Spoon off chicken fat, and return pan to stove. Stir in mushrooms and onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft. Remove to a medium bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Season with garlic salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Stir in wine, and add to onion and mushrooms.

Return chicken to Dutch oven. Pour mushroom mixture and broth over chicken; cover, and cook over low heat until meat begins to fall off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours.




New Year’s dishes bring good fortune

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

All over the world, people believe that serving certain dishes on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day will bring a prosperous New Year.

Greens of almost any kind are chosen to represent folding money, pork is considered a prosperous meat and peas and beans represent coins in many cultures.

Asparagus, the wonder vegetable

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

Asparagus is delicious and versatile. Packed with nutrients, it is also an antioxidant.

There are many different ways to prepare it, but the most important thing to remember in cooking asparagus is not to overcook it. You want it tender enough to chew, but not limp and soggy.

I hope you’ll try these recipes and that your family enjoys them as much as mine does.

Asparagus Rollups

16 fresh asparagus, trimmed

16 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

2 tbsp. minced chives

1/4 c. butter, melted

3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, bring 1/2 in. of water to a boil. Add asparagus; cover and boil for three minutes. Drain and immediately place asparagus in ice water. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.

Flatten bread with a rolling pin. Combine the cream cheese, bacon and chives; spread one tablespoonful on each slice of bread. Top with an asparagus spear. Roll up tightly; place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Brush with butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cut roll-ups in half. Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Yield: 32 appetizers.


Asparagus Casserole

1 tbsp. vegetable oil, for sautéing

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, rough ends removed, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 eggs

1 c. heavy cream

2 tbsp. freshly chopped dill leaves

1 c. grated Gruyere cheese

1/4 c. grated Parmesan

1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

4 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and garlic; sauté until translucent and fragrant and season with salt and pepper. Add the asparagus and sauté until just tender. Remove from heat and Let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, dill and cheeses.

In a separate bowl, add panko, paprika and butter. Mix well to combine.

Place asparagus in casserole dish. Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus and top with the panko, spreading evenly.

Place in the preheated oven and bake until casserole is set and the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Cheddar Asparagus Casserole

Two bunches fresh asparagus

4 tbsp. butter

4 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 c. milk

Pinch salt

5 oz. Cheddar, grated

4 hard-boiled eggs

1/2 c. saltine cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the asparagus to a large pot of boiling water, keeping the bundles together with rubber bands or string. Cook for a couple of minutes; the asparagus should be bright green and still crunchy. Take the bundles out of the water and slice off the tough asparagus ends. Drop the trimmed ends back in the boiling water and lower to simmer.

Drop asparagus into bowl of ice water to stop cooking process. Remove and drain. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook for one minute, then whisk in the milk and one cup of the asparagus cooking liquid. Add the salt and continue cooking until the sauce thickens, about five minutes. Add the grated Cheddar and cook, stirring, until melted, about one minute.

Arrange the asparagus in the bottom of a 9-by-12-by-2-inch baking dish, alternating the stem ends so each serving includes both heads and stems. Thinly slice the hard-boiled eggs and arrange them over the asparagus. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggs and asparagus and sprinkle with the cracker crumbs. Bake until lightly browned and bubbles appear around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Asparagus Soup

3 lbs. fresh asparagus, rinsed

8 c. chicken stock

4 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 c. minced shallots

1 c. minced leeks, whites only, well rinsed

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

1/2 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan, garnish

Cut the tips of the asparagus into 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Remove the woody stem ends and set aside. Cut the tender part of the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add the tough woody stems, lower the heat and simmer to infuse with asparagus flavor, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard, reserving the stock.

Add the decorative tips to the stock and blanch until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove with a strainer and drop into an ice water bath. Drain on paper towels and reserve for the garnish. Set the stock aside. In a medium sized stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When foamy, add the shallots and leeks and cook until tender, about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the scent is fully released, about one minute. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Add the reserved broth and simmer until the asparagus are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

With a hand-immersion blender or in batches in a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. If serving right away, return to medium heat and add the cream and reserved asparagus tips. Cook, stirring, until the soup is warmed through, about three minutes.

If the soup is to be served later, do not add the cream and let cool at room temperature (or in an ice water bath). Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, add the cream and asparagus tips, and warm the soup gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

To serve, place the soup in a soup tureen and sprinkle with cheese. Ladle into demi-tasse cups or small coffee or tea cups, and serve.



Celery is a key ingredient

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

Celery is a vegetable that is overlooked and often taken for granted. We’re used to seeing it in salads and paired with carrots as a vegetable to dip in various and sundry substances, but it’s time to regroup. Don’t neglect celery as more than just a tired old snack food.

It has the advantage of being nutritious and a real plus as far as diets go, and it’s considered a negative rated source of calories.

String it before eating, a task easily done with a vegetable peeler. Whether you enjoy it as soup, salad, a side dish or part of Thanksgiving dinner, there should be at least one recipe featured that you’ll enjoy. All you have to do is try it.

Celery Stuffing

  • 2 cups diced celery, with leaves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 quarts bread cubes
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sage
  • 1 pinch dried thyme

Melt butter in saucepan. Saute onion in melted butter until soft, but not brown. Add celery and stir well. Add two cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Place bread cubes into large mixing bowl. Add eggs, salt, pepper, sage, thyme and marjoram. Add onion and celery mixture. Combine thoroughly. If still too dry, add more chicken broth. Makes enough to stuff a 10 to 15 pound turkey.

Braised Celery

  • 8 stalks celery, rinsed and trimmed, leaves chopped and reserved
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good quality beef stock or broth

Peel any of the fibrous outer stalks of celery with a vegetable peeler and slice into 1-inch pieces on the bias.

Heat the butter in a 10-inch saute pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the celery, salt and pepper and cook for five minutes until just beginning to soften slightly.

Add the beef broth and stir to combine. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the celery is tender but not mushy, approximately five minutes. Uncover and allow the celery to continue to cook for an additional five minutes or until the liquid has been reduced to a glaze.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the reserved leaves.


Celery Salad

  • 3/4 cup sliced celery
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients; chill.

Cream of Celery Soup

  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 3 pounds celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 pound carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 pound onions, chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3 quarts hot milk
  • 1 cup margarine

Pour the chicken stock into a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add the celery, carrots and onion to the pot. Whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, and milk; add to the pot along with the margarine. Boil for 10 minutes, then strain out the vegetables by pouring through a sieve, or if the vegetables are large enough, a colander may be used.


Beat the heat and stay hydrated this summer

It’s summertime, which means it’s time to get out and enjoy the sunshine. But be warned, with the sun comes the heat. Whether you’re enjoying the park with your family or exercising outdoors, it’s important to stay hydrated, especially during the hot summer months.

Cold soups break heat wave

By Olivia Fowler
For the Courier

The first cold soup I ever tasted was gazpacho many years ago. I loved it, and from then on it was full speed ahead.

If children are resistant to trying any of these because it “isn’t what they’re used to,” introduce it with scoops and let them try it as a dip.

Of all these recipes, my favorite is the cold cucumber soup. It has summer written all over it and is cool and refreshing.

So if you’re in a rut with food or just want to shake up your family, try one of these.

Remember, you can’t say you don’t like it until after you try it.


Classic Vichyssoise

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 leeks, bulb only, sliced into rings
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 c. chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream

In a large stock pot melt butter over low heat. Add leeks and onion, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add thyme, marjoram, bay leaf and stir well. Cover pot and continue to cook for 12 minutes.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, partially covered for 30 minutes.

Puree soup in blender or food processor and cool.

Prior to serving add cream. If you are serving this soup warm you need to reheat the soup slowly so that the cream does not change consistency.


Borscht (Cold Beet Soup)

  • 3 large or 4 medium beets
  • Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
  • Salt
  • Pinch of sour salt (optional)
  • 5 c. water
  • 2 extra-large whole eggs or 4 yolks
  • Pinch of sugar, if needed
  • White pepper to taste
  • Sour cream to garnish

Wash and peel the beets and cut into fine dice or grate on the coarse side of a grater. Pour five cups of water into a pot. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon, a pinch each of salt and sour salt, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the beets are tender, about 40 minutes. Add the juice of another 1/2 lemon. Remove from the heat.

Using whole eggs results in creamier, thicker borscht, but it’s easy to mess this up and end with coagulated egg. If you don’t feel confident about this step, just use the yolks… Either way you decide to go, beat the eggs with a fork until they are thin and watery. Slowly ladle some of the hot borscht into the eggs, beating constantly. When about half the soup has been added, pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining soup; again pouring slowly and beating constantly. When all the egg mixture is beaten into the soup, pour the soup back and forth between the pot and a bowl or pitcher about 10 or 15 times until the mixture is smooth, airy, and creamy. Halfway through, add more lemon juice to produce a winy effect; add a tiny pinch of sugar, if necessary, and salt and white pepper as needed. Continue pouring to blend. Chill thoroughly.

It is best to add sour cream shortly before serving so that the borscht will keep longer. The sour cream can simply be served on the side, to be spooned in at the table. Or you can add sour cream (about one heaping tablespoonful per cupful of borscht) to the soup in a jar. Close tightly and shake vigorously to blend.


Roasted Tomato and Pepper Gazpacho

  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 lbs. firm but ripe medium tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 red onion, unpeeled, quartered lengthwise
  • 8 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 (5 x 3 x 1/2-inch) slices country-style bread
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, cut into small cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, divided
  • 3 tbsp. (or more) Sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh marjoram
  • 3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 c. cold water (optional)
  • 3 green onions cut into thin strips

Prepare grill medium-high heat). Place first three ingredients on baking sheet. Brush with three tablespoons oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush both sides of bread with two tablespoons oil. Grill vegetables until skins are charred, turning frequently, about eight minutes for tomatoes, 10 minutes for onion, and 15 minutes for pepper. Return to baking sheet. Grill bread until toasted, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Cut one garlic clove in half; rub over toasted sides of bread. Cut bread into small cubes; reserve croutons.

Remove charred skins and cores from tomatoes. Peel, seed, and core pepper; coarsely chop. Remove charred papery peel and core from onion. Set aside half of chopped cucumber for garnish. Working in two batches, add half each of tomatoes, pepper, onion, and remaining cucumber to processor and blend until coarse puree forms. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Repeat with remaining tomatoes, pepper, and onion. Using garlic press, squeeze in remaining two garlic cloves. Stir in remaining three tablespoons olive oil, three tablespoons vinegar, marjoram, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne. Thin soup, if desired, with cold water by 1/4 cupfuls. Season with salt and pepper. Chill at least two hours. Season gazpacho to taste with more salt and more vinegar, if desired. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with cucumber, croutons, and green onions; serve.

Cold Cucumber Soup

  • 4 large cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2-3 drops green food coloring
  • 3 c. chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. dill weed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 pt. sour cream
  • Fresh or dried dill

Cut several thin slices of cucumber for garnish; soak in ice water until needed. Chop remaining cucumber and onion. Sauté in butter until wilted but not browned.

Process sautéed vegetables with 2-3 drops of green food coloring in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan. Add chicken stock, lemon juice, dill (crush seeds lightly) and salt; simmer five minutes. Chill six hours.

Just before serving, stir in sour cream. Garnish with crisp cucumber slices and sprinkle with fresh or dried dill. Serves 6-8.


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