Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Baked Cod

Ever since my husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I have tried not only to add antioxidants to our diet, but also choose foods that supposedly are diabetic-friendly.

The perfect baked cod is has a mild taste and is smothered with with the perfect amounts of butter and lemon juice,

 

 

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Ingredients

  • ¼C melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 slices lemon
  • 4 portions cod fish
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon basil

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Prepping to Cook

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease a baking dish.

 

 

 

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Seasoning the Fish

Combine melted butter, Parmesan, flour, garlic, basil,  onion powder, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice in a bowl.

In another bowl combine flour, spices, salt and pepper.
Pat fish fillet dry.

 

Dip fish in the lemon juice mixture…and then in the flour mixture.

Shake off excess flour.
Lay fish in prepared dish.
Top each piece of fish with a slice of lemon,

 

 

 

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Baking the Fish

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Fried Catfish

 

So trust me, fried catfish was a frequent meal at our house…(as well as all sorts of “critters” that you can’t find in your local grocery store)

If we weren’t eating fried fish, we were instead munching down on some good Southern fried chicken and drinking sweet tea.

Although there is much debate as to how catfish should be prepared–such as using a batter, breading with cornmeal, or simply dipping it in flour….I have found that the best way to prepare perfect catfish is to fry it in a cornmeal crush.

So let’s learn the basics of making the perfect fried catfish.

 

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Ingredients

 

1-2# catfish—about.4-6 filets

1C milk or buttermilk

1C cornmeal…Use fine, white cornmeal if you can find it….if you can’t find it fin the store, use regular cornmeal with a little flourk added to it so that the crust doesn’t taste gritty.

1/2C flour

Seasoning…you can use whatever makes you smile and keeps you wanting more and more fish—such as Lawry’s to Zatarain’s, Old Bay or lemon pepper— but a good mixture would be…

  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 1tsp pepper
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1/2tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1Tbsp salt
    1tsp pepper
  • Cooking oil, preferably peanut oil

 

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Getting Ready 

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Lay a wire rack sitting on a cookie sheet inside the oven.

Heat oil in a large pot or deep fryer to 350 degrees F.  Make sure that your oil is hot enough…if not you will end up with soggy, greasy catfish.

 

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Preparing the Catfish

Rinse the catfish fillets under cold water.

Dry thoroughly with paper towels.  

Soak catfish in milk or buttermilk for about an hour. This will wash away the muddy flavor.

 

 

 

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Breading the Cztfish

Combine cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Dredge each filet in the breading until it is coat evenly.

Place on a large platter to dry for about five minutes.

 

 

 

 

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Cooking the Catfish

Now add the breaded catfish to the hot oil. Be careful not to crowd the fryer…otherwise the the oil temperature will drop too much. The oil is ready whenever you drop a little of the dry breading mix into the oi, and if it sizzles at once.

Make sure that there is enough peanut oil to completely cover catfish fillets while frying.

Cook 7min per side…until golden brown.

Watch the temperature of the oil as you continue frying the filets. If the temperature gets too hot, you may need to lower the heat on the burner.

Keep cooked fillets warm in oven while you finish cooking the rest of the fish. This will help keep it crispy.

Place the cooked filets on paper towels to drain.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Eggplant Parmesan

top view photo of vegetables
Photo by John Lambeth on Pexels.com

The perfect Eggplant Parmesan boasts of perfectly cooked eggplant slices perfectly layered with the perfect amounts of mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, and tomato sauce….the ultimate comfort food of Italian cuisine…wonderfully cheesy and tomato-y without weighing you down with too much water or oil.

 

 

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Ingredients

2 large eggplants

1tsp salt

1/4C olive oil

1tsp minced garlic

28oz diced tomatoes

1-1/4C grated Parmesan cheese

1½C flour

4 eggs

1-1/2# mozzarella

1 large red onion, chopped

½tsp crushed red pepper flakes

¼C finely chopped basil leaves

3C panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp pepper

1Tbsp Italian seasoning

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Prep Work

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

 

 

 

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Getting Started

Heat 1Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.

Add the minced garlic, basil, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes,.

Remove from heat.

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Prepping the Eggplant

 

 

 

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Cooking the Eggplant

Mist the tops of the eggplant with some olive oil or cooking spray.

Place eggplant slices in the oven. Cook 20 minutes at 425°F, turning the slices over at the half-way point…until nicely browned.

Remove from oven.

Let cool to touch.

 

Once baked or fried, lay the cooked,  lay the slices on wire cooling racks. This will keep your eggplant from getting as soggy.

 

 

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Breading the Eggplant

Set up three  bowls===one for the flour, another one for the egg, and a third one for the breadcrumb mixture.

Pour flour into the first bowl.

Whisk the eggs until smooth. Place in the second bowl.

Stir together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, 1tsp salt, and Parmesan cheese in the third bowl.

Let the bowls sit out while you are waiting for your eggplant to absorb the salt.

Working one at a time dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour, then dip in the beaten eggs, and then dredge in the breadcrumb parmesan cheese mixture.

Set on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices.

More information about the breading process can be found in my previous post…Dreading the Breading.

 

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Layering the Dish

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 pan.

Place a third of the eggplant rounds in a single layer over the sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Repeat this process three times…kinda like making lasagna.

Sprinkle the top of the dish with the cheese.

 

 

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Baking the Dish

Cover with foil.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for about twenty minutes…until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top.

Remove from oven.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot, topped with more chopped fresh basil.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Eggplant…The How

Eggplant has slightly bitter flavor and spongy texture that many people say that they don’t care for, but how many of these people have had eggplant dishes that have been prepared so that the eggplant becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor…so that the eggplant absorbs cooking fats and sauces to enhance its flavor.

Eggplant can be cooked many different ways, including…

  • baking
  • barbecuing
  • currying
  • deep frying
  • grilling
  • pan frying
  • pickling
  • roasting
  • steaming
  • stewing
  • stir-frying

We have already discussed several of these cooking methods in previous posts…such as this posts about Facts to Never Forget about Frying Foods and Pan-Frying 10

In the next few posts we will be looking at the other cooking methods mentioned above as well as some recipes using eggplant….recipes including\ Eggplant Parmesan and Ratatouille.

But before you can make any of these dishes, you must obviously have an eggplant, right?!

When choosing an eggplant, look for one that is firm and somewhat heavy for its size…with smooth, glossy skin and an intense purple color….stay away from any eggplants that are withered, bruised, or discolored.

Once you get your eggplant home, stick it in the refrigerator until ready to use it.

And before you start cooking with eggplant, there are two important facts to remember.

First of all, you need to remove any bitter taste from the eggplant that you can. You can do this by first washing the eggplant, trimming off the green end, and perhaps peeling the skin. This will keep your eggplant from being as bitter and also will keep the eggplant from absorbing too much oil as it is being cooked.

Then slice the eggplant into 1/2″ disks and set them in a colander or on a cooling rack set over baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. This process is known as “sweating.” Before you start cooking, remove any moisture from the surface of the eggplant,

Another way to keep the eggplant from being so bitter and to help the eggplant maintain its shape as it is being cooked is to soak the eggplant in salt water. This process is called “brining,”

Also always use only a stainless steel knife to cut your eggplant. This will keep the eggplant from turning black.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Chowder

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Chili

The perfect chili will depend on your own person preferences…beans, not beans…beef of chicken…plain or served as chili dogs… burgers topped with chili… (usually without beans)….chili fries…chili mac…or Frito pie and flavored to perfection…(more on this later)…

As we all probably know by now, especially if you live in Texas, chili is a type of spicy stew that not only is great to serve alone…or as

And speaking of chili, chilii made in New York City may taste good…and chili made in Texas may be better…the best chili is made in your own kitchen because you are the boss, and you can choose what ingredients you actually like best, not what somebody thinks you’ll like.

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THE INGREDIENTS

The recipe that you actually end up using for your chili will probably vary from one person to the next…based on where you live and what you actually want to be in your chili…(such as beans or no beans)

Since the perfect chili is a matter of person preference, instead of simply giving you one single recipes for the perfect chili, let’s consider some of the ingredients that you could use in chili…so that you can tweak the recipe until you find the perfect chili that is perfectly perfect for you and your family.

 

 

 

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THE MEAT

Beef…Most of us like our chili to be good and hearty…probab ly stockpiled with lots of meat…chili con carne…as most of us already know, you can always substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.

Chicken,,,one of my favorite meals is white chicken chili…kinda like my favorite lasagna contains white sauce and chicken…instead of the typicaxl ground beef and red saucer.

No Meat…my daughter has decided to embrace the vegetarian era…meaning that I often have to disappointment my Mississippi husband by making meals that do nit contain any meat…

Pork…Chili can also be made with pork…such as chili verde…a ‘green chili that is made from chunks of pork.

 

 

 

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THE PEPPERS

Chili peppers, often in the form of chili powder…which we will talk about later)…is commonly used to spice up your chili.

What makes chili peppers so hot is an ingredient called Capsaicin, the same stuff that’s used to make pepper spray, many pain relief creams, insect-repellentproducts…(yum)…

 

Remember that the white part of the pepper is where most of this capsaicin…especially the seeds.

Five types of  chili peppers rhat you can consider using are…

  • Bell pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Habanero pepper
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Poblano pepper
  • Serrano pepper
  • Thai prepper
  • Wax pepper

As far as if the word is actually “chili” or “chile,” there is no clearcut answer. “Chili ” is typically what most of us call it here in the US, but “Chile” is the the word more often used in Mexico and several other Latin American countries.

Other people prefer to use the word “chile” whenever referring to the pepper, and chili to talk about the stew.

 

 

 

 

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THE VEGETABLES

Vegetables, other than tomatoes, can also be good ingredients in your chili—vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, corn, squash, and beets…which is why I thought I could get by with a chili recipe while talking about the raw food pyramid, while talking about leafy greens, while talking about smoothies, while talking about antioxidants…if that made any sense)…

 

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THE  BEANS

The use of beans in chili has been debated for a very, very long time…especially here in Texas.

In fact the society that “governs” most of the chili cookoffs so populat around America have banned the use of beans in their cook-offs.

Here in Texas. supposedly we eat our chili without beans…(sorry…that doesn[t include me…I like my chili as heartless…I mean hearty…as possible).

While everyone else supposedly like their chili with beans, any type of bean—including

  • black beans
  • blacked-eyed peas
  • great Northern beans
  • kidney beans
  • navy beans
  • pinto beans
  • white beans

As far as chili beans, these are actually pinto or kidney beans that have already been spiced…which will obviously change the taste of the chili from what it would have been if you had used them by themselves.

When using beans, be sure to rinse them first to to remove the extra salt and starches.

 

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THE TOMATOES

 

The use of tomatoes…just like the use of beans…whenever making chili has been a topic of debate for a very, very lnog time.

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THE SPICES

What actually makes chili chili…at least to me…is the spices that you add…

Without the perfect blend of spices, you simply have another meat dish that contains tomatoes, vegetables, and perhaps beans…

NOT chili!!!

The spices that you use are what give chili its complex flavor.

Recipes exist with all sorts of different spice blends to flavor the chili….but the four most common spices are when making chili are…

  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • Other spices that I’ve seen in chili recipes include cayenne pepper, cinnamon,  dry mustard, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder.

Any by the way, chili powder is not actually a spice in and of itself…and you can make your own without making a special trip to gT

 

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THE TOPPINGS

Toppings that you can add to your chili once it’s finished cooking include…

  • Cheese—such as Monterey Jack, cheddar
  • Cilantro
  • Crackers—such as saltine crackers or oyster crackers
  • Croutons
  • Diced avocado
  • Diced red or green onion
  • Jalapenos
  • Lime wedges
  • Sliced green onions
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla chips
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THE MENU

Foods that go great when served with chili include cornbread,  tortillas, tamales, rice, and pasta.

 

 

 

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THE RECIPE

Meat

  • 2# ground beef or turkey

Vegetables

  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped

  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion -diced
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced

Spices

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder…OR…2Tbsp cumin, 1/4tsp cayenne pepper -optional, 1tsp oregano, 1/2tsp paprika
  • 2Tbsp sugar or brown sugar
  • 1Tbsp garlic powder or 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp pepper

Tomatoes

  • 2Tbsp tomato paste…OR…8oz tomato sauce
  • 28oz diced tomatoes with juic

Beans

  • 19 oz kidney beans canned, drained & rinsed

Other

  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth…OR…beer
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Toppings as desired

Cook for 6-7 minutes.

Just thought that I would throw that in there before you smart making chili for tonight’s dinner…it would be much better if you make it today and serve it tomorrow.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

Add the onion. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the beef, onions, garlic and some of the chili powder…cook for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Drain any fat.

Add remaining ingredients…making sure to stir until well combined.

Bring the liquid to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low or medium-low.

Simmer uncovered for at least twenty minutes….again stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon…the lower your cooking temperature and the longer you cook your chili, the more flavorful it will be.

Simmering you chili uncovered will allow the chili to naturally thicken without having to add cornstarch or flour.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for at least five minutes before serving.

Top with cheddar cheese, green onions, cilantro or other favorite toppings.

Leftovers…assuming there are any…will last from three to five days.

Freezing Chili…Chili can be frozen either in single sized portions for lunches or in freezer bags for a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Remember…If all else fails, you can always run back to Kroger or Albertson’s or Tom Thumb…or order from Instacart…to get some canned chili…people have been doing this since 1908 when chili first started being canned and sold in New Braufels, Texas…
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Broccoli…The What

Another vegetable with high antioxidant properties is broccoli.

Broccoli is the most common member of the family tree called cruciferous vegetables, a family that includes Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, cabbage., collards, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens. You may hear this family referred to as either the “mustard family” or the “cabbage family.”

Broccoli firsts started out as a type of wild cabbage way back during the Roman times, when it was enjoyed immensely by the Romans.

Broccoli did not gain popularity until the 1920’s, even though it had been ntroduced to the United States during colonial times,

The word “broccoli” is derived from an Italian word meaning “branch” or “arm,” which is a perfect description of its blossom-bearing, cross-shaped stems that resemble mini trees

There are several different types of broccoli, including…

  • Broccoflower,…a pale green hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower..
  • Broccolini ,,,baby broccoli that is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale
  • Broccoli raab… this vegetable does not have the tree-like “heads” we’re used to, but instead has the same florets but on longer and thinner stems. I
  • Broccoli rapini,…this vegetable has fewer florets and a mustard-like flavor Chinese

Most broccoli grown in the United States comes from either California

China is the country that produces the most broccoli per year, over 8 million tons per year.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Refrigerator Jam

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The Ingredients

  • Fruit of choice…such as strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, peach,
  • 1Tbsp lemon juice
  • large pinch salt
  • 2-1/4C sugar
  • 1 box (1-3/4oz SURE-JELL
  • 3/4C water

 

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Preparing the Fruit

When buying your fruit, make sure to buy only firm, perfectly ripe fruit. Only the best fruit will give you the best flavor and consistency.

First wash the fruit and remove any stems or peels.

Pick through berries, discarding any soft or rotten ones.

Chop the fruit into large chunks if you feel like you need to…obviously raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries can all remain whole.

Mash the fruit, using a potato masher or fork. How much you smoosh the fruit will depend on just how chunky you want your jam to be.

Add sugar to the crushed fruit.

Let sit for at least ten minutes, while you are making the topping…stirring occasionally.

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Making Your Base

 

First place a couple metal spoons in the freezer…(you’ll see why a little later)…

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Let boil for 1min.

Let the jam cook for about twenty minutes.

Use a candy thermometer to see if your jam has cooked long enough or not. Cook until the thermometer reads 220ºF.

If adding any fresh herbs—such as basil, mint, or thyme—to your jam, add them during the last few minutes of the cooking process so that they retain their bright flavor.

Remove saucepan from heat.

Don’t expect your finished jam to be as firm as traditionally processed jam…this will actually make the jam easier to spread onto your toast, biscuits, or whatever.

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Sterilizing the Jars

While you are waiting for your jam to finish cooking, take the time to sterilize your jars.

To do this, thoroughly wash these jars, their lids and their screw bands….then put them into a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 15min.

Turn off the heat. Leave the jars, lids, and bands in the hot water until ready to use.

 

 

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Filling Your Jars

 

Use tongs to lift the jars, lids, and screw bands from the water, Dry them thoroughly.

Ladle the hot jam carefully into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/2″ space between the jam and the top of the jar.

Screw the lids on the tops of the jars tightly.

Wipe any jam from the rims of the jars with a wet paper towel.

Let the jars set out on the counter at room temperature overnight.

The jam will stay good in the fridge for up to three weeks….or in the freezer for up to one year. If you freeze it, let it thaw out in your refrigerator before using.f

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Blackberries…The How

Shopping for Blackberries

When shopping for blackberries, remember that the blacker the color, the riper and sweeter the blackberry will be.

The perfect blackberry has a “deep”-flavored and is very juicy.

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Storing Blackberries

Blackberries are highly perishable and delicate. They can turn soft, mushy, and moldy within 24 hours after bringing them home from the store, so you will want to either use them that same day or freeze them.

Once you do bring them home, check for any soft, overripe berries…as well as any squished or moldy berries. Gently blot the berries that you’re keeping with a paper towel and place them in a covered container in your fridge.

Do not wash the berries until you’re fixing to…_(yeah, I am from the Deep South)…to either eat them or cook with them.

To freeze blackberries…which is honestly the best way to use them to make smoothies…flash freeze them by first arranging the blackberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then put the cookie sheet with the berries into the freezer. Freeze them until they are solidly frozen. Then put them to an airtight container or Ziploc bag, label, and date…..yeah, I do know that you can also buy prepackaged frozen berries, but we’re trying to avoid processed foods, remember?)

 

 

 

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Recipes

Blackberries have been used to make wines and cordials as far back as 1696..so they must taste pretty darn good, right?.

And of  course you could eat the blackberries that you have bought all by themselves, but why stop there, when you could use your blackberries to make great desserts such as cobbler, jelly, and smoothies. 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Be a Smooth Operator