Piccalilli Pepper Relish

Canned PiccalilliRelish

There is an American tradition of pickling and canning that goes back to the early settler days. Because of the seasonal uncertainty of food sources and the lack of refrigeration, it was really important to extend the bounty of the summer and fall harvests by putting up and preserving meats and vegetables. Pickling and brining foods provided special relishes, chutneys and sauces to liven up the monotony of winter meals. In the South, that meant chow-chow, a relish made of cabbage, onions, green tomatoes and cucumbers. In the North and Midwest, that meant chutneys and piccalilli, a sweet pepper relish that was a mix of pepper and green tomatoes derived from the English version of Piccalilli, which was a variation on an Indian Pickle.

Today, Piccalilli Pepper Relish is still a great way to use up all those sweet and hot peppers that start overflowing in July and August. It has a sweet and sour tanginess that is great as a condiment for pork roast or fried chicken, or greens. Like any good relish, you can also put it on hot dogs and in deviled eggs. You can really use it as a table condiment the same way you use salsa or ketchup.

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Fresh Green Bean Casserole from scratch

Green Bean Casserole before the oven

A holiday food tradition at our house is Green Bean Casserole. Of course, being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, back in the day, my Mom would open up two cans of green beans, a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, mix them together and top with canned fried onions. Four cans, a little baking time, and she was done! I guess I can’t blame her for doing things the easy way, but now that I’m the cook for the holidays, I’m more than willing to trade convenience for taste. In that spirit, I’ve revisited that just-okay version and used fresh ingredients to make a homemade Green Bean casserole from scratch. Is it as easier? No, but it’s infinitely better tasting.

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Easy Thai Tomato Coconut Soup

Thai Tomato Coconut Soup

Let’s face it. Weeknight cooking when you’re working is a challenge and there are some nights you just can’t be that fussy about dinner. On those nights, I’m usually looking in the pantry and trying to throw together something that is somewhat healthy and somewhat easy to make. One cool trick that I’ve learned is to make tomato soup from canned tomatoes. I always keep cans of diced tomatoes in the pantry. If I dig a little deeper, I can usually find a can of coconut milk, too. So, if I just add some onion, garlic, celery, pepper and fresh basil & ginger, I have a delicious, creamy Thai-flavored Tomato Coconut soup that I can make in about 15 minutes. 

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Homemade Sauerkraut – fermented foods at home

Finished homemade sauerkraut

It’s almost October and the cool weather has started settling in, even here in the muggy South. There is something about the cooler temperatures that sends me back into the kitchen to make food. And one of those foods that is traditionally made this time of year is homemade sauerkraut. There are plenty of fresh cabbages coming out of the farmer’s markets and the cooler weather is the perfect temperature for fermenting.

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How to use Kohlrabi – another CSA box challenge

Kohlrabi with leaves

If you subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) each summer, you know the secret thrill that comes from opening your box each week and seeing your farm fresh treasures. Unfortunately, there is often the “what tha’…” moment when you get a vegetable that looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before, let alone know how to cook. This week’s WTH vegetable was the kohlrabi. I’ve cooked kohlrabi before, mostly in a stir fries, but it’s not ever on my shopping list. I got a text from one of my friends who got the same thing in her box asking “how do I cook this?”. This became another CSA box challenge. I decided to do some research on how to use kohlrabi.

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Stuffed Chard Leaves

When I opened up my first CSA box* of the season last week, the first thing that I saw was a bundle of colorful Rainbow Chard sitting on top. Besides being so vibrantly beautiful, they were big. Big enough to use in a stuffed roll recipe. I often make a vegetarian Greek stuffed grape leaf, or dolmades, so I decided to adapt my dolmades recipe to make stuffed chard leaves. 

Rainbow chard leaves from my CSA box

Rainbow chard leaves from my CSA box

With my chard as a starting point, I pulled fresh mint and oregano from my garden and then looked to my pantry for black rice (which, like wild rice, has a nice nutty flavor) and some Turkish red pepper flake, called Kirmizi Pul Biber, that my brother just gifted to me.

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Saag Paneer – Indian creamed spinach

My daughter, Anna, and I decided to give up meat this spring for Lent. Going meatless for a month and a half is not really that big of a deprivation, but it did challenge me to rethink my standard meat-and-two sides family dinners. Even though we have many meatless meals during a typical week, I quickly ran through my usual veggie dinner ideas. I was soon digging through my old vegetarian cookbooks looking for dinner inspiration.

A recent dinner out at Decatur’s newest Indian street food place, Chai Pani, gave me a needed push back to Indian food. Because large portions of their population do not eat meat, India has one of the most varied and flavorful meatless cuisines in the world. One of my all-time favorite Indian dishes is saag paneer, which is a traditional, mildly spiced, creamed spinach, served with fried chunks of paneer, an unaged, Indian farmer cheese. It’s very healthy AND my kids love it. I would call that a win-win.

Here is how I made it at home…

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