Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 2011

Volume 7 Issue 1

*** Random Thoughts

I hope the new is still on your year. I love January, when anything seems possible. On any given day, of course, anything IS possible, but this month we tend to talk about goals and what we hope for and we’re looking for, more than at any other time of year.

That optimism is good, don’t you think?

Irony and cynicism and disdain are so fashionable these days that high hopes and good thoughts are a welcome change. So yay for the new year.

I have high hopes and good thoughts for *you* for the new year. I hope for the best for you in 2011. Dream big!


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*** Great Quotes

“Be intent upon the perfection of the present day.” -- William Law

"If you dream of something worth doing and then simply go to work on it and don’t think anything of personalities, or emotional conflicts, or of money, or of family distractions; if you just think of, detail by detail, what you have to do next, it is a wonderful dream even if the end is a long way off, for there are about five thousand steps to be taken before we realize it; and start making the first ten, and stay making twenty after, it is amazing how quickly you get through those five thousand steps.” – As said by inventor Edwin Land, taken from the book about him, “Insisting on the Impossible.”

*** Fun Food Ideas

Thank goodness for Southern Living magazine. That’s where I got this recipe (I tore it from the magazine ages ago and just got around to trying it). It’s a winner: homemade macaroni and cheese with pimentos that has two big things going for it: 1) Easy and 2) Delicious.

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

This is a marvel - a rich, creamy cheese sauce that is made from low-fat milk. No butter, no cream, and it is so very good.

1/2 (16-oz.) package penne pasta*
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimiento, drained
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of paprika

*(Can substitute ½ of a 13/5-oz package of whole grain penne pasta.)

1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

2. Whisk together flour and 1/4 cup milk. Add flour mixture to remaining milk, whisking until smooth.

3. Bring milk mixture to a boil in a large skillet over medium heat; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, whisking constantly, 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth. Stir in cheese and next 4 ingredients until smooth. Stir in pasta, and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately.

Easy Skillet Green Chile Mac 'n' Cheese: Substitute 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese for Cheddar cheese and 1 (4-oz.) can chopped green chiles, undrained, for diced pimiento. Proceed with recipe as directed.

Per serving: Calories 251; Fat 7.3g (sat 4.6g, mono 0.2g, poly 0.1g); Protein 11.6g; Carb 34.1g; Fiber 1.5g; Chol 22mg; Iron 1.7mg; Sodium 491mg; Calc 229mg

Hearty, warm, and easy:
Sausage, Beans, & Greens Stew

The original recipe called for kale, which our local store didn’t have so we used spinach. Spinach tastes nothing like kale, of course, but that’s what we did, and it was good!

1-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (1-1/2 cups)
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped (3/4 cup)
1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 large cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
1 quart homemade or lower-salt chicken or vegetable broth
Two 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6 oz. Lacinato kale, center ribs removed, leaves chopped (about 4 firmly packed cups) OR 4 cups of fresh spinach
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (1x3 inches; optional – we did not use because we did not happen to have a 1x3-inch rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese lying around)
1-1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 lb. sweet or hot bulk Italian sausage, rolled into bite-size meatballs

Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 seconds. Add the broth, beans, greens, and Parmigiano rind (if using). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 Tbs. oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sausage meatballs, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Add the sausage to the soup and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes more to meld the flavors. Stir the cider vinegar into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.

The broth was so good. We used homemade chicken stock, and that may have been why. This soup was easy, inexpensive, and really tasty.

The next time we make we're going to make a few changes:

- andouille sausage. We used mild Italian and the soup could have used a little more flavor. Plus I don't like fennel at all, which the Italian sausage had in it.
- um, kale, as the recipe calls for, if we can find it anywhere.
- possibly dried beans instead of canned.

Calories: 430; Fat (g): 18; Fat Calories (kcal): 160; Saturated Fat (g): 5; Protein (g): 20; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9; Carbohydrates (g): 48; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): 1160; Cholesterol (mg): 25; Fiber (g): 12;

If you like food blogs, and WHO DOESN’T, visit SimpliFried for recipes and tips, all of which are very doable and easy. None of the guilt-inducing things you may find other places (cough MarthaStewart cough). Erin, the site author, seems to thrive on simplicity and being organized. Just going to her web sites make me feel good.

Also in the Kudzu Kitchen:

Italian Braised Chicken with Green Beans and Olives (although we left out the olives and it was still delicious)

*** Hit the Highlights – a few choice posts from this month’s blog

New calendar, new it!

My word for this year.

Auld Lang Syne

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*** Shameless Bid for Commerce

“Keetha DePriest Reed's "More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections and Recipes from Growing Up Southern" is part cookbook, part collection of wonderful essays on food, family and growing up Southern and altogether great fun...

I would very highly recommend "More Culinary Kudzu" to anybody who enjoys good food and good writing as well as to anybody who wants to find out more about the South. As for me, I only have one question left - how do I get invited to one of their family reunions?” – review by

*** Recommended Reading

After getting the book last year for Christmas, I vowed to read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin each January. It’s the perfect book for starting out the new year.

Yester day I finished The Likeness by Tana French and it was incredible. I’m going to the library today to check out her books. From The Booklist review: “The Likeness has everything: memorable characters, crisp dialogue, shrewd psychological insight, mounting tension, a palpable sense of place, and wonderfully evocative, painterly prose.”

The books I read last month.

*** Adorable Thing My Child Said

He asked me what I thought I might become when I grow up. I was thinking that I feel pretty well grown up as it is.

I said I’d like to be novelist. He nodded.

Then his face brightened. “Or! You could work at McDonald’s!”

*** Mississippi Writers Guild

The Mississippi Writers Guild sponsors writer workshops, conferences, writer retreats and reputable writing contests. Membership dues are only $40.00 per year.

The Mississippi Writers Guild is a non-profit association of writers from all over the state and is a growing part of Mississippi’s literary art landscape.

*** Calendar

Friday, January 21st – my birthday. But you already had it marked on your calendar, right?

2011 © Pecan Street Press. All rights reserved.

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