This is another favorite from my childhood. It’s a Southern classic. My Dad used to add in shredded sharp cheddar cheese, minced onion, and minced jalapenos to his hot water cornbread mixture before frying. Experiment with the add-ins. The possibilities are endless. I like my hot water cornbread simple, plain. I’ve been known to dip mine in ketchup, but others like them drizzled with honey are maple syrup. They go great with a nice pot of pinto beans.
Hot Water Cornbread
2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
2 cups boiling water
oil for frying
Add about an inch of oil to a cast iron skillet. Heat oil over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal and salt in a bowl. Add the boiling water and mix well. Let the mixture cool slightly. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, shape into patties by forming a ball with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the mixture and then flattening it into a 1/2-inch patty with your fingers. Fry the patties in the hot oil in small batches, turning often until golden on both sides. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
This dish just screams, “summer!!” And it’s perfect for those summer months when you are overrun with squash.
You can make this with zucchini instead of yellow squash or with a combination of both. You can also use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, but you may need to add a little bit of water to the skillet with them.
Stewed Yellow Squash and Tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium yellow squash, cut into bite-size chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juices
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the squash and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the squash is just tender (but not mushy), about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook one minute longer. Next, add the diced tomatoes and their juices. Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid has cooked out and the squash has reached the desired tenderness, approximately 5 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.
A processed cheese product (like Velveta) is often used in making Queso because it melts more smoothly. Using evaporated milk in this recipe helps the “real” cheese melt smoother and makes for a creamier consistency. The results are pretty fantastic. You can use your favorite milder, harder cheese (like Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, or a Mexican cheese blend) in this recipe, but don’t use cheeses like Mozzarella, Brie, Swiss, or Goat Cheese (or obviously, Bleu Cheese).
This Queso keeps well for several days in the fridge. It reheats very well too. You can just zap it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until warmed through.
A simple dish of Chile con Queso with tortilla chips is wonderful, but you can take it to greater heights with the addition of toppings. Queso can be serious business. One of my favorite restaurants in Austin, Texas is Magnolia Café. They have the best Queso ever. Their Mag Queso is topped with avocado and Pico de Gallo. It’s amazing! The Kerbey Queso at Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin is great too. I have also had Queso with shredded BBQ brisket, refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, and Pico that was delicious. There are no limits.
Creamy Chile con Queso
2 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 -2 jalapenos, to taste, seeds removed, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (mild Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mexican cheese blend, etc…)
1/2 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained
salt, to taste
dash garlic powder
1 – 4 tablespoons milk, if necessary
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh onion, chopped
fresh avocado, diced (or guacamole)
fresh tomatoes, diced
pickled jalapeno slices
Pico de Gallo
black beans, warmed
shredded brisket, chicken, pork
cooked ground beef or sausage
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the evaporated milk a little at a time, whisking well to dissolve flour lumps. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the shredded cheese, a little at a time. Continue to whisk until all of the cheese is added and the Queso is smooth. Add the drained diced tomatoes, salt, and garlic powder. If the Queso is too thick, you can add a little milk, about a tablespoon at a time, to thin to desired consistency. Serve the Queso warm, topped with desired toppings (I like fresh avocado, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and chopped tomatoes) alongside tortilla chips.
A quick and simple marinade and the use of a cast iron skillet makes beef fajitas an easy weekday meal.
Fajitas are a quintessential Tex-Mex food. Initially, skirt steak was the meat used for fajitas, but now fajitas made with a variety of cuts of beef, as well as, chicken, pork, or shrimp (or a combination of meats) are totally acceptable. The grilled meat is usually accompanied by onions and bell peppers and served with tortillas and a variety of condiments.
This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
1 pound skirt steak (or flank steak)
2 fresh limes (get ones with thin, smooth rind so they are extra juicy)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1 large onion, ends removed, peeled, halved and cut into slivers
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips (or do a combination of different colored peppers)
flour and/or corn tortillas, warmed
Condiments of your choice:
salsa or pico de gallo
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh jalapenos, sliced (or throw whole jalapenos in with the onions and bell peppers and then slice)
Combine the juice from the two limes with the cumin and salt. Add the skirt steak, turning once or twice to coat the meat. Let sit 10 minutes.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Once hot, remove the skirt steak from the cumin-lime juice marinade and add to the pan. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness. Remove from the skillet and let rest on a cutting board.
Add the onion and bell pepper to the hot skillet (no need to clean out the skillet, the veggies will pick up the flavors from the steak). Cook, stirring often, until the veggies are slightly tender and browned in areas. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
Cut the skirt steak against the grain into somewhat thick (about 1/2-inch) slices. At this point, I like to throw the steak back into the pan with the veggies and toss to combine, but you don’t have to.
Assemble the fajitas. Place some steak and veggies into a warmed tortilla of you choice. Top with the condiments of your choice. I like mine with sour cream and fresh pico de gallo.
My jalapeno plants have done really well this year and I have gotten a bumper crop. I was thinking about making a jalapeno jelly with some of the peppers, but run across a recipe for Candied Jalapenos and gave it a go instead. It has been four weeks since I made the first batch and they are now ready to eat. They are amazing! So addicting. They are a nice balance between sweet, hot, and sour. My jalapenos are super hot, so they make me hiccup. Even with the hiccups and burning lips, I think I could easily eat the whole jar. I think these Candied Jalapenos will be great on Vietnamese rice vermicelli (bun) dishes, as well as on sandwiches and tacos.
I found the recipe I used for Candied Jalapenos here.
I would highly recommend wearing gloves while working with the jalapenos. Trust me.
This is an incredibly easy way to prepare tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs. This recipe works well with many different types of ribs. I have prepared baby back, spare, country-style, and rib tips in the crockpot with great success.
I’m from Texas, and I like my ribs wet, sopping with tomato based BBQ sauce. If you like dry ribs, you don’t have to add the BBQ sauce.
Ribs in the Crockpot
package/slab of ribs (baby back, spareribs, or country-style)
favorite dry rub (see a recipe for one I’ve used below)
favorite BBQ sauce
Cut the ribs into 3 – 4 rib sections (if need be).
Rub the seasoning all over the ribs and place them in the crockpot. Spraying the crockpot with cooking spray before adding the ribs makes clean-up easier.
Cook the ribs on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. Add BBQ sauce to coat the ribs about an hour before done cooking, if you wish. Once done, let the ribs rest 10 minutes before serving.
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all the ingredients. Store in an air-tight container.
It has been so hot and humid in South Carolina lately. Who wants to cook on days like this? Crockpot cooking is perfect for hot days. It doesn’t heat up the house and leaves you plenty of time for summer fun.
We have been eating more vegetarian meals lately. Grocery prices have gone up so much that there’s not much room for meat in the budget. Grocery prices are ridiculous! The price of cheese alone has gone up 20% in just the past two weeks. What is going on? Everything is going up but the paycheck, so budget meals are a necessity. This meal is budget-friendly. Beans are cheap. I am able to get cans of beans at Aldi for 59 cents each. Dried beans are cheaper, but canned beans are so convenient. Paired with chiles from the farmers’ market and my garden, this chili is relatively inexpensive as well as nutritious.
This chili is even better the next day. Do you know what I did with the leftover chili? I made Frito pie (Fritos topped with chili and cheese) with it. So good.
Crockpot Vegetarian Bean Chili with Peppers and Corn
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, seeded and chopped
1 – 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 15.5 ounce can cannellini beans, drained
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Combine all the ingredients except the cilantro in the crockpot and cook on low 6 to 8 hours (or on high for 3 to 4 hours). Right before serving, stir in the cilantro.
This is a simple and inexpensive side dish made with cabbage. Cooking the cabbage this way really brings out the sweetness. This recipe is versatile too. I don’t always include the onion when I “fry” cabbage and sometimes I even sprinkle a little bit of bread crumbs into the dish just before I take it off the heat. Sometimes I toss in a pinch of caraway seeds. In the South, Fried Cabbage is often made with bacon and bacon grease. So, if you are a bacon fan, you can fry a few strips of bacon, reserve the cooked bacon, and use the bacon grease to fry the cabbage in instead of butter. Crumble the bacon and add back to the cabbage just before serving.
1 small head green cabbage, cored and shredded
1/2 onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter (or favorite oil)
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the shredded cabbage and season to taste with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the cabbage is tender. I like to take it a little further to the point where the cabbage is starting to brown and caramelize.
The amount of yellow squash (well, squash in general) I have gotten in the past several weeks in my CSA boxes is almost overwhelming. I’m not complaining. I love squash and have been happily using all of it. There has just been a lot. I have sautéed it, put it on savory tarts, made quick breads with it, added it to veggie enchiladas, fried it, put it in soups, made casseroles with it, and tossed it with pasta. It seems that no matter how much squash I use in recipes, I continue to find more of it tucked away in the veggie crisper. I’ve been wondering if it is multiplying overnight in the fridge.
Tonight I added mashed yellow squash to a basic cornbread recipe. I was super happy with the results. The gluten-free cornbread was moist and the flavor was not overpowered by the squash. I really liked the idea of the added nutrition the squash brings to the cornbread. I will definitely be making this again. I served the yellow squash cornbread with black-eyed peas and fried cabbage. Southern comfort food.
Update: I made a cornbread dressing with leftover yellow squash cornbread and half a loaf of French bread. Turned out well and you could not tell there was squash in it at all. Good stuff.
Yellow Squash Cornbread
4 yellow squash, ends trimmed, sliced
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola (or corn) oil
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Spray a cast iron skillet with cooking spray and set aside.
Bring the sliced yellow squash and enough water to cover to a boil. Cook until the squash is tender. Drain well in a colander. Mash the drained squash (I use a potato masher) and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, combine the milk, oil, and eggs. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine. Add the mashed squash and mix until well combined. Pour into the prepared cast iron skillet and bake at 400° F. until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 – 40 minutes.
My husband is at an academic conference in San Antonio. Last night he posted a picture on Facebook of a margarita he was drinking at a restaurant named Rosario’s. It was called Pica Pica and it was made of cucumber and jalapeno-infused reposado tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, and agave. He said it was the best margarita he has ever had. It looked really good. It just so happened that I got cucumbers in my CSA box this week. I had to try to recreate his drink. Why should he be the only one to enjoy such a libation? I think I did a good job. This margarita is amazing!
When making this drink, don’t use those waxed cucumbers you find at the grocery store. Yuck. If those are the only cucumbers you can find, peel them before using in the margarita. The spice level of the margarita will vary depending on the jalapeno you get.
Cucumber Jalapeño Margarita
Makes 1 strong margarita
4 slices fresh jalapeno
4 slices cucumber
1 – 2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
2 1/2 ounces tequila (blanco if you have it, but I used Jose Cuervo Gold and it was fine)
1 1/2 ounces triple sec (or Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
juice from 1 lime
Prepare your glass by rubbing the rim with the cut side of a lime. Pour a little kosher salt onto a small plate or into a container. Dip the rim into the salt. Alternatively, use a margarita rimmer. Set aside until ready for use.
In a cocktail shaker, muddle (press and break-up) the jalapeno and cucumber slices. I used the handle-end of a large wooden spoon.
Add the sugar, tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. Add ice. Place the lid on the shaker and shake well. Strain into a prepared glass. Add ice and serve. I actually don’t strain my margaritas and think the chunks of cucumber and jalapeno give the drink more flavor. The drink does tend to get spicier as you get closer to the bottom. : )