Suzy & Spice

a pinch of this, a dash of that

Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Happy birthday, Lynn

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 7, 2010

I don’t even know where to begin.

Which means you may get a lot of random thoughts in this post. I’m just going to start with what’s on my mind at this very moment:

We had a party yesterday.

Lynn, Suzy and Salsa

Yesterday was Lynn’s birthday, and because she and her son Jacob were driving down for Friday night’s season-ending BHS victory (Go, Pioneers!), we decided we’d finally have our “housewarming” party and combine it with birthday cake.

We had an incredible time, and Lynn took a few pictures (I didn’t even get our camera out). Jacob shot a multilingual birthday video for our friend Becky (sorry, it’s Rebecca now), who lives in Nashville and couldn’t be here. Rebecky’s birthday is today. We told her Happy Birthday in at least four languages (thank you, Desiree, for the Pig Latin!).

Bruce had worked diligently to hang the family photos that had been leaning against the wall in our hallway. I don’t think anyone even looked at the photos during the party, as we didn’t do a “home tour.” People just started coming in and sitting around the music area, chatting and then eventually pickin’ and grinnin’.

We had everyone but Lynn and her boys out of here by Razorback game time (they had an hour’s drive home, so they missed a good bit of the first half). Mom called just as they were leaving and invited us over to watch. So after the kitchen cleaned itself up (not!), we went to Mom’s. I was nearly numb with tiredness (I’d say exhaustion, but it wasn’t quite that severe – Bruce may dispute this, but I didn’t stress out as much over this party as I have with previous ones). And Mom hadn’t been able to come to the party because she wore herself out cleaning out her storage building.

So we went to Mom’s to watch the Hogs beat South Carolina. Go, Hogs!

I could barely walk by the time we got home, and I went straight down the hall toward the bedroom to turn on the electric blanket and the heating pad. I noticed that Bruce had hung all three of the framed photo collages that had been leaning against the wall. I had barely noticed because I had already warned our potential party guests that there was so much to do at the house, we might not have pictures hung.

Bruce, nevertheless, worked to get the hallway done.

And last night, as I walked to the bedroom in my bleary-eyed state, I happened to look at all his handiwork so I could thank him for his hard work. The last one on the left, just before the bedroom door, was one of the aforementioned collages.

I said something like, “You do know that this last photo collage is of people chosen by the photo-frame manufacturers?”

“What?” he said, walking down the hall toward me.

“These are pictures of people inserted by the makers of this frame and collage.”

“Oh. I thought they were your nieces and your childhood friends and relatives.”

I had bought Mom the collage several years ago, but she was expecting me to fill it with family photos. I never got around to it.

At least it’s not cluttering the floor in the hallway anymore.

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Posted in family, food, friends, fun, home, moving, music, sports | 1 Comment »

I grew these!

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on May 1, 2010

I may not be very good with the growing of the food, but I seem to have found one that will grow despite my neglectful ways. These are my first strawberries, and the most successful attempt at growing actual food (several attempts at tomatoes have left me with nothing but anger at the local population of furry critters), so I’m obviously excited.

I bought this strawberry plant two years ago from Josh Hardin of Hardin Farms at the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market in North Little Rock. Josh gave me a few tips, I followed his advice, then promptly got busy with life and forgot about the berry plant. At the end of the first season, I assumed I had neglected it to death, but last summer it was still alive, and a couple of weeks ago I was bringing in the mail and saw a bunch of little itty bitty berries, so I watered it. A few days later, the berries were bigger and bright red, so I picked them. Today, I saw this beautiful sight. More berries to come!

Strawberry shortcake, anyone?

Posted in community-supported agriculture, food, gardening | 1 Comment »

Argenta Market to open April 1 – finally!

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 3, 2010

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I have been waiting for what seems like FOREVER for the Argenta Market to open in downtown North Little Rock.

After delays, postponements and more delays, it will open April 1 in the building that used to house Argenta Seafood restaurant. According to Chef Shane, it will be well worth the wait (and I can see my trips to Whole Foods in west Little Rock becoming a thing of the past). Click here for the scoop on our long-awaited market.

Posted in community-supported agriculture, environment, food | 4 Comments »

Spicy Sausage Jambalaya

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 8, 2010

Folks, here’s a great jambalaya recipe that’s healthy! Instead of using the typical andouille sausage, you use turkey andouille. And brown rice instead of white. And it’s wonderful!

In an unusual development, the only thing extra that I decided this might possibly, maybe, need is a dash or two of Louisiana hot sauce, although it’s actually pretty good without it. I did not add it to the pot, because Bruce said it was good just as it was, “although you’ll probably want to add something.” (I usually complain that these recipes are too bland, and I frequently will add garlic or some type of spicy ingredient.) But it’s great without it, although it would be a smidge – just a smidge – better with a dash of spice.

I think the spicy turkey sausage you choose probably makes a difference. I used Butterball, and I probably will continue to choose that brand because it was so delish in this jambalaya. But next time I go to Whole Foods, if I find a natural turkey sausage without all the additives, I’ll probably use that.

I made it yesterday afternoon for Super Bowl Sunday, and as the only guests at our “party” were Bruce, the Spice Dogs and me, there is  plenty left over! (I love leftovers!)

And you wanna know what the best thing is? It doesn’t take long at all to make. The only things you have to cut up are the meat (sausage, chicken), bell pepper and green onions. (I bought a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts that were on sale instead of buying the more expensive, already-cut-up chicken tenders.) The rest is just dump and stir. But don’t make the mistake I did in not realizing that you have the long-cooking brown rice instead of the instant. I was ready to put the rice in and realized the recipe said instant rice. So I had to cook a pot of rice for about 35 minutes, then add it to the jambalaya skillet.

But it was worth the wait, and I know you’ve been waiting for a good, easy recipe like this one, which I got from Good Housekeeping. (The only modification I’ve made is adding the hot sauce. Oh, and I used a red bell pepper instead of green or yellow.)

Spicy Sausage Jambalaya
8 ounces turkey andouille sausage, sliced ¼ inch thick
1  green or yellow pepper, chopped
1 14½-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 cup uncooked instant brown rice
8 ounces chicken tenders, each cut crosswise in half
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Dash of Louisiana hot sauce or other hot sauce (optional)

Heat 12-inch skillet on medium until hot. Add sausage and pepper, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes with their juice, rice, chicken, water, hot sauce and salt; heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until rice is just tender. Remove skillet from heat; stir in green onions.

Serves 4.

Nutritional information (per serving): 265 calories, 6 grams fat (2g saturated), 73mg cholesterol, 830mg sodium, 30g total carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 26g protein.

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Cranberry Salad

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on December 6, 2009

My Aunt Judy wanted my family’s Cranberry Salad recipe, so I thought I’d share it with everyone (for you Fellowship North folks, just look in your new  cookbook; it’s on Page 97).

My former sister-in-law started making this several years ago, and I have insisted we have it at Thanksgiving and Christmas ever since. Even when we decided not to do a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year, I told Mom I was still going to make the Cranberry Salad and Aunt Pearl’s Potatoes (we love the potatoes even though we have no idea who Aunt Pearl is); it’s the only time of year I get to eat either of these dishes.

Bruce and I were just discussing how we should  try to come up with a different name for the cranberry side dish. Calling it a salad might lead one to think of a green salad with cranberries sprinkled throughout (I actually do love a green salad with dried cranberries and almonds or walnuts, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette – but this isn’t it). Calling it a congealed salad would cause some to dismiss the recipe without even trying it (it sounds like something your grandmother would take to a church potluck). The best way is to go about it, then, is to eat it for the first time and fall in love with it, as I did!

On one of our local radio stations the other day, the morning hosts took a survey: canned cranberry sauce or fresh? I was surprised at how many loved the canned stuff. I was never much of a fan, although Dad liked it and we still put out a can of it every Thanksgiving and Christmas, even though Dad has been gone 12 years.

To those of you who swear by the canned stuff, I challenge you to try this:

Cranberry Salad

3 cups water
1 large OR 2 small packages cranberry, cherry or other red gelatin
¾ cup sugar
1 bag (about 2 cups) fresh cranberries, crushed in food processor or chopper
1 medium orange, cut into small pieces
2 medium apples, unpeeled but diced
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup pecans, chopped

In large glass bowl, microwave water until boiling; add gelatin and sugar. Mix. Let cool but not congeal.

Mix in other ingredients, and pour into loaf-size pan or individual custard cups (or both). Refrigerate until set.

Click here to download a PDF version of the recipe.

Posted in family, food, holiday, recipes | Leave a Comment »

Sweet Potato Waffles

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 21, 2009

Waffle lovers, try this recipe by my favorite Food Network chef, Alton Brown.

I made these a couple of Saturdays ago just for the sake of trying a new recipe (you know how much I love to do that!), and they were yummy for my tummy. Bruce liked them, too, although he is not one to rave about such simple pleasures as a breakfast waffle.

I like that the recipe uses sweet potatoes, which are so good for you. You can’t really taste the sweet potatoes – they simply give regular ol’ waffles an extra depth of flavor.

Of course I’ve modified it just a bit, as I often do.

Sweet Potato Waffles

1½ cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
2 cups all-purpose flour OR 1½ cups all-purpose and ½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup milk
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Cooking the potatoes Alton’s way: Put cubed sweet potatoes in a steamer basket. Place the basket in a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of steamer. Allow potatoes to steam for 20 minutes or until fork tender. Mash cooked potatoes and set aside.

Cooking the potatoes, Suzy’s version: Cook sweet potatoes in a pot of water until tender (the way you normally cook them – you can even microwave them). Mash and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In another bowl, combine sweet potatoes, milk, brown sugar, butter and grated orange rind. Stir this mixture into flour mixture, and thoroughly combine.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold egg whites into batter, 1/3 at a time. The batter will be thick (mine wasn’t that thick, but they turned out fine). Pour batter onto a preheated, oiled waffle iron, and cook until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. (Makes 8 waffles.)

Serve with butter and maple syrup. YUM!

After you make these, which are perfect for a holiday brunch, let me know how you and your family liked them.

Posted in baking, food, holiday, recipes | 2 Comments »

Basic pizza dough (with cheese!)

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on September 19, 2009

I dug out my yummy pizza dough recipe this morning.

I thought I had posted it here last year, but when I did a search (after spending 15 minutes trying to find the Search widget and putting it back on my home page – it’s at the top left), I discovered that I had not shared this great recipe with you.

Don’t you think it’s about time I started sharing recipes again? I’m constantly on the prowl for good ones. And, be honest, don’t you simply exist for the day you see a new recipe on my blog?

I had been buying chef Shane’s homemade crust from the Argenta farmers market on Saturday mornings, but some days he didn’t make the crust (too many other great baked goods to prepare), some days I got there after they sold out, and I finally realized I don’t have to go to the CAFM every single Saturday morning.

Shane’s pizza crust is awesome, but why not make my own, especially when I have such a yummy recipe? (OK, yes, it’s easier to buy someone else’s crust, but that takes all the fun out of baking!)

So here you go, a basic pizza crust with cheese inside! Later I’ll post the chicken fajita pizza recipe that I created last year. I need to modify the recipe a bit before I post it (I think I left some ingredients off the scrap of paper I composed it on!).

Basic Pizza Dough

1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for kneading dough OR
¾ cup whole-wheat flour, ¼ cup bread flour and 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix yeast and lukewarm water in small bowl. Let sit 5-10 minutes. The yeast will dissolve and become foamy.

Put flour, salt, sugar, Parmesan and garlic powder into bowl of food processor. Pulse a few times to mix.

Mix dissolved yeast mixture with 1 cup lukewarm water. Turn on food processor. Pour water and yeast into food processor through hole in top. Let machine run until dough makes a ball. If dough is too sticky to make a ball, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it forms a ball. Take dough out of processor and knead on floured countertop until dough is very smooth.

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into medium bowl and swirl it around until bowl is coated. Place dough ball into bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place about 1 hour. Dough should double in size.

Remove plastic wrap from bowl. Using your fist, press all air out of dough. Dough is now ready to roll out and prepare according to pizza recipe. (NOTE: You can wrap dough in plastic wrap and keep it refrigerated 1 to 2 hours before making pizza.)

Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease pan with olive oil. Spread dough in pan, and prick with fork. Spread light layer of olive oil over dough, and sprinkle with oregano (for chicken fajita pizza, skip this step). Bake 10 minutes.

Remove dough from oven, cover with toppings and bake another 10-15 minutes, until dough is done and cheese is melted.

Posted in baking, food | Leave a Comment »

Maple almond-butter cookies

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on August 23, 2009

also your first look at my new countertops!

Have a cookie and a smile.

Friends, baking with healthy ingredients can be a delicious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, I am here to tell you.

You may be skeptical of the recipe I’m about to give you, but try it before you rush to judgment. Ever since I ran across it on the blog I discovered recently (while trying to find a description of Sucanat, an ingredient mentioned occasionally in Clean Eating magazine), I had been dying to bake these almond-butter cookies sweetened with maple syrup. Today I finally had the opportunity.

Not a stick o’ butter, a teaspoon of refined sugar or even a drop of egg is included in these cookies. And, trust me, after seeing the movie Julie & Julia a couple of days ago  (and watching Kate & Leopold on TV that night), “rich, creamery buttah” was on my mind!

But these cookies are a healthy alternative to the baked goods I usually make. I am not quite of the Paula Deen and Julia Child variety (“You can never have too much butter”), but I definitely like the stuff.

So I was happily surprised when Bruce and I sampled the first cookie a few minutes after I pulled them out of the oven.

And, just so you know, I’m adding Sweet & Natural to my blogroll at right.

The blog is right up my alley. In fact, it’s the blog I had imagined I might someday write, if I had the time (and money) to experiment as much as the author does with different ingredients and recipes. I have long wanted to come up with a way to turn my love for baking into something healthy.

I bake because it gives me a sense of “home and hearth” (and, frankly, because I like the accolades I get when someone tastes my sweet confections), but all too often my recipes are laden with unhealthy ingredients, simply because it’s easier to find those recipes.

But I am no longer willing to settle for that for my family or for myself. We all (except Bruce) could stand to lose a few pounds and clean up our eating habits. And, as Ashley of Sweet & Natural has proved, you don’t have to trade taste for healthy.

I have a heart condition that the doctor says he doesn’t think is caused by overweight, but who really knows? There’s no clear-cut cause for mitral valve prolapse that I’ve been able to discover.

And because I’m 30-40 pounds overweight (I know, I know, I don’t look that heavy, but my height disguises some of it) and have been having more noticeable palpitations and shortness of breath lately, it’s time to stop dabbling in healthy eating and get serious. Being overweight puts extra strain on my delicate little heart valve.

Last week I wore a portable EKG monitor for 24 hours, and I will get the results in a few days. Even if the doc doesn’t report any serious concerns, it’s still time to quit messing around and cut out the unhealthy fats and sugars. It’s a process that will take some time, some retraining of taste buds and a lot of commitment – but it’s well worth the journey.

Friends, even if you don’t have any health issues and you don’t feel the need to “clean up” your eating, try these cookies. It will be worth your time – and the effort it takes to find the ingredients you may not keep in your pantry routinely (natural almond butter, real maple syrup, whole wheat flour).

I have made a couple of tiny modifications, but I don’t think the author would mind. See her original recipe here.

Maple Almond Butter Cookies

1/2 cup natural almond butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine almond butter, maple syrup, canola oil and almond extract until well blended.  In a separate bowl, mix together pastry flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, along with chopped almonds, and stir until just combined.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls, flatten to about 1/3 inch and place onto cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.  Makes 18 cookies.

Posted in baking, food, health, home, movies | Leave a Comment »

The good Earth

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on April 19, 2009

The Certified Arkansas Farmers Market (Sixth & Main streets in North Little Rock’s Argenta neighboorhood) opened yesterday for the 2009 season. I really hated to miss it, but Bruce and I went to Batesville for the annual Scottish festival at Lyon College (more on that later). But I’m so excited that it’s finally open! Saturday, April 25, is Basket-A-Month pickup day, so I can’t wait for the fresh eggs, milk, cheese, pasta, STRAWBERRIES and other goodies that will be in the basket. Maybe I’ll make strawberry cake or muffins next weekend!

Come on down Saturday for fresh, Arkansas-grown produce, dairy, beefalo, honey, homemade pasta and much more. Support your local farmer. Maybe you’ll see us there. Bruce and I will be volunteering during the basket pickup.

After that, walk down to Riverfront Park for the Arkansas Earth Day Festival. The festival is on the North Little Rock side of the river between the Main Street and Broadway bridges. Maybe you’ll see me there. I’ll be volunteering at the Basket-A-Month booth.

The festival is on the 25th, although Earth Day is Wednesday, April 22. Poke around the official Earth Day site and find out little ways you can make a difference. Support your local planet.

Posted in environment, food, inspiration, nature, reaching out, volunteering | 2 Comments »

Random thoughts

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 22, 2009

My fans (all three of you people who read my blog) have been admonishing me to publish something. I haven’t posted in a while, but not for lack of wanting to. I’ve just been extremely laz — err, busy.

So, while I wait for my mom’s tax return to finish printing, I’ll grace you with some of the fascinating things I have been doing, thinking or saying lately:

  • After two weeks of working on it in spurts, I have finally finished Mom’s tax return. No, you cannot borrow money from her. Because she helped her children so much last year, there is nothing left to loan. Thanks, Mom. We owe you.
  • I chopped off my fingernails the other day to get better at the little game on my new cell phone that I am obsessed with (the game, not the phone), and it didn’t make one bit of difference. Even with nails cut to the nub, I am still pitiful at batting a little ball with a paddle at a bunch of electronic bricks.
  • I make up little songs, sometimes to amuse Bruce, sometimes to amuse myself. Frequently these little ditties are about the dogs. Almost all of them are about what I happen to be doing at the time I sing them. If Bruce isn’t amused, he doesn’t let me know it. He makes up random funny songs, too. We’re weird together.
  • I would love to be in a musical. Like South Pacific, The Music Man, Oklahoma! or my favorite, Camelot. Or how about The Sound of Music II: Suzl, the Forgotten von Trapp? I would be great in that! Not that I can sing.
  • Although Saturday night was an exception (I went to bed at 7:30), I have been staying up until nearly 10:30 lately! (I don’t think I’ve adjusted to daylight saving time yet.) Still, unless you’re my mother, my brother or my husband, or you’re bleeding from both eyes, don’t call me after 9 p.m., even on weekends. I will be mad at you.
  • It’s spring! And I pulled weeds this weekend (both days). And when I got tired of pulling the little suckers, there were still a BUNCH of them left. Today after I got tired and decided not to pull any more weeds, two neighbor boys rode their bikes up to my driveway and asked me if I had any work for them. Now I’m $10 poorer, but my rose bed looks a lot better. They want to come and mow the lawn in a few days. I think I’ll let them. (Note to self: Restock the Popsicle stash.)
  • I LOVE seeing kids take some initiative and get out and earn some money instead of sitting on their bee-hinds in front of the TV or a computer.
  • The dogs finally got baths today. This hadn’t happened since (don’t tell anyone) November. Salsa didn’t like it, but she didn’t bite me once!
  • My friend Lynn, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago (yikes, it’s been nearly three months!), is going to share the Basket-A-Month with me this year. Next weekend is the pickup. SPRING VEGETABLES! FARM-FRESH EGGS, HOMEMADE PASTA! SOURDOUGH BREAD! I’M YELLING BECAUSE I’M DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY!!!!! And Lynn said she’d bring me some of her asparagus and a couple of good recipes. Double happiness!
  • Baseball season is almost upon us, and I’m thinking of Travelers and sunshine. And hot dogs, which absolutely must be consumed at baseball games, no matter what.
  • I’m reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which I started reading in college but never finished. My favorite journalism professor recommended it, although it was not required reading. I didn’t do a lot of extracurricular reading in college. I was too busy with the school newspaper and reading for classes. But I’m enjoying this book once again, and I’m determined to finish it this time.
  • I have new flip-flops. They’re black. Well, they’re sort of brown now, because of the weed-pulling.
  • I’m supposed to be making a blackberry-jam cake for my neighbor, who’s going to pay me for it, but she didn’t give me a deadline and I keep putting it off. It’s the pressure. She had one at a friend’s out of town, and it was to-die-for delicious, and I’ve had to Google to find a recipe that seems to approximate what she had. So, pressure. Which makes me procrastinate.
  • More pressure: My church is doing a 25th-anniversary cookbook, and I’m supposed to provide a recipe for my “signature” dish, and I can’t decide whether to share my recipe for carrot cake, which I make money from, or be selfish and keep it to myself. My other cake recipe that gets rave reviews is from Paula Deen, and I want to make sure we won’t be violating any copyrights before I share it. It’s called White Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Filling. It’s lick-the-bottom-of-the-pan good. I don’t think I’ve shared photos of it that I took when I was making business cards year before last. So let’s end this on a happy foodnote:

white_chocolate_cake1

Click the comment button to share some of your own random thoughts.

Posted in baking, baseball, books, dogs, flowers, food, friends, fun, home, nature | 4 Comments »