1 House 100 Years

Preparing For The Centennial Of A Place That Matters

Category: Recipes

Pre-Spring Collards

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Although it is not officially spring yet, after the cold weather and snow storms that we had in February, I am ready for spring. We seldom get deep snowstorms here in Tidewater Virginia, but last month there was one in particular that buried my collards for over half a week.

A lot of older leaves showed damage from the extended period of cold, but for the younger leaves, that’s just what they needed to improve their flavor. For years now I’ve bought several bundles of young plants from Norfolk County Feed and Seed and plant them early in the fall.

Until last month’s series of snowstorms, I had just about given up on fighting the cabbage moth caterpillars that had invaded my backyard garden patch. There was also another new kind of unidentified caterpillar munching away. The extended cold seems to have done what my daily inspections could not do.

Few dishes are more Southern than “a whole mess of collard greens.” Cooking methods may vary, but there are really only two ways to cook collards: the right way and the wrong way. For me, success is judged by how well the “pot liquor” goes with cornbread. It’s that simple.

Here is my recipe for “The Best Collards Of My Life”. It’s been some time since I’ve posted a recipe, so watch for my next recipe that will be posted soon after these collards have been cut and cooked. It will be “The Best Cornbread Of My Life!”

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These photographs were taken in February and March 2014, about one week apart.

Why I Only Buy Real Maple Syrup

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When it comes to posting anything about cooking or recipes, there is one primary thing that I try to keep in mind. It has to contribute to a feeling of “home” (not to just have something to post or something that looks trendy but hardly no one else will make).

Perhaps this is because I really enjoy eating, but also because the smell of our favorite dishes can hold powerful memories of days gone by. You can be blindfolded and yet know instantly when you are “home” with only your nose. Food smells can permanently infuse a house. I’m glad.

Several months after I moved into my house, I was projecting early one weekend morning, and I smelled hot buttered pancakes and maple syrup. At the time, I had barely used the old electric range to do much more than heat up a can of something and call it “dinner.”

So I checked outside just to make sure I wasn’t imagining anything. The smell was only in my house, only in my kitchen. I think that was the house’s way of letting me know, “You’re okay. I trust you to take care of me. You can call me ‘home’ now.”

There are secondary considerations as well when posting anything about cooking or recipes like being something that a guy can follow and make for his someone special or his whole family, sort of the way my brother-in-law makes French toast every Sunday morning before church for his family.

Maybe most guys would like to show how they feel with a home-cooked meal or even just one part of a meal if an entire meal seems overwhelming. They just need some know-how. So that’s the “why” for only using real maple syrup and for sharing these recipes.

Right now I have a taste for some of the best “Maple Pecan Sugar Cookies” of my life! This was the first “from scratch” baking that I did in my house, and I used my own pecans from my own pecan tree in my own backyard. Recipe to follow soon!

This photograph was taken November 2013. These are a few of the different maple syrups that have been given to me over the years. The bottle shaped like a maple leaf is my favorite. Maple syrup will last indefinitely if left unopened. Although some people like it on a French toast, I prefer just putting it on pancakes.

The Best “World Series Chicken Chili Stew” Of My Life!

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Fall is when my garden is loaded down with peppers, both sweet and hot. This was a surprise to me at first because I have always thought of them as being a hot climate crop, and so I assumed that they would be most productive during the hottest summer months.

It’s also time for the World Series, the last lingering bit of summer fun before the winter holiday season. This is a great recipe for this time of year, and like so many other dishes like this, it tastes better the next day so you can just heat and eat.

It’s funny how on house project posts I assume that readers know about working with wood, plaster, and paint. I don’t really assume that with these sometimes overly detailed recipes. I’d like to believe that every guy would like to be able to cook something special for his someone special, so that’s the main reason for the way these recipes are written.

This recipe starts with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. When these are on sale, I usually buy several packages and freeze them all. These taste great, are low in fat, are difficult to overcooking, and don’t need to be defrosted if you are going to boil them. They are practically foolproof.

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In a medium Dutch oven, make these basic boiled chicken thighs. This can be used in many different recipes. Start by placing

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 to 3 freshly pressed cloves of garlic (use more or less depending on personal taste)

Pinch of salt

Into the Dutch oven, and then on low to medium low heat, slowly sauté the garlic, stirring occasionally. You don’t want the garlic to turn brown or fry. It’s the slow, low sauté that brings out the sweetness in the garlic. High heat and quick cooking will not give the best taste.

This is a good time to work dice one medium sized onion. Keep an eye on the garlic, and then add

1 medium onion, diced

Pinch of salt

and continue to sauté. When the onion is beginning to turn transparent, add

5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 can chicken broth (reduced salt)

and bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. This is also the time to add

1 bay leaf

and any other herbs that you want to use. This recipe just uses the bay leaf, but for other recipes, I add thyme or tarragon or rosemary.

Cover and simmer for one hour, checking on it occasionally. The chicken should be covered with the liquid, but if not completely, it’s fine to flip them over when you check on them.

Everything in your house should begin to smell great. This is also a good time to wonder, “Why there are only five chicken thighs in most small packages?!?” This recipe can be doubled to make more and to even things out so you don’t have to wonder where the missing chicken thigh might be.

At the end of the hour, throw away the bay leaf and remove the chicken and place in a bowl. It should be thoroughly cooked, tender, and infused with herb flavor.

Pour the liquid into a large measuring cup. There should be about 2 or more cups of liquid. You will use some of this later, the remainder can be frozen. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Shred, cut up, and chop the chicken thighs for this recipe. (In other recipes, you may handle them differently, but here you want the meat in fairly small pieces, with a few nice chunks here and there.)

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While the chicken is cooking it is a good time to assemble your team and determine your starting lineup. I like to put everything that I might want to use out on a counter. Even if I don’t use everything, seeing what’s available is inspiring in a way. Here are the basics, but you can select more depending on where your inspiration leads you.

Into the Dutch oven add these seven essential players:

Cooked chicken

1 can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (very important, especially for these beans)

2 cups mild salsa (or medium to hot, depending on your taste)

1 cup favorite barbecue sauce

1 cup reserved chicken broth from cooked chicken

Carefully mix all of the ingredients together so that the beans don’t get mashed, adding more chicken broth if needed but keeping in mind that more liquid will probably be created while this is cooking in the oven.

Cover and bake for 1 hour, checking on it about every 20 minutes and giving it a gentle stir. At the end of the hour, everything should have melded together well. Although canned beans are fully cooked, this hour in the oven helps improve their flavor and texture. Cooking in the oven rather than on the stovetop also help this dish from becoming too “mushy.”

When you are ready to serve, top with these last two essential players to round out your team:

Freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Generous dollop of sour cream

This is great with fresh baked cornbread slathered with butter or even just some corn chips. There are lots of other things that would be great to top off this winning team, like some sliced sweet peppers from the garden!

These photographs were take during the World Series 2013.