Thursday, December 29, 2011

Comfort Food - Cornbread

There's nothing like a bowl of soup or chili on a cold winter day to warm you from the inside out. I'm a chili fanatic. I like veggie chili, chicken chili, chili beans and just plain ordinary chili flavored with ground turkey, beef and/or pork.

I also enjoy a fresh out of the oven slice of cornbread to go with my chili. Requested by my good friend, Howard Lee Kilby, here's a cornbread recipe that's super easy to make.

Bacon Buttermilk Cornbread

Fry five or six pieces of bacon, reserve bacon fat.


1 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients; add beaten egg and buttermilk, mixing well. Pour into greased (reserved bacon fat) heated 8-inch or 9-inch iron skillet. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

There should be nearly a quarter inch of bacon grease in the bottom of the heated skillet prior to adding the cornbread batter. You can also stir a few other ingredients into the batter. I added chopped bacon, a chopped jalapeno pepper, eight ounces of cream style corn, and a little shredded cheddar cheese to my batter yesterday.

To serve, flip the cornbread out onto a dinner plate, slice and slather with butter. :)

Here's one of my poems that seems appropriate for this post:


I sat with Belle today,
on a blanket,
under a pine tree.
She told me about her new recipe
for cracklin’ cornbread.
My eye lids became heavy,
I could smell cornbread baking;
I grew warm inside.
I asked questions
to prolong her stay,
how much jalapeno did you say?
drunk again,
under a Virginia pine
on that sweet Georgia accent.

The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature - October 2010 edition

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Colin Stewart Jones - Tequila Shots

What a pleasant surprise to wake up to the sound of rain on the roof of Poet’s Cottage this morning. Methinks it’ll be a good day to hibernate on the couch to read, write and maybe catch another Harry Potter movie with my daughter. I may even stay in my jam jams today. I have no place to be, no appointments looming on the horizon.

Of course I’ll have to cook something; I love to dabble in my kitchen. Perhaps chicken noodle soup or a loaf of fresh baked bread, rum raisin oatmeal cookies are certainly a possibility. Part of what makes a home special are the inviting smells that greet you at the door. I want people to walk into my home and feel as if they are home.

I posted the following about my grandmother on Facebook recently. Originally published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, I think it best surmises why it’s important for me to give my children fond memories of a warm home with tasty foods and delectable odors.

Southern Legitimacy Statement #4

My Granny Stephens cooked on a woodstove: pinto beans and turnip greens seasoned in fatback, fried potatoes, cornbread, biscuits and gravy served with fresh out of the barn yard fried chicken. Occasionally, I was sent down into the cellar to retrieve jars of canned tomatoes, chow chow, or icicle pickles. We'd have southern-style tea and lemonade, sweet, succulent, better than store-bought soda pop. And if you could discipline yourself and not overeat, you'd save room for peach cobbler or fried apple pie. Granny knew her woodstove inside-out, top to bottom, and was a master at creating a large delicious meal out of very little food…sort of like what Jesus did with a few fish and a loaf of bread. You had the feeling that something holy had been conjured-up when you sat down at Granny's table, which is another reason we said grace before every meal.

Published in the July 2010 issue of  The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

My pal Colin Stewart Jones has a recipe and a poem to share.

Tequila Shots


1 - 2 bottles of tequila

6 - 8 limes


and add some friends

As with all recipes the quality of the ingredients is paramount:

Gold tequila is best; Cuervo is a very good reasonably priced option and for this recipe two bottles are better.

Limes should be unwaxed; washing the limes is not mandatory as the alcohol should take care of any germs or bugs the limes may harbour.

The salt can be any old salt you have around the house; sea salt is good for flavour but not essential and does increase the preparation time as it must be crushed first . . .


Halve each lime along its length and then cut into slices.

Fill your salt shaker.

Ensure you have enough clean shot glasses for each of your friends.

* If you are drinking alone have at least two glasses to cut down on the preparation time.

Unscrew your bottle of tequila and fill each shot glasses with around 50 ml of tequila.


Lick the back of your hand and sprinkle some salt on it.
The more salt the better as this will increase your blood pressure.
Lick the salt from the back of your hand

Neck a shot of tequila

Pick up a slice of lime and sink your teeth into it making sure you are squeezing all the juice from the lime in the one fluid movement.

Repeat the process as and when required.

Cooking Time:

Depends on your capacity for alcohol but is usually instantaneous.

The effects can last into the next day.

salt and lime

gimme salt and lime every time
‘cause it keeps the scurvy away,
you see
it’s the only fruit I eat
but oh how I love to drink
Tequila all of the time

if ever a drink was mine
then Mescal does just fine
I love the worm
for protein of course
 …it tastes like peanuts
and a little Mexican earth

dos tequila por favor
keep ‘em coming
I want more

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cookies - Peanut Butter Delight and Thank you

Life has a way of throwing you an unexpected curve. Who among us are in the place, the circumstances imagined decades or even months ago? Having surgery last July and becoming a single parent two months later was certainly not on my to-do list. I must confess that I’ve had moments when I thought to myself, This is not the way it was supposed to be.

But life is about growth. We glean lessons from our experiences and move on. I’ve not dwelled too much on making a better home for my daughter and myself. The most difficult part in making that transition was taking that initial step. I took that step and was surprised to see an outpouring of love and support from good people here in this small southern town, that extended to friends in other states and beyond to my poetry brothers and sisters (and cousins!) from around the world. The greatest gift any of us will receive during this time or any other time throughout the year is a sincere, caring friend. Friends are the buffers who cushion the unexpected bumps on life’s road.

So, a sincere “Thank you” to all who have gifted me with friendship. And a heartfelt “Thank you” to those of you who donated items to my daughter, Alana, and me for our new home.

We hope your holiday season will be a joyous one. Merry Christmas!

The local grocery stores sells these cookies at an outrageous price. It's much cheaper and fun to make these tasty morsels from scratch.

Peanut Butter Delight

2 ½ cups quick oatmeal
8 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
½ cup milk
4 tablespoons cocoa

Put oatmeal and peanut butter into a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a pot. Add sugar, milk, and cocoa and boil for 1 ½ minutes. Remove from heat and quickly add oatmeal, peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Drop spoonfuls onto wax paper or pour into a buttered pan. Let cool and cut into squares (if you poured the mix into a buttered pan).

I apologize for not posting Colin Stewart Jones's recipe in a timely manner. I've had a busy week. Colin's recipe will be posted next.

Christmas Eve –
my children pretend
to snore

The Heron's Nest V:3, 2003

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pizza Dough

I never buy pizza dough now that I know how to make my own. It's really not that difficult a chore. The satisfaction of creating pizza from scratch, one that your family and friends will enjoy is priceless. Roll up your sleeves and grab the flour. We've got pizza to make.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cup wheat flour (or skip this and the above measurement and use 4 cups all purpose flour)

1 cup water

1 package active dry yeast (equals 2 1/4 teaspoons)

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil, but canola and vegetable will work)

Pour sugar and yeast (magic fairy dust) into a container large enough to hold 1 cup of water.

Add 1 cup of warm water. Warm water and sugar activates the yeast. Be sure the water is not too hot; 100 degrees is a good temperature for the yeast.

Stir the yeast and sugar in the water and allow it to sit for about 8 minutes. A foam will form (it's alive! alive!).

While the yeast is activating, whisk flour and salt together until it's well blended.  

Push the middle of the flour out to the side, creating a small hole in the middle of the flour.

Pour the yeast, sugar, water mixture into the middle of the bowl.

Add the oil and stir the ingredients of the bowl thoroughly (I use two wooden spoons). Continue stirring until the consistency of a dough is formed.

Put the dough onto a floured surface.  

Cover your fingers in flour and knead the dough thoroughly for 6 to 8 minutes. This video will show you how to knead dough.  

Coat a bowl with olive oil. Add the dough ball, turning it a few times to coat thoroughly with the olive oil.

Cover the bowl of dough with a dish towel and sit it in a warm place. A temperature of about 70 degrees works well.

Wait for an hour (allowing the dough to rise). Remove the dish towel and punch the dough, working it back down to nearly its original size. The picture below is prior to slugging the dough.

Wait an additional 30 to 45 minutes, then divide the dough (we're making two pizzas!). Sprinkle a 12 inch pizza pan with corn meal then push or press the dough out until it covers the entire surface of the pan.

You're ready to add your toppings. Bake your pizza in a 450 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottom of the pizza becomes a golden brown color.

Here are a few pizzas I've made.


Pineapple, jalapeno, red onion

Chicken pizza with mushrooms

Taco pizza (prior to going into the oven)

Two slices of taco pizza with diced tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream

My pal, Alexis Rotella, penned this splendid tanka about food:

Before he arrives
I run out to buy
his favorite flowers
and every food
he said he loved.

I'll post a recipe and poem by Colin Stewart Jones tomorrow.                                                                                                              

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Paul David Mena - "homebrew"

After you have your supplies, brewing your own beer can be much cheaper than store-bought beer. I should know. I brewed a batch of Old Mayodan back in the 80s. (Now where did I put that beer making kit?)

Paul David Mena shares a beer recipe and a poem with us today. He writes:

I brewed this recipe on Father's Day this year, knowing that the beer would be ready in time for my birthday in August.  The ingredients and recipe came from Strange Brew Beer & Winemaking Supplies in Marlborough, MA, although I made a number of substitutions when it came to the selection of hops and the yeast.  Sadly, I'm down to the final half-gallon growler.

I wrote the poem "homebrew" for a good friend and fellow home brewer (he gave me a homemade mash tun as a wedding gift) and had the privilege of reading it at his wedding a few years later.



Malt Base: 4 lb (can) Mountmellick LIGHT Liquid, 2 lb. English EXTRA-LIGHT DME Specialty Grains (crushed): 1 lb. Rye, 8 oz. Light Crystal, 4 oz. Wheat Hops: 1 oz. Nugget (bittering), 1 oz. Chinook (flavor), 1 oz. Citra (aroma) Yeast: Wyeast Liquid  #1056 American Ale, Irish Moss, Gypsum, Priming Sugar

Brewing kettle
Mesh bag (for grains)
Glass carboy (fermentation vessel)
rubber or plastic stopper
air lock
siphoning cane
plastic tubing
long-handled wooden spoon
bottles (I use half-gallon "growlers")
bottle caps
sanitizer (I use B-Brite)
bottling bucket


One of the basic chores of brewing beer involves not just cleaning, but sanitizing everything that will come into contact with the beer while it's fermenting.  During this period, home brew is highly susceptible to infection by bacteria, which can produce off flavors or even make you sick!  I use B-Brite, a powerful cleanser used by commercial breweries and available at any brewing supply store.  I sanitize my 5-gallon carboy, which will house the unfermented beer (called "wort") until it's time to be bottled.  I also sanitize the rubber stopper, the air lock, and any plastic tubing and funnels I might use.  When ready to bottle, take the same precautions with bottles, caps, the bottling bucket, siphoning cane and any tubing.


1) Remove the crushed grains from the package and place in the mesh bag.  Tie the bag at the end to allow for maximum circulation.  Place the bag in 2 gallons of cold water, slowly heating to 160 degrees.  Hold at steady temperature for 10 minutes, and then discard (or compost) the grains.

2) Add the malt extract and stir well to dissolve.  Be careful. Don't let it scorch the bottom of the kettle.  Once fully dissolved, bring the kettle to a rapid boil.

     a) add the bittering hops and continue to boil for another 30 minutes.
     b) add the flavor hops and continue to boil for another 20 minutes.
     c) add the aroma hops and the Irish Moss and boil for an additional 5-10 minutes (total boil time 55-60 minutes)

3) Fill the fermentation vessel with 3 gallons of cold water.  Slowly pour the unfermented beer (wort) into the fermentation vessel.  Try to leave any hops or other residue in the bottom of the kettle.  Add enough additional water to fill the fermentation vessel, if necessary.

4) Let the wort cool down to room temperature before adding yeast.  Add the rubber stopper and airlock, filling the airlock halfway with water.  Make sure the seal is tight - your wort will be in the vessel for 2 or 3 weeks.  Active fermentation should begin within 24 to 48 hours and should last for about a week.  If you have a secondary fermentation vessel, you may wish to transfer the wort to it once fermentation slows.  Otherwise, your beer should be ready to bottle in 2 or 3 weeks.


5) When ready to bottle, boil 5 ounces of priming sugar in a cup of water for about a minute and add to the bottom of the bottling bucket.  Remove the airlock from the fermentation vessel and use the siphoning cane and plastic tubing to siphon the beer into the bottling bucket.  From the bottling bucket, fill each bottle to about one inch from the top and cap.

6) Store the beer at room temperature or cooler for two or three weeks to allow for carbonation.  I waited over a month to try mine!

7) Drink.  Repeat.


most of the time
when you combine 
a randomly selected set of ingredients
you get a mess!
there's nothing scientific about it.
on the other hand
there are those rare occasions
when the ingredients seemingly find one another
combining instinctively
with purpose and forethought
such that the whole is infinitely greater
than the sum of its parts.
the end result
is as refreshing as it is intoxicating
ideal in times of celebration
as well as quiet reflection.
this - and nothing else - is the true Holy Grail.
here, therefore, is a toast:
may your yields be high
may your carmelization be minimal
and may your tap never run dry.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kirsty Karkow - Veggie/Vegan Bean Bourguignon

Our recipe and poem for today comes from Kirsty Karkow. Veggie/Vegan Bean Bourguignon sounds like a deliciously quick and easy dish to make, a perfect meal for a single parent to cook on a weeknight.

Kirsty Karkow - Veggie/Vegan Bean Bourguignon

1 16 ounce can red or kidney beans, drained
8 ounces baby onions, thawed, if frozen
8 ounces carrots, cut into large chunks
1 1/4 cups red wine
2/3 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water


Heat 1/2 cup broth in a large saucepan.

Add the carrots, then cook for 3 minutes Stir in the beans with the wine, rest of  broth, onions, tomato paste and herbs.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 15 mins, adding the mushrooms after 5 minutes.

Blend the cornstarch with the water, then stir into the mixture. Boil for 1 min, then season with salt, pepper to taste.

Serves 4. Very good with mashed potatoes, noodles or rice. This is delicious reheated later.

green tea
red plums and oranges
on blue china
even at breakfast time
this man colours my life

                --Kirsty Karkow

            --from Countless Leaves, edited by Gerald St. Maur, 2001

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dessert - Hershey Bar Pie

My daughter and I are preparing for Christmas. We attended a concert last Friday where she sang with her school’s Christmas Chorus. I had planned to post a video of the concert for you to enjoy; however, after three years of faithful service, my Flip Camcorder decided to malfunction just as the singing was about to begin. Thankfully, I thought to take my digital camera and was able to take several pictures of Alana in her beautiful evening dress. The school had a bake sale to raise money for the dresses. Alana and I made Peanut Butter Delight Cookies, a recipe I’ll share with you soon.

Here is a clip of last year’s concert. Alana is on the left in the first row. My amazing daughter has grown considerably in the last year and is nearly as tall as her music teacher.

Yesterday was unseasonably warm for this time of year. Rather than spend my entire day in the kitchen (as I often do on weekends), I decided to get out and enjoy the weather. I visited two flea markets and three Goodwill stores in search of bargains, little treasures that are often overlooked. At my first stop, I purchased a 10 inch cast iron skillet. I paid $5.99 for the skillet, which is about a third of the cost for a new one. It needs cleaning and reseasoning, but should be ready for blackened catfish soon.

I also purchased a glass bowl for a mere $2. I enjoy having fresh fruit in my home. The bowl and fruit look nice on my kitchen table.

On my way home, I stopped at a produce stand. The proprietor had several fraser fir Christmas trees for sale. I paid $20 for a beautiful tall tree, which is $10 cheaper than the average price at other places in the area. Driving home with that tree on the back of my truck, Rockin Around the Christmas Tree playing on the radio, filled me with a sense of the season that I’ve not felt in a long time. Yes, I’ve been smitten by the Christmas Spirit. We’ve got a tree to decorate!

It occurs to me that I’ve not posted a dessert recipe. Here’s an easy one that I learned from Shannon Lindell. Warning, this pie could possibly turn you into a chocoholic.

Hershey Bar Pie

23 large Marshmallows
1/2 cup milk
6 Hershey Bars
2 (8 oz) tubs whipped topping
1 graham cracker or chocolate cookie crust

Break 5 1/2 Hershey bars into little squares.

Combine marshmallows, milk and candy bar pieces in a medium saucepan over low to medium-low heat.  Slowly melt together, stirring often.

Remove from heat after ingredients are completely melted; let cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

After the mixture is cool to the touch, fold in one tub of whipped topping. Pour into a pie crust and chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours.

Top with remaining tub of whipped topping and grate remaining half of Hershey bar on top.
~  ~  ~

White Christmases are rare in this section of The Old North State. I’ve seen two in my life, the most recent was last year. The odds of a Christmas with snow are slim here, but we can hope...we can always hope...

school closings —
the snowmen arrive
flake by flake

The Heron's Nest Volume XII, Number 2: June, 2010

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Aurora Antonovic - Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Green Chili Sauce

Our guest poet recipe and poem for today comes from Aurora Antonovic. Aurora's recipe is timely for me. A local grocery store, Food Lion, has a buy one, get one free special this week for frozen chicken tenders and chicken breast. I'm having Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Green Chili Sauce on Saturday!

Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Green Chili Sauce

10 soft taco shells (either corn or flour)
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I cooked a whole chicken in the crockpot all day)
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese (I used Tex Mex cheese)
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth (I used the broth from the crockpot chicken)
1 cup sour cream
1 4-oz can diced green chilies

1.) Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 13" pan.
2.) Mix chicken with 1 cup of cheese. Divide evenly among the 10 tortillas. Roll up.
3.) In sauce pan, melt butter. Stir in flour. Gradually add the chicken broth, whisking until smooth and bubbly.
4.) Remove from heat. Gently stir in sour cream and diced green chilies. Do not place back on heat.
5.) Immediately pour over enchiladas. Top with remaining cheese.
6.) Bake for 22 minutes, then broil the remaining 3 minutes, to brown the cheese.

Living On Love

You say you love my cooking,
But you don’t let me do it often enough for you;
Tonight I have won,
And you keep coming into the kitchen,
To lift lids off pots,
Inhale the aroma of the simmering roast,
And say, in almost a bewildered tone,
“Who knew you could cook like this?”
Playfully, I smack you with a pot holder,
And tell you to be patient while I mix and stir,
Dice and mash,
Baste and brown.
Finally, we take our places,
And I fill your plate with
Thinly sliced beef, glazed carrots,
Mashed potatoes, swimming in lots of rich, brown gravy,
And crisp, steamed green beans with sesame seeds.
You start to ask me “How”, stop and say “Why,”
And next thing I know, you have a real tear in one of your eyes.
Alarmed, I get up and come to your side of the table,
And ask you what is wrong.
You say, “The thought of your small hands
Making all of this for me….”
Relieved, I sit on your lap,
Kiss away your one escaped tear,
And proceed to feed you your dinner,
Then hurry off to rescue
The bubbling apple pie,
That is singing for me to come get it
Out of the oven;
I serve it  with a dollop
Of real whipped cream,
And all my love.

Aurora Antonovic
(first published in AGT)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Appetizer - Sausage Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers

The response to me starting The Frugal Poet was overwhelming. My sincere thanks to everyone for your kind words, for the poems and recipes you've sent. I will start a guest poet section soon, a place for you to share your frugal tips, tasty goodies and poems.

With one holiday behind us and another on the horizon there will be ample opportunity to attend pot lucks and parties. I pride myself on finding finger foods that folks enjoy. There's no greater feeling in the kitchen than preparing food that's been deemed a hit, something that's requested time and again. Sausage Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers is one such appealing food and does not have to be overpowering in the heat department if prepared properly.

Figuring in the frugal factor here, I'm fortunate to have a neighbor and a couple of coworkers who grow peppers in their gardens and generously share for free. I've also grown peppers, but now that I've moved to a new location, container gardening will likely be the means by which I grow my veggies in the spring.  

Okay, grab some latex gloves to protect your hands from the oils of the pepper. Chemical burns from a pepper are no fun, especially if you inadvertently touch your eyes.

Sausage Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers

1 pound ground pork sausage
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese   (the real stuff, not the stuff you sprinkle on pizza)
1 pound large fresh jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded (20 peppers will make 40!)

One quick tip: Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and the inner fleshy membrane of the pepper. The more of the inner membrane you remove, the less heat. I tend to leave a fair amount of the insides (just removing the seeds). I like them hot!


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Place sausage in a skillet over medium heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain grease.

3. In a bowl, mix the sausage, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Spoon sausage mixture into each jalapeño half. Arrange stuffed halves in baking dishes.

4. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until bubbly and lightly browned.

I'll close with a tanka I penned recently.

fresh compost
for the pepper plant
i call “peppy”
nourishment for a life
that nourishes me

Peace and prosperity to you all,


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Homemade Southern Biscuits

As a single parent, I’m constantly looking for ways to save money, especially in the kitchen. Eating out is something that my daughter and I do occasionally now. A significant amount of money can be wasted via drive thrus and, frankly, fast foods can quickly become monotonous and boring.

One comfort food that my daughter and I thoroughly enjoy are biscuits and gravy. Thanks to the generosity and recipe of my good friend, Susan, I’ve mastered homemade buttermilk biscuits. I make these delectable goodies at least once a week, sometimes twice. I buy flour at Dollar General for (as of this writing) $1.95 a bag. That’s cheap!

Roll up your sleeves and have fun in the kitchen. Here’s Susan’s recipe:

Susan’s Buttermilk Biscuits Recipe

3 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 rounded ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick butter = 8 tablespoons or ½ cup
1 ½ cup buttermilk

* Mix dry ingredients

* Cut in butter til the mixture resembles coarse meal (I use a pastry blender to blend the butter into the flour.)

* Stir in buttermilk; mix thoroughly

* Empty onto a floured surface and roll out to desired thickness (I sometimes have to sprinkle a little flour on top to keep from sticking)

* I use a glass or a mason jar lid to cut the biscuit dough into the shape of a biscuit

* Put on ungreased cooking sheet

* Bake at 425 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes

* A few minutes prior to pulling the biscuits out of the oven, brush the biscuits with butter and put them back in the oven until they are done. (I added this little step.)

I will endeavor to close each blog post with a poem about food. Here is one of my poems, a tanka, published in Magnapoets:

bread, wine, cheese, the gentle patter of rain on a new tin roof...        come, read love sonnets to me        and I'll read you Neruda

Magnapoets –  Issue 7, January 2011

Peace and prosperity to you all.