Okra-and-Corn Maque Choux

IMG_1243A search of the word “maque choux” brings about no literal definition, although the flavors of this dish translate for me as, “Summer Divinity.”  This particular recipe originated in the July, 2010, edition of Southern Living, and since tearing it out three years ago I have worn out the page cooking from it. Summer in the South, albeit hot as.. hmmmm…. well, you know, is a delightful time, bursting with the flavors of the earth.  My grandfather was a truck farmer, and any time I can purchase from one of these precious souls of the South, I do it.  When the produce hails from Baldwin County, Alabama, all the better.  The corn is as sweet as sugar, the tomatoes full of flavor and just the right amount of acid to steam the palate with joy, and fresh okra, bursting with flavor is the base of Maque Choux.  It is a traditional dish from southern Louisiana, and maybe I love it so much because so many of my favorite people live there as well.  Besides involving a good bit of chopping, it’s super easy.  Close your eyes while eating Maque Choux and you will surely hope that summer never ends.  Don’t try this with hot-house tomatoes and frozen corn.  Just hold tight until the season rolls around again, and you will want to eat it every day to make up for lost time. 

Serves:  (supposedly) 8

Prep Time: 30 minutes

  • 1/2 pound link sausage (I use Conecuh) – Alternatively, ham, shrimp, etc.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup sliced fresh okra
  • 1 cup peeled and diced tomato (original recipe calls for seeded, but that’s a waste of flavor to me.  Whatever floats your boat here…)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until browned.  Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and saute 5 minutes or until tender.  Add corn, okra, and tomato; cook, stirring often 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Orange Chicken with Coconut Balsamic Vinegar

20130129-151511.jpgLast Christmas, I bought my younger son several different, funky-flavored, dark chocolate candy bars from The Fresh Market. All through the holidays, he would occasionally break open a new flavor, and we would so dearly enjoy the various twists and turns that come with combining flavors that have not traditionally paired. Every now and then, a flavor combination comes along that is absolutely, totally different from anything I would ever have thought to throw together. In such a case, I am either in food-lover’s heaven or hell. There really is no in between. Case in point – very hot, spicy-flavored peppers mixed with dark chocolate just feels sort of like catsup and ice cream. Even the adventurous foodie in me just wasn’t ready to go there. This Orange Chicken recipe, however, dances in heaven with a strange, but delightful, mixture of orange marmalade, dijon mustard, and ….. wait for it…… coconut balsamic vinegar. Doesn’t sound amazing, does it? WRONG!!

Two of my girlfriends and I have recently discovered several of these olive oil and vinegar stores that are sprouting up all over the place, and let me tell you, if you have not “experienced” one of these, then get thee to the closest and quickest one you can find, for it is truly a fun and delicious culinary tasting tour. Bring your credit card or lots of cash, and prepare to be “hooked” forever. Anyway, back to the story of this recipe. My friend, Sheryl West, gave me this jewel while sitting around the dinner table at a local restaurant one evening. As I am always looking for that gourmet taste and quick preparation, I figured I would try it. I now serve this at least once every week or two. Pair it with couscous, rice, whatever floats your boat. And if anybody out there has great recipes with flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegar, please share! I’m looking for ways to use my growing stash of bottles!

Serves: 3 or 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes

  • 1 pound raw chicken fingers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons coconut vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Salt and pepper chicken strips. In a 10- or 12-inch iron skillet, lay the strips on the preheated, pre-oiled iron skillet. Cook each side 2 or 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the mustard, marmalade, and vinegar. This is NOT an exact science. Mix it to your taste. When chicken is mostly done, turn off heat and place butter in skillet. Roll the strips around in the melted butter. Next, drizzle about a tablespoon or so of the mustard, marmalade, and vinegar mixture onto each strip and place in preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes. Serve straight from the skillet with a green vegetable and either rice, couscous, or potatoes.

Slow-Cooked Moroccan Chicken

Let me begin this entry by saying, I generally do not like chicken thighs.  Dark meat often has a funky taste that is strong and “gamey” and I will go for the breast or the wing almost always.  But when a recipe comes along that includes things like dried plums, curry, and cinnamon, I am ready to step outside my comfort zone and try those thighs once again.  Those are some beautiful flavors, and the words Moroccan and slow-cooked iced the cake in my decision to try this one.   This is a very simple recipe that transported me to that Moroccan market and the stone tagines in ash pits that are seen in the photos of documentaries of the region.  Easy, delicious, and different, the sweet fruit, curry, and cinnamon, along with the perfectly textured thighs are a hit in this recipe!  If you can’t go to Africa, one of the most beautiful places on earth, you can experience the flavors of this country right in your own kitchen.  Serve with some couscous drizzled with some quality olive oil and let the comfort feast begin!

Serves:     8

Prep Time:     15 minutes

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces carrots, not peeled, chopped in big one inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried plums (prunes)
  • 1 – 14 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker, combine onion, carrots, plums, and broth.  Top with chicken.  In a small bowl combine curry powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over chicken.  Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.  Serve with couscous.


Curried Sweet Potato Apple Soup

Curry, ginger, nutmeg, apples, sweet potatoes . . . . . This soup is so perfect for fall weather.  The hint of curry, one of my favorite spices, is a special treat.  Curry powder is actually not a single spice, but a combination of many.  They can vary widely in the spice world, depending on country of origin, but most curry powders in North America include coriander, cumin, red pepper, and turmeric in their blends. Depending on the recipe, additional ingredients such as ginger, garlic, caraway, fennel seed, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper may also be added.  The smell of these spices is such a rush to the senses.  This soup imparts an earthy, wholesome, and even slightly sweet flavor.  Enjoy!

Prep Time:     25 minutes

Serves:     6

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 – 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated  (or 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if you wish)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 and 1/4 cups chunky applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the ginger, nutmeg, curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until toasted, about 1 minute.  Add the diced sweet potatoes, chicken broth, and 2 cups water to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the applesauce.  Simmer, covered, until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.  Puree the soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender (my choice), and blend until smooth.

If desired, thinly slice a sweet potato, toss with a little salt and olive oil, and bake at 375 degrees about 20 minutes.  Use for garnish.

Creamy Peanut Butter Sheet Cake

There are two perfect foods in this world – peanut butter and bacon.  Now I’m not talking about perfect nutrition here, although an argument for protein could be made to justify the consumption of either of these.  I’m talking about pure eye-rolling, food-eating pleasure.  Now I can’t help you with the bacon on this recipe, but if it is peanut butter you are craving, this cake will cure what ails you.  For those who like a creamy cake, this one is super creamy when made and even more so the next day, if it lasts that long.  I took this to my high school students and teacher friends, and it was a hit across the board!  When I returned home with three pieces, my husband and I decided to just go ahead and consume the rest for dessert that night.  We did not feel like we could get much sleep with this cake on the counter calling our names!

Prep Time:     30 minutes

Serves:      20-24


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup water


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoon milk
  • 2 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE CAKE:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl combine the sugar and flour.  In a separate medium bowl, mix eggs, baking soda, and sour cream well.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan combine peanut butter, butter, and water.  Bring to a boil.  Stir the boiled peanut butter mixture into the flour mixture, then add to the sour cream mixture.  Pour into an ungreased 15 x 10 inch sheet/jellyroll pan.  Bake 17-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

FOR THE FROSTING:  Combine the butter, peanut butter, and milk in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Add the powdered sugar and mix well.  This may require some whisking to remove lumps.  Let the frosting cool for a few minutes, then add vanilla.  Let frosting and cake cool about 10 minutes, then pour frosting over cake.  Cut and serve.  

Beefy Pesto Lasagna

I have several lasagna recipes that I have used through the years.  I really enjoy the flavors of the dish, but for my family, lasagna is just okay; they can take it or leave it.  Recently I decided to make a recipe that contains pesto.  Now pesto is the current food love of my life.  I eat it on bread, potatoes, pasta – haven’t tried it on chocolate.  I’ll make homemade, buy pre-made – doesn’t matter.  I LOVE PESTO!  So when I read this recipe, it was definitely calling my name, so I thought I would step out of my lasagna comfort zone and try something different.  And this creamy, cheesy, tomatoe-y main course did not disappoint.  My husband LOVED IT and called it his very favorite lasagna ever!  Add some crusty Italian bread and a green salad and rake in the smiles.

Prep Time:     30 minutes

Serves:     12 – 16

  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 – 24 ounce container 4% small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 – 16 ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 48 ounce jar tomato-basil pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare noodles according to package directions. Stir together cottage cheese and next four ingredients.  Stir in 1 cup mozzarella cheese.  Cook ground beef and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, until cooked thoroughly.  Stir in pasta sauce.  Layer in a lasagna dish in this order – 1 cup beef mixture, 3 noodles, 2 and 1/2 cups cottage cheese mixture, 3 noodles, 2 cups beef mixture, and 3 more noodles. Top with remaining cottage cheese mixture, 3 noodles, and beef mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 and 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese.  Bake, covered, at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  Uncover and bake 20 minutes or until cheese is browned.  Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

Creme Brulee

ImageI am about to tell you a secret.  Creme Brulee, or “burnt cream” is a very easy dessert to make.  The Moxie way cuts a few corners, and I promise you cannot tell a difference.  All of that “scraping the vanilla beans, pouring the liquid through a sieve,” business is totally unnecessary.  I have had this dessert at some of the finest restaurants around the country, and I would put this one up to any of the others. Tell me someone who doesn’t love creme brulee and I will call you a liar.  The only problem with this dish is that it must be made ahead and chilled, thereby making it impossible to be thought about at the last minute.  But with a little pre-planning and about 10 minutes of prep., these beautiful ramekins full of creamy lusciousness can be on your table.  Torching the creme brulee is the most fun, and if serving it to guests, I usually let each person work the torch on his or her own ramekin, making it a really fun ending to a meal.  After all, who doesn’t love to work a blow torch?  I use one of those smaller kitchen torches, but real chefs use an actual blow torch, just like you keep out in your shed.  Be cautious with this method, as one of my best friends’ husband nearly burned the house down trying it.  At least for now, I would suggest starting out with the kitchen torch.  You can purchase these at any kitchen store and most big box stores.  Have fun being the girl (or guy) who plays with fire!

Prep Time:     10 minutes

Serves:     6

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar (to caramelize the tops)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until your arm is about to fall off, (maybe 3-5 minutes).  At this point the mixture should be thick and pale yellow in color.  Add cream and vanilla, and whisk until blended.  Try not to think about how many calories you are about to eat.  Divide mixture among 6 ramekins.  Place ramekins in a water bath.  I use the flat ramekins with a cookie sheet.  If you are using the larger, deeper ones, then you will need to go with a deeper pan for the bath.  The water should come up at least to half the height of the dish.  Carefully place in oven. Bake until center is set.  This should be about 45 minutes for the shallow ramekins, and 50-60 for the deeper ones.  Carefully remove from oven.  Take out the ramekins and drain water.  Put the ramekins back in the dry pan and cool for 30 minutes or so, then place in the refrigerator until cold, usually a couple of hours.  When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar on top of each ramekin.  Torch the sugar until it is brownish and hard on the top, usually about 30 seconds.   Enjoy every luscious, creamy bite as you break the crackly top and indulge.  The elliptical machine will take care of all of that later.  Much later.

Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad

If there were an official membership in the “I Hate Cilantro” club, my husband would pay lifelong dues.  A few years ago, we were invited to a friend’s house for cocktails.  I brought along marinated shrimp to add to the munchies.  My better half tore into the bowl, heaping his plate with the shrimp, for there aren’t many things better to him than shrimp of most any variety.  As he began to eat them one at a time, I noticed a strange look on his face.  With each shrimp, the pace became slower and the look became stranger.  When we got home that evening, he asked what in the world I put in that shrimp.  “I hope I don’t get sick off of those things.  I mean they were bad.”  He meant bad in the “spoiled” sense of the word, not just that they tasted bad, which happened to also be the case.  After some thought, we realized that it was the cilantro.  At the time, he had never eaten the very pungent leaf before.  Though generally not a person who enjoys drama, I have seen him break out in a very dramatic Shakespearian-ish monologue over his distaste for the plant.  Searching the Internet for any information he could find about why he hated it so, considering that he will eat most anything else, my trooper husband found a website that made him feel validated.  He would never again be alone.  If you are one of those cilantro haters, go to www.ihatecilantro.com and join the club!  If you love the stuff, then by all means add it to this crunchy, refreshing, and super-easy-to-make Southwestern Salad.

Prep Time:     15 minutes

Serves:     8


  • 2 cups shredded chicken (for speed, I use the breast meat of a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 head iceberg or 2 heads romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning

In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients together, excluding the tortilla chips.  In a small bowl stir all dressing ingredients together.  Pour dressing over salad, starting with about half of the dressing, then continue adding until salad consistency is to your liking. Top with crushed tortilla chips.  If you will have leftovers, add chips to individual servings.

Seafood Pasta in a Foil Package

This combination of real cream, fresh basil, and tomatoes, makes for a melt-in-your-mouth pasta dish that feeds a crowd.  If you are lucky enough to live in a city, with access to good, fresh seafood, this dish is unbeatable.  Living here in Podunk, I had to use frozen shrimp and bay scallops, but I do have fresh basil in my back yard, and this week our grocery store even carried linguine and canned tomatoes!  I didn’t figure it would be great without all fresh ingredients, but even with frozen seafood, this dish was excellent!  As soon as I can get to Joe Patti’s Seafood in downtown Pensacola, I intend to make this again.  As a best friend used to say, “This’ll make your tongue slap out your brains!”

Prep Time:     20 minutes

Serves:     8 very hungry people

(Recipe from The Pioneer Woman)


  • 1 pound linguine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Three 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes (I used the chunkier kind)
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound scallops

To Serve:

  • Warm cream
  • fresh basil leaves, torn

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the pasta for half the recommended time. The pasta should still be VERY firm.  In a skillet cook the garlic in the butter and olive oil for a few minutes, and then pour in the wine.  Allow this to reduce for a couple of minutes, and then pour in the tomatoes.  Stir the mixture together, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  In a separate skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Sear the scallops, then the shrimp, until they’re nice and black/brown.  Meanwhile, grab 2 large sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil and overlap them in a dish with some depth (I used a lasagna dish).  Mix the drained pasta with the sauce and tip it onto the foil.  Then arrange the sautéed seafood on top.  Tightly wrap the foil into a package.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and keep warm until serving.  To serve, open the foil package and plate the dish.  Pour about a tablespoon of warm, whole cream over each serving and garnish with torn basil.

Ham and Bacon Quiche

In 1982 a man named Bruce Feirstein wrote a book entitled, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche and subtitled, “A Guidebook to All That Is Truly Masculine.”  It was a spoof, of course, which satirized stereotypes of masculinity.  According to Feirstein’s humorous look at the expected roles of the sexes, a man who eats quiche is a follower of fashion, one who actually cares about how he looks and what other people think.  Real men would eat eggs and bacon by the platefuls, belching loudly upon completion, and would definitely steer clear of anything with a French name.  Reading about this book brings to mind a story about pumping gas, real masculinity, respecting women, and loving quiche.

My husband and I raised two boys, both grown now, both of whose faces still light up when quiche is served.  We raised them to be fiercely independent, a choice of ours that has become both a blessing and a curse at times, although we have always known it was the right thing to do.  One Saturday about six years ago, my younger son (who was probably 17 at the time), and I pulled into a gas station.  I promptly got out of the car and began pumping gas.  Picture this – a very rotund man, wild-haired, free of the majority of his teeth, spitting tobacco, and sporting a wife-beater tee shirt, says to me in an angry voice, “..at boy oughta get outta … that car and pump (th)at gas!!”  Presumably, he was prepared to tell me a few things about raising a real man.  I looked at him curiously.  I am perfectly capable, I thought to myself, of pumping my own gas.  I am not a weak woman, unable to perform simple tasks.  I enjoy having men in my life, but thankfully I do not depend on them for survival.  All of this I kept to myself, of course, for these days such a response might have one staring down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun.  At that point I got in the car and thanked God that not only am I an able, strong woman, but my husband and I together raised able, strong boys who credit women for their abilities and strengths as well, two boys who respect the unique capabilities and talents of every person, including women.

Feirstein eventually makes the point that real men do a lot of “unmanly” things that stereotypes have kept them from admitting.  In fact, those men in touch with their feminine sides are more secure and manly that those who are not.  And real men do eat quiche.  I am madly in love with three of them.

Prep Time:     31 minutes

Serves:     8 real men or women

  • 2 regular frozen pie crusts (not deep dish)
  • 6 bacon slices
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 and 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup chopped, cooked ham (the already diced kind if you are looking for speed)
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (or regular)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour

Pierce crusts with a fork a few times and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Chop raw bacon, with a knife or kitchen shearers, into a pan and cook. Remove bacon pieces and set aside.  Discard all but two tablespoons of the bacon grease.  Sauté chopped onion and mushrooms in hot drippings 5 minutes or until tender.  Stir together bacon, onion mixture, half-and-half, and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour mixture evenly into the two crusts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.