Tag Archives: Southern cooking

Saffron Braised Celery and Grilled Fish with Hot Sauce Buerre Blanc from A New Turn in the South

Grilled Fish with Hot Sauce Buerre Blanc and Saffron Braised Celery from A New Turn in the SouthThis month I have two selections from Hugh Acheson’s cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen (affiliate code) - Grilled Fish with Hot Sauce Buerre Blanc and Saffron Braised Celery. My husband, Paul, came back from a fishing trip in Mexico with nearly two coolers worth of California yellowtail (also called amberjack). For those of you who never had yellowtail grilled (most of us probably have tried it as sushi), it tastes a bit sweet and isn’t fishy at all. It’s the perfect fish to grill since it stands up to the high heat without falling apart. And it’s mild enough to go with just about any type of sauce or seasonings. Since Hugh’s original recipe in A New Turn in the South, calls for mahi mahi, I figured yellowtail was a good substitute. You can use either or another mild white fish like tilapia.

I included a side dish this time – Saffron Braised Celery. I don’t know about you, but I have a little teeny bottle of saffron in my spice rack that I rarely use. This recipe was a good way to use some of it along with the leftover celery I had in my refrigerator.

I made both dishes on a weeknight without too much difficulty. Plan about 40 minutes to an hour total prep and cook time. To make it more convenient, you could make the sauce and the cucumber salad the night before and prep the celery dish. Or make it on a Friday night when a late dinner won’t make it too difficult for your family to wake up early the next day. 

I made some minor changes to Hugh’s recipes such as using olive oil instead of butter in the celery. I used a buttery spread instead of butter and a Colorado beer infused hot sauce, Old Chub: 3 Chili Chipotle Sauce, in the buerre blanc because that’s what I had on hand. Feel free to your favorite hot sauce though Hugh warns that Tabasco sauce is too spicy.

If you’re watching your calories, serve the sauce on the side or eliminate altogether. Otherwise, double the amount of sauce and freeze for later, as it goes great on leftover fish, vegetables, rice or chicken

Saffron Braised Celery from A New Turn in the South

Saffron Braised Celery

Based on Hugh Acheson’s Saffron Braised Celery recipe from A New Turn in the South (page 223)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 12 celery stalks with leafy parts removed, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Over medium heat in an oven safe sauté pan, Dutch oven or braising pan (I used my Le Creuset 5-Quart Round Braiser [affiliate code]) heat the oil and sweat the shallots for about 5 minutes.
  3. Place the celery in the pan. Add saffron and stock.
  4. Cover, remove from the stovetop, and braise in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Serve hot.

Grilled Fish with Hot Sauce Buerre Blanc

Grilled Fish with Hot Sauce Buerre Blanc

Based on Hugh Acheson’s Grilled Mahi Mahi with Hot Sauce Buerre Blanc recipe from A New Turn in the South (page 158)


  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used 1 tablespoon of Gourmet Garden’s parsley)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1/4 pound buttery spread, cold, cut into chunks
  • 4 6-ounce fillets of yellow tail, mahi mahi, tilapia, or other mild white fish


  1. Place the cucumber slices in a medium sized mixing bowl and season with 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt.
  2. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice over the cucumbers.
  3. Add parsley and toss to combine. Let sit at room temperature as you prepare the rest of the dish.
  4. Heat your grill.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, place the shallot, cider vinegar, and rest of the lemon juice.
  6. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons.
  7. Add the hot sauce and reduce the heat to low until you have a slight simmer.
  8. Whisk in the chunks of cold buttery spread until melted.
  9. Season with a pinch of salt and keep warm on very low heat. (Or just the warm burner if you have an electric stove.)
  10. Place fish fillets on a platter or plate and season with remaining sea salt.
  11. Drizzle remaining olive oil over the fish.
  12. Grill on high heat (so you have nice grill marks) until done. Amount of time will depend on the thickness of the fish.
  13. To plate, arrange cucumbers on a plate and place grilled fish on top. Drizzle with the buerre blanc and serve.

Braised Not-So-Short Short Ribs with Hominy Stew from A New Turn in the South

Braised Not-So-Short Short Ribs with Hominy Stew from A New Turn in the South | At This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

This month’s selection from Hugh Acheson’s cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, was another attempt to use up something we had in the freezer – a three pound rack of beef short ribs. It was one of those “Manager’s Specials” my husband purchased at Kroger – you know, the package of meat that’s quickly approaching it’s due date and has been drastically reduced in price. I know my husband probably thought “barbeque!” but I thought braised short ribs instead.

However, these short ribs weren’t very short. In fact, they were twice as long as what would be served in Hugh’s restaurant. Lacking a band saw, I decided to make due and forge ahead with the ribs as is. So instead of two little elegant rib pieces, I had to serve up Fred Flintstone sized ribs instead. No biggie.

So, when buying ribs, make sure you’d have enough to serve one rib to each person. (The rack I had consisted of six ribs and was three pounds, so I doubled the recipe.) If I was buying ribs, I’d ask my butcher for four ribs weighing in at 1 1/2 pounds – and I would ask to have the ribs cut in half.

Weeknight cooking strategy

This recipe takes four to five hours to make, so it’s something you’d make on the weekend. However, you could make it during the week with a little planning. Here’s how:

Evening 1 – after dinner, prepare your “mise en place” – your chopped vegetables, measured seasonings, measured out liquids, etc. Place everything in small bowls or measuring cups, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. This will take you 30 to 45 minutes including clean up time.

Evening 2 – while cooking dinner (if possible) or after, cook up steps 1 through 10. Place ribs back in the Dutch oven and store in the pot in the refrigerator. Also, don’t bother skimming the fat off the braising liquid. By storing it in the refrigerator overnight, you’ll have a thick, congealed layer of fat on the top, which you can spoon off. So much easier and more healthy, too! This will take 3 to 3 1/2 hours including clean up and storage time.

Evening 3 – cook up steps 11 through 17 and serve. You may need to heat ribs in the stew 5 minutes longer since they’ll be cold from the refrigerator. This part will take 25 to 30 minutes.

Braised Not-So-Short Short Ribs with Hominy Stew from A New Turn in the South | At This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

A note on hominy and Dutch ovens

Hominy is made from dried corn that’s been soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled. Here in the Georgia, I was able to find canned hominy – both white and yellow variations – in the canned vegetable aisle near the beans. If your store doesn’t stock hominy in that aisle, try the Hispanic section or buy it at a Hispanic market as hominy is a popular ingredient in pozole soup.

Since the short ribs have to be cooked both on the stove top, then in the oven, you need to have cookware with a lid that will work in both. I used my two ancient Le Creuset 5 1/2-Quart Round French Ovens, since I doubled the recipe. But secretly I would have loved to have a Le Creuset 7 1/4-Quart French Oven or a couple of Le Creuset’s 5-Quart Round Braisers. If wishes were fishes…

If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can sear the ribs in a skillet and transfer them to a casserole dish with a lid for braising.

A New Turn in the South

Braised Not-So-Short Short Ribs with Hominy Stew from A New Turn in the South | At This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Not-So-Short Short Ribs with Hominy Stew

Based on Hugh Acheson’s Braised Short Ribs with Hominy Stew recipe from A New Turn in the South (page 193)


  • 4 (6 ounce) portions short ribs, trimmed of connective tissue
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus additional per taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and coarsely cut into a large dice
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 celery stalk, leaves removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 15.5 ounce can hominy – yellow or white
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 leek, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch dice (use just the white and light green parts of the leek)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons canned roasted green chiles
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. On a large platter or cutting board, lay out the short ribs and evenly rub all sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ribs to the pan and sear on all sides – about 2 minutes per side. If needed, do the ribs in batches.
  4. With ribs still in the Dutch oven, add the onion, carrot and celery. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the chile, bay leaves, thyme sprig, and red wine. Cook to reduce the wine by half – about 15 minutes.
  6. Add the beef stock and bring to a simmer.
  7. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the preheated oven. Allow to cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is starting to pull away from the bone.
  8. Remove the short ribs from the Dutch oven and place ribs aside on a large plate or bowl. (You’ll be using the Dutch oven for the final step, so don’t wash it! Instead, lightly wipe out any remaining fat or vegetable matter.)
  9. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the braising liquid into a 2-cup or larger measuring cup. Discard the onion, celery, bay leaves, thyme and chile.
  10. Skim off all the fat from the surface. If there’s less than 2 cups of braising liquid, add enough beef stock or water to bring it up to 2 cups.
  11. Drain and rinse hominy, and set aside.
  12. Place Dutch oven on stove over medium heat. Add the butter, leek and garlic. Sweat the vegetables for 5 minutes, while occasionally stirring.
  13. Add the roasted green chiles, diced tomato, cumin, thyme, and the 2 cups of braising liquid. Simmer for 5 minutes and season with salt to taste. (While simmering, feel free to scrape the sides of your Dutch oven to add the “brown yummy goodness” from the braising to your vegetables.)
  14. Add the hominy and cook for another 5 minutes.
  15. Add the short ribs to the stew to reheat. Stir to cover the ribs in the stew and cook for 5 minutes.
  16. Turn off heat and stir in the parsley.
  17. Ladle the stew into 4 bowls, placing the ribs on top. Enjoy!
Prep Time: 2 Hours
Cook Time: 4 Hours
Total Time: 6 Hours
Servings: Serves 4
  • Serving size: 1 rib plus 1/4 of stew

Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.

A New Turn in the South: Sweetened Collard Greens

Sweetened Collard Greens

As I mentioned in my post, Getting foodie at the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event, I was very excited to meet Chef Hugh Acheson at his restaurant, Empire State South. I had been to one of his two Athens restaurants, Five & Ten and was a big fan of his from watching Top Chef. (When you have a second, check out Hugh’s terrific blog on the Bravo website.)  I had put off getting a copy of his cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, when I had dined at Five & Ten as I was too busy at the time to devote to serious cookbook reading since we had just moved to Georgia. I’m so glad that I did as I not only got a copy at the Buick event, but Hugh signed and personalized it for me. Swoon!

A New Year’s Resolution

When setting up my blogging goals for 2013, I wanted to do something different here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet. So I decided to share some of Hugh’s healthier and more practical recipes with you this year. I’ll be cooking up some recipes from A New Turn in the South and sharing it here. I hope you enjoy it!

The first food I decided to tackle was collard greens since I had bought a large two pound bag of the stuff on sale, and needed to cook it up pronto! I’d made Tangy Collard Greens at Thanksgiving, and while my husband and I liked them, the kids thought they were too bitter. Well, after reading Hugh’s recipe I had the solution – add something sweet! He recommends sorghum or maple syrup. I used maple syrup since that’s what I had on hand, but I bet agave syrup would work, too.Collard Greens with Ham

Using up what’s in the pantry

I made some changes to Hugh’s recipe since I wanted to use up a few things in my pantry along with the collard greens. First, there was the bacon grease I had leftover from the previous weekend’s breakfast. I figured 1 1/2 tablespoons per pound of collard greens wasn’t too unhealthy and would add a lot of flavor.

I also used thick ham slices (leftover cold cuts from the kids’ lunches) instead of ham hocks and the ham broth that I had made over Thanksgiving and kept in the freezer. (You can use vegetable or chicken stock instead.) I also used regular red wine vinegar instead of the sherry vinegar and left out the pepper flakes in order to entice the kids to eat it. (Lucie refused to but Nathan loved the collard greens and asked for seconds! My husband, Paul, also had seconds while telling me how good the collards tasted.)

This is a dish that takes some time – about an hour. So if you’re making it on a busy weeknight, plan accordingly. To save time, buy prewashed and chopped collard greens, if they’re available at your grocery store. Leftover collard greens taste great cold or heated up in the microwave.

Collard Greens Sweetened with Sorghum

Sweetened Collard Greens

Sweetened Collard Greens

Based on Hugh Acheson’s Collard Greens recipe from A New Turn in the South (page 222)

You’ll need a very large stock pot to cook these in. Initially the collard greens will take up the whole pot, but don’t worry, they’ll cook down. If you don’t have a large pot, divide and cook up a batch in two pots.


  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease or olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 pounds cleaned collard greens, chopped into small pieces (buy these prechopped and cleaned to save time)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple or sorghum syrup
  • 4 cups stock (ham, vegetable or chicken)
  • 3 thick slices black forest ham, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Serve and enjoy!


  1. Heat the bacon grease or olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until it starts turning color.
  3. Add the collard greens to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the vinegar and cook down for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the maple or sorghum syrup, stock, ham, and kosher salt to the pot. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until stock is just about gone and collards are tender.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: Serves 6
  • Serving size: 1/6 of recipe

Collard Greens with Sorghum and Ham

Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.

I received a complimentary signed copy of A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen at the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event. All opinions and experiences are my own.

Hugh Acheson’s Turnips and Their Greens Risotto at the Buick Lifestyle Event

Hugh Acheson's Turnips and Their Greens Risotto at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Last month, I attended the  Buick Encore Lifestyle Event in Atlanta as the “plus one” of my friend, Eileen Calandro, the Chief Mom Connector of Mom Central. She was invited to test drive the new Buick Encore before it hits dealerships in February, 2013.

Buick Encore Lifestyle Event

I was looking forward to spending time with Eileen while driving a luxurious crossover around the Atlanta metro area including a stop at a local Toys “R” Us to shop for the Toys for Tots program. However, I was just about out of my mind that we would meet celebrity chef and Top Chef Season 10 judge, Hugh Acheson at his restaurant, Empire State South, and tour the Love is Love urban farm. Have fork will travel!

Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens

Love is Love Farm

Driving through suburban Decatur, Georgia, you’d never know the Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens is there. Yet over 15 years ago, the housing development East Lake Commons was built to include a working, organic farm. The farm grows a surprisingly wide diversity of crops, enough to accommodate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Joe Reynolds at Love is Love Farm

Our Buick Encore Lifestyle group met with farmer, Joe Reynolds, who showed us around while explaining how the farm manages planting, irrigation, composting, and crop rotation. Joe also told us that the Love is Love farm has a close relationship with many Atlanta restaurants that provide the vegetable scraps for their impressive composting piles. In turn, the farm sells them organic, hyper-local produce, big bags of which we loaded into our Buick Encores to be cooked up for our dinner at Empire State South.

bags of produce from Love is Love

The farm tour was fascinating and I loved Joe’s passion for local, sustainable organic farming. It made me wish I lived closer so I could take advantage of their CSA.

Dinner at Empire State South

After a quick stop back at Twelve Atlantic Station at our gorgeous suite (complete with a full kitchen), Eileen and I were driven in one of the Buick Encores to Empire State South for dinner. Our group hit the bar for cocktails, appetizers and charcuterie. I had two unique cocktails, Orchard Punch, a bourbon drink, and Death on the Moon, made with absinthe. The charcuterie was marvelous, and I’d order it again as a meal, along with a glass of red wine.

Empire State South

Then it was off to a private dining room for a cooking demonstration from Hugh Acheson! He was as funny, personable and down to earth as he appears on Top Chef. He told us a story about appearing on a food panel with Paula Dean. While he likes Paula a lot, he doesn’t agree with her that Southern cooking means fried foods and tons of butter and sugar. Instead, his philosophy is cooking with traditional foods grown in the South, in a modern, sophisticated way.

Hugh Acheson cooking demo at Empire State South

While he demonstrated his Turnips and Their Greens Risotto (recipe included below), Hugh told us about the Southern goodness of Carolina Gold rice and making your own chicken stock in the slow cooker. (Loved that tip!) We sampled the risotto along with our dinner.

First course was Local Lettuces with roasted Brussels leaves, beets, pickled carrots, ESS fromage blanc, and served with a crisp sourdough. Second course was a choice of Roasted Georgia Trout, Chicken Roulade, or Prime Ribeye. (I had the rib eye, which was served rare with celery root and bread gratin, roasted kale with shiitakes, and a shoyu vinaigrette.) For dessert, we had Meyer Lemon Parfait clementine, bergamot brioche, candied cranberry, and sweet potato sorbet.

Eileen and I agreed it was a fabulous meal. I can’t wait to go back to Empire State South with my husband!

Hugh Acheson's Turnips and Their Greens Risotto at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Turnips and Their Greens Risotto


  • 3 small hakurei turnips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup Caroline Gold Middland's broken kernel rice
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 cups finely chopped turnip greens
  • 1/2 cup finely grated (rasp) Parmagiano
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely cut bias cut onion top for garnish


  1. Very thinly slice the turnips. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and set aside. These will finish the risotto.
  2. Warm your chicken stock in a pot and place a ladle in it. Keep this on the back of the stove. Place a good pot on the stove over medium to medium high heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the minced onion bulb and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the onion is translucent but not charred at all, about five minutes.
  3. Add the rice and lightly glaze the rice. From the moment the rice goes in, the is about 17 minutes to completion, so keep an eye on the clock. You should be stirring a lot but no need to stir all the time.
  4. Start adding the stock, about a cup at a time and stir and cook until the stock is absorbed. Then add more. Repeat. After a while you will see this luxurious, starchy liquid surround those little rice kernels. This is good. After about 15 minutes taste your rice. it should have a slight crunchiness to it but you have to soothsay what it will taste like after two to three more minutes as it sits in the bowl before consumption.
  5. Let's finish this up. Add the butter and the parmesan - and stir well to fold those beautiful finishes into the risotto. Then add the turnip greens to wilt them into the risotto. It's done. When it gets in that bowl it will set up well. Spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with the raw turnips and some more Parmagiano.
  6. EAT.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings: Serves four as a lighter supper
  • Serving size: 1/4 of recipe

More about the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event

Eileen posted about the Buick Encore and our Toys “R” Us shopping spree for Toys for Tots at Luxurious, Affordable Design with the New Buick Encore at Mom Central’s blog. If you love cars and auto design, you'll love her post.

Don't forget to check out the Buick Encore, too! My favorite color is Ruby Red with the Saddle interior. What’s yours?

Disclosure: I was invited to an all expenses paid editor’s trip by Buick. I also received a signed copy of Hugh Acheson’s cookbook, A New Turn in the South, and some promotional items. All photos except for the Empire State South collage were provided by Buick. All experiences and opinions are my own.

Tangy Collard Greens

Tangy Collard Greens at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comI wanted to make a Southern style Thanksgiving this year, so of course collard greens had to be part of the meal. While it's a great dish for holiday meals, you can make collard greens any time of year, from fancy sit down dinners to backyard barbeque parties.

Usually, collard greens are made with a bacon or slices of fatty pork, so I tried to health up the recipe – and keep the taste – by using turkey bacon instead. The original recipe also called for six pounds of greens, so I halved it as that was way too much for one meal. Even so, you’ll need to make this in a large pot.

If three pounds of collard greens are too much for your pot, fill it with as much collard greens as possible and cover with a lid. Wait awhile until they cook down and add some more. It’s amazing how much collard greens will shrink down. Also, use presliced collard greens to save time and hassle if they're available in your area of the country.

I used NAKANO’s Red Pepper Seasoned Rice Vinegar instead of cider vinegar. I love how NAKANO’s rice vinegars are already seasoned and sweetened, saving you a few steps in the cooking process. Make sure to keep a bottle on the table in case your dinner guest want to splash on some more!

Finally, to make ham broth, simmer water with a ham bone for two to three hours, then refrigerate and skim off fat. I used the leftover bones and skin from the pig we grilled for our open house party that I had frozen. I put a gallon freezer bag’s worth in a stock pot, covered it with water, and brought it to a boil over high heat. After reducing the heat, I simmered the pig leftovers for a couple of hours and then let the broth cool. Finally, I ran the broth through a fine mesh colander and froze any ham broth I didn’t need for this recipe for my next batch of collard greens!

Tangy Collard Greens at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Tangy Collard Greens

Based on a recipe by Chef Ted Lahey of Table and Main, a Southern Tavern in Roswell, Georgia from Local Palate magazine


  • 1/2 pound turkey bacon
  • 1/4 pound yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/2 ounce minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 pounds collard greens, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon powdered stevia
  • 3 tablespoons NAKANO Red Pepper Seasoned Rice Vinegar
  • 1 cup ham broth


  1. Cook bacon until it starts to render.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until onions are translucent.
  3. Add spices, collard greens, stevia, NAKANO vinegar, and broth. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and cook until green are tender (about one hour).
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Servings: Makes 8 servings.
  • Serving size: 3/4 cup

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of NAKANO, provided compensation for this post. All opinions and experiences are my own.

Healthy holiday desserts: Holly Clegg’s Red Velvet Cheesecake

Red Velvet CheesecakeWhen Holly Clegg sent over this month’s guest post, I nearly fell off my chair. I mean, Red Velvet Cheesecake, and one that is healthy? She’s a miracle worker!

You can find  more of Holly’s trim& TERRIFIC® recipes at hollyclegg.com and The Healthy Cooking Blog. Don’t forget that Holly’s new cookbook, KITCHEN 101: Secrets to Cooking Confidence, makes a terrific holiday gift, too!

Holiday menus – no thinking required

The holidays are a magical time of fun and festivities, but before you know it, they can turn into one of the busiest, most stressful seasons making your “to do” list longer than ever! And there’s no need to stress about hosting a holiday meal when my new cookbook, Kitchen 101: Secrets to Cooking Confidence, takes the guess work out of meal planning with complete dinner and party menus, no crazy ingredients, just healthy, mouth watering food– no thinking required!

From the “Holiday Heroes” menu of the Ready-Made Menus chapter, the Red Velvet Cheesecake is a luscious combination of American’s favorite dessert with a holiday twist, and best of all you can make ahead and keep in the freezer to pull out before the meal. And, if you want an affordable gift for your neighbor, teacher, or friend, purchase commercially prepared chocolate crusts in foil disposable pans, fill, freeze and give out for the ultimate holiday gift – that’s what I am doing!

Red Velvet Cheesecake

Two popular desserts, red velvet cake and cheesecake create the ultimate indulgence.

Makes 2 (9-inch round) cheesecake pies — 16 servings


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 cup nonfat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
  • 2 (9-inch) round commercially bought chocolate pie crusts


  1. Preheat oven 350° F. In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until creamy.
  2. Add eggs, egg white, cornstarch, cocoa, sour cream, vanilla, buttermilk, vinegar and red food coloring, mixing well.
  3. Pour into crust. Bake 35-40 minutes or until center is firm. Turn off oven and remain in oven 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

Terrific Tidbit: For chocolate crust: 1 1/4 cups chocolate, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons butter melted, combine all, press into bottom of spring form pan, and bake 350°F 10 minutes.

Nutritional information

Per serving:

  • Calories 270
  • Calories from Fat 39%
  • Fat 12g
  • Saturated Fat 5g
  • Cholesterol 46mg
  • Sodium 262mg
  • Carbohydrates 34g
  • Dietary Fiber 1g
  • Total Sugars 23g
  • Protein 7g
  • Dietary Exchanges: 2 1/2 other carbohydrate, 2 1/2 fat

Recipe and photo used with permission of the author.

Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.

Healthy fall dinners: Okra Soup #secretrecipeclub

Okra Soup

I loved okra even before we moved to the south. So when I saw a recipe for Okra Soup on Close to Home, my assigned Secret Recipe Club blog, I knew this would be a perfect fall time soup.  I’ve taken Maria’s version that is based on this recipe at Saveur.com and made some changes like using pancetta instead of bacon and fresh thyme from the garden instead of dried.

To save time, I used fire roasted diced tomatoes instead of whole, peeled tomatoes so I wouldn’t have to crush them by hand. I also used pre-diced pancetta (mostly because it was on sale, but bacon would be OK, too). However, the real time saving trick was to use frozen, diced okra. Since fresh okra costs twice as much as frozen, it’s also a way to cut costs. Finally, you don’t want to boil the okra into a mush. I like the okra to be cooked through, but still have a crunch to it.

I made a double batch so we’d have lots left over for lunches. (You can freeze half, too.) I’ve been heating a batch up in the microwave each morning for my son, Nathan to take to school. He says it’s the best soup I’ve ever made.

Okra Soup

Okra Soup

Based on a recipe from Saveur.com via Maria at Close to Home

Double batch – serves 12-16

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 12  cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 pounds frozen, sliced okra
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 4 – 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted, diced tomatoes


  1. In a large soup pot, heat oil and bacon over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until fat renders, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add thyme, garlic, onion, celery, and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until caramelized, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add okra, chicken stock, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, until okra is slightly tender but not mushy, about 20-30 minutes.

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Thanksgiving sides: Okra Pickles

Okra Pickles at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

I’ve decided to serve a southern style Thanksgiving this year. Well, what could be more southern than okra pickles? Even better, this recipe gives me a chance to use Holland House’s White Wine Vinegar along with several spices that have been crowding my cupboards for years.

This is also a great recipe for those who are new to canning or making pickles as it’s very easy to do. To sterilize your mason jars, you can wash them on the hottest setting on your dishwasher or boil them in a big pot.

The recipe is based on this one from the November 2012 issue of Saveur magazine. I used two quart jars for the pickles, since that’s what I had on hand. Feel free to do that or use a two quart jar instead. Since pickles can be refrigerated for up to a month, this is perfect for making a week or two before Thanksgiving!

Okra Pickles at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Okra Pickles


  • 1 pound whole okra
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1 habanero or Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed and halved
  • 2 cups Holland House White Wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 8 whole black peppercorns


  1. Combine okra, garlic, dill, and chile in a sterilized two quart glass jar and set aside.
  2. Bring vinegar, salt, both seeds, peppercorns, and 1 3/4 cups water to a boil in a four quart saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve salt.
  3. Pour into jar, seal, and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Keep okra pickles in refrigerator up to one month.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: Two quart jars.
  • Serving size: 1 pickle

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of Holland House, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own

Thanksgiving meal planning: Moist Tofu Cornbread

Moist Tofu Cornbread at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

As an Udi’s Gluten Free Community Leader,  I know that the Thanksgiving holiday is especially hard for anyone who’s gluten free, has food sensitivities or allergies, or are just trying to eat healthy since everything seems to have wheat flour, cream, sugar, butter and nuts. That’s why we’ll be having a chat at Udi’s Gluten Free  Community next week on Wednesday, November 7 at 8 pm EST to discuss the challenges Thanksgiving brings. You can find the chat here. Hope you can join us!

It’s also why I’d like to share a recipe I got from Simply Soy, a wonderful cookbook put together by the Soyfoods Council. It was given to me earlier this year when they invited me to Iowa to learn about soybean production and the benefits of soy in your diet.

Vegan Tofu Cornbread at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Planning a Southern Thanksgiving

I’m making a southern-style Thanksgiving this year as it’s our first year living in Georgia. To me, nothing is more southern than cornbread dressing with the turkey, so I’ll be making Bon Appetit’s Cornbread, Sausage, and Pecan Dressing, but using pine nuts instead of pecans since my daughter’s allergic to nuts.

Unfortunately, most cornbread mixes contain wheat flour or “from scratch recipes” contain milk or eggs. Instead, this recipe from Didi Emmons, author of Entertaining for a Veggie Planet, uses tofu to make a dense, moist bread, and I’ve substituted an all-purpose gluten free baking mix for the flour. You can make it in any size pan, including an 8-inch square or round cake pan. It’s also a great cornbread for vegans as it contains no butter, dairy or eggs.


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose gluten free baking mix
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh or dried rosemary, optional
  • 8 ounces firm water-packed tofu, drained
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons canola oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or oil a 9×5–inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, all-purpose gluten free baking mix, baking powder, salt, and rosemary. Mix well.
  3. In another bowl, squeeze the tofu through your hands until it is the consistency of scrambled eggs. Stir in the oil and 1 cup water. Add this to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. (The batter will be very dry.)
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a knife inserted comes out clean, about 45 – 50 minutes.
  5. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then rap the pan sharply to remove the bread, and cool the bread on a rack for at least another 20 minutes before slicing.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: Makes 12 slices
  • Serving size: 1 slice

Disclosure: As a Udi's Gluten Free Community Leader I'm compensated for my time and efforts on their behalf. In addition, I was invited to an all expenses paid editor’s trip by the Soyfoods Council. All experiences and opinions are my own.

Healthy Southern Seafood Gumbo from Everyday Health’s Recipe Rehab

Healthy Southern Seafood GumboSeafood gumbo is yummy, but not so good for you even though it’s filled with healthy ingredients like crab, shrimp and vegetables. However, it’s the flour-based roux, dark chicken meat, sausage and rice that add on the fat and calories. In this week’s episode of Recipe Rehab, Chef Aida goes head to head with Chef Jet to slash over 1,000 calories from the Edward’s family seafood gumbo. Who do you think should win?

I liked that Chef Aida used okra and kept the Andouille sausage in the gumbo. I thought that Chef Jet’s minimal use of brown rice was smart. I also liked that he used catfish instead of crab since it’s more affordable.



Servings: 8

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 1635

Total Fat: 102.57g

Cholesterol: 578mg

Sodium: 3424mg

Total Carbs: 38.08g

Dietary Fiber: 2.23g

Sugars: 4.90g

Protein: 100.25g



Servings: 6

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 293

Total Fat: 6.67g

Cholesterol: 94mg

Sodium: 557mg

Total Carbs: 24.28g

Dietary Fiber: 3.68g

Sugars: 6.56g

Protein: 25.19g




Servings: 8

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 386

Total Fat: 15.29g

Cholesterol: 130mg

Sodium: 1354mg

Total Carbs: 28.07g

Dietary Fiber: 3.77g

Sugars: 4.87g

Protein: 28.90g

Original Seafood  Gumbo recipe

  • Used 12 chicken thighs AND 12 chicken drumsticks (all fatty dark meat with skin)
  • Used 2 pounds smoked pork sausage
  • Used 2 pounds crab
  • Used 3 pounds shrimp
  • Used ¾ cup bacon fat
  • Used 1 cup white flour
  • Used beef bouillon cubes (super high in sodium)

Chef Jet’s recipe

  • Eliminated the chicken
  • Replaced pork sausage with turkey sausage and cut down to 9 ounces
  • Replaced crab with 1 pound catfish fillets
  • Cut back to 1 1/2 pounds shrimp
  • Used 1 tablespoon each oil and butter and eliminated bacon fat
  • Reduced flour to 1/4 cup
  • Replaced bouillon cubes with low sodium chicken broth
  • Added tomatoes

Chef Aida’s recipe

  • Eliminated the chicken
  • Reduced amount of pork sausage to 12 ounces
  • Reduced amount of crab to 1 pound
  • Cut back to 1 pound shrimp
  • Used 2 tablespoons oil and eliminated bacon fat
  • Replaced white flour with whole wheat and reduced amount to 1/2 cup
  • Replaced bouillon cubes with low sodium chicken broth
  • Added tomatoes and okra