Black Bean Soup

A simple and quick recipe for a warm and hearty soup.

I prefer to use Bushes Brand of  canned beans but you can use what you want. You can even soak your beans and make this from dried. But that isn’t so quick.

Quick and Easy Black Bean Soup

  • 2 15-ounce cans seasoned Bushes Brand Black Beans
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup chunky salsa – your desired level of heat
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried onions
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt


  • Small diced onion
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Chunky salsa
  • Hot Sauce

Open the cans of beans and put them in a sauce pot along with the chicken stock and all remaining ingredients.

Using a immersion blender, slightly puree the soup just enough to break up some of the beans, but not all of them.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, then place a generous cup of beans into a blender or food processor or even mash them by hand. Add the mashed beans back to the soup.

Bring to a boil, stir frequently while preparing the garnishes.

Ladle the soup into soup bowls, garnish with desired garnishes. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa on the side.

Why not me and why not now?

This post is not about food, but about motivation. What gets us going?

“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. . . There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel unsure around you”

~Marianne Williamson, spiritual activist, author, lecturer, and founder of the Peace Alliance

These questions cross my mind from time to time; Why not me and why not now?

Hiding from our talents does nothing to further the world along or to reach the potential we are capable of reaching with focused effort.

We all have talents somewhere.

The problems lay in not defining or creating a focus on which to either concentrate or to direct our activities. Without direction how do we know what to focus on or in what direction to go?

Using an old analogy: when you start on a trip and head out the driveway, which way to go? Interstate, airport? How do we get to where we are going? Do we know where we are going or just wandering around?

This is why I make goals and lists of the steps I think will take me there.

Oddly enough, I have found making lists really works for me. Even if I scribble a few places to go, things to pick up while out, people to visit or weeds to pull in the garden, if it is on my list, it gets done. This works for simple and complex projects. Make a list of baby steps.

I used to teach at another college in Georgia. One year they had written some clauses in my employment contract that would require me agree to teach culinary arts at the #1 top security all-male prison in the state. I visited the area once and my blood ran cold.

(Think female in a high security all male prison – not for me! Very, very scary)

As I read my employment contract renewal, I saw a clause that said I would agree to work at the prison and anywhere else they decided anywhere, any time. I thought about what would I really like to do instead and it came to me that what I really wanted, above all else, was my own restaurant and to be my own boss.

So, I outlined the steps it would take to open my restaurant. Less than a year later, I had quit the teaching position and opened a wine room for tasting and sales; a kitchen shop for everything you could want for your kitchen, a recreational cooking school and a cafe.

Writing the business plan really helped clarify what I wanted, when and who I needed to help.

This was a great experience that clearly demonstrated that having a clear plan of action really works.

Recently I have been wanting to fulfill more of my potential and have felt like my wheels have been spinning without traction.

So I decided this is the year to work on the book I have wanted to write for a while. Obviously a cookbook. If I don’t get it started, it will never take shape.

Why not me and why not now?

If not me,  who?

If not now, when?

I have two neighbors who have awakened me to ask those questions more and more and to seriously ponder the answers.

One woman, Donna, had retired earlier this year. She and her boyfriend went to Spain on  vacation to celebrate. She began to not feel well while on the trip so when she returned, she scheduled a doctors visit. The outcome of that visit was she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She spent the last months of her life  in and out of various therapies. She died this fall, only 7 months after being diagnosed.

Another neighbor is “90 and 1/2″ as she would proudly tell you. She is active and refuses to have any help because she says as soon as she doesn’t keep moving and doing things she won’t be able to. The other day, she severely burned both of her hands in a flash grease fire, was rushed to a burn unit for surgery and now cannot use her hands at all for anything. Now, her family is looking at placing her in assisted living because she needs full-time, all the time help.

They say she will be alright but it will take several months for the burns and surgery to heal. To someone who measures “90 and 1/2″, this may be a long time for her. It definitely changes the rest of her life.

This illustrates clearly we have no idea what in coming down the pike for us. So why do I squander days of not really doing anything?

We have no guarantee of time. We have no guarantee of talent or success.

All we have control of are our choices and intentions.

So my challenge to you is to ask yourself

“Why not me? Why not now?”

Make a plan and see what happens.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

Ahh! One of my favorite vegetables is Brussels sprouts. These little green cabbage looking things are wonderful as long as they aren’t over cooked.

Truth is you either love them or hate them. I stand firmly in the love category.

They grow on a large stalk and if you can find them on the stalk, buy them that way. The first time I found them on the stalk, I grabbed it, brought it home only to realize the stalk was way too big to fit into my refrigerator. Considering the size of the stalk, I must have been insane at the market when I thought it would definitely fit into the fridge.

Later I realized the stalk can sit on the counter in the kitchen for a few days, while they get eaten up in various dishes.

Brussels sprouts can be steamed, sautéed, baked or roasted, or pickled.  You can use them in soup, as a side dish and in salads. I adore them with Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese.

You can cook them whole, cut them in half or “shave” or shred them into thin slices. There are even Brussels Sprouts with chocolate. And of course, don’t forget, you can always add bacon.

My preference is to use fresh sprouts but if you can’t find fresh one and you absolutely need to have Brussels sprouts, frozen will do in a pinch, although not nearly as wonderful as fresh.

The following recipe is a simple delicious way of serving Brussels Sprouts.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup pecans – halves or pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Trim sprouts and cut in half. Rinse under cool water.

Heat a saute pan, add oil. Place the sprouts cut side down in the pan. Allow the cut sides of the sprouts to become golden brown, not black and not pale green but a nice golden color.

Place the pecans over the sprouts as they are browning. Once the sprouts have  developed the color, stir the pan and add the water to steam the sprouts.

Simmer until the water has evaporated; add butter and stir to glaze the nuts and Brussels sprouts.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Trim and wash the sprouts

Place cut side down in a hot saute pan

Put pecans on top

Add water and simmer until water is gone

Serve and enjoy!

Eat More Brussels Sprouts!

Tabouli, Taboule or Tabbouleh

Tabouli, Taboule or Tabbouleh, is all the same.

It is time to get to know this terrific and tasty side dish.

Taboule is a middle eastern dish that has become part of the American diet. Just as Chinese foods became Americanized, so have middle eastern foods. So to call a particular taboule recipe an authentic middle eastern dish is not exactly accurate. There are regional differences – some use more parsley, some add cucumber and feta cheese. Then there are the non-traditional taboule salads that can have apples an walnuts in them or made with quinoa rather than bulgur.

My favorite version is simple with bulgur, parsley, tomato, olive oil, mint and lemon juice.

Sometimes I’ll make a batch and sit down and eat an entire bowl. I love how this dish makes you feel like you are really doing something good for your body.

Serve taboule as a cold side dish.  This recipe for taboule has a nice balance of traditional flavors.

  • 1 cup  bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup  fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced small
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced small
  •  1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh ground black pepper


  • Place bulgur in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Soak bulgur in water for 30 minutes.  The wheat should have absorbed all of the water. If there is any water left, drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.
  • Peel, seed, and dice the tomato
  • Dice the onion and finely chop the parsley and mint
  • Mix the bulgur, tomato, onion, parsley, and mint in a large bowl
  • Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and pour over the salad
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper

Taste and adjust the various ingredients to your taste. More olive oil? More lemon juice? Just be careful not to make the salad too wet. Instead of adding more salt, consider adding feta cheese crumbles.

  • Refrigerate for an hour or so to allow the flavors to blend

Optional additions:

  • Finely sliced scallions
  • Crumbled Feta cheese
  • Diced cucumber
  • Pitted olives
  • Diced green and/or red pepper

Zucchini Brownies

Zucchini Brownies are a great way of adding vegetables to your families diet. Unless you tell them zucchini is in the mix, they simply won’t know. The secret here is to finely shred the zucchini so it ‘melts’ while baking. You can’t expect it to be undetectable if you put big chunks in the mix.

This is a great way to get some vegetables into your meat and potato family members.

This recipe follows the formula of replacing the fat in the recipe with vegetables. The shredded zucchini adds the required moisture that creates the most gooey, fudgy brownies; you won’t believe they are full of zucchini.


Zucchini Brownies

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Zucchini BrowniesZucchini Brownies

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Butter a 9 x 9 baking dish.

Combine sugars, egg and vanilla in a mixing bowl on medium speed.

Fold in zucchini.

Shred Zucchini

Shred Zucchini

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Add flour mixture to zucchini mixture on low-speed, mixing only long enough to combine the ingredients.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish, smoothing it evenly in the dish.

All mixed together with the Shredded Zucchini

All mixed together with the Shredded Zucchini

Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes. Remove the brownies from the oven and cool on a rack.

Cut and remove from pan after the brownies have cooled to room temperature.

Zucchini brownies

Cinnamon Palmiers

Cinnamon Palmiers is a fancy name for left over puff pastry sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and baked.

When I was a child, I recall my father making a similar treat from left over pie dough. This is a great way to use all your puff pastry or pie dough scraps; no matter how small they are.

Spread dough strips with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar

Fold the long edge to the center line

Fold opposite edge to center line also. Then fold in half along the center line.

Cut into finger width slices

Place sliced side up/down on a baking sheet; well spaced


Fold carefully!

Use a sharp knife to slice for a clean edge.

Keep your pastry cold for best results.

Line your baking pans with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

If you want some, set some aside because these things disappear quickly!

Cinnamon Palmieres and Tea

Sourdough Rye Bread with Caraway and Onion

I was longing for a nice chewy sourdough rye bread with onions and caraway and a good crust the other day. So I decided to make a rye sour first.

Make rye sourdough starter

Taking 1/2 cup of regular sour dough starter, at feeding time I fed it with:

  • 1/3 cup rye flour
  • 1/3 cup water ( between 90-100°F)
  • 1/2 tablespoon each caraway seeds and dried onions
  • 1/2 of a fresh onion
  • 1 Tablespoon sprouted barley malt syrup (totally optional)

Mix it thoroughly and let sit in a warm room until it bubbles and doubles in size.

Feed the rye starter again with 1/2 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup water. Allow to double in size again. This process develops some of the flavor for a great rye sourdough bread.

You can refrigerate the starter now for later use or you can use it now. Be sure to save at least 1/4 cup to culture for making more!

Feed the starter every week with 1/4 cup bread flour, 1/4 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup water. Remove the 1/2 fresh onion after it has been in the culture for 1 week and discard.

Sourdough Rye Bread with Onion and Caraway

  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 cups water between 90-100°F
  • 1 cup rye sourdough culture
  • 2 Tablespoons dried onions
  • 1 Tablespoon caraway seeds

Measure the flour and salt into one bowl. Mix well.

Measure the warmed water into a large bowl, whisk in the rye starter. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.

Make a well in the flour, pour all the water into the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is combined. Pay special attention to the bottom of the bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap – be sure to oil the underside so the dough will not stick when it reaches the top of the bowl.

Allow to double in size.

While the dough is rising, place the dried onions and caraway seeds into a small bowl and just cover then with hot water. We will fold these into the dough after they have been hydrated.

Sprinkle bread flour over the surface of the risen dough. Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough onto a well floured surface. Pat the dough into a rectangle. Dust any sticky areas with flour as you work.

Spread some of the hydrated onions and caraway over the surface of the dough. Fold one side over 2/3’s  of the way, then the other side 1/3 so the onions and seeds are now in two separate layers. Turn the dough 1/4 turn.

The dough will be very tender and soft so work quickly.

Roll or pat the dough into another rectangle and spread any remaining onions and seeds over the surface and fold again; repeating 4 times, dusting sticky spots as you work.

For a batard, roll the dough in to a rectangle once more. Roll the short side up into a tight roll.

Dust a pizza peel with fine ground cornmeal and place the rolled batard on the peel. Cover with either oiled plastic wrap or a flour dusted linen cloth.

Allow to rise for 1 hour. During the last half hour, prepare your oven and steaming process. Follow instructions for baking bread with steam on this link.

Measure and combine flour and salt

Combine warm water and starter

Pour all the liquid over the flour

Stir well to combine

Form a ball

Cover with oiled plastic wrap; let rise 2 hours

Pat the dough into a rectangle; fold 2/3's across

Finish folding

Fold in half and turn 1/4 turn

Folding in additional onions and seeds

Second fold adding onions and seeds

Finish folding

Now you can shape it in a basket or on a peel or in a loaf pan. Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours; until doubled in size.

Bake with steam for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 190°F for 15 seconds. You will notice the crust is nice and golden brown.

Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy making and eating this Sourdough Rye with Onions and Caraway.

Sourdough Rye with Onions and Caraway

Finished loaves

Southern “Sweet Tea”

Sweet tea seems to be a phenomenon in the American south. In the south,  anywhere you go, if you order iced tea, you will get a big glass full of tea which is sweetened to the point of almost being syrup and ice with a slice of lemon.

Unless you ask for “unsweet tea”.

“Regular tea” down here is so sweet it should be called tea syrup. Now days you can hear ‘half and half tea’ please or half unsweet with half lemonade, which in case you don’t know, is called an “Arnold Palmer” around here.

What makes southern sweet tea different from other iced tea is that you sweeten other tea with granulated sugar in your glass. With southern sweet tea, is there is no undissolved sugar collecting in the bottom of your glass. The sugar has already been melted and added. You just squeeze the lemon and sip. (Say “Ah!” with a southern drawl)

If you travel beyond the Mason-Dixon Line and order sweet tea anywhere but in the south, you are going to get some strange looks. They usually bring you unsweet tea and a side of sugar either in a sugar canister or in packets for you to mix your own. While in the south if you just order “tea” you will get a glass of southern sweet tea. Here, that is regular tea.

Anywhere but in the south, regular tea is unsweetened.

If you find they actually have sweet tea and you are not in the south, chances are you have just found someone who is from the south and they are keeping the back-home tradition alive.

Here is how you can make southern sweet tea:

Make simple syrup:

Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water

Bring to boil; Simmer for 3 minutes then cool

Boil water and make tea; steep until cool

Add 1 cup of sugar to a sauce pan with 1 cup of water. Stir and bring to a boil-simmer for 3 minutes.

Make sure all the sugar has dissolved. Cool.

Boil 2 quarts of water – add 6-8 black tea bags – orange pekoe cut black tea works best – steep until cool.

Discard the tea bags.

For true southern sweet tea, add all the sugar syrup to the cooled tea, stir well.

Yes, it is s-w-e-e-t!

Like all good southerners, forget about calculating the number of empty calories.

So here are some hints: The popularity of Southern Sweet Tea is becoming increasing all across the country. You may even be able to find it in your grocery store.

IF the label says “extra sweet” honestly folks, believe them. It will be sickening sweet. However, now you can make it on your own, for pennies and control the sweetness.

Back to the tea presentation. . .

Southern Iced Tea

Fill a tall glass with ice, pour the sweet tea over ice, garnish with a wedge of lemon.

If you don’t want your tea so sweet, add the sugar syrup to taste, which is what I prefer to do.

Or if you want to deviate from the true southern tea method, add lemon zest to the sugar when boiling the

Tea with Lemon Syrup

sugar. Strain the zest out when cool.

Serve the lemon simple syrup with the unsweet tea for guests to sweeten to their liking.

Honestly, there is nothing like a good glass of iced  tea – unsweetened or southern sweet tea – both are refreshing!