Sautéed Collards (or Swiss Chard) with Cranberries and Toasted Pine Nuts

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New Year’s Day is all about starting over. A clean slate. A fresh start. I’m game for all of it. Since moving South, I’ve learned you can improve your chances of having a healthy and prosperous year by eating three foods on this auspicious day: collard greens, black-eyed peas, and pork. The greens represent the color of money and thus, economic fortune, the peas (lentils, in the ancient Italian tradition) represent coins, and plump pigs represent prosperity. Pigs also root forward with their noses representing progress. Compare that to chickens who walk backwards while scratching the dirt for food. No looking back. No chicken for New Year’s Day. I can get into all of it. I consider these foods to be charms for the easy life. But if I’m the one doing the cooking, I’m going to Italianize them; there will be olive oil and garlic used in the preparation of each of them.

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To prepare black-eyed peas, check out this blog-favorite recipe, Marlin’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad.

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To prepare the pork, try Brooks’s Pork Tenderloin.

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To prepare the leafy greens, try this recipe for collard greens sweetened with dried cranberries and toasted pine nuts, all of it sautéed in olive oil and garlic.

About the Leafy Greens: Growing and Cooking Collards

Cooking with collards has been a new adventure for me. After seeing how beautifully they grow in the production gardens of The Nashville Food Project (where I frequently volunteer) and after cooking and serving them for years as a side dish for TNFP’s Meal Distribution Partners, I figured it was time to jump in and grow them myself. I’m so glad I did! They are like the Giving Tree of vegetables. Even as I write, on this cold winter morning, my crop of collards, unprotected from the winter elements, continues to happily produce greens. I’ve been picking from this same raised bed of collards since early October.

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Collards are a great crop for the first time gardener to grow, too; they are very forgiving. For eight months of the year, you will be rewarded with a continuous production of hearty greens that are great added to soups, or when used in a sautéed medley with other leafy greens.

Technique Tips

Chiffonading Leafy Greens:
Chiffonade is a cooking technique used to describe a way of cutting leafy greens into thin, pretty ribbons. The technique is mostly used to cut herbs like basil. I’ve adopted it for cutting all leafy greens for sautéing. To chiffonade, stack about five leaves, roll them together, and then cut through the stack. I use scissors for small, tender leaves, like basil and Swiss chard, and a knife for bulky leaves like kale and collards.

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Toasted Pine Nuts
Add a single layer of pine nuts to a pan. Set heat to medium. Stir nuts about every 15 seconds. Cook for about two to three minutes, or until the nuts become fragrant and are lightly browned. When done, immediately remove nuts from pan to stop the cooking process. You can toast sesame seeds in the same way.

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Ingredients:

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1½ pounds collard greens or Swiss chard (once trimmed will equal about 1 pound)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
⅓ cup olive oil
⅓ cup dried sweetened cranberries or golden raisins
6 cloves garlic (equals about 2 tablespoons, chopped)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup hot water
salt to taste

Mise en Place:

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Wash and dry collard greens. I let them air dry on dishtowels, patting the puddles of water that collect on top with another dish towel.

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Remove the tough central rib from the leaves. To do this, fold the leaves in half and remove the rib with a scissor. Some people just tear the rib out.

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Chiffonade the greens.

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To cook the greens: Heat oil and garlic in a large six-quart sauté pan. Sauté for about one minute. Be careful not to brown the garlic as that could make it taste bitter.

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Add pine nuts, cranberries, and red pepper flakes. Stir.

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Add half the collards. Once they start to soften and shrink, add the rest. Add water and sauté for about 5-8 minutes until the collards are tender and the cranberries become plump.

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Add salt to taste: if the collards taste bland add more salt until the flavors pop.

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This is a side dish that is slightly bitter. We had it last night with lamb and parsley potatoes, and it was a delicious combination.

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When you go to set the table, consider looking in your yard for greenery for a centerpiece. My friend, Mary, said she was so inspired by Lou Ann working her design magic using greenery from my yard (check out Winter Floral Arrangements Using Greenery from the Yard ) that she went out in her yard and used greenery to create this quickie, yet elegant centerpiece. This makes me smile!

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Happy New Year!

© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. No photos or text may be used without written consent.

Mom’s Monkey Bread, circa 1970

I wasn’t planning on writing another post before Christmas, but I have a hard time saying No to one of my brother’s recipe requests, especially when they bring up food memories that involve our mother. My brother Sam wrote on FaceBook, “Judy, Mom always used to make those sticky buns using a cake mold with the center piece cut out. They were very popular.”

I really had to think back to remember how Mom and I made “Monkey Bread” in the Seventies. Remembering brought me back to a very nice place in our small childhood kitchen with the bay window over the kitchen sink in Bay View, Massachusetts. I was happy for the sweet memory and also for the challenge. Sam, here is my first attempt at making Monkey Bread, forty years later.

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I struggled to find the right pan in which to cook this bread. An angel food cake pan with a non-removable bottom (“a cake mold with the center piece cut out”) or even a bundt pan would have worked, but sadly I couldn’t find either. Instead, I used a Les Creuset pot. It did the job. Do not use a tube pan with a removable bottom as the butter will leak out and make a mess in the oven and could burn your skin if the scalding hot butter were to drip on you.

It was nice to see that grocery stores still sell these five-pound packages of frozen bread dough all these years later. As a kid, I used to use them to make pizza dough. Be sure to take out two loaves about thirty minutes before you plan to make the recipe to allow time for them to thaw. No need to let them rise first.

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Ingredients:

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2 loaves (2 pounds) frozen bread dough, thawed
1½ sticks (¾ cup) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts or raisins (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350º
Grease a deep 9 or 10-inch cooking container.

Mix together sugars and cinnamon.
Melt butter in a pan until just melted. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat.
Cut loaves into pieces as shown in the photo below.
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Drop individual pieces of unfrozen dough into the butter and stir so each piece is evenly coated with butter.

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Take each piece of dough and individually roll it in the sugar mixture.

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Place coated pieces in the greased baking pan. Let rest for about 5 minutes. It does need to rise in the pan.

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Bake for about 45 minutes. The dough will rise as it cooks. The top layer of dough will turn golden brown and be firm to touch when it is ready. If you don’t cook the bread long enough, the balls will be doughy even though the bread looks done.

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Let cool for no more than five minutes and then flip onto a serving plate.

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Frosting:

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1 package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk
1½ confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt

Mix ingredients together until well blended. Thin with more milk if desired.

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Serve bread with the cream cheese frosting on the side for spreading, or drizzled on top as shown in this gorgeous photo sent to me on Christmas morning by my Aunt Rachelle.

Merry Christmas to Rachelle and to all my brothers!

Thanks for reading and sharing my blog recipes. You can follow me @judyschickens on Instagram and Pinterest. I always appreciate when readers sign up to become a follower of the blog. Happy Holidays!

These are some of the recipes we’ll be making over the holiday weekend. Having the recipes online has turned out to be a real bonus in terms of assigning cooking chores and grocery shopping:-)

Appetizers:
Cranberry and Hot Pepper Jelly Brie Bites
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
Roasted Tamari Almonds

Sides:
Auntie Martha’s Spicy Spinach (aka Spinach Madeleine)
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower

Brunch:
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
The Biscuit King
Sorghum, Oats, and Cranberry Granola
The Navel Mary Way: How to Peel an Orange
Fruit and Nut Bread

Desserts:
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Lily’s Red Velvet Cake

© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. No photos or text may be used without written consent.

Winter Floral Arrangements Using Greenery from the Yard

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My friend Lou Ann and I like to make pretty things. We’ll be out walking, notice an abundance of pine cones on the ground, and the next thing you know we are making bright red pinecone wreaths together in her backyard. All of our joint projects using plant materials are under Lou Ann’s tutelage. She’s the design and DIY girl.

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This year, Lou Ann came over, and we made a holiday arrangement for my foyer. I photographed how she did it step-by-step, plant choice-by-plant choice.

I’ve included each step from cutting the plant stems in my yard to designing the arrangement on my kitchen table. All the greenery came from common foundation plants; nothing is extra-special or hard to find.

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Our first stopover in the yard was my rain garden which is full of perennials meant to attract pollinators for the vegetable garden. The rain garden was created by my talented friend, Jeremy Lekich, owner of Nashville Foodscapes. If you are interested in growing food and doing it in an attractive way using best permaculture practices, Jeremy is your man.

Lou Ann was instantly drawn to these dried stems of anise hyssop. Anise Hyssop is a “top three” plant for producing nectar and attracting bees, and as Jeremy informed me, it makes a wonderful tea used to cure low spirits or a broken heart according to Native American herbalism. Noted.

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The evergreen, Mahonia, with its striking, statuesque stalks topped by a whorl of prickly, hollylike leaves, was next. Mahonia is one of many drought-resistant [read, plants that can be ignored and still survive] evergreens in my yard. Lou Ann cut down one tall stalk.

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Nandina is located nearby. It provides year-round interest in the garden because of its lacy sprays of shiny green leaves with a six-inch center stem full of red or gold berries. It, too, is drought-resistant. Lou Ann took a stem of each color.

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Limelight Hydrangea: fresh or dried, it’s one of my favorite shrubs. Its pale limey-green flowers change from shades of pink to burgundy as they age during the summer and fall.

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Eleagnus:  I planted this evergreen two years ago after I saw it in a flower arrangement. I was drawn to the shimmering taupey-gray underbelly of the olive green leaves. The coloring of the underside of the leaves works magic light wise in an arrangement. Sadly, the nurseryman from whom I bought the plant referred to it as Ugly Agnes (perhaps because of the unruly way in which it grows) and that name has stuck.

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We picked stems of Sage from the herb bed for their silvery contrasting color.

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Next up was the wall of English Ivy, another evergreen. When Lou Ann had her floral design business, known as Sprig, she would often come by to pick a few of these extra-large leaves to line the vases of floral arrangements.

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Lenten Rose (aka Hellebore), Holly, and Pine: more evergreens. We used a few stems of each.

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Burning Bush: this deciduous flowering shrub has pretty red berries on pale grayish-brown stems. More contrast and color. Lou Ann cut a few stems of these, too.

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Deciduous Japanese Magnolia: this type of magnolia loses its leaves in the winter and begins the spring season with large pink flowers. The silvery, velvet-like buds for these flowers set in December. The buds add a pretty, soft color to the arrangement.

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Okra Pods: I am a huge fan of both burgundy and green okra, so I always grow both varieties in the veggie garden. Okra is a draught-resistant plant that gives you tasty food in the summer and strikingly pretty seed pods in the winter. More interest for the arrangement.

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Here is our collection of plant materials.

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We laid it all out on the kitchen floor.

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And then Lou Ann got busy.

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Ta Da!

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Next, we had to move the arrangement into the foyer. We decided it would be fun to add a few stems of Poinsettia flowers. When the stem of the poinsettia plant is cut, it leaks a milky white substance that can be irritating to skin. Lou Ann uses a lighter to cauterize the tip of the stem and stop the drips.

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Happy Holidays from Judy’s Chickens!

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You can follow Lou Ann and her fabulous photos of flowers, complete with their botanical names, on Instagram @labbrown

Other posts about floral arrangements made with plant materials picked fresh from the yard:

WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece
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How to Make Crab Apple Jelly (and grow the crab apples)
Elephant Painting

© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. No photos or text may be used without written consent.