Uncommonly Good

Black Rice and Black Eyed Peas

This year my New Year’s Black Eyed Peas were a little different than in year’s past. Well, the peas and the cornbread were the same, but the rice was different. It was black rice.

I heard about black rice on Dr. Oz sometime last year and after shopping around town I found two packages marked down for clearance at one grocery store. I bought them both.

Black Eyed Peas and Black Rice

I prepare black rice in my rice cooker the same as white or brown rice. It pretty much tastes like the other rices, but it seems like there is more to it. It’s very nutritional and I’m looking for a consistent supplier. I hope I can buy it locally, but if not I’ll spring for shipping and get it online.

I seasoned the black-eyed peas with a hearty ham bone with lots of meat on it. It was leftover from Thanksgiving and I froze it so I would have it for my lucky black-eyed peas (check out the dime). It was a much larger bone than I needed for the small batch of dried peas I had. Instead of cooking it in the peas, I boiled it separately in a large stock pot with the usual seasonings.

When I was ready to cook the peas I used the ham stock instead of water. I seasoned as I usually do and added a good size chunk of ham. I watched the peas and kept the heat low. Black eyed peas cook much faster than other beans and it I usually cook them to mush before I realize it.

I also used ham stock to for the rice instead of water. It really added to the flavor and they were great to go with the black-eyed peas and another pot of beans I cooked up on New Year’s Day.

I used the rest of the ham stock and ham to cook a pot of  cannellini beans. This is a white bean, similar to Great Northern or Navy beans. Cannellini beans—also used in Minestrone, one of my favorite soups—seem to have more flavor and texture than other white beans. I buy them in bulk from The Earth and try to always have a tin or jar of them on hand.



January 4, 2012 Posted by | Beans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Larrupin Party Mix ~ Great Gift From the Kitchen

I love homemade Party Mix.

Party Mix

It’s the perfect mix of crunchy and salty snacking. And, while it’s a treat to bite down on the occasional peanut or pecan, Kix cereal is my favorite. I pick out handfuls of Kix and eat them one at a time. Just a bit of sweet in that crunchy air-filled puff.

Party MIx

For years my mom would make a roasting pan full of this stuff and parcel it out to all of us during the holidays. Eventually I got her recipe and started making my own.

It’s the perfect thing to make and divvy up for gifts. Fill any jar, cover the lid with a scrap of fabric, and secure the fabric with a rubber band. Finish it up with a tidy bow of ribbon, string, yarn, or whatever suits your fancy.

I think the recipe came from Marge, our across-the-street-neighbor on 40th Street. It’s similar to the recipe on the back of Chex cereal, but not really.

Chex cereals
Wheat Chex, Rice Chex, Corn Chex

It calls for a half-a-box of three different kinds of cereal, but mom doubles it so she doesn’t have to make room for three extra boxes of cereal in the cabinet. She has a pretty small kitchen.



After comparing all the recipes with the ingredients I had on hand I decided about 25 cups of dry crunchy stuff would go with the seasoning mix.

Chinese Crispy Noodles

Chinese Crispy Noodles

I used a LARGE stock pot to mix it in. When it came time to add the seasoning oil I split the crunchy ingredients into two stock pots to be sure I could stir it all the way to the bottom and get it mixed well. Mom’s roasting pan works great, it’s shallow enough to spread out and easy to mix during the baking.

Soy Nuts

Roasted, Salted Soy Nuts

If you want to microwave it, you can mix it in any large container. Then transfer it to a container that fits inside your microwave. Be sure to leave room to stir it every two minutes.  You may have to do it in batches.

Janz Revised Party Mix

Dry Crunchy Stuff

4 Cups Wheat Chex
4 Cups Rice Chex
4 Cups Corn Chex
4 Cups Cheerios
3 Cups Chinese Crispy Noodles
3 Cups Roasted, Salted Soy Nuts
3 Cups Nuts (2 cups roasted peanuts; 1 cup walnut pieces)

Party Mix Seasoning

1 Cup Olive Oil
2 T Worcestershire Sauce
8 splashes Tabasco
1 t Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (no MSG version)
1 t garlic granules
1 t celery powder


Preheat oven to 200°.
Dump all the dry crunchy ingredients into a large oven-safe container. A roasting pan or large stew pot works well.
Stir the oil mixture continuously and drizzle over the cereal mix. Stir the crunchy ingredients frequently to distribute the seasoning mix evenly. Put in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.
To microwave stir every two minutes for 6 minutes.
Let Party Mix cool and store in air tight containers.

Mom’s/Marge’s Original Party Mix

1 C Oil
2 T Worcestershire
4 drops Tabasco
1 t Savory Salt
1 t Garlic Salt
1 t Celery Salt
1 C Pecans
1 can cashews
1/2 box Cheerios
1/2 box Rice Chex
1/2 box Kix
1/2 box Pretzels

My hacks:

  • I love Tabasco, so I added more, but I still couldn’t taste it. The recipe on the back of the cereal box suggests adding 2 T red pepper sauce for a kicked up version. So unless you splash in half-a- bottle, it probably won’t add much heat.
  • I didn’t have garlic salt or celery salt so I made substitutions. I figure less salt is better anyway.
  • I had nice pretty pecan halves and walnut pieces. I decided to save the pretty pecans for something else and used the walnut pieces here.
  • No cashews in the cupboard.
  • I like using all the flavors of Chex so I do.
  • Crispix! Not on my shelf today, but I love it. That will go in my next batch along with…
  • Kix! My fave! Again, not on hand. 😦 So I’ll get a box for the next batch.
  • Pretzels… not so much. I always pick around the pretzels in my mom’s  Party Mix so I  leave it out of mine. They don’t absorb as much of the flavor as the other ingredients so it just tastes like a boring pretzel to me.

About the cost~

If you just buy all these boxes of cereal off the shelf this can be pretty expensive, so clip coupons and watch for sales. Chex frequently has coupons for $1 off 3 boxes and my Homeland doubles the coupons. Save the coupons and watch for a sale and your wallet will thank you! Walgreen’s has frequent sales with different cereals priced at 2 boxes/$4. Add that to a dollar off coupon and cereal that’s usually over $3/box comes down to $1.50.

I don’t see Kix and Crispix coupons as often, which is why I didn’t have those on hand.

Soy nuts are about $2.69/lb. in the bulk nuts and grains area at Homeland. We snack on them a lot, and so this year I added it to my Party Mix. It’s a good addition.

I buy raw Spanish peanuts because the roasted peanuts I find are already salted. I spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet, low heat, for an hour or so. For this recipe I had a canister of roasted peanuts in the shell. I shelled them all and threw them in.

By the way, about a month ago I made a small batch (12 cups dry crunchy ingredients) using the recipe on the back of the cereal box. I was lacking a cup or two of  crunchy ingredients so I used a handful-ish of Wheat Thins.

That didn’t work out.

The flavors of the cracker clash with the seasonings of the Party Mix. I picked around the crackers, much to my dogs’ delight.

So far this year I’ve added three new ingredients: Soy Nuts, yes; Chinese Crispy Noodles, yes; and Wheat Thins, no. Two out-a-three ain’t bad.

What would you add to your special recipe?

December 14, 2011 Posted by | Gifts from the Kitchen, Snacks | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Make a Crispy Crusty Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I love grilled cheese sandwiches.  But this is not the grilled cheese of my childhood.

And thanks to that new ABC show The Chew—which replaced All My Children— I learned a surprising new trick to making the outside brown and crusty and soooo good!

Grilled Cheese

To make a grilled cheese you just need bread, cheese, and butter and a heated pan. But I’ve learned you can make almost any kind of sandwich and turn it into a grilled cheese.

This one has spicy mustard, cheddar cheese (yesterday I used Provolone) ham, a dill pickle sandwich slice, more ham, and more cheese.

Grilled Cheese

I’m finally remembering to turn the heat on under my iron skillet when I go into the kitchen instead of after my sandwich is ready.

A pan of the right medium-ish temperature makes all the difference. The kind of cheese you use and the thickness of your sandwich also determines the heat. Higher heat and thin slices is OK for melty cheeses—such as provolone—but for cheddars and thicker sandwiches lower heat will give it time to heat all the way through without getting too brown on the outside.

Grilled Cheese

And now for the surprising tip from this  sandwich by Mario Batali. Instead of smearing the outside with butter (I sometime use olive oil) slather it with mayonnaise! Check out all the crusty little edges on this sandwich. Butter doesn’t do that. And there’s such a nice little crunch when you bite into it.

Yum! Thanks Mario!

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Sandwich | , | 3 Comments

A Chocolate Mess

I was in Conway, Arkansas recently to spend some time with my brother’s family and we had dinner at the MarketPlace Grill one evening. This is the featured dessert. I think they called it a Chocolate Mess, but I couldn’t find it on the menu so I’m not sure.

Chocolate Mess

Chocolate Mess

I’m not sure how they do it, but they fill this parfait glass with good stuff, Joe & Josh had the peanut butter version, and then dip the whole thing in chocolate sauce, put it on the saucer and keep it all frozen. Or, maybe they dip the glass in chocolate and freeze it, and fill it with the requested flavors when the order is placed?

Whatever. It was chocolatey, it was messy, and it was larrupin!

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Dessert | | 3 Comments

One Potato, Two Potato…

I love a good baked potato. Typically I wash the potatoes, prick the skin with a fork, slather with olive oil, wrap in foil, put them in a 400° oven… and wait for an hour until they’re cooked through and tender.

But a recently I had a booth at a local flea market and a couple came up and asked if I had any potato bags. I thought they wanted cotton bags for storing potatoes, but she wanted a bag for cooking potatoes in the microwave. She described it and then I went home and made one.

This is a great way to brown bag your lunch. You can cook the potato at home and warm it in the microwave. Or if you don’t have to share the kitchen you can cook it fresh when you’re ready to eat.

Baked Potato Bag

Who knew this simple cotton envelope could make such fluffy creamy baked potatoes?

And then I baked a couple of potatoes in it.

Baked Potato Bag With Potatoes

Scrub the potatoes and wrap them in a paper towel.

Scrub the potatoes and while they’re still wet wrap them in a paper towel and put them in the bag. You can wet the paper towel if you want, but I didn’t and my potatoes turned out fine. BTW, don’t prick the skin when you cook them like this. You want the skin to seal in the moisture while it cooks.

Baked Potatoes are done

I was surprised at how wet the bag was after the potatoes were done.

I’m not sure how long it took. My microwave is REALLY old… It was my grandmother’s and I think my she got one of the originals. It’s a Sharp Carousel… it has a turntable (thus the Carousel in the name). The timer is an old-fashioned turn dial.  I’m not sure of the accuracy. Suggested cooking times range from 4–6 minutes, up to 10–15 minutes. It all depends on the size and number of the potatoes and the actual wattage of your microwave.

And just like foil-wrapped oven-baked potatoes, you can press on the potatoes see when they’re done. They’ll give a little when they’re tender inside.

A Microbaked Potato

Be careful! The steam that makes the potato moist can also escape and burn when you open the bag.

No knives allowed when you get ready to eat. Just stab it with your fork and twist to break it apart.

Baked Potato

Now, it's ready to dress.

Top it with whatever suits your fancy. My dressings start with butter. Then it depends on what’s in the fridge: cheese, any kind; chives; sour cream…

Baked Potato with all the trimmings

Traditional oven-baked potato with traditional toppings.

I might top it with chili, Sloppy Joe meat, tuna, or grilled chicken or steak. Or… maybe I’ll build a salad on top and drizzle the whole thing in salad dressing. Avocados and crumbled bacon is good on top.

That spare potato that’s still in the bag?  It went into the fridge and made the best potato salad I’ve ever made! Details on that coming soon!

I’ll be selling these at the next flea market June 10, 11 at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds here in Norman.  Instructions and recipes will be included.


May 25, 2011 Posted by | Brown Bag, Potatoes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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