Mac ‘n Pimento Cheese

The secret ingredient!

The secret ingredient!

Spoilers: this recipe contains a secret ingredient. Of course, trained chef’s are reluctant to tell their secrets, but I’m not a chef. I’m just a decent cook. Says so on my business card. But this dish has received too many great comments from taste-testers to keep the recipe under wraps. It’s easy to assemble, cooks in the slow-cooker so you don’t have to watch it much, and is a great twist on what might be the world’s most popular comfort food.

Did I sell you on it?

I hope so.

Next time you need something new for a potluck, try this version of Mac ‘n Pimento Cheese!


  • A 4.5 quart crock pot, or the equivalent-sized oven-safe casserole dish or pot.


  • 16 oz. cooked macaroni (I use spirals, but the traditional elbow style will be fine)
    • Helpful hint: cook the macaroni the day before and keep refrigerated until needed. Saves time the next day when you are worried about the guests coming early. And they always come early.
  • 10 oz. Colby Jack cheese, shredded
  • 12 oz. Pimento Cheese
    • Spoiler: I use Palmetto Cheese with Jalapeno as my secret ingredient. This South Carolina low country specialty food is thankfully available in most higher quality grocery stores, or online here.
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (any version that works for you. Except chocolate milk. That would be a bad choice.)
  • 12 oz. Evaporated Milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced


I use a “layer” approach to building this mac ‘n cheese.

  • Place enough cooked macaroni in the bottom of the crock pot to cover the bottom.
  • Sprinkle a handful of shredded Colby Jack cheese on top of the cooked macaroni.
  • Using a small spoon, or a melon baller, place 4 – 5 small scoops of pimento cheese evenly on top of the Colby Jack cheese. I do four corners and a center.
    • Helpful hint: use the spoon to spread the pimento cheese into a thin layer across the entire pot.
  • Repeat the layering of macaroni, Colby Jack cheese, and pimento cheese. Make the top layer one of the cheeses.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.
  • Pour the liquid mixture on top of the macaroni and cheese. Try to drizzle it around the entire top surface so liquid will seep down throughout the crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours. If using the oven, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Now check the inside of the crock pot wall. Using a plastic spatula, scrape the macaroni away to keep the cheese from forming a burnt crust.
  • If your mac ‘n cheese has thickened to the point a large spoonful will maintain its shape, you are done!
    • If still soggy, then cover and continue to cook for 30 additional minutes.
    • Check again. The dish should be done.
      • The longest I have let this cook is 4 hours, but I ended up with a thick inedible crust which wasted probably three servings.

This dish has won rave reviews from both office-mates and church ladies. I don’t which group has the more discriminating palate, but on both occasions I returned home with zero leftovers.





Veggie Lettuce Wraps

Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Veggie Lettuce Wraps

If you like the lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang’s, then you will love this version – perhaps you will like them more. I do. Thanks to a great recipe courtesy of vegan cook, Namely Marly, for once I was able to stay true to (most of) the recipe. The only substitution was iceberg lettuce for butter lettuce. You use what you have, right?

The clincher? The blackberry hoisin sauce, made with blackberry jam, garlic, soy sauce, a little vinegar, and the best part – ginger. It was good tonight. I think it may be awesome tomorrow. I’m thinking adding it to fried potatoes for breakfast. Really.

I’d post the recipe, but you should stop by Marly’s website. Plenty of tasty recipes there; why try just one?

Buen Provecho, amigos!


Smokey Black Beans and Rice

Smokey Black Beans & Rice

Smokey Black Beans & Rice

A good friend living in Nicaragua (see footnote) asked if I could post a recipe or two that would work for her, given the lack of gourmet grocery stores in her part of the world. Having lived there myself, years ago, I knew gallo pinto, or rice and beans, was a staple, and she confirmed nothing had changed. So to help out – here is a great recipe to spice things up a bit!

This is best done with a crock pot / slow cooker; but you can also make this in a regular pot on the stove, cooking over low heat. You may need to stir at times to keep things from sticking and burning to the bottom of your pot.

Smokey Black Beans and Rice

Serves 8 – 10, depending on your serving size. I used one big ladle per serving.


4 Tablespoons of olive oil (you could use vegetable or peanut oil – whatever you have)

1 onion, chopped – any type will do. I used a Vidalia

1 red bell pepper, cored/seeded, and chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored/seeded, and chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

8 cups cooked (and drained) black beans

1 cup uncooked white rice

3 Tablespoons smoked paprika

2 Tablespoons black pepper

(I didn’t use any salt – personal choice.)

5 cups liquid – I used 3 cups of unsalted vegetable stock and 2 cups of water.


Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion, bell peppers, carrot, and garlic for about 10 minutes. When the onions start to become translucent, you are ready to move on.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Put the black beans in the crock pot, stir in the sauteed vegetables.

Mix in the uncooked rice, smoked paprika, and black pepper.

Pour in the 5 cups of liquid. Gently stir into the mix. You want enough liquid to just cover the rice, beans, and vegetables.

Just before cooking started.

Just before cooking started.

Cover and simmer for 8 hours, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.


Pairs well with fried plantain slices dusted with a bit of sugar and cinnamon.

This is perfect in any climate – from the wonderfully warm temperatures of Nicaragua, to the frozen tundra I currently find myself inhabiting in Virginia.

* If you want to help children in need, and can spare a few dollars a month – please consider sending a donation to Thanks!

Who ordered all this snow? Not me.

Who ordered all this snow? Not me.





French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

French toast casserole is good any time of the day (or night!) A meal, a snack, a guilty pleasure. Call it what you want – I call it delicious!

This is a variation on the original recipe by Ree Drummond, sometimes known as The Pioneer Woman on Food Network. She cooks for her family, which includes a crew of cowboys working at the ranch. Me? Often it’s just two of us so a recipe like this would last us a week of breakfasts. Fortunately, we had the monthly United Methodist Men’s Breakfast at church this morning. There were no complaints and not many leftovers.

Serves: 12-14

Pairs well with fresh blueberries on the side, plus a healthy serving of scrapple for those foolhardy adventurous enough to try it.


1 big loaf of French bread (or the bread of your choice, just nothing too flavorful like pumpernickel or rye)

8 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups of milk (I used 2 percent instead of Ree’s whole milk. Trying to be healthy, right? Umm. Yeah. That’s the ticket.)

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract. Don’t bother with the imitation stuff.

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Topping Ingredients

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar (be generous here)

1 more teaspoon of cinnamon

and a 1/2 teaspoon more of nutmeg

8 Tablespoons (113 grams) of butter. Unsalted is fine, not required here. Unless you have that extra stick of unsalted butter you bought last Christmas for that one recipe. And then you went out to eat at the pub instead because your brother insulted your sister’s boyfriends and soon enough people were fighting, lamps were broken and then the third time the police were called… Anyhow – a stick of butter.

Maple syrup to taste, no more than a cup.


Treat a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with either butter or cooking spray

Tear the bread into little bite-sized bits and place in the casserole dish.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the butter, blending it with the dry ingredients using a fork. You can stop once the mixture has that grainy, crumbly, sandy type of texture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

…the next morning…

An hour before the herd awakens, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. / 177 degrees C. / or gas mark 4 if that’s how your oven rolls.

Take the breading and the topping bits out of the refrigerator. Uncover the breading and evenly sprinkle the topping bits on top. (Where else would topping bits go, I wonder?)

Bake uncovered for one hour.

While the casserole is baking, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet.

Ten minutes before the casserole is done, warm up the cup of maple syrup. Not too hot, just warm enough to make you want to stick your finger in and get a taste. (I won’t tell if you do it.)


The casserole comes out of the oven and you now get to drizzle the warm maple syrup all over the lightly browned topping. I made criss-cross patterns when I did it. Be creative. It all sinks in so don’t stress on the artistic merit of your drizzling technique. But have some fun, right?

Serving techniques: you can slice this casserole into squares, or you can just let everyone scoop out what they want using a large spoon.

This is a popular dish. Make sure you get some.

Good job, chef!

Bon appetit!



Savory Zucchini Quiche

Savory Zucchini Quiche

Savory Zucchini Quiche

Zucchini or courgette, it matters not. The important fact is the taste – and this quiche has it in abundance!

Derived from a recipe found on Facebook (See? Facebook is good for something besides photos of cats) here is a tasty rendition of a zucchini quiche everyone should enjoy.


9 inch pie crust shell (make your own crust if you want – I took the lazy way out and used store bought. But it worked and dinner was ready before the moon rose above the trees.)

4 cups thinly sliced zucchini. Our slices were about an eighth of an inch thick. Too thin and you end up with mush.

And no one likes mush.

1/2 cup of diced onion

2 cloves minced garlic

3 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 eggs

2 cups shredded Colby-jack cheese

1/4 cup shredded Bruschetta Jack

2 Tablespoons sharp and creamy mustard


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (gas mark 4)

Bake the pie crust for about 10 minutes or until slightly brown. Burning the crust is right out.

Once done, set on wire rack to cool.

In a large sauce pan, saute the zucchini slices in butter; season with the minced garlic. Once the zucchini starts to brown, remove from heat.

Using a large bowl, mix the spices.

Add the two eggs, whisking them into the spices.

Add the shredded cheeses. Mix well.

Add the zucchini and onions; gently fold into the egg-y cheese-y stuff. (You know, stuff. That may be a culinary term.)

Spread the sharp and creamy mustard inside the pie crust.

Fill the pie shell with the zucchini mixture. Level out somewhat so it is evenly distributed inside the shell.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then start checking the quiche every five minutes.

Once the cheese on top starts to brown, the quiche – she is done!

Take out and let rest for 10 minutes.

Ha! Who can wait that long? Pour yourself a glass of chilled white wine and slice that quiche up and dig in!

Happy eating!

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Peppers

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Viggies

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Peppers (with stir fried vegetables)

After you cook several “big” dishes, such as Mango Lentil Dal, or Artichoke Lentil Loaf, you may come to realize you still have uncooked lentils left over. Looking in the soak pot, I found we had “a lot” of lentils left. If the zombie apocalypse started today, and all access to the grocery store had been cut off by the horde of brain-eating walking dead, we would be fine with the one bag of dried lentils. It never seems to run out. But since the Eastern Shore, for the moment at least, is devoid of zombies, it would be poor form to leave said lentils to slowly die a horrible death inside the refrigerator.

What to do. Hmmm.

Why not take those lentils and add some left over bell peppers and a snit or two from the jar of Amy’s Black Bean & Corn Salsa? You know, the jar that always seems to be in the door of the refrigerator? Could end up with a tasty meal, me thinks.

Turned out to be a great idea! I also stir fried some fresh cut vegetables to give the meal a little more bulk and color. Here’s the easy lentil recipe:


1 cup uncooked lentils (uncooked but soaked overnight, then drained)

Water – enough to cover the lentils once they are in a sauce pan

1 each – red, green and yellow bell pepper. cored and seeded, then rough chopped

1 snit of Amy’s black bean corn salsa (no ‘snit’ mark on your measuring cup? 6 Tablespoons is about the same amount)

1 Tablespoon cumin


Put the uncooked lentils in a medium sauce pan.

Add water, enough to cover the lentils by a half inch or so.

Add the chopped bell peppers, salsa, and cumin.

Stir gently, then cover.

Heat over medium high until the liquid starts to boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium. You want a simmer only.

Uncover and stir occasionally.

The goal is to allow the liquid to soak into the lentils and to create a “salsa reduction.” In other words, as the liquid cooks down, the salsa and cumin flavor will be brought out for the better. Once you stir the lentils and don’t see any more liquid at the bottom of the sauce pan, you are done!

Remove from heat and cover until the rest of your dinner is done cooking.

(I stir fried veggies while the lentils were cooking. There are a plethora of options for you. Go with your favorite!)

This lentil recipe makes 3 good sized main servings or 4 side servings.



The Best Blueberry Pie Ever!


The Best Blueberry Pie Ever!

So before I get slammed by the “pie” purists, the only reason I call this treat a pie is that it is cooked in a pie dish. It’s shaped like a pie, so I call it a pie. You can call it whatever you want, but once you have a slice, you’ll call it…

The Best Blueberry Pie ever!

Okay, really it’s a blueberry crumb cake. I thought I would make one this week in honor of the Chincoteague Blueberry Festival. If you remember the book “Misty of Chincoteague,” this is the same place. It is at the upper end of the Virginia Eastern Shore, right close to the Maryland state line. And this weekend is the big pony swim, where the wild ponies swim across the little channel to the little town of Chincoteague. There is a lot more to the story, as well as the Blueberry Festival, and you can learn all about it by going to

I would tell you all about it, but it happens that I will be out of town this weekend. Timing, people, it’s all about timing. Well, maybe next year. Until then, try this recipe I had clipped from some magazine years ago – it really is the best blueberry pie (cake) ever!

Streusel topping
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter (that’s half a stick for some of us…)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch o’ salt
2 drops of vanilla

1 pint blueberries, washed, stems removed
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups (plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (plus 2 tablespoons) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Making the streusel topping
– Mix the streusel ingredients in a small bowl. Blend until it resembles a fine, moist meal.
– Set aside. Don’t eat any. I know it tastes good. Just don’t do it…yet!

2. Preparing the pie plate
– line the bottom and sides of a standard (9 inch or so) GLASS pie dish with wax paper. I just took a big piece, placed it in the dish, and then trimmed it later once the pie filling had been added. By the way, the word GLASS is in all caps for a reason. A metal pie dish will be a disaster, and you will probably need a fire extinguisher later. Keep reading, you will understand…

3. Mixing the pie innards, sometimes referred to as batter for you cake enthusiasts.
– Put the berries in a bowl, add 1/4 cup of flour. Toss until the berries are coated. Remove the berries and place them on a paper towel. Set aside.
– In a large bowl, blend in the remaining dry ingredients. Once thoroughly mixed, make a little volcano – sometimes called “making a well” by people who know. I guess you now know which group I fall into…hee hee hee.
– In a different bowl (I know, I know, this is taking a lot of bowls) mix the non-dry ingredients. I whisked the wet stuff for about a minute. Perfect-o-men-tay.

4. Puttin’ it all together…
– Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff volcano. Make some sound effects, it helps. “Aye aye ayieeee, not the lava!!!!” Have some fun with it. People will leave you alone; it’ll be great.
– Using a wooden spoon, Chef Rudolf’s rule #2, mix up the erupting volcano until it is like a smooth batter.
– Gently fold in the blueberries.
– Pour the whole mess into the pie dish.

5. Cooking, or is it baking?
– Microwave (yes, that’s right) uncovered for 7 minutes in a 1000 – 1200 watt microwave. If your microwave oven does not automatically spin the dish, make sure you rotate the dish after 4 minutes.
– If you have a 600 – 700 watt microwave oven, cook the pie for 9 minutes.
– If your microwave has less power than the above models, go get a new one and come back and try again! Okay, cook the pie for 10 minutes and check to see if a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. You know the deal…if you don’t, ask someone who is over the age of 40.

6. Eating
– Wait a few minutes to eat this pie. The blueberries are like little balls of tasty fire when they come right out of the oven. It will be tough, but you can do it. I have faith!

This works well as an after dinner dessert, as well as a great breakfast treat!

Try it and let me know what you think!

Happy eating!

A slice of Blueberry Pie having an identity crisis...

The “Real” Canadian Bacon – Peameal Bacon


Peameal Bacon, fried in butter.

This week I have relatives visiting from Michigan. They know that we here in the Southeastern US often have trouble getting certain northern delicacies such as Sander’s Hot Fudge, but that is not the subject of today’s post. Fortunately, they brought not only Sander’s fudge, but also a delicacy unknown to most Americans south of the 45th Parallel – Peameal Bacon.

Today I learned that what we call Canadian bacon is not really Canadian bacon. The real version is much, much better. In fact, the Canadian version is in a totally different league.

First, get rid of any notion that the Canadian bacon that comes on your pizza is, in fact, Canadian. Forget about it.

Now, take a pork loin, cut from the back where it is very lean meat, and cure it in brine. Kinda like pickling it.

Then, when cured, roll it in fine cornmeal. Traditionally, the pork loin was rolled in a finely ground powder of dried yellow peas, hence the name…Peameal.

Now the fun part. Slice the “bacon” into slabs that range from 1/8″ to 1/4″. Fry them up with a little butter, until each side has browned a bit. Take a slice or two and make a Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich.

The flavor is definitely ham, but nothing like the salty Virginia ham and certainly much more flavorful than the regular pressed ham out of a can. The pickling brine gives it a slightly sweet and pungent flavor. Nothing overpowering. Just plain good.

Zingerman’s has a more elaborate description and much more of the history. ( For now, just try it and enjoy!

I had a two pound slab of bacon and it made about 12 good sized slices. Aside from an old place in Japan named Saco’s, this is the best BLT ever.

The best BLT ever! Peameal Bacon on lettuce and tomato over sourdough!

There is Chocolate Pecan Pie in Heaven, and in the kitchen!


Chocolate Pecan (pah-cahn') Pie

So what do you get a guy who has everything? I mean, really. I have a nice house, a job, two little puppies and the best family ever. We are all in good health and my daughter has an A in physics (without my help. With it she would have a C…). I have been truly blessed. But there was this birthday see…

Chocolate Pecan Pie, you say? Why, yes! You would be absolutely correct. Putting aside her studies of trains leaving New York and Los Angeles at different speeds, number one daughter made a pecan pie for my birthday. It didn’t last long, so she just made another. Courtesy of Betty Crocker, this proves that if you can read and follow directions, the little red cookbook will not steer you wrong! Try it – you’ll love it!

First, either make your favorite pie crust or get one of those pre-made ones. The food police won’t get you; it’s alright. And… if you roll it out a little and then hand pinch the edges once it is in the pie dish, people won’t be able to tell the difference.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F)

Place prepared crust into a 9 inch pie pan. We use glass, but that’s just us.

Now for the good part:

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (don’t bother with the fake stuff. Live a little.)
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup light corn syrup (see? what’s the point of margarine?)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup pecan halves

Melt the chocolate with the butter.

Beat the sugar, chocolate/butter, corn syrup, salt and eggs with a hand beater. Stir in pecans. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate.

Bake until set, 40 – 50 minutes. Once the top looks “cooked”, remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack for about 20 minutes.

Once cool enough to put in the refrigerator without hurting the fridge, put it in the fridge to thoroughly cool down and set, at least two hours.

Now this last part is important. Have at least three friends over when you take the pie out of the cooler. If you don’t…you may end up eating the whole thing yourself, in one sitting. That would taste great for a few minutes, but this is just too rich. And besides, you may need those friends some day and you can always remind them about how you gave them the best pie they ever had – Chocolate Pecan Pie!

Tex-Mex on the East Coast?


Sure enough, this displaced Texano and his familia had an awesome time last night team cooking a fabulous batch of chicken fajitas and Mexican rice. If you aren’t familiar with the name, it’s pronounced “fa-hee-tas” with the emphasis on the “hee,” but I digress…
We had four cooks, no injuries and enough food to feed everyone plus some.

The recipes came off the Internet, given to me by one of the sous chefs, so I can’t give credit where credit is due, but I’ll tell you up front, they aren’t mine…I only wish they were! These turned out great and I do believe that we will be using these again, many times!

Here we go:

Chicken Fajitas and Mexican Rice

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded flat

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons lime juice
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, seeded
salt and pepper to taste

Put the marinade ingredients into a blender and puree. Put the flattened chicken into a gallon-sized zip lock bag and add the marinade puree. Seal the bag up and let the chicken soak for 30 minutes or so (in a cooler or refrigerator – no need to take chances!)


3 potatoes, cut into small cubes
3 zucchini, also cut into small cubes
1 yellow squash, cut into small cubes (see a trend?)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Put the potatoes, zucchini and squash in a glass baking dish. Add oil and seasonings; mix well.
Bake in a 375 degree oven until potatoes are soft; should take about 30 minutes, maybe more.

Now for the arroz Mexicano:

2 Cups long grain white rice
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 cup of your favorite salsa (I use Mrs. Renfros, out of Fort Worth Texas)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

Soak the rice in a bowl of hot water for about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse and shake dry.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add the rice and toast – stirring often to prevent too much sticking to the pan. Do this for about ten minutes; the rice should start to turn tan, slightly brown, but not too much!
Meanwhile, put the onion, salsa and garlic into a blender. Puree, then add to the rice mixture and cook until the liquid is absorbed.
Don’t ask questions – now add 3 cups of water, and the chopped jalapeno. Mix well, then cook over medium heat until the rice is tender. This will take about ten more minutes.
Remove from heat; cover.

Back to the fajitas…

1 large white onion, peeled and cut into slices
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil

In a different skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
Add sliced onions and bell peppers.
Cook until the onions start to turn translucent and the pepper soften.
Set aside on the stove top to keep warm.

In yet another skillet (use the vegetable skillet above, unless like me, you have vegetarians in the house) pan fry the chicken. Once done, cut into strips.


8 inch, soft flour tortillas (three per person, at least)

Let’s use some technology here:

Using a microwave oven, steam the tortillas. Start by dampening two folded paper towels with water. Wrap the tortillas in a different paper towel and place on top of the damp ones. Put the whole stack in the microwave oven and cook on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Check to see if the tortillas are warm and steaming. If so, you are done. If not, cook for 20 seconds more. This should do it! If not, keep trying 20 seconds intervals until done.

Get the plates ready, because by now the potatoes should be done!

Grate some Colby Jack cheese and get some sour cream ready for optional toppings.

Put a tortilla on the plate. Add a bit of potatoes, zucchini and squash, chicken (for those who partake) and some onions and peppers. Fold the tortilla over, top with cheese and sour cream if it suits you, and serve with a side of Mexican rice.

Recommended beverages:

Any fine red wine will do, as will tequila straight up (but we didn’t have any so Merlot it was)

Buen provecho, mis amigos!