Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quick and Almost Fat-Free Fruit Crisp!

I love fruit crisps, crumbles, and cobblers!  Delicious, fresh fruits and berries under a crunchy, nutty topping-- that's yummy stuff!  I like to fool myself that the oats in the topping makes it all healthy, but generally this type of dessert has a lot of butter in it-- and sometimes we like to pour heavy cream.....well, you get the idea!
Here's a recipe that works in the winter (apples and frozen raspberries!) and has a much lighter topping than most.  
Ben says everything tastes better baked in ramekins, and I tend to agree, but you can make this crisp in an 8"x 8" baking dish too.  The topping will work with all kind of fruits, so once you have the basic idea down, it's fun to experiment!  Pears would be great and of course, there are all the frozen fruits that I think are fine in cooked things.  If you use bigger frozen fruits, like strawberries or peaches, you'll need to thaw them before use.  You can add or subtract ingredients with abandon, but I tried to make this one simple and quick.  

Almost Fat-Free Apple Raspberry Crisp  (makes 6, 6oz ramekins)
2 or 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced across into small pieces
1/2  of a 12 oz. bag of frozen raspberries
1 Tbl. cornstarch
2 Tbl. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
dash of salt

Mix everything but the raspberries in a microwavable bowl.  Cover and cook on high for about 3 minutes.  Stir and cook again until the apples are mostly cooked and a thickened glaze has formed from the juices.  Add the raspberries to the hot apples, this will thaw them enough.  Set aside

Now make the topping:
1.25 cups old fashioned rolled oats (quick oats are okay)
1/2 cup chopped pecans 
2 Tbl. brown sugar
2 Tbl. Canola oil, or any light vegetable oil

Put the oats in a bowl and add the oil.  Stir very well so that the oats are well coated with the oil.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.

Divide the apple-raspberry mixture evenly into 6 ramekins, or just put into an 8x8-inch baking dish.  Spoon the topping over each ramekin.  Place the ramekins on a sheet pan and bake at 350F for 30 minutes, or until they bubble a little and the topping gets brown and well, crisp!

Let them settle down a bit, but they are really good served warm.  The topping tends to get softer as they cool, but it still tastes great!  Ask Ben, he had one for breakfast :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Home Roasted Chicken

Who doesn't love those great rotissierie chickens that are so readily available now days at the grocery store?  They are moist and tender, taste great and are usually a good buy.  A lot of times when I need chicken meat for something or another, using a rotissierie chicken is a real timesaver. 
So why would anyone bother to make a roasted chicken at home these days?  Well, for one thing, it's actually quick and easy to put a chicken in the oven to cook.  Plus, a chicken that is particularly for roasting will be larger, like 5 lbs., so most families can use it for two meals at least, so that saves time and money!  But the biggest reason is they taste fantastic and your kitchen will smell even more fantastic!  I usually put all sorts of veggies and potatoes in with the chicken so that when the chicken is done, so are the side dishes! 
In a busy world, cooking times need to be really short or really long to leave time for everything else.  This type of roasted chicken takes a long time, so you can just pop it in the oven, then get on with your life for a good 3 hours or so.  When you return from yoga :), your home will smell like Martha Stewart is your "live-in help", and your family will marvel as you put this fragrant, delectible dinner on the table.  You're awesome!
Home Roasted Chicken
1, approx. 5lb. roasting chicken (be sure it's completely thawed)*
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks or a bunch of small carrots, scrubbed
2 medium onions, cut into quarters
2 large celery stalks, each cut in half crosswise
6-8 small red potatoes, scrubbed
1 small lemon, cut into quarters
1 handful parsley
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you like (seasoning mixes are fun to try, poultry seasoning, thyme, sage or rosemary are all good)
Roasting pan big enough for everything (covered, but if you don't have a cover, foil will work)
*If you can't find a large roasting chicken, you can use a 3lb. one.  Cook time will be about 2 hr.
Spray the pan with PAM.  Place the celery stalks on the bottom to act as a rack for the chicken.  Dry the chicken with paper towels.  Put the lemon, parsley and 4 onion quarters in the cavity.  Stuff the parsley into the cavity also.  Tie the legs together using a strip of aluminum foil.
Rub the chicken all over with olive oil and then the seasonings.  I put the seasoning under the skin of the breasts and legs, but you don't need to if you don't feel up to it. 
Put the chicken on the celery stalks and put all the veggies around it.  Drizzle the veggies with a little olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
Cover the roaster and put it in the oven.  Turn the heat to 300F (don't preheat it).  Go have fun for 3 hours.  Take the lid off and if necessary, roast it a little longer to brown it.  You can also put the broiler on to brown it quickly, but watch it closely.  The veggies will be very tender and delicious to serve alongside the chicken, which will be super tender and moist.  You can also spoon some of the pan juices over the meat for added yumminess!
Biscuits are a tasty addition, too!

 Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shrimp Tacos-- Who Knew?

Hi!  I haven't posted anything for awhile, but my ironic excuse is....I've been too busy cooking!  The past couple weeks have been full of activities and have highlighted what we all really know--food and cooking for our friends and family are expressions of caring that we look to in the happiest and saddest of times and everything in between.  
I had so much fun with Marie and a couple of her friends putting on a baby shower for an "old" college roommate!  Unfortunately, Marie got a BAD stomach virus a few days before the shower, so she was banished from any food preparation (by her finicky mother!).  She and her friends did the cutest decorating though!  I went ahead and prepared the menu they had planned (everything off "Pinterest"-- what a great resource that is!) and it was fun to be involved that way!  
Then a very dear friend lost her mother and I needed to go there.  Her friends hosted a wonderful "potluck" style reception after the service and again, their love was poured out in every manner of yummy dish from macaroni and cheese to shrimp ceviche.  I spent some time making a LOT of apple and cherry handpies (turnovers to non-Texans) as my contribution.  
Food is a wonderful way to encourage, celebrate, comfort, and care.  It doesn't have to be homemade either!  The expression is there regardless of whether you took the time to make your famous chocolate chip cookies or to go to the most wonderful bakery in town to buy them.  It all still matters.
Well, okay, so on to the tacos!  After 26 years in Texas, I am finally getting the hang of the growing seasons.  I've mentioned this before, but who knew that January was a fabulous month at the Farmer's Market?  I just never even went in January, assuming there wouldn't be anything but old potatoes or something like that!  But, I was sorely mistaken!  Today there was beautiful kale, cherry tomatoes, gorgeous cilantro, fresh garlic, and the most tender, sweet carrots, etc., etc. etc.!  Anyway, I bought way too much, but shrimp were on sale at the grocery store, so that was my inspiration!  Shrimp tacos that used many of the lovely fresh ingredients available locally-- in January!  Who knew?!

Shrimp Tacos (makes 6 tacos)
3/4 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into 1/2" chunks
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
4 green onions, sliced (include some of the green tops)
1 large tomato
1 small jalepeno pepper, chopped (include seeds and veins if you like things spicy!) 
2 Tbl. chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 sliced avocado
six flour tortillas, warmed*

Add the olive oil to a skillet and saute the garlic for a minute or two over medium heat.  Add the onions, tomato, jalepeno pepper, oregano, and chopped cilantro.  Cook and stir for a bit, until the tomato begins to break down.  Add the shrimp.  Cook and stir until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.  Add salt to taste.
Serve in the warm tortillas, garnished with fresh cilantro and sliced avocado.
*Great way to warm tortillas: Heat a pizza stone in a 350F oven.  When you want warm tortillas, set them on the stone and heat for a minute or two.  They will puff and soften as if they were freshly made!  

These were the shower cupcakes!
Apple and cherry hand pies!
I love making these and will make them to order if you ever want any for a get together!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fried Chicken and Macaroni Pie-- Light AND Tasty!

What's your favorite food?  I have a hard time with that question, but fried chicken is definitely in my top five!  What do you think is the perfect side dish to fried chicken?  Mashed potatoes, for sure, but macaroni and cheese has to, again, make the top five!
Here's the thing, though, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese are not on anyone's diet plate.  I'm no calorie fanatic and even I think they are a bit much except for special occasions (like-- it's Tuesday!  Ha!  No, really!)  So when I saw a recipe for an "oven fried" chicken, I was NOT excited.  I've tried all kinds of recipes and have always been completely underwhelmed.  Well, this recipe is different!  It's from a book called, "Mrs. Whaley Entertains" that I picked up at an antique store a few months ago.  Mrs. Whaley was a Charleston socialite with a wonderful garden that she opened to the public for charity fundraisers.  She also was a fun-loving hostess that loved to give advice and parties.  Anyway, this chicken is baked in the oven, but uses only 1 Tbl. of oil.  I tweaked it a little to make it even more "low-cal" like removing the chicken skin and using a low-fat baking mix instead of the regular type.  It comes out tender and juicy with great flavor AND a crispy brown exterior that is delicious!  Using parchment paper also prevents all the yummy crust from sticking to the pan (have you ever had that happen?).
Now, the macaroni and cheese.  Mrs. Whaley calls this a "macaroni pie" and in fact, it isn't the creamy style mac and cheese that probably comes to mind.  It's more of a cheesey custard with macaroni.  Her recipe is not low-calorie, but I thought I'd try to lighten it up to make a yummy side dish that didn't cancel out the virtues of the chicken!  Ben and I liked the result, but you can decide for yourself.   You might miss the creaminess of regular mac and cheese too much!  But, if you're willing to think of this as a different and delicious alternative, I think you'll like it too!

Delicious Oven Fried Chicken (adapted from "Mrs. Whaley Entertains")
2/3 cup low-fat baking mix (like Bisquick or Pioneer)
1.5 tsp. paprika (I used the spicy kind!)
1.25 tsp. salt
1.25 tsp. ground black pepper (the regular, old fashioned kind-- not coarse grind)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 frying chicken, cut into pieces and skin removed (cut the breasts into two pieces so they aren't large)
1 Tbl. cooking oil
parchment paper
rimmed sheet pan (13x9 pan will do if all the chicken will fit without crowding)
more salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F.
Cut off and fold a piece of parchment paper to fit nicely onto the bottom of the sheet pan.  Pour the oil onto the paper and spread it around with your fingers.  You don't have to go clear to the edges.  Make sure the chicken pieces are dried well with paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper (not the measured amounts). 
Mix all the dry ingredients in a paper bag or large zip-lock bag.  Shake them around to mix well.  Add the chicken pieces and shake to coat them with the mixture.  Place the coated chicken on the oiled paper, tapping them a bit on the side of the bag to remove the excess coating.  Be sure the chicken pieces don't touch each other.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Turn the pieces over and bake another 20 more minutes or until cooked through.  Serve right away, or as with all good fried chicken, it tastes great room temperature or even cold as a midnight snack!

Macaroni Pie (adapted from "Mrs. Whaley Entertains"), makes 8 servings
8 oz. uncooked macaroni
8 oz. grated, extra sharp Cheddar cheese (you can use 2%, but I used the regular)
2 Tbl. butter, melted
1 whole egg and 1 egg white
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 cups 2% milk (heat in the microwave until warm)
Tabasco sauce

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray a 1.5 qt. casserole dish with PAM.  
Cook the macaroni in salted water as the package directs.  Drain and return to the pot.  Pour the butter over the macaroni and stir in 1/2 the cheese.  Pour into the casserole dish.
Beat the egg and egg white with the mustard, milk and a couple dashes of Tabasco sauce.  Pour over the macaroni and bake for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the center is set (a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean).  
Allow to settle about 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Orange Glazed Chicken with Pecans and Carmelized Onions

I think restaurants are getting away from this practice, but awhile ago, "upscale" dining sometimes meant a menu with a paragraph written about each dish.  We had to be told the origin of each ingredient ("zillion year old sea salt from Tasmania") and everything was served on a "bed" of something.  Some things were stacked so high the meal was more like an archaeological dig as one made their way through the layers.  Of course, many of these dishes were very tasty, and for that I'm certainly not complaining!  Still, writing a complete description of a dish kind of gives it a big build-up and not as many restaurants are as skilled at cooking their dishes as they are in describing them!  
I hope you don't think that's the case here, despite the long title!  Actually, this is a simple, weeknight type of dish that comes together quickly and tastes fresh, light and good!   I served the chicken with brown rice and spinach sauteed with a little garlic and olive oil, so it was rather healthy too!
Orange Glazed Chicken with Pecans and Carmelized Onions (serves two or three)
2 large chicken breast halves
4 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 large onion, sliced
juice of 2 oranges
zest of 1 orange
1.5 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Mix the orange juice and 1/2 of the zest with the cornstarch in a small bowl.  Stir with a fork until smooth.  Set aside.
Cut the chicken breasts in half crosswise; then split the thick side lengthwise.  Each breast half will yield three pieces, so you'll have six in all.  Dry the pieces well with paper towels.  Pour 2 tsp. olive oil over them on a plate and turn them around in the oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Brown the chicken pieces well in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  They don't have to cook all the way through at this point.  Remove them to a plate.
Put the other 2 tsp. olive oil in the skillet and add the onions and garlic.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Saute the onions and garlic over medium heat until they brown nicely.  You can hurry them along-- it's not going to hurt anything as long as you don't burn them.
Add the chicken and any juices back to the pan.  Add 1/4 cup water.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked and the onions are soft.  Remove the chicken to a serving plate and keep warm.  Add the cornstarch-orange juice-zest mixture.  Cook and stir until it boils and becomes thickened.  Add the pecans and stir to coat them.  Pour over the chicken.  Sprinkle with the remaining orange zest and serve!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pie Maker: My Latest Toy!

Little Apple Pie
If you like to cook and anyone knows about it, you probably had the fun of receiving some kind of kitchen gadget from thoughtful family members and/or friends!  I don't buy gadgets that much for myself, but when I receive one as a gift, I LOVE it and really enjoy trying them out!  I went many years without a food processor, but Christmas 2011 Ben gave me a super one and I use it all the time now.  I can't believe I didn't think I needed one for so long!  
Anyway, this year, Marie and Miles gave me the cutest Breville little pie maker!!  I couldn't wait to try it out, and it is so much fun and makes very tasty pies!
It seems to me that little, hand-held pies are always popular.  Somehow, things always taste better when they come in a cute (did I already say that?), neat, little package, don't you think?  "Filled" anything just seems like more fun to eat!  Also, little pies are a great way to use up leftovers in a very delicious way!  
I'm including two recipes here.  One for the pastry (quick in a food processor!), and one for the super easy apple pie filling.  These apple pies are really easy even if you start from scratch for the filling.  I just mix stuff together and microwave it for a quick, but homemade, filling.  The other pies were made from the leftovers of a pot roast dinner: super tender beef, mashed potatoes, and gravy-- not really a recipe, but they were yummy--kind of English-- perfect for watching the first episode of Season Three of Downton Abbey!  Are you into that?  Oh-- I digress.........
As far as the crust goes, you can make your own in a food processor so quickly (new discovery for me-- can you believe it?) !  You can also use the Pillbury crusts, which will work fine.  I've always used a really old recipe for my crusts, but I've adapted it now for use in the food processor.  It always works great, even though it might seem a little unconventional!  
If you don't have a little pie maker (is your birthday coming up?), you can cut the crusts into rectangles or circles and just fold them over to enclose the filling.  Seal them well with the tines of a fork.  It doesn't matter how big or little you make them, just do what you want!  In a regular oven, I bake them at 425F for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and crusty.  Delicious and, did I mention?-- so cute! :)

Pie Pastry in the food processor (for a two crust pie, or to make about 8 hand-held pies)
3 cups flour
1 cup shortening (like Crisco), cut into pieces for savory pies OR
12 Tbl. shortening and 4 Tbl. butter (all cut into pieces) for sweet pies (make sure it's cold)
1 tsp. salt
6 Tbl. (or so) of ice water

Blend the flour and salt together in the processor work bowl.  Take out 1/2 cup of the flour-salt mixture and blend it with a fork with the water.  It should be fairly runny, but not watery.  Set that aside.
Add the shortening or shortening plus butter to the work bowl and blend until it resembles crumbs. This just takes a few pulses, like maybe 10.
Take the top off the work bowl and add the flour-water mixture.  Be sure to add all of it.  Replace the top and pulse the mixture until it clumps up into a mass.  Don't over process!  Pour it out onto a piece of Saran wrap and smoosh it together into a disk.  You now have pie dough!  Roll it out on a flour dusted pastry cloth or tea towel and use however you have planned!

Microwave Apple Pie Filling (for 4 pies in the Breville pie maker)
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into quarters, then crosswise into thin slices, or into small dice
2 Tbl. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
Put everything into a microwavable bowl.  Cover and microwave for 2 minutes.  Stir.  There should be a fair amount of juice being released from the apples.  Microwave a bit more until the apples are soft and the filling apple juices are thick and clear.
Little pot-roast pie!

My new pie maker!

Wonderful cookbook my friend gave me for Christmas!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Now the Bread Pudding!

What's your opinion of bread pudding?  For some it's the ultimate comfort food dessert-- homey, sweet, and luscious.  For others, it's a pasty blob of goop!  I think anti-bread pudding-ers are in the minority though, and maybe they've had only bad recipes, which are legion.  I know people that always order the bread pudding if it's on a restaurant dessert menu and consider themselves bread pudding experts.  I have one friend that even had bread pudding with candles for a birthday "cake"!
For those of you that love bread pudding, I think this is a wonderful recipe.  It's quick to put together and it bakes up really pretty, slightly browned and puffed, smooth and creamy inside with just a few plump raisins here and there.  If you don't think you like bread pudding, then hold on, because you just might like this one as an excuse to eat the BRANDY SAUCE!  Don't even think about making the pudding without the BRANDY SAUCE!  If you don't want the alcohol, you can use 1 tsp. brandy extract, or cook the sauce a little bit after adding the brandy to boil off the alcohol.
Note  One other tip:  the bread makes a big difference in bread pudding.  It can't be too firm or crusty (don't use sourdough, whole wheat, or French baguette type bread) or too mushy (don't use national brand white bread).  I've found the best thing to use is a loaf of bakery style soft, white sandwich bread.  The loaves they make in the grocery store bakery are usually fine.
It's cold outside, even here in south Texas!  Time to make a yummy, warm, comforting dessert!

Bread Pudding with Brandy Sauce (serves 6)
5 slices of day-old white bread, broken into pieces
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half and half light cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated is best!)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbl. melted butter
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter a 1 qt. casserole (a round souffle dish works well).
In large bowl, combine the bread, milk and cream.  In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar.  Add to the bread mixture.  Stir in the vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, butter and raisins.
Pour into the casserole dish.  Put the dish in a larger, shallow pan and pour hot water into the larger pan to a depth of about 1 inch.  Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  The top will be slightly browned.

Brandy Sauce
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
1.5 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbl. cold water
2 Tbl. brandy

In a small, heavy saucepan, beat the egg yolks slightly and add the sugar, vanilla, and milk.  Blend well.  
Cook over medium low heat, stirring, until mixture boils.
Stir the cornstarch mixture into the pan and cook, stirring, until thickened.
Off the heat, stir in the brandy.  
Serve warm, with the bread pudding.

In warm weather, bread pudding is also good cold!  The brandy sauce tastes like melted ice cream-- only better!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Day: East Meets South!

Happy New Year!!  Hope you all enjoyed a fun New Year's Eve and New Year's Day 2013!  Remember I mentioned that we always have Japanese food on New Year's Day?  This year was no exception, but true to tradition (at least in my family!), we enjoyed a variety of regional Amercian AND Asian dishes to celebrate!  
The "must" for a Japanese New Year are the sweet rice cakes called "mochi".  Let's just say that unless you grew up with it, mochi can be an acquired taste :)  It's made with a special rice "flour", steamed, then formed around a sweetened red bean mixture.  The little cakes taste mildly sweet, smooth and chewy.  The filling tastes like what it is:  sweet beans!  I make these every year and the joke around our house is that I'm pretty much the only one that eats them!  Still, since Marie was little, we've made these cakes every New Year's Day.  I figured it was a good way for her to remember a part of her family heritage, plus it was something fun to do together.
Another thing we like to have is tempura, which you've probably had in Asian restaurants.  It's usually a variety of seafood and vegetables, coated in a super light batter and fried.  It's not the healthiest way to enjoy your vegetables, but it's a tasty way!  Relax, it's New Year's Day!  This year, we had shrimp for our New Year's Eve dinner, and I didn't want to do that again the next day.  I used a chicken breast instead-- Japanese fried chicken! :)
So that was the "East" part, but what about the "South"?  I had some crab around, so I made crab cakes, and, the "must do" for a Southerner's New Year-- black-eyed peas!  Put altogether on one plate, it was a very tasty, festive way to celebrate the New Year!  East meets South 2013!
Note:  Most Japanese dishes are produced on two levels-- the "official" ones that are made in restaurants by chefs trained for years and years, and the home-style ones that are made by moms and homemakers.  You can guess which ones I make, but I make things even easier on myself with some very good convenience products.  I'm including photos of some of them.  Now days they are available in large grocery stores or Asian markets.

1.5 cups mochiko (kind of like Japanese "Bis-quick", see picture above)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 can sweet bean paste ("An"-- made from azuki beans, see picture above)
pastry cloth or clean tea towel
paper cupcake liners
Line a steamer basket with cheesecloth and place in a pot with a lid (be sure to put water below the steamer).  In a large bowl, stir all the ingredients together with a whisk until smooth.  Pour the mixture into the lined steamer basket.  Put the lid on and steam for 25-30 minutes.
Now, plop the mochi into a medium-sized bowl and use a wooden spoon to mush it up until it is smooth, glossy, and super sticky.

Use a rubber spatula to scrape the mochi onto a tea towel or pastry cloth that has been sprinkled with cornstarch.  Push the mochi around a bit and roll into a long log.  It will still be kind of hot, so be careful.
Cut the mochi with a knife into 12 pieces.  Use your fingers to shape a piece into a round circle, edges thinner than the middle.  Put about two teaspoons of the sweet bean mixture on the mochi.  Draw the edges up around the filling and pinch together.  Place seamed side down into a cupcake liner.

Repeat with all the pieces.  
Enjoy with a cup of green tea!
1 box tempura mix (Kikkoman or Hime brands are good)
variety of vegetables, sliced into 1/4 inch slices, cut into sticks, or left whole, depending on their size and texture
(examples:  whole green beans, sliced sweet potato and/or white potato, julienne carrots, green onions cut in half crosswise)
shrimp, butterflied, OR chicken cut into strips or small chunks OR any other type of seafood
vegetable oil
tempura dipping sauce

Note:  Don't go overboard in the amount of veggies and protein you prepare.  One dinner plate full of sliced vegetables, 1 chicken breast, or a small amount (like 1/2lb) of seafood is plenty for 4 people.

Make the batter according to the package directions.  Put about 1-inch of vegetable oil in an electric skillet, or a deeper amount in a large, heavy pot.  Allow the oil to heat to 350F.  LOCK YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF THE KITCHEN, AND ASK SOMEONE ELSE TO WATCH THEM.
Start with the proteins and dip and fry them until golden brown and crispy.  Remove to paper towel lined baking sheets and place in a low oven (180F) to keep warm.  Now dip and fry the veggies the same way.  For carrots, put all the sticks into the batter bowl, then grab a clump of them and put into the hot oil-- kind of like fritters.  Cook any watery veggies last (like green peppers, mushrooms, zucchini).
Serve with a dipping sauce made with 1/4 cup dipping sauce concentrate mixed with 1 cup hot water.
Crab Cakes
This isn't really a "recipe". Crab cakes are all about the crab, so the main thing to remember is don't add too many ingredients!  I just mixed 8 oz. cooked crabmeat with 2 chopped green onions, lemon juice from 1/2 lemon, 2 Tbl. minced fresh parsley, 1 egg,  2 dashes of Tabasco sauce, and about 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs.  Add about 1/2 tsp. salt.  Form into cakes and fry in vegetable oil until brown and crusty on each side.

Black-eyed Peas
Again, not really a recipe, but I used 1 lb. fresh black-eyed peas (frozen is fine!).  Fry two strips of bacon in the bottom of a small pot.  Add 1 rib of chopped celery and 1 crushed garlic clove.  Add the black-eyed peas, a few dashes of Tabasco sauce, and enough water to cover the peas by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, then simmer with a lid on for at least an hour.  Taste the peas and add salt.  
If the peas seem too watery, boil awhile with the lid off.  These taste really yummy over the crab cakes!

One more Southern touch!  Bread pudding with Brandy Sauce  leftover from New Year's Eve!  We're on recipe overload for now though-- I'll post that next time!