Saturday Bites & Pieces: Southern Comfort

I’m baaaack!  There has not been time yet to catch up on all the ATiM posts and comments, but at a glance you certainly had some interesting discussions that I very much look forward to reading more thoroughly.  Thanks to all of you for that gift.

Mexico was fabulous, although I only got out of the resort for one excursion so unfortunately don’t feel like I experienced any of the local culture.  The food at the resort was plentiful but IMHO so-so in quality, with a few notable seafood exceptions, and obviously off-the-charts in sodium content.  So I’m happy to get back to my regular low-sodium diet, and this recipe is both quite healthy and very low sodium (fairly rare on both counts for a “comfort food”).

While shopping today at my local farmers market, I was overwhelmed by the gorgeous and inexpensive produce.  I wanted everything, so it took some self-discipline not to buy too much.  The local okra is coming in plentifully, and it inspired me to make one of my favorite southern-style comfort foods.  I love okra.  If this summer is as hot as last summer, I’m sure it will be another bumper crop.  I grew up eating a version of this (proportionately much more chicken) served over grits, but it’s just as good or better served over rice.  The original recipe (for the below, not for what I grew up eating) calls for twice the amount of chicken and half the amount of okra I’ve included below, but my modification lowers the calorie and fat content significantly.  If you are not particularly fond of okra, you probably would still like this in the original proportions or you could substitute squash or another veggie for the okra.  I hope you’ll give it a try.

FB, this is another “one-pot” meal (except for the grits or rice), but I have no idea if your boys will eat okra, especially considering the texture issues many people have with okra.  And it takes at most 30 minutes to prep and cook.


Makes 2 servings, 1 ½ cups each


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

4 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably no salt added

2 cups fresh or frozen sliced or chopped okra

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and corn and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and softened, about 4 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 2 minutes.  (The chicken just needs to be browned, not cooked through because it will be cooked later.) Add garlic, paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and okra. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add pepper and salt.


Per serving: 175 Calories; 4 g Fat (1 g Sat); 33 mg Cholesterol; 23 g Carbohydrates (8 g Sugar, 6 g Fiber); 13 g Protein; 173 mg Sodium

P.S.  I STILL  l.o.v.e  the Thunder.  They had a great year.


Old Fashioned Sweet Cherry Conserves

From The Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition

Makes enough for about eight 1/2-pint jars

  1. Wash and cut oranges into very thin slices, discarding any seeds.
  2. Barely cover with water in a large saucepan, about 1/4 cup, and cook until  very tender.
  3. Wash, stem, pit (see Note below) and add 1 quart cherries.
  4. Add 6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 6 wholes cloves tied in a cheesecloth bag.
  5. Simmer the conserves, stirring frequently until thick and clear.
  6. Discard the spice bag and ladle the hot conserves into hot 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headroom.  Process for 15 minutes.

Note:  To pit the cherries, I treat them like olives.  First put on an old t-shirt (one that you use for painting would work well), then take the cherries, a chef’s knife, and a cutting board outside to an area that will clean up easily (a pool deck is probably perfect).  Using the flat side of the blade, whack a couple of cherries at a time and remove the pit(s).  Once all of the cherries are pitted, go back inside and finish the conserves.

25 Responses

  1. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve cooked anything with okra in it, but I do like it. I make gumbo occasionally but generally have to buy frozen okra as it’s very rarely in our produce departments. I’ll have to investigate whether I can grow it here. Anyway, the recipe sounds great, especially with even less chicken.

    Also, I’m very glad you’re back.


  2. Welcome back, okie, and I’m just sorry you didn’t get to see more of Mexico. Some of the most amazing seafood meals I’ve had were there (and in Scotland).

    I’m a Yankee. . . so I thoroughly dislike okra. But, given that the only time/place I’ve eaten it was in Army mess halls I’m willing to give it a whirl in your recipe, assuming I can get my hands on some. I picked up my first CSA shares for the summer this week, and they were filled with leafy greens, English peas, cherries, and (dried) Anasazi beans, so I’ve been eating salads like crazy. I elected to munch on this week’s cherries rather than preserve them, since I’m certain to get more next week or the week after, but two years ago I hit on a killer old-fashioned cherry conserve recipe that I should dig up and add to your post, as it also has “comfort food” in its DNA. Thanks for the post!


  3. P.S. I still think OKC is the 20-year-old yoga instructor, but I dislike the Thunder less than I did. . . 🙂


  4. Welcome back.


  5. OMG, we have had the best cherries this year at the farmers market and the grocery stores. I think we’re working on our fifth or sixth bag in about two weeks. I’ve never made cherry conserve…………seems like too much work with the seeds, but I might try if you say it’s a good recipe michi. I made strawberry jam last weekend.


  6. I did. I’ll post a response there.


  7. Sorry to post and run, but I had unexpected (and not particularly welcome) overnight guests show up yesterday evening. I have little hope of them getting their butts up and out at a reasonable time today. I’ve already banged around in the kitchen as loudly as possible, to no avail. Next will be to run to the store and get some bacon and start cooking it; that smell seems to always get carnivores up and moving.

    lms, frozen okra works just fine in this and is what I use when okra is not in season. I too would be interested in whether you are able to grow it. It’s very reliable here because it not only likes the heat, it requires it; so I don’t know if your weather is hot enough. If you can grow it, it’s the most maintenance-free easy-to-grow vegetable I know. I’m going to try canning some hot pickled okra this year, something I have not tried before.

    Michi, I’m jealous of your coop. I haven’t done that in years, though I don’t remember why not. I would love the cherry conserve recipe if you find it. (At least I got to visit some Mayan ruins when I was in Mexico, which was especially fun because our tour guide was actually Mayan. He not only was extremely knowledgeable but also very entertaining, which was a great combination.)

    jnc, thanks much. I’m looking forward to getting caught up generally, but in particular you posted a couple of comments I want to revisit. Heads up!

    P.P.S. to Michi: Hahaha, you read the yoga instructor article after all! lol


  8. okie, good luck with the “transients”. I may try the okra this year but it might be too late in the season. I think I can find a spot. Although I have no idea what the plant looks like I imagine it’s rather large, or maybe like a pepper plant? July is a little late for planting though. I’m normally done by this time as I got my pumpkins and winter squash in about a month ago and am just enjoying the fruits of our labor now until Sept. when we start over with our winter garden.


  9. I’m glad you enjoyed Mexico but that is too hot. I tend to eschew resorts because I do like to mingle with the natives. I am on my way to Canada to personally investigate the misery residents of the Maritime Provinces endure under the oppressive tyranny of single-payer universal coverage. I expect it to be a hellish nightmare.


  10. Also okie, when you have the chance to read this don’t forget about adding summer squash, thinly sliced, into your pasta salad, assuming you make pasta salad. I make it about once a week this time of year and each week it’s different depending on what’s at the farmer’s market or in the garden. I found a light turkey pepperoni that I add to mine with a little provologne cheese…………..yummy. I think the pasta salad is the reason I’ve been able to put back on a few of the pounds I lost…………. 😉


  11. yello, it was noticeably cooler where I was in Mexico (about an hour’s drive south of Cancun) than it has been at home for some time both before and after my trip. I fully agree about avoiding resorts, but I didn’t have any say about it for this trip (family wedding). Best wishes on your research in Canada. That cracks me up. We will, of course, expect a full report.

    lms, too funny. Yes, I too make pasta salad about once a week this time of year, also with whatever is in season and strikes my fancy. Yellow crookneck squash is almost always in the mix about now. I roast the squash lightly before adding it, and it’s especially yummy. What kind of dressing do you use?

    I don’t know your weather well enough to guess at whether you could still plant okra. It probably depends on how quickly it cools down for you. I haven’t grown okra myself for some years, but I recall that it requires a fairly long growing season and does not like cool weather. On the other hand, I guess it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. It’s bushy and tall, not quite as tall as corn, and definitely best planted along a fence and not near a pathway. It’s “prickly” even on leaves and stems and can really irritate your skin. It’s not an especially attractive plant. I can’t at the moment think of anything similar in growth habit.


  12. Thanks for all the info on the okra okie. I may not get it in this year as it’s larger than I thought…………we’ll see. I may have to order seeds online as our seeds are thinning out pretty well around here.

    Salad dressing for pasta salad is either one of Ken’s lite Italians or I make my own, my preference but not my husbands. The problem is he loves pasta salad and I’m pretty sure he’s gained a few pounds already this summer as well, and he didn’t lose weight when I did…………….lol. I need to get him in the pool today.

    Have a nice Sunday all, I’m out to finish preparations for a small pool/B’day party.


  13. Drop-in guests are always most annoying if they’re the late-to-rise types, aren’t they??

    I added the cherry conserves recipe to the post, so give it a look. Easy-peasy to make, and kids LOVE to help with the pitting part as the juice flies everywhere! 🙂


  14. Thanks for the cherry conserve recipe, michi, much appreciated. It does look easy and I’m sure I’ll have to give it a try. It sounds like a good addition to my Christmas goodie baskets.

    The bacon worked, and I am free at last!


  15. Thanks for the recipe Michi. What exactly does one do with cherry conserves? Is it something you’d serve with meat or is it more like a jam?

    Checked the other threads, and since I got in enough hot water last night for the next month or so, I’m just going to put a little pic up from today of my grandson and call it a night. He’s becoming quite a swimmer at six and we’re already working on flip turns and handstands, which he really loved. Yep he’s my grandson. Granddaughter learned a few new water polo moves from Grandpa while we were at it.


  16. What a gorgeous yard, lms! How tall is your grandson, anyway? I was all ready to guess this was your hubby! 🙂

    I’ve served the conserves over chicken and turkey as well as pork chops (which, if you decide to try to get some red meat into your diet, those will help). Over ice cream would also be yummy!


  17. yello, it was noticeably cooler where I was in Mexico (about an hour’s drive south of Cancun) than it has been at home for some time both before and after my trip.

    My parents drove up from Florida for my cousin’s wedding and were complaining on Friday night that Maryland was hotter than Florida. They also regaled us with the tale of how their house just barely survived the 14 inches of rain from the Debbie. I wonder if something is making the climate act all whacky.


  18. Lmsinca – photo taken with hipstamatic or instagram?


  19. jnc, it’s from my daughter-in-laws phone so instagram, I believe.

    michi, in the background is our warehouse. And I have no idea how tall Trenton is but my son is only about 5’10” and he won’t get extra height from my husbands side of the family, no biology there. His mother is fairly tall and has some tall uncles and a tall father so I imagine he’ll be taller than average. Right now I’d say he’s about average compared to the other kids. No red meat for me yet…………..situation has improved.

    Re weather…………….we’ve been getting the best, unusually so for this time of year. Come to CA everyone, but if you do, bring a job with you.


  20. Well! I just made my first martini!! Not half bad if I do say so myself, although I do need to refine it a little bit. I like them very dry (and gin, not vodka) but even so I think I’d use a skosh more vermouth next time.



  21. Cheers!

    What counts for me as a martini is vodka, very chilled, with the barest hint of vermouth (or none at all) but a tiny bit of olive juice. Not a martini in The Thin Man sense. lol, while at the resort in Mexico my brother and I met for a cocktail at one of the bars. I’m not sure what possessed me at the moment, but I ordered a vodka martini “up, very slightly dirty.” I neglected to consider the language barrier. After the ensuing discussion with the server (who thought I wanted a bit of orange juice in it), I wondered what I was going to be served. I think my bro was right when he told me I should have just talked to the bartender directly because he would know exactly what I meant. Guess he was right, because I had the perfect (to me) martini in the oddest of places.


  22. I like the taste of gin and find vodka very, very dangerous! I made this one by swirling the vermouth around in the shaker with the ice and then pouring it all out before adding the gin. I think next time I’ll try swirling half the vermouth and dumping it and then adding the second half of the vermouth (which, in this case, would equal 1/4 ounce) along with the gin.

    And my favorite martini is dirty, but I discovered that I don’t have quite the right kind of olives on hand (since I’ve never bought specifically martini olives, not knowing that there is a difference).

    If you ever get to D.C. go to the Marriott at the Convention Center and order a martini–they make the most heavenly ones I’ve ever had!


  23. For the perfect martini, an open bottle of vermouth should be walked through the room.


  24. Hawkeye Pierce: I’d like a dry martini, Mr. Quang, a very dry martini. A very dry, arid, barren, desiccated, veritable dustbowl of a martini. I want a martini that could be declared a disaster area. Mix me just such a martini.

    My personal fondness is something that would shock the purists. Splash in a bit of liquid from cornichon and add a few after shaking. Down and dirty. Of course, if it’s Hendry’s or Bombay Sapphire, I’ll go for the real thing.


    P.S. I’ll try the okra when I’m on my own. My better half can’t stand the slime.


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