Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Alabama Yams With Oranges

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of

Traditionally, any yam served in my childhood home during the month of November was baked, mashed with butter, cream, a wee bit of salt and brown sugar, and covered with mounds of fluffy marshmallows that were subsequently broiled until nearly black and gooey on top.  Come to think of it, the only time we actually ate yams back then was during the month of November.

Upon having children of my own and deciding early on there was no way I was going to feed my babies processed baby nasty-food,  I did some research into the nutritional merits of these terrific tubers.  It seems they have a far lower glycemic index than regular potatoes.  They also happen to be packed with potassium, manganese, vitamin C and vitamin B3 while registering low on the sodium counter.  Best of all, kids actually like to eat them with little or no negotiation, marshmallows or no marshmallows.   I started serving them regularly to the whole family as a tasty side that could double as homemade baby food.  Two birds with one stone?  That’s how I roll!  Baked in their skins with a dash of butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, or cut up and oven-roasted, yams are delicious and appear on my household menus at least once a week.

However tasty the good old fashioned yam might happen to be all by itself, the holidays call for something a bit more elegant, more celebratory.  This is it.  From the Heritage of Southern Cooking, author (and southern cooking guru) Camille Glenn has this to say:


” This is the Deep South way with yams or sweet potatoes.  It seems to always show up with the Thanksgiving turkey, but it is just as compatible with a good ham or chicken.  Do not peel either the potatoes or the orange.  If you don’t have a luscious rich sauce, you have been too cautious with the butter.”


Amen.  Be sure to slice the oranges as thin as possible – if you have a mandoline slicer, use it, but if not, just be sure to cut the slices super-thin.  Use real butter, and for heaven’s sake, listen to Ms. Glenn!  Don’t be shy!  It’s the holidays, after all.  This dish is excellent served with Green Beans Sauteed With Olive Oil; the citrus overtones keep the palate fresh and thoroughly entertained.



Alabama Yams With Oranges

(Heritage of Southern Cooking, by Camille Glenn)

6 yams or sweet potatoes, fully cooked and cooled (I bake mine for approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees – the yam shouldn’t be too mushy, but it should be cooked to the point that it can be easily sliced)

3 navel oranges, thinly sliced

1/2 to 3/4 C (1 to –1/2 sticks) butter

3/4 C sugar

1 C fresh orange juice

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Peel and slice the cooked sweet potatoes very thin and place one layer in a shallow buttered baking dish.  Top with a layer of orange slices.  Dot generously with butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Continue layering.  You should have 3 layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, butter, and topping it off with sugar.

Mix the orange juice with the lemon juice and pour it over the potatoes.

Bake until a pleasant syrup has formed and the top is tinged with brown.

Serves 6 – 8



Posted November 9th, 2011.

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Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of Cornell University


By now, we should all be  familiar with the wildly popular Mexican version of a Seven Layer Dip.  This recipe is an equally delicious alternative, featuring the warm, fresh flavors of the Mediterranean for an exciting change of pace.

To round out a Mediterranean hors d’ oeuvres table, try serving this delicious dip along with a platter of Falafel balls, tzatziki, a gourmet selection of olives, and some baklava.



Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip

Serves 8

1-1/2 6-inch pita pockets, cut into 12 wedges, tops and bottoms separated  to make 24 wedges in all
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup loosely packed baby spinach, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 ounces)

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp Kalamata olives, finely chopped

1/2 medium tomato, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1/4 medium cucumber, peeled and finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint

1/2  C crumbled feta cheese


Make Pita Wedges:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the pita wedges in a single layer on a large baking sheet without overlapping the wedges. Lightly brush each wedge with olive oil; bake for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly crisp (the pita wedges will crisp more as they cool).  Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.


Make Seven Layer Dip:
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, process the chickpeas until coarsely chopped. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the lemon juice and process until blended. Add the water and pepper. Process until smooth.

Arrange the spinach on a serving plate. Gently spread the chickpea mixture on top, leaving a border of the spinach. Sprinkle the oregano over the spread. Arrange the tomato on the spread. Top, in order, with the cucumber, onion, olives, mint, and feta.  Serve with the pita wedges.

Tip: The pita wedges and chickpea spread can be made up to one day ahead. Store the pita wedges in an airtight container at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the chickpea mixture. The remaining ingredients can be chopped and stored in the refrigerator up to 8 hours in advance, but the dip shouldn’t be assembled until right before serving.

Posted October 26th, 2011.

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Baked Bananas With Cardamom and Cream

by Danica Waters

Most everyone has the “Three B’s” lying around their pantry:  Bananas, Brown Sugar, and Butter.  Cardamom, maybe not so much.  But it’s worth a wee trip to the grocery store to score some cardamom pods;  they’re inexpensive, and given the depth of flavor they add to this heavenly little dish, you won’t want to leave them out.
These warm caramelized baked bananas are delicious served all by themselves; however, they would go smashingly well served over vanilla ice cream, as well.  Served with crepes and a smear of unsweetened cream cheese, they’ll be the hit of your holiday brunch.



Baked Bananas With Cardamom and Cream


4 firm bananas

4 – 6 Tbsp brown sugar

¼ C unsalted butter

4-6 cardamom seed pods, husks removed and black seeds crushed

¼ C Toasted diced pecans, or more, if desired (optional)

½ C heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 450.  Place 2 Tbsp butter in a large baking dish and place in oven until butter melts.  Carefully remove dish from oven and swirl melted butter to coat bottom of dish thoroughly.


While butter is melting, peel and cut the bananas diagonally or vertically into 3/8-inch slices.


When butter is ready, sprinkle pecans over bottom of prepared baking dish.  Place banana slices on top and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar.  Bake 5 minutes.


Remove bananas from the oven, immediately sprinkle with the crushed cardamom,  remaining brown sugar, and butter.  Place back in oven until butter and brown sugar have melted, approximately 1 min.


Remove from oven.  Divide banana slices equally among individual dessert plates.  Pour a bit of cream around the slices and serve immediately.


Serves 4

Posted October 22nd, 2011.

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Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

by Danica Waters

When simple ingredients can be combined in a manner that inspires not just the palate, but excites the soul, this is the true magic of good cooking.  This salad is just that magical.  It is one of the crown jewels of my personal recipe collection.  The vertical presentation is visually breathtaking; the flavors and textures are nothing short of inspired.


While this simple salad is intended to be a first course, beware:  it is incredibly filling.   Be sure to judge your pear size according to the way you intend to serve this little culinary gem.





Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

(serves 4)


4 perfectly ripe, smooth-skinned (not overripe, not underripe) pears

2 C watercress

2 Tbsp toasted pecan pieces

1 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)

2 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Raspberry or red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Lemon juice



Gently wash pears with a natural fruit and vegetable wash; set aside.

Toss watercress with pecans, cranberries and gorgonzola; drizzle with salad dressing and gently toss to combine.

Core pears from bottom, leaving the stem intact.  Slice each pear in four horizontal slices; brush all sides generously with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

On individual salad plates, reassemble pears with salad mix in the middle and between each pear layer.  Drizzle with honey.

Posted October 14th, 2011.

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Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash

by Danica Waters


In the chilly autumn evenings, nothing beats the flavor and aroma of warm, baked squash.  While acorn squash is typically associated with winter squash varieties, it actually belongs to the same species as summer squashes, such as zucchini and yellow crooknecks.  Thankfully, the tough skin of an acorn squash allows it to keep for weeks in a cool, dark place, making it a favorite staple for the fall and winter months.


The best acorn squash should be approximately one to three pounds, and feel heavy for its size.  If the squash is any bigger than that, you run the risk of getting a squash that has been harvested too late in the season, which will render the squash tough and stringy.  Look for a squash that has a nice combination of green and orange coloring, that’s not too shiny.  If the squash is shiny and completely green, it’s been harvested prematurely.


Nutritionally, a one-cup serving of acorn squash comes in at a meager 115 calories and is packed with fiber, potassium, and magnesium.  That same one cup serving will also give you 2 grams of protein and 30% of your daily Vitamin C requirements, which makes it a very attractive alternative to, say, diet-killer mashed potatoes.  While acorn squash is traditionally baked and seasoned with loads of butter and brown sugar, this recipe features a figure-friendly basting with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


And F.Y.I.:  try roasting and seasoning the acorn squash seeds for sprinkling on salads.  They’re edible and delicious!




Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash


Acorn squash, figure on serving one-half of a squash per person

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Balsamic Vinegar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Wash acorn squash (see recipe for vinegar-based vegetable wash).  Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and long fibrous strands.


Sprinkle squash halves with kosher salt; place face down in a large roasting pan.  Add water to the pan to a depth of 1/4” and place in oven. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until squash is tender but still firm.


Remove from oven and allow to cool; slice squash halves into 1-1/2” sections on the bias and put back in the roasting pan, right-side up.  Brush each section generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and return to hot oven.


Bake five minutes; baste squash with balsamic vinegar.  Repeat process until squash is very tender and well-roasted.  Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.


Posted October 13th, 2011.

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Zucchini: Grilled and Stuffed Southwestern-Style

by Danica Waters

After spending a happy, busy weekend experimenting with different variations of stuffed grilled zucchini (so far I’ve done it Italian-style, Asian-style, and with green chiles and Parmesan cheese – yum!), this variation nearly got me a standing ovation.  Folks were placing dibs on leftovers for lunch the next day.


The secret ingredient is the tequila in the marinade.  It gets ‘em every time; it deepens the flavors and mingles well with all things grilled.





Zucchini:  Grilled and Stuffed Southwestern-Style


4 medium-sized Zucchini



¼ C extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp chili powder

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp tequila

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice




1 – 15 oz can black beans

½ red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut to ¼” dice

2-3 diced green onions

1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed from the cob

½ C cold cooked jasmine rice

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tsp whole cumin seed

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

½ C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

1 fresh jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, finely minced






Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise).  Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides.  Marinate zucchini in tequila mixture; set aside.


Heat grill to medium.


In a small sauté pan, sauté minced jalapeno with diced red pepper in a bit of olive oil until soft.  Add cumin seed, allow to cook for a minute to release the flavor of the cumin, and remove from the heat.


In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients with peppers and cumin and mix well.  Fill zucchini sections; drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section.  Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred and cheeses are thoroughly melted; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.


Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.



Posted September 1st, 2011.

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Zucchini: Stuffed and Grilled Asian-Style

by Danica Waters

Smitten with the results of my first spontaneous attempt at grilling stuffed zucchini (see Zucchini; Grilled and Stuffed Italian Style), I excitedly devoted the rest of my weekend towards developing several variations on the theme.  You would think “la familia” would be picketing outside with large signs that read “SQUASH THE SQUASH” or “IT’S X-NAY THE ZUCCHINI DAY”, but surprisingly, that’s not what happened.  Because zucchini has a relatively neutral flavor, it acts as a nearly perfect culinary canvas for all sorts of world cuisine.


Today’s variation has an Asian flare; the flavors and textures on this little gem will set your taste buds on fire. (Or was it the chili sauce?) It’s my personal favorite; I think I could live on this variation, like, forever..




Asian Grilled Stuffed Zucchini


4 medium-sized Zucchini



2 Tbsp chili sauce

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp dark brown sugar



1/2 small can diced water chestnuts

½ C diced roasted and salted peanuts

¼ C chopped fresh cilantro

½ C cold cooked jasmine rice

3-4 chopped green onions

Chinese Chicken Salad dressing or other Asian-style dressing ( I use Trader Joe’s Spicy Thai Peanut Dressing) to bind.




Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise).  Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides.  Marinate zucchini in chili sauce mixture; set aside.


Heat grill to medium.


In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients and mix well.  Fill zucchini sections; drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section.  Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.


Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.




Posted August 30th, 2011.

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Brandied Pears

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of

Don’t forget:  tomorrow is National Can-It-Forward Day!  If you haven’t already signed up for the live webcast coming from Seattle’s Pike Place Market, you can sign up here.

Be sure to check out the schedule of events – there’s a great lineup of recipes, tips and tricks ready and waiting on Canning Across America’s website, as well.


At 25 cents a pound, there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to try this recipe.  Like the Kentucky Bourbon Peaches featured yesterday, Brandied Pears are deliciously elegant served warm over vanilla ice cream or left all to themselves.  Try adding the leftover brandied syrup to a white wine spritzer, or simply pour over ice cubes and top with soda or mineral water.

Happy Canning!



Brandied Pears

(from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving)

6 lb pears

2 lemons

1-1/2 C water

2-1/2 C sugar

1 piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and thinly sliced

1-1/2 C brandy


Fill boiling water canner with water.  Place 6 clean pint jars in canner over high heat.  Bring to a rolling boil; reduce heat and keep jars hot until ready to use.

In separate saucepan, place lids in hot but not boiling water; keep hot until ready to use.

Peel, halve, and core pears;  place in color protection solution (1/4 C lemon juice to 4 C water) and set aside.

With vegetable peeler, remove rind (yellow part only) from lemons in continuous spiral.  Squeeze juice from lemons and strain into measuring cup; add sufficient water to make 2 cups.

In a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan, combine water, rind, juice, sugar, and gingerroot.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain pears and add to hot liquid; heat to a boil.

Pack hot fruit snugly in overlapping layers in hot jar to within 3/4 of an inch of top rim.  Pour 1/4 C brandy over pears in jar.  Add boiling syrup to cover pears to within 1/2 inch of top rim (head space).  Remove air bubbles by sliding rubber spatula between glass and food; readjust head space to 1/2 inch.

Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth, removing any stickiness.  Center hot lid on jar; apply screw band just until fingertip tight.  Place jar in canner.  Repeat with remaining pears, brandy, and syrup.

Cover canner; return water to a boil and process for 20 minutes at altitudes up to 1,000 feet.  Remove jars.  Cool 24 hours.

Check your jar seals:  if the center of your lid springs back when pressed, your seal is broken and the contents must be refrigerated immediately and used promptly.  If the center remains firm when pressed, your seal is good, and contents can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to a year.






Posted August 12th, 2011.

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Kentucky Bourbon Peaches

by Danica Waters


 I discovered this gem of a recipe in a canning guide given to me by my Mother-In-Law nearly a decade ago.  I suspected just by looking at the ingredients that this recipe would be over-the-top; boy, was I was right.  Let’s put it this way:  if you could bottle that wonderful butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of feeling that comes with the change of the seasons, this is it.


The ginger and clove accents make the peaches smell like the autumn harvest and Christmas all at the same time;  the deep, heady flavor of a good Kentucky Bourbon transforms blushing summer peaches into a gourmet gift everyone will clamor over.


Try serving these peaches warm over vanilla ice cream, perhaps on some chilly late autumn evening when the fire crackles in the hearth and your home is filled with the lively conversation of friends and family.




Kentucky Bourbon Peaches

(Adapted from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving)


17-20 medium peaches, ripened

8 inches cinnamon stick

2 Tbsp finely chopped gingerroot

1 tsp whole cloves

1 C sugar

2 C water

½ C good-quality bourbon


Fill boiling water canner with water.  Place 5 clean pint mason jars in canner over high heat.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and keep jars hot until ready to fill.



In separate small saucepan, place lids in hot but not boiling water to soften sealing compound.  Keep hot until ready to use.



Bring a large saucepan or stockpot filled with water to a rolling boil.

Fill another large bowl or pot with ice water, place next to the stove.

Fill another large bowl or pot with a solution of ¼ lemon juice to 4 cups water – this is your color preservation solution for the blanched peaches.


To blanch peaches:


Thoroughly wash ripened peaches.  Blanch the peaches by placing them in the boiling water for only 2 minutes.  Remove with heatproof tongs and immediately place in ice water bath to cool.  When peaches have cooled to the touch, simply slip off their skins.  Cut peaches in half and remove seeds.  Immediately place in color preservation solution; set aside.








Make syrup:


Break cinnamon stick into pieces; tie with gingerroot and cloves in a cheesecloth square (creating a spice bag).




In a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan, combine sugar and water;  add the spice bag.  Bring to a boil; boil 5 minutes.


Drain peaches;  add to boiling syrup.  Return to a boil and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes.



Remove from heat and discard spice bag.  Add bourbon to the peaches and mix well.


Pack hot fruit snugly in overlapping layers in a hot jar;  leave ¾ inch headspace.  Pour in syrup to ½ inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles by sliding a rubber spatula in-between jar and fruit; readjust headspace by adding more syrup, not to exceed ½ inch headspace.



Wipe rims of jars with clean, damp cloth to remove any stickiness; center prepared lid on jar, and secure with ring.  Do not over-tighten – screw on ring to fingertip tightness.


Place jars in hot water bath canner; return to a boil.


Process 20 minutes at altitudes up to 1,000 feet.


Remove jars and allow to cool for 24 hours.  Test your seals:  if center of lid springs back when touched, your seal is broken and you should immediately refrigerate and use contents promptly.


If center remains depressed when touched, your seal is good, and peaches can be stored in a cool dark place for up to a year.




Posted August 11th, 2011.

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Mum’s Famous Delectable Corn Relish

by Danica Waters

The recipe for Mum’s Famous Delectable Corn Relish comes from my Mother-In-Law. (I affectionately refer to her as “Mum”; she’s a nicer, Scottish version of Martha Stewart, an artist, a savvy but unassuming perfectionist, and an absolute wonder at everything she touches.)  I will never forget the year she sent this relish in a care package, because I’ve never seen anything disappear so fast in my entire life.


We put it on ham sandwiches.  I’d never tasted anything so over-the-top delicious.  We put in on turkey sandwiches.  Truly knocked our socks off.  Then Mum mentioned that one of her friends put the relish in a foil package with some wild-caught salmon and a bit of olive oil and threw the whole lot on the grill.  It blew the taste buds off of everyone at her dinner party.  Of course we tried it; it was magnificent.


This recipe yielded nine half-pint jars of corn relish.  Yes, it involves a lot of chopping.  It is worth every minute.




Mum’s Famous Delectable Corn Relish

(adapted from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving)


7 ears fresh corn

1-1/2 C chopped celery

1 large sweet red pepper, chopped

1 small sweet green pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1-1/4 C sugar

2 tsp celery seed

3 C white vinegar

2 Tbsp dry mustard

2 tsp turmeric

1-1/2 C water


Remove husks and silks from the corn, trim the ends.  Place ears in a large kettle of boiling water and simmer 10 minutes.

Remove corn and immediately plunge into cold water to stop cooking process.  When corn has cooled, cut kernels from the cob.  You should have about 4-5 cups of corn.

Fill canner with water.  Place nine clean half-pint jars in water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and keep water hot until you need to fill the jars.

In a large saucepan (stainless steel or enamel work best) combine corn, celery, peppers,onion, sugar, celery seed and vinegar.  Cover the pan and bring to a boil; remove cover and boil 5 minutes.   Skim any foam that rises to the top.


Combine mustard and turmeric with water.  Stir into vegetable mixture and return to a boil.  Boil uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Place lids in hot but not boiling water to soften sealing compound.  Keep hot until ready to use.


Remove hot jars to a surface lined with clean kitchen towels.  Ladle hot relish into the hot jars, taking care to maintain ½ inch head space.  Using a non-metallic spatula, remove air bubbles from jars by sliding spatula between glass and relish; readjust to fill to the ½ ‘ headspace.  Wipe the rim of each jar with a clean damp cloth to remove any stickiness.  Center lids on jars,  screw on rings just until fingertip tight.

Replace jars into hot water bath in canner; bring to a boil.    Process jars 15 minutes at altitudes up to 1,000 ft.



when pressed, the seal is not good, and the contents must be refrigerated immediately and used promptly.  If center remains depressed, label and store for up to a year in a cool, dark pantry area.


For best flavor, allow jars to sit in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks before using.  For even better texture, refrigerate prior to serving.


Be sure to keep refrigerated after opening.


Posted August 10th, 2011.

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