Archive for the ‘Main Dishes’ Category


Black Eyed Peas- N- Pork  

Our gang here at TaraCooks.com would like to wish all of you a very Happy New YearMay God bless your lives with health, happiness, and His spirit today and throughout 2009! 

Here’s how to get all the New Year’s traditions in one main dish.  It contains those “lucky” black eyed peas.  Pork and cabbage go in the mix that so many folks here in the south serve with the peas.  This recipe is a complete experiment for me, and one I created after consulting with my life long friend Amanda.   

Brown 1 pound ground pork in large iron skillet over medium heat. (There was practically NO grease that cooked out of the pork. I was surprised). 


  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 1 chopped medium sweet onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage (I used slaw mix, without the dressing) 

Cook chopped veggies with ground pork until onions are translucent. 

Then add:

  • ½ cup Minute Rice
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can drained black eyed peas
  • Salt and Pepper to taste 

Simmer until rice is done and liquid chicken broth is absorbed. 

Serve in large cabbage leaves. 

Although I served this dish in the cabbage leaves, you could simply serve from the iron skillet for simplicity’s sake.  Amanda made a similar dish with potatoes and carrots in place of the slaw mix and rice.  She was able to roll spoonfuls of her mix into cabbage leaves, secure with a toothpick, and bake with some canned tomatoes as topping.  We both could imagine some country ham pieces accenting this dish too!  Any how, I had fun creating a new dish, and consulting with an old friend.  I was also pleased with the taste.  And I’m no longer a virgin ground pork chef!


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Fried Chicken Tenders

You will need:

  • 2 pounds fresh chicken tenders
  • Salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups plain flour
  • 1 ½ cups Ritz cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 teaspoons Lowry’s seasoned salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun spice
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • Vegetable Oil for frying

Fried chicken is better when made from fresh, not frozen chicken. Remove fresh chicken tenders from package (I’ve also used the chicken breast and cut my own tenders). Rinse chicken and place in a bowl of water along with 2-3 Tablespoons salt. Soak chicken 30-60 minutes. Pour water off chicken and rinse again. Return chicken to bowl and cover with buttermilk. Let chicken soak in buttermilk at least 30 minutes. Place chicken in refrigerator while soaking in salt water and buttermilk.

While chicken soaks, prepare the breading. Crush the crackers, and then add the flour, all the seasonings, mixing well. Sometimes, I will place the breading in a zip-lock bag to coat the chicken. Sometimes I simply toss chicken with the breading in a large bowl. Either way, the some of the buttermilk needs to be drained off the chicken before the breading takes place. Also, place only 4-6 tenders at a time in the breading. Too many tenders at once are harder to coat. I like to lay the breaded tenders on paper towels as I continue breading and begin frying.

I use a fryer that has a metal basket, along with a thermostat. I fill the fryer up to the maximum oil line. Then I preheat the fryer to 400 degrees. When oil is hot, I add 4-6 tenders to the basket and fry for about 6 minutes, or until the breading is golden brown, but not overdone. If the tenders are very thick, I like to cut into the thickest ones to test for doneness. Sometimes the tenders must be fried a little longer. Remember, pink chicken is not very healthy.

Remove cooked tenders from fryer basket and drain/cool them on clean paper towels. Transfer to your favorite platter when all tenders are ready to serve. See this platter – it belonged to my husband’s grandmother. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas this year. This was the first meal served on it in our home.

Our children love all types of dipping sauces. These tenders are excellent served with Jezebel sauce. Other favorites are honey mustard dressing, ranch dressing, and barbeque sauce.

You will make many friends when you serve these tenders.


Jezebel Sauce

What in the world is Jezebel sauce? Well- its zippy, its zesty, and its zingy! And it peps up a lot of fried meats and boring dried beans.

Mix together and store in Rubbermaid or Tupperware bowl:

  • 1 pint apple jelly
  • 1 pint pineapple or peach preserves
  • ¼ cup horseradish
  • ½ cup mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Mix well, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve as a dipping sauce for fried chicken, shrimp, or fish. This sauce is also tasty served with pinto beans, navy beans, crowder peas, or black eyed peas. Keeps up to 4 weeks in refrigerator.

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It’s almost time to ring in a new year. I don’t know about you, but we’ve all had our fill of the traditional dishes like turkey and dressing, ham, rolls, heavy casseroles, and numerous desserts that now hang on our hips and thighs. We will be hosting a New Year’s Eve party at our home for our oldest son and his friends this year. This week, I will be sharing some recipes for our New Year’s Eve menu. Today, I give you the Stromboli.

This is so quick and easy and yet it’s one of those dishes your guests will think you spent a lot of time preparing. The first time I had this dish was at our church life group meeting. I still refer to it as Gina’s Stromboli, since this was her treat for our group to enjoy.

What you will need:

  • 1 tube Pillsbury French Loaf dough
  • 2 cups of shredded Italian or Mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ pound thin sliced deli pepperoni or salami
  • ½ pound thin sliced deli smoked turkey
  • ½ pound thin sliced deli ham
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
  • Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a cookie sheet or baking pan.

Open tube and remove dough, handling carefully. Find seam in dough and gently unroll the loaf of French dough on the greased pan. The dough should cover about a 12×8 area once it is unrolled.

Take slices of turkey and cover the entire surface of the dough. Repeat with the ham slices. Place pepperoni mainly in the middle area of the rectangle. If you really love pepperoni cover the entire rectangle.

Cover meats with the shredded Italian cheese.

Sprinkle 1-2 Tablespoons of Italian Seasoning (Oregano/Basil blend)

Starting on the long edge of dough, carefully begin rolling the dough toward opposite long edge. Pinch ends of dough together. Cut 3-4 slits on top of the Stromboli roll with a sharp knife.  (In the photo below, I formed a circle with the rolled up Stromboli to resemble a wreath for Christmas).

Place Stromboli in preheated oven. Cook until crust is golden brown, but not over done. This takes about 20 minutes in my oven, but ovens do vary a bit.stromboli

When Stromboli is brown, remove from oven and garnish top with fresh grated parmesan cheese. Let cool slightly. Transfer to your favorite serving platter. Cut into 1” slices to serve.


Use other combinations of meats and cheese. My sons like double ham with cheddar cheese. We’ve also used Boar’s Head Salsalita Chicken with Montery Jack cheese and a dash of chili powder. This could easily become a vegetarian dish made with cheeses and veggies like spinach, mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers, black olives, or even zucchini

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How to Brine a Turkey 

This is my first year to brine a turkey.  I used the largest pot I have – it probably holds at least 3 gallons of water.  You can buy the brining bags at the grocery during the holiday season.  Since I think it’s ridiculous to pay the price Kroger was asking for theirs, I simply let my turkey soak in that huge pot that I used to make the brine.  

In huge pot add: turkey-brine-2

  • 2 gallons water (I filtered mine – but I’m an O/C type)
  • Zest of one orange + slices of remaining orange
  • Zest of one lemon + slices of remaining lemon
  • 1 package fresh rosemary (from Kroger produce section)
  • 1 package fresh thyme (from Kroger produce section)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 apple cut and diced
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups of salt
  • Toss in a few peppercorns if you have them
  • 4-5 bay leaves 

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat immediately, cover, and allow mixture to come to room temperature. Cool mixture in the fridge until you’re ready to brine (I’m always in a hurry and added some ice to the brine).

To brine the turkey, remove turkey from wrapper, remove gross bags, and rinse thoroughly under cool water. Place the turkey into a plastic brining bag OR a very large pot. Pour cool brine mixture over the top, adding extra cold water if you need more to cover. Seal bag or cover pot and allow turkey to brine in refrigerator for 8 to 18 hours before roasting.

Before roasting, remove turkey from brine and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Pat dry. Discard brine.

When you brine your turkey, the drippings are quite salty. For this reason, it is VERY important that you use a no-sodium (or low-sodium) chicken broth when you make the turkey gravy.

Many frozen turkeys are injected with a sodium solution—it’s best NOT to brine these turkeys! Brining fresh turkeys for best results

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Christmas Country Breakfast Pie 

1 deep dish pie crust – unbaked 

Place the following in unbaked pie crustbreakfast-pie

  • 1 pound pork sausage – crumbled, browned, and drained
  • ¼ cup chopped green pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped red pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup light cream 

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until top is golden brown and set.


Hashbrown Casserole

Place in a 9×13 greased baking dish:

  • 1 bag Ore Ida frozen shredded hash brown potatoes hashbrown-casserole

In large bowl mix:

  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • ½ stick melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons minced dried onion flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese 

Pour liquid/cheese mixture over hash browns.  Stir slightly.  Place in preheated 400 degree oven.  Bake about 45 minutes, or until top of casserole is golden brown. 

This make a lot and can be easily divided and placed into 2 9×9 dishes.  One can be frozen and thawed later for cooking.

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 Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin

 I just love crock pot meals. They are simple and easy. Often when I have a busy day scheduled, I’ll prepare a crock pot meal before leaving home. Nothing says “Welcome back!” like the aroma from a slow simmered meal in the crock pot.

 Here’s one way to roast pork tenderloin:

 In large crock pot add:

  • 3-4 large carrots – peeled and sliced
  • 4 medium potatoes – peeled and sliced
  • 1 yellow onion – peeled and quartered

 Then lay a 2-3 pound pork tenderloin on top of the vegetables. Season tenderloin by sprinkling the following herbs on the top and sides of the meat:pork-roast-before-cooking

  •  1 Tablespoon dried Thyme
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 Tablespoon dried Italian herb mix
  • 1 Tablespoon dried Rosemary (I use fresh Rosemary when I have it)
  • 2 dried Bay leaves
  • Salt and Pepper

 Place lid on crock pot and let simmer overnight, or all day. I cooked this one on High for about 8 hours. It was perfect.




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 Sinful Sweet Potatoes


  • 3 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • ½ stick melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)


Beat all ingredients together and pour into a greased 2-quart casserole dish. Cover with topping and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.



  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup flaked coconut


Combine topping ingredients and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over potatoes before baking.

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