Enjoying the Simple Pleasures of Life, While Living in a Complicated World

Cooking from Scratch for Better Health

The BEST Fried Chicken…Ever!


The Best Fried Chicken…Ever! I’m not kidding about this recipe. I’ve tested and tested it…This fried chicken is consistently delicious every time; succulent, tender and moist every time, and asked for time…and time again, by my family.

For me, frying food is not the norm…with one exception, this chicken. The day I stumbled across this recipe on The Chicago Tribune website, little did I realize, the way I would make fried chicken would change…forever. It’s the best fried chicken I’ve ever made; perfectly cooked (tender and moist) with a lovely brown and crunchy crust! This recipe is so remarkable and special; definitely a keeper to pass down in my family. I made it three more times to make sure this recipe lived up to my expectations. It most certainly did! As I write this, it’s with with the hope, you will soon be sharing it with your family!

This recipe begins with making a seasoning mix. It makes a lot and I store it in a 1- quart restaurant container. The next (most) important step is marinating the chicken, overnight, for more than 12 hours in the buttermilk and egg mixture. It’s absolutely crucial to this recipe to marinate more than 12 hours. I’ve found marinating overnight is ideal. The third important step is frying this chicken in a cast iron pan.

My cast iron pan was my mothers; and before her, my grandmothers. This pan has spanned generations and through the decades, has faithfully created wonderful food made with lots of love. I like to picture my grandmother standing in her kitchen, cooking at the stove; (when I think how this pan journeyed from kitchen to kitchen, I’m amazed) and how the world has drastically changed from the first time it was used, in a kitchen lit by oil lamps. This culinary heirloom has cooked so many batches of fried  chicken, I wouldn’t even venture to guess the number. It’s now my pleasure to share this recipe with you.

First step: Make seasoning mix. Combine ingredients thoroughly. Keep in a large, sealed, airtight container. I like storing mine in a 1-quart restaurant container.

Second step: Marinate chicken pieces in the buttermilk and egg mixture, overnight or more than 12 hours, in a covered container in the refrigerator. Do NOT disregard or shorten the marinating time in this step. I guarantee you, this will make the moistest and tenderest chicken you’ve ever tasted!


Third Step: Coat chicken in seasoning mixture. Using a fork, Press the coating onto the skin so it doesn’t come off during the frying process.


Fourth Step: Allow chicken pieces coated with seasoning mixture to dry at room temperature on rack for 29-30 minutes. The seasoning will darken as it dries.



Heat a heavy cast iron pan, with 1 inch of vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Add chicken pieces and fry until both sides are nicely browned and crispy.



Remove fried chicken to a rack lined with paper towers.



The BEST Fried Chicken!

Seasoning Mix

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1/3 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried mustard
4 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons ground white pepper

Buttermilk Marinade:
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1 chicken, cut up, the breast pieces cut in half for more even frying
Or, a combination of your favorite chicken pieces: I prefer chicken thighs and breasts.

Make the seasoning mix:
Mix the flour in a bowl with all the herbs and spices; set aside. Store in a quart container. For one whole, cut up chicken, you’ll use between one to two cups of seasoning mix. Before seasoning chicken pieces, stir the seasoning mix to incorporate all of the spices and herbs.

Marinate your chicken:
Whisk the buttermilk and beaten egg together, in a medium bowl until combined. Soak the chicken in the buttermilk mixture, in a covered in a container, overnight in the refrigerator for the tenderest and most flavorful chicken.

Coat the chicken in seasoning:
Remove chicken from the buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off. Dip the chicken pieces in the herb-spice flour mixture and with a fork, press seasoning into surface of the chicken to coat all sides. Shake off excess. Move pieces to a cooling rack that is placed over a baking sheet, to dry for 20 to 30 minutes. Note: The seasoned coating mixture will darken as it dries.

Fry chicken in a cast iron pan:
Meanwhile, pour about 1-inch of oil in a large Dutch oven (or similar heavy pot with high sides) and over medium-high heat, carefully keep an eye on the oil until it reaches 350F degrees. I know and love using my grandmothers cast iron, chicken frying pan; so it’s easy for me to gauge when the oil is hot enough. If you’re new to deep frying, use a deep-fry thermometer to check the temperature.

When the temperature is reached, add 3 or 4 pieces at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan. Turn down the heat slightly after a few minutes, so the oil doesn’t begin smoking.

The art of frying involves timing: cooking the outside nice and crisp, and the inside fully cooked. If your oil is too hot, the chicken will brown too quickly, and the inside will not be fully cooked. Also, keep in mind, various cast iron pans will cook chicken faster or slower than others, so choose your pan wisely.

Fry until medium golden brown, turning once. Total frying time should take 15-18 minutes for larger pieces; 5-15 minutes, for smaller pieces, such as chicken fingers. Transfer chicken pieces to a baking sheet covered with paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.


I’d love to hear from you and tell me your thoughts about this chicken!

From my kitchen to yours,
Annie Hayes


Easy Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I didn’t want to make a run to the grocery store to buy ingredients for making dinner tonight. The weather has been snowy and cold, and I loathe going out in bitterly cold temps; especially when darkness begins to fall about five thirty. Here, wind chills can make traveling a ‘close encounter’ of the very, very cold kind. We call our state Minnesnowta, and with good reason. So night, I opened my refrigerator and cooked with what I had on hand, along with anything else I could find in my larder.

Here’s what I came up with… A clear-out-your-fridge, easy, chicken enchilada casserole. Simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl and you’ve got the makings for comfort food on a cold evening.

img_4967Before it went into the oven.

Easy, Chicken Enchilada Casserole


1 package, large flour tortillas
2-16 ounce jars mild salsa, or your favorite (divided)
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (divided)
1 1/4 cup sour cream (divided)

Enchilada ingredients:
1 1/2-2 cups leftover rotisserie chicken, diced or shredded
1- 6 ounce can black olives, cut in half
1 can black beans, drained
4 whole tomatoes, small dice
1 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cup, salsa
1 1/2 – 2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. celery salt
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup sour cream
One can green chiles, drained (optional)
Tabasco sauce for those who like it HOT! (optional)
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Take out tortillas, and allow to come to room temperature.
Add all of the enchilada ingredients into a large bowl. Mix together, until well blended and ingredients are distributed evenly. Taste mixture, and adjust to your own taste.

Pour 1/2 cup of salsa into a large casserole dish; spread around the bottom and 2″ up the sides of the casserole.

Remove one tortilla from the package and place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of mixture into the center. Add a dollop of sour cream. Fold sides into the center and place in casserole dish, seam side down. Repeat until casserole is full.

Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top of the enchiladas. Pour salsa over the cheese and allow sauce to flow down over the sides of the enchiladas to the bottom of the casserole.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes.

Serve with extra sour cream, chopped black olives and grated cheddar cheese.

It was so good, I didn’t have a chance to get a picture after I plated up servings…





Making Homemade Mascarpone with Two Ingredients

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese with Two Ingredients

Afternoon teatime is a a pleasure enjoying wonderful scones, breads and other goodies with a lovely, fragrant cup of tea. When it comes to baking goodies, several of my recipes call for cream cheese; and I’ve found making my own Italian cream cheese, or mascarpone, is very easy and a wonderful addition in place of Philly. It’s also very inexpensive and makes a lovely gift for a fellow tea lover.

Sitting down to afternoon tea, snuggled on the sofa with magazines or a good book, along with a well-stocked tea tray is pure bliss and should be enjoyed as often as possible. Why not every day? Enjoy! Mariann


1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon cream of tartar


In a heavy saucpan, add whipping cream and gently heat until it reaches 200 degrees F. (I like using an instant-read thermometer for this.) Once it reaches 200 degrees, whisk in cream of tartar. Remove from heat and allow to cool, to room temperature.

While the mixture is cooling. Get out a large bowl, colander, cheesecloth or thin flour-sack towel. (I prefer to use thin flour-sack towels, which I cut in half, for cheese making.) Soak cloth in cold water and wring out, until damp.

Line colander with cloth; and place colander into large bowl for straining the liquid from the cream mixture.


When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour into the cloth.


Gather up the ends of the cloth and twist, until liquid begins to seep from the bottom of the cloth. Place cloth ‘bag’ into the colander, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for about 24 hours.


Remove from refrigerator and unwrap the cloth.


Scrape cheese into a covered container and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for about one week. Makes about one cup.

Enjoy on toast, scones, bagels and as a replacement in recipes calling for Philadelphia cream cheese.

Recipe has been adapted from The Great Holiday Baking Book, by Beatrice Ojakangas.

Teriyaki Vegetables over Brown Rice

The more I’m learning about the imporance of cooking with fresh ingredients, whole grains and making truly, healthy meals; my ‘go to’ kitchen larder of recipes is rapidly changing.

Having undergone a major health crisis in 2013, I’m reconsidering everything I’ve learned about cooking. In talking with my specialist about food and what is the MOST impactful in maintaining optimum health his words were: vegetables, fruits and whole grains; while limiting meat as much as possible.

I no longer use a microwave for cooking vegetables, and have replaced it with a very large, stainless steel, tiered steamer; it’s perfect for steaming LOTS of veggies. Another plus of steaming, you can use the water left in the pan for making soup.This dish makes a nice lunch or dinner and is loaded great layers of flavor. Enjoy! Annie


Teriyaki Vegetables Over Brown Rice
Serves 4

6 large carrots, sliced
3 cups of broccoli florets
4 cups of cooked, brown rice

Teriyaki Sauce
½ cup sake
¼ cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)*
¼ cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon  sesame oil (can find the Asian food section)
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Measure brown rice to serve four people. Wash rice several times in cool water until the water is clear, and cook in a heavy pan, according to directions on the package. When done, fluff with a fork and cover until ready to serve.

Prepare vegetables. Wash, scrub and peel carrots. Slice into 1/4-inch pieces. Break up a head of broccoli into florets, and keep stems for soup making.

Boil or steam your vegetables. If steaming, fill the bottom pan with water for steaming and bring to a full boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer. (Note: Carrots will take longer to steam than broccoli, so you’ll need to steam them first.) Place as many carrots into the basket as possible to steam. When carrots are tender, place steamed carrots in a large casserole and cover to keep warm. Steam broccoli and place in casserole.

When it comes to steaming veggies, I prefer to steam all of my vegetables at one time; using a large, stainless steel tiered steamer. Begin steaming carrots on the lowest tier for 8 minutes, then add the broccoli to the top tier. Cover and steam until broccoli is done. Keep covered until brown rice and teriyaki sauce are ready.

Teriyaki Sauce
In a medium, heavy saucepan: add sake, murin and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat, simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. In a small container, make a slurry of cornstarch and a small amount of water. Add cornstarch mixture to teriyaki misxture and continue stirring until sauce is thickened, and still pourable. Add sesame oil. Stir sauce until well blended. Remove from heat and cover.
*Note: If you’re unable to find murin for this recipe, mix 1/4 cup of sake with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar.

Sccop a generous portion of cooked, brown rice onto a plate. Top with steamed carrots and broccoli; drizzle generously with teriyaki sauce and serve. It’s a simple, and easy way to get more vegetables and whole grain into your diet; all the while, tasting great too. Enjoy! Annie

Almond-Blueberry Tea Cake

Remember the Almond Tea Cake recipe I posted?  Well, here is a delicious variation with the addition of blueberries. It’s sooo easy to make!  Enjoy! Annie


Almond-Blueberry Tea Cake


1/2 cup (8 tablespoons), melted butter
1/4 cup light, sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for sprinkling
2 eggs
1 1 /2 cups sifted, all-purpose four
1 pinch of salt
2 cups, fresh blueberries (washed and picked over)
2 tablespoons, flour
1 teaspoon, almond extract
1/3 cup sliced, almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate, and set aside.

In a large bowl combine: melted butter, light sour cream and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. With a whisk, beat together until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking until batter is well incorporated and smooth.

In a small bow add: flour and salt. Whisk dry ingredients together, and pour into the batter. Add almond extract. Continue whisking until batter is smooth and well incorporated.

In a small bowl, add blueberries and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour. With a spoon, lightly toss berries so flour completely coats berries. This will prevent berries from sinking to the bottom of the cake while baking. Trust me, it works! Next, add blueberries to batter and gently fold berries into the batter.

The batter will be very thick (that’s normal). Spoon batter into the pie plate. Sprinkle almonds over the batter, and top with sprinkling sugar over the almonds.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until cake is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 45 minutes to one hour. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream on the side.


Cooking Recipes of Jacques Pepin~ Egg and Swiss Chard Gratin


Growing up, my mother and I watched cooking televisions together. Julia Child was a marvel and the one she most identified with, The Galloping Gourmet was the most entertaining (she loved his British accent) and her favorite was…Jacques Pepin. She cooked dishes very much like his, made with fresh vegetables, sauces and stock she made from scratch.

We NEVER went out to eat in restaurants and when McDonald’s opened a fast-food place in town, she was perplexed at the thought of “fast food”.  She cooked every meal with what she had on hand from a menu she created from weekly sales posted in the newspaper or what was featured at the butcher’s. She could poach eggs perfectly (my favorite) and even though her kitchen was very simple, without the latest gadgetry (we didn’t have a dishwasher or a microwave; toaster ovens and food processors hadn’t been invented yet) she turned out wonderful food . Her goulash, salads, ice box cookies, dressing, and hamburgers are still talked about…and those are just a few of her recipes she became well-known for in our family. Every fall, I crave her vegetable stew and yams sweetened with maple syrup.

I’ve continued watching cooking programs on PBS and Jacques Pepin is still MY favorite. His new series, “Jacques Pepin Heart & Soul” is an intimate look into his career in the kitchen, special moments in his life and family all wrapped up in his final series. I’m looking forward to more episodes and purchasing his book.

This recipe featured in the Episode ‘Recipes at Le Pelican’ was inspiring! So much so, I immediately went out and bought the ingredients I didn’t have on hand, and made it the next day! It’s very easy to make and it’s layered with marvelous flavors. I added diced, smoked country ham and  it complemented the dish perfectly!  This recipe is recreated from my notes…

I miss you, Mom.


Eggs and Swiss Chard Gratin

Recipe adapted from Jacques Pepin’s book: “Heart & Soul”

A bunch of Swiss Chard (I used rainbow Swiss chard)

1 cup mushrooms, washed and sliced

1 1/2 cups smoked country ham, diced in small cubes

8 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled (2 eggs per person) and sliced

1 1/2 cups Swiss cheesse, grated

Salt and pepper

Béchamel Sauce

1 tablespoon, flour

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup milk

Pinch of salt and pepper.

In a sauce pan melted 1 tablespoon of butter, add 1 tablespoon of flour and stirring with a whisk stir flour mixture for several minutes, add milk, salt and pepper. Stir continually until sauce is thickened. 


Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly butter casserrole dish. Wash and slice mushrooms. Peel (under cool, running water) and slice, hard-boiled eggs.

Preheat a large pan on the stove over medium heat. Wash  (do not dry) Swiss chard and chop into 2-inch segments. Place wet chard in pan and a pinch of salt; reduce heat to low, cover and steam. Check often so it doesn’t burn. Note: It may appear to be a lot of chard, but it drastically cooks down to a small amount. Place witled chard in bottom of casserole. Return pan to heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter. When melted add sliced mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Assemble casserole

Place chard on the bottom as the first layer. Followed by a layer of cooked, sliced mushrooms, then layer country ham. Arrange  sliced, hard boiled eggs over the ham. Ladle bechamel sauce over layers and top with  grated, Swiss cheese.

Bake at 350-degrees until cheese is completely melted and lightly browned. Serve.

Vegetarian Crockpot Chili

Temperatures are slowly dropping and as the nights are closing in, there’s an ever-present chill in the air. It’s soup season! This soup is packed with good things and makes for a deliciously hot and hearty meal. I’m testing new recipes using my slow-cooker and this soup is perfect for starting in the morning. Be prepared for wonderful aroma’s greeting you as you walk in the door to a home cooked meal! There’s nothing like a bowl of homemade soup to warm you up on a chilly evening.

12 bean chilAAi

Vegetarian Crockpot Chili
2 cups, of dried bean mix (I love Costco’s Gourmet Bean Blend-Epicurean Speciaity)
1 can (28 ounces) of whole tomatoes
2 cans (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 1/2 cups of onions, diced
2 cups celery,
1 green pepper, diced
1 small jar, diced jalapeno peppers (optional)
8 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon, fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons, chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoons, cumin
1/2 teaspoon, Kosher salt
After the beans have cooked 8 hours add:
1/2 – 3/4 cup, acini di pepe pasta
1/4 cup, red quinoa

Carefully pick through beans and remove any foreign particles. Place dried beans in a large sieve and rinse under cold, running water. Empty beans into a large, dutch oven and add 6 cups cold water. Soak overnight (or a minimum 4 hours) and strain water and beans through a sieve or colander. Rinse beans with cold water and set aside.

In a large slow-cooker, add whole tomatoes and mash with a potato masher. Add tomato sauce, vegetables and spices. Add beans, cover and cook on low for 8 hours Add acini di pepe pasta and red quinoa and cook for another 2 hours with lid off. Serve with shredded Cheddar cheese and crushed corn chips.

12 bean chili pot and container for freezing

Time saving tip: This soup freezes beautifully, and is a great make ahead meal when life gets hectic and there’s no time to cook. Enjoy! Annie

Buttermilk Banana Bread

Here’s a banana bread that not only tastes good…is healthy for you! Fall is a time for baking, sweaters, apple cider, apple pie, homemade baked bread, comfort food, quilts, cocoa, good books and movies, knitting or crochet projects and getting cozy as the nights begin to close in. It’s also the time for enjoying glorious Fall colors, visiting apple orchards, walks in the woods, raking leaves and bonfires. Don’t forget a nice slice of banana bread slathered with butter. Annie


Buttermilk Banana Bread

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chia seeds (food grade) (optional)
2 tablespoons flaxseed (optional)
4 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
4-5 ripe bananas, pureed
1/2 cup nuts, roasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 loaf pans, and set aside.
In a large  mixing bowl combine: flour, baking soda, salt, chia seeds, and flaxseed. Stir together until well blended.
In a mixer on high: cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Turn mixer down to medium speed, add eggs, one at a time. Add pureed bananas and buttermilk (add more buttermilk if mixture is too stiff). Stop and scrape mixing bowl sides, as needed. On low speed, add dry ingredients and turn increase mixer to medium; add nuts of you wish.

Fill both loaf pans to 3/4 full, place on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche~ A Springtime Treat

Asparagus Bacon Quiche

When asparagus is abundant in the Spring, making this quiche is delightful with fresh, gorgeous layers of flavor. Served with a salad and a nice glass of wine, you’ll have a delicious meal to share with family or friends. I’ve adapted this recipe from a Taste of Home recipe:

Serves 6



1 unbaked 9″ pastry shell (make your own or buy ready made crust)
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 strips of baked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup grated Swiss cheese, plus more to sprinkle
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
! tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried basil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bake bacon in the oven or cook in a skillet. Remove bacon when done and place on paper towels and pat dry. Slice bacon into 1-inch segments, and set aside. Place asparagus pieces in a steamer and steam for 8-10 minutes, remove from steamer and dry on paper towels. (You can also place asparagus in a covered saucepan with an inch of water and simmer until tender crisp.) While the asparagus is steaming, line a 9-inch glass pie pan with a crust; prick sides and bottom with a fork. Bake at 4oo degrees for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl add: eggs, half and half, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and dried basil. Beat with a whisk until well blended.

Place asparagus spears and bacon pieces on the bottom of the pie curst and sprinkle with 1 cup of swiss cheese. Pour egg mixture over fillings and sprinkle 1/4 cup of swiss cheese over the top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 350. Continue to bake for 20-25 minutes until the surface is lightly golden, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Late Summer Pear Tart

The natural sweetness of pears makes for scrumptious desserts, especially easy to make cobblers and tarts. In my quest to make healthier desserts… this recipe is filled with summer goodness and wholesome ingredients. Fresh ripe pears have so much to offer this time of year. This tart so very easy to make (no crust) and if you don’t have pears on hand, any ripe fruit will do. Enjoy!~ Annie

Late Summer Pear Tart

4 ripe pears
2/3 cup flour
Zest of one lemon
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter-melted
1/2 cup milk (I use 2%)
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a large, glass pie plate (mine: 11.5-inches).
In a large bowl combine: flour, lemon zest, sugar and salt. Whisk together until well-blended.
In a medium sized bowl blend together with a whisk, stirring until well combined:  eggs, butter milk and lemon juice.
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Slowly, add all the wet ingredients: whisking all the while until the batter just comes together and is smooth.

Once you have the batter prepared, core pears and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place in the bottom of glass pan. Pour the batter over the pears. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until it is set in the middle. Let cool, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with a mint sprig. If you can resist temptation… Chill overnight in the refrigerator, and allow the flavors to deepen and blend together. It’s absolutely scrumptious!!

WC Pear tart on blue spode plate


Pour the batter over the sliced pears

Bake until the batter is set in the middle

It’s irresistible!!


This is a wonderful confection- perfectly light, lemony and filled with summer goodness.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy! ~ Annie