WASPs Guide to Country Life

Friday Fish Recipe

Pompano in White Wine Butter Sauce

Along the Gulf Coast, many Catholics and non-Catholics alike observe the season of Lent.  We are blessed to have a variety of fish readily available, but it’s a long way to Easter.  Even the finest fried mullet can get tiresome after a few weeks, so I want to share some of my favorite fish recipes for you to enjoy.   Pompano is a lean, mild fish that can easily be overpowered by strong seasoning.  Keeping the ingredients simple lets the flavor of the fish shine. 

This recipe is perfect for any lean fish fillet.

Pompano in White Wine Butter Sauce 


4 Fresh Pompano fillets

Salt and Pepper to taste

3 tablespoons butter

¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley

¼ cup dry white wine


Pat fillets dry with paper towel and season lightly with salt and black pepper.  Melt butter in cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Place fish in skillet and let cook edges become opaque (about 4 minutes, but varies with fillet thickness).  Gently turn fillets and continue cooking until fillets cook through.  Remove fillets from skillet.  Add parsley to remaining butter and wilt.  Deglaze pan with wine. Spoon wine sauce over fillets and serve.

I serve this with a simple cucumber and tomato salad for a delicious and light spring dinner.

Home is Where the Bread Is

Anyone who knows me could tell you I have a serious love/hate relationship with bread.  Carbohydrates in general get a bad rap these days, with every variety of low-carb diet screaming at you from the headlines.  I’ve tried and even succeeded at many of them, but when the cravings hit it is never candy or cake on my mind.  Simple bread has always been the object of my obsession.  Rustic homemade bread, fresh out of the oven, at most dipped in a little olive oil.  There have been times on this long road to a healthy weight that I would have wrestled an alligator for a roll!  I ease my guilt by reminding myself that this is no ordinary, white flour, high-fructose corn syrup laden, flabby white bread.  THIS is bread of ancient simplicity.  Flour, yeast, water, and salt.  I take my time with it and enjoy the task.  I occasionally dress it up in different ways, sometimes boule style-sometimes loaves, sometimes with herbs.  I love the way the smell fills a house, and makes even our little condo feel lived in.  No matter what I accomplish professionally, nothing gives me a feeling of accomplishment like feeding the family with homemade bread.  In some way it makes me feel connected to history, to the women who went before me that mixed the same ingredients for the same purpose.  In tents and castles, in huts and cabins, Home is where the bread is.   

If you are new to bread making I highly recommend the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg.  Their recipes are simple and versatile (and delicious), and will likely become your go-to recipe as it has mine.   I’ve used the basic recipe for everything for bread bowls for soup to bagels to beignets.  Happy baking!

New Year-New Life!

Traditional New Years Day dinner

These last few months have been a whirlwind for the W.A.S.P. family!  We packed up the truck and moved from our small country home to a tiny Gulf coast condo.  Seafood gumbo and oysters are taking the place of fried catfish and venison.  The McNugget’s have gone to live at their uncle’s house (to be spoiled by the two cutest little girls with lots of bread crumbs).  Instead of a backyard garden, I have a condo on stilts.  In the frantic first days of a new job, living out of boxes, I didn’t think I could continue a blog about the country lifestyle.  How could I share what I was learning now that I was living in sandy suburbia?

The more I settle in, the more I see that this place isn’t so different from the one I left.  Yes there are highrise condos and amusement parks, but there are also lifelong fishermen and simple white churches.  Just over the bridge there are cotton fields and pecan groves.  Country life is more than the house you live in, and to me it means making a home with your own hands.  Traditional recipes, supporting local famers,  hand-making and re-purposing are all country values that don’t have anything to do with geography.

They say that whatever you’re doing on New Year’s day you will be doing the rest of the year.  I hope I’m off to a good start sharing a traditional Southern New Year’s meal of black eyed peas, and collard greens with my boys.  Wishing you all health and happiness in 2013, and I’m looking forward to sharing my new coastal country life with y’all this year!

Black-eyed Peas for a Spicy New Year

1lb dried Black-eyed peas (I use China Doll, from Saraland, AL)
1 sweet onion chopped
4 cloves of garlic chopped
2 peppers (your choice) sliced lengthwise, remove seeds to make it less spicy if desired
3 Tbsp Oil (or lard, or bacon grease)
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste

Toss in a hambone or smoked turkey wing to add flavor (I freeze the bone from my Christmas ham just for this purpose)

Soak dried beans with enough water to cover for at least one hour.

In large stockpot sauté onions and garlic in oil over medium heat until onions are transparent.  Add in peppers, bones, and seasoning.  Drain the soaking beans, rinse, and add to pot.  Add enough water to cover and simmer until beans are creamy.  Delicious with cornbread!

Surprise Pumpkins!

Kristina head shotHave you ever driven home, and found yourself unable to remember the drive?  Thats how I feel, like this year is passing me by.  Crazy work hours, mild yet seemingly endless sickness in the family, and a demanding class schedule have set me far behind on my resolutions for the year.  The excuses are easier to come by than the time.  In spite of all the reasons I can't, this morning I found a sunny orange surprise to remind me why I have to make time for the life I love. 

Last September I bought a few pumpkins to decorate with, and they kept beautifully through the Fall and Winter.  Being the sporting stepmother that I am, I agreed to let Brady smash them into tiny pieces around New Years.  The chickens were thrilled about their New Years supper and ate every bit of the flesh but the skins, leaving paper thin shells behind.  I threw the skins into the compost (along with the litter from the coop) and never gave it a second thought. 

Now, six months later I notice thick vines growing out of the back of the compost pile, running out and around the box.  Lo and behold I see six tiny green gourds and one fat orange pumpkin!  I think I laughed out loud!  In all the years of gardening I have never been able to grow pumpkins.  Yet here in my yard, out of scraps and chicken poop, is a strong and thriving pumpkin sprawling its way across the grass!  A little orange reminder that it doesn't take to much time (or any, in some cases!) to create the home and life of my dreams!

The cheerful surprise of yellow blossoms and shiny orange pumpkins has doubled my resolve to get up a little earlier, work a little harder, and get a lot dirtier!

Spring Romance

Kristina head shotThe parents of little girls know that one difficult day their babies will become young women and the inevitable will happen: gentleman callers will sudden appear on your doorstep. This is not a conversation I anticipated having about chickens.

As many who enjoy a rural lifestyle do, I awoke to the sound of a rooster crowing this morning. At 3 AM. And I don't have any roosters. Apparently the temptation of a yard full of food and a harem of hens was too much for two stray roosters that have decided to call my yard home. Make that my yard, my porch, and the roof of my new car. Little known fact: two bantam roosters can poop three times their own body weight a day! Or maybe it just seems that way when you're washing it off your windshield and out of your shoes.

Poop disaster aside, the little buggers are insufferably arrogant. Strutting and crowing all day long is part of the job description, but they're bullying one of my barred rock girls and have forced her out of her little flock. She now sulks on the back porch instead of happily eating bugs with her sisters. So how do you get rid of them? Nobody claims them, and the neighbors are complaining about the noise. Plan A is to coop the girls and keep their food and water away from their new beaux.  Plan B is chicken soup.

That said, any advice about feral roosters would be greatly appreciated!

Using Extra Eggs: Easy Bread Pudding

Kristina head shotIf there ever were an animal deserving of praise, it's the chicken. Talk about making something out of nothing! With warmer, sunnier days, a few bugs, and plenty of water, my hens have turned into laying champions!  My family loves eggs, but to be honest there are only so many deviled eggs one person can eat. With my counter tops beginning to look like Easter come early, I started searching for egg-heavy recipes to knock down my surplus.  I try to make a dessert every weekend (it keeps the boys out of the store-bought junk), but cakes don't take more than a few eggs.  Custard takes plenty of eggs, but isn't the kid friendly sweet (at least around here) that I was looking for.  Luckily, my husband's birthday was coming up and he gave me my answer!  Bread pudding, with its heavy custard base and cinnamon roll-like flavor, was a perfect fit and his favorite dessert. 

If you've never made this Southern specialty before, you've missed out on a delicious and economical dessert.  Backyard eggs are especially suited to this recipe because a larger percentage of their volume  is yolk, which makes for a rich custard.  This is also the perfect recipe for you beginner bread bakers in love with the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes recipes, because it uses up any leftover or stale bread.  As you have leftover odds and ends, simply cut into cubes and throw into a freezer bag.  When you have enough to fill a 9x13 baking pan (about 5 cups worth), mix up the wet ingredients and bake up a bread pudding!

New Orleans Bread Pudding
Enough cubes of stale bread to fill a 9x13 baking pan (around 5 cups), preferably of dense bread like brioche

Butter to grease pan

6-8 eggs, depending on size

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cloves

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup raisins (optional)

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups white sugar

Grease pan lightly.  Combine wet ingredients, sugar, and spices.  Fill pan with bread cubes.  Cover with egg and cream mixture.  Let bread soak up custard for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, overnight preferred.  When ready to bake, set oven to 350 and allow the pan to warm with the oven (taking a pan straight from the fridge to a hot oven could cause glass pans to break).  Bake until center is just set, about 40 minutes.  Serve warm with Whiskey Sauce or a sprinkle of confectioners sugar, and top with whipped cream.

Whiskey Sauce

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon or bourbon flavoring

2 tablespoons milk

Whisk all ingredients together and warm in saucepan on low heat.  Pour over top of individual servings.

Easy Breadpudding

Rural Route Resolutions

Kristina head shotEvery year at this time, I find myself a week or so into an impossible New Years Resoution.  Some fad diet or gym program that quickly grows tiresome and falls by the wayside.  This year I resolve to do something meaningful.  Something that will not only meet a goal for myself, but benefit my family as well.  I am choosing this year to make a list of the things I have always wanted to try, but never made the time for.  In my trial and error method of achieving a more self sufficient home, I am hoping a list (especially one put out for the world to read!) will hold me more accountable, so here goes:

Resolution One:  To cook more for my family.

I do "cook" everyday, but when I am rushed that might mean boiled pasta and canned sauce.  I can do better, and with some planning (and at the least some homemade sauce!) I plan to lean a little harder on fruits and vegetables and less on staples like store bought pasta.  Goal #1: make homemade bread more than a special occasion!

Resolution Two:  To fill my pantry with home canned foods.

For a few years now I have canned a few select items that I use the most;  green beans, tomatoes, peaches,  pickles, jelly, preserves, and apple butter.  This year I hope to expand my resume to include more vegetables, whole fruits, relishes, condiments, beans, and even meats like chili and chicken soup (I have to admit that I am a little scared!).  I hope this increase in both volume and variety rewards me with a wall of full mason jars by this fall.

Resolution Three:  To expand my flock.

I have so enjoyed raising my six little hens these past few months, and I want to keep things going with the addition of heritage turkeys.  I don't have any experience with them personally, so it will take some research, but I look forward to the challenge!

Brady with Penny
My son, Brady with one of our Barred Rock Hens 

Resolution Four:  To have a bigger, more practical garden.

My name is Kristina, and I'm a seed addict.  I will attempt to grow anything, especially if it is unusual, or even just pretty.  This makes for a lovely garden, and an interesting centerpiece, but when your family only tolerates your love for eggplant do you really need three different kinds?  In that light, I am committing to grow the things we get the most out of, tomatoes and bell peppers especially. Which means I will have to plan, and not just grab packets as they catch my interest.  I will try to restrain myself!

Resolution Five:  To grow some new herbs for medicinal use.

As friends share recipes for homemade bug-bite ointments and bath salts, I am always a little sad that my ingredients come from the store and not my own garden.  This year will be different!  I am planning on hibiscus for tea, calendula for salve, and a host of others for spices as well as soaps.

Wish me luck as I work hard this year to keep things closer to home!