Killer Good Collard Greens

I didn’t grow up eating collard greens. They’re more of a southern thing and I was born and raised in the north.

When we first moved to the south, I regularly saw greens offered as a side dish at restaurants. And, frankly, I didn’t think they looked or smelled very appealing.

But, that was then, and I get it now! I love greens!

Greens are any sort of cabbage in which the green leaves do not form a compact head. They are mostly kale, collards, turnip, spinach, and mustard greens.

And, they’re good for you. They are an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C and calcium. The  antioxidants and phytochemicals in collards may help to reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and heart disease. And, the soluble fiber in greens is really good for a healthy digestive system (if you know what I mean).

There are a handful of variations on the theme, but traditionally, all collards are cooked the same way in a liquid at a low simmer with smoked or salted pig meat added for flavor until any bitterness is cooked out of the greens and they are soft.  The liquid, known as “pot likker” is a very important component of the finished dish. It is said that the pot likker “will cure whatever ails you, and if nothing is ailing you, it will give you a good cleaning out.” The best way to devour pot likker is with some fresh baked cornbread.

Collards are served with black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and wealth in the coming year.

I’ve also read that hanging a fresh leaf over your door wards off evil spirits and a fresh leaf placed on your forehead with cure a headache.

And, finally, collard greens are the official vegetable of South Carolina!

Here’s how I make a “mess o’ greens.”

First, I cut several bunches from the garden. You can purchase them in either bunches or bags at your grocery store if you don’t grow your own.

Next, pull all the leaves from the stem and discard any yellowed or brown ones.

Next, cut out the big tough vein in the center of the larger leaves. True southerners fold each leaf in half and tear the vein off, so they say.

And, then chop them into 2 or 3 inch pieces.

And, put them in a bowl filled with cold water to remove loose dirt.

And, then let them drain while you assemble your ingredients.

I had cooked some bacon earlier in the day, so had it already prepared for this dish. And, don’t worry, I give you the ingredient list and quantities at the end of this post.

In a large pot, cook bacon until crisp and remove from pan.( I had done that step at breakfast, so no picture!) Next, cook your diced onion and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of the bacon drippings until tender and lightly browned. About 5 minutes.

Then, add your greens. You might have to do it in several batches if your pot can’t hold them all. As they wilt, you can continue to add the rest.

On this particular day, I did not have enough bacon to properly season a whole pot of greens, so I added a ham hock, too. Add your crumbled bacon and all all the other ingredients to your pot, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are tender. Serve with your favorite meat dish and some cornbread to sop up the pot likker!

One pot of greens is a little much for Brian and I to eat ourselves, so I freeze some for summer eating!

Killer Good Greens

1 12 oz. (or larger!) pkg. bacon (or a couple of ham hocks, or diced ham)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 cups chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth or water instead)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbs. brown sugar
A splash of apple cider vinegar
1 pound fresh collard greens (or mustard greens, or turnip greens, or spinach or cabbage, even!)

1.In a large pot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan.

2. Add onion, cook until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add collard greens and fry until they start to wilt.

3. Pour in chicken broth and your remaining ingredients. Stir to mix well. Turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are tender.

Note: for a healthier version, you can substitute turkey bacon or a turkey leg, if you desire. And, you can brown your onion and garlic in olive oil.



Regrowing celery from celery

I just bought a head of celery from the grocery store and was a bit shocked to find that it cost  $1.99. (Yes, I thought the price was rather high for the eight or so ribs attached.)

I had seen this idea on Pinterest on how to regrow celery and decided to try it. 

First, you cut off the bottom.

And, then you stick it in some dirt.

What do you think? Will I get some celery sprouts or will this little project be a bust?

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I have gone back and forth on what to call a bunch of celery. Technically, the whole head is the “stalk” and individual leafstalks are “ribs.” But, somewhere along the line, someone confused one stalk with one rib and now if a recipe calls for two stalks of celery, you can probably assume it really calls for two ribs and not two whole heads! Got it?



Funeral for a fish

Today is my brother’s birthday.  In honor of this day I am publishing a story I wrote several years ago.

  I loved my red betta. His name was Red. I kept him in an aquarium on my desk and we were good friends.
Red was a birthday gift from my brother.  Dennis brought him home from the store in a plastic cup. A goldfish bowl,smooth rocks, glass rocks, fake greenery, fish food and de-chlorinator were plopped on the counter along with my then unnamed fish with a “Happy birthday, baby sister.”
“Great Dennis,” I said. “What am I going to do with a fish?” (I didn’t exactly say it that way, but I cleaned up my language for this post.)
He said, “I found a little fish net out by the neighbor’s trash can and thought it would be useful if there was a fish to scoop in it from time to time. Let’s sterilize it and then you can use it for your new fish.”

That’s how my brother thought – find a discarded piece of trash and buy a fish.
I had never owned a fish in my entire life, so Dennis helped me arrange the tank. He taught me how to feed and care for it.
A week later, he came home with his own betta and two new larger tanks. He told me that he didn’t want my fish to get jealous in his small goldfish bowl and had to buy my fish a new tank to match the one that he bought for his fish.
My fish was beautiful and RED. And, so I named him Red. Dennis’ fish was a rainbow sort of color and he never did name him. He called him Gringo and Guiseppe and Titan and whatever other name came to mind. His fish seemed to really like him, though, and would swim to the side of the tank to greet Dennis whenever he walked into the room.
I was jealous, because Red just seemed mean-spirited. He would flare out his gills and puff his face at me everytime I got near his tank.
We eventually moved out here to the country, but my brother and his fish stayed on the beach. Eventually, his fish died. My fish and I started becoming friends.
Red would come to the edge of his tank and watch me work on my computer.  He would come to the top of the tank and wait for me to drop food in for him.  If strangers stopped to gawk at him, he would flare his gills and puff his face. How funny, I thought, he never does that to me. He brought me many hours of joy.
When my brother died way too young and very unexpectedly from a heart condition, I was even more glad that I had Red. I had a very special gift from my brother. This brother had flown into my life after years of mutual neglect. And, he and I had a great time becoming friends and camarades.
Red was my living connection to my brother. He bore this awesome responsibility very beautifully, but died the other night night.
I woke up the next morning and checked his tank to make sure he was still dead. Maybe he just had a terrible sleep and would be swimming about, happy as a fish.  I knew it would be unlikely, but was a little hopeful that the impossible could happen.
It hadn’t and so, we found a tiny spot in the yard to bury him. 

“Take care of Red for me, big brother.”