Nancy Reagan’s Recipe for Baja Chicken

Nancy Reagan Obama

Nancy Reagan and Barack Obama give each other a non-partisan greeting.  

Nancy Reagan’s most lasting contribution might not be the slogan, “Just Say No,” but a recipe for Baja Chicken that she made popular while First Lady.  It was everything a good recipe should be: quick, simple, nutritious, and flavorful. Women seeking to lose weight could prepare the dish for their families without making them feel deprived.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, click here and take your taste buds for a stroll down memory lane.  Or you can squint and read from the old newspaper clipping.

Mrs. Reagan said she served Baja Chicken with Rancho California Rice, but I don’t have nerve enough to pass it on without an artery alert. It calls for 3 cups of cheese, 2 cups of sour cream, and a half-stick of butter.  You could get by with that in the Eighties, but not today.

baja chicken2



Collard Greens: Money’s Not the Only Green Gift

Austin and collards

My grandson, Austin, bringing me a green gift—a gift of collard greens, that is.

My grandson, Austin, brought me a lovely gift from his family garden—a sack of collard greens.  The leaves were deep green, crisp, and the size of a pizza peel.  I was so grateful that I gave him a hug and took this picture in the middle of the street which I think embarrassed him a bit.. 

Preparing this nutritious veggie brought back memories of watching my grandmother dump greens into the sink, wash them free of any grit, remove the tough veins, and stuff them into a pot.   I can still remember that pot; it was thin, ribbed metal and had a flat lid with a chipped wooden handle.  At least once a week, she’d cook a grocery sack of turnip, collards, and mustard with a slab of fat back or a ham hock and some seasonings. 

As the pot simmered all afternoon, the smell drifted several doors down the block.  No one complained.  Still, it occurred to me that in Clayton, where I live, there might be a city ordinance against creating such a pungent odor in a residential neighborhood.  Hmm… it was worth the risk …and the middle of the day… and I’d open the sliding glass doors.

If you can't grow greens, you can always find them at Soulard Market.

If you can’t grow greens, you can always find them at Soulard Market.

I didn’t have any fat back, so I made do with bacon, onions, vegetable broth, and a few red pepper flakes.  Several hours later, my mess of greens (as such a concoction  is called) had shrunk to a bowl-size serving and was ready to eat. 

garlic bulb


cooking collard greens

I heaped a large portion onto my plate and gave it a splash of balsamic vinegar.  

A bowl of fresh, cooked collard greens

A bowl of fresh, cooked collard greens

Still it didn’t look right.  Something was missing.  Corn bread!  

My grandmother always made corn bread, which she felt was necessary to sop up the “pot likker,” the vitamin-rich remains at the bottom of the greens. 

So I hastily fried up some corn cakes from milk and cornmeal and pulled up to the kitchen table.

It would have been nice, I suppose, to have had a friend or relative share my bounty, but I only know one other person who eats greens and she was out of town.  It was just as well, because I didn’t feel like sharing.



Julia Child & the Secret of French Cooking

Julia Child from the movie "Julie and Julia"

From the movie “Julia and Julie”

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken.”

~ Julia Child

Julia Child would have been 102 on August 15.  Sadly, we lost the intrepid gourmet in 2004 at the age of 91.



How to Zoodle Your Zucchini

The Spiralizer

The Spiralizer turns zucchini into noodles.

“You say you wanta slice, dice, cut, shred, mince, and peel anything in your refrigerator?  Well, gather round, folks, here’s the gizmo for you.”

Not exactly.  This popular kitchen tool does just two things: turn veggies into noodles and amuse small children.  It’s the: Spiralizer and it comes in many prices and forms.

If you have the space and cash, opt for the Paderno for about $35.  It cuts ribbons shapes as well as noodles.  Just put the veggie or fruit on the prong and turn the crank.  Easy, safe, quick. 

When I first got my Spiralizer, I turned everything in my vegetable bin into noodles, but it was the squash that was the most adaptive.  And what better way to use all those veggies that zealous gardeners (aka the Zucchini Fairy), leave on your doorstep each summer.

Your favorite Marinara Sauce over zucchini noodles.

Marinara Sauce over zucchini noodles

Most kitchen gadgets wound up in the garage sale a few years after purchase.  But this one, with its sneaky way of disguising vegetables, has the potential of earning shelf space for a while longer.  While I still enjoy a good Bolognaise sauce served over real noodles, avoiding the extra calories makes me feel virtuous. 

While “zoodling” my zucchini, I cook up my Viennese Tomato Sauce, so called because it was given my by a woman cab driver in Vienna a few years ago.  It’s so basic, quick and versatile.

Viennese Tomato Sauce

Slightly brown onions and garlic. With hands, squeeze tomatoes into pan; add salt, sugar and basil.  Cook for 30 to 45 minutes.

During the last 3 minutes, I add the raw, zoodled  zucchini, allowing just enough time for it to soak up some of the tomato flavor, but still have some crunch.  Serve topped with fresh Parmesan cheese.  Bon Appetit!