The doctor’s announcement of hubby’s new low sodium diet sent shock-waves through my tummy and then my kitchen! Then I wandered through the grocery store, dumb-founded–salt saturates everything. This ole’ Southern Side of Flavor gal can’t tolerate bland food.

If you are facing the same dilemma, grab a pencil and a pad stay tuned–we’ll learn together. Here’s my first low sodium meal and it was full of flavor. Recipes are listed below.

Hamburger steak, potato dinner

Meet my four new friends…

My four new friends

Herbs, spices, and zests will join these four to keep delivering a zing and zap those of us from the Southwest love. Hope you’ll try these two new recipes and the icing on the cake? Hubs and I have each lost ten pounds these past two weeks. High-five!!!



2 ears corn roasted in husks

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 chopped red pepper

½ large red onion chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed

1 or 2 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed

3 Tablespoons of chopped cilantro (optional)

1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of three limes

¼ cup olive oil

Corn, black bean, avocado salad


This delicious relish, salad, or salsa…whatever you want to call it…is a delicious, colorful accompaniment to most any summer meal. And it’s even better the next day. And the best thing is, I didn’t use any salt. If you have no salt problems, GO FOR IT! But it’s just as good without.

Roast corn in husk, at 425 on your oven rack for about 25 minutes. Cool, pull off husks and silks and slice off the cobb. (I stand the ear of corn on end on a cloth dish towel to slice—keeps the corn from rolling all over the kitchen.) 😊

In a large bowl place chopped avocado and cover with the juice of one lime to preserve the freshness and color of the avocado. Mix all other veggies and fruit. Add the zest of one lime and the remaining lime juice and olive oil and toss.

Add 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper and 2 teaspoons of Mrs. Dash’s Southwest Chipotle Seasoning Blend.

This yummy dish can be served at room temperature or cold…your choice. Enjoy!





Bunch of fresh, crisp green beans

2 or 3 shallots sliced

3 or 4 cloves of garlic chopped fine

Sliced, fresh mushrooms (optional)

Zest and juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper (more to taste)

1 to 2 teaspoons Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper Seasoning Blend

1/3 cup balsamic sauce

2 Tablespoons olive oil


Fresh Greens Beans with balsamic dressing

Here’s a tasty, quick option for a vegetable that’s in great supply during these spring and summer months, and is sure to please. Wash and dry green beans. Snap off stem end, but leave the bean whole.

Sauté shallots, garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil. Add green beans and stir. Add zest and lemon juice, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Lower heat, stir, and simmer with lid on pan for ten minutes.

Add the lemon pepper seasoning, toss, and serve! Another tasty, sodium free side dish. If you are the specimen of great health give that salt shaker a few shakes and sprinkle with crispy bacon bits…’til the doctor tells you to shape up!

Southern Side of Flavor TIP:  Vinegar contain no salt and there are many flavors that produce tasty substitutes. Zests from oranges, lemons, and lime pack a wallop of flavor. Add their juice to vegetables, fruits, and salads and you’ve got a winner, winner, chicken dinner as the Guy from Diners, Drive-Inns, and Dives proclaims.

‘Til next time…happy cooking!





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Guess what’s main-course-popular these days? Even when company’s comin’… why, mac ‘n cheese, of course!

For a do-ahead-favorite try this and wait for the raves!

Company Mac 'N Cheese


1 box macaroni of choice. Cook according to package directions. Drain.

1 onion chopped

1 red bell pepper chopped

1 jalapeno seeded and chopped (optional)

2 or 3 cups of ham chopped (I use left-overs from a Cure 81 Hormel Ham)

5 or 6 cloves of garlic minced

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

2 cups of good quality shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

1 ½ cups of shredded Parmigianino Reggiano Cheese

2/3 box Panko Italian Bread Crumgs

1 stick butter (not margarine)

1 Tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons pepper

2 ½ to 3 cups milk

4 eggs beaten

3 Tablespoons prepared mustard (yellow or Dijon)

Red Pepper flakes (optional, according to your family’s heat tolerance)

Return drained macaroni to pot. Add butter.

Sauté onion, red pepper, jalapeno, garlic, and ham. Add to macaroni and stir. Add Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheese, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes if you wish and stir.

Combine milk, eggs, and mustard. Pour over macaroni mixture. Stir and pour into one large greased or sprayed casserole dish.  Cook loosely covered 30 minutes in 350 degree oven.

Remove foil and cover macaroni with combined Panko Bread Crumbs and Parmigiano Cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil or cooking spray, return to oven and cook uncovered until bread crumbs and cheese mixture are browned…probably another 20 minutes.

Use your imagination, you could add your favorite sausage or if you’re attempting real elegance…broiled lobster or shrimp rather than the ham. You could also add fried bacon crumbles to the topping! What’s not to like about anything bacon?

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Pimento cheese? My answer was always a sour face and a blah! Mama drowned hers in mayo with no kick—what’s to like? But when I was the mama, I made some changes to that dreaded PC, but my kids still didn’t like it. I think it’s just a kid-thingy, don’t you?

Warning you folks, this ain’t your mama’s pimento cheese! And wait ‘til you see what we do with the left-overs, if there are any.

Might want to make a double batch just to be sure.


Photo by DiAne Gates


1 8-ounce package of shredded, sharp cheddar cheese

1 small jar of stuffed Spanish olives drained and chopped

1 small jar of pimentos drained and chopped

2/3 cup of walnuts chopped

Two quick shakes of red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon salt and pepper

½ to 2/3 cup of mayonnaise

Blend all ingredients and refrigerate. Great for a salad trio or a good old fashion pimento cheese sandwich with a tingle to your taste buds. For those of you who have a little “foodie” in your gene pool, add 2/3 cup of Jack Cheese or Parmesan Cheese, grated, of course. Yummy~

Next time: Fixin’s with the left-overs!

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Strawberries are luscious anytime of year, and just name a person who doesn’t like ‘em. So let’s make a surprise dessert for Valentine’s Day that shouts I LOVE YOU and doesn’t require much time to prepare.


Photos by DiAne Gates

Rather than making your pie crust, let’s pick up a chocolate pre-made crust. Chocolate and strawberries! And you’ve just saved yourself more than thirty minutes. But here’s the secret to preventing that ready-made crust from becoming soggy. Beat one egg with a few drops of water and brush the pie crust, then slip into a 350-degree oven for about ten minutes. Set aside to cool. Crunchy yummy crust!


2 quarts’ fresh strawberries, rinsed, dried and sliced long ways

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup boiling water

1 (3 ounce) package of raspberry Jell-O

¾ cup of roasted nuts of choice (Almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)


Mix together sugar and cornstarch until smooth.

Add boiling water, mix, and cook over medium heat ‘til thickened

Remove from heat. Add Jell-O and stir ‘til smooth. Set aside to cool to room temp.

Sprinkle roasted, chopped nuts over the bottom of the cooled pie shell

Arrange dry, sliced berries on top of nuts in pie shell

Pour cooled Jell-O mixture over top of berries.

Refrigerate several hours to allow Jell-O to set.

And yes, I didn’t make a mistake, I meant raspberry Jell-O. Strawberry layered on top of strawberries doesn’t speak to me. You could use either, but I like the punch raspberry brings to the party! Try both to see which you like best.


You can decorate the top with drizzles of chocolate and Reddi-Wip, but remember Reddi-Wip won’t hold up like fresh made whipped cream. Refer to my Peanut Butter Pie recipe for the real stuff…and don’t forget the mascarpone…makes the whipped cream remain fresh for a couple of days. Time for a piece of this scrumptious pie! But if you’re in a hurry, Reddi-Wip will do the trick, add after slicing and before serving.




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Photographs by DiAne N. Gates

The holidays are over, evenings are still long, and what better way to finish the day than cookies and milk, or cookies and coffee, or cookies and a dish of ice cream?

January is ready to turn into February and what special Valentine doesn’t like to receive something homemade and sweet?

You can double-hit Aunt’s Christmas cookies for Valentine’s Day too! Just pop a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie, or a candy heart, or…And they are delicious, different, and downright yummy!



1 package yellow cake mix

1 egg

4 1/2 ounces Cool Whip thawed

Cherries or Chocolate Kisses or Candy of choice

Stir cake mix and thawed Cool Whip. Add beaten egg and stir ’til mixed. Mixture will be thick. Roll into balls then roll is powdered sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. While still warm top with half a cherry, or chocolate kiss, or candy of your choice.

And if you’re a chocolate fan, use a chocolate cake mix instead. Who doesn’t love chocolate and cherries?

If you have any left-over,  please ship them to me…never enough cookies at our house!



Friend Noreen Collins brought these oh so pretty cookies to our Bible study last week and each bite demanded another! And they make at least five dozen cookies, so they’re great to share or take to a pot luck.


I must admit I doctored Noreen’s recipe just a tad by adding cinnamon to the mix. Next time I’m going to add either lime or lemon zest and grated ginger. I’ve also thought about adding coconut flavoring rather than vanilla…perhaps even peppermint flavoring. But be careful with the peppermint…a little goes a long way.

2 cups quick oats

2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup softened butter

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla (or flavoring of choice)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup finely chopped nuts (I used a pecan/walnut mixture)

Place all ingredients, but nuts, into mixing bowl and beat on medium speed ’til blended. Doesn’t take long. Add minced nuts and gently mix.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use 1/2 teaspoon of mix per cookie…that’s right, I said 1/2 teaspoon! The cookie will spread as it bakes. So give them plenty of room… I place nine cookies per cookie sheet. Cook at 350 ’til lightly browned. This only takes a little over five minutes. Be sure to watch during that last minute lest you have toasty roasties.

Let sit for several minutes to cool before removing them from cookie sheet onto cooling rack. These cookies keep very well for several days and are delicious with a cup of coffee for breakfast…shame on me!


Store in covered jar with parchment between layers. I’m sure you’ll love these dainty wafers.













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Recipe and Photos by DiAne Gates


Two times per year my husband refuses to eat out—Easter and Mother’s Day. He takes care of the Mother’s Day, but Easter’s my treat. And you all know what that means—company to feed after church and everybody’s starvin’ before you manage to get food on the table.


But not this year! I have a plan. This Easter meal will be put together on Saturday and it’s your choice whether to wait and cook it when you get home or cook it Saturday and reheat for Sunday. Either way, it’s delicious. I serve this dish with rice and a veggie. Asparagus, green beans, peas? What could be easier?

The side dish I chose today is zucchini. Raw, sliced ribbons of zucchini with your vegetable peeler. Quick and easy! Place sliced zucchini in bowl and add ¼ cup olive oil, the juice and zest of one Meyer’s lemon, 1 tablespoon of finely minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate. To serve, pile ribbons of zucchini in a heap and add curls of Parmigiana Reggiano, a sprinkle of chives, parsley, or cilantro—a little more salt and pepper and it’s gorgeous!


5 chicken breasts (I use skinned, boneless) salt and peppered on both sides

8 to 10 Baby Bella mushrooms sliced (optional)

½ cup olives halved (I use large green Sicilian olives – but you could use whatever your family likes and I often add more…’cause I love olives).

5 slices of lemon rounds


2 tablespoons butter melted (I use the real stuff—better for you, in moderation)

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup white wine (please use a wine you would drink)

Juice and zest of two or three lemons

3 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

Wash and dry chicken. Pour marinade over chicken and cover in fridge for at least an hour. Place chicken in casserole dish and pour or spoon marinade over chicken. Scatter mushrooms and olives over chicken and top each breast with a slice of lemon. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes until chicken and lemons are roasted. Serve over rice. Garnish with drippings.


You don’t have to wait ‘til Easter to try this one. I’m sure this will be one of your family favorites too! And if you simply must have bread, make it easy on yourself. Grab a couple of cans of Pillsbury Grands, cut ’em in fourths, roll them in melted butter, and mixed with some blue cheese.  Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and pop these little darlings into the oven according to package directions, but watch ’em, they don’t take long!





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Photos by DiAne N. Gates

Long as I can remember Mama’s pork chop and rice casserole was the standard go-to supper when Mama was busy, tired, and needed to get something on the table. Short prep time, so delicious, and is just as good if there are left-overs.

The next few weeks with shopping, wrapping, and entertaining you need a few go-to meals that satisfy yet are easy on your budget and schedule. This one is an old iron skillet favorite at our house.

Let me know how you like this comfort food!


4 center-cut pork chops (more if your family is larger)

1 cup white rice uncooked

1 onion chopped

3 cloves garlic chopped

3 15 oz. cans of tomatoes (I used a good brand of canned basil, garlic and onion tomatoes)

¼ cup green chilies or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or both if y’all like spicy)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop onions and garlic and set aside. Salt and pepper both sides of pork chops and brown them with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large iron skillet. Remove chops from pan and sauté onions and garlic ‘til soft. Add three cans of tomatoes and green chilies and/or red pepper flakes and one additional cup of water. Salt and pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Sprinkle cup of rice over the entire surface of tomato sauce. Do not stir. Place browned pork chops on top of tomato, rice mix and pour juice from plate over the mixture.

Place uncovered skillet in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Check to see if you need more water as this cooks, add in ½ cup increments. Moisture should be absorbed by rice and chops browned.

I serve in the skillet. And oh, my goodness, this is heartwarming soul food!



Photos by DiAne N. Gates

2 bunches greens (I use turnip and mustard greens)

1 meaty ham hock

½ onion chopped

3 cloves garlic chopped fine

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1 fresh tomato cubed

1 can chicken or vegetable stock

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar


Sort and wash rough chopped greens—three times. In other words, place chopped greens in a sink full of cold water. Swish and remove them by handfuls into colander. Drain water from sink, rinse, and refill sink and place greens back into the water. Repeat this process two more times. Else your greens will be gritty and that’s just plain nasty.

Place ham hock in soup pot and sauté with 1 tablespoon olive oil ‘til a bit browned. Add onions, garlic, tomato and carrot. Salt and pepper to taste and cook ‘til soft. About three or four minutes. Pour can of chicken stock over the onions and hock and fill soup can to brim with water and pour that into the stock/onion mix too. Add greens, salt and pepper, and sugar over the top of greens and stir. Add balsamic vinegar. Give one more stir. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Makes a great accompanying veggie for the pork chops. If you have a moment to spare grab a cornbread mix and make some muffins according to package label. Your children will rise up and call you blessed! I promise. And while all that’s cooking you can wrap a few packages, fold a load of clothes, or just sit and have a nice glass of wine.


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