Thanks-Giving Parmesan Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage & Butternut Squash



Thanksgiving….giving thanks.

Thanksgiving is upon us and in my life there is so much to be thankful for that my mind reels. The list is long and I try to keep it in the front of my mind most days whether it is a holiday or not. It is not always easy but I try. Do you have a mental list of things you are thankful for?

For these savory “Parmesan-Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage and Butternut-Squash”, if you do not have a classic French madeleine pan, use a cast iron corn stick pan. I bought my pans at Amazon but recently picked up a few more at TJMaxx. You can find a previous madeleine post I did for “Chocolate  Black-Peppercorn Orange Madeleines” here as well. Madeleines are traditionally sweet and originated from the Lorraine region in France. My Southern, seasonal twist uses yellow polenta, sage and butternut squash as well as parmesan cheese and will be a wonderful addition to any Thanksgiving meal. Also great with chili or soups.


Fresh sage leaves in the bottom of the pan….batter spread on top…..


…baked for 15 minutes until golden brown…..


…flipped out onto a cooling rack and while hot I shredded more Parmesan over the top.


I made this recipe earlier in the year for a project I was working on with a friend. In that recipe I did not use butternut-squash, but I had some left from a photo shoot and did not want to let it go to waste so shredded it and tossed into the batter for a more seasonal twist!

Be Thankful. Be Kind and Share.


Parmesan-Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage and Butternut Squash



  • coconut oil spray
  • 1 bunch fresh sage leaves
  • 2/3 cup instant polenta
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese + extra for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded butternut squash
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • special equipment: 2 madeleine pans


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray madeleine pans with coconut spray.
  3. Place one or two fresh sage leaves in the bottom of each “madeleine” space. Press down into the molds using your fingers. Respray with coconut oil. The oil will secure the sage leaves to bottom of the pan.
  4. In a mixing bowl blend together instant polenta, flour, baking soda, Parmesan cheese, sea salt & black pepper.
  5. Stir in the melted butter, eggs, butternut squash & buttermilk. Blend well. Spoon batter into the pan over the sage leaves just to batter being level. Pat into mold with you fingers. If batter gets too dry then add a bit more buttermilk. This batter is thicker than your regular cornbread batter.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes or until madeleines are golden brown and puffy. Remove pans from oven and cool for a few minutes. Turn pans upside down to release madeleines from pan. While they are still hot sprinkle more Parmesan on top. It will slightly melt into the surface. Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven until ready to serve. Can be reheated as well. Store any leftovers in a plastic bag for a few days.

Teresa Blackburn

Cannellini Bean-Vegetable Soup Au Pistou and Black Pepper-Thyme Corn Sticks



Comfort food in a world of chaos and uncertainty is what many of us home cooks create to ease the tensions of daily life. Few foods are more comforting than soups. The ease of preparation and ingredients, the simple cooking methods…these are things we can control when there is so much going on around us that we cannot.

My version of the classic French “Soup au Pistou” is one of my comfort foods on these November days when darkness comes early and there is a chill in the air and in a small place in my heart.

Pistou is somewhat like pesto but without pine nuts. Just a blend of fresh basil leaves, garlic and olive oil all smashed together either in a mortar and pestle, or as I did in a food processor. Pistou is a sauce or condiment from the Provence region of France and you will find it simple and easy to make.


Do you ever add the rinds of Parmesan cheese to your pot when making hearty soups? Try it if you have not. It is a good way to use those flavorful rinds and will make your finished soup even more delicious.


I love cornbread so these crispy “Black Pepper-Thyme Cornbread Sticks” are good to serve with this soup. Baked in a sheet pan and then cut into sticks make them great “dippers”.



Eat well. Be kind to yourself and others.

Cannellini Bean-Vegetable Soup with Pistou and Black Pepper Cornbread Sticks

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1hr
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Ingredients for Soup:

  • Splash of olive oil
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 leeks thinly sliced, white and pale green parts
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 zucchini squash, sliced & cut into half moons
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced and cut into half moons
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • one piece of Parmesan rind
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Ingredients for Cornbread Sticks:

  • 1 package of your favorite yellow corn bread mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill) + ingredients called for on package directions)
  • 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

Ingredients for Pistou:

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil


  1. For Soup: Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat & add the anchovies. Use a wooden spoon to stir and cook until the anchovies break up and dissolve.
  2. Toss leeks and celery into the pan. Saute for 10 minutes or until vegetables soften and begin to brown. Add a pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Add zucchini and yellow squash, chicken broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Add beans to pan, stir and turn heat to lowest setting to keep hot while you make cornbread and pistou.
  4. For Cornbread: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cornbread mix according to package directions adding the cracked black pepper, Parmesan and thyme leaves to the batter. Spread batter into a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack.
  5. For Pistou: Put basil leaves and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse a few times. Drizzle in olive oil just until mixture is a pesto-like consistency. I like a less oily pistou. If you prefer more oil then continue adding until it is to your liking.
  6. To: Serve. Cut cornbread into “sticks”. Ladle soup into bowls and add a dollop of the pistou to stir into the soup. Serve remaining pistou on the side. Enjoy.

Teresa Blackburn

Nibbling Venetian Butter Cookies while wandering Venice… August 2015


Of some places there is really nothing that needs saying. Some places you just see. You  look, absorb, ponder on and wander in. Of some places so much has already been said. Well said and beautifully said. One of these places is Venice, Italy. A city of mystery & infinite beauty. One of the world’s best cities for wandering while nibbling on Venetian Butter Cookies.


De Chirico-like shadows, small intimate corners, reflections & slices of light on water are what grab my attention. The large, all-encompassing, well-known, travel book images do not particularly enchant me. This is probably a lacking on my part, but one I accept. I am seduced by the little moments wherever I travel. Here are some of them……



















One needs nourishment to sustain lengthy wanderings….frothy cups of cappucino and Venetian Butter Cookies help as do glasses of vino,  all which are on offer at every corner.









All images taken with iphone 6 the summer of 2015 while wandering Venice without & with my friends Terry and Julie. Two more intrepid wanderers who shared their trip with me. Grazie.

“Venetian Butter Cookies” are ubiquitous in Venice and pretty much all over Italy. They are not too sweet and are the perfect coffee-dipping cookie.



Venetian Butter Cookies



  • 1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp (10 Tbsps)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In an electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Turn mixer to low and add vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt.
  4. Turn mixer too medium and add egg yolks one at a time until well combined.
  5. Turn mixer to low and add flour 1/4 cup at a time, scraping down bowl as needed, until all flour is incorporated.
  6. LIne cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Form cookie dough into 1 inch balls. Roll each into a “rope” about 3 inches long and then shape into an “S”. Repeat with all dough, placing “S” shapes on parchment paper lined cookie sheets as you work about 1 inch apart.
  8. Bake for about 12-14 minutes or until cookies are firm and light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: These cookies are found all over Italy in groceries, little markets, bakeries..fresh or in bags. They will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container and are very good dipped in your favorite Italian coffee.


Teresa Blackburn

(Based on a Martha Stewart cookie recipe)

Chipotle-Dark Chocolate Studded with Pistachios, Almonds, Sea Salt, Espresso Powder & Cocoa Nibs – Edible Gift Giving 2015



Holiday gift giving 2015 will soon be in full swing and there are so many ways to make it easier and more personal. I am not much for shopping but I do love to make things. This is the first in a series I will post every so often during November and December. Easy edible food gifts to help get you through the Holidays with a sense of well-being and sharing.

My recipe, if you want to call it that, for “Chipotle-Dark Chocolate Studded with Pistachios, Cocoa-coated Almonds, Sea Salt, Espresso Powder & Cocoa Nibs/Cacao Nibs” is amazingly easy. It takes no special skills and it allows for lots of experimentation. The time for this batch was about 15 minutes! It doesn’t get any better than that! Don’t you feel more relaxed already?


Olive and Sinclair Mexican Chocolate bars melted with some Nestle’s Semi Sweet Chocolate Morsels in the top of a double boiler….


…poured out on a flat pan covered with parchment paper & spread around with a rubber spatula….


…dusted & studded with toppings.


A quick chill in the freezer for about 10 minutes and it is ready to break up into bite-size pieces.


The dusting of chipotle chili and dark espresso powders give this chocolate an indulgently intense flavor that will appeal to all your chocolate obsessed friends.


Place pieces in decorative tins or boxes for gift giving. Great host or hostess gifts.

Chipotle-Dark Chocolate Studded with Pistachios, Almonds, Sea Salt, Espresso Powder & Cocoa Nibs - Edible Gift Giving 2015



  • 8 ounces Olive & Sinclair Mexican Chocolate Bars (or any other bittersweet chocolate)
  • 8 ounces Nestles semi-sweet chocolate chips (or other brand)
  • Chipotle Powder to taste
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup cocoa covered whole almonds or regular almonds, rough chopped
  • 1 to 2 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • flakey sea salt such as Maldon
  • 2 tbsp cocoa nibs (optional)


  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Gather and prep all ingredients before you start melting the chocolate.
  2. Melt chocolate in the top of double boiler pan until smooth and without any lumps.
  3. Remove from heat, wipe pan bottom with a kitchen towel and pour/scrape melted chocolate out onto the parchment paper. Smooth with a dry rubber spatula.
  4. Dust over the entire surface with chipotle powder. More or less to fit your palate. I like more.
  5. Dust with the espresso powder and sprinkle with pistachios, almonds, sea salt & cocoa nibs generously. Press larger nut pieces down into chocolate gently with fingers.
  6. Place pan in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Remove when chocolate is hard, break into pieces. Store pieces in airtight containers. Best made and gifted within a couple of days.

Note: I made this up on a whim using what I had in my pantry, but you can totally experiment and add chopped dried fruit, coconut flakes, white chocolate chips, black pepper, etc…

Teresa Blackburn

Chicken Tagine with Dried Figs & Sweet Potatoes…A One Pot Magic Carpet Sharable Meal

chicken tagine - Version 2

chicken tagine

Fall and Winter are my favorite times for what I call “real cooking”. Cooler days and nights call for warmer, cozy foods. I do so love the deep, darker colors of roasted meats and vegetables all nestled down in one pot with magic carpet spices & herbs…all the juices swirling together to create flavorful sopping with a chunk of crusty bread. This is how we like to eat in the fall and winter.

Words like “stews”, “braising”, “roasting” come to my mind this time of year as well as “tagine”. Tagine is both a type of casserole dish used in much North African cooking as well as types of recipes/stews using said dish. One day I am going to purchase a real tagine casserole dish, but in the meantime I make my recipe for “Chicken Tagine with Dried Figs and Sweet Potatoes” in a heavy, oven-safe pot and that works just fine. I got my beautiful “bird” from my CSA, Fresh Harvest. Below is “before” cooking……….


……this is “after”.


The dried figs plump up, the sweet potatoes soften…the juicy chicken is absolutely falling off the bone. Opening the lid conjures up distant lands as the aromas of coriander, turmeric and ginger waft up.

From Nashville to Morocco in a magic-carpet one-pot very sharable meal.  Bon Appetit (or “besseha” Arabic/Moroccan.)


Chicken Tagine with Dried Figs and Sweet Potatoes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 2hrs
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 whole chicken cut into quarters or 4 leg quarters
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 smashed garlic cloves
  • 3 tsp ground cumin seed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 large onion cut into large chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato peeled & cut into chunks
  • 12 whole dried figs
  • the juice and zest of one orange
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a skillet brown the chicken pieces in olive oil over medium high heat. Set aside.
  3. Place browned chicken pieces in the bottom of a large oven-safe pot with a lid.
  4. Evenly scatter over chicken pieces the smashed garlic cloves, cumin seed, coriander, ginger, turmeric cayenne pepper, black pepper & sea salt.
  5. Nestle the chunked onions & sweet potatoes and whole dried figs and orange zest under and around the chicken pieces.
  6. Gently pour the orange juice and chicken stock into the pot.
  7. Cover and bake for approximately 2 hours or until the chicken is falling-off-the-bone done.
  8. Raise oven temp to 375. Uncover pot and cook for another 20 minutes. Serve in bowls with thick slices of crusty bread for sopping. The flavors are sublime…the aroma transporting!

Note: This would be an excellent alternative for a Thanksgiving meal instead of turkey perhaps?

Teresa Blackburn

(This recipe is based on one I cooked years ago for the first time by food writer and cook, Crescent Dragonwagon. I have made changes to suit our palate.)


White Enamel Oven-safe Pot – TJMaxx

Linens – Ikea and my collection

Chicken – Organic whole hen from my CSA Fresh Harvest. Fresh Harvest/Locally Grown

All-Things-Green Salad Drizzled with Red Wine-Honey Vinaigrette


IMG_8920Light olive-green Baby Lima Beans, grass Green (English) Peas, the palest yellow-green Lady Peas tossed together with emerald mint leaves, brownish-green pistachios and  lime-green pea shoots lightly coated with an easy honey vinaigrette dressing.

Third Thursday Community Potluck was once again upon us and I had to make something good and fast. Digging through my freezer I found a bag each of fresh frozen baby limas, lady peas and green peas. All from the Nashville Downtown Farmer’s Market this past summer and all grown right here in middle Tennessee at local farms.

Which brings me to fundraisers and good deeds and all kinds of things like that. My friend and neighbor, Harriet Warner, sent me some information about a gathering that addresses all of the above. It is the Cumberland River Compact’s 4th Annual “Farm to Fork” dinner which brings top chefs together to celebrate local food, drink and clean water. If you would like to attend this fabulous evening of cool people who are interested in good food and keeping our beautiful Cumberland River clean and fresh go here for lots more information including menu, chefs…who, what, when and where. Or just go right here to buy tickets to be part of this great dinner party.

Now, back to my own little farm to fork dish,….peas and beans thawed, rinsed and drained…blanched in boiling water for a few minutes and again drained.


Ah ha! A jar of salt preserved lemons hiding in the back of my pantry! I know they are yellow, but might add just the right saltiness to the salad…slivered and chopped.


Mint from the backyard.


Red wine honey vinaigrette drizzled on top.


Tender pea shoots waiting to top off the salad along with some dusty green pistachios to add a bit of crunch.



All-Things-Green Salad with a Simple Red Wine-Honey Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 1hr
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  • 3 cups each fresh or frozen Baby Lima Beans, Lady Peas, and Green(English) Peas
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint
  • 2 TBSP’s thin slivers of preserved lemon
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 2 cups loosely packed green pea shoots
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 2 tsps Dijon mustard
  • sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a bit of salt.  Toss in the baby lime beans, lady peas & green peas. Cook for about 5 minutes. Pour peas and beans into a colander to drain. Rinse with cool running water. Leave to drain and cool down for 20 minutes. Place in a large serving bowl.
  2. Pour the olive oil, vinegar, honey and mustard in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to emulsify. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper to suit your taste. Set aside.
  3. Roughly chop the mint leaves and add to the bowl of beans and peas along with the preserved lemon slivers. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  4. When ready to serve drizzle the vinaigrette over all and toss gently. Top with the tender pea shoots and pistachios.

Note: This is a perfect salad for a crowd. I made it for the September Third Thursday Community Potluck dinner. You could also cut it in half for a family dinner. There was a little bit left so I ate it the next day for lunch and it was even better!

You can use edamame if you cannot find lady peas. I used summer beans and peas that I had frozen, but store-bought frozen product works great too.

Teresa Blackburn