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Using & Creating New Recipes

by John Raven, Ph.B.

A cooking recipe is a blueprint for building a dish. It tells you what to put where and how much. The first recipe was, "Pull feathers from bird before putting on fire". The second recorded recipe was "Chop onions and garlic". I've never seen a cooking program where they did not chop onions and garlic.

Aside from the two recipes listed above, no recipe is written in stone. All recipes can be adjusted to suit the cook. I don't use a lot of recipes. I just use my instinct, unless it's something I'm trying for the first time.

Measure, measure
My measure is "That looks about right". Of course, I have been at this cooking thing for some 50 years or so, and I know how much a handful, pinch and a smidgen are.

If you are new to the cooking thing, use the recipe as close as you can. Otherwise, no telling what you will come up with. I gave a chili recipe to a lady one time. She came back and said, "It was good. I didn't have any chili powder to put in it, but it was good'. Now for the rest of her life, she went around thinking beef stew was chili.

When I come up with a new dish I think has merit, I write a recipe so I can share the dish. The recipe will come from the second cooking where I measure the ingredients so I can pass the information on. Recently, I was putting together a southwestern-style chicken stew. I liked it, so here is the resulting recipe.

Raven's Southwestern Chicken Stew
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bite-size pieces
  • 1/3 cup each green bell pepper, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 /2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon chicken base or 1 bullion cube
In a suitable size pot, bring about a quart of water to a soft boil. Add the chicken base or bullion cube.

Sauté chicken in a bit of oil until done. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pot.

Sauté the peppers and onion until limp. Add to pot.


  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Dash each of garlic powder and celery powder
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 4-6 small red potatoes, scrubbed well, quartered
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, no canned (optional)
Cook at just over a simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender. Add salt if needed.

Here's another of my recent recipes.

Raven-Style Hopping John
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 can Trappey black-eyed peas with bacon flavor
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 small serrano pepper, minced
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Put the rice on to cook according to package directions. Sauté the onion and peppers in about two tablespoons of bacon grease or butter or shortening.

Add the can of black-eyed peas with about half the juice drained off. Heat through to a good simmer.

Add the cooked rice and mix well. Add the tomato and head to good simmer again. Adjust salt.

Very good with cornbread or corn tortillas. Serves 2 good appetites.

This is an excellent side dish, or it will make a stand-alone dish accompanied by some hot cornbread.

Here is the first recipe I ever created. I wasn't sure what to call it so it got named:

Somethin' Else
  1. Dice 1 green bell pepper, 1 small onion, 2 medium yellow squash.
  2. In a tablespoon of butter, sauté 1/2 pound lean hamburger or fine-diced steak until done.
  3. Add diced vegetables and stir until crisp-tender.
  4. Add 1 cup catsup, 2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins, 2 beef bullion cubes dissolved in ½ cup hot water.
  5. Mix 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 1/2 cup cool water and add to pot. Stir until mixture thickens.
  6. Serve over hot cooked rice.
As I was reviewing the chicken stew recipe, I was thinking of how the price of beef has escalated over the past few months. Beef is priced about three times what it should be. If we stop buying overpriced beef and go with something else, the price of the cow parts will come down. To that end, I'm including another chicken stew recipe that gets lots of play up in Northeast Texas.

Hopkins County Stew is so popular, they once had a contest for it. I don't know if the contest still exists, but the recipes live on. Here we go.

Hopkins County Stew
  • 2 pounds chicken parts, preferably breasts or thighs
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 16-ounce can cream-style corn
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Place chicken, stock and salt in a large pot. Bring to simmer and simmer until the chicken is done. Remove chicken from the stock and cool.

Bring stock back to simmer. Add the potatoes and onion; simmer until the potatoes are tender. In the meantime, remove the chicken from the bone and shred or dice. Discard skin and bone.

Return the chicken to the pot along with the tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, paprika and pepper. Bring back to simmer.

Add the corn and the butter. Cover the pot and continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes until the stew is quite thick. Stir frequently to the bottom of the pot to keep the stew from scorching. Add water if needed.

All cooking should be at a simmer; don't boil the pot. Serves 6 to 8.

That's it from here for the month of May. I'll be back next month with more Traditional Texas Food.

Y'all behave as best you can.

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