Katrina’s Cream Chicken Tetrazinni – Can Be Gluten Free

Posted by Tara on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


Our family modified this recipe from Ms. Katrina’s slightly. We like to make our own cream of chicken soup to avoid MSG and gluten.  Instructions are given here for making your own cream soup for this recipe.  2 10 oz cans of store bought cream of chicken soup can be used in place of the home made but the home made adds extra creaminess to the dish.

  • 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 2 NOT CHICKEN brand bullion cubes
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt

In a medium size pan add the butter and let it melt over medium heat. While butter is melting add the corn starch and water to a pint jar, place lid on jar, and shake vigorously to dissolve the corn starch.  Add this mixture along with the evaporated milk, chicken bullion cubes, pepper, and celery salt to the melted butter.  Use a wire whisk to stir almost constantly until mixture thickens.


  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Montery jack cheese
  • 1 deli chicken, meat pulled and diced into small pieces
  • 4 oz jar sliced mushrooms – drained
  • 4 oz jar diced pimentoes
  • 8 oz angel hair pasta, broken into 2″ pieces and cooked according to package directions, then drained (can use gluten free pasta instead)
  • 8 oz melted butter mixed with 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • more Parmesan cheese for topping casserole -about 1/2 cup
  • dried dill weed
  • paprika

As soon as the home made cream of chicken soup has thickened, add the Montery jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, and sour cream to the soup and stir to melt and blend the cheeses.  Set aside creamy mixture.  In a large mixing bowl add the diced chicken, mushrooms, pimento, and 8oz melted butter.  Stir to blend well.  Then add the cream soup/cheese mixture to the chicken/pasta mixture and stir slightly to mix well.  Pour mixture into a  gerased 13×9  dish or a large greased 10″ iron skillet.  Spread mixture evenly over dish or skillet.  Top with more Parmesan cheese, dried dill weed, and paprika.  Bake in 350 degree preheated oven 30-40 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and casserole is bubbly.

This recipe freezes well and is the perfect dish to make for large crowds or take to someone who is sick or on bed rest.

Filed in Casseroles, Gluten Free | No responses yet

Southern Peach Cobbler with Gluten Free Option

Posted by Tara on Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Southern Peach CobblerHarvest is in full swing here in the south, including one of my summer time favorites – PEACHES! Lester Farms is selling peaches now  and I can think of no easier dessert to whip up with them than a good old fashioned southern peach cobbler.  You can have one ready to pop into the oven in the time it takes for it to preheat.
  • 3/4 cup plain flour (or Bob’s Gluten Free Baking Mix)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups fresh peeled and sliced peaches (or apples or blackberries)
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and milk in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  In a 2 quart baking dish, add the melted butter.  Peel and slice the peaches, then toss in a separate bowl with remaining sugar.  Add a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon if desired.  Pour flour/milk mixture into the baking dish with melted butter.  Then pour the sliced, sweetened peaches evenly over batter/butter mixture. DO NOT STIR!  Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until cobbler is golden brown and cooked thoroughly.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.  This recipe can also be cooked in an iron skillet, making a beautiful southern presentation.  For a gluten free recipe, substitute Bob’s Gluten Free Baking Mix for the flour.

Filed in Breads, Doughs, and Crusts, Desserts, Gluten Free | No responses yet

Veggie Puppies – With Gluten Free Option

Posted by Tara on Saturday, July 19th, 2014

veggie puppies

I am loving all the fresh garden vegetables in harvest right now.  My Lester Farm’s CSA basket is full of garden fresh goodness each week.  The items in one of my recent baskets were an inspiration for this recipe.  For a gluten free version, see instructions at the end of the recipe.

  • 1/2 cup fine chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup diced squash
  • 1/2 cup diced zucchini
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn nibblets
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 medium onion diced
  • 1 1/2  cups self-rising corn meal
  • 1/2 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Place the diced/chopped broccoli, squash, zucchini, corn, carrots, and onions in a glass dish and microwave 3-5 minutes until vegetables are slightly tender. While vegetables are cooking, mix the self-rising meal, buttermilk, egg, and seasoned-salt  together.  Add the cooked vegetables and blend to mix well. Prepare a deep fryer with 3-4 cups of vegetable oil and preheat to 400 degrees. When fryer is preheated, use a 1 oz cookie dough scoop to drop batter into hot grease. Cook 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on underside, then use tongs to flip puppies over.  Cook another 1-2 minutes, or until puppies are brown on both sides.  Remove them from hot oil, and drain them on fresh paper towels.  Serve while warm with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1-2 teaspoons Tobasco sauce

Mix together in small bowl for dipping puppies!

* For a gluten free version, use 2 cups of plain gluten free corn meal along with 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teasoon salt in place of the self-rising corn meal and flour.

Filed in Appetizers, Breads, Doughs, and Crusts, Gluten Free, Side Dishes | No responses yet

Garden Fresh Lemon Pasta Bowls

Posted by Tara on Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Lemon Pasta Bowl

These pasta bowls can be whipped up in a snap and made with some fresh garden veggies and specialty pasta.  Feel free to vary the vegetables as your garden is harvested this summer.

  • 16 oz pasta variety (pictured is gluten free Lemon Parsley Pasta) – cooked and drained according to package directions
  • 6 tablespoons browned butter
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 sweet chopped onion
  • 1 green, purple, red, or yellow Bell pepper – diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 3-4 basil leaves chopped
  • 3-4 chopped green onions
  • 1 chicken bullion cube (I use NOT CHICKEN, MSG free)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • zest from 2 lemons
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • extra basil leaves for garnish
  • fresh lemon slices for garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse, and set aside.

In a large skillet brown the butter.  Add the minced garlic, chopped sweet onion, diced peppers, halved tomatoes, shredded carrots, chopped green onions, and chopped basil leaves to the browned butter.  Toss vegetables to coat them with the browned butter.  Add the chicken bullion cube.  Let the veggies simmer 3-4 minutes. While vegetables are simmering, add the half and half, water, and corn starch to a jar. Place lid on jar, and shake to blend corn starch.  Add mixture to the skillet of vegetables and simmer just long enough for the sauce to begin to thicken. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest along with the salt and pepper to taste to the mixture and remove skillet from heat.  Serve the vegetables over pasta.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese, lemon slices and basil leaves.

This dish can be served in individual bowls or mixed together in a large dish for serving buffet style.  The sauce is gluten free and the whole dish can be gluten free depending on the pasta choice.  Add some baked lemon pepper chicken to the pasta for variety.

Filed in Gluten Free, Healthy Cooking, Main Dishes, Meatless Monday | No responses yet

Just Peachy Lemonade

Posted by Tara on Sunday, July 6th, 2014


Just Peachy Lemonade is a refreshing way to beat this Tennessee heat.  The peaches are ready to harvest around here.  Saturday I whipped up some peach lemonade,with fresh peaches and real lemons, and it was all gone by nightfall.  It was a hit here at home!

  • 2 cups peach puree (from fresh or frozen peaches)
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice  (about 12 lemons)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • cold water

Puree fresh or frozen peaches in a Magic Bullet or a blender.  Pour peach puree into a gallon pitcher, add lemon juice, sugar, and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Then fill pitcher with cold water and ice.  Find a happy place to sit a spell, prop up your feet, relax and sip peachy lemonade.

This recipe can easily be halved to make 1/2 gallon.

Filed in Beverages | 12 responses so far

Cool as a Cucumber Salad

Posted by Tara on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Cool Cucumber Salad

Looking for a quick, light, savory salad?  Try my Cool as a Cucumber Salad made with Lester Farm’s pickling cucumbers, a light dressing, and some garden fresh cherry tomatoes. This is a perfect cool down side for 4th of July picnic!

  • 3 cups sliced fresh cucumbers (can use pickling cucumbers, English cucumbers, or regular cucumbers)
  • 1 Vidalia onion sliced or diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or use a large home grown tomato)
  • Fresh or dried dill weed for garnish


  • 1/4 cup Rice Vinegar *
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive or Grape Seed Oil
  • 1 teaspoon course ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (or use 1 packet Stevia for sugar free recipe)

Place the sliced cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes in a medium sized serving dish.  Make the dressing by adding the rice vinegar, oil, pepper, and sweetener to a pint size glass jar. Put the lid on jar and shake it to mix the dressing together. Pour dressing over the cucumber mixture and chill for about an hour.

*Using rice vinegar instead of apple cider or white vinegar is a good alternative for people who do not like the strong taste  of the latter two.  Of course apple cider or white vinegar can be used in place of the rice vinegar if the stronger, more acidic taste is preferred.

Filed in Gluten Free, Healthy Cooking, Side Dishes | No responses yet

Best Baby Back Roasted Rib Rub

Posted by Tara on Monday, June 30th, 2014


Hello, Richard here. I’m usually behind the scenes here at Taracooks but when Tara recently had the opportunity to appear on the Better Nashville show on Channel 4 again, we teamed up to make a couple of recipes that are out-of-this-world good. One of them is Baby Back Ribs using Tara’s Best Roasted Rib Rub. Here’s the rub recipe.

  • 6 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons paprika
  • 3 Tablespoons black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2-3 Tablespoons instant coffee
  • 1 Tablespoon celery salt
  • Kosher Salt
  • Dijon Mustard

Mix together the brown sugar, paprika, pepper, garlic powder, instant coffee, and celery salt. Store rib rub in a shaker or zip lock bag until ready to use.


OK, we’ve got the rub prepared so let’s get down to cooking.  Now you can cook the ribs in the oven at 300 degrees for two hours.  But I prefer using a smoker grill.  First a few basics about the smoker grill. We are not going to grill over an open flame. We are going to slow cook the ribs allowing the heat and smoke from the firebox on one end of the grill to pass through to the other end and out the chimney. You’ll notice that I’m using a metal canister to start the charcoal. This gets the charcoal going faster than starting it in the firebox.


Now if you work as a team, like we do, by the time one person has the smoker grill hot and ready to go, the other can have the ribs ready with the spice mix, salt and mustard.

So while I’m getting things heated up outside, Tara is preparing the ribs in the kitchen. She starts with a sprinkle of salt, then brushes Dijon mustard on both sides and finally a generous dusting of the seasoning mix on both sides.



The ribs are then wrapped in foil for cooking. This keeps them moist as they cook.

When your smoker grill reaches 300 degrees, your ready to put the ribs on.  But just before I do this, I add some presoaked and drained hickory chips to the firebox (about 3 cups).  This adds a wonderful flavor to the ribs and whatever else you have hidden under the hood of your grill.


Allow 2 hours of cooking time and try to maintain 300 degrees. You may have to add hot charcoal, or open the vent on the firebox to increase the temperature. To decrease the temp you can close the firebox vent.

When you have about 30 minutes to go open the top of the foil being careful not to let the juice run out so that the smoke can do its magic on the meat.

Isn’t it great being a carnivore?

Stay tuned for another smoking’ good recipe coming soon. And be sure to watch (or TiVo) the Better Nashville show on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 1:00 PM Central time.

Printable Recipe

Best Baby Back Roasted Rib Rub

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Filed in Pork | No responses yet

Southern Green Beans with New Potatoes from Lester Farms CSA Basket

Posted by Tara on Friday, June 27th, 2014

beans and new potatoes

One of the best things about the South’s muggy buggy summers is eating all those fresh garden veggies you can pick up at places like Lester Farm’s Produce, or even your back yard garden.  Last week there were some amazingly tasty fresh picked green beans and new potatoes in my Lester Farm’s CSA basket.  Prep time for this pot of down home goodness took no more than 10  minutes.  Here’s how:

In a large cast iron Dutch oven add:

  • 4 cups fresh prepared green beans (tips and strings removed, cut in half, then rinsed)
  • 8-10 small unpeeled new potatoes (scrubbed well, then quartered)
  • 1 small peeled sweet onion cut into quarters
  • 2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional – 1 cup diced country ham
  • 2 quarts water

Add all the ingredients to a Dutch oven and cover. Bring mixture to a boil then simmer 30-40 minutes or until beans and potatoes are tender.  If adding country ham, salt may be omitted.  If mixture boils dry before beans and potatoes are tender, more water can be added 1 cup at a time.

Filed in Side Dishes | No responses yet

Farm Fresh Eggs from Lester Farms!

Posted by Tara on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Hey local fans.  Are you looking for some farm fresh cage free eggs?  Head over to Lester Farms Stand and get you a dozen or two.  Check out my recipe here on the blog for dressed eggs.  These are also perfect in a quiche or omlet.  eggs

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How to Store Fresh Spinach, Strawberries, Chard, and Kale

Posted by Tara on Monday, May 12th, 2014


Welcome spring and welcome the return of Lester Farms CSA boxes! One again Lester Farms, which brings the finest locally grown produce to this area, has partnered with TaraCooks.com to provide tips and recipes for using items in those CSA boxes.  Be on the lookout for the sweetest, juiciest, and tastiest strawberries in Tennessee from Lester Farms, along with other garden fresh goodies like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard.

  • Storing Swiss chard and Spinach: Do not wash leaves before storing.  Place Swiss chard leaves or spinach leaves in a 1 or 2 gallon Zip-Lock bag.  Press and squeeze all the air out of the bag before completely sealing the bag.  Place bag in coolest part of refrigerator.  Wash leaves prior to consumption.
  • Storing  Kale: Do not wash leaves before storing.  Wrap leaves in paper towels then place wrapped leaves in a 1 or 2 gallon Zip-Lock bag.  Press and squeeze all of the air out of the bag before completely sealing the bag.  Place bag in coolest part of refrigerator.  Wash leaves prior to consumption.
  • Storing Lettuce:  Whole heads of lettuce may be placed in a 1 or 2 gallon Zip-Lock bag.  Washed lettuce leaves may also be stored in plastic bags or air tight containers along with damp paper towels to retain crispness.  Store in coolest part of refrigerator.  Wash leaves prior to consumption.
  • Storing Fresh Strawberries:  Do not wash berries before storing.  Place berries in a large storage container lined with paper towels.  Cover berries with air tight lid or plastic wrap.  Wash berries prior to consumption.


Strawberry Tips:

  • Strawberry Stems: Did you know strawberries can be tossed into breakfast smoothies with the stems?  Those stems have extra vitamins and fiber and blend very well with other fruits in a food processor.
  • Strawberry Cubes:  Toss some fresh strawberries into food processor and puree until smooth.  Pour puree into ice cube trays and freeze.  Remove frozen strawberry cubes from trays and store in a gallon size Zip-Lock bag.  Fruit cubes can be used to make smoothies, or to add flavor to lemonade and teas, or to make infused water with other fruits and herbal leaves, or thawed later to make jams and preserves.
  • Flash Freeze: can be easily flash frozen.  Place berries about an inch apart on a cookie sheet, pop the cookie sheet into the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until berries have started to harden.  Berries can be transferred to Zip-Lock bags. Flash frozen fruit tends to stay separated while frozen, making it easy to remove a few pieces at a time for snacking or to use in shakes and smoothies.

Strawberry Protein Smoothie

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries

¼ cup fresh or frozen pineapple pieces

½ cup oranage juice

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Suggested recipes this week at www.taracooks.com:

Fresh Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

BLT Pasta Salad

Parmesan Kale Chips

Strawberry Jam

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