The Three Day & Why I am Walking

Laughing in the kitchen

Some of you know through social media that I am in training to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in Atlanta this October. It’s 60 miles in three days and I am midway through the 24 week training program. It’s been challenging with my schedule, but it’s something I have wanted to do for years. In this post I am sharing what I wrote on my personal fundraising page and why I am walking.

The training has been very powerful. It’s scary to think about walking 60 miles in three days. Yet, my fear lessens as I train. It felt amazing to accomplish walking 8 then 9 then 10 miles! That made me feel like I can do anything! I have been encouraged by so many friends. Maureen Petrosky kindly shared the laces she wore when she walked and I’ve gotten so many notes and emails of support.

I am walking in honor of my sweet Mama, Jenny B. Willis who is an 11-year survivor. I will never forget the day she called and told me that they had found a lump in her breast. It was that call, the call that happens in the movies, the call that happens to other people, the call that seems surreal and unimaginable. The call that changes your life.

Mama and Me

They had found a small lump when she was undergoing a routine mammogram. I needed to come home.

The next few weeks and days are a blur and I honestly don’t remember much. When Mama was sick and in the hospital, it was one of the most frightening things ever. It seemed actually possible that my Mama might die. Cancer. Seeing my tiny Mama scared and unable to do anything at all was the worst. She kept saying, “I’ll be all right.” I know she was saying it to make my sister and I feel better, but we knew she was just saying it, we knew that no one knew. Fear was the only thing that was certain.

Mama, Me, and Dede


We were all taking a crash course in learning to speak a new language. Sentinel lymph node, ductal carcinoma in situ, needle aspiration. It felt like a dream, a horrible, horrible dream. The first visit to the oncologist was alarming and grim. Chair after chair of thin, pallid people connected to IVs of chemotherapy; there were some people that were very clearly dying. I was having to imagine the unfathomable, that I might lose my mama. I felt chilling fear deep in my soul like I had never, ever felt before.

As is my nature, I started to educate myself. I asked the doctor so many questions that he inquired in which of the medical field did I work! The kind ladies at the University Breast Health Center were immeasurably helpful. They shared information with us, educated us, and advised us. They directed us to the Susan G. Komen website where I was able to study what our family, my Mama, was facing.

teaching me to swim

The days and months after were terrifying, but her cancer had been caught in time.

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day® is a 60-mile walk over the course of three days. Net proceeds help support research, scientific programs, and community-based breast health and education programs for those facing breast cancer. I will never, ever forget how important the Susan G. Komen foundation was to my family during that difficult time.

This is why I will walk, to help quell the fear.

Currently, about 70% of women 40 and older receive regular mammograms – just like the one that discovered Mama’s. Regular mammograms are the single most effective screening tool to find breast cancer early. Since 1990, early detection and effective treatment have resulted in a 34% decline in breast cancer mortality in the United States. Susan G. Komen has played a critical role in every major advance in the fight against breast cancer – transforming the treatment of this disease and helping to turn millions of breast cancer patients into breast cancer survivors.

I am very, very glad my sweet Mama is one of them.

Many thanks for your support.
Virginia Willis

Please click here to donate to my personal fundraising page.

Mama in Maine

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Want to keep up with my culinary wanderings and wonderings? Lets connect on  Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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Turning Old into New: Banana Mango Muffins

Banana Mango Muffins on

I have a near daily ritual in that I scope out the fridge and repurpose what needs to be eaten, compost what needs to go, and freeze what needs to chill out until a later date. I make stock of some sort from those bits and pieces that make sense. And, of course, there’s a small amount that’s past its prime. It’s a smart habit, one that I heartily encourage.

Cooking from scratch can be expensive. I know I’m guilty of being seduced by produce at the farmer’s market or a sale at our local co-op. I know I wind up with more than we can eat every now and then. Other than a goal of not creating scary science experiments, I strongly feel it’s a crime to waste food, and an expensive one, too.

Recently, we had a lot of friends and family in town and after the dust cleared I spent a day puttering about the kitchen and turning old into new. Nearly limp vegetables were grilled for salad, slightly bruised berries and stone fruits were made into smoothies, and we enjoyed the treat of freshly cooked pole beans for lunch.

Banana Mango Muffins on

Overly ripe fruit can be tricky. I am pretty persnickety about bananas. I only eat bright yellow and firm bananas. I had to take a medicine when I was a little girl that was banana flavored. The result? For most of my life, I have despised bananas. I saw the light and changed my ways a few years ago. Now, I always keep bananas in the kitchen and when I have bananas past their prime, I make banana bread.

It’s also an easy and automatic way to transform brown, spotty, mushy fruit into a delicious quick bread or muffins. We also had a mango left over from my recent business trip to Florida, so I chopped it up and added it to the batter, as well. Since I added the mango and knew it would contribute moisture, I also knew I needed to back off on the butter. By the way, if you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, you can solely use all-purpose.

Fruit flies be gone! With just a little effort I had breakfast muffins for the family. Reuse, reduce, recycle — and rethink. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did.

I’ve been pretty busy with my column Down-Home Comfort  for Food Network. Please check it out. I am absolutely loving it! And, take a look at the recent Q&A in Taste of the South magazine where I talk about my newfound love of Matzoh Ball Soup and what makes a good tomato sandwich. Lastly,  I’m  in pretty good company with Mario Batali, Chris Costentino, and Elizabeth Karmel in Redbook’s 30 Days of Grilling so make sure to take a look at the slideshow for great ideas for cooking outdoors.

Bon Appétit Y’all! 


Banana Mango Muffin on

Banana Mango Muffins
Makes 12

nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 mango, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, pastry flour, all purpose flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

Add the eggs, melted butter, then the mashed bananas and diced mango. Add the reserved dry ingredients and pecans and stir to combine. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake until a rich, golden brown and the muffin start to pull away from the sides of the muffin tin, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly, then invert onto the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Want to keep up with my culinary wanderings and wonderings? Lets connect on  Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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World’s Best Salad Dressing

southern chef salad at

One of my favorite meals of the past few years was a quiet date night at Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama. It was just the two of us and it was a lovely, quiet evening with good service, good wine, and good food – the trifecta of what successful dining out should be. One of the highlights was a simple butter leaf salad that was perfectly dressed in a mustard shallot vinaigrette.

“Salad?  you say, “A world class restaurant and she remembers the salad?”

Of course, all of the other dishes were amazing, but actually, sometimes the things that are the most challenging in the kitchen are those made of the least amount of ingredients. The fewer the ingredients there are in a recipe, the better each individual ingredient has to be, and the better the techniques must be executed in preparing those ingredients. The real secret to a world class restaurant is that the attention to detail is the same as with a simple salad as it is with the foie gras studded with truffles or christened with foam.

What makes a salad memorable is the quality and freshness of the lettuce, the care with which the greens were washed and dried, the temperature at which they were stored. The vinaigrette must be  well-balanced in sour, salty, bitter, and sweet. The salad as a whole should be  judiciously seasoned with good sea salt and freshly ground pepper. The lettuce leaves must be crisp and gently tossed with just enough sharp, shallot vinaigrette to bring the dish together.

This isn’t world class restaurant cooking — it’s just paying attention.

rice wine vinegar - the world's best salad dressing

A salad shouldn’t be dry, nor swimming in dressing. Whether it’s a vinaigrette made by a French-trained chef or a store-bought bottle of Ranch or the World’s Best Salad Dressing, each leaf should be have a quick kiss of flavor to heighten the flavor of the salad, not overwhelm. A good salad is truly satisfying.

And, guess what? You can do this at home.

Summer in New England is high-salad season. We’re already picking greens from our garden – arugula, mizuna, and red leaf.  There are also so many fresh greens at the farmer’s markets and better grocers in summer.  Treat salad greens like the special ingredients they are, not just a thoughtless part of your meal.


You will notice the title is not vinaigrette, but salad dressing. While I do adore a classic French vinaigrette, I must confess, I have a new love in my salad bowl. It very well quite possibly the world’s best salad dressing. I actually once heard a non-vegetable eating 9-year old boy refer to it as such. I got this mouth-watering recipe from my mama-in-law and now I am passing it along to you.

This magical combination is  comfortable, familiar, and just sexy enough because it’s homemade, and not out of a bottle. The World’s Best Salad Dressing is a bit on the sweet side due to the seasoned rice vinegar, yet tempered with a heavy hand of sharp garlic and a pungent pow of mustard powder. I love it and I hope you will, too.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

World’s Best Salad Dressing

Yield: Makes 1 cup

World’s Best Salad Dressing


1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Or, place in a jar and shake to combine. Stores in a sealable container for up to 5 days.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Want to keep up with my culinary wanderings and wonderings? Lets connect on  Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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Fresh Look: Raw Asparagus and Lemon Salad


Funny how things work. I never really cared for asparagus, and now that I’m in prime asparagus country, where it’s known as “Hadley Grass” in Western Massachusetts, I can’t get enough of it. We’re having it every night for supper and eating the leftovers for breakfast and lunch. Coming to love asparagus makes me realize sometimes things just need a fresh look.

I’ve also recently made changes with my website,  and worked up a whole new design.  This is the first post of my blog hosted on I’ve got more changes coming in the next few weeks and I’ll be able to categorize the recipes. It will make my blog a lot more user friendly. It’s great to get a fresh look at things, to shake things up. There’s no doubt, change can be challenging, but it’s good to step out of the box.


Most often asparagus is simmered in water, or perhaps grilled or broiled. This salad is completely raw, which is something really fresh and different. The lemon gives the salad real punch, the pine nuts a nice fatty richness, and the parmesan rounds it all out with a lovely sharp mouthful of umami. There’s no fancy equipment needed, just the swift use of an old-fashioned sharp vegetable peeler. It’s pretty simple stuff. Good ingredients, just enough done to them to maximize flavor without going overboard. It’s a new perspective on things. I hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis

PS Please also keep up with my other column, Down-Home Comfort on

Raw Asparagus and Lemon Salad

Yield: Serves 2 to 4

Raw Asparagus and Lemon Salad


Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small shallot, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
1 pound asparagus spears, tough bottoms removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed shaved Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, shallot, mustard, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a medium pan over medium heat, stirring often, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove to a small bowl to cool.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice the asparagus lengthwise into strips and place in a large bowl. (If you have any trouble peeling the asparagus, place the spear on the flat wooden handle of a spatula. This will lift it high enough to allow the peeler to move freely.)
  3. Whisk the olive oil into the lemon-vinegar mixture in a thin and steady stream. Taste and season the dressing with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the reserved pine nuts, dressing, half of the Parmesan, and the parsley to the asparagus and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Want to keep up with my culinary wanderings and wonderings? Lets connect on  Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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Happy Mother’s Day: Mama’s Pound Cake

Any one that speaks to me more than a couple of paragraphs essentially knows I love my Mama. I am a Mama’s girl through and through. Mama and I have always been very good friends.

I was always a bookish child, curled up in a corner with a book, reading a book in the car, or hiding under the weeping willow tree with a book in my hand. Once when I was in elementary school the principal called mama in for a meeting because I was cutting class — cutting class and sneaking into the library. Mama didn’t think that was such a problem. A couple of years later just before summer break we were in the library choosing books for vacation. I was reading above my age and the librarian wanted me to read something more “age appropriate.” I vividly remember her telling me to stick to a certain…

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Berry Berry Good: Strawberry Desserts

Strawberry Semifreddo on

Strawberries are the most popular berry fruit in the world, and while they are available in grocery stores every week of the year, spring is their true season. (Technically, strawberries aren’t actually a fruit or a berry; they are instead the “enlarged receptacle of the strawberry flower.”) Regardless of the correct botanical terminology, strawberries are a most welcome salute to spring! Their bright red bursts of color and flavor are refreshing after the winter months of apples, pears, and citrus. Although you can get seasonal strawberries grown in Florida and California, there’s nothing better than picking your own fully ripe berries or picking up farm fresh berries at your local farmer’s market.

Choose strawberries that have a good aroma and sweet fragrance. When ripe, the color of strawberry varieties can vary from a more medium red to deep red, so color is not always the best indicator. However, since they do not ripen after being picked, only choose strawberries that are fully red without any creamy white or pale green, with fresh-looking caps and perky green leaves. Health-wise, strawberries are fantastic with a good amount of fiber and more vitamin C than any other berry.

Topped with a spoonful of plain yogurt, they are a sweet-tart, wonderful, and delicious way to start your day. I’m not a fan of cooked strawberries (except in jam) so I prefer them as bright and clean bursts of flavor in salads or tossed in vinegar as a fruity salsa.

However, we all have destiny, I believe. And, to me there’s no doubt that strawberries shine their brightest in dessert. This Strawberry Semi-freddo was created by my dear friend and colleague Tamie Cook. It’s a creamy, indulgent, and awesome spring fling.

Strawberries and cream are classic decadence. For some Down-Home Comfort, please also take a look at for my golden brown and incredibly tender Brown Sugar Strawberry Shortcakes. Absolutely nothing beats the taste of real whipped cream so just leave the non-dairy topping in the fridge for both desserts.  You know, yogurt is virtuous and yes, even delicious, but fresh strawberries and cream are simply divine.

Brown Sugar Strawberry Shortcake on Down-Home Comfort

When I was 18 I spent the summer in London. That summer I thought I was especially grown up, living abroad and galavanting all over London. I had heard about the beauty of Kew, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and planned a visit. It was a few train rides away and off the normal metro line, but I managed to find my way there — all by myself. (I only want to add London England is a long, long ways from the red dirt roads of South Georgia.) Just before entering the majestic splendor, I popped into a grocer and purchased a pint of strawberries and a small glass bottle of clotted cream. It was a Anglophile’s dream date and I wanted a special private picnic for my solo garden tour. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat at the combination of my sophisticated sojourn and the very British bites I had in store. Yet, after the shop, I found myself at the gate without enough money to enter the gardens. I was scared I wouldn’t have enough money to get back home. So, I sat down on the bench by the gate and gazed through at the amazing beauty within the ornate iron gates. I remember thinking to myself what a silly little girl I had been, but I loved every mouthful of strawberries and cream none-the-less.

When whipping cream it is very important the cream be well chilled as well as the bowl and the beaters. (Cream simply will not whip if it is warm.) For best results, make sure to use cream that has either a 36 to 40 percent milk-fat content (heavy cream) or 30 to 36 percent (light whipping cream). Lastly, don’t over-whip the cream – it turns to butter. On that note, you won’t find either dessert in my next cookbook, Lighten Up, Y’all (spring 2015), but this book is all about saying YES! not saying no. You can have enjoy indulgent desserts – just not every day, not without moderation, and not without putting in an extra bit of exercise. So, enjoy!

Along with strawberries, spring has brought about a bit of spring cleaning. Please check out my new website, I’m thrilled with the design and technology. It’s responsive to smart phone, tablet, or computer screen. Pretty cool stuff and great job by IdeaLand and Pixie Wizard Graphixs. I am so thankful to work with such a great team. Stay posted for big changes on my blog, too. Lots of new comings and goings on the horizon. Thanks so much for reading!

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis

Simple Strawberry Semifreddo

Yield: Makes 8 3-ounce

Simple Strawberry Semifreddo


2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup strawberry puree
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
Fresh strawberries, for serving


  1. Place a large saucepan with 2-inches of water over high heat. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Set the bowl atop the simmering saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.Whisk constantly, over the heat, until the mixture reaches 170° degrees F and has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the bowl from the heat, add the strawberry puree and whisk until combined. If necessary, refrigerate until cooled to room temperature. Whip the cream in a large mixing bowl until medium peaks form.Fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture until well combined. Transfer to molds and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Unmold and serve with fresh strawberries.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Want to keep up with my culinary wanderings and wonderings? Lets connect on  Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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Most Delicious Deviled Eggs

I took the above photograph a few weeks ago at the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market. It was a rainy Saturday morning, overcast and cool. The light can be so nice on days like that. I just love this photo, but I can’t claim too much credit. At this farmer’s market, like many, there was not much to do. Just point and shoot! I would really like to take photography classes. (In my spare time! Ok – maybe a reward for when I complete my second book proposal.)

These deviled eggs are amazing. It’s very important to puree the yolk mixture completely, and really I prefer using a sieve or tamis. This prevents lumps and makes the mixture so much smoother as well as prettier. This is another one of those recipes that there are very few ingredients which makes the technique is so important.

I made these once for…

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Down-Home Comfort with Red-Eye Gravy and Deadlines

Grits with Country Ham and Red Eye Gravy on Down-Home Comfort on Food Network

I’ve got a stack of books I’m in love with and can’t wait to share with you – Summerland by Anne Quatrano, Cooking Light’s Global Kitchen by Dave Joachim, Latin American Street Food by Sandra Gutierrez, just to name a few….But, my friends, I’m on deadline for my next book with Ten Speed Press, titled Lighten Up, Y’all.

It’s due March 17 and I have to stay super focused.

So, this is more of a catch-up than a proper post. Testing has been going really great – I am loving the recipes, as are my guinea pigs. How about a Lightened Up Cream Cheese Brownies, Macaroni and Cheese, AND Old-Fashioned Pot Roast?!

I’m especially excited because I requested this next book to be paperback — and less than $25. I want people to cook from my books and want this one to be as accessible as possible. It will have 100 recipes and over 75 extraordinary photographs by my dear friend, the beautiful and talented Angie Mosier.

There’s been a good bit going on — I’m working with IdeaLand and Pixie Wizard on a new website that will be AWESOME. I’m thrilled with their work so if you need someone to work on your corner of the web, make sure to check them out.

I’ve got lots of events and classes lined up for spring; please check out my events page. (Summer will be up soon.)


The big news is that Down-Home Comfort on is a BIG success. I’m heading into a photo shoot for the summer Down-Home Comfort posts as soon as my manuscript is finished.

This week I am sharing a recipe for Stone-ground Grits with Country Ham and Red Eye Gravy.

So, please forgive the sound of crickets from my own blog — and in the meanwhile, please follow Down-Home Comfort  on – and, help a sister out – please like, pin, share, and tweet!

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Keep up with me on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Atlanta Snow 2014: Heat Things Up with Curried Wings


Curried Chicken Wings -

Atlanta got hit with 2-inches of snow and the world stopped. Literally. For 18-hours. It’s been all over the national news and everyone is in disbelief. If you you think it’s as simple as Southerners not being able to drive in the snow – you’re wrong…. However, I am not here to talk about politics, I am here to get you to cook and this week I’m heating things up with one of my favorite wing recipes, Curried Wings with Peach Dipping Sauce.


This photo was on the main street in my neighborhood, not technically within the city limits of Atlanta.

Before I start winging it, I want to let you know I am featuring Pimento Cheese and Crab Dip in my Food Network column Down-home Comfort that will pop up online on Friday, so stay tuned for those recipes for your Superbowl party. (You can sign up for the column RSS feed here.) Today, I am sharing with you one of my favorite recipes for Curried Chicken Wings that I am certain you will love – they are lip-smacking, finger-licking good.

Bon Appétit Y’all!


Curried Chicken Wings with Peach Dipping Sauce

Yield: Makes about 24

Curried Chicken Wings with Peach Dipping Sauce

Madras curry is a fairly hot curry blend, most often deep red from a heavy amount of powdered chile. Oddly enough, for a region that until recently considered any flavor other than bacon fat to be exotic, there is a history of curry in the South, which entered our region through the seaports of Savannah and Charleston.


3 pounds chicken wings (12 to 14 whole wings)
1 teaspoon Madras or spicy curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 to 3 jalapeños, cored, seeded, and very finely chopped, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup plain 2% Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons peach preserves
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish


  1. To prepare the chicken wings, cut off the wing tips (reserve to make stock), and halve the wings at the joint. In a large bowl, combine the wings, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, soy sauce, canola oil, jalapeños, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
  2. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, combine the yogurt, preserves, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Remove the marinated wings from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then set a large wire rack on the foil. (I don’t like to use a nonstick baking liner on the baking sheet in this instance because the curry can stain the silicone.)
  4. Spray the rack with nonstick spray. Transfer the wings without crowding to the prepared rack. Bake until the wings are deep brown and the juices run clear, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes per side. (If you like charred bits, after the 40 minutes, turn the oven on to broil for about 5 more minutes.)
  5. Taste the yogurt dipping sauce and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro and serve the hot wings with the dipping sauce on the side.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Keep up with me on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest.

Snow Photo by Barb Owens & Wing photo by Helene Dujardin

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Best Winter Squash Recipes: Cozy Comfort


Winter Weather 

pan seared winter squash on

Wintery mix and snowy weather call for cozy, comforting foods. One of my absolute favorite recipes when I was a little girl was Roast Acorn Squash. Mama would halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. She’d fill the scooped out center with a thick pat of butter, amber maple syrup, and chopped pecans and roast the halves until perfectly tender. The buttery syrup would seep into the squash and create a  magical mash, closer to dessert than a healthful vegetable.

Winter Squash Glossary on

Clockwise, starting at bottom left: Delicata, Acorn, Kabocha, and Butternut Squash

I’m still a huge fan of winter squash, although my recipes are now a bit less decadent. Winter squash are earthy, creamy, and rich – the definition of cozy comfort. Many varieties are available year-round, but their natural season runs from late summer to mid-winter. Many people gravitate towards acorn squash because they are familiar with it, but there are many other flavors and textures. Sure, they are all quite similar, but just different enough that I want you to give them a try. In fact, except for spaghetti squash, virtually any winter squash, including pumpkin, can be substituted for another in any recipe, from main dish to side dish to dessert. Here are a few of my favorites.

Delicata – Sweet and thin-skinned, this winter squash is quick cooking and very useful. The cream colored skin has dark green stripes in the ribs. My favorite way to cook this is to thinly slice it and roast it, seeds and all, to make delicata chips.

delicata squash on

Acorn – Sweet and nutty, the most common acorn squash are dark green in color, sometimes tinged with a bit of orange or yellow. The flesh is pale yellow and somewhat fibrous. As the name suggests, it is shaped much like an acorn. It has distinct ridges and a fairly tough skin, making it difficult to peel.

acorn squash on

Butternut – This is one of the easiest of all the winter squashes to work with because its smooth skin just pares away with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Also, they keep well even once they have been cut upon – meaning, I shop for a large one, use what I need, and wrap the rest. It will easily last a week or so and can be carved on and be part of more than one meal. The long slender neck of the squash is perfect for cubing and I roast the bulbous end, skin and all, as in the recipe below.

Kabocha - Kabocha is the generic Japanese word for squash. It has a green, bluish-gray streaked rind and the flesh is deep yellow. Kabocha squash has a rich sweet flavor, and can be a bit dry when cooked. The outer skin is pretty tough so follow my instructions for handling rutabagas to cut these hard-skinned squash.

kabocha squash on

This week, I am sharing a vibrant, beautiful, and tasty recipe for Pan-Seared Winter Squash with Maple Syrup and Pecans. Check these recipes out, too:

Speaking of comforting foods for winter weather, I am having a great time with my column on called Down-Home Comfort. (You can follow  the Down-Home Comfort feed on FN Dish with this link.) Stay tuned later this week for my Fried Chicken with Rice and Black Pepper Gravy!

Believe it or not, I am currently working on my next batch of posts that will run this summer. Please help me out and answer this poll:

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Pan-Seared Winter Squash

Yield: Serves 4

Pan-Seared Winter Squash


2 tablespoons canola oil, more if needed
1 acorn squash, cut into eighths
4-6 1/4-inch thick slices of butternut squash
1 small red onion, stem end trimmed and root attached, cut lengthwise into eighths
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 thyme sprigs, preferably fresh
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons chopped pecans
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a large skillet with oil and heat over medium heat. Add squash wedges without crowding and cook on both sides until mottled and browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. (You will need to sear the squash in batches.) Repeat with remaining oil, squash, and onion. Return all squash and onion to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Tuck the herbs about the skillet and transfer to the oven. Bake until tender to the point of a knife, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle over the maple syrup and sprinkle over the pecans. Return to the oven to warm the syrup and lightly toast the pecans, about 5 minutes. Remove the herbs and serve immediately.

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