Christmas Breakfast

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carole stands as one of the principal tomes on Christmas tradition.  The imagery of the Cratchit home a glow with candles and mistletoe, packed to the gills with family and friends donning their Sunday best all to enjoy a traditional Christmas feast.  Those traditional English foods litter the table like figgy pudding and the turkey provided by miser-turned philanthropist Ebenezer Scrooge.

For my own part I don’t know of a single human being that has ever had such a Christmas feast.  I remember my family trying once or twice but it never seemed to work out.  My mother was already exhausted from preparing victuals for my grandfather’s Christmas Eve gathering which usually hosted nearly a hundred friends and family from all over the country.  The effort of getting up the next morning to cook a Thanksgiving-like meal for a dozen or so was daunting.  My siblings, all three married and one with two kids, had in-laws to visit which often lead to unpredictable arrival times.  That is the typical American Christmas Day.

Healthy Southern BiscuitsMy mother decided that Christmas feast was retired, unless someone else wanted to do all of the cooking.  We replaced it with Christmas breakfast.  Some years it little more than left over pie with a glass of egg nog.  Don’t knock it.  Usually, however, Christmas breakfast was biscuits and gravy.  Sometimes we would have scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage with our biscuits and gravy but the most memorable accompaniment was fried quail.

I have never been much of a hunter but I sure enjoy the bounty of those who’ll kill a day tromping around the woods in search of game, especially quail.  I don’t know why but gravy made from fried quail is so much tastier than gravy made from fried chicken or bacon or sausage.  Luckily today you don’t have attack a covey of little birds with a scatter gun to enjoy quail.  They are farm raised and available in the frozen food section of most grocery stores.  And this is how you cook them:

Fried Quail

  • 12 quail, cleaned and dressed (frozen quail come this way)
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 2 cups flour (either 1½ cup AP & 1/2 cup rice or 2 cups AP)
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt and pepper

In a large airtight container place the quail and cover with quart of buttermilk.  Marinate for 4 – 24 hours.  When you are ready to cook heat a large cast iron skillet (cast iron really is the best for this) at medium high heat filled with 4 or 5 large scoops of coconut oil (may use canola oil 3/4” deep).  Mix flour and salt and pepper to taste then place into a large deep walled bowl.  Shake extra buttermilk from the quail then dredge in the flour, finally shake off excess flour and place into the skillet.  When the skillet is full (but the quail should not touch) cook at medium high covered for roughly 7 minutes.  Flip over and cook another 5 – 7 minutes covered or until all sides are brown then drain by placing quail onto a cooling rack over paper towels, lightly season at this point.  Serve with your favorite biscuits and pan gravy.

Pan Gravy

  • 1/3 cup AP flour
  • 1/3 cup oil from frying the quail
  • 1 – 2 quarts water
  • Salt & pepper or Cajun Seasoning

Heat the oil in the same iron skillet.  Add flour and stir constantly to make a roux, cooking for 5 – 7 minutes, season to taste.  Bit by bit add water stirring constantly.  Once the gravy thickens add the remaining water and allow to thicken slightly, stirring constantly.  Taste and season.

Mother’s Day Recipes From Food Network Moms

In 1908, Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day to honor her mother and for peace. Anna petitioned the superintendent of her mother’s church.  She got her wish as the first Mother’s Day celebration took place May 10 of that year.  Anna then spent the rest of her life protesting people for celebrating Mother’s Day.  She ridiculed florists for selling flowers and even petitioned the US  Postal Service to remove the words “Mother’s Day” from a stamp that also feature her own mother on it.  Apparently she was just a tad bit crazy.

Marcela ValladolidMother’s Day is just around the corner.  Rather than prodding mom into the cattle car that is the Olive Garden lobby how about actually cooking her something?  After learning about the originator of Mother’s Day the idea of you cooking for your mother shouldn’t seem quite as crazy.

The Moms of the Food Network have put together a few recipes to help you show your mom a little love.  Marcela Valladolid (pictured above with son Fausto), Sandra Lee, Paula Deen, Gina Neeley and Giada De Laurentiis help you to make a it a Mother’s Day to remember:

: Cream Cheese Filled Bisquits

: Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

  • 2 cups biscuit mix (suggested: Bisquick)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • Milk, to moisten
  • Flour
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cut cream cheese into biscuit mix until cornmeal consistency. Add enough milk to moisten.
  3. Place dough-like mixture onto floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times. Don’t knead too much or your biscuits will be tough.
  4. Roll dough to desired thickness using a rolling pin and cut out with round cookie cutter. Place biscuits on a greased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.

Notice this is a Paula Deen recipe without any butter in it.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

: Lazy Sunday Mimosa

: Recipe courtesy The Neely’s

  • 1/2 cup pink sanding sugar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle brut Champagne
  • 4 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 4 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  1. Dip the rims of the champagne flutes in water. Dip again in the sanding sugar.
  2. Divide Champagne between 2 glasses. Add half of both juices to each glass and top with orange liqueur.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

: Guac’ with Fresh Baked Tortilla chips

: Recipe courtesy Marcela Valladolid


  • 4 firm, ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 1/2 medium white onion, minced (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 medium lime, freshly squeezed (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 12 fresh corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt

To make the guacamole:

  1. In a medium bowl, coarsely mash the avocado. Lightly mix in the onion, cilantro and the lime juice. Season the guacamole liberally with salt and pepper.

To make the chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Brush each tortilla lightly with oil. Slice the tortillas into 8ths. Using 2 baking sheets, distribute half the chips onto each sheet, making sure they are evenly spread out and not overlapping. (If the chips overlap they will not crisp in the oven.)
  3. Bake on the top rack until golden and crispy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving bowl. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Cook’s Note: Season your chips with chipotle powder and/or garlic salt before baking for extra flavor.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: Mexican

: Sparkling Cider Mimosa

: Recipe courtesy Sandra Lee

  • 1 (25.4-ounce) bottle sparkling apple cider
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and pour into chilled champagne flutes.

Preparation time: 2 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Culinary tradition: Italian

: Jade’s Mini Pancakes with Blueberries

: Recipe Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis


  • 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix (recommended: Krusteaz Buttermilk)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature


  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pint blueberries
  1. Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the pancake mix and water until just blended and slightly lumpy. Melt the butter on the griddle. For each pancake, add 1 tablespoon of batter to the griddle. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes each side until golden brown.
  3. In a clean bowl, using an electric hand held mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream until thick. Add the sugar and vanilla. Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks.
  4. Top the pancakes with whipped cream and fresh blueberries.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 8 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4


half-assing it

Healthy Fried Chicken

After my experiment using the uber-healthy coconut oil (even healthier than coconut water) to make biscuits healthy I have expanded my repertoire by making a full meal.  I made healthy fried chicken that is actually fried and actually delicious.  I threw in one of those biscuits, rice and gravy and some steamed veggies to boot.

Here’s how I did it.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
1 whole fryer cut into standard pieces
1 quart organic low fat buttermilk
2 cups rice flour
Coconut oil
Salt and pepper

In a large airtight container place the chicken pieces and cover with quart of buttermilk seasoned with salt and pepper.  Marinate for 4 – 24 hours.  When you are ready to cook heat a large cast iron skillet (cast iron really is the best for this) at medium heat filled with a half inch of coconut oil.  Mix flour and salt & pepper to taste then place into a large deep walled bowl.  Shake extra buttermilk from the chicken then dredge in the flour, finally shake off excess flour and place into the skillet.

Do not overfill the skillet so the pieces have space between them and cook at medium heat covered for roughly 7 minutes.  Uncover and check the cooking side.  Chicken should be brown at this point.  If so, flip it over and cook another 5 – 7 minutes covered.  Uncover and turn chicken again making sure to get all sides equally browned.  Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until all sides are dark brown then drain by placing chicken onto a cooling rack over paper towels, lightly season at this point.  Serve with pan gravy (follows) over brown rice.  Nutritional info HERE.

Pan Gravy
1/4 cup organic AP flour
1/4 cup coconut oil from frying the chicken
1 – 2 quarts water
Salt & pepper or Seasoned Salt (i.e. Cajun Seasoning)

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy skillet.  Add flour and stir constantly to make a roux, cooking for 5 – 7 minutes.  Bit by bit add water stirring constantly.  Once the gravy thickens add the remaining water and allow to thicken slightly, stirring constantly.  Taste and season as needed.

The veggies were just frozen cauliflower, broccoli and carrots nuked with a little water for a few minutes.  When they were done I drizzled them with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned them with Cajun seasoning.

Oh, and the biscuit recipe, for those who missed it is HERE.

For a list of the many conditions that are treatable with coconut oil click HERE.

Ladies and Gentlemen, A Healthy Biscuit

For years now I have been looking to make a biscuit that is both healthy and tasty.  It’s easy enough to use whole wheat, rye or organic flour but that doesn’t address the primary health concerns with biscuits, fat.  Sure you can eliminate fat and cholesterol by replacing the bacon grease, lard or butter with vegetable shortening and/or margarine but that actually makes the biscuits worse for you.

Both vegetable shortening and margarine are nearly 100% trans fat as they employee hydrogenated oils.  Why the USDA doesn’t require a big fat label on the side that says, “DANGER: THIS CRAP WILL KILL YOU,” is beyond me.  Wait, no it isn’t.  Because the people who make these items also run the USDA (see Tom Vilsack).  In fact, the USDA doesn’t require the makers of shortening to list it as a trans fat, which it is.  It is nothing but trans fat.  A 16 ounce can of shortening contains 16 ounces of trans fat.  You are actually better off making your biscuits with pork lard, literally, than with shortening.  Trans fats are pure poison.

There’s the conundrum, for the biscuits to have the proper texture they must be made with saturated fat.  The candidates are beef tallow, pork lard, bacon fat, butter, shortening or margarine.  You can try substituting with canola oil or even extra virgin olive oil but what results will closely resemble a cookie not a biscuit.  They will be thin and crunchy, impossible to slice in half and almost inedible.

Enter coconut oil.  Available in both regular and extra virgin, coconut oil is a saturated fat that is actually good for you.  In fact, really, really good for you.  It’s good for your skin, helps lower bad cholesterol and even reduces your risk of heart disease.  It’s even better for you than it’s sister, coconut water.  You read that correctly it reduces your risk of heart disease.  The flavor is fairly neutral with subtle notes of real butter.  It can be expensive.  You can order a quart online for around $15 but I recently found a quart for under $5 at the local Walmart (on the baking aisle).  At that price it is quite doable for everyday needs.  For more on the health benefits of coconut oil go HERE.

So armed with my coconut oil, organic all purpose flour and some organic low fat buttermilk I set out to make the world’s first healthy biscuit that also tastes good.  If this doesn’t get me on Food Network I don’t know what will:

That certainly looks like a proper Southern Biscuit doesn’t it?  The texture was perfect.  The taste, too, was exactly what you look for in a biscuit.  In fact, I could serve you a plate of these biscuits without mentioning they were healthy and you would never no the difference.  This recipe can be made even healthier by using whole wheat or rye flour; you might could substitute plain low fat yogurt for the buttermilk and lean it out even more.  I’m satisfied with what I have come up with here.

The recipe yielded about eight biscuits one and a half inches thick and two inches in diameter (give or take a quarter inch), roughly the size of a Pillsbury Grand.  Each biscuit contained 128 calories, 2 grams of fat (1.6 saturated but from coconut oil, 0 trans fats), 1.2 mg cholesterol, 24 g carbs but just 1.5 of sugar and 4 grams of protein.  For the complete nutritional information click HERE.  A Pillsbury Frozen Buttermilk Grand has 190 calories and 9 grams of fat (2.5 sat fats from butter and 2.5 trans fat from shortening).  Sodium, protein and carbs are very similar.  Here’s my recipe:

Healthy Southern Biscuits
2 cups organic flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
OR 2 cups organic self rising flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup organic low fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda (or self rising if using) and salt.  Use a whisk to combine and ariate. Use a fork to cut coconut oil into dry ingredients until mealy. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture then pour in buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together; it should be sticky.  Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 4 to 6 times. Pat or roll into a 1-inch thick mass. Cut biscuits with a 2-inch cutter. Place on baking sheet barely touching one another. Repeat with scrap dough until none remains.  Bake until biscuits are tall and golden on top, 12 to 15 minutes.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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