Cookbook Therapy…

img_3582Cookbook Therapy, I highly recommend it- all year round, though most especially when it’s cold and dreary. Most southerners put up with chilly days in a good natured way, some even going so far as to say- they love cold weather or that frost is a ‘good thing because it’ll kill off the bugs’. More than a few days? The novelty of wearing wool, goose down or cashmere has worn off- we put on Bermuda shorts with heavy socks and fake fur lined boots as if to defy the unwelcome visit of Jack Frost.

I admit it, I take cold weather as a personal insult, even blaming the Devil for a few days and for me that’s extreme. Okay, I said- ‘It’s as cold as the Devil’s Heart.’  Extreme weather calls for extreme blame. Fed up, I refuse to go out in it, settle down to soothe my nerves. Bundled up in socks, covered with a throw, I surround myself with highly prized books, especially southern ring bound cookbooks. You know the ones- that real folks in real communities have tested and written. I take perverse pleasure in finding the most difficult, unusual or even grotesque recipes with no intention of cooking any of it.  Well, maybe the sugar laden ones. Still. I need the therapy of reading cookbooks. Let me explain. These old cookbooks are story books to me. I’m a descendant of grandparents who loved crossword puzzles, folks who were readers and amazing story tellers- one was an amazing cook who clipped recipes from her beloved newspaper. Thus, I am a collector of words, sentences, phrases, stories and recipes. I want the cooks who tell a real story, these are my therapists!

img_3574Cookbooks give me a window into other kitchens, other times and in most regional cookbooks there are stories, methods, hints and tips that are priceless. I do not buy these cookbooks new, oh no, I want the recipes with stars beside favorites, a note to improve it- even the ones who say- ‘This one isn’t worth the time to make it’  There’s something therapeutic about reading those notes. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Mostly mathematicians are in the Baking Sections, the insistent precise folks.
  • Happy Socialites populate the Beverage and Appetizer Sections, though I do have to wonder about a non-alcoholic punch…the recipe called for a whole bottle of Almond Extract! Maybe she was in a 12 step program or belonged to a group of teetotalers and had found a way around it.
  • The Casserole Ladies are my favorites, they improvise, aren’t precise, give lots of options and also remind the reader that the recipe can be stretched to feed a crowd. Yes, they are a bighearted generous group. No doubt about it.

Hovering over the Soups and Stews Section- are southern cooks whom I fear share my disdain for cold weather.  When I find one of those cooks on a cold dreary day- Cookbook Therapy begins to kick in.

One fine example made me laugh, just at the title- NO PEEP STEW written in all caps. After a sketchy mixture of ingredients are put in a Dutch Oven, the recipe writer instructed- ‘Bake 5 hours at 250 degrees. DO NOT PEEP, REPEAT, DO NOT PEEP.’

  • I had to wonder, what would happen if some scalawag decided to go rogue and PEEP?
  • Who in the world wrote this recipe?
  • A former Drill Sargent?
  • Apparently, after that direction she decided to calm down and adds… ‘Serve with wedges of your favorite cornbread and a green salad.’

In another cookbook, there was a recipe for this same stew written by a real comedian- she had a fun and much nicer title for hers. It was called- ‘No Peekie Beef Stewie’ … you have to love her! Then there was another sweet lady who got a bit bossy about when to add egg yolk and vinegar to Pig Stew… yes, you read that right! She did regain her composure at the end and said- ‘My grandmother’s cook made this every Christmas and it was served on the sideboard with the Turkey and Dressing. It’s very rich and not too good in warm weather, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without it at my home in New Orleans.’  Bless. Her. Heart. * If this has made you hungry for a wonderful beef recipe, using leftover roast beef- we’ve got one you can peep at called- Boeuf en Daube…

Some recipes assume you know how to cook. One recipe I’m particularly fond of has simple instructions, yet no quantities-

  • Cook Chicken, cool and shred.
  • Save broth, Blanche Broccoli.
  • Make a White Sauce.  Add white wine and Grated Parmesan Cheese.
  • Brown Cracker Crumbs in Butter.
  • Assemble.
  • Bake at 350 until bubbly. Serve with Rice.

That’s it. I made one recently. Sometimes, I need no nonsense and no mathematics cluttering up my mind- just clear directions – especially when it’s cold weather.img_2584

Now, any recipe that starts with frying bacon can’t be bad, in fact- these are the recipes you know are winners! I found one recipe- no doubt submitted by a beautiful and fragile Southern Cook- it was so well written, I fell in love with her on the spot. img_2581

I’m not sure about her recipe, though her gentle ways soothed me. Her southern charm, her impeccable manners won me over. She started out the recipe in such a precise and charming way…

  • Fry bacon in a heavy cast iron Dutch Oven until crisp- set aside. Pour off almost all of the fat leaving just enough to leave a thin film on the bottom.  *Please note there are no upper case letters shouting at you- implied was this- ‘Now darling, you better save that bacon fat, you may need it later!’ Then..
  • She gets fired up… ‘Heat fat to smoking hot, brown meat a few pieces at a time… if needed, add a little more bacon fat.’
  • Later on, when she finally finishes browning all of that meat and has removed it to a platter, she goes on…’add butter to the pot…onions.. then says- ‘You may need more bacon fat.’  I’m calming down already.
  • Alright, now she wants us to add Beef Stock, Spices and Beer. Yep, it’s winter stew for sure. Listen to how nicely she writes the last suggestion…
  • Return browned meat to pot. There should be enough sauce to cover, but if you’re a little short, add beer.’  Do you not love this woman???

Please note how polite she is the whole way through! That alone settles my nerves. She says- ‘You may need more bacon fat… if you’re running a little short, you may need more beer!’  No unreasonable demands,  just reasonable suggestions. This lady may be almost as nice as the lady who is making Beef Roulade Sandwiches… who says from the outset.

‘Be nice to the butcher. Smile.’  

Both of these ladies put me in a better frame of mind, it’s like they’re saying- ‘Bon Appetit, y’all.’

img_3582Cookbook Therapy works! If you’re chilled, it’s dreary and damp- peruse the recipes in good Junior League or Church Ladies’ Cookbooks. What you’ll find are stories of real people making really good food. It’s the best therapy I know of…you don’t have to cook a single recipe- however, what’s better than a collection of stories that could end up as a feast on your very own table? The next time you need a lift- Read Cookbooks as Literature.

Love, y’all!  Camellia

*This is an updated and ‘not as long winded’ version as the first which was published in January 2018. All photographs are obviously mine.

*Bon Appetit, Y’all, also happens to be the title of one of my favorite cookbooks by a French trained Southern Chef! Virginia Willis.

Tips for Writers: I write best when I’m reading. My writing and cadence is better when I’m reading. Reading can relieve writer’s block. Pat Conroy had a goal of reading 200 pages per day and to write 5 legal pad pages per day! Now, that’s a lot of reading and writing yet no one can dispute his success!

Jambalaya!

img_3252I was peeling shrimp. Minding my own business, when out of this feeble brain of mine- I heard this song running around,

‘ Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File Gumbo… me oh my oh! Gonna see ma cher amio…On the Bayou’.

Apparently Yvonne could either make a mean jambalaya or dance the night away in the lovin’ arms of Alabama born country legend Hank Williams, so you know I had to make a pan of Jambalaya. Since way before that song was written- we’ve all been trying our best to make sure Jambalaya isn’t just On the Bayou, but on our tables too!

img_3435Now, there might be dozens of recipes for Jambalaya and I’m sure I’d love them all! Still. If you’ve never made it, you might not realize, it’s a one iron skillet dish that’s easy to get on the table and can feed the multitudes. If you don’t need a big batch… Well, it’s even better the next day and also freezes well! And actually, most of the early Jambalaya recipes were from fishermen, so proportions aren’t exact. In fact, one very old recipe called for ‘clean Bay Water.‘ Okay, here’s something you need to know- they used exactly what they had on the boat and rarely gave proportions. Still. It’s that complex simplicity of a classic Jambalaya that still inspires.

img_3437Here’s my rendition of the Classic Jambalaya:

  • Allow one cup of uncooked, unwashed rice to a pound and half of peeled shrimp. (Leave the tails on for extra flavor)
  • In a large skillet, fry 3-4 pieces of Bacon. Remove and drain.
  • In hot bacon drippings, brown one large sliced onion, 1/2 cup chopped green pepper, 1/8 cup chopped celery. Quickly add chopped garlic- one or two cloves.
  • Add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust at the end if needed), 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoons of thyme,  1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, salt, pepper and stir to combine working quickly.  *As Eugene Walter always admonished….use fresh ground pepper, not that powdery stuff that loses it’s flavor before it hits the food! *At this point, feel free to add chopped smoked sausage.
  • Add 1 cup raw rice, 1 1/2 pounds shrimp and stir until shrimp turns pink.
  • Add enough boiling water (Start with 2 cups) over mixture. Add one bay leaf.
  • The rice will thicken the liquid, yet isn’t done until the grains are tender.
  • Simmer , adding more boiling water if needed.
  • Add more spices until you’re afraid to add anymore!
  • When all liquid has been absorbed ….Jambalaya!

img_3436

  • To make it extra good, squeeze the juice of a lemon over the Jambalaya after it’s done. And to make it real pretty, top with chopped green onion tops and parsley, even cherry tomatoes. Folks won’t mind if you crumble that bacon top as well! Some have been known to top it with grated sharp cheddar cheese- though I think that’s gilding the lily a bit too much.  And don’t forget to remove that Bay Leaf! This recipe will feed 4-6.
  • Jambalaya is great with garlic bread and a green salad, though equally good with fresh cornbread, baked sweet potatoes and steamed cabbage. Jambalaya doesn’t have tomatoes in it, though I’ve added a few cherry tomatoes on top of this Jambalaya for her beauty shot! And yes, you can make it in something other than an iron skillet! img_3437

Easy and delicious, is it any wonder Hank Williams wrote, ‘On the Bayou’ in celebration of Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie…oh me, here I go again!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Eugene Walter was another famous Alabamian, known for his book ‘Hints and Pinches’.  *Shrimp and shrimp boats were photographed at Alabama’s own Bon Secour Bay, and were obviously taken by me!′img_3434

Special Edition… Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon!

It is nearly impossible to make enough of Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon! That’s eating high on the hog! And… the reason for this Special Edition is because our candied bacon has been featured on the podcast and blog of the beautiful, talented Becky Hadeed @thestoriedrecipe! Her photography is ‘cookbook quality’ beautiful! I sent Becky a general recipe of how to make Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon, yet we wanted the recipe tweaked a bit- so, here’s the specific version with a few tips for making –

Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon

Mix together:

  • 1 1/3 cups Light Brown Sugar
  • 1- 1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Black Pepper OR
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper ( Black and Cayenne Pepper are to taste, I like it spicy! And often add both!)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

*Keep this mixture in an airtight container …it makes enough for at least a pound of bacon.

Method:

  • Prepare baking pan by lining with heavy duty foil, then lining with heavy duty parchment paper. Don’t skip this step! It is almost impossible to get the drippings off the pan!
  • After each batch remove and replace parchment paper. On top of parchment paper foil lined pan, set a baking or metal cooling rack.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • For each batch- cut 4 slices of thick bacon in half and arrange the 8 pieces on the baking rack leaving space between the slices. *Thick bacon is commercially sliced and is about 1/8 inch thick.
  • On each half slice of bacon, sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar mixture. (don’t overload bacon with topping, it will melt and run off onto the baking sheet and burn.
  • Press sugar topping lightly. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, check the bacon …it will always need more time- Bake for 10-15 minutes more checking every few minutes.

  • Remove Bacon and leave on rack to cool.
  • If properly cooked, the bacon will continue to crisp up slightly as it cools. Depending on the thickness of the bacon, it takes up to a total of 30 minutes for each batch.
  • Store Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon in single layers with wax paper or parchment between layers in an airtight container.
  • * Variation- add finely chopped walnuts if preferred or omit nuts entirely, though I must say- the pecans make it southern a delicious!

Serve: Alone as an appetizer (small parties…these go lightening fast!), Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon is wonderful crumbled over fruit or green salads. And! For a very special treat, crumble on top of a good vanilla ice cream, if you really want to dress it up– pour a teaspoon of bourbon over ice cream to enhance the vanilla flavor (if you dare! Adults only please) Then, top with a good caramel sauce then sprinkled chopped or crumbled bacon on top!

This Special Edition is an exciting time! It’s our first podcast!  The podcast with Becky of @thestoriedrecipe was a first for me! I mean, really…it’s a scary thing, wondering what your voice will sound like- if the recipes will work and okay, I didn’t want to sound like a redneck! Still. Becky did a great job making the recipes, including Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese look great! And… her editing skills on the video are amazing too. The episode includes two other wonderful guests and me! Here’s a link to Becky’s blog- The Storied Recipe and the podcast located at the beginning of her post.

I am honored to be Becky’s friend and to have appeared in her podcast, which is available as The Storied Recipe, Episode 4 and also through your podcast app. Follow Becky on Instagram @thestoriedrecipe as she continues to interview guests and discover recipes and the stories that go along with them! The table is where we find common ground. It’s the making of the food for our friends and families, sharing the stories and creating even more memories, especially during the holidays!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs belong to Becky Hadeed and are used with permission – except- the ‘candied bacon on the baking rack’ which is obviously mine!

Fried Pies… it’s a Southern Thing

img_2718Fried Pies might be the ultimate comfort food for southerners. Especially of… folks of a certain age; though their appeal knows no age, economic barriers or social status. Given the chance to eat a fried pie, the answer is always ‘yes!’

There are variations of fried pies. In other regions they might be called:

  • hand pies,
  • turnovers
  • even empanadas.

img_2721The comfort food we know as fried pies are generally filled with a thick filling of dried apples or peaches, though I’ve also seen other types- strawberry, lemon, chocolate and another southern type called Nachitoches Meat Pies from a small town in Louisiana. These variations aren’t what I’m talking about here. Fried pies always conjure up the type our mother’s made from dried fruit-plumped up with water and sugar, then boiled down until as thick as jam.

img_2724A tablespoon or so is put inside a small circle of dough, the edges are folded over to make a half moon shape; then they are fried. Not deep fried either… which I personally think would ruin a fried pie! Still, they are fried in about a half inch of oil or shortening even lard. They do especially well fried in a hot iron skillet. * You know, I really should tell you sometime all the reasons we love our iron skillets and fried pies is just one reason!img_2720

In my grandmother’s double first cousins’ cookbook- there is an old ‘anonymous’ recipe for fried pies… still the best one I’ve ever come up with so- Here’s how you make real southern Fried Pies!

  • 2 cups sifted Plain Flour (All purpose)
  • 3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/3 cup Shortening (plus extra for frying)
  • 2/3 cup Milk
  • Dried Apples or Peaches

Prepare dried fruit for filling. Set aside. Mix first 4 ingredients until like cornmeal, using a pastry cutter. Add milk and mix well. Divide dough into 8-12 parts and shape into balls. Roll or pat on floured surface to make a circle. Fill each circle with a tablespoon or so with dried apples or peaches. Fold dough over filling, seal edges by crimping with a fork. Chill. Fry pies in a heavy iron skillet in hot shortening until golden brown on both sides. Serve warm if possible.img_2718

* A word about rehydrating dried peaches or apples- feel free to soak the fruit in water overnight… a few hours will be fine also. Add granular sugar at a ratio of 1/2 cup to 1 cup of fruit, I’ll admit I often add a full cup of sugar to 1 cup of soaked fruit. These fruits are tart when dried. I have added a bit of cinnamon even nutmeg to the fruit, though this isn’t necessary. Simmer the fruit until the mixture is as thick as jam, watching carefully. I often bring the fruit to a bubbling state, cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, more if needed. When the fruit has stewed, with a potato masher, press fruit until it is the texture of a thick jam; any excess juice can be drained away, you don’t want to ‘wet’ the dough when filling. Set aside the stewed fruit until the dough is ready. The stewed fruit will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Above are what dried peaches look like. And.. Below are what rehydrated and sugared dried apples look like before mashing. img_2719

* A word about the dough- the rule is to never overwork a pastry dough, fried pie dough may be an exception. My grandmother thought milk ‘toughened’ a pie crust dough, yet Milk works very well for fried pies since it will need to hold its shape while frying. And in my grandmother’s day, chilling wasn’t always feasible, yet I find after I fill and crimp the fried pies, chilling helps- therefore that instruction was included in the recipe.

** If you aren’t frying the pies right away, it is best to freeze the uncooked pies on a baking sheet in a single layer, then place carefully in freezer bags until you’re ready to make them. I love to make a double batch, freeze them and then take out however many I plan to fry. They do not need to be thawed before frying! (I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you, that many southern ladies who are expert at making fried pies, use a time saver they use canned biscuits and roll out the individual biscuits into a flat disc, fill with stewed apples or peaches just as in this recipe, and I must say- those are awfully good too!)img_2721

Fried Pies … it’s a Southern thing y’all! I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love them! They are warm, filling and delicious! With this nip in the November air, I know I’ll be making up several batches to enjoy as the ultimate comfort food! I hope you’ll try this southern favorite soon!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine!

Camellia’s Favorite Cheese Ball Recipe…

49653C9F-73D3-498D-8708-B1D4F2827009This Cheese Ball recipe is a real time saver. I love it because it keeps well chilled, is able to take on different shapes, even freezes like a dream! And ! A Cheese Ball  seems welcome at any occasion! After school goes back in session, football season begins, then tailgating and fall gatherings and holidays seem to come one right after the other! We all know we’re going to need ‘something to take’ or serve! And let’s face it- hardly anybody passes up Cheese and Crackers! This recipe lends itself to as many variations as you can think of! Change up the variety of cheeses, add walnuts instead of pecans, even add dried cranberries- it’s all up to you! now, you have to admit, these cheese balls shaped like big apples would be fun in the Fall! And while you’re at it- make up several types of cheese balls, logs or rings and save a few in the freezer!7C3C2ED8-11B4-4882-A204-2F35408015F5

Here’s how you make Camellia’s Favorite Cheese Ball-

  • One Pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese- grated
  • 8 ounce package Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1 small onion- finely grated with juice
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In  food processor, mix cheeses. Add in Worcestershire, salt and pepper- blend well. By hand, add in pecans until well blended. Shape cheese mixture into 2 large balls and chill. May also shape into logs or into a ring. Chill.

  • Mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons mild paprika and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. With a fine mesh strainer, sift over cheese balls or logs- even small appetizer size balls served with toothpicks! Serve with assorted crackers. If shaped into a ring, fill with strawberry, cherry or fig preserves. * Strawberry is my favorite!

*For variation, roll cheese balls in finely chopped pecans. Or as another variation- use 12 ounces of Sharp Cheddar and 4 ounces of Cheddar Jack and proceed as above. **These cheese balls freeze well, however- wait to sprinkle with paprika mixture before serving for a prettier presentation.0B3B06E0-84E5-4D1A-BCA1-8A2D2D828C32

One of my favorite ways to serve these cheese balls, is to roll them into apple shapes and cut small branches with a leaf or two attached- just make sure the branch is safe and pesticide free. Cheese balls are wonderful all year round on charcuterie boards,  though especially good for fall gatherings, tail gating, a Halloween buffets and all the way through the holiday season!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine!

 

 

Maybelle Turner’s Blonde Brownies…

0CEBA9D8-A454-4781-B693-1EB9B355C514I never knew Maybelle Turner. She might have been a friend of my grandmother’s double first cousins, since this recipe was tucked in their cookbook and on the same page as Nellie’s Wicked Brownies…which I’ve never had the nerve to bake. I don’t know whether Maybelle was short or tall, young or old. Whether she had blonde hair, was a redhead or had salt and pepper hair wadded up in a bun, it really doesn’t matter- Maybelle Turner must have been a generous soul; must have loved doubled recipes (because this one certainly could be halved!) and she had to be a creative cook since she gave a variation. Or… maybe one day she was making these Blonde Brownies and ran short of chocolate chips! Whatever… I do know this is an old recipe- why? Because it was in one of my oldest family cookbooks and nobody says- ‘Blonde Brownies’ anymore!

E8157407-54E2-47DE-B2E5-351B9CF537FBHere’s how you make- Maybelle Turner’s Blonde Brownies 

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs – beaten
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi sweet chocolate chips (variation- 8 oz. chocolate chips plus 4 oz. butterscotch chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8×8 glass baking dishes- lightly butter, line with buttered parchment paper. Set aside. Melt butter, combine with brown sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla and salt. Stir in flour and baking powder- do not overmix! Fold in pecans and chocolate chips. Divide dough in half and spread lightly in the 2 prepared baking dishes. Bake for 25 minutes. Do not overbake! Allow to cool in baking dish. Cut into small squares and serve. These are very rich.B943EB76-94F4-4382-A911-28CF222CE0D3

I’ve hung onto the recipe for Maybelle’s Blonde Brownies a while now… why? I don’t bake bar cookies or brownies very often! These are moist and very rich. I used her variation of adding butterscotch chips, though I’m sure they would be good either way! And, please don’t overbake- who wants a dried out blonde brownie? Also, they are truly rich- I cut mine in small bars and truthfully if you’re as generous as Maybelle, a bar is rich enough to share! So… I’d like to say- ‘Maybelle, wherever you are- your Blonde Brownies are delicious, darling!’ Who knows maybe closer to Halloween, I’ll get up the nerve to bake Nellie’s Wicked Brownies!

C2AACC1C-5F49-4BDD-8698-B7F8294BDFCBSchool’s back in session, the garden is headed into ‘curl up and die’ time and I’m beginning to see fall fruits in the grocery store…these Blonde Brownies tasted awfully good with apples, and they sure would make a wonderful addition to a lunch bag or as an after school snack!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine!

Puttin’ Up the Garden…

88720A63-524D-4A26-A6F4-B2F025138F29It’s that time of year when everything planted in the spring seems to be ripe now! Folks used to say- ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’ When it comes to Puttin’ Up the Garden’ if you get a minute to sit down, you’re shellin’ beans or shuckin’ corn or lookin’ through bushels of fruits and vegetables to cull out the ones with bruises or bad spots! Those bits and pieces are used to make up meals during ‘Puttin’ Up the Garden’ time… And every single able body is put to work!

Why, my mother used to go to a beauty parlor where while the ladies’ waiting to get permanent waves or get a cut and curl… were snapping green beans or shelling lima beans! And… the men weren’t off the hook either! Years ago, my husband’s barber must have had a bossy wife because the men were also pressed into shelling peas service! They wanted everything ‘right ready to put up’ ! When someone bought a deep freeze,  it was an occasion and if you had more than one? Well… it would be full too! Canning and freezing were necessary chores! More than one lady would have a horror story about a pressure cooker explosion or a canning disaster… yet they pressed on. One of my favorite things about ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’  is how creative folks got with the bits and pieces of vegetables-EF54ADD3-9EA8-4F51-ABD4-140551DAE2EC

  • Mixed fruits were either canned together, or my favorite frozen!
  • Thick soup mixes were made from extra corn, beans, onions, okra and tomatoes; onions and bell peppers were diced, bagged and frozen;
  • Let’s not forget all kinds of vegetables were either processed into Pickles or Refrigerator Pickles- cucumbers, green tomatoes and even Peaches!
  • Some things were dried too!  I have a friend who told of a bumper crop of peaches… the kids would either have to stand over the peaches laid out on big tables and fan the flies or they’d spread a sheet in the back of her daddy’s big station wagon! Don’t you know that car smelled like heaven?
  • Pecans are often shelled, then frozen (I keep them in my freezer all the time! They stay fresh much longer!) When pecan are needed- I toast them with butter and salt to bring out the flavor. Delicious!
  • Peanuts are either boiled.. yes! or dried in an even layer then ‘parched’  which is another way of saying…roasted in the shell.

Anyway, the point is, nothing was wasted- if something stood still long enough it was gonna be used up in one way or another!   Generally, because the season is warm and we don’t get heavy frosts, folks plant leafy greens and root vegetables to be harvested in the fall. I know I’ve got some spring lettuce seeds that I’ll be sowing as soon as the mornings are cool.66E21BDD-14CF-4E99-8DF2-521DFDEB8B89

Now, keep in mind- with all of summer’s flurry of activity – meals still had to be put on the table! As hot as it always is… cool salads and sandwiches are often made up for the midday or evening meal. Potato Salad stuffed scattered with cherry tomatoes along with saltine crackers is still one of my favorites; cool and easy pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken salad or our famous tomato sandwiches were easy to prepare and eaten quickly. Even soups or salads topped with Crumbled Bacon is quick and easy with no long cooking time to heat up the kitchen or take up valuable stovetop space!35CD2C7C-CA07-4DD2-8ED9-534B04E9E5D4

 

55A44958-63F9-4523-90DB-9DC8384D3029Combinations of extra vegetables were cooked, roasted or used for toppings. Grilled meats nestled with roasted and fresh vegetables are a new take, still with the thought of making use of every bit of garden goodness!

To this day I love my grandmother’s quick and easy combination of Zucchini, tomatoes and onions. She was ahead of her time using zucchini- her favorite vegetable stand was run by an Italian family- I recall the very day he convinced her to try zucchini! Here’s how she made Mimi’s Zucchini and Tomatoes

  •  One or two small zucchini, a tomato or two and thick slices of onions layered in a skillet or a glass bakcing dish with no water
  • Just covered loosely with a lid or foil.
  • Steamed with salt and pepper, then topped with shredded Cheddar Cheese while it’s hot-
  • You will not believe how this simple dish is so loaded with flavor!
  • This is a family favorite and one of the best examples of using small amounts of garden vegetables while the big lots are processed for the winter months.

I do love to make a batch of pico de gallo, yet my favorite mix might be an Italian style mixture made of basil, tomatoes, green onion and bell pepper with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat-mixed lightly with red wine vinegar and olive oil.. Top a warm batch of spaghetti and meat sauce with this mixture seems to cools it down for fresh flavor and summertime eating!  56A31DA8-D2FD-443E-B394-6BB755FDAC13

And while I’m at it- we generally have a bumper crop of hot and mild peppers. I make up pepper sauce with the slender hot types yet also love to dry them for my own red pepper flakes! E86E4D33-A76C-45C7-8B52-B7076A637023

And! If you love Stuffed Bell Peppers try this-

  • Don’t blanch the peppers-
  • Rinse and pat dry. Seed, core and slice them in half lengthwise…
  • Fill with a fresh ground meat mixture, similar to meatloaf – or any mixture you enjoy- an all vegetable mixture with rice would be wonderful too!
  • Place the uncooked stuffed peppers in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze them! Place the frozen Stuffed Bell Peppers in a freezer safe bag and store for a few weeks.
  • No need to thaw, place them in a baking dish- at 350 degrees…
  • When the juices are flowing and the filling seems almost done- a squiggle of tomato sauce or ketchup on the top finishes them off.
  • From freezer to oven,  in less than 45 minutes you have a wonderful meal!
  • Hint: I often shred cabbage into the bottom of the pan and nestle the stuffed peppers in so they stay upright while cooking …the resulting cabbage is amazing!

EDD7042D-FD0B-4547-901D-B602B167B97F  And last but certainly not least is Shoe Peg Corn Salad… Simply made with several ears of corn cut from the cob, chopped or cherry tomatoes, purple onion, bell pepper and cucumber all small diced is a no cook salad that’s sure to please anyone! 3C813151-0A79-4973-A1A2-3F2FD7A9D150

Dressing Mix is easy-

  • Six or eight ounces of sour cream
  • Several tablespoons of mayonnaise with the zest and juice of a lemon
  • Cracked black pepper and salt to taste.

You can make up the dressing made right in the bowl- it’s a cool and easy side dish or even on it’s own with saltine crackers… it’s amazing! And the best part is- you don’t even have to turn on the oven to make it!

Here’s hoping while you’re putting up the goodness of your vegetable gardens, you’ll enjoy cool, fresh meals along the way! I know we are!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine!

Mimi’s Potato Salad…

1C51F9A2-FDC4-4AD0-9C9A-8BEA42BBD9C3Mimi’s Potato Salad is, of course my favorite- though I have to admit that any Southern cook worth her salt generally has a recipe that is her family’s favorite too! And, it’s crazy, yet many southerners add potato salad to their meals almost all year round! Mimi didn’t. She considered it a Spring and Summer side dish or even put a scoop on a plate and with a few extras like tomatoes and crackers, she considered potato salad to be a light lunch or a cool supper.  Here’s the thing. Mimi was particular about her food and the way it was prepared and for what reason and why. She instilled things like this into my brain- I can still hear her now…

‘ Now, grate that onion! Who wants to bite down on a big chunk of onion in their potato salad!’ Then later she would say- ‘Grate those boiled eggs on the coarse side of the grater!’ Why? Boiled eggs can look unattractive if they aren’t perfect and especially unattractive all mixed up ‘with a mess of potatoes’. Also Mimi simply liked the look of the coarse grated boiled eggs! Don’t ask me why. I was just a simple soldier and followed my orders. BCBE8261-9C75-45F1-AD3E-07437867028F

Mimi’s Potato Salad was singularly simple with few ingredients.  Many southern cooks add other things to theirs, which is fine and also tastes wonderful. Still. If a recipe is the flavor from your childhood or family- I believe we tend to enjoy our own version the best! Mimi used russet potatoes, in spring, she sometimes combined new potatoes and russets, making sure they weren’t peeled yet were cut to approximately the same size. There’s an art to it- unpeeled potatoes hold their shape better, then it’s easy to slip the skins off after they’ve been brought to fork tender, definitely not overcooked! Cut the cooked and peeled potatoes into approximately the same size for the potato salad. (If the potatoes were overcooked? Start over. You don’t want mashed potato salad.)

4EB9992C-96BC-4B6C-9955-046200ADADFCWhile the potatoes are cooking, grate the onion and mix up the dressing of good mayonnaise, yellow mustard and spices. Now, Mimi’s rule for the celery was to either do a fine dice or thinly sliced. You might not want to bite down on a big chunk of onion, yet the celery gave her potato salad a subtle flavor with just the right amount of crunch and a pretty color. Again, I followed orders. My mother did too! Mimi boiled her eggs along with the potatoes- claimed the calcium from the egg shells made potato salad healthier. Who knows?  I do it too. Gently mix the potatoes into the dressing and chill. This made the potatoes firm up and gave the flavors time to develop. Here’s how you make Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad:

Mimi’s Classic Potato Salad

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes- scrubbed and washed
  • 2 large eggs – boiled, peeled and grated
  • 1 -2 stalks celery- fine sliced or diced
  • 1-2 tbs finely grated onion with juice
  • 3/4 – 1 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 1-2 teas yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teas cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil potatoes with skins on until fork tender, not over cooked. Allow potatoes to cool slightly, slip skins off of potatoes and dice into approximately 3/4 inch cubes or slightly larger. Finely slice or fine dice celery. Grate onion reserving juice as well. In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, yellow mustard, grated onion and cayenne, until combined. Add diced potatoes and celery, toss gently so as not to break cubed potatoes, add diced celery. Toss gently to combine. Chill. Flavors will develop. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika if desired. This recipe doubles well.

With the spring and summer get togethers in full swing, I think you’ll enjoy Mimi’s Potato Salad, feel free to put whatever you want to in it. Some like pickles or olives. I personally will still be following orders… I sure wouldn’t want to think Mimi was rolling over in her grave if I didn’t! Oh me…

Love y’all, Camellia *all photographs are obviously mine!

Company’s Coming Meatloaf…

CEE71049-4A59-4EA9-98E5-FAF5CB6AC69AIs meatloaf a weeknight or budget meal? Do you serve it when company’s coming? Our ‘Company’s Coming Meatloaf’ is easy enough to make during the week and special enough for a nice meal too. I happen to think that guests are pleasantly surprised to be served a beloved dessert like ice cream sundaes or a comfort food such as spaghetti, macaroni and cheese or… meatloaf. Dinner guests are expecting a fancy meal and instead you serve them the unexpected! Company’s Coming Meatloaf is a meat and potato lovers dream, it looks pretty and tastes amazing! Here’s how you make Company’s Coming Meatloaf:

Company’s Coming Meatloaf

This deeply savory meatloaf frosted with mashed potatoes and melted with sharp cheddar is easy for everyday meals, pretty enough for guests! 

  • 1 1/2 Pounds Lean Ground Beef (80% lean)
  • 1 Cup Sweet Onion (Finely Diced)
  • 1 Cup Celery (Finely Diced)
  • 1 Cup Mushrooms (Diced (plus more for topping))
  • 1 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs (Crushed Garlic Bread crumbs if available )
  • 2 Large Eggs (Lightly whisked)
  • 1/4 Cup Ketchup
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Thyme
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Sage
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 Cups Mashed Potatoes (Thick in texture)
  • 2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese (Finely grated)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, place lean ground beef and the next 8 ingredients. Add salt and pepper, then combine, mixing llightly. Shape into a 2 inch thick rectangular shape on baking pan. Cover meatloaf with bacon slices. Bake at 375 degrees for up to 1 1/2 hours – checking after 1 hour, then fifteen minutes until bacon is done. Remove from oven to rest, scraping up meat juices from baking sheet. When meatloaf has cooled, Frost with mashed potatoes and top with  finely grated sharp cheddar cheese. Run back in 375 degree oven until potatoes are heated through and cheese has melted. (Potatoes May spread, when done – simply allow to cool a bit and smooth into a pleasing shape. Decorate with reserved and sliced mushrooms – and either parsley or fresh sage leaves if available. When meatloaf has cooled down, with a long spatula you may remove to a serving platter with a long meat spatula or…decorate the rest of the baking sheet with garnishes. 

Make mashed potatoes as you normally would-  making sure they are firm. Also, a great use for leftover mashed potatoes. It is desirable to add garlic powder to mashed potatoes. This meatloaf doesn’t require sautéing onions, celery and mushrooms since they are diced finely. If you use a baking pan that is of a smaller size such as a jelly roll pan- it will serve beautifully. Surround with a cooked green vegetable Great meatloaf for the meat and potatoes crowd! 

016A8F3E-11E2-4987-89E8-1E32C14F8BEDI believe wrapping the ground beef mixture with bacon before baking the meatloaf, adds moisture and flavor that elevates weekday meatloaf whenever you serve it! Forming the meatloaf on parchment rather than baking in a loaf pan allows any excess beef or bacon fat to dissipate. Allow Company’s Coming Meatloaf to rest for 8-10 minutes before frosting with mashed potatoes so that any juices will be reabsorbed into the meatloaf. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and run back in the warm oven to melt– then add sautéed mushrooms if desired for decoration. 3A536A1E-4223-4640-8328-D006E1B5BBB8

Alongside a simply dressed green salad and a good yeast bread, corn muffins or even biscuits, Company’s Coming Meatloaf is a welcome sight here at the Cottage any time! I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do!

Love y’all,

Camellia * All photographs are obviously mine.

Mimi’s Apricot Casserole…

68EC57BA-C757-4420-A815-1D1420C5828CMy grandmother loved apricots- fresh, canned or dried. Mimi made an apricot casserole that wasn’t really a dessert, it wasn’t a savory casserole. What it was – is still one of my favorites! For years, I didn’t make it- couldn’t find a recipe, for sure not Mimi’s Apricot Casserole. In my collection of old cookbooks, perusing one day, I ran up on an Apricot Casserole! I knew the recipe was close to Mimi’s , yet I had watched her make it – so I knew the recipe I had found could be tweaked and what do you know? First time out? The flavors of Mimi’s classic Apricot Casserole filled me with such wonderful memories!  And really, isn’t that why we all come to the table?EC0203A0-F496-4164-911B-507D095B86E8

Mimi’s Apricot Casserole

An unusual  and old recipe- a wonderful buffet side dish, can be served warm or at room temperature. Goes well with ham, turkey or chicken; yet also is wonderful topped with whipped cream and eaten as a dessert!

  • 1 stick butter (melted) (plus more for buttering the pan)
  • 3 16 oz. cans apricots in heavy syrup (drained but not rinsed)
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 sleeves ritz party crackers (roughly crushed)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×9 glass baking dish. Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ritz party crackers. *I use a bowl, however sometimes I crush the crackers in a large freezer bag, then add brown sugar and spices.  Blend well. Pour melted butter over spiced cracker crumbs and mix gently to combine.
  2. In a well buttered 9×9 glass baking dish, layer one can of drained apricots face down. Cover with 1/3 of crumb mixture. Repeat with second can- a layer of crumbs and end with the third can of apricots ending with a generous layer of the buttered crumbs.
  3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.   9-12 servings

Note: If you have dark brown sugar on hand instead of light- just use one cup and add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. For a buffet or a larger crowd, this recipe doubles and triples well.  

Shared memories and shared flavors comfort us. And speaking of comfort food- Mimi’s Apricot Casserole is perfect for a bereavement buffet, it’s not overly spicy, it’s mildly sweet and tends to go well with other casseroles, salads and also with the main meats- baked ham or turkey, even fried chicken. The casserole is delicious hot or at room temperature which is great for any buffet.

 

Fresh apricots weren’t readily available during Mimi’s lifetime and we don’t see them often even now, so she always used a high quality canned apricot for this casserole and I also continue to use canned apricots, with the addition of party crackers, brown sugar and spices- it’s unbelievable that such simple things combine for a delicious unique dish. So, Mimi’s Apricot Casserole is one of those delicious heirloom side dishes we can enjoy year round! I’ve even enjoyed it as a dessert, topped with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream! I hope your Spring and Summer activities are shaping up nicely! And, maybe you’ll have just the right occasion for Mimi’s Apricot Casserole!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.