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

Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: potato

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes- scrubbed and washed
  • 2 large eggs- hard 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

Instructions

  • 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, grated boiled eggs and celery, toss gently so as not to break cubed potatoes, 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! 
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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. 

Notes

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!
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x9 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.
    In a well buttered 9x9 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.
    Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.   9-12 servings

Notes

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.

Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese…

B9307548-5C4F-417D-ADC4-F1859960544FMimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is a wonderful memory in my life. Southern food is like that. Southerners have a strong emotional attachment to the methods, the flavors, the ingredients in our heirloom food. My grandmother’s recipes surprised me. As I became more aware of the cultural influences on Southern food, I realized her heritage influenced her food choices.  Depending on where our ancestors came from, who their people were and the food that was available to them in this country. It depended on who raised the food or who cooked the food, too. If you look at the ingredients in her Macaroni and Cheese, you might note that her family probably had lots of chickens and probably raised dairy cattle too. There’s lots of eggs, butter and cheese, she always used these in her version. 531AED76-DFC2-4543-8839-11416A2EE89F

I also know her uncle managed a large family farm.  Mimi knew that French Huguenots were part of her ancestry. Her cooking, whether she knew it or not, is decidedly similar to rustic French cooking. The method for making Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is like a soufflé made with eggs rather than with a cream sauce. Béchamel is a more refined sauce of French cuisine, heavier I would insist.

716C20DC-9567-49C7-8028-75ABA3400DE0Look at the close up- Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese is light…almost fluffy from the eggs- yet with deep flavor of strong cheddar cheese and includes the spiciness of cayenne pepper, even red pepper flakes if you choose. The spicy heat in this recipe is also found many southern recipes, especially in the Coastal South. Okay. I’m sorry to be getting into a primer on the history of southern food! Without further ado, here’s how you make Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese-

Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese

This version of the classic Macaroni and Cheese has a light, spicy cheesy quality almost like a soufflé and is in fact best baked in a soufflé dish. 
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 Eggs Large
  • 1/3 Cup Whole Milk
  • 2 Cups Freshly Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese Plus more for topping
  • 1 3/4 Cups Cooked Pasta (Elbow, Linguine, Small Shell)
  • 1/2 -1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper Spice is to taste
  • Red Pepper Flakes Optional
  • 1/2 Stick Butter More for buttering the baking dish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter an 8 inch soufflé dish or 8x8 glass baking dish. In a deep mixing bowl, whisk eggs lightly with whole milk and cayenne pepper. (May add cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt also). Gently add shredded sharp cheddar to combine. Add cooked pasta, combining well, but with a light hand. Pour mixture into a buttered soufflé dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden.  (less time for a more shallow baking dish) Serves 6 generously. 

It must be said, Macaroni and Cheese was never served as a main dish. Our famous vegetable plates usually included Macaroni and Cheese, it was served along with Baked Ham and fresh Green Beans too. Macaroni and Cheese is an iconic southern dish. I love Mimi’s version of Macaroni and Cheese- it’s loaded with cheese, it’s low on pasta and doesn’t have the creamy texture many modern recipes do. I won’t argue you down if you prefer your family’s version of Macaroni and Cheese. Though, I do hope you will try Mimi’s version!

Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese

While you’re at it- hold on to the recipes of your memories. Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese and other Heirloom  Recipes were a motivating factor-when I began writing this blog! Good food, good memories and gracious southern living. You know, in the South-  we never say ‘goodbye’ – We say… ‘Y’all come back.’ I think the southern food, was always the reason they did. Now, let me know how your mommas and grandmommas made theirs!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

Camellia’s Strawberry Cobbler…

D6DAEABB-F18C-45D7-8262-B633FA42A02BAs soon as I see little wild strawberries springing up in the yard, I start thinking about making a Strawberry Cobbler! Now, you know I love almost any kind of Cobbler, though in the Spring, it just seems festive to bake a fresh Strawberry Cobbler. A4051FF8-E743-468A-AEC2-078415677988

There was a Strawberry Pie, famous in the 60’s that was basically a pie crust, a thick glaze with big fresh strawberries and loads of whipped cream, that will always hold a sweet place in my heart, just like fruit cobblers evoke certain memories that are always good! Well, this Cobbler, is a bit different from the other cobblers I make, because it does have a glaze-y looking filling very similar to the aforementioned restaurant pie.

The difference is…when it’s baked, the glaze acts as a thickener and the strips of pastry act like dumplings- which gives it that juicy cobbler look- the glaze makes it richer gives the Strawberry Cobbler a brighter, prettier look! And…the sugary buttered pastry top- makes it pretty and gives more texture to the Cobbler!6EC8E3E1-5551-4D99-A20B-83BD2CDA6AE4

Here’s how you make- Camellia’s Strawberry Cobbler…

Camellia’s Strawberry Cobbler

A beautiful and easy spring dessert, filled with a thickened sauce and fresh strawberries- topped with a sugary crust! Perfect for any occasion! Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s a dream...

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Strawberries Cut in chunks and slices
  • 1 Pie Crust For single crust
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar Divided, plus more for topping
  • 2+ Cups Water
  • 3 Tablespoons Corn Starch
  • 1/4 Cup Strawberry preserves
  • 1 Stick Butter No substitutes

Instructions

  • Hull and cut strawberries into slices and chunks, discarding ant bruised areas.  Add 1 cup of sugar over the strawberries, set aside.  In a medium saucepan, heat water, cornstarch and strawberry preserves whisking and bringing to a low boil,. Add 3/4-1 cup of strawberries , 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 stick of butter into the cornstarch mixture, lower heat and stir often until the mixture is thickened. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a square glass baking dish. Roll out pie crust, cutting the sides off to make a square roughly the size of the baking dish. If desired, with a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut a heart shape in center of crust. Working quickly, add fresh strawberries to cornstarch mixture and toss lightly to coat berries. Pour into prepared baking dish. Dot with butter. With the strips of pastry, mix into the berry mixture like ‘dumplings’. Taste mixture for sweetness, if needed, sprinkle more sugar over filling before topping with large square pastry, which has been buttered. * do not crimp pastry edges- it will cook freeform on top of the cobbler.  Sprinkle pie crust with more sugar. Bake at 375degrees for 45- one hour. Allow to cool, filling will be very hot! Serve with a good quality ice cream, if desired. 6-8 generous servings. 

Right now, grocers are beginning to get in the smaller spring strawberries- Look for them, they make almost every dessert extra special! Spring Strawberry Cobbler was on my list to test when I realized it was Pi Day too! Well, for all you mathematicians out there,  in this case, Pi R are Square!

And… think you aren’t a math whiz? If you’re a baker, believe me you are! So, Happy Pi Day, from someone like me- who could eat pie every day! Especially, Strawberry Cobbler with a big ol’ scoop of ice cream!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart…

EAA1A2A5-F5EF-4157-8D82-E423F01FD20EI’ve said it before- the closer you live to a Tomato Vine, the better your life will be. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, southerners start dreaming of summer tomatoes. Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is an early start on summer- while we wait for our tomato vies to bear. Tomato sandwiches are on our minds. Simple sliced summer tomato slices make an appearance on almost every southern plate. We do everything we can, to preserve the taste of summer as long as we can. I think planting cherry tomatoes offers a head start on the taste only a fresh tomato offers, and yes- the closer you live to a tomato vine the better your life will be. 93018598-28BA-415C-8D2F-F188B0491246

I believe that fresh tomato pies are a distinctly southern dish. When colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes showed up in my grocery store last week… well, after a bit of testing, we came up with a spring version of Tomato Pie- here’s how you make- Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart.EAA1A2A5-F5EF-4157-8D82-E423F01FD20E

Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart

Using cherry tomatoes, this Spring version of the classic southern favorite, Tomato Pie, is light refreshing and delicious. Served with a mixed green salad and crumbled bacon for a luncheon or as a side for Spring and Easter Dinners, Camellia’s Spring Tomato Tart is a beautiful addition. 
Course: Main Course, Side Dish

Ingredients

  • 1 9 inch Prepared Pie Crust Rolled, not in pie crust pan.
  • 1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes Halved-Mixed colors preferably
  • 4 Ounces Gouda Cheese Freshly grated, may use Swiss
  • 4 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese Finely grated
  • 2 Ounces Parmesan Cheese Grated
  • 1 1/2 Cups Green Onions Tops Chopped
  • 3/4 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Ounces Cream Cheese Room temperature
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Chopped Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Prepared Pesto
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Dry Basil Crumbled
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper To taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll prepared pie crust in a lightly buttered springform pan. * the pie crust should come up the sides about an inch or less. With a fork prick bottom of crust. Bake 15-16 minutes or until lightly browned. While crust is baking, combine grated Gouda, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup of green onion tops over cheeses and toss to combine. Place on warm crust and allow to sit until filling is ready. *Do not put filling on cheeses and warm pie crust. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, softened cream cheese, chopped garlic  and pesto until combined; mix in more red pepper flakes, 1/2 of remaining green onion tops, dry basil and cracked black pepper. * Salt is not added until Tomato Tart is served. Complete melting cheeses in tart Shell by returning to 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly. Smooth Filling over melted cheese while still in springform pan. Carefully remove filled tart and top generously with halved cherry tomatoes, * Discard an juices from tomatoes before topping tart.Top tart with additional green onion tops, a sprinkling of dried basil and cracked black pepper.  Cut in wedges with serrated knife.  Serves 4-6 generously. 

Notes

We found - a 10 inch springform pan is the best and easiest to use for this tomato tart. The tart shell may be baked in a shallow 9” baking pan, however, this tart does not lend itself to a deep dish pie.

Perfect for Brunch, a ladies luncheon or even as a side dish on the Easter table, Spring Tomato Tart is great on its own for a meatless meal, however, ours was served with a mixed green salad with lots of crumbled bacon. Also wonderful alongside ham, roasted fish or shrimp-this tart is beautiful, cool and delicious. Easy enough to assemble that you’ll find time to get the ground ready for those summer tomato plants! Welcome Spring with an early Tomato Tart!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

*Tip: For easy, quick assembly, we decided to use prepared pie crust, prepared pesto and pre-grated cheeses may be used as well. It makes an easy weeknight meal, if you blend the cheeses and the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. You may, of course, make your own piecrust or grate your own cheese. Here’s another photograph of how ours came together- .

Camellia’s Celery Blossoms…

Celery is so common in Southern cooking that I would say it’s an unsung hero. What surprises me is that there are so few recipes where celery is the star! Oh yes, we must have in almost everything from soups, stews, casseroles and even our beloved salads from chicken , shrimp, mixed greens and even congealed- we tend to add the refreshing crunch of crisp celery. One of my favorite family stories is when my grandmother… who was meticulous in keeping her spice drawer up to date- tossed a handful of celery seed into her small kitchen garden and was rewarded by surprise! Her own home grown celery! She was delighted and never lived it down! I think she would have loved these fun appetizers!

 

Camellia’s Celery Blossoms

An excellent crisp appetizer of celery filled with a cream cheese mixture- great with Hot Wings or  a welcome appetizer anytime! 
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Bunch Celery Organic if possible
  • 1 8 oz. Cream Cheese Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese Grated- not pre-shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Grated sweet Onion With juice included
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper Or to tastes
  • 1 Tablespoon Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Green onion Tops Optional

Instructions

  • Separate Celery Stalks. Trim tops and bottoms of stalks and wash well, removing any heavy strings or bruises. While celery dries, combine cheeses and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Spread cheese mixture into center of each celery rib. Press 3 cheese filled ribs together with filling facing the center. Tie each celery bundle with kitchen twine or string. Chill filled ribs for at least one hour. * covered tightly this is a great make ahead recipe. Slice celery blossoms into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Arrange on large edible leaves, such as cabbage or collard leaves. Serves 12-16. 

Notes

These celery blossoms are wonderful with Hot Wings. Any leftovers should be chilled. They are also a wonderful snack alone or served on a party cracker! 

Camellia’s Celery Blossoms are easy to make and a nice alternative to celery sticks on a vegetable platter or even alongside your favorite hot wings . A pretty and delicious appetizer, too! If you’re watching the Super Bowl or managing the food table during the game…I think you’re gonna love them!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

* Health and Beauty Tip : Celery is loaded with fiber, high in Vitamin K, helpful in lowering cholesterol and of all things may reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of certain bacteria in the intestines! That’s a lot of benefits, y’all ! And we all know healthy insides help us be good looking on the outside!

Camellia’s Cottage Cookies

Not a lot of cookies are made here at the cottage. Okay, I make shortbread cookies, they’re my favorite plain and also I’ve have experimented with add ins like pecans or orange zest, have even made a variation with brown sugar and pecans as a unique shortbread, but that’s about it for cookies. I do admit to enjoying bar cookies and the ease of making them,. yet I’ve wanted another cookie to add to my repertoire, if it’s a go to recipe that’s a bit different, with a crisp crumb and a bit of texture added, and of course loaded with southern flavors.

I ran across a cookie recipe- from a community cookbook that I’d kept for over 20 years- it called for walnuts and a few other things I knew would have to change before it would be a cookie I thought would taste good and be worth the time and effort. Now… the baker had called the recipe- ‘World’s Best Cookie’. Southerners do tend to exaggerate when it comes to making up a title for their recipes…everything is – Best, Delight, Divine or named, King or Queen– after Royalty or a famous ranch for all I know… Still. I wondered about this world’s best cookie…it did sound good, and except for the walnuts, had solid southern flavors. I’ve been clearing out my pantry for a fresh start to the new year and I had all of the ingredients on hand. You might have them too!

 I tweaked the old recipe and what do you know? It’s a really good cookie. World’s Best, who knows? Still. For me to put our name on it- well, it’s has to be good!

I’ve named these cookies simply Camellia’s Cottage Cookies… easy to make, even easier to enjoy and the easiest to share! Otherwise… well, let’s just say I was standing there eating them one after another thinking- ‘I’ve got to get these cookies out of here!’  Hope you’ll try them. As always…

Love y’all, Camellia

Camellia's Cottage Cookies

A truly good cookie that has everything but the kitchen sink- pecans, oats, coconut and even corn flakes! The butter makes the texture light and crisp.  It's a great after school snack or with all that fiber even a quick breakfast treat with a piece of fruit of course...
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup regular or frosted corn flakes lightly crushed
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats not quick or instant
  • 1 cup shredded coconut unsweetened is best
  • 3/4 cup coarse chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butter I use salted, if you don't add 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar may use light brown
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg- lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda sifted with flour
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, toss to combine- lightly crushed corn flakes, rolled oats, coconut and pecans. Set aside.  With a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until light, about 4 minutes. Add beaten egg, mix well- then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well. Slowly add vegetable oil until well incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer.
    By hand, carefully add mixture of corn flakes, oats, coconut and pecans. Then, add one cup at a time of the sifted flour mixture. Be gentle but mix well. 
    Drop by rounded tablespoons on ungreased sheet pans. Flatten each ball of dough with a fork dipped in water - making a cross hatch pattern.
    Bake at 350 degrees for 14-15 minutes. Check cookies after 12 minutes. Bake until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 3-4 dozen.

Notes

I had frosted corn flakes in my pantry and they worked just fine! It's important to cream the butter, sugars, egg, extracts and oil in the correct order- and to do this with a mixer. Folding in the mixture of oats, flakes, coconut and pecans must be done by hand to have that wonderful texture. Depending on the size cookies you make- adjust the baking time accordingly. These are truly good cookies!

*all photographs are mine!

Dressing for Thanksgiving…

9496F288-14EA-488D-936D-44DEAE40EE38And so it begins… It came to me that Fall and Winter Holidays in the South begin and end with Cornbread. Yes, we eat it all year round, but cornbread is the one thing that sets the Southern cooking apart from other regions. Make the first pot of vegetable soup, chili or chicken and dumplings and while it simmers a Southern cook is making a pone of cornbread. As Thanksgiving approaches- Southerners are looking forward to their own family’s recipe for Dressing. Indulge me here- true Southerners don’t eat Stuffing- Ever. We might tolerate Stuffing, but count on hearing this if anyone makes Stuffing for Thanksgiving-

‘ Bless her heart, she didn’t make Dressing. Can you believe she made stuffing? I think her momma’s from New Jersey- no wonder. Now, Eugene- don’t worry honey, I’m making us a pan of dressing to go with our turkey.’

And no, we don’t call it Cornbread Dressing…if you ever find a dressing recipe that goes with Turkey- first be skeptical, then know- it might be called Cornbread Dressing– but y’all, we don’t say that! It’s Turkey and Dressing.  Or Chicken and Dressing. We don’t have time to specify the Cornbread– we know what kind of dressing we’re talking about, though I did find a precious recipe for Cornbread that specified – Iron Skillet Cornbread!

13A59A1E-5B2C-43E5-AB44-2B22277A9527Forget worrying about cooking the Turkey…there’s hotlines for Turkey! Not so with Dressing. It’s a generational thing. The recipes aren’t written down, okay… rarely. Thanksgiving Turkey and Dressing has…almost a mythical quality. Write the recipe down and you still won’t get the taste and flavor of the real deal. It goes by taste, texture and feel.

Now, I’ve eaten many many many helpings of dressing… okay maybe that’s one too many ‘many’s’ ….let’s just say I’ve eaten a lot of dressing and leave it at that. Some dressing I’ve eaten, I wouldn’t put out for a possum to eat- others were sublime, just not mine.  I still want the taste of my family’s – specifically my grandmother’s Dressing on Thanksgiving!  My momma made excellent dressing, she used my grandmother’s recipe-  it was moist, seasoned just right- even developed a better flavor with leftovers. Every. Single. Year. the family legend or horror story was recounted…

Mimi told about the year they went to Texas for Thanksgiving with my uncle Chester. Chester might have owned an oil well or two- but he might have been married to a Yankee, maybe of Italian descent- she committed a cardinal sin. Uncle Chester’s wife added Oregano instead of Sage to her Dressing. Like I said, every single year- Mimi would exclaim-

‘Can you believe Chester’s wife put Oregano in that dressing? It wasn’t fit to eat! I thought I would gag, had to spit it out into my napkin and excuse myself from the table!’

Could I add here? I never even knew Uncle Chester’s wife had a given name! The only time Mimi brought up Uncle Chester’s wife was in connection with that awful dressing loaded with oregano.

Real dressing can’t be made in one sitting. Last week, I baked two pound cakes, one for the freezer and one for a bereavement table- and three pones of cornbread. All three pans of cornbread also went in the freezer for the upcoming holiday, this week. Now please note: it’s not just cornbread in the dressing… there’s white bread crumbs (slices of bread which has been left to dry out a bit before they’re crumbled up in with the cornbread. Now, because I’m superstitious and Mimi’s grandchild- I add a few crushed saltine crackers and – this is importantat least one Biscuit is also crumbled up in the cornbread portion of the Dressing. Please don’t laugh- I can actually tell if the biscuit is left out!9496F288-14EA-488D-936D-44DEAE40EE38

All of the cornbread, bread crumbs and (added quirks) mixture must be tossed together, then one must carefully add the dried sage, a bit of thyme, salt and pepper to taste. I have to stop here- this is a point of contention. Normally, I prefer fresh herbs- just not for Dressing. I once ate dressing with so much fresh sage- it had a green tinge to it. Not. Good. Much better to go with the old formula of dried herbs. And yes, I almost had my very own- ‘oregano moment’ with that fresh sage dressing! I still break out with a bead of sweat across my brow thinking about it

Then, there’s celery and onions. We might need to explain here- some add celery and onions in without cooking them, some saute celery and onions in butter,  I personally add the celery and onions to my homemade chicken broth and cook them gently until just warmed and softened, then, I also add a bit of fresh celery for texture.  Peculiar right?

Dressing takes a lot of broth. For our family dressing- at least 3-4 cups of broth is required, preferably homemade broth- I make sure to have extra store bought broth on hand.  Then there’s the Custard part (which some fine Southern Cooks do not add to their Dressing), I do- I make a custard of up to 6 eggs and 2 cups of whole milk stirred together, then poured over the cornbread, seasoning and broth mixture. This is left to soak over night in …usually one large pan and maybe one or two other smaller pans (these are for leftovers or emergency extras). My family actually believes that I can’t make a small amount of dressing. They are right!

After soaking for a number of hours or overnight- the whole thing is baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. sometimes a bit longer- it will be slightly puffed and golden. It’s moist on the inside and has a bit of crust on it- overbake it? And the Dressing is dry. Oh lord, when is some smart Southern Cook going to set up a hotline for Dressing?

The whole thing is totally worth the effort and I honestly wish I had this recipe for Mimi’s Dressing written down…but, y’all-  it’s just a few days before Thanksgiving and I’ve got a sweet potato casserole, a strawberry jello/ pretzel salad (yes, I know it sounds awful, but it’s not), cranberry sauce, gravy base (you can never have too much gravy), a few casseroles and side dishes, rolls. mashed potatoes and…I don’t know what all; not to mention that Turkey to bake. At least the pound cake is already baked!

I’m apologize for not having a beauty shot of my Thanksgiving Dressing- it will be made fresh and hot for our meal. And, I have to say… we’ll all be very grateful!  Now, I know it might sound crazy to folks who don’t live in the South– just remember down here, there’s no Stuffing- oh no, we’re Dressing for Thanksgiving!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are obviously mine.

*Sorry no recipe, maybe I’ll try to get one written down! But if you try to make Dressing with sweet cornbreadthe taste will be all off and you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.