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!

Aunt Daw Daw’s Basic Glaze…

img_2341My Aunt Daw Daw was always such fun to be around. Actually we pronounced it- Ain’t Daw Daw. Her real name was Dorothy and she was a cousin, not really an aunt. She laughed a lot. Daw Daw was one of those folks who didn’t just laugh, she laughed all over, her whole pleasingly plump body bobbed up and down- she clapped her hands, shook her curls and threw out at least one foot; tossed her head back so you could see every single one of her pearly little teeth, her cheeks were pink and tears squeezed out of her merry and bright blue eyes. Simply a sweet joy to be around.

Daw Daw never married and I personally think that was a crying shame. Some say she fell in love with a soldier headed to the Korean War. Daw Daw was one of my all time favorite relatives. And, we children loved her. She made us laugh and played the games we did.

  • Daw Daw not only loved to do the Hoola Hoop with us,
  • She played Swing the Statue (called it Sling the Statue),
  • Took the lead in Red Rover
  • And even tried to do the Limbo and the Twist  I think she threw her back out one time over that.
  • And! She was a tough line judge for Badminton too.

She played as hard as the children, then plopped down beside my grandmother, who would say ‘ Daw Daw, you’re just like sittin’ next to dough, and it rising.’ And the laughter would begin all over again.

Here’s the best thing- DawDaw always gilded the lily. She loved to try new things. Stayed up to date on fads and fashion, though she tended to wear sensible shoes with her bright floral or ruffled dresses. Still. Daw Daw truly kept up with baking trends…She was the first one to make-

  •  Sock It To Me Cake
  • Co-Cola or Seven Up Cake
  • Mississippi Cake
  • Milky Way Cake and!
  •   Daw Daw’s Kentucky Wonder Cake was slightly risqué, probably because of the spirits she added.

No doubt her Momma’s Devil’s Food Cake was a wicked vision. Daw Daw’s versions of any cake were the best, mainly because of the Glaze. Secretly we all suspected she doubled the recipe!  Generous, just like Daw Daw.

Often I recall hearing – Did anybody think to call Daw Daw? I wonder now if it was an oversight or an afterthought to call. And you know? Most folks treat a glaze as an afterthought– not Aunt Daw Daw… her baked goods were delicious because of the glaze! If Daw Daw ran short of time and bought a plain loaf cake or sheet cake from a bakery, she smothered it with one of her drippy sweet glazes, and not one of us thought a ‘bought cake’ was one bit scandalous.img_2341

Here’s how you make Aunt Daw Daw’s Basic Glaze:

  • 2 cups of sifted Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons softened Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Whole Milk, Half and Half or Evaporated Milk (Aunt Daw Daw’s favorite)

Sift powdered sugar in a medium bowl, add softened butter, mixing well. Add extracts, mix well- mixture will be thick. Add 2 Tablespoons of milk, stir well, add another Tablespoon, mix. *This will be a thick glaze, add more milk carefully to the consistency preferred. * If you add too much liquid, add small amount of sifted powdered sugar.

Variations: for Lemon Glaze, add zest of one lemon plus 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, reduce milk to 1-2 Tablespoons. Add to sugar, butter and vanilla. Omit Almond Extract. For Orange Glaze, zest of orange plus 2 Tablespoons of orange Juice, reduce milk to 1-2 Tablespoons, and omit Almond Extract. Add to sugar, butter and vanilla.

If you like a chocolate glaze- I’ll direct you to my grandmother’s amazing chocolate glaze-Southern Pound Cakes… since honestly, I don’t have Daw Daw’s.img_3006

If you’re thinking  Basic Glaze is an afterthought? Remember my Aunt Daw Daw- she thought glazes were a necessity- that extra special something for otherwise plain cakes, loaf cakes, sweet breads, such as banana bread, even cinnamon rolls and cookies. And frankly, a glaze is fun addition and always just as sweet she was.img_3191

Love y’all, Camellia

* It’s not uncommon in the South, to call an older cousin an aunt, it’s just one of those goofy things we do!  And! It’s a sad fact that I do not have one photograph of Aunt Daw Daw, yet she was unforgettable. And! All photographs are obviously mine.

The Eggnog Party…

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DWe could have called it a Fruitcake Party, though fruitcake rarely makes an appearance. We could have called it a Caroling Party. We tried that one year- no one wanted to go. Ever. Again. Come to think of it- we could have called it the Bourbon Ball. Okay, that’s a bit pretentious and we’re better at eating than dancing. The truth is- fruitcake, bourbon balls and eggnog tend to be … let’s just say- under appreciated holiday fare. For over two decades, we’ve been going to an Eggnog Party, hosted graciously in the home of friends; attended by families and friends who are loved and cherished as the ‘family we have chosen for ourselves’. It’s uniquely southern, so it’s a traditional party, with the dining room table set buffet style and yes, family china and silver makes an appearance.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DThe Eggnog Party is sort of an unorganized , uncategorized gathering of folks bound by generations of communal experiences. Besides the heirloom recipe for Eggnog- what makes this party so charming is the Program, the Favors and the planning for it- often months in advance. There are children of… all ages and highly anticipated by all. The Program always includes Readings for children and one or more Readings which embody the Season and always includes Music. Sometimes the program is as zany as The Sister Act, a goofy rendition of Santa Baby or an airing of jovial grievances through Festivus, which, by decree shall never be repeated again. One of our talented guests might sing Ave Maria or an old fashioned Christmas Carol which would have been introduced by a Reading of the history of the hymn – always accompanied by a classical Guitar. Last year a Reading of Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’…followed by the old Lullabye- ‘All Through the Night’ with a soloist, the haunting strains of soft music as the rest of us sang the sweet Chorus- that one definitely brought forth a few sweet tears. The favor that year had the theme of Angels.

Always, regardless of the theme, the program is a mix of the significance of the season and the joy of it too. Any gifts are token and quietly exchanged – to be opened later, since this party isn’t centered around gift exchange, instead its more about exclaiming, getting caught up, enjoying the program, the music and always the bubbling effervescent love and laughter. And my oh my! the food! A Christmas Ham and a thinly sliced fragrant Turkey. The sides always include a relish plate, our beloved southern casseroles, a cheese ball, roasted and salted pecans, cheese straws, tiny rolls and a buffet laden with desserts. Groaning might be a better word.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DOf course, there’s a silver punch bowl filled with a frothy full bodied Eggnog-

  • The creamy color of magnolias and gardenias,
  • Light as a feather plucked from an angel’s wing,
  • Thick with cream and
  • Freckled with fragrant nutmeg.

In the South, we tend to claim Eggnog as our own, since George Washington of Virginia enjoyed it and recorded a recipe for it. In the southern tradition of leaving out a critical bit- in Washington’s case he left out the number of eggs! Eggnog really isn’t southern at all- it’s British, it’s European, it’s American- yet what makes this recipe Southern is the ‘spirits’. We tend to replace ale or sherry with ‘brown whiskey’ … Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey- some add Rum, to honor our southern proximity to the Sugar Fields and Caribbean flavors. Take a sip of Suellen’s Eggnog and ‘darlin’ you’ll talk southern to me.’

 

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s how you make this old classic which we know as Suellen’s Eggnog

  • 14 Large Eggs, separated
  • 1 pint Jack Daniel’s Brown Whiskey
  • 14 Tablespoons Cane Sugar
  • 1 Quart and 1/2 pint Whipping Cream

Separate eggs and reserve egg whites at room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until pale yellow. Slowly add whiskey, one silver teaspoon at a time, at first. Increase additions of whiskey beating continually until egg yolks and whiskey are combined thoroughly. Add sugar slowly, one silver tablespoon at a time. Whip cream and add slowly to mixture. In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into whiskey mixture. Sprinkle with fresh grated mixture. Keep thoroughly chilled. It is preferable to ladle from a silver punch bowl. Enjoy!

This Eggnog is an adaptation of an old recipe from a Talledega cookbook, one county over from where we live. *Please note that an essential tool is a silver spoon. This isn’t a pretentious tool- old recipes tend to specify silver spoons since other materials could affect the taste, generally metallic.

I’ll admit, I sip only one small punch cup, it’s a thick, rich holiday mixture unlike anything else. Eggnog is also something I taste just once a year at this amazing party. If you’re wishing you had a less spirited eggnog, I’ve had good success slowly melting homemade ice cream, adding a bit of whipped cream on top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s the thing- I’ll always associate Eggnog with the exquisite color of creamy magnolias, strengthened with the years of friendships sustained for such a long time… soft strains of music, gentle laughter, so much love, genuine acceptance, concern freely expressed and the joy only this season can bring. Here’s hoping your gatherings are as spirited as Bourbon Balls, as nutty as a Fruitcake, as fragrant as a Gardenia and full of Comfort and Joy!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Eggnog contains raw eggs, it’s best to use pasteurized eggs, and it should not be consumed by children due to alcohol content.

Some Things Never Go Out Of Style…

20877054-9485-4571-9E48-88F0E310F2ABSome things never go out of style. Pearls. A handwritten thank you note. A good white blouse. A bereavement casserole or a pound cake. A kind word.

57DDD8B5-4814-47B7-8581-B0AD79AA7981A well cut suit and a decent raincoat. A genuine compliment. Well made shoes kept in good condition. Giving someone your full attention. Looking decent when you leave the house. Table manners.

CE7D9B55-9CC0-4A59-9F6A-7FC389CEF403Good language skills, even if spoken with a slight accent might make the difference in social situations or could call into question your upbringing. My grandmother sure drove this point home! Extending common courtesies. These things never go out of style.

I saw a disturbing headline recently that questioned whether the southern tradition of good manners is alive and well. Occasionally, I have to wonder whether that headline is true.

AD7FC119-65A2-408F-A6D4-5D3D7FE00A6ARecently, a sweet southern lady remarked, in her best southern accent, ‘Folks just seem so impolite, why just yesterday someone in a nice car behind me, actually honked their horn! Impatient and aggressive if you ask me.’  She was rattled to say the least. Okay, the two of us are… of a certain age. Still. She had a point and a nostalgic conversation ensued about good manners and other things that never go out of style.

CD92A979-5A2B-42CA-AC06-BE9ACA3558E3It’s important to understand that life is always better when we have at least a few genuine lifelong friends who stand by us ’til the end! So…no matter how many beauty contests you won or how high you rise on the corporate ladder- remember that you will always need friends and you will never be queen of everything! Since this is true- be the one who is willing to shine up and straighten your friends’ reputations and crowns without letting on that her tiara had slipped in the first place!

66AB7C8C-2897-4EFA-97A2-54BDCA467411Hospitality is important to friends, family and even strangers who might stop by…always be ready to offer refreshment of some sort. Be as generous as possible- the best hosts offer abundance… it sets the guests at ease so they won’t have to worry if there will be enough. And! Be the one who offers to add to the abundance by bringing a dish or drink if you are a guest!

18F26ABE-5E14-4D94-913E-357DF6ED18ADLearn and follow the basic rules of polite social engagements. Find out ahead of time what the occasion entails and the dress code. Always take a hostess gift, offer to help with set-up or clean up, leave at a reasonable time and don’t be the guest who wears out your welcome, then- for heaven’s sake – remember to write some sort of complimentary thank you note!

 

 

Come down off your high horse. While you value your opinions- others have their own perspectives which may differ. Show respect. Avoid discussions that could get heated. Is whatever you think, worth expressing, if it means losing important friends and relationships?53D8E6A0-6B0B-4AAA-AA65-7B34C0525218

And while I’m at it- limit gossip, I’m not sure it can ever be eradicated…just know when talk has gone over the edge from idle gossip to just plain meanness. No amount of saying, ‘Bless his heart.’ ‘We need to pray for her.’ Or passing unfair judgement ever made anyone look better! If you look back on your life…you might find that we are all just one bad decision away from being in the same dilemma- we’ve taken so much pleasure in passing along!706E302B-54B3-446B-ADDF-513ACF10DC2B

Thank you for letting me preach a little here…This judgement of others would include religious beliefs that folks hold dear. My own faith is important to me- yet that doesn’t mean I have all the answers to life’s dilemmas.450D5F7F-CA36-4871-A080-8B886E1F8C85

I recently read that a certain eastern religion believes in Smile Energy- I don’t know all of the particulars…yet I do know this- life just feels better and lighter when I smile than when I frown! Speaking of making a face… please don’t! Would you rather be known for your smile or your sour attitude? F1591DBC-BE6B-4B88-9BF6-3EC2C4B96B4E

If you belong to an organization, participate! Be the one who offers encouragement but is also willing to gather the kindling, bring the marshmallows and light the campfire! Let the leader lead, be teachable, become part of the sisterhood or brotherhood.

 

 

I speak from experience on this- find a group you can support wholeheartedly and the quality of your life will improve in direct proportion to your enthusiasm.  And, while I’ve been talking about things that never go out of style… offering support to others might be the one thing that never goes out of style! Support is best expressed by one of my favorite authors…

‘Support is a hand held when you’ve failed, a smile in the morning when you leave to face the world, a laugh shared till your sides ache and tears flow down your cheeks.’ By Mary Alice Monroe from ‘Second Star to the Right’

A ‘hand held’ when the day hasn’t gone so well or you need support…or even as a sign of affection- costs nothing but could mean everything!

82D70BF6-F81E-4077-B124-50C3673CC7EFThough darlin’- our southern mothers would add- ‘Limit those public shows of affection to hand holdin’ or a peck on the cheek, unless folks get the wrong idea about you, then, question your upbringing!’ Our southern mothers’ advice is another thing that never goes out of style! Oh me, how I do run on!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are from my private collection with the exception of the ‘friends’, the hospitality queens with the turkeys and the ‘ugly face’ which were found via Pinterest so long ago I haven’t been able to run down the source- if they belong to you please let me know so I can credit you properly! Thank you. * The photos I chose for this post were chosen for subject matter only. They are fine beautifully mannered folks!

 

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!

Summer Tomatoes in the South…

70853A62-5688-42A3-8CFD-C0DAE8E348BFWe wait all year long for summer tomatoes. We long for them all year. There’s no end to what we do with summer tomatoes-

  • We put them in canning jars, freeze them and preserve them any way we can think of for winter soups, warm red sauces and hearty stews, so of course we’re trying  keep the memories of summer tomatoes alive.
  • And yes, we make fresh tomato soup with thin slivers of cool cucumber, snips of green onion, crumbled bacon and a drift of shredded cheese.6450DC56-D19F-4397-BB09-69BDFD262117
  • We consume vast quantities of summer tomatoes alongside Fried Chicken, Pork Chops and a personal favorite- Fried Catfish.
  • Who would turn down a vegetable plate of butter peas, steamed yellow squash, corn muffins, macaroni and cheese alongside thick slices of summer tomatoes?
  •  We stuff summer tomatoes with shrimp salad, egg salad, tuna salad or chicken! And it must be summer tomatoes or the taste just isn’t there!
  • There may not be a better savory pie than Summer Tomato Pie, my sister’s is the best I’ve ever tasted- a flaky pie crust oozing with fresh summer tomatoes, a sour cream and onion filling topped with thick and melting sharp cheese- well, I’m drooling just thinking about it!A2E3C53C-B1DF-4E1F-8726-FF4FE037F9F3
  • Let’s not forget mile high Club Sandwiches, grilled Hamburgers and of course the all time favorite Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes… as long as there’s a summer tomatoes on there- any of these are near perfection!E38C9809-2B2C-46E9-8DDB-338336A88517
  • Of course, we love Fried Green Tomatoes- now you may be able to get hot house green tomatoes all year round…yet, if they’re made with summer green tomatoes they’ll have that extra special flavor!E2C9EC81-455C-4901-89C7-EB479A3E1320

We consume all of these wonderful things and more… almost any mixed green salad is elevated by summer tomatoes, even the humble potato salad with cherry tomatoes is a cool refreshing lunch! 6A0BF5E2-9057-46E1-9489-B0B7C797DA8BBereavement buffets almost cry out for scalloped tomatoes and tomato aspic which are amazing made with summer tomatoes!

C5B80D0A-75AB-4CCC-9716-B9E97D59347BNow, if you’re from the South… and I mean truly from the South- there’s one particular delicacy which is the real reason we wait all year for Summer Tomatoes… Tomato Sandwiches! If you add anything more than loaf bread, mayonnaise, summer tomatoes with salt and a bit of black pepper- then you don’t really have a Southern Tomato Sandwich! I’ll let you all fuss and discuss which mayonnaise is best- to me as long as the ingredients include lemon juice on the label you’ll have good mayonnaise and no, we don’t call it mayo – say that and it might put you under suspicion!

0CC775ED-48DD-488F-98E7-CFCCDCBC6CF8Now, if you’re a true believer in a pure Tomato Sandwich- then you’ll know there’s a secret wish we all have had from time to time… to have one beautiful slice of tomato which will cover the whole slice of bread… Big Boy Tomatoes move over.. the new one to try is – ‘Mater Sandwich’ ! Of course it is! I’m here to tell you this one is a winner… never mealy or bland tasting… the ‘Mater Sandwich’ variety of home grown tomatoes is one you’ll want to try!  We’ve been picking and eating these for weeks! Now, if you’ll excuse me- I’m gonna fix me a Tomato Sandwich!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine! *Mater Sandwich tomato plants may be a registered trademark!

Lemon Squares…

From the cradle to the grave, in the South- at every occasion of any importance – you can mark this down, a dessert, or two or more will feature lemon. Lemon desserts are legendary and iconic… Lemon Meringue Pue, Lemon glazed Pound Cake, Lemon Ice Box Pie, wedding cakes filled with lemon curd…even our sweet tea is laced with lemon juice! However, these Lemon Squares make a regular appearance on tea tables, at baby showers, holiday dessert tables, bridal teas, anniversary and retirement parties and yes, grieved though we may be for the dearly departed- we tend to consume Lemon Squares in quantities to comfort ourselves. How do I know this? Almost every dark suit and black dress that’s been anywhere near the bereavement buffet bears a sprinkle of a telltale streak of powdered sugar! On one occasion I helped with –  Lemon Squares were assigned to more than one trusted baker- but all agreed that Bennie Sue’s recipe should be used for uniform quality. Okay, I made up Bennie Sue’s name to protect the innocent. You know, there’s always at least one Bennie Sue in any southern community whose recipe is considered the gold standard. Rustic and humble in looks- not Bennie Sue, for heavens sake! No, the rustic and humble Lemon Squares- tend to take on a heavenly appearance with their light cloud-like dusting of powdered  sugar. I think even the formidable  Bennie Sue would approve of this recipe for Camellia’s Lemon Squares! 

Lemon Squares…

Cut in bar cookies or tiny squares, Lemon Bars are welcome any time. A shortbread type crust topped with baked lemon  curd and dustEd with a snowy powdered sugar topping – it’s a near perfect addition on dessert tables or as a stand alone confection. 

  • 1/2 Cup Butter (Softened)
  • 1 Cup Flour (Sifted)
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • Zest Lemon (from 1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Flour
  • 1/4 teas Baking Powder
  • 3-4 Tbs Lemon Juice (* Freshly Squeezed – use zested lemons)
  • Powdered Sugar (for Dusting )
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine softened butter, 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar for crust. Do not overmix. Press into an 8×8 glass baking dish for crust. Bake 12 minutes or until pale but dry. Do not overtake, crust will complete baking later. While crust is baking, make lemon filling with remainder of ingredients, except powdered sugar. Mix well. Pour mixture over partially baked crust. Complete baking at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until Lemon Mixture is done. ( press lightly with your finger, if no fingerprint remains, the Lemon Squares are done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and continue to cool. Dust again with powdered sugar.
  2. When ready to serve, for parties, cut into small squares. As a dessert, larger squares may be preferred. * Serving suggestion: When ready to serve, top with additional lemon zest for a pretty presentation and a tart fresh taste. 

While they can be made year round, winter is a perfect time for Lemon Squares. Citrus fruit is fresh and abundant. And while we do make these lemon squares for special occasions, they’re the perfect ending for a Sunday Dinner, when they can be cut generously with no complaints!

I do recommend using three small kitchen hand tools when making lemon squares- a wooden lemon reamer – less cleanup for just one or two lemons, a small hand held specialty lemon zester for those pretty little strands and curls that add a zip of flavor, done as a flourish right before serving and- a small fine mesh strainer in stainless steel to seed and pulp the lemon juice for the filling and again for the pretty finale- the sifting flourish of powdered sugar! And we do love to add a flourish, accessorize if you will. And if there’s one thing Southern women know how to do- it’s to accessorize! Oh me, hope you’ll try them some dreary winter day soon!

Love y’all, Camellia

Health and Beauty Tips: Citrus fruits including – maybe especially lemons,  are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C and those all important B for Beauty Vitamins. Some think that lemon juice even in a spa juice does help ease symptoms of the common cold. Here’s a Spa Water I made this week, with sliced ruby red grapefruit, oranges and lemon slices. if nothing else it sure was pretty- so pretty, I was enticed to drink more water! And that has to be good for your skin and keep you healthy and hydrated!

  • * You can find the small kitchen tools, such as the citrus reamer, the specialty lemon zester and the small stainless steel/fine mesh sieves-  at fine kitchen shops, including Williams Sonoma. (This is not a sponsored post) And! that pretty green plate? It’s made by Earthborn Pottery right here in Alabama!
  • We do have some ads now, to keep the lights on… Camellia’s Cottage does not guarantee the quality of any products or services in these ads!
  • *And… I just made up Bennie Sue’s name- to protect the innocent you know…
  • *All photographs are obviously mine!