Alabama Backroads Beauty…

Couldn’t resist sharing Jeremy Miniard’s Autumn photographic talent! He is our award winning photographer, who helped us get going in such a beautiful way! Alabama is a real beauty every season, when we have a cool crisp fall, it’s stunning! Now that the weather has cooled off, it’s making me believe it’s Fall, y’all! Enjoy!

Camellia's Cottage

75BEC44E-B2E7-4316-ABFA-802C59978E7FAlabama is a beautiful and unique state- we have mountains, rivers, lakes- all the way down to the most beautiful beaches and bays you can imagine! In the Fall, folks like to take a Sunday drive to see the colorful displays of autumn beauty or stay beside one of our Lakes, hike through the woods to see a Waterfall or stop at a Roadside Stand. When Mother Nature shows out and throws down carpets of gold, green and redand happily reaches her armsup to the sky with brightly colored leaves– it’s breathtaking when we have a beautiful Fall, y’all! Let’s get going on our Road Trip- through the Backroads of Alabama…

Off we go!

Let’s get over to the Rivers and Streams…

And take a look at these close ups!

And stop at a road side stand…jeremy-fall-30-marketYou can almost hear the singin’…. ‘For the Beauty of the Earth…’ ringing out…

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Fried Apple Pies…

75B4BD0B-9E57-402F-BC1F-298D2212D7E6Southerners are a peculiar bunch of folks. Eccentric? Colorful? Quirky? We tend to revel in it. We accept it, enjoy it even. Of course we disagree and have our own opinions- yet the one place we find common ground is the Table. Kitchen, picnic or dining table.. put real southern food on the table and it has a settling effect.  it helps us remember our ancestors, our upbringings and our rural roots.  Food also helps us detect who’s from here and who’s not by the food they eat or know about. I have a list. Now. this is by no means complete, just a starter list…

I would say if you’ve heard of all of them- you’ve probably been here for several generations- if you can barely make it out? Well, bless your heart- it might be a blessing or a curse depending on your perspective.  Don’t stress out too much as you read through the list. See how many you recognize and yes, you do get extra points if you have actually eaten these foods- regularly.

  • Grits– no darlin’ you don’t eat these with sugar- or even milk…no! that’s cream of wheat! Butter, salt and pepper, please.
  • Corn Pone. This would be on the advanced level. Points will not be taken off if you crumble or sop with Corn Pone- either is acceptable.
  • Salmon Croquettes. We will consider you kinfolks if you know what this one is!
  • Pepper Sauce– this comes in a narrow necked bottle, hot as fire and vinegary. Extra points if you know what to douse with it.
  • Sorghum Syrup– if you have some in a can that looks suspiciously like a small paint can – and a homemade label? it’s authentic.
  • Cat head Biscuits. No explanation necessary- extra points if you can name a few other types of biscuits too.
  • Sawmill Gravy– extra points if you know several other gravies are.. Red Eye Gravy, Tomato Gravy – whoa extra points for Chocolate Gravy. If you know what White Meat and Gravy is- well, don’t bother coming to the front door like a visitor- come on in through the back door like home folks!
  • Squash Casserole. Now, this is a tricky one. Hint: it doesn’t have butternut or acorn squash in it. No- ma’am.
  • Cracklin’ Cornbread. Again this is advanced level of southern food knowledge.
  • Pot Likker – only third or fourth generation southerners know what this is. Last but not least-
  • Fried Pies… yes ma’am, I’m talkin’ about genuine southern fried pies… apple or peach will most likely top the list and no, we don’t call them ‘Hand pies’ or ‘Turnovers’ either, we’ll let other regions of the country call them that!

DDDA03AC-D6A0-4EB7-97D6-44520BC3F094A genuine fried pie is.. I believe a distinct southern delicacy. Made mostly from dried fruit, preferably you own but no points are deducted if you use store bought. The dough has… shall we say, evolved. But here is a very old recipe for the dough:

  • 2 cups sifted plain flour (that means all purpose) 3 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt 1/3 cup of solid shortening or lard.
  • Mix with pastry cutter until the texture is like cornmeal.
  • Add 2/3 cup of milk and mix into a soft dough.
  • Divide dough into 6 large or 12 smaller balls. Roll or pat each ball on a floured surface to make circles.
  • Fill with prepared dried fruit or fill half of the dough circle; fold dough over filling/ seal the edges- crimping with a fork dipped in flour. Fry pies in a heavy iron skillet in hot Crisco until golden brown on both sides. Drain.
  • *This recipe is from my grandmother’s family cookbook and it is from an anonymous source.
  • Apple Filling: In a medium saucepan place 6 ounces of dried apples. Season with 2-3 Tbs. of cinnamon sugar (or 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 2-3 Tbs. of sugar), a grating or two of fresh nutmeg.
  • Almost cover the dried apples and spices with water, bring to a  boil, reduce heat and simmer until the water thickens to a syrup and the color is a beautiful copper color, but the apples aren’t mushy. *I generally take a potato masher and lightly mash apples (or peaches) to absorb some of the syrup. Here’s what they look like:B321E8F4-8460-4BDC-911E-23D49F70D019

Any remaining dried fruit is wonderful on hot buttered biscuits. Refrigerate leftovers.  Now, here’s the evolution of how many Fried Pies have been made for decades- in the 1930’s canned biscuits became available and were widely in use after World War II – and some folks tend to truly love them, even using them in place of homemade biscuits, I’ve never really made the switch with the exception of using them as dough for frying. The texture is truly perfect for making Fried Apple Pies or any other type of fried pie for that matter. The dough is stretchy and tends to hold up better for me than my efforts at using the old way that my grandmother’s kinfolks used. Here’s what they look like filled:

My mother in law was one of the best southern cooks I’ve ever known and was particularly well known for her Fried Pies. She personally made fried pies for the dorm used by the Marching Southerners of Jacksonville State University here in Alabama when our daughters were students there- needless to say our daughters were very popular band members! The dough she used was from canned biscuits.  It might be an acquired taste but I prefer it to this day! And they truly fry up beautifully!83ABAA90-2A3D-4188-9672-B5D2BE3CA36E

I tend to make up the dried apples, chill and then roll out the dough, put a little more than a tablespoon of prepared dried apples; and make the fried pies. At that point they do better if chilled before frying. I also freeze on a sheet pan and store frozen in freezer bags until you’re ready to fry! Also, I don’t use solid shortening, preferring instead to use a mere 1/3 inch of vegetable oil in a medium high skillet per dozen Fried Pies! *If you’re making more you may need to add a bit more oil.  A 6 ounce bag of dried apples makes enough for 20-24 fried pies! Some dust their fried pies with confectioner’s sugar, I don’t. ‘It just don’t seem right’. Fried Apple Pies are a treat year-round, however in Fall and Winter they seem to be one of those vintage homemade treats that brings on such fond memories of our mothers and grandmothers!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. Photograph of cooked dried apples has not been enhanced- look for that color if possible for your dried apples!  *Any canned biscuit dough will work, with the possible exception of the flaky layered type! *Now, if you need any help with those other classic southern foods, don’t hesitate to ask! I’d be curious to know just how well you did on the quiz!

Tipsy Treats…

B9A442C2-3947-45DD-8C68-32489223A84FFall and Winter Holidays will soon be upon us- folks are already decorating and frankly, I’ve been trying out a few old but reliable treats – you know, party food, maybe an easy dessert or two… I had just purchased some fresh shelled pecans, I thought of the classic tea time-Pecan Tassies and the famous Mississippi Mud Cakes of my youth.

While I was making them, I started thinking of two Southern cooks I knew- they were next door neighbors- both had large wonderful homes, both loved to cook, both were about the same ages and mostly ran in the same social circles- I say mostly because Mary Jim had grown up in the same area as her mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles- had close friends she’d known all her life- her neighbor Joy Nell wasn’t from here… you know what I mean. In the South, we tend to be close knit; when someone moves in from somewhere else- well, we’re nice to them but… I think you get the picture.

Joy Nell had moved from Tennessee- close to Memphis I think- but most of her family were from further north in Kentucky. Mary Jim was a classic honey blonde, who enjoyed Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Andy Williams. It wasn’t unusual to hear Mary Jim humming ‘Moon River’ while she cooked. Joy Nell was a natural brunette who’d enhanced her hair to a much darker shade- more like Connie Francis and Elizabeth Taylor. Joy Nell greatly admired Priscilla Presley. For one thing- Priscilla dyed her hair to match Elvis’ hair. Joy Nell’s hair was styled a lot like Elvis hair as I recall, pompadour like. She showed a bit more va va vroom when she cooked. Sometimes Mary Jim laughed  when Joy Nell belted out an Elvis song as she vacuumed, but thought it was just tasteless to hear Joy Nell cooking and singing along with Connie Francis….‘Where the Boys Are…’ Joy Nell seemed to get a bit dramatic, if you know what I mean.  Well, it just wasn’t done among Mary Jim’s friends, who were into planning bridal teas, bridge parties, served on the bereavement committee and altar guild. Mary Jim’s friends were involved in more sedate activities.

It must be noted- Mary Jim called on Joy Nell more than once to help with things like Cheese Straws, Tea Sandwiches and oh yes, Pecan Tassies. No one could match Joy Nell’s recipe for Pecan Tassies. Generous to a fault, Joy Nell contributed her recipe to garden clubs and Junior League cookbooks- especially her Pecan Tassies. The cookbook recipe, while very good- just never turned out quite as good as Joy Nell’s. No one could figure it out. ‘I made that recipe 4 times and not once, not once I tell you, did they ever hold a candle  to Joy Nell’s!’

Not one to be outdone-Mary Jim was determined to discover the mystery, she asked Joy Nell to show her how to make Pecan Tassies, the classic southern tea time pastry. She arrived in a starched white blouse, permanent press slacks and Italian loafers- only to find Joy Nell in a Ship and Shore® blouse tucked into bright petal pushers with highly decorated straw sandals she’d bought at the Straw Market in Nassau.

Sure enough, Joy Nell pulled out all of the ingredients, the exact ones from the latest garden club cookbook to make the pastry and filling; when to Mary Jim’s shock and amazement- Joy Nell brought out a mason jar of pecans soaking in amber liquid.  Joy Nell said she had a distant kinship to a famous Baptist preacher from Kentucky named Elijah Craig…I believe it was on her momma’s side… he was most likely a primitive Baptist because Joy Nell held up that mason jar like she was handling a rattlesnake! Mary Jim gasped what is that? ‘Why darlin’ I’m gonna measure out my pecans for the tassies!’ That’s right! the secret to Joy Nell’s tipsy tassies wasn’t just any ol’ pecans…no, honey they were soaked in Bourbon! 0FFB5ED5-EE0B-412E-9E49-7A8410CD336B

Before you could say Elijah Craig, Mary Jim started her own batch of cooking pecans…  famous for her Mississippi Mud Cake… Mary Jim renamed it Mississippi Mudslide! Between the two neighbors, I’m not sure the secret of either recipe was ever shared! I tried reproducing their famous recipes and they came close… Now, the truth is- you too can revolutionize- even your plain old Pecan Pie…just bake according to directions, when it’s hot- sprinkle Bourbon over the top of the Pecan Pie- the sizzle lets you know- the alcohol has burned off and the flavor is enhanced!

4B351217-216F-428C-A338-5EDC82B9E569Camellia’s Tipsy Tassies

Tart Shells:  Pecan Tassies generally a cream cheese crust, which generally consists of 3 oz of cream cheese and 1 stick of butter softened to room temperature- work in 1 cup of all purpose flour and chill. *You can make or buy your favorite pie crust… chill or roll into small balls and press into well greased mini muffin tins, feel free to use a small round cutter and fit into tins to form small tart shells.  (I generally use whatever I have or even purchased pie crust in the refrigerator section of the market.) These can be made in advance and kept in the freezer. Here’s what they look like:

3B7E9D8B-75CB-43FA-BF35-E051ECD96D2ARe-chill once tart shells are formed. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I have excellent results when I partially pre-bake the tart shells for 3-5 minutes.  Filling: Soak 3/4 cup of chopped pecans in 1/4 cup of Bourbon until most of the liquid is absorbed. In a bowl, mix 3/4 cup of Brown Sugar, a dash of salt, 1 large egg- beaten, 1 Tbs. of melted Butter, drained soaked pecans with 1 teaspoon of remaining bourbon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix well. Fill tart shells 3/4 full of filling. Bake 20-25 minutes. *30 minutes may be required if you decide not to partially prebake tart shells. Makes 2 1/2 dozen Tipsy Tassies. These are not overly sweet- and actually make a wonderful addition to appetizer trays. For dessert tassies,  I often drizzle chocolate or caramel sauce over them for decoration and additional flavor.

1DD227EB-BD13-4C37-A0C4-E560107ABDCFCamellia’s Mississippi Mudslide

For cake base: You will need to soak 1 1/2 cups of rough chopped pecans in 1/2 cup of Bourbon until most of liquid is absorbed. *note: If you think ahead, you can keep pecans in a sealed plastic bag or jar of Bourbon in a cool location – ratio is 3 to 1.   The remaining Bourbon may be used again for more pecans. Shaking the jar occasionally to make sure all nuts are covered.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 16x11x1 baking Sheet Pan, dusted lightly with powdered cocoa. Set aside. Melt 2 sticks of Butter; add 1/2 cup of cocoa, stir. Add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee,  4 well beaten large eggs; add 1 1/2 cup of flour, a pinch of salt and mix well. Add 1 1/2 cups of Bourbon Pecans and mix well. Pour mixture in prepared sheet pan and bake 15 minutes. Spread 1 small bag of miniature marshmallows over hot cake. Let this set a while, the marshmallows should be melted slightly. Press marshmallows lightly with hands to make sure they adhere to warm cake before  *Some suggest running the hot cake and marshmallows back in the warm oven, being careful not to toast marshmallows. Others suggest allowing the cake to cool slightly then spreading the cake with one jar of marshmallow cream, instead of mini marshmallows. Neither method is necessary for a true Mudslide effect.)

AAAFD16F-0249-4AE0-A492-3727D297F46DWhile the marshmallows are softening- make Mudslide Glaze: Combine 3 Tbs. of cocoa, 1 box of confectioners sugar (16 oz. sift if necessary to remove lumps). Add  6 Tbs. of half and half (or evaporated milk or plain whole milk your choice) and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Pour thick chocolate glaze immediately over cake and marshmallows while still warm. Spreading as evenly as possible. Cool and cut into squares. Depending on size of squares- this makes several decadents dozens.  *Note – some wonderful bakers have told me that they occasionally take a shortcut of using a very good brownie mix, adding a bit more cocoa and the teaspoon of instant coffee, I add Bourbon pecans for a very good Mississippi Mudslide otherwise known affectionately as Mississippi Mud Cake. Some also make this cake with no miniature marshmallows just icing which is an extremely good cake as well.

8431415B-92EB-401D-96A6-E288B47D8FC3The secret ingredient these wonderful bakers rarely tell you is about soaking those pecans in Bourbon! Southern food is what binds us together and there are some good cooks who have a few tricks up their sleeves to make ordinary Southern food- extraordinary! And don’t expect to find these little tips in cookbooks- great Southern cooks barely think about it- they have that extraordinary talent of just knowing when something needs a pinch of salt, a hit of cayenne pepper or a sprinkle of sugar. Okay- you know this is coming… like all good Southern Tales… the story of Joy Nell and Mary Jim is part truth, part myth and part outright lies…the part about soaking those pecans? is the truth and nothing but the truth!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. *This is a work of humorous fiction… any resemblance of Joy Nell and Mary Jim to actual folks is merely coincidence. However, the recipes are real. Several of my older cookbooks do tell the secret of soaking pecans in bourbon and infusing dried fruits also, but it is a rare admission in Southern cookbooks!

*Elijah Craig was indeed a travelling Baptist preacher who was also a distiller of bourbon, as evidenced by his namesake Elijah Craig® Kentucky Bourbon! I just made that up about Joy Nell being distant kin but it could happen!  Maker’s Mark® is also fine Kentucky Bourbon.  I’m told it’s a good bourbon for drinking…I’ll take mine in Tipsy Tassies or on top of Pecan Pies thank you very much.

Southern Pecan Pesto…

3B6B2351-DEC0-47E3-B82E-63610434FED8We seem to have had a bumper crop in most of the things we’ve planted in the garden this year… I love to plant some basil to use in cooking, to dry and I’ve even been known to cut a big bunch and put in a vase just to enjoy the fragrance. This year, while vacationing in Virginia- we went to a restaurant on the York River- fittingly called Riverwalk Restaurant. Though it was terribly warm for most of the trip, on this particular night- with the breeze coming off the river out on a patio, it was pleasantly cool.  We watched a tall ship taking it’s own sweet time sailing by and could hear the sounds of a festival getting geared up. The restaurant was busy, our server brought our orders of iced tea and water… and to our surprise she also presented us with a platter brushed with Pesto and a whole loaf of fresh bread- our table of five finished it off quickly and it was one thing I knew I’d want to try to recreate later.

Recently, we were about to watch an Alabama Football game- we’d decided to get a pizza. I thought, why not make a salad, spin up some Pesto, bake a loaf of bread and present it just like we’d had on vacation!

5C020523-CD91-45C2-8AF0-450F4066CF7EI had all of the ingredients I thought I’d need…lots of basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and …oops! no pine nuts or even walnuts. I literally put a Southern Spin on the Pesto. If I do say so myself, it turned out very well- I substituted Pecans. (Okay for all you non- southerners, please don’t say PEE-Cans… nope, that’s not how to pronounce it! For goodness sake who would even want to eat something that sounds so dreadful? Slow down now… here’s how you say it… Pah- cahn.  Don’t even think of making a long E sound!) Alright let me get right down to how you can make Pesto with a Southern Spin!

Camellia’s Southern Pecan Pesto 

You will need 3-4 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves- rinsed and shaken or spun dry. Just the leaves now- not the stems. Fill up the bowl of your food processor, generously.

74413BE2-4BF9-4D7F-A18F-ABE91915702BOne reason I love making pesto is that it is a recipe that isn’t precise! Spin the basil leaves until they are a rough chop, add one or two or three garlic cloves- I used one large clove and one small. Add a pinch or two of salt and spin again. Add 1- 1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan cheese. Spin again. Add at least 1 cup of chopped pecans- I added 1 and 1/4 cup. Spin again.

3D38E6F6-647F-47F6-A2C2-88D2F690378ANow remove the spout cover of the food processor and pour in enough good olive oil to make a paste, then add about 1/4 cup more! Pour Pesto in a sealed container and chill unless you plan to use it right away. It seems to keep fresh in the refrigerator for a good while.

70C96E0F-D8D0-47EE-B824-6970047F40F1I brushed a long platter with a generous amount of Pecan Pesto and topped it with a loaf of fresh baked bread (Now that is the important part- make or better yet, make it easy on yourself and do like I did- buy frozen bread dough and bake it yourself! It really does make a difference!)

52F225E4-4A87-4D53-A924-244AA5AFA5FBThe presentation is lovely and just like the pesto and fresh bread in Yorktown- this too was a hit! For an appetizer, an accompaniment with a platter or Italian sliced meats, cheese and assorted fresh fruits and vegetables, you know one of charcuterie boards- Pecan Pesto would be beautiful alongside one of those and…of course it’s great alongside a spaghetti supper or as an addition to a spread of tailgate food even if it’s at home!  Southern Pecan Pesto is a new Cottage favorite. Okay- if you have pine nuts or walnuts- that would be great too! Here are few Annabelle Hydrangeas from down near the York River- quite a beautiful spot! 4D324BC7-B05A-49A9-AB7C-7C77AC5597C1

For more photos of some of our trip to Yorktown and Williamsburg check us out Instagram (just tap that little icon at the bottom of the page) Right now, we have an historic vegetable garden with heirloom vegetables and a bee skep! I would highly recommend any part of Virginia for a nice Fall trip!  And of course there’s nothing like watching SEC Football! Hope your team wins unless they’re playing mine!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. *You can find out more about Riverwalk Restaurant at http://www.riverwalkrestaurant.net.

Stuffed Peppers…

4999EA0F-E943-4858-BCF6-0BDF3A460741Southerners love their peppers, most tuck at least a few plants in their gardens even if it’s in among flower beds. Peppers generally love the Southern climate- some old timers say the hotter the weather- the hotter the peppers! I’m not sure about that, I do know that we once planted mild banana peppers close to jalapenos and those highly prized for their pepper sauce- long skinny cayenne pepper pods; well, I’m telling you those sweet banana peppers were hot as fire! I loved them. Usually our Bell Peppers are small, mainly good in salads or chopped along with onions and celery for our trinity to begin making jambalayas, gumbos, even tomato sauces.

f6e4696a-57d5-4cd7-86fe-525312f45f27.jpegThis year we planted a few plants of Poblano peppers- they’ve been seriously good and a bumper crop of the big beautiful peppers are just the right size for Stuffed Peppers. I’ve eaten stuffed peppers all of my life and loved them.  I have to admit- Before I learned to cook stuffed peppers- I tended to think they were an exotic dish because southern cooks which can be on the eccentric side, had a way  of  majestically saying… ‘Ah’m makin’ Stuffed Peppers’…   it just seemed like a special treat and -they truly are. Now, let me get real here- if something sits still long enough a southern cook will figure out a way to stuff it!

  • Stuffed Eggs, Stuffed  Shrimp, Stuffed Pork Chops even Stuffed Squash Blossoms- now that’s an adventure!

I’m running on and on- though I do want you to know, it’s not hard to make Stuffed Peppers.  The beauty of this dish is, of course presentation and taste- Still. Feel free to stuff a few or enough to feed a crowd, which we all know is the real beauty of any recipe.  Cook Stuffed Peppers right away or prepare, seal and freeze. Stuffed peppers always call for good ingredients- but the real secret to cooking stuffed peppers is the same for meatloaf- I think… low and slow. If you don’t have time, I’d say don’t make them! Okay, still there might be a way to overcome this.  If you have an oven with a timer- it is possible to take stuffed peppers from the freezer, put them in the oven, set the timer  and heat at 325 degrees allow for 2 hours before your meal and you might get away with it. So here’s how to make –

Camellia’s Stuffed Peppers

  • You will need Unblemished fresh and clean – 4-5 large Bell or Poblano Peppers   – carefully cut peppers in half, Remove seeds and membranes without damaging the pepper halves. *I think Stuffed Peppers make a wonderful presentation if the stem portion remains intact on at least one half and also keep the filling intact.
  • For the Filling you will need: 1-1/4 pounds of ground chuck mixed with diced onion, 3/4 cup of crushed saltine crackers, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch or two of black pepper-you may use bread crumbs, instead of crushed crackers- if so- add a pinch of salt. If you dare and I do! add 1/2 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes and one beaten large egg.
  • *Note: some folks add small diced celery and even carrots- I do not. The mixture will be moistened by the pepper shell, therefore it doesn’t need the extra moisture.
  • Carefully combine ground beef mixture. Do not overwork the filling.
  • To stuff: Each pepper half will use approximately 3/4 cup of filling spooned in and pressed down a bit.   *Optional: I had some fresh oven roasted tomatoes preserved in oil- so I drained them and topped the uncooked stuffing. *You may wrap tightly and freeze at this point. C7F89F23-89C9-4A9A-80A0-9139EF8EBBB3
  • This is not optional: Cut uncooked bacon into one inch pieces topping each stuffed pepper with 1-2 small pieces.
  • Now, this is important! Before baking- preheat oven to 325 degrees. Very low oven temperature is key.
  • Top each Stuffed Pepper with a generous amount of good ketchup. Bake low and slow- mine were done in 2 hours.
  • Allow to stand a few minutes, then skim off fat and juices. Serve. Makes 4-5 generous servings, allowing 2 pepper halves each.

It’s actually wonderful to serve Stuffed Peppers on a buffet- they taste good even at room temperature. I also think Stuffed Peppers can be changed up with different spices- such as an Italian mixture served simply with garlic bread and a green salad. If you have the patience, stuffing Baby Bell Peppers would be wonderful appetizers. Of course, one of my favorite combinations for Stuffed Peppers includes the Three Sisters – Corn, Beans and Squash. Corn supports the Bean vines, Squash are planted at the base in a ring around the corn- each has a purpose. Comically and practically- prickly squash leaves deter varmints like raccoons since they don’t like stepping on the leaves. Native Americans taught us how to companion plant these ‘three sisters’  which are a wonderful combination of sides for Stuffed Peppers.

 

Since the weather is still very warm here- I chose to make cool Shoe Peg Corn Salad, a cheesy Squash Casserole and Speckled Butterbeans cooked with bacon drippings, a bit of hot vinegar-y pepper sauce and crumbled bacon on top.

In the winter, Stuffed Peppers are so good cooked amid a bed of shredded cabbage and onions- of course cornbread and dried beans  are also so good. Now, before I leave the fresh vegetable sides, I’d say there’s almost nothing as satisfying as shucking fresh corn, picking fresh summer squash and shelling butterbeans… Well okay- unless it’s feeding your loved ones a meal  like this.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

Blue Ridge Apple Cake…

7ECB0501-3C50-43AC-B545-D905918E6B0EIt might come as a surprise that the Appalachian Region is apple growing country. Settlers from Scotch Irish descent brought apple seeds with them to grow in the new land… with the help of Cherokee Indians apples became widely grown. With temperatures dipping into the 20s and highs in the 80s – the plateaus produce apples from late July on into late fall. Some heirloom varieties grown in the Appalachians are still considered excellent. My home county is at the tail end of the Appalachians and almost all old home places had at least one or two apple trees, it was encouraged as a way to make property more valuable and of course as an extra food source! The uses for apples is legion, from-

  • Feeding livestock (especially our beloved pork!),
  • Jams and jellies, brandies and butters,
  • Pies and cakes, stuffed and baked or tucked around a pork roast,
  • Dried for use in the famous mountain Apple Stack cake, a simple pan of Fried apples and one of my personal favorites- Fried Apple Pies.
  • And of course, as an afternoon snack!D295386C-0568-431E-915C-0729DD474408

The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, in the southern part of the Appalachian Region, is one of those apple growing regions. In the upper western corner of Georgia, the entire area is a popular tourist attraction and apple picking territory. Beginning to ripen now, a few days ago, I bought some Blue Ridge Apples; I was especially glad to find these. The skins aren’t tough and thick, this current crop of apples aren’t overly sweet, have good texture and are a beautiful deep red- just perfect for a quick breakfast, a lunchbox treat or an afternoon snack.

Fresh Apple Cakes are legendary in the South, the mere mention of one is followed by swoons. Any southerner I know loves a snack of apples and peanut butter; a nutritious lunch for almost any school kid is a peanut butter sandwich and an apple!  I couldn’t resist coming up with an easy apple cake- snack size with the addition of peanut butter…well, let’s just say I surprised myself! These Blue Ridge apples don’t even require peeling, the whole cake can be made from common pantry ingredients and from start to finish, in about an hour, including bake time, you’ll have a Blue Ridge Apple Cake!

7ECB0501-3C50-43AC-B545-D905918E6B0EHere’s how you make-

Camellia’s Blue Ridge Apple Cake

You will need:

  • 2 cups of Flour
  • 2 cups of Brown Sugar (firmly packed plus more for topping)
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 stick of chilled Butter cut in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of Creamy Peanut Butter (plus more for topping)
  • 1 cup of diced apples (Blue Ridge if possible) plus more (thinly sliced) for topping
  • 1 carton Sour Cream (8 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Large Egg lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut in small pieces of Butter until crumbly. Add Apples and Peanut Butter- this mixture will continue to be crumbled in texture. E965B79B-25D5-45C4-B348-E0DFEA7838FB

Press half of the mixture in the bottom of a glass baking dish (9×9) as you would for a crust. Combine baking soda and sour cream. Mix well. Add in the slightly beaten egg. Add this mixture of sour cream/baking soda and egg into the remaining crumb mixture. Stir gently to combine. Pour this mixture over the top of pressed crumbs. Decorate the top of mixture with thinly sliced apples. Sprinkle additional cinnamon and brown sugar. Put small dollops of extra peanut butter on some of the decorative apple slices. Here’s how it comes together-

*Variation: Add a sprinkling of chopped peanuts if you want to guild the apples! Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool then, cut into squares.

Yield one nine inch square coffee cake- approximately 9-12 luscious squares.

I know I said to cool the cake, but it is very good slightly warm! Cover tightly. Blue Ridge Apple Cake keeps very well,  and retains it’s moisture. The Appalachian region continues to be one of the poorest regions in our nation, it is wonderful to be able to support the farmers there in such a delicious way!  And… Alabama is a state where George Washington Carver’s research has provided many folks, like me! with a love of parched peanuts, roasted peanuts and oh yes! Peanut Butter! Blue Ridge Apple Cake seems like a match made in heaven with the combination of Apples and Peanut Butter!A406F262-7E0F-4C7D-9EA5-7BCB288C33DA

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine! September 14 is also National Peanut Day! You have permission to eat all the peanuts you want!9805E26D-6241-459B-8DEE-F5B1A2AFBBA0

Volunteers…

29723B1F-8E89-4C24-995D-EDDE1D6748BAWhen a plant springs up in a garden unbidden- not planted by the gardener… the plant is called a volunteer. The garlic chives in the front garden here at Camellia’s Cottage weren’t planted by us; they volunteered… added their services, their talents and their beautiful blooms, then drop seeds to give us another round in the coming years.

17DD5B08-EEBE-47C2-AA39-A87A1DC61DAFOn this date commemorating a Day of National Tragedy, 9/11 was also proclaimed in 2009 as a National Day of Service- to promote volunteering; a date when, as we Americans are mourning we are also encouraged to volunteer. In addition to the courageous and trained first responders, on that tragic day- volunteers came out in droves and used their talents lavishly.

I have found folks who volunteer regularly aren’t just the ones with extra time on their hands- no, many are some of the busiest most successful people I’ve ever known. Volunteers seem to wake up determined not to be mediocre; they regularly ask- ‘What can I do for my country, my city, my neighborhood today?’ They use their talents and skills generously, like the garlic chives. 9083E24B-D7B1-470C-8CB0-B60206ECF8F0

It doesn’t really take a whole lot of effort to regularly do at least one positive thing to make our world better… a kind word, a tender gesture and yes, even taking a casserole.

Garlic Chives are a culinary herb, the leaves have a subtle garlic flavor, the blossoms produce dark seeds which can be toasted and then ground like a specialty garlicky pepper. Every year, I vow to remove them…and then they volunteer to bloom just when everything else has just about given up.

Let’s not give up on doing good- let’s commemorate the lives lost- then do what we can to make our world a better place.

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine. And yes, I am rendering a small act of service for my local library today.