Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs!

 
 
I love pork ribs...most any kind of ribs, baby back, country style, spare ribs.  I do enjoy good smoked ribs, cooked in a smoker over hickory wood... by someone who knows what they are doing, like a good barbeque place.   However, sometimes you just want to do them yourself and it's winter and it's cold and rainy or snowy outside and you just don't want to get that grill or smoker out, so what to do?

As I have told you before, I have a love/hate relationship with  slow cookers.  For some things, they work great...like the  Mississippi Roast, the best roast known to man or woman or child!   For other things, I am not so thrilled with the results.  They just don't have the same browning, and thickening abilities that you get on the stove or in the oven.  Therefore, I have had mixed results with ribs in the slow cooker.  I have fairly good results with country style ribs and spare ribs to some extent, especially if I am cooking them with sauerkraut or in a sauce like Teriyaki.  But for baby back ribs, I like them to be really tender, but still on the bone and also with a nice glaze on them when they are done.   I am happy to say this method and recipe results in some of the best ribs I have ever cooked, even when compared to grilling and smoking.  

There are just a few tips when cooking baby back ribs in the slow cooker that make a world of difference.  Here is what you will need:

2 full racks baby back ribs, cut in thirds
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. smoky paprika
1 Tbs. liquid smoke (optional)
1 cup  Coca Cola (you can also use Dr. Pepper or even apple juice)
2-3 cups barbeque sauce of your choice (depending on how much you like your ribs sauced)

Cut the ribs in thirds or fourths if you want to serve smaller pieces.  Leave the membrane on the back that they usually tell you to remove.  It helps to keep them from falling apart. Sprinkle both sides with the Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.  

Mix together the brown sugar and the other seasonings.   Rub this mixture on both sides of the ribs liberally.  There might be more than you need for two racks and I actually did three when I did these.

Spray a large slow cooker, like a 6-7 quart one,  with nonstick spray.   Now, there are some who say to stand the ribs on their ends in the slow cooker to get better results.  I don't see the need for this with this method though.  I just lay them on top of each other in the slow cooker.  Once they are all in and cozy, I pour the Coke around the edges.  It's not much liquid and that is a good thing.  It's just enough to create some sweet steam.  You do not want your ribs to stew.  Stewed barbequed baby backs are not all that appetizing.   That is why some say to stand them on their ends, but since we aren't adding hardly any liquid, you don't have to and you can fit more in.  If you are using the liquid smoke, put it in now also.

It's best to cook on low for 8 hours...low and slow is best.  If you got a late start, you can cook on hi for  4-5 hours depending on your slow cooker and how fast it cooks. They all seem to vary.  How many you have packed in there also makes a difference.  

When they have cooked the 8 hours and you take the top off and look at them, don't panic!   They  are not pretty at this point.  Nope, they are actually what we in the south call, butt ugly, right now.  Don't worry though, they will be pretty when we get finished.   I promise!   I had pictures of this step by step to show you, but when I went to find them they had vanished.  I think they were so ugly they deleted themselves or something...lol.

This next step is critical to this whole thing, so don't skip it.   Carefully, remove the riblets from the slow cooker and place on a large baking sheet or baking pan cover with foil  (makes cleanup so much easier).   Now slather them, front and back, with the barbeque sauce of your choice. I used my own homemade sauce, which I will give you the recipe for  at the end of this post. Place in the oven at 425 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes or just until the sauce has sort of caramelized and browned a bit.  Don't let them burn.  Now they aren't ugly anymore...see!

  
 

My Homemade Barbeque Sauce:

1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. oil
2 cups tomato ketchup
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup Coca Cola
1/4 cup vinegar (apple cider or white)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. celery seeds
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
dash of Tabasco sauce
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. spicy brown mustard ( can use 1/2 Tbs. yellow mustard)

Saute onion in butter and oil.  Add  all of the other ingredients and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and let it simmer for at least an hour.   Stir this often as it can stick due to the sugars.  The longer it simmers the better it gets.   If you can make it the day before and refrigerate, it's even better.

This sauce makes all of the difference in barbequed food.  When I don't use it, I can tell a huge difference.  This will be more sauce than you probably need and you can refrigerate and keep this for about a week to use on other foods.








Easy Peasy Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge!

 
 
 
 
 
This fudge is the absolute easiest fudge I have ever made and I just don't think there is any way to mess it up.  There is no boiling, no candy thermometer, no soft ball stage...nothing.   The combination of peanut butter and chocolate reminds me of those "no bake" chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies we made about `100 years ago in Home Economics class or if you are younger than that, the ones your mother or grandmother made in Home Ec 100 years ago.  I love those cookies though and I still make them occasionally.  Here is all you will need and you won't believe it:
 
2 sticks butter
1  1/4 cups peanut butter (I used the chunky kind)
3 Tbs. powdered cocoa
dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. light corn syrup
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
 
In a large saucepan, melt butter.  Add in peanut butter, cocoa, salt, vanilla and corn syrup and blend well.  Remove from heat and stir in the sifted powdered sugar.   Mix until it is all incorporated.
 
Butter an 8"x8" pan and spread the mixture and pat it down smooth.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours and then cut in 1 inch pieces with a sharp knife.  Store in an airtight container.  
 
Easy Peasy Peanut Butter Fudge!



The Perfect Pecan Pie!

  
 
The pecan pie is a true southern classic.  It's a pie that on the surface, just looking at the recipe, seems relatively simple to bake.   However, more problems and questions arise from this fairly simple pie than most any other, it seems.  They can turn out too runny, too hard and gooey, the crust can get way too brown in order to get the custard to set, and on and on.  Sometimes they turn out great and then the next time they are a mess. 

If you follow this recipe exactly, you will get a perfect pecan pie.  My mama says so and it's true...lol!  Here is what you will need:

3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 Tbs. flour (can use cornstarch)
1 cup light corn syrup
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 9 inch pie shell, unbaked (NOT deep dish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, when you place pie in the oven to bake, you will turn it down to 300 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (sugar, salt, and flour).  The addition of flour or cornstarch keeps the pie from being runny.

With a wire whisk (not a mixer) mix in the butter, eggs, corn syrup, and butter just until well blended.  Don't over beat this.

Place the pie shell on a cookie sheet.

Arrange the pecan halves in the bottom of the pie shell, flat side down as you want them to look on top of the pie.  They will rise to the top after you pour the wet ingredients in and bake it.

Pour the custard over the pecan halves.  Place the cookie with the pie shell on it carefully in the oven on the middle rack.

Turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake for exactly 1 hour.   The lower temperature might seem unusual if you have baked a pecan pie before and it calls for 350 for an hour, but this temperature keeps the pie shell from over browning and the pie from getting too gooey or hard.  


 



Pretzel Salad!



 
Pretzel Salad is an old southern favorite that you used to find at a lot of holiday meals or church potlucks.  I think we have forgotten about this yummy recipe a little in recent years though.  Maybe it's just in my family that we don't make it as much anymore.  I am not really sure why though, because most everyone loves it.  It's actually not a salad, but more like a dessert that goes really well with the other holiday selections.  This recipe can also be lightened up quite a bit without sacrificing much of the flavor at all by using light cream cheese, light whipped topping and sugar free Jello..  Here is what you will need for this Pretzel Salad:

1 stick butter, melted
2 cups crushed pretzels
1 cup chopped pecans
3 Tbs. sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1  8oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
1  8oz. frozen whipped cream
1 16 oz. box frozen strawberries
1 large strawberry flavored jello
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups cold water



Spray a 9"x13" baking dish with nonstick spray.   Mix together butter, crushed pretzels, 3 Tbs. sugar and chopped pecans.  Press into the bottom of the baking dish and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.   Let cool.


Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together and then beat in frozen whipped topping. 
Spread over the cooled crust.   Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Dissolve Jello in 2 cups bowling water,  add 1 1/2 cups of cold water and the strawberries.  Stir until it starts to slightly thicken.   Pour over the  cream cheese layer, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight until Jello sets completely. 

Serve cut in squares with a dollop of whipped cream on each piece. 
 








Kentucky Buttermilk Pie!

 
 
I get so many questions and requests for the buttermilk pie that I decided to make one and try to post it before the holiday.   I am usually asked what is the difference in buttermilk pie and chess pie.  They are very similar, but the Chess Pie doesn't have buttermilk in it and it is sweeter and slightly richer than the buttermilk pie.  The Chess Pie also has cornmeal in it and a spoonful of vinegar to cut the sugar.  I always thought that I preferred Chess Pie, but I must say this Buttermilk Pie might have me rethinking that.

Now, why is this called a Kentucky Buttermilk Pie and not just a Buttermilk Pie, it's the splash of Kentucky bourbon you add.  Everyone knows that any good bourbon is born and raised in Kentucky...don't let anyone tell you different and since it is a Kentucky product, we tend to cook a lot with it.  Wait, maybe that is just me...no, I checked  and  a lot of us use it to cook with...lol.   The reason the bourbon works really well with this pie is that it cuts the sugar.  The alcohol all evaporates, but the bourbon just leaves a good flavor to the pie.  If you do not have bourbon or do not cook with alcohol, just add an extra teaspoon of vanilla, which is mostly alcohol also if it's good vanilla.

Here is what you need for this pie:

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbs. self rising flour
1 stick melted butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. KY bourbon
1 deep dish pie shell


Mix together butter and sugar.  Add flour, eggs,  and buttermilk and mix well.  Add vanilla and bourbon.
Place the pie shell on a cookie sheet and pour the mixture into shell.  Place on the center rack of the oven set at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.   Decrease the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove and cool before slicing.

Kentucky Buttermilk Pie!
 

Pumpkin White Chocolate Blondies!

   





I have always loved the brownie's cousin, the blondie.  Sometimes, I am not sure that I don't like the blondie even better.  This takes the blondie and changes it up with the addition of pumpkin and white chocolate and the result is so moist and delicious.  This is a simple recipe that you can stir together in no time and even those who say they don't like pumpkin will love it.   Here is what you will need:

1  1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts or pecans)
confectioners sugar to sprinkle the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9 inch square baking pan with foil ( I used the Reynolds nonstick)  and spray with nonstick baking spray.











Mix together the flour and seasonings with the baking powder and salt.

With a wire whisk (not an electric mixer) mix together the pumpkin, eggs, sugars and butter.  Add the vanilla.

Whisk the pumpkin mixture into the four mixture.  Fold in the white chocolate chips and the nuts.  Spread in  the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes. 




Let cool completely.  I like to sprinkle with some powdered sugar or you can melt some of the white chocolate chips and drizzle over the top for a pretty finish.











Pumpkin White Chocolate Blondie's!

Nana's Pumpkin Roll!

 
 
This is my mother's pumpkin roll which she has been making for years.  I don't know how many years and wouldn't even begin to try to guess how many of these pumpkin rolls she has made.  She starts making them right before Thanksgiving and she makes them right on through Christmas.  The holidays just wouldn't be right without her pumpkin roll. This looks like it might be hard to make, but really after you get he hang of it, it's not.  I don't have the step by step pictures this time, because my mother had this one made by the time I got there with the camera.  She moves fast for a grandma...lol.   Here is what you will need for this:

Roll
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Filling
1 cup confectioners sugar
1  8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs for 3 minutes. Gradually add in the sugar.  Mix in the remaining ingredients. Pour onto a well greased cookie sheet (15"x10").  Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn out onto a clean kitchen towel. Let cool.

While it cools, make the cream cheese filling by whipping the cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, butter and vanilla together.

Spread filling over the baked roll.  Roll into a roll with it still in the towel.  It will slice best if you place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.  Slice in even slices and place on a serving tray.  You can leave this refrigerated for several days before serving as long as it is wrapped up tightly.   See how easy that was and you will be so impressive with your baking skills this holiday season!


Nana's Pumpkin Roll!








 


 

Southern Cornbread Dressing!

 
Thanksgiving just wouldn't be Thanksgiving proper without the cornbread dressing.  It's almost, if not, the most important part of the meal at our house.  If you have turkey, you have to have dressing with it.  Nothing else will do.  Of course, you also have to have mashed potatoes and gravy.  It just all has to be there, together in unison, on the plate.   This might not be true for all of you and your Thanksgiving dinners, but it is for us.  As far back as I can remember, the night before Thanksgiving, I can conjure up the pungent smell of poultry seasoning, black pepper and celery and onions being diced by my mother or other relatives who might be at our house for the holiday.  The dressing was always mixed up the night before and it made me so hungry smelling all of the preparations for the next day's meal.  It was comforting to know that people were in that kitchen getting things ready for all of us so that we would have a wonderful meal together.   The smells are always what bring us back it seems.
 
Now, out of the past and into the present,  I really have dreaded writing this post.  I have discovered, the hard way, that dressing or stuffing as some call it, is a very controversial topic in the food world.   I guess I never really knew that.  Is it dressing or is it stuffing? Does dressing have to be cornbread or does stuffing have to be, well, stuffed, as in the bird stuffed?   Is dressing the southern term for the same thing those above the Mason Dixon line call stuffing?  It's all so crazy and people can get so argumentative about it. 
 
Here is my take on it, dressing is the southern term for what we make and serve and it's usually a base of cornbread with (sometimes) other breads mixed in.   Stuffing seems to be a northern or Midwestern term for something similar, but not always made with cornbread.   Whether you stuff it in the bird or not, doesn't really seem to be a factor in whether it's called dressing or stuffing. I really think it's a geographic semantics sort of thing.  
 
We bake our dressing in a casserole dish or baking pan.  I honestly don't ever remember my mother baking it in the bird.  I hear it's safer to bake it in the baking dish and not in the bird where it might not get cooked through enough so it's good we don't do that.  If you do, be sure it reaches 165 degrees in the very center of the stuffing to be safe. 
 
Now, this is the recipe we use for dressing, I am sure you and your family do it differently, but this is how we do it.  All recipes are adaptable, so do what you will with it.   Here is what you will need: 
 
 
1 pan of cornbread ( recipe below)
6 slices white bread, toasted and cut in cubes
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
2 cups celery, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1 stick butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. sage (optional)
6 cups chicken or turkey stock
1 can cream of chicken soup
4 eggs, beaten
 
 
Cornbread Recipe
 
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup self rising cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbs. oil
2 eggs, beaten
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
 
Mix all together and pour into an 8"x8" baking dish that has been heated with enough oil in it to cover the bottom well or you can use an iron skillet.
Bake for 30 minutes.
 
In a large mixing bowl, crumble cornbread, add bread cubes and the crushed saltines.  Place butter in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and celery until tender.  Pour this mixture over the bread and crackers. 
 
Add seasonings.  You will notice that we use mostly poultry seasoning.  We actually leave the optional sage out, because the poultry seasoning is a blend of sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and black pepper.  It's not so overwhelming and 'green' like the sage can be when overused.    If your family likes their dressing green with sage, use more sage and less poultry seasoning.  However, I am convinced that the over use of sage and the under use of other seasonings is what ruins a lot of good dressing. 
 
Add 6 cups of chicken or turkey broth, the beaten eggs, and the can of cream of chicken soup.  The can of soup adds the best flavor to dressing, but I can always envision the comments on this.  I am not sure when canned soup got such a bad reputation, but let me say you can leave it out if you think you might die after ingesting it right there at the Thanksgiving dinner table.  If you do leave it out, add an extra cup of broth and you might need a smidgen more salt.   Lightly mix all of this together.  This mixture will be loose, not tight or too thick.  If it's too thick, add some more stock to it. 
 
Spray a large baking pan or casserole dish with nonstick baking spray and pour the mixture in.  Smooth the top, but don't pack it down in the dish.  That makes the dressing too compacted and dry when baked. 
 
This is best when prepared the night before and refrigerated overnight to give the flavors a chance to blend.  When you take it out to bake on Thanksgiving day, drizzle about a cup of the warm turkey broth from your just baked turkey over the top of the dressing.  This seeps down into the dressing as it bakes and really makes it moist and flavorful.
 
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. 
 
This makes a really big pan of dressing, so if you are cooking for a smaller family, you can put this in two casserole dishes and freeze one for Christmas or another meal when you might have baked chicken or whatever.   If you use two smaller casseroles, bake for about 30-35 minutes.
 
 



Coca Cola Cake...It's a Southern Thang!


 
It seems like almost every other day now I get someone asking about the Coca Cola Cake recipe and there is a good reason for that... it's delicious and it's a southern thang!    I love to use Coke to cook with and if you have been reading my recipes long, you will have noticed that.  The carbonation, sweetness, cola and acid in Coke products just do good things to some food....barbeque, sweets, sauces, and even congealed salads.  My mother has been replacing the water in cakes with Sprite for years now.  It's a family secret...so shhhh,  don't you dare tell anyone!

There are several different variations and recipes for the classic "Coca Cola Cake" and while they are all good, this recipe turns out better than any of them.  It is not hard to make and it is one of the most moist chocolate cakes you will ever bake.  If your family is like mine, you have to have something chocolate for the holidays and this is just the cake to have. Make this cake and take it to dinner, wherever your dinner is this year,  and you will be the star, I guarantee it!   Here is what you need:


2 cups unsifted all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 sticks butter
3 Tbs. cocoa
1 cup Coca Cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Icing
1 stick butter, melted
3 Tbs. cocoa
7 Tbs. Coca Cola
1 box confectioner's sugar
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  In a saucepan, heat butter, cocoa, and the Coca Cola until it boils.  Pour hot mixture over the flour and sugar.  Mix well.  Add the buttermilk, eggs, soda, vanilla and marshmallows and mix well.   The marshmallows will rise to the top and the batter will seem thin, but that's ok.   Pour into a 9"x13" baking pan that has been sprayed with nonstick baking spray.   Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or just until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.




As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, make the icing.  Place the butter in a saucepan on medium heat with the cocoa powder and Coca Cola.  Heat until the butter is melted and it is all well blended.  Pour over the box of confectioner's sugar and mix until it's smooth. If you are adding nuts, stir them in.  Spread the icing over the cake while it is still warm.  That's it, now pour a big glass of milk and cut the cake!  Wasn't that easy!
 

Coca Cola Cake!





Beefy Vegetable Soup!

 
 
When the weather gets chilly, there is nothing better to me than a bowl of vegetable beef soup.  It seems a lot of folks don't make vegetable soup with nice chunks of beef anymore.  So much of it is made with ground beef, chicken, smoked sausage or even no meat at all and just vegetables.  Those variations are all good and I have made them all myself at times, but they just don't compare to a good hearty and beefy vegetable soup with tender chunks of beef.  
 
This soup takes some time to prepare, so it's not one of those that you can throw together when you come home from work more than likely. It's a soup you need to make on the weekend or your day off, because the meat needs time to hang out and simmer for a few hours and then the vegetables have to have time to cook and the flavor time to blend.  This is a soup that gets better the next day also and it makes a lot.   Here is what you will need:
 
 
1  1/2 to 2 lbs. beef stew meat, round steak or sirloin, cubed
1 large onion, diced
vegetable oil for browning meat
1 large can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
4 cups V-8 vegetable juice (I use the hot n spicy type)
4 beef bouillon cubes or a can of beef broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. black pepper (less if you don't care for much pepper)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
3-4 medium size potatoes, peeled and diced
1 bag frozen vegetables for vegetable soup
1 cup frozen corn niblets
1 cup frozen baby lima beans
1 cup sliced carrots
1 can green beans, drained
1 cup sliced okra (if you use vegetable soup mixed vegetables it has okra in it, you can leave this out, but it acts to thicken the soup nicely)
6 cups water
 
 
Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.  Add the cubed beef and brown on all sides.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Add the diced onion to the pot
and sauté a little until slightly softened. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 Add the can of tomatoes, V-8 juice, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, seasoned salt, beef bouillon or broth, and garlic powder.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to a low simmer, cover and let simmer for about 2 hours.  After the 2 hours, add the rest of the vegetables and the water and bring back to a boil, turn down to a low simmer and simmer for 1 hour.  Taste for seasoning, you might need just a tad more salt depending on your tastes.
 
 
This is so good served with Cornbread Hoe Cakes!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



Shari's Chicken Broccoli Stuffing Bake!

 
 

 
This is my sister, Shari's recipe.  She is also an excellent southern cook, but she lives in another state  so we don't get to cook with her very often.  She has some dishes she makes that I have never been able to quite duplicate to taste just like she makes them. You know how every good cook has those recipes that just never taste the same when you try to make them?  I have never figured out if it's just because it tastes better when you don't have to do the cooking or they actually leave a certain ingredient out when they give you the recipe...lol.  I have accused my mother of doing this, but she says she just actually forgets what she puts in some things, because she has made them so long.  I know that feeling also, we just almost cook some things on remote control.  We have really had to slow down and remember each and every ingredient for this blog.
 
My sister's hamburger steaks come to mind when thinking of things certain folks make better than anyone else.  She makes the best.  She has given me and my mother her 'recipe' and we have tried to make them the same way, but they never taste the same.   How can something so simple taste so different?  It's just this strange thing about cooking, everyone has their special dishes. 
 
 My sister got this recipe years ago from a friend of hers and it's one of her families favorites. It makes a great main dish and is a good way to sneak some broccoli in on the kids and husband or you could use less chicken and more broccoli and it makes a wonderful side dish for your holiday buffet also.  You could also substitute some of your leftover turkey in it as a good way to use up all of that holiday bird after the holiday is over.   Here is what you will need for this:
 
 
large package of frozen broccoli florets or an equal amount of fresh broccoli florets
4-6 chicken breast, cooked and diced into bite size pieces
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. curry
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
dash black pepper
2 cups herbed stuffing mix (like Pepperidge Farm or even Stovetop)
1/2 stick butter, melted
 
Cook broccoli according to package directions or if fresh, just steam until tender. Drain well.  Don't overcook because you will be baking this also.
 
Lay bite size broccoli florets in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. 
Spread the diced chicken over top of the broccoli.
Mix the soup, mayonnaise, curry powder, lemon juice, and cheddar cheese and a dash of black pepper.  Spread evenly over the chicken and broccoli.
Mix the melted butter with the herbed stuffing mix.  Sprinkle that evenly over the entire top of the casserole. 
Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until it is bubbly around the edges and just starting to brown on top. 
 

Shari's Chicken Broccoli Stuffing Bake!


Butterscotch Pie!

 

One of our favorite pies is a butterscotch pie.  This is not a pie we make all that often for some reason though. It seems that chocolate, lemon and coconut cream always are made more in the meringue pie varieties.  However, the butterscotch pie is one that is a lot of folk's favorite.  They just don't know anyone who makes it anymore.   I am not sure why, because it's really very easy.  This recipe is one of the easiest.   Here is what you will need:

1  9" pie shell, baked
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated (leave the eggs out of the refrigerator for a couple of hours beforehand to let them come to room temperature)
2 cups milk
4 Tbs. cornstarch
1/4 stick of butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Meringue
3 egg whites
1 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. corn starch
1 tsp. vanilla


Bake pie shell in a 350 degree oven just until it is starting to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Mix cornstarch, sugar, and salt.  Beat egg yolks with milk and add to dry ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir constantly and cook until it thickens. You can also do this in the microwave.  Cook for about 2 minutes on high, remove and whisk well, return to microwave and cook on high for another 4 minutes or until it is thickened. Once thickened,  add butter and vanilla and beat well until blended.

Pour filling into the pie shell.


For the meringue, add 1 tsp. of baking powder to the egg whites and start to beat the whites with an electric mixer on high.  Gradually add in 4 Tbs. of sugar, continuing to beat.  When stiff peaks start to form (this takes some time) add in 1 tsp. of corn starch and 1 tsp. of vanilla.  Don't go too heavy on the vanilla or it will change the color of your meringue or use the colorless.

 
This is what the meringue looks like when it's stiff enough. 

Spread the meringue over the pie filling and be sure to go to the edges of the crust and seal it.  This is a very important tip when making a meringue pie, because if you don't seal the edges of meringue around the edge of the crust, your meringue will sink in and not stand up tall on the pie when you brown it.  Place it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 13 - 15 minutes just until slightly browned. 
 
 

 
 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 



Easy Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes!



 
 
If you have read my Traditional Southern Macaroni and Cheese post, you know I don't care for boxed macaroni and cheese.  That might be an understatement actually...lol.  As much as I hate boxed mac and cheese, I have an even greater dislike for boxed au gratin potatoes.  They are disgusting with a capital 'D'!  I am not sure what Einstein came up with freeze drying potatoes and putting them in a box with a dry powder that is supposed to be cheese, but it was someone who doesn't eat au gratin potatoes, obviously.  I just don't get it y'all!  This recipe for homemade au gratin potatoes is almost just as easy. 
 
There is one advantage to those boxed potatoes, they cook up quick and in this day and age, quick is what everyone is looking for understandably, at times.   Have you ever tried to make au gratin potatoes from the start, in the oven in a short amount of time?  It's not happening folks.   It takes well over an hour and even then it's tricky to get the potatoes tender and not burn the top.  
 
This is a shortcut method that I really like to use.  You partially bake the potatoes in the microwave, then peel (or not) slice and finish in the oven.  It cuts the time in almost half and you won't have to worry about crunchy potatoes.   Here is what you will need:
 
5-6 medium baking potatoes
1 can evaporated milk
2 cups half and half or whole milk (don't use reduced fat milk in this)
1 Tbs. cornstarch
4 Tbs. butter or 1/2 stick
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt
black pepper
seasoned salt
 
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
 
Scrub the potatoes and place on a plate, pierce the skins a few times and bake about 7-9 minutes, depending on your microwave.   They should be starting to get tender but not baked all the way through.  Let them cool, then peel and slice.   You can bake them ahead and place them in the refrigerator to get cold before peeling and slicing. They actually slice up nicer if they are cold, but it doesn't matter. 
 
Spray a 2 1/2 quart  casserole with nonstick spray.  Lay half of the potato slices in the casserole. Dot with half of the butter and sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and seasoned salt.
 


Sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese and half of the cheddar cheese.
 
 
Repeat on the next layer with the rest of the potatoes, sprinkle with seasonings again, dot with butter, Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese.   Pour the can of evaporated milk around the edges. Be sure to shake it up first, because it sometimes separates. Stir the cornstarch into the milk or half and half until it's smooth and pour that around and over the potatoes.  The milk should come to the top of the potatoes and start to come over the edge of them.  It doesn't have to cover the entire top, because as it cooks it will bubble up over the top.  Be sure your casserole is big enough to have some room at the top to prevent spill over.  Place the casserole on a cookie sheet or pizza  pan and if it does spill over it saves your oven.  Cover the dish, either with the casserole lid or foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.
 


Remove the cover and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and cook for another 15 minutes.  The top should be just starting to brown and the cheese nice and melted.
 
Easy Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes!
 
 
 


Banana Split Salad!

  
 
This is a yummy fruit salad that can be served with a meal or as a dessert.  It would be great for the holidays, but it's also a cool summer salad.   The ingredients are things you usually have on hand, so you can whip this up at the last minute.   Here is what you will need for this:
 
1  11 oz. can Mandarin orange segments, drained
1 cup pineapple tidbits, drained ( 8 oz. can)
1 cup Maraschino cherries, drained on a paper towel
1 cup flaked coconut
2 bananas sliced, tossed in a little lemon juice
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup frozen whipped topping
2 Tbs. powdered sugar
 
Mix all of the fruit together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl mix the sour cream, frozen whipped topping and powdered sugar.  Pour over the fruit and mix.  Pour all into a glass serving bowl.  Top with additional cherries.  Chill until ready to serve.  This can be made several hours before serving as long as you keep it chilled.
 





Taco Soup!


 
This is one of our favorite soups and it's so quick and easy to throw together.  I usually cook it on the stove, but you can also brown your ground chuck and put everything in the slow cooker and let it go on low for 6 to 8 hours.   I like to serve this with various toppings in bowls for garnish and just let everyone fix theirs like they like it.  The toppings I use are usually things you would normally eat on a taco, but feel free to use whatever you and your family like.

I had a recipe for taco soup that I have always used, but one of our 'Sweet Tea and Cornbread' readers was sweet enough to send me her recipe and I thought I liked parts of it better, so this is her recipe with a little of mine combined and it turns out delicious.  Here is what you'll need:

1 - 1 1/2 lb. ground chuck, browned
1 medium onion diced
1 pkg. ranch dressing mix
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 can Rotel tomatoes with chilies
1  15 oz. can tomato sauce
2  15oz.  cans Ranch style beans (can use chili beans, pinto beans or black beans)
1  15oz. can yellow niblets corn, drained or 1 (12 oz.) bag of frozen corn
3 cups of water
dash of black pepper
dash of garlic powder

Garnishes
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
sliced olives
jalapenos
Frito's or tortilla chips
green onions
fresh cilantro

Brown the ground beef along with the onion until the beef is browned.  Drain any excess grease.











Add all of the other ingredients and bring to a boil.  Stir and turn heat down to simmer and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes.  The flavor improves the longer it simmers.  If you want to  do this in the slow cooker, brown the beef and onion, drain and place along with all of the other ingredients in the slow cooker.  Reduce the water to 2 cups.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
 
I like to serve this soup with various garnishes on the side so everyone can fix it the way they like!
 

 






Mama's Southern Coconut Cake!

 
  
Coconut cake is just sort of a tradition in the south at holiday dinners and special occasions.  My mother makes one of the best coconut cakes you will ever taste.   She has been making this cake for years.  I am not sure how many years, but for a long time.  She used to make these and sell them during the holiday season.  I can remember our dining room table being just full of finished coconut cakes waiting in their boxes to be picked up.   She still makes one for special friends now and then, but she is basically out of the baking and catering business and she says she wants to keep it that way...lol.  I don't blame her one bit, she has worked hard all of her life.
 
Coconut cake is a big favorite in my husband's family.  I joke that my husband is the connoisseur of coconut cakes.  You could line up 10 coconut cakes and blindfold him and give him a taste test and he could tell you which cake was made by my mother and what was not quite as good about all of the others.  Not too long ago, I went to a dinner that he didn't attend and I brought him a big piece of coconut cake home from it.  As soon as he took a bite  he said, "Your mother didn't make this, did she?"   Actually, it looked pretty much like her coconut cake so I was surprised.  I asked how he knew.  He said it was the difference in the icing and the cake itself was not as moist.   Then he went on to say, "It's good, just not as good as your mother's." 
 
People always ask for the recipe for this cake and they are always surprised it starts with a cake mix, because it tastes and looks like a from scratch cake. However, the cake mix is dressed up a bit with a few family secrets.   Here is what you will need for this cake:
 
1   15.25 butter cake mix (Be sure to get the full size cake mix and not the reduced size some companies are now marketing)
3 large eggs
1 cup Sprite or 7 Up
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
 
Icing
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white corn syrup
3 egg whites
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups shredded coconut
 
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
Mix all of the cake ingredients together with a wire whisk until well blended. Don't use an electric mixer for this.  Mama says it makes a cake dry when you beat the batter up too long. Butter and flour 2 8 inch round cake pans.  You  can use 2  9 inch cake pans, but the cake won't be as high. Divide cake batter between pans. 
Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes.
While the cakes cool, make the icing.
 
Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a sauce pan on medium heat.  Using a candy thermometer cook to the soft ball stage or 240 degrees, stirring constantly.  The mixture should become almost clear.   You can also do this in the microwave to make this step easier.  Cook on high for 4 minutes, remove and stir well and then cook for about 3 more minutes on high.  This could vary by a minute or two depending on the power of your microwave. It still needs to reach the soft ball stage.
 
 
  With an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the baking powder until it reaches the soft peak stage. 
 
 Slowly pour in the syrup and keep mixing until the icing stands in peaks.  This takes some time to accomplish so don't give up on it. Just keep beating it and eventually the peaks will form.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Place one of the cake layers on a pretty cake plate.
Frost the top of the first layer and sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 Place the other layer on top of the first and frost the entire cake.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Sprinkle the rest of the coconut over the top and sides of the cake.
 
 
 
Mama's Southern Coconut Cake!