Martha Washington Candy!

This delicious chocolate covered coconut candy has been made for years during the holidays in southern families.   My own mother has made them every year that I can remember for as far back as I can remember.  She has always called them "Coconut Bonbons." They are very close in comparison to an Almond Joy or Mounds Bar, but better, because they are homemade, of course, and much fresher! 
The origin of the  name "Martha Washington" candy or balls, as some call them,  seems to be up for some debate among foodies and little can really be found about it.  I sort of doubt that  Martha Washington had anything to do with it though.   What I did find was that there was a chain of candy stores named  "Martha Washington Candies" that was started in the 1890's.  They sold ice cream and candy confections of different varieties.  At their peek in the 1920's they had hundreds of stores all across the country and were doing quite well.   Then along came the Depression and it hit them hard.  Folks could barely buy food, much less candy and ice cream.  The founder, a candy maker named Elie Sheetz, died in 1932, and most all of the stores closed shortly thereafter.   Just a few lingered until the forties.   They were considered dowdy and a thing of the past at the time though and eventually were gone also.  I am pretty sure the candy is tied to the Martha Washington Candy stores and got their start there.  The more I research food history, the more I realize a lot of it is very sketchy and incomplete.  It's an area that needs expanding! 
So here is what you need for this delicious Martha Washington Candy:
1 (14 oz.) bag of sweetened flaked coconut
1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
1  (1 lb.) box of powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans (optional, could add chopped cherries)
1  (12 oz.) bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
4 oz. paraffin (for candy making)
Mix the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar and vanilla until well combined. Fold in the pecans and mix.  The mixture will seem too loose, but don't add more sugar.  As it chills it will tighten up. These are best when you don't add too much sugar to the mixture.
 Place in the refrigerator to chill.    Shape into balls about the size of a large marble.  Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.   Chill in the refrigerator overnight.   It's really better to freeze them before dipping for easier handling. 
Melt the chocolate with the paraffin in a double boiler and stir until smooth.  Keep the chocolate warm over the water while you are dipping the balls.   If you don't want to use the paraffin, you can use the chocolate bark for candy making instead of the chocolate chips.  The paraffin does give the candy a nice shine and makes the chocolate easier to work with.   It's found in the canning or candy making section of your store.   After you dip each piece, place them back on a parchment lined cookie sheet to cool and harden.  You need to move fast dipping these so that they don't warm up become impossible to handle.  If you have a helper for the dipping, that is great also!   If they get too warm, put them back in the freezer to chill again.
When they have completely hardened, store in an airtight container or tin in the refrigerator.
These make a wonderful addition to your holiday candy trays or place them in a decorative tin for a little gift for someone special!  


For me, Buckeyes are one of the best homemade candies.  I am probably partial to them, because I love anything peanut butter and chocolate!   The obvious reason they are called "Buckeyes" is because they resemble the nut or buckeye from the Buckeye Tree.   The state of Ohio is known for their abundance of Buckeyes...trees and candies! 
These are very easy to make.  The only challenging part might be dipping them, but it's not really all that difficult if you follow our directions.   Here is what you will need:
1 cup butter (softened)
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1  1/2 lbs. powdered sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (4 oz.) paraffin for candy making
Mix together the butter, peanut butter and powdered sugar.   Roll into balls about the size of a buckeye.   Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Most recipes say to place them in the refrigerator overnight to chill.   We actually froze them overnight, which made them much easier to dip. 
The next day, melt the chocolate and paraffin in the top of a double boiler.  Keep the chocolate mixture over the warm water to keep it warm and thinner.   You might need to stir it every now and then.  You will need to move fairly quick and get them all dipped before they thaw.  If they start to warm up, they are harder to dip.
 Put a toothpick in each buckeye and dip in the chocolate about 3/4 of the way up, leaving the top uncovered to get the 'buckeye' look.    After you dip each one place it back on parchment or wax paper so the chocolate hardens.   Keep refrigerated  in an airtight container when not serving! 

 These are a wonderful addition to a candy tray or for gifts!

Ten Perfect Salads for the Holidays!


In our family, the sides and the salads are every bit as important as the main course offerings at holiday meals.  After all, there are more of them to choose from!  Therefore, a lot of thought and planning should go into the sides and salads.  Here is a collection of some of the most popular salads we like to prepare for our holidays and I get requests for from readers!  Now, some of these 'salads' are more dessert than salad, but in the South that never has stopped us from calling them a salad and that's not likely to change anytime!   To go to the post for each, click on the title of the recipe below each picture!

Aunt Tootsie's Mississippi Fruit Cake!

You know that fruit cake that comes in the box and everyone hates it, because it's like a brick and tastes really weird?  Well, this is definitely NOT that fruit cake.  This is my Aunt Tootsie's recipe for fruit cake that she has made for years for friends and relatives.  Now, I will be honest, I am not the biggest fan of most fruit cakes, but this fruit cake is truly delicious.  It doesn't taste at all like the ones people hate!  It's like there are two very different fruit cake is gross and one is wonderful.  I just don't see how they got to be so different! 
Aunt Tootsie, and yes that is her name, or the name she has been called all of her life, is not my mother's sister this time, but my father's sister.  I know you all think I make these names up in my family, but  I don't.  I mean who could,   Aunt Tootsie lives in the deep South, about as far south as one can go.  She has lived in southern Mississippi most of her life, having moved there from Kentucky right after she married.  I always loved visiting down there and I found the people to be a lot like those in Kentucky.  The food is also very similar, with just a few obvious differences.  They eat a lot of rice and grits in Mississippi and we eat a lot of potatoes. 
 The first time my aunt served us a nice roast beef with gravy and a big ole bowl of white rice, I was a bit confused.  They started taking that rice out and spooning that roast beef gravy over it and I looked at Mama like "what in the world are they doing"?  Mama gave me that look that said..."Don't you say a word"!   My aunt picked up on it though, because she explained that down there they serve rice with beef and gravy instead of mashed potatoes.  She said she didn't get it either when she first moved down there, but just try it and see if you like it.  We did like it and Mama started serving it that way sometimes at home.   Red beans and rice was another dish we learned to eat at Aunt Tootsie's, well, some of us did! 
Aunt Tootsie is quite a story teller and can really make a story interesting.  It's a trait that runs in Daddy's family.  I don't know that Aunt Tootsie 'embellishes' a story quite as much as Daddy does or can, but she likes to tell a good story...about most everything.    She is the type of relative you can be away from for years and not see, but when you see her again, it's like you were never apart.  She is always the same.  She's Aunt Tootsie and there will never be another quite like her! 
Here is what you will need to make her famous fruit cake:
1 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
1  1/2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup orange juice
1 additional cup flour
1 cup candied pineapple
1 cup red candied cherries
1 cup green candied cherries
1 cup raisins (we used the golden raisins)
1 cup chopped dates or figs
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup whole pecans
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the oil, brown sugar, and eggs.  Beat for about 2 minutes.   In another bowl, sift together the 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. 
Mix the orange juice and 1 additional cup of flour together in a separate bowl.   Stir the flour and the orange juice/flour mixture alternately into the oil and egg mixture until it is all combined. 
Place all of the fruits and nuts in a large mixing bowl and pour the batter over it all.  Mix to combine well.  
Prepare two 9"x5" loaf pans by lining them with parchment or wax paper.  Line the bottom and up the sides.  Spray the paper well with nonstick baking spray, preferably the type with flour like Baker's Joy.  You can also grease the paper.   Don't skip the paper step, because this cake will stick with all of this fruit in it and it's also very moist!   Pour the batter evenly between the two pans. 
Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. Don't skip this step, because it keeps the cakes from cracking on top.  Bake cakes for 2  1/2 to 3 hours.  All ovens bake differently, but ours took only 2  1/2 hours.  Insert a pick into the center and it should come out clean. 
Remove from the oven and allow to cook for about 15 minutes before turning out. 
Allow to cool completely before removing the paper from the cakes.  You can wrap these tight in foil until ready to serve.  They can be baked several days ahead of the holidays and wrapped and refrigerate also.   The actually get moister. 
Or slice and serve immediately!

White Chocolate Fudge...It's Easy Peasy!

This delicious "White Chocolate Fudge" is one of my easy peasy recipes that anyone can make with success.  When it comes to homemade candy that's a good thing, because it's not all fool proof.  Here is what you will need for this fudge:
1  (12 oz.) bag of white chocolate chips
1 (8 oz.) block of cream cheese, softened to room temperature (do not use light or fat free)
3  1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Melt the white chips in the microwave or in a double boiler on the stove.   Mix with the room temperature cream cheese until smooth.  Gradually stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla until combined.  Fold in the nuts.  You can leave the nuts out for those who might have allergies or don't care for them.  The mixture will be thick.
Pour into an 8"x8" baking dish or pan that has been lined with buttered parchment paper, wax paper or nonstick foil.   Place in the refrigerator and chill for 2-3 hours.   Turn it out on a cutting board, remove paper or foil and cut in small squares. 
This is rich, so smaller pieces are good.

This white fudge is a really pretty contrast to the chocolate candies on a candy or dessert tray!

White Chocolate Cranberry Bars!

 These "White Chocolate Cranberry Bars" are a yummy, chewy cookie bar that is almost like candy!  They are especially festive for the holidays with the dried cranberries, but are good anytime!  These little bars are great for dessert trays or for cookie and candy trays for gift giving!  They are so easy, you can't get them wrong!   Here is what you will need:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
1  (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1  (12 oz.) bag white chocolate chips
1  1/2 cups dried cranberries (Craisins)
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the melted butter with the graham cracker crumbs and pat into the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish.  
In a separate bowl mix the condensed milk, dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, coconut and chopped pecans.   Drop by spoonful evenly over the graham cracker layer and then spread gently.

Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool and cut in squares.

Slow Cooker Chocolate Pecan Clusters!

 It doesn't get much easier than this, to make homemade candy.  You layer the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for about 2 hours, scoop onto wax paper  and allow to set up.  That's it!  When I use the term 'slow cooker' I use it instead of the term 'crock pot'.  Crock Pot is a name that is owned by the Rival company and copyrighted so actually we are not supposed to name recipes Crock Pot this or that, because it is not owned by us.  I have had some questions about the term 'slow cooker' and if it's the same thing as 'crock pot' and for my use of it on this site, it is.
Here is what you will need for this yummy candy:
2 lb. pecan pieces (can substitute 2 lb. peanuts for peanut clusters)
1  (4 oz.) bar of Baker's German Chocolate
1 (12 oz.) bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
24 oz. pkg. vanilla candy bark
1 stick of butter (do not use margarine)
Layer all of the ingredients in a large slow cooker in the order given.   Do not stir.
For those not familiar with Baker's German Chocolate, it looks like this and is found in the baking section at your grocery with things like chocolate chips and such
Turn on low and allow to cook for 2 hours.  After 1 hour, stir once.  If it seems like it's just melting, cover and continue on low for 1 more hour.   If it seems like it's cooking on too high heat and might burn, stir every 15 minutes and turn it off once all the ingredients are melted.   All slow cookers are not created equal and some of the newer ones, even on the lowest setting, cook a lot hotter than some of the older models.  Therefore, don't just put all of this in the slow cooker and leave it for 2 hours, unattended, the first time.  Check on it about half way through to see how it's progressing.  
After all of the ingredients are melted, stir it up until they are all blended.   With a small ice cream scoop or cookie scoop, scoop onto wax paper or nonstick foil.  It will seem a little runny, but as it sits it will firm up. 
Once they have dried and set up, they will look pretty and shiny!


Country Fried Steak with Gravy!

This is  a recipe I get asked a lot about, but for some reason I am just now getting around to posting it.  It might be because we actually don't eat this all that often.  It is good and it is comfort food, but contrary to popular belief, we don't eat that much 'fried food' in southern cooking or I should say we don't in our family.  It's sort of a special treat kind of meal, because obviously, if you ate this too often it could be a little much.  However, when you get a craving for it, it can't be beat! 
Country fried steak is also known in some areas as chicken fried steak.  It's just a matter of what region you are from.  Here is what you will need for this:
2 lbs. top round steak or sirloin (if using round steak, have it tenderized by the butcher)
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup oil
1/3  cup flour
4 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Cut the steak in about 7 to 8 serving pieces.  Place in a shallow dish and pour the buttermilk over the meat to cover it all. Let is just hang out in the buttermilk while you get everything else together. 
In another shallow dish, mix the flour with the salt, seasoned salt, and black pepper. 
Heat about 1/2 cup of the oil in a heavy skillet over medium/high heat.   Remove the steak one piece at a time and dredge in the seasoned flour.  Place in the hot oil.  Make sure the oil is hot enough or the breading will not stay on your meat.   Cook for about 6 to 7 minutes on each side or until nice and brown.  Do not turn the meat too much.  This also causes the breading to come off.  Depending how big your skillet is, you can probably cook about 4 pieces at a time. You will probably need to add a little oil after you fry the first four.  Don't over crowd your pan though.  
Place the steak on a paper towel lined plate after each piece is done.
When you have fried all of the steak, prepare your gravy.  With a wooden spoon or spatula loosen all of the bits that have stuck to the pan, if any.  Leave them in the pan though, these are what make the gravy so good.  There should be about 1/4 cup oil in the pan.  If not, add a little more.  If too much, pour some off.  
Add the 1/3 cup flour left over from dredging the meat and whisk until it bubbles over medium heat.  If you like a white gravy, add the milk as soon as the flour starts bubbling.  If you like a browner gravy, cook the flour until it starts to brown a little.  You need to whisk it all of the time it's cooking or it will burn.  Slowly add the milk, whisking well.  Bring it up to just a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 5 to 10 more minutes or until it thickens.  Add salt and pepper.  Taste for seasoning before serving. 
 Pour over the steak and serve!

Chocolate Peanut Chews!

If you are like me and you love the flavors of chocolate and peanut butter and love them even more when combined, these little bars are going to be right up your alley.   These are so easy to make and most of the time we have the ingredients on hand that you need for these.   This is  also a good beginner recipe to have the children help with since the prep is fairly basic.  Children always enjoy food they help cook so much more than food they are just served and the memories they make in the kitchen will always be with them every time they smell certain foods or see certain recipes.  Let's make some memories this holiday season in the kitchen! 
Here is what you will need for these yummy bars:
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1  1/2 cups all purpose flour
1  1/2 cups quick cook oats (not instant)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
6 Tbs. milk
1 cup chopped peanuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy.   Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add vanilla.
In another bowl combine the flour, oats, soda and salt.  Add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
Pour into a well greased 15"x10"x1" pan or what is considered a jelly roll pan.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Do not over bake. 
When you remove from oven, immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.  Let them sit a few minutes to soften and then spread the evenly over the top.   You can speed the melting by sliding the pan back in the oven that has been turn off for about a minute or two...not long though.
Next, prepare the glaze by beating the peanut butter with the 2 cups confectioners sugar until smooth, add the milk 1 Tbs. at a time just until the glaze is spreading consistency. 
Drop the glaze by spoonful over the top of the bars and then carefully spread it to cover without it mixing too much with the chocolate chip layer.   Sprinkle the chopped peanuts evenly over the top. 
Allow to cool and cut in 1"x2" bars.   Store in an airtight container. 

Taco Crescent Pie!

Sometimes, you just need a recipe that is quick and easy and that the whole family will love!  I find that I need this sort of recipe more than ever during the holiday season, when my time is spent on so many extra things, like shopping, baking, candy making, decorating and so much more!  It makes me a little tired to even think about it all, even though it's my favorite time of the year!

 This "Taco Crescent Pie" is one of those recipes that uses a few convenience items to make something a little more special than just tacos, which I love also, for supper.  This is also very filling.   You can add a salad or some refried beans and rice and dinner is served!    I also like to serve this with taco toppings so each person can top their own as they wish or for those like my husband, who doesn't like all of that 'stuff', leave it plain!    Here is what you will need for this:
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
1  lb. ground chuck (or ground beef)
1/4 cup onion, diced fine
1/2 cup taco sauce or salsa
1 envelope of taco seasoning mix
dash of hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup water
2 cups crushed tortilla chips, divided
2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese blend, divided
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spray a deep dish pie plate lightly with nonstick spray.  Unroll the crescent rolls and arrange them in the pie plate with the pointy end to the inside, forming a crust.   Press the seams together as you go and press them up the sides of the pie plate. 
In a skillet brown the ground chuck along with the diced onion until the beef is done.  Drain any excess grease.   Add the taco seasoning mix, salsa or taco sauce, and water. Add a dash of hot sauce if you like spicy.  Bring up to a bubble, then turn heat down to low to just simmer for about 5 minutes!
Sprinkle 1 cup of the crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of  the pie plate over the crescent rolls.
Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.
Pour the taco seasoned beef over the cheese and spread the 1 cup sour cream over this. 
Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese and the other cup of crushed tortilla chips!  Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly!  Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before slicing. 
Serve plain or...
with the taco toppings of your choice!

Wild Rice Salad!

This "Wild Rice Salad" is a really good change of pace from the usual salad offerings, especially during the holidays, but it's actually good anytime of the year.   It's perfect for those who want a healthier alternative or something just a bit lighter.   I love how colorful it is  and it goes great with most main courses  .Add some chopped chicken or turkey to it and serve it as a main course for lunch or a light supper.   This is what you will need for this version:
2 (6.2 oz.) boxes of fast cooking long grain and wild rice with the seasoning packet (I used Uncle Ben's)
1/2 cup celery, sliced thin
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin including the green tops
1 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted (could use pecans)
1/2 cup carrot, cut in matchsticks or grated
2 apples, unpeeled and diced
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider or white balsamic vinegar
4 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tbs. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. curry powder (optional)
Prepare the wild rice mixes according to the package directions, using the seasoning packets.  Set aside to cool.
After the rice has cooled at room temperature a bit,  mix with the celery, onions, dried cranberries, walnuts and carrot.   Toss the diced apple pieces with the lemon juice.  This keeps them from turning dark and the salad will last longer.   Mix the apple in with the rest of the ingredients. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, salt, celery salt, garlic powder, black pepper and the curry powder if you are using it.  The curry powder is optional, because I find that curry is something you either really like or you hate.  There is just not a middle ground.  I will say that if you adding chicken to this, the curry makes it so good, but I happen to love the taste of curry!  
Pour the dressing over the rice mixture and toss.   Pour into a pretty salad bowl and serve at room temperature.   Any leftovers are good after refrigeration also!
This is such a festive looking salad!

Banana Nut Cake!

This "Banana Nut Cake" is a really good cake that is easy to make.  It's great for a coffee cake or breakfast cake.  If you like the ever famous Honey Bun Cake or banana bread or banana nut muffins, this cake is for you!   Here is what you will need for this cake:
1/2 cup  butter (1 stick)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2  1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 cups powdered sugar
6 Tbs. half and half (you can use milk)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.    Gradually add to creamed mixture.
Mix in buttermilk, bananas and vanilla.   Fold in 1 cup chopped pecans.  
Pour into a Bundt pan that has been liberally sprayed with nonstick spray for baking.  The spray with flour in it, like Baker's Joy, works best for this or you can grease and flour the pan.    Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan, before turning out onto a cake plate. 
Combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the cake.  This will run down the sides and onto the plate some, so use a cake plate that is big enough to allow room for this.   Sprinkle the top with 1 cup chopped pecans. 
Slice and Serve!

Pineapple Pie!

In the South, we use a lot of pineapple and coconut in our holiday cooking... sometimes together and sometimes on their own. I am sure this originated, like so much does in the food traditions of a region, with the availability of these wonderful food items.  This is just a simple pineapple pie and it's delicious.  If you are a pineapple lover, this pie is for you! 
Now, supposedly, this is Johnny Cash's mother's pineapple pie recipe.  Pineapple pie was said to be Johnny Cash's favorite.  I don't really know if this is her recipe for sure, but it came from someone who might know, so I will go with it!   Here is what you will need:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
1 cup crushed pineapple (drained slightly, but not dry)
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 Deep Dish pie shell, unbaked
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, beat all ingredients until well blended.   Place the unbaked pie shell on a cookie sheet.   Carefully pour the ingredients into the pie shell.  Place on the center rack in the oven.  Bake for 45-50 minutes. 
 The top should just be starting to brown.  Remove and cool slightly before serving! 
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or without!  It's delicious either way!