Cabbage Patch Soup!

 


  This is a soup that used to be served by a certain chain restaurant we had or have in the southeast and I always loved it.   We don't have that restaurant anymore in our town.  They tore it down to build yet another drug store.  I understand the need for drugstores, but we have one on every busy corner in town it seems.   How many drugstores do you need in one city?   Anyway, this was a good recipe to take the place of that soup, because I missed it all these years.  This is also a healthy soup and fairly quick to make!  Here is what you will need for this:


1 lb. ground beef (I prefer ground chuck)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 cup celery, sliced
2 tsps. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. chili powder
1 Tbs. sugar
2 (15 oz.) cans kidney beans, drained
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
4 cups tomato juice or V-8 juice
4 cups cabbage, shredded

Saute beef, onion, bell pepper, and celery in a soup pot or Dutch oven until beef is browned and vegetables are soft, stirring so the meat doesn't stick.  Drain any excess grease and return to pot. 

Add all of the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Stir well and turn the heat down to simmer.  Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. 

 This soup is really good served with Aunt Vel's Sour Cream Cornbread or Cornbread Hoe Cakes!




Potato Chowder!

 
 
This "Potato Chowder" is one that my mother has made for years!  It's very different from the Cheesy Potato Soup I make, but it is equally as good and probably healthier also!  This is also a homemade soup you can have on the table in less than an hour!  This makes a fairly large pot of soup, but it's actually good leftover also!  Here is what you will need for this "Potato Chowder":
 
4 cups potatoes, diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1/2 cup sweet onion, finely diced
1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
3 cups water
4 Tbs. butter
1 (10  3/4 oz.) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups half and half cream
1/4 cup instant potato flakes
1 lb. Velveeta Cheese, cubed  (can use American cheese or even cheddar)
salt and pepper to taste
 
Place potatoes, celery, onion, carrots and water in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.  Mama actually puts the celery, carrots and onion in the food processor and pulses them just a couple of times to get them minced.  If you have picky eaters this is a good idea.  If you like your veggies a little bigger, just dice them.    Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook on medium low until the potatoes are fork tender. 
 
Add the butter, soup, half and half, potato flakes and cheese.  The Velveeta is smoother and creamier for melting, but you can use American or cheddar if you are one of those people who does not understand the use of Velveeta cheese.  There are just times when Velveeta works best!   
 
Simmer on low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese has melted and everything is well blended and smooth.   Taste for seasoning at the end.  You might not even need salt, because of the soup and cheese.  I do like to add some black pepper.
 
Garnish with a some green onion or chives and some additional grated cheese!  
 
 

 
 
 



Pecan Streusel Banana Pudding!

 
 
This "Pecan Streusel Banana Pudding" is another one of my Aunt Ann's recipes, so you know it's gonna be good!   As I have said before, anything with 'streusel' in the name or description just makes me want to eat it.  This is just a little different spin on banana pudding and it is to die for!  The beauty of this banana pudding is that there is very little actual cooking involved, so it's easy peasy, but your guests or family will think you fussed! 
 
 Here is what you will need:
 
46 vanilla wafers, divided
3 Tbs. butter, melted
1 cup pecans, chopped
 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 pkgs.  (3.4 oz.)  instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups cold milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (8 oz.) frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
4-5 bananas, sliced
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Crush 36 of the vanilla wafers and mix them with the butter, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Spread the mixture on a large cookie sheet or pizza pan that has been sprayed with nonstick baking spray.   Place in oven and bake for about 5 minutes.  Stir the mixture, place back in oven and bake for 5 more minutes or just until brown.  Remove and allow to cool.

Beat pudding mixes and milk with whisk 2 min. (Pudding will be thick.) Stir in vanilla and 1 cup whipped topping. Layer 1⁄2 of the crumb mixture and half each of the bananas and pudding in 2-qt. (preferably glass) serving bowl or trifle bowl; repeat layers.

Beat cream cheese and granulated sugar in medium bowl with mixer until blended. Gently stir in 1 cup of remaining whipped topping; spread over top, sealing to edge of bowl.  Decorate the top with the remaining vanilla wafers.   Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. 






Carrot Cake!

 

This is my carrot cake recipe that I have made for years, ever since I first got married actually.   It seems that usually when I post cake recipes, they are always someone elses...my mother's, my aunt's, but this one is actually my own.  Now, I am sure when I first made it I found it in a cookbook someplace, but I have adapted it to suit my own tastes.  This was one of the first cakes I remember making that got compliments and people would ask me for the recipe.  I have always considered myself more of a cook than a baker, so years ago I was excited to find a cake I seemed to do well.    
 
There are multitudes of carrot cake recipes and every one seems to use different ingredients.  Some have pineapple, some raisins, some even coconut, but I really like a carrot cake that is fairly straight forward and has mainly carrots in it.   That is this recipe.   I also don't like too many spices in my carrot cake, just a lot of cinnamon and a touch of vanilla.  Here is what you will need for my carrot cake:
 
1  1/2 cups oil
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1  1/2 tsp. baking soda
1  tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
4 large eggs
3 cups raw, finely grated carrots
1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
 
Frosting:
 
1 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese (softened)
2 Tbs. butter
1  (1 lb.) box of confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped (2 cups if you press them around the outside layers of the cake like I did)
 
Preheat over to 350 degrees.
 
Beat oil and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Sift together all of the dry ingredients.  Stir half of the dry ingredients into the oil and sugar mixture.  
 
Add the other half of the dry ingredient alternating with the eggs, mixed in one at a time.  Mix well after each addition.  Add the vanilla, carrots and 1/2 cup nuts and mix well.
 
Pour into 3  9" cake pans lined with parchment or wax paper and sprayed well with nonstick baking spray.   You can also bake this in 2  9" baking pans or in a 9"x13" pan.  You will need to increase the baking times. 
 
If using three 9" pans, bake for 25-27 minutes.   Remove from oven and allow to cool. 
 
Prepare cream cheese frosting while cakes cool.  Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until fluffy.   Add in the confectioners sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Mix in the chopped nuts, unless you are pressing them around the sides of the cake.  This takes more nuts, so you will need about 2 cups. 
 
Turn the cakes out onto a cake plate and frost as you desire. 
 
 






Aunt Ann's Salisbury Steak and Gravy!

 
 
 
My Aunt Ann hosted my mother's birthday lunch this month.  For those who have not been with us long, my mother has five sisters and "The Sisters" as we affectionately call them,  have a lunch or dinner to celebrate each of their birthdays throughout the year at each other's homes.  They are all wonderful southern cooks, so the food is always delicious and plentiful!    This "Salisbury Steak" was one of the main dishes served this time and the recipe is a little different, but it was so good.  I will be using this one for sure.  Everyone loved it.   Aunt Ann is an excellent cook and not only is her food good, it's always presented just perfectly!
 
This recipe makes enough for a crowd, so if your family is smaller, you can cut the recipe in half, freeze half of it or have some really good leftovers for the week!    This is what you will need:
 
3 lbs. ground chuck
2 eggs
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2  (10.5 oz.) cans condensed French Onion soup divided
2 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared yellow mustard
2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
 
In a bowl beat the eggs, stir in 2/3 cup of the soup, bread crumbs, salt and  pepper.   Add the beef and mix gently.   Shape into 12 oval shaped patties.
 
Brown in a skillet over medium heat for about 3- 4 minutes per side.  Remove from skillet and set aside.  Discard the drippings.
 
Combine the flour and water in the skillet until smooth.  Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, the rest of the soup, and the mushrooms.  Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes. 
 
 
Add the patties back to the pan.  Cover and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes or just until the meat is cooked through and not pink and the gravy is good and thick.
 
Serve with mashed potatoes, egg noodles or rice!  
    


Lawn Mower Salad!

 
 
One of our Sweet Tea and Cornbread friends wrote and asked if I had the recipe for the "Lawn Mower Salad".  I had not really heard of the this salad, but now that she asked, I was intrigued.  I found a few recipes, but not many.  I ended up combining a couple of them and then adding some of my own ingredients.  I took this to my one of 'The Sister's' birthday luncheons and got the two thumbs up from everyone, so it was a success.  
 
 For those who don't have a clue what I am referring to,  my mother has five sisters and they have a lunch in honor of each of their birthdays.  This one was for my mother's September birthday.  They are all wonderful southern cooks, so the food is unbelievably good and very plentiful at these gatherings.  I will be featuring a few new recipes we had that day later this week, so be watching!  
 
This is what you will need for this salad:
 
1 (12 oz.) bag broccoli slaw mix
1 bunch of green onions, sliced including some of the green blades
1 cup salted cashew pieces
1 cup Craisins dried cranberries (can use raisins)
1/2 cup oil (whatever you prefer, vegetable, canola or extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice wine or cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 pkgs. chicken flavored Ramen noodles, crushed with seasoning packets reserved
 
 
In a salad bowl toss together the broccoli slaw mix, green onions, cashews and Craisins.  
 
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, vinegar, water, soy sauce, and Ramen seasoning packets.  Whisk until the sugar and seasoning mix is dissolved.
 
Pour this mixture over the salad and toss.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  You can prepare this several hours ahead of time.  The salad just gets tastier.
 
Right before serving,  sprinkle in the crushed Ramen noodles and toss all of the ingredients so that they all have some of the dressing on them.   If you do not want the noodles crunchy and like them softer, add them before refrigerating.   I like them with a little crunch.
 

 



Orange Streusel Coffee Cake!

 
 
There is just something about the word "streusel" in anything that makes me want to eat it!  I expect anything with the word 'streusel' in it to have a yummy ribbon of brown sugar goodness running through it and this cake doesn't disappoint.  This makes a wonderful breakfast cake or coffee cake!  This is what you will need for this yummy cake:
 
Streusel
 
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 Tbs. butter, melted
1 Tbs. orange zest
 
Cake
 
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tbs. orange zest
1 tsp. almond flavoring
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup orange juice
 
Glaze
 
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 -2 Tbs. orange juice
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
Spray a Bundt pan or a tube pan with nonstick spray for baking.
 
Place the brown sugar, nuts, and flour in a bowl and mix.  Stir in the butter and orange zest.  You can pulse this in the food processor to chop the nuts a little finer if so desired.
 
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy.    Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.   Beat in the zest and almond flavoring.
 
In another bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
 
 
Add the flour mixture and the orange juice alternately mixing after each addition just until well combined. 
 
Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the streusel.  Pour the other half of the cake batter over streusel layer and top with the rest of the streusel.
 
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.   A pick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Remove and allow to cool in the pan.  
 
While the cake cools, prepare the glaze by mixing the confectioner's sugar with just enough orange juice to make a glaze you can drizzle over the cake. 
 
Turn the cake out onto a cake plate and drizzle with glaze.  This is great with a good cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk! 


Peachy Barbequed Pork Chops!

 
 
 
These pork chops are cooked in a peachy sauce that is sort of a cross between a barbeque sauce and a teriyaki sauce.  The use of peaches really goes well with the flavors in the barbeque sauce.   I like to use fresh peaches in this because they cook down and right into the sauce better, but you could use canned or frozen peaches in a pinch.   Here is what you will need for these:
 
6-7 thick center cut pork chops (at least 1/2 inch thick and boneless or bone-in work for this)
seasoned salt
black pepper
garlic powder
3 Tbs. oil
3 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
3-4 fresh peaches, pitted, peeled and diced
1 cup peach jam or preserves
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup water
 
Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Sprinkle the chops with the seasoned salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Brown well on both sides.   If you have an ovenproof skillet with a lid, it works well for this because they will be moved to the oven to bake.  Remove the pork chops to a plate after browning.  Melt the butter in the skillet and then add the minced garlic and diced peaches.  Saute until soft.  Stir in the all of the other ingredients and bring up just to a bubble. 
 
Add the pork chops back into the pan and spoon the peaches and sauce up over the top  of the chops.  Place the lid on the pan or place the chops in a baking dish you have sprayed with nonstick spray, cover with foil and place in a 350 degree oven.
 
Remove from oven after 45 minutes and check to see if they need a bit more water.  They might not need any, just depends on how tightly you have them sealed with the lid.  Baste the sauce back over each pork chop, cover and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until tender.  The thicker your chops, the longer you will need to bake them.  If they aren't as thick as these, you might not need any more baking time.  
 
Theses pork chops are so tender and full of flavor!
 
 
 

Harvest Salad!

 
 
This "Harvest Salad" is a little different than a typical mixed salad, because it does have a base of salad greens but the rest of it is fruit and nuts.  The combination is just delicious and it's also very healthy!   The homemade dressing is also really good on this and easy to whip up.  This salad is very flexible so feel free use the fruits your family likes best or you have available in your area.  Here is what you will need for this yummy salad:
 
5-6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped (baby spinach also works well in this)
2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded (could use cheddar )
1 pear, cored and diced
1 apple, cored and diced
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 cup Craisins dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
5-6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
 
Dressing
1/3 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup honey (can use sugar substitute)
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
 
In a large salad bowl layer the romaine lettuce and cheese.  Toss the diced pear and apple with the 1 Tbs. of lemon juice and then layer it on top of the cheese.  Next layer Craisins, walnuts, blueberries, strawberries and bacon. 
 
In a blender blend the lemon juice, honey, oil and Dijon mustard until emulsified.  Add the chopped onion, poppy seeds, salt, garlic powder and pepper.  Blend again until smooth.    This dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
 
I like to serve the dressing on the side and let everyone dress their own to their liking, but you can dress the entire salad at the table right before serving also! 
 
This is such a pretty salad and it's special enough for your holiday meals or add more bacon and some grilled chicken and make a main dish out of it! 



Orange Dreamsicle Cake!

 
 
 
This "Orange Dreamsicle Cake" tastes just like one of the creamy orange Dreamsicle Popsicles many of us grew up eating.  It's got that same light orange flavor and the frosting is creamy like the inside of a Dreamsicle.   This is an easy cake to make also.  I think it's perfect for Fall and the Autumn events, like Halloween with it's pretty orange color.  My husband loves anything orange or orange flavored so he really loves this cake.    Here is what you will need for this yummy cake:
 
1 (18 1/4 ounce) box orange cake mix ( can substitute a white cake mix)
3 eggs
1 cup Sprite or any lemon lime flavored soda (can use water)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 (3 ounce) box orange Jell-O gelatin                              
1 cup boiling water  
 
Frosting
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened                                         
1 (3 1/2 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding                      
1 cup milk                      
teaspoons vanilla, divided                                                   
teaspoon orange extract, divided                                          
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
 
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
In a mixing bowl, mix the cake mix, eggs, oil and Sprite.  We always use soda in place of water in cake mixes.  It just really does something for them.  Mix in the vanilla and orange extract.  Pour into a 9"x13" baking pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.   Bake the amount of time suggested on the cake mix.
 
Mix the orange gelatin with the 1 cup boiling water and stir to dissolve. 
 
When the cake is done, remove from the oven and poke holes all over the top, either with a fork or you can use a wooden skewer.   Pour the gelatin over the top of the cake so that it seeps down into the holes.   Let is cool completely before frosting. 
 
To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Beat in the instant pudding, 1 cup milk and the vanilla and orange extract until smooth.  Fold in the whipped topping. 

Spread over the cooled cake and refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving! 








 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



Teriyaki Steak!

 
 
 
 
This grilled "Teriyaki Steak" is a great way to cook flat iron steaks and make them juicy and tender.  Flat iron steak has become quite popular in the past few years due to some restaurants marketing it as some new cut of beef in order to turn a greater profit.  Flat iron steaks are a slightly tougher cut of  'steak' and a lot of folks are just  lost when it comes to knowing what to do with it.  
 
The great thing is that they are less expensive than typical cuts of beef called 'steak' and if you know how to cook it, it's quite tender and tasty.   There is also not much waste at all.    The key to cooking flat iron steaks is in the marinade and slicing them thin across the grain.  The acids and enzymes in the lemon and pineapple juices are natural meat tenderizers while also adding wonderful flavor.  
 
Here is what you need for this Teriyaki Steak:
 
 
2 - 2lb. Flat Iron Steaks   
1 cup pineapple juice
1 lemon,  juiced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp ground ginger or 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
1/2 seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
dash of Tabasco Sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 Tbs. butter
 

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together except the butter and brown sugar.   Place the steaks in a glass dish with a top that seals or in a gallon size Ziploc bag.   Pour 1/2 of the marinade over the steaks and lay them flat. Reserve the other half of the marinade.  Even if I use the Ziploc bag, I lay it on a platter or in a baking dish in case of leaks.  Marinade the steaks for at least 1 hour, 2 hours is better.  Turn the bag over once during this time.  
 
Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a saucepan.  Pour the other half of the marinade in and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low.  You will be using this to baste the steak with while cooking.
 
Remove from marinade and grill over medium heat until done to the degree you prefer. I like to grill these on an outdoor grill, but you could grill in a grill pan also.   Baste the steak all through the grilling with the warmed marinade you reserved and prepared in the saucepan.
 
Place the steak on a platter and cover with foil for about 10 - 15 minutes to allow the meat to rest.  If you slice it while it's hot, right off the grill, you will lose all of the good juices and the meat will be dry.
 
Slice think across the grain of the meat and serve!



Honey Pecan Fruit Salad!


This fruit salad is a really fresh tasting fruit salad that uses all fresh fruit and just a light dressing with honey for a bit of a sweetness.  It's a great salad for those who are trying to reduce processed sugars and you can feel good about giving this to the children as a healthy snack or with their dinner or lunch.  My husband is our big fruit eater in the house and he just absolutely loves this salad.  Here is what you will need:

1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup mayonnaise (can use light)
1 cup seedless grapes, halved
3 oranges, peeled, seeded and cut in bite size pieces (can use a 11 oz. can of Mandarin oranges, drained if you do not have fresh oranges)
4 apples, cored, unpeeled and diced (I used 2 red and 2 green for color)
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup pecans, chopped

Mix the honey and mayonnaise together in a bowl until smooth.  Set aside.  Place the grapes, orange pieces, apples and bananas in a bowl.
Sprinkle the lemon juice over the fruit.  This keeps the apples and bananas from turning dark. 
Sprinkle half of the pecans in and pour the dressing over all.  Toss gently, careful not to mash the fruit.  Once tossed, sprinkle the other half of the pecans on top. 
 
Serve immediately or chill for an hour before serving!

Caramel Apple Crisp!


I love caramel apples in the Fall, you know the kind that you make yourself by melting caramel and dipping them and then rolling in nuts or whatever you choose.  I also love a good apple crisp.  This recipe puts those two great Fall flavors together.   It's an easy dessert to put together, but you will get a lot of compliments because the aroma is just delightful and let's face it, anything with caramel involved has to be good.   Here is what you will need for this. 

6 to 7 baking apples, cored, peeled and sliced (I used Granny Smith)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon, divided
1 cup caramel ice cream topping, warmed and divided
1/2 cup butter, cut in pieces (1 stick)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup quick cooking oats (not instant)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the apple slices in a 2 quart casserole or baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.  Sprinkle the apples with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 cup white sugar.   Drizzle with 1/2 cup of caramel ice cream topping. 

In a separate bowl combine the brown sugar, flour, salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and vanilla.  Add the butter slices and cut them in with a pastry cutter or a knife until it is a crumbly texture.  Stir the oats in until well combined.   

Crumble over top of the apples.  Place in oven and bake for about 45-50 minutes or until nice and brown.  After out of the oven and right before serving, drizzle the other 1/2 cup of caramel topping over the top of the crisp. 
 
Serve with a scoop of ice cream and if you want to go all the way, drizzle a little more caramel on top! 
 
 
 

Fried Okra!

 
We use okra several ways in our cooking in the South, probably because the hotter the summer the better it grows.  We put it in soups and stews and gumbos to thicken them.   We cook it with tomatoes and onions and bacon and such. You can also pickle okra whole and it's tasty.  Some people actually just boil and season it and eat it just like that.  I am not one of those people. It can be a little slimy, unless you cook it certain ways.  I think okra needs a little something to make it really good.
 
  One of my favorite ways to eat okra is to batter it and fry it.  I do like to deep fry mine, because it cooks so much more quickly and evenly and it's not as greasy.   It's also not nearly as messy to do.   If you prefer pan frying, you can do that also, but just try the deep fry method and I think you will like the results.   Here is what you need for this fried okra:
 
 
1 lb. of fresh okra, washed and sliced across in about 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
2 cups self rising flour
2 cups corn meal
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning (optional)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
oil for deep frying
 
 Mix the hot sauce in with the buttermilk if you are using it.  This cooks out and really isn't all that spicy, but gives the okra a good flavor. Place the okra slices in a bowl and cover with the buttermilk, coating each piece. 
 
In a gallon size Ziploc bag, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning.  If you don't like a little zip to your okra, you can leave the Cajun seasoning out.  I think it adds some extra flavor to it.  If you don't use the Cajun seasoning, you might need to sprinkle the cooked okra with a big more salt as soon as you take it out of the oil.
 
Dip the okra out of the buttermilk with a slotted spoon into the flour/cornmeal mixture in the Ziploc bag.  Close the bag and shake until all of the pieces are well coated.   You will need to do two or three batches.  Don't put too many at one time in the bag. 
 
Heat the oil in a deep fryer to about 375 degrees.  I usually just use my Fry Daddy for this so it doesn't have a temperature control, but you can drop one piece and tell when the oil is ready.  It should bubble and roll when dropped.   Fry in batches and don't over crowd.  Roll the pieces over once or twice during cooking.  Don't move them around too much or you will knock your batter off.
 
When they are nice and brown, after about 4-5 minutes or so,  remove with slotted spoon to a paper towel lined bowl or dish to drain.  Serve immediately!


Fruit Pizza!

 
 
This "Fruit Pizza" is a fun dessert that is loved by all ages!  It's great for children's parties and teen activities or church events and such, but the older folks will love it also.   This is a great recipe to get the kids in the kitchen and let them work on with you, because you can't really mess it up!  
 
 I made one large fruit pizza this time, but you can let the kids make their own individual pizzas and add the fruit they like most.  They can get very creative making their own designs and faces.  Or you can turn this into a "Fruit Pizza" bar or station and provide the sugar cookies already baked, the cream cheese to ice each one and bowls of fruit for garnishing each pizza.  Those are just some ideas for variation, depending on your group or function! 
 
Here is what you need for this:
 
1 roll refrigerated sugar cookies
2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese (softened)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups fresh strawberries, halved
2 cups fresh blueberries
2-3 fresh kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cup apple jelly
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
Spray a 12 - 14 inch pizza pan with nonstick spray.
 
Slice the cookies or just crumble the dough and press it evenly on the pizza pan to form a crust.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or just until brown.  Remove and allow to cool completely.
 
With an electric mixer beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Spread over the cooled cookie crust. 
 
Arrange the fruit in whatever pattern you choose.  I just sort of place it in alternating circles. 
 
Heat the apple jelly in the microwave for about 30 seconds or just until warm and stir.  With a pastry brush, brush the jelly over the fruit.   It gives it a nice shine.   

Refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving.  

Mama's Mashed Potatoes!

 
 
My mother is known for a lot of her cooking and baking skills.   According to my son, his Nana's mashed potatoes are just better than anyone else's.  I wanted to say, "What are mine, chopped liver?"  However, I know he speaks the truth.  Without a doubt, Mama can mash a mean potato.  All of her grandchildren love mashed potatoes, so needless to say when we have family meals, mashed potatoes are usually on the menu.   All of these grandchildren are in their twenties now, but their Nana still cooks their special dishes. 
 
There is a secret to Mama's mashed potatoes and how light and fluffy and airy they are.  She is a sneaky little woman at times, because I didn't even know she put this secret ingredient in her mashed potatoes until recently.  My own mother held out on me!  Now you will know the secret.  A starchy type potato mashes best. Russets or Idaho or even a Yukon Gold that is higher in starch and lower in moisture work well. The waxy varieties do not break down and mash as well. 
 
Here is what you will need for these amazing mashed potatoes:
 
6 medium potatoes, cubed and boiled until tender
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper  (optional)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup half and half cream, warmed slightly
 
Drain the boiled potatoes until all water is removed.  I put mine back in the warm pot after I drain them in a colander and let them sit a minute to evaporate any water still on them.  The drier, the better.  Leaving too much water on the potatoes ruins a lot of mashed potatoes.
 
Add the salt, pepper (if using), baking powder, butter and half and half and beat with an electric mixer just until they are light and fluffy and lumps are gone.  Don't over beat them, because that is what turns your mashed potatoes to that gluey texture.
 
The baking powder is the secret ingredient.  It reacts with the warm potatoes and the cream and this is what gives them the extra lightness and fluffiness.  Also, the half and half cream is another key.  It has just the right amount of fat.  Heavy cream tends to have too much fat and whole milk, not enough, but half and half is just right   
 

Add a pat of butter and serve!



Sweet Potato Muffins!

                                                                       

I love anything made with sweet potatoes so for me these muffins were right up my alley.  My husband, on the other hand, turns his nose up at sweet potatoes or anything with sweet potatoes in them.  He won't even taste it.   Occasionally, he will eat something made with pumpkin though. He says he likes pumpkin bread now.   If you have picky eaters to cook for, you probably know where I am going with this.  Ok, so I told him eventually they were sweet potato and not pumpkin, after he ate two and talked about how good they were!  Sometimes, I have to do things like this to get people at my house to try new things.  Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn't. 

I got this muffin recipe from my Aunt Ann, who is a wonderful southern cook.  She is very good at developing recipes also.  Here is what you will need for these tasty muffins: 

2 cups cold mashed sweet potatoes (you can use canned or cook your own from fresh sweet potatoes)
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
1/2 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)
2 cups self rising flour*
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups sugar

*If you do not have self rising flour in your area, use the same amount of all purpose flour and add 2 tsp. baking powder and 1/4 tsp. salt.

Glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 Tbs. milk
1 Tbs. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the egg, sweet potatoes, butter and oil.  In another bowl mix the flour, sugar, and cinnamon.   Mix the two together lightly.  Do not over mix this.

Spray two 12 cup muffin tins well with nonstick spray.  Fill them each about 2/3 full.   Bake for 15-18 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.   Allow them to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.  

Stir together glaze ingredients.  Drizzle over muffins.

 

Dr. Pepper Cake!

 

 
This cake recipe uses a favorite southern drink, Dr. Pepper, to make it exceptionally moist and yummy!   Dr. Pepper is a soft drink that you either love or can't stand it seems.  I like a good cold Dr. Pepper every now and then myself.   I think it's good to cook with, not only because of the carbonation, but because of the slightly peppery bite it has.   If you are not a Dr. Pepper fan, don't worry. because this cake doesn't end up tasting much like Dr. Pepper.  The Dr. Pepper just gives it a really nice light and moist texture and a good flavor.   Here is what you will need:
 
1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Devils Food)
1 (3.4 oz.) box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
10 oz. Dr. Pepper
1 tsp. vanilla
 
Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 Tbs. Dr. Pepper (just enough to make the glaze thin enough to drizzle over the cake
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
Mix the cake mix, vanilla pudding, eggs, oil, Dr. Pepper and vanilla.   Mix just until all well combined.  Don't over mix.   Pour into a well greased Bundt pan.   Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
 
Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes then invert onto a cake plate.
 
Stir together the powdered sugar, vanilla and just enough Dr. Pepper to make a glaze.  Drizzle over the cake.  Then sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top.