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Archive for June, 2009

bbeans_dish.jpg

Fresh, green butter beans. What a southern summer time delight! Served alongside fried chicken with cornbread and sliced tomatoes on the side, butter beans are a perennial favorite at many a southern table.

Now, I’ve read lots of opinions about whether butter beans and lima beans are the same thing. And I still don’t know for sure. They certainly don’t taste anything alike to me. Lima beans, in my opinion, have a horrible mealy quality that I dislike. Butter beans, on the other hand, have a luscious creamy texture. Limas are pale grey to white when cooked and butter beans keep their pretty green color.

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orangerosemarychicken_final

“Summer time and the living is easy.” Really? Easy, maybe; HOT, yes! Today was the tenth day in a row with high temperatures above 90 degrees and humidity to match. But that’s really just typical for the deep south at this time of year. Hot and humid. So humid that there’s a hazy look in the air. It’s like living in a sauna, but hey, it’s wonderful for your complexion!

Because of the heat I was looking for something fabulous for dinner that wouldn’t heat up the kitchen and I found it in this delicious grilled recipe from Real Simple (www.realsimple.com). This chicken is marinated in a wonderful citrus and rosemary mixture, grilled and then served with a salad of romaine, orange sections and grilled onions.

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hamcheesepotatoes_final2

I don’t know about you, but I really hate to throw away food. I mean I really, really dislike it. When I have to throw away something out of the fridge, all I can see is dollars and cents going into the trash can. BeeBop and I work pretty darn hard for the money that we (okay, I) spend at the grocery store every week so when I see it being thrown away like that, it just makes me mad.

I had a group of neighborhood ladies over for bunco last Tuesday and one of the things I served was ham biscuits. Little tiny tea biscuits sliced in half with ham inside. Now, if we’d been having ham and biscuits for breakfast I would have just cut the ham into pieces, slapped it inside some biscuits and called it good. But since it was a party and since it was the first time I’d been hostess, I wanted to make sure those ham biscuits were nice and pretty. So, I used my smallest biscuit cutter to cut out little rounds of ham the same size as the biscuits. So cute. So good. So wasteful. I had so many leftover odd-shaped pieces of ham! So, I started looking online for an idea of what to do with all that ham. I knew it could be diced up and used in something and then I came across a recipe on Cooking Light’s web site for these ham and cheese stuffed potatoes. I changed the recipe so much that it really isn’t the same recipe any more, but it sure is good!

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cornbread_final

There are probably as many recipes for cornbread as there are southern cooks. Although it’s not strictly a “southern thing,” cornbread is very widely served throughout the south. It’s so very good with a plate of southern-style vegetables like peas, fried okra, and greens.

And, there are many different kinds of cornbread. There is the old fashioned type like I’m going to show you here. Then there is corn pone which is basically just cornmeal, water and salt formed into “pones” like thick little pancakes and cooked in the oven. There are corn sticks and corn muffins as well. And don’t forget about hush puppies! They are essentially cornbread, too. Actually, my favorite is what we call “lacy cornbread.” Lacy cornbread is cooked in a skillet on the stovetop. It’s a very thin, light batter that is poured into hot oil and fried quickly to a golden brown. It takes skill and practice to make lacy cornbread.

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EggMuffin_final1

Look familiar? If you’ve ever grabbed a quick breakfast from America’s most popular fast food chain, you’ll probably recognize these. They’re my version of one of that chain’s lower-fat, least offensive breakfast options. Actually, they’re not bad. The canadian bacon is pretty low fat, the muffin is good for you, the egg is not cooked in loads of fat. The cheese…well, you could use a lower-fat option I suppose. I use the regular American type because that’s what the original sandwich has. These are quick to prepare and when served with a nice fruit on the side, they make a pretty substantial breakfast.

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shrimpcreole_final1

Another old favorite, Shrimp Creole. This recipe for Shrimp Creole has, naturally, been tweaked somewhat by me, but it originally came from Craig Claiborne’s “Southern Cooking.” Craig Claiborne was a food writer for the New York Times, but he was born and raised in Mississippi. He had a lifetime appreciation for southern cuisine which grew throughout his childhood and youth in the kitchen of his mother’s boardinghouse. Over the years he wrote several cookbooks, but my favorite was his Southern Cooking. He included many of his mother’s original recipes in that cookbook, and they are all so familiar to me from my own childhood. Throughout the book he writes about his memories of classic southern food such as fried catfish, fried chicken, field peas, greens (collards, turnips and mustard), cornbread and a huge variety of desserts. Any time I need inspiration for something to cook, I know I can find it in Southern Cooking.

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RedVelvet_final

It’s been a really long time since I baked a cake. I don’t even remember the last one I did bake. So, last weekend I thought it was just time for one. And what could be better than a good old Red Velvet Cake? With all that yummy cream cheese and toasted pecans. How can you resist something like that?

Red Velvet cake is actually a chocolate layer with red food coloring added and then frosted with a cream cheese icing. I started wondering about the origins of Red Velvet, a cake well known throughout the South, so I did a little internet searching. Turns out not much is known about its origins, but there is general agreement on its popularity!  I love this quote from Angie Mosier, a food writer from Atlanta, who said “It’s the Dolly Parton of cakes: a little bit tacky but you love her!” Perfect description of the luscious Red Velvet.

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