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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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Old Fashioned Cornbread

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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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Egg Muffins

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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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Shrimp Creole

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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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Red Velvet Cake

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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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Pimiento Cheese

pimientocheesesandwichPimiento cheese. Everybody knows pimiento cheese. Right?

Wrong.  Not long after BeeBop and I got married and were immediately exiled to the cold, cold Northeastern United States by the U. S. Navy, I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that there were actually people in the world who had never even heard of pimiento cheese.  I found this unbelievable, being as it was that pimiento cheese was a staple in every southern household that I knew anything about. Pimiento cheese sandwiches were as common to our childhood as peanut butter is to most. It was something that our moms could make up quickly, spread between two pieces of soft white bread, feed us lunch and be back to the hundreds of tasks they still had to complete that day. It also made appearances as hors d’oeuvres when stuffed in a stalk of celery or spread on a cracker.

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Lemon Meringue Pie

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Lemon Meringue Pie brings all kinds of wonderful memories to mind. Especially memories of my Daddy. It was one of his most favorite things in the world. Actually, he liked pretty much anything lemon.  I think it was probably his favorite flavor. Lemon pie, hard lemon candy. If it was lemon, he liked it. I never, ever take a bite of lemon meringue pie without thinking of him and how much I miss him.

I’m so lucky that I currently have five generations of living family members. My Mama, her mother, my daughter and her two children. That’s really something. Daddy lived to see that, too. He knew my oldest grandchild for a few months before he passed away. Almost every time I go back home, Mama and I go to the city cemetery for a visit. I think he knows we check on him.

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Since I’m in the frame of mind to get back to my culinary roots, what could be more representative of southern farmhouse cooking than fried chicken? It’s a standard. It’s a staple. It’s just classic. And, most of all it’s quick and easy. That’s right, I said “quick and easy.” Making simple fried chicken is not a production. It does not require overnight marinades or special equipment or any kind of fancy preparation whatsoever. If it did, do you think millions of southern women would have cooked it for lunch every day for years and years? I can tell you without hesitation that they would not have. For our southern grandmothers, it was something they could whip up in a few minutes.

I’ve seen the recipes and the demonstrations where chefs put the chicken in milk or buttermilk or yogurt and let it stand overnight in the refrigerator. Then they coat it in all kinds of seasonings and shake it all up together in a paper bag. Well, that’s fine if you really want to do that, but what you get from that is a big mass of fried flour with a little bit of chicken in the middle of it.  Keep reading…

banpud_finalI was perusing food blogs today, as usual, and I came across one where someone who grew up in the Midwest was extolling the virtues of southern cuisine. Pimento cheese specifically. This blogger talked about how he grew up on a diet of pretty bland fare and only discovered the wonders and variety of southern cuisine after he had reached adulthood. This got me thinking. I really need to get back to what I know and do best. What I call Southern Farmhouse cooking. There are, of course, all kinds of different southern cuisines…creole, cajun, tex-mex, then there’s the whole coastal thing from the Carolinas right on around through Key West and New Orleans and more. Southern cuisine is so varied and complex, it’s even thought of by Southerners in regions of its own. Keep reading…

Sesame Beef Stir-Fry

sesamebeef_finalHere’s a recipe that’s quick and easy. This is a good one for busy week nights. You can have it on the table in under 30 minutes. And some days that’s a very good thing.  Most of the time I don’t even bother with the cashews. Not that I don’t like them. They’re good when I add them. I just usually forget to buy them.

So, when you need to get something hot and delicious on the table in a hurry, try this nice, quick stir-fry. Here’s what you need:

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