Southern Alabama Specialties

Recipes and folklore from the Gulf Coast. Like this favorte recipe, Garlic Shrimp Linguine, gets a nod from Creole cookery and blends new and old world flavors in making one fine dinner.

Grilling Year-round on the Gulf Coast

Life is good on the Gulf Coast as you'll find folks grilling and barbecuing all types of fine foods. Burgers, dogs, steaks, wings, ribs, pork, chicken, beef, seafood, gator, heck ... if it lives around here, we eat it!

Cake Making in the South

A real classic ~ Lemon Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze.

Sunday Dinners are Sacred in the South

An establishment in these parts, sitting down at the dinner table for a family meal is a way of life for many of us. It is quality time well spent sharing our blessings. Enjoy our recipes.

Gulf Coast Seafood Recipes

Platters like this are often on tables around Mobile Bay especially when there is a Jubilee. A Jubilee only occurs in Mobile Bay - find mouth-watering recipes under the Fish and Seafood categories.

December 31, 2009

Hoppin' John and Greens

Eating Hoppin’ John and greens is required in my family on New Year’s Day. We do it because it is not only good, it is necessary in carrying on the tradition from our ancestors and of enjoying the inheritance of cookery from long ago. This demonstration is a reflection on our way of life, we are not only proud of who we are and where we come from but equally proud of how we got to where we are today. To southerners, eating Hoppin’ John and greens on this special day is symbolic in hoping for good luck, fortune and prosperity in the coming year. Not that we are superstitious, we might be just a little cautious in observing these traditional rites. From the soil of our ancestors, roots run deep in the south as does the recipes and our lifestyle. Below are two interesting articles on the subject as well as my recipes for these two time-honored dishes. Enjoy!

Black-eyed peas, also called cow peas, are thought to have been introduced to America by African slaves who worked the rice plantations. Hoppin' John is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages, ham hocks, or fat pork, rice, and tomato sauce.
This African-American dish is traditionally a high point of New Year's Day, when a shiny dime is often buried among the black-eyed peas before serving. whoever get the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck throughout the year. For maximum good luck in the new year, the first thing that should be eaten on New year's Day is Hoppin' John. At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, many southern families toast each other with Champagne and a bowl of Hoppin' John. If it is served with collard greens you might, or might not, get rich during the coming year.
There are many variations to traditional Hoppin' John. Some cook the peas and rice in one pot, while others insist on simmering them separately. ~ from whatscookingamerica.net


There appear to be at least four reasons for calling it Hoppin' John. Although the commonest explanation is that in time past a host or hostess would say to a guest at the table, "Hop in, John," as one might say, "Go to it," that explanation doesn't ring true for me. Only a little more plausible is the story that children would hop around the holiday table playing a game and chanting a rhyme called "Hoppin' John." I find most interesting the story, reported by Raymond Sokolov, former Food Editor of the New York Times, that the dish goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to oral tradition, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, by a crippled black man who was known as Hoppin' John.

Etymologists dismiss all of the above stories, citing a Caribbean dish of rice and peas and salt pork called (in French) pois a pigeon, which is pronounced something like "pwahahpeejawng." They think it sounded like "hoppin john" to the ears of English speaking people and that the name caught on. Well, perhaps. However, there are no pigeon peas in the dish. There are black-eyed peas which resemble cow peas from Africa, and there is rice. Where does the French influence come in, let alone the French chef with the pigeon peas?
In fact, the dish appears to have African, or African-American roots, as the black-eyed pea is the seed of the cowpea, a delicacy in North Africa. According to a 1788 account, the food on slave ships was a combination of fava beans, yams, rice and possibly a bit of pork or other meat. When they got to America and were able to substitute black-eyed peas for the "horse beans" the slave traders served them, the Africans improved on the dish and it became popular. The earliest recipe I could find calls for hog jowl, and it was adapted by Raymond Sokolov from Rice Recipes, a cookbook available from The Rice Museum in Georgetown, South Carolina. ~ from Who Cooked That Up? by J.J. Schnebel


My Hoppin' John Recipe

Southern Black-Eyed Peas ~ A cure for superstitious New Year folks

1 smoked ham hock or ham bone
4 cups water
1/2 pound bacon -sliced 1-inch thick
1 large onion -chopped
1 large bell pepper -chopped
1 stalk celery -chopped
2 large cloves garlic -minced
1 pound smoked sausage links -cut in 1/2" pieces
3 -16 oz frozen black-eyed peas
2 medium bay leaves
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 -14.5 oz Rotel Extra Hot
1 tablespoon Cajun Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

In a large sauce-pot, simmer ham hock and water for an hour or until meat is falling off bone then strain liquid reserving the stock. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, fry bacon until brown and remove the bacon, reserve. Add onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic and simmer until onion is translucent - add the reserved ham stock and simmer on very low while preparing the sausage. In the previous saucepan place sausage and 1/2 cup of water - simmer for 15 minutes to draw out the fat - remove the sausage and add it to the stockpot - discard this fat stock. In the large stockpot, add Rotel bringing to a boil - simmer for a few minutes and then add the peas and seasonings. Liquid should just cover the peas, if not add water - simmer on low for 1 1/2 hours stirring often to prevent sticking and until the peas are fully cook and stock is thick - you may need to remove a cup of peas and mash in order to achieve the thick consistency. Serve over white rice and top with chopped green onions.

Chop some of the cooked bacon and add it to the peas toward the end of cooking.


Willie’s Collards & Greens

This is how she made greens for us many times during the year. The “pot-likker” is a plus!

4 to 6 bunches of fresh collards
3 to 4 leaves of mustard greens
2 smoked ham hocks
6 slices of bacon
1 large onion -chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons seasoning salt
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Clean greens thoroughly to remove grit by washing several times in cold water. Remove the tougher stalks as needed. Chop greens into 1 to 2 inch squares. In a large stockpot fry bacon until fat is rendered and remove meat. Add to the grease 7 to 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients. Return to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the greens; bring to a boil for another 15 minutes. Check water level and continue simmering on medium low for 3 to 4 hours. Before serving, add more seasoning salt if needed and stir in the bacon.

Note: I like to add a jalapeño or two and a splash of red wine vinegar. I also cook turnip greens this way. Be sure to soak up the 'likker' with cornbread.


December 30, 2009

Shrimp in Beer-Butter Sauce

Shrimp of the Week



Living on the Gulf Coast has so many advantages ~ like fresh shrimp. Enjoy one of our favorite ways to serve shrimp.

Shrimp in Beer-Butter Sauce

2 pounds shrimp -shelled and deveined
4 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves -minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can of beer at room temperature
1 tablespoon cornstarch -dilute in water

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium high and sauté garlic until garlic begins to brown. Add the herbs, stir and toss in the shrimp. Cook until they turn pink. Add the beer and simmer for about a minute. Stir in the dissolved cornstarch to thicken and serve over hot rice or pasta.
From my cookbook Grits to Guacamole.




Get this recipe and many more in my Grits to Guacamole cookbook, click here.

December 29, 2009

Roast Beef - Country Style Cooking


Sometimes you have to dig a little deep to come up with a tasty menu for the family especially when times are tight. This is one recipe that reminds me of my youth - living on a farm - and eating good things from Mommas kitchen. The roast comes out tender and moist, flavorful and the beans are a plus, not to mention just plain good.


Roast Beef - Country Style Cooking

1 lb dry pinto beans
6 lb beef rump roast
1 tbsp shortening
1 cup green or banana pepper strips
2 medium onions -sliced
2 cups tomato juice
1 -8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp thyme
Carrots if desired

Wash beans, cover with cold water and let soak overnight. Bring beans to a boil and cook 1 hour. Drain and rinse several times discarding water. Brown roast in hot fat in a Dutch oven or roaster. Add peppers and onions and cook until tender. Add beans and remaining ingredients. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until beans are tender and meat is done. Goes great with mashed potatoes.

December 28, 2009

Cajun Pastalaya

“Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filet gumbo,

'Cause tonight I'm gonna see ma chère ami-o”
– opening chorus to the Hank Williams song who, by the way, was born just a few miles as the crow flies from my hometown.

Jambalaya is a regional favorite in the south and the flavorful dish has aggressively caught on around the world as well. The reason is simple just as it is to make - It has a remarkable taste. There are countless variations of this classic and the first mention in English print comes from Mobile AL, where I reside. In 1878, the Ladies of the St. Francis Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Mobile published ‘The Gulf City Cook Book’, which features a recipe titled ‘Jam Bolaya’. It consists of oysters, chicken, tomatoes and the familiar rice.

Like all recipes, as time progresses, so do ingredients according to regional taste. Take the recipe I am preparing for you, Pastalaya made with pasta instead of rice. This recipe contains many of the same ingredients as the traditional ‘red jambalaya’ famous from Creole cooks in New Orleans and melds beautifully with its low-country Cajun cousins. Influenced from the French and Spanish with a little Italian thrown in for good company is how I would describe this amazing recipe that tastes so darn good. Enjoy!

Cajun Pastalaya
Makes about 8 servings

1/4 cup salt plus 3/4 teaspoon, divided
1 -16 oz penne pasta
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning, divided
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
3/4 pound Andouille or Spicy Conecuh sausage, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 -14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Add water to a large stockpot 3/4 full and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1/4 cup of the salt as it begins to boil. Place the pasta in the water and return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook the pasta until nearly al dente, 8 to 12 minutes. Drain and set aside. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water to use later.

Season the shrimp with 2 teaspoons of the Creole Seasoning and 1/8 teaspoon salt, set aside. Do the same with the chicken using 2 teaspoons of the Creole Seasoning and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt, set aside.

In a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and coat the bottom, heat to medium heat. Place the shrimp in the pan and sear for 1 minute per side. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Add another tablespoon olive oil to the pan and sear the chicken for 3 minutes, turning to ensure even browning. Remove the chicken and set aside with the shrimp.

Place the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and add the sausage, onions and bell peppers. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is lightly brown and the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and scrape with a spoon to remove any browned bits that have formed, cook about 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes, fresh thyme, the remaining tablespoon of Creole Seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook an additional 2 minutes. Return the shrimp and chicken to the pan, as well as the pasta and the reserved 1-cup of pasta cooking water. Continue to cook the sauce and pasta, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp and chicken cooks through and until most of the pasta cooking water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the basil and Parmesan. Toss to combine and serve hot with warm French bread.

Note: Made in Alabama, Conecuh brand sausage is a southern favorite.

December 27, 2009

Primavera Pork Chops



Create a complete dinner with 7 ingredients!

Quick, company's coming and my cupboard is bare. What will I do? Hopefully you'll have these seven ingredients on hand and, in a flash, have dinner on the table in no time.

Primavera Pork Chops
4 servings


4 slices bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
12-oz. trimmed fresh young green beans
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 pork chops, 1/2 inch thick
1/3 cup apple butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup red or yellow cherry or grape tomatoes

In 12-inch skillet cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp; remove. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Drain bacon on paper towels.
Meanwhile, in 2-quart microwave-safe dish cook beans in 2 tablespoons water, covered, on high (100% power) 4 minutes; stir once. Drain, set aside. Brush chops with soy sauce. In skillet brown chops on both sides. Add apple butter and the 1/4 cup water; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, and bacon; cook, uncovered, 3 to 5 minutes, until sauce thickens.

December 26, 2009

Chipotle Pepper Cheese Dip

A fab dip for Mexican night, outdoor cookouts, entertaining friends or just plain ol' eating good things.


Chipotle Pepper Cheese Dip

1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium onions -chopped
3 cloves garlic -crushed
5 tablespoons flour
1 can chipotles in adobo sauce -pureed
2 habanero peppers -chopped
1 cup half and half
2 cups whole milk
1 head of garlic -roasted and chopped
2 pounds sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound Monterey jack cheese
1 bunch scallion -chopped

In a large pan melt the butter and add the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, and sauté until light brown. Stir in the crushed garlic and continue sautéing until onions have nicely browned. Add the flour and cook until a nice roux develops. Cook the roux for a couple of minutes being careful not to burn it. Add the half and half slowly, incorporating it into the onion roux. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly add the warm milk. Cook mixture until liquid bubbles stirring often. Lower heat to a simmer and add habanero peppers and the pureed chipotles with the sauce. Cook on simmer for 5 minutes to bring out the flavor of the chiles stirring occasionally. Add the finely chopped roasted garlic cloves. Slowly incorporate all of the cheese stirring constantly. When everything is melted and nicely mixed, transfer to a chafing dish and keep warm or move to a double boiler with the heat on very low. Garnish with the chopped scallions and serve with good quality chips.

December 25, 2009

My Christmas Gift

My Everyday Gift




Four years ago, I received the best gift imaginable. This is my little Max, a gift for Christmas and a gift everyday.





May your Christmas be fulfilled with special wishes
and may love and joy find comfort in your heart.



Merry Christmas Ya’ll,


Drick

December 23, 2009

Savory Shrimp with Mushrooms and Bell Peppers



Today’s recipe is from Tabasco. Enjoy!


The diet of the Reconstruction South was bland and monotonous, especially by Louisiana standards. So Edmund McIlhenny decided to create a pepper sauce to give the food some spice and flavor — some excitement. Selecting and crushing the reddest peppers from his plants, he mixed them with Avery Island salt and aged this “mash” for 30 days in crockery jars and barrels. McIlhenny then blended the mash with French white wine vinegar and aged the mixture for at least another 30 days. After straining it, he transferred the sauce to small cologne-type bottles with sprinkler fitments, which he then corked and sealed in green wax. (The sprinkler fitment was important because his pepper sauce was concentrated and best used when sprinkled, not poured.)

Edmund McIlhenny was given seeds of Capsicum frutescens peppers that came from Mexico or Central America. And he first planted them on Avery Island, Louisiana, over 130 years ago. Today, just as then, when the peppers reach the perfect shade of deep red and are at their juiciest, they are carefully picked by hand. (Young peppers are green, then turn yellow, orange, and, finally, deep red as they age.) When in doubt, pickers can gauge the color by comparing it to a small wooden dowel, “le petit bâton rouge,” painted the preferred hue of TABASCO® red.

Check out this offer for a Tabasco coupon.


Savory Shrimp with Mushrooms and Bell Peppers

1 quart water
1 bay leaf
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup light cream
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon Original TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce
Garlic powder
Paprika
Hot cooked rice

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan; add bay leaf and shrimp. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, just until shrimp turn pink. Do not overcook. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside; reserve liquid.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in saucepan; add bell peppers and onion and sauté lightly. With slotted spoon, remove to bowl containing shrimp. Add mushrooms to saucepan and cook over low heat until soft. Remove to bowl with shrimp and vegetables.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in saucepan; whisk in flour. Add light cream, 3/4 cup of reserved shrimp broth, wine, and TABASCO® Sauce. Cook and stir until thickened.

Season sauce to taste with garlic powder and paprika. Gently stir in shrimp and vegetables and heat through. Serve over rice.

Makes 4 servings.

December 22, 2009

Christmas Morning Strata


This one is for the girls
and guys too on Christmas morning...eat up!

This recipe goes out to my good friend Claudia down in Orlando FL. We have many times talked about family traditions and how especially this time of year, carrying on these customs are so important. Sorry girl, the photo does nothing for family values but it's meant for fun - a payback from previous a post for men. Claudia's web site is full of great recipes and many feature warm stories of family memories. Take a moment to look her up at What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine - you won't be disappointed. This recipe is from my mothers recipe box handwritten on a worn index card and is also in my cookbook. She would have liked the photo!


It's an easy make-ahead breakfast in one dish – but not just for Christmas. You can use any day old bread but I like crusty French and by toasting it, the bread just seems to work better. Use any sausage - country style bulk sausage works well too and I have used smoked and Italian links diced really fine for another added flavor.

Christmas Morning Strata

French bread or sourdough -sliced 1-inch thick
6 bacon strips -cooked and chopped
1 cup cubed cooked ham
1/2 cup diced or grated cooked Conecuh sausage
1/2 cup shredded cheese -mild cheddar or four blends type
1 cup chopped green onion
6 large eggs -beaten
2 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Slightly toast the bread. In a greased 13x9-inch casserole dish place bread slices completely covering bottom of dish. Sprinkle cooked meats, cheese and onions over bread. Combine eggs, milk and seasonings mixing well and pour into dish. Cover and refrigerate over night. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes until center has set. Add salt & pepper at the table as generally the meats are seasoned.

Great served alone or with country grits, sweet rolls and fresh fruit. Buy ready cooked meats to speed up prep time.
Note: Conecuh sausage is an Alabama favorite and they ship direct.

December 21, 2009

Brennan's Bananas Foster



Brennan's Restaurant brought this old Creole dish to prominence by revising it. Ladled over vanilla ice cream, it is named for a favored guest. At breakfast, lunch or dinner, a grand finale of Bananas Foster adds more than a sparkle to the event.


From the pages of New Orleans Classic Desserts, by Kit Wohl



Brennan's Bananas Foster

6 servings

6 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 ounces)
3 cups light brown sugar
6 whole bananas, peeled, halved lengthwise and quartered
1/3 cup dark rum
1/4 cup Crème de Banana (banana liqueur)
6 scoops vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
long fireplace matches

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, and sugar, mix thoroughly, and set aside.

In a flambé pan or a chafing dish, combine the butter and brown sugar. Mash together, then place the pan over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts and the mixture caramelizes to a creamy, rich brown color. This process requires approximately 5 minutes.

Add the banana pieces to the pan, cut sides down and cook for approximately 1 minute. Place the rum in a large pre-warmed ladle and ignite with a long match. Drizzle the flaming rum into the pan.

Scatter the cinnamon-sugar mixture directly over the flame. As the flames die, pour the banana liqueur into a large, pre-warmed metal ladle and ignite with a long match. Drizzle the flaming banana liqueur into the pan and stir gently to combine all the ingredients. The flames will quickly go out.

Immediately place one scoop of ice cream in each of six saucer style champagne glasses or bowls. Spoon some of the banana mixture on top, and plenty of the pan juices. Serve immediately.

Variations: Substitute any soft fruit for this dish that has a correspondingly flavored liqueur-peaches, pears, apricots or berries.

Note: Please use extreme caution when flaming a dish. A fire extinguisher must be nearby.

December 20, 2009

Pizza Spaghetti Casserole

Sunday Dinner Idea

Okay, today I am going to finish shopping, or try at least, check in at work, maybe do a little baking and get dinner on the table. What I need is a Christmas miracle. I need a dish for supper that’s not only fast and easy but of course, it has to be tasty. I found this one from Southern Living magazine. This is what they wrote: Destined to become your kids' new favorite meal, this easy casserole recipe combines classic family favorites such as pepperoni pizza and traditional spaghetti. Unbaked, the casserole can stay frozen for up to a month so prepare extras and save for a busy day…. like today! Enjoy…


Pizza Spaghetti Casserole

We preferred turkey pepperoni, so you don't get a greasy appearance. Freeze the unbaked casserole up to one month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator; let stand 30 minutes at room temperature, and bake as directed.


12 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (1-lb.) package mild ground pork sausage
2 ounces turkey pepperoni slices (about 30), cut in half
1 (26-oz.) jar tomato-and-basil pasta sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 (8-oz.) package shredded Italian three-cheese blend

1. Cook spaghetti with 1/2 tsp. salt according to package directions. Drain well, and place in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

2. Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain and set aside. Wipe skillet clean. Add pepperoni, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes or until slightly crisp.

3. Top spaghetti in baking dish with sausage; pour pasta sauce over sausage. Arrange half of pepperoni slices evenly over pasta sauce. Sprinkle evenly with cheeses. Arrange remaining half of pepperoni slices evenly over cheese. Cover with nonstick or lightly greased aluminum foil.

4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes; remove foil, and bake 10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and just begins to brown.

December 19, 2009

Creamy Queso Soup

Sabado Mexicano

The weather outside has been frightful. I was in shorts the other day, galoshes yesterday and today will probably need my long johns. Campbell’s Soup recently did a promotion featuring Pace products with a giveaway to Foodbuzz Publishers. Now, anything Mexican gets my vote and this soup sounds like just the thing to warm me up. Hope you will try it too.


Creamy Queso Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 jar (16 ounces) Pace® Mexican Four Cheese Salsa con Queso
2 cup Swanson® Chicken Broth (Regular, Natural Goodness™ or Certified Organic)
1/4 cup milk
Crushed tortilla chips
Chopped green onions

Heat the oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes or until the onion is tender.

Reduce the heat to low. Stir the queso, broth and milk in the saucepan and cook for 3 minutes or until the queso mixture is hot. Serve topped with the tortilla chips and green onions.

December 18, 2009

Provencal Fish Soup

Hey folks, I have been a little busy this week - so who hasn’t, right? Today’s recipe is one I found that sounds delicious. I was thinking about tinkering with it, adding this and that, but I think it might be just fine the way it is. Let me know if you try it…sorry, I don’t mean to shortchange you but like I said, I’ve been a little busy.



Provencal Fish Soup
about 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced Spanish onion
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup Uncle Ben’s Natural Select Tomato & Basil Rice
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup firm fish or seafood, cut into bite size pieces

Heat oil in a pot and sauté onion and red pepper until softened. Add tomatoes, rice, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add seafood to the simmering soup, stir and simmer for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

December 17, 2009

The Best Brownie Ever


Okay, so you've already had it. The best one ever put into your mouth, one which you savored every bite and morsel, one that you exclaim to be the new standard from now on and one you wish was credited to your own baking skills. Turns out, this recipe has been around for a long time and published many times, in newspapers, magazines and on the internet. Hey, I said it was the best one ever, aren’t you listening?

My neighborhood is interesting to say the least but what I love about it is that is so rich in traditions – like never return a dish empty or never receive a gift without giving back. Last week, it seems we had an over abundance of shelled pecans. We gave a bag to our good neighbor Marilyn Higgs and thought nothing of it. And then, she called last night and told us she was bringing over some brownies with the pecans we had given to her. After the first bite, still warm and creamy, that’s when I said it, "it's the best one ever". Seems the recipe was printed many years ago in a magazine and as the story goes, Katharine Hepburn whipped these up when reporters came for interviews. She wanted the rooms filled with the sweet aroma of homemade chocolate bliss. It does just that and like I said - are you listening ... it is the best brownie I have ever had. Enjoy!

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

2 squares (2 oz) unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Add butter and chocolate in a small saucepan and stir on low heat (or use a double boiler) to melt. Do not let the butter get hot enough to bubble.

Mix the sugar and eggs in a bowl using a wire whisk. Fold in the chocolate mixture. Stir in the vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients and fold in the nuts.

Bake in a floured 8x8-inch pan for about 40 minutes. Remove and let cool. Cut while a little warm.

December 16, 2009

Scrumptious Seashells


 A top ten winner...

One of the many facets of being a Featured Publisher on Foodbuzz is the Tastemaker program, one geared to promoting national brand recognition with award winning recipes. When I received my letter from the program along with a coupon for any Pepperidge Farms product, I was asked to enter a recipe and by doing so, have a chance to win a trip to New York City…everyone say it with me …NEW YORK CITY! I immediately knew what I wanted to submit. One that has passed the test of time by family and friends, all who say it’s pretty darned good – as a dip.

Now, the challenge is to turn this into an appetizer using puff pastry. I thought about using the ready-made pastry shells but that would not only be too easy, I also think it would be too much pastry. I wanted the creamy seafood combination to stand on its own with just enough of the flaky pastry to hold it together and provide a foundation. It also needed a crunchy topping to aid in texture making what I hope would be a sinfully delicious pleasure for seafood lovers here on the Gulf Coast and abroad as well. I know it does all that in my house and hopefully it will in yours too. I may not win the trip, but I know this recipe will now become an established finger food for many parties to come. Enjoy!

Scrumptious Seashells
BTW – this recipe earned the top 6th finalist in Foodbuzz 1-2-3 Puff Pastry Contest by Pepperidge Farms
makes 48

1 box (17.3 oz) Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup flour
2 cups light cream
Salt and white pepper to taste
Dash of cayenne or to taste
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 pounds small shrimp -cooked, peeled & chopped (or 2 cups frozen salad shrimp, about 14oz)
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked of shells & cartilage (or about 2 cups canned lump white crabmeat, about 16 oz)
1 cup Planko bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place pastry on a floured surface and roll each into a 12x18-inch rectangle or just a tad larger. Cut each sheet using a 3-inch round cutter into 24 circles. Using a mini-muffin pan, press each pastry circle into the cups. Place in the refrigerator to keep cold.

In a saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook until celery has softened. Reduce heat and stir in the flour cooking for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the cream and bring to a low simmer increasing heat if needed. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. When bubbly, stir in the wine and cook another 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and crabmeat, stir for a minute and remove from heat.

Mix the Planko, parsley, Parmesan, melted butter in a bowl and set aside.

Spoon the seafood mixture into the shells and fill to the top. Cover with the crumb mixture dividing evenly among the seashell cups.

Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or the topping is nice and brown. Remove from pans and serve warm.

Note: These appetizers are also good when baking ahead of time and warmed in a moderate oven prior to serving. Half the recipe if needed, but don’t be surprise when they rapidly disappear.

December 15, 2009

Almond Roca Cookie Squares

With Christmas Day fast approaching, there seems to be a lot of preparation going on especially with baking cookies, bars and sweet treats. Now, who wouldn’t like that? Reading all the posts from other bloggers brings memories of life in my hometown, Greenville Al. Did your family ever participate in cookie swaps? Mine did and boy, was it a treat when the doorbell rang and greeting me was a large tray of sweet confections. Mom and Grandmother both like to do this and one of the ways I helped, along with licking the bowls, was being the official greeter and taste tester. At least, that’s the role I gave myself.


This recipe is from one of my family’s good friends, Wanda Pittman who was not only a great baker, a great gardener but had a wonderful flair in cooking wild game. Enjoy this sweet treat from her!



Almond Roca Cookie Squares

1 cup butter (margarine may be used)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk, well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
10 oz milk chocolate, melted
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Cream butter and sugars in a mixing bowl and add egg yolk and vanilla mixing well. Blend in the flour. Spread evenly on a 15x10 inch cookie sheet with rim. Bake 350 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are brown and separates from the sides. While warm but not hot, spread melted chocolate over the cookie base and sprinkle with the nuts. You can drizzle additional chocolate over nuts if desired. Cut while slightly warm. You can substitute nuts of choice if desired.

December 14, 2009

Creole Daube


In the late 1800’s when Sicilian immigrants began settling in southern Louisiana, Creole cooking took on a completely new dimension. The influence of garlic for one and the use of tomatoes in making tomato gravy or red gravy such as the one featured in this recipe. This recipe will change the way you cook a roast and will fill your house with a wonderful aroma with the cuisine of long ago cooks. Enjoy!


Creole Daube
makes 6 servings

4 to 5 pound rump roast, or top sirloin
Olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 large crushed garlic cloves
2 -15 oz cans whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 -6 oz cans tomato sauce
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
Thyme
1 bay leaf
Oregano
Cayenne
Salt and black pepper
Brown sugar
About 3/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 pound diced mushrooms -optional
Cooked rice or spaghetti for serving

Cut the roast in half and in a large skillet; brown each half on all sides in the olive oil. Remove and set aside.

In the same skillet with the oil, sauté onion, bell pepper and celery for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and stir for a couple of minutes to fry. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato sauce.

While this mixture slowly simmers, add to taste the thyme, bay leaf, oregano, cayenne, salt, pepper and sugar.

Add wine and Parmesan. Let simmer about 45 minutes.

Add carrots, mushrooms, and both pieces of roast and any juices that have accumulated. Cover and cook over low heat for a 2 to 3 hours.

Remove beef and slice against grain into half-inch slices. Serve with the tomato gravy on top or place the slices back into the gravy and cook on low another 15 to 20 minutes for a more traditional meal.

Plate roast over rice or spaghetti with the sauce and additional Parmesan.

December 13, 2009

Standing Rib Roast

Sunday Dinner Idea



There’s nothing new about today’s dinner idea except that it is a favorite for Christmas day too. I remember back when my friend Kathy did a post on dry aging beef at home and at the time I thought how brilliant it sounded. All you need is a good cut of meat, a cold spot in the fridge and a few days to have yourself a prime tasting piece of meat aged just as good as your butcher. She tells you all about it and gives a wonderful way in cooking a standing rib roast and that is what today’s Sunday Dinner Idea is all about – Enjoy!

If you have a choice, buy a large rib roast with 3 or more ribs from the loin area of the rib section, it will be more flavorful and will have a greater marbling of fat than that from the shoulder or chuck area. This is what makes meat tender and palatable. This size will yield 2 servings per rib. If there is an excessive amount of fat on the top, trim some off to about a quarter of an inch thickness. Kathy likes to tie hers up to hold its shape and that’s fine with me.

Now for the seasoning – there are so many interesting ways to season meat but when you are talking about the pièce de résistance, you’d better get it right. Kathy uses a brown sugar & soy rub that sounds really wonderful. You know me, I like a little more kick to assist the sweetness of the meat and then there is the French rub that uses the whole herb garden. Here are both:


Spicy Brown Sugar & Honey Paste for Roasts
1/2 cup cumin seeds
1/4 cup brown sugar
8 cloves of garlic, minced
3 to 4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

Toast the cumin seeds in a single layer in a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir often until light brown, about 4 minutes. Place in a food processor with a metal blade; add the garlic, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, paprika and process to a powder. With the motor running, add the honey and then the brown sugar. Process until smooth.

Herbes de Provence Rub
1/2 cup dry plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel

Process all in a food processor with a metal blade until blended.

Now let’s get to cooking. Make sure the roast is at room temperature by leaving out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours. Rub the roast with the paste or the rub, or which ever seasonings you prefer, and place fat side up in a shallow pan or in a roaster if you are also cooking vegetables. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place in the oven and reduce heat to 325 degrees F. Cook the meat to the desired temperature of choice. Some folks like Kathy serve it rare – 125 degrees. I prefer medium rare – 130 degrees F. Remember, when you take it out of the oven, it will still cook a bit longer. Be sure to cover with foil and let it rest 30 to 45 minutes.
Some folks serve a standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding but I like it with vegetables. Be sure to have a good horseradish sauce on the side. Kathy does a great job in explaining horseradish and offers a couple of recipes too. Likewise, here is one of my recipes for Horseradish Cream.

To cook your roast with vegetables, be sure to cut them up in equal sizes. Place in a bowl and toss with olive oil and seasonings. Arrange them around the roast in a single layer. My favorite vegetables for this type of cooking of course are potatoes, onions and carrots but I also enjoy a medley of parsnips, turnips and rutabaga.

December 12, 2009

Cocoa Chili Pie


Heating things up for 
Sabado Mexicano




A little fun today folks. This is not your ordinary pecan pie - this one features a crazy experience of nutty chocolate sweetness with a hint of heat. Kind of like me!!! Enjoy!




Cocoa Chili Pie
about 8 servings

1 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper (see note)
1 (9 inch) pre-baked pie crusts
Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Melt butter and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs until well blended. Add flour and sugars, mix until smooth. Add cooled butter and mix well. Fold in nuts, chocolate chips and ground ancho chili pepper. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes until pie tests done.

Serve warm, topped with fresh whipped cream.

Note: Ancho peppers are also available whole. To grind, soften peppers in water for 30 minutes, Drain and grind in a blender. Do not substitute chili powder, use only ground ancho chiles

December 11, 2009

Smoked Fish Appetizer

This is one recipe I saved from posting and is a superb indulgence for holiday quests. The fish should be smoked before hand making preparation fast and simple on the day of the party. This is also a good appetizer using lobster tails and if you have a mess of them lying around, be sure to invite me over for a few. The original recipe is for an entrée, but I do so enjoy it this way. Hope you do too!


Smoked Fish Appetizer with Horseradish Sauce

2 to 3 pounds fillets of firm fish (King Mackerel works really well)
Salt and pepper
1/4 pound butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
Sorry, no photo available.
Quick Horseradish Sauce
1/2 pint sour cream
1 - .7 oz package dry garlic salad dressing mix
Horseradish to taste
Dash or two of cayenne

You can cook this several ways: in a smoker, on a charcoal fire pit or on a gas grill. But whichever, make sure to use a box with wood chips for the needed smoke. Prepare a medium-low fire and cover the rack with aluminum foil. Poke several holes in the foil (omit foil for lobster).

Make a basting sauce by stirring the butter, garlic powder, lemon juice and Worcestershire in a small bowl.

Salt and pepper the fillets. Place fillets on the foil and cook the fish basting with the sauce often. Check fish after 15 minutes, the flesh should be white all the way through and juices run clear. Continue cooking until done, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the heat and size of the fillets.

To serve as an appetizer, chill fish overnight. Combine ingredients for the sauce and refrigerate for several hours.

To serve, slice fish in slivers, place on crackers or toast points and top with the sauce.

December 10, 2009

Smoked Chicken

When I passed by the meat counter at my local market yesterday looking for a good buy, a rarity these days, there it was – a real bargain. Chicken fryers going for 59 cents a pound. I thought I was in a time warp from years ago. Then I did a double take on the price. It was right. And then I looked at the expiration date – still had three days on them. I should have loaded up the cart but I knew my freezer was already full so I just bought two and quickly began changing dinner plans for the next evening. I did not want to fry them (too messy), and I did not want another soup (just had that) – roasted would be good but how? Frying hens are not the same as roasters but hey, at this bargain, who cares. That’s when the light started flickering in my head, it rarely glows to a full shine these days. I think I will barbeque. But wait, with rain turning to cold means an inside job and that folks, is where this recipe starts – inside and in a slow cooker. Enjoy!

Cooking it in a slow cooker provides an easy, inside way of having a smoked BBQ chicken dinner and served with fresh corn on the cob, potato salad, BBQ beans and toasted Texas toast, it makes the winter days feel like summer again.

First, wash thoroughly inside and out of a whole chicken being sure to remove the giblets stuffed inside the cavity. Remove any visible fat. In order for the seasoning to penetrate past the skin, I separate the skin on the breast away from the meat just like I do when roasting a turkey.





Next, sprinkle with seasoning salt or your favorite BBQ seasoning. Today I’m using one my brother-in-law sent me from my sister’s kitchen. Sprinkle some inside the pocket on the breasts too. Now splash on some liquid smoke, about a quarter of a cup. This is a concentrate that will give it that smoky, BBQ taste.

Place in a slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low. Since I am cooking two, I started on high for 2 hours then rotated the chickens rearranging so that they cook evenly. I cooked them an additional 6 hours on low.
Now, check the thigh meat to make sure it has reached 165 degrees F. Mine was at 172 so I know it was good and done. Cut into serving pieces and if desired, serve with your favorite BBQ sauce.

December 9, 2009

Shrimp Spread

Many of you have asked about the Candlelight tour last Saturday at the Oakleigh Mansion and of my book signing. Well, here’s a brief rundown. Despite extremely cold weather for us and the fact that it began right-smack in the middle of the SEC Championship game, you know, Florida vs. Alabama, #1 & #2 in the country - we had a wonderful time. Appetizers from my cookbook, Grits to Guacamole, were featured along with wine and cheese. Don went on one of the tours and was so impressed with the darling school-age docents, all adorned in period costumes and so well versed and knowledgeable of every single room, every aritcle and each family who lived there prior to it becoming museum status. If ever you get a chance to come near Mobile, take time to visit this wonderful pride of my neighborhood and give me a call too!


I posted last Thursday of a cheddar pecan wafer I prepared for the evening and this is another from my cookbook that everyone loved.  I hope you do too. My Mother made this for holiday parties but I think it is good all year long. Enjoy!


Shrimp Spread
double or triple the recipe for a large crowd

1/2 pound cooked shrimp -chopped
6 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup chopped pimento olives
Good shake of Louisiana hot sauce
Squeeze of lemon
Mayonnaise to moisten
1 tablespoon finely minced green onions

Mix ingredients together well and serve on crackers or use as a spread for finger sandwiches. Place additional shrimp around spread if desired.


P.S. - you can find more recipes from my cookbook (see Recipe Labels in the sidebar) under G to G recipes

December 8, 2009

Chicken Marsala

Easy as 1,2,3,4


Not many recipes are remarkable enough in saying it is the best. As with every recipe, and I don’t care how many times you have made them, if you are like me you are going to alter something or another. At least that is the way I cook - always trying to tweak it into something that is better. That’s how this one ended up being called ‘my best’. Maybe I should add ‘yet’. It is also one that I like to prepare after a busy day. Takes forty minutes from start to finish but what I like best is that I can walk away after it is finished and it will be just as good if not better from a low simmering. Enjoy!


My Best Chicken Marsala

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour for coating
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 tablespoons butter
extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces crimini, porcini or button mushrooms, stemmed and halved
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup cooking sherry
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
chopped flat-leaf parsley if desired

Slice the chicken breasts horizontally to about 1/4-inch thick.

Put the flour in a shallow bowl and stir in the salt, pepper and oregano.

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil. Heat over medium-high. When the oil is nice and hot, dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Slip the cutlets into the pan and fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden, turning once – do this in batches if necessary. Remove the chicken to a large platter in a single layer and keep warm. Drain off the oil.

Lower the heat to medium and add the bacon to the brown bits in the pan, sauté for a few minutes to render out some of the fat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned and moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Pour the Marsala and sherry in the pan and boil down for a minute to cook out the alcohol. Add the chicken stock and simmer for a few minutes to reduce the sauce slightly. Stir in the butter and return the chicken to the pan; simmer gently for 1 minute to heat the chicken through. Add more seasonings if needed and garnish with chopped parsley before serving if desired. I normally disolve a little cornstarch with some more chicken stock as a thickener.

Serve with a rice dish or over vermicelli.

December 7, 2009

Molasses Stage Planks

A Treat from
Sugar Cane Country


Now I know sugarcane grows all over the world in warm to tropical climates, this fibrous grass is more than a commodity in the south; it’s a given institution as well. One of my grandmother’s cooks, Annie Bell, grew sugarcane and made some of the best cane syrup I remember to date. We would go out to her place in the country and watch as the stalks, one at a time, was fed into a juice extractor and powered by a mule like this one. The juice collected into buckets and hauled to a large kettle (at the time it seemed like 6 feet in diameter) and boiled over an open fire to make the syrup. Her helpers dipped the syrup into quart size cans or jugs and she sold it for a few dollars.

Another product of sugarcane is molasses, which is more concentrated than syrup due to longer boiling times and with the removal of some of the sugar. There are four grades of molasses depending on how much of the sugar is removed. Molasses contains more minerals and vitamins, especially iron, than the syrup or juice itself. Table grade molasses contains about 60 percent sugar and has for years been used as a sweetener for foods.

I’m sure this recipe has many names and is said to be a form of gingerbread. It comes from an old worn page I collected years ago which contains a few recipes mentioning ‘mammy’ type cookery. A similar recipe is called New Orleans Ginger Bread but I prefer this one. Enjoy!

Stage Planks

2 cups molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup lard (Crisco or margarine will work)
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup boiling water
White flour (all-purpose)

Mix the lard with the boiling water and stir in the molasses, sugar, spices and salt. Now sift and mix in as much flour you need to make a firm dough. Use your hands to mold the dough into planks 4 to 6 inches long and about 3 inches wide and almost a half-inch thick. Place on greased pans two inches apart. Bake in a slow oven (about 300 degrees F.) and keep looking at them until nice and brown. Molasses is apt to burn quickly. These keep well several weeks if kept in a tin box.

December 6, 2009

Apple Pecan Cake

It’s Sunday. Confession time.


Many of you know I am not a baker but here it is. I made a cake last week. Actually, I made two cakes. Same recipe. It was that good. I took the first one over to my sister-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving that we celebrated on the Sunday before and then made another one when my sister came in for Thanksgiving. Actually, she helped with that one. I meant to take pictures of the first cake, but, well you know….it was gone without a trace. And on Thursday, I meant to take pictures of that cake but it disappeared pretty fast too. Actually, there was one, lonely fat slice left. That folks is the only picture of my latest baking skills.

Actually, this cake gets better as it sets for a couple of days, at least this lone slice proved so. I personally think it could use a splash of bourbon in the batter. Here is the recipe. Enjoy!


Apple Pecan Cake

1 1/2 cup Wesson oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cup diced apples
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 teaspoons vanilla

Topping
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat oil and sugar using a mixer. Add eggs and mix well. Sift the flour with the salt and soda. Gradually add flour mixture to mixer while beating. Stir in the apples, nuts and vanilla. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 1 1/2 hours in a well-greased tube pan. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan. Let completely cool before adding the topping.

For the topping, mix butter, sugar and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add vanilla and let cool. Beat to help cool over a bowl of ice water if desired. When topping is cold, pour over the cake.

Note: I did not have light brown sugar on hand, so I used half dark brown sugar and half regular sugar.

December 5, 2009

Cheesy Beef Empanadas

Sabado Mexicano

Yet another appetizer – I told you I am in a rut!


I always like to have an array of foods for my guests. Different flavors for varying palates, a selection of textures to feast on and an assorted presentation for the eyes to gaze on while grazing. I mean come on, soft music in the background, overheard bits of neighborhood gossip coming from the corners and the gulps of flowing booze makes for a great party but hey, it’s the food that really matters, right. And as long as everyone is grazing, as we call it down here, then everyone’s having a good time.

Today’s recipe is another favorite, meat filled pockets with a Mexican flair makes an outstanding addition to the table. The best part is they can be made weeks ahead, frozen and baked just before serving. Enjoy!



Cheesy Beef Empanadas
makes about 6 dozen

Cream Cheese Pastry
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 packages (12 oz total) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour
2 egg yolks
4 teaspoons cold milk

Cheesy Meat Filling
1 pound lean ground beef (chicken or turkey works fine)
1 -1.5 oz package spaghetti sauce mix
1/4 cup minced onion
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt to taste
Mexican seasoning if desired
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Prepare the pastry dough the day before making. Mix butter, cream cheese, salt and flour to form a soft dough. The egg yolks and milk will be used when baking. Chill dough overnight wrapped in wax paper. When ready to prepare and after filling has cooled, break off part of the dough and roll it out paper-thin on a floured surface. Keep remaining dough chilled in the refrigerator. Use a 2 or 3 inch round cookie cutter and cut out the dough. Place a small amount of filling on one side of the round, fold over and crimp edges with fork tines. Continue rolling out dough and making the empanadas. The unbaked pastries may be frozen at this time. When ready to bake, slightly thaw and brush the tops with the wash using the egg yolks and milk. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for about 20 minutes if completely thawed or a bit longer if partially frozen.

To make the filling, brown the beef in a skillet, drain off any fat and stir in the next 5 ingredients. I sometimes add Mexican seasoning for added flavor. Simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the two cheeses. Let cool before filling the empanadas.