Sugar Crusted Ham

We always get rave reviews when serving this Southern Classic - steeped in sugarcane goodness, this Creole recipe uses brown sugar to create a moist, delectable taste sensation and provide a dense outer crust.

Grilling Year-round on the Gulf Coast

Life is good on the Gulf Coast even in the winter months as you'll find folks grilling and barbecuing all types of fine foods. Many Holiday meals feature roasted meats like this Grilled Herb Roast. Get this recipe along with a fine Horseradish sauce.

Cake Making in the South

Similar to Ann Pillsbury's 'Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake', this Chocolate Cake is a bit more southern with the use of buttermilk and lots more brown sugar. And to make it holiday decadent, it's topped in a rich, pecan ladden fudge icing.

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 30, 2012

Church St. Scrabble

Author

Not the ordinary chex party mix.

My grandmother made batches of her Scrabble to give to friends during the holidays and to have on hand around the house for us nibblers. She also made the mix many times throughout the year. Her version of the chex mix is very addictive. It is a must at any cocktail party, goes well to picnics and always travels with us during our stays at the beach. Grandmother also made another snack mix, one she called 'Nuts and Bolts', consisting of cheerios (nuts), pretzels (bolts), rice chex, nuts, cheese tidbits and a savory blend of seasonings. This mix was a mainstay at every bridge club table as I remember each player having a bowl at their side.

This year at my house, a new version of Scrabble was formed, a combination of Grandmother's two snack mix recipes. I followed the customary giving to neighbors and in doing so, made two batches. It was well received and enjoyed. Like Grandmothers recipe, this one is addictive too. Many have requested the recipe, so here it is. Enjoy!

Church St. Scrabble
makes about 8 -1 quart containers

2 sticks salted butter
1/4 cup Worcestershire
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
6 cups rice Chex cereal
6 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups cheddar tidbits (fish, penguins or any fun shape)
3 cups pretzel sticks, broken in half
3 cups cheerios
2/3 cup sesame sticks
2 cups mixed nuts
2 cups whole pecans
salt if needed

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and add Worcestershire, soy sauce, garlic and onion powder, celery salt and Tabasco. Whisk to incorporate. Set aside.

In a large roaster or 2 medium deep pans, gently combine the remaining ingredients. Slowly drizzle about 1/3 of butter mixture over the mix. Gently stir to mix and drizzle another 1/3 of butter mixture. Gently stir to mix followed with the last of the butter mixture. Stir and place in the oven.


Remove pan every 15 minutes and gently stir to lifting mix from the bottom. Cook total of 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes.

Spread mix on newspaper or sheets of craft paper to cool. Allow to rest at least 2 hours. Store in airtight containers.


Grandmother's Scrabble and Zig's Nuts and Bolts is published in our family cookbook, Grits to Guacamole.

December 27, 2012

Holiday Breakfast Pudding

Author

Start the New Year Off Right...

... with a scrumptious, ooey gooey and yet hardy breakfast casserole full of everything needed to jump start the day. Well, as you can see, I did add a helping of creamy stone-ground grits to each plate.

Many times folks refer to this type of casserole as a Strata but the way I put it together, it just ain't so. You see, a true strata is a casserole made up from layering varying ingredients on top of each other. A true breakfast strata consists of a bottom crust of bread followed with (in no particular order) a layer of cheese, bacon, sausage and/or ham, a medley of sauteed vegetables followed with another layer of cheese before lastly smothered in a seasoned egg/milk mixture.

The recipe today is more like a savory bread pudding, kinda like the sweet dessert type where everything is jumbled together and placed in a casserole before baking. When cooked, the egg mixture transforms the toasted English muffins into a firm bread pudding, and with the help of the coddling of the cheeses and sauteed vegetables, both keeps the casserole moist and flavorsome. Like most bread based strata recipes or those for breakfast puddings, an overnight rest is essential. Enjoy!

Holiday Breakfast Pudding
a blend of favorite vegetables that pairs well with the cheesy egg breakfast pie base

8 servings

1 pound fresh thin asparagus, ends trimmed
2 strips thick-sliced bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup small-diced cooked ham 
1 1/2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 scallions, finely chopped
6 English muffins, split and toasted
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Remove the tips from the asparagus; put aside and cut the remaining stalks into 1/2-inch pieces. Keep the tips and stalks separated.

In a large skillet, saute the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to drain on paper towel and remove all but about 1 teaspoon of bacon grease. Add the butter and when melted, add ham and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms reduce to about half the original size. Add the bell pepper, onion and asparagus stalks and cook until onion is tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until slightly beaten. Whip in the milk, salt, mustard and black pepper. Fold in the cooked vegetable mixture along with the bacon. Fold in the scallions and half of each of the cheese. Lastly, break or cut with kitchen shears the toasted English muffins into 1/2-inch pieces. Fold muffin pieces into the egg mixture. Pour mixture into a well-greased 3-quart casserole.  Sprinkle the asparagus tips on top followed with the remaining cheeses.


Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove casserole from refrigerator and allow to set out for 3 minutes. Place casserole in center oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until center is set and cheese is nice and toasted.


Remove, cut into servings and enjoy with a side of fresh fruit, grits or fried breakfast potatoes.

Note: The photos show a halved version in a 1 1/2 qt. casserole.

December 16, 2012

Cajun Christmas Chips

Author

. . . as in Spicy Pickle Chips.

Sweet and spicy with a little spunkiness, just like most Cajun folks I know, these pickle chips are always a hit no matter what time of year you make 'em. For some reason, these are associated with the Holiday season and I suppose it is because not only are these inexpensive and a snap to make but also so darn wonderful when received.

One of the best little snacks around and a must on the appetizer tray, these chips are the kind of thing that will make folks say 'bet ya can't eat just one.' Now if you do not like hot, then don't come near these because they do carry a little bite. I mean, if you can't stand a little heat, I sure do not want you swearing my name. No, don’t do it. Most folks like to mix up a solution of sugar and hot pepper sauce but I like to add the garlic for flavor and crushed red pepper for an even added depth of flavor (it’s a different layer of flavor than the hot sauce, don’t you know), not to mention the Christmas-like specks of color. Enjoy!


Cajun Christmas Chips
makes about 6 half-pints for gifting
(or 24 -4 oz sample jars as shown used for promoting the launch of Drick's Cafe.com)

2 -46 oz jars whole dill pickles (not Kosher)
4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon dehydrated minced garlic
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

Drain and discard the pickling juice from the dill pickles (or save the juice and use to marinate chicken wings).

Slice the pickles in thick, nice size chips, (larger than quarter-inch, less than half-inch) and place in a large bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Allow to rest for about 2 hours. Stir from the bottom several times. The sugar will dissolve and the pickles will produce its own liquid.

Place the chips in jars distributing the liquid among the jars. Seal and refrigerate for 3 or 4 days before enjoying and gift giving.

Holiday Wreath Label, c. 2010, Carol Egbert

December 12, 2012

Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing

Author

This is One Fun Cake

Ann Pillsbury taught all of America, and the world too, a thing or two about baking when she starting publishing her collection of baking "secrets" early in 1944. Her many cookbooks, most often 64-page booklets, dealt with cakes and sweets of all kind and popular of the time, her no-knead concept of making bread. She told everyone that baking was fun, even named a booklet as such. She creating a fun market for Pillsbury flour, even coming up with a 6-page series of 'Tasty Talk' short pamphlets. These shorts included Fun With Cookies, Fun With Breads, and Easy Tricks for Picnic and Patio Fun. "Fun" being a big part of the gimmick. You see, "Ann Pillsbury" was a fictitious character created for marketing purposes and essentially represented the members of the Pillsbury Home Service Department.

Now in 1952, Ann Pillsbury published another 62-page booklet, Kate Smith Chooses Her 55 Favorite Cake Recipes. The Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake recipe became an instant top favorite. It brought the taste of brown sugar back into the cooking scene ever as popular as the star's radio singing did to Berlin's God Bless America.

The recipe today is very similar to Ann Pillsbury's version but it contains what I think are elements traditionally found in Southern recipes like the use of buttermilk, an extra egg and a quadruple amount of brown sugar. Shortening, brown sugar, flour and chocolate squares are the steadfast ingredient in both recipes. Oh, the Fudge Icing is my take on one from my family. Now, candied cherries would never appear on such a cake. As my grandmother would say 'this is pure foolishness', but hey, its Christmas, a time for festive doings, fun and silliness. Enjoy!

Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake
makes 3 layers

1/2 cup shortening
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 -1 oz squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, cream the shortening to a fluffy consistency. On medium speed, slowly add the sugar, tablespoon at a time until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat; use a rubber spatula along the sides so that all are mixed well.

Combine the sifted flour, salt and soda in a bowl. Alternately add the flour mixture with the buttermilk in about four additions beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides and mix just until batter is blended. Stir in the vanilla well but do not over-beat.

Pour the batter into 3 well greased caked 8-inch round pans. Even out the batter and bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until center of cake tests ready. Use a toothpick, cake tester (comes out clean) or the 'indention' springs back' method. Remove and cool in pans for 10 minutes. Revert to wire racks and allow to cool completely.

Use the icing below as a filling and as a frosting for the top and sides. Decorate with nuts and candied cherries for Holiday fun.

Brown Sugar Fudge Icing
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
4 1/2 tablespoons shortening
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Southern Comfort

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, cocoa, shortening, butter, salt and milk. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a good simmer stirring frequently. Continue simmering and stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and Southern Comfort. Beat with a hand mixer for about a minute or until icing is smooth and creamy. Add several drops of milk if icing becomes too stiff. Use as a filling and to frost cakes.

December 7, 2012

Ambrosia Cookies, a Southern Tradition

Author

Don't call these Fruitcake Cookies.

Much as fruitcakes are to some, these treats are traditional quintessential cookies baked in most southern kitchens.

The recipe varies from household to the next, from grandmother to mom and from country living to that of city, but one thing each version has going is the great, old-fashion taste based on a recipe from yesteryear. The test of a good, hand-me-down Ambrosia Cookie recipe is making sure certain key ingredients are included like, brown sugar, coconut, pecans, dried fruit and flavors of citrus (much like a fruitcake). And just like the Ambrosia many Southerners know and enjoy in salad form, it is no myth that these cookies are so prized by generations of good cooks for a reason. Like many desserts, sweets, cookies and pies, the immortal gods of the South know a thing or two about preserving tradition. It is done for a reason because recipes are worth sharing and preserving.

That said, this recipe comes from my kitchen, from one I remember some 30 plus years ago. Like most of my recipes, it somewhat resembles the original in carrying-on the basic idea of what an Ambrosia Cookie should be, one with the key ingredients of course, and in my opinion (and additions) one that is moist, full of citrus flavor with an alluring developed aftertaste.

Enjoy!

Ambrosia Cookies
makes about 8 dozen

Juice of 2 satsumas, tangerines or sweet oranges
1/4 cup golden sherry
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup golden raisins (or part raisin, dried apricot or pineapple mixture)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups uncooked rolled oaks
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flaked coconut, slightly toasted
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
4 dozen candied cherries, halved

Pre-heat oven to 340 degrees F.

In a small saucepan, heat the satsuma juice and sherry over medium heat and boil until liquid reduces to a syrup. Place the dried fruit (not cherries) in the saucepan with the warm sherry reduction for about 10 minutes to soften. Stir occasionally. Drain well if needed or lightly press liquid out of fruit with paper towels. Fruit should be plump but not totally wet,

In a bowl, cream the butter with electric mixer until pale yellow; slowly add the sugar beating at medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In another bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture and add the remaining ingredients, including the plumped fruit, but not the candied cherries. Combine and stir well.

Drop mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls 2-inches apart onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Lightly press a cherry half in the center of each cookie, rounded side up. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before removing to racks to finish cooling. Store in a tightly covered tin or container when cookies are firm to the touch.

Note: I found (after my first batch) the oven temperature to be a little too high at my first setting of 350 degrees therefore, I reduced the temp to 340 and baked for 14 minutes with much better results. Your oven may differ.

December 1, 2012

Thick and Creamy, Rich and Cheesy, Mac and Cheese

Author

Another Mac n Cheese recipe.

There are, I imagine, just as many recipes for macaroni and cheese as there are cooks making it, and that folks is a awful lot with a few too many.  What makes us want or need to create a new recipe when many of us already have plenty darn good ones in our repertoire is beyond me but here I am, jumping on the wagon and playing fiddle with the best of you.

I used the new Barilla White Fiber pasta shells, one of three new types of pasta from this company. The other two are mini penne and mini rotini. All contain three times more fiber than regular pasta and with each 3.5 ounce portion, that's 30% of our daily whole grain recommendations and I am one who likes the extra fiber.

This recipe is based on one I have made many times using only cheddar while many of my other recipes contain various types of cheese. This time I fiddled with the taste by adding the vegetables of southern cooking (known as the trinity) along with a can of condensed milk, which is an invention from the Great Depression and whereby many recipes using the long-lasting canned milk became popular.

I hope you try it, it was a hit during the holidays - ever so creamy and cheesy - by golly, I think that is what I will name it. Enjoy!

Creamy, Cheesy Mac
about 10 servings

1 -12 oz box sea shell pasta
salt
1/2 small sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup minced celery
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 -12 oz evaporated milk
1/2 cup milk
1 -5 oz Kraft Old English sharp cheddar cheese spread
2 cups shredded mild cheese
2 cups shredded sharp cheese, divided
2 tablespoons diced roasted red pepper
paprika

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, about 4 quarts, for 6 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add butter to a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion and celery cooking until tender. Stir in flour until smooth and cook for 1 minute. Add pepper and slowly stir in both the milks increasing the heat to medium high. Stir constantly until sauce thickens. Add the jar of cheese spread and whisk until smooth. Add the 2 cups mild cheese, 1 cup sharp cheese and stir until smooth. Fold in the red peppers. Remove from heat and combine with the cooked pasta. Mixture should be soupy. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 3-quart casserole.


Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Add remaining cup of sharp cheese and dust lightly with paprika. Bake for 5 minutes to melt the topping.