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.

April 27, 2012

Easy Cauliflower au Gratin Casserole

A little mashed, some whole florets, all baked with a cheese gratin . . .

What else could I want?

I don't care what you do to it, I have yet to find a honest recipe for making cauliflower take on the texture of creamy mashed potatoes. Oh yeah, the one with a whopping bowl of thick cheesy béchamel binding it all together is pretty darn good, but no way is it like eating a bowl of starchy thick, elastic mashed potatoes. The thing about trying to make mashed cauliflower behave like such means adding a ton of calories and fat yet without the desired result of a healthier side dish.

Well, for this recipe, I am forgoing the textural desire and going for taste all within keeping down calories and fat, a little. This recipe got a B+ from Calorie Count.

My Good Better-for-You Cauliflower Gratin
serves 8

6-8 cups cauliflower florets, 1 large head
3 garlic toes, crushed and minced
3 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon reduced fat cream cheese spread with chives
1/3 cup low fat small curd cottage cheese
pinch of cayenne if desired
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh basil
1/4 cup natural mild shredded cheese
few grinds of the pepper mill

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Steam the florets over boiling water covered for about 5-6 minutes. Remove half of the florets to a bowl and continue steaming remaining for 5-6 minutes or until tender. Remove and place on towel to drain.

In a 2-quart flat bottom casseroled dish, mash the fully cooked portion of the florets with the garlic, margarine, cream cheese, cottage cheese, cayenne and bouillon until desired texture mixing well. Fold in the celery, basil and nestle in the remaining florets. Bake covered for 25 minutes.

Sprinkle with the cheese and bake another 5 minutes uncovered or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Note: I have made this twice within a 2 week period, that is how much we liked it. Though I left the above recipe as I first wrote it, the last time, I returned it to the oven while the temperature was off and left it in the oven to dry out a bit. The first time seemed a little too moist. If any one has a way to thicken the sauce without adding calories, please let me know...

Find the Nutritional Facts here.

April 24, 2012

Smothered Collard Greens

a.k.a. Creamed Collards, Collards n Gravy or Escalloped Collards

This is a classic I remember from the old days, meaning my youth when cooks in the kitchen had a soulful vibe going on in creating dishes (foods)  not only for our enjoyment but theirs as well. Oh yeah, now they knew how to cook. In our household, on occasion, we were entertained with Emma Lee, daughter of Annie Bell who was my grandmother's permanent kitchen entertainer. I use the word 'entertainer' because never did a day go by that a funny, entertaining fiasco occur. Emma Lee enjoyed acting up to the more modern likes of Redd Foxx or George Kirby and singing Marvin Gaye while Annie Bell was happy gyrated to the tunes of Etta James and James Brown, all while frying some of the best crusted chicken I have ever known. She is the one who taught me how to cook Green Beans and New Potatoes along with so many other tricks in southern cookery. And not only could she sing, she could shake a tail-feather too. Now all this went on mind you while we young'uns were 'helping out' and while the elders were off doing, well, their elderly things. And if things got broken while 'helping out', well, we of course took the blame even though never was that believable.

I mention all of this only because the essence of this 'dish' comes from the hands of folks that knew how to really cook what is known as 'soul food.' Yes, James Brown had soul, no doubt about that, but somehow, I never made the connection to the foods until recently. I have always understood the relation of African-American cuisine to the meager ingredients available to the slave and sharecropper black families of that dark period of time, of folks trying to balance a simple-to-cook yet hearty meal of what ever became available into something nutritious. Being southern, that is one of many things that was taught to us by my mother. Back in the day, finding good food to eat was hard to come by and meager ingredients often made a meal in order for survival. To me, to put it in context, the term 'soul food' means eating and nourishing the body so that your soul has a chance of survival. Today may be a little different, yet we see the term used more often as 'food for the soul' and thanks to churches, shelters and food kitchens, feeding the souls of many who have no way of obtaining food to survive is a generous act all of us should support.

16 % of Americans are at risk of hunger!

Less than three weeks away, the weekend of Mother's Day in fact, is the National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. I urge everyone to start today in putting away non-perishable foodstuff for the drive and remember, all donations go directly to local food banks, pantries and shelters. Watch for the bags or make a drop-off.

Now for the recipe . . . Enjoy!

Smothered Collard Greens
sort of like Annie Belle used to make
makes 6-8 servings

4 large bunches collard greens (or two 1-lb. packaged fresh chopped)
6 thick slices bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons bacon grease or butter
4 tablespoons of flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse greens underwater in a deep sink if possible allowing grit to settle to bottom. Remove greens and drain water rinsing away the grit. Repeat until no trace of grit remains. Remove the thick stems and discard any blemished leaves. Rough chop collards and put aside.

In a medium stockpot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon to a paper lined plate. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of bacon grease from the pot and reserve remaining for later use. Add butter to pot with the bacon renderings and when melted, add onion and jalapeno. Saute until onion is soft. Add a handful of collards at a time tossing all while cooking until the greens are wilted. Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer covered on medium low until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove cover, add the vinegar, stir and continue simmering out most of the liquid, about 30 minutes. Do not allow collards to scorch.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 3-quart casserole dish

Meanwhile, make the sauce which is a basic white milk gravy using the bacon fat for flavor. Add the grease to a saucepan over medium low heat, whisk in the flour until smooth and when bubbly, slowly whisk in the milk stirring until a medium thick sauce is achieved. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

When the collards are cooked and most all liquid is cooked out, place into a colander and allow to drain thoroughly pressing with the backside of a large spoon if necessary to squeeze out the liquid. Spoon into the casserole and spoon the sauce on top.

Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and has melding into the greens. Remove and sprinkle with the crisp bacon before serving.

Thank you Annie Bell for allowing me to 'help out'.

April 21, 2012

Pork Loin Rib Roast ~ Delta Style

 This recipe is how we do it!

Along the waterways of the Delta Coast, there are many regional foods highly favorable to us but unbeknown to other folks outside our area. Sure, when folks  comes a'calling, we put on the dog and bring out our best paper plates and might even serve one of these regional food favorites, showing off a bit if you will. But rare do we give up these treasured recipes as these can only be passed along to our rightful, ever devout hierarchy of kin.

Well folks, this is a favorite of mine and I am officially passing it along to all of you in hope that y'all will have a better understanding of the foods we enjoy and why we do such. Folks ask me all the time why I cook as I do and I always reply the same, cause I like to eat. We southerners love to cook outdoors, we love to hunt, fish, just hang out enjoying our surroundings and here along the Delta Coast, we do it year 'round.

Today's recipe comes from our love of barbecued pork, in this case a fine rib roast pump with moisture from my flavorsome marinade and rubbed with a special blend of spices I created to my liking. Both I think reflect a taste I associate with barbecued foods in our area. Now, when choosing your roast, have your butcher crack the bone (translate as to cut it in between each rib) . As you can see, each rib chop is a whopper. I got 7 servings out of this roast that weighed in right above 9 pounds. Now that's a chop!


Delta Marinade
not just for pork, but a beautiful marinade for our wild duck, quail and turkey

1 -8 to 10 pound pork rib half loin
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Turbinado (raw) cane sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
4 bay leaves torn into thirds
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Combine marinade ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour over meat, cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours. Turn the meat over or baste several times during this period. Remove meat from marinade scraping the marmalade and bay leaves back into the liquid. Place marinade into a saucepan, add 1/2 cup apple juice and simmer for 15 minutes, Use this as a mopping sauce while cooking the meat.

Delta Dust
my magic dust I like to sprinkle on everything imaginable

1/3 cup Turbinado (raw) cane sugar
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Mix all together in a bowl. Make sure the meat is wiped dry before adding a rub. Sprinkle and rub the dust all over desired meat coating well.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate if desired. Allow meat to come to room temperature before cooking.

Roast, grill or barbecue as desired. Here's how I cooked the rib roast:
Set your grill to low cooking (about 275-300 degrees F) with one side or the middle area unlit (or coals along the outside if using charcoal). Place the roast with the ribs facing down on the cooler part (away from the heat) and let cook with the cover closed for 1 hour. Turn the roast over and begin mopping it with the sauce every 20-30 minutes keeping the cover closed as much as possible. Turn the roast over every hour and cook until the meatiest part reaches 140 degrees F. Remove and wrap in heavy foil. Let set for about 10 minutes. The internal temperature should rise to at least 145 degrees F. after about 3 minutes. Slice each rib from the roast and serve with sauce of choice.

My choice was a Sweet BBQ Mustard Sauce, my go-to easy mix of :

1 cup Cattleman's sweet BBQ sauce
1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 tbsp bourbon

    April 17, 2012

    Potato Salad with Deviled Egg Dressing

    Sweet recipe for Goodness.

    Okay, here I go again with another side dish with a referral to making a dressing before incorporating in the major ingredient. So what's wrong with that? Not a thing, it's the way we do things around these parts.

    And what's that other recipe?  Well, you can find it right here.

    Today is all about a sinful potato salad that when you sit down at the dinner table, you better have your shoes on 'cause folks, this one is so good, it will knock your socks off. Creamy, it's like biting into a deviled egg stuffed potato. Whoa, now that's an idea for a whole 'nother recipe.

    Go ahead, print this one out and get to boiling your potatoes and eggs. I know you want it and when it's all said and done, after you licked the whole bowl clean and you're sitting there all snugly and righteous, repeat after me . . . the devil made me do it.


    (pure sinful) Potato Salad

    with a Deviled Egg-Like Dressing

    1 -4 lb bag of potatoes, Yukon gold or new reds (see note), washed with jackets
    2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
    1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
    4 to 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
    1 to 1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    2 ribs celery, finely diced
    1/2 cup finely diced sweet red bell pepper
    2 green scallions, green part only thinly sliced
    1/3 cup sweet salad cube pickles (different than pickle relish)
    3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
    Paprika, if desired

    Place yellow potatoes in large pot, cover with cold water adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a rolling boil, (for new reds, see below).  Reduce heat to medium and simmer 30 to 40 minutes or until fork tender. Drain in a colander and cool 15 minutes. When cool to touch, peel and randomly dice quarter-inch to half-inch cubes. Set aside.

    In a large bowl, using a fork, mash the egg yolks with the mustard and mash in a little of the mayonnaise to a creamy consistency. Stir in remaining mayonnaise, celery, peppers, green onions, pickles and remaining salt and pepper. Grate the egg whites or finely dice and add to the dressing folding to blend.

    Add the potatoes to the bowl and gently mix in the mixture. Add additional mayonnaise if needed and adjust seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

    Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

    Note: If using new red potatoes, bring water to boil first, add salt and then potatoes before cooking. The potatoes will cook evenly, otherwise, the outer parts will become overcooked and waterlogged. Do not allow potatoes to stand in water after testing done.

    April 14, 2012

    Creamy Southern Pasta Salad

    Old Fashion at it's best.

    Pasta salads belong in America's Hall of Fame. Think about it. Dare you not attend a cookout or summer picnic without some form of pasta salad taking center place on the table. Between Aunt Becky Mae, Cousin Clarice, Mama Sue Ellen or Granny Pearl, there will be at least one bowl of this favorite side dish showing up, if not two. America has had a taste for pasta salad ever since it starting showing up on cookbook pages in the early part of the 1900's. Every region as well as every family has a favorite spin on their kind preferred whether made with a vinaigrette bath or a good soaking in a creamy mayo based dressing. Down here in the south, we prefer the creamy dressing. Surprised? I didn't think so.

    Now, there is one rule I was taught when making pasta salads, several actually, and I will share all with you. The most important is to overcompensate with seasoning and moisture, and slightly under cook the pasta. After the 'set' period, everything comes together and blends in a harmonious balance. While making a pasta salad, even the recipe today, it will appear to be salty and overly acidic but I promise, after melding together, it will dance on your palate and tingle your senses. It is important as you make a pasta salad to mix vegetables, spices and liquids with the binding ingredients first to well distribute everything in making a dressing of sort. Lastly, fold in the pasta and allow it to meld refrigerated. With the addition of the dressing, the salad will appear kinda soupy but here again on the thought of overdoing, the pasta will absorb much of the liquid and the consistency will be perfect for serving. If adding softer ingredients like cheese or eggs or ingredients that will soften over time like nuts (yes, I have seen this too and that's just nuts), I like to do that the day of serving if not right before to avoid it from becoming mushy.

    A week ago or so when sharing my recipe for our favorite baked beans with bacon onion jam, I mentioned this mac salad and now folks, here's the recipe. Southern in spirit as it is actually a combination of recipes from my Momma, my Aunt Ida and another one that I make from time to time. This one is, in my opinion, the best. Enjoy!

    P.S. here is another salad recipe made with a creamy dressing - the kind we put on our tables every week!

    Creamy Pasta Salad
    the secret is in the Southern style dressing
    about 8 servings

    8 ounce Macaroni (elbow for the real southern way), but I used Conchigliette (small sea shells) and Ditalini (short tubular salad pasta)
    1/2 cup finely diced celery
    1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
    1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
    2 thinly sliced green onions
    1/4 cup sweet salad cubes (sweet pickle relish)
    1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup crumbled, small cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese

    Cook pasta in rolling well salted boiling water just under the time on package or al dente. Drain into a colander, rinse briefly with cold water and allow to drain.

    In a medium bowl, combine the celery, red and green bell peppers, onion, salad cubes, vinegar, seasoning salt and black pepper. Mix well.

    Fold in the mayonnaise and the sour cream blending well. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Fold in the pasta, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

    Fold in the cheese before serving or up to several hours if needed to transport is fine.

    See also my Potato Salad with Deviled Egg Dressing for another creamy, cold salad made using the 'dressing' method.

    April 11, 2012

    How to Barbecue Chicken and Poultry

    left, with glaze ~ right, without

    4 recipe steps for my best tasting and most successful poultry cooking ... I promise.

    Now for you folks who are not the barbecuing and grilling enthusiast, this might seem like a very long list of ingredients, a lengthy process, a lot of steps to take in getting chicken on the table. But it is not really, in fact, you do not need to do all four, but it is sho 'nuff good. Most items you should have in your cabinets and as for the time taken, well like most delectably well eats, time really means little when the foods are so enjoyed.

    In barbecuing some chicken breasts last weekend, I used my go-to brine, rub and mop that I use for most poultry whether grilling, barbecuing, baking or roasting. This might be the first time I actually wrote it down as I prepared each step. Of course, I normally change out a few ingredients from time to time depending on the outcome of the meal. Mexican or Western, South Seas or Oriental, Southern, Cajun or Creole - whatever you fancy, you can change out a few spices to better suit the overall taste. I also added a glaze to half of the chicken at the end.

    There are times that I might use a brine, mop and glaze, then there are other times that I do the rub, mop and glaze, or maybe just the rub and mop. Notice the mop is always in the mix. There is no only one way to outdoor cooking. Today I did all four with delicious results and used hickory and cherry chips in a smoker box. Here are the 4 steps of cooking poultry and how I barbecued the latest chicken. Enjoy!

     Pump in Moisture by Brining

    Brine poultry solely to aid in moisture retention and marinate adding a slight level of flavor in impoving the overall quality. Folks say once you brine a bird for barbecuing or grilling, you'll never do it another way. Well, there are many ways to barbecue which is cooking over indirect heat.  Grilling is cooking over direct heat and most birds I know prefer low, slow indirect cooking times, that is, unless you liked yours blackened. I like to brine in the solution below as well as use a buttermilk brine sometimes too. Both I think are exceptional. And then there are times that I do not brine at all. In other words, it is a preference how you go about cooking your bird and the desired outcome you want.

    My All-Purpose Poultry Brine

    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
    1/2 to 2/3 cup Kosher salt
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 tablespoon course ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon cumin (for western flavor) or mustard seed (for all other)
    1 small onion, chopped
    2 garlic toes, minced
    1 large bay leaf, torn into thirds
    2 cups tap water (room temperature)
    2 to 4 cups  cold (iced) water
    juice of 2 lemons, limes or small sweet oranges, optional and depending on outcome of taste

    The ratio of salt to water might vary depending on how much water it will take to cover the poultry. That is why there is a differential in amounts. Whole chickens will require more than cut-up or quarter pieces and a turkey might require doubling the recipe.

    Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper, cumin or mustard, onion, garlic, torn bay leaf and 2 cups of tap water in a medium bowl or saucepan. Heat in microwave or on stove until warm and aromatic. And to sealable bag or container to which the poultry will marinate in and add the cold water. Place poultry submerging in marinade entirely. Seal and refrigerate desired length of time, see below. (I placed the chicken breasts in the fridge for 4 hours.)

    Note about Brining Times: Do not leave meats in a brine for long periods as the salt and acid will break down and overly tenderize the meat. A good rule of thumb is the following:

    Whole Chicken - 6 to 8 hours
    Flattened Chicken - 4 to 6 hours
    Cut up Chicken - 2 to 4 hours
    Cornish Hens - 1 to 2 hours
    Whole Turkey - 20 to 24 hours
    Game - 2 to 18 hours depending on size

     Improve the Taste by Adhering a Rub

    Use a rub to add flavor, to wake up the senses, crisp the surface and to aid tenderizing a bit. Think of it as a herbal/salt/acidic dry type of marinade. Using a rub enhances the taste of cooked chicken when the herbs and spices are cooked onto the outside of the poultry which also creates a barrier of sorts. As the meat heats up, the moisture from the poultry is drawn into the rub and a flavorsome crust is formed and properly cooked with a sop, will add so much taste that many times, a finishing sauce or glaze is not needed. Adding a glaze early in the cooking process will burn whereas a rub does not, unless it contains too much sugars or is cooked over too hot of heat.

     My All-Purpose Poultry Rub

    1/3 cup Hungarian paprika
    2 tablespoons course ground black peppercorns
    2 tablespoons seasoning salt (omit or reduce if using with a salty brine)
    2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    1 tablespoon dehydrated garlic bits
    1 tablespoon dehydrated onion flakes
    1 tablespoon Coleman dry mustard
    1 teaspoon dried parsley
    1 teaspoon dried crushed thyme, tarragon or rosemary depending on desired taste 
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    Combine ingredients in a sealed shaker, container or jar for storage. Store in a dark, cool cupboard.
    When ready to use, pat dry the poultry (inside and out if whole) and coat with the rub. Let rest for at least an hour to reach room temperature or not more than 6 hours refrigerated for cut up poultry and 35 hours for whole birds.

    To cook outside, sear the rub onto the poultry by placing it over medium heat (350 degrees F.) for just a few minutes followed with off heat cooking at a lower barbecuing range of 250 degrees F. until chicken is cooked (about 2 1/2 hours for the pieces today) and the outside is nice and brown. Use the sop during the last 2 hours of cooking time to baste the chicken adding flavor and moisture.

    To cook inside either by means of baking or roasting, after allowing the rub to rest on the chicken for at least an hour (overnight for whole birds), cook at desired oven temperature until internally done (160-165 degrees for me). Of course, depending on the poultry, it's size and whether or not it has been brine will determine the length of cooking time. Do not overcook poultry with a rub, remove after it comes to the correct temperature and is a beautiful, roasted color.

     Moisten the Poultry with a Flavorful Sop

    It is very important in all types of barbecuing, and grilling too for that matter, to keep the surface of the meat well moistened. A sop (mopping sauce) is ideal in doing that as well as adding more flavor. There are many recipes varying in using beer, ketchup, chicken broth, Worcestershire but the key ingredients are always vinegar and lemon.

    My All Purpose Poultry Sop (Mopping Sauce)

    3 tablespoons butter
    1/2 cup cider vinegar
    1 lemon, quartered
    3 garlic toes, crushed
    1 teaspoon Sriracha (Rooster Sauce)
    1 to 2 cups water (depending on size of poultry and time of cooking)

    Add ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter melts and sauce is hot. Remove and squeeze out the lemons prior to using. Use to mop on the poultry every 30 minutes or so to keep the outside moist. It is important that you mop and not brush when using a mopping solution as you do not want to wipe away any of the rub. 

     Finish with a Tasty Glaze

    There are some folks who insist on their barbecued or grilled foods having a sticky, finger-licking sauce that aids in adding further taste and makes eating such foods so darn messy that in many BBQ joints the plates come with a bib. A good BBQ sauce added at the last turn or two of cooking bakes and caramelizes on the surface creating a most delectable outcome.

    your BBQ Sauce of choice 

    OR this easy standby:
    1/2 cup of your favorite spicy barbecue sauce
    1/2 cup of jam or marmalade

    Heat in a small saucepan until blended and smooth. Mop on the chicken during the last turn during the cooking process coating all sides. Allow the glaze to cook and adhere to the poultry but be careful, the sweet glaze will burn quickly.

    Now, sit down and enjoy tender, moist poultry like we do, every time.

    +Drick Perry 

    April 6, 2012

    Baked Beans with Brown Sugar Recipe

    Barbecue meats need a great side dish.

    It is time for cookouts and time to get the grill fired up. If you have not already, what are you waiting for? Last weekend we enjoyed two wonderful, eventful days and ended it with my ever-loving BBQ ribs with my rub and mopping sauce. For sides, I bought corn fresh from Florida, created a pork and bean casserole and made a mac salad that was out of sight. I'll share that one later but today, I am telling you how I made my new favorite baked beans plus plugging a favorite brand I grew up enjoying.

    I have always supported local and regional companies whenever I can. If they make it and I need it, I will pretty much buy the product that is made as close to home as possible. I just enjoy buying local produce, sausage and meats from southern Alabama and anything else that is produced in our state rather than support outside sources. It is the right thing to do. Many of you know how I feel about supporting our local seafood industry and I do the same with spice mixes, seasonings and hot sauces as well as everything else I can.

    Vintage ALAGA Ad
    100 years ago, ALAGA Syrup Company found the secret formula for the “Sweetness of the South” when the original cane syrup recipe was created in 1906. ALAGA syrup was born out of love, and the “feeling of family” when a Georgia boy met and married an Alabama girl. ALAGA Syrup-Whitfield Foods Inc. is proud to co-pack for some of the finest companies in America right in the heart of Alabama, in Montgomery. In addition to producing ALAGA, Yellow Label and Plow Boy brands are also under their product line. The ALAGA line includes Original Cane Flavored Syrup; the famous Bear Pancake and Waffle Maple, Butter Maple and Sugar Free Syrups; Pancake and Waffle Real Cane Syrup and Light Corn Syrup.

    My new favorite
    Another “hot” new product is their “Sweet Hot Alabama” ALAGA Hot Sauce. Taking a Louisiana tradition, they made it even better by adding just the right amount of Alabama’s ALAGA Original Cane Syrup. And I can attest, it is one fine hot sauce folks. ALAGA Hot Sauce is perfect for hot wings, vegetable dips, casseroles and all your grilling needs. It certainly adds an enjoyable depth in my version of baked beans I am sharing today.  Enjoy!

    Southern Baked Beans 
    with Bacon Onion Jam
    serves 8-10

    3 thick slices smoked bacon (like Conecuh brand), chopped
    1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onion, divided
    1/2 cup chopped sweet green bell pepper
    1/2 cup chopped sweet red bell pepper
    1 tablespoon southern bourbon
    1/3 cup brown sugar, divided or 1/4 cup Alaga Plow Boy Syrup
    1 teaspoon yellow mustard
    1/2 cup ketchup
    1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
    1/2 to 1 teaspoon ALAGA Southern Seasoning Hot Sauce
    2 -11 oz cans pork and beans with liquid
    1 -15 oz can southern white beans or pintos, drained and rinsed

    Heat a small skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the bacon and cook until brown. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon. Strain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon renderings from the skillet, add 1 cup of chopped sweet onion and the green bell pepper. Stir to coat in the oil and reduce heat to medium low heat. Lightly salt and pepper the mixture and stir in 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar along with the bourbon. Allow to cook about 30 minutes or until onions are golden brown stirring every so often. Remove from heat, stir in the bacon and add to a medium bowl.

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 2-quart casserole with oil or cooking spray.

    To the caramelized bacon onion mixture, add the remaining sweet onion, remaining brown sugar, the chopped red pepper, mustard, ketchup, liquid smoke, Alaga Hot Sauce and stir to mix. Fold in the pork and beans.

    Add the white beans to the casserole and spoon in the pork and bean mixture. Carefully fold to blend. Place in the oven and cook 40 minutes. Stir the baked beans and cook another 20 minutes. Remove and let set about 5 minutes before serving.

    April 4, 2012

    My Best Tasting Croutons

    Homemade taste can't be beat!

    Salads play an important part of our weekly meals. We have for the last few months enjoyed eating a salad three or four times a week filling in the remaining lunch and dinner meals with all vegetable dishes. Now for those who follow on a regular basis, you know the weekends are all out, eating whole hog style like I enjoying doing. This starts on Friday night and ends at bedtime Sunday. I find this to be a very rewarding way of dieting. Yup, call it what you want but that is how I see it. And in case y'all are wondering, I am now two belt holes slimmer than when I started. Yippee me! You see, I believe in rewards and there is no better time than weekends.

    I like my salads 'chopped' style meaning everything is finely chopped and mixed together including the dressing. This means the croûtons (that's fancy French for crust) are included too. Oh yeah, I may be dieting, but don't cut out my croutons . About 1/4 cup is all needed to make this boy happy.

    These are seasoned just the way I like them with flavors that put a big ol' smile on my face. I think these homemade little joy bites are the best.

    Great for soups, mixed into chopped salads, topping for casseroles or crush and add to omelets, vegetable gratins or 'loaded' baked potatoes.

    My Best Tasting Croûtons
    makes 16 ~1/4-cup servings

    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    1 tablespoon real Bacon Bits
    2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
    1 tablespoon granulated garlic
    1 teaspoon dried crushed basil
    1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
    1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    6 oz (4 cups small cubed) Baguette

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Place first eight ingredients in a spice grinder or small food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until mixture is very fine. Remove to a medium bowl.

    Whisk in the lemon juice and olive oil. Toss in the cubed bread until fully coated. Arrange croutons on a rimmed baking pan.

    Cook for 10 minutes, Stir and lift croutons from the bottom tossing to turn. Bake another 5 minutes or until browned to liking. Toss croutons and remove.

    Allow to cool on the pan before storing in sealed container.