Tag Archives: recipes

120. Cream Corn, Not Just for Folks Lacking Teeth

30 Jan

5950519991_9ae46e4c4e_mOf all the ways there are to enjoy corn–on the cob, popped, niblets, batter for frying or even sweetener for Cokes (any flavor)–I think the most under-appreciated outside the South would have to be cream corn.

Makes sense, seeing as it looks like something one would expect to find in a hospital cafeteria or airplane sick bag. I’ll be the first to admit that cream corn isn’t about to win any food porn pageant. It’s sort of what I pictured when those Little Rascals kids whined about the “mush” they had to eat. It is, after all, mushed up corn.

Knew how to make some mean mush...

Knew how to make some mean mush…

mush recipe

Imagine my surprise when I bought a book from 1903, which included recipes for mush that didn’t look half bad. This confirmed my suspicion that Spanky, Darla and the gang were a bunch of drama queens.

Now where were we? Oh, yes, cream corn.

Up until just a few years ago, I gave cream corn a wide berth. It’s not something I’d have deliberately chosen to consume and if a blob of it accidentally landed on my plate, I’d try to discretely eat around it. I can’t recall exactly when my opinion changed, but it must have been a holiday meal with my family wherein nobody went to the trouble to make my sister-in-law Karen’s amazing corn casserole. Instead, there was cream corn. Reluctantly, I sampled a bite. Then promptly went back for a second helping.

Since when was cream corn not only edible, but–dare I say–tasty?

As it turned out, this particular cream corn had never seen the inside of a tin can. Instead, it came from the freezer section in a tube reminiscent of the sort used for Pillsbury heat-up cookies. (Not the official name, but y’all know what I’m talking about.)

After returning to Seattle, I sought to recreate that creamy, corny goodness. Alas, the only frozen corn was on the cob, niblets, or popsicles (high-fructose corn syrup strikes again). One time, I got desperate and bought a can of the stuff. I cannot NOT recommend this tactic highly enough. Just say no, folks.

No, thank you...

No, thank you…

Then lo and behold, cream corn made an appearance on the menu of 5 Spot. Having been burned by Seattle’s interpretation of Southern food on seventeen too many occasions, I was dubious (but also, as I mentioned, desperate). So I ordered it. And y’all, it was awesome. Yes, I’m still talking about cream corn.

Another time I got it as a side at a BBQ joint I frequent, and it was even better. Hooray! Maybe Seattle chefs were finally beginning to embrace some classic Southern preparations without tossing in random extras like mushrooms, peppers, or kale.

Except.

The regional menu at 5 Spot changes every quarter and when I went back to the BBQ place some months later, I was informed that cream corn is seasonal. Really? Well, yes, I realize that corn is seasonal. But also, really? I mean, tomatoes are seasonal, but that doesn’t prevent Italian restaurants or pizza places from being open year-round.

Just add butter!!

Just add butter!!

When I was home for Christmas in 2011, I saw my sister making cream corn and discovered that the frozen stuff isn’t the holy grail after all. What makes it good is the stick of butter she melted into it. Oh. My. I guess I should have figured out that cream corn contains, well, cream. But who knew?

Armed with this ammo, I set out to make myself some cream corn from scratch last year. By “scratch” I mean frozen niblets since the corn season in Seattle lasts about five minutes. In a word, yum! I used this recipe as a guideline, but tinkered with the ingredients to taste, so your results may vary.

Last September in MS, I made a version of the recipe using fresh corn with the help of my 8-year-old nephew, Jackson, and he liked it so much that he saved it to eat last at dinner. (High praise amongst our clan!)

Just in case I don’t write about corn again anytime soon, I have to share my favorite corn-related anecdote:

My dad hates corn. Always has. He will not eat the stuff, even if it’s disguised as a “casserole” loaded up with cheese and saffron rice. (Although he loves corn bread, so go figure.) If I recall correctly, his rationale is that corn is what one feeds to pigs, and he can’t stomach the idea of eating pig food. He will, however, happily eat actual pigs.

One day, he was eating my sister’s homemade soup and said, “I sure do like these crunchy water chestnuts.”

Jenna said, “Uh, Dad, that’s corn.”

Delusion–the ultimate flavor enhancer.

Do you like creamed corn? What’s your favorite recipe?

Photo credits: Cream corn by Shutterbean, Flickr Creative Commons; “The Perfect Woman” book cover and oatmeal mush recipe snapped by yours truly.

116. Green Bean Bundles of Love (and Thanksgiving)

22 Nov

Among the many reasons I’m thankful for my sister-in-law, Karen (most important of which being my incredible nephews Tray, Luke, and Josh), green bean bundles rank pretty high on the list. Since she and my brother, Louie, married when I was fairly young, I can’t remember what all we feasted on in the years before her tasty bundles and sweet potato casserole. Except for my mom’s dressing, half oyster-laden and half without. Did I mention that Mom and Louie were the only ones who’d eat the oyster variety? Oh, don’t get me to digressing…

Green bean bundles bring together three of Southerners’ favorite spices–salt, sugar, and pig–in one delicious, bite-sized morsel. Yes, y’all, I realize some folks might not think of pig as a spice, but once they spend a day or two south of the Mason-Dixon line they’ll most likely come around. After all, it’s the secret (or not) ingredient in everything from black-eyed peas and collard greens to cornbread and pie crusts.

I should warn you that A. green bean bundles are a bitch to make and B. they make a mess you don’t even want to look at, much less clean up, but they are worth it. I promise. Don’t just take my word for it. As part of my mission to spread a little Southern hospitality around Seattle, I’ve brought them to many a Thanksgiving gathering and there are never any leftovers. Like ever, y’all.

Oh, but you might want to keep the recipe a secret, seeing as some folks might freak out about the copious amounts of butter and sugar involved. Perhaps issue a word of warning to those with sensitive arteries.

I’ll give y’all the basic recipe, but you’ll want to scale up, depending on the number of folks you’re feeding and how hungry they are. I reckon this serves about six or eight at the most.

Start with two cans of whole green beans. Not the fancy French cut kind. And not actual fresh green beans. I know, fresh green beans taste way better than their distant relatives in the can, but they just don’t work for bundles. I have tried and failed, just to save you the trouble.

Open the cans and pour out all the bean juice. I like to put the beans in a bowl, but you can pick them out of the can if you don’t want to mess up a dish.

Meanwhile, take a package of bacon (whatever kind you like) and slice the whole thing into thirds. You may be tempted to stretch it out by cutting the bacon strips into fourths, but try and resist the urge to make these less decadent. You’ll thank me later.

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil, unless you want Pyrex soaking in your sink for a week.

Now, pick up a small bundle of similar sized beans (about 4 or 5), wrap it with 1/3 a strip of bacon, and secure it with a toothpick. Place the bundle in the baking dish. Keep doing this until all the green beans and bacon are wrapped. Or until you are tired and can trick somebody else into doing the work. (You may not want to trust children under six, but by a certain point you may cease to care how they look.) Note: fit as many as you can into one baking dish. They may appear to be too crowded, but there will be shrinkage.

After you’ve got all the bundles bundled, it’s time to dress them.

Melt 3/4 stick of butter (6 tablespoons), then add 1/2 cup brown sugar, a little garlic powder and some salt and pepper. Then distribute the mixture as evenly as possible atop the bundles.

Oh, I forgot to tell you to preheat the oven to 375 degrees. So once that’s done, cover the pan with aluminum foil and pop it in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Your cooking time may vary, just be sure that the bacon is cooked through and the whole thing looks caramelized.

Many years back, my sister decided that making the bundles for our whole family was far too much trouble. She does a deconstructed version called Green Beans, Unbundled. Basically, she just takes all the ingredients, throws them in an electric skillet, and stirs occasionally till they reach maximum caramelization. This is the way to go if you’re pressed for time, or if you accidentally wind up with French-cut green beans because the person you sent to the store buys the wrong thing even though you specifically told them NOT to get the French cut kind. Hypothetically, of course.

Remember when I said y’all should resist the urge to make them less decadent? Well, you can get away with using the less fatty center cut bacon and maybe even reducing the amount of buttery, sugary sauce. However, whatever you do, don’t go and try to make them healthy.

Refrain from altering the recipe to include:
Turkey bacon (or worse, veggie!)
Splenda
Light margarine
Or heaven forbid, all of the above.

My sister once encountered this abomination at her very own Thanksgiving table. It may have been the one and only time there were left-over bundles. LOTS of left-over bundles.

My very first Thanksgiving away from home, I wanted to recreate the family feast but hadn’t a clue where to start seeing as I had previously been responsible for only the sweet potato casserole portion of the meal (thanks again for that recipe, Karen).

My mom sent me a handy Thanksgiving preparation guide, which has been indispensable over the years. Whenever I pull out the photocopied pages of her recipes and read her description about how to do the dressing and such, I can still sense her with me, as if she’s looking over my shoulder saying, “Make sure your turkey has been out of the freezer for at least two days” or “Don’t forget to toast the pecans.” Of all the things I’m thankful for–and there are far too many blessings to count–I’m glad I had my mother with me to share the first 37 years of my life. I only wish she could’ve stuck around for 37 more. If only to hear what she had to say about those “healthy” green bean bundles…

I’d like to dedicate this post to Karen’s mom, Betty Glen, who died just last week. I couldn’t thank her enough for bringing Karen into the world to become part of our crazy (but well-fed) family.

Green Bean Bundles, Karen Holloway
2 (16 oz.) cans whole green beans
1/2 cup brown sugar
Bacon
3/4 stick butter, melted
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Cut bacon strips in thirds (or half). Wrap around small bunch of green beans and secure with toothpick. Place in foil-covered pan. Make a glaze from the butter, brown sugar, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Pour over beans. Bake covered at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Bake uncovered for another 20 minutes.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

111. Hello Dollies, Goodbye Girlish Figure

12 Sep

A Hello Dolly by any other name still tastes as sweet

Folks up here call these delicacies “magic cookie bars,” but in the South they’re called Hello Dollies. Why, I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps because they inspire folks to burst into song? I can, however, see why people think they’re “magic,” seeing as they’re easier than pie to make (even using storebought crust) and more addictive than crack. Not that I’ve actually compared the additive qualities of the two substances. I’m merely speculating. However, I’d be willing to wager that they’re easier to make than crack or at least crystal meth, considering all the complicated shenanigans on Breaking Bad.

Anyhoo, after I graduated from the Easy Bake Oven to the actual kitchen stove, Hello Dollies were some of the first baked treats I mastered. Considering that they’re nigh impossible to mess up, I think they ought to be adopted as the entry level Home Ec project as opposed to the more challenging Rice Krispies treats, which can potentially be disastrous. (Ok, maybe not for most people. But perhaps most people when faced with the conundrum of using large marshmallows instead of the traditional mini version might ignore their Home Ec partner when she suggests melting the marshmallows one at a time and thus avoid making “treats” that resemble concrete, only slightly more difficult to bite into.)

I can.

Folks, Hello Dollies are so easy to make that creating a bad one requires malice aforethought, such as substituting carob for chocolate chips, walnuts for pecans, or using fat-free sweetened condensed milk. As y’all may know, I’m of the opinion that the word “free” ought not be found in any dessert recipe. However, if you want to include that word in the price, by all means, go right ahead! I believe I’ve also made clear my position on alternate fat sources like margarine or the unfortunately named “Buttery Stick,” But in case you missed it, I’ll sum up: Just no.

For Hello Dollies, you’ll need just a few staples that are most likely already in your cabinet/fridge/deep freeze. Namely, graham crackers, butter, chocolate chips, flaked coconut, pecans, and sweetened condensed milk.

Once you’ve gathered all that and a baking dish (I prefer 8 1/2” x 11″, but they’re nearly impossible to find so a 9” x 13” will do), melt a stick of butter and put it in the bottom of said baking dish. Then crush up about one sleeve of graham crackers and mix them in with the butter to make a crust. I just keep adding more till I get a firm, not too buttery-looking foundation. Then layer on a package of chocolate chips, some shredded coconut (the pre-sweetened kind), and some pecans that have been chopped and toasted (forgot to mention that step).

Serving size: 1

Pop an opening on the can of sweetened condensed milk with the rarely used pointy end of a bottle opener, and then make an identical opening directly opposite the first (both on top of the can). Now, here comes the fun part: drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the top of the prepared layers. You could remove the top of the can and drizzle with a spoon or something, but it’s not nearly as exciting. (Did I mention I started doing this as a kid when I had more free time and was more easily entertained?)

Once you’ve drizzled all that will drizzle, carefully remove the top from the can with a can opener (beware the sharp points!). Scoop up the remaining sweetened condensed milk with your finger and lick. Repeat as necessary. Sometimes a plastic spatula is helpful for getting out those elusive last drops. Please note that eating sweetened condensed milk from the can like this is dangerous for children under, say, 27 so you should perform this task yourself. Oh, and also, you should put the pan in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until it looks brown and bubbly on top. I recommend eating this while it’s hot (also not advised for children) but room temperature also works.

Courtesy of sweet and talented Jessie aka CakeSpy. Click to visit her fabulous blog.

If you have any leftovers (hah!), they freeze and reheat nicely in the microwave. (The only reason I know this is because I live with someone who hates both pecans and coconut. However, if you take a pan of these to any gathering of three or more, you will come home with an empty baking dish. Not just empty — scraped clean!)

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little extra spendy, I’ll do a version of these I learned from my friend Gina (of the add-marshmallows-one-at-a-time debacle). Follow the same (half-ass, I know) directions but also add a package of butterscotch chips, a package of peanut butter chips, and a package of mini baking M & M’s.

When serving Hello Dollies, you might want to make sure there’s an adequate number of comfortable horizontal surfaces nearby because they’ve been known to cause sudden and prolonged sugar comas. Consider yourself warned.

Hello Dollies Quick Reference Recipe
1 stick melted butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut
12 oz. package chocolate chips (more or less to taste)
1 cup nuts
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Make crust with the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Layer other ingredients as listed. Drizzle sweetened condensed milk over the top and bake at 350 until tan on top.

Ok, show of hands, who likes eating sweetened condensed milk straight from the can?

107. Coconut Cake–Paradise on a Plate

28 Aug

Four layers of coconuttyness by The Thrillbilly Gourmet

If you’ve lived in Seattle for any length of time, you’ve most likely dined in one of Tom Douglas’s many fine establishments. Seeing as they’re second in number only to Starbucks, it isn’t hard to do. Unless you are broke and have no generous friends. Then it could be something of a challenge seeing as Tom doesn’t give it away.

“How does this relate to Southern coconut cake?” you may be wondering. Well, actually, it doesn’t. It relates to Tom’s triple coconut cream pie. I believe that means there’s coconut in the crust, filling, and whipped cream, but honestly, I’ve never slowed down enough to check. This is some MY-T-FINE pie, my friends. But what it isn’t is good old-fashioned coconut cake. Apparently, folks around these parts fail to recognize the awesomeness of said dessert. Either because they’ve never had it or because they don’t know what’s good.

Every Seattle baker and his/her Facebook friends are doing renditions of red velvet cake that range in flavor from so-so to what Gordon Ramsay might refer to as “the dog’s dinner,” but nobody’s even attempting coconut cake. Well, some of the local cupcake places sprinkle a few flakes of coconut on top of buttercream icing and call it coconut, which I suppose it technically is. But no. To my mind, coconut cake was, is, and forever shall be comprised of no less than two, but preferably three or more layers.

Dear Cupcake Royale, more icing, please!

Why are Southerners so fond of layer cakes? Simple: more icing per square inch. (Sorry, y’all, but I’ve been out of the South so long, I can’t remember if the correct word is “icing” or “frosting.” Somebody help me out here.) With a cupcake or sheet cake, there’s only one sad, lonely layer of icing. And woe be unto you if someone serves you a slice from the middle. Which, incidentally, never happens with a layer cake. You always get a wedge that includes at minimum three layers of frosting–top, middle, and side–and quite often you’ll encounter an extra middle layer. Pardon me for going all mathematical, but that’s a 3 to 2 or 4 to 3 ratio, which always trumps 1 to 1. At least as far as icing is concerned.

Please note that I’m not a cupcake or sheet cake hater. Anyone who knows me will vouch that I’m an equal opportunity cake eater. But given my druthers, I’ll opt for layer cake every time.

You might think from the name that a Southern coconut cake would feature a fair amount of coconut, coconut milk, or even the dreaded “coconut” flavoring. Nope, many coconut cakes contain nary a flake of coconut. They’re usually regular old white cake all dolled up in coconut frosting. Heaps of frosting with heaps of coconut. Not that anybody’s going to snub a cake with actual coconut in it, but…(Sorry, y’all, I just got sidetracked looking at photos of/recipes for coconut cake on the Internets. But now you have my undivided attention again. Except that I’m hungry.)

Well, anyhow, what makes a Southern coconut cake special is that it’s always super moist and the icing is usually slightly sticky. If you encounter a dry coconut cake with dry icing, run! Ok, that’s a bit drastic. Perhaps you should merely mosey along. Unless there’s no other dessert option, in which case, you’ll have to make do.

Here’s where I should probably tell y’all the secret to making a traditional Southern coconut cake. Sadly, I haven’t the foggiest. I live with an avowed coconut hater, so this particular cake is pretty far down on my to-bake list, seeing as I’d have to consume the whole thing myself. Not necessarily in one sitting, but still. I’ve thought about making one as a party/potluck contribution, but that would involve procuring a cake carrier. Which would involve finding a place to stow said carrier when not in use, and my cabinets exceeded maximum capacity three mixing bowls ago.

A few months back, as I perused a cookware store, a book called “Southern Cakes” beckoned me to come hither. And thither I went. After one glance at the stunning coconut cake on the cover, I promptly added the book to my library queue. (A shout out to my friend Linda who clued me in that one could check out cookbooks from the library. Who knew? Just be careful not to spill.) I made a few of the recipes—including one called “Celestial Chocolate Cake,” which turned out to be worthy of its name. If you like to bake (or just drool over pretty pictures) I highly recommend this particular cookbook. Also, it makes an excellent gift. Hint, hint!

In the meantime, I’ll leave y’all with my grandmother’s recipe. As always, the directions/measurements are vague, so your results may vary.

P.S. What’s your favorite Southern cake? Please do tell!

My Mom’s Mother’s Coconut Cake

3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 t baking powder
1 pinch soda
1 t vanilla

There are no mixing instructions, so use your best judgment. Also, I have no idea how long it should bake or at what temperature.

Filling:
2 cups sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
Coconut (No amount specified. Add however much you want, I reckon.)

Cook filling in double boiler until it thickens. Add vanilla.

I believe my mom once mentioned that it’s better to make the cake the day before you plan to serve it. But I wouldn’t know; I’ve never been able to wait that long to eat cake.

Photo Credits: Coconut layer cake courtesy of The Thrillbilly Gourmet, Coconut cupcake by Sea Turtle–Flickr Creative Commons.

103. Banana Pudding–Over-Ripe Fruit at Its Best

3 Apr

Southern banana pudding by Evil Shenanigans

One of the perks of being the child of a Southern Baptist preacher (besides, of course, having your most embarrassing childhood antics immortalized in sermons) is that folks occasionally show up at the house with food.

I would never admit to rating congregants based on the quality and frequency of their culinary gifts. But if I were to do such a churlish thing, the winner would be Donnie of the aforementioned chicken and dumplings. First runner up in the (imaginary, y’all) savory category goes to Vicky J.’s lasagna and garlic bread. However, Vicky takes first prize in the dessert category. “There’s a dessert category?” Does bacon come from pigs? (Surely, no one will argue that bacon can also come from turkey. That’s not bacon. That’s a travesty!)

Yes! We have no bananas...

Anyhoo, Vicky breezes past the competition with her banana pudding. Those of y’all who’ve never had banana pudding may be wondering how such a dish could ever win (an imaginary!) dessert contest. There’s not even chocolate in it, and nary a nut to be found. You might think of pudding as something only old folks, hospital prisoners, and people lacking tastebuds would eat. Oh, no. You’re probably thinking of banana-flavored pudding (or more often, chocolate-flavored, still no nuts).

Banana pudding is an entirely different creature. First of all, it starts with actual bananas. Not just any old bananas (or worse, new!). They should be slightly riper than you’d like with cereal, but nowhere near banana bread territory (or smoothie for Seattle folks). The other key components are pudding and Nilla Wafers.

Pick the middle one.

What makes Vicky’s banana pudding so delectable is that she has the optimal balance of ingredients. Some folks are stingy with the wafers. Some skimp on bananas. But Vicky’s banana pudding features an abundance of everything so that every time you dip the spoon, you get pudding, banana, and wafer all at once. (Anybody who eats with me on a regular basis has likely noticed that I’m a big fan of the “perfect bite.” It takes a bit longer to eat in this persnickety manner, but it’s worth it.)

When I went down to Memphis to welcome my newest nephew, Eli, my sister gave me a very important assignment (and if y’all know Jenna, you know how fond she is of giving assignments). She had Paula Deen’s banana pudding recipe and wanted me to whip up a batch and bring it to the hospital so she wouldn’t be forced to ingest institutional chocolate-flavored pudding or worse, green-flavored Jello.

One of the steps in Mrs. Deen’s recipe is to mix together a block of cream cheese with a can of sweetened condensed milk. I was tempted to stop right there and eat the whole bowl, but I feared the wrath of my sister and thus persevered.

Rather than use the traditional Nilla Wafers, Paula goes all fancy (and spendy) using Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies. I’m not sure they’re an improvement, but my tastebuds are heavily influenced by nostalgia, so I could be wrong. I’ve also heard of banana pudding made with Nutter Butter cookies, but haven’t tried it because I’d hate to end up on A&E’s “Intervention.”

While I’d never turn up my nose at Paula’s banana pudding, I’ll note that it IS made with boxed pudding mix (though thankfully NOT banana-flavored). I’ve tried my hand at a variety of banana pudding recipes over the years and my favorites are the made-from-scratch variety. Like my PerfectBite™, homemade custard takes a little more work, but it’s worth it. The next recipe I’m trying is from Evil Shenanigans, pictured at top.

What’s your favorite banana pudding recipe? Or if you don’t cook, where’s the best place to order it?

101. Cream-of-Something Soup

27 Mar

I don’t know whether or not anyone has ever heated up Campbell’s cream-of-anything soup and actually eaten it straight. In a bowl. Maybe with some bits of saltines (or oyster crackers for the fancy folks). I, for one, have never done this. Nor have I witnessed it or even heard urban legend-ish tales about people who’ve done it. See, where I come from, cream-of-whatever soup isn’t actually soup. It’s an ingredient. I mean, you might as well dig in to a bowl of flour or down a shot glass of butter.

So how did cream-of-something soup become such a Southern staple? In a word: casseroles. I’m pretty sure casseroles existed before canned soup, but I can’t imagine how. Surely folks didn’t make homemade soup and then toss some combination of chicken and pasta or green beans and crispy onion rings into a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish to make a casserole. I mean, if you’re making homemade soup, well, wouldn’t that be considered a meal unto itself? And now that I’m thinking about it, how on earth did folks make green been casseroles before they started selling those onion rings in a can? Maybe some of my more seasoned readers can shed light on this mystery. I’d hate to have to do research, and by “research” I mean check Wikipedia.

If you’ve ever been to a dinner on the ground (or the non-denominational event known as a “potluck”), you’ve likely seen all manner of casseroles, most of which involve chicken. If there’s anything Southerners like almost as much as fried chicken, it’s casseroled chicken. But we don’t stop there. We’ll happily eat casseroled vegetables, too, as long as there’s cream-of-something soup involved (and also meat of some sort). And, of course, there are dessert casseroles, but thankfully, they’re mostly soup-free.

I can see now that the topic of casseroles is far too broad for one blog post (seeing as I was about to expound on the sweet potato casserole marshmallow vs. crunchy pecan topping dispute), so I’ll stick to discussing only those involving cream-of-something soup.

One time, a friend was telling me about one of her relatives who became quite indignant upon arriving at a potluck and discovering that someone had “stolen” her recipe for chicken and rice casserole. I said, “You mean that same chicken and rice casserole that every Southern person has known how to make since birth?” She said, “Precisely.”

For the benefit of folks who don’t have the recipe embedded in their DNA, here is my mom’s version, which she credited to one of her sisters. Apparently, providing vague directions is a genetic trait.

Chicken Dinner (Geneva)

Chicken breasts

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of celery soup

1 large onion, chopped

1 stick butter

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice

1 1/2 cans water

salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together and place in a large baking dish. Place chicken breasts on top and pat with butter. Bake at 325 for 3 hours.

I have made this dish many times over the years, but have yet to produce anything that tastes nearly as good as my mom’s version. It might have something to do with the vague directions or my inability to wait three hours for dinner to cook. Then again, it might have to do with all the tinkering I’ve done trying to make it healthier and/or a smaller serving size.


I do not recommend:

Using 98% fat free cream-of-something soup

Using only the cream-of-chicken soup

Using only the cream-of-chicken and cream-of-celery soup

Using skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Omitting the onion

Using only ½ a stick of butter

Adding way too much salt

The last time I made this, I followed the recipe (such as it is) exactly (except for jacking up the oven temperature to 450 or so). Still wasn’t as good as mom’s, but better than any previous attempts. And for the first time ever, I had half a casserole in the freezer. It was almost like having funeral food, except nobody had to die. Yay!

I’ll have more to say on casseroles later, but I just have to tell y’all that during my time in Seattle, I’ve attended not one, but TWO casserole potlucks. Which is two more than I’ve ever attended in the South, but I reckon that’s because at Southern potlucks there’s no need to add the word “casserole” to the invitation. It’s implied.

What’s your favorite use of cream-of-something soup?

Photo Credits:
Cream of mushroom soup ad available from Bamboo Trading, Chicken casserole from Campbell’s, Cream of chicken soup ad available from A Glass Collector.

I’m Baaaaaaaack, Sort Of.

10 Aug

When I read Julia Child’s memoir “My Life in France,” one of the passages really struck a chord with me. Julia’s referring to cooking, but I think it’s more of general life lesson that might give Oprah an “aha moment.” Although, to be fair, it’s not too difficult to elicit an “aha moment” from Oprah. Probably a gerbil could do it. Or a hampster for sure. But not a Guinea pig. All they do is sit there and stare at you. In a creepy manner.

Anyhoo, here’s the passage wherein Julia discusses serving someone a terribly unappetizing meal:

“We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine.

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as, “Oh, I don’t know how to cook…” or “Poor little me…” or “This may taste awful…” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attentions to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, ‘Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!”

Oh, no, Mabel, your sweet potatoes
look very...well done.

And that’s why I won’t be apologizing for my extended absence from the blogiverse. Also, I just hate it when you start reading a new blog and the writer keeps apologizes profusely for their absence(s). Like I care. I just met you. So what if you missed the last Weight Watchers meeting/church service/whatever? I wasn’t there either!!

So welcome, new subscribers! Please allow me to offer a very brief explanation to my long-time readers. Here goes: Pinched nerve root in neck. Pain radiating down right arm and hand. Typing = Torture. Hence, no entries. On the mend now, but paying work takes up nearly all my limited typing time. Therefore, here are a few funny and/or tasty and/or tasteless distractions for y’all till I’m back for reals.

The HI-larious and insightful scribes over at Real Southern Men are offering “Twanglish Lessons,” my favorite of which, thus far, is “Cussemisms.” That is also my new favorite word, although “twanglish” was definitely a contender.

I am all about the inadvertently amusing advertising one occasionally runs across (or frequently when one lives in the South), so I just lurved Todd Pack’s recent entry “‘Used cows’ and other signs of the times.” I’m still kicking myself that I never bothered to stop and take a picture of my favorite sign right outside Jackson, MS. It was a giant banner that read “Cemetery Now Open!” Yes, folks, an exclamation point! So hurry on in, y’all!!

Ok, I may be getting too far into my English major roots, by mocking the mistakes of most likely good-hearted people, but one of my favorite sites is CakeWrecks. And my favorite types of wrecks are the appallingly misspelled or, most especially, the ones whose instructions are horribly misconstrued. Check out the cake that inspired the blog, but be prepared to spend hours on the site.

Not that I am one or either...

I realize that a Shakespeare link might permanently label me as a nerd, but this is amusing whether or not you’re a fan of the bard. And besides, if I was truly a nerd, I wouldn’t get all the amazing impressions Jim Meskimen does–from Jimmy Stewart to Harvey Keitel, George Clooney to Droopy Dog. What’s most impressive to me is how his Jimpressions so accurately correspond to the words in Clarence’s speech from Richard III. My favorite is his line by Simon Cowell referring to “such howling in my ears.” But now that I’m on the subject of impressions, I must mention my favorite improv impressionist, Kevin Spacey, as seen on Inside the Actors Studio. Even better than his impressions was his answer to one of James Lipton’s recurring series of final questions: “What is your favorite curse word?” Spacey: “Rat bastard.” Let’s all try to incorporate it into our repertoire, shall we? Ok, Baptists, you are excluded. Feel free to use the above-mentioned “cussemisms.”

And to end on a sweet note, I must direct y’all towards my delightful bloggy pal Christina’s Southern Sweet Tea Granita recipe at Dessert for Two. What’s better than sweet tea on a hot summer day? Right, iced sweet tea. But what’s better than that? Sweet tea slushie! Hooray!

Hope these amuse y’all. Stay tuned for more frequent entries in the hopefully not-too-distant future. Next up: Cream-of-Something-Soup, since it was the first runner up on the SSPL Facebook page survey. Thanks for the vote “Kim’s Sister,” or Jenna, as I call her.

What are some of your favorite web finds? (And by all means, feel free to vote for yourself!)

P.S. I am partial to funny cat videos.

Photo Credits: “Hey Y’all” sign available from SlippinSouthern at etsy; Well Done Yams by Walker Cleavelands, Flickr Creative Commons; “Heavens to Betsy” t-shirt available from SweeTee; “Math & Stuff” shot by me (rather poorly with phone); Sweet Tea Granita by Christina at Dessert for Two.

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