Archives for category: Recipes

I’m not a food editor, but it’s hard to come back from driving through the southern states of our country without acknowledging the food. I’m trying to think of another trip I’ve taken where what I ate played such an important place in the travel. Most of the time, I don’t think about it and am happy to have a good meal here and there while I take my pictures and read up on the history. In the South, the food is so tied to the history and the geography that you can’t ignore it. Besides, it’s so yummy!

Bear in mind that my friend and I weren’t looking for anything in particular, but did try to sample each place’s best. We started with our first meal on the road, looking for a catfish restaurant that had been a wow on another trip, a place off the beaten path. We looked it up on my iPad while we traveled and found that it wasn’t open for lunch, so we settled for another one that was mentioned. Nick’s was right beside the interstate, which made us a little doubtful, but there were cars and trucks and locals, which is always a good sign. Best catfish ever! And our first taste of the hushpuppies and cole slaw that were the staples of the menus from then on…

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That night in Memphis, we cruised Beale Street, looking for some of the famous barbecue. I’d asked friends, but we were so tired, we just wanted to stop. We peeked into King’s Palace Cafe, loved the music, liked the menu and tried it out. We were early and it was quiet…nice after a day of driving.

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The music was great, not so loud as to drown us out, and we visited with the singer. The fried green tomatoes were divine, the pork was melt in your mouth and the sauce was great. I forget what else was there, but it was all good. I had asked the policemen on duty which was their favorite and they diplomatically didn’t pick a favorite.

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We drove to Kentucky the next day and stopped at this little gem in Silver Point, Tennessee along the way. I’m not kidding when I say this meal was scrumptious. Absolutely perfect. I love the columns in front. Once again, there were workmen parked all over the place. I should have bought the t-shirt.

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On Sunday, we were in Owensboro, Kentucky, having slipped off the highway to find breakfast. Again, there was a group of policemen talking in the downtown and we stopped to ask them. It was Sunday morning and the whole town looked shut down, so we were very grateful to them. They sent us to Ole South Barbecue, which was stuck in the middle of a bunch of chains and near the highway and across from a mall…nothing that would have caught our eye. When we got in there, we knew it was the right place…a buffet with everything and lots of old people and large families, all local. I can’t even tell you how good the ham was, but it WAS Kentucky. The fried chicken was great because it is the South after all. And I can’t begin to tell you how many biscuits I ate on this trip. They also had Burgoo on their deli menu and I’m intrigued by Kentucky Burgoo, a soup made of whatever meats all the guests throw in. Here was my breakfast, which ended up filling me up for the whole day!

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Before I go any further, let me tell you that I don’t eat like this at home, not every day, not even very often. But I felt a deep obligation to taste every biscuit I saw…my duty to my blog readers, I’m sure. I also don’t think there is anything the people of the South can’t do with a pig…bacon, ham, pork. All delicious. Maybe it’s my Kentucky roots speaking to me. I also didn’t gain any weight on the trip because I was walking all the time.

When we got to Nashville, we couldn’t find a local restaurant in the Broadway area. Everything was some kind of chain and they charged a cover if there was music. We were just passing through and finally settled for some great homemade ice cream! There was one barbeque place that would have been perfect, but they closed at 6 on Sunday. Too bad. Oh! We did get Goo Goo Clusters, which are from Tennessee. So are Moon Pies. Junk cuisine.

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The next day we drove to Gatlinsburg, Tennessee, doorway to Great Smokey Mountain National Park. We ended up walking the main street and having corn dogs. Did I ever claim to be a gourmet? It seemed right at the time.

The next day, we left the interstate in North Carolina and traveled a back road that took us through Saluda, a tiny town that actually has a thriving artist community. One of their local festivals is Coon Dog Day. We stopped at this place and had terrific barbecue because we were still in that mode and delicious Vidalia onion slaw. I think I could make that – marinated Vidalia onions with a slaw dressing.

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In Columbia, South Carolina, we ate at the only chain on our trip, and it’s local. The country breakfast was great and the southern drawls of the friendly waitresses started our morning nicely. I guess local chains aren’t too much of a compromise, really. The name was intriguing.

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By the time we got to Charleston, it was time to start looking for seafood. Our first meal was actually in a French restaurant on Broad Street that had been recommended by a friend. I bet it’s a local favorite with familiar atmosphere and a tasty Croque Monsieur, everything at reasonable prices.

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Later, after walking around the beautiful city, we stopped for seafood at Hyman’s, a few doors from our hotel. The hype was deserved. I imagine that the lines of people were tourists, but that’s ok. I think any restaurant or business that is 5th generation family owned must have something to offer.

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After the complimentary boiled peanuts, a Southern favorite that I was tasting for the first time, I ordered one of their signature dishes, Carolina Delight, which is fried grit cakes topped with crab cakes (there were other options) and covered in sauce.

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My friend had soft shell blue crabs. Along with the ever present hush puppies were some sides to die for. I even bought their little cookbook to get the recipes. There was the red rice, a special cole slaw, and a sweet potato soufflé that made us both stop and go YUM! I’ve already made it since I got home. It involves walnuts, raisins, butter, cinnamon… Suffice it to say we had a very rich meal.

Oddly, the next day, I was walking around town alone and stopped at a hot dog vendor on the street. Very friendly owners who asked where I was from. When I said Oklahoma, they immediately said, “Oklahoma State football,” which warmed this OSU grad’s heart. They were fun to talk to on the street. Very cool guys. Nothing fancy this day other than some more homemade ice cream along the way.

Oh, I didn’t mention the homemade popsicles that I saw in a couple of places. King of Pops. Look at the flavors…

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The last day in Charleston we ate breakfast at Toast. Don’t you love that name for a restaurant? It can be used so many ways. I had the special French toast that had been written up in the New York Times and it was unlike any French toast I’ve ever had – in a good way. I also snuck a bite of biscuit because, well, it was a biscuit. Delicious food and very friendly staff. Reminded me of one of my favorite places at home. I went by later and there was a line outside.

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By the time we got to Savannah, I had to eat something that wasn’t fried, even though there are hush puppies with every meal. We were invited to dinner on the river front at a place that was just casual and fun. I had very delicious and huge boiled shrimp, fresh from the sea. Of course, they were good! I’m sure all the places along there were similar, unless they were fancier.

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My next stop is just for atmosphere. This is where the local boaters from the islands around Savannah come to hang out. There was a band setting up for later. I guess there was a way to get there by car – we just boated in.

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Before we left Savannah, we grabbed just a bite at The Pirate’s House. Great place to take kids because they have a shop with every pirate thing you can imagine and there are pirates walking around to tell you the history of the place. Who doesn’t love a pirate every once in awhile?

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Turning west, we headed towards home. Driving along the Gulf coast was heartbreaking from Biloxi to Gulfport where Katrina devastated the area and I don’t know if it will ever recover. We wanted someplace by the water to eat and, after driving miles along empty beach with only driveways where homes used to be, we found this oasis in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Perfect in every way. We ate just before sunset, overlooking the boats, with a great seafood dinner. The blackened redfish was yummy, one of the night’s specials. Of course, there were the staples of hush puppies and slaw. Grits, hush puppies and slaw. You find them everywhere with lots of variations. Very, very southern.

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A walk on the beach followed dinner so I could sink my feet in the warm Gulf waters at last! The next night we had dinner on the causeway across Mobile Bay and the special was fried mullet. I hadn’t tried mullet yet, so of course…it deserved to be the all you can eat for Monday night.

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I’m starting to think I really did just eat my way across the South, but there were complimentary breakfasts in motels and snacks instead of meals and one or two meals a day sometimes. I just can’t believe how much good food we DID eat. And, just wait…

The next stop was New Orleans and what else do you need to say? We started the day at Cafe DuMonde with beignets and coffee and moved along from there. I’m familiar with New Orleans, but didn’t go to all my favorite places this time. How can you? There are so many.

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For lunch I had what may have been my favorite meal of the trip. We stopped at Pere Antoine Restaurant on Royal and had Barbeque shrimp with a special sauce and seafood gumbo. I usually go to the Gumbo Shop, but this was just incredible. The shrimp were…I’m running out of adjectives for all this food…look at them!

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We finished the day taking Muffelatas from Cafe Maspero with us. This was my father-in-law’s favorite place when he lived here and it became one of my husband’s favorites also. An Italian New Orleans sandwich, created at Central Grocery, is a true sign of the jambalaya of cultures in this city!

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After New Orleans, we were in Cajun country and ended up for breakfast at this unlikely place, recommended by our swamp guide.

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It was clean, homey, and the food was delicious. Drop biscuits instead of rolled, served by the cook herself. It was a combination gas station, convenience store, cafe near Gibson, Louisiana. The ladies were so sweet.

We still hadn’t tasted alligator. My son used to go to a place in the French Quarter, but I’m not sure if it was still there and I hadn’t looked for it. What do you do when you pass this sign outside of Lafayette, Louisiana?

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You turn in the drive and see this…

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You head further and go through these doors…

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and enjoy a delicious dinner of fried and blackened alligator and awesome boiled shrimp. I’m sure there were hushpuppies and slaw involved, but we got other vegetables and homemade rolls, too. Since it was the last night, we had key lime cheesecake that was beyond good.

So, we headed home after two weeks of eating the food of the south…ham, biscuits and more biscuits, corn bread, fried chicken, fried catfish, all styles of barbeque, hushpuppies out our ears, all kinds of slaw, shrimp every way we could, crab, grits, cheese grits, grits, okra in all forms, tomatoes fried green or fresh, barbecue, sweet potatoes, boiled peanuts, mullet, gumbo, beignets, muffalettas, alligator and homemade peach ice cream, homemade popcicles, bread pudding, and I forgot to mention that I tried boudin, a Cajun sausage, at a stand at the Tabasco store on Avery Island, Louisiana. And there was more homemade ice cream and the Goo Goo Clusters and Moon Pies. You can’t imagine how much more there was to try.

See what I mean? The South is rich in rich foods, plain foods, and plain good foods. My trip diary wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t take you on this tour. And I pay homage to the original cooks, many of them slaves, who brought these recipes with them and perfected them through the years until the food is part of the culture, part of the history, part of this beautiful region of our country. I can’t think of the South without thinking of something yummy to eat. It’s one of the unique things that keeps us coming back.

What was the first thing I ate when I got home? A hamburger! A famous Goldie’s hamburger from right here in Tulsa. Because this is definitely beef country! Try it when you pass this way…

Here’s the kind of conversations I get into with my friends…one friend was looking for spiced peaches to serves and she couldn’t find them at the store.  We started talking about how special those were when we were kids and how our mothers served them to guests.  She thought it was a southern dish.  A real treat to us as children.  Then I was with some other friends and mentioned the spiced peaches.  None of us had thought of them in years, so we started talking about how good they tasted.  And about canned pears with cottage cheese, which ladies served at luncheons.  And we moved on to the absolute childish joy of fruit cocktail.  And how there were too few cherries in it, so you had to try to get one in your serving.

We all know about trends in foods as well as other things.  Today, all those fruits, along with the canned vegetables (canned corn, green beans) we loved before there were frozen vegetables, that were staples of our diets way back when, have been found to have too much sugar or salt.   Today, we can get fresh food easier than we used to be able to in the cities back then or cans with less sodium, less sugar, and so on.  Companies like Del Monte have been around since the 1880s, so they have always been around in our lifetimes.  They were timesavers from the days of growing and canning your own, a help to the modern housewife of the 50s and 60s.

I’m all for the health trend, but we all know what happens when you remember the taste or smell of something from your childhood.  My friend and I had looked online to see if they still make spiced peaches, which they do.  I was supposed to look for them at the store, but I kept forgetting.  Today, I was just about to check out and decided to walk back to the fruit section.  There were spiced peaches, right there in front of me.  I opened the jar as soon as I got the groceries unpacked to see if they taste the way I remember them.

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Yum!  Yes, they do.  Not only do they taste the way I remember them, but now they are flavored with the memories of childhood with every bite.  I may never eat them again, but today I had a sweet taste of my childhood.

When my kids were all three, I taught their Sunday School classes and one of my favorite projects was making spring nests.  I’m pretty amazed that I did it with a whole class of little ones, but I was a lot younger then.  Today seemed like a good day to try it with my youngest granddaughter.  She’s going to demonstrate for us, showing that you can even wear a tutu while cooking.

First, we made the grass.  She did it basically all by herself with me putting coconut in a bag with some green food coloring and letting her shake it.  Pretty fun to make green grass.

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Then we made the nests, which are basically Rice Krispies treats made with Cocoa Krispies.  Before there were Cocoa Krispies, we just added cocoa to the mixture of marshmallows and butter.  We watched the marshmallows rise in the microwave…

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Then we stirred the marshmallows and butter until they were smooth…

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Then we added the Cocoa Krispies and stirred everything together.

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Then I put big spoonfuls of the mixture on waxed paper…

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And then coated my hands with butter so I could shape them into rough nests.

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Then we added the grass to the nests, or nestess as she called them.

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And added tiny jelly bean eggs.

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And she even mastered wrapping them in clear wrap – at least for one.

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And we put them in a basket or two.

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Spring Nests to give to those we love!

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Baking has always been fun for me since I got my first cookbook and started making little bitty cakes and pies and cupcakes in my tiny oven, before Easy Bake or maybe an early edition.  I just know I had little pans and made little things to eat.  Then I graduated to my mother’s pots and pans and stove.  Maybe that’s why I still have her old mixing bowls and still think they are the best bowls ever.

Today, I was hungry for my grandmother’s ice box cookies, but heaven help me if I make something that starts with a pound of butter when I don’t have a crowd in the house.  Yikes!  My paternal grandmother, Aggie, made these when I was little.  I keep her cookie jar, minus the lid, in my kitchen window.

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My mother made them, too.  Nothing was better than the cookie dough pressed into squared rolls and wrapped in waxed paper in the refrigerator.   As kids, we would sneak in and slice off a hunk, making no pretense of polite slices, and eat the dough raw.  Can’t believe how wickedly good it was.  I made them for my four kids when they were little, but I must have…okay, I know I did…been caught with the dough and they picked up on it.  One of them told me she couldn’t remember having these baked.  For your information, they are nice little butter pecan cookies.  Really.

I’m not sure Aggie ever ate the dough but there was a twinkle about her, so maybe.

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Many years later, I was teaching a course for the American Red Cross on Safe and Healthy Kitchens and we had to tell the people that it wasn’t healthy to eat raw cookie dough.  That was the hardest bit of information for me to give anyone, nonbeliever that I am.

I’m trying to restrain myself from running to the kitchen to start creaming the butter and sugar right now.  Help!  You go make them for me.   Note:  The recipe doesn’t say how long to bake them.  What does that tell you?

Aggie’s Ice Box Cookies

Preheat oven to 350

1 lb butter

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 Tbl Karo syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sode

5 1/2 cups flour

1 cup nuts

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Add 1 cup flour sifted with soda and salt.  Add rest of flour with nuts.

Work on board and make 4 loaves.  Wrap in waxed paper and keep in refrigerator.

Slice and bake as needed.

One thing I’ve learned raising all my children, helping with their classes and scout troops and playing with my grandchildren is not to have unreal expectations when I start a project with them.  I didn’t get this when I was younger, but it doesn’t take long when working with kids to figure it out.

The Babycakes package and the cute pink machine drew me in.  This looked like a fun project to do with my grandkids, especially the girls.  My older granddaughter could get really creative and it looked simple enough to do with my 3 year old.  I’ve always preferred real cooking to pretend and I think little dishes or bits of food are adorable.  Today, I had the opportunity to try it out with Eliza.  Remember, don’t have unreal expectations.

We started with a Jiffy cake mix.  It’s the right size and easy.  She used my Miracle Whisk and beat it herself.  Okay, I helped a little at the end to get it all mixed.  She learned the word batter.

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I thought it was going to be a little tricky to get the batter into the cupcake cups…and it was.  Not as bad as I thought.  She did about as well as I did, but her attention span is very short.  We got the first 8 cupcakes into the Babycakes oven.

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It works great!  In about 6-8 minutes, they’re done & you are ready to decorate.  For this time, we used canned frosting.  I wasn’t sure how patient my co-chef was going to be.  She got the hang of it pretty quickly, especially the licking the spreader part.  I had to put the big blob on the cake finally and she did a nice job of spreading.  And tasting.

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Decorating with the sprinkles I got was a little harder than I imagined.  For one thing, they didn’t come out very easily and she tended to stick the container right into the icing.  She got better and liked all the choices.  We had blue, brown, multi-colored, and red, white and blue.  After the first batch, she treated herself to a cake and milk.  She did the same thing after the second batch.

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The mix made 24 cakes.  I was doing a little more each time, although she continued to help.  She picked out one with brown sprinkles to take home to leave out for Santa.  The rest will be for her cousins, she said.  Her Christmas gifts to them.

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When we finished, I found her reading the manual.  She said she need to read her ‘structions.  That’s good.  She read them out loud for a bit and there must be a lot of one, two, three that is involved in the process.

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So that’s the story of Babycakes.  I love it and just know we are going to take this new activity to very creative high levels around here.  We haven’t even gotten to pies yet.