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A Hit and A Miss

January 10, 2015

Aren’t all holidays a bit of a quandary? That bit about what to serve my guests has always plagued me when choosing a menu — do I really understand the tastes of my guests, is it sweet, spicy or savory?

Over the years I have tried my mightiest to please the taste buds of my guests. After all, I do want them to happily return to my table and look forward to their next meal in our home. You see, I love to cook for folks. Nothing pleases me more than a contented happy smile on someones face that says “that was so good!” I just sop up the praise and I don’t think I’m alone in this, I think all cooks like that pat on the back, that smile of thanks for for the meal.

I come from a long line of Southern cooks. Some were better than others. Aunt Dovie, for example, cooked so well no one turned down a meal from her.  Her sister, my dear sweet Mama, was the cook in our house.  Mostly, the foods prepared in my childhood home were pretty straight forward but at times could be rather boring, lacking in flavor and savoriness. And — don’t slap me Mama — usually overcooked and too greasy.

In the new South — thank you Southern Living — a lot of old recipes have been updated to include flavors (spices & herbs) that enhance Old South cuisine. Just don’t tell my Mama ’bout this!

What my Mama could do to a pot of vegetables was beyond a culinary sin. It was downright meanness to a pot of green beans, carrots, peas and collards. I mean that in the most enduring way.

In my families southern cooking if you had flour, buttermilk, some butter, salt and pepper and could fry it up or cook it to death, you were set to go!  I grew up with these foods and I’m here to tell you I was a rail of a child because the only thing I really liked was Mama’s Chocolate pie.  In fact I ate so little of the black eyed peas, pinto beans, cornbread and fried chicken (grease galore feast on Sunday’s table) and fried fish (grease galore feast on Friday’s table) and Tuesday night’s greasy meatloaf that even indulging in her small servings of desserts at meals end couldn’t have packed on the pounds if my life depended on it.

— As my Uncle Dewey used to say “you’re going to die of something anyway. Now, pass me another piece of that there fried chicken”

After I grew up and was introduced to savory dishes — that’s dishes with spices and herbs y’all — my thinness was redirected into curves which were a bit more appealing to the opposite sex (but this is a blog about food so I’ll skip the discourse on curves and husbands).

I have found a few recipes I wish to share with my readers. Hold the applause please, or you might slap your hands red in the process as these are some scrumptious ones.

Here goes ———————-

It’s always best to start with desserts, yes?

A French Dessert Recipe borrowed from Lavender and Lovage is a favorite of mine. If you think of the South of France, then this recipe can be called Southern, Just sayin’ y’all I’ve made it and it is delicious. The custard is quintessentially French, creamy and easy to make. It allows you to take advantage of seasonal fruits in your area which makes this quite a seasonal dish. Like the good old Southern Cobbler this Claufoutis is a crowd-pleaser.

Mini Strawberry Claufoutis

Mini Strawberry Calfoutis goes with Recipes 1

Yields 6 individual portions
1 pint strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved (or other seasonal fruit)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and reserved, or vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar, garnish
slivered almonds, garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
2. Combine milk, heavy cream, vanilla pod and seeds in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then remove from heat, remove vanilla pod and let cool to room temperature.
3. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch.
4. Beat in eggs and stir for 30-60 seconds.
5. Continue to stir and slowly pour in cooled milk mixture.
6. Place strawberries in ramekins and pour batter over the tops of berries.
7. Transfer ramekins to a cookie sheet. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until clafoutis is just set.
8. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and slivered almonds and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Having friends over for Brunch? This will please your crowd, for sure and for certain.

This borrowed recipe from The Kitchn (check them out online) is a hearty and tasty breakfast recipe and so very easy to put together, and while in the oven it allows you to visit with your family & friends. Plus, it is a whole lot more fun to visit than to — one by one — flip a flapjack to order. I warn you though, the aroma throughout your home is enticing to the belly — in other words, your guests will be ready to dig in once it’s out of the oven so be ready to serve this mouthwatering dish almost immediately.  It’s a lot easier on you if you prepare the potatoes (peeled and sliced), bell pepper and garlic ahead of time. They will keep in the refrigerator nicely, even overnight, until you are ready to assemble the dish before baking.

Egg, Potato & Pepper Gratin

Egg, Potato & Pepper Gratin goes with Recipes 1

Serves 8
2 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/8-1/4-inch thickness
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 large eggs
1 1/2 cups assorted grated cheese (Parmesan, sharp cheddar, Gruyere, etc.)
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plain, Greek yogurt
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350º F and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray or butter.
2. Place potato slices in a microwavable bowl and fill with 1 cup water. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Note: you could also steam potatoes on the stove, if you prefer.
3. Use a slotted spoon to remove potatoes and pat them dry with paper towels. Spread half of potatoes on the bottom of greased baking dish.
4. In a bowl, toss together bell pepper, garlic, 1/2 cup cheese. Spread mixture over the potatoes.
5. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and pour in half-and-half, yogurt and another 1/2 cup cheese. Add salt and pepper and make sure everything is well combined.
6. Pour 1/2 of egg mixture over the bell peppers and potatoes, then neatly arrange remaining potato slices on top.
7. Pour remaining egg mixture over the potatoes and sprinkle with remaining cheeses.
8. Place in oven and bake for about 55 minutes, or until eggs are puffed up and golden around the edges.
9. Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Looking for a different dip to serve while watching that game on your big screen?

This dip borrowed from Shugary Sweets is really delicious and actually healthy for the guys & gals on your guest list. But, be kind to yourself and buy artichoke hearts in the jar, already prepared for you by loving factory hands. Or else you’ll be working your sweet little old heart out and I just couldn’t bear you doing that! This is so yummy, I suggest that you save some back for yourself, for later when everyone has left, no one need know about your midnight snack.

Artichoke Hummus

Artichoke Hummas goes with Recipes 1
Serves 6
2 (15 oz.) cans chickpeas, shells removed; bean water reserved
1 (15 oz.) can artichoke hearts
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan over medium high heat and cook garlic, stirring so it doesn’t burn, for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add drained artichoke hearts and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside.
3. Place shelled chickpeas and lemon juice in food processor and pulse for 5 seconds.
4. Drizzle in tahini* and pulse again, then add artichoke, garlic and cooking oil. Pulse for another 30 seconds.
5. If mixture is too dry, drizzle in 1 tablespoon bean water and/or a little more olive oil.
6. Season with salt and cumin and blend until mostly smooth.
7. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve with pita chips.
8. Serve immediately.
* Tahini is a Middle Eastern paste made of sesame seeds and olive oil. You can usually find it in your grocery store. Or you can make you own Tahini. There are several recipes on the internet (check out or which are simple to make.

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