Southern Baked Beans

Southern Baked Beans

Growing up when we had a barbecue or cook out nine times out of ten baked beans would be present. I don’t know if that is just a Southern thing or what, but invariably there would be baked beans and potato salad. As I’ve gotten older my version of what baked beans should be has changed a bit, but sometimes it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane and make them like the beans of my childhood. I still like my version a bit better, but these beans are ridiculously easy to make and sometimes ridiculously easy is exactly what you need when you want something in a hurry.

Oh and on a side note I’m taking the weekend off so What’s For Dinner (after this afternoon’s addition) will be back on Monday! Have a great weekend everyone! :o)

What You’ll Need:
2 large cans of pork and beans
1 cup of a good, sweet barbecue sauce
1/4 cup of natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of mustard
1 onion, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large baking dish mix together all ingredients until well incorporated. Bake for 1 hour.

As far as serving you can serve them right out of the oven, or you can chill them first and then serve them cold. They are good either way.

See…Ridiculously simple!

Notes: You can also add in a chopped bell pepper if you like.

Corn Fritters

Corn Fritters

I have to admit I had never tried corn fritters before Saturday on our “fry” day, but I was sold after one bite! This recipe is adapted from one from Paula Deen and I have to give Miss Paula props because she is most definitely the Queen of all things fried!

We ended up making some Ranch Dressing to dip them in and the combination was just wonderful together! If you’ve never had a corn fritter before they are similar to hush puppies, but they have corn kernels incorporated in the batter. The combination just goes so well together. I’ll definitely be making these again in the future!

What You’ll Need:
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 package of frozen corn

Preheat oil to 325 F.

In a large bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar and salt until well mixed. In a separate bowl beat together milk and eggs. Next add the egg mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir to incorporate. Stir butter and corn into the batter and mix well.

Drop batter by the spoonful into the preheated oil. Cook the fritters until golden, turning once or twice to make sure it browns on all sides. Drain the fritters on paper towels and serve alone or with Ranch Dressing.

Corn Fritters

Notes: Leann and I talked about it and we think it might be nice to add some chopped onion into the mix as well. I think buttermilk would be a good addition in place of regular milk as well.

Fried Dill Pickles

Fried Dill Pickles

When I first heard of fried dill pickles a few years ago my first reaction was “Why???” I mean I love dill pickles in and of themselves, but fried? Then I actually tried one I was extremely surprised that they were pretty good. My sister loves them. When we told her we were doing a “fry” day she immediately asked both of us “You’re making fried dill pickles right?” So we made some fried dill pickles, because what the pregnant lady wants, the pregnant lady gets! (Pregnant and dill pickles…Oh the stereotypes! ;))

The batter for this version came completely out of my head. When I was thinking about making them I thought it would be nice to add dill into the batter to amp up the dill flavor. Leann and I both were very pleased with the result! We nibbled on quite a few as they came out of the fryer. Katherine liked them dipped in Ranch Dressing, but Leann and I both thought they were best on their own without any sauce. The things people do with dill pickles! 😉

What You’ll Need:
Sliced dill pickles (or what they call “hamburger chips”…I actually just sliced whole dill pickles myself.)
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of dried dill
A pinch of black pepper
1 egg
1 cup of buttermilk

Preheat oil to around 350 F.

If you are using “hamburger chip” dill pickles drain them and set aside. If you’re slicing them yourself slice and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and stir to mix. Add egg and buttermilk and stir until a thick batter forms. If you need to add a bit more milk don’t worry about it, it all depends on ambient humidity and such. If you need to add a bit more flour add it a tablespoon at a time until it’s thick enough. You want the batter to be slightly thicker than pancake batter. When you insert a pickle into it it should stand up without really falling over.

Dip pickles into the batter and then place them in the fryer in a single layer. Turn them as they cook to ensure that they brown evenly on each side. You want them to be golden brown. Remove from the oil when they are slightly browned (they’ll continue to brown a bit after you remove them from the oil) and drain on a paper towel. Serve alone or with Ranch dressing.

Notes: No notes for this one…It is a stand alone kind of thing!

Homemade Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

Once in a blue moon, and I do mean blue moon, I get the taste for a Pimento Cheese sandwich. When I was a child my Mom would make it occasionally and the kind you make is oh so much more satisfying than the type you buy in your local deli. It’s not something I eat often, but every other year or so I’ll whip up a batch. It’s one of those comfort foods at their finest and it’s simple to make to boot. Easy comfort…What’s not to like?

What You’ll Need:
1 – 8 ounce bar of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded
2 – 4 ounce jars of pimentos, drained
2-3 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt (Note: Optional. I only add salt depending on the cheese I’m using. Most of the organic varieties are a bit less salty, so taste the mixture and if it needs salt then add it accordingly.)

In a large bowl mix cheese through pepper until incorporated. Taste. If needed add salt. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Pimento Cheese

Notes: This works well on bread as a sandwich topping or you can use celery sticks and scoop up the mixture. You can easily half this recipe as well.

Not Your Mama’s Fried Okra

"Fried" Okra

Fried okra is one of those quintessential Southern foods that automatically makes you think good, not to mention heavy and fat laden, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Growing up in Tennessee it was amazing the many different ways that I had this dish. Some people dipped the okra in batter and then deep fried it, others fried it up in a pan with bacon fat or lard. My mom’s method of cooking was pan fried in melted shortening, but regardless of how it was made and no matter how good it tasted you could bet it was heavy as all get out!

When we moved to Maryland it obviously became harder to find okra as it’s more of a southern crop. I finally found a local farm owned by some older folks who grew it and that is where I picked it up, that was until last summer. Last summer, and I’m not sure why, the local farm closed and I think it’s because the couple became too old to farm the land. They were the sweetest little couple. The gentleman reminded me of my grandfather, but I digress.

Anyway, I could occasionally find okra at Whole Foods and once in a blue moon it would show up at my local Giant store, but it was definitely harder to find. At the Farmer’s Market on Saturday one of the vendors had okra and I was excited to see it as I hadn’t seen it all summer! Over the years my sister and I have slimmed down the “fried” okra and substituted the healthy fat of olive oil, for the heavier unhealthy fats and/or trans fats. You still “fry” it, but you use a lot less frying medium and as I mentioned that medium is healthier too.

Oh and it’s easy to make to boot! That’s always an added plus! If you like okra, then you’ll love this!

What You’ll Need Per Cup of Okra:
Okra, sliced
1/4-1/3 cup of corn meal
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat a large pan over medium heat with a thin layer of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan).

In a bowl mix corn meal, sea salt and black pepper. Add okra and toss to coat.

Okra Ready to Cook

Add prepared okra to the preheated pan and cook stirring occasionally until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Notes: You can also use this method for zucchini, squash or green tomato slices.

Hobo Dinner

Hobo Dinner

This meal is the epitome of easy, fresh and cheap dining! With all the veggies coming in at the Farmer’s Market and in the garden this is a very easy dish to pull together. It’s perfect for camping cooked right over the camp fire (that’s where we always had it and it reminds me of summers at the lake), grilling or even in the oven. Mix and match what you have on hand and you can have a basic “Hobo” Dinner or even a “Not So Basic” version. What you put in it it completely up to you, but you’ll enjoy it none the less!

What You’ll Need Per Person:
Aluminum foil
Non-stick spray
1 serving of meat (ground beef, chicken, fish, seafood, steak, etc.)
1 small potato (sweet potato, russet, yellow, etc.)
1 small yellow squash
1 small zucchini
2 slices of onion
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Take aluminum foil and foil up sides to make a square “dish”. Spray the foil with non-stick spray and place meat serving in the middle of the the “dish”. (Note: To make this completely vegetarian/vegan you could use mushrooms in place of the meat. Just slice a few button mushrooms and add to the bottom or use a large Portabella mushroom cap.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Next layer potatoes over the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a layer of squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (Do you see a pattern forming here? ;o)) Next add the zucchini and then a bit more salt and pepper. Top with sliced onions and fold the foil over to form a packet and seal.

Place foil packet on a baking sheet or in a dish and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until meat is done and veggies are tender. Serve immediately by sliding the packet onto a plate. You’ve got everything right there in the packet, ready to go.

Notes: You could easily add other veggies. What ever you like would work. Corn would be nice. Carrots would be good too. Rutabaga, turnip…Well you get the idea! You could also add in other spices or seasoning. Old Bay seasoning would be perfect with shrimp or seafood. Mix it up and make it your own!

Fried Buttermilk Chicken

Fried Buttermilk Chicken

It would appear I’m on a southern food kick this week! It must be this god awful heat that is making me think of childhood comfort food from Tennessee! 😉 Fried Chicken is the very epitome of what you think about when you think of southern cuisine. Throw in some Buttermilk Biscuits and mashed potatoes and you’ve got southern through and through!

What You’ll Need For the Buttermilk Fried Chicken:
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1 quart of buttermilk
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of paprika
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
3 tablespoons of Vogue Cuisine Instant Vege Base Soup and Seasoning or vegetable bullion powder
Sea salt
Black Pepper
Oil for frying (I like safflower)

You can either buy the whole chicken cut up by your butcher or you can cut it up yourself. Either way, once it’s in pieces wash chicken and pat dry. In a large container with a sealable lid place layer the chicken and cover with the quart of buttermilk. Place container in the fridge and leave it there for at least 24 hours.

When ready to make chicken heat oil to 350 F in a large skillet or stock pot. ( I prefer to use a stock pot…Less splashing and chance for burns!) Preheat oven to 425 F.

While oil is heating mix together flour, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and Vogue Cuisine Instant vege Base Soup and Seasoning and place in a shallow dish. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Then dredge each piece in the flour mixture to cover completely. Place directly into heated oil and cook until each piece is golden brown turning once or twice to ensure all sides are browned.

Fried Buttermilk Chicken Frying

Place fried chicken on a baking sheet that is topped with a cookie wrack or a broil pan with top and bake for 10-12 minutes to make the chicken crisp. Drop heat to warm (about 170 F) and leave chicken in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

Fried Buttermilk Chicken

Notes: The larger the piece the longer the frying time. It takes roughly 7-10 minutes per side for a large breast piece. A wing takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Watch the color and you want it to just be golden. You also don’t want to completely cover the chicken with oil. You just want it to come up the sides of each piece. 2-3 inches of oil is usually what you’re looking for. Fried Chicken also makes a good picnic food the next day cold.

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread is one of those things that immediately sounds delicious if you’re in to such things. There are many variations of this bread, but my recipe is an adaptation of my mom’s Banana Bread. I’ve even seen recipes that called for chocolate chips! The possibilities are endless, but anyway you slice it (yeah I went there again! ;op) it’s delicious!

What You’ll Need:
2 large zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup of safflower oil or unsweetened apple sauce
2 eggs
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of heavy cream or half and half
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together oil (or apple sauce) and sugar. Stir in eggs and zucchini. Add remaining ingredients and place batter into one prepared loaf pan. Bake for 35-30 minutes or until golden brown and sticks done.

Zucchini Bread

Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole reminds me again of childhood and this is my take on my Mom’s classic. It’s another one of those ultimate comfort foods! It’s also very versatile. Throw in what you like, bake and about 40 minutes later you’ve got a hearty meal! How comforting is that?

What You’ll Need For The Topping:
2 cups of cornmeal
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 – 2 cups of buttermilk (You may need more or less depending on humidity. You are looking for batter consistency.)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix all ingredients and put into a baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Let cook and then break into crumbles and set aside.

Chicken Casserole

What You’ll Need For the Chicken Casserole:
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 a large onion, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cups of crumbled corn bread (See recipe above)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of rosemary
1 teaspoon of sage
1/2-1 cup of chicken broth (Notes: You are using this to moisten the topping. See the notes below in the recipe itself.)
2-3 cups of cooked chicken breast, chopped (Notes: Use 2 if you use extra mushrooms, 3 if you choose not to)
2 cups of mushrooms sliced
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of fat free half and half

Saute celery and onion until just tender. In a large bowl mix cornbread, celery, onion, broth, a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, thyme, rosemary and sage until mixture is moist. Use more or less broth depending on consistency. (Note: You are looking for the constancy of stuffing or dressing.) Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together chicken, mushrooms, cream of chicken soup, half and half, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once mixed spread mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with stuffing mixture and spread out to cover the chicken mixture entirely.

Bake for 30-45 minute, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes: I sometimes add sage and/or thyme into the topping for a bit of a twist.

Potato Salad

Potato Salad

This is my take on a classic Southern potato salad. Growing up in Tennessee when you had a barbecue or a day at the lake, chances are there would be potato salad. My mom taught me how to make it way back when, in fact I don’t even remember how old I was, I just remember always knowing how to make potato salad. In the south there are potato salads with mustard, and potato salads without. Whichever way you had it as a kid, is the way you’re partial to, and people take their potato salad very, very seriously.

At some point when I was in high school when the occasion arose to make potato salad, the duty became mine. It’s one of those things that you just do by heart. It’s good cold or hot. It’s very versatile. In fact my mom and I often would have a little bowl when it was warm, while we let the rest of it chill. Try it, you’ll like it!

What You’ll Need:
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 eggs, boiled and chopped
1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of celery seed
1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
1/4 of a large red onion, chopped fine
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1/3 cup of sweet pickle relish
2 heaping tablespoons of yellow mustard
1/4 cup of mayo

Boil potatoes until fork tender. (I usually boil the eggs in the same pot with the potatoes. It kills two birds with one stone!) Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still hot add cheese and seasonings and stir to mix. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. You can serve the salad warm or chilled. I like it either way, but some people prefer it chilled.