Spicy Southern Collard Greens

collards

 

Lately I’ve been asked by several people, how to cook fresh greens, specifically kale and collards. I’ve already posted some kale recipes, so today I’ll share how I cook collard greens. One of the advantages of a grandmother that was raised in the country was learning how to cook all the vegetables that grew in the family garden. This recipe for collards is a little spicy, but that’s how I like mine, so if you want something with less kick, just let me know and I’ll share another recipe. This serves approximately 10 servings out of 1 pound of collards.

  • 2 qts chicken stock (can be canned, homemade or made from bouillon cube)
  • 1# collards, washed, stems removed and leaves chopped (you can eat the stems, however I tend to only eat the stem that’s near the leafy part as the stalk can be quite woody)
  • 1/4# (4oz) Applewood smoked bacon, diced
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

In a dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp over medium heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve. In the bacon grease over medium/low heat, sweat the onions until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrent, 2-3 minutes. Add the collard greens and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock, seasonings, tomatoes, sugar and the cooked bacon. Cook the collard greens over medium heat at a slow boil for 45 minutes to 1 hour and enjoy. Country folk call the liquid in the pot, pot liquor, and they crumble their cornbread up in it. I realize cooking the greens this long really cooks out a lot of the nutrients, so if you’re shooting for the vitamin factor, you can eat the greens after 20-30 minutes, but for a true Southern style pot of greens, you want to cook them to death. That’s when the flavors blend for the real deal.

Sliced Sweet Potato Pie

sliced-sweet-potato-pie-sl-l

 

It’s been a few months since I updated the blog, and I apologize to my followers. Back in August, I transferred from corporate dining to campus dining and I’ve been working around the clock ever since. Things are starting to calm down at work, just in time for the holidays, so I’ve been dusting off some family recipes. This is the one time of the year when  I will actually do some baking. Baking is a science and requires one to follow a recipe more closely. Those of you that know me well, know that I rarely follow a recipe as written, so baking has never been something I was enthused to do. Still, I hold the family recipes and the family expects cookies, cakes and pies when the holidays roll around.

Everyone knows how to make sweet potato pie but most people have only had the whipped up version. This version is different. It’s more elegant that something dumped out of a can. As you can see by the photo, it makes a beautiful dessert plate for the holidays and it’s not much more complicated that the baby food version.

  • 1/2 package of refrigerated pie crusts
  • 2 1/2# small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 orange peel strips (use a vegetable peeler to create)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp loosely packed orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Streusel topping (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Fit the piecrust into a 9″ deep-dish pie plate, folding the edges under and crimping. In a Dutch oven, bring the potatoes, granulated sugar, orange peel and 1 cup of water to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 6-8 minutes until potatoes are just tender.

Transfer the potatoes to a large colander, reserving the cooking liquid. Rinse the potatoes with cold water. Transfer the cooking liquid and orange peel strips to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup. Reserve 2 tbsp of the potato-orange liquid and discard the rest.

Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and toss with brown sugar, flour, spice and orange zest and the reserved 2 tbsp of the potato-orange liquid. Spoon into the crust. Sprinkle with streusel and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, shielding with foil after 30 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely and serve at room temperature.

Streusel Topping: Stir together 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, 3 tbsp melted butter, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice and 1/8 tsp salt. Let stand for 30 minutes, then crumble into small pieces atop the prepared pie

Easy Southern Peach Cobbler

peachcobbler

As usual, we headed down to Pepper Place market this morning for some locally grown produce and I just couldn’t resist some freshly picked Chilton County peaches. I did my part to help the local economy and bought a big basket full. Chilton County peaches are some of the best peaches you can buy and some think they are more tasty than their counterparts across the border in the peach state.

Although I definitely don’t need the added sugar in my diet, I’ve got a peach cobbler in the oven as I type this. My recipe was handed down from my grandmother and it’s easy and foolproof. So go pick up some delicious ripe peaches and give this one a try. You’ve probably got all the ingredients in your pantry or frig!

  • 4 cups peeled, chopped peaches
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk (we only buy half and half because we use it in our coffee and it works just fine but will produce a richer crust, but what’s wrong with that???)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350F. Pour the melted butter into a 13″x9″ Pyrex dish. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and milk. Mix well to combine and remove lumps. Pour the batter over the melted butter but do not stir. Next top the butter with the peaches, again do not stir (as the cobbler bakes, the crust rises and the peaches fall). Sprinkle top with lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with a scoop of some rich vanilla ice cream. Cobbler can be stored at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.

Roasted Acorn Squash

classic_baked_acorn_squash

I grew up eating delicious roasted fall squash, especially acorn and butternut. Because I love them, I often cook them at work for my customers. I also cook them to educate my customers, because there are a ton of people that grew up in the South that have never tasted a hard cooked squash. I’ve given out a lot of samples to get people to try them, people that now want to know how to cook them.

Cooking fall squash is really quite simple. You simply cut them, scoop out the seeds (fall squash have seeds like pumpkin which is in this same family), butter them and roast them. A good hour in a 400F oven will do the trick, but I’ve got a shortcut that I’ll share in this recipe. This recipe works for butternut or acorn squash. Either can be cooked by simply splitting in half, or you can cut them lengthwise as I do at work. Not only does this decrease the amount of time needed to cook them, it allows you more servings out of the squash, so it’s entirely up to you how you break down the squash depending on what you’re shooting for. You can simply half it and fill it up with butter and give everyone a half, or slice it up and give everyone a few slices. By slicing it, you simply cut down the cooking time.

slicedsquash

 

For two servings you will need:

  • 1 acorn or butternut squash, halved and scooped of seeds
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

In a glass baking dish, arrange the squash halves and add 2 tbsp per half of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HI for 6 minutes. This will soften up the squash and speed up your cooking time. If you’re slicing the squash instead of halving them, microwave for 4 minutes.

Drain the water from the dish and flip the squash over, cut side up. Drizzle the butter over the squash and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in a 400F oven for 20 minutes, until the squash are caramelized and golden brown.

Southern Cheese Grits Casserole

gritscasserole

 

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but work has been zapping my creativity. Last week, I made a cheese grits casserole at work and people have been begging for an “at home recipe”, so here it is. This is great as a starch with any meal, but even better when paired with a Southern meal. If you don’t think you like grits, give this a try. This IS NOT your normal breakfast style grits.

  • 2 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup quick-cook grits
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 small can yellow kernel corn, drained
  • parsley for garnish

In a large stock pot, bring the chicken stock and half & half to a rolling bowl. Whisk in the grits and cook, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes until the grits begin to thicken and bubble (be careful not to let them bubble on your hand/arms as they are like LAVA). Once thickened, remove from stove and pour grits into a mixing bowl.

To the grits, add the heavy cream, melted butter, cheese, bacon crumbles, diced tomato and the corn. Stir well to combine.

Pour grits into a lightly greased casserole dish and bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding

One thing my customers are always saying is that I make some of the best bread pudding they’ve ever eaten. I have several variations on bread pudding and try to make a pan about once a week. Blueberry, chocolate, orange-cranberry, traditional… I make whatever based on what I’ve got in the coolers and pantry.

Recently we had some croissants that were turning stale and I needed to use them. Since I’m not a true “baker”, I’ll usually look online for a recipe idea and then take off on it, because I hate following a recipe. This recipe started the same way, but because I’ve had a bumper crop of pecans from the home tree this year, I’m also looking at ways to use them in my fall cooking. This recipe can be made as a dessert or as a breakfast/brunch bread pudding. If you’re making it for the later, simply mix it up and refrigerate overnight, then bake off when you wake up.

 

  • 10 cups cubed, day-old croissants (about 5 large croissants)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 cups half & half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs, sugars, salt and vanilla extract. Fold in the pumpkin, then add the half & half and milk. Add the cubed croissants and toss well to incorporate. The mixture should be slightly soupy and if needed, add a little more milk.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″x13″ glass baking dish. Top with pecan halves. Bake at 350 for approximately an hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out with no liquid on it. Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm but not hot! (If the pecans start to get too brown during baking, cover lightly with aluminum foil)

For a breakfast/brunch serving, simply top with pure maple syrup. If you’re serving as a dessert, mix 1 box of powdered sugar with 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice and top by dipping a wire whisk into the sugar glaze and lightly shaking it over the surface.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Here’s my recipe for a true Southern style pecan pie. The bourbon is optional, but it really brings out the flavor in this pie. Give it a try if you love pecans!

 

  • 6 tbsp unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp Wild Turkey or Jack Daniels (or whatever you’ve got around the house)
  • 2 cups pecan halves or pieces, divided
  • 1 9″ unbaked pie shell

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the vanilla extract, salt, corn syrup and bourbon.

Arrange half the pecans on the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Pour the batter over the pecans and top with the remaining pecans. Bake in a 350F oven for about 1 hour.

Be careful to watch the pie as it bakes. If the pecans begin to get too brown, lightly cover the pie with aluminum foil.

 

 

Glorious Morning Scratch Muffins

 

For the past few years, we have served a variety of fresh baked muffins at work and my customers have grown accustomed to a nice hot muffin. Like many foodservice establishments, we cheated. Our muffins were fresh baked, but not fresh made. We bought muffin batter that you “scooped and baked” to save time (and labor costs). Customers loved them, so it was a win-win situation.

Things changed when I switched companies recently. I had the same customers looking for their usual breakfast muffins, but our new grocery supplier offered a “less than favorable” alternative for muffin batter. My customers have not been happy, so I promised them I would make some scratch muffin batter this weekend to serve this coming week in the cafe.

Since baking is not my thing (I love to cook but I DESPISE following recipes), I had to scour magazines and internet recipes to try and find something I felt was comparable to what my customers are expecting tomorrow morning. This recipe is a tweak; I started with a basic muffin recipe and made it my own. They turned out delicious, so I thought I’d share with you this extremely easy recipe for making homemade muffins. You can use this recipe for for a variety of muffins by substituting the flavorful ingredients. In fact, I used the basic part of this recipe (as noted below) to create 5 varieties of muffins for breakfast tomorrow (Glorious Morning, Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, Banana Nut and Cranberry-Orange-Almond). I’m sharing the whole recipe for the Glorious Morning muffins which are by far my biggest seller, but noting where you can substitute to make other varieties.

There’s no need to buy muffin mix in a bag or box when most all these ingredients can be found in most of your pantries! Give them a shot! The good thing is, you can mix them up on Friday evening and refrigerate the batter. Then scoop into your muffin tins and bake Saturday morning!

Basic Muffin Batter:

  • 1 8oz container of sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon and mix to incorporate (I use a wire whisk to mix dry ingredients). Add the dry ingredients to the wet in the mixer and run on low just long enough to incorporate into a batter. That’s your basic muffin mix.

For Glorious Morning Muffins:

To the batter add 1 peeled and diced Granny Smith apple, 1/4 cup minced carrots (I use shredded carrots and pulse them in the food processor), 1 tbsp orange marmalade, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or almonds, 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

If you wanted to make blueberry, to the batter add some fresh or thawed, frozen blueberries and add the orange marmalade.

For cranberry-orange-almond, use dried cranberries, sliced almonds and orange marmalade.

For banana nut, I use crushed pecans and 2 overly ripe bananas, smashed up with your hands or run through the food processor.

For chocolate chip, just add chocolate chip morsels straight from the bag.

Scoop muffin mix into a 12 muffin tin pan or 6 jumbo muffin pan. Bake at 325F for 18-25 minutes (depending on the size, less time for smaller muffins, more for larger) or until brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Mushrooms Au Gratin

Thanks to Betty Crocker, most people associate the words “au gratin” with cheese sauce, but in the culinary world, au gratin is a cassoulet with a browned crust on top, usually breadcrumbs and cheese. This recipe is delicious but not low fat. It’s great with a grilled steak or a beef tenderloin so it’s usually a dish I reserve for dinner parties or holiday gatherings. Nothing like a nice piece of beef tenderloin with this dish and some truffled mashed potatoes to impress your friends and guests! If you love mushrooms like I do, give this one a try!

  • 3 pounds sliced crimini mushrooms (sold in grocery stores as Baby Bells)
  • 1 pound thinly sliced red onion
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 8oz butter, quartered and melted
  • 8oz heavy cream
  • 8oz Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a baking dish with PAM. Add one layer of mushrooms to the bottom of the dish. Top with 1 layer of onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with some parsley. Drizzle with 2oz of melted butter and 2oz of cream. Repeat the layers 3 more times. Top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is golden brown.

 

Pistachio Ambrosia Salad

Down south, congealed fruit salads are a big thing. Every church social, potluck or holiday meal includes a version of this tasty treat. Each family has their own recipe and each recipe has its own name, but they are all similar and usually contain the following or variations: pudding, Jello, fruit, nuts, KoolWhip, etc. Some have cream cheese, some don’t. In my family, my sister-in-law makes a version she calls “FLUFF”.

The recipe I use came from the “Ask Heloise” section of the newspaper. It’s tasty, sinful and especially refreshing on a hot summer’s afternoon. Considering the high in Birmingham was 106F today, I needed something refreshing, so I whipped up a bowl of this wonderful salad, and thought I’d share this “tried and true” recipe with you.

  • 1 can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1 can chunk pineapple in juice, or substitute with 1 chopped fresh, really ripe pineapple (I usually have a pineapple around the house, because it’s my favorite fruit, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 cup nuts (I used pecans)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 small box instant pistachio pudding
  • 16oz soft KoolWhip

If using a fresh pineapple, here’s a secret test to see how ripe your fruit is. Try pulling out one of the green leaves atop the pineapple. A pineapple at the perfect stage of ripeness will give up a leaf with little pressure. It should also be a yellow color on the outside and not green between the scales.

In a medium bowl, add the crushed pineapple and chunks with their juice. Sprinkle the pistachio pudding over the pineapple, stir and let it sit for a minute or two. Next add the nuts, coconut and marshmallows and combine. Fold in the softened KoolWhip.

Refrigerate, covered, for at least an hour before serving. How easy is that??? 🙂