Saturday, November 30, 2013

Squash Casserole with Sour Cream and Stuffing Mix


Squash Casserole
Personal Photo

There are many squash casserole recipes out there similar to this one.  Most of them call for a can of cream soup, such as cream of mushroom, cream of celery, or cream of chicken, as well as either sour cream or mayonnaise.  Some call for stuffing mix, while others use crushed Ritz crackers.  This one is similar to what my Aunt Totsie used to make. 



1 ½ lbs yellow squash

1 medium sweet onion

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 grated carrot

8 oz sour cream

1 c grated cheddar cheese

1 small pkg Pepperidge Farm dressing mix

½ stick butter

Salt and pepper to taste


1- Scrub squash, cut off ends, and cut into chunks. 

2- Peel and dice onion. 

3- Add squash and onion to a pan.  Cover with water and cook at a low boil until tender. 

4- Drain and mash squash and onion. 


Squash and onions
Personal Photo

5- Add remaining ingredients except butter and ½ pkg of dressing mix. 



Personal Photos

6- Pour into greased casserole dish.  Top with remaining dressing mix.  Cut butter into small cubes and distribute over the top. 

7- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Finished and out of the oven
Personal Photo 

How to Fry Squash- Fried Yellow Crookneck Squash


Fried Yellow Crookneck Squash
Personal Photo

Fried squash is a classic Southern treat.  When I was growing up, someone in the family always had a garden.  We had plenty of fresh squash every summer.  And as Southerners, we fry just about anything.  Fried squash was always a favorite. 


You will need: 

4-6 yellow crookneck squash



Cooking oil


 1- Pour cooking oil in frying pan to cover the bottom of the pan, at least ¼” deep.  Heat oil on medium high. 

2- Scrub squash.  Cut off ends.  Slice squash lengthwise into ¼” to 3/8” thick slices. 

3- Lightly salt squash. 

4- Place damp squash pieces into flour to coat.  I prefer just flour, but you can use a mixture with about 1 part cornmeal and 2 parts flour. 


 Coat squash in flour
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5- When oil is hot, place squash slices into pan. 

6- Fry on medium high until squash is golden brown and tender, a couple minutes on each side. 


 Fry squash in hot oil
Personal Photo


7- Repeat until all of the squash are fried. 

8- Place cooked squash on plate on top of paper towel.  Place a layer of towel on top of squash for additional layers, as well as on top of the final layer, to absorb excess oil. 


Drain squash on paper towel
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You can also fry zucchini or eggplant.  Compared to squash, eggplant seems to soak up a lot of oil when cooking.  Whereas I would slice both yellow and green squash lengthwise, I could go either way with eggplant, lengthwise or crosswise. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Potato Salad

My Potato Salad
Personal Photo

My potato salad has at least a few die-hard fans who proclaim it to be the best they ever had.  It evolved from the potato salad that the mother of one of my high school friends made.  She put green olives in it!  I don’t typically eat green olives, but they really add something to potato salad. 

Another key ingredient is Dukes mayonnaise.  Dukes was originated by Eugenia Duke in Greenville, South Carolina, and subsequently produced and distributed by the Sauer company in Richmond, Virginia.  In my early years in the Air Force, I carried Dukes back with me whenever I came home for a visit.  It’s more widely distributed now.  I can buy it at my local HEB in Texas.  I also add some Greek yogurt to my potato salad.  It gives the potato salad a nice texture, and helps keep the texture after refrigeration. 

It’s really important to hand chop the pickles and onions.  If you use a food processor or slap chopper, you lose the great texture.  It’s also crucial in my book to use Claussen’s kosher dill pickles, for taste and texture.  They are never cooked, and found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. 

I don’t have an exact recipe.  Making potato salad requires lots of tasting.  I’m sharing with you my absolute best guess to get you started.  Then enjoy tasting! 

Potato Salad Ingredients

3 lbs of potatoes
4 large Claussen’s kosher dill pickles
2/3 cup green olives
1 medium-large sweet onion
4 boiled eggs
1 cup Dukes mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Dijonnaise mustard
½ cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup pickle juice
1/8 cup olive juice


1- Peel potatoes, and cut into approximately 1-inch cubes.  I like red potatoes.  My mom always said they were sweeter and moister.  Boil in a large pan in salty water until tender, breaking apart easily with a fork. 

2- Drain potatoes and return to pan.  I don’t use a potato masher.  I just break them apart by stirring, because I like some chunks.  Don’t worry that there are still lots of chunks, because there will be plenty more stirring. 

3- Put eggs on to boil.  When done, after 10-15 minutes of boiling, drain and put in cool water. 

4- Add mayo, mustard, and yogurt.  Stir to combine. 

5- Chop pickles into small cubes.  I slice vertically through the pickles about 3-4 slices, then another 3-4 slices across, like a checkerboard.  Then slice horizontally across the pickle. 

6- Chop olives.  I slice each olive lengthwise into quarters, then cut across. 

7- Chop onions into ¼-inch or larger cubes. 

8- Add pickles, olives, and onions to potatoes. 

9- Add pickle and olive juice.  Stir thoroughly to combine. 

10- Peel and mash eggs.  I don’t like large hunks of egg white, so I thoroughly mash the eggs.  I recently started using my food processor for this.  Add eggs to potato salad and stir to combine. 

11- Taste potato salad.  Add additional mayo, pickle or olive juice, &/or yogurt as needed for a moist but not soupy texture.  Add additional pickles, onions, &/or olives if needed. 

Granny’s Cucumber Salad

Christmas leftovers:  Cucumber Salad over green beans, 
Personal Photo

When I was a child, my paternal grandmother made Cucumber Salad to serve over green beans.  It is a very simple dish, but really enhances green beans.  My grandmother’s version was very potent, with undiluted vinegar.  I add water to my version, and even my dad prefers my modification. 

4 medium-sized pickling cucumbers
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp salt

1.  Blend mayo, vinegar, and water until smooth. 
2.  Peel and dice cucumbers and toss with salt. 
3.  Pour mayo mixture over cucumbers. 
4.  Refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Cook up a big batch of green beans with cubed potatoes.  Spoon a liberal portion of Cucumber Salad with juice, over green beans and enjoy! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Southern-Style Homemade Baked Macaroni & Cheese

My homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh out of the oven

As a Carolina girl, I grew up with homemade macaroni and cheese.  I have a large extended family on my mother’s side.  When we had family dinners, there were always multiple macaroni and cheese casseroles, or what many of my relatives call “cheese pies”.  All of my aunts made baked mac & cheese, but I don’t think any of them used a recipe!  One year I decided to change that.  When I made my mac & cheese that year for Thanksgiving, I decided to measure everything and write it down.  Depending on how good it was, I could refine my recipe.  Mission accomplished!  I have been using my recipe ever since. 

Those of us who know real macaroni and cheese, as opposed to mac & cheese out of a box, know that the homemade baked version is an exquisite treat.  I especially love the soufflé-like texture when it’s fresh out of the oven. 

Macaroni & Cheese Ingredients

2 cups cooked macaroni
1 can evaporated milk

2 eggs, beaten

8 oz cheese

1/3 stick butter


1- Preheat oven to 350°. 

2- Grease 2 quart baking dish.  Add butter and place in oven to soften.  Add cooked macaroni and stir to combine with butter. 

3- Add milk and beaten eggs.  Stir to distribute. 

4- Add shredded or cubed cheese.  I use 4 oz Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar, and 4 oz medium cheddar or Colby.  Stir to combine. 

5- Bake 30 minutes at 350°.  Remove from oven and stir thoroughly.  Increase oven temperature to 400°.  Return to oven for 20 minutes. 


For large holiday meals, I triple this recipe, except the eggs.  I use 4 large eggs with 3 cans of milk, 1 stick of butter, 6 cups of cooked macaroni, 12 oz sharp cheddar and 12 oz medium cheddar.  Cook 40 minutes at 350°, and 40 minutes at 400°. 

For a super quick cooking version, I use an 11” X 13” pan, and cook about 30 minutes.  My version produced somewhere between ½” and 1” thickness of mac and cheese.  You can have fun with this one by adding a square for a special take on a cheeseburger or grilled cheese. 

 Mac & Cheese Burger (personal photo)

White Mac & Cheese

I’ve made a gorgonzola version that was a completely different take for me on macaroni and cheese.  There are endless possibilities. 

2 cups cooked macaroni
1/3 stick butter

2 eggs
1 can milk

3 oz gorgonzola cheese
4 oz mozzarella

Bake as above. 

Serving of Gorgonzola Mac & Cheese

Dunbar Macaroni

One of my favorite meals from my elementary school cafeteria was Dunbar Macaroni.  I use leftover mac and cheese and make my own version.  I used to have enough mac & cheese left over from when I made the huge portion for Thanksgiving for my Texas friends’ gathering.  Over the period of a couple years however, my mac & cheese has gained a reputation, and there are no longer any leftovers.  Now I buy extra cheese and stuff, and just make a small portion (with 2 cups macaroni) just for Dunbar. 

Brown 1 ½ lbs of ground beef.  Add 1 can of diced tomatoes and 1 can of spaghetti sauce.  Simmer for about an hour, until meat softens.  Add in chunks of leftover macaroni and cheese.  Break it apart as it softens. 

Add chunks of mac & cheese to tomato and meat sauce, and
break apart as it softens

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Aunt Lynette’s Chicken Patties


This is my Aunt Lynette’s Chicken Patties recipe.  Chicken patties are similar to salmon patties, a Southern staple.  Isn’t food twice as good when great memories are attached?  Aunt Lynette is one of the sweetest people you could ever meet, the epitome of the genteel Southerner.  She made chicken patties for our family potluck dinners, which are fairly big affairs.  My mom is from a family of eight children, so dinners are a pretty big deal with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

Chicken patties were always a colossal hit at dinners, and everyone looked forward to them.  She made at huge batch, with silver dollar sized patties.  I always made a quick pass of the tables, to get a couple chicken patties, and one of my Aunt Totsie’s Glorified Brownies.  Once those favorites were on my plate, I’d go back for the rest of my food. 

Chicken Patties Ingredients

When you look at the ingredients, the chicken patties have relatively few components, yet they are uncommonly delicious. 

1/3 cup butter
½ cup flour

1 ¾ cups milk
2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken

½ cup crushed saltine crackers
½ tsp onion salt

Dash of pepper
1 egg

1 cup fine bread crumbs such as Progresso
Cooking oil

Chicken Patties Instructions

1- In a small saucepan prepare cream sauce by whisking flour into milk.  Add butter.  Heat on medium, stirring constantly until sauce is thickened.  Set aside to cool. 

2- In a bowl, combine chopped chicken, cracker crumbs, onion salt, pepper, and egg.   

3- Add one cup of the cream sauce. 


4- Chill mixture, then shape into 8 patties. 


5- Roll patties in bread crumbs. 


6- Fry patties in hot oil, about 375°, until golden brown. 


Serve with cheese sauce, below. 

Cheese Sauce

Cream sauce from above
½ cup milk

8 oz cheese

1- Blend ½ cup milk with remaining cream sauce.  Heat, but do not boil. 

2- Add cheese into hot cream sauce, stirring until melted. 

3- Spoon cheese sauce over chicken patties. 

Special Notes on Chicken Patties

I’ve only had the cheese sauce one time, and for me it just distracted from the marvelous taste of the chicken patties.  Aunt Lynette never made it for the family dinner chicken patties either. 

I doubled the recipe for the chicken patties and used all the cream sauce in making the patties.  That means keeping the butter, milk, and flour the same, and doubling everything else.  My patties were a little “wet”, so I wound up adding a few more cracker crumbs.  Next time I will measure the sauce, use two cups, and throw any excess away.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Liver Nips (Liver Dumplings)

Liver Nips made with Liver Pudding

You could say I grew up with liver nips.  My paternal grandmother made them from scratch, first cooking, then grinding lean stew beef and liver.  I say grinding, because this was long before food processors.  She used a meat grinder c-clamped to a table, like you would use to grind lean meat into hamburger.  The ground beef and liver would then be mixed into the flour mixture to make dumplings.  This was a fairly big project, producing a large pot of liver dumplings. 
Since my grandmother passed away, liver nips have been scarce over the last several decades.  Other family members attempted to prepare this Southern classic, but very rarely, and usually with disastrous results.  None even remotely measured up to Granny’s, except maybe the liver nips served at Shealy’sBarbecue restaurant in Batesurg-Leesville, S.C. 
I don’t eat liver of any kind, beef, pork, or chicken livers, except in liver nips.  I remember once telling my grandmother that I had tried to eat an aunt’s liver dumplings, and the liver taste was offensively strong to me.  She cautioned that it was key to use cooked liver, as grinding raw liver, and adding to the dumpling mixture would produce nips with a really strong liver taste. 
Last year my mom told me about a super simple recipe she had found for liver nips in the newspaper.  The recipe uses liver pudding.  I’m not sure if this product is widely available, but this too is something I grew up with in the South.  Mom always had Count’s liver pudding in the frig.  While I was home in March, Mom made this recipe for me.  It makes a relatively small batch of liver nips.  Mom says the secret to liver dumplings is to have a very stiff batter, otherwise you just get a very thick liver-flavored soup. 
Liver Pudding Liver Nips
2 cans beef broth
1 lb pkg liver pudding, softened at room temperature 1-2 hrs
1 tsp basil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 egg
1 c plain flour
1.  Pour beef broth into a large pot and begin heating. 
2.  In a bowl, place liver pudding.  Add egg, salt, pepper, and basil.  Mix together thoroughly.  Mom used her hands.  I will probably use the mixer with dough hook. 
3.  Gradually add in 1 cup flour, combining as you go. 
Make sure your batter is very stiff
4.  Drop approximately 1 tablespoon dumpling batter at a time into boiling beef broth. 
5.  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.  Do not stir. 
These liver nips were pretty darned good, and very simple.  The liver taste was a little strong for me.  I will probably use 2 cups of flour for my dumplings, and add just 2-3 tablespoons beef broth as needed to moisten but still keeping a stiff batter.  I think I will also reserve the last ½ cup of dumpling batter, thin it down with about ½ cup broth, and pour into dumplings to have a thicker broth for my liver nips. 
Here is another Liver Nips recipe, slightly more ambitious, from a family friend: 
1 ½ lb liver
½ lb suet
1 lb beef roast
1 T basil
1 medium onion
2 eggs
4-5 cups plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
1.  Cover liver, beef and suet with water and cook in crock pot about 8 hours. 
2.  Cool liver, beef, and suet.  Place in blender with eggs, onion, and enough cooking broth to puree. 
3.  Mix flour and baking powder in a large bowl.  Stir in contents of blender. 
4.  Place crock pot cooking liquid in a large pot and bring to near boil.  (Seems to me you will need additional broth, and a very large pot.)
5.  Drop dumpling mixture into hot stock about 1 tablespoon at a time. 
6.  Cook 15-20 minutes. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mom’s 7-Up Layer Cake

7-Up Layer Cake recipe done as a sheet cake
My mom has an amazing inventory of super delicious, yet super simple cake recipes to satisfy her notorious sweet tooth.  She always had homemade desserts in the house, and cakes were her favorite contribution to big family dinners.  The 7-Up Layer Cake is one of her simple, yet delicious cakes.  It is relatively quick and pretty darned easy.  The 7-Up cake is a yellow layer cake with 7-Up soft drink in the cake batter.  The filling between the three relatively thin layers is made with pineapple and coconut, and it soaks down into the layers making the cake lusciously moist. 

This cake freezes and thaws well.  My mom worked shift work when I was growing up.  We went to a small country church, and virtually all the women were on one of three “serving committees” for funerals.  She often made cakes and froze them so that she would always have something when called on by the church.  Sad occasions, but this cake was always a hit at family dinners too.  It’s a pleasant surprise to discover something so simple, yet so delicious, don’t you think?  This is definitely easy enough for a novice cook, and a real snap for an experienced baker. 

7-Up Layer Cake

1 Pineapple or Lemon Supreme Cake Mix
1 lemon instant pudding mix

4 eggs
10 oz 7-Up

¾ cups Wesson Oil

1- Combine all ingredients with mixer. 

2- Pour equal amounts of batter into 3 greased and floured 9” layer cake pans.  My mom uses Crisco and plain flour, and my brother uses Baker’s Joy spray. 

3- Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until done.  Cool layers on a towel, or on a rack before applying filling. 


7-Up Cake Pineapple Coconut Filling

1 stick butter
½ cup sugar
1 15-oz can pineapple
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup coconut (M0m always buys frozen)

1- Combine butter, sugar, pineapple with juice, and eggs in a saucepan. 

2- Heat mixture thoroughly.  It will thicken slightly.

3- Add coconut and stir to combine. 

4- Place first layer on plate and apply pineapple filling to top.  Repeat for remaining two layers.  The filling will soak into layers, making the cake incredibly moist. 

 Here's how you keep the plastic wrap from sticking to your frosting