Welcome to my favorite family recipes, and some of my own discoveries. All of the recipes published here will be “tried and true”. I grew up with many of these recipes. My mom is a very good cook. We were a working class family, but we always had good food. Nothing fancy, but everything was good. I will also be sharing Mom’s best cake recipes.
Call me a grits loyalist.I love grits.I especially love
grits with cheese.I do not eat oatmeal,
and I do not eat cream of wheat, and I most certainlydonot put sugar in my grits.And
I never use instant grits!I use Quaker
Quick Grits, which say “5 minutes”, but I cook them much longer, so that they
are creamy.Jim Dandy grits are good
too.I’ve used the store brand in a
pinch, but they definitely were not the same.Whether breakfast or dinner, cook up some grits, make some eggs, maybe
add some biscuits and bacon, and you’ve got a meal.
Ingredients and Instructions
1 cup grits (for 3 or 4 servings)
3 to 4 cups of chicken broth or water
Salt to taste
1- Pour grits in saucepan, and rinse.
2- Add 3 cups of broth or water.If you are using plain water, add about 1 tsp
of salt.I used to cook grits with water
and chicken bouillon powder or paste.I’ve
recently started cooking grits with homemade chicken stock, which makes them
“slap your grandma” good.The organic
chicken broth from Costco is fantastic.
3- Cover and start cooking on medium high.My stove burners have a 1 to 10 dial.I start off on a setting of 6 for 5 minutes.I set the stove timer, and stir the grits, and
reduce heat by 1 every 5 minutes, for a total of 20 minutes, ending on the
setting of 3.
4- Add additional liquid if needed, up to 1 cup.
5- Add salt if needed.
If you have used water instead of chicken stock, I suggest
you add 2 Tbsp of butter or Ghee the last 5 minutes of cooking for
You could use 2 cups of water or chicken broth, and 1 cup
heavy cream or evaporated milk, for creamy, rich grits.
Try stirring in a couple ounces of cream cheese, cut into
I always stir in some cheddar cheese.I put the cheese in after I have plated.When you add cheese while cooking, it seems
to take more, and if you don’t eat all the grits, you’ve wasted some perfectly
If you know anything about Southern cooking, you can imagine
that I grew up eating lots of fried meat with rice and milk gravy.My favorite is probably battered and fried
cubed steak with rice and gravy.As a
tasty variation, my mom occasionally made milk gravy with tomatoes.Tomato gravy is certainly good with some type
of fried meat, such as chicken, pork chops, or cubed steak.I suppose you could eat it over rice or
potatoes, but we usually had tomato gravy over grits or biscuits. We’d often have “breakfast for supper”.Mom usually fried some breakfast meat such as
sausage or country ham, and then used the dripping to make tomato gravy, a
variation of her milk gravy.
Cooking oil, or pan drippings from fried meat
3 to 5 heaping Tbsp plain flour
2 to 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced, or 1 can diced
tomatoes with juice
1 can evaporated milk (this gives the gravy richness)
16 oz milk, whole or 2%
Water as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
1- Gravy is best when you start with “pan drippings” in a
hot skillet.For example, the oil that
you would fry breaded chicken or steak in, which would have some browned flour
and pieces of the breading.If you don’t
have pan drippings, use vegetable cooking oil, enough to cover the bottom of
the pan about ¼ inch deep.
2- Pan and oil should be hot, and stove burner on medium
high.Whisk in flour 1 heaping Tbsp at a
time.I use about 4 Tbsp, but it does
seem to vary according to location.When
I lived in IL, it seemed to take less flour.I’m assuming this has to do with altitude, humidity or some other
atmospheric factor.Make sure you use
ample flour.You can always add more
liquid if the gravy is too thick.
3- The flour should be completely blended in liquid oil, and
not be a thick paste.Heat until flour
is browned but not burned, stirring constantly.
4- Add tomatoes.They
should sizzle.Cook the tomatoes on
medium high for a minute or 2.You will
probably have a paste consistency at this point.
5- Reduce heat.Add
half of the milk quickly, stirring vigorously.It will thicken up quickly.Blend
in the remaining milk.
6- Add additional milk or water as needed to have a nice
7- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
8- Simmer on low for 5 to 10 minutes.
9- Serve over grits or biscuits.My mom is partial to refrigerated Hungry Jack
Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits.In case
you’re not experienced in the art of cooking grits, I’ll provided my method and
tips in another post.
10- If you have leftover gravy, be warned that it will be
thicker after sitting &/or refrigeration.Sometimes I whisk in extra liquid before refrigerating.
I’ve always loved
chicken pot pie.A few years ago a
friend made a super simple, family-style chicken pot pie with frozen pie
shells.I’ve been making my own ever
since.I’ve used frozen pie shells,
frozen gluten-free pie shells, and refrigerated (rolled, in a box) pie
shells.I’ve made it with chicken, and
I’ve made vegetarian pot pies many times, with a variety of different
vegetables.It’s always good.
I like to use a
large shallow baking dish.As much as I
enjoy the crust, the pot pie is too dry when placing top and bottom crusts, so
I skip the bottom crust.
Chicken Pot Pie Ingredients
3 cups diced cooked
2 cans cream of
1 can cream of
2 soup cans milk
1 bag frozen mixed
vegetables, or vegetables of your choice
1 deep dish frozen
pie shells, thawed, or one refrigerated Pillsbury Just Unroll pie crust
1.Grease the bottom of a 11” X 13” baking dish.
2. Add soups and milk to baking dish. Whisk to combine.
3.Add vegetables and chicken.Stir to combine.
4. Top with pie crust. Don’t worry if there are gaps.
5. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 1
hour. Turn up oven temperature if needed to lightly brown crust.
My friend used several thawed regular sized frozen pie
shells.She carefully pieced them
together to cover the entire bottom of the baking dish.As I said above, in the shallow baking dish,
it made the pot pie too dry.I just put
a single crust on top. The frozen crust,
especially the gluten free crust, breaks into pieces.I just evenly space the pieces around the
main center piece.The refrigerated
crust more amply covers the pot pie.
I typically use a traditional vegetable mix of peas,
carrots, and corn.The HEB store brand
frozen mixed vegetables has peas, carrots, corn and lima beans.I’ve used many different vegetable
combinations.Try vegetables such as
broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, butternut squash, mushrooms, and leeks.
This is my mom’s
Strawberry Layer Cake, sometimes called Texas Strawberry Cake.She uses frozen sliced strawberries in the
cake batter and the frosting.Compared
to other layer cakes, these layers are relatively thin, therefore this is a
relatively small layer cake.
My mom has an excellent
reputation for homemade cakes, stemming from her own sweet tooth.She always wanted sweets around the house, so
we always had cakes and pies.All of her
sisters and sisters-in-law were good cooks too, but she was the best known in
the bunch for sweets.Everyone always
wanted to know what cake or dessert Mom was going to make for church functions
or family dinners.
box white cake mix
box strawberry Jell-O
cup frozen strawberries in syrup
cup vegetable oil (Mom uses Wesson)
Combine cake mix with strawberry Jell-O.
2.Add eggs, one at a time, and combine with
3.Add other ingredients.
4.Pour even amounts of batter to each of three
greased and dusted layer cake pans.
5.Bake layers according to time and temperature
given on the cake mix package.
Strawberry Cake done as a sheet cake
frosting can be tricky.Mom says it is
the humidity that sometimes makes it runny, so you would need to add more sugar
or less of the strawberry juice.
cup frozen sliced strawberries in syrup
box powdered sugar
2.Add strawberries with syrup, powdered sugar
4.Frost layer tops and sides.
Strawberry Cake done as a sheet cake for my brother's birthday
French Fry Casserole has become a guilty pleasure at our
house.This is something we
concocted.You may be familiar with
Tator Tot Casserole (recipe below).Somehow that
classic morphed into something else at our house.One night my brother brought home leftover
French fries.And it wasn’t just a few
fries, it was a boatload.He brought the
fries into the house to make sure no one wanted them before he threw them
away.We don’t really enjoy cold fries,
and don’t think they reheat particularly well.But this was such a huge portion of French fries, it seemed to be
wasteful to throw them away.So this was
the practical beginning of French Fry Casserole.It was our solution for what to do with
leftover French fries.
Since our first French Fry Casserole, we have saved even
small amounts of fries in the freezer, so sometimes our casserole is a real
hodge podge of different sizes and shapes of fries.Occasionally we bake frozen fries especially
for this casserole, and sometimes we buy our favorite fast food fries.
Looking for a fast and easy, but devilishly tasty
dinner?This is an easy dish to prepare,
and relatively quick to get into the oven.We try not to prepare this casserole often, and we try not to prepare it
late in the evening, because we always have second helpings and stuff ourselves
Leftover French fries, the equivalent of about 1 ½ to 2
McDonald’s or Burger King large orders of fries
1 ½ lb ground beef
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Lawry’s Garlic with Parsley
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 soup cans of milk
16 oz frozen mixed vegetables
1.Preheat oven to
2.Season ground beef
with seasoned salt and garlic powder.
3.Brown meat in a large
skillet.Drain oil from meat.I just tip the pan and spoon off the excess
4.Add cream soup.Use a spatula to get all the soup out. Add two soup cans milk, swirling to rinse the
cans.Stir to thoroughly combine soup,
milk, and hamburger.
vegetables to meat and stir to combine.
in the bottom of an 11” X 13” casserole dish.
7.Pour meat and vegetable
mixture over the top of the fries.
8.Bake casserole at
350° for 45 minutes.
Traditional Tater Tot Casserole
of cream of chicken soup
can of milk
lb lean ground beef
of frozen tater tots
Brown ground beef in a large skillet.
soup, milk, and browned ground beef.
Spread in the bottom of a greased casserole dish, 9” X 11” or similar volume
Place a layer of tater tots on top.
in preheated 350 degree oven until thoroughly warm, about 40 minutes.
Here is another one of my Turkish-inspired dinner favorites,
Yumurtali Ispanak.It has chopped
spinach, ground beef, seasoned salt, and cheese.The Turks make it with ground lamb, and crack
eggs over the top, but I usually skip the eggs.(I don’t like the texture of egg whites.)This entrée is super easy and quick to
make.It’s one of my favorite ways to
eat cooked spinach, and the one I make most often.(I also like Indian Saag Paneer.)
1 lb lean ground beef or ground lamb
2 bags frozen chopped spinach, about 1 lb each
Lawry’s seasoned salt
5-6 eggs (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese
1.Place ground meat
in a large skillet, or Dutch oven pot.Sprinkle
with about ½ tsp of Lawry’s seasoned salt, and brown meat.
2.Add frozen spinach.Sprinkle with about ½ tsp of seasoned salt,
and cover.Cook on medium for 15-20
minutes, stirring occasionally.Color of
the spinach will change from bright green to a darker color.
3.Stir to ensure
spinach and meat are evenly mixed, and evenly distributed in the pan.Crack eggs into top of spinach mixture,
lightly with nutmeg.Cook until eggs are
firm, about 10 minutes.
I was stationed in Turkey for 3 ½ years in the early
90s.I loved being there.I enjoyed the travel, the people and the
food.I won’t say that I’m proficient at
Turkish cooking, but I have my adaptations of some of my favorite Turkish
dishes.Turks use a lot of tomatoes,
onions, peppers and garlic.Meat is
usually lamb or ground lamb.This is my
version of Turkish Green Beans, or Zeytinyağli Taze Fasulye.It is a tava- or stew-like dish.Turks would use ground lamb.I substitute ground beef.It is typically served over rice pilaf, truly
one of my favorite treats from my time in Turkey.This can be a delicious, healthy, low-fat
for Turkish Green Beans (Zeytinyağli Taze Fasulye)
1 large can of tomato juice, about 46 oz
1 can diced tomatoes, about 15 oz
2 large cans green beans, about 46 oz each, or 1 large bag
frozen green beans
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces, about 1”
2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
8-12 garlic cloves
Lawry’s seasoned salt
Lawry’s garlic powder with parsley
1- Pour tomato juice and tomatoes into a 6 qt Dutch oven pot.
2- Add green beans and seasonings.
3- Add onions.
4- Leave garlic cloves whole, or cut into thin horizontal
slices.Add to pot.
5- Bring to low boil, covered.
6- Once green beans are in the pot, start preparing meat
7- In a large bowl, mix eggs, seasoned salt and garlic
powder with hamburger.
8- Form “footballs” with meat mixture by cupping fingers
against the palm of your hand.
9- Drop meat footballs one at a time into simmering
pot.Cook 30 minutes.
10- Add cubed potatoes.Continue simmering on low for 20-30 minutes, until meatball texture
softens and potatoes are fork-tender.
11- Remove garlic cloves if desired (if you only want the
Serve Green Beans over Rice Pilaf and enjoy!Break off a piece of crusty French bread,
which will be close enough to Turkish ekmek.
Use extra lean ground beef, and serve over regular rice
(boiled in water and drained) for a low fat meal.
meal deserves a much better name, but I haven’t come up with one.Back in the mid-90s I made a vegetable dish
with zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers, and onions, topped with Parmesan
cheese.I think this entrée evolved from
that dish.Prior to this, I lived in
Turkey, which influenced the dish as well.When I first started making zucchini and beef, I carefully measured my
meat and rice, to track what I ate according to Weight Watchers
(pre-points).This is the kind of dish
that you want to make a big batch, to ensure you have leftovers.
Zucchini and Beef
medium zucchini, sliced very thin
lbs ground beef
large can of crushed tomatoes
can diced tomatoes
medium onion, chopped
cloves garlic, thinly sliced (or minced)
1.Place ground beef in a large skillet.Break meat apart.Sprinkle with about 1 tsp Lawry’s seasoned
2.Add chopped onions to meat.Brown ground beef in skillet.When meat is cooked, drain if desired.I usually use good quality, relatively low fat
hamburger, and don’t drain the meat because the fat imparts a lot of
3.Transfer meat and onions to a large pot, like
a Dutch oven.Add tomatoes, garlic, and
about 2 tsp Lawry’s seasoned salt.You
could use a variety of tomato products.Sometimes I use a can of diced tomatoes and a can of spaghetti
4.Cover and simmer on medium heat for about 45
minutes, until meat texture is tender.
5.While hamburger-tomato mixture is cooking,
wash zucchini, then slice very thinly.I
use the long slot on my grater.You
could use a mandoline.
6.After meat and tomatoes have simmered, add
zucchini.Stir zucchini into mixture to
coat.Cover and return to simmer.Cook until zucchini is tender, about 20
lived in Turkey for 3 ½ years, and definitely enjoyed the food.One of the basic Turkish staples is rice
pilaf, which reminds me a lot of rice-a-roni in the way it is prepared.I cook pilaf fairly often, because it goes
well with lots of dishes.I like it with
Turkish dishes like Shepherd Salad, Green Beans, and Tavas (stews).I also like it with a zucchini and beef dish
that I make, and in La Madeline’s Tomato Basil Soup.
Ingredients for Rice
cup Uncle Ben’s converted rice, long grain
cup medium grain rice, such as Hindoe
cup small pasta
cup olive oil
bouillon powder or paste
1.Pour olive oil in large pot, like a Dutch
oven.Heat over medium high until
2.Add pasta, like Mexican fideo, ½” pieces of
spaghetti, tiny stars, orzo, or other small pasta.
3.Stir frequently to prevent burning.When pasta starts to brown, add butter.Don’t add butter too soon, as it burns
easily.The pilaf would be fantastic
with the pasta cooked exclusively in butter, but that would be tricky to
accomplish.Cook pasta until
4.Measure and rinse rice.I do not use a strainer, so some water
remains.I like the texture of the
medium grain rice, but the pilaf tends to get gummy if using only medium
grain.The long grain Uncle Ben’s rice
helps prevent the pilaf from getting gummy.
5.Add rice, water, and chicken bouillon to
6.Cover and cook on medium for 25 minutes or
until water is absorbed.Best not to
peek, which I would not do until at least 20 minutes.If rice is still “wet”, cover and continue to
cook over slightly lowered heat.When
cook time is complete, stir to fluff.
Mom is a terrific cook, but I was never crazy about her meatloaf.Too much sage.As an adult, I discovered the Lipton Soup
meatloaf recipe.I’ve been using it for
years now.My only complaint about the
recipe is that it is too salty for my taste, so I use 2 ½ pounds of hamburger
instead of the recommended 2 pounds.I
make a shallow, thin meatloaf, more like a sheet cake instead of a traditional
loaf, and I make a tomato sauce topping.
beef in bowl.Add onion soup mix.Other varieties of Lipton Soup work also,
such as Beefy Onion, or Onion Mushroom.
3.Add ¾ cups dry
bread crumbs.I use Progresso plain or
Italian.I have also used quick
oats.Alternatively you can use 1 ½ cups
fresh bread crumbs, or 5 slices of bread, cubed.
water, and ketchup.Combine all
ingredients.I start out with a large
spoon, but ultimately do the final mix with my hands.
5.You can shape
into a traditional loaf, on a 9- X 13-inch baking pan, but I press meat mixture
flat, utilizing the entire baking dish.Then I poke a few holes in the center, so that the meatloaf will cook
paste, ketchup, and molasses (or brown sugar).Spread over meat mixture.