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Memphis in May

Soon after the National Cornbread Cook-Off, another great Tennessee festival takes place at the opposite end of the state. Memphis in May will celebrate the unique culture of this grand old Mississippi River town. In addition, the festival pays tribute to another country. This year the festival will honor Colombia, showcasing the country’s food and culture.

The month kicks-off with the Beale Street Music Festival which celebrates the music of African-American musicians who have been coming to Memphis’ Beale Street to perform since the1800’s. The festival features well-known artists performing with local musical acts.

In late May, the festival will host The World Champion Barbecue Contest – the largest pork barbecue competition in the world. The cuts, rub, sauce, wood and preparation methods come together to produce amazing varieties, the merits of each hotly debated among aficionados.  And I must pay tribute to those small pit masters who patiently perfect their craft for local tastes and inspire our love for barbecue.

Barbecue sides like slaw, beans, pickles, white bread, cornbread or hushpuppies are another matter for debate and vary all over the South. Not surprising is my love of barbecue on cornbread – the true inspiration for my Open Face Barbecue Sandwich on Jalapeno Cornbread recipe.  I was in Memphis recently and saw that a local barbecue restaurant is making an appetizer featuring layers of crumbled cornbread, beans, slaw, barbecue and sauce. Wish I had thought of that!

Rotisserie Chicken Streamlines Spring Suppers

I’m sure many of you have discovered that rotisserie chicken is a great shortcut to many of our favorite dishes. From chicken salad to casseroles, it dramatically cuts preparation time. Of course, roasting or cooking chicken at home is the most economical option, but there are times when convenience is worth it. I like to debone the whole chicken and freeze the excess to use later.

A chicken casserole is perfect for a spring supper when the evenings may still be cool. Easy Pickin’ Chicken Pie has been a Martha White® Kitchen favorite for years and one of my “go to” recipes. I have often combined the filling ingredients in a baking dish in the morning and stored in the refrigerator until dinnertime. Then all that’s left to do is mix self-rising flour, milk and melted butter. Pour over the top and bake according to recipe directions. To be so simple, it is amazingly comforting and delicious.

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We’ve talked about cornbread salad, the Southern version of the classic Italian bread salad, but I don’t think I have ever shared this TexMex version. Chicken Salsa Cornbread Salad is a great combination of cornbread cubes, chicken, cheese and a variety of vegetables. The dressing is simply salsa and sour cream. Feel free to vary the vegetables according to your family’s taste.

National Cornbread Festival Celebrates Cast Iron and Cornbread

It’s almost time for the 2017 National Cornbread Festival! The lovely little town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee has opened its heart and streets to thousands of visitors for 21 years. There are plenty of things to do: music, crafts, a carnival, tours, plenty of good cornbread and more.  One tour you will not want to miss is of the Lodge Manufacturing Company foundry where they’ve been making cast iron and cookware since 1896.

This year’s festival runs April 29-30, 2017. Celebrating the perfect marriage of cornbread and cast iron, Saturday features a 4-H Cornbread Cook-Off in the morning and the National Championship Cornbread Cook-Off in the afternoon. Over the years, we have been amazed by the creative recipes entered in the contest, many of which have become a family favorite.

After last year’s festival, I shared the winning recipe from the Former Judge’s cook-off. Bob’s Bama Hoecake Sliders are a tribute to some of our favorite Southern foods. Entered by Bob Carlton, a columnist for the Birmingham News, his sliders are a creative combination of little cornbread hoecakes, spread with pimento cheese and topped with smoked sausage and spicy pickles. Delicious! In case you missed it, here is the link.

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Bob’s recipe reminds me of the 2010 Winner – Bacon and Gorgonzola Cornbread Sliders with Chipotle Mayo. This slider is made on delectable little corn muffins, split and filled with a small ground beef patty, grilled onions and cheese. Fun and tasty!

For a complete schedule of Cornbread Festival Events, visit nationalcornbread.com. Make plans now to join us in South Pittsburg at the end of April. Hope to see you there!

Caprese Skillet Cornbread

Hey friends! It’s me Brandie again from The Country Cook! I love sharing simple, everyday recipes for the busy cook. Today I would love to share this Caprese Skillet Cornbread recipe with y’all!

Insalata Caprese (in Italian it means: Salad of Capri) is a simple Italian salad of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. A bit of olive oil is drizzled over the top of the whole salad. It is that recipe that inspired this recipe for Caprese Skillet Cornbread!

We’re making it simple by using my favorite Martha White® Cotton Country™ Buttermilk Cornbread Mix. It is super delicious and tastes just like homemade, so it’s my go-to when making skillet cornbread. And I’m making it all in my 10 1/2-inch Lodge® Cast Iron skillet. Cooking in a pre-heated skillet gives me those crispy edges that I love on savory cornbread. But you can definitely use a 9×9 baking dish for this recipe (no pre-heating necessary).

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I’m also using sun-dried tomatoes. The tomatoes are kept soaking in flavorful olive oil to keep them pliable and delicious. It takes this cornbread over the top! So let’s get to this recipe!

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Ingredients:
2 (6 oz) pouches Martha White® Cotton Country™ Cornbread
1 1/2 cups water
1 large egg
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 12 oz container marinated mozzarella balls
1 (7 oz) jar sun-dried tomatoes

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Instructions:
Preheat oven to 450° F. Coat a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet with a generous layer of vegetable or olive oil. When oven is finished preheating, place the skillet into the oven to warm up (for about 6-8 minutes).

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While skillet is warming up, prepare the cornbread mix. In a large bowl, combine both pouches of cornbread mix with water and egg. Finely chop basil and sun-dried tomatoes. And cut mozzarella balls in half.

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Add basil, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes to cornbread batter. Stir gently until combined.

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When skillet has warmed, add cornbread batter to the skillet.

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Bake cornbread (on middle oven rack) for approximately 15 to 20 minutes (until golden brown).

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Tacos or Pizza for Fun Family Supper

How about something fun for supper on Friday or Saturday night? Tacos? Pizza? Making a meal at home as a family can be fun for the kids and they love to help out in the kitchen.  It makes for great family time.

If your bunch loves tacos, here is a fun recipe I’m sure they’ll enjoy. With only six main ingredients, you’ll have this Have-It-Your-Way Taco Pie in the oven in a flash. The easy taco filling is simply ground beef, salsa and chili powder. Let the kids stir up the cornbread crust made with a convenient cornbread mix, egg and milk. Pour in a hot skillet – you may need to help with this – top with the meat mixture and in the oven it goes. The batter rises around the edges and forms a delicious crust.

The “have-it-your-way” part comes with a choice of a variety of toppings. The kids can pick and choose their favorites to top off their piece of the pie.

If pizza is more your style, why not try making one at home? Martha White® Pizza Crust Mixes are quick and easy to mix up with warm water and the kids will love pressing the dough onto the pan. The toppings can be tailored to everyone’s taste. You could even do half and half, if preferences vary. Be sure to check out the great recipe located on the packaging!

Easy Coconut Cakes for Easter Dinner

Coconut Cakes have been a Southern holiday favorite for generations. These wonderfully delicious cakes were probably saved for the holidays because a cake made with fresh coconut is indeed a labor of love. Fresh coconut, drained of the water, cracked open, removed from the shell, peeled and hand-grated was no easy task. But that work did create one of the most beloved cakes. I am sure many of you continue to make these extraordinary cakes to the delight of your family, who heap praise on you for your creation – making it all worthwhile.

If you have neither the skill nor time to bake the classic, thankfully there are other options. Supermarkets offer a variety of coconut options. In addition, coconut milk, coconut cream and cream of coconut are canned products often used in recipes. Just remember, they are not interchangeable so be sure you check the recipe for the exact product.

Cream of Coconut Cake is delicious and easy to make. This recipe follows the tradition of classic coconut cakes, using only egg whites to make a white cake. It is easy to mix and baked in a 9×13-inch pan, making it convenient to transport and serve. After baking, the cake is drenched with cream of coconut and topped with whipped topping and shaved coconut.

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Mini Coconut Cakes with Coconut Cream

Another fun shortcut to coconut cakes are these Mini Coconut Cakes with Coconut Cream. The little cakes are made by “dressing up” a Martha White® Wildberry Flavored Muffin Mix.  Bake muffins according to directions on package, slice off top, add filling and replace the muffin top.  Finish it off with a delectable coconut flavored cream cheese frosting.

Muffin Mixes: Shortcut Fruit Breads

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a Martha White® Muffin Mix user who wanted to know if she could make banana bread with Martha White Banana Nut Flavored Muffin Mix. Well, the truth is that over the years, I have made several versions of fruit bread loaves with muffin mix, but I couldn’t remember if I had ever simply mixed up according to package directions and baked in a loaf pan. So I decided to try it.

I sprayed an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and mixed two pouches of Martha White Banana Nut Flavored Muffin Mixes with 1 cup milk. I baked it at 375°F for 35 minutes and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out. It was really good!  Moist and delicious with a typical nice crack in the top.

Now I was on a roll, so I baked one of my favorite “dressed-up” muffin mix loaves – Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Snack Loaf. It is delicious, too! With the addition of sour cream, vegetable oil and a couple of eggs, the loaf is very moist with a soft cakey texture.  And it worked just as well with Banana Nut Flavored Muffin Mix and Blueberry Flavored Muffin Mix, too.

So the good news is, whether made by following the package directions or with adding extra ingredients, muffin mixes are a convenient shortcut to a variety of loaves you can stir up in minutes.