Cajun-Style Celebrates Food and Friends

I have long been fascinated by the Cajun zest for life. Their love of home, good food shared with friends and rollicking music created one of the most interesting cultures and delicious cuisines in the South.

Cajuns were rugged French settlers who migrated to Acadia in Canada in the 17th Century and eventually on to southern Louisiana. Coming from a rural background, the Acadians – later know as Cajuns – gravitated to the bayous and marshland. Cajuns typically had a love for pork and developed ways to prepare and preserve it by making spicy sausage and cracklins’.

Their cooking method of choice is often a big pot, outside, and over an open fire. The results   usually call for fun, friends and music. Jambalaya, a stew of vegetables and meat like andouille sausage is great example of a delicious one-dish meal made with readily available ingredients.

Inspired by the Cajun classic, Cracklin’ Biscuits contain the delicious crisp pieces of meat remaining after lard has been rendered from pork. These biscuits are perfect for breakfast or with a creamy soup. For a stylish appetizer, cut the biscuits in half, split open and fill with a slice of tomato and lettuce. The result is a delectable Cajun BLT! If you can’t find Cracklins’ for this recipe, you can also use crisp cooked bacon.

Louisville Hot Brown – a Little Further South

If you’re from Kentucky it’s likely you’ve heard of the Hot Brown Sandwich. The rather unusual name comes courtesy of the famous old Brown Hotel in Louisville, where the sandwich was invented in 1926 and still features the sandwich on the menu. It’s rumored that the chef came up with this recipe as an alternative to ham and egg late night suppers.

The Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich of turkey and bacon, covered in cheese sauce and baked or broiled until the bread is crisp and sauce begins to brown. Sometimes the sandwich includes ham, pimentos or tomatoes.

Making a cheese sauce is a great way to turn a sandwich into a main dish for weekday suppers. If you make gravy, a cheese sauce is basically the same thing made with butter instead of drippings with cheese added. I usually start by making a roux with 1/4 cup butter, melted in a skillet; stirring in a 1/4 cup all-purpose or self-rising flour. Cook and continue stirring until roux is bubbly, but not brown. Gradually add 2 cups milk, bring to a boil and stir until thickened. Stir in 1 cup shredded cheese until melted. Add salt to taste. This makes a thick sauce, so add milk to achieve your desired consistency.

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Creative Southern chefs love to substitute biscuits for bread in classics like Eggs Benedict, so why not make a hot brown on Martha White Hot Rize Biscuits or even Sweet Milk Corn Cakes? The versatility of this sandwich allows any meat you have on hand to be used like turkey, chicken, ham or bacon. It’s not only delicious, but satisfying on a cool night.

Variations on a Peanut Butter Cookie Theme

The traditional Peanut butter cookie is an all-time favorite, providing us another way to eat our beloved peanut butter. This cookie is hard to replace, but if you’d like to try something a little different, here are a couple of recipes, each equally delicious.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies will certainly be of interest to those of you who try to follow a gluten-free diet.  Although this recipe is flourless, these cookies are so delicious that I encourage any peanut butter cookie lover to try them. There’s an intense peanut butter flavor due to the low amount of cornmeal in the recipe. Crunchy and chewy – you just have to taste it for yourself! This particular recipe calls for Jif® Natural Peanut Butter Spread with Honey, which is delicious, but I’ve also made them with creamy and crunchy peanut butters and they too were good. I made them recently with Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter Spread and loved them, but I’m an extra crunchy peanut butter girl.

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The Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies are a combination of two classics – peanut butter and oats. The combination celebrates with the chewiness of oats and the rich flavor of peanut butter. Consider adding chopped salted peanuts to take this cookie to the next level!

We Love our Southern Nuts

In the South we love our nuts. We like to eat them raw, roasted and glazed. We like to include them in our favorite pie, cookie, brownie, muffin, pancake, nut bread, and cornbread recipes. I realize that there are those among us who are allergic to nuts (and I’m sorry about that) and others who just don’t like them or just don’t like them in their cookies or breads. But, also know many people who love them!

Many areas of the South have pecan and black walnut trees growing right in our yards. As a child, I remember a hickory nut tree that grew behind our house with nuts and we would gather them off the ground to eat.  Having an abundance of nuts readily available was certainly a blessing to the people who lived off the land. Nuts were typically free for the taking, but the shelling was not always easy, but worth the effort. Those little hickory nuts were hard as rock to crack and the nut was quite small, but tasted delicious.

Easy Blueberry Crisp is a fun little crisp recipe that can be made with a variety of pie filling flavors. This recipe lives up to its name by layering ingredients, including pecans, in a baking dish and not stirring!

St. Patrick’s Day Shortbread with Southern Flare

We’ll be seeing a lot of green for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. Actually an Irish Feast Day honoring Saint Patrick, the day is celebrated in many different ways from religious to social. Regardless if St. Patrick Day includes a celebration for you, it’s still a good day to bake something special for your family and friends.

The combination of flour, sugar, butter and eggs produces a rich and delicious shortbread. A great keeper, shortbread is wonderful for a party, gifting or for a treat.

Although Scotland gets the credit of this delectable creation, shortbread is popular all over the British Isles and definitely appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day.  I’m not a big fan of green food, but if you want to get into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, feel free to add a touch of green food coloring.

This shortbread recipe was developed by Shannon Adams of Honeybee Bakery in Oxford, Mississippi for the Southern Foodways Symposium. The theme of the conference that year was Exploring the Global South – an exploration of cultural influences on Southern food and cooking.

Lemon Rosemary Corn Meal Shortbread stays close to the original version, but with the addition of corn meal it now has a distinctive Southern flair and a subtle crunch. The rosemary and lemon zest add a refreshing flavor.

Sure to be a hit with your family and friends, this recipe is a great example of how our ancestors from all over the world continue to influence the foods we cook today.

Scrumptious Caramel Desserts

Which is your flavor of choice – caramel or chocolate? Well, thankfully you don’t have to choose. As you probably know, the delectable caramel flavor is achieved by heating white sugar until it turns brown and produces a nutty flavor. This can also be achieved by caramelizing sweetened condensed milk, also known as dulce de leche. The result is a rich, dark brown confection used to make pie fillings, candy, sauces and toppings.

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A few years ago, we were having a discussion in the test kitchen about recipes using Martha White® Muffin Mixes. We have always loved the ease and convenience of making a simple crust using a muffin mix and someone suggested we make a Banoffee Pie. I don’t think anyone else around the table had ever heard of it. Not being familiar with this pie, we learned that a Banoffee Pie had been created in Sussex, England and was becoming very popular. After having it described to us, I couldn’t wait to try it. It’s basically a pie with a layer of caramel in a pie crust, topped with sliced bananas and whipped cream. Yum!

Double Chocolate Caramel Tart is another delicious recipe using caramelized sweetened condensed milk. You can’t go wrong with a chocolate crust and a chocolate whipped cream topping!

By the way, the method described to caramelize sweet condensed milk is the recommended safest way to make it.

 

Muffin Mix + Sour Cream = Delicious!

Martha White® has always been about making baking easier. The Martha White Self-Rising Flour and Corn Meal products are a blessing to busy cooks who often make biscuits and cornbread. Muffin and cornbread mixes brought even more convenience to a new generation. Whether you are a scratch or shortcut baker, we all have times when we need a delicious treat at the last minute.

You can easily use a muffin mix to make a variety of tasty recipes. In all my years of testing and developing recipes for Martha White, I’ve discovered a secret ingredient – sour cream. By adding sour cream to a muffin mix, you can easily transform the mix into delectable coffeecakes, cupcakes, snack breads and more.

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Sour cream not only lends rich flavor, but also makes the finished recipe moist and delicious. I first realized the beauty of combining sour cream and muffin mixes many years ago when I developed this Blueberry Almond Coffee Cake recipe. Building on the experience, I have incorporated sour cream into many additional muffin mix recipes.

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Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Snack Loaf requires only a few ingredients, most of which you likely have in your pantry or refrigerator. Chocolate Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes are perfect for a last-minute dessert, bake sale or birthday party. Check Visit marthawhite.com for other easy recipes using mixes and sour cream!