Savor Summer Tomatoes

Fresh, locally grown tomatoes are one of my favorite things of summer to peel and slice just as my mother did. Sometimes Phil adds a dollop of mayonnaise or cottage cheese, but most of the time they need nothing but a sprinkle of salt and a little fresh ground pepper.

Classics like BLTs, hamburgers, BLT Cornbread Salad and even tomato gravy take on a new dimension made with good summer tomatoes. I’m sure many of you grow your own tomatoes, but if not, check out your local farmer’s market or roadside stand for homegrown tomatoes.

I grew up eating very simple tomato sandwiches made on white bread with a layer of mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper – one of the world’s greatest ideas. I still remember my mother telling me that they used to make tomato sandwiches on cold biscuits. Even as a child, I thought this sounded good. I will occasionally eat a tomato sandwich when I have leftover biscuits and they are delicious! With that in mind, I’ve developed a recipe for Bacon Cheddar and Tomato Biscuit Sandwiches which is delicious for a summer lunch or party.

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The buttery drop biscuit has crumbled bacon and cheese stirred right into the dough. Sliced and filled with lettuce and a slice of tomato, it’s certainly a summer treat.

Do you have a favorite way to serve summer tomatoes? I would love to hear about it.

Put a Southern Spin on the Sandwich

If you grew up in the South, you’ve probably eaten cornbread in many different ways, but have you ever had a sandwich on cornbread?  Our National Cornbread Cook-Off participants always amaze me with their creative uses for cornbread. Two of our past National Cornbread Cook-Off winners made cornbread sandwiches!

Bacon and Gorgonzola Cornbread Sliders with Chipotle Mayo was the first place winning recipe in 2010. Instead of the typical small bun, these sliders are made on cornbread muffins. By adding flour, sour cream and an egg to a cornbread mix the muffins are moist enough to use instead of a bun. Chives, bacon and gorgonzola cheese add such great flavor to these sandwiches which would be delicious served with soup, salad or chili. To finish the sliders, split the muffins in half and spread with chipotle mayo, add a small cooked ground beef patty, cheese and grilled onions. Delicious!

8082-MW-ULTIMATE-GRILLED-CHEESE-HERO-1200X1200_mediumIn 2014, The Ultimate Southern Grilled Cheese Sandwich recipe took third place. The cornbread for this sandwich is cooked in a cast iron skillet, cut into 4 wedges and sliced lengthwise. Cut sides are spread with ranch dressing. On the bottom wedges, place cheese slices, bacon, grilled onions, tomato slices and more cheese. Grilled in butter until golden brown and crunchy, these grilled cheese sandwiches are really an ultimate grilled cheese.

Recipes like these continue to remind us that good cornbread can be used in many ways in addition to the beloved accompaniment to fresh summer vegetables!

Celebrate National Egg Month

The entire month of May is dedicated to the Wonders of the Egg – an incredible food. I cannot imagine life without eggs, especially for breakfast – scrambled, fried, poached, boiled or made into an omelet. Egg salad is a favorite at our house and we love to use eggs as an ingredient in lots of different recipes, but we often overlook the role that eggs play in cooking and baking.

Besides adding protein and other nutrients, eggs add golden color and the protein helps with browning. As a natural emulsifier, eggs hold fat and water together in many foods. An egg wash adds rich shiny glaze to baked goods. For example, eggs hold baked goods and meat loaf together and they aerate baked goods and meringues.

Baking is, of course, one of the area where eggs shine. Can you imagine life without a beautiful pound cake? This traditional favorite was originally made with a pound each of butter, sugar, flour and eggs!  Eggs are also a key ingredient in muffins and pancakes.

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Lemon Ricotta Brunch Cakes are an egg laden recipe similar to crepes. In this recipe, eggs combined with ricotta cheese and lemon provide rich flavor and make the brunch cakes thin and pliable. The eggs are separated and the egg whites are beaten and folded into the batter. The brunch cakes cook in a few minutes and are delicious topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, lemon peel and fresh berries.

What are your favorite egg recipes?  I’d love to hear from you.

Perfect Parfaits

The French translation for the word “parfait” is perfect. What an appropriate name for the charming desserts layered in tall glasses. Traditionally, parfaits were made with ice cream, pudding or custard and then layered with fruit or fruit syrup and topped with whipped cream. Parfaits are not only pretty and delicious, they are fun to make. If you do not have parfait glasses, any clear glasses will work. Parfaits may also be made in small canning jars, making them transportable to a picnic, work or school. Parfaits need to be kept cold in a cooler or in an insulated bag with an ice pack.

The fun part of creating a parfait is layering the ingredients into the glasses. Select and assemble ingredients – different colored layers work best. Try and keep the custard off the glass by using a spoon with a long handle – similar to an iced tea spoon.

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These parfaits are a little different because one layer is crumbled Martha White® Banana Nut Flavored Muffins, The Banana Berry Pudding Parfait recipe is amazingly delicious. You can make this pudding recipe by using an instant pudding mix and adding a cup of sour cream to give the mix a rich dairy flavor.  Adding a few berries makes a pretty parfait and imparts a refreshing flavor. Great for breakfast, Rise and Shine Banana Berry Pudding Parfaits are made with yogurt and crumbled muffins, granola and berries.

Who could ask for a more perfect spring dessert?

Come Celebrate 20th National Cornbread Festival With Us!

On April 23 & 24, 2016, the picturesque Tennessee River town of South Pittsburg, TN, will celebrate the 20th National Cornbread Festival. Paying homage to the South’s perfect union of cornbread and cast iron, the Festival will be a great fun-filled weekend for the entire family.

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At the 20th anniversary of the Festival, Martha White® will host the 2016 Past National Championship Cook-Off Winners’ Charity event on Saturday, April 23, 2016. Past judges from The National Cornbread Cook-Off will compete for a food-related charity of their choice. These food experts will prepare an original appetizer recipe with a Martha White Cornbread Mix that has been prepared in Lodge® Cast Iron cookware. You’re sure to leave the Cook-Off with some great new ideas for delicious party food to share with your friends.

Lodge® Cast Iron will also sponsor a consumer Cornbread Cook-Off.  Creative home cooks will prepare their original main dish recipes for a panel of judges at the Festival. The recipes will be made with a Martha White Cornbread Mix and cooked in Lodge® Cast Iron Cookware.

Make a point to arrive early so you can see the 4-H Student Cook-Off. Seeing these young 4-H members competing will give you hope for the preservation of good cornbread for the next generation.

Last year we invited past winners to prepare their winning recipes and interestingly one of our earlier recipes, Festive Good Luck Cornbread Skillet, was the winner. The dish features smoked sausage, black-eyed peas, collards and cornbread and proves that cornbread combined with traditional ingredients is always a winner!

Come and share the fun with us. See how cast iron cookware is made by touring the Lodge Manufacturing plant. Explore opportunities to enter prize drawings, shop the crafts, enjoy the music and eat lots of good cornbread!  For more information, visit www.nationalcornbread.com.

Delectable Muffin Bread Puddings

In its basic form, bread pudding is bread (sometimes stale) soaked in a mixture of eggs, milk or cream and sugar. Baked to creamy perfection, bread pudding is another testament to the creative genius of cooks using the ingredients they had on hand.  Last summer we talked about the Southern version, Summer Biscuit Bread Pudding – delicious in its simplicity.

Although often made with chewy yeast bread, bread pudding may be made with any bread, even muffins or fruit breads. If you ever have leftover muffins, simply freeze until you have about a dozen. More than likely you won’t have leftovers, so mix up a couple packages (any flavor) of Martha White® Muffin Mix and prepare according to package directions.

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The Blueberry French Toast Bread Pudding with Smoky Bacon recipe is perfect for a spring brunch. Melding flavors of blueberry muffins with a rich maple flavored custard and pecans are sure to take this bread pudding French Toast recipe to the next level.

This decadently delicious White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding is a former recipe contest winner. Banana bread made from Martha White Banana Nut Flavored Muffin Mix is a tasty, but quick version of banana bread which also forms the base of the bread pudding. The rich custard is made with white chocolate baking chips. Top it all off with caramel topping for a crowd-pleasing dessert you’ll be asked to make time and time again.