Gravy is often used to describe an unexpected benefit or a little something extra. That’s probably the same way most of us feel about eating gravy – a little extra treat. Someday we’ll talk about the amazing varieties of gravy – like red eye and chocolate – but first let’s make sure we’ve got the basics.

I think many of us have watched our mothers or grandmothers stir up a skillet of gravy after cooking sausage or frying chicken without really understanding the process. When I first started trying to make gravy, I just used the drippings left in the skillet. Sometimes that was WAY too much fat and sometimes not enough. When I finally got it right, it all made sense.

All it takes is equal amounts of fat (pan drippings or butter) and flour. A good place to start is 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of fat to 1 cup of milk. This ratio will work every time and makes a medium thick gravy, so if you like it very thick try 3 tablespoons each of fat and flour to 1 cup milk. You can always thin it out with a little more milk or broth. And you’ll want more than 1 cup of gravy so just continue multiplying up.

MW Gravy

When you have the fat mixed with a lot of liquid, like after roasting a turkey, pour all the drippings into a measuring cup. Allow the fat to separate to the top then skim it off. Use that fat in the same way described above and the broth as the liquid. Of course, in a pinch, you can use store bought broth or stock.

I’d love to hear about your gravy recipes, techniques or memories. Please tell me about them in the comments section below.

What is Coffee Cake Anyway?

I don’t think the South can claim coffee cakes, but I can certainly say that we have been happy to adopt them. Southerners love breakfast and often finish it up with a bite of something sweet, like a buttered biscuit with jam. It isn’t surprising that warm, fragrant coffee cakes have found a place at the Southern breakfast or brunch table.

So what is coffee cake? Is it a cake made with coffee or do you serve it with coffee? And what’s the difference between coffee cake, streusel cake and crumb cake?

Coffee cakes probably evolved from sweet yeast breads that came to this country with German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrants. But today they are loosely defined as sweet breads or cakes often served with coffee and come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and flavors.

Coffee is not typically an ingredient, but there are so many variations, there are probably some out there. Sometimes called streusel or crumb cakes, they often contain fruit, nuts and/or a cream cheese filling and may be topped with a buttery brown sugar/cinnamon topping or a simple glaze.

From the Martha White® Kitchen, Carolina Coffee Cake is a delicious example of a classic coffee cake recipe, all baked up in a cast iron skillet. And for those unexpected holiday guests, be prepared with a box of Martha White Cinnamon Streusel or Blueberry Streusel Flavored Coffee Cake Mix in your pantry.

What Are You Thankful For This Year?

It is not unusual to hear someone say that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday – and I agree. There is nothing better than a day that’s about gathering family and friends around the table to eat a delicious meal and give thanks.
What are you thankful for this year? I’m thankful for…

• My family who had roots in the Southern soil, appreciated the land and used the bounty conscientiously.

• For my mother who passed down to me the love of Southern food and cooking and so much more.

• For my father, a great story teller, who kept us entertained and laughing. And for those who continue the tradition.

• For the lessons about love and respect for others that were nurtured around the dinner table.

• For my brothers and sisters who welcomed me – a late comer – into the family.

• For a new generation – my sister’s great grandchild – to carry on family traditions.

• For good friends who are there to share in joys and sorrows.

• And I am very thankful for my wonderful husband Phil who grew up in a small West Tennessee town with a mother and grandmother who were great Southern cooks. My most enthusiastic supporter who has his own Southern stories to tell.

I would love to hear what you are thankful for this year; tell me about it in the comments section below. Happy Thanksgiving!

What is your Cranberry Sauce Style?

I remember being fascinated as I watched Mother cut both ends off a can of cranberry sauce and seeing it slide gracefully into her oval glass dish. It just amazed me that it always emerged perfectly, slightly quivering and with the concentric indentations from the can. Then, she cut it into slices that overlapped to just fit the bowl. Isn’t it amazing that a small experience can create such a clear memory? And how remembering brings pleasure so many years later?

Although it was always on the table, I don’t remember cranberry sauce evoking much passion in my family. Fresh cranberries were rare in those days and we liked the jellied stuff just fine. Later, my mother switched to whole berry sauce and I seem to remember some mild discussion surrounding that.

Several years ago, my niece Ann made the most dramatic change in our cranberry accompaniment. She started making a congealed salad with fresh cranberries, oranges and pecans. Now as veteran congealed salad aficionados, this was something we could really get into.

Today, the trend is for everyone to have their personal fresh cranberry sauce or relish recipe, which I think is wonderful. But you know, this year I may just get a can of jellied cranberry sauce, cut both ends off the can and see if it still slides out perfectly like it did when I was a kid. I might even eat some with my turkey and dressing. What will you have?

The Holiday Kids’ Table

Do you have memories of being relegated to the kids’ table while the grown-ups had Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room? Do you remember it as a time for telling secrets, silly jokes and mounding your sweet potato casserole into a mountain? Or were you yearning to sit at the big table?

I would love to hear your ‘kids’ table’ stories because I somehow missed that rite of passage. As the youngest of five, by the time I came along my brothers and sisters were already old enough to sit at the adult table, so I was there too. As they married and the family grew my mother just kept adding leaves to the table. And when she ran out of those, she set up a card table at one end. We’d round up chairs from all over the house and sometimes even put the piano bench at one end of the table so two could sit there.

There was a time when we finally outgrew the dining room and my nieces and nephews sat at a kids’ table in the kitchen. And even after they had graduated to the adult table, when they started showing up with friends and eventually husbands and wives of their own they would sometimes choose to sit together in the kitchen. Maybe they were reliving old memories of their time at the kids’ table. Or maybe, they’re just creating memories at their own adult table.

Is Pumpkin Pie Southern?

Pumpkin is so quintessentially American, I think just about everyone in this country has adopted some form of pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving. If it’s not pumpkin pie, then there’s pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin roll or pumpkin cake – shaped like a pumpkin or not! But is pumpkin pie traditionally served at Southern holiday tables?

I’m wondering about this because we never had pumpkin pie when I was growing up. Our holiday pumpkin pie stand-in was sweet potato pie – and we loved it! In a less than comprehensive look at old and new Southern cookbooks that explore the history of Southern cooking, pumpkin pie – or any reference to pumpkin – is completely missing from several.

We know that pumpkins are native to America and that they will grow in the South, so why aren’t there more pumpkin recipe traditions? Could the fact that Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins are not the best for cooking have something to do with it? Or were sweet potatoes just easier to grow and more appealing to the Southern taste? It’s an interesting subject and the answers may vary across the region and by family history, which is even more interesting.

What about you? Did you grow up eating pumpkin pie? Did your parents? If you did not have pumpkin, what was your favorite Thanksgiving pie?

If you like the idea of a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but prefer something with a little milder pumpkin flavor than a traditional version, you might like this recipe for a twist on a Southern favorite – Pumpkin Chess Pie. Delicious!

Pumpkin Chess Pie



Press´N Bake Cream Cheese Crust


1 1/3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 teaspoons Martha White® Self-Rising Enriched White Corn Meal Mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup half-and-half, plus 2 tbsp.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs


Whipped cream

Preparation Directions

1. PREPARE cream cheese crust as directed in recipe.
2. HEAT oven to 350°F. Combine sugar and butter in medium bowl; beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add all remaining filling ingredients; beat until well blended. Pour filling into unbaked pie shell.
3. BAKE 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from center comes out clean. Pie will continue to set as it cools. Cool on wire rack 1 hour or until completely cooled. Refrigerate until well chilled before serving. Serve topped with whipped cream, if desired.

In the Kitchen on Thanksgiving Morning

To tell you the truth, Thanksgiving morning at our house started the way most mornings did. By the time we came down from bed, my early rising mother had been up for hours. Pots were gently simmering on the stove. Her special cornbread for dressing was crumbled in a big bowl awaiting the finishing touches. The dining room table with her linen table cloth and china was already set and biscuits were in the oven for breakfast.

Soon after the breakfast dishes were done, my married brothers and sisters started arriving with casseroles and families in tow. The girls gathered in the kitchen while the men visited on the porch in the still mild Alabama fall. Those of us who were used to working in the kitchen with mother, helped finish the cooking or started washing up the pots and pans. Others were observers who watched until given a last minute job like pouring the iced tea or cutting up lemons.

Then, there were the ones who brought it all to life. We all know who they are – the entertainers who regaled us with the stories, bringing joy and laughter to the day. There would be more of that as we gathered around the dinner table leaving us feeling warm, loved and a part of a special family. That feeling is just one more reminder that no matter how passionate we are about the food and recipes, the real beauty is the role food plays in bringing us together and creating memories that last a lifetime.