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!

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.

Bobs Bama Sliders Small

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 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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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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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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Celebrate National Chili Day

I have no idea who designates certain days to honor a particular food, but the fourth Thursday in February has been declared National Chili Day. That means this year it falls on February 23. According to the website, it’s believed that February was the month selected as it is typically one of the coldest months of year. I suppose that’s as good a reason as any. And chili is certainly welcome on a cold winter night.

It was interesting to learn that the roots of chili are most likely in the Southwestern United States. Despite the location, we are all thankful for the gift of one of our favorite comfort foods.

Chili Dog Con Cornbread

I am not a chili expert. My mother never made a pot of chili in her life, probably because of its reputation for being hot and spicy. But, I have come to love chili. Part of the reason may be because some of our favorite National Cornbread Cook-Off winning recipes were inspired by the perfect union of chili and cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet.

White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust and Chili Dog Con Cornbread are two of my favorite cook-off recipes using chili. Fun for the whole family.

What Do You Call Turnip Green Broth?

I know it sounds country (and it is!), but turnip green broth is best known as pot likker. It is beloved in the South, both as a country meal staple and a delicacy. Pot likker is the broth or liquid made by cooking greens. I have also heard the term applied to the liquid from cooking beans, peas and other vegetables, but in my experience, pot likker usually refers to greens.

My mother cooked with the seasons, so when summer produce was over, we moved on to turnip greens and collards. The puddle of green liquid left on the plate or in the bowl, just naturally called for another piece of corn bread to dunk or crumble in the broth. I love it the taste, but was surprised to learn many years later that an Inn in Virginia served pot likker as an appetizer or soup in their elegant dining room!

The cooking liquid for greens is simply water seasoned with pork or ham hock, salt and red pepper. However, it is the greens that contribute the unique, earthy flavor we love.

To take this delicacy one step further, my friend Robyn at Add a Pinch has a delicious Pot Likker Soup on her blog. She has graciously given me permission to share it with you. Thanks, Robyn!

And, of course, good cornbread is needed to complete the experience – you can’t go wrong with the classic Martha White® Southern Cornbread .

Family Friendly Supper Solutions – Tex Mex-Style

Family mealtime rituals and home cooking are things we cherish, but busy Fall schedules don’t leave a lot of time for preparation. The first step to success is planning. Start by collecting quick and easy recipes that taste great.

From time to time I’ve tried different methods of keeping track of recipes I came across in cookbooks, on websites or in magazines, but many of these methods turned out to be too cumbersome and time-consuming. I needed a way to organize them that did not involve retyping or writing on a recipe card. For me personally, my best organizing method was an accordion file, labeled by category. All I had to do was print, copy or tear out the recipe and stick them in the file. This method of organization has served me well for many years and I always recognize favorites by the food stains they now feature!

Have-It-Your-Way Taco Pie

Here are three easy recipes you might like to put in your go-to file. Each one has an easy-to-prepare filling covered with a cornbread topping and a small list of ingredients. The filling can be prepared in advance – making these recipes even easier! At dinnertime, just put the filling in a cast iron skillet, heat and add the cornbread topping. They all bake in 30 minutes or less!

You can hardly go wrong with these simple Tex Mex-Style dinners that will have you sitting down at the dinner table with your family in no time.

Secrets to Perfect Cornbread to Serve with Fresh Summer Vegetables

I grew up eating a variety of fresh vegetables all summer long. My mother cooked a big meal in the middle of the day and I looked forward to dinner time. My family was lucky enough to live in a north Alabama farming county where a wide variety of fresh produce was readily available.

Cornbread was the only thing absolutely necessary at dinner time! My mother used Martha White® Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix and a recipe similar to this one for Southern Cornbread. The only difference is that she heated the shortening in the skillet and poured it into the batter. The finished product was thin and moist with a very crisp crust.

The perfect cornbread is the one you love. To me, the cornbread extremes are an unsweetened cornbread made with white corn meal and a soft sweet cornbread made with yellow corn meal and a touch of flour.

If you are still looking for your favorite cornbread recipe, my advice is find someone who makes cornbread you love and ask them to teach you how to make it! Of course, cornbread mixes are a good option, too. Martha White even has a Gluten Free Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix if you are gluten free.

Cornbread tip: dry cornbread usually indicates the batter was too thick. Most basic cornbread recipes suggest that the batter should be thin and pourable – about the consistency of pancake batter.