Rhonda Vincent: National Cornbread Festival

On Sunday, April 27, (Last weekend) my band The Rage and I boarded the Martha White® Bluegrass Express and headed to South Pittsburg, Tenn., for the National Cornbread Festival®. For me, it marked a special anniversary. My first performance at the National Cornbread Festival in 2001 was also the first time I was asked to perform by my friends at Martha White. It’s remained an amazing relationship!

The National Cornbread Festival is more than just another stop on our tour because the guys and I actually love cornbread almost as much as we love music and our fans! Once the Martha White Bluegrass Express rolled into this small, friendly Tennessee town, we sampled lots of great cornbread – and saw all the folks who have been there to greet us over the past 12 years.

My life has revolved around music since I was 5 years old playing with my family band in northern Missouri. And while I was learning to play a variety of instruments, I was also learning to cook from my mother and my grandmother. To this day I love to cook every chance I get.

That training was put to the test during one of my early visits to the National Cornbread Festival when I was partnered with Linda Carman for a special cook-off to raise money for a local charity. I’ll admit to being a little intimidated cooking on a stage before a bunch of people. But Linda made it easy – and fun – right from the start. We made Rhonda’s Ragin’ Cornbread that day – a simple cornbread featuring sausage, cheese and just the right spice. I’m still getting requests for the recipe years later!

Next year, we would love for you and your family to join us at the National Cornbread Festival. Or join us from home by adding a cornbread recipe to your family meals!

Pull up a Chair to Our Virtual Table – It’s Time for a Potluck

There is nothing better than a good, old-fashioned Southern potluck. Gathering with friends and family amongst a bevy of dishes is just plain good for the soul. Potlucks make hosting a party much easier, with each guest bringing a favorite side. At some potlucks, a person can become “known” for bringing a particular dish:

“Aunt Judy always brings the cobbler so you can’t make that, but how about whipping up your famous mashed potatoes? If you don’t bring them, you know I’ll hear about it all day long from my kids.”

Since we can’t all physically gather around one table today, consider this your official invitation to the very first Martha White® virtual potluck.

In honor of the 18th Annual National Cornbread Cook-Off and Festival, I am participating with nine other blogger friends who are contributing a main cornbread dish to the menu today. I’ve linked to their blogs below, so make sure you check out their cornbread creations. You may even win a prize!

One of my personal favorite cornbread dishes is a winner from the 2006 National Cornbread Cook-Off – the Monte Cristo Cornbread Skillet – a savory bread pudding that uses cornbread cubes instead of regular bread. Each serving, topped with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar and currant jelly sauce, is ideal for a flavorful brunch or potluck dinner. Who knows? It could end up being one of those “must-have dishes” at your next potluck.

Have you considered creating your own cornbread masterpiece? Check out more details about the National Cornbread Cook-Off here. Submit your recipe using a Martha White Cornbread Mix by February 28 for a chance to win $5,000. See Official Rules for complete details.

Enjoy our virtual table today, and happy baking!

Your Virtual Potluck Hosts:
Robyn – Add a Pinch: Tomato Basil Soup with Cornbread Croutons
Melissa – Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen: Cornbread and Sausage Quiche
Lorie – Mississippi Kitchen: Bacon Cheeseburger Stuffed Cornbread
Tina – Mommy’s Kitchen: Chili Cornbread Skillet
Christy – Southern Plate: Red Beans and Cornbread
Stacey – Southern Bite: Mom’s Mexican Cornbread
Celeste – Sugar & Spice by Celeste: Buffalo Chicken Cornbread with Blue Cheese Salad
Jackie – Syrup & Biscuits: Peachy BBQ Chicken and Cornbread Skillet
Brandie – The Country Cook: White Chicken Chili with Cornbread Dumplings

The National Cornbread Cook-Off is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., age 18 years or older. Void where prohibited.

What Do You Call Them – Hoe Cakes or?

When we were talking about fried pies recently, I touched on my fascination with unusual regional and colloquial recipe names.

It seems to me that cornbread recipes are especially rich in colloquial or even family names. When trying to define or explain a recipe, I’m always careful to say that there are a lot of variations of even the simplest recipe. The one I know may or may not be like the one your grandmother made – even if it has the same name.

For instance, one of my personal favorites is one of the simplest and oldest cornbread recipes. It is usually simply corn meal, salt and water fried by spoonfuls in a skillet. I call them hoe cakes but they are also called hot water hoe cakes, hot water corn cakes, scalded corn cakes, johnny cakes and many more. To make it even more interesting, most of these “hot water” hoe cake recipes are made with boiling water. The boiling water cooks the corn meal and creates a creamy moist batter. The corn cake is very crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Delicious!

We have only scratched the surface of cornbread names and variations. We’ll have to save corn pone, corn dodgers and lacy corn bread for another time.

I would love to know if you make hoe cakes. What do you call them? Do you have an interesting variation on this theme?

Behind the Scenes at the National Cornbread Festival®

I know the National Cornbread Festival® is still three months away, but now that we’re collecting entries for the National Cornbread Cook-Off, I’ve got cornbread on my mind. It may be frosty outside with no hint of spring on the way, but thinking about warm weather and celebrating one of my favorite foods gets me excited for what’s to come.

Have you ever been to the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tennessee? It is such a fun weekend; thousands converge upon this quaint town every April to see the sights, feel the history and taste the cornbread that is cooking downtown. One of my favorite areas to stop by is Cornbread Alley, where you can taste up to nine different delicious cornbread recipes. There’s always a competition for the most popular booth, and I love to see who the crowd picks as the best.

The festival doesn’t just focus on cornbread, though. I love stopping by the Jam Tent when I have a minute. Anyone who wants to play is welcome to bring their fiddle, guitar, banjo or harmonica for a little friendly competition.

Of course, you’re most likely to track me down under the Cook-Off tent. Our 10 finalists travel from all over the country to compete for the coveted cast iron skillet crown, along with a $5,000 cash prize and a 30-inch stainless steel gas range from FiveStar® Professional Cooking Equipment. Second place receives $1,500 and third wins $1,000.

Finalists Cooking
Finalists Cooking on Stage

Go ahead and mark your calendars for a road trip to South Pittsburg, Tenn. You’re sure to leave full of cornbread and a smile on your face.

Jenny Flake WINNER
Grand Prize Winner with Cast Iron Skillet Crown

For complete details, Official Rules and to complete the entry form for the contest, visit MarthaWhite.com. The National Cornbread Cook-Off is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., age 18 years or older. Void where prohibited.

FiveStar is a trademark of Brown Stone Works, Inc.
National Cornbread Festival is a trademark of National Cornbread Festival, Inc.

It’s Cornbread Time

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to up the ante on your creative cooking skills for the National Cornbread Cook-Off. Martha White® and Lodge® Cast Iron are teaming up, once again, to search the nation for the best original main dish cornbread recipe for the 18th Annual National Cornbread Cook-Off.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been judging these recipes for 18 years now. I’m honored to play a part in selecting our finalists and winners every year – it’s always a wonderful experience heating up my cast iron skillet to try some of the fascinating recipes we’ve received. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, another home cook sends in a recipe showcasing cornbread in a way I’ve never thought of. Two of my favorite past winners are Tennessee Onion Soup Gratin and Harvest Apple Cornbread Panzanella.

You should get in on the action, too. If you’re selected as a top 10 finalist, you’ll get to make your original creation for a panel of food experts on April 26, 2014, in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, at the National Cornbread Festival®. And the Grand Prize Winner receives a $5,000 cash prize and a 30-inch stainless steel gas range from FiveStar® Professional Cooking Equipment. Talk about a great prize!

So here’s what you need to do. Now through February 28, 2014, submit an original main dish recipe prepared with at least one package of Martha White Cornbread Mix and cooked in Lodge® Cast Iron cookware. For complete details, Official Rules and to complete the entry form for the contest, visit MarthaWhite.com. The National Cornbread Cook-Off is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., age 18 years or older. Void where prohibited.

Need a little inspiration? Stop by the Martha White Pinterest page for a look at past winners. I can’t wait to test your recipe!

5961 MW Tennessee O#451E154
Tennessee Onion Soup Gratin


Harvest Apple Cornbread Panzanella

© Martha White, Inc. FiveStar is a trademark of Brown Stone Works, Inc. Lodge is a trademark of Lodge Manufacturing Company. National Cornbread Festival is a trademark of National Cornbread Festival, Inc.

Dressing or Stuffing?

When I was young, I remember my sister saying that cornbread dressing was her favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. Back then, I thought it was an unusual dish to pick as a favorite, but now I have a much greater appreciation for this beloved side dish and tend to agree that it is one of the best parts of the meal. Like many traditional recipes, cornbread dressing is a tribute to resourceful Southern cooks who created wonderful recipes with only the ingredients they had on hand. We love cornbread down here, so I guess it’s not surprising that we would add it to our dressing.

What does your family call this traditional dish – dressing or stuffing? They are basically the same thing, but in the South we usually bake it in a separate dish rather than stuffing the bread mixture in the bird – and call it dressing. I do not know exactly why we bake it in a pan, but my theory is that the bird just doesn’t hold enough to go around and we love that crisp buttery crust.

Dressing is a pretty simple dish. It is basically a seasoned mixture of crumbled cornbread and biscuits or white bread moistened with broth and baked. As easy as that seems, there are countless variations for such a simple dish.

Do you use white bread or biscuits with the cornbread? What about texture, seasonings and extra ingredients? Are onions, celery and sage your seasonings of choice? Do you ever add meat, fruit or nuts? If you want to add a special twist to your Thanksgiving dressing, try this recipe that I love.

Cornbread Sausage Dressing with Apples and Pecans


Southern Cornbread
Martha White “Hot Rize” Biscuits
Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped unpeeled Granny Smith apples
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons dried sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken broth

Preparation Directions

1. PREPARED cornbread and biscuits as directed. Cool 15 minutes. Crumble enough cornbread to make 5 cups; crumble enough biscuits to make 5 cups. Set aside.
2. HEAT oven to 375°F. Spray a 13 x 9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish or pan with no-stick cooking spray. Cook sausage, onions and celery in large skillet over medium-high heat until sausage is browned and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
3. COMBINE sausage and vegetable mixture with crumbled cornbread and biscuits in large bowl; add all remaining ingredients; mix well. Spoon into prepared baking dish.
4. BAKE 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown.