Good Luck for New Year’s Game Day

Superstitious or not, many Southerners believe black-eyed peas ensure good luck during the coming year, so they elect to start off the new year by eating them.  There’s no better time to serve your good luck charm than a day when superstition abounds – game day.  There are all kinds of options for serving black-eyed peas at a New Year’s game day party, but one thing that’s not optional is serving cornbread with peas. Try a big pot of beans with cornbread or a casserole made with peas and smoked sausage blanketed with cornbread.  The Festive Good Luck Cornbread Skillet recipe or Black-Eyed Pea Salsa with Cheddar Cornbread Dipper recipes are both good game day recipe options.

black-eyed pea salsa

In earlier times, black-eyed pea salsa was referred to as “Texas or Recession Caviar.” The sky is the limit for ingredients that can be added to the peas, but we’re taking a shortcut and adding peas to already prepared salsa with the addition of a few other vegetables and herbs for added crunch and flavor.  The cornbread dippers mentioned above are a breeze to make. You begin by baking a cornbread mix according to package directions. Once baked, cut the cornbread into strips and bake it again to create a crisp texture.

If you are a superstitious person, by consuming black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, you can rest easy for another year.  Who knows – maybe those peas will also bring good luck to your favorite team.

Do you serve black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day?  If so, how do you serve them? Do you also cook turnip greens or collards for prosperity as part of your tradition?

How Do You Eat Thanksgiving Leftovers?

When preparing your Thanksgiving dinner, do you make extra so there is enough to eat the next day?  I did an informal survey at the office asking about favorite ways to eat Thanksgiving leftovers. Here are some great ideas for you to use as inspiration.


  • Potato cakes made with the leftover mashed potatoes for breakfast
  • Turkey pies made by favorite family recipe.
  • Southern Indiana traditional homemade noodles with turkey
  • The classic Kentucky Hot Brown open-face sandwich – leftover turkey, combined with ham and topped with cheese sauce – and other variations on that theme
  • Sandwiches – everything from straightforward basic cold turkey to turkey on whole grain bread with butter, cheese and lettuce to a hot open-face turkey sandwich with gravy…and a piece of pecan pie!
  • Oh, and I loved this response: Leftovers?

Another way to incorporate leftover turkey is in a soup or stew which is always a favorite.  Give the Turkey and Smoked Sausage Stew with Cornmeal Sage Dumplings recipe a try.  It’s a punched up version of the classic Chicken and Dumplings.  A little smoked sausage adds flavor to the stew that’s complemented with easy-to-make cornmeal sage dumplings.leftovers

Giving Thanks

Many people say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday – and for good reason! Thanksgiving is a day devoted to family and friends coming together to give thanks for their blessings and share their love.

The fact that Thanksgiving usually includes a delicious meal makes it even more enjoyable.  In addition to food, the excitement of football, the story-telling and reminiscing with family and friends, blends all these elements together to help create a very special day in our lives.

Thanksgiving is replete with family traditions. Not only the food, but the way we give thanks can be traditional. Many families hold hands around the table while each person expresses gratitude for the blessings in their lives. Others provide paper place mats for guests to write or draw something for which they are thankful. Additionally, I love the idea of playing or singing a favorite song of Thanksgiving around the table.

A friend recently told me she asks the guests around her table to write their expressions of gratitude on a slip of paper or a card.  After sharing their sentiments with all guests, the notes are put together in a canning jar in an effort to preserve and enjoy later. Put the jar on a shelf or mantle as a reminder of our blessings. You could also put the sentiments in a scrapbook year after year.

There are so many ways to keep memories alive and enjoy the times we get to share with our loved ones. If you have specific traditions you would like to share, please send them to me. I would love to hear about all the traditions followed by others.

Thanksgiving Dinner Tips from an Expert

My good friend, Mary Ann, has cooked Thanksgiving dinner for her family since she was a young bride.  Mary Ann is a home economist and has been a professional food stylist for many years.  In addition to preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, she also creates a beautiful tablescape.  Who better to share tips from her years of experience?

Mary Ann’s most important tip for a stress-free day is to prepare as much of the meal as possible in advance. She makes and freezes her dressing and other casseroles ahead of time and then bakes on Thanksgiving.  Don’t forget to move them from the freezer to the refrigerator about 48 hours before cooking. Heat casseroles in microwave, add any toppings and finish in the oven. If using the microwave, Mary Ann suggests using oval or round baking dishes.

Mary Ann prefers a fresh turkey over a frozen one. She seasons the cavity and under the skin with seasoned salt and then puts onion quarters, lemon slices, carrot pieces, fresh thyme and rosemary in the cavity. Then she butters the outside of the turkey and covers it with a butter-soaked cheesecloth. Do not cover turkey with lid or foil.  She makes sure to put the turkey in early enough to have time to bake her casseroles.

Mary Ann makes a traditional pumpkin pie for dessert, but sprinkles the unbaked crust with a praline mixture of brown sugar, butter and pecans and then bakes for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees. When the crust is ready, she adds the pie filling and bakes as directed in the recipe.

Southern Holiday Traditions

Southern holiday traditions are probably a lot like holiday traditions all over the country or the world for that matter. They vary from region to region and family to family, but that’s what makes our own traditions dear to our hearts. We value them because they are ours and we share them with those we love most – our families and friends.

Most of our holiday traditions are a reflection of our family’s heritage, ethnicity and the place they lived. My Alabama and Georgia roots are what I think of as deep inland South. My ancestors were primarily farmers who lived off the land. Fruits and vegetables were dried and canned, meat was cured, nuts were gathered and root vegetables stored to get them through the winter. Since those were the things they had to cook, some of our traditional holiday favorites are deeply rooted in that soil. Recipes like jam cakes, pecan pies, country ham biscuits, sweet potato pie/casseroles, greens, cornbread dressing, cheese grits have all been part of my family’s holiday tables for generations.

For those of you who are rooted in Appalachia, the low country, or along the Southern coast, your traditional favorites probably take on a more regional flavor reflecting the seafood, game and produce from those areas of the South. I would love to hear about your traditional holiday favorites and how they reflect your family heritage.

Here is a jam cake that has been a Martha White Kitchen favorite for many years. It does take a little shortcut with the traditional caramel icing, by using brown sugar. But if you are a pro at making the traditional icing made by caramelizing white sugar, you should make that. And while you are at it, teach someone else to make it. That is an art that should not be lost.

How Do You Top Your Sweet Potatoes?

I love sweet potatoes almost any way you cook them, but sweet potatoes made into a creamy fragrant casserole is one my favorite holiday side dishes. My earliest recollection of this holiday favorite is topped with large golden brown melting marshmallows. But sometime in the intervening years, my mother began the brown sugar topping era. I love tradition, but improvising on tradition is part of food culture, too. I can tell you we loved that brown sugar stuff, all buttery and full of pecans. I don’t remember anyone at our house pining for the lost marshmallows, but I know there are those who wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sweet Potato How to 4[4]

I think my mother just made her casserole by instinct with a little tasting along the way. It was always wonderful, but many years later when I started trying to make it myself, I had a little experimenting to do. I like to bake the potatoes before I mash them – I used to peel them, cut them up and boil them, but that is a lot of extra work and I don’t think they taste as good. I add butter and sugar to taste depending on the number of potatoes. I don’t like to dilute the flavor, so I don’t use too many eggs or much milk. Of course, more eggs make it puffier and pretty, but I think it makes the flavor milder than I like.

I was talking to my sister, Mary Glenn, about this project and she reminded me that mother only used a little nutmeg for seasoning – no other spices. That’s the way we like it, complete with a perfect crisp brown streusel topping.

So how do you like yours? Topping? Seasonings? Canned or baked potatoes?

Favorite  Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potatoes
6 medium baked sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg

Pecan Streusel
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup Martha White® Self-Rising Flour
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Remove skins from potatoes. Place in large bowl. Combine potatoes with 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, vanilla and nutmeg. Beat until well blended. Taste for sweetness. Add more sugar, if desired. Beat in egg just until blended. Spoon into prepared baking dish.
  2. Combine topping ingredients in small bowl. Blend with finger tips until crumbly. Sprinkle over sweet potatoes.
  3. Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is browned and potatoes are hot and bubbly.

Makes 10 servings

Mama’s China

I always loved hearing Mama tell her story about how she got her dishes. According to her, Daddy called her from the furniture store one morning and said there was a salesman there with some nice dishes. He asked if she wanted to come and pick out a pattern. True to form, my mother said she was cooking dinner and he should just choose. Daddy told her the salesman had said Mrs. Tucker, the banker’s wife, had the apple blossom pattern and my mother agreed that would be fine with her, too. Later that day someone from the store delivered a barrel full of dishes packed in straw. Mama unpacked them only to discover that this was not an ordinary set of dishes, but a set of Haviland china!

From then on, we ate every Sunday and holiday dinner on those dishes. Because my mother was a three meal a day cook with five kids, my father had gotten her a dishwasher early in the dishwasher days. So even though hand washing was recommended, my mother put her china right in the dishwasher. It would still take us half the afternoon to wash the pots, pans and serving bowls. Sure enough the gold rims eventually started fading, but we kept right on putting those dishes in the dishwasher.

I know some would consider a set of pristine china more valuable than those dishes with fading gold rims, but to us they represent a lifetime of memories around the table together that no amount of money (or a perfect set of china) could ever replace.