Second Annual Cornbread Potluck: All-Star Edition

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.

While we can’t all physically gather around one table, today we invite you to pull up a chair to the second annual Martha White® virtual potluck.

If you haven’t heard, the 19th Annual National Cornbread Cook-Off  is bringing back 10 past winners to compete against the best of the best. In honor of this All-Star competition, I am participating with 10 other blogger friends in a special edition potluck to share our all-star main cornbread dishes. I’ve linked to their blogs below, so make sure you check out their delicious creations. You may even win a prize!

The all-star dish I am bringing to the potluck is the BLT Cornbread Salad. This is one of my favorites because it uses cornbread in such a unique way. I think that’s also why it continues to be a hit at the potlucks I attend.

I hope you enjoy our virtual table today, and happy baking!

Your Virtual Potluck Hosts:
Robyn – Add a Pinch: Stuffed Peppers with Cornbread Crust
Paula – Call Me PMC: Cheesy Chorizo Cornbread
Melissa – Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen: Kickin’ Crab Corn Muffins
Tina – Mommy’s Kitchen: Mom’s Meaty Cornbread Skillet
Jenny – Picky Palate:  Chicken Taco Cornbread Wedges with Ranchero Cilantro Drizzle
Stephanie – Plain Chicken:  Taco Cornbread Muffins
Stacey – Southern Bite: Mom’s Mexican Cornbread
Christy – Southern Plate: Cornbread Pan Sandwiches
Christin – Spicy Southern Kitchen: Mexican Chicken Cornbread Casserole
Brandie – The Country Cook: Cornbread Waffles with Chili & Fixins’

Heavenly Coconut Cakes

For special holidays, my mother often baked her delectable homemade coconut cake. The cake layers were “from scratch,” moistened with coconut milk then covered with clouds of fluffy frosting and finely grated fresh coconut. It was a production, but well worth the trouble.

As much as my mother loved her traditional recipes, she was always willing to try new ones. I remember coming home from college one year for Easter when she made a coconut cake to enchant her young grandchildren. The cake was in the shape of a crouching bunny, with pink paper ears. The bunny was nestled in mounds of coconut and sprinkled with pastel jelly beans that formed perfect little candy Easter eggs. It was lovely and delicious.

Our Cream of Coconut Cake is an easy-to-make scratch white sheet cake. Cream of coconut is poured over the warm cake, then spread with whipped topping and sprinkled with coconut. This recipe calls for frozen coconut – a good substitute for freshly grated.

Cream of Coconut Cake
Cream of Coconut Cake

Mini Coconut Cakes with Coconut Cream is another quick and easy coconut creation. They are made with a muffin mix enriched with coconut milk and coconut flakes. Filled and topped with a delectable creamy coconut mixture, these little individual cakes are fun and easy to serve.

Mini Coconut Cakes with Coconut Cream
Mini Coconut Cakes with Coconut Cream

Whether you go with the traditional or take a little shortcut, a home-baked coconut cake adds just the right touch to your Easter celebration.

“Go To” Southern Corn Meal Cookies

Recently more bakers have started combining corn meal with flour to make delectable cakes, cookies and others sweet treats. I’ll have to admit that I resisted the idea of corn meal in dessert recipes, but I’m a convert now. I think the recipe that finally made me see the light was an old Martha White recipe called Blue Ridge Corn Meal Coffee Cake.

My friend Mindy highly recommended her corn meal cookie recipe to me not long ago. Essentially a buttery sugar cookie made with flour and corn meal, this cookie is delicately crisp with an unexpectedly appealing rich grain flavor. Just try it. I bet it will become one of your “go-to” recipes.

For a little fancy treat, the dough can easily be made into mini cookie tart shells. Interestingly when baked in this way the cookies become crisp, slightly chewy and sturdy, so they are easy to fill and hold up for several days.

Step 1. Simply roll the dough in little balls.

Step 2. Place in a mini muffin pan and press in the middle.

Step 3. As it bakes, the dough rises, browns around the edges but stays soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and press the center down to form a little tart shell

Step 4. We have suggested a variety of fillings, but once you have made and tasted these easy little shells you will think of many ways to create your own signature cookie tartlets.

Dried Fruit Inspires Creative Baking

When I was growing up, we had a few old twisted apple trees in the yard. In spite of a complete lack of attention, some years they would bear a bumper crop of sweet little apples. We ate them right off the tree, in pies, in cobblers and occasionally my mother would dry some in the warm Alabama sun. Peeled, sliced and spread on an old window screen, they soon turned dark and dry – ready to store for winter.

When the fresh apples were long gone, mother would cook the dried ones with water and sugar to make filling for her delicately flaky fried apple pies or as a bottom layer for her egg custard pie. Made with ingredients she had on hand, those unassuming pies were a surprisingly delicious balance of intensely tart and sweet.

Of course, we didn’t have to dry our own fruit, but the grocery store dried fruit section was pretty limited in those days. Now dried fruit is so popular. We have a lot of choices and resealable packaging makes it convenient to keep a variety on hand for baking or snacking.

It’s easy to create your own recipe variations with dried fruit. Add your favorites to muffin mixes, quick loaves, pancakes, cookies or cakes. There is no need to adjust the recipe. Simply stir the dried fruit of your choice into the batter and bake.

Here are some of my favorite muffin recipes with dried fruit and a link to Fried Pies, too!

Homemade Oat and Apricot Muffins
Homemade Oat and Apricot Muffins
Loaded Honey Bran Muffins
Loaded Honey Bran Muffins
Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins
Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins
Old Fashioned Fried Peach Pies
Old Fashioned Fried Peach Pies

Pimento Cheese – A Southern Classic

My mother’s cooking usually revolved around feeding a family of seven. Cooking three meals a day took time and work but she did it with the practiced ease of one who has mastered her skill as a wonderful Southern cook. Her Sunday dinners often included other family members and friends, but the menu didn’t change from what we would have without company.

Party food was primarily reserved for holidays, birthdays, the occasional baby shower or a wedding tea. She had several recipes for these occasions, but the one I remember best was her pimento cheese finger sandwiches. Always made on soft white bread, with the crusts neatly removed and cut into little squares, triangles or strips, I thought they were so fancy

Mother’s pimento cheese was made with grated cheese, pimentos and mayonnaise. There were no twists on the classic for her. These days pimento cheese has become a Southern icon – a blank canvas for creative chefs and cooks to enhance with jalapenos, cayenne pepper, seafood, herbs and made with various cheeses, like American or goat.

My pimento cheese is still pretty basic. I recently needed something to take to a party and happened to have a pre-shredded combination of cheddar that I bought because I had a coupon. Combined with pimento, mayonnaise, a little mustard, I added fresh ground pepper and served it with crisply toasted slices of a baguette I had in the freezer. It was a big hit and inspired a lot of pimento cheese memories.
I’d love to hear your pimento cheese memories, too.

Holiday Breakfast: A Southern Tradition

Our Southern heritage is steeped in the rural lifestyle where a hearty breakfast was necessary for a day of work on the farm. Times have changed, but our love for a big country breakfast hasn’t and we often serve those once daily foods to celebrate special occasions.

In many families, a holiday breakfast is a much anticipated tradition passed down through generations – an almost reverent offering of special family recipes. It is often highlighted by Southern favorites, like country ham and biscuits served with red eye gravy, eggs, grits and assorted homemade fruit preserves or sorghum syrup. This great hearty meal is meant to be lingered over with good conversation and to tide you over until dinnertime.

Others take a different approach to breakfast by turning it into a festive brunch. Serving a casual buffet creates a relaxed setting for guests to visit and enjoy recipes often adapted from the traditional, like little country ham biscuits, cheese grits, egg casseroles and assorted sweet breads.

I think some of my favorite holiday breakfasts have been the leisurely unplanned ones around the kitchen table with friends or family who’ve stayed overnight. The menu usually starts as a simple breakfast for early risers, but as others wake up and join the group, you never know what will appear. Somebody grabs a half loaf of banana bread wrapped in crumpled foil, leftover ham may be paired with deviled eggs or a slice of pound cake is toasted with a little butter. And, best of all, those spontaneous moments create lasting memories.

Gifts from the Kitchen

I don’t know about you, but I’ll admit that shopping is not one of my favorite things. This can be a good thing, but it is a bit of a drawback during the holiday season. To tell you the truth, I’d much rather be baking holiday treats in a warm, cozy kitchen, than making a trip to the mall.

Thankfully, a gift from the kitchen is just the right thing for the special people in our lives – teachers, shut-ins or a helpful neighbor. A favorite family recipe means a lot when shared with a friend and it doesn’t have to be fancy or time-consuming. Best of all, this kind of gift doesn’t make the recipient feel like they have to rush out and buy something for you in return.

The presentation can be as simple as wrapping with plastic wrap and adding a ribbon. Of course, if you have time, it’s fun to add a little something extra like tins or jars for cookies or a cutting board to go with a loaf of bread.

Quick loaves like banana bread make great gifts. This Chocolate Hazelnut Fruit Bread is a holiday twist on banana bread dressed up with chocolate chips, cranberries and hazelnuts. And for classic banana bread, my favorite is a recipe that was shared with us by Lisa Hooper who worked with me for several years in the Martha White® Test Kitchen – her Aunt Lois’ Banana Nut Bread recipe. You must give it a try. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have. Thanks, Lisa.