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.

Fried Green Tomatoes

I’m a relative newcomer to fried green tomatoes. I don’t remember my mother ever cooking them at home. It is unclear exactly where the idea of frying green tomatoes came from, but a quick survey of some Southern cookbooks did reveal that in some parts of the South, they are often served as the main course with gravy. Sounds good to me!

At some point, Southern chefs were inspired to serve them in creative new ways and a whole new generation discovered the beauty of the fried green tomato.

Although green tomatoes may be battered or breaded in many different ways, I prefer the old-fashioned way of simply coating the tomato slices in cornmeal and frying them in butter. I use Martha White® Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix which has a little flour in it. Some cooks use plain corn meal and add a little flour. I have discovered that I can get more corn meal to stick by dipping the slices in egg white. If you prefer a spicy version, feel free to add your favorite seasonings to the corn meal.

These days, fried green tomatoes are often served as a side dish. This recipe includes a horseradish sauce, which also makes an interesting appetizer or first course.

How do you cook your fried green tomatoes? Do you ever serve them with gravy?

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

Ingredients

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.