Well, here it is…. Valentine’s Day. Remember when we were kids in elementary school and we had to get Valentines for every kid in the class, even those you didn’t like? Then when we got older it got a little more serious and you could send a rose to someone you liked, or that was your secret crush, in high school. I think it was a fundraiser for the cheerleading squad or something. But then you get to a point that you celebrate being single on Valentine’s Day. I think it’s as much a right of passage as having a Valentine.
But then a day comes along that Valentine’s takes on a whole new meaning. It’s not a giddy, giggly meaning, but a bit of a serious one, a grown up one. A meaning that shows you glimpses of what you will be doing in a few weeks, a few years, and even a few decades. And more importantly, who you will be doing it with. You see places you will go, meals you will enjoy together, the house you are going to buy, the cars you will test drive, and the porch you are going to sit on and wave at the neighbors as they go by. You don’t see it as clearly as that, but you know it’s all there. That is when you know what the meaning of having a Valentine is. It’s way more than buying a card. It’s promising more than either of you could ever imagine.
As the saying goes… “You better put a ring on it!” But, if you are not quite that serious yet, maybe you would rather just put some rings on this.
Heart’s A Fire Pineapple Upside Down Cake
I got some moonshine cherries from Old Forge Distillery, which they call Pineapple Upside Down Cake because they’re soaking in pineapple moonshine, and I thought why not take a traditional southern cake and add a little heat to the sweet. You don’t have to use moonshine cherries if you’d rather not, you can just use regular maraschino cherries. I also used Old Mill Flour in it, as I do for most of my baking. It helps that I get an employee discount too!
1/2 stick butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar
9 pineapple rings
Old Forge Distillery Moonshine cherries (or Maraschino cherries)
1 1/2 cup Old Mill Plain Flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
Melt butter in a 10.25 inch cast iron skillet or 8×8 square pan. Sprinkle brown sugar in pan. Lay pineapple rings in desired pattern and place a cherry in center of each ring.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cream together shortening and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add buttermilk and mix well.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until well blended and smooth.
Carefully pour batter, which will be thicker than most cake batters, over pineapples and cherries.
Bake at 350* for 40-45 min or until done in center and edges brown.
Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes to begin to cool a bit. Place a platter over pan, invert it, and leave for a couple of minutes for juices to drip down.
The other day a friend asked me if chicken and dumplings could be made like a pot pie. I said, why not. I had made a few other pot pies so I thought about it for a couple of days and made it for dinner tonight.
The recipe is really just a breakdown of simple chicken and dumplings, but instead of dropping the dumplings in, they sit on top and make a thick and fluffy crust with just enough chicken and broth below. It makes a great one pot meal and serves 4-6 easily. It also takes less than an hour from start to finish, so a hot and filling meal can be on the table pretty quickly.
Chicken & Dumplin’s Pot Pie
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cups whole milk
Extra flour to bring dough together and for rolling
In a 12 inch cast iron skillet bring chicken, carrots, onion, garlic, broth, and salt & pepper to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 min.
Preheat oven to 350*.
While simmering, prepare dumpling dough. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening until flour resembles coarse cornmeal. Make a well and pour in milk. Mix dough, adding any extra flour needed to bring dough together so that it pulls away from bowl. Turn out onto a well floured surface and roll out into a 12 inch diameter.
Reserve 1/2 cup of simmering broth and set aside. Bring chicken back up to a boil. Blend the 2 tablespoons flour into the 1/2 cup milk and stir it into boiling chicken mixture, cooking for 1-2 minutes and then remove from heat.
Carefully lift dough and place on top of chicken mixture. Cut crisscross lines in dough, making squares about 2 inches in size. Pour reserved broth all over dough. Place on a cookie sheet into oven and bake for 15-18 minutes.
My dad used to yell at the tv while he watched something that I had no interest in. If it made him that mad, why in the world would I want to watch it. That was my first introduction to football.
When I was big enough to play the game myself, it was more of a game of torture with my brothers and Little Richard, not the singer, but the kid next door we called Little Richard because his dad was Big Richard. Those were the Fogles we grew up next to. They still live next to our house, but now one of my brothers bought our house after mom and dad were gone. They were always good neighbors. Big Richard was a big guy that could pick us all up at one time if he had to. He was deaf, but would speak just a little bit if Peggy wasn’t with him to translate. He was a giant, but he was gentle. We still didn’t want to make him mad though. Anyway, I don’t think I played much, but at that point some of my baby teeth were gone and my permanent teeth were coming in. So with all those gaps in my mouth, when I got tackled I managed to only bite through my tongue instead of biting the end of it off. I guess that was lucky, but it didn’t feel like it, so I picked my self up, went back to our yard, and retired from the game.
As a teenager, we would go with mom and dad to a friends house to watch the Super Bowl. There was lots of food set up in the kitchen, so that’s where I spent the game. Again, there was lots of yelling in the living room. I didn’t get the appeal, but the food was good. So, I was all for a good Super Bowl party. Years later I would go see some friends near D.C. to watch the game, but mostly we just ate and talked and occasionally someone would check to see what the score was. There were some legit football fans there, but nobody was losing their minds when their team was behind.
We will invite some friends over this weekend to watch the game, make fun of the commercials, and yell at the half-time performer for whatever tragedy they’re putting on. I make a bunch of food and this year I think I’ll make some homemade Sloppy Joe’s, Bacon, Spinach, & Artichoke Dip, and Mick wants some chocolate fudge.
Bacon, Spinach, & Artichoke Dip
1 12oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 12oz bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
3-4 strips crispy bacon, chopped
8oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/4 grated or shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Press all of the water out of the spinach once it has thawed.
Mix well the artichoke hearts, spinach, bacon, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic, and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese.
Spread into a 2-3 quart casserole dish and top with remaining parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses.
Bake at 350 degrees, covered for 20. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more or until top is bubbly and beginning to brown.
Serve immediately with crackers, pita chips, tortilla chips, or toasted bread points.
In the Appalachia’s there are lots of superstitions and traditions that many people still hold on to today. Who knows if people still believe in them, but it does keep us connected to our past and to one another.
Mary used to always have pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. Before I would even walk through their back door I could smell the sauerkraut. I love it to this day. She said that when they first got married they moved to Ohio for work and rented a couple of rooms above a nice old woman. The first New Year’s Day that they were there, she knocked on their door and gave them a pot of sauerkraut and pork roast, and a slice of cornbread. She told them that it would bring them wealth and good luck in the new year. Mary said they made it through that year and eventually back home to Virginia, so it worked and she made it ever since. I took that to heart and have made sure each year that I have something for wealth, health, and good luck in the new year. Lots of years I just made sure I had a bite of kraut at work or picked some up on my way home. When I started working for The Old Mill they offered Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s and I asked why. “For money of course!” was what I was told “And you need to eat some greens, kraut, and cornbread too!”. I already knew that the sauerkraut was for luck and the pork for moving forward and prospering. So from then on I added money to the list of things to look forward to in the new year. I recently read that for money in the new year it’s “peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold”. I have always gotten by, even with some years being leaner than others, but it has always worked!
Mary also had me walk through her front door on New Year’s Day and she would sweep out the house from back to front and down the front steps. She always told me how handsome I was, which was the only time I’d ever known her to not be completely honest, and it was important to have a handsome man cross the threshold on that first day. I’ve read that it should be a dark-haired man for good luck, but not a blonde or red-headed man or woman if they are the first to cross that day. They would bring bad luck. And, sweeping out the house was to get all the bad out and cast away.
In my very first blog post I told you about Maryanne. She was the neighbor who made lye soap, still had an outhouse, and told fortunes for money. The new year was a very busy time for her too. Everyone wanted to know what the new year was going to bring them.
Early this year I was working on a recipe for a contest, which I didn’t get into the qualifying rounds of, but I thought this could be perfect for my New Year’s Day dinner to bring me lots of luck, good health, and lots of wealth. I’ve modified it a bit and I think I’ve gotten everything in it that I need.
Pennies, Dollar’s, & Gold Pot Pie
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45-50 minutes
Pot Pie Filling:
2 strips bacon
3/4 – 1 pound pork loin cut into 1/2 inch cube pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced gold potatoes
1 1/2 cups frozen corn or 1 15oz can drained
1 1/2 cups frozen black eyed peas
1 1/2 cups frozen chopped collard greens
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried chives or 1/2 teaspoon fresh chives
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Yellow Self-Rising Cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonaise
5 tablespoons browned butter; reserve 3 for cornbread batter and 2 tablespoons to drizzle on top
Here is why we eat what we do on New Year’s and why we don’t eat other things:
Pork – we eat because the pig is always rooting forward, finding what he needs. It is important to move forward in the new year.
Chicken – we don’t eat because they are always scratching backwards, kicking their good luck into their past.
Black-eyed Peas – we eat, but there are several stories as to why. One is that it was the only thing left on many southern plantations during the civil war after troops had raided and taken all their livestock and other foods, believing that the black-eyed peas were just feed for livestock and no good. Slaves adopted this early on and it was thought that the more black-eyed peas you ate, the more luck you would have. Another is that they represent money, which loosely ties back where the name “bean counter” comes from, talking about someone who counts money or does the accounting, but if you were a slave, you counted the beans too.
Catfish or other bottom-feeding fish – we don’t eat because they do feed off the bottom of the lake and no one wants to be a bottom feeder.
Cornbread – we eat because it is gold! Well, if you use yellow cornmeal, but any corn or form will do. Like the black-eyed peas and greens, it’s about wealth in the new year.
Beef in any form – we don’t eat because cows eat standing still and it’s all about moving forward in the new year.
If you are like us, you make more food than you can eat for Thanksgiving. Even though leftovers are part of the holiday, a couple of days of them and you are ready for a change. That’s where we are now. There is still a container full of turkey that needs to be eaten or used up and a few roasted vegetables.
So, this pot pie will use up most of that turkey and the roasted veggies, you just need a few fresh ingredients to turn it all into a new dish, all cooked in one pan which makes it easy to prepare and the only dishes to wash up are the ones you just emptied of the leftovers. You can prepare this in a casserole dish, but I opt for my trusty cast iron skillet, which I will use anyway to prep some of the veggies. The topping is a quick cornbread recipe, so no need to make any more pie dough, unless you prefer a pie crust top. If you have leftover stuffing, you could use that up by topping it and pouring a little melted butter over it before baking to help crisp it up a bit. After all, most of the pot pie is already cooked, you are simply heating it through. If you have leftover vegetables, you can simply reheat 6 cups of the vegetables in the skillet, if not follow the steps in the recipe below.
Cooking for any holiday makes me think about Grandmaw Barton. We had so many family holiday meals at her house. I’ve said before that I have no idea how she cooked all that food herself. We showed up and the food was ready. As we walked in the door, she would be ready for mom to make the instant mashed potatoes. Yes, I said instant. With all her wonderful food that took hours to prepare, the last thing was the instant mashed potatoes and then homemade turkey gravy to go over them. As mom boiled the water, grandmaw made the gravy. I may have mentioned it before, but we never let mom live down the year that we had to pour the mashed potatoes over the gravy because they were so runny! When cooking that much food, you have to resign yourself to the fact that something is not going to come out right. You can either let it ruin the whole meal, or accept that we will talk about you and the disaster you made for years to come. Being able to laugh at yourself is a whole lot better than spoiling the opportunity to make lasting family memories. For all the perfect homemade mashed potatoes I have made myself, I would trade them all for one more spoonful of mom’s runny instant from that year.
We have recently been looking for a new stove, trying to figure out if we want to convert to gas or upgrade to an induction cooktop. If you have experience with both, please let me know. Because our phones seem to read our minds and listen to our conversations, a variety of ranges have been showing up in my feed, but there was one that caught my eye. Our local Facebook Marketplace showed me a picture of a GE Stove from the 60’s and to be honest, if I had the room for it, that would be my new stove. It is the exact same as the one my grandmother had. I remember mom telling me that she and dad bought it new, but when they got their first house in 1969, it came with new appliances and they did not need it, so they either gave it or sold it to my grandmother. I loved it because it had push buttons to turn the stove eye’s on. As soon as I was tall enough to reach them, I always wanted to turn the burners on or off. All of us were probably hollered at often for trying to touch them when we weren’t supposed to.
Then yesterday, I saw a post in my feed of a sink that matched her’s too! It was like someone was giving me flashbacks to growing up. I spent hours in that kitchen. Even as I got older and spent a couple of weeks at her house in the summer, and visited on up into my 30’s, most of our time was spent in the kitchen as she cooked or we just sat around talking. Uncle Lester would stop in every morning and every afternoon on his way to and from work. Grandmaw would have his water ready for coffee and his gold FireKing cup and saucer. He would pour his coffee from the cup into the saucer and sip from it. I had never seen anyone do that before or since, except once in a movie. He said it would cool quicker that way and he could get on to work, which was right around the corner from her house.
Thanksgiving Leftovers Pot Pie
Pot Pie Filling:
2 tablespoons turkey fat (if leftover, otherwise use vegetable or olive oil)
1 cup diced onion
2 cups diced sweet potato
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced potatoes
2-3 cups cooked diced turkey
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups turkey broth (if leftover, otherwise use 2 cups canned chicken or turkey broth)
1 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup self-rising cornmeal – white or yellow
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
4 tablespoons browned butter (instructions below)
Preheat oven to 425.
In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, saute’, on a med-high heat, the onion, sweet potato and carrots in the turkey fat. Let cook about 5 minutes and then add the potatoes and turkey broth. Reduce to medium heat and cook until the sweet potatoes start to become tender, about 10 minutes. Dice the turkey and sprinkle with the flour to coat and add to the pan. Add the rosemary, thyme, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Let cook about 5 min more or until broth thickens. Remove from heat.
For the cornbread topping, begin by browning the butter in a microwave safe 2 cup or larger measuring cup. Simply cook on high for 3 minutes. It will be hot, so remove carefully. Combine the cornmeal, buttermilk, egg, and salt and stir to mix completely. Add 2 tablespoons of the browned butter and stir. Pour cornbread batter over top of the pot pie filling, spreading carefully to cover most or all of the filling. Pour the rest of the browned butter, dark bits and all, over the batter.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cornbread is lightly browned, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to catch anything that may bubble over. Remove from oven and let it rest for 3-4 minutes before spooning out and serving.
Charlie and Mary had a couple of peach trees on their property, along with a cherry tree, strawberry patch, and a huge garden. Between that and the hunting and foraging they did, they provided most of their own food. There was only one food cabinet in Mary’s kitchen because most of their food was kept in the freezer or put up in the cellar . I used to love the smell of the cellar with the dirt floor.
I would help Charlie dust the trees to keep the bugs away and then when the limbs started hanging low, we would start picking. I loved to wash a just picked peach off and bite into it like an apple, peel and all. The juice would run down my chin and my hand, but I didn’t care. They were always so juicy right off the tree.
Mary would put up dozens of quarts of peaches each year and nearly every night for dinner she would have some sort of dessert. Her Peach Cobbler was one of my favorites. I never knew many of her recipes and only remember seeing one little cookbook that she kept in the middle drawer, along with all her dish towels. The only thing I loved more than her peach cobbler was her rice pudding.
I remembered it being a batter that she made and then spooned in the peaches on top. I would watch her make it and just didn’t understand how the peaches would end up on the bottom when it was done. I tried a few different recipes and then I just got to playing around with my own. Mick’s mom loves peach cobbler, well all cobblers, more than I do. I eat one helping and then I’m good for a while. We never finish a dessert before it goes bad and we have to throw it out. She finishes one long before it could get old.
So I made her a cobbler from the first peaches we’ve gotten this season. I think these came from Georgia and they are so good. I love the smell of a fresh ripe peach. It brings back memories of pulling a peach to my nose and knowing if it was ripe enough to pick. Sometimes it pulled right off and I knew it was ready even before I could smell it.
Prep Time: 20 minutes Total Baking Time: 45 minutes
4 medium ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup plain all purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
2-3 tablespoons white or coarse sugar
You can prepare the peaches just before or several hours ahead. If using canned peaches, 1 qt of drained peaches will work. Mix peaches with sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside so the syrup has time to form.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in 2 qt baking dish or cast iron skillet, in the oven as it comes to temperature.
In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Pour in the milk and mix well. The batter will be thin. Carefully remove baking dish or skillet from the oven and pour the batter into the melted butter. Spoon peaches over batter carefully, and spoon on the remaining syrup. Do not stir. Reserve the bowl with whatever syrup is still in it. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Just before removing the cobbler from the oven, toss 2-3 tablespoons of white sugar into the bowl the peaches were mixed up in to coat the sugar, but not dissolve. Spoon that over the cobbler evenly and return to the oven for 10 – 15 more minutes for cobbler to finish baking and sugar to brown a little.
Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream and enjoy!
Growing your own food, or helping grow it like we do with Mick’s parents, means there is usually plenty to go around. We put up all we can by canning, pickling, and freezing. But, not all of it gets put up. I love to play with new recipes and ingredients. We have found over the years that some things we like best fresh from the garden.
We hadn’t had a squash pie in a couple of years. I had just gotten a tub of lard at the store because I wanted to work on a traditional Appalachian crust. Mary taught me how to make a pretty good pie dough, but she taught me to use shortening. I also like to use butter sometimes. So I gave it a try with the lard and, while I need a little work on my technique with it, it tasted really good. It reminded me of how Mary used to bread her fried squash, she used crushed saltine crackers.
This recipe calls for mayonnaise for the topping. I have found that you need to use a good quality mayo. I tried a store brand the first time I made it years ago and it separated and the oil from it soaked the crust and ran all over the oven. I use Hellman’s or Kraft when I make this now.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold lard
3-4 tablespoons of ice water
2-3 medium yellow squash, halved and sliced
1-2 medium zucchini squash, halved and sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon bacon grease or oil (or lard)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (reserve 1/4 cup)
You want your crust ingredients to be as cold as possible. Sift together your flour and salt. Cut in the lard until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle in 3 tablespoons of the ice water and stir. Dough should come together pretty quickly. If needed, add a little more ice water until it begins to form and pulls off the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly until it comes together and you can form a round about two inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, cut your squash lengthwise and slice about 1/4 inch thick. Dice the onion. In a hot skillet, bring the bacon grease or oil up to heat and add the squash and onion. Saute’ until the onions become translucent and the squash browns slightly. Remove from heat. When the dough has chilled enough, roll it out on a well floured surface large enough to fill an 8×8 square pan or 9-10 inch deep dish pie pan.
Assemble the pie by spreading the reserved 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. Spread the squash mixture on top. Mix the mayonnaise and remaining cheese. Spread the mayo mixture on top, going all the way to the edges of the crust. Trim and fold under any excess crust.
Bake at 325 for 40 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown. You can turn the temperature up the last couple of minutes to brown the cheese slightly.
Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.