Southern Cookin' Makes You Good Lookin'

Random Rantings about Food and Such

Sweet Corn Tomalito

Delicious corn pudding-like dish.  Wonderful as is, but i like Tracey’s suggestion of adding cheese and jalapeno.  :0)

Sweet Corn Tomalito

5 tablespoons margarine, softened
1/4 cup masa harina
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
     1/2 cup cornmeal
     1 teaspoon baking powder
     1/2 teaspoon salt
     4 teaspoons milk

In a medium bowl, mix together the margarine, masa flour, and sugar until light and fluffy. In a food processor or blender, blend one cup of the corn kernels with the water and cornmeal just until smooth. Stir into the masa mixture. Mix in the remaining corn, baking powder, salt, and milk until the batter is smooth. Pour into a double boiler.


Place the tomalito over a large saucepan of simmering water, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Steam for 50 to 60 minutes, or until firm. Check water occasionally, and refill if necessary. Stir pudding before serving to give it a consistent texture. Serve in small scoops.
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Payday Bar Cake

If life is like a box of chocolates, lately mine has been all nuts. We’ve had some really bad stuff going on recently but we’ve been blessed with great things too. Fortunately God gives you a balance to keep you from getting too full of yourself or so down that you need watching. Last Wednesday, July 4th, was my darling fella’s and my 25th anniversary. Due to circumstances, it was a bittersweet day but honestly i’m thankful for that. Made me take stock so that i realized just how blessed my life with him has been. Good and bad, thick and thin (no snide remarks on the thick part, now)–we’ve done it and we’ve done it together. And if you’ve got to go through these tough times in life, it’s a blessing to have someone to share them with. Nice to know the sweet patooty is there for me. For instance, in our unique celebration of our 25th and the country’s birthday, we went to Niagara Falls with the girls for the first time. We were standing at the overlook where you grab the Maid of the Mist tour, enjoying the awesomeness of the falls, when it happened. Again. Second time this summer and, unfortunately, a recurring theme in my life. Not sure why i’m a magnet but i am. Michael and i are standing side by side when, out of the blue (literally), i get the flying poo salute from a bird on the front of my shirt and a little on my arm. But it’s all good. Last time it was on the top of my head and this time we got so soaked by the falls that my shirt was practically washed afterwards. What did my fella do, though? Offered me his eyeglasses cleaning cloth to wipe it off which meant that later he had nothing to dry his glasses with. That’s a good man. No wonder i’m nuts about him!

Here’s something you’ll be nuts about. And, yes…it is another recipe passed on by Mama so you know already that it’s good.

Thank you, Tracey!

Payday Bar Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

1/3 cup butter, softened, plus 1/4 cup butter

3 cups mini marshmallows

2/3 cup corn syrup (light)

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla

12 oz. peanut butter chips

2 cups salted peanuts

1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies

Mix cake mix, butter, and egg in a bowl. Press in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven.

Sprinkle marshmallows on top of cake and return to oven for 1–2 minutes or until marshmallows puff.

In a saucepan, heat corn syrup, 1/4 cup butter, vanilla, and peanut butter chips until melted. Remove from heat and stir in Rice Krispies and peanuts. Spoon over marshmallows and spread to cover.

Chill before cutting into bars.

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Chocolate Cherry Tea Bread

Okay, chocolate lovers.  Here’s a goodie for ya!  This is wonderful with your afternoon tea while you’re watching “Keeping Up Appearances” while using your Royal Doulton with the handpainted periwinkles.  If you’ve never experienced Hyacinth Bucket (it’s pronounced boo-kay), you really have to check out KUA.  Everyone knows or is related to a Hyacinth or a Richard or an Onslow.  ;0)  Anyway, i digress.  Chocolate bread.

Now–if you cannot find cherry chips, just double up on the chocolate or perhaps venture down another road like white chocolate, peanut butter, or the like.  Same thing with the almonds.  You can easily use walnuts, pecans, pistachio, etc.  Makes great mini loaves to give as gifts or as a special treat for someone.

Chocolate Cherry Tea Bread

1/2 cup applesauce

1/3 cup shortening

2 eggs

1/3 cup brewed tea or water

1 1/4 cup sugar or Splenda

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup cherry flavored chips

1/3 cup slivered almonds

Combine applesauce, shortening, eggs, tea/water and sugar; beat on low speed for 30 seconds.  Combine dry ingredients and add to applesauce mixture.  Beat on low for 30 seconds; beat on high for 2 1/2 minutes.

Fold in chips and nuts.  Pour into a greased, floured 9 x 5″ loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Can be eaten as is or with a glaze.

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Tortellini Caprese Bite Skewers

In anticipation for those of us who don’t have ripened tomatoes hanging on our vines yet and for those of you who are blessed to, this is a fantastic little number that works great as an appetizer, salad, party food, and some would say dessert!  It is yummy!  We had these at the Ladies’ Tea at our place and they not only tasted good, they made a cute display.  Because they’re on skewers, you could stick them into a styrofoam cube/ball and place that inside a container.  Since ours was a tea, we used one of the large teacup/saucer planters you see in stores.

If you have any trouble finding the fresh mozzarella, you can easily use a nice block of mozz and cut it into cubes.

Tortellini Caprese Bite Skewers

1  (9 oz) pkg refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini

3 cups grape tomatoes, halved

3 (8 oz) containers fresh small mozzarella cheese balls

Basil leaves (as many as the number of skewers you plan to make)

6″ wooden skewers

Prepare tortellini according to directions on package.  Drain and rinse under cold water.

On each skewer, thread a tomato half, basil leaf, cheese ball, tomato half, tortellini, and another tomato half.  Place skewers in a 9 x 13″ casserole dish.  Pour Basil Vinaigrette over skewers, turning to coat.  Cover and chill two hours or overnight.  Transfer skewers to a platter and discard the remaining vinaigrette.  Can be sprinkled with salt and pepper, if desired.

Basil Vinaigrette

1 cup olive oil

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup honey

3 Tbs chopped fresh basil

2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix ingredients thoroughly.  If not used right away, refrigerate and shake before using.

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Smoked Meatloaf

(sigh)  Well, that went well.  The blogsite has changed things up since my last post and my attempt to put a birthday shout out and photo on the newest recipe post results in only the photo.  Nice.  Oh well!  Smoked Meatloaf, round two.

I’ll give you the condensed version since i’ve already typed this once.  Aren’t you lucky?

Got a wild hair after reading about a smoked meatloaf and had been wanting the hubster to fire up the smoker since the weather’s gotten considerably warmer.  So, here’s the down-low.

Next time you polish off that Marie Callender pie, save the pie pan.  Works great as the container for your smokin’ hot loaf!

Unfortunately i was not in blog-mode but in cook-mode so i didn’t measure anything but here are the approximates.  Had about 2 1/2 pounds of ground beef (80%) and mixed into it about 1/3 can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce that i minced; about 1/4 cup or so of steel-cut oats; maybe a 1/4 cup of raw sugar; herbs from the garden–parsley, oregano, and basil; some granulated garlic; onion powder; and crushed black pepper.  Formed  a fat loaf in the pie pan and away she went!  You’ll have to judge for yourself the cooking time.  We were also smoking a pork loin and some bacon-wrapped chicken breasts, so the loaf had company; also the rain was torrential for a while and  cooled the smoker down a bit but she perked right back up like a champ.  That being said, the meatloaf was in probably 4–5 hours but i’m sure it could be done in 3 otherwise.

It was refrigerated overnight and placed in the crockpot this morning, topped with barbecue sauce.  At lunchtime, it was just right!  Love the smoky flavor and that little bit of spicy heat the chipotles added.

As i said in the post that disappeared, i missed posting on my sweet Ashley’s birthday so this is a belated HAPPY, HAPPY! to my girl.  Little Panda, you bring so much joy to all who are blessed to know you, especially me!  Wishing God will bless you with many more wonderful years!

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Avocado Chicken Salad and Savory Oatmeal Cookies

Finally!  Some good things to post about!  Yeah!

This past Saturday we were pleased as punch to be able to host our monthly ladies’ tea party.  We were missing a few people but sure had a lot of fun with the wonderful ladies who were able to attend!  I won’t yack on about stuff (as i usually do) but will get right down to business because i’ve got quite a few new recipes to share with you!

First up to bat…Avocado Chicken Salad found at The Spontaneous Hausfrau.  (    To quote the girls, this one is a keeper!  The avocado adds a wonderful creaminess and that extra zing from lime juice which really puts this on another level.  Th only changes i made were to use celery seed instead of celery and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (no salt) in place of the Lawry’s Season Salt and they were great.

Next in the line up is a really cool twist on oatmeal cookies found at  (   Don’t think of your grandmother’s sweet cookies filled with chewy raisins.  This is a savory treat bursting with the tang of Parmesan cheese and the pungent taste of rosemary.  Very unique and quite a surprise for the taste buds!


Avocado Chicken Salad

1/2 an avocado
1 tablespoon lime
1/2 cup mayo
6 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s season salt or TJ’s 21 Seasoning Salute
2 1/2 cups poached or roasted chicken breast,  chopped
1/3 cup celery, diced, or 1 tablespoon celery seed
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Combine the avocado, lime, mayonnaise, sour cream, worcestershire sauce, and season salt and mix until creamed well.   Transfer the dressing to a large bowl and fold in the chicken, celery, and dried cranberries until well-combined. Chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.

Savory Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup sifted unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Place the oats in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the water over them.

In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, brown sugar and egg. Pour this mixture over the oats, stir to combine, and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, combine the flour, fine sea salt, baking soda, rosemary, and black pepper. Whisk to combine well. Stir in the Parmesan.

Gradually sprinkle the flour mixture over the oat mixture, stirring until combined.

Form 1 tablespoon size scoops of batter and place, evenly spaced on a parchment paper or baking mat-lined cookie sheet. Flatten each piece of dough to about 1/4-inch thick. Use your hands to form an even disk. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top of each.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the edges are slightly darkened.  Cool on a cooling rack.

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Skillet Cane Syrup Cake

Have you ever found something, especially something you associate with your childhood, that you don’t see on a regular basis and suddenly you’re giddy with excitement?  That happened to me several weeks ago when we were in Ollie’s.  You know, if i could get all of my favorite stores and restaurants and friends and what-not in ONE place,…you’d probably have to call it Heaven because i don’t think it will happen here on earth.  Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, it is where overstocks go to be bought up by bargain hunters (like me) at a good price.    Sometimes you go to Ollie’s and get a couple things; sometimes you go to Ollie’s and wish you’d brought a U-Haul with you.  The last time we went, i found something i never expected to find.  Bottles of Cane Syrup!  Yes!  You can’t find cane syrup around these parts–just isn’t far South enough.  And to make it even better–it was Roddenberry’s Cane Patch Syrup.  (insert smile)  Now, i know that folks from Louisiana think that Steen’s is the only cane syrup there is but we happened to grow up on Roddenberry’s and think it’s just dandy.  When we would go to  California to visit my grandparents, Mama always made sure to bring a can of Roddenberry’s to Pa who would eat it every morning on Nana’s homemade biscuits and gravy.  Yep, that’s right.  He put syrup on top of his gravy, which i thought was odd but now that i’m older, maybe it wasn’t so strange.

So…all that yack just to tell you about a WONDERFUL recipe i tried today!  Michael’s MawMaw makes syrup cakes but i’ve never been smart enough to get the recipe from her.  After looking at several different recipes online, the one posted on Grit’s website by Razor Family Farms was the winner.  And, buddy, was it a winner!  Believe it or not, i was a good girl and only tweaked it slightly.  She suggested serving the cake with melted butter, toasted pecans, and more syrup.  I put the pecans on the bottom of the pan before adding the batter and it really didn’t need the butter and extra syrup.  It is soooo fine as it is!  If i would do anything differently, it would be to add more pecans, but that’s it.  Very light, moist, and full of flavor!  After baby girl ate a bite, she said, “Tell me again why we ever go out to eat?”  ;0)  You do the dishes and maybe we won’t.  File that one under Heaven also.

Skillet Cane Syrup Cake

1 stick (4 oz) softened butter plus 1 Tbs for melting in skillet

1/2 cup sugar or Splenda

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups cane syrup

2 large eggs

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

dash of nutmeg

1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk

2 tsp vanilla or buttered rum

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Heat oven to 375 and melt a tablespoon of butter in an iron skillet (large.)  Spread melted butter around skillet to coat.  Pour pecans on bottom of hot skillet.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add cane syrup and eggs.  Mix thoroughly.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, soda, and nutmeg.  Alternate adding dry mixture and buttermilk in the creamed mixture, a bit at the time, until incorporated.  Add vanilla.

Pour batter in the still-hot skillet.  As soon as the skillet is in the oven, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees.  Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until cake is springy to the touch.


Butterfinger Trifle

My name is April and i’m addicted to Pinterest.  Anyone else need to join my Not Interested in Recovering group? ;0)

Saw a yummy sounding recipe on Pinterest a couple days ago and decided to look around at the blog to see what else this smart lady had to offer.  OH, children!  There it was.  Butterfinger Trifle.  Hello!  Needless to say, i pinned it and decided it was going to be dessert after Sunday dinner.  All i can say is,…Emily at 52 Mantels is a genius!  (

First thing she did that was brilliant: added sour cream to your boxed brownie mix’s list of ingredients.  Talk about fudgy!  Second thing:  add peanut butter to your vanilla pudding.  We may start having peanut butter pudding around here more often!  Now, i will tell you that this arranged marriage started off a little rocky.  Peanut butter was not convinced it wanted to be wed to pudding but after several minutes of persuasion, it finally came around.  I did tweak the recipe just a tad but am sure you’d be happy with either version.

This is a dangerous recipe, friends.  It WILL be gone tomorrow one way or other because resistance was futile for me today! May have to spend a little extra time exercising on Pinterest to work it off.

Butterfinger Trifle

1 box brownie mix

1–8 oz container sour cream (light or non-fat is fine)

2 small boxes vanilla pudding

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

2–8 oz containers whipped topping (or 2 cups homemade)

1 pack (8 bars) fun-size Butterfinger candy bars

Prepare brownie mix according to directions, adding in the 8 ounces of sour cream.  Bake as directed.  Brownies will be very moist and fudge-like.  Allow to cool.

Prepare both boxes of pudding.  Allow to set partially before adding peanut butter.  This takes a bit of mixing but will incorporate eventually!

Crush 4 of the fun-sized (miniature) Butterfingers and mix in with one container of whipped topping.

In a trifle bowl or other container, layer crumbled brownies, pudding mixture, and whipped topping with crushed candy, ending with a layer of brownies on top.  When ready to serve, top with the other container of whipped topping and sprinkle the remaining candy bars, crushed, on top of that.


Nacho Mama’s Macaroni and Cheese

During my hiatus from posting, i missed the one birthday celebration i should not have missed.  Without this person, i’m not sure where i or this blog would be.  This is the single most influential person in my culinary life.  That’s right.  My Mama.  Back on January 8th when i was slacking off, she had a birthday.  This is a very late post in honor of her special day.  Her and Elvis, that is.  And it wasn’t that i didn’t think about it that day.  The problem was…i just couldn’t decide!  Honestly!  How do you take the world’s best cook and sum them up with one recipe???  Truly, i could not narrow down all her amazing dishes and choose one.  With that being the case, i offer you one that is not even hers.

I tweak.  My brother tweaks.  My eldest child tweaks and given time, the youngest will too.  We can’t help it.  It’s in our blood.  We got it from Mama.  She knows how to take a recipe and just make it better.  It’s like her incredible ability to play the piano by ear.  You can start to hum a song and she instinctively knows where it’s going.  Unfortunately, that was not passed on and i’m not sure why.  That would’ve been nice to have.  But i’ll stick with the food tweaking and be grateful for it.  All that to say this: i found this Mac-n-Cheese recipe on Pinterest and pinned that puppy right away!  At f first, i thought i’d tweak it to make it healthier (called for 1 1/2 sticks of butter, for one thing!)  In the end, i’m not sure if it’s healthier but, BABY! it is the best mac i’ve ever eaten.  A notorious macaroni eater in this household was seen swiping a very large spoonful of it before it could get into the oven, if that tells you anything.  And…it has a “secret” ingredient. :0)  If you make this, see if your taste-testers can figure it out.  If you know it’s there, it’s obvious, but i had my crew fooled.

Happy Belated Birthday to the World’s Best Mama and Cook!!!  You know how we always talk about Granny’s Chicken and Dumplings and Aunt Vera’s Chocolate Pie and so on and so forth?  We have so many favorite dishes for you, we’ll have to make a cookbook for them all.  LOVE YOU!!!

Nacho Mama’s Macaroni and Cheese

1 box (16 oz) elbow macaroni

1 can  Cream of Cheese soup, undiluted

1 can evaporated milk

1 can coconut milk   :0)

1/2 stick butter

1 tsp Adobe Picante (chipotle) spice or chili powder

2 cups Pepper Jack cheese

3 cups Sharp cheddar cheese

Topping:  2 Tbs each of masa harina or cornmeal and Romano cheese with 1/2 tsp of chili powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta until done but still firm.  Drain and set aside.

In the same pot that pasta was cooked in, cook butter, soup, milks, and spice over medium-low heat until warmed thoroughly and mixed well.  Add drained pasta back in, mixing well.

Add cheeses a bit at the time until well incorporated.

Pour macaroni into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle topping across the top.

Bake 40–45 minutes.

Nacho Mama's Macaroni and Cheese

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Nacho Papa’s Meatloaf

Today is better than Valentine’s Day.  Today is Bear’s (my Dad’s) birthday!  Twenty-nine years ago today,…he was saying he was 29-years-old.  I passed Bear up in age so long ago, it ain’t even funny.  But anyone who knows him would agree that, no matter what the numbers add up to chronologically, at heart he’s 29!

If you’ve never had the opportunity to know Bear, you have  missed out.  He is a kick in the pants.  Sometimes literally but, hey, sometimes a person just needs a swift kick to the posterior.  He is a hoot.  If you’ve been around my brothers, you would know that the nuts didn’t fall far from the tree.  Bear is the reason my blood is part salsa.  In fact, salsa really describes him well.  Yeah, that’s it.  If Bear were a food, he’d be salsa.  Spicy.  Colorful.  A party.  Never quite sure what your’e gonna get because he’s such a myriad of flavors.

Saw the neatest thing at the store yesterday and BING!  Recipe warp ahead!  Rotel has come out with a spiced-up tomato sauce.  Comes in Original and Mild but why would you want Mild?  For lunch today, i made a Mexican version of meatloaf in honor of Bear.  Which is a little weird because we all know that the idea of the word “loaf” associated with Bear is ludicrous.  The man’s a machine.  But i digress.   In all honesty, the critics and i agree that i left out something that would have made it better.  It needs a touch of sweetness, so in the recipe i’m listing an ingredient that i haven’t actually tried but am sure it needs.

Rotel Tomato Sauce

Happy Birthday to the best Bear and Father anyone could ever have!!!  You have lightened our world just like we’ve lightened your wallet throughout the years.  ;0)  LOVE YOU!!!

Nacho Papa’s Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs. ground meat

1 cup breadcrumbs (or cornbread, corn chips, etc.)

1 tsp. chili powder

1–8 oz can of Rotel tomato paste, Original or Mild

1 green onion, sliced thin

2–3 chili peppers, diced

2 Tbs. brown sugar or 1 Tbs. molasses

Mix ingredients together until well incorporated.  Place into a foil-lined loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Top with 1 1/2 cups (or 1 store-bought can) of enchilada sauce.  Bake for 10 minutes with foil opened.  

Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and crumbled corn chips.  Bake 5 minutes.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 Tbs. self-rising flour

1/4 cup chili powder

8 oz. tomato sauce (i used Rotel’s brand in this as well)

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 tsp each of cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder

Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat.  Stir in flour and chili powder.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until lightly browned, stirring constantly.

Gradually add tomato sauce, water, and spices until smooth.  Cook on medium for ten minutes.

Not flattering for some of us (okay, me!) but typical when you have crazy people

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