Southern Cookin' Makes You Good Lookin'

Random Rantings about Food and Such

When Life Hands You Leftovers…

You know it’s time to clean out  your refrigerator when….

Doesn’t that just sound like a routine from a housewife turned comic?  All funny business aside, unless you’re just one extremely talented cook who can successfully predict the exact portion sizes he/she needs to prepare to feed X number of people for one meal…or better yet, if you have a teenager in the house which means the word “leftovers” does not apply to you, we all have to deal with a little of this, a smidgen of that or a bunch of something going bad.  Now, i personally do not know how to take 2 leftover pieces of chicken, a bowl of macaroni and cheese, 1/3 of a portion of Pad Thai nestled in a cute little to-go container, and a large bunch of grapes that are about to be fuzzier than my bedroom slippers and turn that into a casserole.  That doesn’t mean they all have to go in the compost heap!

Hubby Michael just absolutely LOVES to go to our local Food Lion and survey the meat department.  You can get some truly good deals when they start marking things down.  Our chest freezer has been the mecca of meat which is either in its uncooked state or grilled for later use.  Last week he got a bargain on steaks which he grilled and we partially ate that night.  Notice the word “partially.”  It really had to be dealt with today, so  it took a nice hot bath in the crock pot in order to be fajitas for supper.  We also had a rather sizable bowl of leftover mashed potatoes that magically changed form.  And for dessert?  Something new with something “old” that turned into something new.  Feel like hanging around for supper?  Have a seat and let’s cook!

First of all, don’t expect measurements.  The art of cooking is in creating a masterpiece with your food.  If Van Gogh were to paint “Starry Night” twice, would it really look exactly the same?  Experiment and “uniquify” your food.  Okay, so there’s no such thing as “uniquify.”  But doesn’t that make me unique?  Hmmm.  (insert mental slap)  Back to the food.  With the steak, i simply used what i had on hand.  May never do it this way again although it got rave reviews from the Franz clan.  Do have to admit, though–it has some kick!  As my dad, Bear, would say, “It’ll put hair on your chest.”  You know, as a girl, that didn’t exactly encourage me to eat whatever follicle-producing dish he referred to.  (Wasn’t exactly hair i was hoping for, you know what i mean?)  Slap.  Sorry.  Anywho….

The steak was cut into strips, tossed into the crock pot, and marinated in a sauce made of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (left over when i only used part of the can in another dish), half a packet of onion soup mix, cumin powder and about a half cup of water.  After marinating for hours, it was tender, flavorful and SPICY!  Winner, winner, fajita dinner!

The mashed potatoes reminded me of something my Mama used to make when we were kids.  IF there were any mullet leftover, she’d make Fish Cakes with the fish, mashed potatoes, and onion.  Sooo good.  These taties became Tex-Mex Potato Cakes.  Cooked up a pot of black beans but you could use canned (just get out a portion you want to use and rinse them); to the mashed potatoes, added some beans, frozen corn, the first 2 jalapenos from our garden–yeah!–, a little seasoning (cumin, ancho chili powder, and dry ranch dressing mix), and some shredded cheese.  Would have been smart to add a little bit of flour as well to firm it up, but you live and learn.

Using an ice cream scoop, put the potato mixture into a bowl of coating (flour, corn meal, chili powder) and coat completely.  Pat the ball down into a patty.  Add enough oil to coat your frying  pan and heat until ready to fry.  Cook until a nicely browned crust forms on both sides.  The potato cake will be crispy outside but moist and creamy-like inside.  We ate them with a sauce made of sour cream, dry ranch dressing mix and a pinch of chili powder but i’ll bet it would be even more awesome with some avocado thrown in!

Okay, one more for the road!  Dessert was actually a drink.  We stopped by an Asian supermarket that we used to frequent when we lived in Virginia (actually looking for Pocky but none too be had–probably another victim of the tsunami.)  But we did find the cutest pastel tapioca pearls!

Long story short, this became the basis for Bubble Tea.  Two cups worth of cherries were about to get hairy in the fridge (guess the girls finally reached their quota); so instead of a solid dessert, they became syrup.  You really need four cups of fruit but instead of grabbing a package of frozen cherries, i decided to get my last package of frozen blackberries to add to them.  And voila! Black Cherry Berry Syrup was born.  We’re going to cheat on this and use measurements.

Fruit Syrup

1 pound (4 cups) fruit such as berries, cherries, etc.

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. lemon juice.

Boil the fruit, water and sugar over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and it begins to boil.  Boil, uncovered, for ten minutes, stirring consistently.  Remove from heat; add lemon juice.  Strain fruit (which i saved to use for something else.)  Cool and refrigerate.

We added the Black Cherry Berry syrup to our Bubble Tea which i think really helped the flavor, but you could also use it in coffee, lemonade, or on your pancakes or waffles!

Now that i’m full as the proverbial tick, it’s time to grab a kitty and cuddle.  Happy Experimenting and Happy Eating!

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Coconut Cake

Today is my youngest’s 21st birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEPHANIE!  Usually i’m making whatever the birthday kid requests to eat (made Chicken-Poppy Seed Casserole last night for pre-birthday and post-birthday–Ashley wasn’t here on her b’day–consumption) but we’re hitting the road today to shop, shop, shop.  Birthday meal requests will have to be postponed.  But you just can’t have a birthday without a cake!

Did i mention that i come from a family of cooks?  Well, that’s the gift that keeps on giving because my cousin Tracey is a great cook too!  Let me tell you about Tracey.  If i could have my own business planning and putting together parties, this is the girl i would want to do it with!  When it came time to do a surprise 65th birthday party for my dad–aka Bear–and his and Mama’s 50th anniversary shindig, Tracey was my go-to gal.  If we didn’t live so doggone far apart, there’s no telling what kind of trouble we’d concoct!  Anyway, Tracey shared this Coconut Cake recipe with me and it is the absolute best you’ll ever eat!  Soooooo moist and flavorful!  Oh, i’m drooling just thinking about it (sorry, keyboard.)

Tracey’s birthday is July 7th, so early Happy Birthday, dearest cousin!  I’m sending you a Cyber Coconut Cake.  May not taste as good but it’s calorie-free. ;0)  Oh, and sorry about stealing your picture from Facebook (yeah, right.)

Coconut Cake

One (18 1/4 oz) white cake mix, prepared as directed

One (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk

12 oz can Cream of Coconut (sometimes found in the Hispanic or Asian  foods section in your grocery store)

8 oz whipped topping

1 cup shredded coconut


While the cake is still hot, poke holes into it with a fork.  Mix sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut; pour over cake, making sure it goes into poked holes.  Cool completely(overnight.)  Spread whipped topping over cake and sprinkle with coconut.



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Laundry Soap

You think i’m kidding or have completely lost it, don’t you?  I know, i know.  This doesn’t fall under any category that is befitting a food blog and who in their right mind would make their own laundry soap when you can buy it practically anywhere?  Well, technically, this is a recipe and… have you seen how expensive laundry detergent is getting these days?  Mama mia!  Even the “off” brands keep going up in price.  For several years i’ve heard about people making their own stuff and thought that it was interesting but when i saw “Fels Naphtha Soap”, i lost interest.  Who in the world ever heard of it and where would you find it?  Even the info on the internet claimed it’s not always easy to find (you can get it through and in places like Ace Hardware but it’s more expensive.)

Guess what?  I found all three ingredients needed for this “recipe” at a local (Charles Town) Wal-Mart in the laundry aisle in the area where the stain fighting products are kept.  The Fels soap cost a whopping $.97 a bar; the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda was $2.77 ; and the Borax was $3.74.

You’ll use the entire bar of soap but only one cup each of the Borax and Soda.  That means you’ll be able to get 7 recipes worth out of the box of Soda and 9 1/2 out of the Borax.

A little work is involved–you have to grate the bar of soap with a cheese grater, but in under ten minutes, you have something extraordinary for $1.77.  This is how it breaks down:

A regular load of laundry will only need one tablespoon of the concocted soap (use 2 Tbs for heavy loads.)  Each recipe makes 88 Tablespoons.  That means that for each regular load of laundry you do, it will cost you two cents!  If you use expensive Name Brand X that costs $11.97 for a 52 load (23 cents a load) container, you’ll spend $20 to do the same amount of laundry that $2 of this laundry soap recipe will do.  Even if you use Off Brand X that costs $6 for 66 loads (9 cents a load), you’re still talking $8 vs. $2.  In a year’s time, that could add up, particularly for larger households.


I’ve done two loads now and can tell you this–if you want heavily perfumed laundry, this won’t do it for you.  It just smells clean.  Looks clean too!  So far, i’m impressed.  Just thought i’d throw this out there for anyone who might be game to try!

Laundry Soap

1 bar of  Fels Naphtha soap,  grated–yields about 3 cups

1 cup Borax

1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

Mix together and store in a container.  Use  1 tablespoon per regular load and 2 tablespoons for heavier loads.





Blueberry-Lime Jam

Don’t you just love colorful, inventive, descriptive names?  The name of the jam is pretty straightforward (although the taste isn’t!); but the name of the blueberry farm which was the source of  the blueberries is not.  Frog Eye Farm.  Isn’t that funny?!  Beautiful place too.  Stephanie’s BF Paul doesn’t live too far from it and he said he never knew it was there.  One of those places you have to look quickly to see the sign or know to look for it.  I”m including the website because 1) locals may want to check it out (20 varieties of blueberries and it was full when we were there) and 2) the owner asked us to tell folks and we promised we would.

We easily picked 22 pounds of gorgeous fruit which meant a lot of berries to be dealt with when we got home.  Half of them are now frozen or shared; the other half became six–yes, six–batches of Blueberry-Lime Jam.  That will eat up several hours of your day, but, honey, is it worth it!  By now you’re tired of me ranting about jams but this one is delicioso too.  The lime helps cut the sweetness and gives it a little tang that’s surprising and wonderful.  The recipe only yields 6 half-pints/3 pints, so you’ll probably need to make more than one batch, especially if you share. :0)

Speaking of frogs…my Grandaddy Smith had a saying that i assume he got from his Scottish-born father that aptly fits this jam: it’s “Fine as Frog’s Hair!”  This prompted Ashley to say we need to come up with “Frog In A Blender” Jam.  Don’t get too alarmed–that’s strawberry and lime.  We’re thinking, folks, we’re thinking!

Blueberry-Lime Jam

  • 4 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1 package dry pectin
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  1. Crush blueberries one layer at a time.  Combine crushed blueberries and pectin in a large saucepot.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  2. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Stir in grated lime peel and lime juice.  Return to a rolling boil.  Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.
  3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head-space.  Process 15 minutes in a water bath.
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Dark Cherry Almond Conserve

Heavens above!  Just when you think it can’t get any better, POW!  Right in the ol’ kisser.  Our dear friend Jewel had more cherries than she wanted to deal with and very kindly shared.  The girls had already eaten a couple gallons, i think, but we did manage to save some to can.  In my never ending search for all things cool sounding and unique, i ran across a recipe for Dark Cherry Almond Conserve.  Cherry plus almond equals yummy in my book so this was a must try.  Oh, honey!  Let me tell you!  We had planned to make two batches and then try to make a cherry salsa but after one taste it was “Salsa Shmalsa!  Let’s make three!”

This really is an easy recipe to do except for one thing…it’s the pits.  No, really.  Pitting the cherries is the longest part of the putting it together (of course all the stirring and the time of the water bath process are lengthy but you expect that.) Fortunately  my canning buddy, Ashley, was there to help and we listened to an audio book of “The Silver Chair” from the Chronicles of Narnia.  Plus we had two kitty Muses (or Mews in Ninja’s case–that kitten likes to talk!) to inspire us.

We were only able to get 3 pints out of each batch so this stuff is going to be hoarded big-time!  Trust me, though, it is worth every penny and every minute.



Dark Cherry Almond Conserve

3 cups pitted cherries, about 1 1/2 pounds (we used sweet cherries)
1/2 cup  lemon juice
1/2 cup tart dried cherries (substituted dried cranberries)
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 box fruit pectin
4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup lightly toasted sliced almonds

Place cherries, lemon juice, dried cherries, water and allspice in a 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottom saucepot. Add pectin.

Place over high heat and bring to a FULL ROLLING BOIL (a boil you can’t stir down), stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Stir in sugar and, as soon as the full rolling boil takes place again, start timing and cook jam for 4 minutes.  Immediately stir in the extract and toasted almonds.

Remove from heat and fill jars. Process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (with this method jam will keep for up to 1 year stored at room temperature), or cool and refrigerate jam for up to 3 months.

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Strawberry Cake

In celebration of his upcoming birthday, I asked the wife of a friend who shall remain nameless (to protect the guilty) what his favorite dessert is.  Her reply?  “When we go to a buffet and I ask him, ‘Honey, are you ready for dessert?’, I come back with something from the dessert bar.  What does he come back with?  Another piece of fried chicken.  So I guess his favorite dessert is…meat!”  No doubt, the guy is a carnivore,so narrowing down his favorite sweet was a challenge for him.  Since he had trouble deciding, i figured why not combine a few of them?  The result was a Neopolitan Ice Cream Cake since he had mentioned Strawberry Cake, Rich Chocolate Cake and Ice Cream Cake.

Now anyone who knows me well (or at least has eaten with me on a number of occasions) knows that I am not a pretty cook.  I don’t create things that LOOK pretty.  To which my husband says that some of my worst looking creations have been the best tasting and if i do manage to make something that looks great, he’s skeptical.  Sigh. Oh well, since i just cook for the ones i care about and it’s not being served at some restaurant, who gives a flip?  That being said, i’ll bite the bullet and post a picture of my not-that-pretty cake.  The chocolate layer was good but the strawberry layer was WONDERFUL!  Think we’ll tinker with (and not freeze) the chocolate some more but if you have an inkling, give the Strawberry Cake a try.  It’s so much better than Betty’s or Duncan’s boxed versions!  Very moist and oh! so easy.

Strawberry Cake

1 package French Vanilla Cake Mix

1 (3 oz) package Strawberry gelatin

2/3 cup oil

4 eggs

3 Tbs. all-purpose flour

4 oz. fresh or frozen strawberries (if frozen, thaw and drain)

1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ pan.

Puree strawberries in a blender.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl but do not overmix.  Pour into pan.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until toothpick  inserted in middle comes out clean.

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Annie’s Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

Oh, joy!  Fresh fruit has arrived!  First the strawberries, now the cherries and next week…blueberries!  My girls are about the fruitiest…okay, fruit-eatingest gals i know, so this is a wonderful time of year for them.  You wouldn’t believe how many cherry pits have made their way into the garbage can in the last 24 hours.

When  our dear friends Steve and Sharon were expecting their baby last year, we had the pleasure of having a baby shower in our home.  One of the hits of the party was the following recipe for Fruit Salsa.  This stuff truly is ambrosia!  And you don’t feel guilty consuming it.  It’s so easy to make your own Cinnamon Chips but you could find them in some stores or also use graham crackers for those who don’t like cinnamon (yes, i somehow gave birth to the one person in the world who doesn’t.) ha  By the way, feel free to try variations.  I also added blackberries to  mine and hope to try it with blueberries and cherries very soon!

Annie’s Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

2 kiwis, peeled and diced
2 Golden Delicious apples – peeled, cored
and diced
8 ounces raspberries
1 pound strawberries
3 tablespoons fruit preserves

10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
butter flavored cooking spray
2 cups cinnamon sugar

In a large bowl, mix all of the fruits with preserves.  Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat one side of tortilla with cooking spray.  Cut into wedges as you would a pizza.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and spray with oil again.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and allow to cool.



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Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizza

As i’ve said, my biggest motivation to do this blog is for my girls.  Sad to say, they’re not babies anymore.  Ashley just turned 22 and Stephanie will be 21 in a little over a week.  Not sure how that’s possible– although my mirror says that on my end, it’s entirely possible!  When i was their age, i actually had enough smarts to get my beloved Granny (Smith–not, not the apple, although she was a peach!) to give me her recipes for her world famous Chicken and Dumplings and her Thanksgiving Dressing.  Now that’s not as easy as it sounds; not because she wasn’t willing to share but because she didn’t need measurements.  Her eyes and her mouth knew when she had just the right ingredients.  Alas, I still can’t make either dish as good as Granny did but I’m so thankful to have the recipes!  We’ve lost three precious cousins on my Mama’s side of the family within a month’s time and that has a way of making you think, doesn’t it?  My love of cooking is a  no-brainer.  We were blessed with fabulous cooks on both sides of my family and food is just one of our main ways of saying “I love you.”  So, please, give this a thought.  If there’s someone in your family who is famous for a certain dish or who has copies of passed-down recipes that you don’t have, don’t wait.  Ask  for them now!

So, girls, here’s a contribution to your collection of our family recipes, the newest one in the bunch.  We fell in love with the Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizza at a local restaurant, Pizza Montese.  It’s basically only four ingredients, so how hard could that be?  Have to admit i’m still not sure what the crunchy topping on their version is (seems almost like toasted bread crumbs?) but our version utilized what was staring me in the face one day when i opened the pantry.  Dontcha just love that?  This recipe is very inexpensive but has such a WOW! factor that you’ll be keeping the ingredients on hand.  BTW, the first time i tried making this, i used a different kind of jelly and probably will try Strawberry Jam in the near future just to see; but honestly, good ol’ Concord Grape Jelly is the perfect companion to this dish.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizza

1–6.5 oz. package of pizza crust mix

Jar of creamy peanut butter

Grape Jelly (in the squeeze bottle works really well)

Handful of pretzels, crushed finely

Prepare pizza crust as described on package.  Bake for approximately ten minutes or until crust is firm and lightly brown.

The next step is the longest and most difficult.  Wait until the pizza is still nicely warm but cool enough that the peanut butter won’t liquify.  I don’t know how long that is.  I still haven’t been able to wait till that sweet spot arrives.

Spread peanut butter over entire crust.  Squeeze or dollop grape jelly along top and slightly mix in with peanut butter.

Top with crushed pretzel bits.

Feeds 1–6 people


Strawberry Jalapeno Jam…cha! cha! cha!

Now some of you are thinking, “Is she insane?”  Possibly.  Quite possibly.  Given my family tree, my spouse (did i say that?) and the world we live in, who’s to say?  But when it comes to this jam, I say “Noooo.”  (You Tim Hawkins lovers know exactly which comedy bit i’m eluding to.)  Think Sweet and Spicy.   Smooth and Fiery.  Penelope Pussycat and Pepe LePew.

The naysayers are thinking, how could this possibly be used?  Imagine a block of cream cheese nestled on a nice serving dish surrounded by a ring of crackers.  Now imagine said cream cheese smothered in a beautiful, vibrant red glaze.  You slather a tasty-but-rather-plain cracker with the creamy, sweet, but spirited concoction and voila!  Your mouth has suddenly become a party zone.  It’s also wonderful on wraps, as a glaze for meats, and yes, I’ve even tried it with a peanut butter sandwich.  And i liked it.

This is the recipe I used so I know it works, but it’s not diabetic-friendly.  I’d be happy to share my Strawberry Jam with Splenda recipe with anyone and would bet you could add jalapenos to it and have favorable results.

Strawberry-Jalapeno Jam

  • 4 cups crushed strawberries
  • 1 cup minced jalapeno peppers
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 (2 ounce) package powdered fruit pectin
  • 6 cups white sugar
  • 8 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
Boil strawberries, jalapenoes, lemon juice, and pectin in a large saucepan over high heat. Once simmering, stir in the sugar until dissolved; return to a full boil and cook for 1 minute.
Pack the jam into hot, sterilized jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the top.  Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any jam. Top with lids and rings.
Process in a water bath for ten minutes.  Turn off heat and allow jars to remain in pot for five additional minutes.  Remove jars and place on towels or a wooden surface (I invert jars for 10 minutes to insure that they seal.)  Wait for 24 hours and check lid to be sure it has sealed.


What’s Cookin’, Good-Lookin’?

Now why in the world would i decide to do a blog?  Hmmm.  I can think of several reasons for me NOT to do one.

1)  My life is so fascinating and interesting that everyone should read about it.  Insert Epic Fail, as Ashley would say.

2)  My take on the political scene or my knowledge on any topic is so encompassing that the reader would benefit greatly. Yeah, right.

3)  I can make a boatload of money from the advertising that will accompany my universally read musings.  Wishful thinking.


So, why?  Here’s why.  My girls have said that one of the draws…okay, one of the main draws of living at home is Mama’s cooking. Now we’ll all agree that they’re prejudiced; that being said, this is for them.  It’s true–I do enjoy cooking.  Not a chef by any stretch of the imagination and my cooking is pretty much home cooking and standard fare.  You won’t find any recipes for foies gras (for you regular folks like me that’s French for “fat liver” and comes from the liver of a fattened goose or duck.  Yuck.)  I do like to walk a little on the wild side at times and have a penchant for spicy, so non-Southerners/Texans beware.

Don’t be afraid to tell me what you think of the recipes or any of my rantings.  If you can make it better, tell us!  If you like it, tell us why.  One of my main criteria when choosing recipes at different websites is how highly it is rated.

This summer I’m canning again and have already started with Strawberry Jam made with Splenda and….(drum roll, please) Strawberry Jalapeno Jam.  Aichiwawa!  That stuff is muy bueno!  Recipe to come.

Not good lookin’ but not cause i’m not tryin’.