Southern Cookin' Makes You Good Lookin'

Random Rantings about Food and Such

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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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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DIY Velveeta, Caramel, Peppermint Syrup…and Acorns!

A short time ago, i said that i was trying to go through a gazillion bookmarked recipes and i still am.  A few lately have been one-hit wonders and not worth blogging about but today i’m giving you a boatload of possiblities, just in time for the holidays.

Homemade Velveeta

First out of the chute, Homemade Velveeta.  Now, while it may not be cost effective (especially if you buy store brand Velveeta or have a coupon), you will at least know that your version has fewer chemicals/preservatives.  It looks and feels a little grainer than its counterpart but melts just fine.  I’m actually looking forward to tweaking it and making a Mexican version, Italian version and mixing it up with unusual cheeses like Swiss.  Oh, and just a note.  Don’t know what i was thinking but i totally goofed on the dry milk and used good ol’ regular 2% milk…and it worked!

Homemade Caramel

Next up, Homemade Caramel.  Now, this will knock your socks off!  I didn’t tell my family what i was doing until after it was done and tried to make them guess what it was by tasting it.  They all had that slightly nervous, skeptical look until they put their chops around the spoon and said, “Caramel?”  Well, it is now but it started life as…sweetened condensed milk!  Yes!  I’m not kidding!  Check out the recipe to learn how to magically change SCM to caramel. ;0)

Next up in our bag of tricks is Homemade Peppermint Syrup.  We stopped by Daily Grind Friday night while Ashley was working to bring her some chow and to get something to drink, of course.  Since i’m not a coffee person (do you hate me now?), i always ask her suggestions on what to get.  She recommended a Peppermint Patty steamer.  Since i’ve got this thing for chocolate and peppermint, it was a great idea. Now she can make them for me at home (hint, hint!) since i made a jar of Homemade Peppermint Syrup.  It would be great for coffee, ice cream, chocolate-chip pancakes, etc.

Last, but not least…Homemade Acorns.  Mama sent this to me and i’ve been saving it to do for Thanksgiving.  They are soooo easy to make and are just as cute as a button!  Or rather an acorn.

Hope you find something in here that will make your cooking and your holidays just a little bit richer!  If i don’t see you before Thanksgiving, just know that i am grateful for your time.  You must be a special person to have read through my rantings.  Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless!

Homemade Velveeta

1 1/2 pounds (6 cups) of grated Cheddar cheese, divided into 2 cups worth

1 1/2 cups almost boiling water, divided into 1/2 cups

1/2 cups plus 1 Tbs. dry (powdered) milk, divided into 3 parts (see note above)

1/2 envelope (1 1/2 tsp.) unflavored gelatin, divided into 1/2 tsp increments

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap.

Pour 1/2 cup water, 3 Tbs. milk and 1/2 tsp. gelatin in blender.  Blend until mixed.

Add 2 cups of Cheddar and blend well.  Pour into loaf pan.

Repeat process twice more.  Cover and refrigerate cheese overnight.

Yield: 2 lb. loaf

Homemade Caramel

1 can of sweetened condensed milk (not with a pop-top lid)

1 crock pot


Peel the label off of the can of S.C. milk.  Place a plate or a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of the crock pot, since can will rust a bit.

Place can on top and fill pot until water is around an inch above the top of the can.

Turn crock pot on low and leave for 8 hours/overnight.

Allow contents to cool.  Enjoy your caramel!

Homemade Peppermint Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

3 peppermint candy canes, broken in large pieces

Put water, sugar and candy canes in a medium saucepot.  Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until candy canes are completely dissolved.  Add a little red food coloring, if you want a deeper color.

Refrigerate overnight.

Homemade Acorns

1 box miniature Nutter Butter cookies

1 bag Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped

1 bag miniature Semi-Sweet chocolate chips

Pour a couple tablespoons full of chocolate chips in a bowl and microwave until melted.

Using melted chocolate as your glue, attach the flat bottom of the Hershey’s Kiss to one side of the Nutter Butter.  Again using the melted chocolate, attach a mini chip to other side of Nutter Butter as the stem.

Makes as many as you’d like…or until you run out of ingredients.

Special Birthday Shout-Out to my Favorite Father-in-Law, Lornie Franz!!!  Hope you had a WONDERFUL day!

Pickin' and Grinnin' with Devin and Cody

Birthday Boy!


Creamy Crock Pot Chicken and Crock Pot Salsa Cornbread

Welcome to Edition Two of “Cooking Through Your Bookmarked Recipes.”  Our special guests today are Creamy Crockpot Chicken aka “Easiest Dinner Ever” and Crock Pot Salsa Cornbread.

Verdict on the chicken: it was good and definitely easy!  The only complaint i have is that it was a little lacking in flavor (Michael said so too.)  So, although i haven’t tried it myself, i’m going to put a recommendation along with the recipe to help that.  Use your own judgment, though.  Try spicing it up yourself.  You may want to do something a little unusual like some curry powder instead of going the Tex-Mex/Mexican route.  It’s definitely worth doing, though.  We had it over rice and i’m thinking the leftovers (the recipe’s originator said that it’s even better the next day and thicker, also) will later be either thrown into tortillas, burrito-style, or made into enchiladas with a homemade red sauce and some yummy cheese.

The cornbread was quite good!  Last year i got 2 of those little bitty crock pots on clearance,  so put half of the batter in each of them.  That decreased the cooking time but still worked great!  Kinda reminds you of Corn Casserole but with some kick and not as “mushy.”

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken

2 1/2–3 lbs. chicken breast tenderloins (or breasts, halved)

8 oz. cream cheese

can of black beans, drained and rinsed

can of corn, drained

can of Rotel tomatoes

spices: Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix, taco seasoning, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, etc.

Grease bottom of crock pot and place chicken on bottom.  Add spices to top of chicken.  Place cream cheese, beans, corn, and Rotel on top.  Cover and cook for 6–8 hours on low, stirring every two hours.

Shred chicken, if desired.  Turn crock off and let sit for 30–45 minutes.  Serve over rice.

Can be made the day before and put in refrigerator over night.  Will be less soupy.

Crock Pot Salsa Cornbread

2 (8 oz. each)  boxes corn muffin mix

1 can creamed corn

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 can chopped chilies undrained

2 Tbs. butter, softened

3–4 Tbs. chunky salsa

Combine corn, eggs, sour cream, chilies, and butter.  Add muffin mix.

Grease a 3 1/2 qt. crock pot well.  Pour batter into pot.

Spoon salsa over top and cut into batter.

Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 hours.  Turn heat off and cool with lid ajar for 15 minutes.

Loosen sides with a knife and invert onto plate.

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Michael’s Favorite Potato Casserole

When you no longer need a recipe to make a dish, it’s a staple.  This is a staple in our household.  True story: Michael and his family came into town two days before our wedding.  That first night, he and one of his groomsmen, Dale, came to our house, had supper and the three of us went to the ring bearer, Keith’s, softball game.  My poor Mama.  I don’t know how many times we kids pulled a “Can so-and-so come over/stay for dinner/supper?”  This is one of those times and she had just happened to make this Potato Casserole.  If Michael had any second thoughts about getting married, this dish wiped them away.  Ask him to list his top 5 favorite foods and this is one of them.  Very simple but very good.  It’s a keeper!.

Potato Casserole

8 medium potatoes

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 pound American cheese or Velveeta, cubed

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled

3/4 cup sliced black olives (i skip this and it’s just as fine without)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Peel potatoes.  Either dice and boil in water until tender or boil whole and dice after cooking (don’t let them get too soft.)

Mix potatoes with onion, mayo, cheese, and seasonings.  Pour into a greased 9 x 13″ casserole dish.  Sprinkle bacon pieces and olives on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.


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Holy Guac-n-Rolly

Actually, it’s a biscuit, not a roll, but i couldn’t think of anything clever that was biscuit-related.  My creativity is a little lacking today.  The hubby’s sick.  One kitten’s better but now the other is sick.   Had to shovel snow yesterday…and it’s only October, for crying out loud!  Oh, and that was a very frustrating end to the World Series (wasn’t my team playing so i usually root for the underdogs and Texas has never won a Series…still hasn’t.)  So my creativity stretched only as far as the kitchen today but it is a rather interesting concoction.  We had it with roast, rice and everything nice but they would be much better suited to a bowl of chili or stew…or a Bacado omelette. ;0)

Because of the omelette, i still had a whole avocado waiting to be made into something magical.  The other day i also happened to buy a new bag of Masa Harina with the plans of doing tamales in the hopefully near future.  Well, the ol’ spin doctor got ta thinkin’ and you know how dangerous that can be.  It’s biscuit meets cornbread (sorta) meets guacamole.  Very moist and flavorful.

Uh oh.  Hubby just read this and realized he ate avocado. (Insert evil snicker.)  And he liked it.  Look out–my creativity is feeling a new surge.

Holy Guac-n-Rolly

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1 cup Masa Harina (finely ground corn flour) or corn meal

1 avocado (approximately 1/2 cup), mashed

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup oil

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1 Tbs. Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix/seasoning

Mix flour, masa and mashed avocado until it resembles a coarse meal.  Add seasonings. Add buttermilk and oil, mixing well (hands are the best tools to use!)

Form into biscuits.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12–15 minutes.  Will be “browned” on outside but still  moist inside.

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Sweet Patootie’s Sweet Potater Surprise

My Sweet Patootie really has been very sweet the last few days.  Now that’s not to say that he isn’t usually sweet…just that he’s been extra sweet.  For instance, he cooked breakfast two days in a row.  Believe me, it beat the cereal and milk i would’ve eaten by a mile!  He’s especially been good to poor little Persi during her illness.  Today he held her for an hour while he worked.  When he finally had to put her down, she hopped up on the back of his chair and completely showered   his head in one of her sneezes.  Poor guy turned his head to the side to look at her and whammo!  She sneezed again.  Instead of being angry, he said sweet things to her and began petting her before going to wash the sneeze gel out of his scalp.  That’s why we love him. ;0)

While i was at the store picking up some essentials, i wandered down the sugar, spice, and everything nice aisle and stared at the marshmallow section.  Have you  noticed all the flavors Jet Puff Marshmallows come in lately?  I’ve bought the strawberry a few times but today spotted one that was made for the Sweet Patootie–Caramel-Vanilla.  And, of course, the germ of a recipe idea was born and away we go.

So this is for you, my Sweet Patootie.  It may not be meat but it is potatoes!  Thanks for being such a wonderful guy.  Sneezy Wheezy and i sure do appreciate it!

Sweet Patootie and Cutie Patootie

Sweet Patootie’s Sweet Potater Surprise

4 cups grated sweet potato (i only needed one really large potato)

2 cups grated apple (used 3 small/medium)

1 bag Kraft Jet Puffed Caramel-Vanilla flavored marshmallows

Pumpkin Pie or Five Spice

Butter or margarine

1/2 cup apple cider or juice

Grate enough sweet potato(es) to make around 4 cups worth (not packed.)  Grate apples to make around 2 cups worth and mix with sweet potato.

Lightly grease a square casserole/baking pan.  Pour half of the sweet potato/apple mixture in bottom and press down.

Line up marshmallows so that they cover the top.  I was able to get all but two of them (36–6 down, 6 across) in.

Cover with remaining sweet potato mixture.  Sprinkle spice along the top and dot with butter.  Pour apple cider/juice on top.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Sneezy Wheezy dreaming of a better day

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Crack Potatoes

Wish you could have seen the Supervisor a few minutes ago.  Ninja likes to “inspect” my work when i’m cleaning.  Dusting is one of his priorities but nothing and i mean nothing is more important to him than powder room cleanliness, to put it nicely.  In particular, the toilet bowl.  This kitteh developed a fascination with the potty after observing Persi’s fascination with the ol’ flusheroo.  She’s moved on to bigger and better things (running water in the sink) but he’s still stuck on the porcelain throne.  When i was cleaning the half-bath, there was the Super, patiently watching me wipe and scrub and waiting for the magic to happen.  Ah, flush!  Up on the rim he goes with his kitty rear-end in the air and his head way down in the bowl.  He inspected for a full minute (not sure if i passed or not.)  Wish i’d gotten a picture of it, though.  If he’d been a human, we’d all be sayin’ “By cracky!”… if you know what i mean.

the Supervisor after a long day's work

Speaking of crack (how was that for one of my most loony segues yet?), here’s an easy, non-dietetic,  luscious recipe for you.  Saw it on Plain Chicken‘s website and knew it just had to be good.  It is!  One of those recipes that, after you’ve had a helping, you end up needing just a spoonful more.  Well, not THAT small a spoonful.  Yeah, that’s good.  Thank you.

Crack Potatoes

2–16 oz containers sour cream

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

2–3 oz. packages of real bacon bits (not the fake-o Baco’s)

2 packages of Ranch dip mix

1 large (28–30 oz) bag of frozen, shredded hash browns

Combine first four ingredients.  Mix in hash browns.  Spread in a 9 x 13″ pan that’s been lightly greased.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45–60 minutes.

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Herb Vegetable Cheese Bread

This is me sparing Michael and the kittehs from excessive piano practice.  You see, this weekend will be the first wedding i’ve played for in some time…and it shows.  Yikes!  Not that i’m concerned; it’s kinda like riding a bicycle–it all comes back to you.  Makes me realize i need to play that sort of music on a more consistent basis though.  Sometimes you need to revisit the once familiar so it won’t be classified as a stranger, ya know?

Same with recipes.  This one has been sitting in my recipe box for goodness knows how many years now and it is WONDERFUL!  For some reason, i have been ignoring it of late…until Sunday while Michael’s folks were here.  Made it to go with Lasagna Soup and it got the thumbs-up.   The credit for this one goes to Bear’s oldest sister, my Aunt Jeanne.  Honey, can she cook!  Especially her Mexican dishes.  ¡Está delicioso!  Ya know, i hope that’s right.  Hopefully i didn’t say something stupid or insulting.  When i worked with all my wonderful Spanish-speaking friends at Chick-fil-A in Chantilly, the only word that really stuck with me is gordo (fat.)  Now what does that say???

Oh well, time is a cruel task master so i suppose i’d better get back to practicing.  Hopefully no one will take a cannon at me for my Canon in D.

Herb Vegetable Cheese Bread

1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

½ cup grated carrot

2 green onions, sliced (I just used the green tops)

½ tsp Italian seasoning

¼ cup mayonnaise

8 slices French or Sourdough bread

Combine first five ingredients in a bowl, stirring well.  Set aside.

Place bread on an ungreased baking sheet and broil for a few minutes until lightly browned.  Turn over and spread mixture on untoasted side.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese melts.  Serve immediately.

A big SCMYGL “Howdy!” to Kelly and all her friends in New Jersey!

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Incredible Corn Bread

I feel a Simon and Garfunkel song coming on…The Sound of Silence.  Michael’s parents left early this morning and the girls are gone, so there’s no talking and laughing or the sound of the Franz boys working on a project in the background.  Even the kittehs are silent, which is actually kinda scary.  To quote Pa (my dad’s dad), i need to get out a pot and beat on it…it’s too quiet.

We had a wonderful time while Michael’s parents, Lornie and Sue, were visiting.  There was always “something afoot at the Circle” F.  Many a late night, let me tell you.  As usual, i failed to get pix of food like i should have but you don’t care, do you?  You’d rather fix it yourself than look at a lousy photo of it, right?

One of the first things made during their stay was Incredible Corn Bread.  Mama bought a cookbook put together by Gospel music artists several years ago.  One of the best recipes in it is from Chris Freeman of The Freemans (go figure) for Incredible Corn Bread.  And it lives up to its name.  I made it as listed in the recipe but honestly think you could use less butter.  It had a nice pool of butter on top around the edges which, while wonderful, might be eliminated.  Unless you’re trying to fix your low cholesterol.  Yeah, all .001% of you.

So much for the sound of silence.  Shouldn’t have thought about that pot.  One of the neighbors, aka Little Drummer Boy, is practicing again.  Funny thing is, i can never tell when he switches from one song to the next.

Enjoy the Corn Bread.  It’ll make your taste buds shout “Hallelujah!”

Grampa eating Incredible Corn Bread

Incredible Corn Bread

2 cups chopped onion (this is quite a bit…can use less)

1 cup melted butter (or less)

1 carton sour cream

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cups self-rising corn meal

2 Tbs sugar*

1/4 tsp dill weed (i used dill seed and it was great)

2 eggs

1–8 1/2 oz. can creamed corn

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup oil

dash of hot sauce

Saute onion in butter.  Add in cheese and sour cream.  Melt cheese and remove from heat.  Set aside.  Combine all other ingredients until  moistened.  Pour into lightly greased 9′” square pan.  Spread sour cream mixture over batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

* For many Southerners, sugar in corn bread is unholy.  That’s why they make cake.  You can leave it or use it.  Your choice.

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