Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken

Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken1

You guys wanna know one of my favorite things about visiting the South? They have an immense appreciation and respect for sweet tea there.

You can get it in gas stations. You can order it in restaurants. They don’t look at you like you’re cray-cray when you ask for it with no ice.

It’s not like that up here in the North.

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The ‘sweet tea’ they sell in gas stations and grocery stores here isn’t real sweet tea. It’s not. I’ve been to the South. I know the difference.

Here, when I ask the waitress in a restaurant if they serve sweet tea, she gives me this blank stare and says something along the lines of, “Oh,um…we’ve have Lipton’s Lemon Iced Tea, but it’s not really sweetened.”

And then I just order water.

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Don’t judge me, but the closest thing I can get to Southern sweet tea here is the stuff that they sell at McDonalds. It sure isn’t the real thing, but it’s better than the lemon Lipton tea most other joints serve. They do throw me major shade when I ask for no ice, though.

It’s as if they have a problem with someone who’s caught onto their little trick of filling the cup to the brim with ice so that they can skimp on the amount of tea they actually TRY to give.

Nope, nope Buttercup. I’m onto your game.

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I was sitting at home one day really missing Southern sweet tea when I suddenly thought of how interesting it would be to try and cook with it. The way I saw it, a savory dish could really provide a wonderful counter to the sweetness of the tea with the right blend of spices- and the right protein, of course.

Since we are talking about a Southern drink, I thought I’d go with one of the main proteins that’s used in Southern cooking (also my go-to for affordability and ease): the chicken breast.

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I’ve heard of sweet tea brined chicken that’s then deep fried, but for my rendition I thought that I would keep things here healthier and put my broiler to use instead. Plus, I think that this here marinade I’ve put together is pretty tasty all on it’s own without needing the addition of a greasy, crunchy skin coating.

Not to knock fried chicken, though. Fried chicken is always a winner. But this is too. Trust me.

I love when one of my harebrained ideas for the blog actually  pays off, and this is really one of them. Broiling the meat here was just such a good move; soaking it in the tea then placing it underneath the heat of the broiler creates a thin, but slightly crisp, golden sweetened crust on the outside that opens to tender and moist white meat on the inside. Then of course, there’s the charred edges that have that perfect contrast of flavor that ‘almost’ fools you into thinking the meat was grilled.

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If you do decide to make this dish (and c’mon, why wouldn’t you?) then don’t skip the step of step of setting aside the extra cup or so of marinade to make the sauce later on. Because the sweet tea sauce really is the star here. When I ate this dish for dinner, I drizzled some over my vegetables and was a VERY happy camper that night.

Maybe I should start bottling and selling it.

I didn’t make it to last week’s Fiesta Friday and even though I’m late this time around, I’ll still be there for Fiesta Friday #64 this week. Thanks to Angie for hosting, and Ginger@Ginger & Bread and Loretta@Safari Of The Mind.

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Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 3 family sized tea bags (like Lipton Cold Brew)
  • 8-9 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

 Directions

1. Place water in heavy pot and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from heat, then place tea bags in pot and allow to steep for about 20 minutes.

3. Add next 9 ingredients and place back over medium heat, allowing to come to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow sugars to dissolve and flavors to combine. Remove from heat and completely cool. Set aside about 1 cup of the marinade to use for later.

4. Divide the chicken breasts between two gallon size plastic bags. Pour even amounts of the remaining marinade over chicken, seal bags and refrigerate overnight or at least one hour.

5. Preheat broiler and spray broiler pan well. Broil chicken until inner temperature reaches 160-165 degrees and outside is browned and slightly charred.

6. While chicken is cooking, pour the reserved unused marinade into a small saucepan and place over the stove over medium-high heat. Allow to reduce and thicken until it makes a sauce to desired consistency. Serve over chicken.

Market Fresh Cornbread

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Up until now, there are only two cornbread recipes that I’ve ever used. Just two.

The first default choice is my grandmother’s recipe, which is one I’ve shared on the blog before. We use it for the ‘bread’ part of every family dinner that we have, and also use it for the base of our special family dressing that we make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keeping it true to our Southern roots, it’s non-sweet, mainly cornmeal based and rather crumbly in texture. There is a very simple explanation for this: it’s friggin marvelous.

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The second recipe that I’ve used and actually been pretty satisfied with, is one I found on Allrecipes.com. It’s a ‘Northerner’ recipe that’s rather sweet with a more even ratio of flour to cornmeal. As a result, the crumb is more finer than my grandma’s. It’s pretty tasty I’ll admit, and when I’m trying to aim for a cornbread that caters to my more “Northern” tastebuds, I’ll throw it together on the quick.

And just in case you were wondering…no. I don’t do Jiffy Mix. It’s nothing personal, I don’t even think Jiffy Mix tastes that bad. But…no.

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I’m stuck up when it comes to my cornbread guys. The truth is, most of the time it’s a hit-or-miss game. And I can think of very few other things that are  more depressing to me than cornbread that is a big fat ‘miss’.

I really didn’t think I’d ever be saying this, but with my recent Christmas gift of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s newest cookbook “Marcus Off Duty,” I think I’ve found a third cornbread recipe that I’m actually going to be willing to keep on my super exclusive roster. The almost immediate appeal to me was finding out that this is the recipe for the cornbread that is served at Marcus’ Harlem restaurant Red Rooster- a place that is on my Food Bucket List to attend before I buy the farm.

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Word of warning for my Southern friends: this is not exactly what we think of when it comes to ‘cornbread’. In the first place, it’s extremely moist, almost to the point where it melts in your mouth. Secondly, us folks used to Dixie cornbread- and likely some Yankees too- will at best give a double take at the inclusion of ginger, cardamom, chile powder and paprika in a cornbread recipe. At worst, we’ll start a riot.  But just hear me out- I was skeptical too. But it works. It really does. The spices aren’t overpowering at all, and they somehow work REALLY well with the inclusion of the sharp cheddar cheese.

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Oh yeah- and did I mention there’s fresh corn baked into the batter? Cause there is. And it was a really good idea. It gives a special ‘chew’ to the bread that is absent in most other recipes that can result in a bland one-note texture. None of that here, I can assure you.

I think my favorite part of cornbread is the crust that forms on the top and sides while baking. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re doing the ‘cornbread’ thing wrong and you should rethink your entire life. This loaf’s crust baked up perfectly.

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All of that being said, I do intend to stick with just these three cornbread recipes for both the near and distant future. Life shouldn’t be TOO complicated. Some things need to be kept simple and stream-lined.  Am I right or am I right?

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Market Fresh Cornbread

Recipe Courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cu grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels, including the pulp scraped from the cobs (cut from about 1 large or 2 small ears of corn)

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and generously butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

2. Put the butter, ginger, cardamom, chile powder, paprika, and sugar into a small pot over medium heat and cook until the butter is melted and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and spicy butter together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cheddar and corn, then fold in the scallions if using.

4. Scrap the batter into the loaf pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet, slide it into the oven and bake until a skewer stuck in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the loaf upside down onto a rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Then lift off the pan.

Lime-Glazed Chicken

Lime Glazed Chicken1

Hey guys!I’m back from my little blogging break I took after completing the 12 Days of Christmas series.It was a blast nd I feel super proud and accomplished that I actually pulled it off, but I did need a few days to recoup and recover from 12 straight days of posting.

Once again, thanks to all of you who followed along, liked or commented on all those posts. If you missed some or all of it, well, the posts are still there. Feel free to look back over the past few days and get caught up. I’m sure not all of us are in sugar comas yet, right? No reason why you can’t get some before the new year starts.

Speaking of which- it IS almost New Years Eve isn’t it? How is it 2015 ALREADY? If you figure it out, let me know because I swear we just started 2014.

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Anyone have any great plans for tomorrow night that I should know about? Me, you ask? Heh.

Guys, I’m the last person you want to ask about how to spend a New Years Eve. I’ve told you before, I’m a complete and total introvert. That’s the polite way of saying that I’m kinda boring. The not-so-polite way of saying it is to just straight up admit that not only am I kinda boring, I’m also kinda lame- when it comes to ‘partying’ stuff anyway.

Let the track of my New Years Eve nights speak for itself:

One year, I went to bed at ten, and slept straight through the whole thing, not getting up until eight the next morning.

Another, me and my mom spent NYEwatching one of those half hour long infomercials selling a 1970’s soul collection on CD. The New Year rung in with us singing along to Donna Summer and The Emotions. (But to our credit, we still didn’t buy the CD set)

I spent one year watching an ER marathon and binge eating saltine crackers  (don’t ask, I just got a craving for them).

And last year, all of us here spent New Years Eve in the living room having a Disney karaoke marathon. Enough said about that.

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This year? Well, it’ll probably involve me and a sofa, I’ll tell you that much.

Please tell me you guys will be doing something more interesting than all of that.

On second thought, no don’t tell me that. Just say you won’t be doing anything interesting for NYE either- I’ll feel better about my boring, uneventful self that way.

I’ve had this recipe swimming around in the blog folder of my computer for a while now- I just kept forgetting to put it up (to be honest, I’m not too crazy about how these pictures turned out in retrospect, but oh well). It’s another simple, quick and pretty healthy chicken dish that I use for my family when I buy bulk chicken breast packages from the grocery store to last us through the week.

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This chicken reminds me of a dish I’d order in a Latin American-themed restaurant alongside some paella or arborrio rice. You could even slice or dice it up and throw it in a tortilla or on top of a salad for a full meal. I’ve done both with this chicken and it turned out great both times. The ingredients are simple, but the flavors still really pop. Give it a shot when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands and still want a great meal.

Seeya ‘next year’ guys 😉

Lime Glazed Chicken


Recipe Courtesy of Great American Recipes

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Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 5 oz. each)
  • 1/4 cup honey mustard
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray an 11 x 7 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place the chicken in the prepared baking dish. Combine the mustard, lime zest, lime juice, honey, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

3. Brush half of the glaze over the chicken. Bake, brushing with the remaining glaze occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, 25-30 minutes. Serve.

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark1

We made it you guys! The 12 Days of Christmas Series on Cooking is My Sport has reached its final day. Sick of seeing all my posts in your blog reader yet? Don’t worry, this is the last one…at least for a few days. I thought I’d keep things simple with this post and wrap up the series with an Ultimate Christmas Survey. Although I’ll be providing the questions and answers to the questions, I invite all of you guys to pick up a few and record your own answers in the comments section- cause I’m nosy like that and would love to read about your Christmases.

Favorite Christmas Move: A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is tough, but if I have to pick just ONE, then the Peanuts gang wins everytime. I always get a little misty-eyed at the end when Linus shares the true meaning of Christmas. Plus, this is one of the only movies I watch more than once every Christmas season.

Favorite Christmas Cookie: Thick, iced and soft sugar cookie. Nothing ever beats one for me- no siree bob, it doesn’t.

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White Light or Colored Lights: If it’s just me, then I’m gonna go with white lights and gold accents. If I’m gonna have kids around, we’ll go for the colors.

Gingerbread Men Cookies or Gingerbread: Gingerbread Men Cookies

Favorite Christmas Music Album: Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas. Every track is flawless.

Fake or Real Christmas Tree: Fake. I’m not about that shedding,possibly flammable tree life. Plus, I know it’ll always be the right shape and size.

Christmas Wreath: Yes. My mom decorates them for fun, so it’s really very pretty.

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Egg Nog or Apple Cider: I’ve never had egg nog before, so cider is my choice.

Christmas Brunch or Christmas Dinner: I’m a Christmas dinner girl; I’ll usually have a cup of coffee or something like that in the morning and let myself get REALLY hungry by dinner time so I can build up one heck of an appetite and throw down on dinner.

Favorite Christmas Tradition: Watching all of our Christmas movies with my sisters, then driving around on Christmas Eve in the city looking at people’s lights.

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Worst Christmas Gift You’ve Ever Received: Those chintzy, cheap art sets from bargain stores. You know what I’m talking about: the ones where the colored pencils don’t even really work, the markers dry out within days and the crayons shed all over the place. Yet, when I was young I would still get one from somebody EVERY year.

Star or Angel Tree Topper: We’ve had both an angel and a star, but I think I’m partial to the star.

Ham or Turkey: I love baked ham, but I love turkey more for the holidays, so it’s turkey for me.

Favorite Christmas Book: The short story A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

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When Do You Open Presents: Christmas morning. No exceptions. I want the full surprise on the actual day.

White or Non-White Christmas: I’m from Michigan. I either have to like white Christmases or curl up in a ball and weep in complete and total despair.

Name 1 Thing You Really, Really, REALLY Want For Christmas: A DSLR camera. I can’t afford one. But if there really was a Santa Claus, I’d be begging him to send me one from the North Pole.

This last recipe in our series is dangerous stuff, guys. Krytopnite dangerous. Beware: self-control is not likely when eating this. I’ve seen recipes elsewhere that used saltine crackers as the base for making chocolate candies and toffee. But I decided to go ahead and use cinnamon dusted graham crackers for mine. And it turned out ridiculously well. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m blowing my own horn, but it’s just the truth. The melted butter and sugar makes the graham crackers take on a texture that almost like nut brittle and melds so well with the creaminess of the chocolate. The toffee bits give it just the right amount of crunch. This toffee is PERFECT for gift-giving…if you don’t eat it all yourself first.

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Aaaaand, I guess that’s all she wrote. I’d really like to thank all of you that have been following along with the 12 Days of Christmas here on Cooking is My Sport. I’ve had a lot of fun making all these Christmas goodies and hope you’ve had a good time reading the posts, or even been inspired enough to make some of your own. I’m thankful to reach another Christmas with my little blog baby and all you lovely people. I can’t wait until next year to start all over again.

Okay, I take that back. Maybe I can wait a little while. 12 days of blogging, photographing, editing and posting takes its toll on a girl. I’m kinda tired….

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Day 11: Cinnamon Wedding Cookies

Day 12: Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

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Graham Cracker Toffee Bark


Recipe Loosely Adapted from Taste of Home

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Ingredients

  • 8-10 Cinnamon sugar Graham Crackers
  • 11.5 oz. of semi sweet chocolate chips (little less than 2 cups)
  • 1 cup of butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla baking chips
  • 8 oz. English toffee bits (like Heath)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 °. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 half sheet pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray,

2. Lay graham crackers in the bottom of the sheet pan, breaking into pieces if need be to cover entire surface.

3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar then bring to a boil.. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes longer or until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the graham crackers, spreading with spatula to make sure they are evenly covered.

4. Bake 8-10 minutes, until sugar mixture is bubbling. Melt vanilla chips in a glass bowl or cup in microwave, in about 15 second increments.

5. Remove half sheet pan from oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over crackers. Allow them to soften for a few seconds, then use a spatula to spread out evenly.

6. Dip a fork into the melted vanilla chips and swirl it through the melted semi-sweet chocolate. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate.

7. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze until chocolate is set and firm, about an hour. Remove, and use a knife to break toffee into shards. 

My Grandma’s Collard Greens

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Happy Fiesta Friday #31, all! I’m super glad to be headed to today’s party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener. I wanted to save this recipe for a Fiesta Friday because it’s not only one of the best things I’ve ever made, but also because it is very, VERY special to me and my family heritage. A few weeks back, I made a full-blown Southern Meal for my family with Triple Dipped Fried Chicken and Hushpuppies on the side- but as delicious as both the chicken and hushpuppies were, they just wouldn’t have been complete as a meal without this dish.My Grandma’s parents were farmers in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. I was too young to be able too be there in their hey-day and see the farm as it was when they weren’t older and infirm, but I’ve heard plenty of stories from my Grandma, Mom and Aunts.

Even though they all lived in Michigan, every summer my Grandpa would take my Grandma and their three daughters down to Mississippi for the summer to visit my Great-Grandparents on their farm. My mom didn’t really like it, for a number of reasons:

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First, she was a self-described “city girl”. My great-grandparents’ farm was literally a on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Because it was the summertime in the Deep South in the mid 70’s, there was (of course) no air conditioning, and the majority of the windows were left open at all hours of the day and night in order to allow the breeze to cool down the house. My mom (having just read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote) was convinced that a serial killer was going to break into the house and murder everyone and tells me that she used to walk around the house, checking and re-checking doors and windows for intruders.

Second, my mom couldn’t get into the whole ‘ farm experience’. My great-grandpa’s enormous hunting dogs on the porch frightened her by running up to the car and surrounding it every time they drove up to the house. Apparently the chickens were demon possessed and chased her around everywhere. Plus, a lot of the food that got served on the table at my great-grandparents’ house came from the farm itself- including the meat. My mom had a hard time eating the chicken that she saw get shot, decapitated, plucked, and butchered just a few hours ago.

One thing she consistently talks about, are the big ‘Meetins’ that they all used to attend. For those who aren’t Southern or aren’t familiar with the Baptist tradition, the big ‘Meetins’ (you have to say it just like that, no ‘g’s allowed) consisted of large gatherings of the local Churches where they would all hold one, long service that LITERALLY lasted all day long, then conclude with a pot-luck style feast composed of all the dishes that each of the women would make before hand and bring to share.

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At any true Southern church meetin, you’re guaranteed to find a pot of greens. They’re almost like a symbol of the South itself. When you eat them, you can practically taste all the history and soul that they come from with every bite.

My Grandma’s greens are the thing of legend. Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, and (my personal favorite) Cabbage Greens. She does them all, and she does them all perfectly. I’ve said it before on the blog, and I’m gonna say it again: her greens would be on the menu of foods I would have to eat if I was on Death Row and given a last meal to eat. Give me a big bowl of greens and two hunks of her cornbread, and I don’t even need meat. They’re really that good.

The greens that she makes for the family come straight out of her backyard garden, but I’ve also made this recipe with greens that I’ve bought at grocery stores and farmer’s markets- however, if you know someone who grows greens or can get to a farmer’s market, then I do strongly recommend that you get them that way. The quality of homegrown greens is so much better than the ones you get in the stores.

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My grandma usually uses whole ham hocks to flavor her greens, but because I know that not everyone can get their hands on those (and because depending on where you live, they can get pretty pricey), I adapted this recipe so that it’s do-able for just about anywhere using regular bacon (note: you CAN also use turkey bacon, or even smoked turkey instead of the pork). This recipe is also one where you’re going to have to use your personal taste-testing skills to judge how much or how little seasoning you add. I judge what to add or not add by tasting the liquid given off by the greens after they’ve been cooking half-way through or so (we call that stuff the Pot Likker in the South, and it’s friggin awesome). When they’re done, i do have to emphasize that cornbread with greens is a must- one hunk for dipping in the pot likker, and another hunk for crumbling over the greens themselves.Oh, and if you have access to some zesty, jarred Southern Cha Cha (some people call it Chow Chow), then you need to sprinkle some of that on top too. It’ll send your bowl of greens and cornbread over the edge and into the galaxies of awesomeness.

 I’ve got this down to a science, can’t you tell?

Try this dish, guys. I don’t care if you have so-called ‘picky eaters’ in your house- I was one of those people growing up too. And I STILL couldn’t get enough of these greens.

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My Grandma’s Collard Greens

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 bunches of collard greens, washed, stems removed, and sliced into about 1/2 inch thick strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 16 oz. thick cut bacon
  • Onion powder
  • Sugar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • About 1 1/2—2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange bacon on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes. (The bacon is not supposed to be crispy– it’s okay if it’s still a little floppy or limp.)

2. Remove bacon from tray and roughly chop into lardons, or large chunks. Set aside.

3. Drain the remaining drippings and grease from the sheet pan into a bowl and set aside.

4. Place the greens in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the chicken broth, onion and bacon and mix together. Season the greens with onion powder, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cover and allow to cook until greens are tender and wilted, about 35-45minutres, depending on how tender or firm you like them. Make sure the liquid doesn’t get absorbed, or they’ll scorch!

6. Taste the juice the greens are cooking in and adjust for seasoning.

Hushpuppies

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Guys, guess what?

I just got a new computer. After four years, my old Acer finally had to buy the farm. See what had happened was, the power cord jack has been increasingly wearing out to the point where the cord couldn’t stay inside of it by itself.Because new laptops are expensive (and because I’m cheap) I put up with it for a while, just not plugging it in until I needed to, then being sure not to move the laptop too much (or so much as a inch at times). It was super annoying, but I still roughed it out.

But last week, I had myself a little scare. I needed to charge my laptop, so I plugged it in….and nothing happened. It didn’t pick up the signal from the wall charger. And my battery was running low.

Did I mention that all of my photos, documents, programs from the last five years are stored on my Acer laptop? No? They definitely are.

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So yeah, that resulted in a mini freak out on my part where I frantically plugged, unplugged, re-plugged, and re-unplugged my laptop- all while softly muttering prayers to Jesus that if he let my computer charge just one more time, I would promise  to finally stop being such a cheap skate and just get another one. I also may have swore to go serve in a leper colony somewhere for the rest of my life.

(Yes, I know that even if the computer had went dead, I’d be able to take it somewhere to recover the files off my hard drive. I’m not a complete idiot- I was just having a complete melt down and wasn’t thinking straight. Plus, weren’t you listening? I’m a cheapskate. Paying for a new computer AND paying someone to recover the files off my old laptop to transfer to the new one? Ain’t nobody got for that.)

Well, I don’t know which one those promises to Jesus did the trick, but the signal finally did connect between my old Acer and the charger. Crisis averted-temporarily anyway. Now I had to keep  my promise and buy a new laptop. (I’m choosing to assume that He knows my promise about the lepers was just Jessica being His usual, crazy, overeaacting Jessica. He knows I’d be useless in a leper colony, anyway)

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 I got my new laptop a couple of days later, and it’s pretty awesome. All my other laptops have been ‘economic’ purchases, where I bought something that would suit my purposes, but wasn’t the ‘one’ I wanted.

This HP ENVY x360- 15 Touch laptop, is definitely what I want. It’s not only beautiful, it also came with as much space as I could get on a laptop without being a desktop computer. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a new laptop… and isn’t a Mac fan. Because I’m not. #TeamPC til the day I die.

Anyway, moving onto the food. I decided to put a real Southern meal on my family’s table and this was one of the things I made to go on the side with the rest of the food (other recipes from that meal to follow).

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Why are these things called hushpuppies? Do we have something against just calling them what they are (cornmeal fritters)? I was curious, so I did some research (meaning I just googled it) and found out that they get their name from the Civil War Era, where they were thrown to hunting dogs to keep them from scaring prey away, or at picnics/cookouts to make them  ‘hush’. True? Maybe, maybe not- but all I know is that just bout everyone seems to love them.

Hushpuppies are a staple of classic Southern food- they’ve got to be done right, and these don’t disappoint. The exterior is perfectly browned and crisp, with the inside soft and tender. I eat mine several different ways: doused in Frank’s Red Hot, crumbled over my greens, or even dipped in ketchup (it’s good, trust me).

These are an excellent side dish- or you could just eat them all on their own. I wouldn’t judge you.

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Hushpuppies

Recipe Courtesy of Pat and Gina Neely

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • Peanut oil, for frying
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup self rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion, finely grated
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, optional

Directions

1. Preheat 2 inches peanut oil in a deep-fryer or Dutch oven to 375. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, 1 teaspoon salt, the sugar, cayenne and paprika in a large bowl to get rid of the lumps.

2. Mix in the remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine.

3. Dip 2 spoons into a mug of water (this allows the batter to come clean off). Scoop up about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the batter and carefully slide it into the hot oil, working in batches. Fry the scoops of batter 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked all the way through (test the first one for doneness).

4. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet, seasoning with salt as they come out of the fryer.

My Grandma’s Banana Pudding

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Happy Fiesta Friday #26, you guys! I am SO honored to be co-hosting this week’s party with the lovely Prudy@ButterBasilandBreadcrumbs. She’s one of my closest blogger buddies and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather co-host with. I hope most of you guys that are following me are joining in the fun with us- if you’re not, you’re just really missing out. Go ahead and click on the picture link at the bottom to find out how you can link up with us, we’d love to have you. As this is my first time hosting, I wanted to make my contribution to FF a special one and I really think I succeeded with today’s post.

When I shared the recipe for Banana Yogurt Popsicles, I said that it was based upon an original recipe for Southern Style Banana Pudding that my grandma makes for our family, albeit, a more ‘healthier’ version. I received a lot of requests from you guys asking for the real thing, and because I love when people ask me about food, I decided to go ahead and make some for a photoshoot to share on the blog.

I’ve already shares several of my grandmother’s recipes with you guys, but I never really went into any detail about the cook behind this oustanding food that I was blessed enough to grow up with and in turn, learn to make myself. Behind all food is a story and here is no exception. Yesterday I called up my grandma to ask if she’d mind if I shared a bit of her story, and fortunately she said  it was okay. I’d love to share some of the story with you guys, if that’s okay.

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This is my grandmother, Selma Leander Sanders. She’s my mom’s mom and probably one of the strongest, bravest people I’ve ever met. Her smile and laughter are some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. She’s the first of 3 daughters born to Isaac and Lily Mae Haynes 79 years ago in  Carson, Mississippi. Isaac was unique among many African Americans in the Jim Crow South in that he not only owned his own land, but also employed black and white laborers to help work his farm that Selma and her sisters grew up on. I only met him once in my life and by that time he was in his nineties and ailing in health. But my Mom tells me that when he was younger, he was a real riot, always telling funny stories and playing practical jokes. He was a real family man, willing to do any and everything for his children. My great grandmother Lily was very quiet and reserved. She died before I was able to meet her, but my Mom said that she had an uncanny sixth sense about everything. If you were having a bad day, she’d call you and ask if everything was alright. My grandma definitely inherited that from her, she can take one look at me and know whether or not something’ wrong with me or not.

My grandmother attended Alcorn College, where she met my grandfather, Willie John Sanders. (Random fact: my grandfather attended Alcorn at the same time as Medgar Evers; he still has his yearbook and Medgar Ever’s picture is right there. How cool is that?) When they married they, like many Black people in the South at the time, migrated up north where there were more employment opportunities in the car assembly plants.

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After settling in Lansing, MI, my grandparents soon began having children of their own; three daughter to be exact. While my grandpa worked at the GM auto plant, my grandma worked at home as a homemaker and mother to their children. There, she consistently cooked and baked both simple and elaborate foods for her family, that they still rave about to this day.

My grandma’s cooking is the reason why  never had any problems with eating my vegetables growing up as a kid. My grandpa is 80 and she’s 79, and to this day they still keep a vegetable garden in their backyard that we all love to eat from. One of the only foods I could eat every single day for the rest of my life and never get tired of is a bowl of cabbage greens from the garden, with a hunk of her cornbread- literally one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life, hands down.

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My grandma knows how to make stuff that would make both inexperienced and experienced home cooks break out into a sweat. When I first began seriously cooking for myself, it was one of my greatest hopes that I would someday, somehow get proficient enough to be able to pull off her ‘signature dishes’; the foods that we as a family always attribute to Grandma and all look forward to eating whenever we see her. To date, my proudest moments in the kitchen have been when I’ve succeeded when trying out some of her recipes. She’s getting up there in age and there are times when she doesn’t feel as able to make some of the more complicated things that she used to when she was younger. I’m grateful that I’ve taken the initiative to learn how to do these things myself so that the tradition of her food can continue to be enjoyed by our family without exhausting herself. This Banana Pudding is one of her best ‘signature dishes’. I recently made it for the 4th of July and when I took it over to her house for dinner, I received her stamp of approval-which is how I know for sure that I did it right.

The custard is definitely the star of this banana pudding. It’s sweet, smooth and the ‘glue’ that makes the wafers and bananas mold together perfectly. Guys, this stuff is so good, you won’t even have words. You’ll just sit there, shaking your head back and forth as you keep spooning the pudding into your mouth. That’s what everyone at the table was doing when I last made this, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the same thing you’ll be doing too. Even people in my family who don’t really eat bananas love this pudding. I’m super psyched and proud to share this recipe, as well as the inspiration for my cooking at today’s Fiesta Friday- because it all really does start with my grandma.

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My Grandma’s Banana Pudding

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp banana extract
  • 5 large bananas, sliced
  • 22 oz. crushed vanilla wafers, (2 11 oz. boxes)

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, combine evaporated milk, cornstarch, brown sugar and salt over medium high heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Mixture will begin to thicken and form a thin foam across the top.

2. As mixture thickens, transition to mixing with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and set aside for about 2 minutes.

3. Add 1/2 cup of milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk together to temper. Pour egg yolk & milk mixture into the saucepan, then add the extracts.

4. Pour custard into a separate container and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until moderately cooled down.

5. To assemble: using a glass trifle dish, punch bowl, or other large container, layer the pudding in this order: 1) crushed vanilla wafers 2) sliced bananas 3)custard. (See notes for layering tips)

6. Once you have finished layering the pudding, cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight until set. Serve with whipped cream.

*Use a spatula to spread the custard evenly

* Don’t worry about the bananas, wafers, or custard covering each other completely; they’ll mold together perfectly when setting up overnight.