S’MAC ‘N CHEESE

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Since my Caitlin is a huge mac ‘n cheese fan I decided to feature this recipe today. It brings back memories of a New York city trip we took to track down the restaurant, S’MAC. Served with a side salad this can be a meal or in a smaller portion an unexpected side dish. I recommend a high quality smoked cheese like the Tillamook brand or the smoked gouda from Revittle

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Smokehouse Bacon Mac ‘N Cheese Cornbread Skillet

8 slices applewood smoked bacon, diced

1 ¾ cups (6 oz) elbow macaroni, cooked

1 cup shredded smoked gouda or cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded pepperjack cheese

4 ounces cream cheese, cubed

¼ cup chopped green onions, plus additional for garnish

6 eggs, divided

3 cups milk, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 (7 oz) package Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

fresh herbs for garnish

Heat oven 400F. Cook bacon in a 10-inch Lodge cast iron skillet until crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate; set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from skillet. On medium heat, add cooked macaroni, smoked cheese, pepperjack cheese and cream cheese, stirring, until cheese begins to melt. Beat 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper; pour into skillet. Add green onions. Cook, stirring, macaroni mixture for 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is well blended. Turn off heat. Spread macaroni evenly over bottom of skillet. Reserve ¼ cup of bacon. Sprinkle remaining bacon evenly over macaroni. In a blender, combine remaining 4 eggs, 2 cups of milk, ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper, cornbread mix and smoked paprika; blend until mixture is smooth and well mixed. Immediately pour over macaroni in skillet. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Garnish with remaining bacon, green onions and fresh herbs. Serve from skillet. 

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Better than gold is quality time spent with those you love most.

Winner-Winner Not Chicken

photo compliments of Martha White

photo compliments of Martha White

Winners all around today. First, big congratulations to “Krista” who is the winner of the fabulous Penzey’s KIND assortment of spices. Krista—please send me your home address, so I can send your prize ASAP. And thanks to everyone who participated. You are all kind winners in my book.

Penzy's Kind Box of Spices

Penzey’s Kind Box of Spices

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be a contestant in the Martha White Cornbread Festival Cook Off down in South Pittsburg, TN. Even luckier I won a prize for my entry. Do give this festive cornbread a try at your next holiday brunch. I promise it will fly off the table. Yes, it is that good and I have a whole bunch of judges that agree.

the garlic cream drizzle is to die for

the garlic cream drizzle is to deliciously decadent

Sweet Yellow Cornbread, Sausage & Tomato Pie with a Garlic Cream Drizzle

½ pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup diced sweet onion

1-tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, divided

2 pkg. (7 oz each) Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional shards for garnish

½ cup milk

½ cup sour cream

3 eggs, lightly beaten

8 fresh basil leaves

Garlic Cream Drizzle (recipe follows)

Heat oven 375F. Brown sausage in a 10-inch Lodge cast iron skillet over medium heat breaking the meat into crumbles with a wooden spoon. Transfer sausage to a paper towel lined plate. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan along with the tomatoes, onions, sugar and ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring, occasionally, for 8 minutes or until tomatoes and onions begins to caramelize. Spread tomato-onion mixture evenly over bottom of pan. Spoon sausage evenly over top. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine cornbread mix, grated parmesan, remaining ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, milk, sour cream, eggs and remaining ¼ cup olive oil; stir until smooth. Pour over hot mixture in skillet. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before inverting onto serving plate. (If any tomatoes or onions stick to bottom of pan simply replace them over cornbread). Top with thin shards of Parmesan cheese. Slice basil into thin slivers; sprinkle on top. Serve with Garlic Cream Drizzle.

Garlic Cream Drizzle

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Martha White corn meal

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 fresh basil leaves

¼ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

In microwave safe 1 cup measure combine heavy cream, corn meal, garlic and basil. Heat on HIGH in microwave for 45 to 60 seconds or until mixture boils. Cool. Discard garlic cloves and basil leaves. In small bowl, whisk sour cream, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; add to cream mixture to make a drizzle consistency.

I am second from the left

I am second from the left

Loss and Giving Thanks

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Celebrating the holidays is especially difficult after losing someone near and dear to the heart. It can be such a time of sadness and of dread. The loss hits hard. It’s a time when one feels like burying their head in the sand rather then planning family gatherings and buying gifts. I remember our first Thanksgiving and Christmas following my son’s death. I could not stop crying. I could not be in my house.  Thankfully, my brother and sister in-law offered to have Thanksgiving at their beach house and my father in-law invited us to North Carolina for Christmas. It was the great escape from so many happy holiday memories. It was a relief to not have to decorate, plan a meal or see an empty chair at my dinner table.

The holidays will never be the same and will always bring some sadness, but I can assure that with time it gets a bit easier.  It becomes a time to decide what you can still be grateful for. For instance, I can truly say that I am so grateful for the 23 years I had with the most amazing son on the planet. I am grateful that I can still hear his voice and feel his hug. I am grateful for all the times he made me laugh and let me take his picture as I see his dazzling smile and loving eyes in so many photos. I am grateful that he is still with me in spirit and that his energy is ever present giving me peace in my heart. And isn’t having peace in one’s heart what the holidays are supposed to be about? Yes, I have many things to be grateful for.

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There isn’t a more peaceful place for me to be than at the beach. Luckily that is where my family is headed this Thanksgiving. What a blessing to be surrounded by family and friends. We will all be banging pots and pans together, enjoying an amazing feast, playing bocce in the sand and searching for sea glass along the shore. We’ll remember all the reasons why we are grateful to be together.

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This year I am grateful for the vegetable garden that keeps on giving. I am amazed that I grew these pumpkins from seed in a plot of ground no bigger than 2 by 4 feet. The pumpkin vines were out of control, but never mind about that. Just yesterday I roasted the baby pumpkin to try out this new recipe I created using some Martha White self-rising cornmeal mix. It is surprisingly moist with a pleasant kick from the warm spices. Hope it makes its way onto your Thanksgiving table or holiday brunch. Let me know if you try it. And if you don’t own a Lodge cast iron skillet that is a must have on your Christmas list.

Spicy Pumpkin Cornbread

2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix*

3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated preferred)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup mashed pumpkin**

3 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup olive oil

Heat oven 425F. Heat a lightly greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the cornmeal mix, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs and olive oil. Add the pumpkin mixture to the cornmeal mixture, stirring just until moistened. Carefully spoon the batter into the hot skillet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick or wooden tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Slice into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

*if cornmeal mix is unavailable substitute 2 cups white cornmeal, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt

**if using canned pumpkin, spread it out on a few layers of paper towels to absorb some of the moisture. It is shocking how much liquid gets absorbed into the paper towels.

Note: to roast the pumpkin all I did was remove the stem, plop the whole pumpkin in an oven-safe skillet and roast at 400F for about an hour or until it is soft and skin is turning dark orange. Cool. Peel away the skin and remove the seeds and stringy stuff inside. Then I put all the pumpkin meat back into the skillet and over medium-low heat cook it for a good 10 or 15 minutes, stirring with a heat-safe rubber spatula, to smooth it out and remove as much moisture as possible. The pumpkin gets sweeter and a little darker in color as it caramelizes. Cool and use in all your favorite pumpkin recipes.