Monday, August 13, 2007


If you don’t already know it, I LOVE FOOD. I come from a family of food lovers and it is not surprising that I married a person who happens to cook. Have you heard the story about how I ate raw onions as a baby? Evidently, there was not a thing that I would NOT put in my mouth. As a young child, my mom watched in horror as I chomped down on a half-eaten apple in the parking lot outside our townhouse. I believe I was simply priming my gourmet palate for greater foods upon the horizon.

I remember so many wonderful foods and smells coming from our kitchen growing up: baked apples, pumpkin bread, spaghetti, fried chicken, chicken divan and so many more scrumptious dishes.

Dad loved to bake and it was not uncommon to see him cooking his heart out, on a Saturday afternoon. He has been crowned “Billy Crocker” because of his delectable pies, sweet rolls and breads that rival some of the best bakers in town. He has made some real classics over the years that are a “must” at our family gatherings.

Mom made all of our meals growing up and she worked so hard at making sure all of our them were balanced and nutritious. She would wake up every morning and ask us what we wanted for breakfast. I think she would have made cheese blintzes for us if we asked. I think she enjoys cooking a lot more now that we are adults (maybe there aren’t as many interruptions) and truly has become one of the best cooks I know. My mouth waters every time we sit down for a meal at her house. All of her dishes are like Lady Di herself: simple, clever, divine and delicious. Many of Dee Dee’s dishes are in this cookbook.

I have a LOT of memories of my Grandma’s cooking because I think we spent most of our time in her kitchen preparing our next meal. I believe that when you go to your grandparent’s house, you want to eat specific meals that only YOUR grandparents make for you, every time you visit. Our standard breakfast was soft scrambled eggs (her trick was cooking the eggs VERY SLOW on low heat with a little butter), Pepperidge Farm VERY thin white toast, bacon and a small cup of extra sweet, creamy coffee. She had a booth in her kitchen like a restaurant and Sarah and I would sit down to eat our breakfast with Grandma and Papa—and it was always the same routine, EVERY time. Grandma would kick me under the table and say “Who is that kicking your leg? Who IS that kicking your leg?”. Sarah and I would burst into giggles and watch Grandma and Papa beam with pride at their two grandchildren. Grandma never varied from that meal and I think that gave us a sense of comfort. My memories of Papa included raw oysters. He would take me into the kitchen, open up the refrigerator, pull out oysters, one by one, from a jar and give me a spoon of ketchup to chase it down with. We would eat several oysters like this with the refrigerator door open. Grandma would scream, “I swear, I have never seen a child eat RAW oysters like that. Allen, can you get a plate and close the refrigerator door?” Other unforgettable Grandma dishes were: Potato Soup, Scalloped Potatoes, and Forgotten Cookies. When I eat those foods, they remind me of Grandma and I could swear she is right here with me, snapping green beans and making jokes in her kitchen.

Mimi and Dickie also loved to cook. When all of the cousins spent the night, Dickie would get up real early and make breakfast for the kids. He would make coffee for him and a huge pot of cream of wheat for us. I love how Dickie made Cream of Wheat. It was hot, lumpy, yet creamy and really sweet. Mimi liked to make the kids Spaghetti-O’s for dinner and scrambled eggs with Season salt for breakfast. The smell of Season Salt, Joy dishwashing liquid, Jergins Hand Lotion, Sherry and Chicklets reminds me of Mimi (“Who wants some Chewn Gum? and “Who’s the best girl in the world?” and “Look who ate all their spaghetti-o’s” were some familiar phrases from Mimi). I know, it sounds like Mimi didn’t really cook, but this woman was passionate about food. When the kids were finished eating, she would dish out huge helpings of Seafood Cioppino and Chicken Coc Au Vin for the adults. I can still see her at the stove, stirring that big white and black pot . And as Frances said, “With a martini in one hand and a leopard print housecoat and kitten heels—dressed to the nines!”

I loved to play around in the kitchen when I was in high school and came up with a million different ways to prepare mashed potatoes. I believe my specialty was A-1 Steak Sauce mashed potatoes. It sounds dreadful, but it was really very good. One time, my Dad and I made ricotta cheese stuffed Manicotti. We had stuffed each pasta shell lovingly with ricotta and mozzarella cheese, poured home-made tomato sauce over the top and after five hours of preparing and an hour in the oven, we had a wonderful Italian meal.

And then I met Pete and he opened my eyes to all sorts of wonderful, exotic foods. During our first month of dating, he made me a simple sandwich and soup. There was nothing outwardly exciting about this meal, but he took the time to toast the bread and make the Campbell’s Tomato Soup extra creamy with milk (not water!). He had me at “Here’s your lunch”….. I remember meeting his parents for the first time. It was at a picnic and Ed was so excited he ran to the parking lot to meet us at our car. Zofia had on a gold lame headband and was in rare form, excited to meet her son’s new girlfriend. His parents were so warm and welcoming and I felt an instant connection with these wonderful people who would soon become my in-laws. It wasn’t until I went to their house for dinner that I realized what an amazing cook, Zofia was. We had these delicious meatballs and home-made polish Pierogies. It was unbelievable! I wanted to crawl into Zofia’s lap and never leave. I was in HEAVEN!!! After meeting the Fordonski’s, I worked in their restaurant and was introduced to Zofia’s Almond Chicken Salad, Turkey Timothy’s, Cream of Mushroom soup, Golumpki’s (Polish Stuffed Cabbage) and Potato Knishes.

Sarah started out, just like I did, as a very nervous cook. This also made Stephen nervous and after a few cooking scars (that darn fried chicken), she soon developed her own cooking style. Sarah likes to get cozy as much as possible and this warm, welcoming feeling is reflected in her cooking. She just oozes comfort with dishes like Cheddar Chicken Chowder and her South of The Border Chicken Casserole. Through years of practice, she has fast become master of the square meal in the Hyser household and Stephen can’t wait to come to the dinner table. What a good mommy!

And speaking of Stephen...Uncle Steve is known for his love of all things meat, even dessert meat. He is our resident “pancake maker” and can be seen at the stove, on Saturday mornings, cooking Molly’s favorite pancake breakfast. He also enjoys cooking his own hearty Chili and has come up with a secret spice combination that only HE knows the recipe for. Stephen could not be reached for comment, but his “publicist” tells me he is preparing a press conference.

Pete is a brilliant cook and has many signature dishes that are my absolute favorites: home-made Chicken Parmesan, Campfire Salmon, and Grouper Imperial to name a few. Pete never uses a recipe and cooks from feel, smell and taste. I envy his ease in the kitchen and his creative menus. He is a true artist with food and it is very difficult pulling recipes from him because he stores them all in his head. It would literally take us years to figure out how to put it all down on paper. In this cookbook, I have managed to un-veil the following recipes from Pete: Cream of Spinach, Port wine mushrooms & onions gravy and Bread Crumb Green Beans. I hope we can do another cookbook with all of his recipes. Until then, they will remain a mystery and we will continue eating each and every morsel.

So as you can see, I have a love affair with food. It has brought me and my family so much joy over the years with all of our dinners and gatherings. Great memories were made at each dining room table. I decided that this Christmas, I wanted to celebrate all of our favorite dishes by putting together a Family Cook Book: THE BEST EVER COOKBOOK. I hope that as you cook with these recipes you will be joined by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present and the wisdom of cookbook writers. There is an old Irish proverb that says “ Laughter is brightest when food is best” That is so true with our family because we are a family who loves to laugh and we ALL can cook! Enjoy!


Breakfast Casserole

This is a great recipe to make ahead for your house guests and one we have been using for years.

4 eggs

6 slices bread,

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese,

2 cups chopped ham or 1 lb sausage (scrambled)

1 tsp dry mustard

2 cups milk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Cut crust off bread and line bottom of casserole. Mix all other ingredients and pour over bread. May be refrigerated several days or frozen before baking (if not completely thawed, allow more time for baking). Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.


This recipe comes from the Woodbourne Family Cookbook. Woodbourne was our ancestral home in Virginia and in 1972, my great Aunt Katherine Conway Haymes put together a history book filled with recipes. Recipe books seem to be all the rage, don’t ya think?

Decide if you are going to use refrigerated pie dough for two pie plates or
thaw 2 frozen pie shells.

Line unbaked shells with 1/2 lb Swiss Cheese, cut into strips.

On top of cheese put 1 lb cooked sausage, dried ham or crab meat (w/ a splash
of Sherry).

Combine:1 1/2 cups milk 6 eggs1 tbs flour 1 tsp salt/1 tsp pepper

Beat well and pour into shells. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Ham & Egg Cups

I saw this recipe on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and we unveiled our creation at Christmas Brunch last year. It was delicious, divine and de-easy!

1/4 lb mushrooms, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely copped shallot (or onion)

Unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 Tbs. sour cream

1 Tbs. Finely chopped fresh tarragon

12 slices Virginia ham or honey ham -without holes (10oz.)

12 medium eggs

Garnish: fresh whole tarragon leaves

Accompaniment: buttered English muffins

Special Equipment: a muffin tin with 12 muffin cups Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Prepare Mushrooms: Cook mushrooms and shallot in butter with salt and pepper in a large heave skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until mushrooms are tender and liquid they give off is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crème fraiche and tarragon.

Assemble and bake: Fit 1 slice of ham into each of 12 light oiled muffin cups (ends will stick up and hang over edges of cups). Divide mushrooms among cups and crack 1 egg into each. Bake in middle of oven until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny. About 15-20 minutes. Season eggs with salt and pepper and remove (with ham) from muffin cups carefully, using 2 spoons or small spatulas. If you have tough fingers, just pick them up by the edges of the ham. Serve two per guest, one with a tarragon leaf or other green herb leaf for garnish, and the other with a sliver of tomato or red bell pepper.

French Toast Casserole

First made at a roadside tavern not far from the city of Albany in 1724, there are few dishes more truly American than the breakfast favorite known as "French toast". So American is the dish that very few can understand why it is not called "American toast", "Albany Toast" or even "New York State toast". The confusion comes because the owner of the tavern at which the dish was invented had a very poor knowledge of grammar. When Joseph French decided to name the dish after himself he should have written his invention as "French's toast" (that is to say, the toast of French). Because he did not know how to use the possessive apostrophe, however, the dish appeared on his menu simply as "French toast".

1 (16 oz) Challah Bread Loaf, cubed

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, cut into pieces

6 Large eggs 4 cups Half and Half

1/2 cup butter or margarine , melted

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1 (10 oz) jar strawberry preserves.

Arrange half of Challah bread in a lightly greased 13 x 9 pan. Sprinkle with cheese pieces and top with remaining bread. Whisk together eggs, Half n Half, Butter/margarine and maple syrup; pour over bread mixture, pressing bread cubes to absorb egg mixture. Cover and chill 8 hours. Bake, covered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 more minutes. Heat sliced strawberries and strawberry preserves in a saucepan over low heat and serve over casserole. French bread may be substituted.

Hash Brown Casserole

Hash browns have the ability to make or break a breakfast. Some mornings, no matter how good the eggs might be -- the portions seem too small without a solid side dish. Burnt or underdone potatoes can leave a bad impression that lasts the entire day. But on the other hand, the taste of great hash browns can travel right from the mouth to the soul. Browns with the edges crisped to perfection are the stuff of legends.

1- 30 oz package frozen hash browns (shredded

1- 8 oz container of Sour Cream

1- 10 1/2 oz can condensed cream of chicken soup

2 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 stick plus 2 tbs butter, melted

3 cups cornflakes

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine hash browns, sour cream, soup, cheese, onion and about 2/3 of the melted butter. Spread in pan. Cook for 30 minutes. Re-melt reserved butter and combine with cornflakes; spread over casserole. Return to oven and cook an additional 15 minutes, until topping is lightly browned.

Cheese Grits Casserole

The Clark family was introduced to Grits back in 1976 when we arrived in Atlanta. It is amazing how many ways you can each grits: sweet, savory, but always creamy. This is a warm cozy recipe with a touch of zing (pepper sauce). A great accompaniment to your brunch. Good with shrimp for dinner!

3 cups water

3/4 cups quick grits

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
cheese, divided

3/4 cup Evaporated Milk

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

PREHEAT oven to 375°F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. BRING water to a boil in a medium saucepan; slowly stir in grits. Cover pan; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes.

ADD 1½ cups cheese, evaporated milk and butter to saucepan; stir until cheese and butter are melted. Add eggs, hot pepper sauce and pepper; stir well. Pour into prepared baking dish; sprinkle with remaining cheese.

BAKE for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.


In our family, a few appetizers with a glass of wine, a Sea Breeze or a beer is key in starting a wonderful evening. Please do not rush us. We enjoy this time so much! Let’s just have a drink, listen to some music, have a little snack and visit for a little while. These are all ingredients for a fabulous dinner party.

The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends among civilized people, and warms the heart." ~ Samuel Chamberlain

Hearts of Palm Spread

This is a nice alternative to a yummy artichoke dip and sure to make a hungry group happy. Serve with crackers.

1 (14 oz) can hearts of palm drained and chopped

3/4 cup light mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1 cup (4 oz) shredded Mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons minced green onions

Paprika to taste

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the hearts of palm, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream and green onions in a bowl and mix well. Spoon into a greased 9 inch quiche pan or pie plate. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

Yield: 24 servings

Bacon and Tomato Crisps

You will swear you were eating a BLT (minus the “L”) on toasted bread. People will scream at the top of their lungs, “What IS this we are eating? This is INCREDIBLE!!!!” and you can lie and say it is Bacon Brushetta and it took you hours to make. It will take you exactly 3 minutes to make this appetizing appetizer.

1 package of Rice crackers (I like the sesame kind)
1 package of REAL bacon bits
Add Enough mayonnaise (light or regular) to make a nice dip consistency
2 Roma tomatoes
Black Pepper (to taste)

Combine the bacon and mayonnaise. Spoon a small amount on a cracker. Slice Roma tomatoes and put a 1/2 slice on each cracker. Sprinkle with pepper. You can get more gourmet and add fresh basil or arugula (to add the “L” in your BLT) or you can use cream cheese instead of mayonnaise for a different taste.

Chex Patio Mix

This was ripped from the pages of some Ladies Magazine back in 1976. The ad read, “Chex Patio Mix for the Summer of 76 (our bicentennial year). This has been a holiday and beach snack with our family for over 30 years (Yikes! Isn’t that scary?).

6 tablespoons butter/margarine
2 cups Corn Chex
1 tablespoon Seasoned Salt
2 cups Rice Chex
2 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce or Garlic Powder
2 cups Wheat Chex
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup Pretzel stick
1 cup salted nuts

Melt butter in big pot, on low heat. Stir in seasonings. Blend well. Add Chex, pretzels and peanuts. Mix until pieces are coated. Heat and stir for 10 minutes (keep at low heat). Cool on paper towels.

Cheese Crispies

Cheese Crispies are what a Cheese-It wants to be it grows up. This was well-used Katherine Haymes’ recipe from the Woodbourne Cookbook and it will knock your socks off. I remember eating these cheesy, crunchy snacks at many of our Bowling/Poindexter/Clark beach visits. A great addition to a ladies brunch or shower.

1 stick room temperature margarine
1 cup shredded sharp cheese
1 cup flour 1/8 tsp Cayenne (red) pepper
1/8 tsp salt 1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup Rice Crispies

Soften margarine and mix with cheese. Add flour, salt and Cayenne. Add nuts and Rice Crispies. Make into small balls and flatten with fork. Chill. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Spinach Dip

A Classic recipe that has all the elements of a good appetizer: A vegetable (mamma would be proud), it’s creamy AND crunchy at the same time. Just follow these simple steps and you will have a huge HIT on your hands. I promise to tell YOU if you have spinach in your teeth, if you promise to tell ME.

1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 1/2 cups Sour Cream
1 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise
1 pkg Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix
1 can (8 oz) water chestnuts, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped

Squeeze spinach until dry. In medium bowl, stir together spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, soup mix, water chestnuts and green onions. Cover, refrigerate 2 hours. If desired, hollow out a pumpernickel bread loaf (set discarded bread pieces aside), pour in spinach dip. Cube discarded bread and dip bread in dip. You can also serve with tortilla or “Scoops” corn chips. Delish!

Black Olive Spread

If you can believe this….Charlotte LOVES olive spread and we love to make it for her because we can’t believe she actually eats it. We discovered this wonderful dip at our favorite Italian restaurant: La Strada. They serve it with sliced, toasted wedges of French bread and butter. Very easy to make and delicious over a cracker and crab dip. There are no real rules to this recipe. Just make it.

2 cans black olives
1 jar of chopped garlic in olive oil (you decide how much garlic you want)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine olives and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add salt and pepper. Chill.

“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’reconvinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be goodat it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”~ James Beard


Haven’t you noticed that over the past few years, salads have become more than just lettuce and a few vegetables? They have become works of art. Our family has some true masterpieces that will make your mouth water.

Wet Salad
A summer would not be complete with out the ubiquitous Wet Salad. The Clark Family has been doing it for years and soon we found out the Fordonski’s also made their own version adding in Crème Fraiche (or sour cream)

2 Large Tomatoes
1 Large Vidalia Onion
1 Cucumber (the Fordonski’s use a French Cucumber)
Red Wine or Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Slice tomatoes, onion and cucumbers in the bite size chunks. Add your Vinegar, Salt and Pepper. Let chill

If you want to make the Fordonski version, drain the salad in a strainer and right before serving, add Crème Fraiche or your Sour Cream.

Crunchy Oriental Salad

Diane, Mamma Dee, Dee Dee (whatever you want to call her) first brought this salad to the dinner table back in 1997. People go NUTS over this salad. Get ready to chop some cabbage folks because you will feel like you are chopping for days (it’s not too bad). It is worth all the chopping because you will have a crowd-pleasing salad on your hands.

1 Head of Napa Cabbage
2 Packages of Ramen Noodles (crushed in bag)
1 Small package of slivered almonds
2 tsp Sesame Seeds

Dressing: 1/2 Cup Rice Vinegar 1/2 Cup Sugar 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil 2 Tbs Soy Sauce

5 or 6 Diced Green Onion Stalks
1/2 Cup of Margarine

Step 1: Chop Cabbage (fine). Add chopped green onion.
Step 2: Brown crushed noodles, almonds and 1/2 cup margarine—drain on paper towel.
Step 3: Put your oil, soy Sauce, Rice Vinegar and sugar in a dressing container and shake till blended.


Mom’s Waldorf Salad

A great way to get rid of fruit. Mom always made this for us and it served as the fruit section of the FOUR BASIC FOOD GROUPS (you always gave us such well-rounded meals! Thank you! ). I have no idea if this is the original Waldorf Astoria recipe, but it sure is good!

2 bananas 2 apples
1 cup raisins Nuts (Grandma used walnuts)
2 tablespoons Mayonnaise A splash of milk.

Chop fruit in bowl. In separate bowl, mix mayonnaise and milk. Pour over fruit and chill.

Sarah’s Cranberry Relish

This is a Thanksgiving favorite for our family. Sarah has been bringing the cranberry dish for years and this, by far, is her very best. It is SO fresh and tangy. A very nice palate cleanser!

1 Package (12 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 Cup or more sugar
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp orange peel

Mix in pan to dissolve sugar and simmer until berries pop (“Simma down now!”). Chill in refrigerator and …..SCENE…..

Cornucopia Salad

Those two words will send chills down the spines of most women. This salad has been prepared at many showers, luncheons, ladies parties and became the “talk of the town” when it was first introduced. Even the men will admit they LOVE this salad. You will eat this again and again and again and NEVER get sick of it.

1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1 Medium Head Green Leaf Lettuce, torn
4 green onions, chopped
1 can mandarin oranges 1 avocado
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese

Dressing: 1/4 Cup Vegetable oil 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsle 2 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine the almonds and sugar in a small skillet. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the almonds are browned, stirring constantly. Remove to foil to cool. Combine the lettuce, green onions, mandarin oranges, avocado, apple, cranberries, cheese and toasted almonds in a salad bowl. Add oil and vinegar dressing and toss to mix. Yield: 6 servings.

Also good topped with sliced grilled chicken.

Broccoli Salad

We may actually get Dad to eat this. IT IS SO GOOD. Crunchy, sweet and satisfying. 1 lb Bacon 4 cups broccoli florets

5 green onions 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup golden raisins 1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup white sugar 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Place bacon in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly browned. Cool, crumble and set aside. In a large bowl, toss together broccoli, green onions, sunflower seed, raisins and bacon. In a small bowl, mix together mayo, sugar and red wine vinegar. Toss with vegetables to coat. Cover and chill until serving.


The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… [Bread making is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."~ M. F. K. Fisher

Grandma’s Buttermilk Cornbread

Do you remember when Grandma would make cornbread and we would all fight over who got to eat the first slice? Actually, Grandma never made cornbread and I made that last sentence up for this cookbook - but this is a great recipe! If you have to eat cornbread—sweet cornbread is the best. No more bland cornbread recipes like the one Grandma used to make.

  • 1 /4 lb butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 inch square pan. Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and mix until well blended. Stir in cornmeal, flour and salt until well blended and a few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30—40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Old Fashioned Spoon Bread

I do remember when Frances Bishopp made this wonderful meal for us at Katherine’s house. We had stuffed chicken and spoon bread. It was TO DIE FOR!!! This is an old southern recipe and was the original comfort food before Hagen Daz.

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal, stone or water ground, if possible
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Combine cornmeal and salt in a mixing bowl. Stirring constantly, add boiling water; keeping smooth. Stir in the melted butter. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until thickened and pale in color. Add milk and beat to combine. Add milk and egg mixture to the cornmeal mixture with baking powder. Use hand mixer to or whisk to blend. Turn into a generously greased, 8 inch square glass baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until firm. Serve with plenty of butter.

Easy Drop Biscuits

This is one of the easiest breads to make. Delicious with a little butter and a slice of Virginia Ham. For an extra treat, add some shredded sharp cheddar cheese (try saying THAT five times).

  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 2 tablespoons White Sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Cream of Tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup Melted butter
  • 1 cup Milk

Pre-Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, white sugar, cream of tartar and salt. Stir in butter and milk just until softened. Drop batter on a lightly greased cookie sheet by tablespoon. Bake in preheated oven until golden on the edges about 8-12 minutes. Serve warm.

Crane House Pumpkin Bread

I love the smell of Pumpkin Bread in the morning. It smells like….the Clark house during the holidays! Dad spends the day in the kitchen, baking away and each handmade loaf is delivered to friends far and wide. A tried and true Billy Crocker recipe!

  • 1 cup corn oil
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup golden seedless raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9X5 inch loaf pans; set aside. In medium bowl, combine oil, eggs, water and pumpkin and stir until well mixed. In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add liquid ingredients and stir just until well mixed. Stir in raisins and nuts. Spoon evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Makes 2 loaves. About 18 slices per loaf. About 185 calories per slice (if you are counting em’).

Billy Crocker’s Famous Banana Bread

Three smells remind me of my dad: Binaca breath spray, Skin Bracer aftershave and banana bread. No matter where I am in the world, (and I am one crazy traveling fool) the smell of banana bread will always bring me back home. This bread is best served while warm and with a little butter or margarine on top. Instant comfort!

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg beaten
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Mashed Ripe Bananas
  • 1 tbs lemon juice

Combine butter and sugar (cream until light and fluffy). Add egg and sour cream. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients with creamed and add banana. Add lemon juice.
Put in greased and floured loaf pan. Bake at 375 for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. If you are giving as a gift, don’t wrap it while it’s warm You can also freeze it in tin foil.

Easy Zucchini Muffins

Yes, I just said Zucchini and you’re going to eat it or no TV before bed! You will not have to beg your loved ones to eat their zucchini any more because you will just hide it in their muffins. Just tell them it is a banana muffin and watch them eat the entire thing. But seriously folks, this muffin can’t be beat!.....I’ll be here all week!

  • 3 eggs well beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 cups grated Zucchini, drained
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Stir items in order together (go left to right). Pour into greased/floured muffin tins or into muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 25—30 minutes. Makes 2 dozen muffins.


Side dishes are the little sisters of cooking. Your mom will not let her big chicken go to the plate without bringing your little sister “Mac n Cheese” along. And in this case... Momma may be right! Sides are the real stars of the family and make the perfect meal! Ok...I’m kind of running out of things to say. What’s my next theme? How about, “Desserts or Deserts— which is it?”

Ashley’s Tomato Pie

This is such a wonderful summer side dish. You will love the marriage of flavors: zesty tomatoes, creamy ricotta, gooey mozzarella cheese and the crunch of the pie crust. This is a GREAT brunch menu item. If you want to save money and time, buy canned whole tomatoes and slice them. They taste just as good!

  • 1- 9 inch refrigerated pie crust
  • 2 1/2 cups Mozzarella Cheese (divided)
  • 1 15 oz tub Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 egg Salt & Pepper to taste

Slice tomatoes into bite size pieces. Place on doubled paper towels and sprinkle evenly with salt. Let set 5 minutes. Top with another layer double layer of paper towels and lightly press to absorb moisture. Let tomatoes set between the paper towels for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pie crust in a glass pie plate; prick bottom and sides with a fork. Bake for 8 minutes (do not fully cook). Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese in bottom of hot pie crust—spread evenly on bottom. Cool. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Lightly beat your egg and pour into bowl with ricotta and mayo. Layer tomato slices in the pie crust; sprinkle with pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. Carefully top the tomatoes with the ricotta mixture and then top with remaining mozzarella - pressing out to the edges. Cut a ring of foil and cover the pie crust edges—place pie in oven (on a cookie sheet) and bake for 30—40 minutes or until the top is brown and the pie is bubbling.

Classic Sweet Potato Casserole

Every year, we ask each family member to bring a dish to our Thanksgiving dinner. My mother always brings sweet potato casserole. It is my most favorite side dish and the recipe has varied over the years because my mom wants to keep it interesting. THIS YEAR, she made enough to feed a flea and I only got one tiny scoop. She has no idea why she didn’t double the recipe to feed 12 people, but I almost cancelled Thanksgiving for the rest of our lives. I LOVE her Sweet Potato Casserole because it has everything I like in a dish: sweet, creamy and crunchy.

  • 4 cups hot mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 1/3 cup Orange Juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 package Kraft Miniature Marshmallows

Combine sweet potatoes, margarine, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange juice and salt. Add 1 cup marshmallows. Beat until fluffy. Spoon into 1 1/2 qt. casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with additional marshmallows. Broil until lightly browned.

Tee’s Corn Pudding

I have no idea who Tee is, but I sure like his corn pudding. I got this recipe from Southern Living and I think it will suit YOU like a Tee.

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 6 cups fresh corn kernels (I use frozen)

Combine sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together eggs, whipping cream and butter. Gradually add sugar mixture and whisk until smooth; stir in corn. Pour into a lightly greased 13x9 inch baking dish.

Pete’s Creamed Spinach

When I met Pete, I realized that he could grind up tire rubber, add cream to it and I would eat it. Pete can make ANYTHING taste good. If you are not a huge spinach fan, you will be after you try this dish. It is so creamy and warm—you will swear you were at the finest steak house. A very good addition to your steak dinner.

  • 2 (10oz) packages frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 tbs Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Half n Half
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

In lightly salted water, cook spinach till hot. Lightly drain water from pot using lid. Stir in butter. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, Half n Half until smooth. Stir mixture into spinach over low heat. Stir frequently for 3—5 minutes or until flour is cooked through. Salt and Pepper to taste. Optional (but strongly recommended) top with high quality shredded Parmesan-Regiano Cheese.

Pete’s Port Wine Mushroom and Onions

This is actually like a chunky gravy. If you are having that steak dinner (see spinach recipe above), this is absolutely wonderful topped on your steak AND baked potatoes. This has been a tradition of ours for years. We don’t always use the port (sometimes it is just cooked in butter), but it will be a gravy people will talk about for weeks. Also good as a topper for mashed potatoes.

  • 1 Medium onion , medium sized chopped
  • 1 lb Sliced mushrooms
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup Port (the nicer, the better)
  • 1/2 cup Half n Half
  • 2 tbs Butter
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil (regular ok/Extra Virgin better)
  • 1/2 bunch of Italian Parsley, chopped

Pour olive oil into a large pan. Over medium/high heat, Saute (in order): onions until carmelized (8-10 minutes), then garlic until softened (3 min), then lower heat to medium and cook the Mushrooms until they are soft (5 minutes). Raise heat to high and add Port Wine. Allow to reduce by half (5 minutes). Add Half n Half and reduce (3 minutes). Lower heat to simmer. Add butter and blend into mixture. Turn heat off. Salt & Pepper to taste. Stir in parsley.

Note: Parsley may be substituted with Sage or Rosemary. As far as mushrooms are concerned, Baby Portabellas or White Buttons work well, but for a special treat, use an exotic mushroom

Green Beans with Breadcrumbs

This is an old Polish recipe. Pete and his family have always eaten green beans this way and after tasting one bite—you will never want them any other way.

  • 1 lb Fresh Green Beans, cleaned & trimmed
  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter
  • 1 cup Unseasoned Breadcrumbs
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

In salted boiling water, add Green Beans. Cook until tender. Drain. Melt Butter in large pan on medium heat. Stir in Bread Crumbs. Add Green Beans. Toss until all are coated. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Cauliflower Au Gratin

Everyone has to go through the low carb/no carb phase in their life. During this episode in OUR lives, Pete came up with a way to have the taste and feel of potatoes au Gratin. The good news is that cheese is king on a low carb diet. You will be amazed at how good this is—low carb OR high carb living.

  • 1 bag frozen cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz heavy whipped cream
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Run cool water over cauliflower in colander to separate pieces. Spray large casserole dish and layer 1/2 cauliflower on bottom. Season with salt and pepper; layer with half of onions and thinly sliced pats of butter. Add 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat layers. Pour cream over top and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

I think everyone needs a Macaroni and Cheese recipe up their sleeve. Kraft Mac and Cheese is an easy stand by when you don’t have the time, but think of the cheers you will hear if a dish of home made macaroni and cheese finds it’s way to your dinner table. The child in all of us will enjoy this classic dish from Southern Living Magazine.

  • 8 oz package large elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp onion salt
  • 4 1/2 cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter melted
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

In a large pot, boil the macaroni in salted water and olive oil according to your package directions. Drain well, put back in pot and set aside. Place milk, pepper, onion salt, and flour in a 1 qt. jar, cover tightly and mix vigorously for 1 minute. Stir together milk/flour mixture, 3 1/2 cups cheese and macaroni. Pour into a lightly greased 13 x 9 casserole dish. Sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs and remaining cheddar cheese. Drizzle with evenly melted butter. Bake at 450 degrees, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden brown.