Sunday, November 22, 2015

Southern Cornbread Dressing

Upside down, Thanksgiving is being planned later this year than ever before. With Mom in the hospital we had the holiday meal on hold, but thank God she is improving so it's Katy Bar the Door... menu planning full steam ahead!  One thing for sure... Daddy's Cornbread Dressing will be on the table. It's a family favorite made with homegrown sage that comes from my Mom's farm. My Dad planted that sage over 40 years ago and even though he's gone now, the sage thrives in the garden at Lead Hill. Every fall before frost I pinch off several stems of the fragrant herb, bring it home and dry it. The fragrance of that sage reminds me of years of happy Thanksgivings on the farm. 

My Dad loved preparing his famous chicken and dressing for the holidays. It was his offering, as much from his heart as from the simple ingredients that went into the dish. He had made it so many times for family and church potlucks that he could have made it in his sleep! If you’re from the South, dressing is made from unsweetened cornbread, sauteed onions, celery and sage; slow simmered broth from the chicken and generous amounts of butter make this a cardiologist's nightmare! But it is “Slap Dab Delicious” and comfort food at it’s finest! This is the time honored recipe that Daddy used to make and has been passed down to me and to our daughters to share with their families. It is remembered fondly in our family and immortalized in the Risley Family Cookbook.

Memories... my Dad always used the Crockpot, it smelled so good when we would walk into the house on Thanksgiving!

Daddy's Dressing
1 pan crumbled cornbread (no sugar in cornbread, please!)
1 pan biscuits
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 bunch celery, chopped
1 stick butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons dried whole leaf sage
4-5 cups rich chicken broth 
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare cornbread and biscuits the day before. Cook onion and celery in butter and broth covered until tender. Pour over the crumbled breads in a large bowl, add beaten eggs. Rub the sage between your palms to release the flavor adding to bowl. Add broth to make a very moist consistency (almost soupy, as this bakes it will dry out). Adjust seasonings adding salt, pepper and more sage if desired. Bake 350* for 45 minutes until hot, or place mixture in crock pot on HIGH until hot then turn to LOW to keep warm

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I see the red barn...

I think of my Grandma Keeling often this time of year. I associate a warm kitchen and the aromas of the holidays with her. Although she's been gone for 40 years now, I can still see her in that little kitchen at Lead Hill. Thanksgiving was always at Grandma's house. We'd make the trip down to Arkansas after Daddy would get off work. I'd sleep part of the way, waking up when we headed down the big hill that turned into their gravel driveway. You could see the porch lights and the glow of the kitchen windows shining brightly in the cold November night. The house would smell delicious as we came through the service porch, pies and broth and sage all mingled together.

The next morning when I woke up, she and Mom would have already started the preparations for the big meal. Grandma in her apron with the big pockets, their voices would go up and down depending on what they were discussing. Grandma was always cheerful and she spoke often of friends and family. She was a prayer warrior, sprinkled into her sentences were the mention of those who were in need of a prayer sent up. "Bless Cora May, she's going through a hard time right now." We always knew who was sick or sad or down on their luck. Grandma would laugh and talk non stop as she cooked dinner, making trips to and from the pantry. In that pantry were rows and rows of tomatoes and green beans, pickles and relishes, jams and jellies. Every jar she opened, she'd say the same thing... "Isn't it good to have plenty?"

Today as we celebrate with a table loaded with our favorite dishes, in a warm house with family all around us, we feel blessed and loved and her voice rings in my ears. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chicken Dumpling Soup

I've made this many times since I ran this last year, it's one of our favorites! Today is shaping up to be another busy day so I have a chicken in the crockpot and when I get home late today I'll whip up a pot of this soup. Don't tell anyone it takes less than 30 minutes... it'll be our little secret!

I've had to go to the dealership twice this week for maintenance on the car, I hope I don't have to go back for awhile. Akin to setting in a doctor's office, you are at their mercy and a hour drags by as you set in the waiting room with coughing people, blaring tv and kids who are misbehaving. By the time I got finished there it was after 3 and I went to Wal-mart to pick up a few things. Bad idea since after 3 is when everyone else goes to Wal-mart, when the kids get out of school I guess. I had a list, but you know how that goes... you start lookin' and then you start reading and then the next thing you know, your cart is FULL! I hadn't planned on buying a new cookbook yesterday, until I saw this new paperback publication by Gooseberry Patch. Comfort Food 101, I know it doesn't say that, but that's what it is. Inside the covers are a primer for anyone who has to get a meal on the table in an orderly time frame. Quick to fix recipes that are down home good. As I was thumbing through, I see the Chicken Dumpling Soup that we had at Stone Mill this week. OH MY GOODNESS! The recipe, I hear Angels singing...

You won't believe how easy this went together. I got home at 4:30 and it was ready when Jerry walked in the door an hour later. His favorite food, in soup form was simmering on the stove. I think I'll be getting flowers or maybe a dinner out for this little magic trick...

Chicken & Dumplin' Soup  PRINT RECIPE
10 3/4-oz. can cream of chicken soup
4 cups chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 (15-oz.) cans mixed vegetables, drained *I used a handful of peas and carrots instead
12-oz. tube refrigerated biscuits, quartered *I used Mary B's frozen Butter Biscuits, slightly thawed 
Optional: pepper to taste

Combine soup and broth in a 6 quart stockpot; bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking until smooth. Stir in chicken and vegetables, bring to a boil. Drop biscuit quarters into soup; cover and simmer 15 minutes. Let soup stand covered for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle each serving with pepper, if desired. Serves 6-8

*This can't be improved on much, it's almost perfect! Cut the biscuits in smaller pieces since they puff up quite a bit. They are super tender and really, really good, I was a little skeptical of the whole biscuit thing! My husband ate two bowls, that's like a rating system at my house... 2 bowls is like 5 stars! If you buy rotisserie chicken or have leftover from another day, this recipe is on the table in less than 30 minutes.

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