April 27, 2011

"Bless Your Heart" with Laughter and Comfort Food!

It begins with..."My friend Betty Love likes to say the church taught her to love the lord and the church potluck taught her to respect a perfectly shaped gelatin mold!" I was immediately hooked! You will adore reading stories and salivating over recipes (you may even need a bib) from Cora Lynn, Betty Love, Aunt Lutie, Miss Olivia, the DAR and church Circle Meetings!

  "Eddie Ray Barnell, 92 years old, dropped dead in the middle of the night on a Saturday. Heart attack in his backyard. He was in his barefeet and
 to this day, his wife says she has no idea why he went outside.
 Some of us have our suspicions, but we don’t like to talk out of turn!"

Oh, the memories came flooding back about funerals in the Mississippi Delta and then back to Ohio, where we attended town funerals of long-time residents of Grandmother's little town with a population of 300! Let's see, there was the Methodist preacher, Mr. Moffitt (I was age five, I believe), Bessie the Berry Lady, Caroline by the river (I never knew their actual names...this is just what names we knew them by as children). We thought nothing of it other than a social event and going over to the Methodist church to the "viewing" and then gathering in the Sunday School area for the post-funeral feast. I always thoroughly enjoyed those gatherings and the food!

This new found cookbook, "Bless Your Heart..Saving the World One Dish At a Time", is filled with southern stories about church potlucks, preparing casseroles for families of the dearly departed, family reunions, holiday gatherings, tailgate parties, and the always popular all-day singing and dinner on the grounds. Whatever the occasion, Bless Your Heart aims to save the world one covered dish at a time.

Now, the Delta is the epitome of "Being Dead is no Excuse!" Southern fried chicken beautifully displayed on silver trays, sweet iced tea in crystal tea glasses, the best highly-caloric southern casseroles and the desserts....somehow that homemade coconut cake stands out in memory....all served on fine china and eaten with heirloom family sterling!

"What southern lady hasn't arrived with a delicious covered dish
(name written on masking tape on the bottom
so you can get your dish back, of course)
at the church potluck, school fundraiser,
family reunion or funeral home, to show just how much you care?
 We have been called to ‘feed His flock,' haven't we?
But Lord help us if Louise from the post office shows up with that
Brussels sprout soufflé of hers.
 Louise says it's an ‘acquired taste,' but I have yet to meet anyone
who's ‘acquired' it, especially when mired in the throes of grief!"

Although we always plan to have a good time... we revere the dead. Ancestor worship is as valid a form of religion as the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Episcopal denominations in the Mississippi Delta.  Above all, there is funeral food and drink, because "you can’t bury a self-respecting Deltan without certain foods."

With few exceptions, the preferred consolation combinations are high in calories and carbs ("Carb therapy’ may kill us in the long run, but we feel that these foods soak up the alcohol and give us the energy to do what we know we have to do."). Your location within Greenville Cemetery is important, too. One rather snooty Greenville matron had boxwood planted around her grave to block out the neighbors. "She didn't want to be with the hoi polloi," Metcalfe says.

"Top 10 funeral foods" of all time. You can't leave Earth without them

1. Tomato aspic with homemade mayonnaise. "Store-bought aspic is available, but no self-respecting Southerner would be caught dead — sorry! — eating it."
2. Fried chicken. "You should have a variety. A couple of recipes."
3. Stuffed eggs. "A 'polite civil war' rages over whether sweet or savory is preferable."
4. Virginia's Butter Beans. "The crumbled bacon is the crowning glory."
5. Can't-Die-Without-It Caramel Cake. "Start with one box Duncan Hines butter cake mix ..."
6. Homemade rolls. "Most appreciated."
7. Banana nut bread. "Mother's."
8. Aunt Hebe's Coconut Cake. "We're already thinking about this before the last 'amen.' "
9. Methodist Party Potatoes. "If you refuse to cook with cornflakes, skip this recipe."
10. Tenderloin. "Standard fare for the family the night before the funeral."

Banana Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large bananas, mashed
1 cup chopped pecans.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a medium bowl cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and bananas and mix well. Fold in the dry ingredients and the pecans. Pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan to cool.

Ambrosia topping
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/3 cup flaked coconut, toasted
1/3 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar

In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the pineapple, coconut, almonds and sugar. Stir to mix well. To serve: Spread the ambrosia on the sliced banana bread.

"My son had a teacher in high school who would give him extra credit when he brought these delicious brownies to share with the class. They are that good." - Patsy Caldwell

German Chocolate Caramel Squares
 (Termed "Extra Credit" in Bless Your Heart)
1 (14-ounce) bag caramels
2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
1 (18-ounce) package German chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish and set aside. In the top of a double boiler combine the caramels and 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk. Cook over medium heat until the caramels are completely melted. Remove from the heat. In a large bowl combine the cake mix, the remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk, butter and pecans, mixing until everything is incorporated. The dough will be stiff. Divide the dough in half and press half in the prepared baking dish. Bake for 6 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Pour the caramel mixture over the chocolate chips. Press the remaining cake dough on a piece of waxed paper the size of the baking dish. Place on top with dough side down and peel the paper away. Cook for 16 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes. Allow the caramel layer to harden in the refrigerator for 1 hour before cutting into 24 slices.


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