June 28, 2011

Mississippi Summers.....Going Home!

I would call Miss Judy and say, "Hey! Are you gonna' go home this weekend?" Her reply was usually, "Yes, I had planned to." And so it was decided! We would load up that too-small Datsun with four children and two adults (ridiculous) and head out from Dothan on the seven hour drive to Jackson, usually arriving at 1:00 AM! Mother would  be waiting up for us. The minute we all entered the front door....the feel, the smells, the kitchen...all of it....I knew I was home! I would hug my tiny mother all wrapped up in her pink robe even though it was 99 degrees outside. She blasted the AC but she would always say "you know you get colder as you get older!" Off to bed we would go!

Miss Judy arrived on Saturday, usually late morning. We would look out the dining room picture window and see her red van drive up. She would unload the van and bring in arm fulls of summer produce that she had picked up along the drive from Pensacola. The most wonderful thing about the drive from Big P to Jackson was traveling through Mobile and all of the small Alabama towns in which local farms would display their summer crops at roadside produce stands. Tomatoes, Squash, Butter Beans, Pole Beans, Cucumbers (Cukes), ears of sweet corn,  Peaches, Watermelons, and Strawberries! This would last Mother for a month at least.

We would then jump in the car and drive up to Kroger. This is one of my favorite memories! Mother was no longer driving at this point in time after having had a little fender bender in the Kroger parking lot.  So the weekends we were able to visit, she would relish going grocery shopping and Kroger was her favorite grocery store! She would say, "ok, what shall we make for supper?" We took our time during the stroll through the grocery, as she would always meet up with a few friends she had not seen in a while. It was a social occasion for her obviously! Reminding Mother that we could only stay the weekend, and would have to head back to Dothan and Pensacola on Sunday afternoon, we would use some of the summer produce from Alabama to prepare (we call it "fix") dinner for Saturday night. We always made a squash casserole, summer succotash and a dessert. Judy's favorite was lemon chess pie so there were times, this calorie laden dessert was on the menu! I cherish those days. I always said I would try to live life with no regrets. That probably is a goal to strive for, but nearly impossible to ever achieve. I regret the time...not having enough of it! I can no longer go home to Jackson and walk in the front door of our house, sleep in my bedroom, share dinner in our dining room, have breakfast in the kitchen, or have morning coffee on the back porch. I can no longer kiss my mother good-bye. I can no longer share a grocery shopping trip with her. I regret not spending more weekends in Jackson visiting. So...I revisit these memories often....especially walking into the front doors at Kroger with mother.......

Miss Helen's Summer Succotash
1 cup fresh butter beans
 2 cups fresh corn kernels (3 large ears)
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
 1/4 teaspoon pepper

 Cook butter beans in boiling salted water to cover 20 minutes or until tender; drain.
 Sauté corn in 1 Tbsp. hot oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp-tender.
 Whisk together lemon juice, next 4 ingredients, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl; stir in corn and butter beans. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 3 days.

Summer Squash Casserole
1 1/2 pounds yellow squash
1 pound zucchini
1 small sweet onion, chopped
 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup grated carrots
 1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1 (8-oz.) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
 1 (8-oz.) Pepperidge Farm package herb-seasoned stuffing
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut squash and zucchini into 1/4-inch-thick slices; place in a Dutch oven. Add chopped onion, 2 tsp. salt, and water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook 5 minutes; drain well. Stir together 1 cup grated carrots, next 3 ingredients, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl; fold in squash mixture. Stir together stuffing and 1/2 cup melted butter, and spoon half of stuffing mixture in bottom of a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Spoon squash mixture over stuffing mixture, and top with remaining stuffing mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown, shielding with aluminum foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Judy's Lemon Chess Pie
1 (9 inch) pie shell
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream together sugar and butter or margarine until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and milk. Add flour, cornmeal, lemon juice, and lemon rind. Mix until smooth. Pour mixture into pastry shell. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until set in center.

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