Friday, November 21, 2014

Mama Bates' Turkey Cornbread Dressing

Thanksgiving has always been one of the best holidays of the year. It was just about right for visiting relatives. They usually traveled on Tuesday evening and left by Saturday night so they wouldn't have to attend church on Sunday. My Uncle Bryan, Aunt Arnettie, and Cousin Jane would come up from Meridian, Mississippi about once a year. 

Jane and I did not get along very well. We acted like two spoiled little girls. I think she was jealous because we looked so much alike, but she had large freckles all over her face, so it made her "not cute" when we were together. Plus, since her parents were deaf, she could get away with anything by telling them that I said something that I didn't say. 

Jane would always brag that her mother was the best cook, but no one could cook better than Mama Bates. Jane was her granddaughter too, but since she didn't see Mama that much, and I lived there, she was just jealous. She lived in an old wood house with a tin roof and outside facilities near Meridian. We lived in a large home on the mountain overlooking the Birmingham Airport. 

One Thanksgiving the clan came to visit. Mama was doing her best to get all the Thanksgiving Dinner items together and still cook meals for the company.

One good thing came of this, she had lots of leftover bread: biscuits, light bread, yeast rolls, and she made a large pan of cornbread so she could have half of it for her wonderful dressing.

Uncle Billy would come into the kitchen before the turkey was done and pour off the drippings in the pan into Mamas' Iron Dutch oven. Leave enough to baste the turkey to keep it from getting dry.

Giblet Gravy
  • She would cook the drippings until most of the water was gone out of it. 
  • She would then add a couple of heaping tablespoons of flour (constantly stirring, until browned)
  • Add one stick of butter
  • Finely chop one large yellow onion and add to the mix
  • Add a cup of black coffee and two cups of turkey stock 
  • Giblets from the turkey, finely chopped 
  • Add salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, celery salt  
  • Add a can of Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soup to the gravy if you want
  • Sometimes I add two or three chicken bouillon cubes with corresponding cups of water

Mama would use a large metal bowl to make sure all the bread was broken apart into 1/2 inch pieces. 
  Six boiled, peeled, and chopped eggs
  One onion, chopped 
  One stick of butter
  Trim and chop two or three stems of celery
  Grate in one or two carrots
Mix everything together, 
Crack four eggs into a bowl, whip with a cup of water and add to the mix.
Stir everything together until it looks pretty even. 

Pour the dressing into a 9"x13" greased baking dish. Use a ladle and dip out giblet gravy over the dressing until it looks pretty wet.

If the turkey is not quite done, just put the dressing to the side to wait for the oven. When the turkey is done, place the dressing into the hot oven and cook on 350 degrees for about an hour. If it looks like the top is turning brown too soon, cover lightly with some foil and continue to bake until done. 

It is alright for the turkey to sit for a while before you cut it. You don't have to worry about it being cold, because the hot giblet gravy spooned over it on your plate will warm it back up. Not to mention, the turkey will be easier to cut after it has cooled off some. The dressing will also be easier to cut five to ten minutes after it comes out of the oven. If you have a large group, you may need to control the servings by cutting the dressing into squares and putting them on a platter.

I know this may seem confusing, but it comes from my memory, not a cookbook. The women in my family all seem to be natural cooks who instinctively add ingredients to taste. If you have questions, send to, send your phone number and I will call you. This is not my primary email, but I do check it frequently.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mama Bates Southern Style Buttermilk Cornbread

Mama always said not to put the dressing in the Turkey, She had seen people get sick from eating stuffing in the turkey, and it wasn't pretty. Being raised in the South, we all grew up on Cornbread Dressing. But, before you make the dressing, you must make:

Mama Bates’ Classic Southern Cornbread
For a little extra flavor, add some bacon drippings to the skillet. 

2 cups white or yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons melted shortening, plus more for the skillet
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes
Yield: Serves 8

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Position the rack in the center of the oven. Put about 1 tablespoon of shortening in a 9 to 10 inch cast iron skillet and put the skillet in the oven.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, soda, salt, buttermilk, egg, and shortening into a large bowl. Stir thoroughly. 
Remove the hot cast iron pan or a glass ovenproof dish from the oven and pour the batter into the sizzling shortening in the hot skillet.
Return the skillet to the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 375° F, and bake for about 20 to 24 minutes, until golden brown. 
Cut the cornbread in wedges and serve hot with soups, stew, chili, beans, or greens. Many people like to crumble their cornbread in a glass and fill it with cold milk. A pan of cornbread also makes great dressing to go with chicken, pork, or turkey.

Serves 6 to 8:

For Cornbread Dressing.
I usually put it in the refrigerator overnight. Save some stale bread with this for your Turkey dressing. The recipe for that will be in the next posting. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mama' Bates Macaroni and Cheese

Mama's Macaroni and Cheese was one of my favorite dishes that she made. It really was a comfort food. I remember when my mother left me with Mama and took my brother with her and my new stepfather and moved to Morocco for two years. I was inconsolable. 

My Daddy held me in his lap while I punctured my drum with the drum sticks and cried. I dozed off and he put me on Mama's bed. Later Mama woke me up and told me that she had something special for me. She took me in the kitchen and sat me down at the table. 

She had made a large dish of Macaroni and Cheese, but she had also baked me my own special little dish. I think they ate pork chops with a vegetable and the mac and cheese. All I ate was my dish of Macaroni and Cheese Mama made especially for me. Even before anyone ever thought of calling Macaroni and Cheese a Comfort Food, that was the most comforting food for me. I was four years old at the time.

Mama Bates 
Original Baked Macaroni and Cheese


2 1/2 cups uncooked macaroni
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste (I use about a teaspoon)
4 tablespoons margarine
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup milk


Cook pasta until tender, drain. 
Mix all dry ingredients together, set aside. Coat pan or dish with butter or Crisco and then layer half of macaroni on the bottom.

Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over top and top with half of the margarine, sliced into small slices.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups cheese over.  Then add another layer of noodles, flower and butter. Add the rest of the cheese on the top. Pour milk over all.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for thirty-five minutes. Remove foil, bake an additional ten minutes. Serve hot.

I always liked this recipe because you actually can taste the noodles and the cheese separately. Try it this way at least once.

The recipes for this has changed over the years and mostly it is made with a Bechamel Sauce using three and four kinds of cheese.

I also used to use this recipe to make Tuna Casserole. I would layer the tuna under the cheese. Sometimes I would add a can of Campbells' Mushroom Soup to the milk and mix it up really good and pour half of it over the cheese. The kids really loved this. 

When we moved to Texas, my daughter's best friend made me write out the Tuna Casserole recipe for her. When we got to Texas, she called and she said she cooked it but the noodles were a little hard. I forgot to tell her to cook the noodles first! I guess they were hard.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mama Bates' Beef Stew

Mama's Leftover Pot Roast Magically turns into:


Most of the time, there was leftover Pot Roast (See previous posting), unless we had company. Mama would put more onions and garlic in a skillet, caramelize, and then add the pot roast. 

If you need more potatoes and carrots, cut some more up and boil in a separate pot until done. Put in one or two cans of diced tomatoes. If you want spicy, get the spicy diced tomatoes, or add salsa. It just depends on your taste. Do not add new potatoes and carrots to the stew until they are done, otherwise the beef will be so overcooked, it won't have much taste. 

This is not part of Mama's Beef Stew, but my own additions. It works even better if there is not much beef left. Add vegetables that you like. I have added squash, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, and greens of almost any kind. 

Add enough liquid to make a full pot. Note: add hot liquid so that you don't bring down the temperature of the stew. I usually add beef bouillon to taste, coffee to taste. Don't forget the salt and pepper and some soy sauce and Worcestershire Sauce. I taste a lot so that I get it just like I want it. 

Then I take out 2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix and make according to directions. This works for us in a hurry. Make any cornbread that you like. Or you may prefer crackers.

I like chopped onions on top with grated Cheddar Cheese. I hope you can follow this. I have never really cooked from a cookbook. Sometimes I just like to read them. Then I go make something similar, but something that fits our diet and taste. 

I watch cooking shows and make similar recipes, but add ingredients to my own taste. Ray loves my cooking and everyone says I am a terrific cook, so I guess I must do something right. Also, if you don't have anymore potatoes, but if you happen to have some instant potatoes, fix them and serve the  beef stew over them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mama's Special Pot Roast

On Special Sundays when we had company, sometimes Mama would make a pot roast. It was so wonderful. I would wander around just waiting to set the table when she called me in. My Mama could make a Pot Roast like no other.

We would always have green beans with slivers of almonds and butter and creamed corn. There was usually a salad for each place setting and a glass of Sweet Tea. I always put that out when dinner was almost ready. Mama made her own salad dressing out of vinegar and oil. I liked mayonnaise on my salad. There wasn't any fancy salad dressing then and you ate what Mama made and liked it.

Pot Roast
Prep Time:  20 Minutes                Cook Time:  4 Hours        Servings:  10
1 whole Chuck Roast (5 To 6 Pounds)
1/2 cup of flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole onions (large yellow onions)
2 pods of garlic, finely grated.
6 – 8 whole carrots  
Salt and Pepper to taste (I like Kosher or Sea Salt)
1 cup Red Wine (optional)
2 - to 3 cups beef stock
A couple of splashes of Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup of fresh coffee (leave out the wine if you would rather have the coffee)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh Rosemary
5 large potatoes or about 10 - 12 small red potatoes

Preparation Instructions
Choose a nicely marbled piece of Chuck roast. This particular cut of beef will flavor the pot roast like no other. Generously salt and pepper the roastthen rub it with flour all over.
Iron Dutch Oven
Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Mama always used a deep iron skillet that had a lid. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (sometimes I add a teaspoon or two of butter).
Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel the carrots, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (not smoking), add in the halved onions, minced garlic, and carrots, browning them on one side and then the other. Take out the onions, garlic, and carrots and put aside on a plate.
If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.
Marbled Chuck Roast 
With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a spatula to get all of that scrumptious browned flavor up.
When the pan is deglazed, add the Worcestershire Sauce and cup of coffee, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.
Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 5 hours.

Mama's Special Pot Roast
Wash and peel the potatoes if you like potatoes peeled. You can put in the whole potato or cut into large pieces. Place in a bowl of water that covers the potatoes with ice in the bowl if you want to get the prep done early. After the roast has cooked about 3½ hours, drain the potatoes and put in the pot. Cover and continue to cook until done.

BTW: Using flour to brown the roast results in a thicker gravy. You do not have to use the flour if you want it Aujous. 

Afterwards (at least 2 hours) we would all have coffee and a piece of Mama's Apple Pie with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. The ice cream was made in a ice cream machine that was powered by strength and elbow grease. It was Uncle Billy's job to make the ice cream. It was my job to sit on top of the towels on the top while Uncle Billy turned the crank. It was the best ice cream ever. It would give you a brain freeze if you ate it too fast. In the winter, Mama would melt cheddar cheese on the pie. She sure could cook. 

Funny, there didn't seem to be as many obese people then. The only time we had sweets was dessert on Sunday. As a special treat, Mama would make pancakes on a Saturday morning when we had company. We lived in Birmingham and they have the best syrup there. It is Golden Eagle Syrup.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sunday Dinner in the 50's

Mama used to make fried chicken almost every Sunday for dinner. We would have mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, green beans or green peas, maybe some fried squash or stewed tomatoes. Mama would have a chocolate cake for a coffee break about two hours after dinner. 

Mama would get up very early and go out into the backyard and select a nice plump chicken. She would wring the chicken's neck, cut off the head, and hang it by its feet while the blood drained out. She would pluck the feathers but by the time she got to the little pin feathers, the chicken was dipped in boiling water and immediately put in in cold water because the chicken skin shouldn't cook at all. By doing this, it made the pin feathers come out easier. 

Then she would cut the chicken into pieces and get it ready to cook. She had everything waiting on the table to get things ready. She would put the chicken in buttermilk, then roll it in plain flour that was salted and peppered. Then she would dip it in beaten eggs and then roll in flour again. 

The huge iron skillet was on the big black wood stove. There was always Crisco melted into it to the exact temperature Mama required. She wanted the chicken to start to fry as soon as it was placed in the grease. She would put in the larger pieces, like the breast and thighs. She would let them cook some before she put in the smaller pieces. She made sure that she didn't put too much in at once because it would lower the temperature in the iron skillet .When everything was cooking nicely, she would turn down the heat and put the iron top on it and cook it until done. about 45 minutes. 

She would then be working with the potatoes that had been boiled on the stove. She would drain them and put in the mixer bowl, add salt and pepper, one stick of butter, and then whole milk as she mixed them up. 
Meanwhile, the green beans would be cooking in an iron pot with a piece of ham or some bacon. 

Sometimes, we would have cornbread, but mostly we would have biscuits. On special occasions, Mama would make yeast rolls. 

She was the best cook  for a down-home Alabama cook. She could cook just about anything. She worked at home most of her life. After our Sunday dinner, we would all go to the front porch and relax. If it was summer, I would lay on the concrete gray painted steps in the shade. That was the coolest place to be on one of those hot Sunday afternoons. We had a huge front porch with a long swing at one end and a glider set at the other end. There was plenty of room for guests who liked chocolate cake with homemade ice cream.

When Mama married my Grandfather Bates, she was only 14 years old. Grandpa was a widower with five children, most older than Mama. She took care of him and when my Daddy was three years old, Grandpa died. My dad was the eleventh of the eleven children Mama had with Grandpa. Nine of the eleven children were born profoundly deaf, so it made things even more difficult.

Mama moved to Bessemer and rented a large house and turned it into a boarding house. She was able to send three of her deaf children to the Talledega School for the Blind and Deaf which was a boarding school there. Six of Mama's babies, either died at birth, drowned in the river, had whooping cough, or diptheria, and died.

Godchaux Department Store on
Canal Street in New Orleans
My dad and my Aunt Frances were the only two of her children who could hear. Since daddy was the baby, he was spoiled rotten. Aunt Frances was one of the older children and as soon as she could, she moved to New Orleans and worked as a beauty consultant in the largest department store there (Godchaux).  

I will tell you more in my blog at least three times a week. There were amazing dishes that I remember and have been researching. My mother has been able to help some. She has dementia now, but she remembers a lot from long ago.


When I lived with my Mama and Uncle Billy in Alabama was one of the best times of my life. They always made me feel so loved and happy. Whenever I need a good place to go in my mind to  relive stress, I go back to those cool concrete steps on a hot day with blue sky and floating white clouds . . . . . . . .

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nana Learns to Cook in the 1950's

NANA and  the Twins at Christmas 2010
We make cookies every year.

When I was just a little girl, about 9 years old I guess, I decided that I wanted to make some vanilla wafers. We were in England at the time living on a military base. The grocery or commissary didn't have any Nabisco Nilla Wafers

My Mother wanted to make Banana Pudding and there was just no way that you could make Banana Pudding without Nilla Wafers.

I decided to look in my Mother's Better Homes and Garden Cookbook. I looked up the recipe for Vanilla Wafers and it looked so easy. I got all of the stuff out of the cabinet and a big bowl that went with the mixer. When I had everything in the bowl, I turned on the great big mixer  my mom had. 
Stand Mixers

The oven was hot, so all I had to do was put the dough on the cookie sheets and bake. I had watched my Mother enough to know how to do this. I started to spoon out the cookies on to the cookie sheet. It was so runny, but being a child, I thought they would come together magically in the oven and I could surprise my mother when she got home from her woman's club meeting. Since we lived in a controlled environment on base, we didn't really need a babysitter because there were neighbors next door. 

Well, I watched the clock and at the proper time, I opened the oven door, and there was a big sheet of very thin cookies. I had to cut them with a knife, but ended up throwing them away and cleaning up the kitchen. I didn't want my Mother to know what I had done. I then sat down with the cookbook. I went over the recipe line by line, then the light came on and I realized that instead of 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of flour, I only used 2 tablespoons of flour. 

Needless to say, I never told my Mother about this, until now. She is 84 and wouldn't mind even if she reads it now. She always encouraged me to think out of the box.

Original Nilla Banana Pudding
This recipe courtesy of Back of the Box Recipes. Home Page

This recipe created by Nabisco.Ready in: 60 mins.
Layers of Nilla wafers, creamy pudding and fresh banana slices are the stars of this American classic.

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 NILLA Wafers, divided
5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional NILLA Wafers and banana slices, for garnish

1. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

2. Reserve 10 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard.

3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges.

4. Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly or refrigerate. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving.

Makes 8 servings

287 calories, 6 g protein, 50 g carbohydrate, 7 g total fat,
2 g saturated fat, 117 mg cholesterol, 134 mg sodium,
1 g dietary fiber.

Preparation Time: 30 mins.
Cook Time: 15 mins.
Cooling Time: 15 mins.
Total Time: 60 mins.


I am not receiving any products or re-numeration for this blog post and apologize for reprinting the recipe. It has been written in my Mother's cookbook over 50 years. (and my Mama Deason's too).