Winter Cranberry Bread

This week in Alabama, we got to experience our own little winter wonderland. Now, to someone who lives in the beautiful northern part of the country they would never consider our measly inch of snow a winter wonderland, but to this Alabama girl who loves snow, I’ll take whatever I can get. On these cold, snowy mornings, my mind is flooded with memories on my granny making her Winter Cranberry Bread. This bread is sweet, but not too sweet, so it’s perfect for a breakfast bread or just an afternoon snack.

My granny never used a hand mixer to stir this lovely bread together. “All you need is a bowl and a wooden spoon” she would say. Her recipe would change, depending on what she had in the cabinet at the time. During our Southern blizzards, everything shuts down, so she couldn’t just run down to the local Piggly Wiggly and purchase the exact ingredients to make the bread. If she didn’t have cranberries she would use this same recipe but substitute the fruit. Apples or pears with the addition of a little cinnamon is wonderful.

On your next snow day, take the time to go into the kitchen with your loved ones and make this lovely loaf of bread. I encourage you to cook with your loved ones. The memories I have of being in the kitchen with my grandparents and parents are ones that I cherish. I love cooking with my nieces and nephews and hope that when they are my age, they will look back on our time in the kitchen together as fondly as I look back on mine.

Winter Cranberry Bread

2 ½ cup All-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp. grated orange rind
1 ½ cup fresh whole cranberries (or frozen, thawed)
1 cup chopped pecans
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together all ingredients until well blended. Pour in to greased pans.
If using a Bundt Pan, bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
If using loaf pans, bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
By: Anna Hamilton


Even though winter doesn’t actual begin until December 21, the weather the past few weeks seems to think otherwise. As soon as we have the first chilly night, I want to curl up under a cozy blanket with a big bowl of hearty soup. Some of the classics are tomato, chili, or chicken stew.

When I’m wanting something a little different, my go to is Mulligatawny Soup. Unlike traditional Mulligatawny Soup, which has rice and apples in it, mine has a classic Southern twist by adding potatoes. The potatoes add a hearty element, making this soup truly eat like a meal and become a favorite on cold winter nights.

My sweet, Southern husband can never remember the name of this soup. He stumbles through the name and always lands on Mele Kalikimake. Now as some of you may know, Mele Kalikimake means Merry Christmas in Hawaiian. So now in our house we have Mele Kalikimake soup, especially during Christmas. So this Christmas, enjoy a big bowl and Mele Kalikimake Soup. Merry Christmas Y’all!

Directions & Ingredients

1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup butter
1 Tbsp flour
1-2 tsp curry powder
4 cups chicken broth
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 small can diced mushrooms
½ -1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onions, celery, carrot, garlic, and butter in a large soup pot until vegetables are soft. Add flour and curry, and cook for 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and mix well. Add potatoes, mushrooms, and chicken. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in heavy cream. Simmer until cream is heated through. Serve with warm bread and a green salad.
By: Anna Hamilton

This is the time of year when everyone is looking for the perfect dish to take to all the holiday parties. We all have been guilty of bringing the same old boring dish for every party. How many times can you actually bring a can of cranberry sauce before you stop being invited to dinner? This year be the star of the party, with this fresh and delish pasta salad.

This pasta salad is the perfect mix of sweet and savory for my family, but don’t be afraid to change up the ingredients to make it your own. Feel free to mix and match different ingredients to make the perfect pasta salad. Try different shapes of pasta, different nuts, or different cheeses. For all you meat lovers, try adding some smoky bacon or diced turkey.

I hope you enjoy this pasta salad and it makes its debut on your holiday buffet. Happy Thanksgiving!

There are ways to make a rich dessert healthier, and this one is my family’s favorite. It is not as sweet, and if people need to sweeten it a bit, each serving can be individually drizzled with real maple syrup as a finish. Here’s a tip: lightly grease your springform pan and base with coconut oil. It adds flavor, and will help the cheesecake easily pull away from the sides of the pan.

Ingredients:
• 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs or gingersnap cookie crumbs (gluten free works, too)
• 1/4 cup butter, melted
• 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
• 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
• 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
• 1/4 cup or more of real maple syrup
• 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten

TOPPING:
• 2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
• 1/3 cup maple syrup
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, combine the cracker/cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto the bottom of a greased 9-in. springform pan. Bake at 325° for 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
2. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and milk until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin, syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined.
3. Pour into crust. Place pan on middle rack. Bake at 325° for 70-75 minutes, or until center is almost set. Combine the topping ingredients; spread over cheesecake. Bake 5 minutes longer.
4. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife or silicon spatula around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 12-14 servings.
You can do a number of things to customize this cheesecake. Mark pieces with pecans around the edge. Or, you can chop up a ½ cup of pecans, sprinkle on top, and drizzle maple syrup back and forth. If you choose to do that, Publix carries a 12.5 oz bottle of real maple syrup that is reasonably priced. Sweeten to taste.
By: Anna Hamilton

Fall in the South brings with it school festivals, bonfires, hayrides and, of course, football. Football to most Southerners, especially this Alabama girl, is not just a fun afternoon activity, it is a lifelong love affair. From a young age, you’re taught to yell “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle” or maybe even “Go Vols.” No matter what team you cheer for, one thing we all can agree on is that every football tailgating party needs good food. Chips and dip, pizza, hamburgers, chicken wings—these are all your usual suspects on the buffet. Why not change things up this year and make a Southern classic, Pimento Cheese. Pimento Cheese can be used as a spread for sandwiches, a topper for burgers, or as a dip. Now this recipe is not your typical Pimento Cheese; this one is packed with protein and offers a healthy alternative to the neon-orange tub of mystery cheese found in the super market. All the heavy mayo is swapped out with lite mayo and non-fat Greek yogurt. For an extra boost of protein, I’ve added a scoop of unflavored protein powder. Make this delicious Pimento Cheese the day before the big game and it will be creamy and delicious by kick-off. I hope you enjoy this healthy take on this Southern classic and Roll Tide!

Directions:
2 8oz. blocks of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3 Tbsps. light mayonnaise
3 Tbsps. non-fat Greek yogurt
1 6oz. jar of diced pimentos, undrained
½ cup of unflavored protein powder
1 small onion, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend the mayonnaise, yogurt, grated onion, salt and pepper, and protein powder in a medium bowl. Fold in the grated cheese. Cover and chill overnight for best results.
By: Anna Hamilton

Webster’s Dictionary defines Admiration as a feeling of respect and approval or an object of esteem. Over the past month my level of admiration for my husband has grown substantially. He underwent gastric sleeve bariatric surgery and both of our lives have changed forever.

Early in our relationship, we bonded over food. We both LOVED food. Where we were going to eat was always our number one priority when we went out for a date. After we got married and wanting to be a perfect Southern wife, I loved my husband with food. One of the wonderful things about living in the South is how we comfort each other with food. Whether it be a wedding, a funeral, a birthday celebration, or a backyard cookout, most events are focused around the food. As a caterer, I love seeing people happy when they eat my food. The same is true when I would cook for my husband, my food was an extension of my love. I would often make his favorite meal or bake his favorite dessert; when instead we could have just as easily taken a walk at our favorite park or enjoyed a movie together.

After surgery, because cooking is such an important part of my life, I had to find a way to still cook for my husband. The Bariatric Diet consists of mainly protein. Good healthy protein can be so much more than eating meat all day long. One of his favorite things to eat before surgery was lasagna. By combining the lovely cheesy filling and baking it in individual servings, you get the satisfaction of a lasagna without the heaviness of pasta, you get a Feel-Good Lasagna! And guess what, I love them too! I pair mine with a green salad on the side and we both have a hearty, filling supper full of protein.

My husband is one of the strongest, most determined, and most dedicated people I know. Admiration is not a strong enough word to describe how proud I am to be his wife and walk by his side in this new journey in our lives. I am looking forward to discovering new healthy recipes and I hope you all reading my column will join with me in the discovery of new dishes.



What You Need:

1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and Pepper to Taste
½ Cup Marinara Sauce
½ Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Directions:

Mix ricotta cheese, parmesan, beaten egg, and seasonings together. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray. Spoon mixture into muffin tin filling about ½ full. Spoon a small amount of marinara on top and sprinkle each with mozzarella cheese. Bake it in the oven @ 450 for about 20-25 minutes. Makes approximately 9 with about 7 grams of protein each. Enjoy!!
By: Anna Hamilton

Summer in the South is full of picnics, backyard barbecues, and neighborhood block parties, all breaming with some of the most delicious potluck dishes. As children, we are taught to bring our best dish to these parties. On one such occasion I was tapped with bringing the Cabbage Slaw. Now, I love making Cabbage Slaw. I love cooking with all summertime vegetables, but cabbage happens to be one of my favorites.
The night before the party, I gathered all my ingredients on the counter. My loving husband sat on a chair in the kitchen, and we discussed our work days as I began to grate the cabbage. I moved on to my onion and in mid-grate, I turned to him in a panic, “I don’t have apple cider vinegar! You can’t make good slaw without vinegar.” In his calming manner, he assured me that it would be ok. We could get back out and go to our 24 hour mega-mart or we could just use something else.
Panicked, I began to look through our cabinets for some substitute because no one wants to go out at 11pm for apple cider vinegar. In a moment of desperation, I spotted a jar of dill pickles in the refrigerator door. At first I was unsure of using pickle juice in place of vinegar; I mean, who puts pickle juice in cabbage slaw? But the more I thought about pickle juice, the more I began to like the idea. I made the dressing for the slaw and slowly added pickle juice until it had the right amount of kick. The result of my panic and my husband’s cool head turned out to be one of the best cabbage slaws I have ever made.
I hope you enjoy this slaw with your family, and don’t be afraid to put your own spin on a classic recipe.

Cabbage Slaw

2 lb. head of cabbage, grated
1 large onion, grated

Dressing:
1 ½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup dill pickle juice
¼ cup sugar
2 sprigs fresh dill
½ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon celery salt
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Grate cabbage and onion in to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Once dressing is combined, pour dressing over cabbage and onions and mix until combined. Let sit in refrigerator for at least two hours. For the best flavor, allow it to sit overnight.
By: Anna Hamilton