I love avocados! I can eat them on everything. Sliced, diced, spread on toast…nothing beats the creamy deliciousness of an avocado. Avocados aren’t just for guacamole anymore…oh, no.

Whether you are sprinkling a few dices on top of tomato soup or mashing one into your family’s favorite ranch dressing, don’t be afraid to sneak them in to your family’s favorite recipes.

A new favorite of mine is this wonderful salad. It will keep and hold up beautifully on a buffet or in your lunch box. I hope this salad becomes a favorite of yours just like it has mine. Enjoy!

Everyone is gathered around the table at Granny’s house on Sunday afternoon. You all sit, laughing, enjoying each other’s conversation and waiting in anticipation of warm, comforting, delicious Chicken Pot Pie. She’s rolled out the crust, she’s boiled the chicken and cut it just so, she’s chopped and cooked all the vegetables, and made an unbelievable gravy. You hear the oven open and the smell of pot pie heaven fills the entire house. You try to play it cool, but you are sitting on go to make sure you get the perfect piece. You know the one…the perfect ratio of filling to crispy crust.

Homemade chicken pot pie is delicious, we all know that it is delicious. However, not many of us have the time to make chicken pot pie like Granny. We all want comfort food, but not many of us have time to make everything from scratch. You can still make comfort food with today’s busy schedule, you just have to take short cuts.

This comfort-food short cut is a simple four ingredient dish. Who can’t make a recipe with only four ingredients! So, one evening after a long day of work and school, make these fun and oh so yummy chicken pot pie cupcakes. The smell from them baking will take you right back to Granny’s table on Sunday afternoon, without all the fuss.

Chicken Pot Pie Cupcakes

1 (10 oz) packed frozen mixed vegetables, cooked
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can (16.3 oz) refrigerated biscuits (the one with the flaky layers)

Heat oven to 375F degrees. In a medium bowl, combine vegetables, chicken, and soup; mix well.

Press each biscuit into 5 1/2-inch rounds. Place 1 round in each of 8 greased regular-size muffin cups. Firmly press in bottom and up side, forming 3/4-inch rim. Spoon a generous 1/3 cup chicken mixture into each. Pull edges of dough over filling toward center; pleat and pinch dough gently to hold in place.

Bake at 375F degrees for 20-30 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from pan.
By: Anna Hamilton

St. Patrick’s Day in this Saturday, March 17, so put on your green clothes and get ready to dance an Irish jig. The Irish have a rich tradition of food, drink, and folklore. Many settlers from Ireland and Scotland settled in the South after they made the long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.You can see their influence in many things we hold dear here in the South. Appalachian music, Bluegrass music was greatly influenced by the music from Ireland and Scotland. “Buck” dancing and “Flat-foot” dancing got its start in the traditional dancing of Ireland. Many of our food traditions also came with the settlers. Simple dishes of roasted meat, potatoes, cabbage, and soda bread are still enjoyed today.

One of my favorite Irish dishes is Colcannon. Colcannon is an easy traditional Irish smashed potato recipe with cabbage, or kale, butter, cream, salt & pepper. This is a great dish to use up leftovers. I always seem to have half a head of cabbage in my fridge and a least a couple of potatoes laying around. Why have boring, plain ole mashed potatoes, when you can have Colcannon. It’s super easy to make and super easy to customize. Add meat if you want to, try it with sweet potatoes for a fun alternative, put it in a casserole dish and top it with cheese. Make this yummy, stick-to-your-ribs dish your own. May the luck of the Irish be with you!

I want to leave you with one of my favorite Irish Proverbs. “May the Road rise up to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
By: Anna Hamilton

Every year, after we have experienced our first warm day, I begin champing at the bit to go visit the Amish community, just north of us, in Lawrenceburg, TN. I love the serenity of the rolling hills, the children playing while the parents work in the fields, and the smell of fresh clean air. You will find amazing vegetables. Some of the greatest tasting tomatoes and peppers you have ever eaten! Potatoes, onions, squash, every variety of pea and bean, fresh herbs…and that’s just the beginning. A few of the Amish homes feature hand-made quilts and rugs. They make beautiful furniture and gorgeous baskets. You will also find an amazing variety of breads and pastries. If you’re really lucky, you will pull up to one of the farm houses, just as they are pulling fresh baked bread out of the oven. DELICIOUS!

I happen to love Amish Oatmeal Pie. If you like pecan pie, you will fall in love with this pie. It’s gooey, it’s comforting, it’s amazing. Now you may be wondering, why put oatmeal in a pie? This pie dates back to the early 1800s, and at that time they didn’t always have access to fresh nuts or the money to afford them. So, they turned to what they had readily available to make a sweet treat with, and oatmeal won out. I’m sure many of you have enjoyed Chocolate Oatmeal cookies; this pie has that same gooey texture, but without the chocolate.

This summer, make the trip to Amish country. Enjoy the slow pace. Stock up on vegetables. Bask in the sun. Smell the fresh clean air. Round out your trip with a yummy sweet treat.

Amish Oatmeal Pie
3/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 c. brown sugar, packed 3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar 3 large eggs, beaten
3 tbsps. butter, room temperature 1 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt 1 unbaked pie shell
Vanilla ice cream, optional

Preheat oven to 350º F and line a pie dish with unbaked pie crust.
In a large bowl, stir together brown sugar, oats, sugar, and salt; then stir in milk, beaten eggs, butter and vanilla extract. Continue stirring until fully combined.

Pour mixture into pie shell, then place in oven.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until pie is cooked through.
Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes, then serve with ice cream.
By: Anna Hamilton

Bring On The Spring

On February 2, all eyes were focused on a small rodent to tell us whether we should get ready to enjoy the warm sunshine of spring or brace for another round of frigid winter winds. Little Punxsutawney Phil, arguably the best-known groundhog in the world, came out and saw his shadow this year, which means we brace for six more weeks of winter. Well, this summer-loving Southern girl, is ready to hang up her boots and whip out the flip flops. Spring cannot get here fast enough.

Spring brings a re-birth to the earth. Vegetation begins to grow again, animals begin to wake up from their winter slumber, and birds begin to chirp in the trees. We are ready to come out and play in the sunshine, have picnics, and breathe the fresh air.

During the winter, we eat such heavy foods. Christmas ham and Thanksgiving stuffing make way for healthier, lighter foods of spring. We want to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather, and eating healthy foods helps us enjoy it even more!

Even though Phil may have predicted six more weeks of winter, I’ve decided to go ahead and eat like it is already spring. One of the best recipes to get me in the “spring” spirit is a Spring Vegetable Salad. It’s simple, fast, satisfying, and most importantly delicious. So, break out your flip flops and enjoy this yummy salad while we anxiously await the arrival of spring.

Spring Vegetable Salad
2 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
1 mild, sweet apple (such as Gala or Fuji)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup lemon (or citrus) vinaigrette
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1.Cut zucchini, squash, and apple into small 1/2-inch cubes. Chop basil.
2.Combine all ingredients in salad bowl; toss to coat. Chill until ready to serve
By: Anna Hamilton

Pick A Team, Pick A Recipe

Some people love Italian food, some people love sushi, some people love Mexican food, but me, I love party food. You know, chips and dip, sausage balls, finger sandwiches, cheeseballs, fruit and vegetable trays…the works. It’s hard to tell if it’s the food I love so much or the fact that party foods mean that there is a party, a reason for people to come together to celebrate. This weekend across America, people will be celebrating the Super Bowl. Party food is a must for any Super Bowl celebration. I’ve got two recipes this week, a Philly Stuffed Pepper for all you Eagles fans and a Boston Cream Poke Cake for all you Patriot fans. No matter what team’s colors you’ll be wearing this weekend, we all can agree that whichever recipe you make, it’ll be a touchdown!

Easy Boston Cream Poke Cake

1 box yellow butter recipe cake mix
2 small box of French vanilla instant pudding
1 (12oz) bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

Bake cake as directed on the box. While the cake is baking, prepare the pudding as directed on box. While the cake is still warm, use the end of a wooden spoon to poke holes randomly through the cake about and inch apart. Spread the pudding over the cake, pushing it into the holes. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Combine chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 2 minutes and stir. Heat for an additional 1-2 minutes or until chocolate is fully melted and whisk until well incorporated. Wait about 5 minutes before adding it to the top of the cake. Spread chocolate over the cake and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Philly Stuffed Peppers

4 green peppers cut in half and seeded
1 Tbsp oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 package button mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic
1 lb roast beef sliced and cut into strips
8 slices of mozzarella cheese, cut in half
In a large skillet heat oil and add onion, mushrooms, garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until onions are translucent and mushrooms become tender. Add roast beef and heat through.
Place pepper halves in a large baking dish, place half a piece of cheese into each pepper, top with the beef mixture, then top with the other half of cheese.
Bake in a 350?F oven for 25 minutes or until peppers are soft and cheese is melted.
By: Anna Hamilton

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!