Virginia Willis

My Top 5 Favorite Southern Food Bloggers

These top five Southern food bloggers are powerful influencers in the culinary world. Pictured above is noted chef Virginia Willis.

In the South, a conversation among home cooks is a culinary education.  Whether it’s fried chicken or pimento cheese, everyone’s family has a little different spin.

Our goal here is to get families back to the supper table to reconnect with each other. Recipes need to be easy, quick, and delicious. The following are just 5 bloggers I follow, love, and have found to be very useful. They answer the age-old question -What’s for dinner?

Let’s shake up our every day, put our normal go-to’s aside, and find out what they’re cooking. Here are their curated recipes and stories worthy of your attention.

 In the spirit of home cooking and sharing moments with our families, let’s take a look.  All recipes call for simple ingredients and pantry staples that define  Southern cooking.  Each one displays our Southern culture and sho’ ’nuff good food. Pull up a chair at my kitchen counter and let’s get started! 

1. Minette Rushing

Have you ever seen chocolate chip cookies look any better?  Oh my, I feel as if I could eat every one of them all by myself!

Minette Rushing of Savannah creates gorgeous custom cakes for a living – and I do mean perfect cakes of pure, delicious art. Brides love her, hostesses called upon her talents and a party is not a party unless there’s a cake on the table made by Minette. She’s legendary in her home town of Savannah and beyond. It’s a talent she has perfected over a period of many years baking in her quaint perfectly appointed kitchen near Skidaway Island in Savannah, Georgia.

However, believe it or not – her first love is the humble cookie. Minette says, “Like much of America, my heart belongs to a classic chocolate chip cookie.”

“Baking is an overlooked stress reliever – especially right now when our world is turned upside down.  It’s an opportunity to step away from the constant demands of life and focus on just you and your ingredients,” says Minette.

“These cookies are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, just the way I like them.  I always add pecans because everything is better with pecans.”

One thing I truly love about Minette is that she always has tips on what makes a great recipe turn out great even in the hands of a novice baker.  She knows what we may not know but need to know in order to get really good results.
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Minette’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter

½ cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup toasted, chopped pecans, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, add flour, salt, and baking soda.  Whisk to combine.
  3. In a large mixing bowl using a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium until pale and fluffy, about two to three minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to low and add vanilla and eggs.  Mix to combine.
  5. Add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined
  6. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheet.
  7. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and alw to cool on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

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Minette Rushing’s Special tips

  1. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.

  2. Use mini chocolate chips, the semi-sweet are my favorite.

  3. Toasting the pecans really amps up the flavor.  

  4. Bake ahead and freeze.  These cookies freeze beautifully.  So does the dough.

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Julia’s Simply Southern Fried Chicken

JuliasSimplySouthern.com

Awesome Southern Pan Fried Chicken Recipe Julias Simply Southern Southern Food Blog Best Crunchy 768x871 1

“The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.” Maya Angelou

Julia’s blog is a terrific resource for finding recipes for your family that are delicious and easy to prepare. Julia grew up in South Carolina and has a love for all things delicious and Southern. It’s a fun blog that never fails to give you ideas for your next family dinner, party, or special occasion. What could possibly be more Southern than fried chicken?

Julia would tell you that frying chicken at home is a commitment of time and talent – but so very worth the extra effort. It will take you about 35 to 40 minutes standing at your stove but the end result will be memorable – and if you’re up to it, there’s no time like the present to give it a try.

The true secret to great Southern Fried Chicken is in the seasonings, so we’ve got to get that part right.

Julia prefers using a cast-iron skillet.  She says it doesn’t take as much oil as deep frying and holds the heat better than a deep frying method.

Start with the dark meat because it takes longer, 12 to 15 minutes, and be sure not to crowd the pan.

Keep the oil at 325 to 350 degrees. Check to be sure the internal temperature is 165 degrees – then you know it’s cooked thoroughly.  This is a recipe that is tried and true and creates a classic Southern Fried chicken that is pan-fried crispy and golden brown.

Southern Fried Chicken

2.5 to 3 pound whole chicken cut into 8 pieces

Marinade:

2 cups buttermilk

2 teaspoons Hot Sauce

Dry Dredge Mixture:

2.5 all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon Creole seasoning

Wet Dredge Mixture

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups peanut oil for frying or vegetable oil

Frying the chicken:

Add peanut oil to a cast iron skillet and heat over medium-low.

Prepare the dry dredge mixture by combining the flour and seasonings together in a large bowl; set aside.

Prepare the wet dredge mixture by whisking together the egg with a cup of buttermilk in a large bowl; set aside.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and place on a paper towel-lined sheet pan.

Use a paper towel to gently dry the chicken pieces.

Dredge each chicken piece in the dry dredge mixture, then wet, then dry; shake off excess.

Place dredged chicken pieces on a foil-lined sheet pan. Repeat until all pieces are done.

Cooking in batches, begin by adding the chicken legs, thighs, and wings to the hot oil making sure not to overcrowd the skillet.

12 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel-lined sheet pan with a cooling rack placed on top.

Continue with frying the remaining breast pieces, turning as needed ( 15 to 18 minutes)

Transfer to the lined sheet pan when done.

Julia loves using an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness.  

Allow chicken to cool slightly until warm before serving for the best flavor. Use tongs to turn every 5 minutes, fry the chicken until crispy and golden. 

Your friends and family will love you for it!

Virginia Willis

virginiawillis.com

Georgia born and French-trained noted cookbook author, tv celebrity and so much more -following Virginia’s culinary adventures is pure joy.  If you don’t know her yet, now’s the time to start learning from one of the best.

If it were not for Virginia I never would have realized I could cook our beloved Lowcountry Boil on the stovetop.  Around my house, we call it Frogmore Stew, named after the little nearby town on St. Helena Island where it originated. Being from South Carolina we often cook this dish when friends are coming over but I always got out our heavy-bottomed outdoor cooker normally used for steaming and cooking blue crabs.

Thankfully I can cook smaller quantities with this stovetop method. I have loved it – thank you so much, Virginia Willis!

Before I read about this method, we were hauling out our cooker every time and cooking enough to feed an army.

LCB hero

This method keeps it real simple.

Stovetop Lowcountry Boil

Serves 6

1 12-ounce can beer, such as a pale ale or summer wheat

2 sweet onions, quartered

4 lemons, quartered

1/2 cup seafood boil seasoning

2 bay leaves, preferably fresh

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, plus additional ground pepper for seasoning

coarse kosoher salt

3 pounds new potatoes each about the size of golf balls

1 1/2 pounds smoked spicy sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, each cut into 6 pieces

6  ears fresh corn, shucked and broken into 3 to 4 inch pieces

3 pounds shell-on large shrimp

hot sauce and melted butter, for serving

Fill a large pot with 5 quarts of water.  Add the beer, onions, two of the lemons, seafood boil, bay leaves, peppercorns, and 2 tablespoons salt.  Cover and bring to a rolling boil.  Reduce the heat to a lazy simmer and let cook until the flavors marry about 15 minutes.  The liquid should be highly seasoned and aromatic.

Once the cooking broth is flavorful, add the potatoes and cook, covered until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the sausage and corn, and cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook until just pink, about 3 minutes.  Drain through a large colander.

Transfer the shrimp, sausage, and vegetables to a large platter or tray. Serve immediately with hot sauce and melted butter on the side. Now that’s supper in the South!

In Beaufort, we can purchase our shrimp in Village Creek on St. Helena Island.  Talk about fresh!

Image by Andrew Branning – www.branningfineart.com

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Syrupandbiscuits.com

Jackie Garvin is a Southern girl through and through. “ Being born and raised in Alabama and entrenched in southernism was a gift. It gave me an identity. I am part of a culture that embraces gracious hospitality, manners, love of God and country, frugality, family values, and good honest food. That’s who I am and that’s what I’m all about.

 A career move in 1985 brought Jackie, her husband, and two daughters from Mobile, Alabama to Tampa, Florida. 

“Mobile is a southern city that has retained its southern personality. Tampa is a city located in the southern part of the United States that doesn’t have a southern personality,” says Jackie.

While raising their children in Tampa, it was important for Jackie to teach them about southern culture and their heritage.

One of the best ways to do that was through our Southern food – it reflects our heritage and there’s a story behind each ingredient.

Jackie is a contributor to Southern Living magazine which is just one of her many accomplishments and accolades.

Gardening is one of her favorite activities and when she gets more tomatoes than she knows what to do with, she makes this delicious pasta dish.  This dish has become a staple at my house because we all love tomatoes and it’s just one of the best ways to enjoy them.

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Summer Garden Tomato Sauce with Pasta

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Freshly picked garden cherry tomatoes, oregano, and parsley are responsible for the summery flavors of this light and delightful sauce.  If you don’t have the luxury of walking to your backyard to pick the tomatoes, buy the most flavorful ones you can find. Take a drive out into the countryside and find a roadside stand or a nearby farm. There’s a world of difference between a locally grown tomato and one you find in the grocery store.

1 pound Angel Hair pasta

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped

2 to 3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 cups cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh oregano

1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions but add 1 tablespoon cooking oil to the water before adding the pasta. Drain and set aside.  Reserve approximately  1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a large skillet, add two tablespoons cooking oil over medium-high heat.

When the oil is heated, add onions and cook for 10 minutes or until soft.

Add garlic and cook for two additional minutes.

Stir in sugar, pepper flakes, and salt.

Pour in tomatoes and stir.

Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally and mash some of the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon as they soften.

Add cooked pasta to the skillet. Starting with 1/4 cup of the pasta water, add as much as you need to make the pasta and sauce smooth.  Toss pasta and sauce with tongs until mixed.

Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese.

Note:

Parmesan cheese works just fine, but my favorite cheese to eat with pasta is Parmigiano-Reggiano. The sharpness and flavor of this cheese will transport you to the hills of Napoli.

Southern Bite

www.southernbite.com

Stacey Little has a big following and an even bigger love for Southern food. He is totally committed to getting folks back to the table for dinner. He grew up refusing bowls of ice cream for bowls of collard greens.  From the time he was old enough to bang on pots and pans, Stacey has found himself in the kitchen.

“Feeding people makes me happy,” says Stacey Little. “There are few things in this world that I delight more in than my family and friends gathered around my table enjoying a meal. In the South, we celebrate everything with food: birthdays, football games, anniversaries.  It just one of the many ways we express love to another person.”

I know a lot of y’all are looking for ways to use up all that garden squash.  Squash is one of those plants that takes off and keeps on producing.  But you have to keep picking the squash once it becomes the right size because it’s not as good if it gets too big. I used to grow zucchini every year and it could become as large as a baseball bat if you didn’t go get it soon enough!

Perfect sized yellow squash.

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This Squash Casserole is a great way to get some veggies on the dinner table and it’s packed with bacon, cheese, and buttery crackers. There are hundreds of variations of squash casserole out there, but this one is Stacy’s favorite.  It combines one of his favorite summer vegetables with bacon, cheese, and buttery Ritz crackers. Seriously, how can this not be great?  

squash casserole

Squash Casserole

1 small onion, finely chopped

5 strips of bacon, coarsely chopped

2 pounds yellow squash, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 eggs, beaten

8 ounces sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 sleeve buttery crackers, crushed

3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 9 x 1-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large skillet, cook bacon and onions over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes, or until bacon starts crisping and onions are translucent.

Add garlic, saute until fragrant.

Add squash and saute 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine beaten eggs, sour cream, salt, pepper, and cheese. Mix well.

Add squash and bacon mixture to the bowl.  Mix well.  Turn out into the prepared casserole dish.

Top with crushed crackers and pats of butter

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until casserole is browned and bubbly.
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