photograph by Matt Hulsman

Baked French Toast with Blueberry Crunch
Recipe by Lynn Wells

Yield: 6 servings.

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large loaf French bread, cut into 2-inch cubes (day-old preferred)
6 eggs
2 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut into cubes

For the blueberry topping:
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
½ cup maple syrup
1½ cups crushed corn flakes
¼ cup powdered sugar (for garnish)

Lightly spread 2 tablespoons of softened butter in a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish, making sure to get all four corners of the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt.

Place half of the bread cubes in prepared dish. Top with half of the cream cheese cubes. Add remaining bread cubes and top with remaining cream cheese. Pour egg mixture over bread cubes, pressing down so that the bread is completely soaked by the egg mixture.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375°. In a medium bowl, add blueberries and maple syrup. Sprinkle sugar and cornstarch over blueberries and toss so they are evenly coated. Spread blueberries evenly over bread mixture. Cover casserole with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil; sprinkle corn flakes over the top. Bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until center is firm and cereal is crispy.

Let cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with maple or blueberry syrup.

Chicken and Pastry
Recipe by Lynn Wells
Yield: 4 servings.

1 tablespoon salt
1 whole chicken
1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
2 celery stalks, cut in half
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
8 cups cold water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons shortening
⅔ cup cold water
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons black pepper

In a large pot, combine salt, chicken, onion, celery, cloves, bay leaf, and 8 cups of cold water, or enough to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook until chicken is tender, approximately 45 minutes or until the leg pulls away from the chicken. Remove chicken, cloves, and bay leaf from the pot, leaving the broth to simmer over low heat.

Skin, debone, and cut chicken into small pieces. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Using a pastry cutter, cut in shortening until dough is crumbly or resembles coarse sand. Add ⅔ cup water and stir until just combined. Pastry will be stiff.

Lightly flour surface and roll out pastry to ⅛-inch thickness. Cut pastry into strips, then into 2-inch squares.

Bring chicken broth back to a rolling boil. Drop pastry squares in, one at a time. Add butter and pepper to the broth. Once all the pastry has been added, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add chicken to broth and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Hoop Cheese Biscuits
Recipe by Wendy Perry

Yield: About 12 biscuits.

2 cups biscuit mix
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup chopped chives
1 stick cold butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 pound hoop cheese
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425º. Grease a muffin tin. In a large bowl, combine biscuit mix, sugar, peppers, garlic powder, and chives. Grate butter into dry ingredients. Using fingers, incorporate to a crumbly consistency. Add buttermilk, a little at a time, until the batter is thick and creamy.

Put 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture in each muffin cup. Pinch off ¾-inch chunks of cheese, and place in the center of the batter. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of batter over each piece of cheese, pushing it around the edges to seal in cheese.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove biscuits, and brush them with melted butter. Serve immediately.

Chicken & Rice Soup
Recipe by Lynn Wells.

Yield: 6 servings.

Meat from 1 roasted chicken, chopped (approximately 2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup basmati rice
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, coarsely chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, celery, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 minutes or just until the celery is tender and the onion is translucent.

Add the rice, mushrooms, thyme sprigs, and chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. Remove the thyme and discard.

Add the chopped chicken, and lemon juice to the pot. Season with pepper and additional salt as needed. As soup thickens, add water to desired consistency.

Stir in the parsley and cook for a couple more minutes before serving.


Red Velvet Cake
Recipe by Lynn Wells
Yield: 12 servings.

Vegetable oil for the pans
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Crushed pecans (optional)

For the cream cheese frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil and flour three 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.

Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven, spaced evenly apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, for about 30 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded sides up. Let cool completely.

To make the frosting, use a standing mixer to beat the softened butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.

To frost the cake, place one layer, rounded side down, in the middle of a cake stand. Using a palette knife or offset spatula, spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. (Spread enough frosting to make a ¼- to ½-inch layer.) Carefully set another layer on top, rounded side down, and repeat. Top with the remaining layer, rounded side up, and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top with pecans (optional).

Chocolate Bread Pudding
Recipe by Lynn Wells
Yield: 8 servings.

6½ cups bread cubes (1 pound brioche or white bread)
1½ cups bittersweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Ice cream (optional)
Powdered sugar (optional)

Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish or 9 x 13-inch pan. Toss the bread cubes with 1 cup of the chopped chocolate, and place in the prepared pan.

In a saucepan set over low heat, combine the remaining chopped chocolate with the sugar, cocoa, and milk. Cook, stirring, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is thickened and smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, and whisk in the heavy cream. Whisk in the eggs, salt, and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes, and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325°.

Bake the pudding for 45 to 50 minutes, until it’s set. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, or dusted with powdered sugar.

Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits
Recipe Courtesy of the Community Cookbook Series

Yields: 10 biscuits.

2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup chilled shortening, cut into pieces
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
Melted butter

Preheat oven to 425˚ and position oven rack slightly below center of oven. Lightly butter a round cake pan or cast-iron skillet.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, and salt. Snap pieces of shortening with your fingers until they’re no larger than peas.

Make a well in the mixture and pour in cream and ⅔ cup of buttermilk. Using your hands, sweep in the flour and turn dough until dry ingredients are moistened and dough resembles cottage cheese, adding just enough of remaining ⅓ cup buttermilk to reach this consistency.

Sprinkle rolling surface with flour. Turn dough out onto the surface and sprinkle top with flour. With floured hands, fold dough in half and pat it into a ⅓- to ½-inch-thick round, using additional flour as needed. Flour again if necessary and fold dough in half a second time. If dough is still clumpy, repeat folding process for a third time. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the flour and cut out biscuits, ensuring you don’t twist the cutter.

Place biscuits in pan, sides slightly touching. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and bake for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown, rotating pan 180 degrees after 6 minutes. Remove from oven and brush biscuits again with melted butter.

Cherry Biscuit Cobbler
Recipe by Lynn Wells
Yield: 8 servings.

For the biscuits:
5 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (for best results, freeze for 1 hour)
2 cups all-purpose flour

2  tablespoons baking powder
3  tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk, very cold

For the filling:
1  tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2  pounds fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
¼  cup sugar
¼  cup water
1 (13-ounce) jar cherry preserves
4 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the biscuits: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in chilled butter until the flour resembles peas. Slowly add cold milk and incorporate with pastry cutter or hands. Do not overmix. Dough will be wet. Pour dough onto a clean, heavily floured countertop. Shape dough into a ball and roll out to ½-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut biscuits and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate biscuits for 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 ̊.

For the filling: Prepare a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter. Arrange cherries in baking dish. In a saucepan over low heat, mix together sugar, water, cherry preserves, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt. Heat to a thick sauce consistency. Pour filling over cherries.

Arrange chilled biscuits over filling. Brush biscuits with melted butter.

Place cobbler on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 ̊ and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Shrimp & Cheese Grits Casserole
Recipe by Lynn Wells

Yield: 4 servings.

4 cups chicken broth
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup yellow stone-ground grits
½ cup half-and-half
¼ cup cooking sherry
1 cup sharp cheese, shredded
1 cup Gouda, shredded
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
6 green onions, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound medium fresh shrimp, peeled, tails left on
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, combine broth and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring mixture to a rolling boil; stir in grits. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and grits are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in half-and-half, sherry, and cheese; remove from heat. Gradually whisk in eggs until smooth.

In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add grits mixture to onion mixture; stir to combine. Bake until set, approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

In a nonstick skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, paprika, and nutmeg. Add shrimp to skillet; cook until pink and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon shrimp and 1 tablespoon melted butter over grits. Garnish with green onion and serve immediately.

Chocolate Chess Pie
Recipe by Lynn Wells

Yield: 8 servings.

½ cup salted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie shell (unbaked)
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°. In a bowl, combine butter, sugar, cocoa, eggs, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Mix well. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and spread it evenly along the edges. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve with whipped cream (optional).

Chocolate Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Recipe by Lynn Wells

Yield: 16 servings.

For the cake:
1 pound unsalted butter, softened

3 cups sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup whole milk, warm
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate royal icing:
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the cake: Preheat oven to 325°. Butter, cream cheese, and eggs should be at room temperature. Cream together butter, sugar, and cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Add alternately with milk to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir in vanilla. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cover with foil until completely cool.

For the chocolate royal icing: In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix lightly. In a separate bowl, mix egg whites, vanilla extract, and half of the cream. Add to the dry ingredients. With an electric mixer, mix on low speed, and gradually add the remaining cream. Mix until the icing reaches the consistency of thick syrup. Turn the mixer to high and whip for approximately 2 minutes, until the icing is light and fluffy, like meringue.

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