Collard Greens and Ham Hocks!

When I was growing up, we always ate greens, but not collard greens.  Everyone around here grew and cooked turnip greens and mustard greens or mixed them.  Some also ate poke on occasion.  I used to love poke salad when I was a little girl.  I had an uncle that really loved it and he and I were the only ones who would eat it, so my aunt would cook us a big pot or a 'mess' as southerners like to say and we would have contests to see who could eat the most.   I had forgotten about that until my mother reminded me of it the other day when we were talking about cooking greens.

We started cooking collards after Paula Deen became so popular on Food Network and cooked them on there and my sister moved to Georgia where they eat collards and she found out how good they were and passed that info along.

Also my sister, mother and I took a trip to Savannah, Georgia and ate at Paula Deen's restaurant and those collards were to die for. Anyway, long story short, collard greens are now our favorite greens, but we still eat the others also.  I love all greens cooked the right way.

This is how I cook my collard greens, but there are many variations and recipes and I know everyone likes their own so I am not saying this is the only way to do it.  This is a very tasty way to cook them though.  

This is also not a set in stone recipe, you can vary the seasoning to your taste. There are a few musts when cooking greens to make them taste good though, use enough seasoning and you have to put some sort of meat grease in them.  Not a bucket full or anything, but you do have to put some bacon grease, ham hock, ham pieces...something.  It cuts any of the bitterness they might have. 

Here is what you'll need:

2- 3 bunches of collard greens depending on how they are bundled, about enough to fill up a plastic grocery bag once they are cleaned
1 meaty ham hock or 2 if not so meaty (preferably a country ham hock)
1 Tbs of salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Cajun Seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's) or seasoned salt if you don't want the spiciness
1 Tbs hot sauce (something like Texas Peete is good) 
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. bacon drippings

Wash the ham hock off really well then place it in a dutch oven or large pot.  I like to use my cast iron dutch oven for this.  Cover the ham hock with water (about 2 quarts).  Add  the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, and hot sauce to the water.  

Bring this to a boil then turn heat to medium and cook the ham hock for about an hour. 

Wash the collard greens by running them through about three changes of water.  Lift each green individually out of the water to a large bowl or colander.  Change the water and do it again.  Collards are usually a little dirty and can be gritty and insects love them and will cling to them, so washing each one is important.  Even the bags that are sold in the supermarket that say they are prewashed and cut need to be rewashed at least once.  That's just my opinion...for what it is   When you have them washed, strip the leaves off of the stems that run through the middle of the leaves.  That stem is tough and fibrous...not good to eat.   Stack the leaves in a stack of about 7-8 and then roll them up like a cigar.  Take a sharp knife and cut the roll in about 1/2 inch strips.
Place the cut greens in the pot with the liquid and the ham hock.  It will look like a whole lot, but they will wilt and shrink down as they cook.  Add the sugar and the bacon drippings  Cook on medium low for about an hour. 

Remove the ham hock after one hour to a plate to cool. When it's cool enough to handle cut the lean meat off of the bone, it should just about fall off,  discard bone and fat and return the lean meat to the collards and mix.  Cook for about 30 minutes more and taste for seasoning.  Some people make the mistake of cooking greens to death.  They do not need to cook all day long.  They should still be a nice green when they are done.  The bigger your collard leaves, the longer it will take to get them tender.  Taste for tenderness and you will be able to tell if they need more time.

Serve with vinegar, Vidalia onion, and of course hoe cakes!   

Banana Pudding Icebox Cake!

 This delicious dessert is part banana pudding and part cake!  It's technically a 'poke cake' know the ones where you poke the holes and then pour a custard or pudding over it so it seeps down into the cake.  

What makes this one so special is that the custard part is made from scratch and not an instant pudding mix.  That makes this have that old fashioned banana pudding taste.   

I adapted this recipe from one that was in The Taste of the South Magazine in the May/June 2014 issue.   I did change just a few things. 

 Here is what you will need:

1 (15.25 oz.) white cake mix  (plus the ingredients to prepare the whole egg version)
1/2 cup mashed banana
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 cups whole milk
8 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla
5 to 6 bananas sliced
12 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed (can use sweetened whipped cream)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

Prepare the cake according to the package directions using whole eggs instead of the eggs whites only.  Mix in the 1/2 cup mashed banana and the vanilla.  We also substitute Sprite or 7 Up for the water, but that's optional.  Pour into a 9"x13" baking pan that has been sprayed well with nonstick spray.   Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.   Allow to cool for 25 to 30 minutes.

Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake.

In a saucepan over medium heat mix the flour, sugars and salt.  Whisk in the milk.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.   Place the egg yolks in a bowl.  Slowly whisk in about a cup of the hot mixture to temper the yolks.  Add the yolk back to the pan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  This takes about 5 minutes.  Be sure to stir or it will scorch.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. 

 Pour the mixture over the cake.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.  Remove from refrigerator after it's chilled and slice the bananas and place on top of the custard.  Spread the whipped topping evenly over the top and sprinkle with the toasted pecans. 

Slice and serve!


Creole Sausage and Wild Rice Casserole!

This "Sausage and Wild Rice Casserole" is a really tasty dish that can be served as a main dish or as a side with other main courses.   This is very similar to a dirty rice and I just love it.   Feel free to adjust the seasonings to make it as mild or spicy as you like. 

 Here is what you will need for this casserole: 

2 lbs. ground sausage (use 1 lb. hot and 1 lb. mild for a spicier flavor)
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup red or green bell pepper, diced
1 (6 oz.) box long grain and wild rice mix ( we used Uncle Ben's) Do Not Cook
1 (10.5 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 soup can water
2 Tbs. chopped Pimento (optional)
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning (we used Tony Chachere's)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
dash or two of hot sauce (optional)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the sausage in a skillet and then drain excess grease.  Use all mild for a less spicy flavor or one of each for a spicy taste.

In a large bowl, mix the sausage and all of the other ingredients.   Leave the rice mix uncooked, but use the rice and the seasoning packet.

Pour into a 3 quart casserole dish you have sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cover tightly with foil and place in the 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  

Remove foil and serve immediately!  This is great served with chicken or pork or as a main dish with a salad!