Desperation Baking

With the stress and anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been doing a lot of what I call desperation baking lately. But this week I did a little celebration baking. It was my friend Susie’s birthday, and virus or no, I believe in celebrating birthdays. My grandmother and mother were big cake bakers in their time, but now, the birthday cake baking baton has been passed to me. I always try to bake the celebrant’s favorite kind of dessert for their birthday. My son-in-law Mark actually prefers Mississippi Mud Pie or Key Lime Pie instead of cake. Granddaughter Molly asks for a strawberry-topped cheesecake. But Susie loves chocolate, especially the chocolate pound cake her late mother Muv used to bake. I didn’t have that recipe, so I turned to Pinterest, where I found a recipe from The Southern Lady Cooks. I omitted the nuts and used semi-sweet chocolate chips for both the cake and the glaze. No birthday party this year, so my daughter and I made a secret pact with Susie’s family. They were sitting on their front porch enjoying cocktail hour when we pulled up with our trusty Tupperware cake-taker. We managed to leave the cake at a socially distant six feet away, and later they texted us a photo of the birthday girl enjoying her cake. One caution about chocolate pound cakes—do not overbake!

Celebration Baking for Susie: Chocolate Pound Cake


4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 cups chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


Cream butter, sugar and eggs with a mixer. Add vanilla extract and buttermilk, keep mixing. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave about 1 minute or until when stirred they are smooth. Add to creamed mixture. Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Add to creamed chocolate mixture and mix with mixer just until all ingredients are wet. Fold in nuts. Spray a 10 inch bundt pan with cooking spray. Pour in the batter. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until center tests done. Makes 1 bundt cake. You can add your favorite topping or the chocolate chip glaze below. Enjoy!

For the Chocolate Glaze: Melt ½ cup chocolate chips in microwave safe dish with 4 TBSP butter. Let cake cool completely before drizzling on top and sides.

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis

My recipe for Chocolate Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis is such a simple sweet treat to add to your Valentine’s Day supper. In fact, it’s featured on the “Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Dinner” menu in THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK (coming May 2nd!).


While it may sound like a very fancy-Nancy recipe, it’s really quite simple—sort of an Italian chocolate pudding make without the egg yolks, topped with a fast and delicious fresh strawberry sauce. Feel free to use any other berry that floats your gondola, though. I find those cute little glass custard cups at nearly every estate sale I go to, so I usually make my panna cotta in those,but it would also be pretty served in a wine glass or champagne coupes. Okay, let’s be honest, it would taste just as good if you just left it in the bowl you prepared it in and passed around long-handled spoons. But that doesn’t sound very romantic, now does it? Here’s the recipe card. Enjoy!

MKA Recipe Whim 2


Jeanne’s Chicken Enchilada Dip–A Super Bowl Treat!

The crowd-pleasing recipe for “Jeanne’s Chicken Enchilada Dip” that’s in my new book, THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK (coming May 2, 2017 from St. Martin’s Press), is the absolute perfect dish for your Super Bowl party next weekend. (Go, Falcons!)

This dip is named for my sister-in-law Jeanne, who is the appetizer queen.

Jeanne never arrives at any family function without a cooler full of appetizers. One constant is this addictive cream cheese and chicken-based dip. And it is always the superstar at any get-together. In fact, it’s so beloved that she now brings a tub for each of her nephews to call his own. Covered and refrigerated, it stores well for up to a week. Be sure to choose sturdy tortilla chips to scoop up all the goodness!



Cherrylicious Glazed Ribs

This recipe would probably work with Cherry Coke or Dr. Pepper, but if that Southern staple CheerWine is available in your neighborhood, that’s what will give it that uniquely cherry taste. Use two big disposable foil pans for this messy recipe. Serves 4

For the ribs:

2 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. light brown sugar

1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 tsp. chili powder

4 lbs baby back pork ribs

4 c. Cheerwine


For the glaze:

1 1/2 c. Cheerwine

1/2 c. cherry jam

1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1/4 c. tomato paste

1/4 c. dijon mustard

3 tbsp. soy sauce



Preheat oven to 400°. In a small bowl, mix together salt, brown sugar, black pepper, and chili powder. Rub all over ribs. Divide ribs between 2 large disposable aluminum roasting pans, being sure to place the slabs in meat side up. Pour 2 cups Cheerwine into each pan, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast ribs, switching pans’ positions halfway through cooking, until very tender, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

While ribs cook, prepare the glaze. In a medium-size saucepan, whisk together Cheerwine, jam, brown sugar, Worcestershire, vinegar, tomato paste, mustard, and soy sauce. Set over medium heat. Let cook, whisking occasionally, until reduced and syrupy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside.

Remove ribs from oven when tender. Remove foil and ribs from pans; pour fat and remaining liquid out of pans and discard. Carefully arrange for oven rack to be about 8 inches from broiler (no closer); preheat broiler. Brush ribs all over with prepared glaze and return to pans, meat side up. Broil for about 5 minutes or until lightly charred. Serve with extra glaze on the side.

‘Mater Tots

This easy-peasy recipe was inspired by one from Paula Deen. If you’re taking these to a party, fix them ahead of time on disposable foil baking sheets and pop in the oven when you get to the party. Warning: you will never be able to fix enough of these to satisfy your guests!



½ cup finely shredded parmesan, romano or mozzarella cheese.

1 package mini phyllo shells—I find Athena brand in freezer case by frozen fruits or biscuits

¾ cup peeled and finely diced fresh tomatoes

1 tsp. finely chopped fresh basil

2 tsp. finely minced onions—preferably Vidalia

¼ tsp. each, fresh ground black pepper, sea salt, garlic powder

¼ cup mayonnaise—preferably Duke’s

2 Tbsp. bacon bits



Peel and dice tomatoes, sprinkle with seasoning mixture and let juices and seeds drain in colander. Mix onion and basil with tomatoes and spoon into mini phyllo shells. “Frost” top of tomato-filled cups with mayo piped from a plastic bag with the corner snipped out. Sprinkle with cheese, add bacon bits, bake in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or ‘til tops are lightly browned. Serve warm.

Grits n’Greens Casserole


2 cups whipping cream or half and half

8 cups chicken broth, divided.

2 cup grits-not instant or quick cooking.

1 lg. bag frozen collard greens

2 sticks butter

2 1/2 cups parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon



Grease 13×9 casserole.

Combine cream and 6 cups chicken broth and bring to boil. Stir in grits and cook over medium heat until grits return to boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer and stir frequently to keep from burning, 25-30 minutes. Add milk if needed to thicken to proper consistency. If you’re Southern, you know what that is, if not, think of slightly runny oatmeal. While grits are simmering, cook frozen collards with remaining 2 cups of chicken broth til’ tender, about ten minutes. Drain well in colander, squeezing out remaining liquid. Add butter, parmesan and pepper to cooked grits, and stir til’ butter is melted. Stir in cooked greens, and spoon into greased casserole. Top with additional parmesan, and crumbled bacon. Dish can be served at room temperature, or heated in 350-degree oven til’ browned on top.

Beyond the Grave Chicken Salad

Did y’all hear about the Coca-Cola heiress who got kicked out of the Junior League for making chicken salad with dark meat? It’s an urban legend in Atlanta, but every Southern woman worth her salt has a tried and true recipe for chicken salad. My personal favorite used to be served in the dearly departed tea room at Maas Bros. Department Store in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’ve tasted some great versions over the years, but none greater than the one I sampled at the wake of a friend’s father in Dalton, Georgia. It inspired the recipe for Beyond the Grave Chicken Salad in Little Bitty Lies.

Beyond the Grave Chicken Salad Recipe

5 lbs. chicken breasts
2 quarts water
parsley sprigs
1 large onion, quartered
1 tsp. seasoned salt
2 chicken bouillion cubes

In large pot, bring water and seasoning to boil, add chicken, lower heat and simmer 40 min. Remove from heat, cool. Shred chicken and refrigerate.


1/2 cup bottled Italian salad dressing
1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. celery seed
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
dash paprika

Blend well together.

For salad:

Toss shredded chicken with one cup of dressing and let stand at least one hour to marinate.

Combine remaining dressing with:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. honey

Add to chicken and mix well. May add canned water chestnuts, blanched almonds or chopped pecans.