Bless Your Spoon —  Roads less traveled

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

There’s no better time to take the scenic backroads. With a kaleidoscope of eye-popping fall colors, the road less traveled never disappoints. Recently, I navigated an off-the-beaten-path trip to Bear Creek. Our destination — Southern Supreme Fruitcake & More’s holiday open house and gourmet food tour of their confectionary kitchens.

Folks, this hidden gem is out in the middle of nowhere, making it all the more unique. Think of John Denver’s song, “Country Roads, Take Me Home” — it’s a family-owned and operated kind of place.

Church buses had descended on the fruitcake store and I understood why. With a delightful showroom of delectable sweet and savory foods and holiday décor, it’s the perfect destination if you enjoy scenic, pre-holiday road trips and have a hankering for delicious confections.

You’ll be treated with samples of their specialty fruitcake. But I know you’re about to say — “I hate fruit cake.” But most likely, you’ll end up eating those words before you leave. Supreme’s the only fruitcake for which I’ve developed an addiction. Their secret? An abundance of nuts and less fruit. And besides that, with four different kitchens, Supreme makes gobs more sweets than just the much-beloved nut cake.

Sampling was just enough to pique our appetites for lunch so I inquired. As we checked out with arms full of cakes and candy, the cashier handed us a paper with preprinted directions to Bestfoods Cafeteria located one town over in Siler City. We followed the lead and headed in that direction. And boy, what a pleasant surprise that turned out to be.

Another road-worthy destination. The food was every bit as good as it looked and the atmosphere so warm and down-home. The cafeteria has been in business since 1989 offering a 35-plus item food bar, including at least seven homemade meats, 10 veggie sides, a salad bar, and a whole slew of bakery-made pies and cakes. Plus, there’s an entire section devoted to already prepared, take-home dishes. Notable was the high-quality gift gallery at the front of the restaurant with name brands so you can fuel up for another on-site holiday shopping spree.

Be sure to order a piece of the “Chest” Pie. I got a kick from the young cashier’s pronunciation of this Tennessee gal’s favorite, Southern pie. Well, the young’un got the name wrong, but the cook sure baked it right — sweet and delicious. And on top of everything else, the menu’s list of beverages included Cheerwine. Need I say more?

The Bible tells us that the gate to eternity is a narrow one and the road less traveled leads to living eternally with God. Jesus taught about the way to heaven in Matthew 7:13-14 saying, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

The verse is about our walk with Jesus.

He is the truth, the life, and the way — our road to eternity.

Meatballs in a Saucy Sauce

• 12 cooked meatballs, drippings reserved

• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

• 1 ½ cups diced onion

• 3 minced cloves garlic

• 45 ounces crushed whole plum tomatoes

• 1 Tbsp. sugar

• 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

• ½ cup minced fresh parsley

• Salt, to taste

Cook meatballs and reserve pan drippings. Set aside. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil. Sauté onion and garlic for 1 minute or until translucent. Stir in crushed tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, parsley and ¼ cup of beef pan drippings and simmer for 25 minutes. Salt to taste. Add meatballs to the sauce and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. You can serve alone or toss with pasta. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Seasoned Batter for Fried Chicken

• Favorite chicken pieces

• 2 whole eggs

• 2 juiced fresh lemons

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 2 cups whole milk

• ½ tsp. each, salt and pepper

• Favorite chicken pieces

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Additional all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp. each, salt and pepper

• Crisco shortening

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add lemon juice and mix well. Add flour while alternating with milk and blend into a batter. Salt and pepper chicken pieces. Dip chicken into seasoned batter. Allow extra to drip off. Then dip in seasoned flour. Fry chicken on both sides in melted shortening to a golden brown.

Chicken and Rice Divan

• 20 ounces steamed, frozen broccoli florets

• ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

• 2 cups cooked, cubed chicken

• 1 cup cooked rice

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 cup whole milk

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 cup sour cream

• ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Steam and drain broccoli florets. Arrange on bottom of a butter-greased 13 x 9 oven casserole dish. Evenly sprinkle broccoli with Parmesan cheese. Evenly cover with the cooked and cubed chicken. Evenly sprinkle cooked rice over the top. In a saucepan, make a roux by melting the butter. Add flour and milk until smooth. Add lemon juice and sour cream. Mix well. Evenly pour roux over the rice. Evenly sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15-18 minutes.

Cabbage Soufflé

• 1 cooked, drained large head cabbage

• 4 beaten large eggs

• 3 buttered bread slices without crust

• 2 cups whole milk

• 1 tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. each, black pepper and dill seed

• 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

• 1 tsp. paprika

• 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

In a large pot, cook cabbage by bringing it to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender. Drain well. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add bread cut up in pieces with milk. Fold cabbage into egg mixture. Add salt, pepper, dill seed and ½ cup cheddar cheese. Pour into a 2-quart casserole. Evenly spread 1 cup of cheddar cheese over top. Sprinkle paprika over top. Bake in a preheated 250-degree oven for 2-2 ½ hours. Serve immediately after removing from oven.   

Hot & Spicy Blackeyed Peas

• 3 slices cooked, crumbled bacon

• 1 medium chopped onion

• ½ chopped green bell pepper

• 17 ounces black eyed peas

• 16 ounces undrained, chopped, whole tomatoes

• 1 Tbsp. soy sauce

• 1 tsp. each salt, dry mustard, liquid smoke

• ½ tsp. each chili powder, black pepper

• 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp, drain and crumble. Set aside the bacon. In the bacon grease, sauté onion and green pepper. Drain. Add black-eyed peas, chopped tomatoes, soy sauce, salt, dry mustard, liquid smoke, chili powder and black pepper to the sautéed onions and pepper. Heat to boiling and then reduce heat to simmer and cook 20 minutes. When serving, top with crumbled bacon and chopped fresh parsley.

Old Southern Mashed Potatoes

• 6 Irish cobbler potatoes

• ¼ cup salted butter

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 cup whole milk

Peel and quarter potatoes. In a saucepan, steam potatoes until tender. Adrain and add butter, salt and milk. In a mixer bowl, beat potatoes until mixture is smooth and free of lumps and whips up to a light cream mixture. Serve hot. A favorite of southern mashed potatoes. The cobbler potato is a well-respected, heirloom potato with a very distinctive taste and well known for making delicious mashed potatoes. Otherwise, try Yukon Golds.

Broccoli Cauliflower Slaw

• 1 head cauliflower

• 1 bunch broccoli

• 1 small onion

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 2/3 cup premium mayonnaise

• ½ cup vinegar

• ½ tsp. salt

In a bowl, chop cauliflower, broccoli and onion fine. Mix slaw ingredients with sugar, mayonnaise, vinegar and salt until thoroughly blended. Chill and serve.

Sweet Sour-Creamed Cornbread

• 3 beaten eggs

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• 1 ½ cups self-rising cornmeal

• ½ cup Wesson oil

• 8 ounces sour cream

• 17 ounces cream-style corn

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and self-rising cornmeal while alternating with oil. Fold in sour cream and corn. Mix well. Bake in a butter-greased and hot cast iron skillet in a preheated 450 degrees for 20 minutes or tests done with the center firm. Serve hot.

K & W Cafeteria Coconut Pie

• 3 Tbsp. melted salted butter

• 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar

• 1/8 tsp. salt

• 3 large eggs

• 5 Tbsp. cornstarch

• 3 cups whole milk, divided

• 2-3 drops yellow food coloring (optional)

• 2/3 cup shredded coconut

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a saucepan, melt butter on low heat. Add sugar and salt and mix. Stir in eggs and mix well. Stir in cornstarch and mix well. Add 1 cup milk and stir into thoroughly blended. Increase stove heat to medium and add 2 cups milk and optional food coloring. Stir until all is blended and continue to heat until thickened. You will have to stand at stove and stir continually to keep from sticking to bottom or else use a double boiler. It doesn’t take long. When thickened, stir in vanilla and coconut and continue until mixture coats spoon and holds. When ready, pour into a prebaked, deep dish pie shell, and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 20 minutes. A delicious pie.

Butterscotch Cream Pie

• 3.4-ounce package of butterscotch pudding mix

• 2 cups whole milk

• 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar

• ¼ cup browned, salted butter

• ½ tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 baked pie shell

• ½ cup whipped heavy cream

Prepare the cook-style pudding (not instant) with milk according to package directions. Stir in brown sugar, browned butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of pudding with waxed paper and put in the refrigerator for 2 hours. In a mixer bowl, beat the chilled pudding with a spoon until smooth. Pour into a prebaked pie shell. Top with whipped cream. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

“Chest” Pie

• 1 prebaked pie crust

• 1 melted stick salted butter

• 2 cups sugar

• 4 large eggs

• 3 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal

• 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• Pinch of salt

• ¼ cup whole milk

• 1 ½ Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• Confectioners’ sugar

In a mixer bowl, combine melted butter with sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, mixing each well. Add cornmeal, flour, and salt with the milk, lemon juice and extract. Mix well. You can use vinegar instead of lemon juice — that’s how we make ‘em in Tennessee. Evenly pour filling into pie shell. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until edges and center are set. Tent with foil to keep crust from burning. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar when serving.