Bless Your Spoon — Valentine pairings

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

You might be an artist but don’t know it.    

Most good cooks are artists — they plate up delicious and unique taste experiences based on combining optimal flavors. And there’s an art to that, and a science, too. Interesting to note is how art and science are often paired together.

There are scientific teachings behind food pairing. Both flavor combining and food pairing are complicated sciences that home cooks instinctively master over time with experience. The art is all about combining ingredients that complement each other — those foods that perfectly blend to create harmonious and memorable culinary delights.

Classic food pairing is also about balance. And while much of our flavor experience is defined by our sense of taste, even more is defined by our sense of smell. The more aromatic compounds foods have in common, the better they taste when paired. Aromatic compounds — who knew, right?

Often a good cook has already mastered culinary artistry but is completely unaware of the cupful of scientific principles applied when her savory masterpiece was created. The end result was a mouthful of combined, delicious, flavor bursts. And something else — have you noticed how our culinary language is filled with pairings that go together such as cookies and cream? Just the mere mention of that combo makes my mouth drool.

Let’s move off-topic for a moment and consider our Bibles. The book is filled with powerful pairings that accent or give flavor to our interpretations. In both the Old and New Testaments, characters are often presented in pairs. Right from the beginning we read of the pairing of Adam and Eve followed by the ancestral couples of Abraham and Sarah and their descendants. These pairings represent God’s promise to create people as numerous as the stars in the sky and sands of the sea.

“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” Genesis 22:17.

But other pairings encourage us to reflect on the contrast between light and darkness. The Gospel of John 1: 3 reads, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Darkness hasn’t and never will overcome the light.

Other Biblical pairings serve to instruct us in life or contrast our choices as we study the difference between our life on this earth versus eternal life in heaven.

Just like with food, the Bible creates a rich text full of flavor, seasonings and powerful pairings. So, as we read our Bibles, we can expect the words to whet our appetites for wisdom we might derive from it. There’s so much to learn and we might discover a new appreciation for God’s values and priorities.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s take things one step further to reflect on personal pairings. Have we aligned ourselves with that which will enhance our spiritual journeys? Are you paired well with those who share “key” aromas — and do you complement one another spiritually?

For today, I compiled a few easy, no-fuss, favorite Southern food pairings, so enjoy! I wish you much peace, joy and tenderness in the month of love and pairings.

Spaghetti and Meatballs


• 2 beaten eggs

• 1 cup Italian bread crumbs

• 1 tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 2 pounds ground chuck


• 2 Tbsp. olive oil

• 1 chopped onion

• 2 crushed garlic cloves

• 1 can tomato soup

• 1 can cream mushroom soup

• 1 tsp. chili powder

• 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

• 8 ounces cooked spaghetti noodles

• Cooked meatballs

• 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

For the meatballs, in a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add bread crumbs, salt, pepper and ground chuck. Mix well and shape into bite-sized balls. Bake on baking sheet in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a skillet, heat oil and cook onion and garlic cloves for 2 minutes or until translucent. Stir in tomato soup, mushroom soup, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce.  Stir in cooked meatballs until heated through. In a well-greased baking dish, evenly layer spaghetti noodles, meatball sauce and cheese, in that order. Evenly spread mushroom soup over the top. Bake covered in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1 hour.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

• 2 pounds corned beef boneless brisket or round

• 1 small divided onion

• 2 crushed cloves garlic

• 1 cut up, green cabbage

In a 5-quart Dutch oven, pour enough cold water on corned beef to cover. Add a cut-up onion and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 2 hours or until beef is tender. Remove beef to a warm platter and keep warm. Remove fat from broth and add cabbage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Drain to a bowl.

Shrimp and Grits

• 1½ cups whole milk

• 1 cup light cream or half-half

• 1 cup water

• 1 stick salted butter

• Pinch of baking soda

• 1 cup stone ground grits

• 1 stick salted butter

• 2 pounds peeled, cooked shrimp

• Juice of 1 lemon

• 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

In a saucepan, heat the milk, cream, water, 1 stick butter and baking soda until boiling. Slowly stir in grits and cook 20 minutes while frequently stirring. Cover and place in simmering water. Cook for 30 minutes. In a skillet, melt 1 stick butter. Add shrimp and cook just until heated through but don’t overcook. Stir in fresh lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Serve the shrimp mixture on top of the grits.

Peas and Carrots

• 8 ounces cubed, softened cream cheese

• ½ cup chicken broth

• 3 cups cubed, cooked chicken breast

• 16 ounces thawed, frozen peas and carrots

• ½ tsp. garlic salt

• 1 beaten egg

• ½ cup whole milk

• 1 cup Bisquick

In a saucepan, combine cream cheese with chicken broth. Heat until cream cheese is melted. Mix well. Stir in chicken, peas and carrots, and garlic salt. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate. In a bowl, beat egg with milk until blended. Stir in baking mix. Spoon dough mixture over the chicken mixture. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Green Eggs and Ham

• 6 beaten eggs

• 3 ½ cup whole milk

• 1 Tbsp. minced onion

• ½ tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. dry mustard

• Artisan bread slices

• 9 slices sharp American cheese

• 2 cups diced ham

• 10 ounces cooked, chopped broccoli

• 8 ounces sliced mushrooms

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs well. Add milk, onion, salt and dry mustard. Set aside. Meanwhile in a butter-greased 13 x 9 casserole dish, line bottom slices of buttered bread. Layer cheese, ham, cooked broccoli and mushrooms. Cover with another layer of buttered bread slices. Evenly pour the egg mixture over the bread. Refrigerate overnight. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

Turkey and Dressing

• 3 cups herb stuffing mix

• 1 cup hot water

• 1 ½ cup dry herb stuffing mix

• 2/3 cup sliced ripe olives

• 1 can sliced water chestnuts

• 3-4 cups cubed turkey/chicken breast

• 2 cans golden cream of chicken soup

• 1 cup whole milk

• 3 cups herb stuffing mix

• ½ cup melted salted butter

In a bowl, combine 3 cups herbed stuffing with hot water and set aside. In a well-greased 13 x 9 baking dish, evenly spread 1 ½ cup dry stuffing mix over the bottom. Evenly sprinkle the olives and water chestnuts on top.  Lay sliced chicken breasts over top. In a bowl, combine soup with milk and mix well. Pour soup mixture over the chicken breasts. Evenly spread the top with stuffing mixture that was set aside. Pour melted butter over the top. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

Ham and Swiss

• 4 beaten eggs

• 2 cups whole milk

• ½ cup melted, salted butter

• 1/3 cup chopped green onions

• 1 cup Bisquick

• ½ tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 2 cups cooked, chopped ham

• 1 cup grated Swiss cheese

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add whole milk, melted butter and green onions. Mix well. Stir in Bisquick, salt and pepper and mix well. Evenly sprinkle ham and cheese in bottom of a pie pan. Evenly pour egg mixture over top of ham and cheese. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 35-40 minutes until knife tests clean.

Macaroni and Cheese

• 16 ounces macaroni noodles

• ¾ large package Velveeta cheese

• 1 ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

• 3 heaping Tbsp. sour cream

• Whole milk

• Additional shredded cheese

In a pan, boil noodles and drain well. Stir the Velveeta and shredded cheese into the noodles until cheese has melted. Stir in sour cream and just enough milk so that it is creamy. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with additional shredded cheese. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until cheese is melted and begins to brown. You can also cook this in a crock pot on low for 3 hours.

Chicken and Noodle

• 1 cut up fryer chicken

• 1 package noodles

• 3 Tbsp. melted salted butter

• 1 chopped onion

• 1 chopped bell pepper

• ½ cup chopped celery

• ½ small jar of pimentos

• 1 small can sliced black olives

• 1 can cream of mushroom soup

• 1 can cream of celery soup

• 1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Cook chicken and remove pieces to platter. Reserve broth and cook noodles in broth according to package and drain. Set aside. Debone chicken and chop or pull and set aside. In a skillet, melt butter and sauté onion, celery and bell pepper. In a bowl, combine pimentos, olives, cream of mushroom and celery soups, and chicken meat. Mix well. Gently stir in noodles. Mix well. Lightly salt and pepper top. Pour all into a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Evenly sprinkle grated cheese over top. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Pork and Beans

• ½ pound lean ground beef

• ½ pound cut-up bacon pieces

• 4 pounds canned pork and beans

• ½ cup diced onions

• 2 Tbsp. molasses

• ½ cup ketchup

• ¾ cup brown sugar

• 1 tsp. dry mustard

In a skillet, brown beef and bacon pieces. Drain well. In a bowl, combine cooked beef and bacon, pork and beans, onions, molasses, ketchup, brown sugar and mustard. Bake in a large casserole dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Peaches and Cream

• 2 cups crushed pretzels

• 1 ½ sticks salted butter

• 4 Tbsp. sugar


• 8 ounces softened cream cheese

• 8 ounces Cool Whip

• 1 cup sugar

• 2 large boxes peach Jello

• 10 ounces thawed, frozen peaches

• Whipped, whipping cream and cherries

For the crust, in a bowl, crush pretzels and add sugar. Pour butter over pretzel mixture. Press into bottom and up sides ½-inch. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 minutes. Completely cool before adding filling. For the filling, in a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese, Cool Whip and sugar. Spread over cooled crust. In a bowl, combine Jello with frozen fruit until thickened. Pour over cream cheese mixture. Top with real whipped cream and cherries. Refrigerate.

Peanut Butter and Banana

• 3 ounces softened cream cheese

• 1/3 cup peanut butter

• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

• 1/3 cup whole milk

• 1 tsp. vanilla

• 9 ounces Cool Whip

• 1 9-inch graham cracker crust

• 1-2 bananas

• Whipped, whipping cream

• Maraschino cherries

In a mixer bowl, cream together the cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar and milk. Add vanilla and fold in Cool Whip. Pour into pie crust and freeze. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Top pie with sliced bananas and evenly cover top of pie with whipped cream and cherries.