Bless Your Spoon: Colbert’s dough bowl

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 22, 2024

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

After reading the introductions to Flossie Johnson’s cookbooks, I understood why my friend, Colbert Seagraves, loved her so much. She was a jewel of a lady. And if you knew Colbert, you’d think the world of him, too. He’s got a heart of gold.

Recently, Colbert gifted me a vintage dough bowl and wooden rolling pin that had once belonged to his mother, Ardette Seagraves — gifts from Flossie Johnson. The two ladies weren’t just best friends, they were more like sisters.

I will fill in with some history here. In 1971, Colbert’s dad, Ralph Seagraves, brokered the deal between NASCAR and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. to form the Winston Cup sponsorship. Colbert’s family got close to Flossie when she was married to Junior Johnson.

Handmade by a man living in the Sparta mountains, the hand-carved, wooden, biscuit bowl had been specially made for Ardette. Lots of flour and Crisco had been mixed and dough turned in that bowl. When I unwrapped the wooden trough, there remained a dusting of flour. I could only imagine all the delicious biscuits served and good times shared with family and friends.

I’ve been the proud owner of Flossie’s three cookbooks — all gifts from Colbert years ago. The first book, Flossie’s Favorites, a collection of country recipes, was published in 1992. The book was a sell-out and reprinted four times.

You know I’m gonna love on any cookbook with a southern “punch” section. But Colbert’s favorite is the biscuit recipe, stirred by memories of his mom’s scratch biscuits baking in the oven. And the biscuit is even better after spreading with butter and Flossie’s homemade strawberry jam.

In a book intro, Flossie shared memories of her early years. She learned to cook as a little girl, having to stand on a chair to reach the pots and pans. Since her mother worked the fields with her father, Flossie looked after a younger brother and sister. She got the wood stove fired up to prepare the noon meal. The family grew fruits and vegetables, had hogs for meat and cows for fresh milk and butter. Their supper table was set for 12 — folks working in the field were served with family.

Nine years after publishing her first cookbook, Flossie published a second collection of country recipes, “Flossie’s Favorites Too.” The book is dedicated to the one who gave her a genuine love for cooking — her mama, Cordie Williams Clark. Flossie’s mama rolled out fresh biscuits and made homemade pumpkin pies from scratch right up to the end of her life. Isn’t it true that so often, our food memories are attached to the foods our Mamas put on our tables? We hear that time and time again.

From all accounts, I’ve heard that Flossie herself rolled out the best, most mouth-watering biscuits ever eaten. On one page, Betty Jane France, wife of NASCAR President Bill France Jr., wrote, “My most pleasant memory of years gone by is one of Flossie Johnson’s kitchen. The aroma of country ham and watching Flossie roll out the most delectable biscuits on a crisp autumn morning is a memory to be savored for a lifetime.”

On the inside cover were quotes from some of Flossie’s favorite drivers. Bill Elliott wrote, “Driving for Junior was good. But the best part of the deal was Flossie’s cooking. My favorite race was North Wilkesboro because we always got to eat breakfast at Flossie’s.”

Another 10 years after her second cookbook, Flossie published another book of favorite desserts, “Save the Fork” — saying there’s always room for more sweetness.

Flossie highlights her favorite special occasion treats that will help you get through the ups and downs of life’s trials and tribulations. Taking life’s sour grapes with the sweet, Flossie acknowledges good friends she’s lost, like Colbert’s daddy, Ralph Seagraves. She reminds us that life can change on a dime.

Selected are a few of my favorite recipes, and they were difficult to choose. But I picked two hearty, beefy ones for the boys. Flossie always loved her boys — Richard Childress, Sterling Marlin, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott and others.

After reading Flossie’s books cover to cover, what stood out to me was her comparison of life to a car race — getting the green flag and it’s time to go, go, go. Then there’s the caution, and you have to slow down. You get things back together and continue on. But sometimes, there’s a red flag, and life comes to a grinding halt. Then you have to regroup and start all over. And life can be like that, sometimes. But there’s one thing I think she’d remind us all of and that’s to always save your fork and enjoy the dessert!

Well, a red flag’s been thrown, so now’s a good time for me to stop.

Flossie’s cookbooks were winners and so was she. Flossie ended with her final words — she crossed the finish line with the words of a champion.

“In wishing at this very time that I could but repay a portion of the gladness that you’ve strewn my way. And if I could have one wish this year, this only would it be — I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me.”

“What a friend we have in Jesus.”

Peppered Roast

• 5- to 6-pound boneless rib eye beef roast

• ½ cup coarsely cracked pepper

• ½ tsp. ground cardamon seed

Sauce/marinade

• 2 tsp. tomato paste

• 1 tsp. paprika

• ¾ cup vinegar

• ½ tsp. garlic powder

• 1 cup soy sauce

Gravy

• 1 cup water

• 1 cup meat juices, plus

• 1 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch

• ¼ cup cold water

Marinate the trimmed roast a day before cooking by combining the pepper and cardamon seed and rubbing it all over the roast, pressing in with heel of palm. Place in shallow baking dish, then pour sauce over beef carefully. For the sauce, mix tomato paste, garlic powder and paprika. Gradually add soy sauce and vinegar. Marinate in refrigerator overnight and spoon marinade over meal several times. Remove meat from marinade and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Wrap meat in heavy-duty foil. Place in shallow pan and roast in slow oven at 350-degrees for 2 ½ hours for medium rare, and 3 hours for well done.

For the gravy, open foil. Ladle out and reserve drippings. Brown roast at 350-degrees while making gravy. Strain pan drippings and skim off excess fat. Add 1 cup water to 1 cup meat juices. Bring to boil, taste and add a little marinade if desired. Thicken gravy with 1 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup cold water. Heat and stir until smooth. Serve gravy with roast. (I use a rolled rump roast except for special occasions.)

Junior Johnson’s Race Day Biscuits

• 1/3 cup Crisco shortening

• 2 cups self-rising flour

• 2/3-3/4 cup milk

Thoroughly cut shortening into flour. Stir in just enough milk so dough leaves side of bowl and turns into a ball. Knead dough on lightly floured surface and pat or roll it ½-inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter. Bake 10-12 minutes at 450-degrees on ungreased cookie sheet until golden brown. Makes 7-16 biscuits. (Flossie’s Favorites)

Hamburger Casserole

• 1 pound ground beef

• 1 large onion, chopped

• 1 can condensed tomato soup

• 1 cup water

• 1 tsp. chili powder

• ½ cup green pepper, chopped

• 1 cup canned corn or peas, drained

• Salt and pepper, to taste

Topping

• ¾ cup self-rising cornmeal

• 1 Tbsp. flour

• 1 egg

• ½ cup milk

• 1 Tbsp. cooking oil

Brown meat and onion. Add to other ingredients. Put in large casserole dish. For the topping, mix cornmeal, flour, egg, milk and cooking oil. Mix and drop by teaspoons over ingredients in casserole dish. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350-degrees until brown on top.

Pina Colada Cake

• 1 plain yellow cake mix, no pudding

• 3 ¾ ounces instant vanilla pudding

• 15-ounce can cream coconut, divided

• ½ cup rum

• 1/3 cup vegetable oil

• 4 eggs

• 8 ounces crushed pineapple, well-drained

• Remainder cream of coconut

• 2 Tbsp. rum

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, ½ cup cream of coconut, ½ cup rum, vegetable oil and eggs. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in pineapple. Pour into well well-greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake 50-55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan. Remove from pan. Punch holes in cake about 1-inch apart. Combine remaining cream of coconut and rum. Pour over cake. Chill overnight and store in refrigerator. Can garnish with whipped cream, pineapple, and cherries. (Mary Seagraves, Flossie’s Favorites Too)

Creamy Strawberry Punch

• 10-ounces package frozen strawberries, thawed

• 28-ounce bottle ginger ale

• ½ gallon pineapple sherbet, softened

• Fresh strawberries

Place strawberries in container of an electric blender. Process until pureed. Pour into punch bowl. Add ginger ale and sherbet. Sir until creamy. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh strawberries. (Flossie’s Favorites)

Peanut Butter Fudge Cake

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 2 cups sugar

• 1 cup salted, butter

• ½ cup Hershey’s cocoa

• 1 cup water

• ½ cup buttermilk

• 2 beaten eggs

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter

Sift flour, baking soda and sugar in bowl. Set aside. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan; sift in cocoa. Add water, buttermilk and eggs, stirring well. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until mixture boils. Remove from heat. Combine butter mixture with flour mixture, stirring until smooth. Add in vanilla and mix well. Stir in peanut butter. Pour batter into greased and floured 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. (Save the Fork)

Amish Macaroni Salad

• 1 ½ cups macaroni, cooked, drained

• 6 hard-boiled eggs

• Onions, celery, carrots, parsley, pimento

Dressing

• 1 ½ cups sugar

• ½ cup flour

• ½ cup vinegar

• 1 Tbsp. butter

• 1 cup mayonnaise

• 1/8 cup mustard

Mix macaroni and eggs. Add chopped onions, celery, carrots, parsley and pimento, to taste. For dressing, mix sugar, flour and vinegar. Cook and remove from heat. Add butter. Cool. Add mayonnaise and mustard. Chill overnight. (Flossie’s Favorites)

Poppy Seed Chicken

• 3 cups cooked chicken

• 8 ounces sour cream

• 1 can cream of chicken soup

• 1 stick melted margarine

• 1 ½ cups crumbled Ritz crackers

• 1 Tbsp. poppy seed

Put chicken in bottom of baking dish. Blend soup and sour cream together and pour over chicken. Combine margarine, crumbs and poppy seed. Sprinkle on top. Bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes. Delicious over rice or pasta noodles. (Flossie’s Favorites)

Raspberry Blondies

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• ½ tsp. salt

• 8 Tbsp. softened, unsalted butter

• 1 cup light brown sugar, packed

• 1 large egg

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• ½ cup chopped macadamia nuts

• 1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line 8-inch square baking pan with heavy-duty foil, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on all sides. In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar until moistened. Remove from heat and mix in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in nuts. Scrape batter into baking pan, smoothing top with a spatula. Scatter berries over batter. Bake until blondies are set in center (about 30 minutes). Cool completely in pan on wire rack. For easier cutting, cover and refrigerate blondies for 1 hour before slicing into bars. Once cooled, lift blondies from pan by grasping foil on opposite sides of pan. Place on cutting board. Cut into 16 squares and serve. (Save the Fork)

Butter Bean Casserole

• 2 packages frozen butter beans

• 1 cup sliced carrots

• 1 cup chopped onions

• ¼ cup chopped celery

• 2 cans cream chicken soup, undiluted

• 2 cups bread crumbs

• 1 cup cheddar cheese

• ¼ cup melted butter

Cook butter beans according to package directions. Drain. Cook carrots, onions and celery until tender. Drain. Add all ingredients together, leaving out cheese, bread crumbs and butter. Put in casserole dish. Now mix together the cheese, melted butter and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 375-degrees for 15 minutes. (Flossie’s Favorites)

Ardette’s Broccoli Casserole

• 20 ounces frozen broccoli spears

• 1 can cream of chicken soup

• 3 eggs

• 1 cup mayonnaise

• 1 cup grated sharp cheese

• 1 roll of Ritz crackers, crushed

• ½ stick margarine, melted

Cut broccoli into chunks while still frozen. Thaw in microwave on high power level for 4 minutes. Drain. Mix chicken soup, eggs and mayonnaise well then add cheese. Add this mixture to broccoli and toss together. Pour into greased 8 x 11-inch baking dish. Crush crackers and add margarine. Cover top of the casserole with crackers and bake 30 minutes in 350-degree oven. (Flossie’s Favorites)