What the Heck is a Hoecake, Anyway?

Ah, the humble, oh-so-yummy hoecake. It’s just a part of my Southern heritage, so the word rolls off my tongue easily, but it’s drawn some pretty funny looks quite a few times for me as well. So, since it is Thanksgiving Eve, I thought there was no better time to explain one of my favorite holiday traditions.

A Little Hoecake History…

It’s isn’t so much of a cake as a bread really. This most humble of breads goes by many names: Johnny cake, Shawnee cake, ash cakes and even corn pone…but it will forever be a hoecake to me. Hoecakes have a long heritage in the South. According to one source, they were called johnny cakes in South Carolina as early as 1739, but the word hoecake first showed up around 1745.  I’ve read loads of different stories and tales about the origins of the hoecake, but nothing seems to pin down exactly where they came from. Suffice it to say, Native Americans had a long tradition of using corn and slaves carried on that tradition and are usually credited with making these Southern treasures.

So, what the heck is a hoecake, anyway?

It’s different the world over now, but the traditional Southern hoecake is basically a cornbread pancake. These yummy little boogers get their name from the method used to cook them. Shovels and other farming tools were regularly used for cooking throughout the South in the 1700’s, and one such utensil was the garden hoe. The large, flat spade on the hoe made it perfect for using as a griddle. Now that’s ingenuity, people!  Don’t tell me necessity isn’t the mother of invention! Slaves would make a batch of corn mash (at it’s simplest, ground corn meal mixed with hot water or milk, then fried in some sort of fat. I mean, it is a Southern thing, remember?) and then cook them on the blade of a hoe over an open fire. If you were super lucky, they might have even been served with a side of honey or maple syrup. Yum!

Nowadays, the recipe is a tad more involved (and the cooking surface is much improved) but the tradition is still one of my favorites. My sister loves herself a hoecake, and whoever makes the dressing always has to save one for her…if she isn’t on hand to snatch one, that is! I remember listening to my grandmother talking about her recipe while I helped with preparations. We never had an educational discussion about why they were hoecakes. They were simply hoecakes and part of our Thanksgiving dressing recipe.

I think I was in 2nd grade before I learned why they had such a name. Mrs. Risher was awesome, and I spent a lot of time just talking to her at recess…yeah, I was that kid. It was Mrs. Risher that ended up explaining what a hoecake was during a class discussion/coloring worksheet session about blessings we were thankful for at Thanksgiving. (That was back around 1988. You know, when you could still talk about being thankful for blessings in school.) She had asked the class to raise our hands if we wanted to share a family tradition and I volunteered hoecake dressing. Yep, I was that kid too…always thankful for food.

Anyway, ever since then I was in love with anything about the past, so I cherished the fact my grandmother’s recipe was centuries old…kind of. Who knew a little thing like a hoecake could hold so much history! So, now you know what a hoecake is and how it came to be. I guess you want the recipe to try your own, right? OK!

The Recipe

Now, I have to warn you of something: this recipe is like a lot of my grandmother’s recipes. She doesn’t measure. Ever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a measuring cup in her kitchen. She is an on-the-fly, just-gonna-eye-it kind of gal so I’m sorry in advance for the vague directions. This is as close as I could get after making it right along with her and writing things down every 5 to 10 seconds.

You’re welcome.

Ingredients:
1 cup self-rising corn meal  (*corn meal + a sprinkle of baking powder)
1 1/4 cup self rising flour   (*I used the same amount of Pamela’s GF Baking and Pancake Mix)
1 egg
8 TBsp butter, melted (1 stick)
about 3 cups chicken broth (you may or may not use it all)

*Special note! Follow the starred suggestions for gluten free hoecakes, like me!

Directions:
-Get yourself a skillet or griddle and heat it to medium or medium high.
-I spray my pan with cooking spray, but you can go all Southern Traditional and use butter.
-Whisk your corn meal and flour together, then add your egg and butter and mix until combined.
– Begin to add your chicken broth, stirring until combined. Add as much as you need to make a batter the consistency of thick pancake batter. It shouldn’t be too runny.
-Use a medium spoon (I use a 1/4 measuring cup for larger ones, a tablespoon for smaller ones) and drop small to medium puddles of batter into your hot pan. Brown, then flip when you start to see bubbles. This is basically when you cook them just like regular pancakes.
-ENJOY! These are great with just a pat of butter, or you could go old school and eat them drizzled with honey or maple syrup.

Our Thanksgiving from 2010! These pictures were better than 2011, haha!

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, y’all. All this aside, make sure to take time tomorrow between the gravy and the cranberry sauce to be thankful for the fact you have both those things and more. I am so very thankful to be blessed with family and friends I adore, a roof over my head, a caring husband with a wonderful career, and food on our table…and much much more. I’m thankful you decided to share a moment here with me and I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you! God Bless!

Weight Watchers & Homemade Goodness…

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January and 2011 has started out pretty good around here, and that makes me feel…well, awesome! The hubs and I are doing well with our renewed commitment to healthy and long lasting weight loss. Ok, back up a second…I guess I should mention my Christmas gift! All I could think of when Rob asked me what I might want for Christmas was the new kit from Weight Watchers.
This was more difficult than it sounds. Neither of us are members, nor do we have the money to join. (Yeah, yeah. We’d love to, but the whole pay-your-bills thing was more important.) Anywho…we have a few friends at work that are members that we were talking with and were totally willing to pick up a kit for us. Of course, we never got around to coordinating it all. So, I told my hubby all I really wanted was the new PointsPlus kit. I even looked up a local store, but I figured we’d either have to go to a meeting, or have a member get it for us. Those of you who know me know one thing…I don’t do meetings. It’s the whole public speaking/ fear of groups thing, and frankly, it’s a huge problem I’ll talk about at some point. Just not now… So Christmas came and I get the most beautiful card from my hubby promising to commit to being healthy and growing old together. And the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus Kit!

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We officially started our journey on New Year’s Day, and I have to say it’s great! It was easy the first time, but I tended to crave things. This time around, I have to remind myself to eat! I think my favorite part if that fruit is now “free”. I’m much more likely to reach for a banana or grapes as a snack now instead of a granola bar. The wonderful thing is, this new program helps me to manage my protein to carbs ratio and I feel so much better! The first week’s weigh in was January 8th and I’d lost nearly 3 pounds, and Rob lost 7.2 pounds. Needless to say, we are two pretty happy campers.
Because it’s easier, and more affordable, to eat at home, I’ve been cooking even more, so I’ve been a recipe hound. Also, I’m a sucker for homemade anything! Well, I found this recipe posted on Weight Watcher’s Facebook page and stopped cold.
I love chicken pot pie. No, seriously… I LOVE it. Alas, most all of them are so loaded with fat and calories that they are a huge no no. I was skeptical…Weight Watchers or not, is a light pot pie recipe worth the trouble? Well, I’m here to tell you it absolutely is! I was so excited, I decided to document making it, so get your napkin, it’s time for tempting to begin! Here’s the recipe link, but I’ll list it here for you too. Complete with my advice of course!

The result…I can’t tell you how happy I am. That’s one more photogenic pot pie!
Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
from Weight Watchers

Cooking Spray (I like Pam)

1 tsp butter

1 small onion chopped

2 cups mushrooms, sliced (I cut this…not too big on mushrooms)

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp dried thyme, crushed

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

2 cups frozen mixed veggies

1 cup chicken broth (I like Swanson’s)

3 cups roasted chicken, chopped (again, I used Swanson’s White Meat canned chicken)

2 TBsp all purpose flour

1/2 cup fat free evaporated milk, divided

4 reduced fat crescent rolls (8 come in a can, I used 6…more on this later)

 

  • Preheat your oven to 375° and find a 9 to 10″ pie plate. The recipe calls for a 10″ but I used a 9″ and it came out just find. Spray the pie plate with your cooking spray and set it aside.
  • In a large sauce pot, melt your butter over medium heat then add your onion and mushrooms. Sauté  for about 5 minutes, or until tender.
  • Stir in your spices, veggies, broth, and chicken. Cover and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine 1/4 cup evaporated milk and your 2 TBsp flour in a small bowl. Pour into your sauce pot and mix over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. ( about 2 minutes)
  • Stir in remaining evaporated milk and cook to slightly thickened. (2 or 3 minutes more)
  • Remove from heat and pour into your prepared pie plate.
  • Unroll the crescent rolls and arrange on top (I put four around the edge, corners touching, then covered the hole with two more. That makes six.)
  • Brush top lightly with a small amount of egg white. (I used a teaspoon or so of Egg Beaters)
  • Bake in your preheated oven until the crescents are golden brown, and filling is bubbly. Enjoy!

 

This recipe makes six servings, and they are huge. Huge! Seriously, it’s not a skimpy portion at all, and it is totally worth the Points! Just to put it in perspective…my favorite store bought pie is something like 18 Points…for half the small pie. It’s a measly amount of food for the Points, believe me. I get 29 daily Points total. This recipe is 6 Points per serving as they posted it. Adding the two extra crescent squares makes each serving 8 Points, according to some of the comments on their website. Yeah, I was super excited about that…Chicken Pot Pie is my favorite comfort food! I must say, I had one happy hubby on my hands as well, which is always a bonus.
As you can tell, I love this recipe and I will definitely be making it regularly. I can’t wait to try different takes on it, and play around with it a little. I think this would be amazing as a beef dish…I’ll let you know when that happens! I’d love to know if you take this recipe for a test drive, too! I’m all about sharing a good thing! For now though, I need to put the leftovers away….in the fridge.

First Recipe…Perfect Peach Cobbler!

The excitement of starting this blog has kept me thinking about what I should share first. I love digital scrapbooking, and I love baking, so it only seemed natural to share a hybrid of the two!

Who wouldn’t love a more colorful cookbook? I know I would! I saw a scrap challenge over the holidays that called for a “virtual recipe exchange.” The participants made printable 4×6 recipe cards to share! I adored this idea, so I decided to alter it a bit to fit my blog. I’d like to share recipe cards with you, so from time to time, I will post a recipe with a 4×6 recipe card to download and print…FREE! I’m not promising every recipe will include a card, but I will try!

My first offering is one of my favorites…Peach Cobbler! I’ve had a lot of luck with this recipe. It has never failed, even though I get the ingredients a little off here and there sometimes. I also thought it was fitting as my first recipe because it has pancake mix in it! Now, because this recipe calls for fruit filling, I am including a homemade recipe for that as well. Though it calls for peaches, you could use any fresh (or canned) fruit, or even bypass the homemade recipe completely and use canned filling if you are pinched for time! It’s especially good with fresh berries!

Don’t forget to scroll down for your free recipe cards!!

Perfect Peach Cobbler

3 cups peach filling (homemade or canned)
1 1/4 cups Bisquick Pancake box mix
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted (butter, no substitutes!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place fruit in a lightly greased baking dish and set aside. In a large bowl, combine Bisquick, sugar, and egg and mix until all dry ingredients are moist but lumpy. Spread this mixture evenly over your fruit. Drizzle melted butter evenly over the batter, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until fruit begins to bubble around the edges.

Fruit Filling

3 cups fresh fruit of choice (canned sliced peaches in their own juice work nicely too)
3/4 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 Tbsp corn starch with 1/2 cup cool water

In a large sauce pan, cook fruit and 3/4 cup water on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix sugar, corn starch, and cool water. Spoon hot fruit mixture a little at the time into the corn starch mixture. When combined, return to the sauce pan and return to medium-high heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Cool completely.
(This is not only a filling, but can be served over ice cream or swirled into cakes!)

Now for your recipe cards! Follow the links to download, then
print them for your recipe box!

thanks to the designers whose products I used to create these cards: Katie Pertiet, Studio Mgl, Studio Tangie, Font Garden, Sweet Blossom Designs by Sara, Wimpychompers, After 5 Designs, Pineapple Planation, Shabby Princess, and Keri Scheuller!