Celebrating Cornbread & Lodge Cast Iron Giveaway

In South Pittsburg, Tennessee, a little town of 3000, cornbread is a big deal.  I know this from experience as I graduated high school right across the street from Lodge Manufacturing.
{You might have heard of them; they make cast iron skillets.}
Founded in 1896, Lodge is one of the United States oldest cookware companies.  Most off of their products are made right in that little town of South Pittsburg.  Nothing like buying local & American made!
Photo from Martha White via Facbook
Each year, for the last sixteen years, that little own of 3000 expands to over 25,000 as people from all over the Southeast come in to experience a little of that small town, made-in-the-USA goodness through the annual National Cornbread Festival.
Sponsored by Lodge and Martha White (also an American owned and operated company), the National Cornbread Festival has been featured in Southern Living, Taste of Home, The Food Network, PBS, and assorted newspapers all over the country.  The crafts, entertainment, food, and carnival are just a part of the fun, but the real focus of the festival  is the National Cornbread cook-off!
Hopeful competitors from all over the US send in recipes from which 100 are taste tested and ten are chosen for the actual live cook-off during festival weekend.

While watching the cook-off live is not as exciting as scripted television, it is quite interesting to watch these cooks prepare their recipes and send them off to be judged right before your eyes.

I like reality, not a scripted version, so I guess that’s why this appeals to me so much!

This year one of the judges was from our own blogging community, Christy Jordan from Southern Plate.
Christy is just as warm and real in person as she is on her blog.
Based on the description of some of the recipes entered in the cook-off this year, I would have gladly traded places with her, but only for tasting purposes.  I just saw the ingredients and smelled them baking, I couldn’t imagine having to taste them and pick a winner!
I was amazed at the creative flavors that filled the cornmeal based dishes; peaches & cream sweet, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Mexican, Greek, Cajun and down-home dumplin’s.
{It’s not your grandmother’s cornbread!}
Watching the competition was inspiring. Each contestant had to provide their ingredients and mixing pieces.  I like that; they can have what they are used to using at home on hand for competition which is sure to add a sense of comfort.  The only “requirements” of the cook-off are each recipe must contain at least one cup of Martha White (is there another brand?) cornmeal and must be cooked in Lodge cookware.  There were some well seasoned pieces on that stage.






When it was all said and done, Melanie McCoy from Knoxville, Tennessee placed first with her Sweet Cornbread Shrimp Cakes with Mango Salsa.
National Cornbread via Facebook
You can find all of the recipes on The National Cornbread Facebook page.  They should be on the website soon as well.
When you have had your fill of cornbread, buttermilk chugging contests, live entertainment, and crafts, you can venture outside the boundaries of the festival for more fun.  For the last several years, Sister’s on the Fly have set up camp just behind the festival.  They are glamour camping at it most girly and so much fun to visit with.


And if you have traveled with the man in your life, there is plenty for him to do as well.  The classic car show “drive-in” at the historic Dixie Freeze will keep him occupied for hours.


The National Cornbread festival is held the last full weekend of April every year in gorgeous South Pittsburg, Tennessee (just 30 minutes West of CHattanooga).  Mark your calendar now for next year!
And now for the giveaway!
While at the festival this weekend, I brought back a couple of items for me, and to share.  
First is a National Cornbread Festival cookbook containing all of the winning recipes from the last 15 years of the festival, as well as some of the 4-H & celebrity cook-off winners.  
Second, I have a 6-inch Lodge cast iron skillet to giveaway and finally, Martha White cornbread and muffin mix.
You can earn up to three entries:
1) Leave a comment on my blog telling me how you like your cornbread, or the most creative thing you have made in your cast iron cookware.
2) Like Southern Table on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me that you did so.
3) Become a follower of Our Southern Table and also, let me know in a comment that you have.
I will leave the giveaway up through Saturday, 5 May.

Do You Fondue?

I have always maintained that great things happen over dinner, and a cooking class with my dear friend, Jamie, just proved my theory.  A couple of weeks ago I booked a night out at Mia Cucina, a culinary store in the North Shore district of Chattanooga.  I have heard great things about the classes offered and finally had the time to slip away and enjoy one!  Even the most talented of chefs learn new things, so I knew this stay-at-home mom would definitely benefit.

The topic of the evening was fondue parties; such a retro affair for sure, but one that is becoming increasing popular again thanks to restaurants like “The Melting Pot”.

Our instructor for the evening, Amanda Varnell, was full of energy and had a lot of fun sharing recipes and conversation as we lingered over our meal.




verb (used without object)

to remain or stay on in a place longer than is usual orexpected, as if              from reluctance to leave
to dwell in contemplation, thought, or enjoyment
to be tardy in action; delay; dawdle


That summed up our evening.  It was one I could’ve enjoyed for another couple of hours, as Jamie and I happily mingled with total strangers over a glass of wine and dinner.

When planning a fondue, the big decision is to decide what you want: just an appetizer course, a main course, or dessert course.

Of course the option to do all three is my favorite!

I will be honest with you, hosting a fondue takes a lot of preparation.  Everything needs to be sliced, diced, shredded, and arranged before you sit down to enjoy an evening over food.

Jamie and I chopping up fresh ingredients for the fondue



You can save a little time by prepping the cheese and bouillon in on your stove top and transfer them to the fondue pots.
Amanda whisking up our cooking bouillon

The most traditional fondue is a cheese fondue.  I love dipping fresh french bread, apples, and raw veggies in hot, drippy Jarlsberg and Gruyere cheeses flavored with garlic and wine.

traditional cheese fondue

Using the freshest of ingredients really increases the flavor and enjoyment of the meal.

Our second course was the meat courses.  We had so many delightful flavors to taste: shrimp, scallops, tilapia, New York strip, chicken breast, tenderloin, and pork loin.  I recommend that you make sure no one has seafood allergies before choosing to serve it at your table.  You might want to consider using two pots for your fondue, or eliminate the seafood.

Cooking fresh vegetables with your meat is really delicious.  We used potatoes (lightly boiled), mushrooms, and broccoli with our main course.
We used a “bouillon” based broth flavored with garlic, an assortment of fresh herbs, white wine, and lemon grass paste (a new one to me) for cooking.


Making a dipping sauce or two is a great way to accent the flavors of the meat if you desire.  We had a delicious green goddess dip that really set off the vegetables, a spicy cocktail sauce for the seafood, and a teriyaki sauce for the chicken, beef or pork.  These are definitely optional, but I recommend using at least one.

beginning of dessert

The dessert course was my definite favorite of the evening.  Honestly, who wouldn’t like a silky carmel and chocolate fondue to smother your fresh strawberries, marshmallows, rice crispy treats, or pound cake?


And since dessert is most everyone’s favorite course anyway, I thought that I would share the recipe for our scrumptious chocolate fondue we enjoyed.

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is highly recommend)
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup prepared caramel

Place all ingredients in a fondue, heavy bottomed pot or double boiler over low heat.  Stir consistently until the mixture is melted and smooth.  DO NOT ALLOW TO BUBBLE.  Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods around fondue pot.

If you would like to have more recipes, please let me know and I’ll be glad to share them! 

Conversations around food can be magical and having a fondue increases the interaction among those who are dining as well as the amount of time you are spending together.  Indeed, a fondue may be “old-fashioned” in some opinions, but I want to host my own, and soon!

What about you, do you fondue?



Cooking in the Great Outdoors

Last weekend, while most sane Southerners were sleeping in cozy, warm beds, my not-so-sane family (this would include my parents, sister, brother, & their families) were sleeping in a tent in the mountains of Tennessee.   Now for a gal who is partial to the Hilton, this was serious roughing it.  But, my family adores this time and looks forward to it every year, so I go along like a good mommy, daughter & sister.


Now, truth be told, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful weekend; completely clear with an average of 55 during the day and 29 at night.  Ideal camping weather, right?




With scenery like this, don’t you just want to grab your tent and head to the great outdoors?
There is something about camping that truly brings out the appetite in my family.  I don’t know, it could have been the playing UNO with Nana …..


Hiking in the woods…..

riding bikes around camp ……..


sweeping up camp……


climbing rocks……


carving pumpkins with the kiddos……
Or just acting the fool while shucking corn!





Yes, camping makes us hungry.  So, what do you eat when you are out in the great outdoors?  This is Audley’s domain, so take a peak at our weekend of feasting.

Steak & Eggs for breakfast ……
Hamburgers & Hot Dogs for lunch…..

And a fabulous low-country boil for supper!

my outdoor kitchen

{Just because you are out in the wild doesn’t mean you have to look wild!}

I love a low-country boil as it is a wonderful one-pot supper that everyone involved can contribute to.  It’s not difficult at all, and it’s a meal you can serve indoors or out.  Can’t beat that can you?

Here is how we did ours.  With no stove available, my brother-in-law brought his turkey fryer which we filled with water and brought to a boil.

Once boiling, we added corn-on-the-cob and small red potatoes.  We also added four bags of shrimp boil seasoning.  OLD BAY is the best for this, hands down!

When the potatoes reached an acceptable degree of tenderness, we threw in some andouille sausage, then seven pounds of fresh shrimp, cooking until the shrimp were a lovely shade of pink.

You can also add such delights as crab-legs or crawfish, but we chose to keep ours simple.




My sister making a delicious homemade cocktail sauce

The easiest was to serve this outdoors is to cover your table with several layers of newspaper or cardboard (our “plate” of choice) and after draining the water from the pot, dump it all out on the table.



Then everyone can just fix a plate or sit around the table and fest on all this yummy goodness!

And kudos to my wonderful weekend chef!

While I always end up having fun camping, I am always to get back home to my warm house and kitchen.

So tell me dear friends, do you ever venture out into the great outdoors?

Linking up to Foodie Friday this week.  Stop on over and see what else is cooking!


The National Cornbread Festival

When your in disaster mode, sometimes you just have to take a step back.  
Maybe it’s because your afraid your going to be blown up …..


Maybe it’s because the sadness of other’s loss really breaks your heart.
But mostly it is because you are exhausted….

And you just need a little bit of normalcy in your life so that you know everything will be OK.

Madeline working away ….
{she took her own break in the form of a soccer game taking out her aggression on the other team’s goalie!}
Go Maddie!
You have to just love Maddie’s white & pink socks!
Bradley enjoyed his time away from clean up as well and saved the day in the form of goalie!
After three days of clean-up around the community, my oldest two girls came to me begging to go to the Cornbread Festival.  They were swift to remind me that they had volunteered to work in the children’s area and that it would be horrible to back out.


Samantha and MacKenzie


{They really know how to tug at your conscience.}


Samantha with her friend, Taylor
South Pittsburg, Tennessee (just 8 miles from our home in Northeast Alabama) was unaffected by tornados, so they chose to go on with the National Cornbread Festival, donating a portion of the proceeds to the Red Cross for disaster relief.

Needing a short break myself (and wanting to check on my girls), I ventured down to the festival to catch the Cornbread cook-off (which is just so interesting to watch).  When you watch cook-offs on Food Network, or Top Chef you only see part of the action.  It actually takes several hours to create the dishes that the networks show in a matter of minutes.  Sponsored by Lodge Manufacturing, Martha White, and cooking ranges donated by 5-star this is serious competition worthy of a Food Network spot!


Several of this years competitors have competed (and won in past competitions).  As I have mentioned before, this is NOT your grandmothers cornbread, especially with ingredients like fresh basil, shrimp, spinach, apples, maple, fresh-squeezed orange juice, onion, and balsamic drizzle (not all in the same recipe…).   I am just amazed at the combinations of ingredients that form the many cornbread dishes!

I enjoyed watching the chefs mix, cut, dice, stir and cook their delightful dishes, and wished I were a judge to taste the fabulous food heading off to the judges tent!





Presentation is part of the battle




While waiting on the results of the cook-off, MacKenzie and another friend of mine walked around for a few minutes sampling some of the fabulous fare on the streets.


Chocolate dipped local strawberries anyone?

from Cooper’s Farm in Marion County, Tennessee

Or how about some fresh Kettle Corn?


Of course no trip to the festival is complete without a stop at Cornbread Alley!

{Oh my goodness!}



As we walked around we heard such a wonderful variety of local musicians playing their brand of bluegrass and country music.



And some of the crafts were quite charming.


Need a good laugh?  Yeah, we found that too watching a Buttermilk chugging contest.

And the anticipation of hearing who won the Cornbread cook-off was high.


Mrs. Jennifer Beckman of Falls Church, Virginia took that honor with her Tennessee Onion Soup Gratin, and was quite excited (so were her children)!



Of course, if I knew that I had just won $5000 and a brand new 5-star range, I would be excited, too!

You can go the National Cornbread Festival page here and find all of the recipes.

And if you think this festival is just a little small town affair; PBS, Southern Living, Taste of Home and other national rags do not!  PBS was there filming for a special to air in September, and Southern Living was there photographing for their magazine.



Donna Florio from Southern Living

Judges for the Cornbread Cook-off included the food editors Betty Terry and Donna Florio for Taste of Home and Southern Living respectively, Linda Carmen from Martha White, and food writers from the Birmingham News and Nashville .

{It’s a big deal!}

Audley has been trying to convince me to enter for a couple of years, but I am a B.I.G. chicken!  If I thought he would try a cornbread dish made with gourmet ingredients, I might play around with it. But IN AUDLEY’S WORLD cornbread accompanies pinto beans, pork roast, soup, or a variety of other traditional southern dishes, and should be served only topped with butter and NEVER contain sugar I don’t see me making the cut.

How do you like your cornbread?

Provided I still have internet (it’s a come and go thing right now), I’ll share my favorite with you later this week!  Audley is out of town, so I can get away with it!

{And yes, it will be cooked in a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet}