Corn Casserole, a Thanksgiving family favorite


My grandpa Lee Quinn always made a corn casserole for our Thanksgiving feast, and it’s a dish we continue to make in our family. One of the joys of food is that it can symbolize memories, and corn casserole will always remind me of my grandpa.
The beautiful thing about corn casserole is that it jazzes up a side dish (plain whole kernel or cream corn) that otherwise lacks excitement. When a meal includes turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole and a variety of pies, how can you get excited about little yellow kernels of corn?
When corn comes in a casserole, it feels more festive and, truth be told, all of that cheese, cream and butter just make it taste better.
Here’s the recipe for our corn casserole. Thanks, grandpa, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Ingredients

1 can cream corn

1 can whole kernel corn

2 eggs

1/2 cup cream

1/2 stick melted butter or margarine

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Steps

Mix all of your ingredients and pour into a greased casserole dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

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Foodie Travels: Burger Bar, Bristol, Va.

This was the last place legendary country musician Hank Williams Sr. was seen alive. At least that’s how local lore tells the story.

Burgers on the menu bear the names of some of his most famous hit songs.

And the restaurant sits just a few paces from the Virginia-Tennessee border, which runs right down State Street in historic downtown Bristol, the designated “Birthplace of Country Music” (there’s a museum in the city).

restaurant

Burger Bar, which was been here since 1942, has embraced the legend that Hank Williams turned down a bite to eat at the restaurant years ago, only to be discovered dead in the back seat of his car on up the road in West Virginia. And they have embraced the classic diner feel—and the delicious homemade burger, fries and shake combination that accompanies the territory.

hank-williams

Whether you like mushrooms, onions and cheese (the Hey Good Lookin’), barbecue sauce, onions and cheese (the Move It On Over), or a number of other combinations, you’re sure to enjoy the ½-pound burgers you’ll find here. They’re juicy, perfectly thick and enhanced by the variety of delicious toppings.

And the sides that can accompany your sandwich are just as exciting as the main course itself. How about some parmesan fries with several dipping sauces? Or would you rather have sweet potato fries with a sweet, creamy aioli for dipping?

parmesan-fries

If you save enough room, you will have to narrow down your choice of milkshake. There’s something for almost any flavor preference. Truth be told, we couldn’t manage a milkshake during our first visit. The meal filled us up…and we had water to drink.

This is the type of place where you can sit at the counter or choose a table. It’s also the kind of place where you can tell the locals are well-known by the wait staff, but there are an equal number of tourists crossing the foodie stop off their list. We saw people taking pictures of each other with the restaurant menus during our visit.

With plenty of history, plenty of flavor, and fast service from a kind and helpful staff, you’ll enjoy Burger Bar, whether you’re visiting Bristol itself or just passing through on your travels along Interstate 81 through northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.

Be sure to check out the newspaper coverage of the Hank Williams legend on the walls, and if you eat at the Burger Bar let me know which Hank-inspired sandwich you choose.

Burger Bar

8 Piedmont Ave., Bristol, VA

theoriginalburgerbar.com

Foodie Travels: Grits N Greens, Lowell, N.C.

Molly and I have made a habit of visiting some of the most Southern places we can find, both near home and when we’re traveling. As two native North Carolinians, we have a deep respect and appreciation for the “country” cooking indigenous to our slice of the country.

Simply by name, Grits N Greens Southern Cuisine interested us and, by menu, pulled us in the door. What’s more North Carolina Southern than grits and collard greens?

IMG_8187You can find both of those items on the menu at this restaurant, as well as other “granny” cooking favorites in a meat-and-three-type format of main dishes and vegetables. You can get diner-style food, such as breakfast mainstays, cheeseburgers and other sandwiches with French fries or sides. And you can get unique favorites that you won’t always find on a similar menu—choices such as crab cakes and a shrimp “po boy.”

Molly enjoyed a generously portioned steak melt sandwich with a side of crispy, fresh fried okra. I opted for a pair of crab cakes with sides of broccoli casserole and macaroni and cheese, along with a couple pieces of deliciously seasoned Texas toast.

No, we didn’t enjoy the namesake grits and greens, but it was reassuring to see them on the menu.

The eatery’s digs offer a no-frills atmosphere (plain walls, simple booths) inside a space on the main strip of a revitalizing “downtown” Lowell. There are a few other local shops on the same strip of Main Street, but Grits and Greens is the centerpiece.

IMG_8173

We visited on a Saturday afternoon, right after the typical noon lunch hour. Our server was friendly, the food was tasty and we left full but not overstuffed like we sometimes experience in a greasy-spoon restaurant.

If you like Southern food, give Grits N Greens a try and let me know if it meets your expectations for country cooking.

Grits N Greens, 125 N. Main St., Lowell, N.C.

gritsngreens.com

Foodie Travels: Carolina Cafe, Gaffney, S.C.

“Get there early.” That’s the advice we received from several sources about the Carolina Cafe, off Highway 11 in the Upstate of South Carolina. And when we rounded the corner and saw the parking lot of the place at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday night, we understood.

We were told to expect a 40-minute wait for a table for the two of us, but it only took 15 minutes before we were seated in a cozy, but very chilly, corner of the restaurant. That pleasant service surprise was the first of many fond moments during our dinner experience.

img_8314Warm yeast rolls and fresh honey butter arrived at the table along with our drinks, another check mark for a great dining outing. It’s always a plus when you get delicious bread with a meal; it’s a type of free appetizer, if you will.

The menu offers a little bit of everything you’d expect to find at a nice casual American family restaurant in the South. There are burgers, sandwiches, salads, steaks, seafood, ribs and more.

Molly ordered the shrimp and grits, one of her favorites. The grits were creamy, and the shrimp were plump, flavorfully sautéed and generously portioned. It was also a great deal at $10.99. You’ll often pay closer to $13 or $15 or more for this dish. And I often have a hard time justifying that cost, unless I’m eating premium shrimp and grits in a coastal area.

img_8316I decided to try the beef tips – a less-fussy compromise for a steak. As much as I love a great cut of beef, I often find my steaks come with too much fat, or not enough bites, not cooked as well as I like, or too much price for what I’m eating. I’m not saying any of those apply at Carolina Cafe, but restaurants in general have led me to the beef tip. And the version at this particular establishment was very satisfying: a great portion for $10.99, served alongside a flavorful baked potato.

We both got salads as part of our meals, and they were just as satisfying as the rest of the entree. Nice portion, fresh ingredients and just the right amount of dressing on the side. Outback Steakhouse serves one of my favorite side salads, and the Carolina Cafe’s salad matches it.

img_8323Our visit was a special date night on the spur of the moment, so we decided to order a dessert. Our choice: the $4.99 Caramel Apple Cheesecake. The piece we shared was a rich and creamy cheesecake, filled with small pieces of flavorful apple, topped with a caramel sauce layer and covered with pecans. Along with the Graham cracker-style crust, it was one of the tastiest cheesecakes we’ve sampled in recent memory. And we love a delicious slice of cheesecake.

Carolina Cafe impressed us at every turn, from that very first glimpse around the highway corner. The restaurant was full of families and couples all night, and a crowd was still waiting outside when we left. The recommendations we received to try this place were spot on. Similar to a well-known pancake house’s slogan, when you come to Carolina Cafe hungry, you leave happy.

The Carolina Cafe gets a $-$$ on our price scale of $ (cheapest), $$ (middle of the road), $$$ (expensive). You can go $ with burgers, or you can go $$ with steaks and shrimp. As always, it’s your choice!

Carolina Cafe

211 Old Metal Road, Gaffney, S.C.

CarolinaCafeGaffney.com