Bless Your Spoon: Sunday lunch at winery

Published 4:12 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

Even though our evenings still feel like winter, spring has officially arrived. But as long as cold weather hangs on, we’ll hold on to our hearty, favorite foods for a tad bit longer.

While the mega Sunday brunch buffets are popular, I opted for an intimate meal in front of a wood-burning fire at the winery in Boonville. The winery’s restaurant served a brunch menu from which to choose. In addition, a different, old-fashioned, meaty lunch entrée is featured each week — a filling and comforting meat. While we noshed on homemade lasagna with tossed salad greens and hot, grainy French bread, all tasted even better when washed down with fruity wine mimosas.

I overheard a little chickadee tweet that we can expect a few more of these comfort lunch specials, at least one offered each Sunday as we move into April. Going forward, what’s in store for us? Our childhood favorites and a trip back home.

And all are easy to prepare. No wonder they were on our Mamma’s list of weekly, home suppers — we’re talking about home heritage recipes. Just one bite of country-style steak and instantly we’re transported to the family supper table.

I find it interesting that despite changed food trends, varieties of new foods and creative fresh recipes I still get requests for our old-fashioned favorites from childhood. So enjoy them while you can. We’ll be moving outdoors and into our gardens with new takes on fresh produce and heart-healthy, Mediterranean diet options for spring.

The season brings renewal and rebirth. That’s a comfort in itself. Whether hearing the sound of a bird chirping or watching a leafy green unfold, we are witnesses to creation as it awakens and yawns before us. Spring always signals it’s time for a road trip to our sandy beaches.

If you’re craving a full line-up of old-time, comforting favorites, zip on down to Merrill’s Inlet to Judy Moore’s Readers Choice award-winning buffet — the proof’s in the pudding by the look of that filled parking lot at 4 p.m. Even when deep in the sea-faring territory with options fresh from the sea, folks never lose their appetite for old-fashioned favorites. With new entrees featured each day, if you hit the place on a Friday night, you’ll enjoy flounder, shrimp and grits, baked bourbon salmon, deviled crab, fried oysters, and more added to the buffet — and all at a reasonable price. You won’t leave hungry, and you’ll have a few dollar bills left in your pocket to go back again.

Fruity Mimosas

• 2½ cups orange juice

• 10 ounces frozen, partly thawed fruit

• 1 bottle of chilled champagne/wine

• Whole blackberry

In a blender, combine orange juice and partially thawed, frozen fruit and mix. Pour into a 2-quart pitcher and add champagne or white wine. Garnish with floating fresh blackberry. Serve immediately.

Southern Fried Chicken with Gravy

• 3-pound cut-up fryer chicken

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1½ tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• Crisco shortening


• 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 cup whole milk

• 1½ cups water, plus

• Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut up chicken into frying pieces. In a large dish, place chicken pieces and pour buttermilk over all. Allow to stand for at least 1 hour. In a large plastic bag, combine flour, salt and pepper. Drain chicken pieces and toss each piece, one at a time, in the flour mixture. Shake off excess, and place on a piece of waxed paper for 15 minutes. Meanwhile heat ¼-inch of Crisco in a large, deep skillet. When hot, fry chicken until browned on all sides. When browned, cover skillet, and simmer for 45 minutes, while occasionally turning, until juices run clear. Uncover, and cook 5 additional minutes. Remove chicken, drain and keep warm. Reserve ¼ cup of chicken drippings only. Stir in flour and heat until bubbly. Add milk and water and continue to cook 10 minutes or until thickened and bubbling. Add more water if needed to make consistency to your preference. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve as gravy for chicken pieces.

Baked Herbed Chicken

• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

• ½ cup melted butter

• 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 Tbsp. dried oregano leaves

• 1 tsp. dried crushed rosemary

• 1 tsp. garlic salt

• 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 10 split chicken breasts with skin

In a zip-lock bag, combine olive oil, melted butter, lemon juice, oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add chicken and seal bag securely. Refrigerate for a couple of hours while occasionally turning. When ready to cook, remove chicken from bag and discard marinade. Bake chicken skin side up on a large rimmed baking sheet in a preheated 375-degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until done.

Classic Lasagna

• 2 pounds ground chuck

• 1 chopped onion

• 3 minced cloves garlic

• 1 Tbsp. basil

• 2 Tbsp. oregano

• 1 large can crushed tomatoes

• 12 ounces tomato paste

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• 1 box lasagna noodles

• 2 beaten eggs

• 2 cups sour cream

• ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

• 1 pound grated mozzarella cheese

In a skillet, brown meat and drain off excess fat. To the meat, add onion, garlic, basil, oregano, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 45 minutes while stirring often. Set aside. In a large pot, cook noodles as directed on box and drain. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs and add sour cream. Mix well. Assemble in a lightly greased 13 x 9 baking dish starting with a very thin layer of sauce on bottom, a layer of noodles with ½ of sauce. Spoon half of egg mixture over sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and half of grated mozzarella. Repeat layers of noodles, meat sauce, egg mixture and end with mozzarella cheese. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Shrimp and Cheese Grits

• 1 cup diced bacon

• 1 pound peeled, deveined medium shrimp

• ½ cup thinly sliced green peppers

• ½ cup thinly sliced red pepper

• ½ cup slivered onions

• Texas Pete sauce

• Sliced green onions, garnish

• Shredded cheddar cheese, garnish


• 1¼ cups chicken broth

• 1½ cups whole milk

• ¾ cup quick-cook grits

• ¼ tsp. salt

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside. Reserve 2 Tbsp. bacon drippings in the skillet. Add shrimp, peppers and onions. Cook 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender and shrimp is pink. Season with hot sauce to taste and stir in bacon pieces. Serve shrimp mixture over warm cheese grits and garnish all with chopped green onions and shredded cheese. For the grits, in a large saucepan, bring chicken broth and milk to a boil. Stir in grits and salt and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover pan. Cook 5 minutes until thickened while occasionally stirring. Stir in cheddar cheese. Keep warm until serving.

Chicken with Dollop Dumplings

• 2 cooked, deboned, pulled chicken

• 6 quartered potatoes

• 3 sliced carrots

• 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

• 3 tsp. baking powder

• 1½ tsp. salt

• Dash black pepper

• 3 beaten eggs

• ½ cup whipping cream

• Dash ground nutmeg

• 4 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Cut chickens into serving pieces and cook in water with salt and pepper until tender. Remove from both, cool, remove skin and pull into pieces. Add potatoes and carrots and cook for 20 additional minutes. For the dumplings, in a bowl, combine sifted flour baking powder, salt and pepper. Add beaten eggs and just enough cream to make a batter that’s stiff enough to drop from a spoon. After mixing dough, spoon batter by spoonfuls on top of boiling broth. Cover tightly, and cook 10 additional minutes.  When done, gently stir in pulled chicken and serve.

Country Fried Steak & Gravy

• 6 pieces cubed steak

• Flour for rolling

• 3 Tbsp. Crisco shortening

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 2 cups water

• 1 beef bouillon cube

• Dash of Accent

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roll steak in flour on all sides. In a skillet, melt shortening. Brown steak on both sides in shortening. Remove steak from skillet and set aside. Stir flour into skillet while stirring and cooking until lightly browned. Add water, bouillon and seasonings, to taste. Continue stirring until thickened. In a lightly greased baking dish, place meat pieces. Evenly pour gravy over meat. Cover and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Shepherd’s Pie

• 2 pounds browned ground chuck

• ½ chopped onion

• 1 can Veg-All/fresh/frozen cooked vegetables

• 1 package beef stew seasoning

• 3 cups seasoned mashed potatoes

• 2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

In a skillet, cook beef with onion until brown and drain. In a bowl, add beef with onion, vegetables and beef stew seasoning. Use freshly cooked veggies when you can. Mix well. Evenly spread in bottom of a greased baking dish. Season mashed potatoes and evenly spread to cover the beef.  Top casserole with shredded cheese. Bake in a preheated 30-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Company Meatloaf

• 2 beaten large eggs

• 2 pounds ground chuck

• ¾ cup uncooked quick-cooking oats

• ½ cup ketchup

• ¼ cup whole milk

• 1 finely chopped onion

• ¼ cup chopped green pepper

• 1 tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper


• ½ cup ketchup

• 3 Tbsp. brown sugar

• 2 tsp prepared mustard

In a bowl, beat eggs. Add beef, oats, ketchup, milk, chopped onion, salt and pepper. Shape into 2 7 x 4-inch loaves and place on a greased rack in a broiler pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until done. For the sauce, in a bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard and mix well. Spoon over meatloaf. Bake an additional 15 minutes or meat registers 160-degrees.

Custard Covered Cookies & Bananas

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 cup sugar

• 2 cups whole milk

• 1 beaten egg

• Bit of whole milk

• Ripe bananas

• Vanilla wafers or favorite cookies

• Whipped cream

In a saucepan, combine the flour and sugar well. Whisk in the milk. In another bowl, beat egg and add just a little bit of milk. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan. While constantly stirring, heat until boiling. When thickened, pour over individual bowls of layered fresh sliced bananas and vanilla wafers or cookies. Top with whipped cream.

Chocolate Chip and PB Skillet Cookies

• 1½ cup confectioners’ sugar

• 1½ cups creamy peanut butter

• 1½ tsp. vanilla extract

• 18 ounces refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough

• Vanilla ice cream

In a bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter and vanilla. Mix well and set aside. Remove cookie dough from wrapper. With floured fingers, divide dough into four equal sections Press one section of dough into bottom of 2 lightly butter-greased, 4-inch cast iron skillets. Spread and press half or desired amount of peanut butter mixture over the dough in each skillet. Carefully crumble and spread, as evenly as possible, another section of dough on top per skillet. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tests done. Allow to cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate 1 hour. When ready to serve, warm and serve topped with scoop of vanilla ice cream. Makes 2 individual skillet cookies — one per person. You can make one 9-inch pie by dividing entire cookie dough in half, following same instructions and increasing bake time to 30-35 minutes.

Peachy Pecan Crisp

• 64 ounces drained, sliced peaches

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 cup dark brown sugar

• 1 cup raw Quick oats

• ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 cup sliced, cold salted butter

• 1 cup chopped pecans

In ovenproof baking dish, evenly spread peaches in the bottom. In a mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, oats and cinnamon. Mix well. Cut margarine into flour with a pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal. Add nuts to the flour mixture. Mix well. Evenly spoon the mixture over the peaches. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Granny’s Butternut Apple Pie

• ½ cup all-purpose flour

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

• ½ cup chopped walnuts/pecans

• 1 9-inch pie shells

• 7 sliced Granny Smith apples

• 1 stick sliced salted butter

In a bowl, flour, sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Place 1 pie pastry in the dish. Peel and slice 3 apples and evenly place in bottom of pastry. Evenly sprinkle 1/3 of flour mixture over apples. Peel and slice 2 more apples and lay in pie shell. Sprinkle with another 1/3 of four mixture. Peel and slice remaining 2 apples and lay in pie shell. Sprinkle with remainder of the flour mixture. Evenly place dots of margarine over the top. Cover with second pie pastry. Crimp edges to seal and vent by making 4 knife marks in a diamond shape in top crust. Bake on a cookie sheet (to prevent spillage) in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until done. Cool and serve warm with ice cream.