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The Southern Girl's Recipes:

Sweet Tea goes with Everything

A true southern dinner is served with ice water, sweet tea, lemonade or milk. And, really, it's unnecessary to specify sweet tea, because tea is only made one way in the South, and that's sweet. Make it with sugar, nothing else does the trick. Make sure to fill the cup nice and full of ice (crushed is my favorite, but cubes will do) and add a lemon slice and a sprig of mint for a nice garnish. This recipe is from the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia.

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Turn of the heat and add the tea bags. Cover and steep for 10-12 minutes (up to 20 minutes for stronger tea), then add the sugar while the tea is still hot. Stir vigorously until all of the sugar has dissolved, and allow to cool. Serve over ice.

Other Recipes:

Paula Deen's Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet cake is a Southern staple, but I earnestly believe that every cake is made better in the form of a cupcake. The recipe is found on the Food Network web site along with a few other fantastic treats.

Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes

She may not be a Southern girl, but Ina Garten has a great recipe for mashed potatoes! Simple mashed potatoes are great to accompany any meal, but dressed up recipes can be great to accompany more simple main dishes. Add bacon, cheese and green onions to accompany grilled steaks. Mix in a pack of Hidden Valley ranch mix to accompany grilled chicken and steamed veggies. Cooking is about being creative, so mix in anything you can find that sounds good!

There's a big schism in the dinner table of Southern families -- the starches. Some Southern families serve rice and gravy with meals, and some serve mashed potatoes. It's a personal decision -- that's why I didn't include a starch in my recipes, because I'm leaving it up to you. So without further ado, I give you my favorite rice recipe from my paternal grandmother.

Mimi Rice:

In a saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and add the cans of soup. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Put the soup mixture in a 2-quart pyrex dish with a lid and stir in the rice. Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. The onions will make their way to the top, do not be alarmed. In my family, we do not stir it before we serve it, but do what you will.

Use your resources

Most Southern recipes are passed down through families from generation to generation, but this doesn't mean those are the only good recipes. Believe it or not, with the introduction of new easier ways of doing things, we're not removing the tradition of Southern food, but making new traditions.

My favorite resources are listed on the right side of every page of this site. Certainly my favorite is the food network, Paula Deen, Ina Garten, Rachael Ray and Giada di Laurentiis are my favorite chefs with simple, easy to do at home recipes -- not all of them are Southern girls, but they make some yummy food.

I also strongly believe in cookbooks. Some say they're a thing of the past now that everything is online, but some recipes just aren't available on the Web -- it's sad, but true. I recommend buying the cookbooks from your favorite restaurants (if they sell them) and of any tourist destination where you really enjoyed the food. Some of the favorites in my household are the Florida State University Athletic Boosters cookbook, the Junior League of Central Florida cookbook, The Lady and Son's Cookbook, The Disney Tour Guide's cookbook vol. 2. Buy cookbooks, collect recipes from your friends, print recipes off the Web, and write down recipes from TV. Keep them all in a binder in one of your kitchen cabinets and it will be a better resource for cooking than you could have ever imagined.

Family Recipes

Family recipes hold a special place in the hearts of people everywhere. They're the taste of home, the way you remember your grandmother, and the way we preserve the memory of those who've passed on. If I can give you one tip it's write down your family recipes, and furthermore, teach them to your children. If you don't have children, teach them to someone else's children. Make sure the recipes live on.

Happy eating, y'all!

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