Great Recipes for Charlotte’s Panther Fever


      Yesterday Jan 9, I was on WCNC’s noonday show Charlotte Today for my monthly cooking segment.
      The recipe was for my Oatmeal Molasses Rolls made with local NC sorghum molasses. The spin yesterday was about the local molasses, and a great winter recipe for breakfast or an afternoon snack  and how baking is a great snow day activity to enjoy with the family.
Heidi Billotto in Panther gear,  suited up for the best tailgate ever!
Heidi Billotto in Panther gear, suited up for the best tailgate ever!

Today, as I post the recipe and video, the spin has changed just a bit. With all of the football fever that is filling the air as we approach the big game this Sunday with the 49ers, the spin is now on great tailgating fare; and these terrific yeast rolls are just the thing for your favorite cold cut sandwich, sloppy Joes or as I suggested on the show, simply slathered with butter and local molasses.

As we cannot live on bread and molasses alone, after the roll recipe here,  I also share three other recipes perfect for every Panther Tailgate: Two winter soups from one of my cooking classes and a great slow cooker rib recipe ( and video) from an October spot I did on Charlotte Today.

The rib recipe, in a happy coincidence, also calls for local NC sorghum molasses!.

These oatmeal molasses rolls may be made with blackstrap molasses, but I like them even better with local NC sorghum molasses
These oatmeal molasses rolls may be made with blackstrap molasses, but I like them even better with local NC sorghum molasses

As I mentioned on the show yesterday the molasses I used was local product from the NC mountains – Pure sorghum syrup molasses from  Harrell Hill Farms in Bakersville NC (  Sorghum molasses is a sweet syrup made from young sugar cane with more of a robust flavor than honey, but not the bittersweet almost burnt taste that is found in  blackstrap molasses. Molasses is a by-product of the sugar industry, whereas sorghum is the syrup produced when the extracted juice from the sorghum is boiled down to a thick  sweet mass. Blackstrap is found in most  grocery stores, but the hunt for local NC Sorghum is more exciting – you’ll find it direct from producers like Harrell Hill,  and at local stands in and around the NC mountains – when you find it  buy several jars so you will always have it on hand.

in making these rolls , just a few words on yeast – its what make the rolls rise so you want to be sure its good. The way to do that is to proof the yeast.

In proofing yeast, as soon as bubbles begin to form on the surface of the water you are good to move forward with the recipe.
In proofing yeast, as soon as bubbles begin to form on the surface of the water you are good to move forward with the recipe.

Yeast is a living growing organism and water or ingredients that are too hot will kill it, so take care that all of the ingredients you use are at room temp. to proof the yeast just take a cup of water and add the year and give it a stir – you can add a touch of sugar if you would like, but it will proof with out it. After you stir in the yeast just look for bubbles to begin to form on the surface – once you see the bubbles you are golden and can move ahead with the recipe. if there are no bubbles then either your yeast was old or the water was too hot – its okay, just smile, pour it out, and start again with cooler water.

Heidi Billotto bakes on WCNC's Charlotte Today - January 9, 2014
Heidi Billotto bakes on WCNC’s Charlotte Today – January 9, 2014

Everything else you need to know is detailed on the recipe, and if you want to watch the video of my segment on Charlotte Today with Ramona Holloway – simply click here for the link

And here is the recipe…


Recipe from Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

2 cups rolled oats (I like the thick cut organic oats, but any kind will do)

4 cups boiling water

2 Tbsp. yeast

1 cup warm water

1 cup local sorghum molasses

1 tsp. salt

6 Tbsp. butter

11-12 cups flour

Combine oats and boiling water in a large bowl. Let stand 20 minutes.

Proof yeast in warm water; and add to cooled oat mixture.

Add molasses, salt, butter and flour. Knead until smooth. Let rise until doubled,1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Pat dough down, roll out 1 ½ to 2-inches thick. Cut into rounds. Place side by side in a 9×13-inch buttered baking pan. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake 20 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven.

Let the rolls cool slightly then enjoy hot slathered with butter and drizzled with more of that local NC sorghum molasses – yum!

For loaves of bread, bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Variation – to add extra protein and texture to the bread, add 3-4 Tbsp. hemp seed with flour; and /or ½ cup any combination of ground nuts or seeds

Two soups to accompany the roll recipe – the first from my dear friend Pat Walker – a scrumptious mushroom and brie soup –  the other a vegetarian chili recipe I developed for my husband Tom Billotto – both freeze well, can be reheated and travel well to game day sites packed up in a thermos or insulated container.

Pat’s Brie and Mushroom Soup

From the kitchen of Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

Note – the brie melts best if you peel it of the white rind for use in this recipe

2 lbs. button mushrooms, sliced

6 Tbsp. butter or your favorite extra virgin olive oil

2/3 cup minced organinc onions

1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

4 cups heavy cream

4 Tbsp. flour

1 lb Brie, rind removed

salt & pepper

Sauté mushrooms in 2 Tbsp. butter;  add onion, thyme and bay leaves.  Sauté until moisture evaporates – about 5 mins.  Add wine and cook until liquid reduces by half. Stir in stock and cream.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.

Melt remaining butter in small pan, whisk in flour. Cook on low heat to form a roux.

After soup has cooked 30 minutes, remove bay leaves.  Cut Brie into small pieces and add to soup, melt.  Add roux in small amounts until soup thickens.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

1 minced green pepper

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes

1 lb. whole mushrooms, finely minced

4-5 whole carrots, finely minced

1 (10 oz.) can Ro-tel tomatoes, drained

2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid

1 (27 oz.) can dark red kidney or black beans, drained

2 Tbsp. high quality chili powder

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Sauté the minced green pepper and dried pepper flakes in olive oil over high heat until lightly browned and limp. Add minced mushrooms and carrots and sauté 3-4 minutes stirring well. Add tomatoes, kidney beans, chili powder and cumin. Blend well; reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

VARIATION: For chili cheese dip: stir in one (8 oz.) block cream cheese and a four-ounce portion of Velvetta processed cheese. Stir chili until cheese melts.

Heidi's Thai slow cooked ribs
Heidi’s Thai Ginger slow cooked ribs

Slow Cooker Thai Ginger Ribs

By Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

Click here to see the video from Charlotte Today – October 2013

3-4  lbs. local baby back pork rib racks – I love the pork from A Way of Life farm in Bostic, NC  – available on Saturdays at the regional Yorkmont Road Farmers’ market in Charlotte NC

For the sauce:

2 cups organic canned diced tomatoes, drained

1 Tbsp. Your favorite Pour Olive  extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped onions

4-5 Tbsp. fresh minced local organic ginger

1 clove local or organic garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce or teriyaki

2 Tbsp. local NC sorghum molasses

2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

3 Tbsp Mushroom flavored soy sauce

1 Tbsp. hot chili oil

½ cup orange or apricot marmalade or  chopped local apples

¼ cup local winter beer – I love Olde Meck Brewery’s Copper in this recipe)

For the rub:

Sea salt and Heidi’s Hot pepper blend with coriander from The Savory Spice Shop

¼ cup organic sugar

Combine the barbecue sauce ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes or so. Cool slightly and then puree. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Season ribs with salt and pepper. The rub well with sugar. For sweeter ribs use dark brown sugar. Allow to stand while you make the sauce.

Place the ribs in a slow cooker, fat and meat side out facing the wall of the cooker. Pour the sauce over the ribs and cook for 6-7 hours keeping in mind that local ribs will cook faster than commercially raised ones.

For more of a caramelized finish, place cooked ribs under the broiler for five minutes or so just before serving.


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