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TODAY contributor

Explainer: Eat like the King — and keep the Tums handy

  • Image: Elvis eating a sandwich in Memphis in 1958.
    Hulton Archive / Getty Images
    Elvis in Memphis in 1958.

    Elvis Presley was the undisputed King of Rock ’n’ Roll. A legend. A genius. A giant. And a man of appetites.

    As celebrated as he became, he never abandoned his love of down-home Southern foods — the kind of fare his mama used to make for him long before the whole world knew his name. He also maintained an enduring love of peanut butter, crispy bacon, mayonnaise, white bread and, you guessed it, bananas.

    In honor of Elvis Week 2010 — set for Aug. 10-16 — here's precisely how you can eat like the King yourself. All but one of the following dishes come from the authorized cookbook "Graceland's Table: Recipes Fit for the King of Rock and Roll." Just proceed with caution and be sure to keep a bottle of Tums and the number of your cardiologist nearby.

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches

    Image: Julia Flowers with peanut butter and banana sandwich
    Mario Tama  /  Getty Images
    Memphis waitress Julia Flowers holds a peanut butter and banana sandwich on Aug. 16, 2002 — the 25th anniversary of Presley's death.

    OK, you knew this had to be in here. Arguably Elvis' most famous culinary contribution, these sandwiches must meet certain standards in order to be authentic. "There was no bacon on a peanut butter and banana sandwich," said Kevin Kern, public relations director for Elvis Presley Enterprises. "Sometimes you'll see it that way on the Internet and other places, but that's not right."

    Here is the bona fide PB&B recipe from "Graceland's Table":

    Yield: 3 sandwiches

    2 large ripe bananas
    1 cup peanut butter
    6 slices white bread
    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

    —Peel and mash the bananas in a medium bowl. Combine the peanut butter with the bananas and mix well.

    —Toast the bread lightly and spread the mixture on three of the slices; top with the remaining three slices.

    —Melt the butter in a large skillet and slowly brown the sandwiches on both sides until golden brown.

  • "Stuck on You" burnt-bacon sandwiches

    Image: Frying bacon
    Elena Elisseeva  /  Featurepics.com

    Aaahhh, bacon. Doesn't it have a way of making everything better? Try this recipe on for size:

    Yield: 10 to 12 sandwiches

    1 pound bacon
    1 16-ounce jar mayonnaise
    1 4.25-ounce can pitted, drained, chopped black olives
    1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
    1 loaf white bread, crusts removed

    —Fry the bacon in a large skillet until very crisp (almost burnt); drain on paper towels.

    —Crumble the bacon and mix it with the mayonnaise, olives and pecans to form a spread.

    —Spread a portion of the mixture on 1 slice of the bread and top with another slice to form a sandwich. Continue making sandwiches until the bread and filling are completely used up. Slice the sandwiches diagonally or into quarters to serve.

  • "Just Pretend" Harvard Texas caviar

    Image: Elvis in 1975.
    Keystone / Getty Images
    Elvis in 1975.

    Who needs fancy fish eggs when black-eyed peas can do the trick? Right, Elvis?

    Yield: 8 to 10 servings

    1 16-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
    1 16-ounce can black-eyed peas with jalapenos, drained and rinsed
    1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
    1 onion, chopped
    2 avocados, chopped
    2 tomatoes, chopped
    1 10 3/4-ounce can tomato soup
    1/2 cup white vinegar
    1/4 cup salad oil
    Dash of Worcestershire sauce
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon mustard

    —Combine the peas, bell pepper, onion, avocados and tomatoes in a medium bowl. Combine the soup, vinegar, oil, Worcestershire, sugar and mustard in a second bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.

    —Pour the soup mixture over the vegetables. Refrigerate for 8 to 10 hours or overnight. Serve with tortilla chips.

    Cook's note: This keeps for about two weeks in the refrigerator.

  • Jungle Room party sandwiches

    Image: Graceland, Elvis' mansion in Memphis.
    AFP - Getty Images
    Graceland, Elvis' mansion in Memphis.

    The "Jungle Room" at Graceland looks like the ultimate party pad, with oversized, comfortable furniture, dark wood paneling and exposed brick adorned with hanging green foliage. Here's a sandwich treat that could feed a crowd at your next Elvis party:

    Yield: 20 to 25 sandwiches

    1/2 loaf white bread, crusts removed
    1/2 loaf wheat bread, crusts removed

    1 8-ounce jar peanut butter or jelly
    8 slices bacon, crisply fried and drained
    2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
    2 tablespoons heavy cream, or more or less as needed

    1 8-ounce jar peanut butter or jelly
    1 4-ounce package dates or dried figs, chopped
    Lemon juice
    Chopped parsley and grapes, for garnish

    —Cut the bread into small triangles, squares and circles. Mix the bread shapes so that you have one side white and one side whole wheat.

    —Combine all the ingredients for filling 1 in one bowl and mix to form a spread.

    —Combine all the ingredients for filling 2 in another bowl and mix to form a spread. Spread filling on a white side and cover with a whole wheat side.

    —Continue making sandwiches, alternating the fillings, until all the bread is used. Arrange the sandwiches on a platter decorated with the chopped parsley and grapes.

  • "Taking Care of Business" meat loaf

    Image: Graceland's kitchen
    Graceland's roomy kitchen always had a cook on standby. ((c)EPE, Reg. U.S. Pat & TM Off.)

    This classic homestyle dish was one of Elvis' favorites and a staple of Graceland's kitchen.

    Yield: 6 servings

    2 pounds ground chuck
    1 medium onion, diced
    1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
    3 large eggs
    1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
    Salt and pepper
    1 cup ketchup
    1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
    Dash of Worcestershire sauce

    —Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

    —In a large bowl combine the ground chuck, onion, bell pepper, eggs and tomatoes and green chilies. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, making sure all ingredients are blended. Place the meat mixture in an 8-by-8-inch baking pan, leaving 1/2 inch around the sides. Bake for about 1 hour and 25 minutes or until done.

    —While the meat is cooking, combine the ketchup, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Pour off any fat from the meat loaf and spread the brown sugar glaze over the top of the meat loaf for the final 10 minutes of cooking time.

  • "All Shook Up" baked squash

    Image: Elvis in 1955
    Hulton Archive / Getty Images
    Elvis in 1955.

    As the book "Graceland's Table" notes, "no Southern table, including Graceland's, would be complete without a sweet vegetable."

    Yield: 6 servings

    4 slices bacon, chopped
    1 small onion, chopped
    1 16-ounce can yellow squash, drained, or 4 to 6 small yellow squash, sliced and cooked
    1/2 cup evaporated milk
    1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
    2 large eggs
    Salt and pepper
    1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed

    —Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    —Saute the bacon and the onion in a small skillet. Spoon the squash into a medium bowl. Add the bacon and onion. Stir in the milk, brown sugar, eggs and salt and pepper to taste; mix well. Thicken the mixture slightly with a small portion of the crushed saltine crackers. Pour into a 2 1/2-quart casserole dish and top with the remaining crackers.

    —Bake 30 minutes or until brown on top.

  • "Promised Land" breakfast bread

    Image: Elvis in 1973
    Elvis in 1973.

    Could this be manna from heaven?

    Yield: 6 servings

    1 loaf frozen white bread dough
    1/2 pound hot sausage
    1/2 pound bacon
    1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

    —Defrost the bread according to package directions.

    —Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet.

    —Crumble the sausage and fry it in a large skillet over medium-high heat until well browned; drain well. Chop the bacon into small pieces; fry them in a skillet until crisp and drain well. Roll the dough into an approximate 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with the sausage, bacon and the grated mozzarella cheese. Roll up the dough from one of the short ends and pinch the ends to seal. Lay the roll, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet.

    —Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with any style eggs.

  • Fool's Gold Loaf sandwich

    Image: Fool's Gold Loaf sandwich

    Legend has it that on the night of Feb. 1, 1976, Elvis and two buddies were lounging in Graceland's Jungle Room when the conversation turned to one of the most glorious sandwiches the King had ever eaten: the Fool's Gold Loaf, a specialty of a five-star restaurant in the suburbs of Denver called the Colorado Mine Company. The sandwich sounded so good, Elvis decided he wanted one right then.

    The three men were whisked to the Memphis airport, where they boarded Elvis' private jet, the Lisa Marie, and flew to Denver. The restaurant brought 22 Fool's Gold sandwiches, along with Perrier and champagne, right to the airplane. A great time was had by all — without ever leaving the airport.

    According to various sources on the Internet — not the official Graceland cookbook — the recipe for the sandwich goes something like this:

    1 loaf Italian white bread
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 jar creamy peanut butter
    1 jar grape jelly
    1 pound bacon slices

    —Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    —Hollow out the loaf of Italian bread, slather the bread with the butter and place it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

    —While bread is warming, fry up the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.

    —When bread is ready, fill the hollowed-out center with lots of peanut butter, jelly and bacon.

    —Voila! Your sandwich is served.

  • To learn more about the King

    Image: Elvis in the 1950s
    AFP - Getty Images
    Elvis in the 1950s.

    To learn more about Elvis' music, life and legacy, visit Elvis.com.

    For more of Elvis' favorite recipes, check out the book "Graceland's Table: Recipes Fit for the King of Rock and Roll" by Ellen Rolfes with Elvis Presley Enterprises.

    To become Facebook friends with Elvis, click here.


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