Archive for the ‘Southern Cooking’ Category

Cookies for Christ

That was certainly too cute by half, wasn’t it? I blame all the antihistamines I’m taking due to the constantly changing up/down barometric pressure. One day snow, next day warm and sunny, next day thunderstorms and hail. It’s havoc on the sinuses.

Here’s some cookies I recently made for church, they’re all good recipes from well-known cooks. I use a cookie press fairly often and have had comfortable results through the years but these squeezed-from-a-Ziplock-bag Peppermint Meringues from Southern Living look quite ridiculous. My daughter said they looked like pig ears or shrimp. Har-de-har. They were delicious and moist but next time I’d squeeze them in smaller 1-Tablespoon size rather than the directed 2-Tablespoon size.

I also made Sharon Thompson’s Tiger Butter from her excellent Flavors of Kentucky cookbook and Salted Caramel Brownies from an uncredited source from someone who wrote it down some time ago. They look similar and they’re both incredibly easy to make but the recipes are delicious and taste very different. I made single recipes of Peppermint Meringues and Tiger Butter and a double recipe of Salted Caramel Brownies and every crumb of everything was politely but quickly devoured.



peppermint meringue

Peppermint Meringues

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Ree Drummond is my go-to source for new recipes. I like her because she uses ordinary ingredients that are easy to find no matter where you live, they’re not costly ingredients, she likes a variety of food -sushi as well as steak/potatoes, and she uses those ordinary ingredients to turn out really good food. Her stuff is good, and she rarely lets me down. In fact, if a recipe isn’t especially good, it’s almost certainly because I messed up.

I needed a quick cookie/candy recipe and there are many, many good recipes out there. I’ve had excellent feedback with Christy Jordan’s No Bake Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars [http://www.southernplate.com/2011/04/no-bake-cafeteria-peanut-butter-bars.html] and my daughter swears by PW’s  Sharon Thompson’s Tiger Butter, from Flavors of Kentucky. As usual, I’m always trying a new recipe so I tried PW’s Pretzel Turtles. Very easy, very tasty, quite attractive, it was a very good candy but I’ll probably continue searching for a new recipe next year.

My biggest caution is to be very, very careful when you cook the caramels with the pretzels before topping with each with a roasted pecan and then setting each candy piece atop melted chocolate. The pretzels, as well as the caramels become tooth-destroying crunchy very quickly. The recipe says bake 4-5 minutes but a few seconds less than Four minutes works best, at least in my oven. Of course, I don’t much like crunchy, chewy foods that challenge my teeth fillings.

pecan turtles


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I don’t watch Bertinelli’s show on the Food Network. No reason, I watch Pioneer Woman and Southern at Heart and that’s enough time spent watching food on television. Evidently Bertinelli cooked these cookies on a recent holiday show so I intend to watch the video sometime. I checked out her cookbook – the name of the cookbook is upstairs, please don’t ask me to go and get the name – and thought her picture for Neopolitan Holiday Cookies was just lovely.

It’s not a  difficult recipe but it takes a little time and you must use some care to assemble and cut the cookies, which are really tiny pieces of a 3-layer cake. The cake is tinted Christmas colors. Since it’s an almond paste-whipped egg whites cake, it’s not a fluffy, moist of creaminess. My best advice is to watch the cooking time very carefully because the layers will dry out and harden very easily, even a minute or so too long will affect the texture.

After the layers cool, you put preserves – apricot and seedless raspberry – between layers and let the flavors mingle overnight by weighing down the layers. The top layer is bare at this point. The next day, you frost the top layer with melted chocolate. The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, which I found not quite sweet enough for my American taste. Now the Italians, yes. I cheated and melted some milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate and spread that atop the dark chocolate layer. It helped a lot, too. You have to take some care to cut the layers into little pieces; I dampened the knives just a bit and instead of using the recommended serrated knife, I used a sharp little paring knife.

I took this to a choir party and it was a big hit. It’s beautiful, festive and very tasty. Worth your while. My layers are quite as even as Bertinelli but people don’t care, they really do appreciate that you went to some trouble and tried something different. That’s what I tell myself anyway. I did use “Southern Cooking” as an identifying category because well, it’s southern Italy, after all.



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I try to make a trifle every Christmas. The classic ladyfingers/custard/raspberry sauce is still excellent but I like to try new recipes and I don’t have a standard ‘don’t touch this’ family tradition. For several years my daughter or I has made Paula Deen’s Gingerbread Trifle, and it is a delicious trifle. Most trifles develop a full flavor only after setting at least overnight and that’s especially true of the Gingerbread Trifle.

For the church holiday dinner this year I made the Southern Living Cherry-Spice Cake Trifle in the November 2015 issue. How does it compare to other trifles?

It took longer for the cake since traditional trifle uses store-bought ladyfingers or a pound or sponge cake and Deen’s Gingerbread Trifle permits a store-bought mix. I was a little disappointed with the Spice Cake when I first tasted it because it’s a little blah but after I  put it into the trifle, I have to admit I wouldn’t change that. The subtle spices mixed very well with everything else. Occasionally I think a SL recipe isn’t really worth the trouble but that’s not true with the Spice Cake. If you’re going to make the cake just as a cake and not for a trifle, you’d have to use a jazzy icing to punch up the flavor. Maybe use a spice icing and layer it with spiced apples.

The filling uses cherry preserves and cranberries – I used fresh ones – and it was quite tasty but I added a little more preserves than the recipe called for because I didn’t think it was sweet enough, especially with the rather bland cake.

I love a good custard and the custard recipe for the trifle was wonderful, wonderful. You could top the trifle with a Cool Whip but I used the real whipped cream recipe in the mag. It was a lovely trifle and I added some rosemary sprigs as depicted in the mag pic.

Was it worth it? Yes. Will I make this again next year or continue my never-ending quest for the perfect trifle? Well, Sissy said it was really, really good but she didn’t gasp or say ‘Oh my goodness’ and everyone at the church potluck said it was delicious but ….. no one asked for the recipe. That’s the kiss of death for a recipe in my book. Not likely to make it next year.


Here’s the links to the Southern Living recipes. You use the cake as the base for the trifle. http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/holiday-spice-cake

The  trifle recipe here: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/cherry-spice-cake-trifle

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Last year about this time I made a fabulous Pioneer Woman Strawberry Shortcake Cake for a church function and it was fabulous. This year, using small sweet berries from the same orchard as last year, I made the Southern Living Strawberry Lemonade Cake for a cookout party. Both cakes took a little more time and care than usual. You cut the PW cake into layers and macerate the berries before placing them between the layers, and freeze for a few minutes,which isn’t too complicated but it takes time. Icing is delicious but not especially complicated. The SL cake requires making fresh strawberry jam and baking 4 separate thin layers then a cream cheese – no powdered sugar – icing with fresh berries. Which is better?

My husband loved, loved the SL strawberry jam recipe, claiming I should make a few batches just to use as jam. The icing is delicious and the cake was attractive. I believe the secret to a great cake is a great cake, meaning the foundation to a fancy cake has to be a moist, delicious cake that’s good enough to stand on its own. When I took the SL cake out of the oven to cool, it didn’t smell or touch or look like a great cake on its own. http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/strawberry-lemonade-layer-cake-50400000134449/ [Cute platter, eh? It’s vintage Blue Ridge; I got it at Pop’s in Lexington]

strawberry cake

The PW cake I made last year was fabulous as soon as it began baking and while it was cooling. It looked like a special cake when I was done icing and garnishing it. I got a lot of compliments and recipe requests for it.  http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/05/strawberry-shortcakecake/

People complimented the SL cake but mostly they mentioned the jam filling or the icing. That’s not good enough for me and my rule of a great cake, so I have to say the Pioneer Woman Strawberry Shortcake Cake is the winner. I won’t make the SL cake again.

I did make the SL Strawberry Milk, which had a good old-fashioned taste. I also made the SL Green Bean Apple Bacon Sandwiches, which were popular and interesting. Not difficult, healthy, and the vinaigrette was delicious so I’ll probably do that again. http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/green-bean-apple-bacon-sandwiches-50400000129588/

green bean sandwich

Here’s a couple of things I made at Easter, both Pioneer Woman recipes. The  Krispy Eggs treats were delicious but my husband said they looked like a carton of nipples so I’d leave off the jelly bean garnish from the tops next time. I put waxed paper on the egg carton bottoms to keep the treats clean. I also made the PW Sigrid’s Carrot Cake and it is the best carrot cake you can eat . I make a lot of carrot cakes and carrot cupcakes and this cake is so good you can’t believe it. One woman said it was like dying and going to heaven. Can’t vouch for that but do try the recipe. Both recipes are in The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidayshttp://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/03/sigrids-carrot-cake-perfect-for-easter/

PW carrot

easter eggs

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William Davis uses Seaweed Shirataki Noodles in his Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight cookbook. I like those but I think I like the Tofu Shirataki Noodles better. I can’t eat processed soy due to my thyroid – one of the reasons I’m no longer a vegetarian – but tofu is okay. They come in different varieties, i.e., fettuccine, macaroni, penne, angel hair spaghetti, etc and fragile. The taste is bland as heck but it’s a light texture and a light taste, so a good sauce is essential. Usually I find both kinds of noodles at health food stores but my local Walmart has begun stocking them in the produce section, alongside veggie cheese. The noodles require a quick rinse and drain, then a quick cook of about 2-3 minutes. You might want to cut up the noodles a tad before cooking because they don’t separate during cooking. Most packages are 8 oz and you need a whole package for each serving. It’s less than $2 a package, Gluten Free, Low Carb, Low Calorie and easy to fix, so what more could you want? I’ve used them with meat sauces but here I used Davis’ Fettuccine recipe. Easy, fast, good. Melt some good butter, sauté a little garlic, turn down the heat, add some cream and couple kinds of cheese, throw in the rinsed/cooked noodles for 2 minutes and that’s dinner.  Here’s a pic, I browned my butter, so it looks a little dark. Very good.

GF fettuccine

My daughter made these Blueberry Lemon Scones from the Balanced Bites website and served them for a breakfast visit. Only 1 tsp honey per scone and delicious, fresh-tasting.

GF blueberry lemon scones

I made a fabulous and simple dessert  from Elana Amsterdam’s  Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry, a Peach Cherry Crisp that uses only 2 T honey for the whole recipe. If you’re trying like me to go Low Carb, don’t forget the sugar in the fruit and be sure to use unsweetened frozen peaches and cherries. Almonds and some almond flour. I would serve this dessert to anyone and may take it to my church potluck later this month. Whipped cream/whipped coconut milk optional but delicious.

peach cherry crisp

The meatloaf? Actually I think it’s been longer than 35 years but it’s largely irrelevant after this many years. So I made a meaty thick meatloaf, full of grassfed beef and couple of eggs and some almond flour and an onion and that’s pretty much it, along with some spices. I got it from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo cookbook. After I baked it and served it, I thought, “Oh Good Lord, I can’t eat this big slab of meat.” But I did. It was really good. I don’t know whether it’s that the recipe is so darned good and/or I’m beginning to tolerate the taste of meat a little or maybe my mental efforts are paying off. Here it is, just a big slab of meat. After a couple of days, we made some good sandwiches with it on GF bread along with mayo, strong mustard, pickles and lettuce. Burp. :.

paleo meatloaf2

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I did less baking this past week, except yesterday I  made some items for a church potluck.

A couple of tips from my efforts this week: I mentioned that I hate the taste of both baking powder and baking soda so I went to extraordinary efforts to completely blend any recipes that used either. I think it made a difference. Also, I used more caution checking the doneness of baked items because gluten-free items don’t brown the same way. It’s easy to overbake and I did a couple of times yesterday, as you’ll see in a minute.

This has been a favorite meal of mine since childhood: Sauerkraut and weiners, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread and blackberry cobbler. When I became a vegetarian I ate veggie wieners, which aren’t as good as Pamela Anderson and other PETA folks describe. When I recently became paleo/gluten free, I tried sausages but I wasn’t crazy about it. Here’s my current take: premium hot dog wieners that are gluten free and antibiotic free and all that good stuff. I sautéed onions with the wieners then added kraut and cooked for 20 minutes or so because I like the taste of browned kraut, my canned green beans, mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes to reduce the carb load, gluten free cornbread. and mini blueberry muffins because I haven’t found a really good cobbler yet. I’ll experiment soon on that because I have a few gallon frozen blackberries from a local source last year.

I used the Comfy Belly No-Corn Cornbread [http://comfybelly.com/] I mentioned here earlier but I made them in mini muffin pans, in fact I’m making a bunch of GF baked goods in mini pans because I like the crisper texture. Sometimes GF is a little limp. If you try the cauliflower to mash, be sure to steam them till completely tender and add lots of good grass-fed butter. I usually mash them in a food processor. The blueberry muffins were a recipe from Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo cookbook. Since I used the muffins as a dessert instead of breakfast dish, I followed her suggestion and reduced the lemon juice. Here’s the pics:

kraut dinner

blueberry muffin





For most of the week’s main dishes, I made an excellent Greek Salad with homemade vinaigrette and a good Vegetable Beef Soup with grass-fed beef, for lunches I made my standby Canned Tuna in Olive Oil/boiled egg/avocado or egg salad. Also ate out several times, getting a little better at tolerating Chicken Caesar Salad and the like.

I made Paleo Chili for my church potluck last night, which got a good response and also made a medley of Paleo/GF desserts . The troublesome part for me is the question of sweeteners. As a diabetic, I’ve avoided adding sugar or honey to my baked goods for a couple of years now but I don’t like using the sugar alcohols for public events where sensitive people or kids might have a problem with GI upset. Some of the other substitutes, e.g. stevia can have a funny taste when used in quantities needed for a large recipe.

Yesterday I  made William Davis’ recipe for Carrot Cupcakes –  all my mini pans were dirty so I made regular sized cupcakes – and used a combo of liquid stevia and xylitol – which is irritating only in large quantities – and was quite pleased with the result. I also made Elana’s Pantry recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip cookies and this time I followed her recipe to the letter, using 1/2 cup of sugar-sweetened dark chocolate chips and 1/4 cup local honey. I found them fabulous, other people said they liked them. I don’t know the level of politeness there but I will say this: when you’ve eaten low/no sugar that are Paleo/GF, your taste buds begin to change and you’re satisfied with less sugar. That’s true of salt, too. I also made Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Lemon Curd and put it in her Honey Graham Piecrust, only I made the recipe into mini tartlets. I’m not fond of lemon desserts but my husband is and he loved these.

One thing I notice is that different authors/bloggers specialize in different food categories, e.g. I think Danielle Walker is a whiz at baking – some of her stuff is sweeter than other authors, though – and I think Diane Sanfilippo specializes in main dishes while Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo specializes in family favorites. IMHO. Here’s a pic of the tartlets, you can easily see that I overbaked the tart shells. I also overbaked the Carrot Cupcakes and since they just looked like a blah brown cupcake, I won’t bother with a pic.

Just a couple of minutes makes a big difference in Paleo/GF from pale underdone to overbaked. Next time…

lemon curd tartlet

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