Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Twinkie Cake That Wasn't: How to Make Do

Grandmama, grandmother to The Fellows on their other side of the family, used to make this cake (she may still).  I don't know where the recipe came from, Google, perhaps could tell, although Grandmama was making it well before wireless or broadband or Google.  I do know that it's a light and cool summer favorite dessert that gets put together in moments -- and is consumed just as quickly.

Pardon the ClingWrap.  I'd forgotten to take a final photo
before putting it in the fridge and only remembered
moments before exiting Pine Level.

The original recipe called for Twinkies.  A soul will be hard pressed to find Twinkies in Leakesville.  You think I'm kidding?  Nope.  Piggly Wiggly (aka The Pig) doesn't carry them.  We've lots of Little Debbie treats, though.  It was a coin toss between the Swiss rolls and Banana rolls.  Strawberries go well with the Swiss rolls but I've already done strawberries this week so the banana rolls won without even breaking out a quarter.

This is one of those desserts where name brands
don't make a whole lot of difference in the
quality of the finished treat.

Besides a large box of Twinkies, you'll also need a 15 ounce can of crushed pineapple and an eight ounce tub of whipped topping.  "But, Mayree, " you say, "that's a photo of pineapple chunks."  Yes.  Those are pineapple chunks.  I'm pleading menopausal forgetfulness for not purchasing crushed pineapple while picking up the banana rolls.  Like so many other aspects of life, I made do with what was at hand.

Here's how to make it at a glance:
Place Twinkies (banana rolls) in bottom of 9 x 13 casserole.  Or 
whatever.  There are 11 rolls in the dish with
one left over for Mama.  No comments about
OCD okay? I like symmetry...

Spoon pineapple on top of Twinkies or banana

Pour juice on top.  MMMMmmmm...
It soaks all into the rolls and makes
them a soggy cool mess.

Spread whipped topping on (duh) top.
This is the point that I remembered the dessert
is made with crushed pineapple.  Pineapple
chunks aren't 'smooth' friendly.

Cover and let chill.

Voila!  More time was spent in unwrapping the rolls than in any other step.  I've also used Swiss rolls topped with frozen (and thawed) sweetened sliced strawberries.  I'm warning y'all:  this very easy dessert is seriously addictive.  Do NOT take it out of the refrigerator until you are ready to see it consumed in its entirety. 

And "That's all," she wrote on a hot Saturday evening in the Deep South with Family Dinner tomorrow at church -- and a cool dessert to share.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 4th in the Deep South: As American as Cubed Watermelon?

It occurred to me the other day that I hadn't written a blog post in a very long time.  Not really having a bunch of anything newsworthy, the thought was dismissed;  until tonight, that is.  I was cutting a locally grown watermelon to share with coworkers and Mama tomorrow and the idea struck me that I hadn't seen a tutorial on cutting watermelon flesh into cubes in a very long time also.  Longer, even, that the last time a blog post was written here!

I can't remember where I'd seen the original tutorial on watermelon and, wanting to show y'all while still in the mood (menopause being what it is), I didn't google it either.  I do know there were multiple instructions including using a ruler to achieve perfect cubes.  This being the Deep South and all, watermelons are already perfect enough without having to be served in shapes with identical parameters (and this coming from a gal with borderline OCD when it comes to food presentation).

So.  Without getting a whole lot more wordy, here are the photos.  If you've any difficulty understanding what it is being done, leave a comment or email.  I'll be happy to explain in further detail!

**giggle** Now you never need melon ball again!

Happy Independence Day, y'all!  <3 Mary

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

...Lived to Speak Another Day

Lots of you know (and some of you don't) that I'm a middle-aged Deep Southerner in a second year of pursuing a degree in Culinary Arts Technology at Jones County Junior College.  It's a second go-round of higher education, the first attempt occurring almost three decades ago.  Remarkably and amazingly, all of the core curriculum credits from those college years transferred forward through time to land securely in this present day.  There was only one class missing:  speech.  I hemmed, hawed, begged, cited life experience for possible credit for the accursed class, and pled futuristic mental angst if made to take it. I should have saved my breath;  tonight was the first speech.

As far as speeches go it was to be short, of two to four minutes length.  Three items were to be brought, representative of who we are.  An attention-getting device, such as a favorite quote, was to begin the speech, along with naming and then explaining the different items brought.

These are mostly high school dual enrollment or first year college students.  There are only a handful of non-traditional students in the class and they're all younger with zero intimidation factor.  Most of the youngsters I know personally.  The large class was split in half so there were only 16 individuals in the later time slot, instead of the whole room full of giggling snorting texting students.  Did it matter, as far as nervousness was concerned?  Not one bit.   I don't fear death nearly as much as public speaking with a great amount of respect for both of them.

The two minute forty-nine second speech was made, a vibrato large enough to drive a Big Mac truck through developing at some point.  No notes were used, eye contact was made, words were not tripped over, pregnant pauses were non-evident, conclusion was conclusive; everything but introducing myself was remembered (and that was done at the end {and was the only 2 point deduction}).

So what'd I say?  I thought you'd never ask!  As well as can be remembered (it was kind of an out-of-body experience) here it is for you to enjoy or snicker at, permanently preserved in cyberspace.

Good afternoon!  I was going to begin with the well-known poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that goes (suck in deep breath, quote poem with it) My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night.  But oh, my foe, and ah, my friend, it gives a lovely light.  BUT upon reflection, I believe Freddie Mercury's apt lyric to be more suitable "Fat bottomed Girls you make the rocking world go round!"

The three items I've brought tonight are a Trinity Hymnal, official hymnal of the Presbyterian Church in America, and by extension, Leakesville Presbyterian Church; a photo of my two sons; and a clay statue by Dylan Karges, an archeological illustrator with the Cobb Institute at Mississippi State University.

The name of the hymnal is the Trinity Hymnal, readily identifying it as an object associated with the triune God that I serve.  It also has a trio of meaning attached to it.  The first is that is represents seventeen years worth of classical piano lessons and also 28 of 53 years as the pianist at Leakesville Presbyterian Church.  It secondly represents years and years of loving music, being able to identify rhythms and cadences and hear melodies surrounding me with musical texture all the time.  Thirdly, it holds, in the back of it, the positions of the Presbyterian Church in America as found in its Westminster Confession of Faith, Shorter Catechism, Apostle's and Nicene Creeds, and responsive Psalter readings.

The second item is a photograph of my sons, Michael and John Robert.  To borrow E. B. White's phrase from Charlotte's Web (as Charlotte is explaining to Wilbur what her egg sack was), they are my magnum opus, my greatest work.  I was not going to be a mother.  I'd taken the GRE and was headed to the University of Texas in Austin to pursue an advanced degree in paleontology.  I had nieces and nephews that I loved and that was enough.  Life intervened, fortunately.  I had sons and knew that raising them would be the most worthwhile endeavor ever undertaken.  Despite all my efforts at being a perfect nurturing mother of bodies, minds, and souls, they turned out to be delightful, intelligent, sometimes quite, often rowdy, caring, respectful Southern Gentlemen. I couldn't be prouder.

The last item is a funny little clay statue titled Facing Future.  It was part of a larger exhibition at one time and was a Mother's Day gift at a point in life where much introspection had been done and time was presenting itself to be moved in one direction or another.  The statue is kind of funky, individual from all the others created.  He leans forward, chin up, looking skyward, ready to step into the future.  It acted as a catalyst to do something, to go forward, to go into the future.  That's where I am.  It's one of my most treasured possessions.

In summation then, on this table there are three f's represented, but in a good way:  faith, family, and future.
My name is Mary Havard-McCoy and thank you very much!

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Moore" is Better: A Small Tribute

She can be an emotional sap but it's passion that drivers her every thought:  true Otherworldly love for a child, unfathomable loyalty and devotion to family and friends, and ambition to affect excellence where mediocracy (the system ruling mediocrity) exists.

That's Chef Instructor Moore on the left;
Mrs. Gloria Newell, aka Mama Newell, on the right.

I was blessed to witness all manners of passion from the petite red head this past week, from anger over improperly stored produce to dealing with last minute changes.  She handled them all.

She's ever mindful of the quality of the program and the safety and well-being of all her students, not to mention the health of the public.  And! If a student truly desires to know more than offered in the program, she can handle that as well.

One of the happiest days of my culinary education...

I often feel the need to mother her, to nurture the head of the department as one of my own, she's just that endearing, often having to give myself a good mental shaking to keep from putting a ribbon in her hair.  She's strong enough without my encouragement; she does have a mother already, although it doesn't stop the occasional text from being sent.  Sometimes, this gray matter forgets that she's not a peer, that I am not her equal in culinary skills.

She's beating the butter down for puff pastry:  NOT
a skill I'm finding necessary to master, given the availability
of it everywhere, even at the Pig...

Chef Instructor Moore has a tough job, keeping all of us in line while teaching the finer points of culinary arts in the hospitality industry.  It's not a position I'd ever desire but I'm thankful she has it, merely grateful to have her presence in this life.  Sometimes being in the lead position isn't the most popular, but she's leading us forward (sometimes kicking and screaming) to excellence, making the Jones County Junior College Culinary Arts Technology program the place to be in the South for a remarkable education.

And she's also very generous with praise when we've
deserved it!

Her program consistently produces graduates ready for whatever commercial kitchen or front of the house position or, like myself, cakery institution they've a mind to work in, sufficiently schooled by the mind and sometimes emotionally sappy spirit of the petite red head I'm fortunate to call Chef Moore.  Thank you, ma'am, for being here!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Elephants In the Kudzu

Take a drive anywhere through the South in the summer and you'll become aware of mile after mile of a vine imported by the highway department in the early 1900's to control erosion of the roadways.  It's called kudzu and, like the water hyacinths in Louisiana, is a plant in need of controlling.  Besides being invasive, another unpleasant fact or two about it is that snakes absolutely love (if snakes could love anything {besides existing merely to keep my phobia of them intact}) hiding in its dense cover.  Cows enjoy munching on the new growth and while it's a great source of nutrition for them, it makes their milk bitter and unpalatable.

Years ago, seemingly in another lifetime, when The Happy Family lived in Oxford, Mississippi, a food article in the Oxford Eagle touted a jelly made from kudzu blossoms to be the most flavorful ever to be contrived in the South.  I'd have to put on hip waders and carry several firearms to harvest five gallons of blossoms for a single batch of jelly but that's neither here nor there.  The article held one key phrase  never forgotten: elephants in the kudzu.

It doesn't take much of a vivid imagination to notice them.  I've seen all manners of elephants ever since;  babies, juveniles, adults;  some with vine trunks raised to the tops of trees;  others walking single file, trunk to tail.

Mostly they're lumbering through the heat and humidity, as if trying to grow their way back home to Asia. Herds of them exist around every curve, up and down hills, hiding in ravines.  They trudge their way to the road, growing offspring along the way.

It is a deceptively slow march they make but if you're watching, progress can be seen on a weekly basis. Their strength is in numbers.  The South is inundated with forests of the verdant pachyderms.

Sometimes I even think I hear their trumpeting calls, communicating to the herd over the hill, "We're almost there!"  Bless their hearts.  I hope they take the snakes with them when they grow home...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mama's (very large) Pecan Pie. 'Nuff said...

Last week I had an order for a pecan pie for an almost-family friend.  The recipient is the sister to a sister-in-law.  It was her birthday and she didn't want any sort of cake so her sweet spouse took it upon himself to order her favorite dessert:  pecan pie.

Like any child of the Deep South, there's only one pecan pie recipe to make.  Mama's.  She's made it for as long as I can remember, and indeed, the recipe is older than I am, being jotted down several years before I was born.

Favorite Child, aka Brother #4, was born in 1955, after almost a week of labor, some of it spent in traction from a slipped cervical disk (I'm so thankful he wasn't a girl or else I wouldn't be here tonight writing to you). It took a little while for her to recover from the birthing process, having had four sons in nine years time. Brother #4 was born in late summer and she was taking a noon-time rest, watching the news on WKRG out of Mobile, Alabama while waiting on As the World Turns and The Guiding Light to come on.  WKRG still has a local chef/cook come into the studio at noon, the same as the station did back in 1955.

Mama says that it was getting on closer to Thanksgiving after Brother #4 was born when WKRG premiered this pecan pie recipe.  She grabbed pencil and paper and wrote down the ingredients, much like I wrote them down some twenty years ago.

This recipe makes a deep dish ten inch pecan pie or two eight inch pies.  You'll notice there isn't a set amount of pecans -- that's entirely up to user discretion!

Here's what you do:

Beat five eggs until foamy and lemon-y in color.

Slowly add one cup sugar until well mixed.

Add one cup white corn syrup.

I can't tell ONE bit of difference between Karo brand
corn syrup and generic corn syrup.  Save your
dollars for something important like mayonnaise.

Add five tablespoons of melted butter.

Add vanilla.
I love using the little medicine dispenser cups for flavorings.
They have accurate measurements right on the cup
and are a whole lot of handy!

Pour into prepared unbaked crusts with desired amounts of pecans.
The fancy one on the left was for the client.  The ugly one on the right
was for fambly.  We like our pies with chopped pecans.  Whole halves
(if that makes any sense) are pretty in a pie, but won't cut worth a flip.
AND someone always eats out the center pecan within moments of coming 
out of the oven.  Sad, but true.  Sometimes that someone is me.
Use as many or as little pecans as you want here.  I used one a half cups
in the big pie and only a cup in the little one.

I like to put the pies on baking sheets to go into a 350 F. preheated oven.  They almost never cook over on a sheet.  Just let one go into the oven without a sheet, though.  That's one awful mess to clean up.

Bake until the center is set, anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.  


Here are the ingredients again for one deep dish ten inch pecan pie or two thinner eight inch pies:

One or two unbaked pie crusts
Five eggs
One cup sugar
One cup white corn syrup
Five tablespoons melted butter
One teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt (I omit this, using salted butter)

Put it together like I did and you're sure to have deliciousness in an hour!

Y'all enjoy. 

<3 Mary

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Things They Don't Teach In Culinary Arts

I learned so many things the spring semester as a student in the culinary arts department at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi.  I've discovered just this evening, though, that there are a lot of things that weren't learned;  common, every day things that should've been part of some curriculum but weren't.

For instance, one box of pickling cucumbers from Eubanks Produce/Charlie's U Pick will yield 21 pounds of sliced cucumbers (minus the ones held out for eating).

That's enough sliced cucumbers for one making of
14 day sweet pickles and one making of lime sweet pickles.

One very large cabbage yields a little over ten quarts of coarsely chopped cabbage
Ten quarts of cabbage is enough for 2.5 makings of
picalilli, per the Ball Blue Book of Canning.

Five large green tomatoes yield two quarts of diced tomatoes.
A dough scraper is a very handy tool in the kitchen!  
Not only does it make icing on cakes very smooth,
it also doubles as a diced-vegetable picker-upper.

Dicing six quarts of green tomatoes goes a lot quicker if the little rounded bits are diced separately and individually.

 My largest pot is not large enough for 2.5 batches of diced vegetables for picalilli.

A nicely scrubbed ice chest is large enough for 2.5 batches of vegetables for picalilli.

I took the lid off, covered the veggies with plastic wrap, 
and have it in the big cooler on the back porch to be dealt with tomorrow.

And lastly, but certainly not least:  One perfectly ripened cantaloupe can entirely disrupt an afternoon, if consumed over the course of the day

But it was so worth it...

And that's it for the time being.  If anything more is discovered that needs to be covered during kitchen lab for any given course, I'll come back to pass on the education.

Y'all have a good one!

<3 Mary