Thursday, November 24, 2011

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do, Do Without...

Use it up, wear it out, make do, do without.  More than a colloquialism, it's a way of life 'round here.   Resources are used uhmmmm resourcefully - never wasted.  Everything wears out.  Do without, I've done without so many things for so long I don't think I've ever done with.  Make do??  I'm the queen of make do.  I'm one Southern gurl that can make some serious do with no problem.  I don't even have to ponder it anymore.

Let me tell you,

The dryer died one evening a couple of months ago.  Smelling hot cotton fibers and heating elements, it was snatched out from the wall and unplugged.  At 25 years old, I'd gotten my money's worth for it.  I'm holding out for the washing machine to completely go out, too, so both can be replaced by an over/under washer/dryer.  The freezer can occupy the space left by the dryer and the much needed second refrigerator can go where the freezer is.  I know.  Too many words to explain that sometimes the clothesline isn't available because of rain.  I make do with an indoor drying solution.

Yep.  That's the extendable handle from the dust mop propped on an 18 inch dowel rod laid across the towel pegs on the right (that was accidentally cropped in editing {such as it is}) stretching across the bath tub to the soap bucket, turned upside down.

Add a fan to hasten the drying and voila!

 I make do just fine without a dryer.

Sometimes I have more jars of canned vegetables than the big canner will hold.  Patience applying only to children in the household, the smaller canner is often used so there's no waiting around for a watched pot to boil.  There's no rack for it.  I'm not dissuaded in the least.  There are always old stretched clean socks waiting to be used as rags.

Cut in half, they slip quite nicely over the bottoms of the filled jars, keeping them off the bottom of the canner and from bumping each other.

Tadadaaaaaaa, rack problem solved.

The other day I was all distracted with Thanksgiving and spending it with Fambly at John's and Brenda's house (bittersweet).  Dark chocolate ganache had been made using twice the cream called for.  Yikes.  Soupy ganache.  Not good. 

I made do, breaking out the whisk and bowl for the stand mixer, Providentially  already in the fridge,

and whipping in butter.

It was one of the better make-do ideas in the kitchen.

Even Youngest Fellow knows how to make do with what's available, fixing the power supply cord so the lap top can work again!

This morning I wanted to replicate the Browning Buckmark logo for Chelsea's groom's cake.  The photo Mary Sue had shown me had the logo in fondant.  Welllll, y'all know my aversion to fondant.   An earlier cake with the Buckmark cut out of fondant was not that easy to do, the curves of the horns and fine inner workings of the doe's ears causing major consternation. I could get it on the top tier in icing.  NNNnno.  Nope.  Nuh-unh.  That'd be a nightmare of scratch and do over.  I free-hand the designs on the cakes when the design is easy.  Getting the proportions right for the Browning would take serious time.  Did I mention a lack of patience when it comes to anything other than children??

The solution, then, was to enlarge the logo pulled from the internet.  Ohh, I know - there are programs out there to do it and given fifteen more minutes I could've probably found an online coloring book with the logo in it but have I mentioned the patience thing yet??

There are those wonderful overhead-projector-in-reverse machines that take a design and shine it down on the top of the cake.  I don't have one of those.  It's time to make do again, using the grid system to enlarge an image.

Here's what I did!  I found the graph paper left over from The Fellows high school days, then found an image.

If I had a wireless printer, I could've printed it off, but there again, I made do, placing a piece of graph paper right on the screen and lightly tracing over it.

Using a ratio of two blocks for every one in the traced image, I outlined squares and transferred each curve, point by point, through the squares, enlarging the image!  Tadadaaaaa!  We learned how to do this in the third grade.  Youngest Fellow didn't have a CLUE!

"Well that's just excellent, Mayree.  I'm real excited for you,"  I hear you think.  How does that transfer to chocolate on a groom's cake?

Using the point of a mechanical pencil (no lead), I traced the Buckmark logo onto wax paper;  several of them in fact, some in reverse.


Melting semi-sweet chocolate with paraffin, chocolate Browning Buckmark logos were made on the wax paper.

I've just 'glued' them together with chocolate butter cream to make a dimensional logo to stand upright on the cake tomorrow, with help of carefully placed and concealed bamboo skewers.

Now that's how to make do with what you've got.   

Woooot!  November is almost over!  I love life, but this is one of those years that I'll be glad to see the backside of in a little over a month.  My favorite time of year is here -- when home-made gifts rule hearth and home.  It is good to see Christmas come...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grandmama's Pumpkin Fat Cake aka Pumpkin Chess Pie Cake aka Paula Deen's Pumpkin Gooey Cake

Grandmama calls it Chess Pie Cake.  Paula Deen calls it Gooey Cake.  The Fellows call it Fat Cake 'cause once you've started eating it you can't stop until it's all gone;  then you feel all fat.  I've grown partial to calling it Fat Cake.
It looks unassuming, crumbly, dense, perhaps even ordinary.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  It's rich - oh so rich - with a buttery crusty layer and a sweetened cream cheese filling with a hint of vanilla that will send blood sugar levels sky rocketing.  It's Biblically good.

For Thanksgiving, Grandmama often adds pumpkin to the filling for a holiday flair.  I called her last week to get the recipe.  We talked for a solid two hours, catching up on fambly news on either side.  We're careful not to pry where prying would be rudely invasive:  she's my son's other grandmother:  X's mom.  She's one massive blessing in my life, past and present, and I'm glad we remain friends.  She's the one that made the first Fat Cake I'd ever had the privilege of overindulging on.  It's at her house The Fellows started calling it Fat Cake.  The name and calories stuck.

I've been baking for other folks the last two weeks, continuing right through Friday evening with a groom's cake to be assembled this weekend.  One extended fambly member had ordered two cakes and something else -- whatever I wanted to bake.  I wanted Pumpkin Fat Cake.

I had baked this fambly member the best looking cream cheese pound cake ever.  It was cooling in the dining room on the table set up for cakes.

You know how I blame stuff on the dog sometimes? I caught him in the act of indulging his sweet tooth on a good chunk of that beautiful pound cake.  I seldom holler at him but I was so mad I fairly screamed at him.   He was still moping when I started assembling Fat Cake.

Annnnyways.  Fat Cake.  Pumpkin Fat Cake.

For the crust you'll need:
one box butter cake mix
one egg
one stick margarine butter

Y'all know I'm going to do this the easy way.  Break out the Cuisinart and put the crust ingredients in, pulsing until everything is mixed.  Somehow, all the butter was taken out of the refrigerator and had come to room temperature.  Actually, I know the somehow, distraction from all the do-overs this weekend (don't get me started on the chocolate sponge cake).  It's a small matter to be dealt with:  the crust mixture is sticky and gloopy.  IF you can remember to not take it out and the butter is cold, the mixture will be nice and crumbly and it can be pressed into the 9 x 13 pan very easily.

As it is, the mixture is gloopy (for lack of a better adjective)

and requires a bit of skill and finesse to spread non-stick cooking spray

generously applied to the hands

to press the gloopy crust mix evenly and into the corners of the pan.  I've pan-coated my pans but non-stick cooking spray, alone, will work fine for this recipe.

Tadadaaaaaaaa!  They multiplied!!!!

I don't clean the Cuisinart bowl.  It's not necessary.  Any small amount of the crust won't harm or alter the cream cheese filling flavor.  I'm all about saving the universe from entropy, being careful to conserve energy on every level -- even down to not expending energy on cleaning the Cuisinart when not needed!

I put all the filling ingredients in it at once.  Yep.  All of them:
three eggs
eight ounces cream cheese
16 ounces (one box) confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
nutmeg or any other pie spices desired, to taste
one can of pumpkin

Process until well blended and smooth.  It's a bowlful of filling so you'll want to be quick about getting it poured on top of the prepared crust.

Bake at 350 degrees an hour.  Or so.  Until set. My oven is slow so it takes almost two hours to bake until the filling is set.  Let cool, cut into squares, large or small, and enjoy!

Youngest Fellow describes them as pumpkin pie fat cake.  I suppose that'll work too!

The basic recipe and instructions for Grandmama's (plain) Fat Cake are:
1 box butter cake mix                                         8 oz. cream cheese
1 egg                                                                        16 oz. confectioner's sugar
1 stick butter                                                         1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix and press in bottom of 9 x 13 pan the butter cake mix, one egg, and butter.  Set aside.  Mix 3 eggs, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla.  Pour over cake mixture in pan.  Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour until top layer is set.

Thank you, Ann McCoy, for the conversation and recipe.  Love you BIG!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mrs. Linda's Cranberry Salad: Pretty and Particularly Palatable

Christy Jordan doesn't know what she's started, putting Southern Plate on Facebook.  Or maybe she did.  Does.  I knew her when her fans weren't numbered in the hundreds yet.
Truth be told, she helped start my blogging career, such as it is.  You see, comments I'd posted in response to her status attracted the attention of Cindy (of Sweet Tea With Cindy fame) and Mrs. Diane.  I consider them Facebook Fambly; they've become more than friends via an electronic device.  They're souls I care about.

Annnyway, Cindy sweet-talked me into writing a guest post for her Front Porch Fridays.  A week later Mayree's debuted.  Mrs. Diane, observant Southerner that she is, connected a slew of like-minded souls all fans of Southern Plate, together on Facebook.  We're kind of an assorted lot spanning the globe from Alaska to the tip of Florida.  And last week she started an informal group "Thanksgiving First".
Sharings of Thanksgiving mishaps, blessings, and recipes have been going on in abundance in there.  It's delightful.

Earlier in the week Mrs. Linda mentioned her cranberry salad.  My mouth started watering, imagining the flavors worked together.  I knew it had to be made in my kitchen.  I did.  I made it.  It's a full week before Thanksgiving, so I'll be eating it morning, noon, and night for a few days but ohhhhh, it's worth it.

I didn't take a photo of the assembled ingredients before I started.  Y'all know me by now, I'm doing other stuff too and there's not always room (you got me -- there's not always the thought) to get it all together first.  In complete reverse order of what I normally do y'all are getting the ingredients and amounts first and then watch for the directions, okay?

Mrs. Linda's Cranberry Salad
one package fresh cranberries
two cups sugar
one large can crushed pineapple
one bag miniature marshmallows
one cup pecans
one and a half cup heavy whipping cream


and drain the cranberries.

Put in food processor and pulse until desired chopped-ness is reached, stirring sides down as necessary to process all berries.

Put into container and add two cups of sugar to begin drawing juices.  I put mine, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.

I took them out once last night and stirred the sugar into the berries.  I also had a bite.  Cranberries, to me, have the tartness of a Granny Smith apple with three times the flavor.

I had business out of the house this morning.  I took the cranberries out of the fridge and left them on the counter, to warm to room temperature and hasten the 'drawing' process.  I remembered to put the KitchenAid bowl and whisk in the refrigerator in preparation for whipping the cream.

Pecans!  Mrs. Linda says to use at least a cup of pecans in this.  This is a cup of pecans lagniappe.  And my little nut chopper.  Mama has one.  Her's was purchased with S & H Green Stamps the year after I was born and is made of glass.  We found this one at Dirt Cheap, sans lids.  I love it.

Open and drain the pineapple.  I'm not exactly sure if the pineapple needs to be drained.  There was less than a cup of liquid and more than enough marshmallows to soak it up.  I'll see if she won't comment and let us know for sure.

 Those cranberries are beautiful!  Add the drained crushed pineapple to them and stir 'til blended.

Can you see what a fine job the little chopper/grinder thingie does of making the pecans uniformly sized?  I can't imagine cooking anything with chopped nuts in it without running them thru this contraption.

Whip the heavy cream.  I should have probably used the whole pint of it but wanted to keep some for the ganache on one of the chocolate overload cakes going out this weekend.  I used 12 ounces in the KitchenAid with the whisk.

It takes very little time to get nice thick cream.  I did not have a bite, although I seriously thought about it.

Putting the paddle on the mixer, add the cranberry/pineapple mixture a spoon at a time, on the lowest speed.

This Artisan model has a VERY slow slow speed and incorporated the fruit into the whipped cream just beautifully.  Add pecans and mix just until blended.

It's so pretty!  I wasn't expecting it to be this festive!!! I know that's a bunch of exclamation marks going on there but really, I was surprised at how colorful the stuff is.

Take off the stand and add marshmallows, stirring just until mixed through and through.

Take the finished product, put in a pretty bowl, set it somewhere neat in your house and photograph it.

Don't forget to water the plant you've obviously forgotten to water several times while you're in there.

This made a LOT of salad.  And I do mean a lot.  It's going to be a perfect side for Thanksgiving.  The flavor of it?  Well!  It's a cranberry salad, not a relish, and certainly nowhere close to the thick sweetness of a congealed salad.  The cranberries are tart and sweet, but not puckery tart, just wake-the-mouth-up tart. The pineapple is an incredible flavor to go with the berries, also not too sweet, with the flavor standing alone.  The pecans?  Sheer Southerness with their slightly buttery crunch.  For some reason, the marshmallows almost taste toasted.  I don't know if it's the brand or what, but their smoothness in the midst of all the other textures, and sweetness makes this an awesome salad.  I forgot that the whipped cream made it a coronary event.  The effect is has on the salad reminds me of sour cream on apple pie -- it completes it.

I wish I could get fresh cranberries in the summer 'cause this would be one heat-busting salad to have in the fridge.  As it is, though, I'm going to enjoy it the next couple of days, making it again next week.  Thank you, Mrs. Linda, for sharing it with us.