Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Problem With Excuses...

I love excuses.  I can come up with excuses for everything considered too much of a challenge or too great of an overcoming or too big of a problem to think through or.  Or.  Or anything an excuse can be found for.  I'd blame it on intelligence, given a natural ability to think through just about any and every unpleasantness to be able to manufacture an excuse for.  I've been overweight my entire life, morbidly obese for the last 26 years.  It couldn't be helped, I excused myself.  A genetic predisposition: bad eating habits begun in infancy by a doting over-nurturing mother to whom food was a reward, comfort, way of life;  excess Epstein-Barr virus;  lack of health club/gym; lack of time to exercise; lack of money to purchase healthy foods;  young family to be MY mother to (a vicious cycle of sweet unhealthy rewards).  I could excuse it away.

In a previous life I was a professional college student, coming within 30 hours of two degrees (music education and geology), neither of which I care to pursue now.  I excused not having a degree.  After all, I'd met the X and married, had two sons.  Money always was (and probably always will be) tight.  I didn't want to put us in debt finishing college;  didn't want to take away from The Fellows.  I was too old, too set in my ways, didn't want to commute.
And then there were the excuses for not having my own vehicle.  I'd let Youngest Fellow have the ancient Chevrolet to go to college.  Mama was letting me use the Danger Ranger.  I couldn't save enough money, being unemployed (STILL!); couldn't afford insurance; wouldn't be able to buy gas even if I did have one.   My credit score sucked.  A lender would laugh in my face.  It couldn't be done.  Good excuses.

But an odd thing happened this spring.  Oldest Fellow was fussing one day.  Fussing at me.  I was in a funk, having worked a hard week out at Mama's house (after her mini-sternotomy AVR in March);  feeling very tired and old and manufacturing a ton of well-thought-out excuses.  I'm not even sure what the excuse du jour was but he said, "Mama, just do one thing for yourself."  It took me a couple of days to think of it.  He was talking about a manicure or a pedicure but I thought about it long and hard and decided I'd like to be **ahem** Rubenesque.  

I'll never be a small frail delicate lass but I could be thinner.  I could do this for myself - this one thing.  And I started April 1st:  April Fool's Day is the best day ever to begin a thing.  I've lost 65 pounds, going from a 26W to a 16 petite.  I'd like to lose another 15 pounds but, without using any excuse if it doesn't happen this year, I'll be happy to maintain what's gone.  I didn't need a gym or healthier food, only to realize the sad excuses were nothing but sad excuses.  I was solely responsible for quantity and quality of food going into my mouth.  Mama may have given her only daughter a chubby beginning but consarnnit, only my spirit is child-like any more.  Mama gets her break from adolescent angst and I'm a lot healthier physically and mentally.

It has been liberating.  Other excuses began failing.  I could save money with the three little part-time jobs.  I turned the thermostat up (or down); quit watering the outdoor plants, cut the cell phone bill down, hung clothes on the line in everything but rain and then they went on a rack in the bathroom, began canning an abundance of fresh produce to cut back the grocery bill even more.  **snicker** I can skin the hide off a Buffalo nickle, spend it, AND save the nickle.  A good used mini-van was found and purchased and I've yet to run out of gas or fail to pay insurance.  Where did the moolah come from?  I'd saved a good bit of it.  Most of it was liberated from the need to over-compensate to keep up with what the brothers were doing for Mama (they are such wonderful sons to her - y'all should never doubt it).  I needed no excuse; Mama didn't require any purchases from me.  Indeed, all she ever wanted or needs is my time.

In light of a business venture not going through (it didn't fail - it just never came to fruition) the big excuses keeping the college degree at bay finally fell.  The Fellows don't require my attention at home.  And if I need to take out a school loan well what of it?  I haven't yet, may not have to but what if I do?  To be middle-aged only owing a mortgage and school loan?  There aren't too many folks in that position. If the one dream barely kept alive of having my own little blue-plate diner/bed and breakfast/bakery is ever going to happen the time is now.  None of us are getting any younger.  No one is going to give it to me the same way no one could lose the weight or convince me I could ever save enough money to have a vehicle.  I'm going to Jones County Junior College.  I've been accepted into their culinary arts program and register January 8th, two days before my 52nd birthday.  OOOooooo... "I'm too old," I try to tell myself.  My b.s. detector knows I'm apprehensive, scared of failure, terrified of tightened finances, and lazy.  Yes.  Lazy.  I do like to sleep.  No excuses, though.  I've been going to bed early and getting up early. I'll purchase another alarm clock if necessary.  Financial aid is secured and arranged.  And I've maintained enough smarts (I hope) to get through the coursework.

Excuses lead to a victim mentality.  I'd've never considered myself a victim if a long, difficult look hadn't been taken at where and what I was and what and where I'd be more content being.  I'm happy to put the 2012 calendar away tomorrow;  happy to have realized and recognized the excuses for what they were;  finally happy to see a new year come;  content that all is as it should be.

Thank you, my friends, for following along with this Side of Life in the Deep South.  I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you.  I'm thankful to have you visit and blessed to know many of you through a  funny little social media called Facebook.  I wish you each a very joyful new year, full of all manner of possibilities and realizations.


Monday, November 12, 2012

And the Truth Shall Set You Free

I was at a small social gathering Saturday evening.  I'm not much of a social creature, socialization limited to church, family, and shopping at Piggly Wiggly.  It was good to visit with folks at an event specifically for visiting outside the realm of church, family, and Piggly Wiggly.

A beautiful little girl ran up to her grandfather to bid him goodnight.  I'd noticed her giving me looks throughout the evening.  I get that a lot.  She gave her pawpaw a hug and, looking at me said, "You look like a monster in girl's clothes."

What came out of my mouth was "Well, thank you, Sweetie.  It's important for real monsters to dress nicely."

What I was thinking was, "I hope your world never changes and that the ugliness that is disease and illness never finds you;  that you continue to feel the whole world was made just for you and your thoughts;  and that your words will be the only ones you ever listen to or need.  I hope, Sweetie, that you learn to temper a child's honesty (she was, after all, just being honest) with compassion so that honesty without compassion is never unleashed on your incredible life force.  Most of all, Granddaughter-that-I-hope-to-have-one-as-cute-as-some-day-in-the-very-distant-future, I pray you learn to see beyond the distorted monster faces that are sure to come into your life, to look into a soul and find embedded beauty and strength:  superficial imperfections hide much."

She skipped off, taking a year's worth of self-esteem with her.

I'd been soaring high on the events of a good year:  Mama's successful heart surgery and recovery, losing weight (60 pounds {WOOOT - I'm a new creature!}), deciding to go to, applying, and being accepted into a local junior college culinary arts program, a sibling's remarkable return from the brink of catastrophic illness, my sons continuing to make their way (successfully) in the world.  This baby's words brought me back to earth, to see myself in her eyes.  It's silly for an adult to be stung by the brutal honesty of a child.  She hit the one thing, though, that I cannot change.  This warped skewed face is my Achilles heel;  a vulnerable spot that defies all attempts of armoring and protecting with makeup or masking and guarding with temperament.

It is, though, just another side of life to be consumed.  This morning, gratitude is given to a little girl for bringing me down to earth, for a grounding in the sure blessings of an Almighty that loves me despite myself, family, friends and work when so many are unemployed.

I'm thankful to be where I am.  How 'bout you?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Not-Really-a-Bread-Pudding Recipe with Caramel/Sour Cream/Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur Sauce

It's all that was left!
Any given weekend there are almost always several gallon ziplock bags full of cake trimmings, i.e., the crowns sliced from cakes so they'll lay nice and flat when put together.  I do a couple of things with them:  layer them into a tub o'trimmings with the week's cake fillings, feed the deer out at Mama's (deer have a notorious sweet tooth also), or save them for bread pudding.  Yep.  Bread pudding made from cake trimmings!  That's what I did with this week's trimmings.  It was a pretty equal amount of chocolate cake and butter cake trimmings.  The amount of each one doesn't matter, though.  What matters is a very flavorful pudding, the likes of which has everyone asking for the recipe.  There really isn't one, you know, but since I've been asked for it, I'll do my best to recreate it.  

Pudding Ingredients:
8 to 10 cups of cake trimmings OR bread OR biscuits (I love bread pudding made with biscuits!)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter or margarine, melted

Crumble cake trimmings or bread into a large bowl.  Combine all other ingredients well and pour over crumbled cake, stirring everything together until cake or bread is thoroughly saturated.  Bake in large buttered casserole at 350 for as long as it takes for the center to be set, a little over an hour in my oven (but ovens vary so yours might not take as long to bake).

It was full Sunday morning!
Since I was making this for the Family Dinner Leakesville Presbyterian Church has the first Sunday of each month, I didn't particularly want to make a bourbon or a rum hard sauce.  Bread pudding just isn't bread pudding without a hard sauce though.  I had Kahlua (but it's quickly coming upon Kahlua and coffee season in the Deep South and I wanted to save it for decaf evenings on the front porch) and Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur.  MMMmmmm... Godiva...  I also didn't want to open a bag of confectioner's sugar to use and didn't want to go to the Pig to purchase a bag just for the hard sauce.  After all, my hair was already up in the hot rollers.  I got to thinking how nice a caramel flavor would be with the white chocolate.  Brown sugar would work.  I wanted something to make it creamy, too.  Sour cream was in the fridge.  I came up with this really quick recipe to satisfy all those prerequisites for a hard sauce suitable for Family Dinner.

Caramel/Sour Cream/Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur Hard Sauce 
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur or whatever is in the cabinet or not at all if you want a sauce without the 'hard'

Quickly cook brown sugar and butter in a skillet until it's the sugar is melted into the butter and it's all sizzly and buttery.  Take off heat and whisk in sour cream until smooth.  Whisk in vanilla and liqueur and serve with bread pudding.  I like to pour it all on top of the bread pudding.  My neighbor likes it spooned over individual servings.  It doesn't matter how its served - just make sure you serve it with the pudding.

Everybody loved the not-really-a-bread pudding and hard sauce.  This was all that was left to bring home: just enough to take a photo of.

Y'all give it a try sometime.  It's easy and tasty and I hope y'all love it!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Prep 101: Things Probably Not Found On the Government Website

Hurricane Sandy is making her presence known on the East Coast, the effects of her felt from Kentucky to Canada, an area not as used to preparing for a hurricane as we are in the Deep South.  Preparations should have already been made for the big blow, bottled water having already disappeared from the shelves of most retailers.  There's a little more to getting ready, though, that you might not be aware of besides the basics.  This is just a quick post, not meant to cause panic, but to help you and your property survive well.

A category one hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale has winds from 74 to 95 miles per hour.  These are the winds that blow constantly.  There are few lulls in the wind - it rattles and moves everything in the hurricane path at this speed -- allllll the time.  Wind gusts above those of 74- 95 mph occur as well.  Lawn furniture, grills, yard tools, garbage cans;  everything outside needs to be secured in a shed or brought in a garage.  What can't be moved needs to be tied to something substantially larger.  I've several skiens of ski rope that are used for the specific purpose of securing The Fellows jet go cart to the tree by the shed in the backyard.  Swings, plants, yard art, etc. all have the potential to become projectiles when hurricane winds blow.  You keep your family and neighbors safe by making sure your outdoor stuff doesn't end up stuck in the side of their dwelling.

Water.  You have a supply of bottled water for a few days.  Are you going to cook and use that water?  Make coffee or tea or koolaid?  What happens if the purification plant for the city water goes out?  If Sandy has the far reaching effect predicted you may run out of bottled water.  Potable (drinkable) water can be made by the addition of 2 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water.  Let it sit for 12 hours.  Several of the prepper/survival sites have said that 1/8th of a teaspoon can be added to a gallon of water and used immediately.

I've a supply of empty five gallon buckets that I'll put under the drip line of the roof and let fill with rain water, bringing them in (yep - blowing wind and all to retrieve them) as they fill.  After a pass through the Brita filter for suspended particles, the water is treated with bleach and tadadaaaaaa, potable!

Those five gallon buckets of rain water are also handy for keeping clothes hand laundered (it's my big OCD thang) and toilets flushed.  Mama has a well at her house.  We scrub her bath tub and fill it with water before the electricity goes off so she can have an uninterrupted water supply.

Laundry.  Wash and dry everything you can up until you can't any more.  You've no idea if you'll lose power or not and you'd be surprised how quickly the dirty clothes start accumulating once the washing machine can't work.

Cell phones.  Do you have a spare battery?  Get it in the charger.  I've an old Nokia phone so I don't know, but I understand that music, games, and the internet sap energy quickly from smart phones.  Reserve that precious battery life.      If you're in the middle of a hurricane, keeping up with how everybody else is doing on FB is not tantamount to talking to family once it's all over with.

Tarps and duct tape.  When Isaac came through a couple of months ago, I added to my hurricane preparations a half-dozen inexpensive painters tarps.  Most home insurances will pay for hurricane damage but won't pay for possessions lost because of water damage inside the home as a result of a tree punched through the roof.  Painter's tarps are large in size and can cover much with a good band of duct tape around the perimeter to hold the tarp on, keeping possessions from heavy water damage.

If you've a freezer mostly full of food, fill every inch of freezer space with bags of ice and DON'T open the freezer until absolutely necessary.  Turn the setting to the coldest possible.  Foods will stay frozen for two to three days in a loaded freezer.   When ours started thawing, it was a simple matter of cooking it and feeding it whoever would eat to keep the food from wasting.  I despise food waste, especially after laboring diligently to get it in the freezer, but knowing it can be consumed somehow makes the thought of a freezer full of thawed food not quite so bad.  Soups and stews can feed a bunch of friends and neighbors.

Toilet paper.  It never fails.  You've purchased the 12 pack of toilet paper so you're feeling pretty good about that.  And then someone in the house develops a stomach virus or has a bad case of nervous stomach.  You'll need extra toilet paper.  I swear, it happens every time.

You all have flashlights and batteries for them, but what about emergency lighting? Flashlights aren't meant to be turned on and left on.  Do you have candles or oil lamps or Coleman lanterns?  The stubby emergency candles are all probably gone from the shelves now, but ANY light will do, scented candles and all, to keep little ones and adults calm in unfamiliar darkness.  Speaking of candles... how 'bout something to light them with?  Lighters won't reach all the way down in your favorite jar candle.  Matches are needed.

Irreplaceable photos and artwork need to be put in ziplock or garbage bags and then put in a big plastic tub. Not everything - just the things that can't be replaced. Take them out as quickly as its safe.  Irreplaceable photos and artwork don't store well in tubs.

Gather health, life, car, and home insurance policies in one place.  Just in case.  I've a zippered binder with those documents plus an extensive list of phone numbers and addresses of friends and family.  Just in case.

Now that I've hastily put together a list of things you may or may not have thought about, you need to know one more thing:  the wind will blow.  It will blow and blow and you'll begin to think it will never end as it howls through every crack and crevice in your dwelling.  And it will rain hard blowing rain driven by hurricane force winds.  It's unsettling -- all that wind and rain.  It will pass, leaving one big mess of an aftermath to deal with.  Keep your wits about you.  It does no one any good to become hysterical.

Ice storms, driving in snow, hurricanes, and dentists have all served to help me get over my fears and become a strong parent for my sons.  Sandy is not that strong of a hurricane, just a big one hitting an area unaccustomed to hurricanes and complicated by two other merging weather fronts.  You can deal with fear.

I guess that's about it.  It's not an exhaustive list by any means - just a small one compiled from life experience.  I wanted the folks dealing with Sandy that stop in here at Mayree's to know I'm thinking about y'all, praying for your safety.  If you want to get completely out of the way, I've three empty beds and a front porch begging visiting.  Come on...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Tale of Two Banana Nut Breads

I'm an absolutely horrible blogger, the posts coming in fits and spells.  I'd thought about doing a histiocytosis awareness post back in September when it was Histiocytosis Awareness Month.  I thought about doing another dental visit post similar to the last one.  I also thought about doing a combined post, championing histio awareness and dentistry, considering most of us adults with the disease (even in remission) seem to have a host of dental difficulties.  A recipe post on the fresh apple cake was almost written but, at the last moment, it was decided that posting it straight to the notes in FB would be a lot easier. I'd even considered writing a post on how I've gotten over food, previously my best friend, and lost 60 pounds this spring/summer/fall.   Days and weeks came and went.  Words didn't gel together.  Those five posts didn't get written.

And so it goes.  There's nothing much to tell these days, no amusing stories coming forth from Mama, no misadventures beyond taking a wrong interstate and driving completely around Birmingham, Alabama.

And it isn't that there's less free time to be a better blogger.  Free time exists.  Life gets complicated; minds get tired of thinking.  At the end of the day, I'd rather open a book and disappear into it than think another thought. Unless the book is thought provoking.  I like thought-provoking books...

Annnnyways.  I'm using a lot of words to apologize for not keeping to my own set standard of a post a week (on average).  I'll try to do better.  I will.

To kick off getting on the proverbial bandwagon, I've two recipes for Banana Nut Bread.  TWO.  Both of them start with a cake mix.  I'd been to the Pig earlier in the week and spotted a big bag of bananas in the reduced-for-quick-sale produce cart.  There must've been five pounds of bananas in the bag for a dollar.  A dollar!  Even after sharing half with Mama, there was still a huge bunch of bananas to do something with.

 Holidays are quickly approaching.  What better time to get a headstart on holiday baking?  Banana nut bread freezes very well, you know...

Except there were other cakes to be made and icing to be whipped and cardboard to be cut and covered.  I needed a recipe that wouldn't require a lot of preparation.  I googled recipes for banana nut breads and combined a couple of them to come up with two very tasty, quick and easy recipes beginning with butter cake mixes:  Pumpkin Spice Pudding Banana Nut Bread aka The One with Pudding In It, and Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread.  I didn't photograph for tutorials;  just the ingredients and finished breads.

So, without another moment's procrastination, here are the ingredients for
Pumpkin Spice Banana Nut Bread

One butter golden cake mix
Four eggs
One half cup oil
Two to three bananas - mashed
Three fourths cup of buttermilk
One box of Jello brand instant pumpkin spice pudding mix
One teaspoon vanilla
One cup nuts

Despite all the directions to combine all the wet ingredients first and then add all the dry ingredients, I absolutely dumped everything but the pecans together in the KitchenAid bowl and let it do the work all at once.  Life is easier if you plow around the stumps.  It worked a charm.  Try, yourself, and see if it doesn't.  Stir in the pecans when it's all mixed well.

Pour into two greased and floured loaf pans or a small bundt pan.

Bake at 350 for an hour or so until it's done.
Maybe I should've rechopped Mama's chopped pecans.
Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread
Five bananas - smashed
Three eggs
One butter cake mix
Eight ounces cream cheese - room temperature
One tablespoon vanilla
One cup chopped pecans
Seriously.  Just dump everything together and mix well, stirring in the pecans before pouring into two greased and floured loaf pans.
These are larger sized loaf pans 8 x 4 x 2 1/2.  If you've smaller
loaf pans, best to grease and flour one more.

Bake at 350 and hour or so until done.
At the point this was photographed, I was already well
into an insulin response over having consumed a slice of the
first banana nut bread.  It's a fuzzy photo.  My body was
feeling fuzzy and warm, too!

Both recipes yield a less bread-like i.e. dense loaf of tasty bread.  The pudding recipe, with oil in it, not to mention buttermilk, definitely is the moister of the two.  And the flavor the pumpkin spice pudding gives it is out of this world.  BUT, the cream cheese and banana-ness of the second recipe???  It's difficult to decide which recipe is the better one.

I've only found pumpkin spice pudding at WalMart.  Other food bloggers had been ranting and raving over it and I had to have it also.  It's worth tracking down, but you can use whatever pudding tickles your taste buds.  The original recipe had, of all things, instant banana pudding in it!

There.  It's a two-fer:  Two recipes for banana nut bread in one blog post after a month's slacking...

Y'all enjoy!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cream Filling (or dip {or garnish [or late night decadence]})

This past Tuesday afternoon, on the flat coastal plain road of Highway 59 in Baldwin County, Alabama, the gray matter was wrapping itself around an idea for a new cake filling made from a local favorite sweet dip.  There's no tutorial here, the excitement of an idea working out having put all thoughts of documenting the procedure out of mind.  It's the combination of the chocolate chip cookie dough dip and sweetened whipped cream into a very rich (but light?) creamy recipe that's easily spread.  Chocolate chip cookie dough cream filling, to be exact.
I did away with the diet for this one:  the chocolate
chips mesmerized the will power right out of me.

Chocolate chip cookie dough dip, if you're not familiar with it, it everything lovable about chocolate chip cookie dough, minus the eggs.  It's an excellent selection for incorporating fruit arrangements and cookie bars into one, along with two or three other sweet dips.
This was a baby (boy) shower.  I'd used white chocolate chips
   in the dip for it.A double batch is almost always made to 
assure plenty arrives at the event it was intended for.

I'd thought about using it for a cake filling several times before, but it's so thick, more like a spread and less like a dip.  How could the consistency be made creamier?  WWwwwwell.  By adding cream -- whipped cream, of course.  

By rearranging the way the dip is put together, the filling was made quickly and easily.  Here's what you'll need:

One cup butter
One-half cup brown sugar
Two teaspoons vanilla
Two eight ounce cream cheeses
Two cups thick whipping cream
Two cups confectioner's sugar
One cup mini chocolate chips (or the whole bag {why not?})

Put mixer bowl and whisk attachment for whipped cream in refrigerator to get cold.

Melt butter and brown sugar together for three or four minutes on medium setting in microwave (or until the sugar is thoroughly smooth).  Let cool slightly until just warm.  Beat the cream cheese (still cool and not at room temperature) into the butter and sugar until a smooth mixture is achieved.  Add vanilla and beat again.

Put the whipping cream in cold bowl with wire whisk attachment and whip until folds begin to form in cream and soft peaks form.  Slowly add confectioner's sugar to blend and proceed to whip until stiff peaks form.

With speed at lowest setting, whisk brown sugar/butter/cream cheese to whipped sweetened cream a spoonful at a time until all is added in.  Stir once from the bottom and process only long enough to mix in the stuff from the bottom of the bowl.

Gently fold in chocolate chips, cover, and chill.

That's it!

The filling will firm up only slightly, retaining a spreading consistency after it's cooled.

It debuted in this chocolate cake with chocolate truffle butter cream icing.
The client tells me the cake and filling were
very well received.  Very well.
I like that...

This is a recipe that can be tweaked a hundred ways to become a pie filling, a lighter version of the dip, an incredible garnish for a slice of cake, a tad of rum or bourbon or Kahlua added instead of vanilla for a cool topping for a bread pudding... so many things.  Y'all make it yours (figuratively speakings) and enjoy!

Ever time I think a climactic plateau of chocolate cake garnishing has been reached, another one appears.  Sharing with y'all the chocolate cake that went out this morning:

Friday, August 31, 2012

Bavarian Cream a la Mayree

It's creamy and rich and light and incredibly flavorful all at the same time.  And it doesn't involve folding sweetened whipped cream into a cooked and cooled vanilla custard.  It's my version of Bavarian cream and, for the first time ever, it's getting shared with everybody.

The cream made today was  Kahlua-caramel.  The proportions are all the same as the vanilla Bavarian cream, though, so it's a good one to show y'all how to put together.

Here's what you'll need:
One can sweetened condensed milk
   or dulce de leche or cream of coconut or chocolate syrup
Two small boxes instant pudding (the flavor is up to you)
Two cups of milk
8 ounces cream cheese or one cup peanut butter OR Nutella, at room temperature
16 ounces whipped topping
 For an exceptional flavor, substitute one half cup of Kahlua, 
Bailey's Irish Cream, Godiva White Chocolate, Frangelica
or any liquer for one half cup of milk.

Cream sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese until smooth.
 Today I've used a can of dulce de leche for the sweetened condensed milk.
Any sweet thick syrup-y can of something is wonderful!

Mix the puddings with the milk.
 Cheesecake, French vanilla, coconut, and chocolate fudge
puddings are the ones used most often.  Let your imagination
run wild with flavor combinations while standing in
front of the pudding section.

Add the pudding to the cream cheese stuff;

mixing until well incorporated.

Fold in non-dairy whipped topping.
 Cool Whip brand just happened to be on sale at The Pig this week.
I normally buy the WalMart brand.

Tadadaaaaa!  Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready for use.
You can put this straight into a graham cracker pie crust.  
I've also piped it into mini-pie shells!

This is a nice thick Bavarian-cream-ish filling (close enough for hand grenades and horse shoes) absolutely economically feasible for my neck of the woods.  I do love the cooked custard whipped Bavarian cream, but have precious few clients that can afford it on a regular basis.  This is economically friendly.  AND, it freezes exceptionally well.  Let it thaw in the refrigerator and no one will ever know...

It's also the thing that separates my Dirt Cake from all the others!

And there you have it.  It's the most popular cake filling here at the cakery, wonderfully light and rich and infinitely variable.

I feel so good!  The secret (not really so secret now, is it?)  is out!

Y'all enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mama's Southern-style Barbecue Sauce. Sweet!

Barbecue sauces across the United States are as varied and different as folks' accents.  In the Deep South of Mississippi we like ours sweet.  Here in Leakesville, there's none any sweeter or better than Mama's.

Mama can't remember where she got the recipe.  Her best recollection is of an old cookbook that was Grandma's.  Grandma didn't make this sauce, though, only Mama.  She's made it for as long as I can remember.  And I've made it for as long as The Fellows can remember.  It's a fambly tradition.

Here's what you need:
 Three medium or two large onions
Garlic to taste
Brown sugar
Worcestershire sauce

Finely dice the onions and put in a very large non-reactive pot.
I love lots of onions in this sauce.  This isn't a place for sweet onions either;
they'll cook to nothing without flavoring anything.
Use yellow or white onions.

Add garlic, finely minced or pressed, to the pot of onions.
I've had this Pampered Chef garlic press for a whiiiiile.
It doesn't have a readily affordable equal. 

Add three (yes three) cups firmly packed brown sugar.
 I really prefer dark brown sugar in barbecue sauce
but didn't have any on hand and wasn't going
to The Pig to purchase any.  Use what you have, right?

Add one half cup vinegar or pickle juice.
I usually have sweet pickle juice on hand just for barbecue sauce.
Not wanting to sacrifice any from a jar of pickles, red wine vinegar
was used instead.  Dill pickle juice is good here, too!

Add one half cup of Worcestershire sauce.
I'm not a brand name label consumer for most things.  There is,
however, only one Worcestershire sauce used in this house:
Lea & Perrins.  Others are too hot, too tart, too weak...
Pay the extra cents for the good stuff when it comes to
Worcestershire sauce.  It's worth it.

And most importantly:
Add a big can of catsup.
Is there any food can not shrinking while the price remains fixed?
This isn't a gallon of catsup at all!  Brand doesn't matter here. 

Stir it all in the big pot.

Place on low heat, stirring often to avoid sticking or scorching.

I don't know why the crock pot wasn't used tonight.
I guess with all the rain from Isaac and the beginnings of cabin fever,
it was good to be busy tending a pot.

Cook for almost two hours on low heat or until onions are fully cooked and sauce is almost standing-spoon thick.  It will continue to thicken some upon cooling.

Pour into jars or bowls or even leave it in the pot and let cool on the counter.


It'll be good in the refrigerator for upward of a month, maybe longer.  It doesn't last much past that around here;  not because it's spoiled, but because of getting used.

This isn't a sauce to have on the meat when  it's put on the grill.  The tomato base and brown sugar will burn in a heart beat!  When the meat is almost fully cooked, start basting with it, turning often to create layers of grilled sweetness right on the meat.  It's good for everything:  beef, pork, chicken, sausage, hot dogs, hamburgers, catfish.  Well, maybe not catfish...

Serve it on the side with brisket.  Use it for pulled pork.  You won't be disappointed.

Y'all enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Looking for a cool vegetable salad recipe that can make a bunch or just enough and keep for a while in the refrigerator?  This is it:  marinated vegetable salad.  I've made a gallon  for a wedding reception over in Gulf Shores, Alabama this weekend.  I'd provided the food for the bride's uncle's wedding several years ago.  In a little community like Leakesville, you grow up knowing everybody.  The father of the bride and his little brother were both in Mama's kindergarten;  their mother is a class mate of Brother #1, their uncle a class mate of Brother #3.  I'd line out all the other connections but it'd get confusing after a while.  You might be tempted to make a Southern joke.  The South doesn't need one more joke...

There's no specific recipe to this recipe.  I'll show you what all is in this salad, but use what you and your family likes.  It's quick to put together.  So quick I forgot to show you all the veggies draining in the colander.

Here are the ingredients for the vinaigrette:
Apple cider vinegar
White vinegar
Grapeseed oil
Vegetable oil
Celery seed
Dill weed
Garlic powder
Granulated sugar

There's a ratio for a sweet and sour vinaigrette:  equal amounts of sugar and vinegar and half as much oil as vinegar.  And whatever herbs and spices your taste buds are set on.  I like the bite of apple cider vinegar but there is such a thing as too much of it, so I use half white vinegar also.  I've also been enjoying lightening up olive oil recipes with grapeseed oil but it's kind of pricey and is used sparingly.  Celery seed and dill weed are always good in a salad but if you don't like them, don't use them, it's just that easy.

Put all the ingredients into a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup and microwave for three or four minutes.  Stir and microwave again another couple of minutes.  All you're doing is making sure the sugar is melted and incorporated.

I know.  This is where I stand to ladle jelly into jars.
You can see splatters of jelly all over the front of 
the microwave.  I should probably clean that

In the meantime, open all your vegetables and put in a colander to drain.  Asparagus is delicious in this, but I didn't add it.  It's one of those acquired tastes that not everybody likes.  Water chestnuts give a nice crunch, even if they aren't real flavorful.  They're cut into thin strips to keep from having a mouthful of sort of tasteless crunchiness.

That's a sweet onion.  I'd forgotten green onions
so used what was on hand.  

MMMMmmmmm.  Wickles:  wickedly delicious pickles.
Or in this case wicked pepper strips.  They're a little
hot and a lot sweet.  More and more often they're 
getting added to salads right along with
homemade sweet pickles.

When the vinaigrette is finished and onions (to taste) are diced, all the well drained vegetables are placed in  a large container.  Add the vinaigrette.

Tadadaaaaa!  That's all there is to it!
Let it sit a couple of hours for the flavors to marry.
It's much better the next day and even MORE 
better several days later (please don't call
the Grammar Police).

After I'd put the salad all together I thought about transporting it Saturday and the amount of room the gallon jug would take up in the cooler and having to leave the precious jug with the clients and depend upon them to get it back to me.  The better thought was to put the salad  into a large ziplock bag in a baking dish.  Ziplock bags conform themselves around other things in coolers.  I won't feel sad about leaving a bag behind...

Y'all enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brownie Caramel Cheesecake

There's not really a backstory for this recipe.  Twenty or so years ago I thought I'd subscribe to one of those menu clubs.  You know them... Pay x amount of dollars and receive a dozen recipe cards to go in the bulky unwieldy large couldn't find a place for it  handy complimentary cheap plastic beautiful acrylic file box behind the confusing appropriate tabs.  You could have an entire year of expensive meals and non-kid-friendly desserts taking up a whole corner of the counter at your fingertips!  After three months I cancelled the subscription.  The plastic box became storage for Lego pirate weapons.  I did keep one recipe, though, and have made it for us through the years:  Brownie Caramel Cheesecake.

The pecan crust recipe comes from Brother #3.  I think he got it from Emeril but I wouldn't swear to it.  I use roasted pecans in everything but pecan pies.  Roasting brings out their nutty flavor and keeps them from getting soggy too quickly in cakes and salads.

Pecan Crust
2 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks butter
2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt (strictly optional - I never use it)

Preheat oven to 450.  Mix flour, salt, and butter until consistency of cornmeal.  Add ground or finely chopped pecans.  Press mixture firmly in bottom and two inches up sides of a nine inch springform pan.  Bake for ten minutes until golden brown.

Now that's what the instructions say do.  You can certainly get cornmeal texture if the butter is cold.  I'd forgotten to leave the butter cold, having icing in mind this afternoon.  Does it make a difference if it's cold or not?  Not in this crust.
See?  All nice and mixed together and I didn't even get
the pastry knife thingy dirty!
I've discovered over the years to NOT start on the bottom
of the springform pan and then up the sides.  I start on the
sides, making them artfully not level all the way around.
And then I press the crust into the bottom.  This is a ten inch pan, 
by the way.  The recipe says nine inch but you'll regret using it.
And do yourself a favor and put the springform pan on or in 
something else.  Butter has a way of cooking out of the crust
to make a mess in the oven.

Let the crust cool completely.

Brownie Caramel Cheesecake:

1 14 ounce package caramels
5 ounces evaporated milk
2 cups crumbled unfrosted brownies
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
8 ounces sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine caramels and milk in a small heavy saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring often until caramels melt.  Pour over crust.  Sprinkle crumbled brownies over caramel.  Beat cream cheese at medium speed of mixer until light and fluffy.  Gradually add sugar, mixing well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended.  Stir in sour cream and vanilla.  Pour batter carefully over brownies.  Back at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until cheesecake is almost set.  Turn off heat and let cheesecake remain in oven another hour, undisturbed.  remove from oven and let cool to room temperature on a wire rack.  Cover and let chill at least four hours.  remove sides from springform pan.  Garnish with chocolate curls and whipped cream, if desired.

That's the EXACT recipe.  Do I do it that way?  uhmmmmm No'm.  I don't.

I make 'from scratch' brownies.  Did I have to?  Nope.
In a bind for time, I've used mixes.  In a real bind for
time I've used Little Debbie brownies.

 Do you see a pot?  No.  Microwave these candies.  Two minutes on
high, stirring to break up the candies and then three minutes on medium.
The quick-melt caramel chips work great!
A whisk will make the melted caramel nice and smooth.
Let it cool while putting together the rest of the cheesecake.
 Whip the cream cheese until very fluffy.  It makes for a
very smooth texture.
 Pinky extended is the only way to gradually add brown sugar.
 If you're using farm eggs like I am, always (and I do mean always)
break them individually into a bowl or cup.  Forget a rotten apple.
A rotten egg really will spoil the whole recipe.
 MMMmmmmmm...  Look at that KitchenAid go!
 Stir in the sour cream?  I don't think so.  Turn the KitchenAid or
mixer down to the lowest setting.
 Putting the caramel on the bottom could possibly result
in baked caramel under the crust. You'll need
a prybar to get it out of the pan.  If there is the smallest
fissure in the crust, the caramel will go through it if put on the crust first.
Trust me.  I know these things...  Put the brownies on first.
This is THREE cups of brownies, by the way.
Two cups just doesn't cover.

Pour the batter on ever-so-gently.  It'll push brownies and melted
caramels around if rushed.
It'll take another thirty minutes beyond this point.  
I don't know why but it can't be rocket

Everything else is pretty much like the recipe says.  As much as I love chocolate, I don't garnish this cheesecake.  It'd be more awesome if it were, I'm sure, but a chocoholic has to draw the line somewhere.

Y'all enjoy!