Friday, November 4, 2011

Grandma & the Texas Sheet Cake recipe

My Grandma was such a unique person, she was a pioneer in so many ways! She married my Grandfather in 1929, he was literally a "one arm house painter."

Grandpa lost his left arm when he was 19 from a misfiring shotgun. He was hunting on horseback and was in the woods alone. After the injury he passed out on his horse & the horse took him back home. He always laughed and told me" I survived WWI and blew my own arm off!" He was so funny, loved life & never let his lack of a left arm slow him down.

They lived in rural Central Texas on a farm, raised cattle & cotton. Grandpa was the county Tax Assessor & House Painter.  Grandma was a preacher! What a combination...

Grandma was such a serious soul. It was hard to get her to laugh, she was so intense about everything. She loved her family incredibly and wanted to help everyone around her. She was going to being a school teacher but felt that God wanted her to be a preacher.

She would have made a good teacher but I would have felt so sorry for those students! Grandma was a strict disciplinarian to say the least. So God knew what he was doing when he lead her down the path to preaching. Although it wasn't common in those days for a lady to preach, no one ever called Grandma ordinary!

During the 1940's they pastored a church in Beat Five, Texas. She would always tell me "I left all the dealings to the men, I just preached & prayed!" And a great preacher she was!! She could make me shake in my shoes when she preached, mostly because I was afraid she would use me for an example in her sermons.

She taught me so much about being my best, but mostly she gave me unconditional love. She taught me to cook & show hospitality to everyone who entered my home. My love of cooking & feeding others comes from years of watching my grandmothers lovingly prepare food for their families.

Grandma was a stickler on the rules. I tend to see most things as black & white, I'm sure that came from her too! I appreciate this heritage more than I can say. She shaped me into the strong woman I am today.

Thinking about the holidays always reminds me of those who are no longer with us, but when we cook their recipes they live on in our minds.  My grandma always made a Texas Sheet Cake. She was so funny, she would put pecan halves on top so there would be 20 pieces with a pecan half on each one. We all expected that cake, and as you can see in the picture, even after she was well up in age she still felt like she had to make it. She said it just wasn't a holiday dinner if she didn't!

Holiday cooking is a heritage to pass on to our children & grandchildren. Start traditions with your families now & one day they will just have to have that "Texas Sheet Cake" memory of you for the holiday's.

I am happy to share this recipe with you, it's a common one but Grandma's was just a little better! Think that may be a childlike belief...but hey it's the most wonderful time of the year.

Grandma wouldn't use store bought pecans, they had to come from a friends tree & she had to shell them herself...wonder where I get the set in my ways behavior?

Texas Sheet Cake


1 stick margarine

1/2 c. shortening ( these two can be replaced with 2 sticks of butter)

1 cup water

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/2 c. buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla


1/2 cup butter or margarine

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 lb ( 2 cups) powdered sugar

6 tablespoons milk

1 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the cake, combine the butter, water and cocoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Add the butter mixture all at once, and stir to blend.  Whisk eggs and buttermilk together, add to the batter and mix well.  Pour the batter into a 9x13 pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Just before the cake is done, make the icing: Combine the butter, milk, and cocoa in a large, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, mix well. Add the icing to the cake while it is still warm & pours easily then add the pecans. Grandma used halves, but I used chopped sometimes, hope she doesn't know!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Zemog's Cocina Mexicana, Omaha's Taste of Texas!

For those of you who connect life to family, friends & food will understand this blog post. For those of you who don't, well your probably not reading my blog to start with!

My husband & I went last Saturday to Zemog's Cocina Mexicana in Omaha Nebraska. We had seen this eatery several times, but never stopped. So far we had not found the style of Mexican food in the Midwest that we longed for. Our search is over!

Our servers name was Justin, he greeted us at the table with a big smile and basket of freshly made corn tortilla chips. The salsa that came with them was very mild but had great flavor. I looked at my husband and said "I'm feeling very hopeful about this meal, it smells right in here!"

Now if your from Texas or just know good Tex-Mex food, the cafe should smell like masa & spices when you walk in the door. If the wonderful scent of ground corn or chili peppers doesn't hit your olfactory receptor (nose) quickly, then the food may not be real Tex-Mex. The first thing my husband said after we sat down was "It smells like Morales cafe in here" This was just an incredible seal of approval before the meal even came.

It's like the smell of a Thanksgiving dinner cooking in the oven, the smell is the beginning of the meal. It is said we eat with our eyes first, but I think we should rethink that & say we eat with our smeller first. When my mom cooked cabbage...I didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling about dinner!

After talking to our server Justin, I found out he just arrived from Austin, Texas. Now for those of you who know food, you know it's the mecca of Tex-Mex restaurants. Of course San Antonio would argue with that, but so would all the towns in Texas! Zemogs is owned by Justin's dad so my day was getting better by the minute.

When the plates were placed on the table, I knew things were going to taste like they smelled. We ordered combination plates. We tried the chicken enchilada with Verde sauce, puffy beef taco, pork tamale, cheese enchilada & beef enchilada smothered in red chili gravy.
The Verde sauce on the chicken enchilada was incredible. It was freshly made with mild green peppers & spices. This may not be the enchilada sauce you want to start with, but it's great.
The red chili gravy on the cheese & beef enchiladas was a traditional sauce that couldn't have been any better. Knowing the work that goes into that simple sauce or gravy as it's known, shows the pride that this restaurant takes in the quality of the food they serve.

Puffy tacos are so Central Texas! Being from East Texas I had never had one, so when I saw those on the menu, I had to try one. They are crispy but soft too, don't crumble like a fried corn tortilla but are all warm & delicious.

Tamales...there are many different type, but these at Zemog's were the type that said welcome home to me! Zemog's are made in the traditional way to make a  firmer tamale. These were served with a delicious pork filling. Tex-Mex can have beef or chicken fillings also but I prefer the pork & the old style myself. These were delicious & I would go back just to buy these for a take-out dinner.

I can say that you will not be disappointed in this restaurant if you love Tex-Mex. If your not sure, they have great choices like salads & burritos that are more Midwest-Mex. Nothing is too spicy, of course I am a Texan & like the heat. Justin, our server, brought us the hot salsa also & it was great.

I recommend anyone in Omaha trying Zemog's Cocina Mexicana. Be open to the fact that Tex-Mex isn't the only style Mexican food they have on the menu. The cafe was spotless & pleasantly decorated with fun table tops to enjoy. The "ginormous" sizing of the food isn't a joke! You get so much that I took enough home for lunch the next day. The atmosphere is casual, laid back & so very friendly. It's a little bit of Tex-Mex on the corner of 108th & Q St in Omaha Nebraska. 
Take out available!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Smoked Chipotle Turkey Breast

Smoked Turkey is one of my favorite meats. I love to eat it straight from the pan,& so does everyone else in our family! We smoke whole turkeys when we have lots of time, but if you want the smoked turkey experience & have less than a few hours to get it, try a half turkey breast.

Williamson Bros Bar-B-Q has a chipotle sauce that is really great. The chipotle taste is prominent but it also has a cumin and garlic note that is very pleasing. This sauce adds a smoky flavor to your meats from the inherent taste of the chipotle itself.

If you haven't tried chipotles, you should give them a chance. These little wet, wrinkled chili peppers come in a can & are packed in adobo sauce. It isn't necessary to remove the sauce, it actually adds incredible taste to any dish.

We marinated our half turkey bone-in breast in the refrigerator over night in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of Williamsons Spicy Chiptole BBQ sauce & 2 teaspoons of pecan flavored liquid smoke. If you have never used a smoke flavoring, you can find it in the grocery isle with the steak sauce, bbq sauce etc. I like the pecan because it doesn't overpower the other seasonings.

Injecting a mixture of half sauce & half olive oil into the breast will keep the meat moist while smoking. It's also healthier than butter, but if you need the's your call!

When you are ready to start smoking the turkey breast, remove it from the fridge & let it sit on the counter & come to close to room temperature. About 15-20 minutes will usually be enough time. While it is resting, start your wood pellets in your smoker box on your gas grill. I turn my grill to high & sit the smoker box in the back corner. Do not wet the pellets or wood.

I like to smoke my turkey breasts in an iron skillet. I do not wrap in foil, that tends to steam the meat & you don't get the results you are looking for.

After about 30 minutes the grill should have enough smoke to start the smoking process. Reduce the temperature to medium indirect heat. With the turkey breast in a well seasoned iron skillet, coat it on all sides with the sauce before placing it on the grill. 

What I like about Williamson Bros sauce is the consistency. It isn't thin, but it isn't thick & sticky. This type of sauce is the best for gas grill smoking because of the lower sugar content of the sauce.

During the smoking process I apply sauce to all the sides every 10 minutes.

Remember that you should have your grill on medium indirect heat. The temperature inside the grill should be about 300 degrees. The skillet should be sitting in the middle of the grill with no flame under it. Although this is only a breast, it can dry out quickly so keep it well marinated with sauce.

I cook my turkey breast to a temperature of 170 degrees. This usually takes about 30-45 minutes on my grill, but ever grill is different & the outside air temperature is a factor also. Just judge your doneness on that meat temperature...this is just a really great reason to go buy a cool meat thermometer!

 After it cools a little, I remove the meat from the bone, leaving the skin intact. You can remove the skin but it really adds to the taste & look of the smoked turkey.

We added Williamson Bros Spiccy Chipotle Bar-B-Q sauce to the top of the turkey breast. Simple turkey taken to another level. Healthy & delicious, we had baked sweet potatoes from the grill to complete this meal. Oh & we had salad...just hard to do on the grill! Although I am wanting to do the grilled romain lettuce so who knows...we just might do that!

Williamson Bros Bar-B-Q sauces impressed me in many different ways, but one of the things I loved was the low sugar content. Many people who are on a sugar restricted diet must avoid bbq like the plaque. Being a RN & working with diabetics I can say this sauce is a great choice for sugar & carbohydrate counts. Best part is they are really good!

Visit Willamson Bros Bar-B-Q website today!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grilled Chicken & Spinach Roulade with Williamson Bro's Honey BBQ Sauce

Contrary to popular belief we Southerners really do know how to cook things with style, even on the grill. The days of backyard cooks only producing meats that are so tough you could let the dog use them for a chew toy are over! We cook with style & class now...even if we do hang out at Bass Pro shop or Cabela's discussing the best wood pellets or wood for smoking. Also never think it's just the men doing this, we ladies are a force to be reckoned with!

To continue my review of Willamson Bros. Bar-B-Q sauces I created a new recipe to showcase their Honey BBQ sauce. After opening it & tasting it cook's mind went into high gear. I like this one because as a whole, it's incredible, but the honey taste is so smooth on the tongue. It has a gentle mustard flavor, very mild but it blends so well with the honey. I taste the chili powder, garlic & spices but nothing is overwhelming to the palate.

After tasting the sauce I choose to make a chicken thigh stuffed with spinach & smokey provolone cheese. I marinated my boneless, skinless chicken thighs in pecan liquid smoke & seasoned them well with New Southern Pantry's Rustic Chef Seasoning.

I let my meats marinate overnight usually, but if you don't have that long, an hour or so will work.  Remove them from the fridge about 15 minutes before you get ready to roll them. Never put meat straight from the cold of the refrigerator on the grill. it will greatly change the cook time & make your food either under or over cooked. Neither is a good option!

Roll the chicken thighs with a stick of cheese & about 2 tablespoons of chopped spinach inside. Wrap a piece of bacon around the outside and secure with a wooden toothpick.

I cooked these on a direct medium high heat on my Weber gas grill. I cooked them about 4-5 minutes on each side then tested for temperature.They should cook to an internal temp of 180 degrees. Invest in a good stick style thermometer if you don't have one. You will need to check the temperature at least once, but probably twice. All grills cook different depending on type & also on the thickness of the thigh. 

Before placing my roulades on the grill I brushed the top side with Williamson Bro's Honey Bar-B-Q sauce. I didn't brush the bottom to prevent the initial side from sticking to the grill due to the sauce. I also brushed the bacon that is wrapped around the chicken thigh with BBQ sauce to caramelize it.
After cooking for about 4 minutes I turned the chicken over & brushed the top with sauce. You need to continue to baste the roulade while cooking to keep it moist. Chicken is so easy to dry out on the grill at this heat so don't hold back on the sauce!

These made a delicious dish out of simple chicken thighs, spinach, cheese, & bacon. So easy & so elegant looking when plated

And when you add the delicious Williamson Bros Honey BBQ sauce, it's an elegant dinner to serve for any occasion! I like to heat the BBQ sauce to serve on the table also if someone wants to add more. There is just nothing worse on warm chicken than cold sauce!

Slicing into this Chicken Roulade shows the melting cheese & the spinach. You can use any type of hard cheese in this dish. I think a cheddar with grilled red onions would be delicious. That's the fun of cooking, no rules...just try it!

Visit Willamson Bros Bar-B-Q to order this great sauce. You won't be disappointed if you like real Southern BBQ with full flavored sauces.

For the New Southern Pantry Rustic Chef Seasoning we used to marinate the chicken, visit our website.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Williamson Bros Classic Carolina BBQ Sauce

Slow Smoked Pulled Pork & Williamson Bros Classic Carolina BBQ Sauce
about to join this crusty bread to become a Carolina styled sandwich!

Being from Texas, we didn't smoke as much pork butt as we did beef brisket. I will never forget the first time I tried to make a pork butt/shoulder. I watched someone pull that delicious looking meat & knew it would be no big deal, I'm a cook, worked in restaurants...well I was so wrong! No one told me you have to do it while it is extremely to be exact. Also no one shared with me the fact that this is best done with your God given forks..your fingers. So the first pulled pork we had was hideous & I swore to never try that again. 

Fast forward about 5 yrs, ate at a BBQ joint in Kentucky & had a Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich. When it came out it had green stuff falling out the sides of it. I soon realized it was Cole Slaw...on my meat. No respectful Texan would ever throw wet veggies on perfectly good smoked meat that was slathered in BBQ sauce. I was pretty sure they would take my native Texan card for doing that.

Being the polite Southern girl that I am (no comments) I smiled at the waitress & in my head was trying to figure out how to take that Cole Slaw off the sandwich & make it into what it was..a side dish. My husband picked up his sandwich/salad in his hand & proceeded to take a huge bite. I watched as juices started to run down his hands like a broken pipeline! BBQ sauce mixed with Cole Slaw dressing...oh this couldn't be happening!

Now being polite is very important to me, especially in public, so I took a small bite to try to look hungry. First bite was hard to swallow, but when my brain got the signal that what I had just eaten may have been a little bit tasty, I took the next bite. The rest is history! Carolina style pulled pork sandwiches are one of my favorite things to make & eat.
Carolina Style Bar-B-Q Sandwich

Beautiful Williamson Bros Classic Carolina Sauce on Pulled Pork
make a Carolina Styled Pulled Pork Sandwich very authentic!

Williamson Bros Classic Carolina BBQ sauce is unique with a sweet mustard taste, full of spices & a little vinegar undertone. I really like the touch of bay leaf, it lingers after the other flavors mellow. Just a great sauce, not too sweet & just perfect for smoked pork butt. Can't wait to try it on some new dishes, I think a red potato salad may be on the drawing board with this one!

Try some of their sauces , I have three more to review next week, so watch for the new blog posts!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Williamson Bros BBQ Sauce

I always feel so honored to review a company's product on my blog. When you develop an item, it becomes so personal to you. When you put your families name on every bottle, that ups the game even more.

Williamson Bros.Bar-B-Q of Marietta Georgia were so very gracious to send me a gift pack of their BBQ sauces to review. I was so excited when I got the box from UPS, I had to open it right away. I know this is silly...sentimental...& totally Southern but it was like getting a little bit of home in Nebraska.

This company had it's beginning's when two brothers & one employee opened a Bar-B-Q place in Marietta Georgia with little money but lots of good food! That was in March of 1990 & they have three locations now serving great Southern BBQ.

Williamson Bro's Roasted Garlic B-B-Q Sauce
New York Strip Steaks patiently waiting !

When I opened the Roasted Garlic B-B-Q sauce, the aroma of garlic was intoxicating! I will admit, I immediately got a piece of bread & poured some on it right then. I expected a strong flavor of garlic, but what I got was a smooth, smoky, slightly sweet taste. The roasted garlic with the other ingredients was an incredible blend of seasonings & the sweet/savory mix was just right. I have never had a BBQ sauce that had garlic as the star, but this one should get an Academy award! It had the best garlic flavor & it just opened up my cooks brain to all kinds of uses for this delicious sauce.

Holding back my need to hide the bottle in the fridge, I poured about half a cup in a bowl, handed my husband the bbq brush & steaks & followed him to the (my) Weber grill. I cook my steaks on high direct heat & use a flipper to turn them. Never...Never...Never use a fork to turn meat on the grill please, when you pierce the meat all those wonderful juices go right down the grates...So use a flipper or tongs if you must.  Our steaks were a little more than an inch thick so we cooked them on both sides for about 2-3 minutes to get a medium pink center. The grill has to be smoking hot when you put them on to sear the meat & lock in those luscious juices!

Husband brushing the steaks, me giving unwanted directions!

After placing them on the grill we brushed them with a liberal amount of Williamson Bro's Roasted Garlic BBQ sauce. When we turned the steak to the other side we give it some of that wonderful garlic love too! 
The quality of a BBQ sauce shows when it doesn't burn on the grill
The temperature of my grill in this photo is about 500 degrees, the sauce is shiny & not burning

Great grilling techniques & high quality products produce the result you are looking for everytime. Williamson Bros BBQ sauce didn't burn, scorch, or change flavor as some sauces do. It produced a steak that had deep flavor, smoky after tones & sweet garlic notes that will be a dinner we will all remember for a good while.

Williamson Bro's B-B-Q sauce can be found online at

When you order this sauce & it arrives at your front door, even if your not from the'll still feel the Southern style BBQ love, I promise!
Watch for our reviews of the other 4 sauces soon!
Thanks again to Williamson Bro's BBQ for introducing me to their products!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Successful Marriage Secrets

In 1974 I was an innocent 15 yr old girl who possibly was a little naive. I was raised very strictly but with incredible love from a Mom & Dad who were the best! My Dad was an Engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad so he was gone overnight several times a week. Mom had her hands full with a teenager & my two sisters who were both under 5yrs old.  

Of course I was the perfect teenager who never caused any trouble. My Dad helped me buy a car at 16 yrs old & I had a job at the local grocery store. I went to high school at small rural school, so the "big city" was not influencing me much....until my Dad got a CB radio...yes I fell quickly then! 

In 1974 or so the Citizen Band Radio was all the rage! For those of you who were born after 1985, you may not remember CB's, but you had to pick the equivalent of a twitter name. We called it a "handle". that was the name you went by on the CB radio. I thought of lots of names, discussed it with all my naive friends & someone suggested"Shady Lady" for me! A boy I liked told me it just meant I liked to sit in the shade......... I fell for that one hook, line & sinker! What were my parents thinking, they wouldn't even let me wear pants or shorts!!!

So Shady Lady started modulating on the radio..tweeting in today's lingo. We had a base station in our home & my dad had a mobile CB in his car. I wanted a car & a mobile CB so I could drive around and talk on the radio to my friends. Didn't have a car or a mobile, so I settle for Dad's base station. The only problem with a CB radio was anyone & everyone could hear your conversations. There were different channels but it was easy to find people talking on other channels. Eavesdropping paradise!

One night "Shady Lady" was up at 1am talking on the CB to a was the next day & I lost track of time. My Dad just happen to be coming home from work that night earlier than I expected & he heard me talking. I heard a sound that made me want to crawl under the table. The sound the mic on Dad's CB made was a very recognizable bing. The next thing I heard was "Shady Lady you better be in the bed asleep by the time I get home" The sound of my Dad's voice when he took that tone would sends shivers down my spine...I went to bed & faked being asleep! He never had to do anything but speak to me!

On January 5th 1977 I was driving home from church on a Wednesday night. Of course I was on the CB radio being my ever talkative self. I was talking to several friends & a new voice broke in. Now CB etiquette required a new person to say who they were..well this person said "General"....Another friend told me..that was his really good friend, nice guy "he's okay".
 I was driving up & down our "drag" in our little hometown. Everyone went to the Walmart parking lot to meet & talk so I said I was headed there. Not a lot to do in a small town but hang out talking!

Only picture I have of the bug car! Of course it was after our wedding!

When I pulled in a strange car pulled up, now by strange I don't mean unfamiliar..I mean strange. A 1971 El Camino with 108 inch long antenna's on both sides of the car, right behind the cab. Looked like a demented bug sitting there. This strange guy hopped out & came up to my car. He stuck his head in my car window & said "nice interior". I looked at him like he was an alien! He removed his head from my 1971 Dodge Challenger right before I punched him!

He got my phone number from his friend, called me that night & told me he was going to marry me one day! I couldn't stand him, so full of himself thinking I would marry him....we celebrated 34 years of marriage last Saturday!

Thank God for the CB radio...although social media has changed over the last 30+ years, true love has not.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Southern Comfort Foods

Southerners love comfort food...wait what am I saying, we eat food for comfort! How do we define comfort food? For most of us, it's what we grew up eating. These are the dishes our Grandmothers & Mothers made everyday or maybe just on special occasions. Regardless of where you are from, you have your own definition of comfort foods.

Just saying "comfort foods" makes my mouth water for mashed potatoes & gravy, fresh green beans & new potatoes or chicken & dumplings. My Southern grandmothers were such great cooks, they put love into everything they cooked & that's the secret to comfort foods. 

Last week I found two new side dishes that have joined the ranks of our families comfort foods. I reviewed "If You Can't Stand The Heat" by Robert Medina several weeks ago. The BBQ Shrimp were beyond delicious! If you feel the need to salivate over a computer image, read my blog post about these little treasures.
Last week I tried Green Beans with Fried Sage & Cheese Grits from "If You Can't Stand The Heat".
The green beans are an easy recipe but they definetly need to be fresh if available. Green beans, bacon,butter, & more great ingredients make these delicious for sure! I had never fried fresh sage, so I may have gotten it a little overdone..notice I don't say I burned it! Regardless it was still good & had great sage taste. This recipe called for applewood bacon, this is a key ingredient. The bacon added so much flavor & the applewood was really great. Don't just use a plain bacon if you want to experience the beans at their best! It is defiantly a go to side dish for lots of meats. We had it with BBQ Chicken & Blue Cheese & Chive Smashers.
Blue Cheese & Chive Red Potato Smashers

Serves 4
Serving size : 1 cup
8-10 medium sized red skinned potatoes
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
2 tsp. dried chives or 2 T fresh chives, depending on what’s available
½ cup half & half
1 T butter
¼ tsp. salt (blue cheese is very salty, so taste & add more if needed)
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper (can be omitted)

 Wash potatoes & place in a pot, I prefer the rustic look of leaving the skins on but you can peel if you want to.  Add cold water to cover the potatoes well, add the chives now to the water   Place pot on stove at high heat & bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Check often because all potatoes are different depending on type & freshness.
While potatoes are cooking, in a smaller saucepan mix together the half & half, butter, & salt. Bring to a medium heat, but do not boil. Add the blue cheese & stir well to blend. Add the cracked black pepper. Turn off heat...

When the potatoes are fork tender, drain them well in a colander. I always put the drained potatoes back into the pot I cooked them in, it’s still warm & that helps keep your potatoes warm until you are ready to serve.  Just be sure the pot has no water left in it, it needs to be dry, don’t wash it out though!  
Add the cheese & milk mixture to the hot potatoes. I prefer a hand masher for these, but an electric mixer would work okay, just don’t want to over mash or they become creamed potatoes. Mash until well mixed with the milk mixture. Taste & add salt & pepper to your taste. 
To serve you can sprinkle some fresh green onions & cracked black pepper on top!

I must admit only a few years ago I learned to eat grits. My mom never cooked grits because her mom didn't. My dad's mom did but they were simple grits that I will admit I never acquired a taste for. Granny always added blackstrap molasses & butter to grits. Blackstrap molasses is an acquired taste & not one that a child is happy to experience. If we complained of feeling sick because we didn't want to do something, she would reach for the blackstrap...we recovered very quickly from our ailments!

This may look like chocolate but it's bittersweet blackstrap molasses!

As an adult I love molasses, blackstrap is hard to find but I buy all they have when I do find it! Granny would be so proud to know I not only enjoy it ,but according to her I should be the healthiest person on the planet!

Robert Medina's Cheese Grits from "If You Can't Stand The Heat" are why Southerners love grits!
They are decadent, full of whipping cream, butter & cheese. I didn't have whipping cream on hand so I used fat-free half & half. I will say that if using the whipping cream makes it better then I couldn't stand it. The recipe calls for sharp white cheddar cheese, I used chipotle cheddar in my grits. They were delicious, creamy & full of spicy flavor. That's what Southern cooking is...making substitutes when you don't have something in the fridge or cabinet. I am now a grit lover thanks to Bob! Now when I have to go to the gym an extra day a week I will remember it's all worth it for the grits!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Granny's Fig Preserves Cake

My Dad's mother was so much fun, that is her sitting on a rock in the middle of the river. Notice the lady in the photo with her, she has a pair of dress shoes in her hand. They were probably at a family reunion, dressed up for it & my sweet grandmother thought a wade in the river would make the day better!  Granny was the kind of grandmother that would get in trouble with our Mom's for letting us play outside in mud puddles in the rain! She was mischievous, laughed all the time & had the best sense of humor ever! She raised three sons who were all gentle, kind & wonderful men. I miss her everyday!

I was very blessed to have Grandmothers who were incredible Southern cooks. They were young brides during the Great Depression & sometimes ingredients were not always available. Going through a box of photos that belonged to my Granny, I found a hand written recipe on a yellowed scrap of paper. It was titled "Fig Cake", that got my attention right away, I love figs & if Granny thought it was worth had to be good!

Granny's Fig Preserves Cake

1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp white vinegar
2 cups fig preserves
1 cup chopped nuts
Bake in a tube pan or bundt pan. Rub pan with solid shortening & dust with flour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a mixing bowl combine oil & sugar, beat at medium speed until well blended.
Add the 3 eggs to the oil & sugar mixture & beat till foamy, about 2 minutes.
In a separate large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon & baking soda.
Slowly add to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl with mixer on low speed. After all the dry ingredients are mixed in , add the vinegar , fig preserves, & nuts.
Mix at low speed until all ingredients are blended, about 1 minute should do it, don't over beat.
Pour into the prepared pan, batter is thick so will have to be spread in pan.
Bake for 1 hour, let cook & remove from pan
Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze
1/4 cup half & half or milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup of powdered sugar
Heat half & half over low heat, add the cinnamon & vanilla. Mix well & turn off heat.
Add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, mixing well. 
Add more powdered sugar to create the thickness of glaze that you like.
Drizzle over warm baked cake, It will harden as it cools.
Granny didn't use the glaze, that's my recipe but I think she would have approved!

This is a delicious cake that brings back such great memories of warm toast with fig preserves spread on top. It's easy & quick, I hope you try it & let me know what you think.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Southern Ladies..there's a reason we are nuts!

For reasons that are never explained to little girls in the South, we are groomed from birth to be the way we are. Our Mom's, Grandmother's, & Aunt's take their jobs very seriously.

As a little girl I knew you couldn't wear white shoes before Easter. My birthday is in the summer, need I say more?
I think my Mom should have been more concerned with me falling & breaking my neck!

With those lovely manners of standing in a chair, I guess I had the etiquette down!
You don't go barefoot after Labor Day, even though it may be 85 degrees outside!
Your feet could still get chilled & the story of the little girl who died with something akin to the consumption is burned in your brain.

Notice it's warm enough for my arms, but the feet were totally a different story. This picture was taken at Thanksgiving of course!

All Southern homes are built with huge fireplaces & beautiful hearths. When it does drop below 50 the wife starts wanting a fire in that fireplace. Southern men like to please their wives so they build huge wood fires. As long as the wife wants the ambiance of a log fire burning, it will burn regardless of the need for comfort measures from the A/C. So when you come in from outside, you have to shed layers of clothes quickly to prevent your make up from running down your chin! It is acceptable to turn the air conditioner on to prevent this from occurring. I can vouch for the fact that the A/C is running full blast because my Daddy was really into that PacMan game. I'm sure my Mom ask for that lovely fire!

Horror stories are told by women everywhere in the South about the dangers of running to the store in curlers & no makeup. Some will try to cover it up by wearing a scarf or hat. Just the time you take the chance & go out looking a mess, that's when you'll run into the one person who will tell everyone in town!

Southern ladies love beautiful things that are passed down from generations before.
They must be displayed in a place of honor.
Never make the mistake and use these items. Family feuds have started over much less in the South. 

Heaven help you if you break a tooth out of Great-Great Aunt Alice's comb!!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spicy Cole Slaw with Candied Jalapenos

I love cole slaw. It's so easy now that they do all the shredding for you. I know fresh chopped cabbage is better & I should tell you to use that, but sometimes we need things that are really quick & easy!

Cole slaw is one of those salads that can take on many different flavors. One of our favorites would be Spicy Cole Slaw with Candied Jalapenos. It's great with BBQ, burgers or anything off the grill.

Spicy Cole Slaw

1 package of precut slaw mix

2 tablespoons of Franks Sweet Red Chili

1/2 cup pineapple tidbits, drained well
reserve 1 tablespoon of the pineapple juice

2 tablespoons of chopped candied jalapenos (recipe below)

1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion

Mix the Frank's Sweet Red Chili sauce & 1 tablespoon of the pineapple juice.

Add this to the slaw, then add all other ingredients. 

Toss well to coat.

Will still look a little dry, but the cabbage will release moisture as it sits, so don't add more wet ingredients.

When you are ready to serve, if it looks to dry add a little more of the Franks before serving.

Place in fridge & let chill for at least 30 minutes before serving for the full flavor to develop.

Candied Jalapeno Peppers

4 large jalapeno peppers, washed well
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp of kosher salt

Wash jalapenos & cut into rings. You can remove the seeds if you would like less heat. I enjoy the heat & left them in.
In large skillet mix water & sugar, add the salt. Bring to a low boil, mixing well.

Reduce heat to medium-high heat & add jalapenos.
Stir to coat peppers with sugar mixture, cook for 3 minutes.

Remove & let cool the peppers cool.

After they are cooled, bring sugar mixture back to medium-high heat & cook again for 3 minutes. Remove & cool.

Can be stored in fridge until ready to use in recipes. Use within a week for food safety sake!