Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Love Bloody Mary

I love, love a good Bloody Mary. I love tomato juice, Bloody Mary mix, V8 juice, anything that can be doctored up with lemons and olives. I have even been known to upgrade to first class for that delicious airplane Bloody Mary. I also have been known to drink Bloody Mary mix without the vodka. It is just as delightful to me. Add a celery stick and have a well balanced dinner in a glass. We know that tomatoes are cancer fighters.

My perfect Bloody Mary has evolved over the years. I'm not crazy about hot tobasco sauce, but love horseradish. My favorite part is to make a mini skewer with three olives. Let the olives macerate while I am sipping my Bloody Mary. They are tangy, salty morsels of deliciousness.

My Bloody Mary

1 46 ounce can original V8 juice
1 cup vodka
1 tablespoon horseradish
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dill pickle juice
Lemon wedges
Celery ribs
Pimiento stuffed green olives

Mix first six ingredients in a large pitcher. Chill for several hours.
Add ice to glasses, if desired. I prefer my Mary's straight up with no ice.
Pour drinks over ice. Add olives skewered on toothpicks and allow to macerate in drink.
Add lemon wedge and celery stalk to glass.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Grandmama Spooner's Chess Pie - A Southern Tradition for Generations

After the Civil War and through the depression era, the south was a very poor and struggling region. I have heard my mother tell stories about life in rural Georgia during the 30's and 40's numerous times. Land may have plentiful, but the residents were a very poor people. Black and white farmers worked side by side in the fields, just trying to put food on the tables for their families. My mother and her sisters picked cotton during the depression. Her mother was very much a lady, and made them wear sunbonnets and long sleeves while working in the fields. They may have had to work like field hands, but they had peaches and cream complexions and no freckles on their arms. I remember dinner on my grandparents farm when I was a child as being served on white tablecloths with the good silver used every day. My granddaddy would take his work boots off on the back porch and wash up for dinner each day. The afternoon brought a nap for everyone and the leftovers were on the stove covered up for supper. Dish towels were thrown across the fried chicken and other meats. The men went back to the fields after nap and we kids were allowed to play outside after a good rest and the heat of the day subsided.

One of the delicacies that my mother and grandmother both made was Chess Pie. There had to be dessert on the table each day. During lean times, I'm sure this pie became popular as it was made with ingredients that were always on hand, even during the leanest times. After dinner, my Grandaddy would pour his coffee into his saucer and sip it that way until it cooled. Along with coffee, this Chess Pie was also served. It is very, very sweet. I 'm sure that strong black coffee would be a good partner.

I have cut way back on the required sugar in my version of the pie and it is still very sweet. While researching the origins of Chess Pie, one of the stories is that it was called Chess pie because it was so sweet that it could be left in the pie safe or pie chest and therefore, those southern accents evolved into Chess Pie as the name. Another great story is that a Georgia Cracker homesteader was asked what kind of pie that she had prepared. She replied "It's jess pie, I don't know what it's called." Therefore the name Chess Pie originated. Who knows the real story, but it is a great dessert and will certainly satisfy any sweet tooth. The crust that forms on the top is my favorite bite. I can't wait for you to prepare this original Chess Pie recipe for your families.

Grandmama Spooner's Chess Pie

1 9 inch unbaked pie crust - I haven't made my own since Pillsbury came out with the unfolded variety in the 1980's - everyone brags on my pie crust -  I always smile and say "Thank You"

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
3 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Beat sugar, butter and vanilla together. Mix in the eggs. Then add the cornmeal, vinegar, and milk. Beat with hand mixer until smooth.

Pour into prepared pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 325 degrees and bake an additional 40 to 45 minutes until center of pie is set.

Cool completely. Cut and top servings with whipped cream.

A thin slice is very rich, but oh - so delicious.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lazy Sunday Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Sunday is a lazy, restful day at our house. Sunday afternoons consist of football, naps, old movies on television and maybe a little catalog or internet shopping. Put on this Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff recipe in the morning and have a delicious home cooked supper in 8 hours. My daughter in law found this recipe many years ago and we have added some changes and new ingredients. It is a great weekday recipe also.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

2 pounds Stew Beef
1 onion - chopped
1 can Cream of Onion soup
1 can Golden Mushroom soup
1/2 cup water
1 package fresh mushrooms
4 or 5 dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
8 ounce package of cream cheese
8 ounces of sour cream
16 ounce package of wide egg noodles
salt and pepper
Salt and pepper stew beef. Mix meat with onion, soups, Worcestershire Sauce, water, and mushrooms. Place in slow cooker. Cook on low 8 hours.
Cube the 8 ounce package of cream cheese and stir into sauce. Turn on High until cream cheese is melted. Cook noodles in salted water according to package instructions. Add Sour Cream to crock pot after cream cheese is melted. Serve Stroganoff over wide noodles. 

Have a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cheesy Beefy Stuffed Shells

Years ago, I found this recipe for jumbo pasta shells stuffed with ground beef , bread crumbs, and mozzarella cheese. It is a good change from spaghetti or lasagna and very easy to make. Stuffing the shells is the only time consuming step in this simple to put together recipe. The kids will love it. It is also a good freezer meal. Double the recipe and bake one pan now and freeze the other pan for a busy week day. To bake the frozen dish, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Cheesy Beefy Stuffed Shells

18 to 22 jumbo macaroni shells
1 pound ground round
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
salt and pepper
1 egg beaten
Parmesan Cheese

Easy Sauce

1 32 ounce jar spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup dry red wine

Brown ground round, onion, garlic, salt and pepper to taste in a 10 inch skillet.
While meat is browning, boil macaroni shells in salted water according to package directions.
Drain noodles and separate them to cool.
Remove the skillet from the heat and drain off any fat.
Add mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, parsley flakes, salt and pepper, and beaten egg to the cooked beef.

Mix wine and the spaghetti sauce and spread 1/4 of mixture in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Carefully stuff the shells and arrange in pan on top of the sauce.
Cover with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.
Serve with garlic bread and a fresh salad.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Today for Sunday dinner, we had sticky roasted chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes, and a garden salad with vine ripened tomatoes and homemade Thousand Island Dressing. The chicken was delicious, but the highlight of the meal was Amy's super creamy mashed potatoes. They were the perfect consistency, creamy, and buttery. She has adapted her recipe from a Martha Stewart version. Please try these. You will not be sorry!!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds red skin potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 stick butter
4 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Salt and pepper to taste

As I have mentioned time and time again. The secret to any recipe is in the seasoning. The water in which the potatoes are boiled must be salted. You will never get them seasoned correctly if you wait until mashing the potatoes to add salt and pepper. That said (again), cover the peeled and quartered potatoes with about three inches of water that has been salted. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and return to the original pot. Over low heat, mash with a potato masher, the drained potatoes, butter, cream cheese, and heavy cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from heat and serve with extra butter or gravy.

They will be the creamiest potatoes that you have ever eaten.

Please let us know how you like them.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Southern Sour Cream Caramel Cake


Caramel Cake has been a favorite of our family for years. My parents lived in South Georgia on Lake Seminole after they retired and left Florida. They both grew up in that area between Colquitt and Donalsonville. A good caramel icing is a requirement for every South Georgia home cook. I've watched my mother and her sister's boil to the soft ball stage, look for that certain shine, whisk, beat and pour out the perfect icing. Me, I'm not quite so accomplished at producing the perfect caramel  icing. Years ago, I started making this quick version that turns out perfectly every time. The only secret is to work very, very fast, before it has time to harden. The cake is a sour cream version that we adapted from a yellow cake mix. The sour cream helps make the cake not so sweet and is a great partner for the icing that has a candy consistency.
Sour Cream Yellow Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grease and flour 3 9 inch round cake pans.
Mix all ingredients together with an electric mixer.
Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes - our cakes were ready in 18 minutes
Quick Caramel Icing
1 stick butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sutar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine butter and brown sugars in heavy saucepan.
Bring to a boil and boil for two minutes.
Add heavy cream and bring back to a boil.
Remove from heat
Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla. 
Beat with wooden spoon until all sugar is incorporated and is spreading consistency.
Working very quickly, immediately spread between layers of the cake.
If the icing hardens, return the saucepan to low heat and simmer until proper consistency.
We made two batches of the Quick Caramel Icing for this three layer cake.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Brownie Ice Box Cake

It is as hot as blue blazes in Charlotte this week. I just thought that it might be a little cooler in North Carolina, while I am visiting my daughter, son in law and 2 year old Parker. We have been having a great time, but it is even soupier than Florida, if that is imaginable. When it comes to cooking, we have been trying to turn the oven on as little as possible. My daughter adapted this "Brownie Ice Box Cake" from several different versions that she had seen on Pinterest. Believe it or not, this dessert is not very rich and a great choice for warm summer nights. It should be made the day before it is being served and tastes even better after two or three days of refrigeration.

Brownie Ice Box Cake

1 Box Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix - Prepared as directed on package
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
2 small tubs of Cool Whip - 8 ounces each
1 small box of instant vanilla pudding
1 small box of instant chocolate pudding
3 1/2 cups whole milk
4 to 6 Heath Bars - crushed- we use a Ziploc bag and a hammer -

Bake Brownie Mix according to package directions in 9 x 13 inch pan.

Mix cream cheese and confectioner's sugar until well blended and creamy.
Fold in one of the thawed tubs of Cool Whip.

Spread over cooled Brownies.

Sprinkle crushed Heath Bars over this layer.

Whisk both pudding mixes together with 3 1/2 cups of whole milk.
Spread over Heath Bars.

Carefully spread the second tub of Cool Whip over the pudding.

Refrigerate overnight.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pizza Dip and War Eagle

Finally, college football is here. I happen to be in Charlotte visiting my daughter and playing with a sweet little toddler. They had a wedding to attend on Saturday and I was on babysitting patrol. Two of my children graduated from Auburn. We fell in love with the college, the traditions, the quaint town of Auburn, and especially Auburn football while they were students. I love football Saturdays and it is a great excuse to prepare yummy snacks that tempt even the healthiest eaters.

A little of Saturday mornings conversation:

Daughter: What time is the game?
Son in law: I'm not sure, why?
Daughter: I'd hate for us to be late to the wedding, especially since you are the best man, because it is at the same time as the game.

No they didn't miss the wedding, but, there was a minute of hesitation.

We did fix my daughter's favorite Pizza Dip to enjoy during the first quarter.
Pizza Dip

12 ounces of whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 jar of pizza sauce
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasonings
pepperoni's quartered -  put as few or as many as you prefer
2 cups Mozzarella cheese- shredded

Mix cream cheese and sour cream with Italian seasonings.

If you use the whipped cream cheese, you can mix with a spoon - no need to get out the mixer or even a whisk.
Spread in a 9x13 inch pan.
We like a thin layer of dip. If you prefer a thicker dip, use a pie pan or 8X8 inch square pan.
Spread pizza sauce evenly over the cream cheese mixture
Top with pepperoni.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on the top and bake an additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted.
Enjoy during the game while cheering for your favorite team.