18 July 2015

Heavenly Hash Cake

 
My grandmother was my best friend.  This isn't typical, especially for a twenty-something to say her grandmother is her best friend.  I never went more than a few days without talking to her on the phone until she was put into a nursing home because of dementia.  She very quickly, practically overnight as a matter of fact, lost the ability to carry on a conversation.  She also lost most of herself over the course of those few days.  Looking back on it now, it was really like losing her twice -- once when she was taken over by dementia and again when she actually died.
 
My grandmother and I couldn't have been more different.  Her favorite color was pink.  She favored pearls or small pieces of gold as her jewelry of choice.  She woke up quite early every morning and sat at her dressing table, carefully setting her hair and doing her makeup.  She always had her fingernails painted.  She always wore lipstick and perfume.  She almost never cursed (at least until the dementia took hold).  Her "expletive" of choice was "Oh shoot-a-boot!".  I share none of these traits with her.  I don't wear makeup.  My hair is much too short to style or set in any real way.  The only gold and pearls I own were hers.  I can't remember the last time I put on makeup of any kind.  I only wake up early when forced.  I curse much more than I care to admit.  I can't keep fingernail polish on because my job is much to hands-on.
 
Nevertheless, she was my best friend.  I could tell her anything and we could talk for hours about the most mundane things.  She gave me lots of things over the years -- a great appreciation for family; consistent politeness and courtesy for others; a love of good and simple food; the pricelessness of sitting next to a quiet lake and enjoying the peace; the value of laughs, hugs, and smiles from those you care about; the luxury of sleeping and a satin pillowcase every now and again; and the glamour of some really, really fabulous costume jewelry.

 
In addition to her manila folder of loose recipes, she passed on this completely amazing little folder of recipes.  I'm not sure where it came from, but it is truly, truly, truly amazing (cue the Jem theme song).  That amazing little black folder is where the recipe for this Heavenly Hash Cake comes from.  I need to give fair warning -- this cake is dangerously sweet.  Seriously, tooth-achingly, mind-numbingly sweet.  It's also amazing.  Cake may not be right for this cake.  It's more like a brownie.  It's like a brownie covered with marshmallows and chocolate frosting.  You should run to the kitchen and make it immediately.  I did find out that the cooking time was not nearly long enough.  You keep it in the oven for 35 minutes or so, rather than the 20 to 25 in the recipe.
 
 


Heavenly Hash Cake
makes one 9"x13" cake

Print me, Please!!!

for the cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts

miniature marshmallows

for the icing:
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 box powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
5 Tbsp evaporated milk

Preheat the oven to 350°; grease a 9x13" baking pan and set aside.

Beat together the butter, cocoa, powder and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in the flour and nuts until just combined.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the middle is just barely set.

Spread mini marshmallows over the top of the cake and return the pan to the oven.  Bake about 5 minutes longer, or until the marshmallows are melted and a just barely toasted.

While the cake is baking, prepare the icing.  Mix all the icing ingredients well,  Pour the icing over the marshmallows and warm cake.  Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before slicing.



06 July 2015

Ruby's Pineapple Pie



I know I said once a week.... I got a little sidetracked, but for a very good reason, though.  Last weekend the boys and I went on a little mini vacation to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  We spent 3 days with my best friend, Traci, and her daughter, Annie.  Annie is six months older than my youngest, Isaac, and is best friends with both of the boys.  We had an absolute blast going to the hotel pool, a gigantic neighborhood park, eating delicious food, getting to see my friends David and Kris, and going to the OKAquarium.  The aquarium in Tulsa has some of the largest bull sharks in captivity.  It is totally amazing.  Sam wants to study sharks when he grows up, so we could almost say the trip was necessary for educational purposes.  It was definitely needed for my own sanity.


Today is also my 10th wedding anniversary.  I am grateful almost everyday that my husband is willing to put up with my surliness, near complete lack of conversation, and incessant watching to crime/mystery shows on television.  Hopefully he feels the same way about my tolerating his quirks most days, too.  I love him dearly and am so glad to have him in my life.

I also needed to make sure that I got this one right.  This is the first of my Neenaw's recipes and has always been the one I wanted to tackle first.  This had to be the first one because it's got a typed date on it.  The typed date is the year I was born.  Maybe she made it to celebrate when I was born, or more likely when I came home from the hospital, since I was in NICU for a week.  It would be a great pie for celebrating.  It's delicious.  Granted, I'm biased, since I am a total nut job when it comes to anything pineapple. 

Here's one thing to know about me.  I can't make a proper pie crust.  I just don't have "the touch".  I have made them before.  I have made good ones before, but it's not consistent.  Because I can't get them right all the time, I use store bought crusts.  I'm pretty sure my Neenaw would be okay with that, though, because she did, too.  It's probably because all the flour on the countertops was just too darn messy.  If she didn't have a mess to clean up, then all the better.

 
There's also a name next to the title of the recipe on this card, but I'm a little unsure who it is.  My grandmother's first name was Rubye, so similar, but not the same.  She liked to trade recipes with the other ladies that worked at the Department of Education with her, so maybe it's from one of them.  She also never, ever went by her first name, but by her middle name instead.  I'm not sure why she preferred Oleta, but she did.



Pineapple Pie

 
makes 1 pie
1 unbaked pie crust
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 T all purpose flour
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
 
Preheat the oven to 350°.  Put the pie crust into an ungreased pie plate.  Set in the refrigerator to rest while you prepare the filling (This will keep it from shrinking when you bake the pie).  Combine the butter and sugar and stir for a minute until well combined.  Add the eggs, flour, pineapple, and pecans; stir until well combined.  Pour the filing into the prepared crust.  Bake 30-45 minutes, or until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown.  Let cool to room temperature before slicing.
 

 
 

22 June 2015

Upside Down Cherry Pudding



I could very easily begin this post with a couple of well-worn phrases -- "life goes on" or "time flies" -- and I just did.  There's a reason those phrases are so well worn.  They are often applicable to how we feel.  My life does go and time certainly does seem to fly by.  My life is also a crazy, mind-wrenching roller coaster of mental illness.  One thing I tried desperately to do when I started this blog is to seem normal.  Or at least as close to some version of normal as I could be.  It wore me out over time. 

Making food makes me happy.  It is my little haven from the chaos around me.  I am pretty sure I mentioned a few times before that my husband has a mental illness.  More specifically he is bipolar, a.k.a. manic depressive.  He was misdiagnosed for 12 years.  Part of his treatment before he was correctly diagnosed was ECT, or Electro Convulsive Therapy (better known as Electro Shock Therapy).  Most folks know it from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".  It's nothing like that anymore and can work wonders.  Less than 1% of patients have permanent memory damage and again another 1% see no lasting benefit from the treatment.  My husband is lucky enough to fall into the 1% of both of those categories.  He was leaps and bounds better for a month or so after the treatments.  Then he started going down hill.  He got so bad that I had to force him to sign himself into a hospital to keep him from harming himself while I was working.  That was the turning point where we found a doctor that finally gave him a proper diagnosis.  The proper diagnosis doesn't make things perfect.  Some days he's down and wants to sleep all day.  Some days he's manic.  Manic means he'll stay awake for a couple of days, talk your ear off, and start lots of new projects.  The swings are unpredictable, but better than always down. 

The hardest side effect of the treatment is his permanent, um, well, brain damage (for lack of a better term).  He lost about 3 years of his life.  He doesn't remember Isaac, our youngest, as a baby or toddler.  The everyday side effect is the permanent damage to his short term memory.  He can remember every fact he has read about the cars in the new Mad Max movie (which is totally amazing) but can't tell you what he did today.  He can do complex Trigonometry or Calculus, but can't add the tip at a restaurant.  He loses words.  In the middle of a conversation, he will lose the name of whatever he is talking about even though he just used it 20 times in the last few minutes.

These changes have made life a lot more challenging since the last time I really posted anything.  I just needed to drop everything I did for me and only do for Eric and my boys for a while.  They need me. That's still a present tense need, so I'm not going to be posting 3 times a week, like I did before.  I'm shooting for once a week. 

I've been wanting to start a little project for a while and I think making a fresh start on the blog is the right time to start.  I inherited a manila envelope and a couple of folders of my NeeNaw's recipes.  I can't describe how immaculate her house was, so I know if she liked a recipe enough to save it, then it has to be amazing.  This recipe isn't from her collection, but it is from an old newspaper clipping and just like the kind of thing she would have saved.  I was intrigued, so I put it on top of the envelope and made it an honorary member of NeeNaw's collection.  I made only a teeny-tiny change to the original by adding some almond extract in addition to the vanilla.  Cherries and almonds love each other and it makes the whole thing smell amazing, so it's a no-brainer.  It's just the kind of thing she would have loved.  I think she would have tucked this into the envelope, too.

 
 


Upside Down Cherry Pudding

Print me, Please!!!
 
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar, divided
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 cups pitted sour cherries (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 cup hot water
 
Preheat the oven to 350°.
 
Cream the butter and 1 cup sugar on medium until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract until completely combined.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk and beat until just combined.   Pour the batter into a lightly greased 9x9" baking pan.  Sprinkle the cherries over the batter; sprinkle the remaining sugar over the cherries.  Pour the water over the top.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and the pudding starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

 
 
 

15 August 2014

Is Cheese Dip my Food Identity?








I'm back!!!  Sort of.  I don't know how regularly I will be posting, but I am going to try to start posting again at least semi frequently.  I've missed posting, but don't think for even a second that I quit thinking and pondering all things food in my absence.  I just needed a little breather. 

What prompted me to post again is a question that has been nagging at me for a while now and I really haven't come up with any conclusions that I am really happy with, so I decided to bring it to the masses. 

What is my food identity?

I'm from Arkansas.  We're sort of a Southern no-man's land.  We're famous for the Clinton family, hillbilly stereotypes, and cheese dip.  Folks from around here know about more and better things that come from here, but leave Arkansas and those are pretty much the only things from here that people know about.  I'm used to us only getting a passing mention in Southern cookbooks.  There are other more famous Southern food cultures -- New Orleans, Charleston, Atlanta, etc....  There are famous food products from other places in the South -- Kentucky Bourbon, Georgia Peaches, Memphis BBQ... you get the idea.  A couple of weeks ago, though, I got a cookbook from the library about Southern hometown favorites and there is not even a mention of anyone, anything, or any place in the entire state.  It really got under my skin.  We don't even warrant a name drop?  Really?



Then I started watching season 2 of the PBS series "The Mind of a Chef".  You may remember how much I love and adored the first season of the series and my undying love of pretty much anything associated with Anthony Bourdain.  Sean Brock is the focus of the first half of the season and he is travelling around doing an in-depth exploration of Southern food.  Again, Arkansas is completely snubbed.  Now I'm really reeling.

The point to all this (and sorry there's no accompanying recipe to my identity crisis) is I am now questioning my food identity as an Arkansan.  Are we just Southern with no real identity of our own?  Have we gone through history picking and choosing what we like from other communities and left ourselves with no real individuality? 



There is a pretty valid argument for pie, but I could argue that pie alone is not an identity.  We can't claim pie as our own.  I'm sure other food cultures might have something to say if we tried that.  There is an even stronger argument to be made for the fried pie.  They are definitely a staple around here.  We might be able to claim them as our own, but can you make an entire identity from a handheld pie?  I'm not sure.  There's also a very strong argument for Chocolate Gravy and Biscuits.  I am not an expert.  I've never had them.  Not even once; but I know lots of folks who grew up with them.  I'm pondering the argument.  The strongest argument of all can be made for cheese dip.  Some folks claim it was invented not too far from where I sit.  We are host to the WORLD Cheese Dip Championship.  We are the world's greatest consumers of both Velveeta and Rotel.  That fact makes me hang my head in shame..... The last argument, although it is the strongest is the one I just can't make myself accept.  I love me some good cheese dip every now and then, but I just can't accept that it is the one dish that defines me.  I just can't.

What do you think?  If you're from the South I would love your opinions.  If you're from elsewhere, what is the dish that identifies you or your culture?  I would love to hear about it.

03 April 2014

A New Project

 
 
I have quite intentionally not been blogging about food lately.  I have some new Southern sweets I've been working on.  I have a new Etsy shop called Southern Softies and I'm selling these sweet little handmade dolls. 
 
I sort of stumbled onto this project.  One night I decided to make a doll for my boys' best friend Annie and everyone loved it so much that this project snowballed on me.  I have gotten so much love and positive feedback I thought I might make a few more and see if anything comes of it.  


So, I'm going to take a break from the food blogging for a while to make dolls.  This might seem sort of odd if you don't know me, but the food is more of a stretch than the dolls for my background.  I started sewing almost before I could walk.  My grandmother made her living sewing.  My mom made all of my clothes when I was little.  I was a clothing designer once upon a time in my life.  My love of all things fabric and fashion took root a long, long time ago. 


Please take a moment to check out my dolls.  Share them if you like.  Show them to friends.  You can even buy one if you get the urge.  I hope you love them like I do.

Here's the link to my Etsy page (click here).

And here's the link to my Facebook page (click here).





 
 

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