Southern Traditions And Ham Salad {The Kitchen Reader}

I remember the first time I saw Paula Deen on television doing the show Ready…Set…Cook! on The Food Network.  She was just so hilarious, and she looked like my aunt and had the personality of my college roommate.  It was like a (crazy) member of my family was right there on the t.v.

Soon afterward, she began starring in her own show, frying chicken and baking cakes and cooking up all kinds of good Southern food.  I was so glad to see the food I grew up with being given the attention it deserved, in a time when, as Paula states, “health-food diet mania” was consuming America.

The rest is history, and Paula Deen is now a household name.  In her autobiography, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, however, Paula proves that everybody seems normal until you get to know them.  I guess I just assumed that she was always a success, but she reveals in her book how she spent many years of her life just struggling to make it through the day.

Growing up in Georgia, Paula says she had an idyllic childhood, with her family, grandparents, aunts and uncles all close together running a resort.  Her teen years were spent being cute, having fun, and cheering.  But at eighteen she met a boy she couldn’t resist, and wanted nothing more than to get married and be a wife and mother.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Paula to realize that marriage wasn’t all smooth sailing all the time, and she began struggling with the fact that she couldn’t make it all better.  As is often the case, I think, being sheltered and loved by her family, and possessing the gift of “Southern charm”, that niceness that girls in the South are brought up with, caused an inner struggle for Paula.  She felt that “if being protected and cherished by my parents was being spoiled, then I guess I was.”

Then as a result of tragically loosing both her parents within four years of each other, while Paula was still in her early twenties she really began to struggle to keep her sanity.  Suffering from panic attacks and agoraphobia while raising two small children tested her every day, until she finally discovered what exactly she suffered from and began to slowly overcome it,  and eventually end her marriage.

As a single mother Paula returned to what she knew best, good Southern food.  Beginning with a catering company and expanding to a full restaurant, she kept up the traditions of the South.  She knew that “the South is all about tradition, and most of those traditions have their origins in the cooking pots and the recipes we pass down from generation to generation” and that “Southern cooking is nothing but Southern – we don’t fly in our ingredients or menus from distant parts of the world. What’s in our pots and on our plates is all home-grown.”  And keeping true to this philosophy has meant nothing but success for Paula Deen.

This book is full of Southern charm and wit, and had me laughing one minute and crying the next.  If you are from the South, you’ll find yourself nodding along with it, and if you aren’t, you’ll hopefully learn a little about what drives a Southern woman.  As Paula says, “Some people call Southern women steel magnolias to show our unfailing survival instinct. Well, if we got dimples of steel, so what. Things have to be right.”

I whipped up this Ham Salad recipe found in Paula’s autobiography, and it turned out to be just right, too.

My Best Ham Salad (Sandwich)

adapted from It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover ham, chopped in a food processor
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 1/4 cup hot pickle relish, drained
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients until well blended.
  2. Spread on white bread to make a sandwich, or serve with crackers.

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{Cocktail O’Clock} Happy Friday Cosmopolitan

Happy Friday!  It’s cocktail o’clock, and I want to share with you my recipe for the fun and ever-popular Cosmopolitan.  I have wowed many with this outstanding concoction that tastes not-too-sweet, not-too-strong, but packs a punch nonetheless.

Sadly, I have had more than my share of completely unsatisfactory Cosmos.  This one, however, is purely sublime.

Cosmopolitan

from Shortbread

serves 1

Ingredients

  • ice cubes
  • 2 ounces ounces lemon vodka
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 1/2 ounce cranberry juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Add the vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime juice.
  3. Cover and shake vigorously to combine and chill.
  4. Strain into a chilled martini glass and serve.

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Cheater’s Oatmeal

If you desire the whole goodness of steel cut oats, but are like me and just don’t have it together enough to plan your breakfast the night before, look for these the next time you’re at the grocery store.  McCann’s Quick and Easy Steel Cut Oats can be made in about 5 minutes.  I don’t know how it works, but it does.  Must be magic.

Try them is this delish Oatmeal Brulee recipe if you find them.  If you don’t, it’s just as delish with regular oats.

*The microwave instructions say to cook on high power, but mine boil over every time that way.  Medium power (50%) works for me, stirring half-way, then letting them sit 2-3 minutes before eating.

PSA Banana Nut Oatmeal Brulee

*PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT*

DO NOT COOK  OATMEAL ON HIGH POWER IN THE MICROWAVE NO MATTER WHAT THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE CARTON SAY!  DOING SO WILL RESULT IN ALL SAID OATMEAL BOILING OVER ONTO THE FLOOR OF SAID MICROWAVE LEAVING NOTHING BUT AN EMPTY BOWL AND A MESS.

Unfortunately it has taken me too long to get this into my head, but I think I’ve finally learned my lesson after three tries yesterday.  Sad, I know.

But this Banana Nut Oatmeal Brulee is so delicious, it makes it all worthwhile.  Oatmeal with bananas, walnuts, and dark brown sugar is broiled briefly to create a yummy sugar crust on top, and when you stir it up all that molasses-y goodness gets mixed in.  What a fabulous way to counteract the two sticks of butter in the brownies you made yesterday (more on that later).

Banana Nut Oatmeal Brulee

from Shortbread

serves 1

Ingredients

  • one serving of oatmeal (preferably whole or steel cut oats), prepared per package instructions*
  • 1/4 medium banana
  • 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped (toasted if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Spoon oatmeal into ovenproof bowl.
  3. Slice banana into 1/4 inch rounds and spread on top of oatmeal. Sprinkle on walnuts. Spread brown sugar evenly over everything.
  4. Place bowl in oven and broil until sugar is melted, about 2-4 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

*If using microwave, cook on medium (50%) power, stirring halfway.

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Snowball Coconut Cupcakes {Barefoot Bloggers}

I’m not really that outdoors-y.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy being outside – I love to sit outside in the sun, to take leisurely walks, read on the porch – you’re getting the idea, right?  When it comes to hiking through the woods or sleeping in a tent, I’m just not into it.

I have similar feelings about snow.  I think it’s beautiful and love to watch it falling and walk through it, making the first tracks afterward.  And I might throw a few snowballs and help build a snowman, or even sled down the hill a few times, but by that time I’ve had my fill and I’m done.  I’m happy to go inside and make the hot chocolate while everyone else runs around for hours on end.

When we lived in NC, it actually snowed often enough that I could get away with not going out every time, but here in SC we only get snow like this every, I don’t know, 7 or 8 years.  So I get guilt-ed into staying out longer than I’d like.  Sometimes you’ve gotta ‘take one for the team’, I guess.

I know a lot of you are really tired of looking at this:

Hopefully it’s melting, like this did the next day, and the worst is over.  If you can stay in at all from the snow, make your way to the kitchen and bake these Coconut Cupcakes from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook – they’re like little snowballs themselves, but taste way better.

Unlike other coconut cupcakes I’ve tried that have coconut flavored cake and icing, these have real coconut baked into a vanilla/almond flavored butter cake with cream cheese icing.  “How good does that sound?”, as Ina would say.  Let me just say, “Soooo good!”

Barefoot Blogger Jamie, of Jamie’s Green Kitchen was responsible for encouraging us to make these ridiculously delicious cupcakes, and you can get the recipe for them on her blog, or at the Food Network.

Did I say how ridiculously good these are?  Oh yeah, I just can’t help it.

Squeeze Out Some Sweetness Macadamia Butter Cookies With Dried Cranberries

My super sweet, always agreeable, never give you a hard time child has finally reached the age of testing his limits.  Now every direction is met with a resounding NO, every explanation is followed by but, everything on his plate besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches gets an ewww, and socks are his worst enemy.

I had a feeling this time would come.  I do know, however, that the sweetness will always be there waiting to be coaxed out with hugs and cookies.

These Macadamia Butter Cookies will surely do the trick for coaxing a little sweetness out of anyone this Valentine’s Day.  They are especially perfect for those non-chocolate lovers out there!  The trick is to process macadamia nuts into ‘macadamia butter’, and use it much like you would peanut butter.  Use whole nuts to start and process until very smooth – when I bought pre-chopped macadamias for this recipe once, the dough came out too dry.

Macadamia Butter Cookies with Dried Cranberries

adapted from Cooking Light, October 2002

makes 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Place nuts in a food processor; process until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping sides of bowl once. Combine macadamia butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add vanilla and egg; beat well.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and ground nutmeg, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until combined (mixture will be very thick). Stir in chopped cranberries. Chill 10 minutes.
  4. Divide chilled dough into 30 equal portions; roll each portion into a ball. Place 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a small bowl. Lightly press each ball into sugar; place each ball, sugar side up, on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
  5. Gently press the top of each cookie with a fork. Dip the fork in water; gently press the top of each cookie again to form a crisscross pattern. Place 15 cookies on each of 2 baking sheets.
  6. Bake cookies, 1 baking sheet at a time, at 375° for 9 minutes or until golden. Remove cookies from pan; cool on a wire rack. Repeat procedure with remaining cookies.

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Let Someone Else Clean Nutella Swirl Pound Cake {World Nutella Day}

Apparently, there is a holiday for just about everything.  Bell Bottoms Day, Cheese Fondue Day, Zipper Day, Cow Chip Day, closely followed by Freak Out Day.  My personal favorite: Let Someone Else Clean Day.  If only I could talk the husband into that one.

I didn’t have to talk anyone into observing today’s holiday, World Nutella Day, once I starting baking this delectable Nutella Swirl Pound Cake.  The aroma from the oven was enough to make everyone a believer.

Nutella, a heavenly spread made from ground hazelnuts and cocoa, was first made in Europe, but has now gained popularity throughout the world and has thankfully made its way down to the Southern US.  And what would be a better way to use it than adding it to a buttery, rich pound cake (other than just eating it from the jar)?

The recipe for this pound cake comes from Lauren Chattman’s Cake Keeper Cakes cookbook. The cake bakes up with a dense crumb and a lovely crust on top (my favorite part of a pound cake).  I did find that I had to bake the cake a lot longer than the 1 hour and 15 minutes called for, more like 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Also, most of the Nutella sank towards the bottom of the cake resulting in really only one layer of spread.  So, the next time I make this I will just put 2/3’s of the batter in the pan, spread only one layer of Nutella over that, and then spread the other 1/3 of the batter on top.  Then I’ll give it a good swirl up and down and side to side.  Does that make sense?  I hope so, ’cause it is very important that you try this cake.

I’m here if you have any questions.

Nutella Swirl Pound Cake

adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

makes one 9×5 inch loaf cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • One 13-ounce jar Nutella

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour. In a glass measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt.
  2. In a large bowl beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
  3. Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the Nutella on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not over mix.
  4. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve.
    *The pound cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Lovingly organized by Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso.