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
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
Being of the Southern persuasion, I grew up eating cornbread as a side for all types of Southern food. And also because of said Southern persuasion, I grew up eating cornbread made without sugar. But I did grow up in the generation of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (notice they call it corn ‘muffin’, not corn ‘bread’ – I don’t think that was unintentional). So it’s not like I was never exposed to the sweet style of cornbread more popular in the North, I just prefer the Southern-style.
The sweetest thing in summer – a fresh peach. Nothing compares to the juicy sweet taste of a perfectly ripe summer peach. And peach season is all too fleeting, so we must make the most of it.
Here it is! The grand finale in my quest for the perfect buttermilk biscuit recipe. I have finally, through many trials and tests – three of which I wrote about here, here, and here, found the recipe that I will be passing down to my children and their children. That’s how much I love them (the biscuits and my children).
The biscuits are back. This time they are made with White Lily flour and half butter, half shortening. I’ve actually made these a few times, but was just too lazy/busy/forgetful to take a picture. We’ve been having country ham a lot with the biscuits, my personal favorite biscuit accompaniment. I’m thinking I must do some research on buying whole country hams, so we can have it more often, but I digress.
My husband’s favorite food is cereal. He could eat it for every meal and snack, with a little chocolate thrown in for good measure, and never get tired of it. Doesn’t allow me much room for creativity, does it?
Thankfully, he is willing to change it up at dinnertime and eat what I cook. Lucky for him, he can now get his vitamins from something other than the powdered ones sprayed on his Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
His second favorite food is shrimp, which was his only request for our wedding reception (after being told we couldn’t have a cereal bar). He loves them in any form (except jumbo) and any flavor, but loves them the most with a big helping of creamy grits.
Okay, are y’all ready for some more biscuits?
This is the second batch I made in my ongoing quest for the perfect buttermilk biscuit. You can find Batch Number One, made with unbleached all-purpose flour and shortening here. Batch Number Two was made with bleached, enriched flour and shortening, and actually turned into sub-batch a & b (how disturbingly obsessive is this?).
Last summer I came across a reference online to a cookbook called Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose, and well, the title had me at ‘screen doors’. I promptly went to Amazon and ordered it, and it turned out to be even better than I imagined.
This book is full of traditional and contemporary Southern recipes from the author’s native Mississippi and I am slowly making my way through each one. Since I love to read and to cook, I really enjoy cookbooks like this one that have stories and history along with the recipes. Continue reading
You are one of my favorite places to shop. I love to look at your great selection of gourmet kitchen accessories and food products. The recipes from your catalog and website are always exciting and delicious. I have really enjoyed building a relationship with you.
It hurts me to say, however, that there is one thing that bothers me about your store that I just can’t get over.
Finally, a light at the end of the long, cold, winter tunnel. I do believe I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and would never make it anywhere farther north without a blue light.
After enduring a weekend of cold rain and two children with the flu, I think a celebration is in order. With temperatures in the 70’s this weekend, I have cracked open my bottle of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, bought a few weeks ago with dreams of enjoying it on my back porch.
I don’t know what food embodies the South more than the Buttermilk Biscuit. And just like most other foods of the South, the biscuit recipe is one that is handed down through generations and every family has their own way of making them. A marriage in the South often leads to a little (or a lot) of argument discussion over what makes a good biscuit.
My mom’s mother could throw together a batch of biscuits in a matter of minutes, cutting hers out with a can and baking the scraps into little pieces for us to snack on. My dad’s mother would use what I’ve seen referred to as the pinch method – she would pinch off pieces of dough, roll them up and flatten them in the pan with her knuckles. My mother, a terrific cook and baker, was surprisingly not much of a biscuit maker, preferring the yeast roll or sometimes (gasp) biscuits that came from a can. Continue reading
Even though it’s origins are in New York, cream cheese is something the South has embraced as one of it’s favorite ingredients to elevate a recipe from really good to heavenly. Think carrot or red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, or any other kind of layer cake, cupcake or sheet cake for that matter. Think cream cheese pound cake, brownies, or pumpkin roll. Think cheese balls and cream cheese dips of endless variations, and meat or vegetable casseroles. Even cream cheese fruit and jello salads. Throw some cream cheese in it and call it DUUN!
When I used to live in the “Furniture Capital of the US”, I was invited to the premiere of Martha Stewart’s furniture line at one of the showrooms there. I’m not really sure how I ended up on the guest list, and I thought it was a joke at first, but I RSVP’d for me and my guest and my mother and I dressed up and went. As we sat there with all the furniture buyers and sellers, we realized listening to Martha speak that she actually has a really good sense of humor. She is actually very funny in person, something my mom and I agreed wasn’t displayed in her television shows. Continue reading
It’s the most famous nut in the south, with the most variations on how to pronounce its name. I tend to change the way I say it depending on where I am. With my family in NC – PEECAHN. With my family in SC – PEECAN. With the girls in the Junior League – PAHCAHN. It’s all the same to me, and the pecan is probably the nut I choose first for my recipes. They are so good just off the trees in the fall, and they freeze well, too. And when you toast them, it takes them to another level. Continue reading
North Carolina author Reynolds Price once wrote about pimento cheese: “…it was the peanut butter of my childhood–homemade by mother…I’ve been caught eating a pound in two days (though it keeps well), especially if life is hard.” We definitely had peanut butter in our house growing up, and still do, but pimento cheese (we call it PUHMINNA cheese) was and is my “stand at the sink” sandwich of choice. I can eat it as an appetizer, on top of my burgers, in between two slices of white bread, and lately as my favorite version with bacon and tomato (if it’s summer) on whole wheat as pictured above. Continue reading
I believe there are two categories of cooks – those who cook so others can enjoy the food, and those who cook so they can enjoy the food. I happen to fall into the second category, so my family and friends are often served creations from my kitchen which incorporate my favorite food groups: cheese, bread, and potatoes (preferably french fried), and we almost never have the same thing twice. I always thought this was the case in every household until I met my mother-in-law, who will not eat anything made with cheese, mayonnaise, milk, or processed meat products. I discovered this at our wedding shower when she didn’t eat, even though there was creamy olive dip, cocktail hot dogs, cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese, and chicken salad. However, she makes some of the best homemade macaroni and cheese, ham salad, and cheesecake. Go figure. She once asked me if there was any food I didn’t like…I was stumped. Continue reading