A Southern Grace: August 2010

August 29, 2010

pee-can, pee-cahn, pah-cahn


Confession: I'm one of those people who snicker or smirk when certain words are pronounced differently from how I've been raised to say them.

Examples: Coupon. Caramel. Mayonnaise. Pajamas. Scallops. Worcestershire. And a common one--pecan*.

*For the record, I personally say pah-cahn, with the emphasis on the second syllable. For the record, all three are correct.

It's taken me awhile to fully appreciate the pecan and all its many applications. While you still won't see me reaching for a handful of plain ol' pecans, all you have to do is salt 'em and toast 'em or toss them with caramel (that's with three syllables, if you please) and I'm excited.

My most recent use for the lovely nuts was a unique case. I often bookmark recipes that I see on other blogs, but rarely do I make them the next day. When I saw Karly's post featuring her twist on the gooey butter cake, I didn't waste a second.

All I had on hand was a lemon cake mix, but it worked out quite nicely. For obvious reasons, a butter cake mix would be better. Regardless, if you like both pecans and the traditional version of gooey butter cake (and honestly, how could you not?), this dessert is for you. The nuts in the bottom layer make it blissfully crunchy and rich. Yes, even more rich than the original. Paula Deen would be proud.

Say, what other words get pronounced differently depending on the region?

Gooey Butter Pecan Bars
(motivated by Karly's post)

1 box (18.25 oz) lemon cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups chopped pecans
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, 1 egg, melted butter, and pecans. Mix well and press into a greased 9×13-inch pan.
Cream together the cream cheese, 2 remaining eggs, and powdered sugar until well combined. Pour over the crust.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the center is set. It should be gooey, but not runny. Cool completely before cutting, 1-2 hours. Store in the refrigerator.

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August 25, 2010

heeeeeere's harold!


This is a bit of a different post for me, but when I was offered the chance to read and review Harold McGee's new book The Keys to Good Cooking and promote his book tour, I jumped at it. Leapt. Pounced, if you will.

I've been a fan of Mr. McGee since his information helped me explain the green carrot phenomenon a few months ago. His new book is full of useful and interesting facts and tips like that, for everything from meat preparation to candy making. For example, a simple step I never considered regarding the serving of meat dishes is preheating the plate:

Preheat plates to serve hot meat dishes, especially beef, veal, and lamb. As they cool below body temperature, meat fats congeal and the gelatin from connective tissue in long-cooked cuts becomes solid and rubbery.

Also, I always knew that one should store potatoes in the dark and never in the fridge, but I hadn't thought about why. Never fear, Harold's here:

Store potatoes at cool room temperature and in the dark, to prevent greening. At warm room temperatures, potatoes will sprout and decay. At refrigerator temperatures below about 45°F/7°C, they convert some starch into sugar and can brown too quickly and scorch when fried.

Get excited, folks. This is gonna be a fine read.

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August 22, 2010

get the sensation


Without a doubt, the makers of York peppermint patties have hit upon a winning combination of flavor and oral sensation--that rush of cool on one's tongue after having bitten into one of the little pucks is unique and absolutely delightful (particularly for lovers of the chocolate and mint pairing, as I most obviously am).

Have you ever had one straight from the freezer? D. Vine. Now, what if you could have that same chilling tingle in an even more fluffy fashion and in much larger portions? Win-win. This pie is so simple--it consists of melted peppermint patties folded into airy and creamy whipped topping and piled atop a chocolate cookie crust. It's so luxurious and refreshing, folks; I can't find enough proper words to describe it.

If I had to pick one negative characteristic of the pie, it'd be that it melts pretty rapidly once it's out of the freezer. Fortunately, it's so darn tasty, one needn't worry about not being able to eat it before it disintegrates into a pool of (undoubtedly delicious) goo.

Perfectly Pleasing Peppermint Patty Pie
(adapted from this recipe)

Cookie crust:
1-3/4 cups cookie crumbs (about 20 cookies)(Oreos are awesome here)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

16 peppermint patties
1/2 cup milk
2 (8-ounce) tubs whipped topping, thawed

Prepare cookie crust:
Heat oven to 350°F. Stir together cookie crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Blend in butter, mixing well. Press crumb mixture evenly on bottom and up sides of 9-inch pie plate. Bake 8 minutes; cool completely.

Prepare pie:
Remove wrappers from peppermint patties; cut into pieces. Place candy and milk in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke at 30-second intervals until the patties melt. Fold into the thawed whipped topping and plop into the prepared crust. Freeze at least one hour to set.

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August 12, 2010

a bad rap


Somewhere along the line, someone decided that "spam" was synonymous with being a bad thing--after all, no one likes hundreds of junk messages clogging up her inbox.

Long before the word began being used to refer to unwanted email, it was the name of a packed pork product from Hormel.  (Do yo
u know the origin of the name?  I didn't, but apparently, it's an abbreviated form of spiced ham!)  Also predating the negative connotation was a skit by Monty Python that will make even the grumpiest grouch guffaw.

Another thing that ought to perk you up is the prospect of winning $1000. All you have to do is spice up one of your tried and true dishes with SPAM products. The theme varies, but right now it's PASTA. Upload your unique pasta and SPAM recipe to the Recipe Exchange and get your family and friends rate it. At the end of the challenge, the top 10 rated recipes will be judged by a panel of SPAM Team experts. One grand prize winner will be chosen to receive $1,000! Interested? Here are the official rules.

Come on, folks--give SPAM a chance! Monty Python did it, and so did I. Even though it's approximately 1000 degrees outside, this hot dish was tasty and satisfying.

Spiced Ham, Spiced Ham, Spiced Ham, Spiced Ham, Baked Beans, and Spiced Ham
can o' SPAM, diced
1 onion, diced
can o' baked beans

Heat the oil in a medium pan over high heat. Add the diced SPAM and onions and fry until browned. Dump into a 2-quart casserole dish and add the beans. Stir to combine and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until bubbly and heated through.

Disclaimer: To participate in the SPAM: Dish This! program, I was provided with complimentary samples of SPAM product and merchandise, valued at approximately $35. Hormel Foods did not tell me what type of creations I should make nor did they require me to use any specific ingredients. My statements reflect my honest and truthful opinions and actual experience.

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August 7, 2010

poor orange


I feel sorry for the orange--what a bummer to be one of the few words that rhymes with nothing else.

On the flip side, it describes a lovely color and is the name of a fabulous fruit, so I guess it has a few things going for it.

We've been inundated with recipes combining chocolate with raspberries and cherries. There's the occasional pairing of chocolate and blueberries, pears, or apples. Bananas and strawberries bathe in the stuff on a regular basis. Where does that leave the orange (or, for that matter, other citrus fruits?)(or, dare I say it, melons?)? The only time I've ever seen chocolate mate with orange is in a truffle from a box of chocolates, and those are always my least favorite. Sad but true.

Clearly it's time that the chocolate-orange combination got some love and I submit these mini loaves as proof of that. They're delightful--refreshing in all the right ways and exploding with flavor. Moist, too. Now, if one of you comes up with an edible chocolate-watermelon concoction, be sure to let me know...

And hey--exciting news for Julie of Mommie Cooks! She won the Blog2Print giveaway.

Orange-You-Glad-You-Gave-'Em-a-Shot Chocolate-Citrus Loaves
(based on these)
3/4 cup orange juice
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a muffin tin or mini loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Whisk together the orange juice, egg, and oil. Combine the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then add all at once to orange mixture. Stir to combine. Fill the prepared molds about 3/4 full and bake 20 minutes for muffins and around 30 minutes for mini loaves. Remove from the oven and let stand in tin for 5 minutes before attempting to remove.

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August 3, 2010

eat your heart out, hardee's


I've previously waxed poetic about fruity scones and their uselessness to me. It's like I expect all the fluffy and pleasing deliciousness that muffins are known to deliver and am always let down by the dry texture and not-so-sweet flavor of the scone.

Iiiiiiiit's BACON!

Things have taken a turn now that I've been introduced to the savory scone. When eyeing its flecks of meat and cheese, one expects it to be reminiscent of a biscuit--less sugary and even a bit crumbly. The added bonus with a scone is that instead of having to construct your breakfast biscuit by hand (adding layers of bacon, cheese, egg, and the like), it's already built in!

This particular batch was made to suit my tastes--I mixed in a healthy dose of shredded pepper jack cheese and a heaping helping of crumbled bacon. The sprinkling of salt and fresh-ground black pepper on top really turned on the taste buds and added a lovely look to the scones. Bonus--the amount of grease involved is incomparable to what ends up in orders from a fast food place.

Better-Than-a-Breakfast-Biscuit Scones
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 cup bacon, cooked to crispy and chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter until a coarse, crumbly mixture is formed. Mix in the buttermilk, cheese, and bacon using a fork until everything is moistened and then turn the batter out onto a floured surface. Form into 2 6-inch wide disks. Apply an egg wash and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then cut each disk into 6 wedges. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.

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