Foods That Mean Love

By Rachel Sircy 

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I never try to blend together my own flour mixtures. I am a working mother of a four-year-old, and I simply don’t have the money or the time to hunt down and combine all those little bags of flour to make a baking mix that might make perfect doughnuts but can’t be used to dredge a pork chop. Actually, I don’t make doughnuts or porkchops, but that’s beside the point. What I use instead are gluten free all-purpose flour blends. There are quite a few of these on the market these days, but I recommend purchasing those that can be used as a cup for cup substitute for regular wheat-based flours. Normally, these all-purpose flour blends will advertise somewhere on the package that they are cup for cup substitutes. Pamela’s Artisan Blend happens to be my favorite at the moment (You can see the little yellow dot on the front of the package advertises a 1:1 substitution with regular flour):

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The real value of these 1:1 substitutions is that you can pull out old recipes and use them again without having to have an advanced degree in food science to figure out how to make them gluten free. Some recipes are really worth making time and time again. This is my grandmother’s recipe for shortbread cookies. The title of the recipe is “Holiday Cookies” because without fail, these cookies were a part of every single holiday on the yearly calendar. My grandmother had a cookie cutter with a shape to match each holiday in question: a pumpkin for the fall holidays, Christmas Trees, hearts for Valentine’s, eggs for Easter and so on.

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My daughter and I made these cookies with my grandmother over Christmas just the way that I used to make them with her when I was little. Just the other day, HRH (my daughter) and I made some for Valentine’s day.

 

They turned out to be beautifully imperfect. HRH was really excited about the sprinkles, so she added most of them to the first four cookies. With all the cookies together, it makes a nice ombre effect.

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The best part is being able to pull out this old recipe and reminiscing about learning to make these cookies as a child while teaching my daughter how to make them. Someday, I hope she makes these cookies with her children. Sometimes love looks like a cookie…

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And it tastes like one too…

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Our Lucky Collards

By Shannon Boatwright

img_1063It’s the new year, and we’re all eager to kick start our year with positive thoughts, wishes and goals of good health, abundant happiness, and financial security. One of my traditions is to cook a new year meal that “promotes” and “represents” all these things. Black eyed peas, collards, pork chops/ham, cornbread, and grapes are the staples for our good luck meal. My favorite is the collards. I always like to buy my collards from local farmers: they’re the best, the real deal, and even the most affordable.

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Over the years, family members and friends have taught me all sorts of tips and tricks to making the best collards ever. These tricks range from making sure to wash the collards 3 times (I wash mine 4 times and use some vinegar when I do the last two washes), to cutting the collards into the shape of dollar bills (I like to pretend mine are $100 bills), to putting chunks of ham in the collards as they cook.

I like to cook two batches. For one (my favorite), I just use chicken broth, good ole Lawry’s seasoning, fresh garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. This year we actually had some leftover ham, so I put some ham chunks in as they cooked to add to the flavor. The other batch I make super spicy, with pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, and whatever our favorite hot sauce is at the time –whether it’s Sriracha hot sauce or Tapatio’s hot sauce.  The collards are always my favorite part of the meal because it’s something I typically end up cooking literally only once a year.

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This year I scored a total win with my parents. I actually got my Dad, who has always claimed to not care for any cooked greens, to try my collards. I had to do a little convincing, but he loves spicy things, and I think when he saw my spicy collards cooking, he couldn’t resist. Let’s just say, I got him to come around, and he officially admitted that he likes my collards! Plus, my Mama declared that my regular collards were the best she’d ever had!

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Though there has been a bit of a collards shortage this year due to the hurricanes and cold weather, you can still find some. And guess what, if you didn’t get your good luck new year meal in yet, it’s still January, so you’ve got time! I’d love to hear about any cool, good luck foods you and your family eat to bring in the new year, so do share!

Here’s to a new year full of wealth! Wealth in health, happiness, and money!

Once Upon a Time…

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!

“Once upon a time…” is a game my granddaughters like to play while riding with me.  We all take turns adding to the story, and as you can imagine, their stories always include a mermaid or princess.  What fun and memories we are making!  The older three were with me this past weekend for some Nana spoiling.  The sleepover included running, squealing, laughing, playing, and ice cream cones.  I even took them bowling.  Yep, that’s right, I took them bowling by myself!  Adventurous, right?  None of this would princess-869721_960_720have been possible without my constant prayers for peace and God’s merciful grace answering those prayers.  I have faith that my life story will have a ” …. and she lived happily ever after” page.

My family, friends, and students have been happy to see me as I once was- energetic, confident, and “large and in charge!”  With two weeks of school left in the first semester, my tasks included finishing up quizzes, tests, and exams and a faculty/staff lunch.  The students stayed busy helping me freshen up the commercial kitchen for the new semester and preparing foods for practice labs.  Between the two classes, the students made Waffle Iron Brownies, Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Biscuits, Chocolate Covered Strawberry or Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites, Shrimp Scampi, Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Remoulade, and Low Country Boil.  I bound their final projects: a cookbook complied of recipes used during the 18-week course. It was a proud moment for both the students and I when I handed each of them their own personal creation.  Most will keep this special memento for years to come and will use the prized standardized recipes.  Former students from my 18-year culinary arts instructing career still have theirs and keep in touch.  I thank God several times a day for this peace and renewed spirit that makes life enjoyable again after a year and a half of sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, and overcoming regrets.

So, let me share some of the recipes prepared by my students the past two weeks.  I hope you will enjoy them as much as they did.

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours.

 Chef Woods

Cheese Cake Bites

Yields 30-36

Tools and Utensils:

  • Gallon-sized plastic freezer bag or food processor with blade
  • Large metal spoon
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • ½ sized sheet pan
  • Waxed/parchment paper
  • Measuring spoons
  • Microwavable container
  • Fork

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb sandwich cookies (30 large cookies)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 8-12 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted
  • Garnishes (as needed):
  • Chopped nuts, sprinkles, melted white chocolate

For Chocolate Covered Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites: 

  • 20 oz. vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 1.5 t. butter flavoring
  • 2 t. red food coloring
  • 10 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted

For Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bites: 

  • 1 lb vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 T. + 2 t. sugar free strawberry jello mix
  • 1 t. strawberry extract
  • 8 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted

Procedure:

  1. In a food processor or gallon freezer bag, crush sandwich cookies to make crumbs.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cookie crumbs and cream cheese to form soft dough.
  3. Line a half-sized sheet pan with waxed/parchment paper.
  4. Portion dough into 30-36 pieces with a tablespoon.
  5. Roll each portion into balls.
  6. Place formed dough on the waxed paper lined pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm.
  7. In a double boiler, or microwave, melt chocolate candy coating.
  8. Dip chilled cheesecake bites in the melted chocolate and place back on waxed paper lined pan.
  9. Sprinkle with optional chopped nuts or sprinkles before the chocolate hardens, or drizzle with melted white chocolate.
  10. Place the finished cheesecake bites in mini muffin papers.
  11. Refrigerate finished cheesecake bites in a covered container until ready to serve.

Waffle Iron Brownies

Tools and Utensils:

  • Waffle Iron
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Small microwavable bowl
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Whisk

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ c. Flour
  • ¼ c. Cocoa
  • ¾ c. Sugar
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 T. Water
  • ½ c. Melted margarine
  •  1 t. Vanilla
  • Pan spray
  • Toppings:
    • Ice cream,
    • Chocolate or Caramel Syrup,
    • Powdered Sugar or Whipped Cream/topping,
    • Maraschino Cherries

Procedure:

  1. Preheat Waffle Iron to 350°
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, measure and combine flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, measure and combine eggs, water, melted margarine, and vanilla.
  4. Stir liquid ingredient mixture into the dry ingredient mixture, until smooth with a whisk.
  5. Lightly spray waffle iron with pan spray.
  6. Portion batter on the griddle, ¼- ½ c., depending on the size of your waffle iron.
  7. Bake the brownie batter for 1 minute or until firm enough to remove.
  8. Server warm with the suggested topping.

 

The New Year, a New Start

By Rhonda Woods

Hello everyone!

I hope you, your family and friends have had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was hectic, as usual, but odd at the same time.  We all knew something was missing, yet went through all the motions for our family, especially the children who did not notice our loss of happiness. I have tried to recall last Christmas, but it is pretty much is a blur.

By the time this is posted, we will have reached one year since the passing of my sweet husband on January 4. So much has happened in a year.  Through the good and bad times, trials and blessings, the one thing that remains unwavering is God.  He has never left me.  He has let me pour my heart out to Him on innumerable days and nights.  He has answered my prayers, allowed me rest and calmed my anxiety. I know the emptiness and uncertainty I have felt almost daily will part slowly like dark clouds that reveal the beauty of bright days ahead. God has a plan for my life and I am looking forward to opening my eyes and heart to His will. My faith and hope is for many changes, a new start, a new chapter and happiness.

Food brings happiness to many.  Sometimes it is a particular food that comforts us.  I like to think of the feeling you get from eating a comfort food as your “Ratatouille” moment.  If you’ve seen the movie, it’s the moment the food critic take a bite of the dish, Ratatouille, commonly know as a peasant dish made of root vegetables, was served.  One bite and he reminisced of his childhood and a version of this favorite dish made by his mother to comfort him. One of my comfort foods is Pound Cake, Chocolate Pound Cake, to be exact.  My great-grandmother “Doodle” made the best pound cake.  my grandsonThe texture was smooth and dense.  Lemon, AKA “Wemen” Pound Cake, as my grandson would say as a young child, (one of my favorite pictures of him).  It is still is his favorite.  We will celebrate his birthday in January with a family meal, most likely Nana’s Big Lasagna, Salad, Garlic Bread and, of course Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Icing Drizzle.

I have used several pound cake recipes using all butter, half butter and half Butter Flavored Crisco, and all Butter Flavored Crisco.  When I baked wedding cakes, pound cake was used for sturdy stacking of the decorated tiers. All butter will result in a shorter cake due to the amount of water in butter, while more height can be achieved with all Butter Flavored Crisco.  Pound Cake was named due to the ingredients being weighed by the pound.  The three pound cake recipes I have made the most are South American Pound Cake that uses all Butter Flavored Crisco, Lemon, Orange and Vanilla Extracts, Chocolate Pound Cake, and most recently, Million Dollar Pound Cake. Now don’t think I left out an ingredient when you read this recipe.  I thought so, myself the first time I made it.  It uses no chemical leavener; baking powder or baking soda.  The leaving comes from the half dozen eggs, a natural leavener.  The amount of milk is not a misprint either..  Go ahead and try this one and you’ll add it to your favorite recipes, also.

As your start the new year and resolve to lose weight by dieting, just remember, “It’s not what you eat, but how much of what your eat!”.

May God bless you and your family as he continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

 

Million Dollar Pound Cake

1-10″ Tube Pan

 

4 c.plain flour

3 c. sugar

1 lb. butter, room temperature

2 t. Lemon Extract (or your favorite flavor)

6 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 c. milk, room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.,

Prepare the tube pan by greasing, flouring and lining the bottom with parchment or waxed paper (I call this” insurance”, as it insures the cake will come out of the pan!”

Sift flour and set aside.

Cream sugar, butter and extract until light and fluffy.  This will take 3-5 minutes and when a small amount is rubbed between your fingers, does not feel grainy because the sugar has been dissolved in the fat (butter).

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until smooth after each one.

Add sifted flour and milk, alternately, and then mix on medium speed for 1 minute.

Spoon and spread he cake batter evenly into the prepared tube pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until the cake tests done.

Remove from oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

Store the completely cooled cake at room temperature in an airtight container or the cake may be wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

 

 

 

Reminiscing and Ginger Bread Houses

By Rhonda Woods

Oh, Christmas, you are only a few days away.  The children are excited for Santa to come.  Parents and grandparents are trying to find all the items on their sweet little lists. Some people go all out with decorations, while some, like me, keep it simple (barely getting the tree up). Secret Santa, playing the White Elephant gift exchange game (not sure where that name came from) and holiday music on every station.  Calendars are filled with special events, cantatas, drive through light shows, and of course, food…lots of food.  Pace yourself and forgo the fancy fitted frocks.  Opt for “eating pants”, as we say, you know the ones that allow a little room in the waist for “I just want a little taste”…of everything!

Last Christmas was the beginning of what I think will be a tradition in my family.  With my sweet husband in the hospital, I had no time to shop or even think about gift giving.  Talking about it, we decided to give each of our children and their spouses a set amount of money to purchase a special gift for themselves, and their children.  The instructions that came with the money was specific.  They must wrap their own gifts and place them under our tree to be opened on Christmas day in front of us, thus surprising us with the gifts they chose.  Worked great, but I must admit, with all that was going on, it was a blur.  Shopping has never been a favorite for me.  Hard to believe, right?  Now, keep in mind, I’m no Scrooge or Grinch, I just can’t seem to get into the “Christmas Spirit”, especially this year.

My mama was reminiscing about the foods we enjoyed on Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house as we were making our newer version of fruitcake last Saturday.  Now, Fruit Cake was something my mama and her grandmother made every year…early, like right after Thanksgiving! They would wrap them in cloth, place them in tins, and occasionally brush with some blackberry wine to “keep them moist”!  My sweet husband would say, “That’ll go good with my coffee in the morning”.   She told us about how they would go downtown in Columbia to Silvers on Main Street to purchase the candied fruits, not in the containers like today, but weighed by the clerk at the counter from bins. Mama also reminded us about the deli meats, cheeses, mustard, Kosher pickles and breads that were purchased from Groucho’s Deli in Five Points and served at my grandmothers house.  The food list went on describing things like celery stuffed with a cheese spread, olives, nuts, and deviled eggs.  We will honor her requests for all of these and more at our family Christmas gathering this year.

So, as we race through the last few day of school before Winter Break, my students are making Gingerbread Houses.  It’s a process and a lesson in patience.   Each one rolls and cuts the house parts from the cookie dough.  I bake them, and then the patience part comes into play when they assemble them using royal icing.  Each students customizes their house with a variety of candies and other edible decorations. I’m looking forward to seeing their final projects.

With limited time to spare these busy days, I have included a few quick and easy sweet treats, dips and spreads for you to try.  Merry Christmas Ya’ll!

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Appetizers and Dips

Zesty Crab Cakes

Squares

Spinach Dip

Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade Sauce

Quick Fudge with Nuts

Pimento Cheese

Double layer fudge

Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Orange Glazed Pecans

Thankful and Blessed

By Rhonda Woods

Hello everyone!

Cooler weather is moving in and Thanksgiving is a few days away.  Our family celebrates this gathering a little differently than most do.  Thanksgiving is generally held a week earlier, at my home or my sister’s. Somewhere to host the crowd. Most of the family travel to their extended families on Turkey Day or spend the long weekend camping.  This year, we celebrated even earlier, on Sunday, November 4 for both Thanksgiving and to honor my mama’s birthday.  All the counter tops in my kitchen were full of traditional and favorite dishes brought by the “designated” family members.  The birthday girl had requested a 6-Layer Coconut Raspberry Cake, which was topped by a large number of candles!  The Happy Birthday song was sung by close to thirty relatives and three of her great-granddaughters sitting on “Granny’s” lap anxiously awaiting the end of the song.  This is followed by the children plucking the candles from the cake to suck the frosting off the bottom of each one!  What a sight!  As I looked around the room, I could not help but be amazed at the growth of our family.  I joke and say, I was the one that started the whole mess, as the firstborn. Mama is pictured here with my children who are the parents of her five great grandchildren.  As her health deteriorates, it was important to celebrate her birthday with many of her favorite foods, laughter and lots of love.

The memories of my sweet husband and other family members who were not there with us brought back the “rain”.  The sting of reality. For a brief time, all was good as I buzzed around doing what I do best, cooking in my kitchen, my comfort zone.  Dressing, Herb Turkey Breasts, Southern Seasoned Butter Beans  Pistachio Salad, Butterscotch Haystacks, Sweet Tea, Cranberry Sauce and the birthday cake were my contributions to the feast.

My Mother-in-law and my Sweet HusbandSo, I am adding my often-requested Dressing, also called Stuffing, recipe which was adapted from my mother-in-law’s recipe (pictured with my husband).  I am also adding some casserole favorites that I hope you will enjoy on your Thanksgiving table… or counter tops, as is tradition in our family. Some people ask what is the difference between Dressing and Stuffing.  Well, Dressing is baked in a pan and Stuffing is cooked inside the turkey as it bakes.  I could just hear my sweet husband asking about leftovers as we would get ready to “make a plate” to reheat for supper.

May God bless you and your family as He has blessed ours,

Chef Woods

 

Thanksgiving Recipes

Classic Green Bean Casserole

Corn Casserole

Macaroni and cheese with crumb topping

Pineapple Casserole

Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

Stuffing

 

Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall

By Tina Michelle Cameron

Well, my 6-week healthy eating and working out is not going as planned. I have lost 6 lbs and zero inches. I am disappointed in myself—again. I have not been walking and have used my new stationary bike only three times. I am stressed with school, overly fatigued and no energy. And, have no self-control when it comes to Halloween candy! I am one that stress eats, happy eats and in general have a very sweet tooth. There, I said it—all my excuses. When I usually get started on a “diet”, I am focused and usually obsessed about it, but, if I slip up, well, I slip up in a big way. I was keeping track of everything that went in my mouth and well, after 2 weeks of that along with my brain saying, I’ll log it in when I get up tomorrow or when I get home and one day leads to two, then 3 weeks of no logging my intake.

So, starting November 1st, 2018, I will once again, begin my one thousandth diet and I have promised myself to start keeping my food journal logged in on my phone as well as a daily exercise program. I am beyond upset and disappointed with myself—again. I am tired of being tired, tired of being overweight and unhealthy and tired of staring at the cute clothes in my closet that I cannot fit in. I am like Oprah in that I have a whole range of sizes. I am in disgust at my body, my thighs especially and my sagging skin.

I will once again try the Keto diet. My goal for now is to lose 10 lbs by January 31st, 2019.  I think that is a doable goal. If you would like to join me, please email me at tmcameron@crimson.ua.edu. I do better if I have a partner to keep me in line.

I will keep you guys posted once a month on how I am doing and would love to hear from you all. So, in the meantime, please feel free to send me any advice, recipes or workout regimens. I am posting one of my favorite recipes from Weight Watchers for those that like Little Debbie Snack Cakes or chocolate cupcakes.

Recipe for chocolate cupcakesWeight-Watchers-Chocolate-Cupcakes-Post4

1 can pumpkin and 1 box Devil’s food cake mix.

Mix both ingredients, bake as ordered on cake box to make the cupcakes, refrigerate after baking, they last for 5 days. You can also slice open and place a tablespoon of fat-free cool whip in it and reheat for about 10 seconds in microwave. Yum-yum—enjoy!! Depending on the size and quantity they are 2 to 5 points each.

2-Ingredient-Chocolate-Pumpkin-Muffins-and-Cookies