Southern Belles

Northern cooks can make ‘em too!

Better Half and I visited friends to help them put a roof on a rental home they own.  Well, let me clarify: Better Half was going to help with a roof and I was playing around with my buddy C.   These Southern Belles (courtesy of my cookbook Sassafras)  are my contribution to the good folks that volunteered to roof.  It takes maybe five minutes to prepare these caramel morsels.  I also made a few snide comments to some of the guys—those count as contributions too. . . .

C and I had a blast.  We shopped in a little Ozark town and played around on their 100 acres.  We went on a golf ball hunt, (the men love to see how far they can hit the golf balls) which sort of reminded me of an Easter Egg hunt.  Not surprisingly, I found very few while C found a sackful!  We walked around the property quite a bit and listened to the beautiful sound of the water rushing through their cave.  The cave is huge and amazing; archaeologists have visited to find and document Indian artifacts.   C’s husband is awesome at finding arrowheads in the creek and cave.  We played multiple games of dominoes, marbles, and gin rummy.  We made homemade feta and mozzarella cheeses, as well as visiting their workshop where we gals utilized saws, drills, and other myriad “manly” tools and crafted something special for my knitting. . . . (another post!).

We had a lot of fun cooking loads of food for the men and talking until the wee hours.  Oh, we also damaged a few items: an antique chair from France (honestly, I don’t weigh that much!) and C’s thumb (which I’m sure will grow back together.  Thank God she’s an RN!).

Southern Belles

2 c flour
1¾ c packed light brown sugar
1 c butter, softened
1½ to 2 c whole pecans
1½ c chocolate (semi, milk, etc.) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix flour, 1 c brown sugar and ½ c butter until crumbly.  Press on bottom of ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan.  Sprinkle with single layer of pecans.  Combine remaining butter and brown sugar in small saucepan and boil one minute.  Pour over pecans (making a thin layer).  Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until caramel layer bubbles.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips, gently spreading as chocolate melts.  Cool and cut into bars.

Enjoy y’all!

Dutch Oven

Let there be fire.

Better Half is a man’s man.  He loves to be outdoors more than almost anything, and he is definitely one with nature.  Me. . . not so much.  I love the woods in autumn, and occasionally during winter.  I hate ticks.  I am terrified and freak out over snakes and spiders.  I’m clumsy and trip.  A lot.

Better Half’s next favorite thing is chopping wood and building fire.  Oh, not fire.  F I R E!! Along with snakes and spiders, fire freaks me out.  When I was pregnant with Lovely Daughter, I caught my sweater sleeve on fire over the stove.  Watching a pregnant woman screaming while fire is roaring up her arm and down her rotund belly while her father-in-law and husband are beating out the flames is not a pretty sight.  Oh, and then there’s the time BH started our backyard on fire while we were living in Alaska.  In the winter.  In the snow.  Three weeks after he burned brush.  Yes, the fire lay dormant under feet of snow and slowly built up until it caught our backyard on fire.  Our house was built on an old hay field.  BH was in Japan at the time.  I also was not home.  Thank God for neighbors.  Then, two years ago at 4:00 a.m.,  BH woke up with a “strange feeling.”   Our 10 acres across from our house was on fire.  Guess who had been burning brush?  Thank God for the rural fire department.Do you notice a pattern?  Hmmm.

Lately BH has been burning brush like a madman.  Other day he built me a perfect fire on our creek and set up Tiki torches.  We took the Dutch oven, browned some chops, threw in veggies, and kicked back and made popcorn as an appetizer and drank yummy drinks while everything cooked.  It was great; romantic in a kind of Brawny Man way!  I love the man, fire and all!

Bourbon Pecan Pralines

Sugar, cream & Bourbon=Heaven

We went to a party recently where I knew some delicious Cajun food would be present.  I needed to make a dish to share and seeing as I had been down flat on my back for about a solid week prior to this important celebration, I figured homemade candy would be a snap to fix.  It is, or should be, but since you cook pralines slow and then beat the mixture to death, I underestimated the time I would spend hunched over the stove top.  It was worth it to have these creamy pralines.  The celebration was great because one of my bestest (that is a word in my book) friends graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.  Congrats R, you made it!

Bourbon Pecan Pralines

2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teas. salt
1-1/2 tablespoons butter (real, please!)
2 teas. Bourbon (or 1 teas. vanilla extract for non-alcoholic)
2 cups pecan halves

Combine sugar, cream and syrup in large, heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 245° on candy thermometer (slightly past soft ball stage).  Remove from heat and add salt, butter, and Bourbon.  Beat to death until mixture begins to thicken (you might employ a man here—be patient, it will thicken).  Stir in pecans.  Drop from a teaspoon onto wax paper.  Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.  Makes approx. 3-4 dozen candies.

Ca c’est bon, y’all!  These would be great for Mardi Gras parties!

Cauliflower Potato Puffs

Cauliflower-white food gone bad.

I like love white food:  potatoes, bread, pasta, etc.  If it’s white, I’m shoveling it in!  Except for cauliflower, particularly raw.  However, in a desperate attempt to eat better (ha, and this is a post about fried food-ah, the irony!) I am branching out!

To satisfy my craving for mashed taters, I have gotten in this kick of sautéing a head of cauliflower and mashing it with a couple baked small new potatoes.  It’s frightening to me how much it tastes like mashed potatoes; particularly with cream and butter!  (Hey, I said I was attempting to eat better, this is a start!)  These Puffs are the result of leftovers from my new favorite mashed flower/taters!  One word of warning: if you plan on making these Puffs, do not add cream or butter when mashing.

Cauliflower Potato Puffs

2 cups cold, leftover mashed flower/taters
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
¼ cup finely minced green onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large egg, beaten
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
(seasoned w/ salt & pepper, to taste)
Olive oil to coat bottom ½″ of sauté pan

Mix first six ingredients together.  With damp hands, roll mixture into balls approximately the size of golf balls.  Preheat oil in sauté pan on medium heat.  Roll Puffs into Panko covering completely.  Place Puffs into hot oil and roll with slotted spoon until all sides are golden brown.  Remove and drain on towel.

Sneaky way to eat cauliflower, no?

Homemade Chevre

Is there such a thing as the Goat Police?

I started making cheese about two years ago when a former coworker introduced me to his newest hobby: homemade feta cheese.  I made the feta and realized I no longer needed a grocery store to buy feta cheese.  I so love my homemade feta.  Sublime.

In turn, I introduced a dear friend to the making of feta and she took it a step further: chevre.  Oh my.  I can’t stop making it.  I’ve been buying my goat milk at the grocery store, but have tried to buy it from local goat farmers.  The problem is that they can not sell the milk for human consumption, only baby goat consumption.  Baaaa (my whine-aware it’s a sheep sound—how does one bleat?).  Apparently there are different methods/rules of sanitation for processing to allow for the milk to be sold for humans.  Blah, blah.  However, I’m really tempted to buy some for “my baby goat” (some kids have imaginary friends, mine just happens to be a goat) and try it.  I mean, seriously, in the “olden days” didn’t people drink fresh goat milk?  What, are the Goat Police going to arrest me?  I’d love to hear from some goat “professionals” on this.

Regardless, I adore my goat cheese.  Better Half and I eat it plain, with roasted garlic,  sprinkled with various herbs and spices, etc.  Visit Fias Co Farm for the recipe I use.

Baaa Baaa.

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