Mick’s birthday is today, so it started with a big breakfast, which lead to a little nap in his favorite chair. Once we got cleaned up we headed out to just take a drive, which almost always involved driving to or past the lake. We headed out a road that followed the perimeter of Cherokee Lake, finally ending up at Cherokee Dam. It was built in 1940 and completed in 1942 for TVA. You can park at the bottom and walk the river, or park at the top and walk the wall of the dam until you reach the power plant. We opted to walk the wall for about a mile and a half. It was a little chilly being that far up with the air coming off the water. It was nice to get outside though and we both needed to walk a bit, knowing that there was going to be cake in our near future!
His favorite cake is an Orange Cake I make using a whole navel orange, juice and zest. I had a bottle of Orange & Cream Liqueur that they gave me to work on a couple of recipes. I had just enough to play with and redevelop my recipe, so there’s some in the cake and in the icing. I still had to get a little orange in there though, so I garnished it with some zest and a fresh slice. It smells amazing.
We are about to eat some cake for his dam birthday! (see what I did there??)
Orange & Cream Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Old Forge Distillery Orange & Cream Liqueur
Prepare 2 8 or 9 inch round pans. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. In mixer, cream buttermilk, sugar, oil, eggs, and liqueur. Add flour mixture, a little at a time until well combined. Divide batter into the two pans evenly.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 min. Remove from oven and let cool 10 min. Remove from pans and cool on rack completely.
Orange & Cream Buttercream
1 8oz block of softened cream cheese
1 stick of softened butter
3-4 cups confectionary sugar
2 tablespoons Old Forge Distillery Orange & Cream Liqueur
Cream the cream cheese and butter, adding a little at a time, spoon in the confectionary sugar. After the 3rd cup, add the liqueur, then continue adding the sugar until it comes to the thickness you like.
Crumb coat your cake and chill for 15 minutes. Finish frosting the cake and garnish with a little orange zest and a slice of fresh orange (optional).
Old Forge Distillery gave me a bottle of their Orange & Cream liqueur and I’ve used in several things. These truffles I think are the best. Any of their Creams would work for this and you can change up the chips to anything you like.
Orange & Cream Truffles
2/3 cup OFD Orange & Cream
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 11oz package of white chocolate chips
1/2 cup confectioners sugar for dusting.
Heat Orange & Cream over Med heat to a light simmer. Turn off heat and stir in butter until melted. Stir in white chocolate chips. Stir briskly until completely melted and smooth. Pour into an 8×8 dish and chill for 2 hours. Using a teaspoon or small scoop, scoop out 1 inch balls and roll in the palms of your hands to smooth out. Roll in powdered sugar. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Sometimes I miss the snows I remember us getting as a kid. It seemed when a storm came through we would always end up with a foot or more of snow, and it seemed to happen several times a year. There were years that school would be out for a week or more at a time because we got so much snow. We would get up early and turn on WSIG to listen for the school update, which meant we also had to listen to all the road updates, people calling in saying a cow got out of their field, and their call in swap & shop.
When I was about 12, a new family moved into the neighborhood. They had a daughter, Sheila, and she quickly became my best friend. We’re still best friends to this day. Her mom, June, who’s recipe for zucchini bread I use, was a stay-at-home mom. On snow days, all us kids in the neighborhood ended up at their house before the day was done. They had a long yard that sloped down. A few passes down the hill on an old inner-tube and the snow would pack enough to really pick up some speed. We would spend what seemed like hours tubing and sledding. Sheila’s stepdad would come out and have snowball fights with us when he’d have a day off.
When we would go in, June would have a whole spread of snacks ready for us. Sometimes she would make hot cocoa and I think it was the first time I saw somebody make it with real cocoa, sugar, and milk, with big marshmallows on top. We just had packs of hot chocolate at home every now and then. If we felt fancy, we’d get some with the mini marshmallows in the mix. But anyway, she would fill up a mug for each of us and there would be some kind of treats on the table. One day we were all sitting around the kitchen table working on a craft project she gave us and she put a dish of chocolate chips on the table, from a bag she kept in the freezer. It kinda blew my mind. It had never occurred to me that you could just eat chocolate chips from a bowl. On the rare occasion that mom would make homemade chocolate chip cookies, we might get a chip of two from the bag, but they all went in the cookies. It felt so extravagant to just eat a dish full of them! I thought, wow, I bet this is how rich people live. Because of that, I have always kept a bag of chocolate chips in the freezer, just to pour some out in a dish and treat myself with them when I want to. And, when I do, I always think of June, always.
Their first Christmas with us we all came in from playing and she had popped bowls full of popcorn, but not for us to eat. She gave each of us a needle and a spool of thread and we strung up long strings of popcorn to put on the trees and bushes in front of their house. I’m sure some strings went on the tree and we probably took some strings home to put on our own trees.
That first Christmas and winter after they moved in was the best. June always made our days fun and interesting. She would give us projects to work on, crafts to do, play music, and just let us play. She’s been gone nearly a decade now. Alzheimer’s took its tole on her. The last winter she was alive, she was living with Sheila. My dad was sick at the time as well and I spent lots of weekends traveling back and forth to help him and visit. Sheila lived along the way, so I would try and spend one night there either going up or coming home. That last winter we got quite a bit of snow and on one of those quick weekend trips I got stuck at her house. I spent an extra couple of days with them. Her husband and kids were gone to work and school or to visit his parents, I can’t remember, but I know they weren’t there. It was just me, Sheila, and June. June still loved to listen to music, so we had it playing. We set up some snacks on the coffee table, made some hot cocoa (and probably opened a bottle of wine or two), and watched the snow get deeper and deeper outside. At one point Sheila took her mom’s hands and they began to dance to the music playing. Johnny Mathis was her favorite. We all sang and suddenly June began to cry a little. Sheila wiped her tears and the song changed and we continued on. She and I have talked about that moment since and Sheila doesn’t remember it. I think it just blended in with all of her days then. I distinctly remember thinking at the time that June remembered. For a moment she saw us kids playing, drinking hot cocoa, singing to the music playing, and having fun. She remembered.
It is one of my fondest memories that I hope I always carry with me.
Here are some recipes inspired by that first winter. Enjoy!
3 cups of peeled, cored and chopped apples (About 3 ripe apples)
2 cups fresh cranberries
Zest and juice of 1 orange
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup oats
2/3 cup plain flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
Dash of salt
1 stick butter, cubbed
4 heaping tablespoons prepared mincemeat
In a mixing bowl, toss apples and cranberries with orange zest and juice and set aside for about 10 min. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Toss to coat well. Let sit while you prepare topping.
For the topping; in a mixer or food processor, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, and spices. Give it a pulse to mix. Cube cold butter and add to oat mixture. Mix on a low speed until butter is combined and mixture looks like meal. Spoon on mincemeat and stir to distribute, but don’t mix up completely.
Pour apple and cranberry mixture into a 2 quart baking dish. Spoon crisp topping over, covering entire mixture.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until crisp is golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 min before serving. Serve plain or with cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.
Chocolate Cherry Cordial Moonshine Brownies
1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup Old Mill self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup regular cocoa
1/4 cup Old Forge Distillery Chocolate & Cherries Moonshine
18 – 24 cherries from the moonshine, chopped
1 stick butter melted
2 large eggs
Sift together sugar, flour, salt, and cocoa. Stir in coffee moonshine, melted butter, and eggs. Prepare an 8×8 inch pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Mix well and spread into pan. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons OFD Vanilla Bean Moonshine
Mix confectioners sugar and moonshine until all sugar is incorporated. Spread over cooked brownies.
Hot Cocoa Blocks
I got this recipe from King Arthur Flour. Click here is the recipe!
Chocolate Dipped Orange Crisps
These are so easy to make and I love the flavor of chocolate and orange together. I got this recipe from Ellie Krieger. Click here for the recipe!
When I was a kid mom called me Punkin’. I remember asking her why and she just said “cause you’re my punkin’.” and so it was, I was Punkin. I don’t remember when she stopped calling me that. She may have called each one of us that, but at least for a while it was me.
I’ve always loved pumpkins. I love the smell of ’em when you cut ’em open and I love digging my hand down in one to pull out the strings and seeds. One of our teachers in elementary school brought a toaster oven into our room and after we carved the class jack-o-lantern, we cleaned and toasted the pumpkin seeds. I had never had them before, but for years after that we would toast the seeds when we carved one at home. They never were as good as the ones she made.
One of the things I look most forward to at Thanksgiving is the pumpkin pie. It is, and always will be, my favorite thing that you can make from pumpkin. I will see about sharing my Appalachian Pumpkin Pie this Thanksgiving. I’ve made pumpkin dip, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, and pumpkin cake, but if I had to only choose one thing to make for the rest of my days with pumpkin, it’s back to pie. I can almost taste an ice cold slice right now.
But last weekend, when we took a walk through the woods in Cumberland Gap, TN, we stopped off at a little coffee shop for some lunch and I got a cup of their Great Pumpkin coffee before heading off. That cup of coffee inspired me to make a Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake. It’s a marbled cake of pumpkin and coffee, with all the right spice and a creamy icing to top it off. If I could have a second thing I could make for the rest of my days with pumpkin, it would be this cake!
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake
For this cake you will make 2 batters, one coffee and one pumpkin, and then marble the two together.
Ingredients for coffee batter:
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
6 oz strong coffee
1/2 teaspoon of the coffee grinds from making the strong coffee
Ingredients Pumpkin Batter:
1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
Ingredients for milk bath:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon cloves -reserve 1/4 teaspoon for dusting the cake before serving)
Ingredients for the icing:
3/4 cup butter softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coffee grinds
3 – 4 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 350.
You will need 4 bowls all together to make the two batters. In the first 2 bowls, for each batter, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda. In the pumpkin batter, whisk in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
In the next 2 bowls, for each batter, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. For the coffee batter, beat in the coffee and grinds. For the pumpkin batter, beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.
Prepare a 9 x 13 cake pan by greasing and flouring the pan. Starting with the coffee batter, because it will be thinner, pour all the batter into the pan. Then spoon in the thicker pumpkin batter. Taking a butter knife, run the tip of the knife up and down the batters to marble them, but do not mix them.
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. While cake is baking, heat milk, cream, and pumpkin pie spice in the microwave for 2 – 3 minutes. Let it steep while the cake bakes. This will be for soaking the cake once it come out of the oven. Remove the cake from the oven when done and while the cake is still hot, use a fork to poke holes all in the cake. Pour the milk bath evenly over the cake. Let it sit and cool completely before icing.
For the icing, whip the butter until creamy. Beat in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until each is well combined. Add the coffee grinds and the whipping cream and beat until well combined and creamy.
Ice the top of the cake and then dust with a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar mixed with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
Chill cake for 4 hours or overnight. Keep cake cold until serving.
When I first moved out on my own, I moved from the little Virginia town I grew up in, and was the only home I had known for 25 years, and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. I got pretty homesick sometimes, and back then if you called outside your county limits you paid long-distance charges for the call. I had to budget out how often and when I called mom and dad. I think the rates changed after 8 o’clock in the evening, so I always waited until then to call and kept it to a quick 10 minutes.
One of those calls that first fall was to ask mom about the beef stew we had made several times. I don’t really know where the recipe came from, but she read if off to me and I scribbled it down. I still have that handwritten recipe. Usually you cherish recipes in your mom’s or grandmaw’s handwriting, but I still hear her voice when I read it and I feel connected once again. It makes me a little homesick still, but not for home so much as just a time long gone.
Old Time Beef Stew
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds of beef, cubed
2 tablespoons flour
2 quarts water
3 tablespoons Worcester sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 Bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
6-8 carrots, sliced
4-6 potatoes, cubed
1 stalk celery, diced
In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Dust cubed beef with flour and toss to coat the meat. When oil is hot, brown beef. When beef is browned, add 2 quarts water to the pot along with Worcester sauce, garlic, onion, bay leaves, salt, pepper, sugar, allspice, and cloves. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Next add the carrots, potatoes, and celery. Cover and continue to simmer for 45 minutes longer or until meat and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
If stew has not thickened enough, make a slurry of flour and hot broth from the stew, about 4 tablespoons flour to 1 cup of broth. Mix until flour and broth are well combined and pour back into stew while stirring. This will thicken it quickly, so you may want to turn off the heat when you start this. When thick, it is ready to serve. Remove Bay leaves before serving.
Serve in a bread bowl or with some crusty bread, crisp cornbread, or fried cornbread patties.
Crisps are named because of the crispy oat topping that they’re made with, but when Fall arrives, we think of crisp Fall evenings and the aroma of warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg filling the kitchen.
Peachy Moon Crisp
5-6 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced, or 2 quarts of canned, drained
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Old Forge Distillery Oatmeal Cookie Moonshine
1 1/2 cups oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamon
Dash of salt
1 stick butter
In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter and add the peach slices, brown sugar, and Oatmeal Cookie Moonshine. Sauté for 5 minutes or until thickened and peaches are tender.
Remove from the heat and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, and salt. Cut the butter into chucks and cut into the oat/flour mixture. Top the peaches with the crisp topping and bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream infused with your favorite Cream Liqueur, such as Peaches & Cream, Haystack, or Vanilla Ice Cream.
I love baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries, and even sweet potato casserole. I’ve made sweet potato bread and sweet potato pie, but one of my favorites might be this Sweet Potato Cornbread.
Sweet Potato Cornbread
Makes one 6.5 inch skillet of cornbread
1 cup plain yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
2/3 cup whole buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating up, melt and brown the butter in your skillet over med-high heat.
While the butter is browning, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add the mashed sweet potato, buttermilk, and egg. Mix well to combine.
When butter is browned, carefully pour cornbread batter into the skillet. The butter will come up and over the batter. Move the skillet to the oven when it is ready and bake for 20-22 minutes or until center is done and top is browned a little.
Remove from the oven and top with a little bit of butter, maple syrup, or honey if desired and serve warm.
Mary probably had the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I’ve ever known. She didn’t eat large portions of sweets, but she had something sweet everyday. She would make desserts from their peaches and cherries all the time, and I remember an apple dumpling once that was so good. I don’t know that I had ever had one before that. Rice pudding was in the oven at least once a month, but my favorite treat was her bread pudding.
We went for a Sunday drive this afternoon all over the countryside of Greene County, TN, passing so many small older homes out in the country. Several reminded me of Mary and Charlie’s house. They built it themselves from cinderblock and stucco. It had a front porch that stretched all across with huge stairs leading up to it, and a porch the full length of the back. The front porch was for sitting, talking with neighbors, waving at folks as they went by, and just relaxing. The back porch was for working. We would snap beans and shuck corn back there, fetch water for the garden from the cistern, and prep food for canning and freezing.
So while I was thinking about Mary today, I thought I would get back in the kitchen and work on a bread pudding and make something with apples. I picked up a box of sugar coated donuts at Walmart on Friday in a moment of weakness, and we had 8 left, so I thought I would use them up. Donut Bread Pudding with Apple Butter Glaze it is! I had also just opened the last jar of my Overnight Apple Butter that I made in the crockpot last year. I’ll have to get more apples to make this and more apple butter soon.
Donut Bread Pudding with Apple Butter Glaze
6-8 glazed or sugared donuts – day old are best for this
1/2 cup pecans, halves or pieces
1 large apple; peeled, cored, and diced
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
Break donuts up into 1 inch pieces and layer in a 9×13 prepared baking dish. Sprinkle pecans and apple dices over donuts. Pour melted butter over all and toss to coat.
In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, yolks, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Whisk until well combined. Pour evenly over donut mixture, making sure all pieces are coated in egg mixture.
Preheat oven to 350. Cover pudding with foil and let sit while oven comes to temperature. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes.
Let sit and cool for 10 minutes. Glaze with Apple Butter Glaze (recipe below) or any icing of your choice!
Apple Butter Glaze
1 cup of confectioner’s sugar
4 tablespoons of apple butter
Combine until well incorporated and pour over pudding before serving
We keep apples in the fridge all the time. I eat one for breakfast several mornings a week because its easy to take on the road, and Mick eats one for a snack in the afternoons. I think he gets that, and many other things, from his mom. She has an apple each night for a snack.
But when it comes to baking, we tend to think of apples as a fall favor, paired with brown sugar and cinnamon. I wanted to come up with something for summer (mostly because I just wanted some cake!) and I didn’t want anything too sweet, and I am not ready for cinnamon everything just yet. I looked at the herb pots I have just off the porch. I have some pineapple sage that might have worked well and some lemon balm I thought about, or I could have tried the lavender, but I think that would go better with a lemon cake. Then I thought about the rosemary. I love rosemary and use it often with chicken or a roast. Mick makes the best fried potatoes that he puts lots of rosemary in. I love it when it gets crunchy. I thought I better google it just to make sure I was not way off and it seems apple and rosemary go very well together.
The other thing I like about this cake, besides how incredible it tastes or how the cake is dense and moist with crunchy bits on the edges because its baked in a cast iron skillet, is that it’s a thin cake. I love to bake cakes, but we never eat all of it and I have to find someone to take the rest. I’m thinking a couple of you just raised your hands. Well, the rest of this will make its way to work on Monday and we’ll raise a fork to a co-worker for her birthday.
Apple Rosemary Cake – baked in a cast iron skillet
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup white granulated sugar (for the skillet)
2-3 sprigs tender rosemary
2 apples with skin cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup oil
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350. Place 1/2 stick butter in the skillet and let it heat up with the oven while you prepare the apples. Core the apples and slice into 1/4 inch slices. You do not have to peel them, but if you don’t like apple peel, then you can and it will work just the same for you. You should end up with about 16 slices per apple in you use an apple slicer and then slice each in half.
Whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and stir to combine until all flour is incorporated. Batter will be stiff, about the consistency of warm oatmeal.
When the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the oven and scatter the 1/4 cup of white granulated sugar in the pan. Lay several tender tops of the rosemary sprigs around in the pan and strip the rest of the rosemary and scatter around in the pan, then lay the apples into any pattern that you like in a single layer. Gently pour and spread the batter over the apples, being careful not to disturb your pattern.
Return skillet to the oven and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until top of cake is golden brown. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, then lay a platter upside down on the skillet and carefully flip and turn out onto the platter. I used a 12 inch cast iron skillet, but this will also work well in a 10.25 inch skillet. The cake will be just a bit thicker and the apple will be arranged tighter.
Garnish with a sprig or two of fresh rosemary and serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep in an airtight cake saver for 3-4 days at room temperature.
Growing up we didn’t spend money on fireworks to put off at the house. I think it was illegal anyway. But, we did get some sparklers and sometime fire crackers, and there were the bang snaps too which were kinda fun. However, we did go see the fireworks every year.
Mom and dad both worked in factories most of their lives and back then the plant would shut down for a week or two around the 4th of July and everyone took their vacation, whether they could afford it or not. We always went to see grandmaw and granddaddy Edge if we went away. Since granddaddy was a preacher, they moved every couple of years, so it was always to somewhere new. For a while they lived near Virginia Beach and we got to go to the beach as kids, but just for the day. That was always enough for me to swallow plenty of salt water and throw up before the day was over. When they lived in West Virginia, we would go to the mountains or a lake for the day. Either way grandmaw would pack a huge lunch and we would have a picnic. They always made it feel like something special.
Grandaddy was always ready to make ice cream. We had to get the salt and ice, pull out the ice cream bucket and get to churning. When I saw this recipe posted about Mason Jar Ice Cream, I thought it would be a perfect way to celebrate like we did as kids. It was a lot quicker than cranking away for what seemed like hours too!
The recipe is simple. You just need 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, and a dash of salt. Put it all in a mason jar, put the lid on, and shake it for 5 minutes. Then you just freeze it for 3 hours. Get the kids involved and let them help put it all together. We loved helping granddaddy put the ice and salt in the bucket. If you do like I did here and want to decorate it for a special occasion, then pour it into a dish and freeze it and then have some fun with it. I think I’ll do this for the next birthday. We like cake, but we like ice cream even more! Or maybe bake a cake in a large pan and let it cool completely, then top it with the ice cream and freeze it. I could see a pack of crushed oreo’s covering the top next time!
Whatever you do, make some memories, have fun, and be safe!