Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

A few years ago Mick and I stopped at a little store we like to go to for spices I need for pickling and they have some great kitchen gadgets. There is also usually a donut stand outside making fresh donuts that are the size of your entire head. I don’t usually eat donuts, they are just not my thing, but those I cannot resist. But, this time that we stopped there were a few other folks out there offering up some other goodies. One of them had cheesecake stuffed strawberries. They were huge and so sweet and juicy, and the cheesecake stuffing had a hint of cinnamon that was unexpected, but really good.

That’s what I wanted to fix today for a nice Valentine’s Day dessert after dinner. The cheesecake stuffing is just made of cream cheese, powdered sugar, and some flavorings. You can change the flavor up if you would like by simply adding different ingredients like rum extract and sprinkling them with flaked coconut, or topping them with crushed Oreos. We like the cinnamon spice, topped with graham cracker crumbs.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 pounds of strawberries, washed, topped, and cored

1 8oz block of cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs

Directions:

Cream together the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add the ground cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix until well combined. Scrape down the mixing bowl as needed.

With a piping bag or plastic bag with a corner cut out, fill the bag with the cream cheese mixture. Pipe into each prepared strawberry. Sprinkle each strawberry with graham cracker crumbs. Chill 1 hour.

Chicken-n-Dumplins

I have started my own TV Channel! Well, IGTV on Instagram. lol I posted my first video and it only took me about 24 hours to tape it, edit, and upload it. I plan on doing more and hopefully, the quality will get much better! Please bear with me and follow me.

Honestly, I appreciate all of you. I love the comments and questions, and I hope to see when you try one of my recipes.

So, here you go:

Chicken-n-Dumplins

1 whole young chicken

1 gallon of water, approximately

1 1/2 cups of carrots, cut into medallions

3/4 cup chopped celery

1 small onion, diced

1 teaspoon salt

For the Dumplins:

2 cups plain, all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

6 tablespoons butter, cubed and chilled

3/4 cup of milk

Directions:

Under running water, check chicken for any remaining feathers and remove them if found. Place chicken in a large stock pot, 8 quarts or larger. Add the teaspoon of salt and cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 1 hour.

While the chicken is simmering, clean and cut up carrots, celery, and onion. When the chicken is done, carefully remove it from the pot and transfer it to a pan to let cool. Add the vegetables to the stock now created by boiling the chicken. Return to a simmer and cook the vegetables for about 45 minutes.

When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, begin to remove the skin, debone, and rough chop the meat. Set aside while preparing the dough for the dumplins.

For the dumplins, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it begins to resemble coarse cornmeal and butter is well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together. If it is too dry to hold together, add a few splashes of milk. You want a dough that just holds together, not wet.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. With a knife or pizza cutter, cut into squares about 1 – 1 1/2 inch.

Add the cut up chicken back to the pot and increase the temperature to bring to a rolling boil. You want the broth boiling to help cook and steam the dumplins. Begin adding the dumplins, carefully keeping them separated. Replace the lid to the pot and let the dumplins cook for about 5 minutes. The flour off the dumplins will help thicken the broth. If the broth has not thickened enough, make a slurry with about 1 tablespoon of flour to 1/4 cup of milk. Add the milk a little at a time to the flour to help prevent lumps. Add the slurry to the chicken-n-dumplins, while stirring it well to incorporate it. It will thicken quickly.

Ladle out chicken-n-dumplins into bowls and serve!

Baking up sweet memories

Mary made Rice Pudding and bread pudding all the time. It was creamy and sweet and seemed to take forever to make. It probably didn’t but something that good was hard to wait for. Sometimes she would serve it warm, but usually, it was cold and I liked it, either way I could get it.

When I was on my own I thought of her often while I began to really cook. Those days, if I didn’t make it, I didn’t eat. There was no money for eating out. Occasionally I would make something that I would serve over rice, like chicken, and I would end up with a little rice left over. One day I decided to toss in a little sugar, some milk, an egg, and cinnamon and cook it low and slow until it thickened. I may have burned a pan or two, but I would just be careful to not scrape the bottom and dig up that burnt taste. Yes, the rest of it tasted a bit charred too, but I was not too picky. I would eventually start to plan ahead and intentionally made extra rice just so I could make my quick stovetop version. I never did make it in the oven like Mary did. I was still too impatient to wait that long.

This morning I made us some oatmeal for breakfast. Mick likes it with a little butter and sugar and a side of toast. I wasn’t paying much attention when I measured out the oats and I ended up doubling the amount of oats I needed. I could have easily put some back, but I had already tossed in the salt, so I just rolled with it.

I served up a bowl for each of us and had quite a bit left in the pot. I just put the lid on it and sat down for breakfast. I was thinking as I ate about what I could do with the cooked oatmeal. I could just put it in the fridge and reheat some for breakfast the next couple of mornings. But, Mary was on my mind and her rice pudding and the pudding I used to make with the leftover rice.

After cleaning up I went back to the kitchen. I measured out how much I had left and it came to exactly 1 1/2 cups. So I started pulling out the sugar, an egg, the cinnamon, and cardamom. I went to grab the milk and thought about the buttermilk I had to use up, so I went for that instead.

I mixed it all up, prepared an 8×8 baking dish and preheated the oven. I poured it into the dish, popped it in the oven, and kept an eye on it. After about 45 minutes it had browned on top and the edges looked a bit crunchy. I took it out and let it cool, grabbed a spoon and took a taste. I swear, if I were blindfolded, I would not have known it was not Mary’s rice pudding!

It took me right back to her kitchen. There I was, sitting at her table, next to the window with some pretty white or bright colored set of curtains that she would change out for the seasons. She kept a table cloth on the table at all times too, which was something that we considered fancy at our house. A little dish of her rice pudding and a cup of hot tea with lots of sugar and a little canned milk and I was the happiest kid there ever was.

I dished up a little cup of my Oatmeal Pudding after it chilled and fixed me a cup of hot coffee. I’ve been thinking about it all day since. I could save some for breakfast for the next couple of mornings, but we all know I will get me some tonight for dessert. I can’t wait.

Oatmeal Pudding

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cooked oats

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350* and spray an 8×8 baking dish or pan with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients together and pour into pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top has browned and edges begin to crisp. Serve warm or chilled, plain or with whipped cream.

We all scream for snowcream

I talked about how a snow day was a day for me to make some money as a kid and maybe get a hot toddy from Charlie, but it was also a day that mom would send one of us out to get some snow.

She would give us the biggest pot we had and a huge cooking spoon. Most of the time we could just open the front door and scoop all we needed, that is unless Bootsy or Dusty, the two collies we had growing up, had not walked all over it. If they had, she usually instructed us to get it off the car, but “Don’t go all the way down! That car is dirty!!” There was also the thought that we could not use the first snow of winter, that it was full of all the dirt in the air. Or, you didn’t want to use the first couple of inches that fell.

So, we would come back with a pot full and piled high with snow. She would get out the big blue mixing bowl, vanilla, sugar, and a can of evaporated milk, or as we called it “canned milk”. She would count the scoops of snow into the bowl, but I’m not sure why. She would end up adding more if it turned soupy. Then she covered it in sugar, poured in a little bit of vanilla, and then cut a hole in the top of the canned milk and poured most of it in and got to stirring. I don’t think we got to help much with that because it would move around and fall out as she tried to keep folding it over. In just a minute or two she began to scoop it out into our collection of plastic butter bowls. You know, the kind you kept as cereal bowls that came in a variety of colors and the outside either had ridges around it or a pattern?

We would dig right in and immediately get the worst case of brain freeze. Then as we swallowed the last spoonful, we would turn our bowls up and get all the snowcream that melted in the bottom. There is nothing like the taste of it. I have seen several recipes where some tell you to add pasteurized eggs and some suggest pouring chocolate syrup on it. No, just no. It is perfect just the way it is. I don’t even like the idea of using sweetened condensed milk instead of our regular old canned milk. I love the crunch of the sugar. Every now and then you would get a lump of sugar and it was awesome.

It snowed this morning and I really had to struggle to get enough snow to make a batch because we only got a couple of inches. I did have to go to the back of the truck to find it deep enough to scoop. Since it’s just Mick and me, we have some in the freezer to have tonight too.

In the mood for comfort food

This weekend it has been rainy and cold. I don’t think we’ve been outside the house for more than an hour total. It’s been a great weekend to just stay in and cook. Mick talked to his mom this morning and the first thing she said was she got up and said to his dad, “I’m gonna cook today”. Beans and cornbread was on her mind. And she told us that she made Granny’s Cornbread. I need to make that with her. It’s definitely going in the cookbook.

So, what do you call comfort food? For me, it would be something I ate when someone was taking care of me. Those foods come from my mom, her mom, and Mary.

Grandmaw Barton was a self-reliant person who raised five kids, and they became self-reliant too. It was rare for someone to take care of them. But, what it meant to be on the other side of that is that you were well taken care of. I remember the foods that she made which made me feel comfortable, at home and loved. She never wrote down a recipe or even owned a cookbook. Mom tried a few times to get a recipe or two from her, but she would rattle off that you put this and that in it. She just knew how to make it. I know that’s the stuff that grandmaw legends are made of, but it’s the truth. There was nothing I wouldn’t eat at her house, ever.

In the summer I stayed with her for a couple of weeks. She only lived about 30 miles from us, but it seemed like a world away when I was a kid. One of the other things I liked about staying with her and my other grandparents in the summer was that I was an only child! In a house with 3 older brothers and friends always at the house, being alone was not lonely, it was peaceful.

She had a portion of a garden that she and her neighbor put out and then she grew a few things of her own just outside her kitchen window, in a little bed she made. She could watch it while she sat and read the paper or her Bible and enjoyed her cup of coffee in the morning. When she was just cooking for herself, she could see what was ready to pick and made a pot of something she would eat on all day.

There was a pot of new potatoes, green beans, and corn that she would fix that I loved. Sometimes she would put a little ground beef in it, but I liked it best when she left the meat out and put just a little sugar in the water. I have tried to make it myself, but I’ve never gotten it quite right so I may be wrong about how she made it. But, I did watch her make it a few times. She would also slice yellow squash longways in half, lay it out on a sheet pan and put a little butter and salt on it. She would bake it until it started to brown on top. Her cooking was so simple it seemed, but it had the best flavor. To this day I prefer vegetables with very little seasoning. You can really taste what it’s supposed to taste like. To me, earthy flavors in vegetables are comforting and I feel connected to grandmaw. It makes sense too because she was so connected to the earth. She could grow anything, and it seemed to grow overnight. And, my mom made the best meatloaf. I don’t know if grandmaw showed her how to make it because I don’t ever remember meatloaf at grandmaw’s house. I helped mom with that many times, so it is one of those things that I make without thinking about it, which is how grandmaw cooked. She also made really good fried potatoes, but I have to say that Mick’s are better. I’ve said before that he makes the best I’ve ever had.

In a couple of months, grandmaw would have been 102. I think about her often when I’m cooking. I like a fancy meal every now and then, but something simple is comforting to me.

Mary was also an incredible cook. She could bake be best homemade rolls. I watched her make them many, many times and finally, I said “I need you to teach me how to do that!” She said that she learned from her grandfather. He began to bake bread when he was in the Army. He baked bread for soldiers during the Civil War! Well, now I had to learn how. What a legacy to pass along. And, it wasn’t about which side he was on, but that he fed his men and then passed on what he knew. I haven’t made her rolls in a very long time. I think it’s time I do. I know exactly what I would eat them with too. She made the most tender and flavorful Country Fried Steak and Gravy you would ever have. I would also make a pan of her fried squash. I guess you can tell squash is one of my favorites. I don’t know how she was so patient with frying it. She would bread each piece and lay it out in the pan and turn each one when it was time. When that pan was done, she would start all over again until she had a plate full of these golden medallions for the table.

Her Country Fried Steak was perfectly brown, with crispy edges of breading that held so much flavor. See, you can even make flour unbelievably irresistible if you do it the right way. The pan would have little bits of what we called “brownies” where breading would fall off and fry up like crunchy little nuggets. She would scoop those out along with the steaks when she was done. They were the best appetizers if we could grab some off the plate before she put it on the table. Her gravy was just thick enough to sit on top of the steaks and hold on when you lifted a bite to your mouth. Oh my gosh, I can taste it right now if I close my eyes. Creamy and crunchy mouthfuls of heaven. She never saw cooking as something she had to do. She loved it. She would put on her apron when she entered the kitchen in the morning and didn’t take it off until the dishes were washed up after supper.

I added Corn Flour to the seasoned flour and that gives it a little extra crunch.

So, what did I make to feel comforted? Everything. Yesterday I made mom’s meatloaf and today I made Mary’s country fried steak with Mick’s fried potatoes. I usually get him to make them for me, telling him I can’t make them as good as he does. Today I may have ruined my chances of him ever making them again. Apparently, I did pretty good, but probably not as good, but acceptable. This morning for breakfast I fried up some bacon and sausage patties, eggs, and biscuits. Don’t tell anyone, but I used frozen biscuits. After the bacon came out of the skillet, I tossed in some cornmeal and made what I am calling Gristmill Gravy. Some call it sawmill gravy or cornmeal gravy. I saved what I had left and warmed it for the country fried steak tonight. Before dinner, I got in the kitchen and developed a new recipe for Apple Bread.

I am full. I am happy. I am comforted.

Gristmill Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or whole milk)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

After frying bacon, or using reserved bacon grease, get the grease hot over med-high heat. Add cornmeal and stir until browned, but do not burn. Add buttermilk and stir. Add water and stir well until thickened. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over biscuits, bread or meat – anything you like gravy on.

The proof is in the Cornbread

Growing up I don’t think we ever had a bag of cornmeal in the house. I knew what it was and that you used it to make cornbread, but I am not sure where I learned that from. It may have been from watching PBS cooking shows as a kid. Yes, I was that kid. I still am. I love cooking shows and some cooking competitions, but not all. I love the Great British Baking Show. I think it shows real creativity, passion, and they pull from their experience or just go on their intuition when they don’t really know what something is. I don’t know if I could ever be a contestant on something like that.

I do love cornbread. I prefer it over any other bread or cake…. if it is good. By good I mean that it can’t be dry, crumbly, or tough. It needs to have good flavor, just holds together, have a crunchy top and sides, but be tender inside, and it needs to soak up butter. I have tried many recipes just to end up with bad or just ok cornbread. It takes a very good cornmeal too.

Growing up, mom would have boxes of Jiffy in the cabinet. Mostly they were cornbread mixes, but sometimes we would have a cake mix or something. Usually for cakes mom would use a Betty Crocker cake mix or occasionally she would get out her cookbook and make a Chiffon or Marble cake.

If you have never used a Jiffy Cornbread Mix, you should. Just to say you have. It makes a sweet tender cornbread. It’s a little cake’y, but I kinda like it. I’ve not used one in years. Maybe I’ll try one again this winter. Making cornbread from scratch is pretty easy though. If you search for a recipe, you will find a good variety of them. It’s kind of like looking for a biscuit recipe. Everybody’s grandmother made the best and all the recipes were different. I might post my recipe, but not yet. I want to work on a couple to add to my cookbook and right now I just have my Brown Butter Cornbread recipe.

Photo from Jiffymix.com

Mary also used Jiffy Cornbread Mix and she made cornbread a couple of times a week. She and Charlie always had a bread on the table with supper. Sometimes it was just slices of white bread, but there was always bread. Mary would eat hers with her meal, but she always saved just a little bit for dessert. She had the tiniest little jelly glass that would sit by her plate with some milk or buttermilk in it. She would pour it before she sat down for supper, but never drank from it. At the end of her meal, she would make her dessert by crumbling cornbread into the glass and let it sit for a minute while she cleared the table. If they had white bread, she would break up a slice and add just a little sugar to it. She didn’t need to add sugar to the cornbread dessert because the Jiffy mix was pretty sweet already.

Photo from Jiffymix.com

Now, I know there is a debate about sweet or not sweet cornbread and whether it should be white or yellow. Some say that sweet and yellow is “Northern” cornbread and not sweet and white is “Southern”. I just think that corn should be yellow, so that would mean that cornbread should be yellow, and I just like it a little bit sweet. I can eat a salty cornbread and that is good too. It is a personal preference for everybody.

I didn’t know at the time that crumbling up your cornbread into milk or buttermilk was a Southern thing. I just knew that Mary did it and if she did it, then it was good enough for me. I really like a little sugary white bread in milk too. It’s been years since I had even thought about that. I think that may be my breakfast in the morning. There are a couple of heels in the bag just begging to be milked.

One of the things I like is to take a leftover piece of cornbread and crumble it up into a cup of buttermilk for breakfast the next morning, which is what I did on Jan 2nd.

I made cornbread for New Year’s Day, something else Mary always did. She also made cabbage with pork or sauerkraut with ribs for New Year’s Day. When she and Charlie were first married, they moved from VA up to OH for Charlie to work. They rented a couple of rooms from a very nice lady who kind of took them under her motherly wing. They basically had a bedroom and a kitchen and that was it. Mary said that for years they had a table but no chairs and they sat on wooden apple crates to eat. They also didn’t have much money, but they got by and appreciated what they did have. Their first New Year’s Day there, the woman they rented from brought up a pot of cabbage cooked with pork and a pan of cornbread. She told Mary that they needed to eat it up for dinner that night because it would bring them wealth and luck for the coming year. She said that they got through the next year and figured it worked, so they did that every year from there on out. They were married for nearly 60 years and she still did it after Charlie passed. She made sure I got a plate too. And you know what, I have always gotten by financially and I feel pretty lucky most of the time. So, I guess the proof is in the cornbread.

It’s a homemade candy kind of Christmas

It’s been a few years since I’ve made candy for Christmas. Mick’s mom gave me her recipe for fudge and I did make that last year. So, that was definitely on the list of candy to make. I made a batch of Moonmallows the other day that just did not come out right. They fell flat, but still had a great taste, just not a good texture. I decided that I would find a use for them. I turned flat into crispy with the addition of a little butter, a little heat, and some Rice Crispy cereal. Now I have Over the Moon Crispy Treats!

Then as I was cleaning up in the kitchen and reorganizing my cookbooks, I came across an old recipe for Peanut Butter Balls, using Rice Crispy cereal as well. Now seemed as good a time as any for making them again. But like most recipes, I will make them exactly as it is written the first time and then the next time I start playing with it and turn it into something of my own.

I modified the recipe some more from what I had done years ago and made them into bars. Here you go!

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

by The Appalachian Tale

Level of difficulty: easy Total time to make: 10 min prep. 1 hr chill

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of peanut butter – smooth or crunchy
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of Rice Crispy cereal
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil

Directions:

Prepare an 8×8 pan by spraying it lightly with non-stick spray and then heavily dusting it with powdered sugar. In a 3 quart or larger saucepan, melt the peanut butter and butter until smooth. Remove from heat and add in the powdered sugar and stir. The batter will become thick quickly. Add in the cereal and mix completely. Turn mixture out into the prepared 8×8 pan and with a buttered spatula (or buttered hand) spread the candy to all edges and corners of the pan evenly.

In a 1 cup or larger microwaveable measuring cup, heat the chocolate chips and coconut oil on high for 45 seconds. Stir several times and return to the microwave for 30 seconds more. Remove and stir again. Stir it for a minute or so and if there are still any chunks of chocolate left, return to the microwave for 15 seconds more. Be careful not to overcook the chocolate. You will know if you do because it will set hard in an instant and you will need to start over again. Pour the chocolate over the candy and smooth out to the edges and corners. Let the candy chill in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to 1 hour to set. Remove and cut into cubes. Yields approximately 36 1 inch squares. Store in an airtight container.

I posted about Hot Cocoa Blocks the other day. I found the recipe in a post by King Arthur Flour. I made a batch and gave them as gifts with some of my homemade marshmallows (just the regular kind, not the moonmallows. I saved a couple of those for me, which I am having as I write this post!)

They are easy to make and enjoy. If you have ever made a pan of fudge, then you can make these. When I use one, I just put a cup of milk in the microwave for 2 minutes, which gets it nice and steamy and then I stir the block in. I found the sticks I needed at the dollar store and they were actually double the width of a regular popsicle stick, which makes it nice for stirring. Here is the recipe from King Arthur!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 can (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • unsweetened cocoa, for sprinkling (optional)
  • Wooden ice-pop sticks

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Line an 8″ square pan with parchment or foil.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the cream and condensed milk until steaming. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Return the pan to the stove over low heat and whisk vigorously until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is thick and shiny. Add a flavoring or extract (see tips), whisk to combine, and pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Shake it gently to level the top.
  4. Sprinkle the top with cocoa (if using). Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to set up.
  5. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and use the parchment or foil to lift the block out of the pan. Place on a cutting surface.
  6. Dip a large knife in hot water and wipe dry; slice the block into 1 1/4˝ cubes, heating the knife and wiping dry between each cut. Place a wooden stick into the center of each block. Roll in more cocoa (if using).
  7. Place in mini-muffin papers, then wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap to store in the refrigerator.
  8. Yield: 3 dozen blocks

TIPS FROM OUR BAKERS

  • Depending on your taste and the occasion, you can flavor your blocks any way you like. Hazelnut, vanilla, and almond extracts are all good choices. Try adding some ground chili or five-spice powder for an intriguing twist.

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope it is the very best!

Yuletide Tales and Eggnog Cookies

I know I have been MIA on the blog for a while, but that’s because I have been working on it. You are now visiting http://www.theappalachiantale.com!! I originally started with a .net site and acquired my .com a while back. The first thing I wanted to do after grabbing up my .com was to build a bigger and better site. It is still in its early stages, but I try to work on it all I can. This time of year may not be the best time to start a big project, but then, when is! I hope you take some time to look around, sign up for notifications of new blog posts and recipes, follow me on Instagram (that’s where you will find me most), Facebook, Pinterest (could someone please explain this to me? I still don’t get it, but I have lots of boards and people keep popping up as a pin-twin. That concerns me a little. Who are these people?), basically just get all you can stand of me! There, that is out of the way.

Christmas has always been a favorite time, which I know it is for many. While the presents have come and gone, the one thing that has always been consistent is sharing time with those we love. When I was a kid, that meant that on Christmas Eve, there was going to be someone at the house. At first, it started with strangers that Dad would bring home that needed a place to go for a few hours. I remember one couple who got stranded and he brought them home until it was time to take them to catch a bus in the next town. Then there was a family that we took food to on Christmas Eve to secretly leave it at their door for them when they got home. After a few years, we began a tradition of having folks over for treats and drinks. We would set out a huge spread on the kitchen table and people just dropped in and out throughout the evening. There could be as many as a couple of dozen or just a couple of people visiting at one time. It was always fun and always loud, but then everyone would go home and we would open presents from granddaddy and grandmaw Edge. Grandmaw usually made us something and we would call them up while we opened them. There were a few years when they lived close enough that we would go to their house for Christmas for a few days. I honestly can’t remember much of what I got for Christmas, but I remember the people that we spent it with.

On those Christmas Eve’s that we spent at home, and after everyone was gone, Mom would sit in the living room with just the tree on. She would have one more cup of coffee. She could drink coffee anytime and go straight to bed after. But, she would just sit there and look at the tree. Sometimes we would have music on low. You could tell she was just taking it all in and enjoying the moment. I would like to think that she was looking back on all the Christmases we had enjoyed there. I have been looking for a picture of the first Christmas they spent there, which would have been my first Christmas. They built the house and moved in just a month before I was born.

On Christmas morning we would get up really early to see what Santa had brought. There were times that Santa left each of us a pile of our own in a chair or corner of the room. Santa’s presents were never wrapped, but he did write our name on a note with each pile so we would know who’s was who’s. Now anyone can get a wrapped present from Santa, but to have him write your name was huge! As the years went by, we would sleep in longer and longer until it got to the point that mom would wake us up. We had to have our presents opened and get cleaned up so we could get to grandmaw Barton’s in time for lunch. She made a huge meal for all the holidays. I think that’s something else I get from her. We have all of Mick’s family over for the holidays and we make more food than we can eat. Everyone leaves with plates of food and we still have leftovers for several days.

I told you before about the sugar cookies that we would always make with mom and the mincemeat pie that only grandmaw Edge and I enjoyed, but there has always been another treat at Christmas that I love and that’s eggnog. I bought some the other day at the grocery store and drank a warm cup last night. I only warmed it up, I didn’t put any firewater in it. Tonight I decided to make an Eggnog Cookie. I took a basic cookie recipe and thought about the flavors of eggnog, such as the nutmeg and cinnamon. I began playing with it and wrote a new recipe. I felt it was fitting to make it the first post on my new blog site. I think they taste just like Christmas. And, they made the whole house smell like Christmas!

Eggnog Cookies 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour 
  • 3/4 cup corn flour (or use 2 teaspoons cornstarch with enough flour to make 3/4 of a cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup full-fat eggnog at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons Rum – optional, but it is eggnog after all
  • 1/2 stick butter – melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • Spiced sugar for coating cookies – 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl sift together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl mix well the eggnog, vanilla, Rum, melted butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Slowly stir the flour mixture into the eggnog mixture, a little at a time. The dough should come together firmly, but not hard. Do not over mix. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. After chilling, with a teaspoon, scoop out enough dough to roll into a ball about 1 inch in diameter. Roll each ball in spiced sugar and place on a parchment paper lined pan, 1 – 2 inches apart. When the pan is full, you have the option of leaving the cookies as they are to bake or you can press the down with the back of a spoon to flatten them. The cookies left round will be more tender and the flattened cookies will come out a little crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It is up to you which you like. Bake for 14-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cookies cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack or clean towel to cool completely. Prepare the next pan while one is in the oven and repeat until all are baked. It will make approximately 5 dozen cookies.

Roll dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and roll in spiced sugar
Leave as balls when baked and they will be very tender on the inside
Flatten with the back of a spoon and they will bake up crispy on the outside and tender inside

Cinnamon Rolls aren’t hard, unless you want them to be

As I continue working on my cookbook, I find myself getting distracted by the idea of coming up with new recipes. When my aunt gave me so many of my grandmaw’s recipes she mentioned her cinnamon rolls. We didn’t find a recipe for them and I didn’t give them much thought until a couple of weeks ago. Aunt Alice and I chatted online and I asked her about them. She said that grandmaw just whipped them up and they were so good. She thought that maybe her recipe for refrigerator rolls was what she used, so I tried it and they were ok. I may have baked them a little too long because they were very dry. I thought about them since and came up with a couple of ideas to improve them. I had not really made any bread in a few years, except a few sweet breads like banana or zucchini.

Mary gave me her recipe for rolls once and my first year out on my own I was invited to what we called an Orphan’s Thanksgiving. I had moved from home to Nashville, so there was no way I was going to get home. We all agreed to what we could bring and one friend hosted the dinner at her apartment. I said “I’ll bring the rolls!” and everyone looked at me like I was just picking the cheapest and easiest thing to bring. I told them about Mary’s rolls and how she would tell me that her grandfather taught her how to make them, that it was his recipe. He learned to make bread during the Civil War when he had to cook for the soldiers. So, naturally, with so much history and meaning behind them, everybody agreed that I should make them.

We all had to work on Thanksgiving Day, so our dinner was on Wednesday. I did a trial run that weekend before because I had never actually made them myself. I had seen Mary do it dozens of times. I had helped a time or two. I remember she used the same white coffee cup to activate her yeast in. When I think about it, I can smell the yeast beginning to work. Well, my first run through was ok, but not great. I didn’t have time to do them again that night, so I had to wait until my next day off, which was Wednesday. I got up early and started them. It seemed like it was all going well. But, they didn’t want to rise the second time. I thought they would do it in the oven, so I put them in. I baked them for almost 2 hours. I kept checking them but they were not getting any bigger and they would not brown at all. I finally just took them out and rubbed butter over the tops and stuck them back in to see if they would brown. They looked a little better, but not much. I got dressed while they cooled down. I had to go so I wouldn’t be late. I went to take them out of the pan and they were heavy as bricks. I cut one open to see if they baked all the way through and they were as dense as they could be. They actually still looked raw in the middle, even though they had been in the oven that long. I just set the pan aside and headed out the door without them. It felt so much like Thanksgiving Day that I forgot that it was still Wednesday and I could stop and pick up some at the grocery store. So I did. I got to my friend’s apartment and walked in with the most expensive and best-looking rolls I could find. I wish I would have thought to bring a basket that I could’ve put them in and made everyone think that I had made them. But instead, I blurted out what happened and just let it go.

I got home that evening and thought maybe I could salvage something out of them. So, I got out some milk, eggs, sugar, and some spices and tried to make bread pudding out of them. It only made them worse and now I had wasted even more time and ingredients, something I didn’t much of at the time. Years later I bought a bread machine and kind of perfected making bread. It did do most of the work, but when I wanted rolls I let it mix and rise them the first time and then I took it from there. They were pretty good at that point. I think Mary would have been proud, even though they were not exactly like hers. I could eat almost a whole pan of hers warm from the oven.

So, I decided that I would try the cinnamon rolls again today. I had posted the first attempt and Aunt Alice said that they looked great, but that grandmaw didn’t put icing on hers. She said that they were just nice and buttery and sticky, with nuts in the middle. Since the only recipe I had to go on was for her rolls, I just tried to picture what they looked like. I don’t remember her making them when we were there. Alice told me that she rolled them out and used lots of cinnamon sugar in them. She said that there was always a jar of cinnamon sugar in the cabinet and they would also use it for cinnamon toast, which I did remember having. Growing up we always had cinnamon sugar in the cabinet and I never realized that it was probably because dad grew up that way. I too always have cinnamon sugar. It was kind of funny to make that connection.

Since it was down in the 50’s last night it finally felt like Fall was trying to start. I didn’t waste any time making it feel even more like Fall today. I fixed a big breakfast and pulled out the apple butter I made a little while back to put on some biscuits. All day I thought about making the cinnamon rolls have an apple flavor, but using the apple butter would have made them too messy and figured that would not work. Then I remembered that we have a pack of Angry Orchard hard cider in the pantry that a friend had left here. I figured if beer bread worked, why not hard cider bread. They were quick to do and smelled so good through the whole process. I ended up coming up with another recipe and didn’t use my grandmaw’s. I thought she may not have approved! These may have been the best cinnamon rolls I have ever had, certainly the best I had ever made. Of course, the only other option for them would have been to come in second best.

Here’s the recipe. If you don’t have hard cider, you can just use regular apple cider. You will just need one 12 oz. bottle.

Hard Cider Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:

For the rolls
4 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 packet of quick active yeast (or 1 tablespoon)
1 large or jumbo egg
2 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup hard cider
3/4 cup of whole milk

For the filling:

1 stick of butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
pinch of salt

For the icing:

1/2 cup hard cider
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Pour into a large bowl, 3 cups of the flour, all of the salt, sugar, and yeast. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the egg, melted butter, cider, and milk. Mix until all dry is incorporated. Begin slowly adding the remaining 1 cup of flour and incorporate well. Cover and let it sit for 10 min.

On a large floured surface, turn the dough out of the bowl. It will be very sticky, so use plenty of flour on your surface and hands. Begin to knead the dough, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Continue for about 10 minutes. Again, make sure your surface is very well floured and begin to roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Make the rolled dough a large rectangle.

Cover the top of the dough with the softened butter, spreading it to each edge. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together and spoon evenly over the buttered dough. Begin to roll the dough up from the wide side so your log will be as long as possible. To cut the dough, use a knife or dough scraper and start in the middle. Cut the full log in half, then cut each half in half and so on until you have 10-14 rolls. With 3 more tablespoons of butter, butter the bottom and sides of your baking pan or skillet. Starting in the middle and working your way out and around, fill up your pan or skillet. Let them sit for 10 minutes while your oven preheats to 350′.

Place pan of rolls in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Be sure not to over brown them. Take them out of the oven to cool. While the rolls are in the oven, begin to prepare the icing. Place the cider, butter, and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. This won’t burn off much of the alcohol, but it will reduce it some and intensify the flavor. Remove it from the heat and let it cool while rolls finish and cool.

When the cider mixture has cooled, mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix well. You can add extra or leave a little out, depending on how thick your icing becomes. You want it soft enough to pour, but thick enough to coat and stick to the spatula. Pour or drizzle the icing over the rolls, depending on how much icing you want. Serve and enjoy!

June’s Prapple Crisp

When I was 12 years old a family moved into a house on the hill behind us. They were from “the city”, which was very intriguing to me. That certainly meant that they were sophisticated and worldly. Which I do think they were, but they were also very friendly for city folk.

That was my friend, Sheila, and we are still very close today. Sheila’s mom, June, could do anything in my eyes. She was very creative, had a great sense of humor, and a great cook. I’ve mentioned before that it was pretty common for me to yell “I’m goin’ up Heyman’s”, which meant that I would spend the rest of the day at their house.

June always had something for us to do, but it wasn’t to keep us out of her hair, most of the time she was doing it with us. And, while she spent time with us, she would play music and sing right along. She had a beautiful voice. Johnny Mathis never knew it, but she was his best duet partner. All the neighborhood kids ended up at their house. In the summer we would take long walks in the fields behind their house and in the winter they had the best yard for sledding.

She was always making something for us to eat that I had never had before. One of those things was Prapple Crisp. Well, it was just Pear and Apple Crisp, but Sheila and I called it Prapple Crisp and it stuck. I asked Sheila if she had her mom’s recipe and she said that June never wrote down recipes, she just looked at a few recipes and then made up what she liked, taking things from several of the recipes. That’s what I do too. I will usually follow a new recipe the first time so I know how it is supposed to come out, but then I play with it from there. As I have begun working on a cookbook, I have just been throwing things together. I have always had a feel for how flavors and ingredients work together. Sometimes I look up recipes to see what the basics are and then I will take it from there.

June passed away several years ago, so the only thing I could do was ask her for guidance as I played around with this and I told Sheila that I would give her mom credit for the recipe. Asking June for guidance is nothing new. She was also one of the most intelligent people I had ever known. Asking her about how to make something was nothing new either. I did get a recipe from her years ago for her Zucchini Bread. She also made a great Banana Bread, but I never got that one. As I looked over a couple of recipes I had already developed, I just made a few modifications. It worked! There is one ingredient that I don’t think most would not use and I am not sure if June did, but it just came to me so I would like to think that she was whispering it to me.  I heard her say apple cider vinegar, but if you want you can use lemon juice. It mostly keeps the apples and pears from turning brown, but it adds a great little zip to the flavor where lemon juice can brighten the flavors of the apple and pear, but not add a new flavor. I also made whipped cream to serve it with. You can serve it warm plain, with milk or cream, whipped cream or ice cream. I have also included a recipe for the whipped cream. It is very easy to make, but you do have to follow a couple of rules for optimum sucess. Anyway, here it is!

June’s Prapple Crisp

Ingredients:

4-5 cups of peeled, cored and chopped apples and pears. About 3 ripe apples and 2 ripe pears. 
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (optional-use 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Crisp topping:

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

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, toss apples and pears with apple cider vinegar and set aside for about 10 min. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 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. 
Pour apple and pear mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon crisp topping over apples and pears, covering entire mixture. Press down to evenly cover. 

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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. 


Whipped Cream Topping

Ingredients:

1-pint heavy whipping cream
3 – 4 tablespoons sugar

Directions:

Put carton of heavy whipping cream, mixing bowl, and whisk in the freezer for about 15 minutes. I also wet a dish towel and put it in the freezer long enough for it to freeze stiff and I can wrap it around the mixing bowl to help keep it all cold. The whipping cream and utensils have to be cold for it to whip properly.

Remove everything from the freezer, wrap the bowl with the towel and put the whipping cream in the mixing bowl. Begin beating on high and add sugar a tablespoon at a time and the cream begins to thicken. Once the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer on the highest setting and whip until the cream comes to a firm consistency. Do not overbeat.

Peach Spoonbread

I’ve worked in or around restaurants nearly all my working life. My first job was at The Virginian Truck Stop where I did everything from clean the bathrooms to prep, bussing tables, and washing dishes. Even when my primary job was not with a restaurant, I would get part-time jobs at one to make extra cash. One of those part-time jobs was waiting tables at The Wayside Inn in Middletown, VA.

I worked there on weekends while working at a bank during the day and taking classes at college at night. It was good money. I met a few famous people in that little bit of time I was there. One Sunday morning, I think it was Easter Sunday, Gene Shalit and his family reserved the private dining room and I was their server. Gene was a movie and book critic for the Today Show for many years. I heard about Paul Newman and Tom Cruise being there, but I was not working that night. Apparently, they raced at a local race track near there. Other than that, I usually waited on visitors staying at the Inn and local business people.

The male waiters dressed in black pants, white tuxedo shirt, black tie, and cumberbund. The women wore long granny dresses and mop caps. It was an odd mix of uniform. The Inn had been known as the longest continuously operating Inn in America until one night the kitchen caught fire and they had to close for a few months. The original part of the Inn and dining rooms were fine.

 One evening, I had the last table of the night. When they left I had to clean up and turn off the lights in the kitchen. Everyone else was gone and the night clerk was waiting on me to finish up and close out. I headed across the dark dining room toward the bar where there was a short flight of stairs and a tiny hallway that took you right to the front desk of the Inn. Along that hallway was my favorite dining room. It was the original kitchen of the Inn, dating back to the late 1700’s. As I got to the small flight of stairs and started down, a figure in white started up toward me! I screamed and it screamed back at me and then took off in the other direction down the hallway to the front. As it entered the light of the front desk I could see it was one of the waitresses. In the almost pitch dark of the stairs, all I could see was her white apron and cap and all she could see was my white shirt. We both thought one of the ghosts we had heard so much about had appeared before us. The front desk clerk had a bit of a fit over our screams, which were followed by almost uncontrollable laughter. When we screamed, we were directly under the main hallway for the guest rooms upstairs and he was sure we had woken everyone at the Inn. He got over it and the waitress and I walked each other out to our cars. Even though we knew we had only scared one another, we were both still a little skittish.

The small dining room which had been the original kitchen to the Inn. It still smelled like the wood that burned in the fireplace 200 years earlier.

I worked there twice while in college, with one of those runs being during the summer where I was able to pick up more shifts. When I returned for more weekends we had a new manager and he did not like me very much, or at least I thought. He was the one who assigned me to Gene Shalit’s reservation, I never got to work the banquets, and it seemed I always had the tables furtherest from the kitchen. It turned out though that he felt I was one of the better servers and could handle a famous guest and his family, I could take care of the bigger tables in the front dining room. And, banquets were given to one main server and several people who just did what they were told. I thought they had it easy and always got done early and could go home. But the truth was they never made much money because it was the only round they had for the evening. So in hindsight, he did like me better, but I was too stupid to know it at the time. I had enough when one Sunday morning I got there to find out I was the only server and the Inn had been full the night before. That meant that I would have the entire restaurant to take care of myself. I did a foolish thing and walked out. I did squeeze the fresh orange juice, make the coffee and set the muffins in the warmer before I left though. I also left him a note on the board by the schedule to say I would not be back. He called me later that morning and of course was not happy with me for walking out, but mostly for leaving period. I regretted it a little and thought I would never just walk out on a job again. So, I have only done it twice more since then. I think I have it out of my system now though!

One of the things I enjoyed most about working there was getting to take the dessert tray around to the table. They did have the best desserts. One was Kentucky Derby Pie, which one waitress always described as pecan pie laced with chocolate chips. You could tell when she got to that on the tray, even across the dining room. She always threw her hands up in the air and lean back a little when she said: “laced with chocolate chips”. We all said she was a little laced at times and she pretty much admitted it. We also had a Strawberry Romanoff, which was strawberries and cream with a liquor syrup. At the end of the night, several of us would fight over who got which dessert off the tray. I don’t know why any of us wanted any of the desserts though. They set on a tray for hours in the dining room, being carried from table to table and by the end of the night they looked pretty bad. They were just examples for customers to see and the dining room was so dimly lit that even they could not see when the strawberries had practically decomposed in the dish. It was pretty good just the same.

There was one dessert that many people chose that was not on the tray though. It was a special order and was prepared to order. It was Spoonbread, which is a very moist and dense pudding made with cornmeal. Guests needed to order it about 30 minutes in advance. I had never heard of it before working there, but I became a quick fan of it. I found the recipe that they published, but that was for 6 people. I only wanted to make enough for a couple of people, so I searched a few more recipes and then came up with my own to fit my 6-inch Lodge skillet.

Since we just canned peaches this past weekend, I thought I would try to change it up a little more and create Peach Spoonbread. I took one to work this morning and shared it around to get some feedback. So when I got home, I made a couple of more changes and made it again. I have to say, it’s pretty good! I realized I had not put up a recipe in a little while so I thought it was time.

Peach Spoonbread with Peach Cinnamon Syrup

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain cornmeal – yellow or white
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of boiling water (you can reserve the syrup from canned peaches, making up any shortage by adding water to equal 1/2 cup of liquid)
2 tablespoons butter – melted in boiling water or heated peach syrup
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup chopped peaches
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons butter for skillet

Syrup:

1/4 cup reserved peach syrup from canned peaches or 1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons white or brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
dash of cinnamon

For the spoonbread: 

Preheat oven to 350. To prepare skillet, warm it in the oven comes to temperature, with butter in the pan to melt.  Mix cornmeal and salt then add the liquid/butter mixture. Stir well to remove any lumps. Add the milk and blend until smooth. Add the egg and blend until smooth. Stir in the peaches and baking powder. The batter will be thin. Remove skillet from oven when it comes to temperature. Carefully pour batter into skillet. The melted butter will rise up and over the batter. Return skillet to the 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden an the edges just begin to pull away from the pan. Let sit and cool just a couple of minutes while preparing the syrup.

For the syrup:

Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl. Heat on high for 2 minutes. Carefully remove from microwave and stir. Return microwave for 2 more minutes. Remove carefully and stir the syrup. If it is still too lose, cook it for 2 minutes longer.

Serve spoonbread right from the skillet. Drizzle with the syrup and enjoy!

The Appalachian Tale

Memories, recipes, and Tales of an Appalachian Boy.