Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ciao Bella!

What a great adventure to be having. We are off to Rome for a week. I have been to Italy several times but never to Rome, so I am very excited. Tasting the sweets of the city will be fun and I look forward to sharing with you all the new treats and techniques the city has to offer.
Packing is always a challenge. Trying to do it all in a carry-on does not work for me. Shoes are always the issue. But, I do want to share one of my favorite new finds - Haul Couture Cargo Bags!

This bag can be used for anything! It is insulated and has two "shelves" that fit to make packing a breeze. A strong bottom that allows for folded clothes to be stacked, then add a shelf and stack some more. On my first leg of the trip, my Haul Couture bag, fit perfectly in the overhead bin - no squishing!! (my husband did not believe it). Unlike most soft -sided duffles or bags, your clothes are perfect on arrival - just lift them out and they are ready to be placed in your drawers.

So, here I am in the Atlanta airport, waiting for my evening trip. Italian sweets to come soon!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Forget the roux - "do what your momma do"!!

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching and so is anxiety! One of the most common concerns I hear is about making gravy. I have never understood the problem with gravy - mostly because I have always made it like my mother.
Even though I like to think of myself as a fairly sophisticated cook -  I still don't use a roux to make old fashioned gravy. Tradition in our family calls for making every thing the morning of Thanksgiving. Early to rise and the turkey in the oven. Peeling potatoes, and making pies. A wonderful morning in the kitchen watching the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade.

The last item to be made is the gravy and it cannot fail.

Over the years, I have found the foolproof way to make delicious gravy. When using flour as a thickener, it is important to cook the liquid to remove any taste of flour. Having plenty of liquid and allowing it to simmer till thick is the key.

Steps to no fail gravy:

Prepare the turkey. I make sure to lightly butter and oil the outside, put butter inside the cavity along with carrot, celery and onion. Season the turkey. I use a generous amount of salt - gravy needs salt! It helps to have a correctly seasoned turkey to start your drippings. I use fresh ground black pepper. If you prefer, you can use white pepper so it doesn't show on the turkey. I put about a cup of water in the bottom of the pan to insure I have enough liquid for gravy.

Use a rack for your turkey.

After removing the turkey from the pan - pour the drippings into a gravy separator. It only needs to stand a minute or two for the grease to rise to the top. Pour the separated pan drippings back onto the pan and discard fatty liquid. (add broth if you need more drippings)

Use about 1 heaping Tablespoon floor and whisk into 1 cup very cold water - make sure it is thoroughly combined - no lumps.

Slowly heat the drippings and add the flour slurry to the pan and whisk constantly. USE a gravy whisk!  It is my favorite tool for making lump free sauces and gravy. Make sure to loosen all the brown drippings and incorporate them into the gravy. You may add broth to make the desired amount of gravy. Continue to use the whisk until the gravy is thickened. Remember it will thicken slightly as it cools. Taste for seasoning.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Perfect dish for a cold evening

Dixie is not exempt from those cold winter evenings. Seems like everywhere this week, the temperatures have plummeted and snow and ice hit the deep South. What could be better for this weather than hearty vegetable soup and my family's favorite style of cornbread - cheesy, jalapeno cornbread. This will definitely be on the menu for Superbowl Sunday!

Cooking even a simple meal is made so much easier with the right equipment. We do a lot of cooking classes and the one thing I always tell our participants is that tools make it easy. Most of our classes are women and they are the worst about updating their kitchen tools. Their husbands may have 10 different screwdrivers - each for a different job. Women may have 2 knives or the same set of pots and pans they had 20 years ago! I am not one who is big on gadgets, but the right tool for the job is essential.

Which brings me to Le Creuset. Everyone should have at least two of these wonderful pans: a dutch oven and a skillet. All Southern cooks will extol the virtues of a cast iron pan, handed down from Grandma, but unless you have a perfectly seasoned cast iron - nothing beats Le Creuset cast iron.

Cheesy Jalepeno Cornbread


Preheat oven to 350 (or 325 with convection, my preference)
Melt butter in iron skillet in oven

Mix the following ingredients till blended:
2 TBS DICED JALEPENO (I use Mtl Olive Jar)
2 EGGS beaten
1 MED ONION, diced

pour into hot skillet and set on rack in middle of oven.

Bake for approx. 45 - 50 or until set and edges begin to lightly brown.

Let set for just a few minutes and turn out onto flat surface:

Look how perfectly the hot cast iron crisped the bottom of this cornbread (steam still rising)
Slice and serve with hearty homemade vegetable soup!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Need some sun?

Need a little sunshine?  It's unusually cold here in South Carolina and after 3 weeks of traveling, I was hoping for some. Citrus reminds me of  the sun and what's better than the taste of lemon - fresh homemade lemon curd. Getting a start for tomorrow's morning baking of SugahCakes, I am spending the afternoon making fillings. This is my favorite (and everyone else's too).

 1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel

Use a rasp-style grater, holding the fruit steady and moving the rasp back and forth. This collects the rind and allows you to see where on the fruit you are zesting.

1/4 cup lemon juice

everyone has a favorite juicer but I love the old-fashioned way:
I have a collection of depression glass juicers and buy one every time I see one!

1/4 cup butter 
2 beaten eggs

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch, stir in the juice and peel. Add the butter and cook over medium heat till mixture begins to thicken and becomes bubbly. 

Stir half the lemon mixture into the beaten eggs. Be careful to do it very gradually and use a whisk to constantly stir. This brings the eggs slowly to temperature and does not cook them. 

Pour egg mixture back into pan with juice and sugar and cook over low heat stirring constantly - about 2 minutes.

Cover with plastic wrap, making sure to touch the surface and cool.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A new favorite sweet for SugahCakes! Visiting Ireland for the first time, I tried a bread and butter pudding at The Hairy Lemon in Dublin. Wow! and I thought I knew bread pudding. For years I have made the Bon Ton bread pudding from New Orleans, and trust me I always will, but this bread and butter pudding will be my next dessert I try at home.
This is the week my husband and I had planned a boat trip to the warm waters of Florida. It isn't often that both of us can manage a week off - so I was devastated when the trip had to be abandoned because work on the boat was not complete. But James the younger (or the 4th ) saved the day! A Delta pilot, he got us a first class trip to Ireland on space available (being winter - there was plenty of that) and my Marriott points got us a fabulous room at The Shelbourne in Dublin center city. The festivities for the New Year were right outside our hotel.
I have always wanted to visit Ireland, but as usual never quite managed to make time. Now I am inspired! Can't decide if the cupcakes next week will be Bailey's cream, Irish coffee or perhaps a Guinness!
Of course, no trip to Dublin would be complete without a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Perhaps a little Guinness to our dark chocolate cake would be the perfect compliment.

This past few months have been very busy for the elves at SugahCakes. Kristen outdid herself with hundreds of her special SugahCookies. There is no comparing the usual decorated cookie with royal icing to her soft, delicious almond flavored treats....and they are adorable.

As soon as we get the new year started look for an even bigger selection of these treats. This year look for more SugahCakes flavors. Our fans at holiday markets are asking for more.
All in all 2013 looks to be busy and we've only just begun. So enjoy the sweet life and let us know your favorites.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hot Stuff

Cupcakes are not the only thing Sugah Cakes likes to do! Recently we entered the Chili Cook Off sponsored by the Walker Foundation  here in Spartanburg, SC. JC is the main cook and our recipe took first place - The People's Choice!

The secret to our recipe? First, the meat was a beef brisket that was smoked over a slow fire till fall about tender. Then - the topping - our own handmade pimiento cheese. Not a sweet like we are known for, but this is JC's pride and joy. We hand pack and sell it at the store and on the road at our holiday shows.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

While the cat's away...

I must admit I've been feeling a little guilty today...while I am in Florida checking on my boat - Kristen and Melissa have been hard at work making Valentine cookies!

Hundreds of cookies waiting for the final touches:

and a few for a children's party:


I am lounging on the boat in 78 degrees and eating at great spots :

and I got to see an elusive Manatee:

Somehow, I think they will have plans for me on Monday, maybe I don't feel so guilty afterall.......
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