Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hummingbird Cake-The Essence of Sweet


I grew up eating hummingbird cake and wondered where it came from and how it got its name. A little research tells me the first known published recipe appeared in a 1978 Southern Living magazine and was submitted by a reader from North Carolina. More research tells me that hummingbirds reject the nectar from any flower that does not have at least a 25 % sugar content. Its no wonder then how this sweet delicacy got its name.


When I took this to a recent potluck gathering, nearly everyone there remembered their mother or grandmother making it. Most, however, had forgotten it and were glad to be reminded. Southern Living claims this is their most often requested recipe. Taste this once and you’ll understand both the name and the popularity.

Hummingbird Cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans

3 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained

2 cups chopped bananas

Combine dry ingredients. Add eggs and oil. Stir until moist. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and nuts. Divide evenly into 3 greased and floured cake pans or a prepared 9X13. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from pans and cool.


1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened ***

1 pound powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Combine cream cheese and butter. Cream until smooth. Blend in powdered sugar. Add vanilla and nuts.

***The original recipe included “butter or oleo”. My much younger sister in law called to ask me what oleo was :). Fortunately, she could not see my jaw drop :)

It’s been a busy busy week here! I am glad to be joining our gracious hostess Michael Lee West for Foodie Friday. Click on her button on the sidebar to be inspired by beautiful pictures and recipes! Thanks for stopping by !~~Susan

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To Market, To Market


To market, to market, to buy a fat pig

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

That old children’s rhyme popped into my head as I was headed to the grocery store. And while I did not come home with a fat pig, I came home with a pork loin and lots of fruits and vegetables. If you missed my tablescape yesterday, here’s the menu for my family dinner to usher in fall:

Apple-Fennel Salad

Marinated Pork Loin

Fresh Mustard Greens

Wild Rice


Apple Dumplings with Vanilla Ice Cream


I found this recipe in last month’s Southern Living and my husband, the salad connoisseur pronounced it a “keeper”! The slight licorice flavor of the fennel bulb and the parsley give the salad a light and fresh taste, while the walnuts and apples provide the rich hearty flavors of fall. I’ve adapted it slightly.

Apple-Fennel Salad

1/2 cup coarsley chopped walnuts, toasted

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 shallot or green onion, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Gala apple, cored, quartered and sliced thin

1 medium-size fennel bulb, sliced thin

1 celery rib, sliced thin

1 (5 oz. pkg.) arugula

1 cup loosely packed fresh flat Italian parsley leaves

Whisk together olive oil and next four ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange arugula on salad plate or platter. Top with desired amount of vinaigrette. Top with apple, fennel, celery, and parsley mixture which has been tossed with vinagrette. Top with toasted walnuts.

****personal note: Next time I might replace the arugula with mixed baby greens. It did not add that much extra flavor, in my opinion, and arugula is fairly expensive. I also doubled the vinaigrette recipe because my family tends to like a lot of dressing.


The dessert recipe appeared in my local paper yesterday in a column called Recipe Finder. Readers can write in to request or submit recipes. This was an answer to a request for apple dumplings previously served at a now defunct legendary local restaurant. It was offered as a substitute for the original recipe. What caught my attention is the surprise ingredient—Mountain Dew! Easy and delicious, this recipe was promptly added to the file! Once again, I have taken a few liberties with the recipe.

Apple Dumplings

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and quartered

1 (8 ct.) pkg. crescent rolls

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ground cinnamon

8-12 ounces Mountain Dew soft drink

Unroll crescent roll dough. Divide into four sections. Wrap each section around an apple wedge pocket style and pinch edges to seal. Place in a greased baking dish. Mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla extract and spoon over dumplings. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Pour Mountain Dew over dumplings. Baked in a preheated 350 degree oven 35-45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

****personal note: The original recipe recommended using 1 crescent roll per apple quarter. I found this to be a bit miserly and used the equivalent of two rolls. I found seamless crescent roll dough and used that cut into quarters. Also, in my opinion, the vanilla ice cream is not optional---it’s a must :)!

corn bread

I must tell you—my claim to fame is my corn bread. Grown men have been know to whisper in my ear, “this is better than my mother’s. Please don’t tell her I said so” :) If you’d like the recipe, you can find it here. Also, the marinade we use for pork loin is very good. We love it on shish kebab and thick pork chops for grilling. You can find that recipe in one of my very first posts here.


I am joining Michael Lee West at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. Click on her button on my sidebar for transportation. I am also linking to our sweet Laurie at Bargain Hunting and Chatting with Laurie for My Favorite Things on Saturday. This menu is truly one of our favorite things. You can join Laurie on Saturday here.


Thanks for stopping by! The good news: I’m over my guilt about not feeding my family. The bad news: I’m still cleaning the kitchen :) Happy Fall!~~Susan

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcome Fall Tablescape

Tonight at 10:09 pm my little part of the world will officially usher in the beginning of fall with the autumnal equinox. We will be needing that official proclamation; the weatherman has forecast record-breaking highs of 96-98 degrees. But, no matter. Sometimes seasons are a matter of the heart and not the thermometer.


I’m afraid a busy schedule has made me a little lax in the feeding of my family lately. So I’ve planned a meal to welcome fall and the table is already set.


I bought this set of dishes several years ago at Steinmart. After using it for a while, I tucked it away and had almost forgotten about it. The pattern called Still Life has all the deep, rich jewel tones I associate with fall.


There are four different patterns in both the dinner and the salad plates so I like to mix them up.


The centerpiece is sunflowers I purchased for next to nothing in the last few minutes of a street festival on Saturday. The carafe makes an interesting vase.


Susan’s napkin tutorial last week sparked my interest in playing with napkins. These are “wash and wear” napkins made out of a blend, so they are perfect for a week night family dinner. I’ll show you how to make this easy silverware pocket next week.


The stemware, also from Steinmart several years ago, is sturdy and ready to hold water, milk, or your favorite merlot :)


You can nibble on some hors ‘d, oeuvres and check out the menu while I finish up in the kitchen. I put out some homemade sour dough bread, grapes and cheese.


Apple and Fennel Salad

Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Fresh Mustard Greens

Wild Rice


Apple Dumplings with Vanilla Ice Cream

**I’ll be back for Foodie Friday with the salad and dumpling recipes!

And I couldn’t resist this—Remember the street festival I told you about? I saw this and thought of Susan at Between Naps on the Porch.


Aren’t you glad this isn’t Susan’s philosophy? :)

Happy fall and thanks for stopping by. And thank you Susan for not “keeping it on the porch”! :) Click on the Tablescape Thursday button on my sidebar for immediate transportation! See you tomorrow with recipes and pictures ! :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Little Engine That Could…A Metamorphosis

Recently I called a friend who sews over to ask her for a little help. I had recently purchased a very inexpensive ( and with a coupon too!) Sew E Z mini sewing machine from Jo-Ann Fabrics. I had decided to try my hand at pillow making and I couldn’t get the bobbin to work.


And when she saw my mini sewing machine she laughed….


Big…loud…robust…guffaws. But I haven’t made a thing since my eighth grade home ec apron and I couldn’t see investing in a sewing machine until I had tested the waters. But, I am a determined soul…sometimes for better; sometimes for worse…and I needed pillows.


You may remember that I posted here about having chairs in the family room reupholstered. I had looked around for complementary pillows for the sofa. But that seemed a waste when I had fabric left.


So I persevered in spite of my friend’s lukewarm encouragement. I think I can….I think I can :)


First, I tried my hand at a small pillow. Okay….


Then a larger one.


Slipcovers here I come! :)

I am joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Metamorphosis Monday. Visit her here…you are sure to be inspired!

Thanks for stopping by to see my little makeover! I am so glad you came. Don’t forget to say hello!~~Susan

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tiptoeing into Fall

Artie and Marty are having a party

Vignettes for Artie

Cloches with Marty


Sounds like an old jump rope rhyme, doesn’t it? But no, two of my favorite bloggers are having parties that complement one another. Marty at A Stroll Thru Life is having one of her now-legendary cloche parties and Artie at Color Outside the Lines has recently launched Vignette Fridays. Cloches don’t seem to be my strong suit, but here’s what’s going on the breakfast room. We’re tiptoeing into fall.


This is the top of a small antique chest I use in my breakfast room. The marble top is handy for serving desserts and coffee. The drawers hold placemats and stationery. I like to change the accessories to suit the season or holiday. Hence, my vignette with a fall cloche :).


My birthday was last week and a friend brought me a bouquet of bittersweet. She knows my love for flowers and arrangements so I have chosen to overlook the possible hidden implications :). I know she bought this at the local florist and I believe it is oriental bittersweet. The berries are perfect shades for autumn.


I added a few curly branches, some dried eucalyptus, and a couple of dried lotus pods. I love the woodsy effect of the pods and the different textures.


S0000, in keeping with the woodsy theme we have going on, I just filled this big ole cloche with dry stuff….huge pine cones I found in our yard at Seaside this summer, faux dried berries, a couple of dried hydrangeas, and a few pods and nuts from the yard. It makes an interesting sprinkling of all things fall.


This is my nod to the men in my family… a family of hunters. This is a Vintage Game plate made by Churchhill China. The banner underneath says cervus elephus—the red deer or elk. I have only a few of these. I like the idea of shopping the china cabinets for display items. I bet you have something “easel worthy” too, if you just look. And finally, the small frame you see in the first picture is is a little camera shy. A permanent resident no matter the season, it says this:

The Lord bless you and keep you

The Lord make His face shine on you

And be gracious to you

The Lord lift His countenance on you

And give you peace

That is my daily prayer for all those who gather around my table….and for you.

Thanks Artie and Marty! You can join the cloche party here. Hop over to Artie’s Vignette Fridays by clicking here!

Thanks for stopping by to see my little addition to the parties. I hope you’ll take a minute to say hello—I love knowing you’ve been here and would love to visit you!~~Susan

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Balls

You may remember I posted last spring here about a cupcake class my daughter and I took at the Viking Cooking School. The class was loads of fun and provided us with a fresh stock of recipes and the hands-on experience we needed to make the recipes at home.


We made several different types of cupcakes, but we also learned how to make another little confection that seems to be taking the entertaining world by storm----cake balls! Cake balls have all the flavor of a big dessert packed into cute little meatball-sized package. Best of all, they look like a LOT more trouble than they are!


Recently I chose to make Red Velvet Cake Balls for a friend who loves red velvet no matter what the season. They make a beautiful presentation too! You have lots of options and your imagination is your only limit. You can use a commercial cake mix or start from scratch! It’s never to early to start collecting recipes for all the upcoming holiday events.


You can serve them as “balls” or put them sticks as cake “pops”.


Because the balls need to be frozen, you can even spread the preparation out to suit your schedule. I made the cake balls on one day and dipped them in chocolate on the next.


They were a HIT! I have since made mint chocolate chip cake balls and have plans to make coconut cake balls for an upcoming shower. I am including the recipe from the Viking Cooking School. I have shortened and adapted it.

Red Velvet Cake Balls

1 cup of cream cheese frosting (make your own or buy it!)

1 layer red velvet cake (I used a box)

8 ounces of semisweet chocolate or white chocolate

1 tablespoon zero transfat vegetable shortening (Crisco)

Bake the cake in a single layer and crumble into fine crumbs, discarding any hard edges. You should have about 4 cups of crumbs. Place the crumbs in a large mixing bowl and spoon frosting and mix gently. You may not need all the icing depending on the moistness of the cake crumbs. Clean hands work better than a spatula or spoon for mixing, but it’s messy! The crumbs and frosting should be evenly mixed, but mix gently so as not to compact crumbs any more than necessary. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (about an hour) or freeze about 15-20 minutes.

Using a measuring spoon scoop out about 1 tablespoon of the the cake mixture and roll lightly between the palms of your hands to form round balls. They should hold their shape, but handle them gently to ensure they will be tender. Place the balls on a baking sheet line with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until very firm, at least 30 minutes.

Place the chocolate of your choice and the vegetable shortening in the top of a double boiler and set aside. Fill the bottom portion of the double boiler 1/4 full with hot water; place over high heat and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, remove the pot from the heat; place the upper portion of the double boiler containing the chocolate on top of the hot water. Stir occasionally while the chocolate and shortening melt, then stir until smooth. You may have luck doing this in the microwave; I don’t.

Remove balls from freezer. Use a wooden skewer to dip each of the balls into the melted chocolate. Pause after dipping each cake ball. Hold it over the bowl to allow any excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Place the chocolate-coated cake balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Allow the the chocolate to set, then serve or store in an airtight container at a cool room temperature. ***The recipe recommends that you do not refrigerate or the chocolate will sweat. I made these in July when even inside temperatures were hot. I refrigerated; they sweated; nobody cared :)

I know this is long, but it is easy –really! I am linking to our favorite foodie hostess Michael Lee West at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. Click on her button on my sidebar. Thanks for coming and y’all come back!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tailgating…An Old Family (wink) Recipe


September at our house means football and tailgating. For me there is almost nothing better than watching the Ole Miss Rebels or the Pride of the South marching band take the field….almost nothing.


But tailgating in the Grove might be even better. Ask anybody who has ever visited the Grove. Tailgating here has been elevated to an art form—a feast for both the eyes and the palate. I posted last year about the elaborate tablescapes here.


But with busier fall schedules and more demands on time, most of us don’t always have time to concoct a specialty. Here’s where the old family recipe comes in.


You remember the lovely York family? And who could forget those pillars of society the Pillsburys! They’ve loaned us a secret family recipe! I’ll tell you if you promise not to tell anyone else.


Okay, slowly now….Bake the brownies according to directions. During the last three- five minutes of baking remove the pan from the oven and cover with a layer of York peppermint patties. Return to oven to melt. When patties are melted, remove from oven. Swirl with a spatula or knife to blend flavors. Allow to cool and harden before cutting.


People will ask for the recipe. Just tell them it’s an old family recipe and smile. Please join Michael Lee West for Foodie Friday by clicking on the button on the sidebar!

Thanks for stopping by. Grab a brownie and leave me note :) And good luck to your team this weekend….unless you root for Tulane or the MN Vikings :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Show Stopper Appetizer

I recently saw an advertisement for fried chicken. “So good it’ll make you slap yo’ mama” it said. Hmph…they didn’t know my mama. The only thing that could have made me slap her was temporary insanity. But this appetizer or first course comes close….very close :)


Many years ago there was a restaurant on the Mississippi Gulf Coast called White Pillars. The Biloxi restaurant was known far and wide for its signature appetizer Eggplant Josephine. The restaurant closed even before Katrina devastated the area. However, with a little bit of research I managed to find what I believe to be the original recipe. It has since become our favorite appetizer or side dish for very special meals or dinner parties. The holidays are right around the corner and this is a real show stopper to serve guests!!

Eggplant Josephine

1 large eggplant

2 tablespoons flour

Olive oil

Shredded mozzarella cheese

1 pound crabmeat

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup dry white wine


Meat sauce

Peel the eggplant and slice 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. I salt it lightly and let it sit about 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry. This process called degorging draws out the moisture and any bitter taste sometimes present in eggplant. Flour and saute in olive oil until lightly browned. Drain and set aside. To make the crabmeat topping: Clean and pick crabmeat. Melt butter and add wine. Simmer a few minutes and set aside.

Hollandaise Sauce

Beat two eggs until frothy. Blend in 2 cups mayonnaise and add 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce. Blend in 2 tablespoons dry mustard, salt, and white pepper to taste.

To assemble: Layer eggplant slices in a shallow baking pan. Top with crabmeat mixture, meat sauce, and shredded cheese. Bake at 450 degrees until bubbly. Top with warm hollandaise and garnish with paprika.


As always, we tweak recipes around here and adapt to suit our own tastes. Personally, I prefer mine without the meat sauce. We also make our own hollandaise or cheat and use a packaged mix with a little lemon juice added. Either way….it’s good….a real show stopper. Just don’t “slap yo’ mama” :)

I hope you enjoyed this “beachy” week with me. I am joining Michael Lee West, our favorite foodie for Foodie Friday. Click on the FF button on the sidebar for immediate transportation! Don’t forget to say hello!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Must Go Down to the Sea Again….

John Masefield wrote, “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky…”. I know what he meant. I am a land-locked beach bum at heart. The beach and ocean seep into to your soul and take up residence. I can’t get back to the beach for a while, so dreaming and tablescaping will have to suffice for now.


I am planning a dinner party with seafood as the main course. This table has been sneaking into my dreams for a while, so I thought I’d give it a test run and see how all the elements look together. The table is a mish mash of china patterns and absolutely nothing is new.


You may know by now that I love centerpieces. Quite often it is the “jumping off” point for a tablescape and everything else is built around it. For me, anything has possibilities as a vase or centerpiece container. Try looking at everyday items with a new perspective. This trifle dish works perfectly. The clear glass and depth allow the shells and starfish to take center stage.


All the colors of surf and sand are here—the sugar white and taupes of Gulf shore beaches mixed with the cool blue of the water. I mixed casual and formal pieces on a white matelasse“beach blanket”. The contrast of casual and formal seems to echo both the elegant beauty and the carefree fun of a day at the beach.


The DIY napkin rings are mixed with the crisp linen of hem-stitched napkins. Casual placemats are a backdrop for sterling silver.


The glow of tea lights flicker against crystal.


Layers of muted colors, patterns, and textures remind me of the ever-changing landscape at the beach.


Oh yes, I must go down to the sea again….


dinner plates-Nina Campbell exclusively for Steinmart

salad plates-Gibson at Big Lots

appetizer plates- T.J. Maxx


crystal-Lismore by Waterford

flatware-Burgundy by Reed and Barton

salt and pepper-Target

tea light holders-Dollar Tree

shells-the sunny beach :)

I'll be joining Cindy at My Romantic Home for Show and Tell Friday. You can join the fun here!

Please Join Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday by clicking on the button on my sidebar. Thank you for visiting. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for a delicious seafood appetizer—eggplant Josephine!