Hummingbird Cake!

The Hummingbird Cake is one of the traditional southern cakes that most everyone loves, but it doesn't get baked quite as much as some of the others.   I am not completely sure why, except that recipes for it are not published as often and it's a little trickier to have success with.  However, don't let that stop you from trying it.  If you follow the directions in this recipe, you should have success.  The tricky part of the this cake, is that it is so moist, with the banana and the pineapple, it can fall apart.  It is traditionally a stacked, layer cake and preferably a three layer cake, although it can be made in two layers.  

The first known published recipe for the Hummingbird Cake was in 1978 in Southern Living Magazine and the cake won the Favorite Cake Award in 1978 at the Kentucky State Fair.   This is not that recipe, but a variation of it.  This is what you will need for your Hummingbird Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup oil (vegetable or canola)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. crushed pineapple (drained)
2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups chopped pecans, divided (can use walnuts)

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 oz.) blocks of cream cheese (softened)
1 stick of butter, softened (1/2 cup)
2 lbs. confectioners sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oil, sugar, and eggs.   Gradually stir in flour.  Add cinnamon and vanilla. 

Fold in the pineapple, mashed bananas and 1 cup of the pecans.  After it's well incorporated pour into three  round 9 inch prepared cake pans.

To prepare the pans, and this is a key to this cake turning out well,  cut three circles of either wax or parchment paper and place them in each cake pan.  It is very important to not skip this step.  This cake is so moist, it tend to break apart when you take it out of the pans.  The paper holds the layers together.    Spray the pans and the paper well with nonstick baking spray that contains flour, like Baker's Joy, or grease and flour the pans. 

Place the pans in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool before turning them out.

Prepare the cream cheese frosting while the cakes cool.  To make the cream cheese frosting, cream the cream cheese and the butter together with an electric mixer,  until fluffy.  Slowly add in the sugar until well incorporated.  Add the vanilla. 

Stack and frost your cake layers.  To finish, sprinkle the top with the other cup of chopped nuts.  Store this cake in the refrigerator if not serving immediately.

Slow Cooker Barbequed Brisket!

 A beef brisket is usually a pretty good deal cost wise, because it's a lean cut of meat with little waste and feeds a lot of folks.   However, because it is a lean cut of meat and because of the cut, if it's not cooked and carved properly, it can be less than great!  It requires long, slow cooking and being marinated and then basted in something tenderizing.   This slow cooker method of cooking a brisket results in absolutely one of the most melt in your mouth pieces of beef I have achieved with brisket.   It's also extremely easy to do.  Here is what you will need:

2 medium sweet onions, sliced and separated in rings  (I like to use Vidalia if available)
5-6 lb. beef brisket
1/3 cup Dale's steak seasoning (If you can't find the Dale's in your area, you can use soy sauce)

Dry Rub
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. Liquid Smoke
1 cup barbeque sauce (whatever you like or have on hand)

Spray a large slow cooker (5-6 quarts) with nonstick spray.  Layer the onion rings in the bottom of the crock. 
Wash the brisket and place, fat side up on top of the onions.   Most good briskets have a thin layer of fat on one side.  Leave that on for cooking to keep the meat juicy and moist.  We will trim it off when we carve it.
Pour the Dale's seasoning over the top of the brisket.  If you cannot buy Dale's in your area, just use a good soy sauce.  You do not need to marinate this ahead of time, because the Dale's sauce is very concentrated and it will be cooking for so long.
This is what Dale's Steak Seasoning looks like.
In a bowl, mix all of the dry rub ingredients together.

Sprinkle the dry rub over the brisket and pat it down to keep it in place.

Sprinkle with the Worcestershire and the Liquid Smoke.  Pour the 1 cup barbeque sauce on top of the meat. 

Cook on low for 9-10 hours.  

When finished cooking turn off and allow to cool down to just warm.

Remove from cooker onto a cutting board.  With a sharp knife trim the fat off of the top and discard, then slice in thin slices across the grain.  Be sure to cut across the grain and not with it or it will be stringy.   The meat will cut really easily.
Place on a platter and ladle some of the drippings from the slow cooker over top.  This is good for sandwiches or with vegetables.  You can serve with additional barbeque sauce if you like more sauce.

Old Fashioned Yellow Cake with Chocolate Icing!

A simple yellow cake with a very simple chocolate icing is such a uncomplicated thing, but for some it's one of the best cakes you can make.    Those who are partial to this cake remember it being made by their mother's or grandmother's back when cakes were made from scratch and various ingredients to bake with were fairly limited.   My mother says this is the cake my grandmother made when she baked a cake for a birthday or some other sort of celebration and even though Mama baked all kinds of cakes when I was growing up, I do remember this being one of my favorites.  I am not really much of a milk drinker and never have been, but this is one cake that I like to have big glass of ice cold milk with. 

The key to this cake is the boiled icing, not so much the cake itself.   This is chocolate icing like my grandmother would have made, without confectioner's sugar, because they didn't have such a thing back then.  Making icing without confectioner's sugar, is tricky and not something most folks who write about food on the Internet have done much of.  I know, because I checked.  We can all thank my mother for remembering how to make chocolate icing, that you don't end up having to cut out like fudge, without using powdered sugar.

Here is what you will need for this cake: 

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla

Chocolate Icing

1/2 cup unsweetened powdered cocoa.
1 cup half and half cream
4 cups white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 stick of butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer.  Mix in eggs one at a time.   Sift flour, baking powder, soda and salt together in another bowl. 

Gradually add the 1 cup flour at a time alternating with the buttermilk.  Stir in the vanilla.  Do not over mix.  Just mix until ingredients are well blended.

Prepare three 9" cake pans by spraying them well with nonstick baking spray that has flour in it or grease and flour the pans.   I also like to cut a circle of wax paper or parchment paper and place in the bottom of each pan and spray it.  

Pour the batter evenly between the three pans.  Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to sit about 10 minutes before turning out to cool.

While the cakes cool, prepare the icing.

To prepare the icing, place cocoa, half and half and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly.  When the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is almost boiling add salt and corn syrup.  Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat and cook, stir with a whisk constantly, until it reaches a soft ball stage.   This takes about 5 minutes.  To see if it's at a soft ball stage, drop a little in a glass of cold water and if it balls up, it's there or you can use a candy thermometer to determine this.  

Remove from the heat and add butter and vanilla.  Whisk until butter is melted and smooth.  Allow to cool.  The icing should be just barely warm.  Using an electric mixer, beat the icing until it is a smooth spreadable consistency. 

Place the cake layers on a cake plate, icing the tops of each one and then pour the rest of the icing over the top and smooth down the sides.  

  Old Fashioned Yellow Cake with Chocolate Icing!


Tomato Pie!

This tomato pie is the one recipe I can't wait to make when the first tomatoes of the season get ripe.  It's a really simple recipe, but it's so good and can be served for really any meal of the day. It's perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner.   My sister usually eats the leftovers for breakfast the next morning if she is here when I make it.  With the fresh tomatoes, it just tastes like summer.   Here is what you will need to make a tomato pie:

1 deep dish pie crust
3 medium size tomatoes
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped or about 1 cup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
black pepper
1/2 tsp. Nature's Seasoning

Bake the pie shell in a preheated 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes just to brown it. 
Slice the tomatoes and put them on a double thickness of paper towels. Slice them sort of thick, about 1/4 inch and if the peel seems tough at all, peel them.   Salt each slice and let them sit for at least 30 minutes.   This takes some of the water out of them.  Don't skip this step or your tomato pie will be soggy and won't hold up well.

Dice the Vidalia onion and sprinkle in over the bottom of the pie shell.

Place the tomatoes in the pie crust over the onion in a single layer.  Sprinkle them with black pepper. Sprinkle the chopped oregano and basil over the tomatoes.

In a bowl mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic powder, Nature's Seasoning and Parmesan cheese until well blended.  This is one recipe that you cannot substitute the low fat sour cream or mayonnaise in.  They contain a lot of water and will make the pie very soupy and watery.  Use the real thing in this and just eat one piece if you are watching your fat intake.
This is the Nature's Seasoning.  I use it place of salt and pepper a lot. It's a great overall seasoning and doesn't contain MSG. If you don't have this, just use salt and pepper.

Spread the sour cream/mayonnaise mixture over the tomatoes and to the edges of the crust.

Sprinkle the top with a little more Parmesan cheese and the shredded Cheddar cheese.  Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.  I place the pan on a cookie sheet or pizza pan and it bakes more even and catches any spillovers.

The cheese should be nice and melted and the top just starting to brown.  Let the pie sit for at least 10 minutes before you slice and serve.


Southern Hushpuppies!

No fish fry in the South is complete without homemade hushpuppies.  You just have to have them.  There are several stories or theories about where the hushpuppy came from and got it's name.  One that makes sense is that when folks would be frying fish in a big old pot outside over a fire, the dogs would sit and beg and whine for a bite, so they would drop some of the batter and fry it and then feed it to the dogs and say 'now hush puppy'.   I guess they soon discovered that the dropped and fried batter was really good and probably stretched that fish out to feed more people.  Although hushpuppies are served all over the United States  in some seafood restaurants, they originated the southern states. In  some regions, they are also served with barbeque.   Here is what you will need:
1/2 cup self rising flour
1 1/2 cup self rising corn meal
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of Old Bay seasoning (optional)
1 Tbs. grated sweet onion
1 egg
Mix all together and drop by teaspoon full into the same oil you cooked your fish or other seafood in . When they are brown on one side, carefully roll them over and brown on the other side.  Remove to the paper towel lined platter around the fish or whatever seafood you are serving.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pound Cake!

 It's blueberry season in Kentucky and that makes me very happy!  Blueberries are quickly becoming
a more popular cash crop for Kentucky farmers looking for something to take the place of the dwindling tobacco market that used to be so widely grown.  
 I bought these blueberries at a local farmers market and they were grown on farm in Hawesville, Kentucky called Happy Hollow Blueberries!  They not only sell wholesale blueberries, but also blueberry plants if you are interested in starting your own blueberry growing operation.  They have over 50 varieties of blueberries.   The blueberries here in Kentucky get ripe about a month before the more northern states so it makes our blueberries attractive for shipping to other states.  
This blueberry pound cake is a great cake for a coffee cake or even a breakfast or brunch cake.  It's an easy cake to make, but it won't last long if it goes over like it does in our house.   Here is what you will need:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2  1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups fresh blueberries (could use frozen)
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. milk or half and half cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the oil and eggs. 
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
Add the flour 1 cup at a time alternating with the addition of the buttermilk and ending with the flour.  Add the vanilla.  Mix just until blended.
Gently fold in the blueberries.  If you toss the blueberries with a couple tablespoons of flour before adding them to the batter,  they will not sink to the bottom of the pan.
Pour the batter into a Bunt pan that has been liberally sprayed with nonstick spray or greased well.  Bake for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes.   A pick inserted in the center should come out clean.
Remove and allow to sit in pan and cool for about 20 minutes before turning out onto a cake plate.
To make the glaze, simply stir together the powder sugar, lemon juice, milk or half and half and vanilla.  
Drizzle the glaze over the cake while it's still slightly warm.  The cake will drink in some of that glaze and become even more moist as it sits.  It's a pretty little cake to be so simple!

Twiced Baked Stuffed Potatoes!


 These 'Twice Baked Stuffed Potatoes' are real favorite in our family.  I especially like to serve them for company and bigger gatherings, because you can prepare them the morning of your dinner or even the night before and then bake them right before dinner.  They are also really versatile and you can add ingredients to them to make them even more of a meal.  I sometimes add chopped, cooked ham and serve them as a main course for lunch or a quick supper.   Here is what you need for these:

5 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and baked
2 Tbs. butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup real bacon bits or the same about of crisp cooked bacon, crumbled
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Bake the potatoes however you like, either wrap them in foil and bake them in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees or bake them in the microwave, which is what I usually do.

 Remove them and split each one evenly down the middle. Allow them to cool enough to handle, but not too much. 

When they are cool enough to handle remove the potato pulp with a spoon or melon scoop.  Leave some in the skin to form a shell.  If you take out too much, right down to the potato skin they will fall apart.  I always use the insides of one of the potatoes I cooked for the filling and don't stuff one of them.  This way you have enough filling to really mound it up in each shell.  For example, we cooked 5 potatoes, but we will only fill 8 halves.   There is always one skin that tears up or doesn't look good so that is the one I toss.  One filled half, is usually plenty for each person, because they are very full.  

Place the butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl and as you scoop out the potatoes place the warm potatoes in the bowl.  The warmth from the potatoes will soften the butter and cream cheese and make it easier to smash the potatoes and mix.  Once all of the potatoes are scooped out, with a potato masher or mixer, mash the potatoes with the butter and cream cheese.   I like to leave some texture and not over do this.  You are not making whipped potatoes, just smashed.  Add all of the other ingredients, except the shredded cheddar cheese. 

Fill each potato shell with the mixture.  Place in a baking dish big enough to hold all of them that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Sprinkle each one generously with shredded cheese and place in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cheese is just browning.

Easy Peasy Peach Cobbler!

We are getting into peach season here in southern Kentucky and there is nothing better in the fruit category, to me, than a juicy ripe peach right off of the tree.  I am actually not much of a fruit lover, mainly because so many fruits don't love me back or the acid in them doesn't, but peaches are just one of my favorites if they are in season.  Also, there are so many delicious things you make with peaches.  Peach cobbler is a huge favorite in our house and I actually have several different ways I make it depending on how much time I have when I make it.   This is one of the easiest ways to make any type of cobbler.  Here is what you need:
***4 cups of fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
1  1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
1 cup of self rising flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
***You can substitute 2 (15 oz.) cans of sliced peaches, undrained for the fresh peaches
Place the peeled and diced peaches in bowl with 1/2 cup of sugar.  Peaches are sweet naturally and don't require much sweetening. 
In a 9"x13" baking pan, melt the butter.
Mix together the milk, self rising flour,  1 cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 tsp. cinnamon until smooth.  Pour over the melted butter in the baking pan.  DO NOT STIR.
Lay the peaches over the batter and DO NOT STIR.   Sprinkle the top with the other 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon.  Place in the oven and bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the top is brown.
This is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream! 


Grilled Roast and Veggies!

In the summer, it gets extremely hot in Kentucky, especially in southern Kentucky and it is one of the most humid places on earth.  I thought it was so funny that when Paula Deen was here one summer filming the movie "Elizabethtown", she was interviewed and said this was the hottest dang place she had ever been in her life and she is from Georgia.  
 Needless to say, when those temperatures and humidity start to climb, I like to find ways to eliminate excess heat from the house.  I probably use my slow cooker as much or more in the summer than I do in the winter.  I also use my gas grill for as many things as possible and for things that I can do with indirect heat that don't require me standing outside over the grill.   This is one of those meals.   You cook just about your entire meal in one pan outside on the grill and then throw the pan away.  Does it get much better than that?   There is a key to grilling a roast that is edible and not dry and tough... indirect heat, marinade and using a good chuck roast.  Here is what you will need:
3-5 lb. beef chuck roast
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 cup water
seasoned salt or Cajun seasoning
black pepper
5-6 red skin or Yukon Gold potatoes (scrubbed and cut and large chunks, skin left on)
2-3 sweet onions, peeled and cut in large chunks (I like to use Vidalia onions)
1 bag baby carrots
2 cups white mushrooms, halved (optional)
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
***You can get creative with the veggies.  I also like to add zucchini, yellow squash and even fresh asparagus sometimes.  If you use these vegetables, place them on top of the potatoes and carrots, because they take less time to get tender.  If you are only cooking things like squash and zucchini or asparagus, you can add them later for just about 30 minutes. 
Place the roast in a gallon size Ziploc bag with the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and the minced garlic.  Seal the bag and mix it around.  Place in the refrigerator and marinade for a couple of least 1 hour if you are short on time, turning the bag over a couple of times to distribute the marinade. 
Spray the grill racks with nonstick spray and then light all of the burners.  Place the roast right on the racks and grill on each side for about 15 minutes or until it's got good grill marks and is nice a browned.  Watch the roast during this time, because of the fat content, it can flare up. 
 When the roast is nice and browned, place in a disposable aluminum roasting pan.  You need one of the bit heavier types used for meats, not one of the flimsy thin ones used for cakes.   I like to splash just a little more soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce on the roast and then sprinkle it with either seasoned salt or sometimes I use some Cajun seasoning and some black pepper. Pour about 1 cup water around the roast in the pan and cover tightly with foil. 
We will cook this with indirect heat, so the pan with the roast will not be over the burners that are on.  I have four burners, so I turned the two the roast is over OFF and left the other two on low.  Close the grill and if it has a temperature gauge, it should get to around 400 degrees.  If it gets a lot higher than that, turn another burner off.   Cook for 1 hour at this temperature with the grill lid closed.  As long as the pan is not directly over the burners that are on, it will be fine. 
After the roast has cooked for an hour, mix the onion soup and the olive oil in a gallon Ziploc bag and add the veggies to it.  Close it and mix the veggies around really good to coat. 
Spread the veggies with the onion soup and oil mixture around the roast in the pan.  Sprinkle the veggies with a little more seasoned salt and back pepper.  If the pan is dry, add another cup of water just to the bottom of the pan.   Recover with the foil and seal.   Close the grill lid and let the temp rise to between 350 and 400.  Cook for about 1 more hour. All gas grills do not cook the same, so you have to use your own judgment on how long to cook this total.  Some grills may need a little longer, some less time.  It just depends on how even and hot your grill cooks.
  Carefully remove the pan from the grill and allow it to sit, covered for about 15 to 20 minutes, then uncover and move the roast to a  large platter to slice.  Place the veggies around it.  Add a salad and bread and dinner is done! 

Kicked Up Caramel Pie!


One of my favorite desserts is caramel pie.  O'Charley's, which is a restaurant chain primarily in the southeast...I think, is the creator of the caramel pie.  At least, that is where I discovered it.  This is the homemade version which I have kicked up a bit and even if I do say so myself, I think I improved on it a little.  Like it wasn't fattening and rich enough, I add extra chocolate chips and nuts for additional flavor and crunch.  This is really a simple dessert to make and you will get so many oohs and aahs when you serve this! 

Here is what you will need:

A large graham cracker crust (the 2 extra serving one), walnuts, mini chocolate chips, whipped cream, and sweetened condensed milk (2 cans).

Remember this step from the 'White Chocolate Caramel Banana Pudding' post?  If you missed it's under Best Dishes.  Take the labels off of 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk and place them in a pan of water that just covers the top.  Bring this to a low boil and boil for 3 hours.  DO NOT let the pan boil dry, keep adding water to keep it over the top of the cans.  This can be dangerous and it might explode if you do not keep an eye on it.  I always set the oven timer for this.   Once the 3 hours are up, carefully pour off the hot water and run cool water over them.  Once they are cool to touch open them carefully (in case the caramel is hot). 
An alternative method for turning the milk to caramel is putting the cans in your slow cooker, cover with water just to above the tops, and set on low for about 10 hours.  The water doesn't evaporate in the slow cooker with the top on it, so you don't have to worry about adding water.  It's best if you lay some foil on the bottom of the slow cooker because the cans might stain the crock.   Remove the cans with tongs when the time is up to cool.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans in the bottom of your pie crust.  This is the difference in the O'Charley's version.

Now spread the caramel over the nuts and chocolate chips. This doesn't have to be smooth.

Cover the caramel with whipped cream and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts!  Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. 

1 large graham cracker crust
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or you can use walnuts
12 oz. whipped cream

Fresh Asparagus and Bacon Pasta!

This is a recipe that makes a great side dish or you can even serve it for lunch or a light supper.  Asparagus is a vegetable that I think a lot more people would like it they gave it a chance and if they tried the fresh asparagus instead of canned.  There is a world of difference.   I love asparagus and I am always trying to find new ways to serve it.  This is such a simple dish, here is all you need:
5-6 strips of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled (reserve drippings)
8 oz. bow tie pasta (could use penne or rotini also)
1 lb. fresh asparagus, cut in 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
3 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1  1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided (fresh is best)
1/2 cup half and half cream
1 Tbs. parsley, chopped
Fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp.   Remove to a plate. 
Cook the pasta and the asparagus boiling salted water for about 4-5 minutes.  Drain. 
Place the butter in the skillet with the reserved bacon drippings and sauté the onion and garlic just until crisp tender.
Add the pasta and asparagus and toss.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.   Add 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese and the half and half and toss until coated.  Remove from heat and plate.  Sprinkle the top with the bacon you have crumbled, the remaining Parmesan cheese and the parsley. 
I served this with Loretta Lynn's Creamy Lemon Chicken and it was a complete meal!