Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pink Champagne Cake


THE PINK CHAMPAGNE CAKE WAS ONE OF THREE I baked for my Mother's 90th birthday party. When I told her I was making three cakes and asked what kind would she like she said she liked pound cake with chocolate frosting. Check. She also suggested coconut cake. Check. For the third, she said, "surprise me".

I decided on the pink champagne cake because I thought it sounded feminine and celebratory. Also, Mama loves champagne!

I have talked about my amazing Mother before. She still lives in her own home, she still goes to the gym three times a week, plays bridge, and drives. She has always been very considerate of other people and has been active in her church; as a result she has developed many, many friends over the years. She is a fabulous cook and loves to entertain.

As the RSVP's poured in, I starting worrying three cakes would not be enough, so I asked Jasmine (the professional chef of the family) if she would bake some cupcakes just in case. Wouldn't it be sad to have a birthday party without enough birthday cake for everyone?

I thought the cutest thing was an interaction between Mama and her 5-year-old great grandson. He knew it was her birthday and asked how old she was. When she answered 90, his eyes got big in disbelief and he replied, "And you're not even dead!"

Pink Champagne Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour (3) 8 inch cake pans

3 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5 egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 cup pink champagne
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
pink food coloring (optional)

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a  bowl and set aside.

In another bowl whisk together egg whites, vegetable oil, pink champagne, and vanilla. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar 3 to 4 minutes until creamy and light.

Add flour and sugar mixture and egg mixture  alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the pink coloring, if using.

Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth with offset spatula. Bake until cake just pulls back from sides of the pan, 23 to 27 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges, shaking gently. invert once, then again. Cool completely, right side up.

Pink Champagne Buttercream

4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
12 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup pink champagne
pink food coloring (optional)

In a mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth and lightened in color.Mix in salt and vanilla.

Gradually add the sugar, along with the pink champagne until sugar is incorporated. Beat at medium speed until very smooth, adding the color while mixing.


Don't be discouraged if butter mixture starts curdling with the addition of the pink champagne. Just keep adding powdered sugar and mixing. It will come together.

Using a toothpick, I added tiny amounts of pink food coloring gel.

This recipe makes a lot of buttercream for piping.

I used a Wilton 1M piping tip to make the rosettes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Acapulco Shrimp Cocktail

A MEXICAN STYLE SHRIMP COCKTAIL with crisp vegetables and creamy avocado to compliment the savory shrimp, served with tortilla chips or crackers, makes a perfect light supper.

Where the sauce for a traditional shrimp cocktail begins with ketchup, lemon, and horseradish, the Mexican sauce, which also starts with ketchup, uses lime and hot sauce.

Our frigid weather moved out and we are having a bit of a respite. I decided to make something fresh as a break from the stews and soups. Winter is far from over, I know that, but today, I see blue sky and I only had to wear a light jacket to the grocery store.


Acapulco Shrimp Cocktail

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup ketchup
1-2 Tablespoons vinegary Mexican bottled hot sauce (or your favorite)
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small white onion, chopped
2-3 scallions, sliced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
5-6 radishes, sliced
1 avocado, sliced

Bring 1 quart heavily salted water to a boil. Add shrimp. When the water comes to a bare simmer, lower heat and poach for a minute or two. Remove shrimp from water onto a platter in a single layer. Refrigerate to 30 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the ketchup, lime juice, hot sauce, Worcester sauce, and olive oil; stir until well combined. Add the onion, scallions, cucumber, and radish slices. Stir in shrimp. Finish with avocado slices.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Low Country Chicken Bog

CHICKEN BOG IS NOT A LOVELY DISH and it has an even less lovely name. Once you get past those factors, you will find a delicious and oh so comforting recipe for chicken and rice. It is rather like a pilaf or pilau but boggier and not fluffy at all. I really think the texture is reminiscent of a risotto. The rice is very creamy and the chicken is moist, tender, and flavorful.

Chicken bog is an old favorite in low country regions where rice is grown. It originates from the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, the lower watershed of the Pee Dee River, which was named for the Native American tribe that formerly occupied the area.   

This has been especially warming for us as we struggle with the arctic blast which has us in its grip. We are not used to cold temperatures like we are having, for such a length of time. Brrr!

Chicken Bog
1 (approximately 2 1/2 pounds) whole chicken
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 - 3 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 - 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice

Place chicken, sausage, onion, celery, butter, salt, both peppers, and bay leaves into your large soup pan. Add water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside to cool. Remove and discard bay leaves. Add rice and cook 10 minutes, uncovered. Then cover and cook another 20 minutes, until rice is tender. Meanwhile, remove skin and bones from chicken and discard. Add chicken pieces back to the pot.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Classic Homemade Pimiento Cheese

THE AUGUSTA NATIONAL GOLF CLUB in beautiful Augusta, Georgia is hosting the most prestigious tournament in the U.S., The Masters, this week. My husband and I are not golfers but we have family that are crazy about the game. And we have family living in Augusta, including 4-year-old twin boys, Twin A and Twin B (as they were labeled on their ultrasound).

A & B at their first Masters

The Masters is famous for their food, especially the egg salad and pimiento cheese sandwiches, which at $1.50 each are cheap. At least something about the Masters is cheap. When we were in Augusta last month for the twin's 4th birthday, we paid about $100 per night for our hotel room. For that same hotel, during the Masters, the rooms start at $650 per night with a 4 night minimum.

Twin B "enjoying" an egg salad sandwich?

The chips seem to be a bigger hit

In honor of A & B's first Masters, I decided to make Pimiento Cheese, which like all Southerners, I love.

There are many variations on this humble spread. Everyone seems agree with the three main ingredients; cheese, mayonnaise, and pimiento. Then differences kick in. All types of cheese can be considered. The texture is up for much debate. Some use a mixer or blender to achieve a completely smooth product. More mayonnaise or less? Cream cheese? Then there are add-ins, onion, Worcestershire sauce, olives, jalapeno peppers, the list goes on.

Although I will tamper with the ingredients, depending on what I have on hand, I remain, for the most part, a purist. I don't enjoy mayonnaise, so I use as little as possible, and include the pimiento juice, along with some mustard for extra moisture. I insist that for the best finished product, good quality, extra sharp cheddar cheese must be used, and must be hand grated. If you have the cheese at room temperature before grating, you can get a better idea of the final texture, rather than working with cold cheese. I mix by hand, minimally, because I like the chunky, homemade look. If you want your Pimiento Cheese fluffier or creamier, go right ahead, add more mayonnaise and mix it more vigorously, it will still be delicious.

Classic Homemade Pimiento Cheese
16 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz. jar chopped pimiento, undrained
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1/4 c. to 1/2 c. good quality mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper or cayenne, to taste

Mix all ingredients together until desired consistency, starting with the lesser amount of mayonnaise.

A & B watching the putters

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Split Pea Soup

JUST BECAUSE IT IS SPRING DOES NOT MEAN it is warm. It took me a while to figure that out when I moved to these mountains years ago. In fact, on the first official day of spring, this year, we had snow. It is a time of year I don't plan too many meals in advance. I may want a salad for dinner or I may want a bowl of warming soup. I try to stay flexible.

I love split pea soup but I don't cook it that often because Pritchard Parker doesn't love it. He will eat it; he thinks it is OK. I made the soup this day for a couple of reasons, one being I had some leftover ham in the freezer I wanted to go ahead and use. Plus I had everything else on hand and wouldn't need to go out to the store.

To start the soup, I got out my soup pot, 2 medium-large potatoes, 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, a jumbo onion,the frozen ham, and a one pound package of green split peas. I looked at all this and asked myself, "How many people are you making soup for"? I replied, "Two, and one of them is not even that crazy about it". I exchanged my big soup pot for a smaller one, put away one of the potatoes, one carrot, and one of the celery stalks. I used half the onion, half the package of split peas, and half the ham.

Split Pea Soup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 medium-large potato, peeled and diced
1/2 lb. green split peas
3 ounces (approximate) ham, to taste (optional)
Salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf

Over medium heat, saute the onion, celery, carrot, and potatoes in the olive oil, until beginning to become tender. Add salt and pepper. Stir in the split peas, add the ham and bay leaf. Cover the mixture with water to about 1 inch above the vegetables. Bring to a boil then lower heat; cover and simmer for 2 - 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water when needed.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.