Special Edition! Camellia’s Valentine’s Advice…

img_3382Valentine’s Day is a veritable mine field of a holiday. I’ve interviewed a good many women who report feelings of depression, unfulfilled expectations and outright anger after this day of love. Valentine’s Day is fraught with problems for Southern men. Why? Because the south is a matriarchal society. Southern mommas take care of all the gift buying, the decorating, the meal planning, the teacher gifts, cookies and cupcakes and all of that glitter strewn around from card making- even cellophane bags stocked in at least 3 different sizes, perfect for goodie bags for? Every. Single. Occasion known to mankind. We might let men think they’re in charge of… say, the Deep Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving but it’s a woman who has the back up roast turkey just in case his fryer catches on fire! img_3376

Valentine’s Day is that exceptional holiday– she may done everything for the children’s parties yet southern women don’t think it’s asking too much for Billy Bob to turn into a Sugar Daddy on Valentine’s Day. For just one day, is it too much to expect Billy Bob to turn into William Robert Smith IV, master of all things sweet and romantic on just one little bitty day of the year? Is it any wonder that Every. Single. Year- most men manage to blow it? They need help and she’s put her foot down she’s not giving him even a hint.

Knowing the average male attention span is short, this is the Short List.

  • Avoid anything fuzzy, helium filled or a good deal like boxes of chocolate you forgot to remove the sticker which says- ‘Buy one Get one Free’.
  • I’ll let you in on a big secret-  Victoria or Frederick’s are names southern women associate with Hurricanes- this is not a good message to send and- really, you don’t know her size or preferences.
  • Do not buy matching camouflage outfits and take her to the hunting camp, even if she’s bagged more quail or pheasants than you did. She wants it served under glass.
  • If you do take her out to eat, make sure the place has tablecloths and seating- not just bar stools if you get my drift!

Now that I have your attention gentlemen, remember this above all else- Valentine’s Day is for her, not you.  Please don’t go into a store, and buy lingerie- if you can’t pronounce it- you don’t need to be there! Listen to me- you’re gonna bomb on this one because just when the sales lady asks for her size- you’re going to fall into this trap by sayin’ ‘Well pretty lady, I reckon she’s just about your size!’ and boom! Too big or too little will not be forgiven any time soon! Now, if you’ve stayed with me this long… I can get into specifics-

  • Do not- I repeat- do not buy her a digital bathroom scale. Do not sign her up for a gym membership! Do not buy sugar free candy or a trial membership in a weight reduction program, even if your Valentine has been asking you since New Year’s if you think she needs to lose weight- that is a trap.
  • Dinner and a movie is generally a safe bet- unless dinner is fast food and the movie is ‘Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Jaws‘ or ‘Walking Tall- Part 2′ . It just kills the mood. Believe me on this one.
  • Please don’t complain about the prices at dinner or at the movies.
  • Whatever you do- don’t have photo booth pictures blown up into framed 8×10’s, she may have thought they were adorable at the time… yet for her desk? Probably not so cute.
  • About that desk- you might want to check with the florist- ‘Are there multiple orders going to her workplace?’ You wouldn’t want her to be mortified if she’s the only one there with no flowers! (I have known women, who in desperation have called the local florists and had her own flowers sent to cover for your gross negligence in this matter! Believe me, you will never live this down.

Speaking of flowers, we do know the difference in florist flowers and those bought at the big box or grocery stores. Whatever you do, please do not buy a neon blue orchid. Now, those are the basics, are you ready for more?

  • Going to look at tractors, single wide trailers or pre-fab storage buildings are not exactly her idea of a romantic outing.
  • Neither is taking her car for an oil change, new brake shoes or having the tires rotated- even if they throw in the Valentine Special of hot pink fuzzy seat covers. Just  do your duty to see about her safety and welfare- not as a gift! Note one exception- *If you’re thinking automotive- buy her a new car! *

I know you’re thinking of buying her something for the household- this is another trap, believe me. Please don’t buy household appliances of any kind- a new vacuum, a toaster, a leaf blower or an electric drill. Let the kids buy her those things for Mother’s Day! Or better yet, hire someone to do all those chores that you’ve been putting off for…ages?

  • Do not buy her an apron, oven mitts or dish towels. In fact, do not even think of buying her a trinket of any kind- especially if you found them at a truck stop or country cookin’ gift shop.
  • Even if she’s the one who yells the loudest during football games- do not buy a 65 inch color TV and have it mounted in her absolutely gorgeous bedroom! In fact, don’t give her anything that is suitable for mounting on a wall- especially your latest ‘catch’ even if she’s won more tournaments than you have!
  • A shirt with an Arrow pointing your direction- that says- ‘I’m His’ might be funny to you- believe me it’s not! Matching Tshirts are to be avoided at all costs for Valentine’s Day- especially if you’re taking her out somewhere nice.

By now, you’re probably thinking that a card is a nice touch and it is. Unless you’ve neglected to actually read the inside of the card! It might look great on the outside with romantic wording like ‘You are so beautiful to me…‘ yet on the inside there’s a picture of an Orangutan sayin’ ‘A face only a mother could love.‘  Now, you may have howled when you read it and gotten a big kick out of it all; believe methis will not be well received, any more than :

  • Wrinkle, hair removal, anti-aging products or the perfect shade of nail polish which you think will save on all of the beauty parlor bills! Leave this to the professionals.
  • Handwritten coupons for anything will not spell Sugar Daddy- even if your handwriting is nice- this doesn’t read nice. It shouts- Cheapskate!
  • Candy is always a nice touch as long as it’s not a fun-size bag, a quarter pound chocolate heart that she’ll need a chainsaw to cut (see above) Or…a cheap grocery store brand with four pieces of chocolates – go for broke here and get the kind of candy sold in free standing stores with nice gold wrapping paper- even if you think the price is ridiculous!
  • And, if you’ve been dating a while, please don’t buy a hard candy diamond shaped plastic ring, a big old fake diamond keychain, a heavily over advertised open heart or a boxed set of jewelry on the sale aisle. She wants a diamond not a friendship ring!
  • Listen up! Regardless of the song… Diamonds are a Man’s best friend! And of course-dogs, it just depends on where you’d rather be.

img_3376Southern men need help on Valentines Day. According to my hotline results- no matter how hard you’ve worked that day- she’s expecting you to show the same energy and enthusiasm you had for SEC football games. When you pick her up, please don’t say-

  • ‘Are you wearing that?’  or ‘How much did that cost?‘ no matter what she has on.
  • If she asks you if her shoes look funny- please don’t say ‘Well honey, they aren’t hilarious.’
  • If she exclaims that her hair looks awful- refrain from saying ‘It doesn’t look any worse than usual.’

Some final advice- if she’s over the age of five- your valentine doesn’t want a bouquet of lollipops, a stuffed animal of any kind- no matter what size it is- and certainly not a bunch of helium filled balloons! Save that for birthdays or fun days. And remember above all else- Valentine’s Day is for your sweetheart, not you. If you can’t remember anything else, gentlemen, remember that. Or. Believe me, darlin’, she won’t let you forget it for a whole year or…maybe your own natural lifetime.

Love y’all, Camellia

*These helpful hints have been gleaned from an informal poll of southern ladies who have experienced some frankly disappointing Valentine’s days. The poll is non- scientific and based solely on the horror factor of it all. *Men, you have my full permission to reprint this article, IF you commit it to memory and can recite it in your sleep! Ladies, you have my full permission to reprint this article- as long as you promise to give it to your sweetheart, right before or after Valentine’s Day- depending on when you need it! It doesn’t worry me…much- I’m a fictional character.

*The wonderful free images are from @over including the cute videos!

The Eggnog Party…

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DWe could have called it a Fruitcake Party, though fruitcake rarely makes an appearance. We could have called it a Caroling Party. We tried that one year- no one wanted to go. Ever. Again. Come to think of it- we could have called it the Bourbon Ball. Okay, that’s a bit pretentious and we’re better at eating than dancing. The truth is- fruitcake, bourbon balls and eggnog tend to be … let’s just say- under appreciated holiday fare. For over two decades, we’ve been going to an Eggnog Party, hosted graciously in the home of friends; attended by families and friends who are loved and cherished as the ‘family we have chosen for ourselves’. It’s uniquely southern, so it’s a traditional party, with the dining room table set buffet style and yes, family china and silver makes an appearance.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DThe Eggnog Party is sort of an unorganized , uncategorized gathering of folks bound by generations of communal experiences. Besides the heirloom recipe for Eggnog- what makes this party so charming is the Program, the Favors and the planning for it- often months in advance. There are children of… all ages and highly anticipated by all. The Program always includes Readings for children and one or more Readings which embody the Season and always includes Music. Sometimes the program is as zany as The Sister Act, a goofy rendition of Santa Baby or an airing of jovial grievances through Festivus, which, by decree shall never be repeated again. One of our talented guests might sing Ave Maria or an old fashioned Christmas Carol which would have been introduced by a Reading of the history of the hymn – always accompanied by a classical Guitar. Last year a Reading of Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’…followed by the old Lullabye- ‘All Through the Night’ with a soloist, the haunting strains of soft music as the rest of us sang the sweet Chorus- that one definitely brought forth a few sweet tears. The favor that year had the theme of Angels.

Always, regardless of the theme, the program is a mix of the significance of the season and the joy of it too. Any gifts are token and quietly exchanged – to be opened later, since this party isn’t centered around gift exchange, instead its more about exclaiming, getting caught up, enjoying the program, the music and always the bubbling effervescent love and laughter. And my oh my! the food! A Christmas Ham and a thinly sliced fragrant Turkey. The sides always include a relish plate, our beloved southern casseroles, a cheese ball, roasted and salted pecans, cheese straws, tiny rolls and a buffet laden with desserts. Groaning might be a better word.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DOf course, there’s a silver punch bowl filled with a frothy full bodied Eggnog-

  • The creamy color of magnolias and gardenias,
  • Light as a feather plucked from an angel’s wing,
  • Thick with cream and
  • Freckled with fragrant nutmeg.

In the South, we tend to claim Eggnog as our own, since George Washington of Virginia enjoyed it and recorded a recipe for it. In the southern tradition of leaving out a critical bit- in Washington’s case he left out the number of eggs! Eggnog really isn’t southern at all- it’s British, it’s European, it’s American- yet what makes this recipe Southern is the ‘spirits’. We tend to replace ale or sherry with ‘brown whiskey’ … Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey- some add Rum, to honor our southern proximity to the Sugar Fields and Caribbean flavors. Take a sip of Suellen’s Eggnog and ‘darlin’ you’ll talk southern to me.’

 

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s how you make this old classic which we know as Suellen’s Eggnog

  • 14 Large Eggs, separated
  • 1 pint Jack Daniel’s Brown Whiskey
  • 14 Tablespoons Cane Sugar
  • 1 Quart and 1/2 pint Whipping Cream

Separate eggs and reserve egg whites at room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until pale yellow. Slowly add whiskey, one silver teaspoon at a time, at first. Increase additions of whiskey beating continually until egg yolks and whiskey are combined thoroughly. Add sugar slowly, one silver tablespoon at a time. Whip cream and add slowly to mixture. In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into whiskey mixture. Sprinkle with fresh grated mixture. Keep thoroughly chilled. It is preferable to ladle from a silver punch bowl. Enjoy!

This Eggnog is an adaptation of an old recipe from a Talledega cookbook, one county over from where we live. *Please note that an essential tool is a silver spoon. This isn’t a pretentious tool- old recipes tend to specify silver spoons since other materials could affect the taste, generally metallic.

I’ll admit, I sip only one small punch cup, it’s a thick, rich holiday mixture unlike anything else. Eggnog is also something I taste just once a year at this amazing party. If you’re wishing you had a less spirited eggnog, I’ve had good success slowly melting homemade ice cream, adding a bit of whipped cream on top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s the thing- I’ll always associate Eggnog with the exquisite color of creamy magnolias, strengthened with the years of friendships sustained for such a long time… soft strains of music, gentle laughter, so much love, genuine acceptance, concern freely expressed and the joy only this season can bring. Here’s hoping your gatherings are as spirited as Bourbon Balls, as nutty as a Fruitcake, as fragrant as a Gardenia and full of Comfort and Joy!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Eggnog contains raw eggs, it’s best to use pasteurized eggs, and it should not be consumed by children due to alcohol content.

Pecan Pies…

Pecans are a cash crop in Alabama, indeed all across the South, folks love to have their own pecan trees. Pecan Pies are the iconic southern dessert, and while we wouldn’t turn down a piece of pecan pie any time of year- a pecan pie always makes her appearance on holiday tables. The truth is? It’s hard to imagine southern food without this wonderful nut. Some of my favorite cooks tend to enjoy- shelling pecans. Could I get a hallelujah for these fine ladies? I’ve had a few tell me they find it ‘relaxing’ to shell pecans… I wouldn’t know about that, it’s frustrating to me. To each his own. I do know this- to receive a bag of fresh shelled pecans is better than getting a bag of gold!

Now, I have to admit that I love pecans and pecan pies, though I also tend to restrict myself to baking the classic pecan pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I love variations on the classic too. Chocolate Pecan Pie and Sweet Potato Pie topped with Pecans is amazing too. I’d never turn down either variation. Still. I rarely make all three at the same time. I made a classic pecan pie and a chocolate pecan pie for Thanksgiving this year. The classic is my husband’s favorite and I had a special request for the chocolate pecan pie. These pies are amazing and might just be one of the easiest pies to make! The wonderful thing about the classic pecan pie is that it can be pre-baked now and thawed and reheated any time during the holidays! I’ll admit to having one lurking in the freezer right this minute! I haven’t tried freezing the chocolate one…yet I believe it also would work well. And, even though, making your own pie crust dough is a wonderful thing…with all the busyness of the holidays, why would you unless you’re very organized and made up pie crust dough ahead…I’d say go ahead and use it! It’s the holidays! You want to put your very best out for family and guests! Here’s how we make Camellia’s Chocolate Pecan Pie-

You will need:

  • Single Pie Crust for Deep Dish Pie (unbaked)
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter (melted)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee
  • 3/4 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (melted)
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecan Halves
  • Prepare crust in a deep pie crust dish or 8 inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For Filling Mixture- In a saucepan, on low heat, melt butter, then add chocolate chips to melt. Add Dark Corn Syrup, Sugar, Instant Coffee and Salt- combine well. Mix eggs in a small bowl and add to Filling Mixture, combining well. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of pecans, reserving a few to decorate the top of the pie, if desired. Pour Filling Mixture into prepared Pie Crust. Bake for 50-55 minutes until crust is lightly browned and filling is not completely set- *This is important- do not over bake the filling! When done, top the pie with reserved pecans in a circle to decorate if desired. Allow pie to cool completely on a wire rack.
  •  
  • You will need:
    1 Single Pie Crust for deep dish pie (unbaked)
    1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
    3 Large Eggs
    1 cup Sugar
    2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
    Pinch of Salt
    1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
    1 1/2 cups whole pecans
    • 1 Tablespoon Bourbon ( if desired)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pie crust in deep dish pie pan. Line bottom of pie crust with whole pecans placed in concentric circles. Set aside to mix filling. Melt butter. In a mixing bowl, lightly mix eggs. Add corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Combine well and pour carefully over pecans in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes, until pecans rise to top. Do not over bake. When pie is still hot sprinkle Bourbon over hot pecans (you will hear a sizzle!) Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour or until thoroughly cool and set. Keep chilled, before serving warm lightly if desired.

And, we’ve told you about another Pecan Pie that’s absolutely delicious!

It’s called Sweet Potato Pecan Pie… and is a wonderful twist on the classic pecan pie!

Special Edition… Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon!

It is nearly impossible to make enough of Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon! That’s eating high on the hog! And… the reason for this Special Edition is because our candied bacon has been featured on the podcast and blog of the beautiful, talented Becky Hadeed @thestoriedrecipe! Her photography is ‘cookbook quality’ beautiful! I sent Becky a general recipe of how to make Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon, yet we wanted the recipe tweaked a bit- so, here’s the specific version with a few tips for making –

Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon

Mix together:

  • 1 1/3 cups Light Brown Sugar
  • 1- 1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Black Pepper OR
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper ( Black and Cayenne Pepper are to taste, I like it spicy! And often add both!)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

*Keep this mixture in an airtight container …it makes enough for at least a pound of bacon.

Method:

  • Prepare baking pan by lining with heavy duty foil, then lining with heavy duty parchment paper. Don’t skip this step! It is almost impossible to get the drippings off the pan!
  • After each batch remove and replace parchment paper. On top of parchment paper foil lined pan, set a baking or metal cooling rack.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • For each batch- cut 4 slices of thick bacon in half and arrange the 8 pieces on the baking rack leaving space between the slices. *Thick bacon is commercially sliced and is about 1/8 inch thick.
  • On each half slice of bacon, sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar mixture. (don’t overload bacon with topping, it will melt and run off onto the baking sheet and burn.
  • Press sugar topping lightly. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, check the bacon …it will always need more time- Bake for 10-15 minutes more checking every few minutes.

  • Remove Bacon and leave on rack to cool.
  • If properly cooked, the bacon will continue to crisp up slightly as it cools. Depending on the thickness of the bacon, it takes up to a total of 30 minutes for each batch.
  • Store Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon in single layers with wax paper or parchment between layers in an airtight container.
  • * Variation- add finely chopped walnuts if preferred or omit nuts entirely, though I must say- the pecans make it southern a delicious!

Serve: Alone as an appetizer (small parties…these go lightening fast!), Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon is wonderful crumbled over fruit or green salads. And! For a very special treat, crumble on top of a good vanilla ice cream, if you really want to dress it up– pour a teaspoon of bourbon over ice cream to enhance the vanilla flavor (if you dare! Adults only please) Then, top with a good caramel sauce then sprinkled chopped or crumbled bacon on top!

This Special Edition is an exciting time! It’s our first podcast!  The podcast with Becky of @thestoriedrecipe was a first for me! I mean, really…it’s a scary thing, wondering what your voice will sound like- if the recipes will work and okay, I didn’t want to sound like a redneck! Still. Becky did a great job making the recipes, including Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese look great! And… her editing skills on the video are amazing too. The episode includes two other wonderful guests and me! Here’s a link to Becky’s blog- The Storied Recipe and the podcast located at the beginning of her post.

I am honored to be Becky’s friend and to have appeared in her podcast, which is available as The Storied Recipe, Episode 4 and also through your podcast app. Follow Becky on Instagram @thestoriedrecipe as she continues to interview guests and discover recipes and the stories that go along with them! The table is where we find common ground. It’s the making of the food for our friends and families, sharing the stories and creating even more memories, especially during the holidays!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs belong to Becky Hadeed and are used with permission – except- the ‘candied bacon on the baking rack’ which is obviously mine!

Camellia’s Favorite Cheese Ball Recipe…

49653C9F-73D3-498D-8708-B1D4F2827009This Cheese Ball recipe is a real time saver. I love it because it keeps well chilled, is able to take on different shapes, even freezes like a dream! And ! A Cheese Ball  seems welcome at any occasion! After school goes back in session, football season begins, then tailgating and fall gatherings and holidays seem to come one right after the other! We all know we’re going to need ‘something to take’ or serve! And let’s face it- hardly anybody passes up Cheese and Crackers! This recipe lends itself to as many variations as you can think of! Change up the variety of cheeses, add walnuts instead of pecans, even add dried cranberries- it’s all up to you! now, you have to admit, these cheese balls shaped like big apples would be fun in the Fall! And while you’re at it- make up several types of cheese balls, logs or rings and save a few in the freezer!7C3C2ED8-11B4-4882-A204-2F35408015F5

Here’s how you make Camellia’s Favorite Cheese Ball-

  • One Pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese- grated
  • 8 ounce package Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1 small onion- finely grated with juice
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In  food processor, mix cheeses. Add in Worcestershire, salt and pepper- blend well. By hand, add in pecans until well blended. Shape cheese mixture into 2 large balls and chill. May also shape into logs or into a ring. Chill.

  • Mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons mild paprika and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. With a fine mesh strainer, sift over cheese balls or logs- even small appetizer size balls served with toothpicks! Serve with assorted crackers. If shaped into a ring, fill with strawberry, cherry or fig preserves. * Strawberry is my favorite!

*For variation, roll cheese balls in finely chopped pecans. Or as another variation- use 12 ounces of Sharp Cheddar and 4 ounces of Cheddar Jack and proceed as above. **These cheese balls freeze well, however- wait to sprinkle with paprika mixture before serving for a prettier presentation.0B3B06E0-84E5-4D1A-BCA1-8A2D2D828C32

One of my favorite ways to serve these cheese balls, is to roll them into apple shapes and cut small branches with a leaf or two attached- just make sure the branch is safe and pesticide free. Cheese balls are wonderful all year round on charcuterie boards,  though especially good for fall gatherings, tail gating, a Halloween buffets and all the way through the holiday season!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine!