The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It

“Don’t Worry. The House Isn’t on Fire. Mommy’s Just Cooking Again.”
August 11, 2012, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Food I Make, Random Foodie Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , ,

My sister’s birthday party is at my mother’s house. I asked what I could contribute to the festivities like I usually do. Usually, mother replies, “Nothing. Just bring yourself and the rest of your family.”

This time, she replies, “How about dessert?”

Oh, boy.

Now, those of you who read this random blog know that I choke under pressure. If people are coming over or the recipe may make money for a charity, I will almost always burn it.

We’re talking crispy here.

The dessert for the party isn’t for house guests. Nor is it for charity.

Nope. Worse than that. Family.

Oh, the pressure.

I decide to keep it simple. Simple is good, right? I asked the birthday girl what she wanted, and she told me anything was fine. I asked my family what they were in the mood for, and they replied brownies and banana pudding.

Easy, right?


I decided to make brownies out of a box. Check. I bought ice cream, the good kind. A can of the good whipped cream. Fine.

Then, I decide to make a homemade hot fudge sauce to go with the brownies. I’ve had better ideas.

The recipe I was using said to mix water, sugar, and corn syrup.  I had no corn syrup, so I just made do.  I added the water and sugar together in a small pot, and heated the mixture over high heat as the recipe said.  I was supposed to heat it until it turned a light brown color.

Ok.  I wasn’t sure how brown the light brown should be.

I learned pretty fast how much too much was.

What I ended up with was a thick, hot, gooey, smokey mess. The smoke detector might have gone off. Maybe. It wasn’t a happy event.

I needed a redo, and I needed the pan, so I poured the sugar-water fiasco in a bowl where it hardened to a dark, dark brown solid.

It took two days to get the hard as a rock stuff out.

I tried the sauce again, and it worked out better.

I added a cup of chopped chocolate chips.

I also got a little fancy and added a real vanilla bean. I sliced it in half and scrapped out the beans just like on tv. So exciting.

The brownies with ice cream, homemade sauce, and whipped cream turned out fine.  The banana pudding was also a hit.

And my sister had a nice birthday.

Next year, I’ll volunteer to bring the chips and paper plates.


It’s Even Good Off the Floor-Mom’s Chocolate Pie

The Story (the way I remember it) goes like this:

My aunt was new to the family. She was a cool city girl being introduced to our small country family long before my time. They had just finished lunch, and it was time for dessert. For some reason, my aunt was the one who went to the kitchen to get this pie that my grandmother, whom we called Mom, had made.

My aunt was almost to the table when she dropped Mom’s pie on the floor, meringue side down.

So what did they do? They scooped it off the floor and ate it. Of course.

If I could count the number of times I have heard this story. It was one of Mom’s favorites. She would tell it to you herself today if she were still here.

But, she is not, and so someone else has to make the pie and tell The Story.

This week was Miss Helper’s birthday. With a little help from her daddy, the answer to the question, “What do you want to eat for your birthday?” was “Chocolate pie.”


I have never, ever made a chocolate pie. I have never, ever made a meringue. I have never, ever attempted this recipe.

Until Miss Helper’s birthday. It was a moderate success that took me four hours to complete.

I was intimidated to say the least. I was making The Pie from The Story.

Mom’s recipe is

4 eggs, separated

1/2 stick butter

1 1/2 t vanilla

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. cocoa

5 T flour

Combine the egg yolk, sugar, and butter. Combine the flour and the cocoa. Then mix the two mixtures with the milk and vanilla and cook in a double boiler until thick. Beat with an electric mixer to make it glossy. Pour into a prebaked pie shell. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Spread over the pie and bake at 350 until the meringue is brown.

Sounds easy enough, right? And Mom did it countless times in her old-fashioned kitchen that was nowhere near as modern as mine so I should have no trouble, right? And furthermore, I cook a lot so one little pie should be nothing, right?

Yeah, right.

I started out fine and dandy. Everything was going smoothly as far as I could tell.

Everything was happy in my made-do double boiler-a glass mixing bowl nestled in a pot of water. I was stirring my heart out when it was time to use the electric mixer to get the glossy effect. Realizing that I was about to use an electric mixer to vigorously beat the stew out of a piping hot mixture of sugar and chocolate stuff that was precariously placed in a boiling hot pot of boiling hot water, I second guessed the decision to need a glossy pie. I did it anyway, though.

I have a thing for glossy, I guess.

Anyway, I managed to beat the mixture with only a few minor flecks of the hot chocolate mixture getting anywhere, and all the hot water stayed put. It was pretty.

What it wasn’t was thick. I kept stirring and stirring and stirring, but it wasn’t any thicker than water. It had been in the double boiler for almost an hour. I was getting tired and ill, so I decided to make a cornstarch swirly to help things along.

I made a swirly and mixed it in. Nothing. I made another one. Nothing. And another. And nothing.

Finally, I was tired, ill, and ready to move on with my life so I just said to heck with it, and I poured the chocolate in a different pot and heated it by direct heat. By this time, I had lost track of exactly how much cornstarch was in the chocolate. There is no telling.

It thickened up, all right. In no time flat. It was edible even if it was the consistency of a tire, so I pressed on.

The birthday girl had to have a chocolate pie and so did her daddy.

I beat the eggs, vanilla, and the sugar until I thought it was thick enough. I probably should have beat them a little more, but I was about at my wit’s end, and it was good enough. I plopped it on the pie, and then I fluffed the meringue into peaks like I had seen people do on tv.

Then, realizing that Mom’s recipe didn’t mention an exact time to bake the pie, I just guessed. I figured ten minutes would do.

Turns out ten minutes wasn’t nearly enough, but by that time, I didn’t care. I took it out of the oven, and we left to eat dinner out. While we were out eating her birthday supper, Miss Helper kept saying, “I can’t wait to eat my birthday pie!” Oh, Lord. All I thought about was how I was about to ruin her big birthday with my terrible chocolate pie.

Luckily-and I do mean thank the good Lord above-the pie was good. Although, of course, it wasn’t as good as Mom’s. Mine tasted fine and miraculously wasn’t too tough. It was a weird syrupy pool in the bottom of the pie for some reason, but we still ate it.

Mom’s pie took me forever to make. Miss Helper was happy. Her daddy was happy. I was exhausted. Nobody dropped it. And somewhere up in Heaven, Mom looked down and probably laughed her head off at her youngest grandchild’s pitiful pie. Then, she probably turned around and told the first person she found The Story about her chocolate pie.

Chocolate Chip and Banana Coffee Cake

One morning while I was waiting on someone to help me with some work at our house, I decided to be productive and make a coffee cake.  I am not really sure why we needed a coffee cake, but I decided anyway to make one. 

I knew when I made it that I would probably be the only one to eat it.  No one else in the house will touch coffee.  Even though there is no coffee in a coffee cake and I know that, they don’t.  So, I figured I might as well make it healthy and add a banana to go along with all the sugar, butter, and chocolate chips.  It all cancels out, right?

I found a variation of this coffee cake recipe in the book I keep close to the front of my cookbook shelf.  It is a blue recipe album that someone from my husband’s family gave me a long time ago.  In it, I collect random recipes from newspapers and magazines.  Some of the recipes I have made.  Some I will make someday.  Some I can’t remember why I cut them out much less which side of the paper I was looking at when I said, “Yum! I’ll make that.”

Anyway, I decided to get to it and bake. 

The recipe is in two parts:

½ c flour

½ c brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar

6 T butter, softened

½ c almonds

½ c chocolate chips

 Combine all ingredients except the almonds in a large bowl and stir until crumbly.  Gently mix in the almonds and chocolate chips.  Try not to get distracted at this point like I did.  Set aside.

 2 c flour

4 t baking powder

1 t ground nutmeg (or less.  I really like nutmeg. If nothing else, just for the way it smells.)

½ t salt

1 stick of butter, softened plus one tablespoon for the pan

2/3 c sugar

2 eggs

1 t good vanilla

1 ripe banana, mashed

1/3 c milk or heavy cream. I didn’t have enough cream, so I topped off the 1/3 c with milk. 

 In a 9×9 baking pan, melt one tablespoon of butter as you preheat the oven to 350.  Remove when the butter has melted. 

 Combine your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Set aside.

 With a mixer, cream the butter.  Add the sugar and mix until fluffy.  Add each egg separately and mix as you go.  Then, add the vanilla and banana.  Mix until well blended. 

 Now, here comes the messy part.  Gradually add the flour to the banana mixture.  Mix slowly as you want to eat it, not wear it.  As you add the flour mixture, gradually add the milk as well.  

Swirl around your melted butter in your baking pan.  Then, pour your batter on top.  Sprinkle the topping on top of all that.  Bake for 30-35 minutes. 

 Allow to cool and serve warm to people who will eat things with coffee in the name.  Or, just eat it all yourself.  I won’t tell anyone. 

 Hopefully, you will have a warm, delicious banana/chocolate chip/almond/semi-healthy coffee cake when you are done.  I got three out of four.  The guy I was waiting on showed up around the time I should have added my almonds, but I got distracted and saw them about thirty-five minutes later.  When I saw them on the counter, the timer on the oven had less than a minute left.  Sweet. 

 The coffee cake was still good and so moist and yummy, but I didn’t offer the helper guy any.  That’s what he gets for making me forget the almonds. 


Chocolate Chess Pie
September 23, 2011, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Food I Make | Tags: , , , , , ,

The miracle of miracles about a chocolate chess pie is how impressive it is, yet it is so easy.  As my sister always says, you always have the stuff on hand to make a chess pie.  I agree.

This recipe makes one full pie.  You’re gonna want to use a sturdy cookie sheet under your pie plate, because this will fill the pie shell all the way to the tippy-top. 

The recipe:

3 T. cocoa

1 ½ c. sugar

2 eggs

1 can evaporated milk

½ stick butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pie shell

Chocolate Chess Pie

Mix the cocoa and the sugar.  Add the eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla.  Beat well.  Really well.  You don’t want this to separate.  Pour the mixture into a pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until set.  Cool then cut.

Glory, Glory! The Halloween Candy is Here!
September 3, 2011, 8:02 pm
Filed under: Random Thoughts | Tags: , , , ,

My Helper and Her First Peanut Butter Pumpkin for 2011

Even though it isn’t even Labor Day yet, our Wal-Mart started stocking Halloween candy today.

We brought home four bags. Will they make it to October 31? A better question would be-will they make it to tomorrow?

Although it is way too hot and too early to even think about Halloween, the sight of Halloween candy is welcome to me. I still like Easter candy best, but we have had a long, hard, hot, tiring, dry summer. The economy is in the toilet; thousands of people close to us have lost jobs including my good friend’s husband. Mother Nature has not been the kindest with her tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and fires around our country. Things are tough all around. The new normal is called “Making Do.”

The candy in the orange and black is a sign that things are about to change, even though we still have 68 more days until the big night. It is a sign that we will all have fun again, someday. That maybe someday it will rain and the sun will finally have mercy. That money can buy happiness-a bag of fun sized chocolates or a few candy corn shaped pumpkins can tell someone you love them for less than four dollars. Halloween candy is a sign of hope.

Here’s to the arrival of the Candy! Now, pass me one of those chocolate pumpkins….

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
August 16, 2011, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Food I Make | Tags: , , , , ,

Many, many moons ago at a friend’s kid’s birthday party, I had this cake for the first time.  It was delightfully chocolatey and thick.  On that day, it was shaped like a train.  I’ve had it again since then shaped like a dragon, a football, and a rocket.  The girl’s got cake shaping talent, let me tell you.

She also has this awesome, easy recipe that when prepared and served warm has the power to balance the budget and make peace in a warring world. 

Yep, it’s good. 

She is such a good friend and person that she shared this recipe.  Honestly, I don’t know that I would have.  There are some recipes, my friends, that you shall never see on this blog as I will take them to my grave. 

Not only am I opinionated, but I am also a recipe snob.

The Calm Before the Chocolate

But, I have shared this recipe and cake plenty of times.  I make it for dinners and potlucks and sick friends and Relay for Life fundraisers.  Mine is always in the plain shape of a Bundt pan.  It still always goes over well.  On this occasion, I am making it for my parents.  They have watched my kids for me while I have gone back to work.  They watch the kids; they get this cake. 

If only everything could be paid for in randomly shaped chocolate cake. 

We eat it pretty much straight out of the oven and then nuked in the microwave after that.  It is fine cool, but the chocolate chips won’t have that oozey, warm chocolate glow about them that makes one want to hug a stranger. 

Ready for the Oven

Drop what you are doing and go forth.  Make this cake:

One box of Duncan Hines Butter Golden

One large box of chocolate instant pudding mix

½ c. sugar

¾ c. water

¾ c. vegetable oil

4 eggs, beaten

1 c. sour cream

¾ c. chocolate chips

Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 325.  Grease a Bundt pan.  Stir together the cake mix, pudding mix, and sugar.  Add the water, oil, eggs, and sour cream.  Mix until well blended.  Add the chocolate chips and stir.  Pour into the Bundt pan.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.  Cool for five then turn it out onto a plate.  Cool for five more and dust with powdered sugar.  Dig in.   

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

Chocolate Gravy
June 14, 2011, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Food I Make | Tags: , , ,

Chocolate gravy.

It holds a special place in my heart.

The recipe:
2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Cocoa
2 T. Flour
1/4 stick butter
2 1/2 c. Milk
1tsp. Good vanilla extract

Mix sugar, cocoa, and flour in a medium saucepan. Add the milk slowly and stir as you go over medium heat. Stir, baby, stir. When it is thick (gravy consistency) add the vanilla and butter then turn off the heat.

The butter gives it a nice glossy shine.

Serve over warm biscuits or thick bread. This will keep in the refrig if you have leftovers. If. You probably won’t.

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