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


Recreating Granny’s Recipe Again: Grandma’s Boiled Custard

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This Christmas, I wanted to make a traditional boiled custard for our family’s progressive dinner. Our theme for the meal was Soul Food, and I had read about boiled custard in several articles and cookbooks about Soul Food. It was destiny. Of course, I -like Clark Griswald-set the bar impossibly high for myself around the holidays. I wanted to make it just like my husband’s grandmother makes it-but not the chicken and dumplins grandmother. This is the other one, who may or may not make good dumplins.

All I know is that once a year, she makes the best boiled custard.

I knew from hearing other cooks talk that to make a good boiled custard took time and patience. I also read that boiled custard, or drinking cream, is served only around Christmas in the South, but it is served year round around the world.

Shame we only drink it at Christmas. It is delicious, but now I understand why we only drink it once a year-it is dang hard to make. I ended up making two difficult batches of it.

The first try at boiled custard was Paula Deen’s recipe. It was on her website, but it wasn’t Paula’s recipe. Nevermind, I thought. A recipe is a recipe, right?

Of course not. The non-Paula recipe turned into a pot of hot milk with a little egg in it when I followed the directions. Something about Paula’s recipes are always like that for me. Anyway, I decided that the mixture wasn’t getting hot enough, so I transplanted it into a pot for higher, more direct heat.

I ended up with hot, creamy scrambled eggs that smelled slightly like nutmeg. Bleh.

That was when Mr. Opinionated did me yet another huge favor and broke down once again to call a grandmother for a recipe.

Bless his heart.

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The recipe goes like this:

Pour 3/4 of a gallon of milk in a double boiler.  I didn’t have a double boiler or anything large enough to hold a gallon of anything, so I improvised with a large sauce pan and a very large bowl.  A redneck double boiler, if you will.  Warm the milk.

In a large bowl, mix 4 whole eggs, 3 cups of sugar, and 3 tablespoons of flour.  Use some of the warm milk to temp the eggs and then mix the whole thing together in the double boiler.

Stir until your arm falls off.  The recipe Grandma sent said 45 minutes on low.  I did that while reading a magazine and checking out Facebook.  45 minutes later, it was still just warm flavored milk.  Then, I cleaned my living room floors.  Still hot, thin milk.  Then, I set out the dishes and glasses for our dinner.  Warm milk.  The process of stirring for so dang long brought to mind a quote from a dear friend of mine: “You know, they sell boiled custard at the grocery store.”

Frustrated and tired as all get out, I covered the large bowl of my redneck double boiler with aluminum foil and took a shower.

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The finished product ready to cool in a milk jug.

I declared it good enough after about two hours.  No doubt the lack of a real double boiler and the size of my bowl fit for cooking a toddler played a part in this jaunt taking so long.

But, it was worth it.

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My boiled custard had the same taste as the granny’s did.  Success.  My was a little thinner and not as lumpy, but I later found out that not having lumps was a good thing anyway.  If I had known that to begin with, I would’ve saved my arm strength stirring.

So, why is it that we don’t drink this more often? Maybe this winter when the days are short and the snow is piled high, I will break out this recipe again and stir until my arm turns purple.  I think it would be worth it.



All I Want for Christmas…

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Dear Santa,

This is it. All I want is Talenti Gelato. Any flavor-well, actually-ALL flavors. If you want, leave them in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. That way, they are slightly soft and mushy and perfect. I’ll leave you some if you want to go with your milk and cookies.

Thanks, Big Guy. You make all my foodie dreams come true.

With much love from the kitchen,

TOF



The Christmas Cookie Cake: I Think I’ve Figured It Out

I think I’ve got it!

To fix the recipe I tried earlier, I tried a few things differently, and it worked out pretty well.

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I divided my dough into two, and instead of baking the cookies in a cake pan, I flattened them on a cookie sheet. It was much easier to remove to cool.  They weren’t perfect, but they worked. Next time, I may bake them on the round cake pans turned upside down.

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Then, I mixed the Nutella with the sugared pecans while they were still warm. Much easier to spread.

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The best improvement was the cream cheese. I creamed two boxes of softened cream cheese with one cup of sugar. It was so smooth and creamy.

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I forgot to save a little dough to make a little decoration on the top. Next time, I’ll try it.

The cake was great, if I do say so myself.  A keeper for sure.

More details are on my post from earlier this month. Please check it out.

I hope you try it too.



Our Annual Progressive Dinner #1: Feeding the Kids

One of my favorite traditions this time of the year is the annual Christmas progressive dinner we host for the junior high girls from our church.

They are so sweet and awkward and fun. Some years, they eat. Some years, they just look at each other.  One year, they scattered all over the house and went through regions not meant for guests’ eyes. Often, they sit down at the table and don’t move.

Any way, it is a ton of work, expense, and time. But, I love it.

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This year, we repeated a theme we have had before. We served the kids Italian. I made homemade fetticine with homemade Pomadoro sauce, homemade meat sauce, homemade lasagna, homemade meatballs, and one of my favorite dishes of all time, Trisha Yearwood’s homemade spinach and chicken casserole lasagna.

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It took me all day to prepare.

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I also served them alfredo out of a jar from the store and Sister Shubert’s rolls with garlic butter. Those took about two minutes.

Guess what they ate?

Well, it wasn’t what took me all day, that’s for sure.

It was still a lot of fun. They were so sweet and funny.  They talked and laughed and ate the stuff I bought at the store. Next year, we’ll have Mexican.

Probably mostly from a jar.



Christmas Cookie Cake: A Work in Progress

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I have come up with yet another brilliant recipe. 

Of course, I am kidding. I have come up with an idea at least, and it needs a little work.

For the Christmas party we had last weekend, I made Nutella, sugared pecans, and cream cheese wrapped in crescent rolls that were split in two.  They were good, but they didn’t go very far.

After a trip to Sam’s this weekend, I had a jumbo box of sugar cookie mix to work with. Sweet. Since Tuesday was my day to take a Christmas snack for our faculty, I decided to experiment! Woohoo!

Teachers will eat anything. They make excellent guinea pigs.

My first thought was to stuff the sugar cookies with my Nutella, cream cheese, and pecan idea. That, however, would be time consuming. Not interested.

There’s a reason why I don’t make the cute cupcakes that everyone loves. They take too stinkin’ long.

Second thought-make two large sugar cookies and layer the filling like a layered cake. Simple-check. Easy-check. Not too time consuming-check.  So, that’s what I did.

I made the cookie mix as directed on the box, and then I split the mix in half.  In two round cake pans, I flattened each half of the mixture and baked them for nine minutes.

When they cooled, I attempted to the turn them out onto my cake stand. Even though I sprayed the boogers with non-stick spray beforehand, they still stuck to the pan. They messier of the two went on the bottom. 

Then, I scattered the pecans over the large non-perfect cookie and attempted to cover that with Nutella.  It was a hot mess.  The Nutella would not spread and the pecans would not stay put. What I ended up doing was scraping the pecans off and mixing them with the Nutella for a smoother spread.  I thinly sliced an eight ounce block of cream cheese and covered the whole shebang with the cream cheese slices.

Finally, I topped it all off with the second large cookie and a good sprinkle of powdered sugar to cover any character flaws.

The next day, I took my experiment to school and left it on the faculty lounge table for the starving masses. When I went back at the end of the day, most of it was gone which means it was a success.

Again, though, I don’t read too much into that. They’re not what you’d call picky eaters.

What I want to work on is the filling. It was good, but it wasn’t creamy like I like cream cheese fillings to be.  I may cream the cream cheese with a little sugar next time.

This weekend will be the next time.  We have a Christmas gathering for my family.

Oh, the craziness.
Oh, the drama.
Oh, the culinary knowledge.

It’ll all be there in spades, and I think I’ll try this cookie cake again.

Stay tuned, Foodie Friends.




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