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

Seriously? This Is Getting Ridiculous: The Pioneer Woman’s Blue Cheese Steak

The PW is coming out with a new cookbook in the fall!

I am not sure if excitement is appropriate though.

The PW’s book is all about celebrations. That could be a great thing, as I see it. Paula Deen’s cookbook about celebrations, Paula Deen and Friends is one of my favorites. I have many tried and true recipes from it. Of course, all that was before Paula went and destroyed her career the old-fashioned way-by crying on national TV. Still, I like the recipes, so celebration recipes may be a plus for PW.

Also, the last PW cookbook was full way too many animal/kid pictures. I could just imagine the cat hair in my food as I looked at Miss Kitty while cooking. Same thing with all the dogs. And the kids. Blech. Plus, all the dang cows. Do you know why we call Beef beef? Because calling it cow is a little too uncomfortable. Know what? So is looking at beautiful pictures of them while cooking them. Too close to home, my friend.

Another thing, I have tried too many recipes from PW #2 that have not turned out like I (and hopefully PW) had planned. Case in point:

Rib-eye Steak with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce.

My spin on this little recipe here went like this:

I decided to follow PW bit by bit except for one thing-the onions. Instead of one onion in a skillet, I made two on the grill along with the steak.

Lovely. We grill onions all the time. I followed everything else to a T. I added the cream and the seasonings. I had high hopes.
I also tweaked the steaks just a small bit. Instead of smearing the butter at room temperature, I melted it first. No big deal.
At the end of the grilling time, I added the blue cheese to the sauce as the steaks were all but done.
How was it?

Now, I love blue cheese. This was not quite what I expected, however. One could argue that I fixed the dish wrong because it was prepared totally on the grill.

One could also be wrong.

I used two onions over very high heat. I allowed it to bubble as the recipe said. So the sauce should have been thick like the non-cat photo of the sauce, right?

It wasn’t. It was a thin, liquidy, blue cheese gravy-type thing. Not what I had planned.

Taste-wise, it wasn’t bad, but the runniness nullified the deliciousness. A good steak needs very little help from a sauce. I can make a great steak without the extra work of making a sauce that may or may not be worth the effort.

So, the new PW cookbook is something I will purchase with caution. She’s just burned me one too many times with recipes that aren’t worth the pictures of her dogs.

On the bright side, cookbook number three might be the charm. We’ll just have to wait and see…



When Paula Fails, Stick With the Original: Mississippi Mud Cake


Mississippi mud cake is an old favorite.  Long before The Food Network and popular cookbooks written by celebrity chefs, my momma used to make Mississippi mud a lot.

For Christmas this year in my search for soul food desserts, I made one too.  I used Paula Deen’s recipe.

It was fine, but my cake was very, very dry.  Mud cake should be very, very moist.  I followed her recipe to the T, but something did not go right.   We did like the addition of pecans, though.

Next time, I will stick with Momma’s recipe written here in her words:

2 cups sugar  mixed with 2 cups of self-rising flour.  Set aside.

Take 1 cup water, 1/4 cup of oil, 1 stick of oleo, and 3 tablespoons of cocoa  mix and boil together.

Pour the mixtures together.

Beat in  two eggs and add 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.

Bake 30 minutes at 350 in a large flat pan.

For the icing-1 stick of oleo, 6 tablespoons of milk, 3 tablespoons of cocoa, 1 tablespoon of vanilla-boil all together and add 1 box of sifted powdered sugar.

Put miniature marshmallows or marshmallow creme on the hot cake and pour the icing over the whole thing.

The Good Dream

In September, our book club met at my house to eat and talk about Donna VanLeire’s book The Good Dream.

When book club is at my house, I am a total spaz.  A bad book club meeting is a downer, and I could not live with myself if a bad meeting happened at my house.  I hadn’t had book club at my house since August of 2011.  I stressed to the max.

When my friend Amanda had book club at her house this summer, I kinda made fun of her for painting her front steps before our meeting.  What did I do before it was at my house? We sodded our yard, and I build two brand-new flowerbeds.   Not that we have bad get-togethers often, but the guilt of a terrible meeting with ugly flowerbeds and bad grass would be overwhelming.  Book club is too much fun to blow it by not being a good host.

Of course, though, I had nothing to worry about.  My book club friends are amazing people.  I believe we could have a good time and many laughs at a funeral.

Another thing, the book was great.  I loved it.  The Good Dream was one of those books that I thought about even when I wasn’t reading it.  I pondered the characters and what their fate would be.   The ending fit the book very well.

Also, the food was divine until we got to dessert. We never eat bad food anyway.  I fixed Trisha Yearwood’s Charleston Cheese Dip, and it was easy and so, so good.  I could have eaten it out of the dish with a fork.  It was cheesy, yummy, warm and good. I also made Paula Deen’s spicy tomato soup, but that was no big deal.  I make it a lot.  My friends brought beer cheese, pickled asparagus, and some neat dips.  Everything they make is out of this world good.

I also made cookies since they were well received last year.  I think I may have shared here about my cookies before.  My cookie recipe, friends, is the recipe that I shall take with me to the grave.  I kid you not, although I have been thinking about sharing with someone so my recipe could be shared with Miss Helper if something were to happen to me.  Morbid? Maybe.  But listen, these are awesome cookies.   I made chocolate vanilla pecan peanut butter cookies and chocolate oatmeal cranberry cookies.

For dessert, I made a caramel cake.  Twice.  In the book, the main character makes a caramel cake to share with a visitor.  She makes a lot of food in the book, and those dishes are all homemade, memorable foods for her.  I liked that.  When she made the cake, it explained in a little extra detail how she made it.  So, based on inspiration from the book, I decided to make a caramel cake from scratch using my “friend” Trisha Yearwood’s caramel cake recipe.

The day before book club, I made the twin round sheet cakes and the icing to cover them.   The cakes were almost crunchy.  They should have spent at least ten minutes less time in the oven.  When I realized this, I thought maybe the icing could save the day.

When I read the icing recipe, it called for sugar to be melted in a cast iron skillet.    Welp, I read and reread that part, and I had never heard of such.  The recipe included a stick of butter, and I just figured that it was a typo.  I decided that the butter should be melted with the sugar and that my “friend” Trisha had just made a mistake.

Have you seen Trisha Yearwood cook? The woman is the real deal.  She doesn’t make mistakes.  She is the Chuck Norris of the kitchen.

Nope, the mistake was all me.  My cake icing was as thick and crusty as gloop.  But, again, I thought it would all work out.  I iced that cake and took a good, hard look at it. It looked nothing like the picture in the cookbook.  Not even close.  Then, I tasted it.

It was awful.

Rather than go with it, I chunked it in the garbage.  I had a book club meeting that I could not ruin with a crunchy, gloopy cake.

Before book club and after school on the day of book club-no pressure or anything-I rushed to the store and bought a Duncan Hines caramel cake mix with a tub of  Duncan Hines caramel icing.  A cake has never been put together so fast before.

It was record-setting, I tell you.  Last minute cake making should be an olympic sport.

The second cake was fine, even if I was slightly embarrassed to admit it was a box mix.  My friends didn’t say a word.

It was a great meeting with great food, a great book, and great folks.

I was saved-until next time at least.

Wedding Cookies Go on Vacation

It is time for vacation with the family! All eighteen members of the bunch are traveling this week to the shore. Thank the good Lord above. That means sun, fun, sand, and food.

Lots and lots of food.

And I can not wait.

It all starts with Paula Deen’s Mexican Wedding cookies by special request from my sister.

I had forgotten that the last time we traveled to the great blue-two weddings and two babies (none of which were mine, thank goodness) ago-that I made Paula’s cookies for the trip. I used to make them all the time, but our last trip five years ago was the last time I made them.

What a slacker I am.

Luckily, she remembered and asked me to make them. It was one of the very last things I did before we left the house. They are super, super easy and not too sweet. I follow Paula’s recipe except that I use about a quarter cup more pecans than she does. Also, while the cookies are straight out of the oven, I put them in a large bowl with a cover and gently shake them with lots and lots of powdered sugar.

They are in the backseat right now headed with us for the water.


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