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

The Feast of the Seven (Give or Take) Fishes: Our Family’s Progressive Dinner 2013

Ah, the annual Christmas progressive dinner. The dinner in which my two older sisters and I get to make food for our families and each other in an attempt to make a merrier Christmas while traveling around the countryside and trying not to overeat at the first stop.

It is tougher than it sounds.
This year, our progressive dinner was at one stop only and the theme was seafood. We transformed my living room into a dining room and the dining room into the living room so all eighteen of us could sit at one table. Other than rearranging most of my house, I was the appetizer, so my job was easy.

The appetizer sister gets to sit back, serve small bites, and relax. Meanwhile, the other two sisters worry about something burning and/or not being cooked right at her house and the thought that everyone might eat too much at the first stop thus leaving a lot of food at her house with no one to eat it.

Again, tougher than it sounds.

An issue for me was that we went out of town the day before the party for Christmas with my husband’s family, and I arrived home four hours before the party started. Yikes.

Luckily, my food was easy enough to get a lot done ahead of time.
I served shrimp with a spicy homemade cocktail sauce and pickled okra. I liked it a lot, and it was pretty festive with the red and green in a little glass. It was also dang easy. The only thing I had to do was boil water for the shrimp, mix the sauce, and assemble the little boogers.
We also had Miss Kay Robertson’s shrimp salad from her Duck Commander cookbook. Since I was low on time, I made the decision to save all the shrimp I had for my other dishes and supplement the salad with two bags of frozen crawfish tails that I warmed up in butter before I added it to the salad as Miss Kay said to do. It was pretty good. It was creamy and crunchy.
The last thing we passed around was The Pioneer Woman’s Skewers of Glory. Glorious might be a stretch, though. I precooked the bacon a little, used canned pineapple to make things easier, and I assembled the skewers when I got home.
I was disappointed in the marinade, which was mostly at the bottom of the pan and not on the skewers, and the time it took to get the dish done. I cooked my skewers at least twenty minutes longer than PW said to and that’s even with the fact that I had precooked the bacon. Not fun when people are waiting for their first course.

Still, it was another memorable miracle of a dinner. Our main course was salmon served with a dill sauce that I will think about for ages, roasted vegetables, and rice. Devine. Dessert was an angel food cake.

Everyone ate too much, and we laughed too hard.

A good time was had by all.

Homemade Shrimp Cocktail
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup pickle relish
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Combine all and chill. In a small glass (I used tasting cups), layer the cocktail sauce, then the okra, then fill to the top with small shrimp.


Soul Food/Duck Dynasty Appetizers

The oldest Foodie sister was the appetizer course this year for our family’s progressive dinner. She did not disappoint.  She went all out.

She, like many of us, has recently fallen in love with Duck Dynasty.  I adore that show.  In the food truck/guys on strike because of uniforms episode, Miss Kay sells her boudin from a food truck when she has unexpected leftovers.  (I tell you what, if Miss Kay ever comes out with a cookbook, there is a special place on my counter next to Trisha, Paula, and Ree just for her book. She? Rules.)  That boudin episode was the sister’s inspiration.

So, we were feasting on Duck Dynasty soul food.  It was like a brush with greatness.  I felt like a celebrity!

Well, a celebrity who makes duck calls from Louisiana, at least.


We had alligator bites.  I ate more than my fair share.  Not to be cliché, but they did taste like chicken.


Shrimp and cheesy grits with bacon-one of the sister’s specialties.   I had two helpings.


Pork boudin here served on one of our grandmother’s platters, I think.  I liked it.


We also ate these boudin bites, but I heard they were spicy.  I didn’t eat one, but the ones who did said they were good.


Crawfish pies-again I heard spicy so I skipped these.


Boudin balls.


Finally, alligator boudin.  The sister did a fabulous job, and we all tried something new and exciting.  That’s an accomplishment for our group.

While at a different party early this Christmas, a friend of ours who is originally from Louisiana explained boudin to us.  According to him, real boudin is blood sausage.

I wish he hadn’t told me that.

I was too chicken to try most of the boudin, but what I did eat was good.  It makes me wonder why Miss Kay had leftovers.

And, I also wonder how she makes it.  Where is that cookbook, Miss Kay?

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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Help! Our Family’s Progressive Dinner 2012
November 24, 2012, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Random Foodie Thoughts | Tags: , , , , ,

Are cupcakes soul food?

One of my favorite parts of the holidays is the food, of course. The lunches, the open houses, the parties-I love it all and the food that goes with it. I am already looking forward to and planning it, and my tree isn’t even up yet. The issue? For the twelth (eleventh? thirteenth?) or so year, our family will be driving around the country side for our annual progressive dinner.

Our progressive dinner is an impossible amount of fun. We eat too much and play Dirty Santa with amazing fairness. Well, most of the time. We get dressed up and drive around to each other’s houses to check out the festive decorations. It is a blast.

Over the years, the themes of these dinners have varied. I think we have done it all from Mexican to Italian; from Paula Deen to cheese; from breakfast to small foods.

This year, I am the dessert. Of the three courses that are divided among the three sisters, the appetizer is the easiest while dessert is a close second. Main course isn’t that hard, but the main course sister gets to decide on the theme. Since we have two family members who will be going on mission trips next year, the theme for this year is Soul Food.

Problem? I have not had much luck finding a Soul Food dessert. I like to go out on a limb for this meal and make something unusual. That’s the problem. I found egg pie, which is not something you see every day. The rest of the desserts I found? I have seen them every day. I have made some and eaten most. That is not an exciting outlook for our dessert.

Frankly, I had no idea that I was so full of soul.

So, friends, I ask for the help of you. Any ideas out there for a soul food dessert?

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.


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.


It took me all day to prepare.


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.

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