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


Feeding the College Kids: Bread Pudding

There is a soft place in my heart for kids in college.  The studying.  The small dorms.  The roommates.  The food.

Many moons ago when I was in college living in the dorms, I had a meal card that bought my lunch from the cafeteria five days a week.  They had salads, sandwiches, a hot plate, and burgers.  The food was always fine, but it wasn’t home food and  some experiences were always better than others.  For example,  it was in that college lunchroom that I first encountered lentils.

Shiver.  Lentils.

I can’t really remember eating in my dorm room much.  I know I did eat, but I really can’t remember what I ate, and I really don’t remember cooking anything.   I know that I had chicken salad a lot from the grocery store.  I also remember the time my then boyfriend brought me a bag of homegrown tomatoes that I sliced and ate on sandwiches.  That was pure heaven.

The tomatoes, not the boyfriend.  The tomatoes were much better than the boyfriend.

Well, now my niece is the college girl eating weird food in her dorm room.  Recently she made a meal in her dorm room and commented on it on Facebook.  A few college friends of hers posted about what she made, which was some “noodles and vegetable stuff” and a bread pudding.  Comments went back and forth about the meal, and it all ended up with me offering to feed these poor, starving college kids a homemade bread pudding.

It was fun.

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Before the Sauce

The recipe:

2 cups of milk

1 and 1/2 sticks of butter, separated

1/2 cup of sugar

4 cups of King’s Hawaiian bread, cubed

2 eggs, beaten

Dash of salt

Dash of nutmeg

1 t vanilla

2 cups of powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until a skin forms over the top.  To it, add the butter and the 1/2 cup of sugar and stir.  In a large bowl, pour the milk mixture over the bread and allow to soak for fifteen minutes.  This will look watery, but it will be fine.

While the bread is soaking, mix the eggs, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla together.  When the bread has soaked long enough, add the egg mixture to the bread mixture.  Bake in a well-greased square cake pan for 35 or 40 minutes.

While it bakes, make the sauce for the top by melting the stick of butter in a small saucepan.  When the butter has melted, add the powdered sugar and turn up the heat to medium.  Stir constantly and quickly until the mixture is thickened and the butter is well incorporated.

Pour the sauce over the top.  Store in the refrigerator but serve warm.

The finished bread pudding

The finished bread pudding

My family and I delivered this bread pudding and some other groceries to my niece recently on a cold winter’s night while she was working on a paper about a poem.  While we there, we got to take her out to eat, see her dorm room,  and spend some time with her.  It was so fun to see the girl who was born when I was in college taking her turn as the college girl.

That didn’t make it any easier to leave her in that lonely dorm room, though.

But hey, she’s a strong, smart chick with a great deal of confidence and a good head on her shoulders-a lot like lots of other ladies who paid their dues in college dorms with brick walls.

Not saying those are traits I have, but my dorm’s brick walls were bright Pepto pink.

A few days after our visit, on that same Facebook post that started the whole bread pudding conversation, one of the friends who first commented about that meal posted that my niece had shared a bit of my bread pudding with him.  He said it was “clutch.”

I guess that’s a good thing?

Regardless, it got the job done.  A few college students have now had a bit of home cookin’, and hopefully it made them a little happier.  And, they know all they have to do is comment on Facebook about food, and I’ll be glad to share some more of whatever they want.

Just making the food, sharing it, and thinking about the college life was plenty of fun for me.



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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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Boudin balls.

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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

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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.



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

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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.



Making Grandma’s Chicken and Dumplings

Thanksgiving this year was oddly unique. The family enjoyed lots of time together and also lots of time apart. I got to read a book and play lots of Angry Birds, which I so enjoy but rarely get to do. It was fun.

For lunch on the big day, we had the usual. Then, that night we had leftovers just like always. This year, however, a new dish was in the leftover pile. It was my husband’s grandmother’s chicken and dumplins.

Grandma makes the chicken and dumplins sometimes, but her daughters make it too. You can’t always tell who has made it, and it is different depending on the cook. These dumplins were like nothing I had ever had before. They were so, so good.

When we got home, I got the bright idea to try to make these dumplins. I convinced my husband to call his grandma for the recipe. She, of course, did not use one. She did share some info, though, and using that and the intel I got from my MIL, I tried it out.

Dang, it was good.

The recipe to the best of my knowledge is-

004One hen. Not a chicken. Not a turkey. A hen. Ours was found under the frozen turkeys at Kroger. They may be seasonal. I have no idea. Ours weighed seven pounds.

Take the hen and let it thaw in the refrigerator for several days. Mine took two days. Take out the gizzards and neck and such. I fed that to the cat. Place the thawed hen in a pot and cover it (her?) in enough water to cover it/her. Add one tablespoon of minced garlic to the water. Cook covered over low heat for five hours. At the five hour mark, add a can of chicken broth. Then, increase the heat to medium for thirty minutes.

At this point, remove the hen from the water and let it/her cool. When cool enough to touch and handle, debone the hen and set the meat aside. At this point, I packed up the broth and the meat and stored both in the refrigerator over night.

005The next day, a nice, thick layer of fat had formed over the broth. Do not remove it. Heat the broth slowly to warm it up and add a half a stick of butter to it. I think this is the trick to what makes it so good. Also add a tablespoon of salt. Shread the chicken into pieces.

006While the broth is getting good and warm, open a can of refrigerated biscuits-prefereably the non-flakey kind. I used a can of ten. On a floured surface, roll out each biscuit until they are very thin and reflour as you go. Slice each thin biscuit into strips; I slice mine into four.

007When the broth is warmed and the butter has melted, add the chicken and turn up the heat to a rapid boil. Add the well-floured dumplins one at a time and so, so very lightly stir. I used a large spoon and just pressed mine down so they were wet. Minutes later-like five or so-the whole thing is done. Add salt and pepper to taste.

008 Serve in a bowl with lots of broth.

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This must be the most unhealthy recipe ever-the hen, the fat, the butter, the dough.

011But, it will satisfy and make you feel so, so happy.

When I gave Mr. Opinionated his bowl, he took one bite and said, “You did good.” Coming from him about a dish that was supposed to be like his beloved grandma’s, I consider that a success, and I hope yours is too.



Facebook Friends and Fried Red Tomatoes

Facebook has once again come through for me in a good way.

Of course I enjoy reading about my “friend’s” fascinating new shoes, or they fact that they rode a bike today, or that they know someone who knows someone who is the brother of the drummer for Train-all true posts, by the way. Such fun.

What I really enjoy, however, is when a friend posts about food. Now that is good stuff.

One day this summer in the middle of our tomato season, a friend of mine from college was tagged in a picture by her mother.  The picture was of fried red tomatoes, something I had never heard of before.  In the post, which I read because I am nosey, her mom explained that the recipe was a Minnesota (or somewhere up North) thing. My friend commented on how delicious they were.

That, my friends, is Facebook gold.

So, not being one to pass up a culinary challenge, I tried it out.  I followed my friend’s mom’s directions and sliced four tomatoes into thick pieces.  Then, I coated them in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and basil.  In a pan with melted butter, I let them fry for about three minutes on each side, and then I let them set on a paper towel to drain.

Yesssssh.  I had one straight out of the pan, and then another, and then another.  I have to say that the longer they cooled, the better they were.

I also tried this Northern recipe with panko.  I liked them both ways.

Now, some would scoff at the thought of frying tomatoes-some have already, as a matter of fact. “That sounds like something I would never eat.”  What a shame.  Those same people may also be inclined to think that we Southerners eat nothing but fried food and have less than sub par grammar skills.   May I point out that these fried red tomatoes are not a Southern US food item, but they are a Northern US food delicacy.  May I also point out that we Southerners eat whatever we want because we are hard workers, and some of us have fantastic grammatical skills.  May I also point out that some of the grouchiest people I know are vegetarians.

Living is laughing, loving, and eating awesome food that may or may not be fried in butter.  Most likely, though, butter will be involved.

Life is also about keeping up with “friends” on Facebook-even if on most days Facebook is only good for checking out what kind of cereal my former college roommate’s kids are eating for breakfast (Yay.) .  I’ll still keep checking in-just for recipes like this to feed my happy Southern self.




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