Sharing a seriously fun love for food

Category: Living

Rum Balls

Rum Balls

Deep luscious tones of chocolate highlighted by the spirit of dark rum. Rich flavors that melt in your mouth!

Rum balls have long been a favorite of mine and I frequently make them for holiday gifts. This version creates a bite that is soft and a bit gooey – rolled in toppings and served chilled. Though you often see these tiny confections made with bourbon I tend to prefer rum. Much like the classic dessert tiramisu, the combination of chocolate and rum is magical.

This is a no bake candy with a short list of ingredients– vanilla wafers, toasted pecans, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, some corn syrup and a big splash of deep, dark rum. It’s a quick mix and then off to chill. Rum balls make a great dessert for guests and are the right size for an entertaining nibble on a holiday buffet.

As always, whenever using pecans in a recipe give them a quick toast in the oven. About 10 minutes at 350-degrees or just until you smell that nutty aroma and you’re good to go. Toasting pecans or any nut is a step that shouldn’t be skipped.

And to make quick work in scooping up this delightful candy, use a small ice cream scoop. Spring-action ice cream scoops come in several sizes and are great tools to have on hand for baking.

The mixture for the rum balls is a bit sticky making it perfect for rolling in delectable toppings!

Easy to make, these luscious little candies make a delicious holiday gift!

Rum Balls

3-1/2 cups vanilla wafers

1 cup toasted finely chopped pecans

½ cup good dark rum

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Toppings for rolling: Additional powdered sugar, chopped nuts or toasted coconut for rolling – one cup of each if you use all three options

Toss the vanilla wafers in a food processor and process until the wafers are finely ground.

Pour the vanilla wafer crumbs into a large bowl along with the chopped pecans and stir to blend together.

In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa powder and the powdered sugar.

Pour in the rum and the corn syrup and stir to blend together.

Add the rum and chocolate mixture to the vanilla wafers and pecans. Stir to mix the ingredients until well combined.

Chill at least 3 hours to let the mixture firm up. Using a teaspoon or a small ice cream scoop, gather up small rounds and shape into balls. You want them to be “bite size”.

Place the toppings for rolling into small bowls. Roll each rum ball into one of the toppings. Place on a rimmed baking lined with parchment paper. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Keep chilled and stored wrapped or in a sealed container. Makes about 3-1/2 to 4 dozen Rum Balls.

Rum Balls, courtesy of Preserving Good Stock

December 14, 2018
: Makes about 3-1/2 to 4 dozen.

Deep tones of chocolate highlighted by the spirit of dark rum. These rich flavors melt in your mouth!

By:

Ingredients
  • 3-1/2 cups vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup toasted finely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup good dark rum
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • Toppings for rolling: Additional powdered sugar, chopped nuts or toasted coconut for rolling – one cup of each if you use all three options
Directions
  • Step 1 Toss the vanilla wafers in a food processor and process until the wafers are finely ground.
  • Step 2 Pour the vanilla wafer crumbs into a large bowl along with the chopped pecans and stir to blend together.
  • Step 3 In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa powder and the powdered sugar. Pour in the rum and the corn syrup and stir to blend together.
  • Step 4 Add the rum and chocolate mixture to the vanilla wafers and pecans. Stir to mix the ingredients until well combined.
  • Step 5 Chill at least 3 hours to let the mixture firm up.
  • Step 6 Using a teaspoon or a small ice cream scoop, gather up small rounds and shape into balls. You want them to be “bite size”.
  • Step 7 Place the toppings for rolling into small bowls. Roll each rum ball into one of the toppings. Place on a rimmed baking lined with parchment paper. Chill thoroughly before serving.
  • Step 8 Keep chilled and stored wrapped or in a sealed container.
Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread

It’s the height of baking season. Flour and sugar are frequent guests on my counter, remnants of the last pie, cake or bread that is now baking in the oven. All are wonderful but it’s hard to beat the aroma of bread baking in your oven. And this bread is particularly special. Loaded with fresh cranberries, the juice and zest from fresh oranges and crunchy toasted pecans – each adding a note of taste and fragrance!

Southern cooks have baked quick breads for years. They are great to have on hand for brunch gatherings, light desserts or snacks and make wonderful gifts for friends and family. Quick breads are just that… quick to make, requiring no yeast to rise or kneading of dough. Somewhat of a cake baked in a loaf pan. With any quick bread, always take care to not over mix the batter or your bread will be tough.

A copy of this recipe was originally given to me by one of my dearest friends. She received it from a lifelong friend of hers carrying on that Southern tradition of sharing favorite recipes. In an unexpected twist, I recently found a similar copy among my Mom’s many recipes. Great Southern minds!

This recipe for Cranberry Orange Bread can be mixed by hand. The butter is cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter. (If you don’t have a pastry cutter you can also use a fork to cut the butter into the flour.) When using oranges for cooking, I head to navel or Valencia oranges. They have a consistently sweet flavor and lend that orange essence you’re after in the finished result. Some tips when picking oranges or any citrus. You want firm fruit with thinner skin. Check the weight of an orange by simply holding the fruit in your hand, it should feel heavy for its size. For measuring, 1 large orange will yield about 1/3 cup juice and 2 teaspoons zest.

Beaming with bright cranberries, golden pecans and surrounded by orange-scented goodness, this bread will usher in December in delicious fashion!

Cranberry Orange Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup butter, cut into pieces and at room temperature

¾ cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 extra-large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon orange oil, optional but enhances the orange notes

2 cups chopped fresh cranberries, measured after chopping

½ cup chopped toasted pecans

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt, then add the pieces of butter.

Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is broken up into small pieces.

In a small bowl whisk together the orange juice, the orange zest, the vanilla, orange oil and the egg.

Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.

Toss in the chopped cranberries and the toasted pecans, gently fold into the batter.

Divide the batter between two small loaf pans (8” x 4” x 2”) that have been sprayed with a cooking spray. (You can also bake one loaf in a large pan, 9″ x 5″ x 3″. Adjust the baking time to 45-50 minutes.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden and the bread tests done. Let the bread cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then turn the loaves out onto a baking rack. While the bread cools make the glaze.

Orange Glaze:

1-1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps

¼ cup fresh orange juice

½ teaspoon orange zest

In a small bowl whisk together the powdered sugar, orange juice and orange zest until the glaze is smooth.

Spoon the glaze over the tops of the bread while it is still slightly warm, using some or all of the glaze to suit your taste.

The delightful smells and tastes of the holiday season!

Something Old, Now Something New

Something Old, Now Something New

I am fortunate to have a number of heirlooms that had belonged to my Mom and my Grandmothers, but none more precious to me than recipes, written in their own hand. Many are stained from years of use, parts somewhat illegible from age. The memories that are packed into those notecards, onto the slips of paper are full of sound, sight and the aroma that filled their kitchens. If I close my eyes for just a moment I’m transported back to those joyous times.

My Mom’s large family about to feast on a meal with sweet tea all around! The meal prepared by Tassie Mae, the matriarch, seated on the left and my Mom with her coal black hair, pictured in the center of all those brothers.

These strong women in my life taught me to cook, to love food and understand how to bring it up from the earth with their bountiful gardens.

My Dad’s Mother, Grace Pearl on the left along with my dear Great Aunt Mary, center. These two made the most amazing food!

I began sharing this passion with my daughter Emily, starting at a very young age just as my Mom had done for me. Cooking binds us together in family, in community and in spirit long after we’ve lost those we love.

My Mom teaching Emily how to make her hot rolls, aka Denver Biscuits.

Emily also learned the joy of cooking from my Mom, spending years in the kitchen together. In doing so, these handwritten recipes passed down through generations mean a great deal to her as well. This past Christmas she gave me a gift, literally bringing me to tears.

Pictured along with the handwritten recipes are two cookbooks belonging to my Grandmothers, a biscuit cutter that my Grandmother used to cut many, many biscuits, a whisk from my Mom and an antique butter press which belonged to my Great Grandmother.

Emily borrowed a number of these recipes and to my surprise turned them into wonderful treasures. I opened the gift box and saw my Mom’s handwritten recipe for her hot rolls, now printed on a delightful kitchen tea towel. In all, she had fashioned two recipes from my Mom and two belonging to her Mother into tea towels. (I don’t cook without a tea towel on my shoulder!) I’ve had so many people ask me how and where Emily had these made, so I asked her to fill me in on the details.

The recipe for my Mom’s Hot Rolls, now always at my fingertips!

Emily discovered Spoonflower, a company based in Durham, North Carolina. It’s a wonderful online marketplace supporting the design of custom fabric. Using the resources offered by Spoonflower here is how Emily created these treasures:

She started by using the “how-to video” Spoonflower has posted on their website: https://blog.spoonflower.com/2012/07/turn-recipes-into-tea-towels/

Then she spent some time cleaning up the scan of each recipe in Photoshop, which she said made a big difference in the quality and clarity. Emily kept the prints in color (where the recipe cards had color) playing off those tones for the borders. She notes they’d also look great in black/neutral/gray tones too and would translate well in a neutral kitchen. To finish the edges of the towels, she took them to the tailor to have the edges sewn.

Other ideas she shared…It would be fun with letters, ticket stubs (do people still have those?) or kids’ art too… She also thinks you could do a more terry cloth/Turkish material and use them for a guest bath, not necessarily with recipes there! The ideas are endless and the hearts touched will be many.

Thanks Emily for a beautiful and thoughtful gift!

https://www.spoonflower.com/about

Hydrangeas, Bringing Seasonal Color Indoors!

Hydrangeas, Bringing Seasonal Color Indoors!

Looking to buy flowers this weekend? Check out hydrangeas. They are gorgeous displayed with a single stem or in clusters making them an affordable option with a lot of impact. Now commonly available in most markets, hydrangeas can be found in a range of colors.

Keeping flowers fresh for more than a few days can be a challenge and make you think twice before spending the money. Here’s an easy trick I learned years ago. You’ll want to buy flowers as fresh as possible, which is sometimes hard to tell if they are wrapped up in cello packages. Look at the leaves. If they are fresh and green you’re off to a good start. Now here’s the trick – hot water. Start by filling a vase with hot water then cut the stems at an angle under hot running water. You’ll want to change the water every 2-3 days repeating this same process.

Cut any flower or greenery stem at an angle to allow water to be absorbed, but cut the stems of hydrangeas under hot running water.

With this trick you can typically get 10 days to two weeks enjoyment out of them.

Ten days and still looking gorgeous!
Company’s Coming!

Company’s Coming!

 

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It’s that time of year and with a few simple steps your guests will feel like they are at a five-star resort when they arrive at your home. These tips are easy to do and most things you’ll have on hand or will only take a few minutes of your time to prepare…your guests will love you for it!

*Arrange extra storage in a closet or dresser so clothing can be easily stored during your guests’ visit. An ironing board and iron made easily accessible is also appreciated for a quick refresh after their journey.

*Make the guest room inviting by providing magazines or share your favorite books you already have on hand. Place them on a nightstand for late night reading. An extra reading chair in the room also comes in handy for putting on one’s socks in the morning!

A tray with teas, sweeteners, spoons and napkins all ready for unwinding!
A tray with teas, sweeteners, spoons and napkins all ready for unwinding!

*Take a tray or basket you have on hand, fill with an assortment of teas and light snacks. Leave this on the guest bed waiting their arrival or on the counter in your kitchen. Keep the tea kettle out on the stovetop, place creams and sugar near the coffee maker. Jot down simple instructions in case your guests want to make a cup of coffee in the early morning hours before everyone else is up or late at night as they wind down for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Place cotton balls, Q-tips and a scented candle on a tray and place on the counter in the guest bath. Include often forgotten toiletries, an extra toothbrush, hair dryer and a clean robe to provide the spa treatment and a bit of pampering. Provide some dark towels and wash cloths to remove make-up so your guests don’t stress over staining your guest towels.

Bath tray

*To wrap up the day, place some luscious chocolates on their pillows. Lindt, Godiva and Ferrero all make individually wrapped chocolates so they’re easy to keep on hand and always appreciated for sweet dreams!

 

“You come from good stock.”

“You come from good stock.”

I don’t remember not cooking.  I’m fortunate that to from a long legacy of great Southern cooks.  My dad was a cattle rancher in the Texas Panhandle, working land settled by his great-grandfather, who came  from Missouri. We worked cattle, and would often feed the ranch hands and neighbors who came to help with branding.

We gathered wild plums on horseback, and my grandmother and great aunt Mary would use them to make jam.  I can hear the steaks searing in the cast iron skillet and smell biscuits baking in the oven, which we slathered in butter and homemade jam.

There are three things that have always sustained our family: faith, humor, and food.  Through tough times, my father reminded me that we could make it through anything, saying to me, “You come from good stock.”  (Everything in our family was a livestock analogy!)  My mother and grandmothers shared their love of food, and in doing so preserved the past.  We hope to share our love of food so you can share it with your family and friends.

Fast forward ….I did not become Victoria Barkley.  (If you’re younger than 45 you might need to ask someone.)  I was the single mom, juggling work and a child all while trying to make ends meet.  Standing in my kitchen one cold winter day, I tearfully explained to my mom that I was supposed to be that “stay at home mom,” vacuuming with my pearls on.  She said to me matter-of-factly, “June Cleaver is dead. This is your life, deal with it.”

And so I did, and as victories and challenges have come along, I still do. This blog is a place to share our love of food, traditions, and recipes – both old and new – and, of course, some fun along the way so you can share and create with your loved ones. Enjoy!