Nov 19, 2014

Sweeter than Sweet Potato Pie


"Aleshea, you listenin'?" "Yes, ma'am, I replied back to my Grandmad over the phone. "I don't care how good a pie fillin' you got. Your pie is only as good as your crust. Your pie ain't no good if you got a bad crust. Crust makes the pie. Make sure you bake it on a baking sheet. That's my secret to a good crust", she went on. "And ya know back in the day we didn't have recipes when it was passed down to me. We just got in the kitchen and did. We tasted everything and kept addin' until we liked it." Make a mental note I told myself.

“I feel like we put six cups of sugar in that fillin.”
“No, we didn’t put that much did we?’
“Gurrrl, your Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie recipe takes A LOT of sugar.”

Ya, see we were sittin’ and waitin’ for the Junior League meetin’ to start tryin’ to remember the recipe. Neither wanted to be the one to call my Granny and ask. She would ramble our ear off. Especially since she had already called us more than once to make sure we got it. We repeated it back to her more than once. She would be pleased. She had even called me afterwards to see how everythin’ fared.

I had made Sweet Potato Pie for the church bake sale. Since I had fillin’ left I’d decided the rest would be for Thanksgiving.

Remember you don’t have to be scared of homemade. I guess It’s the Southern in me. But I like to think there’s a little Southern in us all. It’s not about where you live but how you live. 
2 cups flour
1/4 cup of Crisco 
teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of  baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
About 1/2-2/3 hot water 

2 sweet potatoes
stick of butter
2 eggs
3 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of carnation condensed milk.

First bake the sweet potatoes on a bakin' sheet at 350 until they are cooked/soft. Took mine a little over and hour but it will depend on how big your potatoes are.

Second we will make the dough. 

1. Mix the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt.
2. Fork the Crisco shortening in.
Once everything is worked in mix with your hands until it becomes the consistency of corn meal.  
3. Slowly add the hot water.
4. Mix with a wooden spoon and then your hands until the dough looks and feels like pie dough
5. Place a damp towel over the bowl and let it sit for 20 minutes on the counter.

Now we will do the pie fillin'.

1. Mix the final ingredients: Mash the sweet potatoes like you would if you were makin' mashed potatoes.
2. Now mix in the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and milk. You want the mixture to be fully and not runny. You be the judge and if need be add more sugar and eggs.
3. Once you have made the fillin' you are ready to add it to you pie and bake. Take the dough you made and roll it out. Put in a greased pan and wah lah.
4. Bake at 350 degrees until done. This will depend on your oven. You will want to check from time to time but not so much that you make your oven loose heat. You will know it's done cause when you stick a fork or toothpick in the center it comes out clean. Took mine a little over an hour to bake.

Nov 12, 2014

Fried Pecan Pie

Oh my these look so good

Get in my belly

Didn't realize these were so easy to make

Fried Pecan Pies say what? *pause* I say pe-con but if I am referencin' it in a pie or a dessert I say pee-can. But that is the only time cause as Martha Stewart says, " I do not pee in a can." *unpause* A few months  back a quiz was floatin' around. The point was to see how Texan you were. I had conveniently taken the quiz but not posted my results via FB. Why you ask? Yes, you guessed it. I only got a 94%. I'll tell you why. Cause #PUMPKINEVERYTHING Yes, I am that basic. I will always pick pumpkin over Pecan. Always. But don't think that means I don't like or appreciate pecan.

Ok, by now all you really wanna know is how that brings me to fried pies. Remember like a year ago when I did my 12 Days of Christmas Recipes and posted my Grandma's Hot Water Cornbread recipe. I hope you remember cause it's one of my top post. Anyway, in that post I mention how every recipe has to have a story. Well, you just got half of the story. Now you get the family part.

Almost two months ago I had fried pies with Sherry (Ride or Die), and James. James had made them semi homemade. I couldn't remember the last time I had homemade fried pies. I wanted then forever and ever in my belly amen. I started tellin' my Aunt about it and she was all, "you know your Grandma makes award winnin' fried pies." Of course she does. Why wouldn't she. Move along a few weeks and I was in Arkansas. Long story short I learned Arkansas, especially The Delta area, was known for it's fried pies. Now it was all makin' sense. She must have grown up on them.

Fast forward to this past weekend. I had picked pecans and wanted to try my hand at a pecan pie and her fried pies for the church bake sale. If y'all don't know by now that I do what Granny says then you do now. Somehow we went from fried apple pies and pecan pie to fried pecan pies and sweet potato pie. So, enjoy the recipe. It's a combination of my Granny and James dough recipe. Yes, I make them smaller than most Southerners. I like to think it makes it healthier and allows for more to be eaten.
2 cups flour
1/4 cup of Crisco 
teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of  baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
About 1/2-2/3 hot water 

Powder sugar

1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of corn syrup
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 cups of pecans chopped
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Oil for fryin'

First we will make the dough. 

1. Mix the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt.
2. Fork the Crisco shortening in.
Once everything is worked in mix with your hands until it becomes the consistency of corn meal.  
3. Slowly add the hot water.
4. Mix with a wooden spoon and then your hands until the dough looks and feels like pie dough
5. Place a damp towel over the bowl and let it sit for 20 minutes on the counter.

While the dough is sittin' heat your grease. Heat enough to fry.

Now we will do the pie fillin'. Remember my Caramel Cupcake recipe. This is sort of the same concept. 

1. Mix the final ingredients: brown sugar, eggs, butter, salt, corn syrup (make sure it's light. That makes a difference y'all) and pecans and then heat until it boils. Once it boils. 
2 Once it starts to boil you can turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes. No more than 10 mins. 
3. Stir the vanilla in. You can always do like me and used Bourbon infused Vanilla. That's my secret. Shh, don't tell anyone.
4. Now set it aside to cool. Yes, it has to properly cool. If it doesn't it can ruin your dough and you will have a soggy old mess. 

Now back to the dough
1. You will need to roll the dough out and cut circles. You can make them as big or small as you would like. Mine are about 4 inches and that is tiny.I also did a few in the shape of Texas because I can. You have a state cookie cutter then you will need to have two halves for each
2. Place a dolop of fillin' in the middle of each.
3. Put water around the edges and then fold over
4. Now fork down and you are ready to fry.
5. Only fry each one for a few minutes. The smaller and hotter the grease the quicker they will brown but the inside may down be done so keep that in mind.
6 Also remember that the more things you add to grease at once the quicker it will loose heat.
7. When they are down drain them on a paper towel and then you are ready to indulge. I always sprinkle with a little powdered sugar. 

This is the start of my Southern Holiday Recipes. Come back throughout the next few days and weekend to see what else I mad messin' in the kitchen.

Yes, I'm sure you could bake these. No, I have not tried it.
What is your favorite flavor of fried pie? Do you eat it with ice cream?

Nov 10, 2014

Another Sunday in the South

"Oh lord forgive us when we doubt Another sacred Sunday in the south... Just another Sunday, oh, oh"

Sunday's in The South, spent langly thinkin' of days past baskin' in the glow of family and frans. The warmth and love the South brings. We rise early for church. Saturday is gone. Not to be spoken of, unless your team won. It's like the Kasey Musgraves song, "and it don't matter if you don't believe, come Sunday morning, you best be there in the front row like your supposed to." Guess it's a good thing I'm a believer. Afternoon asleep as the suns childishly peeks through the shutters. Momma's cookin' sits on the stove. A few Sunday's past I did just that. The sun began to hide amongst the trees. The very trees that hung so low. The Fall breeze wantin' to come out and play. Such perfect weather for a Sunday afternoon wit the sister. A casserole lay in the oven. Family scattered around the house sleep. We snuck away. Away to where those trees hung low and that sun hide.

Come back tomorrow and see what I fried with the Pecans we picked.

Nov 5, 2014

Everyone dies famous in a small town


The end of the workday couldn't come soon enough. Arkansas was to be in my future. Texas in my rear. To say I was ecstatic was an understatement.Usually I only got excited about Texas, sweet tea, a good bowl of grits and my sports teams. But I was ecstatic, nonetheless, in my own way. The clock finally hit that magical number. I couldn't get to my Ford fast enough. I pulled out the parkin' lot, headed east. Sweet tea in hand. Beef Jerky by my side.. Not more than a mile had I gone when the frustration set in. Traffic. Stand still traffic. "It's ok, I told myself. "This wreck will clear soon," I thought. At least I have Alex & Sierra's new album to see me through.

The wreck finally cleared, but the traffic continue on for what seemed like hours. I guess it was when you really think about it. I'd sat so long and drank so much.. tea that is. I pulled in to the nearest Exxon right outside of my hometown. Did I mention I was comin' from past Dallas? Now I was really ready to hit the road outta Texas, the road to my final destination; Helena, Arkansas population < 7,000.

I had a lotta time to think on my long drive. That tends to happen when you drive about 8+ hours into the night. I thought of my family. The family on my Momma's side. The ones who grew up in the Delta Region; who picked the cotton, plowed the fields, delivered the ice, integrated the schools. Of my Great Grandfather, a Mississippi Sharecropper,who uprooted his family to Arkansas to follow the fields and the work. Of my Grandmother, born in Arkansas, raised of Mississippi. Where the better schools for blacks where at the time. Seems silly to type that now knownin' what we know but it was the case nonetheless. I think of Julia and the email she sent envitin' me out for the weekend many moons before to the  King Biscuit Festival. How I called my Paw Paw all excited tryin' to see what town it was we always visited in Arkansas when I came to visit him just over the Arkansas border in Mississippi. Word vomit. Yes, word vomit would describe the emails to Julia. Word vomit indeed. I tend to think it's part of my Texas Charm.

The drivnin' continued. Hours in and I finally reached the state line. A beautiful blue welcome to The Natural State, my guide. Sleep threatened to set in. "I got this", I pepped myself. Runnin' Outta Moonlight boomed through my speakers via a local country radio station. How fittin' I smiled singin' along.Only the moon my guide through the trees.

 I awoke the next mornin' more excited than life itself. Did I mention I eventually made it to my destination hours later? Well, I did. With all the charm and grace I could muster, I quickly readied with a smile on my face. Well, if that doesn't make me sound like a cheesy Southern meme, I don't know what else would. I guess I could think of a few things but I digress and you don't need to worry your pretty little mind. Bonus points if you know the song. We were headed to pick up Alyssa, one of the bloggers, invited on the trip and her husband Jeremy. They called Memphis home. I'd heard Memphis had a rich blogger culture so I was as excited to meet them as I was Fawn, the Missouri blogger also in attendance. We were informed wee'd be havin' breakfast Southern style at The Edwardian Inn. Hmm, right up my alley. We arrived to the most beautiful-historical bed and breakfast. It put Nacogdoches to shame. All my Texas lovers would understand. The wrap around porch had me swoonin'. Wait, how does one swoon in 2014? I've always wondered this. Is it a combination of fannin' back Scarlet O'Hara style? But swoon I did.

I tried hard to listen to the stats of the house. The hem and haw that made it's grand stature possible. But alas all I could focus on was the grits bake in the oven. I swore it was just for me. It's as if they knew I was comin'. I sat through breakfast rudely textin' frans. I just couldn't with the grits. They were so me. My frans wanted to know of this baked grits I spoke of. They were more Texan than me and we mostly boil 'em. 

Many walked past our table in the small breakfast area. All had the same questions. They wanted to know who we were and where we were from. The president of Alligator Records, a famous blues record company based out of Chicago was the latest to greet us. I tired not to look confused as the conversation turned to blues artist after blues artist and who would be in attendance this weekend. We muttered our goodbyes and thanks. Bellies full, we were on our way. So much to be seen that day. 

"...this is where the walkin' lead." Well, maybe we drove a truck. Well, maybe the truck was a Texas Edition bought in Texas. And maybe that excited me all the more. But where did it lead? To an openin' of the Missippi. To where all the campers of the festival where stayin'. I mentally wondered if this is where the river once flowed backwards for two days. We have mighty rivers in Texas but none as great as the Mississippi. At least not in my opinion. It doesn't help that with the drought here in Texas. Honestly I didn't know much about it but I had once heard it to be true.I swallowed hard at how vast and grand the river was. "THIS is what we will be canoein'?" I shuttered to myself.

Ridin' down a Levee on a Chevy. Ok. maybe it was a Ford but we rode it nonetheless. I smiled from ear to ear as we raced down wind through our hair. Now this, this is somethin' I could get behind. Maybe 'cause it reminded me so much of home with my frans.

Quickly, we grew bored of the Mississippi. As magnificent as it was, much more history/culture awaited us. Normally I would shutter at old and dusty but today not so much. The house stood tall and grand on the cobble stone road. My camera not quick or smart enough to capture it's beauty. Built in the early 1800's, long standin'. Now protected by The Interior. The worn finish of the wood, the creakin' of the floors, the elaborate table settin told the stories of long past.

At times it's as if you were transported back. To a time much simpler than this. Ohh, lookie another song lyric. Frans know song lyrics. I guess it's what I'll always love about The South. The simplicity of it all. Each Civil War site passed, a reminder of it all. The good and the bad. My family had a deep history in the military in The Delta. I wondered if our blood was spilled on these fields. Did any of my Wallers fight along side brother for a chance at fresh air? A chance at freedom? I made a mental to ask someone. Not my Paw Paw or Grandmother I decided. Neither could ever give a straight answer and always went on historical tangents. While loved not always needed.

My stomach begin to rumble. I could always eat I thought. Ya, know, the whole growin' up in The South and we show are love by shovin' food down your throats and it's rude if you say no thank you. Yes, The Delta understood that all to well. It was time to migrate on before lunch. The King Biscuit Radio show was to take place. It's been taken place the same time for decades longer than I've been alive. I'm sure I heard someone say it was the oldest runnin' radio program in the Nation and the first to allow blacks. I'm sure I could tell ya more but I was to distracted my a Missourian who came over to tell me all about how she loved black people and even worked the fields along side them. I smiled as I muttered my yes ma'am's.

I felt inadequate and unworthy when the host Sonny came over to take a picture with us. Here next to me stood one of the most revolutionary and influential people in American Music and I didn't know who he was until just then. Shameful I muttered to myself.

Mmmm, finally lunch time. Granny Dee's a few blocks down was to be our stompin' ground. I frowned when the sweet waitress told me they were out of lemons. No this would not do. I quickly explained how I needed my sweet tea with a dash or two of lemonade. The waitress laughed and replied, "baby why you just didn't say a Tom Collins?" I looked at her oddly and tried to tell her that in Texas we call it an Arnold Palmer. I quickly took to FB. I was so perplexed by this namin'. When I  say this was the best sweet tea and home cookin' of my life I ain't lyin'. We chatted. We ate. Hours later it was time to be on our way again. I walked over to thank our waitress. Informed her that I knew sweet tea and this was the best homemade tea i'd ever had. She told me she was Granny Dee's daughter-in-law and thanked me for visitin. I noted that I'd be back if I was ever in the area.

I can't breef I proclaimed on FB. I can't breef. So much delicious Southern Food in my belly and it's as if my body didn't know what to do with its self. We walked the crowded streets. Yes, I need this. Walk baby walk. I marved at the street performers. I awed at the artist. I gave all my monies in the shops. Yes, Helena was a place I was likin'. Every band we passed that had a washboard player made me smile. Was it really blues if it didn't have a washboard? I thought back to the summer of '95. I'd spent much of the summer down in Southern Louisiana with my Daddy's side of the family. My cousin Eric decided that was the summer he'd develop an obsession with accordions and washboards. He was gonna be a famous Zeydco musican in Southern Louisiana. I paused thinkin' of that summer. I immediately wanted to learn the Washboard. The thought quickly faded when I realized I'd never be as talented or famous as him. I'll stick to bloggin' I thought. The night came to a close. So much more Southern food and blues music to keep us company. Such a lovely Saturday.

It felt good to wake up havin' slept in. The rain fell like a flood on the little Southern house we were stayin' at. I couldn't help but smile. Maybe it meant we wouldn't have to canoe the Mississippi. Yes, that's what it meant indeed. I lied back down with no real plans ahead. I'd just scorer FB and soak up all the warmth these covers would allow. Sometime later the rain let up and I was informed the river was ours to conquer. Drats. That's all I could think

We made our way past the historic downtown and walked over to Quapaw Canoe Company. I tried not to let my disapproval show. I wanted the best life jacket they could offer. "I'm just not the fondest of large bodies of water", I said.My soul began to ease when I saw how massive the canoes were. This wasn't like the rinky dink canoes that easily tip over that I'd been in. Yes, I might be able to handle this. The trip didn't take long. It helps when you have an engine in the back. That's what we dubbed our guide. He's what I call home grown and corn fed. I marveled at the beauty of the river. I've marveled a  lot this weekend I realize.

Food again, Yes, this was my favorite part. West Helena conneted Helena Proper. I was dyin' to try this Chinese Southern place. While everyone ordered the famous fried chicken I decided to be brave. I just had to have the chicken fried stake. It'd do. Yes, it'd do.

All weekend I kept askin' locals what Arkansas was known for. No one seemed to know how to answer my question. I kept tryin' to explain in Texas we had BBQ, Tex-Mex. Mississippi had Catfish. A nice man at a local junkin' shop told me we had to try the fried pie. This is what I wanted. Then it all clicked. Why my Grandma made them so. After lunch we found ourselves at Ray's Dairy Maid. Oh these were some of the best fried pies I'd ever eaten. Again I sat rudely textin' frans. I had to tell them of the fried pies I'd eaten.

My time in Helena was comin' to an end. All that was left was to enjoy the night, the food, music and great company. We sat third row listenin'. I couldn't help but notice the ederley lady on the other site of the fence that everyone kept tryin' to get pics of. Who was she? Why did she seem do entranced. I quickly learned she was Annie. Yes, I was just as lost. She was Annie from the famous Blues Song Lerven Helms penned. I was in aw of this woman. I was also in Awe of James Cotton.  He sat on a chair and played the harmonica like it was his life's breath. While many owwed and awwed. Screamed and cheered. I couldn't help but sit silent as a few tears threatened to fall. It's as if he told his story of life on The Delta through that tiny little instrument. I wondered if his family picked the cotton, too. How long had they lived in The Delta? Were they as poor as my family back then?

Helena left me with more question than answers. So many gaps in our family history that all kept leadin' back to The Delta. The Arkansas side. So much I wanted to learn that I'd never cared to until now.

So Helena consider this my thank you. A thank you for your compassion, kindness, love and warmth. For your Southern Hospitality. Until next time my dear friend.

 And you can read all about my journey home: Here

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