Tag Archives: dessert

99. Salads (Hold the Veggies, Please)

15 Jun

Cranberry salad by Unsophisticook.
Click for recipe.

When I lived in LA, I witnessed a whole heap of salad eating going on. Here in the Pacific Northwest, folks happily munch on greens of any variety, as long as they’re organically grown less than two miles from their home (Ok, maybe it’s 50, but who’s counting? Locavores, that’s who!). But I daresay there’s no place in the country–perhaps even the planet–where folks eat more salad per capita than the South. Now before y’all start to challenge my completely made up statistics, let me explain: When I say “salad,” I don’t mean a bowl of veggies lightly drizzled with dressing, perhaps topped with a sprinkling of walnuts or cranberries. Oh no. I’m referring to Southern-style salad, which hardly ever features any vegetable as the main ingredient.


So what IS in Southern salad? Well, there are two main categories: sweet or savory. Cool Whip features prominently in the former and mayonnaise in the latter.

Sweet salads include, but are not limited to: fruit salad, pistachio salad, cranberry salad, strawberry salad, blueberry salad (noticing a theme here?), and ambrosia and Waldorf salads (for the fancy people).

Many of the above salads also feature Jello (or Jello Instant Pudding) as a main ingredient. In fact, I think the rule is that as long as you add one other ingredient to Jello, you can call it a salad. The varieties of congealed salad are too many to list, but here are a few I found in my trusty Bell’s Best community cookbook: Apricot Jello Salad, Coca-Cola Salad, Lemon-Lime Congealed Salad, and Miss Dora Sills’ Golden Glow Salad (which involves lemon Jello, pineapples, and carrots. Yum?).

Pistachio salad by Country Door.
Click for recipe.



I should mention that the outlier of the bunch is Waldorf salad, which contains both fruit and mayonnaise. But don’t blame Southerners for that bizarre pairing. It came straight out of the hotel formerly known as the Waldorf Hotel (now Waldorf-Astoria) in New York City. I should also mention that my sister-in-law Karen taught me to make an AH. MAZE. ING. fruit dip using only a pack of cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow creme. Ok, so that’s not technically a salad, but close enough.

In the savory salad category, you’ll find Southern staples like chicken salad, tuna salad (usually referred to as “tuna fish”), potato salad, egg salad, and macaroni salad. This is where you’ll find the occasional vegetable such as celery, green onions, or pickles. Mostly, though, the recipes break down like this: Put a large portion of salad’s namesake ingredient in bowl, add large portion of mayonnaise, stir, and serve. If you’d like to read more about chicken salad, check out what Southern women want by my blog pal, reelingintheyears.

Chicken salad–Hey, who added the lettuce?



I’ll leave y’all with the recipe for one of my all-time favorite salads (also courtesy of my sister-in-law Karen). You might think it sounds more like a casserole than a salad, but it’s CALLED salad, which is good enough for me.

Hot Chicken Salad
2 cups chicken (cooked and cut up)
1 can water chestnuts
1 can pimentos, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup almonds
2 T lemon juice
1/4 t celery salt
1/8 t pepper
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 can french-fried onion rings

Mix all ingredients together except cheese and onion rings. Mix cheese and onion rings together and place on top of mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

What are your favorite “salads”?

97. Chess Squares, Not to Be Confused With Checker Circles

2 Jun

Yep, folks, it’s time for another installment of inexplicably named desserts. This time, I give you “chess squares.” Are they perhaps shaped like chess pieces? Why, no. They are, in fact, shaped like squares (so at least the name is half correct). Might one eat these while playing chess? One might, if one didn’t mind one’s knights and pawns covered in sticky sweetness. Besides which, I don’t know about y’all, but there wasn’t a whole lot of chess playing going on where I grew up. I could be wrong, but I think Southerners are mostly checkers-type folks. Or dominoes. Or poker.

Chess squares are super-easy to make, but hard to keep around the house for long. Unless you happen to live with one of those “I don’t care for sweets” people. But I don’t think they allow more than one of these dessert-ally challenged people per household, so surely someone will pick up the slack, in the manner of Jack Sprat and his wife (and you all know which one you are).

I took a pan of chess squares to my book club brunch here in Seattle where they were snapped up pretty quickly (not as popular as piggies, but then what is?). Now that I think about it, maybe chess squares are best appreciated amongst the nerdy set…

A chess square by any other name...

One day, I was dining at the 5 Spot, and my friend Linda ordered something called “gooey butter cake.” When said dessert arrived at the table, I thought it looked vaguely familiar. Once I tasted it, I knew why. I thought, “That’s no gooey butter cake; that’s a giant, flat chess square.” Later I googled recipes for gooey butter cake and was not at all surprised when they were almost identical to my chess squares recipe:

Chess Squares

1 egg
1 box yellow cake mix
1 t vanilla
1 stick butter, melted and cooled

Mix above until crumbly. Spread in a buttered (or Crisco-ed, if you must) 9 x 13” pan. Work from the center and have the crust a little higher around the edges.

Filling:
8 oz. Cream cheese
3 eggs
1 box confectioner’s sugar

Beat well and pour into crust. Bake at 375 for 30 to 40 minutes or until brown.

In case you’re curious about the origins of gooey butter cake, one of my favorite foodie bloggers, CakeSpy, has a great post, which features a recipe with more detailed instructions. And if you’re into cute things (and if not, why??) check out the CakeSpy shop. However, you might want to proceed with caution if adorable illustrations of cupcakes make you want to sprint (and by sprint I mean drive) to the nearest bakery.

After a fair amount of Internet research, I’ve yet to find a recipe for CS aka GBC that doesn’t feature boxed cake mix as one of the main ingredients. Surely someone made a prototype before Betty Crocker came along. If anybody knows how to make this from scratch, please let me know.

Also, do y’all find it amusing that Southerners have given this dessert a highfalutin sort of name when everybody else calls it exactly what it is: gooey butter cake? Just seems counter-intuitive…

47. Petit Fours Like You’ll Never Find in Paris

4 Oct

petit fours -Brandi Korte

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the topic of petit fours with Geoff (I mean, it’s not like I EVER talk about sweets), but here’s another example of Dixie and Non worlds colliding:

I’m explaining to him that petit fours are little cakes with icing poured over them. About this big (imagine my hands making the universal 2 inch square symbol). And he goes, “Oh! They sell those at Whole Foods.” Me: “WHAT??” See, I have searched the internets more times than I care to mention trying to find petit fours in Seattle, and he’s telling me I overlooked Whole Foods. I would have hopped in the car immediately, but it was well past Whole Foods’ closing time. Ok, maybe not, but I was already in pajamas.

So the next day I set out for Whole Foods in Ravenna, giddy because I was moments away from petit four bliss. As I perused the bakery case, I encountered lots of lovely, lovely baked goods, but nary a petit four in sight. I made no less than three trips around the entire bakery area. No petit fours ANYWHERE. What they did have, though, were a ton of yummy looking bite-sized desserts. The price was a foreboding $18.99 a pound, but then how much could these really weigh? I got a tiny key lime pie and a wee cheesecake and they worked out to about two bucks each. Yes, a little steep for bite sized dessert, but you’d just have to see how cute these things are.

The next day, I was near another Whole Foods. Ok, it was maybe three miles out of the way, but who’s counting? Again, no petit fours. Ack!!

Meanwhile my sister calls to tell me about these awesome petit fours her friends ordered for her baby shower. (My sister’s two requirements for any shower thrown in her honor are petit fours and punch. It may not get more Southern than that. Especially if the punch is the lime sherbet variety. Alas, this is not Jenna’s favorite.)

I tell her about my wild petit four chase and tell her we’ve GOT to get petit fours when I go down to Memphis to help attend to the baby for whom she was recently showered.

Geoff has a client on the eastside, so he swung by Whole Foods to check out the PF situation there. He comes home and says, “Ok, they have a whole bunch of petit fours. They’re all different kinds of bite-sized desserts and they’re $18.99 a pound.” Me: “Yeah, I saw THOSE, but do they have any that are pieces of cake about this big with icing poured over them?” Him: “Uh, no.” Me: “Then they’re not petit fours!” Him: “Well, the sign says ‘Petit Fours.’” Me: “The sign lied.”

Fast forward to me in Memphis. I got the name of the petit four place from Jenna’s friend Tricia. I found their website, which was…somewhat off-putting. Some of their cakes were worthy of Cakewrecks. I would love to link to the site, but now Google warns that the site might harm my (or your) computer.

Nevertheless, Jenna and Tricia vouched for the deliciousness of the Kay Bakery petit fours, so I ordered a dozen. Ok, a dozen and a half because I was determined to bring some home to show Geoff. Not for him to TASTE, mind you, because I knew he would hate them.

kay bakery petit four


If the website put me off, the actual bakery did not do much to assuage my misgivings. But the guy showed me the petit fours, and while they weren’t exactly square, I could tell right away that they were honest-to-God petit fours. Hallelujah!

And they were as good as promised. Yay!

Epilogue: Geoff’s response upon seeing them: “Those aren’t small! They’re not petit fours; they’re grande eights!”

Some folks have no appreciation for the finer things in life.

Where’s your favorite placeto get petit fours? Have you ever attempted to make them yourself?

44. Caramel Cake–Like a Hug, but Tastier

26 Jun

I made this. Yum.

If you happen to be in the South and happen to be offered a slice of caramel cake (or better yet, somebody’s grandmother’s caramel cake), proceed with caution. Much like heroin, one hit’s too many and a thousand is never enough.

I have never met a caramel cake I didn’t like. Mostly, I think, because Betty Crocker has yet to throw her hat in the ring. That I know of, anyway.

Caramel cake is a bit of a misnomer, seeing as the cake isn’t caramel at all. It’s the icing that’s caramel. Well, actually, even the icing isn’t caramel. It’s caramel-esque. And way better than any plastic-wrapped caramel you’ve ever encountered.

The first time I attempted a caramel cake, the icing turned out gritty. Did I still eat it? You bet. See “never met a caramel cake I didn’t like” above.

caramel cake in progress, a still life

The second time, I turned to the Patron Saint of Southern Cooking, Paula Deen. She did not disappoint. And, so, having mastered my technique, I decided to treat my sister to a home-baked caramel cake. What I didn’t plan on was my sister’s sad, sad baking pans. Perhaps I should have switched to sheet cake mode, but I was determined to wow my sister. And wow her I did.

So the cakes stuck to the pans, but I ingeniously inverted them, crumbly side down. Which worked ok for the first layer. Halfway through icing the second layer, an avalanche sent one side of the cake sliding. Not to be defeated, I kept icing that sucker, which was getting crumblier by the second. Even my six-year-old nephew who loves to help in the kitchen decided it was hopeless and abandoned the project in favor of Sponge Bob.

My sister took one look at the cake and said, “What happened??” Me: “It stuck to the pans.” Jenna: “What pans did you USE?” I showed her the culprits. Jenna: “Well, no wonder!”

It wasn’t pretty, but that did not deter us from enjoying a slice. (Well, not so much a slice as a glob). But then, we’ve been known to eat my sister-in-law’s carrot cake rescued from a fall to the floor, which is a story for another time.

If you take a notion to make your own caramel cake, I recommend Paula Deen’s recipe. However, I leave out her layer of filling and have never missed those extra two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar. The icing isn’t a true caramel, but I’ve yet to figure out how that culinary feat is accomplished. I’ve tried many a time, but for me caramel always ends in disappointment or disaster.

Anybody happen to have their grandmother’s caramel cake recipe? Please do share!!

39. Cool Whip–Cream of the Non-dairy Crop

17 Jun

Do the Cool Whip by sweetmusichearts

In case you’re wondering why it’s taken me so long to get around to Cool Whip, I must confess that I haven’t used it in so long that I almost forgot about it. UNTIL…I was eating at a restaurant near my hometown called Mama & Mamee’s. (Many thanks to my friend Tammy Tadlock who recommended the place!!)

At a later date, I will extol the wonderful deliciousness of the entrees, but for now I’m skipping straight to dessert. Have y’all ever been tempted to look over a dessert menu and say, “I’ll have one of everything”? I know I have. Many a time. But I never actually DID it. UNTIL…well, there were six desserts on the menu, and they all sounded equally good. There were three of us, and we were all equally smitten. Plus, the desserts were only $1.99 each. Which by the math I remember from high school meant two desserts for less than the price of one at any other restaurant anywhere. So we ordered six desserts and three spoons.

If I recall correctly, our waitress delivered: white chocolate bread pudding, coconut cake, Hershey’s cake, earthquake cake, banana pudding, and the ice cream sandwich cake, which was what got me to remembering Cool Whip.

After much tasting and speculating and finally asking the waitress, we determined that the ice cream sandwich cake consisted of a layer of ice cream sandwiches, a layer of caramel, a layer of Cool Whip, and a generous sprinkling of toffee bits. How could something that simple (and cheap!) be that plate-lickingly delicious? Magic? Love? Who cares! But I know what I’m bringing to the next potluck. Y’all get ready.

Ever since I bought my own Starbucks-style whipped cream dispenser, I’ve developed a strong preference for real whipped cream. Ok, yes, I’m whipped cream snob. But I will always have a place in my heart (and on my plate) for good, old-fashioned Cool Whip. Because without it, you cannot make my absolute favorite dessert in the world: Chocolate Stuff.

Chocolate Stuff

2 sticks melted butter
2 cups flour
Pecans (however many you want)

Mix and bake in a Pyrex dish at 350 for 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

8 oz. Cream cheese
1 cup Cool Whip
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

Cream together and layer half of this mixture onto cooled crust.

2 (4 oz.) instant chocolate pudding mixes
3 cups of milk

Beat together and spread on top of cream cheese mixture. Top with additional Cool Whip and chopped pecans.

Don’t plan on seeing this one at a potluck anytime soon. It’s kind of a bitch to make. Also, I find it difficult to share.

What’s your favorite recipe involving Cool Whip?

%d bloggers like this: