Sunday, September 30, 2012

Paula Deen and Her Aunt Peggy’s Cheesecake with Praline Topping

Last week, I had the opportunity to see Paula Deen at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in Dallas, TX.  And let me tell you, she is just as adorable in person and as she is on television.  If you ever have the opportunity to see her live, I highly recommend that you go.

After returning from the show, I decided that I would cook one of my favorite Paula Deen recipes, Aunt Peggy’s Cheesecake with Praline Topping.  Now, the original recipe is very good.  However, I have made a few changes that I believe make it, in my opinion, even better.

Aunt Peggy’s Cheesecake with Praline Topping
Courtesy of Paula Deen (Improvements by me -- italicized)


1 cup of pecans
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 tablespoon sugar


2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Praline Topping:

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of butter


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Then place pecans in the skillet in a single layer.  Stir occasionally so that the pecans don’t burn (a nice smell should develop).  Continue doing so about 5 – 7 minutes.  Now, place pecans in a food processor and finely grind.

In a medium bowl combine the butter, crumbs, ground pecans, and sugar until well blended. Press into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan, using the back of a large spoon.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until creamy. Pour into the prepared crust and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Be sure the center is firm before removing the cheesecake from the oven. Remove the pan from the oven to a rack and allow it to cool completely. Release the springform and transfer the cake to a platter to serve.

Praline Topping:
In a small heavy saucepan, stir together the brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in the corn syrup and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in nuts, butter, and vanilla. Cool slightly.
Ladle the praline topping over the cooled cheesecake and serve. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Caramel Cake

Nothing says, "Albany, Georgia" like a Caramel Cake.  When I was a little girl, I couldn't wait to go to my Grandma Thelma's house and have a piece of Caramel Cake.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, could top that Slice of Heaven On Earth.  Twenty years later, I attempt to create that same sense of excitement with my Caramel Cake.


1 stick of Cisco Baking Sticks Butter Flavored All-Vegetable Shortening
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
3 cups of Self-rising flour (sifted -- can get messy)
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla

3 cups of sugar
3 tbsp of light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/4 tsp of salt

Preheat your oven to 350 
°F and grease and flour three round nine-inch cakes pans. (According to my friend's mom, only people who weren't raised right make two-layer cakes. Now, you don't want to make your family look bad, do you?)  Next, cream the baking stick (I like to use these instead of butter.  I think it makes the cake more moist.)  Add the sugar and continue to cream the mixture ( suggests do so for about 8 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, while continuing to mix the batter.  Then alternate between adding the sifted-flour and the buttermilk.  Lastly, stir in the vanilla.

Evenly pour into the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until set.  Cool completely.

While the layers are cooling, let's make the icing. In a saucepan, add 2 1/2 cups sugar, corn syrup, and milk.  Place over medium heat.  Keep stirring until the sugar completely dissolves.  Now, using our friend, the casting iron skillet,  evenly distribute a 1/2 cup sugar. Over medium heat, swirl the pan until the sugar starts to melt and take on an "brownish" color (for an illustration of what I am trying to explain check out Gordon Ramsay making carmel in this video).

Once the sugar turns color, add the milk mixture into the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the caramel dissolves (I prefer to use a whisk). Then cook without stirring until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage (somewhere between 238 - 240°F) on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla, and salt. Let it cool for about 10 - 15 minutes. Then stir until you have a the right consistency (could take up to 20 mins. Thank God for hand-mixers).

Spread the icing between the layers and on the outside of the cake.  Enjoy!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shrimp and Cheese Grits

Southern comfort food...need I say more?  :-)


1 cup Quick Cooking Grits
2 cups Water
2 cups Whole Milk
1 tbsp of Unsalted Butter
1 tsp of Salt
1 cup Cheddar Cheese

Shrimp and Gravy:
1 1/2 to 2 lbs of Shrimp (raw, peeled, and deveined)
1/2 of a Lemon (juiced)
1 1/2 tsp of Season Salt (Lawry's, preferred -- Eula didn't use anything but!)
2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp of Garlic Powder (NOT Garlic Salt -- there is a difference)
5 tbsp All Purpose Flour
6 to 8 Sliced of Thick Cut Bacon - chopped
1 medium Sweet Onion - diced (Vidalia onion, preferred)
1 tbsp of Unsalted Butter
1 cup of Chicken Broth (Knorr Boullion cube makes the best broth)

Let's prep our shrimp.  Wash the shrimp and place in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the Shrimp. Add Season Salt, 1 tsp of Ground Black Pepper, and 1 tsp Garlic Powder.  Make sure the seasoning is evenly distributed.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator until needed.

While that's getting ready, we'll start the grits.  Combine the water, milk, butter, and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Once boiling stir in the grits (Tip -- If you use a whisk as you stir in the grits, you will notice there will be no lumps in your grits).  Reduce the heat and cover the pot. Revisit the pot and stir occasionally.  We aren't finish with the grits yet, there is still a little something we need to add. :-)

Now, it is time for our Shrimp and Gravy. Of course you don't need a cast iron skillet, but if you are planning to do a lot of cooking then you need to invest in one (Lodge Logic L10SK3 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet) .  Heat up your skillet on medium-high heat.  Once, hot add the chopped bacon.

As the bacon beings to brown, add the onions and 1 tsp Garlic Powder. Stir occasionally. Now, add 2 tsbp of butter to the skillet.  As the onions becomes translucent, remove the shrimp from the refrigerator, dust the shrimp with a coat of flour (about 2 tbsp), and add then to the pan (at this point, depending on your stove, you may need to reduce your heat to medium).

Cook until the shrimp becomes a "pretty pink".

Shrimp, bacon, and onions are ready for gravy 

Now, add sprinkle the remaining flour over the mixture and brown the flour (not too brown).

Flour sprinkled on to begin the base of the gravy

Lastly, slow stir in the chicken broth. A gravy should start to form.

Gravy is forming

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Return to the grits ( I hope you remembered to occasionally stir them) and check the thickness.  If it is too thick, you may add a touch of either water, milk, or heavy cream (I personally prefer heavy cream).  Then, add one cup of cheddar cheese and stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon some grits on a plate, smother with shrimp and gravy, and serve!  Hope y'all like it!

Shrimp and Grits with Garlic Bread