About Me

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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Word Goes With Gravy?

“Our senses are never inaccurate, just our interpretations.”

--Stephanie Danler

Recently, I was interviewed for an article in a local magazine. The article, yet to be published (fingers crossed), will be about bloggers in Birmingham. I will be the only food blogger. The writer of this yet-to-be-published article pointed out that my blog is different because it disdains a one-to-one correlation with food. It is “of food” rather than “about food.” This may explain my occasional writer’s block. Writing about anything is hard; writing about food is even harder. 

How does one describe the taste of a ripe, juicy peach eaten at a backyard, family cook-out on a warm June evening? How does it differ from that of a peach eaten in a tart in a Parisian bistro? How does one compare the taste of your first birthday cake with that of your child’s? Does a hotdog at an amusement park with your high school sweetheart taste differently than the one eaten on a cold January night in New York with your fiancĂ©e? 

Food, like real estate, is about time and place. But how do we transliterate emotional acreage into what Hemingway called the “truest sentence”? Adumbration is the best we can hope for because we never remember how that birthday cake actually tasted in the same way we remembered what it was like to eat it.

The efficiency of our senses to experience in real time exceeds the ability of our brains to record the experience for posterity. In a restaurant on a Friday evening after a hellish week at the office, a hot and sizzling steak becomes, in a fraction of a second, an emotion that any attempt at prose cheapens the experience. There’s a reason we taste before we speak; a reason we speak before we write. 

Writing about how something taste is pointless, which is one reason I don’t write a lot of restaurant reviews or even read too many of them. I tend to take stock in how my friend’s face lights up when she describes the new sushi restaurant she found. In other words, I find it more valuable to write about how food makes us feel rather than how it tastes or, more importantly, how we think it should taste. So if that makes my writing more “of food” than “about food,” then I stand guilty as charged.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

But Wait, There's More!

Another Thanksgiving is in the books. What was left of the turkey went into chili last night. That bird really gave its last ounce of devotion this year. But last Thursday was just the beginning; only the first three miles that is America's annual holiday marathon. 

Next stop: Christmas.

Every family has its traditions. And every family has its Christmas traditions. White lights or colored lights? Open a present or two on Christmas Eve? Ham or turkey? 

©2013 Chris Terrell
Santa Needs Some Help
And of course, all families have their own culinary Christmas traditions. Like Thanksgiving, there are certain dishes that simply must be made every year.

For me, Christmas was, and always will be, all about the baking—my first true love when it comes to cooking. For me, Christmas is a Bake-a-Palooza!  

When I would come home from college, the first thing I woud do is take over my Mom’s pristine kitchen and demolish it, making pumpkin muffins, candy cane cookies, and mincemeat pie. You should keep in mind that I was an only child and thus there was only the three of us. That’s a lot of food, even for Mario Batalli! 

But each recipe had to be made.

Let’s start with the pumpkin muffins. I found the recipe in The Christian Science Monitor in an article about New England bed and breakfasts. It’s a pretty simple recipe. The muffins had a great flavor, but were very dense. Many years later when I had misplaced the recipe, I Googled it and found out that about two weeks after I had clipped out the recipe (pre-Internet days), I discovered that the first recipe had a mistake. The corrected recipe added about a cup more of flour. Wow! Since then the recipe is much improved. Alas, I don’t make them any more because I think I was the only one in the family who really liked them.

Now let’s talk about the candy cane cookies. For any of my 15 readers who survived the 70s, you may recall those “card clubs.” You know, the ones where you would get a set of cards once a week/month on subjects ranging from great movies of the last 50 years, to great historical events, to great recipes! As part of your introductory offer, you would also get a handsome plastic container to keep all those cards. Well, my Mom signed up for one of these sets. A Time-Life recipe-of-the-month card collection. And buried in one of these sets was a recipe for candy cane cookies. They were red and white and looked just like candy canes! Of course, they required enough red food coloring to keep an entire 1st grade class awake for days! But I made these every year until—you guessed it—the family got sick of them. 

Same thing with the mincemeat pie from a jar. Not many Anglophiles in my family. ’Nuf said.

OK, let’s fast forward to the latest—and more fun—holiday baking tradition: rum cake!
©2013 Chris Terrell
The "Secret Ingredient"
Nothing embodies the boozy side of Christmas like rum cake. I mean really! Alcohol and cake. Who ever came up with this combination was a freakin’ genius! I’ve been making the rum cake for about three years now. Screw the pumpkin muffins! This one gets people excited.

The recipe is from Southern Living which shouldn’t be a surprise because no one does alcohol and the holidays like us folks down South! Keep in mind that this recipe is not without its hazards. For example, don’t let your nine-year old into the kitchen with a distracted dad who forgets that that glass of dark brown liquid is NOT Coca-Cola. Oh wow! Still haven’t lived that one down.

©2013 Chris Terrell
The Finished  Product!
Anyway, for adults, making rum cake is   as fun as it gets. The trick, of course, is to buy more rum than you actually need to make the cake. (I prefer Myers's.) And trickier still is to stay sober long enough to finish it! So, after many years of baking during the holidays, I may have found something to stand the test of time. This year, I put on the faux fire on the TV; some Christmas music from Frankie on the stereo; fired up the oven; opened a bottle of rum; and made a rum cake. And if no one eats it, I don’t care. The holidays are about traditions we keep, even if they go unwanted.  

Fruitcake anyone?

Here are the recipes for the pumpkin muffins and the Southern Living rum cake:

Pumpkin Muffins


8 oz. raisins, soaked in water

3/4 cup water

15 ounce can of pumpkin

1 3/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup eggs (about 4 large eggs)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon each of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon

1/2 cup salad oil

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder


Place all ingredients, except raisins and oil, in bowl and mix thoroughly. Add oil and raisins, and blend just to mix raisins in. Place in well-greased muffin tins and bake in pre-heated 400-degree oven until golden brown. Makes 2 dozen.

Southern Living Rum Cake


1 ½  cups butter, softened
1 ½  cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
½  cup dark rum 
¼  cup banana liqueur*
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½  teaspoon baking soda
1/8  teaspoon salt
1 cup whipping cream
Rum Syrup 
Powdered sugar


Beat butter and granulated sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla, beating until blended. Add lemon rind, beating until blended. Gradually add rum and banana liqueur, beating until blended. (Batter will look curdled.)

Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients; add to batter alternately with whipping cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. 

Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan.

Bake at 350° for 55 to 60 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Pierce cake multiple times using a metal or wooden skewer. [Writer's note: I use a fork.] 

Pour Rum Syrup evenly over cake. Let stand 45 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar before serving.

NOTE: *¼  cup dark rum may be substituted for the banana liqueur [Author’s note: I’ve never made this cake with the banana liqueur. Doesn’t sound good to me.]

Rum Sauce


10 tablespoon butter 
¾  cup sugar
¼  cup dark rum
¼  cup banana liqueur*


Melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat; stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring often; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, and cool 10 minutes.

NOTE: *1/4 cup dark rum may be substituted for banana liqueur. [Author’s note: I’ve never made this cake with the banana liqueur. Doesn’t sound good to me.]