I decided to try making red velvet whoopie pies because it’s almost Valentine’s day. What an experience! I read many people’s recipes and their comments before I settled on a recipe. Then I drew a heart on some thin cardboard cut it out and and then traced them onto parchment paper so I would have a guide for the cookie dough. I prepared two cookie sheets that had 16 hearts each. Then I whipped up the cookie dough using my stand mixer. I recently bought an electric cookie press that I decided to use today for the first time to pipe the dough into the heart shapes. I had opened the cookie press up earlier and washed it so it would be dry when I was ready to use it. So I filled it up with this unbelievable red cookie dough and then I couldn’t get the tube holding the dough to connect to the rest of the cookie press. After trying and getting way too frustrated, I decided to try my pastry bag, but discovered none of the tips had a big enough hole. So remembering all that I had read, I defaulted to putting the dough in a small ziplock bag and snipping off the corner so I could use it to pipe the dough into the heart shapes. I managed to get fourteen and ran out of dough in the bag. So I baked those and decided it was so time consuming to try to make hearts that the rest of the cookies would be round iinstead. I then dropped of  tablespoons dough onto the other parchment lined cookie sheet using the rest of the dough. Some of my heart-shaped ones came out pretty good while others were so so. The picture below shows four of them that came out pretty well. I plan to take those to my Mother tomorrow. She used to bake Red Velvet Cakes after I had moved away and I thought she’d like them. I’ve never tasted Red Velvet Cake, but these whoopie pies tasted pretty good.
Making hearts is time consuming but worth doing for the experience so you can make something fancy should you need to. However, I would only do it for a special occasion because the round pies taste just as good. I used dark cocoa powder and dark brown sugar for mine so they came out a darker red.

The recipe I used was found the following website:


At the above website you’ll find many recipes for whoopie pies and several for red velvet whoopie pies. The specific link to the recipe I used is:  http://annies-eats.net/2010/02/08/red-velvet-whoopie-pies/ I hope if you try to make these that you have better success than I did. I think I would have done better if I had not tried to use the cookie press with this recipe for the first time. I ended up having red cookie dough all over the kitchen counter, pot holders, etc. — good news is it cleaned up easily. I felt as if I might have it all over my face and hair too, but luckily I didn’t.


Tortilla Soup

I thought this would be simply a recipe for tortilla soup that I developed a few year ago, but it seems my daughter and I  keep coming up with the same idea at the same time. We chatted over the weekend and I mentioned my next blog would be tortilla soup and she said she was  making tortilla soup and putting  it in her blog the next day.  So first I’ll give you a link to her  blog  http://www.annalisala.com/2011/01/23/tortilla-soup/

Instead of just the recipe I will  explain why I decided to make tortilla soup and how I came up with my version (which is very similar to Annalisa’s  — wonder how that happened?) followed by a discussion of the ingredients.

I liked the tortilla soup at a local restaurant chain that no longer exists due to a health issue associated with it. Their version was a very simple tomato base with very little else in it except a few garnishes. When the restaurant closed I began looking fora tortilla soup mix since I was intimidated at the thought of making it from scratch. But like most mixes I  never found any that were very good. Then I began looking at online recipes trying to find one I liked. Over time I came up with my own version which came about by choosing the combination of ingredients that I liked and making it over and over adjusting the amounts until I liked the final results.

My final recipe follows with a discussion of how I vary it depending on what I have on hand  or cannot find at the store when I make it.

Pot of Tortilla Soup in the making

The soup in the picture to the left  is now ready for the corn, beans and thickeners to be added and then cooked about another half hour before serving.






2 – 3 cups of Cooked and Shredded Chicken

1 T cooking oil

1 large Onion, chopped

2 cloves Garlic, minced 

1 -2 T  Jalapeno, chopped finely

2 T Poblano Pepper chopped  or more if desired 

1 – 2 T Chili Powder

1 1/2 t Ground Cumin Powder

1/2 -1  t.  Ground Cayenne Pepper

4 cups Tomatoes, chopped

1 jar Chipotle Salsa  about 12 ounces (see discussion)

1 – 2 T Tomato Paste, to thicken

8 – 10 crushed Tortillia Chips to thicken or some masa harina may be used to thicken if desired

1/4 cup frozen Corn or more if preferred

1 can Pinto Beans (drained and rinsed) or 1 can Black Beans (drained and rinsed) 


Saute the garlic and onion  in oil for a few minutes until softened.

Add jalapenos, poblano peppers along with the  chili powder, cumin,  and cayenne stirring while you saute it a few minutes longer.

Add the chipotle salsa stirring all together and let the flavors combine about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken meat and stock and let it simmer 15 minutes longer.

Add tomatoes and salsa and simmer another 20 minutes.

Taste and adjust spices at this point.

Add beans and corn along with tomato paste and crushed tortillas or masa harina. Continue to cook until beans and corn are  heated and as thick as you like it about 30 minutes.

Garnishes for the soup once it is ready to serve:

Shredded Cheese — Any Mexican style Cheese or , Monterey Jack or Cheddar

Sliced Green Onions

Sour Cream

Chopped Cilantro

Chopped Avocado

Lime Wedges

Tortilla Chips (see discussion)

To serve soup: Either ladle it into a  plain bowl or  over some shredded cheese. The cheese will thicken the soup more. Then garnish with more cheese if desired, a sprinkle of green onions and cilantro, a few avocado chunks, a dollop of sour cream and a lime wedge  with tortilla chips around the edges.

Tortilla soup with Garnishes

Discussion of Recipe

My original recipe I used two cooked shredded chicken breasts, but my husband and I prefer dark meat. I use either a whole chicken or chicken parts or just legs and thighs if I’m making my own chicken broth. I cook the chicken with onion, carrots, celery, a few peppercorns and a little sea salt. When it is falling off the bone, I pick the meat off and strain the broth. Typically I cook the chicken and make the broth the day before and then refrigerate it.  The next day I skim off the chicken fat that thickens on top of the broth. Often my soup has a lot more chicken meat than needed so I think for this recipe  2 -3 cups of shredded chicken is plenty. Sometimes I use canned organic chicken broth and prepare the shredded meat before I start the soup.

In my original recipe I used green bell pepper instead of  poblanos which tend to be hotter although they vary in hotness. Since I prefer their taste and more heat I  switched to them. I often buy peppers and chop them up and freeze them for when I make soups and chilis. I used home canned tomatoes until I run out, then canned ones from the store.

Originally I used a small jar of Pace Chipotle Salsa but it is no longer available so I substitute any other brand of chipotle salsa or sauce that I find or a jar of Medium or Hot Mexican salsa/sauce and I add some chopped up canned chipotles in adobo sauce (see picture) that can be found in the Mexican food section of many grocery stores. Adjust the amount needed  because it depends on how much heat you want to add. I recommend starting with 2 t and add more until it suits your tastes. The chipotles are what really adds heat to this soup. I chop them up with scissors as fine as possible and add however much I want leaving the seeds in them. To add less heat the seeds need to be removed. Cayenne pepper adds a different kind of heat so adjust the amount to suit yourself.

Rinsing the beans reduces their sodium content and some of the additives. I prefer the beans listed, in the recipe but any beans may be added. Notice that I do not add salt to my soup except when I make the broth as I think it gets enough from tomatoes, canned broth and beans as well as chips that are added. Adjust salt to your own taste preferences.

I used red or blue chips (picture above) but if you cannot find them. plain ones will work too. Or buy corn tortillas and cut them into strips and brush them lightly with olive oil season them with chili powder (optional) and put them on a grill pan until they lightly browned and then turn to lightly brown on the other side.

Shaker Lemon Pie

This a special pie sometimes referred to as the Ohio pie and that is where I originally found the recipe when I was in graduate school at The Ohio State University. I read that it was originally made by the Shaker women who didn’t want to waste any food so they used the whole lemons in their pies. The main ingredient is Meyer lemons and they aren’t the common ones found in the grocery store. They are shown at the right and are a little smaller,  rounder, a more golden yellow,  have a bit milder sweeter flavor and a thinner skin than those the groceries usually carry. They tend to be seasonal and can be difficult to find. After asking around we were told that stores here do get them, but none had any. For this pie we were lucky that my husband’s brother who lives in Florida was able to find them and mail them to us.  Also it is good that only 2 or 3 are needed. Interestingly using the whole lemon in this pie doesn’t give it a bitter taste and the recipe is pretty simple.

Shaker Lemon Pie

2-3 Meyer Lemons

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, beaten

Double Pie Crusts

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

Wash the lemons and then slice them as thin as possible. I used a mandolyn set on its thinnest setting. Be sure to pick out all the seeds. Once the lemons are sliced stir in two cups of sugar trying not to tear up the slices. Let them sit for at least 2 hours. (If overnight refrigerate them and bring them to room temperature before using.) Prepare pie crust bottom and set aside. Beat the four eggs and mix in to the lemon sugar mixture.  Put top crust on, seal edges and cut vent holes in top.  Bake in oven at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then lower temperature to 350 degrees F and bake another 30 minutes. Pie is done when a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Originally I planned to make this blog about gathering and preparing food from the wild, but discovered I have too many other cooking ideas that I’d like to share.  I plan to intersperse some of my  favorite soups, stews and chilis in the next few blogs because they’re so appropriate for this cold weather. Also some of them are based on wild meats. Today’s stew can  incorporates wild seafood or store bought.

Joe’s Fish Market  in town is where we first bought this Yugoslavian seafood stew which was very hot and spicy. We loved it, but wanted to make it ourselves. I ask and it always seemed like the recipe was so simple, but I couldn’t quite achieve the flavor and deep mahogany color of the soup base like the one we bought. Then one day about a year ago the recipe appeared in the local paper — the original recipe was to make eight gallons of the base and someone cut it down to one gallon. So upon seeing the list of ingredients I embarked on making a gallon of it and with a little tweaking I was able to make a respectable version of it.

One of the problems I discovered when looking for a recipe was that the soup originated on the Dalmatian Coast along the Adriatic Sea which is mostly in the country of Croatia. Since a lot of people might not find Dalmatian Seafood Stew as appetizing as Yugoslavian Seafood Stew the market altered the name. They were afraid people might confuse Dalmatian,  which is the coast with Dalmation which is a breed of dog and not even want to try it. I  may have had better luck finding a recipe if I had known that earlier. However, the recipe in the paper provided the ingredients list so I was able to learn what my stew had been missing.

The recipe for one gallon given in the newspaper is as follows:

Yugoslavian Fish Stew

3 T olive oil

1 medum onion, coarsely chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T chopped fresh parsley or 1 1/2 t dried parsley

1 T  dried oregano

1 T dried basil

1 1/2 t black pepper

1/4 t white pepper

3/4 t cayenne pepper*

1 cup chicken broth, white wine or beer

30 oz. diced canned tomatoes

15 oz tomato sauce

1 T Worcestershire sauce

2 1/4 T Tabasco sauce* or more

1 1/4 T Red Hot Sauce*

1 1/2 t granulated garlic

1/2 pint of  water (for the eight gallon recipe — the market adds 1 quart of water to 6 quarts of base and then cooks it down to the desired consistency before removing from heat and adding seafood).

* Adjust amounts of cayenne, tabasco and red hot sauce to your desired hotness level. It’s easier to start with less and add more until you get the hotness you like.

Selection of seafood: shrimp, acallops, firm fish such as salmon, talapia, calamari, clams, mussels, etc. Cut the fish into bite size pieces so that all the seafood is approximately the same size and then all will cook in about the same amount of time.

HEAT olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.

SWEAT onions and cook them for about 5 minutes. (Note: to sweat the onions leave the lid on to trap steam so that volatile oils remain in the pan). The onions shouldn’t  brown so lower heat if they should start to brown, so they sweat and retain all their flavors.

ADD celery and garlic and saute 2 minutes.

ADD the parsley, oregano, basil ( Note: when adding dried herbs crush them between your fingers to release more flavor before adding them to pot), black pepper, white pepper and cayenne pepper.   Cook about 5 minutes longer to concentrate the flavors.

ADD chicken broth (wine/beer whichever you choose) and simmer another 15 – 20 minutes to reduce liquid.

ADD tomatoes and tomato sauce  (Note: this part I vary since I use home canned tomatoes, tomato juice and paste; but I try to use approximately the same amount). Cook another 15 -20 minutes. ADD Worcester shire, Tabasco and Red Hot sauces and blend in well.

ADD sugar and granulated garlic and cook stirring about 5 minutes longer.

(Note: at this point the base is done and ready to be cooled and frozen if desired).

If making stew continue as follows. ADD water and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency which is almost the thickness of tomato sauce.

TASTE at this point and adjust to attain the spiciness and hotness. you prefer.

REMOVE from heat at this point and stir in seafood. The trick to cooking the seafood just the right amount is to let the hot soup base cook it. Using this method helps prevent overcooking of the seafood which makes it tough. Stir the seafood around in the hot base for about 5 minutes and when the everything looks done it is ready to serve. .This stew goes will with crusty French bread and a side salad of your choice.

If this makes too much, part of  the base may be frozen in a suitable amount and when thawed the  appropriate amount of water should be added before heating it up to make the stew.

Editor’s Chili

I found the following recipe in an add for a subscription to Field and Stream magazine. I looked online but had trouble tracking down the source for this wonderful recipe.

Not only is this chili one of the best tasting recipes I’ve made, but due to the various colors of bell peppers, tomatoes and two kinds of beans it is  very colorful and looks really appetizing. I discovered it goes well with cornbread and the last time we made this chili we had friends over for dinner and one of them brought some ramp cornbread to have with it. Ramps are a traditional spring delight to many mountaineers.

A Hearty bowl of Editor’s Chili                                                                                      and A Slice of Ramp Cornbread

Since the ramp cornbread went so well with this chili and I had some ramps in my freezer too; I made a pan of ramp cornbread to have with the leftover chili last evening. See notes below the recipe to learn other ways to change the cornbread if you do not have ramps as well as other helpful notes.

Editor’s Chili


2 lbs. Venison (I use ground)                    1 red bell pepper, seeded & diced

¼ lb bacon diced                                       1 green bell pepper, seeded & diced

2 medium yellow onions, diced                1 yellow bell pepper, seeded & diced

1 medium red onion, diced                      2 jalapeno peppers, seeded & minced

3 cloves garlic, minced                                             ¼ cup balsamic vinegar

4 Tbsp Chili Powder                                                   1 Tbsp Paprika

1 Tbsp cinnamon                                                        1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp black pepper                                                    1 Tbsp salt

¼ of 8-oz can chipotles minced w/ scissors              ¼ cup honey

1 Tbsp Molasses                                                             ½ cup red wine

1 bottle Guiness Stout or other stout            1 ½ cups chopped Italian tomatoes

2 cans chopped tomatoes               2 cans beans drained & rinsed — black & pinto

Chopped cilantro (optional garnish)


In a large pan, sauté venison in batches until just cooked. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, sauté bacon until it has browned and released its fat. Remove and set aside.

Saute onion and peppers in bacon fat stirring until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and vinegar and cook for two minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, cinnamon and chipotles (chipotles add heat and if minced w/ seeds will be hotter) then cook stirring frequently for three minutes longer. Add venison and bacon and stir cooking another couple of minutes.

Add honey, molasses, beer, wine and tomatoes and mix well bringing to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about one hour stirring often.

Taste and adjust seasonings by adding more chili powder or chipotles if you want it hotter.

Add beans (can be a mix or all of one kind) and cook 30 to 45 minutes longer until it is done and thick as you like.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

To make the cornbread, I used a Teay’s Valley cornbread mix (made nearby) and added about 1 cup of sliced thawed ramps from my freezer.

Other things that could be added instead of ramps would be green onions, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, green chilies or even chipotle peppers. To see what chipotle peppers that I often buy check my post on Tortilla soups which shows the canned ones I can buy locally.

Another helpful hint is I often buy peppers and cut them up and freeze them in batches for chilis, stews and soups. I measure out the amounts for various recipes, label them and freeze using a food saver which keeps them nicely.

Any canned beans may be used in this recipe, I just prefer black and pinto beans — so feel free to add whatever kind you like.

Over a year ago, I went with my sister to visit friends in Virginia who live not far from the Blueridge Parkway. One rainy day we drove up the parkway to have dinner at the Mabry Mill Restaurant which is at an old historical mill in the area where grains were ground using water power from a nearby stream. There were lots of other community events that took place there too as well. During part of the year there are demonstrations of  some of those activities which include blacksmithing, apple butter making, chair caning, basket weaving, spinning and weaving yarn and woodworking.  However, on the day we first visited it was raining and nothing was happening outside. We did walk around looking at some of the structures that were used to divert the water to drive the grindstones of the mill which were impressive and we  saw some of the setups for the the other demonstrations.

However our goal that day was to have dinner there and of special interest to me were the pancakes which they serve any time.  Originally I assume the pancakes were made from grains ground there and so they try to honor that tradition.  After looking over the menu since I couldn’t decide whether to choose corn, buckwheat or sweet potato pancakes, I chose the three stack which had one of each kind. I thought I would like the buckwheat the best as I remembered having them growing up. However, the buckwheat I remembered from my childhood must have been a milder blend containing  less buckwheat because their buckwheat pancakes had a strong buckwheat flavor. I enjoyed all of them, but surprising to me the sweet potato was my favorite.

After we ate, we looked around the restaurant’s gift shop and I noticed they sold containers of the pancake mixes. But it wasn’t until some time later I regretted not buying the sweet potato pancake mix. In order to satisfy my desire to have them again I decided to try making them myself using leftover cooked sweet potatoes. My pancake recipe follows along with my experiment to make sweet potato waffles showing a picture of the waffles. Needless to say both recipes have turned out well after tweaking and I now serve them on a regular basis.

Sweet Potato Pancake Recipe makes 8  about 4 – 5 inch size

Sweet Potatoes (1 or 2 depending on size)         1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                                     2 eggs beaten

3 1/2 tsp baking powder                                            1 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp salt                                                                            1/4 c butter/olive oil

Cook sweet potatoes in microwave and as soon as they can be handled, peel and put through a potato ricer or mash well.  You will need about one cup of mashed sweet potato for this recipe. The sweet potato can be prepared the evening before and refrigerated.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a medium bowl and set aside. Combine riced sweet potato, beaten eggs, milk and butter/oil (I use 1/8 cup each, but you can use all of either one if preferred) in another container. Blend the sweet potato mixture and the flour mixture to make a batter adjusting to get the proper consistency.

Using a preheated lightly greased griddle, drop batter by large spoonfuls (I use a big melamine cooking spoon) to make 4 – 5 inch pancakes. Cook until golden brown and when the surface begins to bubble turn and cook the other side until it is golden brown.

These pancakes go well with bacon or sausage and topped with maple syrup and butter.

Sweet Potato Waffles recipe makes two 4-section square waffles

1/2 cup all purpose flour                                 1 cup of riced sweet potatoes (see above my technique for prep)

2 eggs,  beaten                                                      1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup butter/olive oil                                   3 T sugar

scant tsp baking powder                                   pinch of salt

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Blend together the milk, riced sweet potatoes, butter/oil and eggs.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and blend them into the wet mixture. Adjust until you have a thick consistency that pours onto the heated waffle iron — you may have to spread it out with a heat resistant spatula so you don’t get so much on it that it overflows too much. Cook until they reach a rich golden brown. Serve with maple syrup or fruit of your choice.  Try these sweet potato breakfast recipes and see if you don’t like them too.

Pancake Variations

Originally I planned to highlight this blog with my version of Peachy Pancakes, but my daughter, Annalisa beat me to it with her blog, so here’s a link to her blog so you can read about them from her site. In fact I must credit her husband for this idea since he introduced them to me at their house. http://www.annalisala.com/2011/01/15/peachy-oven-pancake/ I will add to this concept by introducing German Pancake or Dutch Babies which is likely a plain version of the Peachy Pancake. Also along this line I’ll mention another fruit version, the apple pancake, that my sister-in-law made for us when we visited her.  In all cases these pancakes are baked in the oven and tend to puff up as they bake. I think one could vary the fruit and make many variations of this recipe.

Recently I was watching a television program that my husband taped on the best breakfasts. This show was where I learned about German Pancakes or Dutch Babies. I was so intrigued with the name Dutch Baby that I had to look up a recipe. After reading the recipe, I decided it was actually like the Peachy Pancake without the fruit. So I decided to try making it and had fantastic results. But the first time I forgot to even get a picture, so naturally we had to try it again. The recipe follows with a photo.

Dutch Baby

3 eggs at room temperature                        1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sifted bread flour                             1/8 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon                             7 tsp butter at room temperature

Powdered sugar (optional)                           maple syrup

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place an 8″ cast iron skillet rack on a rack in the middle of the oven while you prepare the batter.

Beat eggs until light and fluffy, then beat in milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Blend in flour using a lower speed until it is incorporated, then beat on higher speed until smooth and creamy.

Remove skillet from oven and add butter, swirling skillet until it is melted and the bottom and part way up the sides of the pan are coated. Pour batter into the hot buttered pan and put in oven.

Bake 20-25 minutes until pancake is fluffy and golden brown. Watch carefully not to burn after 20 minutes as mine was done in just 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve. Some people dust the pancake with powdered sugar and serve it with maple syrup or jelly or fruit such as strawberries.

I will end this post here since I lost the rest of it when I was distracted. Hope everyone who tries these recipes for baked pancakes finds them as tasty as my family.