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You know it’s my favorite post of the week, the Heirloom Recipe Series is back for another installment with Ashley Brooke Quinatana of Ashley Brooke Designs!

We’ve been tweeting for some time and even had a fun meet & greet at a past Gift Mart in Atlanta. She’s just lovely and I am thrilled to be partnering up {more to come, stay tuned!} And, hopefully you have already taken a moment to enter the fun giveaway she’s doing on the blog for her fabulous hand-illustrated lemon recipe & note cards!

I loved reading her yummy recipe below, and love that it comes from many generations back. And besides, as a true southerner, she had me at “buttermilk.” Enjoy!


Heirloom Recipe Series with Ashley Brooke Quintana

This is my great grandmother’s (oh-so-yummy!) Buttermilk Candy recipe. I look forward to every Fall when the holidays start to roll around and I start smelling the buttermilk candy in the kitchen. Gosh, this stuff just smells amazing. My great grandma Ann used to make this and bring it to all our family gatherings in a beautiful tin, but now that she is 99, she’s earned her right to relax during the family baking season, and now my grandma Kay (who is featured in the old photo!) her daughter, is in charge of the buttermilk candy. It’s just one of those amazing feels-like-home recipes.  I hope you enjoy!

Buttermilk Candy:
2C – Sugar
1C – Buttermilk
1/4C – Butter
1t – Baking Soda
2T – White Karo Syrup
1t – Vanilla
1C – Peanuts

Mix in a large kettle, sugar, buttermilk, butter, baking soda, and Karo syrup over medium heat. Stir  and check with a candy thermometer until the temperature reaches “soft ball” status.  Remove from heat and let cool. Then add in the vanilla and nuts. Then beat until its very stiff, like fudge.

Mix in a large kettle, sugar, buttermilk, butter, baking soda, and Karo syrup over medium heat. Stir  and check with a candy thermometer until the temperature reaches “soft ball” status.  Remove from heat and let cool. Then add in the vanilla and nuts. Then beat until its very stiff, like fudge.

The lovely Ashley Brooke Quintana of Ashley Brooke Designs is the owner & creative director behind the beautiful illustrations. She has a great enthusiasm, loves to learn and try new things, and is sweet as can be! Her passion for paper cannot be denied. Be sure to connect with her on her blog, twitter, facebook, instagram, and pinterest.


I am so happy to have Melissa of Best Friends for Frosting with us today for another story in the Heirloom Recipe Series! I have long been a fan of the wonderful site and it seems that we have followed each other for some time now.

I loved reading her story below, as it instantly reminded me of my own Grandmother’s recipe for Frozen Lime Mint Salad that was really the inspiration for this entire series.

I hope you enjoy this special post!


You can always count on my mom to make her famous Dried Orange Jello Salad during the holidays. Whether it’s Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, or 4th of July, you can always be sure to expect a clear bowl filled to the brim of mom’s Dried Orange Jello Salad. This recipe has circulated throughout our family long before I was born.

 My Aunt Jo Ann Blanchard originally created the recipe, and she even published it in her recipe book What’s Been Cooking In Oregon.   She once told me how she adapted the recipe: “The original orange jello salad recipe was brought to me by a neighbor when I was a young mother with four sons. I added the variations from the original base of cool whip, cottage cheese, and drained canned pineapple (bite-sized pieces). The variations are:  1. dry strawberry jello and fresh or frozen strawberries  2. dry raspberry jello with fresh or frozen strawberries  If frozen fruit is used, then it needs to be thawed and the juice drained.”

My mom always uses my Aunt Jo Ann’s Orange Jello Salad recipe, but she does add her own twist to it by adding mandarin oranges.   My mom never has to look at the recipe card when she makes it because she has it completely memorized.

I love how dried jello salad offers up so many endless possibilities. You can add a different flavor of jello, additional fruits and nuts, or even marshmallows. This recipe is perfect to serve on a sweet summer afternoon.


Mamma’s Orange Jello Salad Recipe

  • Gently stir 8 oz cottage cheese with 8 oz container of cool whip
  • Gently stir in a large box of orange jello with the cottage cheese and cool whip
  • Drain 11 oz can of mandarin oranges and 12 oz pineapple tidbits. Pat dry with a paper towel
  • Gently fold in pineapples & mandarin oranges.
  • Refrigerate at least 3 hours prior to serving


Be sure to connect with Melissa at Best Friends for Frosting and also on Twitter and Facebook too!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

It thrills me to have two special guests for the Heirloom Recipe Series. I am oh so lucky to have several people be excited to do this series as it is one of my favorites. Hearing what each one has learned from their family and the recipes they have cherished for years. This brings me so much joy to hear these stories and sharing of recipes.

The dynamic duo, Lenny and Denise from the blog Chez Us are going to share with us today a couple of their favorite family dishes. I love their little tag “She cooks. He devours.” And, after seeing their recipes below I can certainly see why! They have always taken pleasure in home cooking while staying close to their roots. Enjoy!


Both Lenny and I come from a long-line of home-cooks, and making nearly everything from scratch, at our home is just second nature.  For as long as I can remember, I have always received pleasure from cooking.  Not only the smiles that a home-cooked meal  produces;  but, knowing that I am putting something wholesome into my body.  Lenny, he has always indulged as an eater and continues to enjoy the simple pleasures of being our at home food-critic.

Home-cooked meals were always present in both of our child-hood homes, and this tradition continues into the present.  My heritage on my mother’s side is Basque, and one could always find a pot of something delicious bubbling away someone’s stove.  Whether it was a big pot of beans mingling with a spicy Spanish-Basque sauce or lamb roasting in the oven, we knew we would be enjoying a warm meal made with love.  My mom put a twist into cooking at home, but using new, and innovative ideas in the kitchen.  One thing was always guaranteed, that whatever we ate would be fresh, and homemade.

Lenny is first generation Portuguese.  His family came over from the Azores, merely, four years before he was born.  His mother’s recipes came from her mother, and they came from her mother, and so on …. these recipes are traditional, rustic, and simple.  She stores all of them in a recipe box that is buried deep in her memory and she shares them with her family every day when bringing a home-cooked meal to the table.

My mother was a genius at trying to disguise foods that she thought we would not enjoy.  From breading thinly sliced cow-tongue, frying it and then presenting it as a steak, to putting vegetables into fresh baked breads.  A favorite recipe of mine was a garden-fresh zucchini bread. It was always moist, sweet, and I loved how the top of the bread baked into a crusty, gooey topping.  It is lovely when served with a lemon glaze or as I prefer, on its own.

One of Lenny’s favorite dishes is his mother’s Camarao Mozambique, otherwise known as Spicy Portuguese Shrimp.  This was the first Portuguese recipe I learned to cook for Lenny.  It was his birthday, and I wanted to make something special.  He called his mother, and asked her to send us the recipe.  Unfortunately, her response was that she did not have a recipe, and she simply added a little of this and a little of that.  While it is served as a special occasion meal at his parent’s home, we enjoy it often.  Warm, crusty bread is perfect for dipping into the spicy sauce that the shrimp are swimming in.

We hope you enjoy this little bite of us that we have shared with you.  It has been a gentle reminder that we need to preserve more of our heritage by sharing our family recipes with you more often.  It keeps the flavors alive for generations to come.

Camarao Mozambique
  • 1 large shallot, minced finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. shrimp, leave the shells on
  • 1 cup white wine, I used Vinho Verde (water or stock can be used instead)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon piri piri, or your favorite hot sauce
  • handful parsley for garnish

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Add the shallot, cook over medium-low heat (about a 4 on our gas stove) until soft, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir, and cook for a minute.  Sprinkle the Goya Sazon over the onion, and garlic;  add the shrimp.  Stir, and continue cooking over medium low heat, for 5 minutes;  stirring often.  Add the white wine, lemon juice, and piri piri, stir, lower heat to a simmer and cook until shrimp are cooked;  about 5 – 8 minutes, depending on how large they are.  At this point, I remove the shrimp, and continue cooking the broth until it is slightly reduced, and a bit thicker than when I started.  It will take about 3 – 5 minutes.  I then return the shrimp to the pan, stir, and turn off the heat.  I like to let it sit for about 10 minutes, to really marriage the flavors.  Then I gently reheat, stir in the parsley, and remove from the heat.  Serve. Eat.

Zucchini Bread

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or cardamon
  • 2 cups grated, unpeeled raw zucchini
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 325.  Sift dry ingredients (except sugar) into a large bowl.  In a mixer bowl combine eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla;  beat thoroughly.  Add the dry ingredients and blend well.  Add the zucchini and nuts, mix gently.

Lightly oil and flour two loaf pans ( 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2) and divide the batter between the two.  Bake for 60 – 70 minutes or until done.  Cool.  Drizzle with lemon icing, if desired.

Lemon Icing

Blend together 1 teaspoon melted butter, 1 teaspoon milk, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 cup sifted powdered sugar.

Be sure to connect with Lenny and Denise {how cute are they??} on their blog at Chez Us and also on Twitter and Facebook too!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

As promised, today is the “big day” for Alyssa and the release of her new book, Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen {big congrats!}. Don’t forget to pop over and enter to win a copy for yourself in the giveaway this week!

I am thrilled to have her here with us today to share this very special recipe as part of my Heirloom Recipe Series. I must say, when I received her email photo of this recipe card, I nearly fell off my chair. How fabulously well-loved is this card? The scribbles, handwritten notes, splatters of ingredients and splashes of color are simply to die for.

Congrats Alyssa and thanks for being a guest. I know you’ll all enjoy this one as much as I have!

Crazy and Amazing Challah Bread

I recently interviewed a celebrity who went on a tangent about birth control and David Bowie and crème brûlée. I put her on speakerphone for my boyfriend to experience as she layered on more nonsensical storylines—rutabagas, Ryan Seacrest, and Buddhism (or was it Gluten-ism?). He rolled his eyes; I pressed the mute button and screamed, “She’s amazzzing!”

Wow, I could have listened to her tales of hot washcloths and homemade cornbread and Karl Lagerfeld forever. But then again, I love a crazy bird; a woman who is only herself. The art of being unapologetically yourself is a gift. This starlet really owned it, and I would like to think I do, too.

It’s a DNA thing, I tell myself. I was raised around really cool—though measurably more stable—unconventional women. “Quiet rebels,” as I say in my book Apron Anxiety. My aunts and cousins—not to mention my sister, mother, and grandmother—are not your average Janes. They’re strong, hilarious, hard-working females who have never been afraid to be flawed or offbeat. We’re a family of wonderful, why-be-normal creatures, who are loyal, close, and lucky enough to know that laughter heals pain.

My Auntie Ellie is probably the most unique of us all, with her hippy-heart, hyper-emotional life experiences and West Coast (via Western Mass) way of life. She’s a lifetime animal lover and has been a vegetarian for as long as I can remember. While we tend to steer clear of some of her faux-turkey triumphs, everyone begs for her earthy-crunchy baked goods. Here is her famed challah—fresh out of the oven, with a little butter, it’s better than anything in the world. By the way, it was actually this beautifully tattered and stained recipe card that inspired the design of my blog, and by extension my book. So, thanks, Auntie E. Here’s to girls like us!

Ellen Wright’s Challah

Makes 1 large loaf, 2 mediums, or 3 smalls

2 packages of yeast

2 cups warm water

4 tablespoons plus a pinch salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups melted shortening, such as Crisco (or a little less)

4 eggs

7 cups flour

Poppy seeds

Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup warm water. After it bubbles, add 1 more cup of warm water, plus the salt, sugar, and shortening. Blend in 3 eggs, then 3 1/2 cups of flour.  Mix until a dough forms. Slowly add the remaining flour and mix until the batch feels formed.

Knead the dough well for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth. Place it in a lightly-greased bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave at room temperature and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled.  Punch down and place on greased baking sheet. Braid as 1 large challah loaf, 2 mediums, or 3 smalls, and let rise again at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Brush with the remaining egg, sprinkle with poppy seeds, and a pinch more salt. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.
Place the loaf or loaves on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour until well-browned on top.  Let rest and serve when cooled.

Be sure to connect with Alyssa on her blog Apron Anxiety, on Twitter at @apronanxiety, and snag her new book here!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, authors, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

It is my pleasure today to have Jennifer Chandler author and blogger at Cook With Jennifer sharing a recipe for the Heirloom Recipe Series.

I love Jennifer’s way of cooking by making dishes simple and delicious, and her wonderful recipe below is no exception. Today she has a recipe that is close to her family’s heart and one that will be perfect for summertime! Also, if you haven’t already, make sure to put in an entry for the giveaway we are doing for Jennifer’s new cookbook Simply Grilling this week! {click here}


To me, an heirloom recipe is one that conjures up memories of family and friends, delicious meals I can still taste, as well as laughter and happiness shared over the dinner table. Recipes that not only fill our bellies, but also warm our souls and put a smile on our faces. That’s what I want for supper. Don’t’ you?

Tequila Chicken Fajitas probably are not what comes to mind when one thinks of an “heirloom” recipe … but this recipe fits that bill for me and my family. Meals are a time to enjoy delicious dishes that are fun to eat and simple to prepare.

My Dad has been making this recipe for family gatherings for close to twenty years now.  When we get together for Sunday lunch, to watch an LSU or Saints game on TV, or to celebrate a birthday, the odds are pretty good that fajitas will be on the menu.

With an extended family that now includes 5 siblings, their spouses, kids, and friends … as well as the occasional neighbor who just drops in during supper hour, my father is always feeding a crowd.  Having a recipe like this that is easy to prepare in large quantities is the key to his (and now my) stress-free entertaining.

My family loves this recipe so much that it seemed fitting that it would be the cover of my new grilling cookbook.

Trust me when I tell you these are the best fajitas you will ever have! Enjoy!


Tequila Chicken Fajitas

Clean, rinse, and pat dry chicken breasts (Boneless, Skinless). Place in a bowl and rub each piece with olive oil.  Add one head of garlic thinly sliced and a small onion sliced. Add a generous amount of Tabasco sauce and make certain each piece of chicken is seasoned. Add a couple of  jiggers of Tequila to the dish and then add enough fresh lemon juice to cover the chicken. Place in the refrigerator for several hours. Best when left over night. Be sure to cover while marinating

Slice in thin strips one red, green, and yellow bell pepper. Cut one large onion in half and slice thinly. Saute the bell peppers and onion in a good olive oil till soft.  Place the chicken breasts on a hot grill and cook turning once till done, thinly slice when done. Serve on warm tortillas with the onion and bell peppers along with guacamole, salsa, and shredded cheddar cheese.


Author Jennifer Chandler has two other Simple cookbooks including Simply Suppers and Simply Salads. She also was a former national spokesperson for French’s Mustard™.  You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog Cook with Jennifer.

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

I continue to be excited by the different nuances of the Heirloom Recipe Series with each new guest. And, this week I’m excited to have TWO special guests! The “dynamic duo” of Valley & Co. – a husband + wife wedding and events planning team. What could possibly be sweeter or more passionate? I am in love. And, their love for the beach seems to rival mine – which I both love and appreciate!

And, if they couldn’t be any more fabulous, they are hosting a fun IceMilk Aprons giveaway over on their blog and let me share some of my top picks for Spring, too! If there is anyone that can’t wait to thaw out {as much as those in the South do have to thaw …} it’s me, so I loved looking ahead to this much anticipated season with them. Click over to enter before it’s too late!

If the love hasn’t already started pouring, check out the recipe below and I know you’ll be hooked for sure! I hope you’re loving the Series as much as I am.

Plum Torte

Family recipes are treasures in our home. They’re a comfort, a memory and a delicious bit of happiness.

While we have so many cherished recipes from both sides of our families we look forward to during the holidays, birthdays and celebrations and those that celebrate our heritage, one favorite rises to the top of our list. This recipe for plum torte brings back memories of being at home with Aleah’s parents on the island. Just saying the island bubbles up memories of laughter and relaxation and waking up to a sunrise over the salty sea with the clouds billowing atop the water.

Bonfires and s’mores are a must and beach walks and long dinners  and days spent just enjoying family are commonplace. Aleah’s mom always whips up just incredibly fresh Northwest-style dinners that last for hours and on many occasions those memorable dinners, whether celebratory or just because,  are topped off with plum torte baked by Aleah’s dad.

What’s so special is that for visits home we know to expect this plucked-from-the-tree goodness made from scratch. While the recipe comes from a cookbook with dog-eared pages and a tattered cover it’s made from love, and Aleah’s dad has gotten it down to his own science and whips it up from memory. Here is the original recipe from the cook book – it’s the perfect recipe to cook up for springtime holidays and celebrations. We hope it becomes a tradition in your home. Enjoy!


Be sure to connect with Aleah & Nick at Valley & Co. and over on their fabulous blog too! And, don’t forget to Follow on Twitter and give a Like on Facebook!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

There are so many things I love about the Heirloom Recipe Series, unexpected things that I could never have imagined when I first dreamed up the concept. One of my favorites is how excited people get about their recipes and the stories behind them. Through this process, they learn things and ask family members things they otherwise would never have known.

I am so happy to have the lovely Sarah Copeland today as a guest in the Series – blogger at edible living and new author of The Newlywed Cookbook { we’re giving away one this week! }. In keeping with a marriage theme, Sarah has the most fabulous love story for us below that involves this wonderful recipe. This could very well be one of my favorites in the Series to date, I do hope you enjoy it as much as I have!


Heirloom Recipe Series with Sarah Copeland

My Granddad Copeland brought this recipe for Brown Sugar Pudding home from a boarding house in Missouri where he stayed not long after he and my grandmother were secretly married. He gave the recipe to his young bride, my Grandma, Virginia, who I’m told would make it for him just as often as he wanted for the rest of their lives. Grandma and Granddad were married almost 70 years {I know, amazing!}, and were the definition of forever newlyweds. They were always lavishing each other with love and tenderness, which in Grandma’s case often came in the form of good southern cooking.
About marriage and love, Grandma always said to us “learn to make his favorite things.”

The original scanned recipe is in my aunt Gloria’s hand. She, the youngest of my grandparents three girls (they had three girls, then three boys), hand wrote all her mother’s recipes out for my aunt Dorothy, the eldest, when Dorothy got married in 1952. This is one of those pages, which Dorothy used for all the years of her own marriage.

When my parents were married, in 1969, my Aunt Dorothy wrote a hand-written copy of the recipe for my mother (attached). On hers, she wrote “Eat all you want ~ magic ~ it feeds all at your table.” I especially loved that line. It sounds just like my grandma, and it was the truth. Everything she made fed everyone at the table, whether there were 6 or 16, and I never remember there being leftovers of anything. That’s is the spirit of my book, and I hope the love and spirit everyone feels around my table. May it grow to hold 16 one day.

Brown Sugar Pudding

1 1/2 cups/300 g packed brown sugar

2 cups/480 ml hot water

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup/115 g all purpose flour

1/2 cup/100 g granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp iodized salt

1/2 cup/120 ml whole milk

1/2 cup/85 g raisins

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C/gas 8.

In a big, wide, cast-iron pan {about 10 in/25 cm} mix together brown sugar and water until smooth. Add the butter. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar dissolves into a deep brown sauce.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, raisins, and vanilla in a medium bowl to make a thick batter. Pour the batter into the boiling brown sugar sauce and stir just a little with a wooden spoon to encourage it to bubble to the top. Sprinkle freshly grated nutmeg over the top.

Bake the pudding until it is browned and just set with brown sugar sauce welled up in puddles between the cake, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.


New author Sarah Copeland is a recipe developer, having worked with Food Network and co-founder of their charitable  initiative Good Food Garden with Share Our Strength. She writes a fabulous blog over at edible living, and be sure also to follower her on Twitter @edibleliving too!

Today, I am jumping with joy to have friend, bride-to-be, blogger at Pizzazzerie and now author, Courtney Dial joining me for the Heirloom Recipe Series.

Courtney is filled with talent, color & creativity – it just pours out of everything she does. I knew for certain she would have something wonderful to share recipe-wise, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised with her delightful story & yummy recipe below. And, if you haven’t entered yet, be sure to pop over to check out the fun giveaway I’m hosting this week for Courtney’s new book – Push-Up Pops. I simply cannot wait for her to be here in Atlanta at her signing at Swoozie’s next month!



Growing up, there was always one smell I could recognize as soon as I entered the house, my Mom’s banana muffins. Famous in our neighborhood, they were always given as little gifts for new neighbors, thank-yous, Christmas morning treats, etc. When I went off to college, this was the one recipe I asked my Mom to give me. I remember her face when I asked her for the recipe card – a blank stare – she just knew the recipe by heart. She had been making it for years and years, a recipe given to her by her father. Thankfully, she wrote it down for me and it’s a recipe card I now cherish!

Serve these banana muffins with nuts for an extra little crunch or make them into a loaf or mini-muffin size instead. Now you’ll have a fabulous reason to use up those ripe bananas in your kitchen. So, thank you Mom for passing down this Dial family recipe which I now get to share with you!

Banana Muffins by Phronsie Dial

1/2 cup butter, softened (Mom always left it out overnight)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons hot water

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and beat well. Blend in bananas, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix in flour and baking soda. Add hot water. Beat egg whites separately and then fold into batter. Never over-beat muffin batter, if it’s lumpy – it’s just right! Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Fill muffin tin with batter and bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes to make 12 muffins!”


Be sure to connect with Courtney on Twitter and Facebook, and on the Pizzazzerie blog too!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

As the holidays grow near, I am excited to continue the wonderful Heirloom Recipe Series that has become everything I could have ever imagined it would be. I just can’t get enough of hearing the back stories behind these special recipes, from some very special people – and this week is no exception!

Joining us today is Cynthia Wong, pastry chef at one of Atlanta’s own southern-staple restaurants, Empire State South. I fell in love with ESS even before I ever set foot into the fine establishment, simply because of my past experience with their sister restaurant Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia where I attended college. The atmosphere & ambiance is perfectly southern, with a fabulous bar and bocce ball on hand too – and the food is certainly top-notch.

With Thanksgiving week upon us, I am thankful today that Cynthia has shared a heartfelt and honest post below, sharing a special shrimp dish recipe with us all and reminding us that there are so many things to be thankful for. Many thanks Cynthia for taking the time to join the Heirloom Recipe Series!


This recipe for shrimp dip belonged to my late father-in-law, Bob Harmon. Like my husband, who is his spitting image, Bob was a strapping man, a master of banter, talented cook, and lover of good wine and late nights. I’ve spent most of the last 13 holiday seasons with the large, loud, warm, accepting, incredibly funny Harmons, who now seem more like adopted family than in-laws. I have always been a bit shy, and was initially uneasy during Christmas visits to the Harmon family homestead. I had a hard time keeping up with the all-night, wine-soaked story telling and joke cracking that left me with hangover headache that would blister the paint off a car.

Their 10-foot long family dinner table is always set for Christmas supper with a succulent, mahogany-skinned behemoth of pork known as The Harmon Family Ham, yeast rolls and biscuits, a large jar of mustard, a heaping dish of Hellman’s mayonnaise, cranberry jelly, cornbread dressing, roast oysters, smoked beef tenderloin and horseradish sauce, sausage balls, green salad, collards, black eyed peas, and Bob’s shrimp dip. The food is left on the table after dinner, until every last bite is eaten– a practice that initially appalled me, but one that I have grown to love. Why put away the leftovers and go to bed? Would it not be better to put your feet up by the fire in the den, make another plate and tell another tale of family legend? Sleep is for later, when you are back at home and need to go to work.

I am estranged from my own family, who are as different from the Harmons as to almost seem alien. Two of the most terrible things I’ve come to learn as an adult are that some differences are truly irreconcilable, and that time does not really heal. But the best thing I’ve grown to understand is that contrary to the old saying, you can choose your family.


Bob’s Shrimp Spread


Be sure to connect with Cynthia by following Empire State South on Twitter and Facebook too!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

In today’s Heirloom Recipe Series, I am so fortunate to have Amanda Hesser, one half of the dynamic duo behind fabulous foodie site, food52. {note: Merrill joined us yesterday – click to read!}  Amanda has an amazing connection with food having grown up in a family surrounded by those who cook, she was recently named one of the “top 50 women game-changers in food” by Gourmet and was awarded a James Beard award for The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

As you must know, I am just thrilled to have Amanda with us today to share a family recipe of her very own, as our Heirloom Recipe Series continues!


My mother has many specialties, but her Chocolate Dump-It Cake is most beloved in my family. My mother used to do all of her baking late at night, after we were in bed. Around 1 in the morning, the aroma of this cake would begin wafting up to our bedrooms. Then we’d watch her frost it while we ate breakfast. My mother kept this cake in the fridge, and it is sublime even when cold.

Chocolate Dump-It Cake
Serves 10

2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup Nestle’s semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.)

3. When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky – if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.) Let cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it’s ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It’s good.

5. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have two layers (when I do this, I use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). My mother uses any leftover icing to make flowers on top. She dabs small rosettes, or buttons, on top, then uses toasted almond slices as the petals, pushing them in around the base of the rosette.


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