'Cooking Queen' celebration dishes, plum cake and squirrel cuisine

December 5, 2012 

She has been the "Cooking Queen" since she was a little girl in Folkston, Ga., and now Linda Ogden Epling loves entertaining and sharing her recipes and secrets.

Cookbook author Epling, who now calls Florida home, has two cookbooks, "The Cooking Queen Opens Her Kitchen" and the new "The Cooking Queen's Life Is Delicious," both available at Amazon.com.

I haven't had a chance to see the new book, but if it is as pretty and useful as the first, the book should be a delight.

Her first book, "The Cooking Queen Opens Her Kitchen," not only is a beautiful coffee table book, it also has great recipes and menus for any type of entertaining. A former caterer, she helps readers add those special touches that make a party perfect.

One of my favorite menus was for a "Sip and See" where friends and family gather to make memories or to celebrate a special occasion. The menu features cranberry chicken salad in pastry shells, a variety of Savannah's cookie cutter sandwiches and finger food desserts, served with a white grape fruit punch.

This menu makes me think of the Gulf Coast Opera Syllabubs, garden club teas or festive holiday parties.

The recipes would work well for wedding or baby showers, too.

With Christmas and Hanukkah at hand, Epling has this advice for hostesses and hosts: "No matter how you celebrate the holidays, decorations influence the mood and attitude of your family and guests. Start your preparations early! Make sure that you can enjoy this beautiful season as you make it wonderful for everyone else."

Make no mistake, this book is not only dainty foods. One chapter is called "Especially for the Guys." Epling's three brothers, three sons and son-in-law were the tasting crew for these recipes.

The 191-page book is filled with beautiful color photos of the recipes

and decorations. Each recipe has a color photo beside it, which is most helpful to cooks. They can see what the finished product should look like. From tea parties to sit-down dinners, this book offers advice, decorating tips and, best of all, good recipes.

Here's a sample:

CRANBERRY CHICKEN SALAD

6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

1/2 cup celery, finely chopped and drained

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup honey

Fresh parsley for garnish

Boil chicken breasts, cool and dice. Add chopped celery, salt and cranberries to diced chicken. Mix together mayonnaise and honey. Toss with chicken mixture. Spoon mixture into pastry shells. Garnish with fresh parsley. Yields 10 portions.

PASTRY SHELLS

1 package refrigerated ready-made pie crust (comes in 2 rolls)

Roll open and cut with round cookie cutter. Press into ungreased mini-muffin pans. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Note: 1 roll makes 10 pastry shells.

-- From "The Cooking Queen Opens Her Kitchen"

SPARKLING WHITE GRAPE JUICE PUNCH

2 (24-ounce) bottles white grape juice

1 (2 liter bottle) ginger ale

1 (2 liter bottle) lemon-lime soda

1 to 2 clusters of frozen green grapes, for garnish

Mix ingredients in punch bowl. Chill. Float frozen green grapes on top and serve. Serves 20.

-- From "The Cooking Queen Opens Her Kitchen"

DATE STICKS

1 cup sifted flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 package chopped dates

1 cup pecans, chopped

3 eggs

1 stick unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together 3 times: flour, brown sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the dates and pecans. In separate bowl, beat 3 eggs. Melt butter and add to eggs. Add egg mixture to dry mixture and add vanilla. Grease a 13-by-9-inch pan and dust with flour. Spread mixture 1/2-inch thick in pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into bars while warm and roll in powdered sugar. Yield: 2 dozen.

-- From "The Cooking Queen Opens Her Kitchen"

SUNSHINE CARROT SOUFFLE

2 cups cooked carrots, mashed

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 cup whole milk

1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 small onion, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, separated

With mixer, mix together carrots, bread crumbs, milk, cheese, butter, onion, pepper, salt and egg yolks. In separate bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into carrot mixture. Bake in greased Bundt pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 8.

-- From "The Cooking Queen Opens Her Kitchen"

Plum cake

Former Mississippi resident and Sun Herald staffer Rhonda Deen Glenn asked for a plum cake recipe that her grandmother made. Three readers -- Pat Kersteter, Sandy Delia and Muzette Chatham -- sent in similar recipes. All the recipes use self-rising flour, cinnamon, cloves, oil and plum baby food. They top theirs with a lemon-powdered sugar glaze.

Cherry Hall's recipe adds buttermilk, nutmeg and pecans.

"I have not made this cake in a while, but I'm so glad that Rhonda Glenn reminded me about it," said Hall. "It was always delicious."

PLUM CAKE

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups self-rising flour

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup pureed plum baby food

1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Mix baking soda into the buttermilk. Add to the eggs, sugar and oil and combine well with an electric mixer. Add the flour, spices and plums and mix well again. Fold in the pecans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour in a well-greased bundt or tube pan.

-- Submitted by Cherry Hall

Delia also thanks Glenn for wanting the recipe. She, too, had forgotten about it.

"I think I will bake one, too," she said.

Kersteter found her recipe among her mother's recipes, which came from Meridian home economist Bennie Thompson.

Chatham says this cake does not need refrigeration because it will keep three or four days if it lasts that long.

PLUM CAKE

2 cups sifted self rising flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup salad oil

2 (4-ounce) jars plum baby food

3 eggs

1 teaspoon each cinnamon and cloves

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Beat sugar and oil together. Add eggs one at a time. Add plums and vanilla. Add flour, cloves and cinnamon. Pour in greased and floured tube or Bundt pan and bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

GLAZE

1 cup powdered sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Heat sugar and lemon juice until melted. Pour over cake while hot. Let cake cool in pan.

Note: Can add up to 3 lemons and more powdered sugar to make more glaze.

Chatham's suggestion: While cake is still hot and in pan, pour one half of icing on top. Invert cake onto a plate and pour remaining icing over cake. I punch holes in cake with small skewers so that the icing will penetrate the cake.

-- Submitted by Sandy Delia, Pat Kersteter and Muzette Chatham

Cooking squirrel

Jack Bethea loves squirrel and asked readers if they had any recipes. Kersteter of Gautier, Miss., sent two recipes for him to try a fried squirrel and a stew.

FRIED SQUIRREL

4 cut-up squirrels

3 cups milk

4 tablespoons salt

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon pepper

Shortening or cooking oil

1/4 pound butter

4 tablespoons orange juice (fresh or frozen)

Soak cut-up squirrel overnight in refrigerator in milk and salt solution. Pat pieces dry. Roll in flour to which pepper has been added. Fry in shortening until done and brown. Pour off drippings. Now add butter and orange juice. Cover and steam 15 minutes. Serves 6.

-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter

REDNECK SQUIRREL STEW

2 squirrels

1 cup diced potatoes

1 cup cut carrots

1 cup peas

1/4 cup diced onions

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 can of biscuits

Place two quartered young squirrels in a stockpot and add enough water to cover the meat. Simmer the squirrel meat over medium-low heat for 20 minutes or until tender. Retain the broth and remove the meat from the bones with a fork.

Add 1 cup diced potatoes, 1 cup sliced carrots, 1 cup peas and1/4 cup diced onions to the meat broth. Add water, if necessary, to cover the vegetables and simmer over medium-low heat until tender, about 30 minutes.

Add 4 teaspoons cornstarch and 1 teaspoon salt to the vegetables and broth and stir until thickened. Return the squirrel meat to the pot.

Open a can of premade biscuit dough and place the individual biscuits on top of the gravy. Cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter

Cake for seniors?

"A friend of mine has family who live in North Mississippi. At a church fellowship, they tasted a cake called 'the senior citizens cake,' " Peggy Crawford said. "They have asked everyone and still have not been able to obtain the recipe. Have you or your readers heard about this cake?"

Readers, how about it? Do you have this recipe? If so, please send it to me.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net or Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

If requesting a recipe, include the name or describe it.

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