Cooks Exchange

Cook's Exchange: Dr Pepper makes surprising kitchen calls

Southerners not only enjoy soft drinks, they cook with them, too.

Coca-Cola has long been used for roasts or barbecue in the slow-cooker. Who doesn't like the chocolatey richness of a Coca-Cola cake?

Chef Jackie Espinoza Seavey of Island View Casino in Gulfport, Miss., makes magic with her Barq's Root Beer barbecue sauce. It's the best I've tasted. At the 2012, Barbecue Under the Oaks she and Scott Hixson placed first in the lagniappe competition.

Home cooks have baked 7Up cakes and biscuits for years.

My favorite soft drink has been Dr Pepper since the days of bottles that carried the 10, 2 and 4 clock on them. It stands to reason that my favorite chocolate layer cake uses Dr Pepper for moisture and sweetness.

The soft drinks make dishes pop by adding moisture, flavor and sweetness without a taste of carbonation. Somewhere in my cookbook collection is a Coca-Cola cookbook that has some good recipes that no one would ever guess contain a soft drink.

Reader Rosalind Love of Picayune likes cooking with Dr Pepper, too. Love, originally from Texas, has lived in Mississippi 33 years.

"My mom from Texas had a booklet of Dr Pepper recipes," Love said. "I am enclosing two of my favorites. Other members of my family also like them."

These recipes are unusual. Who would think of using Dr Pepper in pimento cheese or in cookies? Love says they are good, so here are the recipes for readers to try.

DR PEPPER PIMENTO CHEESE

8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 to 1/3 cup Dr Pepper

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 ounces jarred pimentos, chopped

4 teaspoons sweet pickle relish

Mix cheese, Dr Pepper, hot sauce and salt until light and fluffy. Fold in pickle relish and pimentos. Chill. Serve on bread as sandwiches or assorted crackers.

-- Submitted by Rosalind Love

"My mom, Mary Eubanks, would have been 91 next month. She made these coconut balls every

year at the annual family Christmas Eve get-together," Love said.

DR PEPPER BALLS

3- 1/2 cups vanilla wafers, finely crushed

1/4 cup melted margarine or butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup nuts, finely chopped

1/2 cup Dr Pepper

Mix all above ingredients together and roll into balls. Set aside.

Second layer:

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons melted margarine or butter

1/3 cup Dr Pepper

Flaked coconut

Mix these ingredients and coat balls well with this coconut-powdered sugar mixture.

-- Submitted by Rosalind Love

I found my favorite chocolate cake while roaming Pinerest a year or so ago; the posting was credited to groceryshopforfree.com. This makes a three-layer cake with yummy frosting. Please note that the layers should be frozen before icing. This cake is so moist the layers must be frozen or the cake will break apart. I know; I had a couple crack on me.

DR PEPPER CHOCOLATE CAKE

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1- 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup Dr Pepper

1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

CHOCOLATE FROSTING

About 2/3 of a 2-pound bag of powdered sugar (not a box)

1 stick real butter

8 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup of cocoa

Enough milk for right consistency, roughly1/4 cup

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, sugars, cocoa and baking soda into a bowl and set aside.

Pour Dr Pepper into saucepan and add chocolate chips. Heat on low, stirring until the chips are just melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and almond extract in mixing bowl and beat on medium for 2 minutes. Gradually add chocolate/Dr Pepper mixture while mixer is running and beat for another minute. Gradually add the flour/sugar mixture.

Divide into either two or three pans. I am into frosting, so I like three thinner layers. If you do this, make sure you alter your cooking time. For two layers, it calls for a cooking time of 30-35 minutes, but with three layers, I think it cooked for only about 22 minutes. I always set the timer for less time and check it so that I can take it out as soon as possible for optimum moisture.

Freeze the layers before icing.

For frosting: Melt butter and mix with softened cream cheese in mixer. Add cocoa and powdered sugar. Add enough milk for right consistency and then add vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy.

Seavey's and Hixson's recipe first appeared in this column in 2012, but I think it is good enough to repeat. Seavey adapted her recipe for the home cook. She uses Barq's syrup in her winning recipe but suggested that home cooks use a 1 liter bottle of Barq's. When I ate the sauce, she served it on beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon.

"This sauce also is great basted on any pork, sausage, chicken or salmon on the grill," Seavey said.

BARQ'S ROOT BEER BARBECUE SAUCE

1 pound hickory or apple wood smoked raw bacon, large dice

1 large Spanish onion, large dice

7 fresh garlic cloves, rough chop

2 large fresh jalapeno peppers, rough chop

2 ribs fresh celery, rough chop

1/4 pound fresh ginger root, peeled julienne

1 small orange (zest and juice)

1 liter bottle of Barq's Root beer

3 packed cups light brown sugar

5- 1/2 cups Heinz chili sauce (equal to 44 ounces)

1- 1/2 cups soy sauce

1- 1/2 cups dark molasses

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup Jack Daniel's Whiskey (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander seed

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1- 1/2 tablespoons ground white pepper

2 tablespoons yellow curry powder

In an 8-quart, heavy-bottomed sauce/stock pot, render the bacon until half cooked (slightly browned) then add the onion, garlic, jalapenos, celery and fresh ginger. Continue to cook on medium heat until vegetables are soft and the bottom of the pan is browned with bacon/vegetable fond (concentrated liquid stock).

Add orange zest and juice and root beer to deglaze the pan. Bring liquid to boil, then lower to medium high heat in order to "reduce" the root beer broth by half the original volume. Once the volume is half reduced, add brown sugar, chili sauce, soy sauce, molasses and vanilla extract. Simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Add the optional Jack Daniel's Whiskey (in the last 5 minutes of simmering the sauce). Remove from heat. Add all dry spices. With an immersion or "stick" blender, puree the sauce until most chunks are gone. Strain sauce through a china cap strainer (perforated small holes, not mesh). Discard the solids after straining. Cool and label strained sauce. Keep refrigerated until needed.

(Yields 1 gallon)

-- Submitted by Jacqueline Espinoza Seavey

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

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