The Recipe Club

Food & Friendship Blog

Piedmont Recipe Club

Sometimes our Recipe Clubs are small and intimate. But when they’re larger, we’re so clearly reminded that everybody has a story that starts with food…but ends with truth-telling, intimate revelation, or humor.

That’s what happened at our Piedmont Recipe Club, when eleven women gathered with a “we are the world” collective background: Arabic, Eastern-European, Scottish, Japanese, Southern American, Latina, Indian.

Candles flickered...memories burned bright.

Candles flickered...memories burned bright.

Our host’s intention was to see if the eclectic backgrounds of her Recipe Club guests would flavor their recipes and stories. But, interestingly, it turned out that the stories we heard had less to do with heritage and more to do with parental relationships and emotions—common ground no matter where your family hails from, or how connected you are to those roots.

Sometimes we got so busy listening we forgot to eat...

Sometimes we got so busy listening we forgot to eat...

Here is some of what we overheard:

Amy’s Stolen Frozen Brownies

“My mom is a planner, very organized. When she was having company she would set the table several days ahead, and always knew what menu was going to be. And if she was baking stuff she would make it way ahead of time and she would freeze it. (We had an extra freezer.)

“Well, whenever my mother made brownies, she would store them in these cardboard boxes in the freezer. My sister and would sneak them out of the freezer and eat them frozen. We did this many times, until one day my mother was getting ready to serve the brownies at a dinner party, only to find we had eaten three-quarters of the box! So as we grew older, she put a lock on the freezer.

“Because my mom was thrifty, she would count the pieces in each box–but she but never learned to count the boxes! So we got that one down: we learned to eat an entire box instead of just a few brownies. Luckily we had an incinerator so we could burn the evidence.

“To this day, we still eat them frozen. They’re awesome straight from the freezer!”

Amy’s Stolen Frozen Brownies

8X8X8X2-inch pan

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 ½ squares unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 cups minus 2 T sugar
  • 4 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients, except for chocolate chips.
  4. Spread mixture into greased and floured pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press down lightly.
  5. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.
  6. Freeze!

Mary Margaret’s “Ever-day” Biscuits

Mary Margaret, who has had a career developing recipes for major food brands, shared a story about her grandmother’s biscuits. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but her family farm in Tennessee has always been an important part of her life. Mary Margaret brought with her a beautiful bowl and biscuit cutter made from the majestic old pecan trees still standing on her family’s farm.

The pecan wood bowl and biscuit cutter--true family treasures.

The pecan wood bowl and biscuit cutter--true family treasures.

“My grandmother, Miss Betty Smallwood, was born in 1900. Her calm nature and tirelessness stemmed from a life of hard work, few conveniences, and a knack for caretaking. She was a talented quilter and a favored midwife who would travel miles across fields in the night to help, often getting sick for days from the ether she administered.

“And she made biscuits every day on her farm in Paris, Tennessee. In the sweltering humidity and heat of the summer, and in the winter, too, after building a fire in the wood-burning stove for heat. During the Depression biscuits were the foundation for her meals, extending the sustenance of any other meal components. She used a small tin baking powder can as her biscuit cutter. When my grandfather passed away, she moved up north to the Chicago suburbs and took care of me and my sister while my mother worked. She often made biscuits, never with a recipe but by feel. I loved standing on a chair at the counter beside her, watching her squeeze and knead the dough. She’d always pinch some off for me to shape into my own special treat. Thus began my passion for cooking and set the foundation for my career. Now I enjoy making biscuits for my family on weekend mornings using an old-fashioned biscuit mold and a wooden biscuit cutter, hand-carved from a felled pecan tree that my grandfather planted. For me, biscuits are the ultimate comfort food.”


Since Mary Margaret’s grandmother never wrote down her recipe, Mary Margaret adapted this recipe from Southern Living Magazine, 2007. She suggests serving the biscuits with sausage and gravy.

Yield: 2 dozen biscuits


  • ½ cup cold butter
  • 2 ¼ cups self-rising soft-wheat flour, such as White Lily Burana
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • Self-rising soft-wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  1. Preheat overn to 450 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a jelly-roll pan, or line it with parchment paper.
  3. With a sharp knife or pastry blender, cut butter into ¼-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle butter slices over flour in a large bowl. Toss butter with flour. Cut butter into flour until crumbly, when mixture resembles small peas. Cover and chill 10 minutes.
  4. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed. With floured hands, press or pat dough into a 3/4 –inch-thick rectangle (about 9 X 5 inches). Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour. Fold dough over onto itself in 3 sections, starting with 1 short end. (Fold dough rectangle as if folding a letter-size piece of paper.) Repeat entire process 2 more times, beginning with pressing into a 3/4 –inch-thick dough rectangle (about 9 X 5 inches).
  6. Press or pat dough to ½ -inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 2-inch round cutter. Place side-by-side on pan; dough rounds should touch.
  7. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; brush with 2 Tbs. melted butter.

Amal’s “My Mother is Always with Me” Cakes

“My mother died on the day before Easter, and they found her on Easter Sunday. She had an Easter tradition to go be with her best friend and her family for Easter. And she always made a lemon cake.

“So she had made the lemon cake on Saturday and then…proceeded to die. The following week I flew back to her home in Georgia. There was a service for her. And we served her last cake. I have this very clear memory of sitting in my mother’s rocking chair on this screened-in porch, looking out over the lake, and eating the last cake my mother had ever made.

“My mother grew up poor and white in Atlanta and then Athens. She was born, was supposed to be a boy, so her first name was Jimmie. I learned to cook from her. And almost everything was a dollop of this and a taste or a pinch of that. So I don’t have a lot of actual recipes from my mother. But I do have one for her chocolate fudge cake, which I now make for my boy’s birthdays–it’s their request item–as well as for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every time we make Grammy Jimmie’s Chocolate Fudge Cake it brings my mother into my house.

“I still feel my mother with me when I do Christmas dinner. I can feel her! She’s always telling me to put more salt in things, and literally I will say out loud, ‘It doesn’t need more salt! No, no more salt!’ So I feel my mother with me whenever I’m cooking.”

Grammy Jimmie’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

This cake is super easy, and comes out light and fabulous. It does not rise very much, so if using smaller pans you can fill to ¾ or higher. Frost it very lightly, even though the recipe below makes a lot of frosting.

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 16-ouce package brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 ¼ cup sifted cake flour
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup commercial sour cream
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Cream butter, gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, onea t a time, beating well after each addition. Add melted chocolate, mixing well.
  2. Combine flour, soda and salt. Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well after each addition. Add water, mixing well. Stir in vanilla. Batter will be thin.
  3. Pour batter into two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans.
  4. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove and place on wire racks to complete cooling.
  5. Spread frosting between layers on top and sides of cake.

Grammy Jimmie’s Chocolate Frosting

Yields frosting for one 9-inch, 2 layer cake

  • 3 or 4 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 16-ounce package powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  1. Combine chocolate and butter on top of double boiler, stirring frequently until chocolate is melted.
  2. Combined sugar, milk, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well.
  3. Set bowl in pan of ice water and stir in chocolate mixture. Beat at high speed of portable mixer until spreading consistency, about two minutes.

Lupe’s “I Do” Enchiladas

“I met my husband in 1982. We dated for such a long time on and off, and I thought we were going to get married. But something happened where I wanted children and he didn’t want children. So it was time to break up, and he took a sabbatical for a year and traveled all over the world.

“He would send me these letters about how much fun he was having with Muffy and Buffy in Fiji, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Thailand, and France.

“And I said to myself, he’s having a really great time and I’m here working really hard focusing on my career. So I’m to going to date five different men, and I’ll show him! I’m going to have a guy that’s presentable, then a guy that loves sports, a guy I can take to the opera that will actually sit and enjoy it with me, and a guy that’s just good in bed, and then a guy that’s just fun who will go to the art galleries with me or take me dancing. My plan was to have this stable of men. That way, while I was hearing about Muffy and Buffy he would be hearing about all these guys.

“We had this exchange of letters going back and forth. Then he comes back and he says ‘You know, I decided that children are okay.’ Why? Because he went to Thailand and saw how families could interact, and that it could just be a real joyous experience.

“And you know when you are waiting for them to finally ask you to marry them, and it happens…well, it was my birthday. We went to my favorite restaurant. I knew he was going to propose that night—he was ready, I knew he was just ready. I kept waiting for him to propose, but he didn’t! So we went home together…and finally he proposed just before we were going to bed. And I thought, I should be so happy! But then I thought, I’ve been waiting for eight years…is this what I really want?

“I went to see a therapist the next day, and she said, ‘Go and take a trip.’ So I went to this place called Rio Caliente, which is 45 minutes outside of Guadalajara. It’s a very spartan and inexpensive spa. They call it Rio Caliente because there are hot springs, and they divert the water into this big pool. At night you can sit in it and stare up at the stars.

“I spent ten days thinking, should I marry this man? I hiked 15 – 20 miles every day, went horseback riding, got massages, facials. Everything was organically grown at the spa, and I kept eating all this great food, nourishing my body, my spirit, my soul. Everybody there knew I needed to know, should I marry this man? And they said: the answer is not going to come from your head. You have to find the answer in your heart.

“It was at the last meal—they served spinach enchiladas—and it was then that I decided it was okay to marry my husband. So I came back and I made him this meal. And I said, I’ll accept your proposal. That was 1990. It’s almost 19 years later, and I still make these enchiladas. I now serve them to our children!”

Lupe’s “I Do” Enchiladas

Recipe from “Good Enough to Eat”—Rancho Rio Caliente

  • 3 lbs spinach or Swiss chard
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 or more cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tsp oil
  • 12 to 15 corn tortillas
  • Grated Jack Cheese (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 3 Jalpeno peppers, fresh or canned to be used as a condiment
  • Salsa Mexicana (recipe follows), to be used as a condiment
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly oil one medium 8 to 9 inch square casserole pan, and set aside.
  3. Rinse and clean spinach. Cut off rough stems and shred leaves. Steam spinach for about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the liquid and save. Cool spinach to room temperature.
  4. Saute the chopped onion and garlic in the oil. Cover when onions become translucent. Turn off heat and let the onions continue to cook on the reserved heat. Mix thoroughly with the spinach.
  5. Heat the reserved spinach liquid in a skillet and dip the corn tortilla in the liquid until they become softened. Be careful not to let the liquid become too hot or the tortillas will disintegrate. Have extra water or vegetable broth handy to replenish the tortilla softening liquid. When the tortilla is malleable, remove from the skillet and place on a plate. Put 1 to 2 tablespoons of the spinach, onion and garlic mixture on the tortilla and roll tightly. Repeat the process, placing the rolled tortillas in the lightly oiled casserole. If you do not wish to use oil, coat the bottom of the casserole with the broth.
  6. Optional: a good variation is to add grated jack cheese to the spinach mixture. However, the dish is still excellent without the cheese because of he sour cream sauce. The sour cream sauce can be made by simply adding milk to one cup sour cream until it can be easily poured. Save the remaining sour cream for garnish.
  7. After all the tortillas are rolled and placed tightly in the casserole, top the entire casserole with the sour cream sauce. Bake for thirty minutes, or until browned.
  8. While the enchiladas are baking, chop the jalapenos to be served as a condiment on the side. Chopped jalapenos either fresh (seeds removed) or canned are fine.
  9. Prepare the Salsa Mexicana, also to be served on the side:


    • 3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 2 green Serrano chili pepers (seeds removed), finely choppped
    • Vinegar or Lime Juice
    • Salt and Pepper

    In a bowl combine the chopped tomatoes, onion, and Serrano chili peppers, a touch of vinegar or lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss together.

  10. After removing the enchiladas from the oven, top with reserved sour cream and garnish with fresh parsley. Be sure to save some of the cream sauce to serve with the enchiladas, along with the condiments.

Comments are closed.