Monday, March 12

Little Old Ladies, Kitchen Wisdom and Ms. Bea's Coconut Cream Pie

Why is it that no one cooks like our grandmothers anymore?  Have we become so obsessed with high-tech machines and rabbit food that we have forgotten what really good  food tasted like? My grandfather literrally had us save the fat from roasts so that he could sit and eat the fat! He lived until he was 93!Do you remember the food? Do you remember the little old ladies that first introduced you to the culinary delights of "stick to your ribs" wonder food? They are the women that always showed up with a covered dish to every church social and pot-luck dinner. They had the big spoon ready to cook for anyone that was sick or just because she felt like making some one's day. These are the ladies that as a young bride I asked many questions. I think for the first three months of our marriage, could be longer, the only meal I ever fed Mr.P was steamed chicken breast, broccoli and carrots. Well those of you that know us can understand why we were thin....then I discovered cooking! Over the years I gleaned such knowledge from these ladies. Of course it has to be said that I started with the natural choice, the women in my own family. I come from a long line of wonderful home chefs. My mother still makes her own chicken fried steak....REALLY? My mother is amazing! Next came the little old ladies. Time-honored women that inspired me to be a better cook.
  They had such knowledge and wisdom about the kitchen, recipes, children, husbands, life. Everybody has a story. People used to sit  around kitchen tables and tell their stories. We don't do that so much anymore. Listening to their stories was not just a way of passing time. Somehow that's how the wisdom got passed around. The good stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering. They seemed to know it all and they were generous with us, the young brides that were clueless. These were the women. They didn't need the help of a Kitchen Aid Mixer, a Cuisinart or a can of pie filling to make a fabulous pie.

  Well here it is folks! They have gone and published a cookbook that helps you cook like the little old ladies at church. Seriously, it's called Little Old Lady Recipes.....Comfort Food and Kitchen Table Wisdom. Here it is, all packaged in one book for your convenience.
  I'm sure you have similar stories to tell of the great cooks in your life. Over time they have come and gone, in and out of our lives. Bea Sullivan, was such a woman. When Mr.P and I married 25 years ago she was a faithful member of our church. I am sure there were many fine dishes attributed to Bea, but if you knew her and knew her well, then you already know about the Coconut Cream Pie. It was sheer perfection. So legendary that when ever there was a church function you made a bee-line to the dessert table...if you were secure a piece of Bea's Coconut Cream Pie for  your plate. Bea lived well into her 100's, still making pies and putting smiles on others faces. Those of us that knew her were the lucky ones. Not just for her pie but for her sweet spirit, she always had a kind word for others and you never saw her without a smile. I asked her one day how she prepared her pie, what was her secret. Bea described in detail how this creamy coconut concoction came to be. A few Sundays later Bea pressed an envelope into my hand, gave me a smile and a hug and walked off. It was her recipe. The one I had loved for years, what a monumental gift. I still have it, written out in her own hand. I feel honored that Bea and the other women of her generation took pity on me and the sisters of my generation. Teaching us far more than cooking. Teaching us about life. I am grateful for them, my hope is that I can one day pass along the knowledge and wisdom that was selflessly given to me. So here it is....Ms. Bea's Coveted Coconut Cream Pie recipe. ENJOY!



  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 7 ounce pkg. coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

What To Do:

Combine in saucepan 1 cup sugar, flour and cornstarch. Mix well. Add egg yolks and milk, mixing well. Cook over medium high heat until thickened. Add half a package of coconut, butter and vanilla; mixing well. Pour into baked pie shell. Beat the 4 egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Spread meringue over hot coconut filling, sealing to the edge of the pie shell. Sprinkle with coconut and bake at 350 degrees until meringue is golden, about 4-5 minutes.

Pie Crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold water

Mix together flour, Crisco and salt until very fine and crumbly. Add water a little at a time until it shapes into a firm ball. Roll out and place in glass pie plate. Trim pastry and flute edges. Prick the dough and bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

This little bowl of Chicken and Dumplings is also divine. I found this recipe in the Little Old Lady cookbook......

                                                       worth your time!

                             CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
I don't think my grandmother even knew there was such a thing as olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled & sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 qt. chicken broth/stock
1 Tbs. hot sauce
freshly ground pepper
~1½ lb. chicken (skin removed, & bones too, if you wish)

2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 egg
1¼ c. buttermilk

What To Do:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion until translucent. Add carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, and broth/stock. Bring to a boil. Add hot sauce, a few good grinds of black pepper, and chicken. Reduce to a simmer and cook for ~15 minutes, or until chicken is just done. Remove chicken and shred (remove from bone if you didn't do this before) and add back to broth. Taste and season with more black pepper, and salt if you think it needs it.

  While the chicken is cooking, stir together everything for the dumplings and set aside. Once the chicken is cooked, shredded and back in the pot, bring back to a boil and drop in big spoon-fulls of batter. Put a lid on the pot, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for ten minutes. Serve immediately.
 This recipe is a big pot full of goodness and comfort. I changed a few things: I used buttermilk in place of regular milk which gave these big, fluffy biscuits a little Texas twang; I also added 2 cloves of garlic; I left the hot sauce out entirely but I think it would be a nice touch. 
  Lastly, I left the chicken on the bones until after cooking to add extra flavor to the broth. This is one of those classic recipes every Southern cook needs in her "box", because it's delicious, homey, and sure to ease the symptoms of a cold, a bad day, or even a broken heart.

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