Mama’s home cookin’

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2008

Since she was a very young girl, Annette Gwin remembers cooking as being a large part of her life. Her earliest memories of cooking were accompanied by the presence of her mother, Earlene Etheredge, who taught her everything she knows about how to cook gold old fashioned Southern soul food.

But now, with a family of six and a full time job as a second grade teacher at Westside, one would think she wouldn&8217;t have the time or energy to cook anymore. On the contrary, Gwin moonlights as a caterer, making cakes, cookies, casseroles and just about anything one could think of. Most recently she sold her baked goods at the Pepper Jelly Festival in Thomaston and the Faunsdale Crawfish Festival. She has also had a booth at Demopolis&8217; Christmas on the River Fair in the Square event.

Gwin said she would characterize her cooking style as Southern, but she is not a cook who likes to be a slave to a recipe book. More often than not, Gwin said she likes to use recipes as a starting point before adding her own flavor to a dish.

Her home business, Homemade Goodness, is one where she gets to experiment with different recipes. One of her favorite dinner meals to make, King Ranch Chicken Casserole, which is a tex-mex take on chicken casserole, came from a customer request. Since then, she has added it to her cooking arsenal.

So many of her items to order are things she cooked by request that she said it is hard to have a full list of what she can make.

Her first taste testers for any recipe, of course are her four boys: Stewart, Nathan, Andrew and Benjamin, and her husband, Bruce. And even with her oldest son in college and the second one headed that way in another year, Gwin said her cooking is one thing that has always held them together.

When it comes to her baked goods, 13-year-old Andrew said his favorites are a tie between his mother&8217;s Sour Cream Coffee Cake and her French Silk Pie.

One of Gwin&8217;s dreams is to own and operate her own restaurant. She said she envisions it as a place that will serve a solid meat and vegetable meal at both lunch and dinner times, something she said Demopolis lacks. Although she has a full plate now, Gwin said she hopes to one day have a restaurant to retire on.

The following are just a few of her favorite recipes.

Divinity

2 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup Karo syrup

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup water

2 egg whites

1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cook sugar, Karo syrup, salt and water until the soft ball stage. Beat egg whites until stiff peak forms. Do this while the syrup mixture is cooking. Remove 1/2 cup of syrup mixture and add whites while beating. Let remaining syrup cook to hard ball stage. Pour into egg whites while beating. Add vanilla and nuts. Let cool in a bowl unitl it loses its shine. Drop by teaspoon on plastic wrap and let dry.

Pecan Pie

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup sugar

3 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 cup Golden Eagle syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine salt, sugar and flour. Stir well. Add syrup, butter, eggs, vanilla and pecans. Pour into prepared pie crust. Bake in lower rack for first 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then on top rack for 45 to 50 minutes at 325 degrees.

Ranch cookies

1 cup shortening

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups cornflakes

1 cup sugar

2 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup nuts

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups oatmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup coconut

Cream shortening and sugars; add in eggs; add vanilla, add flour sifted together with salt, soda and baking powder. Alternate flour with other ingredients. Drop by teaspoon onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Buttermilk Pound Cake

1 1/4 cup shortening

3 cups sugar

3 cups sifted cake flour

1 cup buttermilk

6 eggs

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine shortening and sugar. Cream with mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 secoonds after each egg. Combine buttermilk, salt, soda and flavorings. Add 1/3 cup flour into shortening mixture, add half of buttermilk mixture. Mix until well blended. Repeat procedure, ending with dry ingredients. Pour batter into greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Cool in pan 10 to 15 minutes before removing.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

3 sticks of butter, softened

1 (8-oz) cream cheese, softened

3 cups sugar

6 eggs

3 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, butter and nut flavorings.

Cram otgether softened butter and cream cheese. Gradually add sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Add flavoring and beat for two minutes. Add flour, mixing just enough to blend. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan for 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from pan.

Kelli Wright is the staff writer for The Demopolis Times. She can be reached at kelli.wright@demopolistimes.com