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southern food blog
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11/100 Flossie’s Pound Cake

Almost six years ago I wrote my very first post for this blog. I was 22, freshly out of college, and had just moved into an apartment with Dan outside of Washington, DC. I was in a job that was meant to be temporary, but the economy had just crashed and it was looking more and more like I was stuck there. I desperately missed home, and I thought that if I could just cook and eat something that reminded me of home I might feel better. I set out to make a recipe from my grandmother, Bobbie. Bobbie, my dad’s mom, was the woman who taught me to love Southern cooking, and Sunday night dinners with her were a memory I cherished and sorely missed. I knew that making her country style steak would be what I needed to snap me out of my funk, so I did just that. That recipe was the first post on Biscuits and Such, a project that has become the part of my life that most closely ties me to the Southern food culture I so dearly missed.




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my great grandparents, Flossie and Stanley Ballenger



Bobbie and I spent a great deal of time with each other during the first 16 years of my life. She was always nearby, whether we lived in Florida or in North Carolina, and she and I were pretty constant companions. We cooked together, swam together, sunbathed together, talked, laughed, and sometimes cried. She was there for me when things were tough, and she never failed to put a smile on my face. She had stories, so many stories, and she was always happy to share with me about her life. I loved hearing stories about her and her siblings growing up in Raleigh, the years she and my grandpa shared in Chapel Hill, about my dad and uncle as kids, her studies at Meredith College (she was an English major and she was full of sayings about language and grammer. My favorite was her response to someone asking where something “was at.” She would quickly reply “after the preposition at!”). One of the things I miss most since she passed away are her stories.



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Bobbie’s father, Stanley, was a professor at North Carolina State. His family, the Ballengers, were from Tryon, in the mountains. Bobbie’s mother, Flossie (I know, best name ever), was a Caudell of St Pauls, in the southern piedmont of North Carolina. After they were married they moved to Raleigh and bought a piece of land on Rosedale Avenue. They had four children- Juanita, Barbara, Theodore, and James.




Bobbie at the Swamp House, 2001

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The Caudell family (Flossie’s family) tree and Flossie with her parents and siblings



As I enter my late twenties I am more and more interested in the stories of my family. I’m lucky enough to still have my mother’s parents to ask about their lives and their families, but to learn more about my dad’s parents I have to dig a bit, to talk to extended family. I wish I could listen to all of Bobbie’s stories again today, with pen and paper ready. Talking to family- her siblings, her sons, her cousins, is the next best thing. This past July Heather and I spent a morning with her brother Ted and his wife, Ann, in their Raleigh home. We talked about Ted’s life growing up in Wake County (and Ann’s growing up near Smithfield), about Ted’s mom, Flossie (called Nanny by the family), and most enthusiastically about food.



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I asked Ann to help me find a family recipe that reflects their memories of Stanley and Flossie and their life in Wake County. She sent over a few possibilities but captioned the recipe for pound cake with “the best I’ve ever had.” I clearly couldn’t pass up that sort of endorsement! So while Ann and I whipped up a batch of Nanny’s Pound Cake (Ann is quite the task master, I spent a lot of time sifting and resifting of flour), Ted regaled us with stories of our family, showing pictures and pointing to branches on the family tree.



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The Caudell family

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The pound cake came out of the oven piping hot and smelling like heaven. It was delicious, and after digging in ourselves I packed up some of the leftovers to bring home to my Dad (who was in town running megalodon charters) and Dan. After dinner that night I toasted and buttered some pound cake for them and my dad shared his memories of Stanley and Flossie, of his favorite foods on Flossie’s table (namely milk mush), his memories of visiting Stanley’s family home in Tryon, the Ballenger homestead on Rosedale. As I told him everything I’d talked about with Ted and Ann you could see the sparks go off as he connected the dots, remembered people and places and foods and family.



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Flossie’s parents, Ples and Nottie Mae (Big Mama)

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Florence (Flossie) Ballenger



The pound cake was fantastic, but the stories were better. I’m so grateful to have family members that are willing to spend a morning with me, talking family lore over cups of coffee and giving me instructions on the best ways to sift flour. The more I dig into the history of North Carolina the more I feel the desire to connect with my own Carolina roots, and I’m loving exploring all the branches of the family tree. The lesson I’ve learned again and again is that food is the ultimate connector. The look on my father’s face as he talked about eating mush at Nanny’s house for Sunday supper was priceless, and I’m so excited to dive further in, searching for the recipes that mean the most to the people who make and serve them.



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Heather photographing Ted & Ann

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Nanny’s Pound Cake 



3 1/2 cups cake flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 tsp mace

1 cup whole milk

6 eggs

1 lb butter

1 tsp vanilla



Heat oven to 325F.



Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and continue beating. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until fluffy.



Sift flour. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and mace and sift again. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, alternating with the milk, until it is fully combined, finishing with flour.



Grease a fluted bundt pan and pour batter in. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before flipping out onto a plate. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Try the leftovers toasted with butter!


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Lovely Internet 9.26.14


1. Today is our 5 year wedding anniversary! Happy Anniversary, Dan. Marrying you was the best decision I ever made. To celebrate, here’s a video we recently rediscovered of my brother’s wedding dance off. Hat’s off to you, Reid & Ryan.

2. Kitchen superstitions. Do you believe any of these? I’ll admit, I’m a highly superstitious person.

3. Lena Dunham on everything. I also have an allergic reaction to being shushed.

4. We’re all living longer. What does that mean for our society?

5. Use the real words for body parts, parents. It may feel strange at first, but it makes things easier in the long run.

6. I love poached pears. These sound delicious.

7. New rules for waterbath canning.

8. Try kindness.

9. A visit to Asheville.

10. All about brisket. L’ Shana Tova, y’all.

For more tidbits from Elena the person, follow me on twitter (@elenabrent or @biscuitsandsuch), instagrampinterest or facebook. Subscribe to my bloglovin’ feed to make sure you never miss a post. Follow along with MissElenaeous for thoughts on everything other than Southern food.

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Chow Chow

To be totally honest, my tomato crop this year was a big fat disappointment. After hours spent poring over seed catalogs and months of carefully tending seedlings and young plants, I got nada. Zilch. Not one ripe red tomato from the six tomato plants I successfully transplanted into my new garden. As someone who prides herself on her ability to grow a delicious tomato, this was not my finest hour.

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This morning, however, I poked around the garden as I planned my fall crop (read: collards) and noticed my tomatoes had a few flowers that had set fruit. Finally! Just in time for the first cold snap of the season. Here’s hoping that at the very least I will come out of this summer with enough green tomatoes to make a decent batch of chow chow. I feel like my little urban farm owes me at least that much.

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Chow Chow
makes 6 half pints

1 dozen green tomatoes

1 medium head of cabbage

2 green bell peppers

2 red bell peppers

3 medium onions

6 jalapeños

12 garlic cloves

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 tbsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 cups apple cider vinegar

Combine vegetables and 1 tbsp salt and mix well. Cover and chill overnight.

Strain vegetables and transfer to a medium sized pot. Add vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, red pepper flakes, and salt. Simmer 15 minutes.

For a refrigerator pickle transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight before serving. The relish will keep up to two weeks.

For canned chow chow sterilize 4 half pint jars by boiling the jars and lids for 10 minutes. When you’re ready to fill them remove them from the water bath, ladle relish and brine into the jar (leaving 1/4”/1/2cm head space), cap, and return to the water bath. Boil an additional 10 minutes. Remove from water bath, tighten the band, and let cool to room temperature. When the jars have cooled check to make sure each jar has sealed (check to see if the lid will pop). Store one week in a cool dark place before opening. The canned relish will keep up to a year in a cool dark place.



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