Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Zeke's First Christmas

Written by: Dr. Robert Darnell, Elizabethtown, KY

Final Segment

So I stood there stinking and laughing at my canine friend as she tried to escape the skunk's retribution. She wallowed on her back; she put both paws on her nose and blew repeatedly, sending puffs of powdery snow and skunk smell all over the clearing.

I really got tickled and laughed so hard I slipped and fell slap down in the clearing with her. She climbed into my lap for some comfort and began licking my face. I gave her a stinking hug and clambered to my freezing feet. Somewhere in the melee, the skunk had made a strategic retreat and waddled off to recharge his devastating weaponry and, presumably, rejoin his nestlings.

"What in the world are you laughing at?" came my wife's voice through the woods.

"We've been skunked!" I called back laughing.

"Merry Christmas!" Constance replied in her beautiful contralto. "Now come up here and let me wash you off. You can't open your presents smelling like a skunk."

That year, I opened my presents smelling like a skunk wearing tomato juice and ivory soap and lots of cologne. It was Zeke's first Christmas and one of my fondest.

Skunk Odor Remover

1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide

1/4 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

1 tsp liquid soap or dish detergent

Mix these together and bathe the spray victim thoroughly.

*Be sure to use this mixture immediately, it is unstable.

Rinse with tap water afterward, and repeat if necessary.

For spray in the eyes, flush with water as soon as possible.

Merry Christmas to all! And, to warm your tummies on Christmas morn, the following recipe for cinnamon rolls is the only recipe I use because the dough is made the night before. The rolls are tender, cinnamony, and just plain delicious. Originally the recipe called for a powdered sugar icing, but we prefer a cream cheese frosting.

Best Ever Cinnamon Rolls

Serves: 24


2 packages active dry yeast

2-1/2 cups luke warm water (105-115 degrees)

1 tsp sugar

1 pkg (2-layer size) white cake mix

6 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

1/3 cup cooking oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

4 tsp (heaping) ground cinnamon

1 cup (generous) dried fruit such as cranberries, blueberries, raisins, currants, chopped apricots, or a mixture of the above, optional

1 recipe cream cheese frosting (below)


1. Four dough, in a large mixing bowl, stir the yeast into 1/2 cup of the warm water; add the sugar. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes or until foamy.

2. Stir the cake mix, 1 cup flour, egg, cooking oil, salt , and remaining water into the yeast mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the remain flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

3. Cover and let rise in the refrigerator overnight.

4. Next morning, lightly grease two 13 x 9 x 2 baking pans. Set aside. Remove dough from refrigerator, punch down. Cover and let rise again until doubled (about 1 hour because dough is cold). Punch dough down again. Divide in half. Turn 1 part of the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Turn to coat lightly with flour. Roll the dough into a 12 x 8 rectangle. Brush with half of the melted butter.

5. For filling, in a small bowl, combine the 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, and dried fruit, if using. Sprinkle half of the filling over dough. Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting from one of the long sides. Pinch along edge to seal.

6. Cut crosswise into 12 pieces. Arrange, cut sides down, in a prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining dough, remaining butter, and remaining filling. Cover loosely; preheat oven to 350. Let dough rise in a warm place until nearly doubled (about 45 minutes).

7. Uncover pans. Place a baking sheet under each pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until lightly brown and rolls sound hollow when lightly tapped.

8. Invert onto serving plates. Using an offset spatula, smear cream cheese frosting over warm rolls. Serve warm. Delicious reheated the next day, if you actually have any left over.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 8 oz. pkgs regular cream cheese, room temperature

4 cups pwdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 TB or more of milk, if necessary

Beat cream cheese in a medium bowl with an electric mix until loosened. Gradually mix in powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Mix in vanilla. If needed, stir in enough milk to make a fluffy frosting, be careful not to add too much milk which would make the frosting runny.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Zeke's First Christmas, Part 3

Leo shook him to stop the noise, but it only increased. By the time she reached the door, she had shaken him unconscious. We hurried into the night with me whispering, "Good doggie girl! Goooood Leo." She blinked her acceptance of my praise.
We walked together off the porch and into the snow-covered woods behind the house. It might have been pleasant if I had worn shoes and had we not been carrying a skunk. But the path through the leafless winter trees was glorious.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of midday to objects below;
I and my shorthair, a skunk in her mouth
Turned down the trail and headed due south.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a striped tail raised high and a skunk's puckered rear?
Yes, as you might have imagined, the skunk woke up in Leo's mouth. He found himself in the familiar surroundings of his woods and in grave danger. Like all of his long ancestry, he knew exactly what to do.
There was a sound. Yes, a little flatulent sound right before the full spray of the skunk's mighty defensive armada struck me squarely in the face. There was not so much an increase in the smell as a moist announcement that I had been marked as a fool. Why, every animal in the forest knows to stay away from skunks. And, every animal that ignores this primeval warning smelled like I did that lovely Christmas Eve in the moonlight, in the snow.
"Drop!" I croaked the command that signaled the pointer to release the game. The skunk belly-flopped into the snow and fired another volley straight up the sensitive nose of the finest German Shorthairs that ever walked the earth. Leo, whose nose was five zillion times more sensitive than mine, began snorting and sneezing wildly and rubbing her face in the snow. I had to laugh.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Zeke's First Christmas Part 2

Zeke's First Christmas
Written by: Dr. Robert Darnell
Part 2

Still, there was the skunk. The choir singing "Silent Night" on our stereo seemed to be holding their noses as they recounted the traditional events of that holy night.
Constance scooped up baby Zeke as she bolted to the bedroom and called over her shoulder, "Bob, get that skunk out of here."
Her words halted my escape.
I had already started to run behind her.
I stopped, looked at the skunk and imagined him saying, "Yeah, Bob, get me out of here."
The concept of removing a skunk from the house was clear. But viscerally I was frozen with the intrinsic dread of handling the stinking beast. I couldn't just reach down and pick him up. Nor could I kick him. A shovel? What would keep him from lifting his tail at me while I carried him?
The skunk and I had a big problem. We stared deeply into each others' eyes. Leo broke the silence with an exasperated whimper. She looked from me to the skunk with a fretful expression that begged, "What do we do now, Boss?"
Encountering a truly wild and unpredictable creature in the house had set us all on edge. The dog's thrill reminded me of how she behaved in the field when we hunted together. A fresh idea penetrated the stench, Leo will obey me.
As the skunk seemed to wobble, I ordered, "Leo, get the skunk!"
She ran to the skunk, picked him up without hesitation, brought him to me and dropped him at my feet like a good retriever. The skunk, still dazed, toddled under the Christmas tree. It must have seemed a familiar haven in an otherwise threatening circumstance.
"Whoa girl," I whispered as she snapped into a perfect bird dog point with her nose aimed at the prey under the tree. Then, "Fetch!"
As my German Shorthair sprang at the critter, I moved toward the door. She clamped her jaws around the skunk and trotted proudly toward me with her prize. "Good girl," I cooed, "bring him here."
The skunk chose that moment to cry out. I'd never heard a skunk voice before and was startled by the sound. It resembled a chortling baby. Was the creature laughing?

I hope you are enjoying this heartwarming story. I've read it several times and smile everytime I read it.

Your family will have their hearts and tummies warmed with the following recipe. It was given to me maybe by my sister several years ago. Originally, it was the Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole recipe from one of those websites that figures out the signature recipes from favorite restaurants around the U.S.. But, it has evolved with a tweak here and there into my recipe. Sometimes I add a couple tablespoons minced chipotle with adobo to add a little heat, but really it is delicious on its' own.

Hash Brown Casserole
Serves: 8-10

1 16 oz container sour cream (full fat, no light or fat free)
1 can cream of celery soup (low sodium, healthy choice, they all work)
1 stick butter (no margarine!yech)
1 cup chopped onions (can use green onions or chives)
1 bag shredded cheese (2 cups) (I use a cheddar/jack blend)
1 bag hash brown shreds, frozen do not thaw out (I use Ore Ida)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together with a spatula or big spoon, the sour cream and celery soup. Put butter in a small bowl and melt in microwave (high for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes). Mix melted butter into the sour cream mixture. Stir in onions, and 1 cup of shredded cheese. Stir in frozen hash brown shreds (if they are thawed, you get a mashed potato-type of casserole).
Dump into a 13 x 9 x 2 glass casserole dish. Even out and smooth the top. Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over the top. Cover with foil. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the casserole edges are bubbling.
This is good for breakfast with sausage and scrambled eggs.
Freezes well. I portion it out and freeze. Then, pop the microwaveable container in the microwave. Hit "reheat" and it comes out tasting as good as the day I baked it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Zeke's First Christmas, Part One

Fellowship Hall

Food Tables

Back wall depicts church history. The center garland on the table was made from cuttings donated by church members.

I just wanted to share some pictures of the church project that I was working on over the past few weeks which kept me so busy I had no time to blog. I would get up around 5:30 am to work on pictures. Then around 8:00 am when my husband left for work, I would shower, go work on pictures some more. Then go to town to buy any supplies that I had run out of, or take CDs to Staples. Last week I prepped ingredients ahead of time and then spent Thursday and Friday assembling the components. Saturday my team met at the church around 10 am and worked until after 5 pm decorating. Sunday I was at the school across the street baking off the chafing dishes. I started at 6 am. All of this for the 10 am brunch which lasted an hour. It was all worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

So, yesterday I told you that I was going to start posting a wonderful Christmas story.

Here is the first "chapter":

Zeke's First Christmas

Written by: Dr. Robert Darnell

Part One

You never expect a skunk under the Christmas tree. Skunks are creatures of the netherworld. They're nocturnal foragers who belong somewhere far away from hearth and home.

Even if you've never seen a skunk, you've smelt one. Smelling exposes a small space of actual brain tissue directly to the atmosphere via our sinuses. This may explain why the sense of smell is so closely linked with memory; since the stimulation goes directly into the brain matter. Ideally, skunks should only announce their presence by a swift whiff of their signature fragrance as we hurtle past them in our cars.

In all my memorable encounters with skunks (as a card-carrying redneck, I've had a few), the most remarkable took place in 1987, in my living room. He was a young, perhaps disobedient, skunk who had rejected the cozy hibernation of his nestlings to seek out a little winter adventure, or perhaps a chilled grub.

My wife, Constance, and I had been fiddling with the red metal Christmas tree holder to make sure it was properly braced to keep the Scotch pine from toppling if our toddler, Zeke, should happen to yank a branch. We barely noticed the clicking paws of our German Shorthaired Pointer on the tile as she trotted in through the propped open door behind us and dropped something. But soon, the smell reached us and we turned.

He stood reeling on the white tile of our dining room. He was not sleek and pretty like the idealized skunk portraits found in children's books. He was mussed. His hair was bristly and his bright white stripe was caked with dirt. The expression on the skunk's face resembled the dazed surprise I had seen on a football player regaining consciousness in the dazzling lights on the fifty-yard line.

Time slowed. Stink thickened thea ir and filled my eyes as if the odor was visible. The skunk had not sprayed in the house. Still, he and the Shorthair reeked from their earlier encounter.

The glittering Christmas decorations Constance had draped in our home seemed to wilt under the weight of the pungent air. Their sparkle dimmed with the oily aroma emanating from our pet and her reluctant companion.

My dog, Leo, was smiling. She had bravely knocked a skunk unconscious and carried it, with a soft mouth, into the room that had, until recently, smelled of apple cider and spice cake. She had dropped the varmint as close as possible to my left side, just as she had been trained. This is where a retriever is to "finish" coming to heel on the left side and giving up the game on command. Leop was energetically wagging her brown stump of a tail and looking away, as if modesty kept her from eyeing me too keenly since I hadn't said, "drop." It's hard to get too upset with a dog that is pleased with herself.

Part 2 tomorrow...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Big bras, bigger stories, and one giant Merry Christmas

Oh, I had the best time yesterday afternoon. I visited the ladies at the floral shop in town. I haven't been by in months and ended up staying 2 hours. I just love stopping by and chatting because it's like we all become teenagers again, lots of giggling and girl talk. Yesterday, we got started on big "chests", and bras for Seniors. Violette and Shirley's mom had to go to the Dr. yesterday morning. Mama is 91 years old. The girls told her she needed to be sure to wear a bra. She wanted a new one, so Shirley asked, what size? Mama replied, "doesn't matter". OK.
So, they thought about it and bought her a double D remembering that she was generously portioned in her day.
At the Dr's office, Mama needed to remove her top. Shirley was in the room with her and almost died when she saw that Mama had taken needle and thread and pleated the edges of the bra right in the armpit area. Can you imagine how bad that must have chafed poor Mama? But, we got a big laugh out of it. Of course, I had to tell a couple stories on Omi who hated to wear a bra when she got up in age, especially her prosthetic bra.
I didn't remember this story until now, so I'll share it with you first. My husband and Omi went on "dates" to restaurants, Wal-Mart, and the flea markets around Kissimmee, FL. They loved to play practical jokes on each other, and just generally try to get each others' goat. So, three years ago, Omi's last Christmas, we flew down to visit. Mom had made reservations at a very girly tearoom. David went along (we didn't know it was so girly). He looked like a bull in the china shop, literally.
Omi started teasing him. She made a reference to his "manliness", in German of course because she knew that only Mom and myself would understand. Later, I told David about the remark. He laughed and said that I had to help him get even. So, a few days later while Christmas shopping, we passed a lingerie outlet. David screeched to a halt, and said he was going to pay her back by getting something very lacy and racy in there. In we went. And out we came with a very small red lace thong teddy. I wrapped it up and put it under the tree.
When Omi opened it, she turned red, but she was quick. She held it up to her and sashayed over to David, "I'm going to put this on for you." Which, was not the reaction David or any of us was expecting. We all yelled "No" in unison.
So, when she saw that reaction, we all were targets. She told Mom she was going swimming in it. Me, she told that she was going shopping in it. David was going to see it on one of their "dates". She had the best time with that red teddy. After Christmas, Omi told me that Mom had gone through her room trying to find it to throw it away, I guess fearing that Omi would try to wear it out. But Omi and I knew that she just liked it and all the fun she had with it.
After she passed away, right before the next Christmas, Mom went through her room a final time. Mom told me she found the red teddy neatly folded in a box underneath Omi's nightstand. Moral of this story: Don't think that Seniors don't like to feel sexy!
Wow, this was not what I was intending on blogging about today, but I hope you enjoyed the story. So, tomorrow, and I don't usually blog on the weekends, I just have to share this other story with you. Our chiropractor, Dr. Robert Darnell, in Elizabethtown, KY sends out newsletters to his patients updating them on practice enhancements and so forth. This newsletter had a wonderful story of his son's first christmas; so heartwarming and funny that I called him and asked him if I could share it with you. He was happy to oblige. So, in the spirit of the old-fashioned serial stories, I will break up his story into segments and post them over the next few days. Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Hate that I Missed Tuesday and Wednesday

Finally, all the billing is done. I actually enjoy the process, don't misunderstand. It's just that there was soooo much to do. Plus, coming off a holiday weekend, the office staff was a bit looney.

My husband and I hiked last Saturday afternoon probably more exercise than either of us have had in ages. Unfortunately, my husband's feet are achingly sore still, and now we are terribly worried. He has MS and he is starting to panic because walking is like "trying to walk on pencils" is how he describes it. I'm panicking because I don't know what to do for him. I thought that he had bruised the bottoms of his feet because his hiking boots are old. But, after about 2 hours sleep last night, he told me this morning that it's the top of his feet that are the worst. I was hoping that maybe we were making too much of it, but, on the other hand, it is MS and it affects nerves, and maybe it is the problem. See how confusing it is.

My sister cheered me up last night with a recipe. And, she also cheered me with the news that I am getting "Nuts and Bolts" for Christmas! Since I know my Mom has not read this blog, I know I am safe in writing this...and if I am a goofball for assuming that Mom can't figure out the blog address thing, then it serves me right to get "yelled" at. Yelling from either my sis or my Mom is usually humorous with all of us laughing and goofing off. So, as you can see, I'm not too worried, unless...Mom really sends me nuts and bolts, oooops!

The church project is still going on. I am 4 days behind on my self-imposed schedule. The pictures were supposed to be done by Dec 1st. Didn't happen. So, I am still plugging away at that. I panicked last night at the church campaign dinner when the attendance was MUCH higher than anticipated (estimated 150 with 35 kids. actual: 188 with 50 kids) because it was a week night, and my brunch is on Sunday which means as many or more folks will attend. Exciting, but will there be enough food? Oh my, I'll keep you posted.

So, my sister's recipe is called Mayonnaise Muffins. I have not tried them yet, but I am making them tonight. She swears that they are delicious, moist, and she's not a mayo person at all.

Mayonnaise Muffins

Serves: 6


1 cup milk

1 cup self rising flour

1 tsp sugar

1 heaping TB mayonnaise


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine all ingredients just until moist. Spoon into a baking cup-lined muffin pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and not jiggly. Serve hot.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Busy at Work

So sorry that I haven't stopped to blog today.
You see, I work at my husband's business and today is invoicing day. I've had the last 1-1/2 weeks off to work on a church project, but today he put his foot down. "That church project is taking forever, I need billing done!" Can't you just hear him?
So, let's face it, work is what pays the bills. How zen of me! To work is to pay for play. Oh, I did it again! I must be getting giddy with billing fever!
I have a recipe idea that I have been mulling over so when I finish with billing, I can get it together for you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I ate enough for me...and you as well!

We went over to our friends' house yesterday about 2:00. With the exception of a few last minute details, we ate soon after. What a feast that was laid out before us: Roast turkey, baked ham, gravy, stuffing balls, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, cranberry jello salad, angel biscuits, cornbread bites, mini croissants, home-made noodles, spinach salad, watermelon rind pickles, spiced peaches, and dressed eggs. I really tried to take it all in, but I know I am forgetting some. The highlights were the home-made noodles which were shaped like spaetzle, and al dente swimming in a creamy chicken sauce. If I could just have a bowl of those with a slice of dark meat turkey on top, happy happy. And, Kaela did an excellent job on the macaroni and cheese -- she chopped the onions and didn't even cry. And, crushed the crackers -- all that and she's only 9! The roast turkey was delicious, all of it was moist. Ummm, there were a couple of lowlights as well, and one of them was mine.
The cornbread bites, well, probably should have 'forgotten' them on the counter. Even though the struesel was a good idea, the execution was a bit grainy from the extra cornmeal. Then I decided to use the mini muffin pan instead of the regular muffin pan. Again, good idea, but I overbaked them. They could have been called the "amazing magical growing mini muffins" because when I popped one in my mouth, it kept getting bigger and bigger, and swallowing was next to impossible. On the up side, almost half of them were eaten by unsuspecting diners. Felt a little bad about that. The other lowlight was a plate of dressed eggs (can't call them 'deviled' in the preachers' house!) that one of the daughter-in-laws' mother brought. Apparently, she brings them every year, but because there were several of us that were invited for the first time, Heather parked herself by the back door and warned us 'not to eat the eggs', as we walked in the house. She was so embarrassed by them. Well, as a foodie, I had to do it. I tasted one. Instinctively, the back of my jaws went into lock-down and the corners of my mouth stretched out in a silent eeeewwwwwwww. Wow, were they vinegary.But, still I was intrigued. When I went back of seconds, the egg plate wooed me like a siren on a rock. I reached for one. I felt so bad for the woman, her dressed eggs were still piled high. So, I took another one.
Everyone was heeding Heather's warning except me. I piled on some spinach salad and sat down. Really, with a big mouthful of spinach and a bit of egg, it wasn't so bad. Smothered in my spinach salad, the egg bite was grateful for the extra pizzazz, and rewarded me by not setting my jaw in instantaneous lock-jaw, and for that I was grateful. After another bite, I think I figured it out. If she had put some sugar and salt in the yolks along with the vinegar, they would have tasted similar to pickled eggs -- the ones that are pickled in beet juice. I tried to talk to the woman about her recipe, but she wasn't giving it up. Apparently, she thinks they are fabulous.
After she left, several people commended me on my attempt at emptying the egg plate. Someone said the dressed eggs were like Aunt Bea's pickles -- the kerosene pickles. It really wasn't about trying to be nice, I just wanted to find out what her angle was. It didn't really matter, I was grateful for the entire feast and even more, for the invitation to enjoy it among some of my closest friends who really are like family.
Here is the vinaigrette recipe that was on the spinach salad. Besides, spinach from my garden, I added some kumquats from my little tree, as well as, some pomegranate seeds, and toasted pistachios.

Sizzling Sesame Vinaigrette
enough to toss with 4-5 big handfuls of spinach
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB pomegranate juice
1 TB white vinegar
1 TB canola oil
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp sugar
1 TB black or white sesame seeds
Whisk together soy sauce and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl.
Heat sesame seeds in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often, 3-4 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Add hot sesame seeds to soy sauce mixture, stirring until blended.
Toss with fresh spinach, lettuce, steamed broccoli, or peas of any kind.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for so Much

I hope all have a happy Thanksgiving day.
I have so much to be thankful for. When I think back over the year so much has changed. Last year at this time there were personal issues that I just could not see changing for the better, but they have. All of my family is still here. Our church has lost several anchors this year, but we are still growing and moving forward. Our pets especially the ones who are so sick are still here. So very much to be thankful for.
My life may seem small when laid out for the world to see, but it's a small life lived well.
I am glad that my sisters' family is celebrating Thanksgiving together. I am grateful that my brother and Mother are celebrating together. No one is alone this day.
My husband and I are going over to our friends' house to feast with them. I anticipate a day of good food and much laughter.
So much to be thankful for and yet I wish one wish, that my Oma was still at my table.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So Much To Do

So I've overslept this morning and am playing catch-up as best as I can.
I've been getting up 6:00-ish to work on a church project in the quiet a.m. before the hubby starts moving or dogs start barking. I took the time last night to make a list of all things that must happen today in order to feel successful. That is the problem with expectations, when you fall short, disappointment is standing there. That is a little lesson I learned years ago in yoga, "Expectations that fall short, always bring disappointment to you". Isn't that so true? In the quest for a richer life, since learning that adage years ago, I really try not to have expectations of situations. It really can be done and even though those expectations do creep in, especially around the holidays, there's always tomorrow to work on eliminating them. Why don't we work on it together?
The weather is going to be 50ish today. To my garden I must go and pick spinach for the salad tomorrow. I will clean it today; put it in the refrigerator. Then tomorrow the leaves will be very crisp and it will take very little time to put together my salad for the Thankgiving feast at my friend Sharon's.
Also, today I must bake not only my baked fruit compote, but a sour cream poundcake. I think I will make 2 -- one for tomorrows' gathering, and the other for my friend, Wanda, who recently lost her husband. I think a poundcake which she really enjoys, and a jar of baked fruit compote would be a warm way to let her know I am thinking of her.
This recipe is one of my oldest ones. In fact, I have lost the actual recipe, I just make it from memory. In fact, any good southern cookbook will have a baked fruit recipe in it. When canned goods started being produced back in the early 20th century, it was a sign of wealth to purchase canned foods. Isn't it funny how times have changed, now every culinary magazine is pushing a home garden, or at the very least, shopping at a farmer's market. Nothing wrong with gardens or farmers markets, but for nostalgia's sake, I buy the canned fruit for this recipe.
Even though I could easily "gourmet-ize" this recipe by cutting up fresh fruit, the canned fruit makes it easy to assemble and it tastes delicious. I buy the fruit that is canned in its' juices except for the dark cherries which I can only find in heavy syrup.

Baked Fruit Compote
Serves: about 20

save all the drained juice:
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks, drained
2 15 oz cans peach slices, drained
2 15 oz cans apricot halves, drained
2 15 oz cans pear slices, drained
2 15.25 oz cans dark cherries (in heavy syrup), drained
1 8 oz can mandarin oranges, drained
4 TB cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cloves
12 slices of fresh ginger
4 cinnamon sticks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly butter or spray with a non-stick spray 2 13 x 9 casserole dishes. Combine drained fruits in a large bowl. Divide the fruit between the casserole dishes.
Measure out 4 cups of the saved fruit juice. Discard the rest (or freeze in ice cube trays for fancy iced tea or lemonade). If there isn't enough juice (and some times that happens depending on the brand) bring it up to 4 cups with apple or orange juice.
Put cornstarch in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the 4 cups of fruit juice. Add vanilla extract and cloves. Whisk until smooth.
Pour over fruit. Divide ginger slices and cinnamon sticks between casserole dishes; nestling spices throughout the fruit.
Place both casserole dishes in the oven. Bake, uncovered, for about 30-45 minutes or until bubbling hot.
Serve hot, or room temperature.
Cover left-overs and store in refrigerator. Left-over compote is delicious for breakfast with yogurt or as a pancake/waffle/french toast topping.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Angel Biscuits, they are Heavenly!

We are going over to our friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner. I volunteered to bring rolls, so I've been mulling over some ideas and have finally settled on the following: Streusel-topped cornbread muffins, angel biscuits, and mini croissants. An assortment of baked goods appeals to a wide audience, and there is a true mix in this family. There are those who only eat what looks familiar, those who only eat meat and starches, and then there are those more like me, who graze on everything. The angel biscuits will appeal to everyone because they look like a biscuit but eat like a yeast roll, and they are cute!

Angel biscuits is an old recipe with a lot of lore associated with it. Some say they are called "angel" because they are light from the yeast. I recently read in "The Glory of Southern Cooking" by James Villas, that they also go by the moniker, "Bridal Biscuits" because even an inexperienced bride can turn out a delicious biscuit with all the leavening in the dough. In my opinion, they are called angel biscuits because they taste heavenly.

And, if there's one thing that's aplenty down south, it is opinions. Again, my opinion, is that an angel biscuit must be cut with a biscuit cutter. There is a rogue recipe out there that drops the angel biscuit from a spoon. What is delicate, light, and ethereal about a glop of dough on a baking sheet? I think those imposters should more appropriately be named "Hell's Angel" biscuits.

Alright, enough with the opinions and on with the recipe. This dough is easy, tasty, and even more importantly, made in advance. I'm going to whip up a batch of dough after this post, and take a picture of it for you to see. I think I can figure out how to upload a picture to this blog.

Refrigerator Angel Biscuits

Makes: 4 dozen 2-1/2" biscuits, or less with a larger cutter, but the bigger the biscuit the less angelic looking, again my opinion!


1 pkg yeast

1/2 cup warm water

5 cups all purpose flour

3 TB white sugar

1 TB baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups buttermilk

3/4 cup plus 2 TB shortening


Dissolve yeast in the warm water and let stand 10 minutes. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the shortening until pieces are the size of peas.

Stir in buttermilk and dissolved yeast using a dinner fork. Work only until well moistened. Do not overmix. Put dough in a large covered plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use (it will keep for a week).

To Bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Take out only as much dough as you need and place container back in the refrigerator. Carefully roll 1/2" -- 3/4" thick on a well-floured surface. Cut with a 2-1/2" biscuit cutter pushing down and then pulling straight up. Do not twist the cutter.

Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Serve with a flavored butter such honey butter, pumpkin butter, or just plenty of whipped butter.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for Apples and Apple Butter

A few weeks ago I did an apple butter demonstration at church. Have you ever seen an apple butter kettle? Mine is probably 100 years old, made of copper with a stand to keep it above the fire.
The day before I peeled 3 bushels of apples. I use a mix of apples: Macintosh, Winesap, Golden Delicious, and just a bit of Granny Smith. It took about 4 hours using my peeler contraption.
Early Saturday morning, I took everything to church including an axe. What? I had to chop the wood for the fire. I used sassafras, and a little cedar because the smoke is so aromatic.
I started the fire, set the kettle stand over the flame, and then nestled the kettle into the stand.
Apple juice was the first to go in, that is my little secret to keep the apples from sticking. After it warmed a bit, I added a few apples, stirred with the paddle, added a few more apples, and so on until the entire 3 bushels were in the kettle.
By this time some folks from church had arrived and all took turns stirring. The youth minister invented a dance, "Amish Apple Butter Dance". It went like this, left heel back to right butt cheek with a little hop step, then the right heel back to the left butt cheek and a little hop step. All the while, pushing and pulling the apple butter paddle. It was so much fun. We all got the giggles when an Amish buggy drove by and Jeff yelled, "Look at me doing the Amish Apple Butter Dance"! I'm sure they were very impressed.
So after about 1-1/2 hours of stirring and breaking down the apples, I added cinnamon, cloves, white sugar, molasses, and a bit of apple cider vinegar to "tart" it up. Everyone took turns stirring some more. By this time we had some chairs near the kettle and more people had shown up. So, conversations were going, laughter was in the air, and we were getting hungry. Another 1-1/2 hours of stirring flew by.
We popped some buttermilk biscuits in the church's oven, and by the time the biscuits were ready so was the apple butter. We all had a taste and it was sooooo good!
The ladies jarred the apple butter. We all agreed that the jars would be sold at the Ladies Circle Bazaar. What a nice day.
I don't really think that many of you want to make 40 pints of apple butter in a kettle over an open flame. So, I have a slow cooker recipe for apple butter that will fill your house with a wonderful aroma, and then you've something special for your Thanksgiving breakfast! Let me know what you think...

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
Yield: 6 cups
4 pounds apples (use a variety), peeled and sliced about 1/4” thick
1/2 cup good quality apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 cup sorghum molasses or dark molasses (not blackstrap)
2-3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves


Place sliced apples and vinegar in a 4-quart slow cooker.
Cook, covered, at HIGH 6 hours. Stir occasionally. At the end of 6 hours, break down apples with a potato masher.

Stir in sugar, molasses, cinnamon, and cloves.
Reduce setting to LOW; cook, covered, 4 hours.
Whisk vigorously to further break up apples. I use an immersion blender.
Here is the tricky part: I cook it much longer than 4 hours because I like a thick, mounding,
old-fashioned apple butter. I suggest you check it at the 4 hour mark and go from there.

Cool. Place in containers. Store in refrigerator up to a week.
Freeze: Place apple butter in freezer containers leaving about 1/2” headspace. Put a folded piece of plastic wrap on top of apple butter to help prevent ice crystals. Put on freezer lid. Freeze for up to 4 months.

NOTE: If the apples aren’t very juicy, you may need to add a bit of apple juice/cider from time to time if they seem to be sticking on the bottom or around the edges.