Foods That Mean Love

By Rachel Sircy 

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I never try to blend together my own flour mixtures. I am a working mother of a four-year-old, and I simply don’t have the money or the time to hunt down and combine all those little bags of flour to make a baking mix that might make perfect doughnuts but can’t be used to dredge a pork chop. Actually, I don’t make doughnuts or porkchops, but that’s beside the point. What I use instead are gluten free all-purpose flour blends. There are quite a few of these on the market these days, but I recommend purchasing those that can be used as a cup for cup substitute for regular wheat-based flours. Normally, these all-purpose flour blends will advertise somewhere on the package that they are cup for cup substitutes. Pamela’s Artisan Blend happens to be my favorite at the moment (You can see the little yellow dot on the front of the package advertises a 1:1 substitution with regular flour):

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The real value of these 1:1 substitutions is that you can pull out old recipes and use them again without having to have an advanced degree in food science to figure out how to make them gluten free. Some recipes are really worth making time and time again. This is my grandmother’s recipe for shortbread cookies. The title of the recipe is “Holiday Cookies” because without fail, these cookies were a part of every single holiday on the yearly calendar. My grandmother had a cookie cutter with a shape to match each holiday in question: a pumpkin for the fall holidays, Christmas Trees, hearts for Valentine’s, eggs for Easter and so on.

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My daughter and I made these cookies with my grandmother over Christmas just the way that I used to make them with her when I was little. Just the other day, HRH (my daughter) and I made some for Valentine’s day.

 

They turned out to be beautifully imperfect. HRH was really excited about the sprinkles, so she added most of them to the first four cookies. With all the cookies together, it makes a nice ombre effect.

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The best part is being able to pull out this old recipe and reminiscing about learning to make these cookies as a child while teaching my daughter how to make them. Someday, I hope she makes these cookies with her children. Sometimes love looks like a cookie…

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And it tastes like one too…

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Reminiscing and Ginger Bread Houses

By Rhonda Woods

Oh, Christmas, you are only a few days away.  The children are excited for Santa to come.  Parents and grandparents are trying to find all the items on their sweet little lists. Some people go all out with decorations, while some, like me, keep it simple (barely getting the tree up). Secret Santa, playing the White Elephant gift exchange game (not sure where that name came from) and holiday music on every station.  Calendars are filled with special events, cantatas, drive through light shows, and of course, food…lots of food.  Pace yourself and forgo the fancy fitted frocks.  Opt for “eating pants”, as we say, you know the ones that allow a little room in the waist for “I just want a little taste”…of everything!

Last Christmas was the beginning of what I think will be a tradition in my family.  With my sweet husband in the hospital, I had no time to shop or even think about gift giving.  Talking about it, we decided to give each of our children and their spouses a set amount of money to purchase a special gift for themselves, and their children.  The instructions that came with the money was specific.  They must wrap their own gifts and place them under our tree to be opened on Christmas day in front of us, thus surprising us with the gifts they chose.  Worked great, but I must admit, with all that was going on, it was a blur.  Shopping has never been a favorite for me.  Hard to believe, right?  Now, keep in mind, I’m no Scrooge or Grinch, I just can’t seem to get into the “Christmas Spirit”, especially this year.

My mama was reminiscing about the foods we enjoyed on Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house as we were making our newer version of fruitcake last Saturday.  Now, Fruit Cake was something my mama and her grandmother made every year…early, like right after Thanksgiving! They would wrap them in cloth, place them in tins, and occasionally brush with some blackberry wine to “keep them moist”!  My sweet husband would say, “That’ll go good with my coffee in the morning”.   She told us about how they would go downtown in Columbia to Silvers on Main Street to purchase the candied fruits, not in the containers like today, but weighed by the clerk at the counter from bins. Mama also reminded us about the deli meats, cheeses, mustard, Kosher pickles and breads that were purchased from Groucho’s Deli in Five Points and served at my grandmothers house.  The food list went on describing things like celery stuffed with a cheese spread, olives, nuts, and deviled eggs.  We will honor her requests for all of these and more at our family Christmas gathering this year.

So, as we race through the last few day of school before Winter Break, my students are making Gingerbread Houses.  It’s a process and a lesson in patience.   Each one rolls and cuts the house parts from the cookie dough.  I bake them, and then the patience part comes into play when they assemble them using royal icing.  Each students customizes their house with a variety of candies and other edible decorations. I’m looking forward to seeing their final projects.

With limited time to spare these busy days, I have included a few quick and easy sweet treats, dips and spreads for you to try.  Merry Christmas Ya’ll!

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Appetizers and Dips

Zesty Crab Cakes

Squares

Spinach Dip

Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade Sauce

Quick Fudge with Nuts

Pimento Cheese

Double layer fudge

Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Orange Glazed Pecans

Treasured Traditions…Fire It Up & Pass The Biscuits!

By Marianna Boyce

It’s that time of the year when many of us may experience feelings of nostalgia.  I love reminiscing about holidays past.  pic 2On Thanksgiving Day, rest assured, my Daddy will be outside raking and burning leaves in his brick fire pit.  (He will probably also be sporting a tie!)  I adore watching him stand there stoically with his hands propped up on the rake while he watches the leaves burn.  It always sparks great conversation when my son and I smell a fire off in the distance in crisp autumn air.  I’m thankful God has blessed us with another year for Daddy to light his traditional Thanksgiving bonfire.

I also need to introduce you to my maternal grandmother (Maw).  She was the only one of my grandparents that I remember.  She was no bigger than a minute but she owned a large personality.  She passed away many years ago at the tender age of ninety.  One thing I always loved watching her do when I was a child was make homemade buttermilk biscuits.  She would scoop out a handful of lard and circle it around the huge mound of flour in her “magical” wooden bowl.  She would “squish” flour and lard as she slowly poured buttermilk into the bowl with her arthritic hands.  She would incorporate and knead it until it possessed the consistency of perfection. That small handful of lard “magically” transformed into a large ball of dough.  Maw would then pinch off a bit and roll it in her tiny hands.  As she placed that ball of dough on her baking pan, she would gently place her knuckle prints across the top of each biscuit.  This was a must!  She often remarked without the knuckle prints, they just wouldn’t taste as good!

pic 3My precious Mama has continued making these biscuits after Maw passed away.  I had always wanted to learn but it just looked so daunting.  Every Thanksgiving at Mama’s house, I watch her in action.  She always makes it look so easy!  Last Thanksgiving (2017), she just wasn’t herself.  She was experiencing a great deal of pain in her back and could hardly stand, but she just HAD to make those biscuits.  I told her to sit next to me in the kitchen and teach me to make them instead.  It was time to pass the torch!  Mama didn’t realize I was also experiencing an excess of pain in my body related to RA, especially in my hands; however, I was willing to suffer through the pain for my sweet Mama!

pic 1I grimaced when I started pouring cold buttermilk into the bowl incorporating it with the lard and flour.  After a minute or two, a Thanksgiving miracle happened!  It turned out, this was VERY therapeutic for my hands.  Once I finished, I felt fantastic!  The smell of freshly baked biscuits wafting through the air was enough to make anyone’s day!  I could hardly wait for both of us to taste one piping hot from the oven!  My oldest brother Tommy was certain we would be using them for weapons, but I’m happy to report that my first batch of biscuits turned out quite good.  I had a great teacher, but of course Maw AND Mama’s biscuits remain unmatched!  Maybe this year she will teach me to make her homemade giblet gravy.  I’ll be making the biscuits!

We truly need to pass on precious memories and treasured traditions to our future generations.  I’m wondering if we should even revive some that we’ve “forgotten.”  So much seems to get lost along the way.  When did we get in a big hurry to do everything?  The answer is…just one moment at a time!  Let’s just slow down this holiday season and simply enjoy the journey.  God bless you and your family!  Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

  •  I have lost one additional pound since my last post (for a total loss of 5 pounds). I hoped to be further along by now, but you know…Halloween candy and all.  I have a fondness for Reese’s cups!  (Who knew?)  Only 15 more pounds to lose!

Memories, Traditions and Possibilities: A Deal At Just $5.99

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Mary Pat Baldauf

I bought a box of crayons yesterday. Not just any box of crayons, but Crayolas in that familiar green and orange box. A 64-pack. With the sharpener. When the clerk rang up the crayons, she shook her head, “5.99 for a box of crayons.”

Not being a regular crayon shopper, I don’t know whether that’s high or low or whether I could’ve gotten them cheaper someplace else. The way I look at it though, $5.99 isn’t bad for a box of Crayola crayons. 64 pack. With the sharpener. And that’s because in addition to housing 64 magical dream sticks, there’s a lot more in that box. A box of memories. A box of tradition. And a box of possibilities.

A box of memories? Yep. When I crack open a box of crayons, I get a neuron-splattering head rush. I am transported back in time to…

…the first grade, when we used those fat crayons that were flat on the bottom so they wouldn’t roll of our desks.

…to 208 Holly Avenue, where my sister and I made masterpieces with crayons and Fall leaves. You did these, right? We’d pick the most colorful leaves from the woods across the street and bring them home. When Mom was busy, we’d pull out her wax paper, fold it in half and place the leaves on one side. Then we’d take old crayons and use a knife to cut shavings onto the wax paper. We’d fold the wax paper over, and when Mom wasn’t looking, we’d iron the paper until it turned into a beautiful stained glass creation. We usually got in trouble for getting Burnt Sienna and Maize on Mom’s iron, but it was worth it.

…to summer YMCA camp when we made what I know as scratch art. We’d color a piece of paper with bright crayons, then cover it with black paint. When the paint dried, we’d use a toothpick to create a design. Those were the days.

A box of tradition?  Uh huh. Binney and Smith created Crayolas in 1903, and since then, generations of children have played with them. Crayons are universal; they are the great equalizer of humanity! Babe Ruth? Probably used crayons. President Obama? Bet he used crayons. Prince? Purple crayons, for sure. And then there’s little old me. I most certainly used crayons!

A neat thing about crayons: even though they’ve been around for more than 100 years, they’ve changed just enough to stay relevant. I’m a purist – I like the colorful wax sticks wrapped in paper, but today there are specialty Crayolas: twistable, washable, dry erase, even multicultural. And those big flat ones I used in first grade? They’re now triangular. (Easier for kids to hold.)

Lastly, there are crayons that mark changes in our culture. The crayon once known as “Flesh” was voluntarily changed to “peach” in 1962, partially as a result of the U. S. Civil Rights Movement. The crayon I colored with as “Indian Red?” It was renamed Chestnut in 1999 in response to educators who felt some children wrongly perceived the crayon color was intended to represent the skin color of Native Americans.

A box of possibilities? You bet! A new box of crayons is fresh and perfect. They’re all pointy, lined up in order, bright and, well, perfect. A box of crayons contains the colors of an eye popping sunset, the thousand colors of the sea, the brilliant colors of a rainforest.

Speaking of colors, do you remember the name of your favorite crayon? Mine was Carnation Pink, a color that was introduced in 1949 and is still in that orange and green box. I asked my sister this morning. Hers was Maize, which was retired in 1990.

A funny story about crayon colors. Through my work with the APWA, I travel to their headquarters in Kansas City once a year. Kansas City is also home to the country’s only Crayola Store, which is connected to the hotel.

On my first visit – I visit every year – I asked the clerks about their favorite crayon colors. The first one hemmed and hawed, then finally said that blue was her favorite.

“Blue?” I asked. “Cadet Blue, Cornflower, Denim?”

“Just blue,” she said.

The second clerk’s answer was no better. “Green,” she said quickly.

“Green?” I asked. “Asparagus, Fern, Blue Green?”

“Green,” she answered.

Not very good Crayola ambassadors, if you ask me.  If Crayolas are boxes of possibilities, they were a dead end.

I bought a box of crayons yesterday. Not just any box of crayons, but Crayolas in that familiar green and orange box. A 64-pack. With the sharpener. $5.99 for a box of crayons. And memories, tradition and possibilities. Not a bad deal.