Monthly Archives: February 2011

…a “Date with Cherry!”

Goodness gracious, February has evaporated!  My grandmas surely were right about that “time flying” thing when you’re “seasoned.”  (I strive to abstain from using the word old, older or any derivative of it.)  I surely don’t wish my life away, BUT, I cannot tell a lie (doesn’t that have some sort of relationship with cherry trees?)… I’m mighty glad to be seeing winter quickly moving into the rear view mirror.

I’m a Spring Chick!  The R A I N BO W spring brings makes me giddy.  I love looking upward to see GREEN buds on a palate of BLUE sky… and gazing down to see YELLOW buttercups already making their debut in my yard… I start looking forward to cute little roadside signs, often hand-painted, letting me know it’s time for RED strawberries…  and grin when I see Lavender chive blossoms burst open for my salads (although I mostly enjoy chomping on them right out there in the yard).  But there is one color I dread come spring… the glaring WHITE on my winterized legs!  Now I’ve never been a sun worshiper (boring!) and I do make sure to use sun protection, but I must admit that I do feel a little better with a tad of color when debuting shorts, skirts and skorts come Spring.

Soooo, back to saying buh-bye to February.  Being that it’s National Cherry Month AND being that cherries in any shape, form or fashion are about my FAV fruit, I couldn’t “march’ forward without some sort of cherry treat.  My foodie friends know I’m the quintessential NON-baker, so as I looked about for inspirations, “no bake” recipes screamed w.e.n.d.y.! I’m also not one of those folks who cannot exist without sweet stuff, so this concoction realllly got me out of the proverbial ‘box.’   But when I started digging to see what I had on hand to create a new masterpiece, a “no bake sweet treat” is what emerged.  I hope you enjoy making these FAST goodies as much as I did…
(“fast” + “EZ” + “no bake” = My Kind ‘o Throw Together Goodie)!


“A Date With Cherry”
…cherry chocolate chip date nut balls

…a recipe by Wendy Perry
Yield:  1 dozen
Prep Time:  less than 10 minutes

1      c.               asst. nuts/pieces* (salted or unsalted)
pinch of salt    (if your nuts are unsalted)
1/2  c.              dried cherries, unsweetened
3/4  c.              dates (whole or pieces)
1/4  t.               almond extract (Watkins)
1/4  t.               vanilla extract (Watkins)
2      T.              water (or if for adults, Amaretto, vanilla or cherry rum or chocolate liquer)
1/2  c.               mini chocolate chips
1/2  c.               flaked coconut (half toasted)**

* This is a great recipe to use up those tidbits of nuts because a mixture is a ‘good thing’ in this recipe.
For recipe creation, I used pecans, walnuts and some macadamia nut pieces (previously toasted for another recipe).

Throw your nuts and salt into a food processor and whiz until fine crumbs.  Throw cherries, dates, extracts and water (or alcohol) in and pulse until you have an ooey gooey paste.  With a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Pinch mixture and make 1″ balls.  Roll in coconut and place into freezer to firm up for about an hour.  Keep chilled.

**Toast coconut in non-stick pan until some is toasted and some isn’t so you have a half-n-half mix.  Bu doing this, you’ll get a nice “chew” with the bits that haven’t toasted, yet a nice toasty crunch with the flakes that are toasted.

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…dig’n dirt!

After spending a little time in the yard yesterday to start spring cleaning it (before snakes may slither in!!!), I once again, as realized about this time each year,  confirm that I DETEST yard work, period.  I so want to be one of those folks who look forward to piddling in the yard, fluttering about pulling weeds here, planting flowers there… “becoming one with nature!”  Just ain’t me…. and I was nowhere in sight when God was handing out those genes.  I’m the one with good intentions, going to the annual Wake Forest HerbFest where I roll around one of the cute little Radio Flyer wagons and get all giddy filling it with tender young herbs and unusual tomato plants.  Usually, in 2-3 weeks time, the thrill is gone,  and I’ve grown the nicest pots of DRIED HERBS you’ve ever seen.  Thank goodness a few of my favs, like chive, don’t need a lot of attention and thrive on their own.

Last year, I dabbled in hay bale gardening where I planted a lot of varieties of maters, but forgot about those after a bit too… yet a LOT of maters actually came to be.  I haven’t yet decided if I’ll try that again this year or not… more about that later!

Back to yesterday… (because with every small movement, this muscle or that one takes me back there), I concluded that the main reason I don’t like yard word is D.I.R.T.!!!  (I don’t even care for all that sand at the beach, which is a problem when you love the beach!).  Dirt gets everywhere... under my fingernails (even when wearing gloves?!?), inside my socks… hair… mouth, even in my bra!  I just get too dirty out there in the dirt, period.  So when I came in yesterday at dusk, I pondered the whole dirt thing, and came to this conclusion.  I hate dirt.  Yet, I love dirt CAKE!  So here’s to dirt and those that “dig” dirt (with the highest admiration!)… whether under your fingernails from outside, or licking off your finger with my kind o’ dirt from the kitchen!

Wendy’s Dirt Cake… quick and EZ

…a fun cake to serve a crowd any time of year, but especially nice in the springtime!

Serves 12ish

1      large pkg.         Chocolate Creme-Filled Cookies*
2      8 oz.                  whipping cream (make fresh or use 2 packaged)
2      8 oz.                  cream cheese, softened
2      large                 instant pudding mix
4      cups                  milk
food coloring, opt.
flower pot safe for food, about 5 qt. size
garden trowel for serving
flowers, gummy worms/bugs for garnish

DIRT:
*You can save money by using “no name brand” cookies from dollar or discount store.
Save 1 (or more whole cookies) to plug hole in bottom of flower pot.

Place cookies in processor and pulse until consistency of dirt!  (If you don’t have a processor, this can be done in a zippered bag by rolling into crumbs with some sort of bottle or jar.)  I like to keep a few cookies out and break into pieces to have a ‘crunch’ in the dirt crumbs.

FILLING:
Mix pudding but using a little less milk than you would for usual pudding so it will be a bit firmer in the cake.  With mixer, blend in the cream cheese; whirl in the whipped cream, or you can do them (pudding/cream cheese and whipped cream) as 2 separate layers in the cake.

Start by covering hole with whole cookie(s) and a layer of dirt in bottom of pot.  Alternate 2-3 layers (number of layers will depend on size/shape of your pot.  End by topping with ‘dirt.’

GARNISH:  throw in some silk flowers (or real as in picture if in jar or bottle of water)… hang a gummy worm or two around too.

CONTAINER: Some clay pots have been chemically treated so best to use a cleaned plastic or ceramic type flower pot.   If using a clay pot, it should first be washed well/sterilized through a cycle in the dishwasher.

SERVING SPOON:  It’s fun to keep the “theme” going by using a garden trowel which you can find at a dollar store.

PUDDING:  These is where you can get creative and have fun… make chocolate, vanilla or anything that goes good with the chocolate cookies.  In both these pictures, I used mint…wished I had taken a good picture of the INside!  I like to do this at St. Patty’s Day and make sure I add a little green food coloring to get a nice bold green layer in my cake! 

“DIG” In!

…i can almost smell salt air!

Here it is, middle of February, and as typical here in North Carolina, we’re having a beautimous day approaching 80 degrees!  A few windows have flung open to ‘air out’ the house, hopefully blowing out the germs from another visit from Mr. Winter Crud.  I’m trying to pretend the fragrance of Vick’s Vaporizer that fills the air is actually salt air and close my eyes, visualizing I’m strolling down one of our beautiful North Carolina beaches.

One of my favorite warmish day meals is Shrimp or Seafood Salad.  This is such an easy and f.a.s.t. treat to throw together and for me, gets better after a day or two in the fridge!  I hope you’ll enjoy making this salad and enjoy eating it as much as I do!  Now, I’ve gotta run and rinse the sand off my toes….

Many recipes I post in my my blog will not give you exact measurements.  I like to teach folks “throw” cook’n… throw some of this, that and the other together till it tastes like you like it!  Those are usually the best dishes, so don’t be afraid!  What’s the worst that can happen?  You have “A” dish that’s not going to be a family fav?  The other side of that is you *might* even create something you’ll be making for years to come!  So, don’t be afraid just because there are no measurements here ~ let’s just  throw down…

Start with fresh local shrimp if possible.  Here in my neck of the woods, I can get peeled and deveined North Carolina Shrimp at Lowe’s Foods (where they have seafood markets).  I stock up when on sale and buy 5# bags still frozen (just ask the folks behind the counter for those).  That way, I can just grab out a few handfuls at the time to throw on a salad, in a quick stir fry or to make shrimp butter to top a steak just off the grill.  Sometimes (as in this batch), I throw in some of that ‘fake’ crab, not a big fav of mine, but in this case, had a few extra folks coming and needed a quick stretch of the salad (and one in the crowd loves the stuff)!  The shrimp need to be well drained…. so throw in the colander to thaw and drain.

After draining, I take some paper towels and dab the shrimp to dry out as much as possible… then throw in a bowl.

One of my fav kitchen tools are my Dollar Store scissors… I keep several pair handy (along with my wondermous Cutco Shears).  The scissors are perfect for snipping things like the ‘crab’ in this salad.

Celery is a ‘must’ for me in seafood salads… so just finely dice up as much as you like., then throw it in the bowl.

A little red onion never hurts either, so throw that in too!  I usually add some boiled eggs, again, as much or as little as you like… but didn’t use egg in this particular batch.  Sometimes I throw in some pickle relish or cubes too.

Any kind of pepper will do, but I like using white pepper in light salads!

…and in my kitchen, the o.n.l.y. mayo is DUKE’S!  End of story.  Start with a couple of tablespoons and stir in… add a tablespoon at the time until the consistency you like.

The is where you can play with seasonings…now y’all know I’m not one to measure, so throw in whatever herbs and spices you like with fishy wishy stuff.  I sometimes grab a pack of Ranch Dressing mix and throw in a bit to mix with the Duke’s to ‘dress’ this salad.  Even a dab of honey mustard is good in a seafood salad.  Some herbs and spices that work well with shellfish are bay, basil, cayenne, coriander, curry powder, dill, marjoram, oregano, tarragon and thyme.

And as ‘standard’ for many of us Southern cooks, we have to throw in some sugahhh because that just enhances everything… a little dab ‘l do ya!

Mix it all up real good, and dish up!  Garnishes that work well are parsley, chive or cilantro… I ♥ cilantro, so I often use that on my Shrimp Salad.  Try to make this a day ahead, or at least a few hours ahead if possible and throw in the fridge.  All those goodies will ‘marry’ and taste bunches better  after ‘dating’ for a while!  I hope this recipe has inspired you to throw together a shrimp salad real soon.  And if you do, come on back here and tell us about it.  And oh, can you smell the salt air where you are?

Flash’n… this way or that?

ceilingfan

It hasn’t been that long ago when I set my bedroom ceiling fan for the winter, I think! But a week or so ago, I went to flash’n… so while snow was fall’n outside, I was on my step ladder pull’n chains on my bedroom ceiling fan till I found that sweet spot…

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…southern wine glasses

southernwineglass

I much prefer a nice glass of wine in a mason jar… as a matter of fact, i think everything tastes better in a mason jar! So as i enjoy a glass of red wine this evening,

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