Recipes for Easter season

Would someone please wake up Mother Nature? It is understood that the older one gets, the more sleep one needs or wants, but this slow spring is just too much sleep, even for an old-timer like Mother N! It has to warm up soon, but the wait seems longer and longer. There have been some spring blooms popping up but how many will survive the cold temperatures of last week? Guess I am just getting too anxious.

It has been too chilly for me to get out into the yard to work on the plants and flowerbeds and I just know that when it warms up, it will be fast and I will, once again, be behind the eight ball with my meager green thumb projects. I do have a bag of planting medium and a few packets of seeds, but they just won’t jump out of the packets and plant themselves. Dumb seeds. I get mostly plants anyway, but I would like, just once again, to start some of my own. I don’t know where I lost that ability, but it does seem to be gone.

The berry vines seem to want to take over and will have to be trimmed back or we won’t be able to get through the rows. That won’t be too hard a job as they are thornless bushes, thank goodness. There are, still, enough berries in the freezer to make some jelly or jam and some pies, so they need to be used before the new crop comes on this summer. Picking berries is a pleasure for me, so that is one job to which I look forward. Husband Norm thinks I am just a little looney to like to be in a berry patch.

The strawberries the local FFA members were selling were gorgeous this year, and so sweet. It soon will be time for our local strawberries, so start looking over your recipes so that you can enjoy them during their short season. My favorite kind of shortcake is what the Plant City growers sell at the Medieval Festival in Sarasota, Fla. Take a slice of Angel Food Cake, add a dip of vanilla ice cream, then a big spoonful of sugared strawberries and top it off with whipped cream and a perfect strawberry on top. Don’t even think about the calories. Good, good, good. By the way, when peaches come into season, this dessert is just as good with a nice ripe, juicy peach as it is with strawberries. I hope to add a small strawberry patch in the corner of my garden, if the weather ever gets warm enough for me to venture out of the house.

Three weeks until Easter, so it is time to plan your family’s celebration. You will want to watch Parkersburg’s Easter Parade and take part in all the activities surrounding it. Watch in the newspaper for the dates of all the neat things to do. Your little ones will never forget having breakfast with the Easter Bunny. Make an “Easter Bonnet” to rival the hats at the Kentucky Derby or the fashions in England and win a prize. It is a happy way to welcome spring and surely will be a lot warmer than the last few weeks have been. We can thank Kiki for getting this idea into action for all of us to enjoy.

Have you noticed that with this chilly weather lasting too, too long there are some folks who just can’t hold back their displeasure any longer? These are the ones who tend to grumble about things anyway, and this season has just given them a great chance to really indulge in their favorite pastime. It is good that these folks are in the minority, but they can upset a person if you let them.

It seems that they are just like a firecracker, all loud noise and not much substance. It just takes a spark to set them off and then there is much noise but no pretty colors like in fireworks – just noise like a firecracker. Now, like a firecracker has no brain or heart, they lack the ability to see or feel how onlookers react. I laugh to myself when I see or hear one of these minor explosions, especially in public, but I do feel sorry for the person to which that firecracker aims. Hey, folks, save that fire (irritation) for July and ease up on the rest of us. Spring is almost here and you will feel better then. Store clerks and service personnel are around to serve and don’t deserve an instant nasty mood, even for a second. If you are one of those few firecrackers, remember you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

This past week has been a weird one – it is snowing as this is written – but we are promised temperatures in the seventies on Monday. Our valley does have four seasons, sometimes all in one day. It is too early to plant things outside, even if we do get the urge to do so. Maybe my few herb seeds will be in pots by then and we will see how this year goes, garden-wise. Nothing tastes as good as a ripe tomato, warm from the sun, and right out of one’s patch.

I saw a dandelion trying to grow already. With the warm days promised, they should be popping up all over. If you gather them, for salad, cooked greens, or jelly or wine, be sure to gather them away from the roads, especially in the country. You don’t need the added flavor of tobacco juice on your salad. Pick an area where few or no humans or animals walk and wash your greens and you will be OK. You don’t have to pick your picking place so close for the blossoms.

Grandma Nichols would walk this farm back in the Stone Age and gather enough different wild greens to make a great tasting pot full – at least twenty different kinds of greens. I remember some of them, but not all, so dandelions will be the only ones I eat this year. The blossoms can be used several ways, including fried, although it seems to me that one is eating mostly fried batter that way. Truthfully, I prefer the greens in a salad over the cooked greens. Just to give you a start on some dandelion recipes, I will include some today.

There are very hurtful things happening at this time across the globe. Mudslides, plane disappearances, countries fearing their overrun by neighboring countries; be thankful if your life is even close to normal. Keep all these folks in your prayers and give thanks for those brave souls who stand on the front lines defending our way of life. We all need the hope and peace of the Lenten and coming Easter season. God protect and bless us all.

* FRIED DANDELION BLOSSOMS

One-fourth cup milk

One-half cup flour

One egg, beaten

Two tablespoons powdered milk

One teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

Large, fresh dandelion blossoms with stems removed

Oil for frying

Mix all ingredients except blossoms and oil. Heat oil in skillet. Wash blossoms, drain well and dry off with paper towels. Dip into batter and fry in hot oil until golden brown.

Most any batter will do for the dandelions, so if you have a batter you use for fried vegetables, use that. The fried batter is the most taste in this dish. If you are counting calories, just use the cleaned blossoms in your lettuce and/or fruit salad to say you have tasted dandelion blossoms.

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DANDELION SALAD

Dandelion greens

Green spring onions

One or two boiled potatoes

One or two hard boiled eggs

Hot Vinegar Dressing

Gather the greens – young ones are more tender – and clean, wash and drain well. Boil the potatoes, with the jackets on, until tender. As soon as cool enough to handle, peel off skin and cube. Cut onions in slices, using white sections and some of the green. Peel and dice eggs. Place greens, onions, and eggs in a salad bowl and pour warm dressing over all. Use amount of greens for your family and amount of onions to taste.

* WARM VINEGAR DRESSING

Six bacon slices, diced

One-fourth to one-half cup sugar

Two tablespoons flour

One teaspoon salt

Two-thirds cup vinegar

Six tablespoons water

Dash of fresh ground pepper

These measurements are approximate – go by tastes of your family for your amounts. Fry the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Discard all but three tablespoons of the drippings. Combine sugar, flour, salt and pepper and add to reserved bacon drippings. Bring to a boil – like making a roux – then slowly add combined vinegar and water, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook about two minutes more to cook the flour and blend the flavors. If too stiff, add a little more water to get the consistency you like, but it should be slightly thickened. Cool slightly, then pour over greens mixture and toss. Sprinkle bacon pieces over top. This basic dressing can be used over diced potatoes or most any cooked vegetable.

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DANDELION JELLY

Pick one quart of blossoms in the morning. Hold each flower by the calyx (the green base) and snip off the golden blossoms with scissors into a saucepan. Discard the calyx. Add one quart water to blossoms and boil for three minutes. Drain off three cups of the liquid. Strain through cheesecloth if you want clear jelly. Put this liquid in a good-sized saucepan. Add one package (1 -oz.) powdered pectin to the liquid and add two tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil, and then add four and one-half cups sugar and a few drops yellow food coloring. Boil three minutes, or to the jelly stage. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal.

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DANDELION WINE

Three quarts blossoms

Four pounds white sugar

Two lemons

One-fourth cake yeast (large cake or small cake)

One gallon water, boiling

Wash blossoms. Scald with the boiling water and let set in the water overnight. The next day, add the remaining ingredients. Juice the lemon, but put the rinds in as well as the juice. Let set 48 hours. Strain, bottle and cover with cheesecloth until it quits working so much. Then set corks lightly until it quits working completely. It is extremely important to set the corks lightly until it quits working and to set the bottles where flying glass won’t hurt anyone in case you set the corks too tightly too soon. You can use this basic recipe and method for about any blossom wine, such as elder blossom wine.

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Contact Amy Phelps at aphelps@newsandsentinel.com