Happy Merry May! I think it is time to see more of those "May flowers" and less of the "April showers," don't you? I think April just goofed around and didn't do the "showers" bit as much as should have been done, and just emptied all that liquid on us before April ended. Mother Nature surely has a weird sense of humor! Some areas would love to have some of the moisture given to our valley - too bad there isn't a "water pipeline" so that we could share it. It is better to have our showers than to have the terrible storms that other areas had that destroyed so much and caused so many deaths. I don't know about you, but I am glad that I live here in our valley, even if the wind does really blow hard sometimes here on the hilltop of "Podunk Holler." When that sun does decide to shine, it is beautiful, so enjoy those occasional hours of spring sun and warmth. Keep those who have suffered in this last session of storms in your prayers.
I started five different herbs in a flat to get some nice plants for outside when we can finally start the garden. They all sprouted quickly and I thought "Finally!" They were placed by the window to get used to the sun. Then the two cats in the house thought they looked like a perfect place to take a nap. They probably will not make the rescue from Moomoo and Tippy and start growing again. The leftover seed will be planted in the garden after June 1, the time husband Norm says will be okay to plant. I am hoping for a long, warm fall as that is probably when my few herbs will be ready to use to make salsa. Mother Nature zaps me, even inside the house! Maybe the Farmers' Market will have nice herbs when I need them if mine don't grow. May is always a very busy month with the warmer weather coming and schools getting out for the summer. Graduations and proms are in the students' minds more than the tests they are required to take at this time. I won't get on the bandbox about that subject today or I will be in a stressful mood all day - just say our education system needs a good shake-up and by educators, not Washington that seems not to understand what true educators do understand and know. But who listens to old teachers like me?
Anyway, this is a month when many of our young folks will be making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. Some will have good information and advice and some will have none at all. If you have a young person who will be deciding which life path to take, do help them get the information they need. We can't TELL them what to do, but we do need to provide them with choices and the consequences of each choice. The world is different than it was in our past and what was okay when we were young is different for them. Most of all, we hope that they realize that, for our country to survive, their generation must learn the lesson of working and contributing to our country's assets and not taking from them by living off others who do work. They need to look at history and learn from it. We will soon be a "third world" country if we don't change our ways very soon.
Next Sunday is Mother's Day. If you still have your mother, be thankful, and let her know how you appreciate her. Plan ahead for a nice day for her. Think about what she might really enjoy and try to make it happen. Only one person gave birth to each of us, and even if you have had disagreements with her, she should be honored. Just remember, we miss our mothers more after they are gone than when we can see and talk to them in person. Ask her about the things she enjoys, or what may have given her sorrows, where she went to school, about her own mother, and of course, work with her to write down family traditions and recipes. Put this information together and print it out on your computer (or write it if you can't print it off) and present it to her for Mother's Day. You will treasure it even more the older you get. Pray for any mother you might know that does not deserve to be honored like this on Mother's Day and the children they have hurt.
There are several bake sales and benefits going on in our area this time of year. Any of them would appreciate a pie or cake or two - even homemade cookies sell well. It gives you a chance to show off what you can do and helps a good cause. If you don't want to bake, just attend and enjoy someone else's good baking. Either way, it helps the group hosting the function. Baking is one way to get your young ones introduced to doing good things for other people, as well as building their self-esteem by showing off their talents. If you bake for someone else, the calories go with the donation and you don't have to be concerned about them defeating your goal of getting into that bathing suit! Anyway, just look through your recipes and pick some that you enjoy making, or try some of the ones today. Playing in the kitchen is relaxing!
Do enjoy each day of this season, even the rainy ones. Plants do need water (just as we do) and be thankful we aren't in a desert or the middle of a tornado. Keep our veterans and their families in your prayers along with your family and friends. God Bless!
One-half cup sifted confectioners' sugar
Two cups softened butter
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One-half cup sifted cornstarch
Four and 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Combine sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until very light and fluffy. Add extract and beat until smooth. Combine flour and cornstarch separately and then stir into the butter mixture. Work until well combined. Divide the dough into two mounds. Separately, roll out each mound on a floured surface until just over 1/2-inch thick. Cut out shortbreads and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until slightly golden colored. Allow to cool on sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Shortbreads are served plain or with a touch of frosting.
Two and cups all-purpose flour
Three-fourths cups extra-fine sugar *
One teaspoon baking power
One-half cup crystallized ginger, cut into small pieces
One and cups Brazil nuts chopped into small pieces**
Three eggs, beaten
Put all dry ingredients, including the ginger and nuts, in a large bowl and mix. Add eggs and stir until mixture comes together in a ball. Add a little extra flour if mixture seems too wet. Divide in half and place each half on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape into long, flat log shapes about 10-inches long and about 4-inches wide and about 1-inch high. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until logs are cooked through and a very light golden brown. Remove from oven. As soon as cool enough to handle, place on a cutting board and slice on the diagonal, thinly, barely -inch wide, slices. Place back, flat, on the parchment-covered baking pans and bake for another 10-minutes. Turn cookies over and bake for another 5-minutes on the other side - until lightly golden and crispy. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. These are "dunking cookies" for coffee, tea or wine and will keep in an airtight container for several days.
**If you don't have Brazil nuts, use almonds or whatever nuts you have on hand.
*If you don't have extra-fine sugar, put regular white sugar in the food processor or blender and blend until fine grained.
Two cups all-purpose flour
One-half cup extra-fine sugar*
One and sticks cold butter, cut into chunks
Topping: Three eggs
One cup extra-fine sugar
Juice and grated rind of 3 lemons
One-third cup all-purpose flour
One-half cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners' sugar for garnish
Make the base first. Place flour and sugar in food processor and pulse to blend. Add butter chunks and process until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Press this mixture evenly into the bottom of a 7 x 10 and 1/2-in pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 20 to 25-minutes or until golden brown. Then reduce the temperature to 275-degrees.
While this is baking, make the topping. Whisk together the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until very thick and pale colored - about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and rind, then fold in the flour. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the baked base. Pour egg mixture over blueberries. Bake for 35 to 40-minutes (in the 275-degree oven) or until set. Allow to cool completely in pan before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar to serve.
*See above recipe for extra-fine sugar - used in most bakery-made cookies.
Base: Two cups all-purpose flour
One-half cup extra-fine sugar*
One teaspoon baking powder
Two teaspoons ginger
One-half cup cold butter, cut into cubes
Topping: One-half cup butter
One-fourth cup white corn syrup (Karo)
Two cups sifted confectioner' sugar
Two tablespoons ground ginger
Make the base first. Put flour, sugar, baking powder and ginger in a food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Add butter and process about 30 seconds or until mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Press this mixture evenly into the 7 x 10 and -inch shallow pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly golden browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely before adding topping.
To make the topping, put the butter and corn syrup into a medium pan and heat until just melted. Add the sifted confectioner' sugar and ginger and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly until smooth. Take off the stove and pour over the cooled base. Let set until topping is set. Remove from pan and cut into desired squares or triangles to serve.
*See above recipe for extra-fine sugar.
Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.