Challenges and Wonders

It is still cold.

I have lived in Indiana most of my life, and I know in my head that Hoosier springs can have snow and freezing temperatures well into April, but my heart is ready for sunny days and the smell of lilac blossoms.

So, along with everyone else, I wait.

The good news is that, unlike in years past, I have not neglected my list of spring cleaning jobs in favor of lovely 70-degree afternoons outside in my flower beds.

(Grasping at straws here, folks…)

Actually, by this time last year, we knew that our fruit crop was probably a loss because of the early blooming and a late freeze.  This year, our trees have not yet opened their blossoms, so we are optimistic that they are still safe.  Maple syrup farmers are also having a fantastic harvest this spring, with the gentle up-and-down temperatures that allow the sweet sap to keep flowing.  Every cloud has it’s silver lining.

I was thinking of that this morning as I studied my early-blooming daffodils.  Their blossoms were bent under the weight of the latest snowfall, and the flowers appeared somewhat discouraged.  As I walked alongside them on the stepping stones, I whispered to them, “The sun will come out again, the temperatures will warm.  Your beautiful blooms will be able to stand up and show off your glorious petals!  This, too, shall pass”.

And, when it does, we will be in a new season with new challenges and new wonders.  While working through the challenges, may we stop long enough to notice the wonders–and to give God our gratitude for both!

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Glazed Pears

I have watched television chefs make one version or another of glazed pears for years.  I don’t know why, but they’ve never really piqued my interest.  Last spring, though, I watched Jacques Pepin make some apricot-glazed pears, and they grabbed my attention.  (I don’t know.  Maybe it was his French accent?)

Anywho, I decided to make a simpler version, sans apricot preserves, and they were a huge hit for my hungry crew…and so simple to make!

This could certainly be prepared with fresh pears and a honey or maple syrup glaze, but I opted for a simpler route this time.

2 T. butter
1 (15-oz.) can pears in light syrup
1 cinnamon stick

Melt butter in saute pan.

Add pears and about 2/3 of the juice, along with cinnamon stick, to melted butter.

Drink remaining pear juice before the kids come in and start fighting over it.  (Learn from my mistakes, people.)

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, gently stirring and basting, until liquid is reduced to syrup consistency.

Eat these sweet gems plain, over ice cream, on pancakes and waffles or with a biscuit.  Delightful.

 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

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A tried-and-true favorite at our house this time of year!  Our oldest daughter made two of these for our small group Bible study Friday night; they didn’t last long!

1 c. sugar
3 T. flour
3-4 c. sliced, fresh or frozen, strawberries (If using frozen, be sure to include juice.)
3 c. diced rhubarb

Combine sugar and flour, then stir in fruit.  Spread evenly in 9×13″ baking dish.

1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. cold butter, grated
1 c. rolled oats

Combine until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over fruit mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling and topping is lightly browned.

Fresh Cranberry Scones

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I really enjoy fresh cranberries, but they’re tough to find outside of the holiday season.  I will often buy a bag or two for the freezer when they’re available.  These scones are a refreshing treat—and especially tasty with a hot cup of tea.

2 ½ c. flour
½ c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ t. ground cloves (or the zest of one lemon)
¼ c. cold butter, grated
1 c. whipping cream
¾ c. fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 t. milk
2 T. sugar

Combine first 5 ingredients.

Add butter, mixing until crumbly.

Add whipping cream and cranberries, stirring just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto lightly-floured surface; knead 5 or 6 times—basically until mixture holds together well and can be shaped into 8” circle.

Cut disc into 8 wedges and place on lightly-greased baking sheet.  Prick wedges 3-4 times each with fork.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 425 for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

These are especially good warm.  They freeze well when wrapped tightly.

 

Green Tomato Bread

I don’t like green tomatoes.  I’ve tried.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I’ve tried them friend, in chutneys, in salsas and in relishes.  I just can’t get into them.  I can eat them, but I don’t enjoy them.

Until this.

Thank you to my friend, Charlene, for sharing this tasty recipe.  It’s definite proof that if you add enough sugar to anything, it can be good.

This makes two standard loaves.

3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
1 t. salt
1 T. vanilla
2 c. grated green tomatoes, drained
3 c. flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. cinnamon
3/4 c. dried fruit of your choice, chopped to the size of raisins
1 c. chopped nuts, if desired

Beat eggs well and add sugar, oil, salt, vanilla and tomatoes.

Sift dry ingredients separately, then gradually add to tomato mixture.  Stir in raisins and nuts.

Pour into greased bread pans and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Crunch, Crisp, Cobbler or Crumble?

People often get crunches, crisps, crumbles and cobblers confused.  I mean, they’re all baked fruit desserts (not to mention they all begin with “c”), so I kind of understand, but there are some distinctive differences in what’s going on under or above the fruity filling.  Here is some clarification:

A crunch has both a crumb crust and a crumb topping.  The crust is often made of the same ingredients as the crumb topping, but pressed into the bottom of the pan before topping with fruit.

Both crisps and crumbles have a crumb topping sprinkled over the fruit before baking. Traditionally, a crisp included rolled oats which “crisped” while baking; a crumble did not. Over time, the lines have blurred on this one, and I think a crisp and a crumble are pretty much considered the same thing these days.

Now, a cobbler is a horse of a completely different color.  It has a biscuit topping that is dropped over the fruit.  When baked, the top of the dessert has a “cobbled” look, as in cobble-stoned street.  My hunch is that baked fruit desserts that use cake mix-type or even cookie dough toppings would also fall under the category of cobbler.

While we’re on the subject, I feel compelled to share with you my favorite-to-date crumb topping.  I use it in both crunches and crumbles, as well as on muffins, Dutch apple pies and over some coffee cakes.  You can certainly add nuts, if that makes you happy.  You can also make huge batches of this in order to set some back for the freezer.

1 c. flour
1 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
1 t. cinnamon (if desired)

Mix thoroughly and do good with the results.