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When the words don’t come, it puts me at a loss. That the words don’t come doesn’t necessarily herald a hard season. Sometimes it heralds a season to be savored. A season to just pause and take it all it – the sweet and the sour, the high and low,  the tough and the tender.

It’s been a year! Not a 2017 kind of year. Just a 365 days kind of year. This time last year, walking was terribly painful – after pneumonia and surgery – my muscles thought it was time to curl up and stop. Thanks to yoga, muscle stretching and time, I am myself again – which means I am still not an Olympian, but I can get the job done and then some!

These 365 days have been full of loss, birth and the in-between stuff.  I haven’t known how to write about it. God stayed my hand from writing, so I just watched and soaked. . . soaked up family during the loss of my aunt – the oldest of the sisters –  in September and my mother-in-law in early November . . . soaked up my 4th son’s final soccer season and graduation . . . soaked up a crazy-wonderful holiday full of laughter and adventure . . . still soaking up my first grandson that came over a week ago.

Soaking meant an lot of watching, a lot of listening and a lot of quiet, like watching one son face challenges to gain something more than he imagined – not what he wanted to gain – but something more valuable in the long run.

The daily living in between the mourning and the celebrations was the mortar that bound the bricks and stones of my soul house together during this year of extreme highs and lows.

No, I didn’t journal the tender or write through the tough. I took a lot of photos that helped me process – and I cooked through – and shared the fruits of both with family and friends.

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There were stews, and soups, pasta and chicken, fried chicken and gravy, grilled cheeses, bacon and cheese pastries, and garlic butter biscuits.

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There were scones, chocolate chip cookies, garlic buttered biscuit, and all types of Muddy Cakes: Muddy Cakes for birthdays – friends and family. Muddy Cakes for celebrations. Muddy  Cakes just to love others when I wasn’t sure what else God wanted me to do (Muddy is my grandma name – so I started calling them Muddy Cakes).

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Someone said, “You need to open a bakery.”

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No – they’re not for sale. They’re for love and friendship.

Toward the end of the school year, the boys had had enough cake.  I detected a potential revolution ahead.

The  youngest, he said to me, “You’re slipping, Mom. You used to cook the most amazing breakfasts. Remember those granola bars you used to make with the stuff with the man with the white hair?”

“You mean Quaker Oats?”

“You only have two more years, Mom. You need to push through.”

I pushed through, finishing the school year with granola bars made with the oatmeal that has the man with the white hair. I made eggs and bacon on toast with ketchup. I did it all – and then bought some Lucky Charms to give me a brief rest.

Maybe this pushing through made me remember other recipes from other times – tasty memories. This Spring, in the middle of soccer season, I remembered the Thousand Island dressing I’d made in high school for school lunches. It was a tasty memory that started a craving. Timing was somehow right, too. I found myself rummaging through Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook that I received when I married. It had the recipe for a salad dressing from my grandmother’s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (not so new I guess) that I’d used in high school. About 35+ years later, I wanted to see if it was good now as it was then.

I modified mine a bit, probably just like I did all those years ago – the spices, pantry items and fridge contents aren’t all that different. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all. I mixed and stirred – and tasted.

Thousand Island

I cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup relish and 1/4 cup ketchup (not chili sauce)
2 finely choppped hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons each finely chopped: green peppers, celery, and onion (I spun mine in a food processor)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
If  you think it’s too thick, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk

It was – as good now as it was then.

Then, during our family holiday in France, yes –  France! I’ve always wanted to do a bicycle tour through the Loire Valley! And we didn’t because, well, I said I wasn’t an Olympian. ! We drove – through the Loire Valley, up past William the Conquerors place over to Normandy’s Utah and Omaha beaches and on to Paris. There was still miles and miles of walking a day.  I got the job done and then some!

Three of our sons went with us to France. After 48 hours, they missed my cooking.

“Mom,” they each said.” You could open a restaurant here, and it would be packed every day.” To them, I was the best cook in France. I tried to explain that the French would be just as miserable with my cooking. McDonald’s was greeted by these guys as a long lost friend after three to four days.

The most gorgeous art work was in the patisseries – Delectable! Divine! Delicous! Besides the patisserie offerings – one cafe’s buttermilk dressing on a salad made me want to make a Mason jar of it when I got home.

This newly discovered appreciation of my cooking increased my value in their estimation. When we walked – and we walked a lot, I found myself hedged in before and behind me. Losing me seemed a real possibility. Of course, the time in Chambord Chateau their dad offered them 5 Euros to whoever could find me first might have had something to do with it. They weren’t taking any chances of losing me again.

I found unlooked for treasures in France. Maybe these young men did, too.

I’d tried one of the buttermilk dressing packets months ago, but it just didn’t dazzle me like the recipe at the little French Cafe. I decided to try Martha Stewart’s Buttermilk Dressing. I didn’t veer much from her recipe.

Buttermilk Dressing

3/4 C. Buttermilk (I used whole Buttermilk)
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 shallot)(I used a garlic press)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt (I used celery seed)

I made it when I got home – and it was a good thing! Martha’s tasted like the little French cafe’s buttermilk dressing that was so very delightful. I will admit that I just might have possibly fell in love with shallots!

My youngest, he tasted my Buttermilk Dressing – and liked it. “Not for salads,” he said. “Great for dipping. It needs to be thicker or salads – so just pick that up at the grocery story”

However, he’s keeping me busy keeping the mason jar full. I have trouble keeping this one for more than 3 days. It goes fast.

There’s a bit of chard in my little patch of garden. The cucumbers are ready. The tomatoes are taking their time. The grocery provides the broccoli – my youngest’s favorite. Carrots, onions and other items Peter Rabbit would appreciate come from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I wouldn’t want to grow everything, I enjoy my Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings too much.

Then there’s Aunt Joyce’s Salad Dressing. I make it year round (you can find the recipe here). Aunt Joyce started making it my freshman year of college.  It reminds me of all those nightly dinners with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce. I miss a kitchen filled with these women. I guess that’s the price you pay when your husband says “You’re a pioneer woman” when his company wanted him to move to Detroit and he found a different job in this little town in Tennessee about 26 years ago. We both left our families, packed up our red Ford truck, our first little boy and set up house in this sweet town. It’s our boys’ hometown now. All 5 of them. Except they’re not boys anymore. Not really even boys to men. They’re men – even the 16 year old. If you treat them like men, instead of boys, they tend to act like how you treat them.

Good recipes, like these salad dressing recipes, are reminders of the good things from where I came from and where I’ve been.

Someone messaged me wondering how I managed to do everything I do. To be honest, there’s a lot I don’t do – or do well. The dishes get stacked up, the socks left unmatched, this and that piles us. I plan for a Monday stew to last through Wednesday (Is that cheating?). There are dayswhen I feel like I’m being whirled in a lettuce spinner.  It takes me 3 hours to create a spotless kitchen that takes someone else 30 minutes. There are days when I need either to have taken more seriously conversations with my sons – and other days when I need to have been less serious.

“Mom, do I need a sign on my head that says, ‘Sarcasm?” the 4th one, the one with the humor so dry it is self-combustible asked.

“Ummmmm, Yes! Can you take care of that?” I say, really hoping that one day he will have one for me. It isn’t encouraging when your mom laughs at the wrong time or takes jokes seriously resulting in unwanted lectures.

This has been a year where doing what I love for the ones I love has also meant doing something things I love rarely, like writing.

In a soaking year, when the words don’t come, and loved stories ended, other stories wove themselves while all I could do was watch, love, and cheer – cooking was one of the few things I could do.

It feels like a new season is beginning. Something different is in the air. The words finally came. I knew God would send them when He was ready for me to have them.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a Muddy Cake! It has been an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of post – but it felt right to do it this way.

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http://crystaltwaddell.com//Fresh Market Friday
https://susanbmead.com// Dance with Jesus Friday
http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
Word of God Speak with Janice Cox
Raising Samuels Social Butterfly Sunday with Kelly at Raising Samuels
Family Joy Blog Link-up Party at Thinking Outside the Pot

http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday

http://arabahjoy.com
https://susanbmead.com/ The Shallow End
http://letuswalkworthy.com/blog/ Let Us Walk Worthy
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays

Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk

http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays

 

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“Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:5).

“Don’t worry about cooking. Just rest and enjoy,” my husband encouraged, as I stuffed mason jars and lemon curd into a cooler on wheels, to be packed in the back of my van. All that was missing was my kitchen sink!

He wanted me to take a vacation. Vacation: a period in which a break is taken from work or studies for rest, travel, or recreation (dictionary.com)

I didn’t want a vacation – I wanted a Holiday!

Holiday: festive, joyous, celebrating important values steeped in faith and family with opportunities for rest, pleasure allowing the inner-man to soar(blue cotton memory definition).

IMG_0958When we arrived at the beach, we set up our umbrella city. All together there were 34 of our family – some vacationing – some on a holiday. We celebrated family – from great-grandmothers to great-grandbabies. Afternoon soccer with cousins from 39 to 5 – lines drawn in the sand for good-time rivalry. Some of the boys practiced their Italian and Portuguese (for soccer aficionados- that’s the falling-on-the-ground-faking-injury skills).

This coming Umbrella City gathering was a fluid thing.  Great and small, old and young -moved from beach to pool to lazy river – group and individual time. Some shopped, napped, read books, lunched, cooked, watched World Cup soccer, dined all the while coming and going, sitting a spell, going, coming back, going. . . just like waves on the beach.

What am I saying here? Everyone took the opportunity to soar, to let their interests gallop through the duration of the holiday.

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All the intrinsic things God placed in me, make me who I am, bring me immeasurable joy, that I sometimes have trouble fitting into the busy daily – they soared over the holiday.  I took photos, spent time with family, wrote, read books, looked for God letters,  bobbed on inner-tubes in the ocean- and made Mason Jar Summertime Pies – because one of my very favorite nieces asked.

I chose to live holiday over 5 days off then vacationing any day! When something is just so wonderfully delicious – food or just life, it should be shared. Below is the recipe for my Mason Jar Summertime Pies! Wishing you a little holiminute, holihour or holi in your day! Praying that today you taste and see the Lord is good, whether it is tasting a fried bologna sandwich on white bread with mayonaise and pepper, Mason Jar Summertime Pies, a hug savored by the soul, a moment that fills you up with Him, joy spilled everywhere – I pray that you catch those moments, your eyes not bigger than your souls – and see, really see, God’s goodness!

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! “ (Psalm 34:8)

Lemon Curd
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1/4 Cup butter
Zest from one lemon
Mix well. Then put in a double boiler, cooking 30 minutes until thick. Put in jar and refrigerate until ready to use. I make a day ahead so it is good and cool.

Crust
1 ½ cups finely ground graham cracker cumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Put about 1 1/2 tablespoons into bottom of 8 oz mason jars, hollowing out the middle.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. Let cool then add Lemon Curd.

Meringue
4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
Whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. Top the Mason jars with swirls. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until meringue is golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

(This works great with chocolate pudding, too. I cheated and used Jello Cook and Serve).

 

lemoncOther Lemon Curd treats from the Blue Cotton Kitchen

 

Dessert at the Grown-up Table, click here

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Right now, I’m just collecting blessings in the everyday living. I’m in the middle of about 4 post drafts – but for right now, I am just supposed to collect the moments. I think the Father wants me to collect for a bit – and analyze the collection at the right time. For so long, I have needed to hyper-focus on the little things He left for me – so I could better manage the big things without being so over-whelmed.

For now, I am leaving you with blessings I collected this week, gifts from Him vintaged that turned my days to joy, days that became filled with “the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Cor 2:14b)

The Magical Qualities of Pecan Dust

880) vanilla bean, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and allspice simmering in a crock pot, filling the house with warm, wholesome aroma
881) Boys seeing the ingredients, knowing what those ingredients mean – and seeing their smiles reach up to their eyes and down to their stomachs.

882) 4 Normandy pies made with my little guy growing (recipe, click here)
883) That the ever-changing schedule faithfully works its way out.
884) A few days where all the things I want to do, that makes me feel like I’m herding cats, overwhelming me and I only manage to catch one of those to-do things – a few days where I managed to herd those cats, not feel over-whelmed, where time seemed to expand
885) and I managed the weed-eater to trim the ivy, the ornamental grass gift,
886) and planted red and white pansies in my mail-box planter
887) trimming the never-give-up ivy away from the address and the box-opening
888) big fluffy winter blankets and bed-spreads washed in huge washers at the laundry-mat, cleaned and bleached for winter sleeping, a sweet freshness to inhale

The Spirit Curing Qualities of Chocolate

889) chicken and dressing casserole with water chestnuts, celery and onion
890) an entire weekday and evening with my husband
891) courage to meet new people and find the joy in the meeting
892) sharing a Reuben Sandwich at Friday lunch with my husband
893) That the phone call to my mom after a bunch of tests, telling her the doctor wanted to see her Monday, not in 3 weeks – was communication gone bad – the cancer wasn’t back – she was given a clean bill of health
894) re-discovering my home office after I managed to not let the mess overwhelm – and I tackled it, piece by piece.
895) Little yellow leaves lining the path to my work office – looking like the yellow brick road. Then I wondered what kind of yellow – and I thought of squash-yellow, corn-silk yellow, pineapple yellow, pepper yellow, lemon yellow – and decided I was glad the writers settled for the Yellow Brick Road – because anything else would have been messy. However, the ground was simply yellow beautiful.
896) A knitted hat almost finished – and a bunch more to go
897) my sons wanting me to help them with their Works-Cited page
898) working with these sons, pointing out the importance of each period, comma, capitalization, structural order – and nary a complaint because they wanted to do a good job. If you don’t have a Harbrace, check out Purdue OWL for examples, samples and explanations (click here)

899) A son changing his own car breaks
900) God with me – when the moments are easy and when they’re hard.
901) Excitement about celebrating Thanksgiving – celebrating His blessings
902) The turned corner in the journey of the answer to prayers.
903) Excitement about the up-coming season to celebrate the Messiah coming, teaching my sons that sometimes the day is only good because of the sweet scent through finding Christ in our day that rises to God.

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Cor 2:14-15, The Message)

Chocolate + Pecan Dust = A Sweet Aroma

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“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)

My oldest son refused to touch anything with onions for a long time. He says the only reason he eats green beans now is because I made him clean his plate – and he now concedes that some dishes require onions. His taste buds have evolved, matured.

Every one of my boys rejected a side-dish at some point when they were little, gagging. Sometimes the gag-reflex needed encouragement to allow the dish to stay down, like “hold your nose, take a drink of your milk and swallow.” Those are signs of immature taste-bud development – which is really quite normal.

With diligence, though, they have learned to clean their plates. That taste-bud friendly food is preferable but we must learn to eat un-favorite foods. Life just doesn’t always dish up favorite living – so we need to learn to swallow through.

Taste buds mature. I don’t remember an oyster before I graduated from high school, but they had been at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner since before I could walk. Take cabbage, for example. Couldn’t stand the stuff until I turned 40. Beets must start tasting great around 55. Eggplant, though, eggplant was given the green light by my taste buds in my early to mid 20s – my aunt started making eggplant parmesan during the summer. Oh, my – it was amazing – still is. Totally makes me feel loved.

My birthday is this week – 49. I don’t mind telling you. I embrace each new year, each new opportunity to grow, to find new sweetness in new places, to develop more of a taste for God’s things.

In graduate school, a friend worked with Campus Ministries, coaxing and encouraging me to taste scripture, to let it go deep inside, pushing plates and dishes of evangelization in front of me. Yet, she didn’t have the authority to make me swallow. I thought I was full enough. Besides, what she pushed in front of me, well it tasted different, not familiar – like those green beans my son talked about.

I am thankful that God sent someone to ” feed me with the food that is needful for me” (Proverbs 30:8), someone to introduce my spirit buds to other things from God, things that if I would just put inside me, let my spirit digest, would heal my wounds, grow my endurance, to expand my short-sighted vision of what a relationship with the Father really entails. I didn’t see then that I was a daughter of the King, a favored child. My spirit mal-nourishment had me feeling like a forgotten child, a left-behind child, a crumbs-from-the-table child.

“and you give them their food in due season” (Psalm 145:15).

Pride inflammed the ulcerated lining to my soul, stunting my spiritual growth. I was like my son who came in the kitchen the other night, hungry. But not hungry for what I had to give him. God was patient. He knew I was hungry for His word, and with each ensuing season, He fed me a modified diet, building my strength, building my faith with different soul foods, until one day, in the midst of a heart-trial, I believed enough to reach for scripture, to swallow that scripture and to live it.

He still offers up dishes that I balk over – initially. But the gag reflex is gone. New dishes are new opportunities for fresh growth. New dishes are welcome, though there are still days I stand in front of the refrigerator and can’t see anything I want. But nourishment is not always about want, but need.

Each year, each challenge, each lesson, each new awareness of the utensils (tools) God teaches me to use, develops a diverse palate for God’s ever-expanding 5-Star menu. Instead of shoving away what He puts in front of me, I open my mouth wide open with a hospitality attitude for the things of God, a willingness to believe that there is not a meager menu set for my life but a feast, full of good things, new and different things – things that are like Eggplant Parmesan to my soul.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).

No, I do not lie about my age. I am thankful for each year that God has redeemed me from the bondage of dysfunction, rejection and pride. I celebrate each year, with a mouth-wide-open attitude, knowing God is going to fill it with blessing, growing me further away from the darkness into the light, growing me closer to Him, developing the taste buds, the palate of my soul.

Oh, and the next time you share a God-dish, either with seed-planting or evangelizing dish, do not be dis-heartened when your heart-giving of God’s things is pushed away – or even gagged at. You may have gotten more down them than you realized.

 “The eyes of all look to you, “Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5)

Eggplant Parmesan for the Soul

2 medium eggplants, cut into ¼ to ½ in round slices
All purpose flour for dredging seasoned with pepper
Olive Oil, as needed. (If using a non-stick pan, wipe pan out between frying.

4 to 5 large tomatoes
3 to 4 garlic cloves
Onion
¼ to ½ cup white wine (optional)
Salt to taste

The day before blanche tomatoes, peel to simmer until juice is gone. Saute onions and garlic in Olive oil over medium heat. Add to tomatoes, simmering uncovered over medium to low heat until sauce thickens.  (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using).

Peel and slice eggplants, dredging in seasoned flour until lightly browned on each side.

Line dish with fried eggplant.

Top with tomato sauce.

Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Repeat. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.

Eggplant Parmesan for the Soul, a dish for the maturing taste buds.

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This recipe, is the kissin’ cousin recipe to a 2006 Christmas with Southern Livings “Gumbo Casserole with Creamed Garlic Shrimp.” I was tired of all my shrimp recipes delivering that spicy “pop” and all my chicken recipes, well, being passive and oh, so properly. . . pop-less. Added incentive was the lack of shrimp in my freezer or fridge.  And, I wanted something to dazzle my taste buds!

Dinner should always be so dazzling in a Cajun kind-of-way.  The Big Guys loved it, though the Little Guys preferred spice-free.

Ingredients:

2 lbs chicken tenders

1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning (my little guys do not like spicy, but the big guys do)

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

4 pieces bacon

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped celery

1/3 cup diced mushrooms

3 garlic gloves

2 teaspoons Tuscan Herbs

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

4 green onions, chopped

1 1/2 cup chicken broth or water (with chicken bouillon cubes)

2 cups whipping cream

1 lb uncooked spaghetti, broken in half and cooked according to package directions

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 Directions: Combine chopped chicken and Creole seasoning in a medium blow; set aside.

 Fry 4 pieces of bacon. Cook bacon drippings, flour, and oil in a large skillet over medium heat, whisking constantly, 15 to 2- minutes or until roux is the dark brown color of pecan shells.  Add 1/3 cup onions and next 4 ingredients; cook 5 minutes or until tender.  Add Tuscan Herbs and next 2 ingredients.  Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add chicken and 4 green onions; cook over medium heat until chicken is thoroughly cooked. While the chicken cooked, I added in intervals 1 ½ cup chicken broth or water with bouillon cubes. 

 When chicken is cooked thoroughly, add whipping cream.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce and simmer 6 minutes. 

 Place cooked pasta in 13” x 9” baking dish.  Pour chicken gumbo over top, stirring in.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

 Bake, uncovered, at 350º for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish with Italian Parsley if desired.  Yield: 8 servings.

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There are memories that attach itself to seasons like icing to a cake, a ribbon to a present or, maybe like the soul to a body.  And those memories play each season through my mind, and my five senses relive that moment.

In autumn, I am walking to my aunt’s house, passing Main Street USA, following the sidewalk covered to my ankles in autumn leaves.  The entire walk I am looking down at the leaves, hearing the crunch and swish of leaves, smelling leaf must, feeling the brisk coolness against my face.

My summertime memory is an evening at the small town pool, the sound of a handful of  voices laughing, screeching and splashes, smelling chlorine and cocoa butter.  The day has calmed and my mom, off from work, reclines, watching.

Or winter – that is a college memory.  Returning home from the semester, rushing in, dumping my stuff in the hallway and entering the Christmas World my mom and grandmother created – twinkling lights, the scent of greenery and garlands, grandmother’s coffee cake, Perry Como singing Christmas songs on the record player, and the magical world they created of the Christmas Spirit.

But Springtime! Springtime has two memories.  One is playing outside in the lingering light, catching fireflies, white azaleas and the art of sipping honey from the honeysuckle vine.

The other –  violets!  They are my favorite! The back yard carpeted in a sea of violets. Looking out the back window, the yard seemed a haze of lavender.  One spring, we moved beyond violet bouquets to lavender jelly.

One spring, we made a batch.  I tried it again the other day. And my husband gave me the sweetest gift.  Since I do not have my grandmother’s backyard anymore, he surprised me.  We were going violet picking – and earlier that morning, without telling me, he went to his grandmother’s farm to see if the violet patch he remembered was still there.  He took me there to pick violets.

Two cups of violets, to be exact.

Picking Violets is very time consuming! And back-bending intensive!

My guy picked more than I did, but he’s just that wonderful way!

Just so I could make Violet Jelly, because, well, I was just missing grandmother’s house

So I boiled 2 cups of water

and poured it over the gently rinsed violets

and they sat anywhere from 2 to 24 hours, sealed in the refrigerator after they cooled down.

Then I drained the violets through a sieve, discarding the violets

Then I was only supposed to ad 1/4 cup lemon juice, but I guess it was a little more

because instead of a beautiful lavender,

I had a beautiful raspberry color

And then added 4 Cups of Sugar with my lavender liquid into a stainless steel pain and brought to a full rolling boil. I recommend using 3 oz. liquid pectin because my package of original pectin was, ahem, somewhat disappointing. I boiled it all according to my mama’s recipe for 2 more minutes.

I then poured my jelly, or at least, I thought it was my jelly, into my nicely sterilized jelly jars, leaving 1/8 inch space from the top.  I tightened the lid and ring.  Within the next 10 minutes, I had 5  jars of lovely raspberry-looking lavender jelly jars, with seals pop, pop, popping ready for use within the next year.

They looked lovely!

Except instead of a lavender, they had a beautiful raspberry tint

and they never jelled (review the date on your  original pectin – or better yet, use the liquid pectin – I tried it later, and it worked like a charm)

So, I am thinking, that maybe my boys need a violet memory

that maybe we need to make a trip to Grandma’s violet patch

back on the farm

hidden down a path

maybe it will be an enduring memory

like when their daddy found a violet patch for me to pick violets

to make lavender jelly

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These are not my grandmother’s Salmon Croquettes – because she did not make them.  Nobody cooked like my grandmother.  There a few recipes, though, that are hers that when served – are 100% grandmothers right down to the eye-rolling, cannot-resist it taste.

During Lent, grandmother would make Salmon Croquets with a little pink sauce.  They were one of my favorite childhood meals – a Friday night meal.  However, I have never been able to master the skillet Salmon Croquette.  Until one day, Paul Dean, kitchen angel, sent me a message from my grandmother: “Use the Deep Fryer, Darlin’ ” (funny how my grandmother never said “darlin,’ ” but I imagine heaven changes people – and apparently gives them an even more southern accent)

And I did!  I rummaged through recipes trying to figure out where I always went wrong (crumbling, grease filled disappointment) – and, ladies, here it is – and, yes, Paula Dean, the secret is in the sauce (not Paula’s).

Salmon Croquettes:

2 Cans Salmon, flaked

2 eggs (one if you use less bread crumbs)

1 1/2 Cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Mix Bread Crumbs (the blue bag)

1/4 Cup Parsley

1/4 Cup Celery

1/4 Cup Asiago Cheese (My grandmother is shaking her pointing finger at me calling me a 21st Century upstart)

1/4+ milk to soften (until you can pat mixture into a hamburger sized patty)

Now, ladies, here is another key secret to successful Salmon Croquets. Refrigerate – reducing breakage while deep frying.

I recommend a Fry Baby, but go larger if you’re like me and have 5 sons. 

Deep fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. 

You can either go to The Secret in the Sauce here or try the Secret in my Sauce further down.  Maybe you just ought to eat the one while reading the other.  That would probably be best.

The true secret to so many sauces and recipes can be found in the 1954 Cissy Gregg’s Cookbook and Guide to Gracious Living.  A lot of my heart-stopping recipes are from Cissy (Hot Brown, Egg Nog,  Charlotte Russe and so much more).  But since I cannot keep a secret – I’ll share the Secret to the Sauce:

First you make a Bechamel Sauce

1/3 Cup butter (6 tablespoons)

1/2 medium-sized sliced onion, minced

1/3 Cup flour

3 Cups hot milk

1 tsp. salt

A dash of red pepper

A couple sprigs of parsley

a dash of nutmeg

Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan.  Add onions and cook slowly until a light brown.  Add flour and blend until the flour makes a smooth paste but of course the onion minces are still in it.  Add milk and other seasons, stirring constantly and briskly at first until the sauce is thick and smooth.  Sissy Gregg recommends you strain it.  I did not.

To turn this delicious Bechamel sauce into a Mornay sauce you do the following:

Add 2 egg yolks

1/2 Cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1 tablespoon butter

Heat the Bechamel sauce and combine with egg yolks.  Stir constantly and remove from the stove as soon as it starts to boil.  When hot and thick add cheese and the butter.  The sauce must not boil or it will curdle.

This saucy sauce is used for many delicious dishes, including my hometown favorite, the Kentucky Hot Brown.  Or just drop a dollop on your morning hard-boiled eggs. 

When the sauce is finished, spoon over Salmon Croquets. I just tossed some radishes, squash, zucchini and spanish onions with my Aunt Joyce’s Salad Dressing – oh, this dressing is from heaven! – But I’m not sharing it today.  I’ll share it next week.  One can only share one secret sauce at a time!

Saucy Salmon Croquets

 

 

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