Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mmmm!!! Chocolate Pudding !!!

It's Chocolate Pudding Day today !!!

Whether you make it from scratch, whip up a box of instant or simply pull the foil off a pudding cup, I LOVE a good chocolate pudding.

The Big Guy is not a pudding fan at all, so, more often than not, I simply keep pudding cups on hand for my own indulgences. My favorites at the moment are the Jello Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate and the Jello Temptations' Dk. Chocolate Mousse. ______

Only 60 calories and, I find, it's very satisfying and soothing.

You know, some folks have been known to enjoy Pudding Wrestling !!! So, what's your favorite way to enjoy Chocolate Pudding?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Don't you just love smelling bread baking?

My husband claims one of his fondest childhood memories is the smell of his dad baking good old-fashioned yeast rolls on Thanksgiving Day. He only made them on holidays. The Big Guy says he remembers the cozy, loving smell more than the bread itself (although he'll never turn down a tasty chunk of fresh bread!)

Unfortunately, he married a yeast-challenged gal! I can cook fairly well otherwise but yeast and I just don't share a kitchen well! It's kind of the old "doesn't play with others" theme. The best thing I can do for those around my table wanting a nice fresh roll is go the brown'n'serve route! I am NOT a breadmaker!

BUT, if YOU are . . .

Wichita, Kansas is holding the National Festival of Breads and Baking this weekend. It's America's only amateur bread baking contest to celebrate the art of baking, to encourage the use of Kansas products and to recognize the wheat and milling industries that are so much a part of Kansas' economy and lifestyle. The main thrust of the festival is the Bread and Baking Contest where average folks (amateurs) are encouraged to develop and share recipes for breads and related products. New categories added in recent years include bread machine recipes, rolls and holiday breads.

So, if you are in to bread baking (or even just homemade bread EATING), you might want to head to Wichita this weekend. It's bound to smell great, there!

P.S. - Did'ja know ...
Kansas produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread and enough to feed EVERYONE in the world, over 6 billion people, for about 2 weeks. One acre of Kansas wheat produces enough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people for one day!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Purple Hull Peas ???

Purple's my favorite color but I've never associated it with peas. Have you ?

So, just what is a Purple Hull Pea ?
If you grew up in Emerson, Arkansas, I'm sure you'd know. This Friday and Saturday, they're holding the 20th Annual Purple Hull Pea Festival. I think it's the world's largest and oldest (and probably ONLY) Purple Hull Pea Festival !

Purple Hull Peas are very similar to black-eyed peas but have more flavor. Just like black-eyed peas and crowder peas, they are part of the "cow pea" or "Southern pea" families. It is believed they originated in Africa and migrated to the Southern states along with the slaves. Eaten by the very poor and used as forage crops for livestock, they were slow to come into use by the general population, and are still considered a "Southern thang" or "soul food." They're most commonly eaten with cornbread. In fact, one of the featured events of the festival is the Great Purple Hull Peas & Cornbread Cook Off."

There's also a new 20th Annual Purple Hull Pea Festival Cookbook available, titled "20 Pea Pickin' Years." If you can't get to the festival in person, you can order the cookbook by mail here. (It's also available at local businesses in Emerson.)

Another festival event is a Pea Shelling Competition. If you don't mind purple fingers and aching thumbnails, c'mon down and give it a shot. They'll provide the peas, all you have to do is show up. There will even be play-by-play coverage in true ESPN-style. The audience is filled with those cheering on their favorites. You gotta see it to believe it!!
One of the other major sports attractions at the festival is the Fastest Garden Tiller Competition. (This is not your standard tractor race, My Friends!)

So, why not bring your sweet little pea-pickin' heart down to Emerson, Arkansas this weekend and get into the purple ?!?!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My kingdom for a chocolate eclair !

Happy National Chocolate Eclair Day !!!

May your dough be light,
Your chocolate rich and creamy,
And your filling sweet and smooth.

I just LOVE a great eclair, don't you?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Let them bake cornbread!!

Okay, so I decided to enter this cornbread recipe contest this week. I didn't find out about the contest until Friday evening and the deadline for submitting your (hopefully) winning recipe is Wednesday. So time was tight.

The rules are simple. Using Shirley J Corn Bread & Muffin Mix, they want you to come up with one "spectacularly original and delicious recipe." they suggest channeling "your inner cornbread connoisseur" and thinking outside the box or "muffin tin," so to speak. I was sure I could do that!!

So I spent all night Friday (I swear I had visions of hush puppies dancing in my head!) and most of the day Saturday brainstorming and jotting ideas down. (We attended and all-day music event so that was about all I could do then.) I thought I had come up with some interesting concepts, too.

Let the record show, I had no Shirley J brand mixes on hand at that time. In fact, my pantry held 2 boxes of Jiffy brand corn bread mix and 8 (yes, EIGHT) boxes of Baker's Corner brand. (What can I say? It was a really good sale!)

To be honest, I'd never even heard of Shirley J mixes but I figured just how different could these mixes be? Cornbread mix is just that - cornbread mix. They all seem about the same and carry the same directions for making that mix into corn bread, corn muffins and hush puppies.

My plan was to create, experiment and refine my recipes using these imposters in my cabinet. Once perfect, I would buy some Shirley J, whip it up to be sure it worked with their product and submit my entry. Fantastic plan.

Early Sunday morning, I got up and began mixing and prepping. I played with my batter and got what appeared to be a reasonable waffle batter. For interest, I crumbled some crispy bacon into the batter. Let's just call the "Cornbread Waffle" "FAIL NO. 1" (twice). (The family ate toasted English muffins with jam and melon for breakfast.)

We had afternoon plans so my next cornbread effort came Sunday evening when I made nibbles for The Big Guy's weekly card game. I was thinking little pizzas with cornbread crusts and "different" toppings. I just had to adapt the batter to a dough consistency.

I divided the batter into thirds so I could experiment with different additives and amounts to reach the consistency I needed. When I succeeded, I figured I could simply adjust amounts for a full batter amount. Doing these small pizzas would also give me a chance to come up with the ideal topping combination to enhance the cornbread flavor. "Ideal" as not an adjective any of the guys uses to describe these snacks. Okay, so we had "SEMI FAIL NO. 2."

Monday, I continued with the divide and conquer method of preparation. I was working on a theory of making a larger, fluffier hush puppy - one large enough to make a sandwich with - sort of a cornbread croissant concept. Perhaps a crab or shrimp salad would be an appropriate filling. Where I had to thicken and dry the batter for the pizza crust, I needed to fluff it up for the "roll." Easier said than done, folks. "FAIL No. 3!"

I was getting frustrated and scratched idea NO. 4 altogether and NO. 5 just didn't go well at all. With only one box of mix left to work with, I decided to work with the "real" thing - some Shirley J Mix, for my final effort.

Hmmm, it seems, Shirley J Corn Bread & Muffin Mix is NOT readily available in my area. After checking several large markets, I reluctantly gave up. After all, $50 and a 4-lb package of cornbread mix just isn't worth these headaches!

My chef's hat is off to all who have persevered and entered their great creations in this contest. May the best cornbread connoisseur win. Good luck to all !!

Keep your eyes on this space. I hope to bring you a recipe for a perfected Cajun jam pizza with cornbread crust in the near future. I'm sure it just needs a little more tweaking!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Do you like a challenge?

So, I've got my dessert ready for tomorrow's get-together and, though the hosts only ask us to each bring something for the dessert table, no side or salad is ever turned away (or, left over, for that matter!)

Let's be honest, if it's edible, bring it. Someone will eat it. If it needs to be grilled or fried, there's plenty of manpower to do that cooking and some mighty big grills and fryers going all day. They just ask that whatever you bring is meant to be shared with the crowd.

Last year, someone actually brought a 10 lb. bag of tater tots. They were fried up in minutes and gobbled up just as fast. No one ever claimed we were gourmets!

While mulling over what else I might make to take along, I decided to play a bit on the computer and what should I come across but a RECIPE CONTEST called "What Should I Bring?" (Maybe it's an omen.)

Seriously, Dinner Tool is sponsoring a contest to find great, easy to make and take dishes perfect for summer picnics and potlucks. We all have some family favorites and stand-bys for these occasions and they'd like us to share those ideas. It could pay off well, too. There will be 4 First Prizes of $100 each and one of those four will also win the Grand Prize - another $1,000!!!! That could make for one heck of a summer picnic!!

The deadline is nigh (June 23 - next Thursday!) BUT it is really easy to enter. All you need to do is upload the recipe to the website. Pictures are optional but won't count toward judging.

I'm already letting my mind run down my standards to see what my crowd enjoys that I could enter. I sent the family each an email asking what their favorites are. I figure if they like them, chances are good others might, too.

I dare you to enter. I'm up for the competition. What have we got to lose? (Just a few minutes of typing.)

For details, click here.

Oh yeah, we get to VOTE, too. Once the dinner tool folks select the top four recipes, they'll post them at and the public gets to vote from 6/28/11-7/12/11. (If you're lucky enough to be one of those four, you can feel free to lobby the public for their votes on Twitter, FB, blogs, etc.) The Grand Prize winner will be announced on 7/13/11.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So what're you doing this weekend?

The Big Guy and I have our plans sort of set in stone for the weekend. We're going to the Lost, Found and Dearly Departed annual get-together in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday for a full day of blues music and some fantastic food, served throughout the entire day and evening ! I'm already baking my dessert contribution and I believe The Big Guy spent the night dreaming about the fried catfish he'll be savoring !!

Wanta' know what else is happening ?

Folks up in Pinconning, The Cheese Capital of Michigan, are holding the Cheese Town Challenge Festival (Thurs-Sat) featuring cheese cooking demos, a Cheesey parade, the Cheese Town Dad Contest and the Ultimate Mac and Cheese Dinner Contest, along with the usual music and entertainment, sports tourneys and fireworks.

Over in Roslyn, South Dakota, they're holding the International Vinegar Festival 2011 featuring (Get this !!) VINEGAR !! Roslyn is the home of the International Vinegar Museum (I think it may be the only vinegar museum in the world!) They invite us all to come "celebrate the sour powered excitement that is VINEGAR."

There will be a Vinegar Tasting Bar to let you sample "exotic" vinegars and vinegars from around the world will also be available for purchase.

Do you know how to "properly taste" a vinegar?

According to Lawrence, The Vinegar Man, you should swirl the vinegar in the glass and let the aroma "waft" to your nose so you may truly appreciate the individualized scents. Like fine whiskey, it's easier once you get to the 3rd or 4th sample!!

You can also make crafts using vinegar bottles. There will be music, a vinegar parade and crafts as well as lots of food available for purchase.

Back here, along the Mid-Atlantic Coast, we'll be eating lots and lots of chicken!!

The 62nd Delmarva Chicken Festival will take place in Georgetown, Delaware on Friday and Saturday. One of Delmarva's oldest festivals, the event features a Chef's Contest, Chicken Capers like a chicken scratch, egg tossing, spoon races, and more, the 2nd round of the Mountaire Chickin' Pickin' National Championship, and, literally, TONS of food will be available. More than 3 TONS of chicken will be fried up in Delmarva's Giant (10 foot) Fry Pan which has been used every year at the festival since 1950!!

Area chefs will do 2-hour cooking demos, complete with samples. You can watch chicks hatch and learn about the poultry business on Delmarva where the industry employs more than 14,000 people and produces nearly 600 million chickens each year!

***When I lived in Salisbury, the largest city on Maryland's Delmarva Peninsula, I lived only 8 blocks down the street from the Perdue chicken processing plant. Despite all kinds of technological filters and such, we still had a fair number of feathers floating through the air (like dandelion puffs) and we'd have to run our wipers each morning to clear the feathers off the windshield before heading out!

Finally, the folks down in Crewe, Virginia have answered the age-old question of why the chicken crossed the road. He was going to the Virginia Chicken Festival, Southside Virginia's oldest and finest festival !!! Held on Friday (6/17), this event will feature plenty of food - BBQ chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken livers and Robert's Rooster Stew, among others.

So, get those taste-buds primed and head out and stuff yourselves this weekend.

***Don't forget to take Dad along. After all, Sunday is Father's Day!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Charley the Tuna - A DEADLY weapon !!!!

Whoa! Keep your eye on the fish. Careful. Be on guard.

On this day in 1999, Nicholas Vitalich and his girlfriend were involved in a bit of a domestic dispute outside a market in San Diego. He ended up smacking her with a large tuna. (Sorry, Charley. I'm sure it was none of your relatives.) Ultimately, he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. I was unable to find out the results of his hearing.

More memorable, is the 1992 event (on today's date), when Vice President Dan Quayle made history for correcting the spelling of the word "potato".

Who would have thought such a mundane veggie could derail a political career?

Just goes to show how important food is to the American public!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Always, always, keep a PB&J handy!!

Ever used your P B & J as a safety device? In 1988, a six foot black bear wandered onto a playground at a New Jersey elementary school just before school let out. School administrators kept the children an extra 45 minutes while they tossed peanut butter sandwiches to the bear, keeping him interested and in one spot long enough for the game warden to arrive and take him away.

There's no word on which flavor jelly he preferred.

***In case your wondering, bears are generally simply tranquilized and moved to more appropriate surroundings when they find their way into our neighborhoods. In most cases, at least along the East Coast, they tend to be young males who have simply lost their way while trying to stake out their own territory.

Did'ja know?

Today is National Strawberry Shortcake Day.

I'm just not sure whether I'm supposed to play with my vintage dolls or eat dessert.

There are so many different ways to make a strawberry shortcake and, considering local berries are readily available in these parts at the moment, I'm sure I'll come up with some way to celebrate today.

One of my quick go-to ideas is to simply whip up some of those refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (15 minutes prep time!), split them, layer some Cool Whip and sliced berries and ...

VOILA!!! -- a luscious and delicious dessert in minutes!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lobster, anyone?

June is National Seafood Month and as part of that celebration, today is National Lobster Day!! Have you enjoyed your lobster yet?

No matter how you enjoy your crustacean fixed, you're sure to find something to your liking at, what I believe to be, the world's largest lobster buffet - Custy's Seafood Buffet in Stonington, CT (just down the road from the casinos). Dinner there was the highlight of our vacation in my husband's mind. If you love your seafood, check it out!

Today is also historic in food history as, in 1789, General George Washington was served a new dessert treat by Mrs. Alexander Hamilton - ice cream!!!! There's no word as to who actually invented the treat but I wonder if George whispered to his neighbor something along the lines of "This just might catch on!"

Also notable is the death of Jimmy Dean last year, founder of the Jimmy Dean Meat Co., known for his country sausage. (Oh yeah, he sang a little too.)

OK, I'm off to find a lobster roll for lunch.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What's on the calendar this weekend?

It's been a really hot week here so I'm thinking we need to find something super refreshing to do this weekend.

The Banana Split Festival in Wilmington Ohio seems to fit that bill! The Banana Split was born in Wilmington in 1907. Come one, come all to hear great music, check out some awesome cars and crafts , play games, and, get this, Make-Your-Own-Banana-Split!!! Yep, a build-it-yourself booth!! Count me in!!

If you can take the heat, head on down to New Orleans to the Creole Tomato Festival at the French Market. As with all New Orleans' events, there's a parade! There will be singing dancing tomatoes, music you just can't help but dance to and so much more! Life-sized tomatoes will be handing out tomato-shaped fans and chefs can bid at an auction for the first tomatoes of the season. Oh yeah, there will be lots of cooking demonstrations on just how to turn these beautiful red globes into gastric delights.

Maybe your belly is crying out for true festival-style food, you know, fried stuff. In that case, head off to Potterville, Michigan to the 11th Annual Gizzard Fest. (Don't laugh until you've tried it!) Events there include a gizzard eating contest and a hot chick/rooster call, among the standard parade, tractor show and music.

Whatever you choose to do over the weekend - ENJOY


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just Chillin'

It's 100 degrees out there today !!

So, how do YOU chill down ?
Well, that's ONE way!!!

Hibernating inside in the AC is one solution BUT what if your AC isn't so cooperative?

I've found it helps to eat something cool and refreshing - watermelon, ice cream, cold drinks and ICE, in its many varied forms.

First and foremost in my mind is the good old SNOW BALL - or, as you may know it, the SNO-CONE. (Depends on what part of the country you come from on what you call it.)
If you ignore the dessert made for Emperor Nero in Ancient Rome when he sent slaves to the nearby mountain tops to bring back snow which was then flavored with fruit and honey, the SNOWBALL, as we know it, was invented in Baltimore in the mid-1800's. (New Orleans has attempted to dispute this fact but their frozen treat did not surface until the 1930s and is actually a bit different.)Growing up, it was general knowledge that Baltimore was the snowball's birthplace. My mom told tales of introducing some Floridians to the tasty cooling treat while they were stationed at the Annapolis Naval Base and we even learned about the invention in our local history studies in school. (I DID attend a Baltimore City Public School.)
Seriously, as the story goes, after the invention of commercially made ice in the mid 1850's, the big ice houses in New York would ship huge blocks of ice to Florida and other points South, on wagons. As the wagons passed through town, Baltimore children would scamper up to them and beg for scrapings of ice. They would then take them home to Mom who added some sweet flavor. The most common flavoring was a syruppy egg custard made from eggs, vanilla and sugar. Egg Custard remains one of the most popular snowball flavorings in Baltimore today.

By the 1870's, Baltimore movie theaters began selling snowballs to theater goers during the summer months. One can still find an occasional antique sign advising patrons to finish their snowballs before returning to their seats. (Movies had intermissions in those days.)
Within 20 years, six patents for electric ice shavers had been issued.
During the Great Depression, snowballs were a cheap and refreshing treat, bearing the name "Penny Sundae." (I actually remember purchasing "small" snowballs for as little as fifteen cents and that was loooong after the Depression!)
When WWII came along, all available ice cream was directed to the troops making the snowball an accessible summer treat for those at home. Their popularity spread throughout the country. However, once the war ended, they went back to their status as a regional goodie, enjoyed in the Baltimore/Philadelphia areas and along the Jersey Shore. A variation held it's own in the New Orleans area and, yet a different version, was popular in Hawaii. In between, most people went for ice cream.

Gradually, traveling carnivals began serving Sno-Cones and they are now known throughout the country. They tend to be a bit harder and coarser, created with crushed ice as opposed to shaved and flavored slightly differently.

In the '60s and '70s, toy companies tried to capitalize on the interesting snack. In general, these "toys" took too long to produce results in most children's eyes and created too much mess for most parents but every so many years we see a new version surface for a while.

So, did YOU have a Frosty Sno-Cone maker as a child?
Or a Peanuts version ?

Or did you at least have a snowball truck visit your neighborhood when it got really, really hot?

You know, it's kind of sweltering here at the moment, so I think I'm heading off to my neighborhood snowball stand.

Stay cool, my friend.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mmmmm! Hickory smoke in the air...

We got up early this morning, The Big Guy and I. Donned in our “uniforms” and wearing official name tags, we packed a cooler with ice packs and a box of zip-loc bags, nothing else, and headed off for our adventure of the day.
We are Certified Barbecue Judges for the Kansas City Barbecue Society and we’d been called into service. There was a barbecue competition in Southern Maryland and they needed us.

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. The competitive barbecue season begins in this part of the country in mid-April and wraps up around mid-October. Personally, we only judge 8 to 10 contests per season but there are judges, willing and able to travel longer distances, who sample and score as many as 30 contests a year.BBQ judges are not paid nor are our expenses covered by someone else. There are tight timetables to be followed. There are rules. We are kept corralled in a secluded, enclosed area (often a hot and stuffy tent) for several hours straight. We’re told where to sit and long periods of silence are strictly enforced. We are separated from our spouses and/or significant others. The only beverage allowed is plain water. (At least it is usually chilled.)

Hey, I said it was a TOUGH job.In return, we get to taste some of the best smoked meats ever served to mankind. True barbecue is cooked low and slow, creating moist, succulent, flavorful morsels. At least that’s how we hope it tastes. That’s what we’re looking for.

As KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) judges, we have been certified by that organization to judge within specific guidelines for each category of meat presented. KCBS sanctioned categories are chicken, ribs, pork and beef brisket. All sanctioned events MUST include all four of these categories and cook teams MUST participate in all four categories. Likewise, judges MUST judge all four categories.
Many competitions also feature additional events, called “ancillary categories”. Most often these include chef’s choice, anything butt, sausage and whole hog. We have also been presented with seafood, dessert and sauce categories along the way. Participation in these categories is optional for the cooking teams.

Today’s event included only the four basic categories which is more than enough judging to keep us busy and make us uncomfortably full by the time we were done. Judging is serious and extremely filling business.

I will explain how one becomes a Certified Judge, how the actual double-blind judging is done at a competition and what we look for in entries for each category in other posts to come. Suffice it to say, we give three scores for each sample - Appearance, Taste and Tenderness. Each scoring area is weighted differently with appearance carrying the least importance. Scores are based on a point system and winners are determined by a complicated system. National ranking of cooking teams is similar to the NASCAR point system.

Today, my table had what I consider pretty much slightly above average chicken samples, a poor showing of ribs, some good - some poor pork and some of the prettiest but poorest quality brisket samples I’ve had in a long time. This particular competition had a lot of first-time and amateur cook teams and, as experienced judges, we recognize that by the samples themselves.

However, that assessment is based on our quest for perfect and beyond perfect examples of each. All in all, the food was good and, yes, I enjoyed it all. (Well, there was that one piece of brisket that was not really chewable but it was flavorful while we tried.)

Generally, the food we taste at these events represent the “Best of the Best.” One generally does not enter a contest unless they truly believe their product is special. We have judged at some of the largest and most prestigious contests in the country and, yes, I believe we have each, at one time or another, had The Best. That’s why we keep going back and sacrificing our time and energy to help the world discover excellence in barbecue.

Here’s hoping your next piece of chicken is moist, tasty, succulent and the smoke is sweet.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever...

Local strawberries are here!!! Get them while you can. Around my neighborhood, they're available at every produce stand. They tend to be sweeter than the ones you find in the grocery store. In these parts, they also tend to be a bit smaller (bite-sized!) The season is so short and I simply feel I can't get enough. So, I get carried away, often buying entire flats of these succulent little devils. That adds up to a lot of strawberries!!

I serve them cut up in bowls, whole for the nibbling and even cooked into all sorts of foods. They're wonderful on top of a bowl of ice cream and who doesn't love a chocolate dipped berry?

These are my stand-by take with item. You might call them my signature dish. They are soooo easy!!!!

Making Dipped Berries:
I always keep a bag of chocolate candy melts handy (I buy mine at AC Moore or Michael's.) I simply grab a basket of berries, rinse them and allow them to dry a bit - just spread them on a bed of paper towels. ***Water is an enemy to dipping chocolate. Cover a tray with waxed paper. You could also use parchment paper. Plastic wrap does not work well. Melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. Since microwaves vary drastically, it is hard to tell you how long to cook the chocolate. Chocolate does burn easily so I suggest beginning with 30 seconds at a time. Stir. Repeat until chocolate is soft and stirable. Simply grabe a berry by the stem and dip it in the melted chocolate to coat. Set the berry on the waxed paper-covered tray. Set the full tray flat on a shelf in teh refrigerator to set the chocolate. (This only takes about 5 minutes.) Arrange the berries on a pretty plate and wait for the ooohs and ahhhs!!

Want more praise? Serve white wine (or champagne) with chilled strawberries in the glass. These are both pretty and tasty!

Just want to add a Spring touch to your kitchen? Check out some of the kitchen accessories (like these strawberry potholders) featured in my Etsy shop.

Ever wondered what it takes to make the World's Largest Strawberry Shortcake? (Have you ever had 15,000 folks drop by for dessert and wanted to impress them with something sweet and pretty?)

It's simple. All you need is 514 cups of sugar, 224 cups of shortening, 192 cups of eggs, 9992 cups of flour, 576 teaspoons of salt, 2048 teaspoons of baking powder, 448 cups of milk and 18 cups of vanilla. Use whipped cream to taste and pretty much all the fresh strawberries you can get your hands on!!

The odds are, it won't fit in your home oven. OF COURSE, YOUR KITCHEN MAY BE ROOMIER THAN MINE. (Just sayin'...) Oh yeah, you MAY need a flatbed truck to take it to your friends.

It might just be easier (and possibly cheaper) to attend the Lebanon Strawberry Festival in Lebanon, Oregon and just get in line for a slice. The festival takes place this weekend, June 2-5.

Oregon a bit too far? There are strawberry festivals just about everywhere this week. Maybe one of these would be closer for you - the Newark Strawberry Festival in Newark, Ohio, the West Cape May Strawberry Festival in Cape May, New Jersey, the Kimmswick Strawberry Festival in Kimmswick, Missouri or even the Troy Strawberry Festival in Troy, Ohio.Want to enter a Strawberry Recipe Contest? Then head on over to the Ashland Strawberry Faire in Ashland, Virginia. Bring your favorite strawberry dish or beverage to the Henry Clay Inn (near Randolph Macon College) between 9:30 and 10 a.m. on June 4th. Cash prizes will be awarded and winners will be announced at 11 a.m. While you're there, enter your favorite tyke in the Little Miss or Little Mr. Strawberry contests.

Check your local calendars. I'm sure you'll find a strawberry event near your location, too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I HAD to choose the HOTTEST day of the year to come back!?!?!

Well, I've finally made my way back!!! Some months back, I took what I planned to be a short hiatus from writing this blog. Turns out "short" is a relative term.

Of course, I would pick the hottest day of the year (so far) to debut my cooking ideas!! Okay, again, I've lost focus. The goal here is FOOD, not necessarily cooking it.

My best suggestion for today is "Keep it cool!!!" It's 98 degrees outside, with a heat index of 107!!! The most strenuous food prep I wanted to do today was cut this cold melon.

I think there is nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a nice chunk of cold melon. I also find, we're much more likely to eat it up when it is already cut into chunks in a bowl as opposed to slices which can make for some pretty sloppy eating. Watermelon does tend to keep better, though when it is not cut. (This is NOT a problem at our house. It IS a problem making sure everybody gets a fair shot at the bowl before it's gone!) So, If it's going to take a few days to work your way through it, maybe you'll just want to cut a half at a time.

Want a quick cooler suggestion? Frozen grapes!!! Any grape will do and they're super simple. Simply rinse the grapes and drop them in the freezer for a bit. I like to spread mine out flat on a tray so they are frozen individually. You can grab a few by the handful for nibbling or, and I LOVE this, take a few of those frozen bits and drop them in your beverage in place of ice. I believe they stay colder longer than an ice cube AND they add a sweet touch. They look pretty, too!

Most important advice for the day: STAY COOL !!!!

In that vein, we're going out to eat tonight. why should I slave over a hot stove when we can pay someone else to do so? Seriously, our AC is malfunctioning so we just need to get out of the house.

What cool nibbling suggestions do YOU have for such HOT, HOT days?