Limeade with Roses and Mint…

89A1EE9D-7E5B-42D7-811B-7740D727B42EWhat a day this is! The Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs and Cinco de Maya…a perfect blend of Roses, Mint and Lime if you ask me. I know, I know there have been recipes for Margarita Juleps and Mint Margaritas…but really this seems to be a time to blend something special. I’m not just celebrating an important Southern celebration- none other than the Kentucky Derby, where you can certainly find some amazing and classic Mint Juleps! I’ve even picked my favorite to win the race! Yet, Cinco de Maya is a fun holiday too- I made it a treat with chili dogs and limeade for lunch today! Though some guacamole would have hit the spot, too. Actually- I’m in the mood to celebrate because the roses here at the cottage are just showing out! Can you believe it?

 

 

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So, after I had admired the garden which smells heavenly- I picked some rose petals and fresh mint. Mint, to be honest, is a bit invasive… though run a mower over some of it and the fragrance is…. well like a bit of fresh mint! Mimi often made Mint Iced Tea, so I’m reminded of her when the mint returns each spring- C20EBCCB-9846-4884-ABD5-0235DE0DF9E5

I like to make up a batch of mint flavored sugar syrup for the spring and summer iced tea! Later, while I was stirring up the limeade, I decided to make up something special… to celebrate all of it! Here’s what I did:

99D32BD2-25D3-4D1A-9660-D363A9F8486BCamellia’s Limeade with Mint and Rose

  • Mix your favorite Limeade concentrate according to directions, reducing the water by 1/4- *I prefer reduced water limeade concentrate to making fresh limeade for this particular drink.
  • Chill the pitcher of limeade thoroughly.
  • In another pitcher, muddle together a handful of fresh mint leaves, 4-5 limes quartered, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and one teaspoon of rose water until thoroughly mashed and mint leaf and lime peel oils have thoroughly combined with juices, sugar and rose water. *Alcoholic version: add a jigger or two of your favorite Bourbon or White Rum to the muddled mix.
  • Invite your guests to ‘season’ their own glasses if this isn’t strong enough. Also it is wonderful to mix up sugar and salt and lime zest to rim the glasses! *I prefer the non- alcoholic version- but hey! some folks prefer a more celebratory drink!
  • Add Limeade to Muddled Mixture, chill very well. Top off each glass with a bit of club soda for fizz!
  • Pour into glasses with finely crushed ice. Load with more crushed ice if preferred.
  • Garnish with mint leaves, a lime wedge and of course a rose petal makes it extra special!

While Camellia’s Limeade with Mint and Roses was created for the combo of the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Maya, it’s also a perfect drink for a Garden Party or a Bride’s Sip and See!  While you’re at it- why not mince a few clean and chemical free rose petals and a 1/2 teaspoon of rosewater to your favorite shortbread! Limeade with Mint and Roses is a wonderful refreshing drink for any occasion!

We visited Churchill Downs several years ago- the racetrack and grounds are amazing;  the whole Louisville area is beautiful, with bluegrass fields, horse farms and distilleries. We were there the week after Derby and the Roses there were beautiful! While at the racetrack, tour guides showed us a special area where very special racehorses are buried. Horses have been buried since ancient times for various reasons- however, at Churchill Downs, the horses, in the traditional manner of burial- just the Head, the Heart and the Hooves are buried symbolically…

‘The head for determination- the will to win, the heart for the spirit and courage of the horse and the hooves for the speed to run the race; oh, that humans would run the race with the qualities of champion horses… Religion often dictates the proper way to bury the dead. Devotion dictates how we honor that which has died….Wherefore, seeing we also are encompassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ‘ from chapter 25, Cave Dwellers and Racetracks- from  Four Days- the Lazarus Principle by Brenda Wyatt.

I think whenever we celebrate life in all of it’s many forms, we have decided to live, really live. Do what lights you up, what makes your heart sing, what makes you run the race set before you with patience and joy!-  like Racehorses or these exuberant Roses. Find ways to celebrate life- and if you need refreshment?  Limeade with Roses and Mint  just might hit the spot!

Love y’all, Camellia

P.S. Now, ladies- I’ve lived in places where Blue Laws were in effect, and in dry counties if you get my drift… so, obey the law! If you decide to imbibe-You’ll have to drive well over two counties away to make sure no one sees you buying that liquor- so be sure to persuade a gentleman to procure it for you, just not on Sunday! And for heaven’s sake when you drink- no swigging from a bottle or can- drink from a julep cup or a fine glass; hold it above your waist, otherwise it’s trashy.

*Rosewater is available at most grocers or online- use it sparingly; a little dab on each wrist and behind each ear is nice too!

*All photographs are obviously mine. *Four Days- the Lazarus Principle was written by me- I gave myself permission to quote from it! Available on Amazon.com and other fine booksellers. *

My Derby Horse is number 13, I not a very good gambler but I liked the looks of him and had sort of a Cinco de Maya sounding name- Bravazo! I plan to lift a glass to the winner whoever it is! 99D32BD2-25D3-4D1A-9660-D363A9F8486B

Spring Greens…

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It’s no secret that Southern folks love greens- turnip greens, mustard, collards and cabbage are found on almost every table almost all year round. Spring Greens bring on a whole host of other greens we enjoy- in our meals, in our homes and of course outdoors!

Green is symbolic of Spring in so many ways, of-

  •  Life, renewal, nature and energy
  • Growth, harmony and freshness
  • Safe and secure environments and also Possibility, hopefulness
  • Military Green is thought to be symbolic for peace- an oxymoron, yet who but those who have been battle have a greater desire for peace?
  • To the superstitious among us- we do look for signs! Green was thought to have healing powers! Before I hear Heckle and Jeckle cackling over that… we must remember our spiritual teachings seem to bear this out too! ‘He makes me to lie down in tender fresh green pastures…He refreshes and restores my life.’ From the amplified version of Psalm 23.
  • Green is the most restful color to the human eye and was thought to improve vision.
  • Green relates to balance and harmony in nature- and tends to balance the heart and emotions- some go so far as to say green calms the head and heart- who knows? Green seems to have a calming effect on me!
  •  Many Interior Designers treat green as neutral- and tend to use it always adding greenery and live plants. Designers and landscapers tend to create opportunities for pleasant views toward gardens or natural scenes.

Spring is a busy time here at the Cottage. I’m sure it is for you- here’s a few things we’ve been doing to bring Spring Greens into our lives! Everything seems to have greened up at once, yet Southerners still tend to keep our houses closed up due to changes in temperatures and of course pollen!

House Plants not only freshen the look of room but can actually make the air cleaner. Hint: Spring is a great time to find bargains on houseplants when a lot of us are concentrating on outdoor planting! We recently replaced some of ours- after clearing clutter and ridding cobwebs evident with sunny days!  And what a fun way to reward our spring cleaning- with fresh plants! Here are a few of my favorite Spring Green Plants-

  • Angel Wing Begonias- I love these tuberous plants which are happy indoors and on covered or screened porches in the warm weather- their grayish green leaves with red underneath make it a show plant for our neutral palette.3B97FD25-91F1-4922-A848-03BC73E7A9BC
  • For shape and ease of growing- Sansevieras- or my favorite name for them – Mother in Law Tongues– see how they mimic ‘flames’ in front of fireplaces for Spring and Summer and can be outside in low light too!F3586D2F-87DD-46FB-AA85-4A856C817452
  • Fiddleleaf Figs are popular with interior designers and can be quite large- this one is elevated and seems happy with it’s nest of twiggy dried angel vine! It is a member of the Ficus Family. 0BA659CE-DBF4-418E-969B-B08142109C1F
  • The bonus for all three of these plants is a low water requirement- actually the quickest way to kill house plants is to overwater them! The interiors here had an immediate lift from greenery, even on dreary or rainy days!

Another fun project for you or the children! Hang on to those Celery Root bottoms when you used up the stalks- keep in the crisper drawer; then, spring clean the crisper drawer, remove, then press the root end into a container of soil – Look at the results from 3-4 celery roots! The Spring Green Tops (don’t expect them to ever grow long stalks); The celery leaves are wonderful added to salads or sprinkle over soups and stews for a fresh Spring Green flavor!55A65A09-CC77-4F80-AE40-0EFAACF394C5

I don’t buy ferns for indoors – they tend to make a mess dropping leaves, however Asparagus Ferns do extremely well outdoors. Cut back in the fall- keep in a covered space until you need a bit of color in the house later in the year. They are generally reliable in the South, some even grow back! C641536F-608A-4106-8864-77C83FC16886

I have already put away heavy winter throws- and added Spring Green color with the addition of sofa pillows- just that simple addition makes a world of difference to transition from winter to warmer weather!

 

 

This is the time of year I’m working down the freezer and pantry- on cool days there’s still nothing like vegetable soup or… on warmer days I can lighten up a meal with certain frozen vegetables, that frankly are almost as good frozen as fresh- Green Early Peas, Uncut Green Beans for my Green Bean Bundles, Broccoli and Spinach are standbys.9E263837-172A-44A6-A98B-EB4C0724551E Brussel Sprouts from the freezer are already trimmed and blanched- Saute them in bacon fat – crumbling bacon as a garnish. For refreshing Spring Brussel Sprouts- after sauteeing -add lemon zest and juice to make them sing!

Early Peas are so versatile in Chicken Pot Pies or on their own- I’ve been making these for years as a side dish- Parisian Early Peas are made by sauteeing thinly sliced sweet onion or spring green onions and shredded lettuce in butter- add the peas and steam until tender, just a few minutes truly.

 

 

The weeds are growing, well like weeds. For the southern forager, weeding also means setting aside dandelion greens, tender garlic chives and wild spring onions =- added to tender leaf lettuce and dressed lightly with lemon juice and olive oil, it’s Spring Greens on a plate!23B20B84-640A-4BB2-8780-C3660E959A34

As if to commemorate Spring- the first Peony bloomed here at the cottage. I took it as a beautiful remembrance of a very special lady. Our mother loved Spring Greens- all greens really. She was a green eyed beauty, a native of Alabama, a soft southern belle, who wore a delicately beaded celadon green dress to my wedding. Mother considered green to be a neutral color in her artistic pursuits- as a decorator and in her own home she always used green in some way and even set her first table as a bride with ivory plates ringed with green ivy. F85DFF31-7C5F-48C2-9A0F-8FC25495CCED

Mother loved gardening and thoroughly enjoyed arranging flowers and participating in several garden clubs. I suppose I will always associate Spring Green with Momma- I was born in Springtime and she died last Spring, in early morning one year ago today. Her laughter, love for her family, friends, community…and oh, especially children– was as joyful as Spring. She was definitely a Spring Tonic, fresh as Spring Greens, her whole life. May we all partake in the joys of Spring Greens wherever we find them and cherish those with whom we share them.

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine taken right here at Camellia’s Cottage

Shoepeg Corn Salads…

5583D0B2-C0D4-4D83-931D-D6EBFB498397It’s a truth, the closer you live to a corn field the better your life will be. Okay, I know the corn stalks around here are just knee high to a scarecrow- still, there’s nothing like the taste of fresh corn. I recall the very first time this city girl tasted corn just pulled from the stalk- I have never forgotten it. It was a life altering experience. Honestly, fresh in the field corn is almost as sweet as candy! As soon as it’s pulled, believe me when I say- the sugar starts turning into starch, no comparison to fresh pulled.

There are old tales about folks who would send someone out to the corn field and tell them to stand ‘right ready’ for pulling ears of corn. Not one minute before the water starts to boil, someone else would holler from the house- ‘Pull the corn! now!’ And some were so crazy about fresh corn- they managed to get a big kettle dragged out to the field, hoist it over a wood fire, get the water to a rolling boil and actually cook it field side!

You won’t find that happening too often these days- but the truth is… Southerners do love our fresh vegetables- you’ll find us talking food, funerals, family events and fuming about the weather- especially this time of year! Now, soon there’ll  be family gatherings and celebrations, covered dish and potluck suppers coming up and we’ll need to take something special. I was fiddling around, trying to figure out a special dish to make while also working down the freezer; I came across a bag of shoepeg corn. Flash frozen uncooked corn- especially if it’s shoepeg corn is always a good substitute for fresh while we wait on this year’s crop! Shoepeg Corn is generally white uncut corn- the whole little kernels look like old timey shoe pegs, actually I always think of a little child’s offering to the Tooth Fairy when I see the kernels!  You might find shoepeg corn under the unremarkable name of ‘Uncut Corn’. What a shame! Not nearly as descriptive as shoepeg! Okay, so I couldn’t decide between making a Shoepeg Corn Salad or it’s variation- Cornbread Salad to send to a covered dish supper. Both salads have the little kernels of corn in them, I just made both, one to send and one to keep!

I made both from memory, but if you’re looking for a recipe in Southern cookbooks? The only ones I found were in old regional Alabama cookbooks. Not to be deterred- I realized that Corn Salads are an uncooked variation of the old recipes for Macque Choux, found mostly in the coastal South. The story behind Macque Choux is this- Native Americans showed the French Settlers how to make a mixture from corn, onions and tomatoes cooked quickly in fats or butter. Folks started adding other stuff, like lima beans, field peas; even bits of ham or tiny bay shrimp to the mixture depending on the region. Oh my! that sounds good too. Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent here- let me just tell you how I made it!

 

Camellia’s Shoepeg Corn Salad

In a large bowl combine-

  • One 12 oz. bag of Shoepeg or Uncut White Corn (thawed slightly)
  • 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 small purple onion diced
  • 1 cup of diced cucumber (I like mine unpeeled, if the seeds are large, remove and discard before dicing)
  • 1 cup of bell pepper cut in medium dice (I used a green one, if you prefer a more colorful salad, feel free to use yellow bell pepper)
  • 3/4 cup of medium dice celery

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sour cream
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of good mayonnaise (if lemon juice is not in the ingredients- add a generous squeeze)
  • Dash or two of Red Pepper Flakes
  •  * I like to add 2 Tablespoons of Ranch Dressing if I have it on hand. If not, add a bit of garlic powder. Mix well.

Gently toss the dressing with the shoepeg corn and cut vegetables – then salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill. Can be served almost immediately but is better if made ahead so the flavors can meld. It sure looks pretty sprinkled with chopped parsley on a bed of  lettuce!DCAA2A2D-89E9-4493-967D-A24992CE2666

*Variation for Camellia’s Cornbread Salad 074FF050-A35C-46E8-8BB5-5E538C3917B2

  • Reduce the amount of shoepeg corn by half, feel free to add more cherry tomatoes, cucumber, peppers or celery, even a bit more sour cream. Then, mix as directed for Shoepeg Salad, chill.
  • The vegetables will give off extra liquid as they sit, so don’t be surprised by this- the Cornbread will soak up that extra liquid.
  • Before adding the cornbread, add up to a Tablespoon of Hot Pepper Sauce to mixture, depending on how spicy you like it- however- the quantity is large enough to handle more than you think- just add it to taste.
  • Crumble up to a half a pone of Cornbread tossing gently into the Shoepeg Salad. I rarely throw away cornbread- instead I wrap in foil and slide into a heavy plastic freezer bag for other uses like this!

Y’all, this is delicious! Cornbread Salad is a great way to stretch a batch of Shoepeg Salad. Both stand up to being served as a picnic food but both are best served chilled.

Okay, here’s how I served Shoepeg Salad- on a lettuce cup alongside a baked sweet potato and with- oh my goodness, another wonderful treat!7D1DD4F8-2665-4A04-856E-FA063D89A37E

Bacon wrapped Jalapeno Hushpuppies! Now, I want to tell you how to make homemade Hushpuppies sometime- but in the interest of time and working down the freezer, I had a small bag of ready made Fisherman’s Wharf® Jalapeno Hushpuppies- before I baked them on a parchment lined baking sheet- I wrapped each of the hushpuppies with a third of a slice of bacon and baked with the seam down! You may need to increase baking time until the bacon is done. Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Hushpuppies  are so good, I would serve them as an appetizer! Dipping Sauce could be Jezebel Sauce or Cocktail Sauce. So. Good. as an addition to any meal! One of my new favorites!

 

I hope you’ll try out the easy uncooked Shoepeg Salad! Now, I have to tell you- Somebody’s always getting on me about how much of this or that ought to be in there- well…I just make it like I like it! Please feel free to make Corn Salad anyway you like best! I would say if you add baby lima beans or field peas to it- please blanch them first! Diced ham or cooked baby shrimp would be a great addition also, though I would keep it chilled for any  addition of meat!

 

Now, keep in mind- the salad must have tomatoes, onion and corn to have true Macque Choux flavor! I’m taking either Shoepeg Corn Salad or Cornbread Salad to a Memorial Day Picnic that someone has decided to have early so it won’t be so hot and also, who wants to miss Coot’s Picnic on the actual Memorial Day in May! Oh me…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

*Fisherman’s Wharf® is a registered product. You should be able to find their hushpuppies or other brands at your local grocer’s.

*Hot Pepper Sauce is the vinegary liquid found in pickled hot peppers.

Bevy of Beauties…

When Camellia’s Cottage was just a hope and a prayer- there were a select few ‘Camellias’ who contributed their thoughts as to what it would be.. one very special talented Camellia gave such incredible insights from her vast stores of experience and wisdom. This post was possibly her favorite one of all. Denis Duncan – friend, mentor, a sister in the family we choose for ourselves, fellow lover of books, gardening and this beautiful state we call home- Alabama gave me the gifts of love, laughter and encouragement. One year ago today- Denis passed from this life to the next. Her family had bookplates designed for her vast collection of books- and I am the honored recipient of several books she held in her hands and loved as I do. So! to honor Denis today- I have chosen to re-blog ‘Bevy of Beauties’ . I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Will always love y’all, Camellia

Camellia's Cottage

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They still spring forth from twisted roots, thick marshes, stark hillsides, rushing rivers, dark coal mines and hard red clay soil of Alabama, a veritable Bevy of Beauties. Let us never forget that Stars Fell on Alabama, that Hank Williams wrote ‘Hey Good Lookin’ , What ya got cookin’  and F.Scott Fitzgerald found his Zelda right here in Alabama.

It’s no coincidence that Southern girls aren’t just cuter, they are stunning beauties. We know this from birth; like Strands of Steel woven through lace christening gowns, ruffled petticoats and tulle tutus. For a select group there is an almost immediate affinity for sparkle, sequins and crowns. Their eyes flash with fury, the art of flirting comes naturally at an amazingly early age. Charmingly, disarmingly  and alarmingly they manage to get their own way, especially with their daddies, brothers and beaus, who are more than happy to go along with it.

Some prefer hats and are devastating, some wear…

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Blackberry Winter…

 

8979C783-6F46-423E-A431-72F8D77B43F5So, how can you tell if it’s Blackberry Winter? It’s hard to pin it down and for sure, it won’t be on your calendar as National Holiday or even in the Farmer’s Almanac… to be precise and we do like to be precise- Blackberry Winter is a cool spell, when Spring temperatures dip almost to frost levels in Spring…even late Spring… Sometimes not… okay- so it’s not precise- here’s the real way to determine Blackberry Winter- it occurs when the blackberries are in bud and bloom.

There will be chilly nights, maybe even a few days and nights of nippy weather! The South has fickle weather almost all year round- so some may say,

‘No, it’s too early for Blackberry Winter’ Or- ‘You know, we always have more than one Blackberry Winter, if the frosts kills the first blackberry blooms’…

Still. Blackberry Winter comes at a time- when there’s not a ripe blackberry to be found anywhere – except…in the produce aisle, surely forced in a greenhouse or in the frozen fruit section. Whatever or however I find these berries- for some reason- a Blackberry Winter throws a longing on me for Blackberry Jam and hot buttered Biscuits, like my Uncle Roland used to make OR… I’m longing for a Blackberry Cobbler. So, when we had a Spring cool snap a few days ago, I had to make one! AACD7A83-11B7-4561-BC09-F5B59964B08C

Before I tell you how I made it, let me say- when you make a Cobbler, I’m sure you like it best your way and it’s fine with me! However, until I was an adult, I never knew cobblers could even have biscuit topping. The term cobbler is obscure, some thought the topping resembled cobbled streets- some believed the topping referred to the work of a shoe repairman known as a cobbler. With that in mind- the Southern Cobblers I know and love were always pie crust topped- with sugared fruit, the fruit juices, butter held together with thin dumplings made of pie crust dough. That dough was ‘nailed into’ the fruit to thicken and bind the fruit and juices under a single pie crust on top. B13BF731-77C2-4162-A3FB-9C21CC77BE43

Of course, the top crust is best  buttered and sugared for good color and taste! Here’s how you make:

Camellia’s Blackberry Cobbler

  • You will need-
  • Pie Crust Dough for a single crust 9 inch pie (scraps are used in filling) Make your favorite dough or purchase a ready made crust- flat rolled.
  • 4 cups of fresh or frozen plump Blackberries (I often use a mix of both)
  • 1-1/2 cups of Granulated Sugar plus more for sprinkling over the top of crust
  • 2 Tbs. Corn Starch
  • Zest of  1/2 medium Lemon (save the lemon for another purpose if so desired)
  • 1 stick of Salted Butter* at room temperature- *you may not need the whole stick! It is used to generously butter the pan, to dot the berries before they cook and for smearing on the top crust! ** Southern recipes generally call for salted butter, you may use unsalted just add a pinch of salt to the sugar/ corn starch mixture!

4EB14C60-0DBC-4999-816C-020ED249CAF3Several hours or the night before– place 4 cups of Blackberries in a bowl. Combine 2 Tbs of Corn Starch and 1- 1 1/2 cups of Granulated Sugar- gently combine with 4 cups of Blackberries. Allow to chill until the sugar has dissolved completely and berries are soaked until natural juices have formed  (blackberries are tart – so give them time to  fully soak).

  • Ready to bake? Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Butter generously a 9×9 square glass baking dish.
  • Line a clean baking sheet with parchment.
  • Sprinkle lemon zest over the berries and combine.
  • Pour blackberries and juice into baking dish.
  • Cut the unbaked chilled pie crust into approximately an 8 inch square saving scraps! Set aside large pastry square, keep chilled.
  •  Cut pastry scraps like short ‘dumpling’ lengths and even distribute into the berry mixture. 177718D9-CEBF-41B4-943C-2088C8E3CF6B
  • Dot berries and pastry dumplings with butter.
  • Sprinkle with more granulated sugar.
  • Carefully place large square pastry onto berries, cutting slits in pastry for steam to escape while baking.
  • Dot pastry top with more softened butter and sprinkle top crust generously with more sugar!827ECDFE-F433-4F24-97B9-B4FDA07C0358
  • Bake for approximately one hour or until filling thickens and the crust is a beautiful golden brown! *Parchment lined baking sheet may increase cooking time by up to 15 minutes. Start checking after 55 minutes up to 1 hour or longer.
  • The cobbler’s berries will be hot right after baking! Allow to cool. Makes 4 generous servings. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and get ready to swoon! 8C17FBEC-39E4-4E22-839E-D0EBECBCEABA

This recipe can be doubled using a larger pan. Any larger? The cobbler just won’t turn out with the same crust and thickened fruit! Okay, is anyone ready to have more than one Blackberry Winter? I know I’m ready for Spring and more cobblers– blackberry, sweet potato, strawberry, chocolate, apple, blueberry…Oh my! Yum!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are obviously mine!

**We don’t have blooms quite yet, but certainly buds! So who knows? We may have another cool snap or two!

 

The Problem of the Eggshell…

0A6F795E-CDE0-459B-9C00-026306A1C4AFIf Winter is the season of sleep, dreams and faith- then Spring is surely the season of miracles… miracles unfolding before our very eyes as the sap defies gravity and rises up to bare tree limbs- proof every year of the Resurrection! Even, as intricate nests hold delicate eggs, Spring brings the miracle of new life heralding the proof of Easter’s Promise.

‘As many as received Jesus,  to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.’ John 1:11-12

Let that sink in…our position with God is a gift– we are re-born with the position as a child of God- with the power ‘to become’ – to reach our full potential. Becoming is a process and often living in this old world is a struggle…right? Recently, our friend Sally Smith sent some adorable photographs of baby ducks and birds…

1A725CC6-F9B2-4CBA-8086-716A70D69813I started thinking of Spring as the time of new birth but also of these tiny creatures’ struggle to emerge…the Problem of the Eggshell- and I was reminded of this story…

‘As a child, I loved to go to the county fair- I particularly liked the incubators in which eggs were becoming baby chickens- it was messy. The shell would be slightly cracked or maybe you could see part of a baby chick. The shell was restricting the little bird’s progress, the egg would roll around… a little kick and the crack would become larger. I could see damp feathers and perhaps little feet. I admit it was a struggle to hold back- I knew I could help the baby chick. Why, I could break the shell open myself …! The baby chick wouldn’t have to work so hard. The chick wouldn’t have to struggle breaking the shell it had outgrown… the instructors at the show explained- ‘If you break open the shell, instead of letting the baby chick do it alone, the little legs will not be strong- the baby chick’s whole body is being strengthened by the struggle to get out of that shell’. The Problem of the Eggshell’ is a lesson in the ‘Power to become’ – the struggle strengthens us! Without it, we will not be strong. (Jesus) invites us to struggle. He gives us ‘Power to become’…

B75CBFBA-CF0E-41EB-973E-80C0B99E4209One of the most profound lessons of Springtime comes through tiny creatures who have struggled and solved the Problem of the Eggshell…and dared to become!  Jesus said- ‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible…’ Mark 9:23

Have a Blessed Lord’s Day!

Love y’all, Camellia

*A big thank you to Sally Smith from Camp Creek Creations for giving us permission to use her wonderful photographs! Visit their website at http://www.CampCreekCreations.com

99754824-A0E6-4A0C-8346-4FCAC3F6CAEE** Peep! (photograph obviously mine, not Sally’s!) The story of the county fair is from- ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’ – pages 25-27 and is available on Amazon.com

Strawberry Layer Cake…

 

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If you’re in the South- the warmest language is the Food. Spicy? ‘Yes ma’am.’ Fried? ‘I liketa died.’ Baked? ‘Well, doesn’t that take the cake?’  Oh yes! the best drawls of all come out when sugah is involved! Our Southern Sweet Tooth is legendary, right up there with fresh vegetables. In fact,  I’d venture to say- the slowest drawls can be found at Farmer’s Markets- especially where jams, jellies, syrups, pickles and home baked goods are sold! When fresh fruit starts showing up at roadside stands or farmer’s markets- Southerners have been known to work themselves to death- figuring out how to eat and preserve as much as possible! Especially peaches, blackberries and strawberries! It’s a funny thing, now you can get these fruits almost all year round but somehow they just don’t taste the same.

One of my vivid childhood memories is the excitement I felt as an old rattletrap truck sputtered into our neighborhood- windows rolled down as a farmer called out these distinct words… ‘Strah-behries- strawbehries! Getcher strah-behries!’ My job was to run toward the road waving my skinny arms so the truck would stop! Meanwhile my sister would take out running to the house calling out for our Momma. Dressed in flowered Housedresses or cotton Dusters that snapped up the front or starched Shirtwaist dresses, ladies would hurry out- Aprons Sashes flying, Change Purses in hand, Sensible Shoes stepping up  to the Strawberry Truck.  The man would lift up the plywood sides of his ol’ truck and the sweet aroma of fresh strawberries would waft out on the breeze; inside we could see-packed like jewels were sweet strawberries. I could hear paper bags being filled, or woven market baskets handed out as money changed hands. We knew something especially delicious was at hand! 225DDF44-4354-4036-A117-12CEFC44489C

Now, I have a confession to make here- my family wasn’t known for baking very many Layer Cakes- My great aunt Mary Sue made a layer cake called Lemon Cheese Cake which wasn’t anything like folks think of cheesecakes at all! No, we ate strawberries with pound cake, as a topping for shortcake or homemade ice cream. Strawberries showed up in hot bubbly cobblers or topped cool pies; we loved them just sugared and sliced in a bowl with whipped cream too- so… the first time I had a true Strawberry Layer Cake- it was a revelation!

I think the first Strawberry Layer was from a bakery called the Electric Maid on Southside and most recently a wonderful bakery called Edgar’s near Cahaba Heights….until a darling friend named Kim made several for our family and I’ve come to love them! Sooo… I have a confession to make- this is my very first attempt at making a Strawberry Layer Cake! Another confession is that, I baked it with the help of Mr. Duncan Hines.  I mean, if you’re not a layer cake baker- why do all of that sifting and measuring if it’s really the Icing you’re after? The strawberries were the first local ones I’ve had this year- smallish. I have a test- if the wild strawberries are growing in the yard, I know the ones sold in the stores are probably local! D43D2229-5198-4288-8212-1983EF140281

The first order of business when I buy fresh strawberries is to Slice and Sugar them, which is nothing more than hulling the sweet green cap and slicing some of the berries making sure to cut away the soft bruised spots- pour sugar on top and proceed to slice another layer ending with sugar. Cover and chill until ready to use. This wait time is important because the sugared strawberries put off a beautiful sweet red juice.  ( I always use it or even drink it! Add the juice to lemonade for a precious Pink Lemonade!)  The sweetened strawberry  juice is helpful when making shortcakes or trifles and this Layer Cake!  I used the sugared strawberry juice in Mr. Hine’s cake mix instead of the suggested amount of water! Extra good! Well…without further ado let me tell you how I made – 9FF407D2-A811-4070-B592-6F62E237D9E0

Camellia’s Strawberry Layer Cake

  • You will need two quarts of fresh strawberries. Reserve roughly one pint of the prettiest berries for decorating the cake- I recommend keeping the whole berries in a cool dim place. For the layer cake and frosting- instead of slicing the strawberries– I did a rough medium dice then, sugared the berries generously with granulated sugar- toss to coat and chill several hours or overnight. *The sugar should be completely melted, this does not require cooking.
  • For cake layers, butter two 8 inch cake pans- line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper (also buttered) and lightly flour. I did use real butter for flavor! Make cake batter according to mix directions- substituting sugared strawberry juice for the water! (Mine called for butter or margarine- I always use butter!) Divide evenly into the pans. Bake according to directions.
  • Allow cake layers to cool completely! Remove parchment and reserve, while making the icing. D01F99AD-A7EB-436B-97D6-B2059C6C7B72
  • Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing 
  • Sift 6 !/2 cups of powdered sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  • 1 cup of diced and sugared strawberries drained- Bring to room temperature also-*for all of you serious cooks out there- the word is macerated – I prefer ‘diced or sliced and sugared’ strawberries- sounds delicious!
  • 2 sticks of Butter softened to room temperature
  • 16 ounces of Block Cream Cheese softened to room temperature.
  • 2  teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • *Now, I might have taken a short cut on the cake layers but not here on the Icing! Use the best and freshest ingredients possible- room temperature butter and cream cheese and sifted powdered sugar is essential here!

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment- not the whisk! blend vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter until smooth and well blended. Add sifted confectioner sugar gradually until smooth. Remove mixing bowl and fold in by hand- the drained diced and sugared strawberries.  Blend until berries are incorporated. The Icing is a beautiful pink! *You may need a bit less or a bit more powdered sugar, just make sure it’s sifted so there are no lumps! This frosting is enough to frost 2 layers. Use reserved whole strawberries for decoration. Keep Iced Cake Covered and Chilled so that it slices easily.  3A83B020-FCAA-4F7A-A507-C9180624D178

Okay y’all…this cake wasn’t as good as our friend Kim’s, who is an expert- but it turned out very well if I do say so myself! Still. I have a long way to go before I master the art of layer cakes! Let’s see…I want to learn how to make my sweet mother in law- Eleanor’s Famous Coconut Cake, my Great Aunt Mary Sue’s Lemon Cheese Cake and oh yes! I’d love to learn how to make a perfect Southern Caramel Cake. Hold the phone. I’ll probably just stick to what I know…still, a girl can dream… Strawberry Layer Cake was a fun way to kick off Spring!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine

* Duncan Hines® Strawberry Cake Mix was used for this cake- it calls for butter/margarine instead of oil, I would recommend using butter. *Also, I do not recommend adding fresh strawberries to this cake mix- as the batter might not have the right consistency. *The greenery on this cake came from our garden- we do not use pesticides or chemicals. The greenery was washed, placed flat between two layers of damp paper towels for use in decoration only- all parts might be edible but not necessarily tasty! Remove from sliced cake before serving. * I also recommend using whole berries for decoration and they can be put on the plate when serving. 225DDF44-4354-4036-A117-12CEFC44489C